The Blake Project, the brand consultancy behind Branding Strategy Insider, delivers interactive brand education workshops and keynote speeches designed to align marketers on essential concepts in brand management and empower them to release the full potential of the brands they manage.
Habits are powerful, but occasions may be even more so. I think they engage us so effectively because they combine time and focus. And because of that, they provide permission – it’s OK to behave this way or that. It’s OK to do something you wouldn’t do on any ordinary day.
If you’re a smart brand, you’ll find a way to hook into that; to link what you’re about to what people are thinking about on specific occasions. You’ll give them a reason and a way to excel at the emotion of the moment.
On Valentine’s Day it seems appropriate to look at a brand that used the occasion of declaring love to forge one of the most powerful marketing campaigns of all time.
De Beers have turned a diamond into the embodiment of eternity with their sublime catch-phrase ‘A diamond is forever’. They’ve linked the optimism and romance of occasions like engagements and weddings with the promise to stay together ‘till death do us part’. They have encapsulated all that in a single symbol that is desirable, exceptional, immediately recognizable and intended to be presented on a specific occasion of peak emotion and worn from that moment on.Read More
It’s easy to underestimate the huge changes that have taken place in the dynamics of the brand-customer relationship in recent years. Brands and consumers are now engaged at whole new levels of familiarity. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn et al haven’t just brought people closer, they have enabled entirely new types of brand community to evolve and develop. But as we shall see, they have also expanded expectations in terms of responsiveness.
I’ve dubbed this heightened connection Familiarity 2.0 (because to me it really does equate to a new era of acquaintance).
Research shows consumers increasingly valuing brands that they feel fundamentally understand them and that interact with them as human beings. According to the Brandfog CEO, Social Media and Leadership Survey 2012, customers now expect to have direct access to brands and brand leaders. What’s more, the survey shows, there is a direct connection between social media participation, purchase intent and increased brand loyalty.
The days of the brand being on one side of the counter and the customer being on the other are coming to a close. Increasingly, transactions are part of a wider and more open exchange. Purchase is an expression of the brand-customer relationship rather than its sole goal.
The opportunities arising from this social shift are enormous. Familiarity 2.0 paves the way for brands to continue to extend relationships so that, more and more, the relationships themselves are two-way. In fact, Familiarity 2.0 dynamics will change how brands evolve by redefining who they involve. Customers will literally become participants in a brand’s business. They will have opportunities to be active contributors in exchange for recognition, rewards (perhaps) and the thrill of collective involvement.
As these dynamics mature, brands could well look to their customers to help them:Read More
Facts feel right. They portray the sharer as informed and aware. They give a sense of pragmatism. They quantify and substantiate. But they seldom motivate us to shift from where we are now and what we like now to somewhere new.
That’s one of the roles of stories. And yet stories themselves are now such a commonplace feature of brandspeak that they are in danger of losing their magic. Increasingly they are becoming a catalog of features – a parade of facts – in a narrative format. Shawn Callahan, a marketer whose expertise in this area I very much respect, goes further. When I asked him about this recently, he told me, “Many branding specialists are talking about stories but are not telling any. You have to know what a story is and what it is not. A story has some basic features such as a series of causal events and something unexpected happening. Stories have characters doing things.”
Four things I think marketers need to realize about stories:
1. Storytelling is more than just writing. Increasingly marketers are telling themselves that anything they transcribe is a story. Not so.
2. Content is an expression of story, it is not the story itself. A brand story forms the common reference point that all branded content should report to. The same words or even ideas spread across a range of channels is not a story, it’s a script. Content must collectively capture the breadth and depth of a story if it is to be more than just a collection of common reference points. In that sense, a story is a prism and the content is light. What consumers see at any one point is an aspect. Stories invite discovery.Read More
Recently, in a thought-provoking post on why the PR industry, advertising and the mainstream and hybrid media need to work in a much more integrated way, Richard Edelman made this deceptively simple observation, “Ads are inherently more effective when you have something to say.”
And therein lies the crux. In a world where it’s never been harder to get people’s attention, too many brands have nothing in their DNA and in their messages that brings a smile to the faces of consumers. They exist. But there is no Long Idea. There is nothing iconic. There are no delicious insights. As a result, their marketing is often just information and, hard as it is for many brand managers to hear this, pure-play marketing information is flatline from an excitement point of view.
Presence, top of mind, awareness – whatever you want to call it – is a far cry from being interesting. Impressions mean nothing if brands fail to impress.
Before anyone says it, this is not about budget. It’s really about having the imagination and the tenacity to develop brands that are fascinating. And so many brands aren’t. It’s about knowing what Brian Clark refers to as “your particular future”. And so many brands don’t. They’re built on an also-ran premise, designed to a mediocre aesthetic and delivered in an also-ran way. As David Ogilvy himself said in Confessions of An Advertising Man, “You cannot bore people into buying”.
Hugh MacLeod has gone further, quoting this statement that he attributes to Andy Sernovitz: “Advertising is the cost of being boring”. In other words, MacLeod explains, advertising is what happens when you have to pay to interrupt people with messages that no-one would volunteer to listen to. It’s what you have to do when you have no other way of trying to catch consumers’ eyes.Read More
I regularly refer to adrenalin as the chemical of change. To me, transformation must be radical and scary, because it pretty much requires the same levels of energy and momentum to get to a ‘dangerous’ place as it does to shift to somewhere a lot more comfortable. The only difference may be the time it may take for people internally to get comfortable again.
That’s particularly true if you’re a brand that has fallen behind – where the shift required to even stay alive can feel huge. And yet for all the effort, the concern, the misgivings, where your brand lands can in reality be right in the middle of the pack – meaning that sooner rather than later, the company will need to repeat the same process in order to avoid being lost.
So often, it seems, those undertaking brand change misjudge impact. People assess what has happened from the point of view of how far they have shifted rather than looking at the two things that really matter: the active difference it has made for consumers; and where the brand now lies in relative competitiveness and interest to those in the market today and those on the verge of entering.
It’s not just brands that need to catch up that face this dilemma. Even brands that lead their fields and are widely perceived as shapeshifters can agonize over decisions that, to consumers, are perfectly sensible once they do appear. I remember having this discussion one day in an airport with the Creative Director of a global clothing brand I know well. Pointing to the new imagery on the posters in the display window, I commented that I liked the way they had extended the brand a little.Read More