Thursday, May 11, 2023

Who Should You Hire to Help You with Your Branding?

When hiring someone or some organization to help you with your branding, be sure to know what you are seeking first. Some people think of a brand as a name or a visual identity. Some think of it as a set of messages and communications. Some think of it as an exercise in finding the optimal positioning. Some see it as synonymous with competitive strategy. And some see it as a holistic approach to business that includes all of these things plus IT, HR, customer service and technical support alignment. What are you looking for? What will solve your problem?

Are you trying to increase sales, increase profitability, increase brand awareness, increase brand preference, increase brand trial, increase brand usage, encourage new uses for your brand, target new customer segments for your brand, increase emotional connection to your brand, increase brand loyalty, increase customer retention, overcome a crisis, freshen up a dated brand, extend the brand into new categories, change brand perceptions, reposition your brand, solve a brand problem or something else?

Once you have figured out what you are looking for, then it is time to reach out to individuals or organizations that can meet this need. If you are only looking for a visual identity, brand identity firms and most marketing agencies can help you with this. What you need is a graphic designer who is experienced in brand identity design and brand guidelines development. If you want accompanying messages and communications, you need a good copywriter too. But, if you want these messages to powerfully convey a unique value proposition, you will need in-depth customer research and an experienced brand strategist. If you are looking for help with brand strategy, especially as it intersects with competitive strategy and business model strategy, you are also likely to need an MBA with concentrations in marketing strategy and competitive strategy. And if you are seeking a complete approach to branding, you will want to hire a firm that specializes in this. 

For the comprehensive approach to branding, you will need the following skill sets: a business/marketing strategist, a marketing researcher skilled in qualitative and quantitative brand research, a graphic designer skilled in brand identity design and brand guidelines development and a talented copywriter. And it wouldn't hurt to have someone skilled in inside-out branding, someone who can put a CEO's hat on and view your enterprise from that holistic, higher level perspective.

In summary, you need to know what you are trying to achieve, what deliverables you are seeking and what skill sets can get you what you want. Some marketing agencies have all of these pieces, while most tend to be strong in graphic design and marketing communications and weaker in customer research and brand and business strategy. A common mistake is to hire the wrong person or organization to help you with your branding needs.

I once participated in a municipality's branding project RFP process that demonstrated a complete cluelessness about this. When the municipality emailed answers to the questions the agencies had asked regarding the RFP, more than 50 organizations were on the distribution list and they ranged from individual graphic designers and copywriters to marketing research companies, brand strategists, social media companies and full-service marketing agencies. It was clear that the municipality didn't know what it was seeking, nor did it know who to go to to find it. Once I saw that, I excused my company from the process, as I am sure other sophisticated marketing agencies did. 

The bottom line: You need to know what you want and who can provide it for you. And you need to be thoughtful about this before you begin the search process.

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Four Simple Tips to Help Your Marketing

Over the years I have learned some simple, common sense tips to improve marketing outcomes. These are not 'rocket science.' They are just simple things you can do to improve your marketing outcomes.

  1. Whenever you conduct customer research, ask this simple set of questions at the end of your research: "Where do you go to get information about products in this category?" "To whose advice do you listen?" "To what websites do you go?" "What publications do you read?" "What conferences do you attend?"
  2. Whenever possible, but especially when interacting with the public, make sure you capture each person's name and email address. You would be surprised how many people forget to do this even at marketing events. And know that it is always better to have the prospect's contact information than making sure they have yours. One way to make sure this happens at conferences, trade shows and events is to require the person's name and email address as a cost of entry to your presentation, activity or booth.
  3. In any online communication, suggest that the recipient share the communication with or forward it to friends and colleagues who also might be interested in your product or service. This simple prompt will cause many people to do just that, forward or share your communication with friends and colleagues. You can also add "share" buttons to the the post or email message to make it even easier to share.
  4. Whether it is in an email message or an online ad, make sure there are multiple places a person can click that will take him or her to the intended action. I will likely be a combination of words, images and buttons.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Online Branding Education

I have created two new online brand management courses: (1) Positioning Your Brand to Win! and (2) Brand Research. If you have a couple hours to spare and want to dive deeply into these two topics, click on the links to begin your education.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

