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.
Category: Branding and Social Media
“Everybody’s talking at me. I don’t hear a word they’re saying,” observed Harry Nilsson in 1969. 45 years on, it seems a lot of people are still not listening – but brands should be. New findings from Gallup suggests marketers may be pinning the wrong hopes on social media.
While brand owners and managers continue to view Facebook and Twitter as opportunities to increase visibility and interaction, consumers are much less swayed. In fact, “Social media are not the powerful and persuasive marketing force many companies hoped they would be,” concludes the report, with just 5% of consumers surveyed saying that social media exerts a great deal of influence on them, and a clear majority (62%) saying it has no influence on how or what they buy at all.
Even allowing for the fact that some consumers may refuse to acknowledge, or to realize, that they are ‘swayed’ by media, there’s a clear message here that brands and consumers are operating at cross purposes. While Gallup finds that more than 90% of consumers are connected to a social media channel to connect with family and friends, that connection does not extend to companies and/or their products. And while companies may view social channels as large fishing grounds within which to hook new customers, consumers are neither motivated to switch or to recommend a new brand on the basis of social media presence alone.
I was intrigued by this observation. “Social media entail just a fragment of a consumer’s experience with a company. Customers are much more likely to be active listeners and participants in a brand’s social media community when they have already made an emotional connection with that brand through other experiences.” That finding flies in the face of much of what we hear so often – that social media attracts and draws people into the sales funnel. This suggests that social media functions much more as a channel for those who are already converted, often by interactions elsewhere. It would seem we need to be thinking about a much more nuanced approach to social media where, perhaps, brands take up conversations socially that consumers have already begun amongst themselves offline.Read More
Most brands would say they want to be popular and many of them would see social media as a way to achieve that. But recently David McInnis wrote this in a comment: “You can have all the social pieces in place but doing so does not make you likeable. Most companies that have a social strategy should not. They should focus instead on being likeable first.”
In other words, social media alone won’t improve your affinity as a brand. A great observation. Tempting isn’t it to roll out the social artillery without first thinking about whether a) anyone gets on with you b) wants to socialize with you and c) will bother to give you the time of day even if you do make the effort.
In his book The Likeability Factor, Tim Sanders talks about the need for people to build their own likeability by focusing on four critical elements:
• Friendliness: communicate liking and openness to others
• Relevance: connect with others’ interests, wants, and needs
• Empathy: recognize, acknowledge, and experience other people’s feelings
• Realness: guarantees its authenticity
So, what does it take for a brand to be likeable? I figured this functioned as a good starting list for those keen to build closer relationships with their customers:Read More
Brands today obsessively seek massive social followings. The driver of that social activity is content marketing. Today most content marketing is nothing more than disguised brand advertising–and customers and consumers mostly ignore it. To gain a massive following in social channels requires a sophisticated understanding and disciplined application of Brand Voice.
Brand Voice is simply the quality of the brand’s presence in the marketplace. At every interaction with the audience, the Brand’s voice (the manner in which it communicates its purpose, values, reputation and experiences) must be created and managed with precision.
That means, marketers have a greater responsibility to not let the voice of their brand be at the whim of the latest creative or style trend, appear sloppy, inconsistent, and mindless.
Leading brands always consider how customers and consumers will receive their blogs, websites, social media channels, and content creation output. In the social media age, this is one area in the branding ecosystem that must be spot on without compromise.
Brand Voice is everything and the only thing.
In speaking to another person, your tone of voice is not what you say, but how you say it. How well your communication comes across determines how well others will respond to what your saying. It’s exactly the same for brand communication.
A brand’s tone of voice will inform the authenticity all of its human interactions, sales conversations, business environments, written language, trade dress, product design, packaging and retail presence – the totality of the brand’s presence in the marketplace.
Consequently, you can’t just make up a voice out of thin air and then start speaking in it.
Brand voice comes directly from the organization’s purpose, mission and values. If it’s not real in today’s meta-transparent social age, the voice will be the sound of one hand clapping.
Why it’s critical to get brand voice right.
Brand Voice is an expression and reflection of the human beings behind the brand.
Brand building is about people–the people that comprise the brand and the value they are passionate about bringing to the world. This is the beginning of the brand’s story told through the authentic voice and behavior of those that bring it to life everyday.
Brand voice is what establishes relevant and highly valued differentiation among competitors in the category. Think of two brands in the same category. Let’s say Honda and Subaru automobiles for example. Both brands have a tone of voice that is distinctive, recognizable and unique. One brand represents and expresses quality engineering, while the other brand represents and expresses love and adventure. They are both true to their unique voice building equity in their promise. Customers know why they engage with one or the other.
Brand Voice goes along way toward building trust. When a brand’s presence in the marketplace is familiar it’s more easily trusted. Researchers in cognitive behavior and psychology have known forever that humans require little effort to mentally process something that is familiar. For humans familiarity creates a sense of ease. Creating a specific tone of voice plays a crucial role in how easy it is for people to trust your promise.
A consistent Brand Voice will influence and persuade. As author Maya Angelou once said, “People don’t always remember what you say or even what you do, but they always remember how you made them feel.” The way in which brand’s communicate breeds a certain feeling or emotional response in people. And although most people have short attention spans, they are very sensitive to language and imagery, forming instant impressions in their minds based on how they feel. To be influential and persuasive requires connecting with people emotionally.
How to get Brand Voice Right.
When thinking of brand voice and content creation, here are a couple of suggestions for establishing the quality of your brand’s presence.
Begin with purpose.
Why does the brand exist? Who does it serve? What does it value? Purpose is the foundation of Brand Voice. It’s not about invention but introspection. It’s not about creativity but connection. Once the entire organization top to bottom lives its purpose,
a true voice in the marketplace naturally emerges.
Create comprehensive brand guidelines.
Brand guidelines shouldn’t be created just for design and creative teams, but for everyone in the organization. Every set of brand guidelines should standardize a brand’s messaging, look and feel, tone and manner, grammar guidelines and design principles. All content marketing should follow these guidelines. Create standards for content. For example, creating a template for all social media channels, webinars and white papers. This helps minimize production timelines, but more importantly will keep the voice of your brand consistent.
Educate and Collaborate.
Take the time to formally educate all stakeholders in content creation on the importance of understanding the brand’s story and voice in the marketplace. Content creation should be a collaborative process – account planner, brand strategist, community manager, content marketing manager, brand manager, and designer are all part of the creation process. Education and collaboration form a human brand filter that keeps brand voice authentic and consistent though all forms of branded content.
Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education
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Speculation remains on what a “fan” is worth to a business. In light of that, it’s important for marketers to revisit the difference between volume and intensity when thinking through the value a ‘fan’ brings to a brand.
Many commentators in the social universe it seems to me remain beguiled by quantity. The more liked you are, they seem to think, the more valuable you are potentially. Not so, of course. It costs nothing to say “like”. And in many cases I would venture to add, it means nothing and adds nothing.
Intensity though is quite a different metric – because it speaks to commitment and the bottom-line results of that commitment rather than just impressions. Intense fans buy the brands they feel strongly about. Money changes hands.
Intensity also defies volume. If you have customers who feel intensely committed to your brand, then you can have a much smaller, much less impressive number of them. Apple doesn’t have the biggest market share in a lot of the sectors it participates in, but it has perhaps the world’s most intense fans. And if a good percentage of those committed people only buy your brand or purchase predominately from you, then they are actually worth much more commercially than the hundreds of thousands of people who like you and move on without even a sideways glance at the cart.Read More
Aegis Media has conducted an interesting experiment to identify the value of the number of “likes” a brand has on Facebook. Its basic conclusion is that a high number of likes do help improve brand perceptions. But that raises a chicken and egg question. Where do the likes come from in the first place?
Aegis Media teamed up with Jon Jachimowicsz and Joe Gladstone, academic researchers from the University of Cambridge Judge Business School, to conduct an experimental design project using a made-up brand called “Ashwood Furnishings.” They created a storyline about the company’s expansion from the UK to the U.S. on the occasion of their 150th anniversary. Research participants in the U.S. were asked to provide their views on the brand based on its Facebook page, but different groups saw different numbers of likes on the page they saw
While the researchers admit that there is a lot of variability in the results, it is pretty clear that more likes do translate into higher brand perceptions and purchase intent. The researchers ascribe the effect to herding and conclude:
This suggests that likes generate an unconscious and immediate effect, similar to any number of cues in the ‘real’ world.
Due to the fact that some analysis of the raw data suggested diminishing returns to the number of likes, the authors further state:Read More
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