How to Remain a Leading-Edge Marketer Throughout Your Career

I have been a marketing practitioner for 38 years. And I am happy to report that my skill set has kept up with the latest marketing concepts and technologies. So, how do I stay abreast of the latest developments? Here is my list of the things that one can do to stay current:
  • Hold a variety of marketing positions over time - I held positions in product management, new product development, trade marketing, brand management, brand licensing, advertising, promotion, media planning, marketing research, CRM, corporate communications and marketing management
  • As a consultant, help other companies solve their marketing problems - I have helped more than 200 organizations in 60+ industries develop successful brand strategies
  • Read every new marketing, marketing research, customer service, psychology and behavioral economics book that is published
  • Read as many other genres as possible
  • Go to marketing conferences and take lots of notes
  • Speak at marketing conferences
  • Attend marketing webinars and take lots of notes
  • Develop marketing webinars
  • Watch marketing "how to" videos on YouTube and Vimeo
  • Take marketing e-learning courses
  • Volunteer to help not-for-profit organizations with their marketing
  • Teach marketing as an adjunct professor at a local college or university
  • Conduct marketing seminars at a local library
  • Develop and produce marketing e-learning courses
  • Publish a marketing blog - so far, I have written 1,460 posts for three different marketing blogs
  • Create a marketing-related YouTube channel
  • Create a marketing podcast
  • Become a guest on other people's podcasts
  • Interview CMOs for your podcasts, videos and blog posts
  • Write a book on marketing
  • Write marketing-related articles for professional journals
  • Volunteer to judge marketing competitions
  • Join the local chapter of the American Marketing Association
  • Join the local chapter of PRSA
  • Join the American Advertising Federation
  • Network with other marketers
  • Create and publish a marketing industry survey to identify the latest marketing trends and issues
  • Create websites and manage social media for your favorite hobbies and organizations - I manage five different Facebook pages for five different organizations in which I am involved
  • Make sure you understand social media marketing, mobile marketing, CRM, email marketing, marketing automation, geofencing, retargeting and OTT and CTV marketing
  • Use Chat-GPT in a variety of ways to make sure you understand it
This list may seem overwhelming but true experts never stop learning. They relentlessly explore deeper and deeper into every aspect of their field of expertise. And they do the same with closely related fields of expertise. This is how one becomes a world-class marketer.

I hope this provides you with some ideas of how you can stay at the top of your game throughout your marketing career.


Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Social Media & Digital Marketing

I am an older guy. I was on the forefront of the revived brand management movement in the mid-to-late 1990s. And I have ridden it out until the present. I was also an early user of the Internet - going as far back as 1976 when it was primarily a military communication vehicle (ARPANET). Further, I was on the ground floor of coding, learning Fortran, COBOL and basic assembler language in college. When I was at Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) in New York, I was an expert in reading binary code, hexadecimal code and core dumps to identify coding errors. I had an online newsletter before there were blogs and I started a few of the first marketing-oriented blogs. And, I have kept up with web design, SEO, content marketing, social media marketing (Google, Facebook, et al.), digital marketing, mobile marketing, CRM, data analytics, email marketing, marketing automation, CTV/OTT, geofencing, retargeting, podcasts, YouTube channels, etc.

I share this background to indicate that I am grounded in both classical marketing and branding concepts and techniques and the most recent tools and advances in social media and digital marketing. I am not just speaking from one of these two perspectives. And I am not a luddite.

Here is my point. Social media and digital marketing are overrated. Brands and enterprises have become over reliant on them. Why? They are modern - the latest "shiny objects." They are relatively inexpensive. And, most importantly, you can track and measure their results (which cannot be said of many other marketing components).

However, while they have their place in the marketing mix, here is what they continue to lack - the human touch, relationship building, peer-to-peer marketing, real world publicity stunts, and the power of a good salesperson to close a sale.

Yes, over time, blog posts, podcasts and YouTube and Vimeo videos can create a certain level of trust, emotional connection and thought leadership. And, there are ways to make digital content go viral, especially to an extent that cannot be achieved otherwise. However, more "high touch" marketing tactics must be kept in the marketing mix to create a truly integrated and powerful marketing campaign. 

When a person only knows how to use a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When marketers only know social media and digital marketing, the primary marketing vehicle becomes digital by default.

To have a fully rounded marketing campaign that is highly effective, generally you need the following marketing components: target market definition and segmentation, marketing research for customer insight, marketing strategy and plan development, graphic design, videography, copywriting, media planning and placement, media relations and publicity and social media and digital marketing expertise. 

I have witnessed more and more companies with limited resources relying solely on social media and digital marketing to achieve their marketing goals - often with lackluster results. This is not always the case, but it is often the case. 

If I were to start a marketing campaign with very limited resources, I would start with media relations and publicity including proactive publicity and carefully crafted publicity stunts. In today's world, this would include social media and digital marketing. But social media and digital marketing wouldn't be the only components of such a campaign.

So, my core message in this blog post is that while social media and digital marketing are likely to be components of your integrated marketing campaign, they should not be the sole or dominant components of that campaign.