Advertising Messaging

There Can Be Only One...Advertising Message

Advertising Messaging

Too often I see good businesses harm their images and miss out on customers by trying to communicate a patchwork of their services, products, and values in several different places. All may be fantastic messages, but not when thrown together in different places. These businesses can benefit from choosing a cohesive advertising message, communicated clearly and consistently across all channels.

Let’s say your business has the best product available, amazing customer service, and a defined culture and set of values. Which of those qualities should your company communicate to its market? If you said all of them, you’re right…and wrong. All of those qualities are worthy of expressing, but communicating more than one at a time in different advertisements proves confusing to customers. Your business’ advertising message must be focused and steady. This doesn’t guarantee a good message, so much as the right one, but consistency is key.

The most important factors in choosing an advertising message are your market’s needs and wants. Cater to the most pressing issues with your idea, and show your targets your business’ other qualities when they walk through the door. Depending on what your market requires, your business should say what you need it to say, not just what you want it to say.

Consider the following example. Your business provides an amazing experience that goes above and beyond anything any customer could possibly expect. Everyone who does business with you is enthusiastically happy and can’t wait to shout it from the top of a mountain. This is a great message to broadcast, except that your market’s biggest need is your product. Your advertising message should couple the need with the want. Great customer service is what people want (and they deserve it), but your product fills a need. That should be in the message you convey.

Now that you’ve determined what you’re going to tell your market, it’s time to be consistent. Communicate your message in a magazine ad. Post it on your Web site, in your newsletter, sell sheets, brochures, radio spots-and every other channel you use to market your business. Even the addition of custom presentation folders within a marketing strategy could make a difference when it comes to giving it more of a professional feel. It’s all about branding and getting the name of the company out there.

Then make sure all staff who interact with customers, from sales to customer service, all speak the same message as well as in a professional, stylish manner. For example, all employees handing out the likes of a presentation folder that’s been created through pocket folder templates keeps consistency and professionalism. A consistent message is just as important as the message itself and provides three key benefits:

1. Consistency eliminates confusion. Highlighting your product in one place, then your customer service in another, and your values somewhere else can be confusing and frustrating for your market. It is likely that one or more of those communications is not what your market needs to hear. Potential customers will think, “They said product there, and values here. Which one should I believe?” Saying the same thing everywhere eliminates this confusion.

2. Consistency creates lasting impressions. If all your materials, Web site, and advertisements carry the same message, you guarantee that your market will hear the right thing whether they talk to you, visit your business, see your ad, or look for you online. Each impression reinforces your message, and your market will begin to associate your business with an idea that they have been exposed to by your advertisement.

3. Consistency keeps customers. Repeatedly hearing your message that addresses your market’s need drills the message into your market’s collective head to come back to you whenever they have a need for a product or service like yours.

What you communicate to your market is just as important for gaining and keeping customers as the product or service your business provides. Decide what message you need to communicate with your market. Then, communicate that message with consistency through all channels and human resources.

Importance of Social Brands

The Importance Of Social Brands

Importance of Social Brands

In a world where social media and marketing run hand in hand it is imperative to know about social brands and how you can take your brand or company into this new world.  How can you take an inanimate object such as a brand, product, or business and make it social with feelings, reactions, and thoughts?  How can you make a brand animate with human characteristics when by its very definition it is not human?  You can’t.   

Instead, think of social brands in the context of SIM City or Second Life as an example. Let the consumers build and create their world with your brand or company in it.  Let your brand or company be the backdrop to their social world, in a way where the consumer needs your brand or company within their social context.  This aspect can be as simple as having the consumer “like” some aspect of your business, with a desire to show their social network what they “like” in order to define themselves.  

Keep in mind that the consumer has to feel the internal connection to the product or business before declaring it to his or her social network.  In the context of Second Life, that internal connection is building your avatar with character by who you talk to, what worlds you visit, and what you look like. For the advanced, it’s what world you build a home in, who you invite to visit, what your home looks like, and how you want to attract other avatars like yourself.  People invest time and thought towards the personal development and projection of their avatar, which demonstrates the real life core essence of a person’s connection to social brands.  All you have to do is add a brand name to the connection, and then utilize the brand to consumer characteristics within the social digital context.  For instance, currently, Pepsi is running a viral program called the “Pepsi Refresh Project”.  Pepsi’s Facebook page for the “Refresh Project” seeks connection to those with great ideas.  In this way, Pepsi seeks to connect a personal connection of those with great ideas to Pepsi.  

How do you meet this challenge?  Determine why people need your product or place of business in their world, i.e., why would they put your product, service, or business in their virtual world?  What consumer emotion or feeling do you want to connect to?  More important than ever, you have to define the target market by more than age, income, and marital status; you have to build a personality for your target consumer.  Only by personality will you gain access to your target’s social digital world, as only those who can relate will pass through.

You can’t bring a brand to life, a brand has to be a part of life.

Return on Investment

ROI Measurement and Expectation

Return on Investment

In the current economy, everyone wants to know, “What am I getting for my dollar?” The advent of the internet and other new technology are creating a world of new marketing opportunities and ways of conducting business practices that lend themselves to an undefined return on investment (ROI.)  Currently, each business defines  its own definition of ROI, as no established process exists. The unknown sometimes lends itself to fear, resentment, and distrust of unmet expectations. How do you manage expectations when a standard form of measurement does not exist, and culture is conditioned to follow a course of standard measurement?

The best part of undefined rules is that you get to customize the rules to your own goals, comfort level, and strategy. Don’t be afraid to use new technology or new marketing practices because no concrete ROI exists, as now is the opportunity for you to capitalize against those who are hesitant to create change. Just be sure that everything makes sense within your overall goals and strategy. Many people ask, “Should I use Twitter?”  but what people really need to ask themselves is, “How will Twitter increase business?”  Here are some steps that will help you focus on how to use ROI as a tool to your advantage:

Step 1: Track your customer behavioral patterns (both positive and negative.)

Track and respond to your customers’ positive and negative reactions; soon you will see a pattern.  As in any relationship, you react to social cues, so why should the relationship with your customers be any different?  Eventually, you can develop stronger ROI, make wiser spending decisions, and know when to trigger critical marketing efforts with the use of observed consumer patterns.

Step 2: Identify your ROI comfort levels.

Establish what your comfort level is for optimal ROI. For instance, if you plan to spend $1,000 on  a postcard awareness campaign and you expect a profit of $5,000 from the campaign, but you only get a return of $500, you have a problem.

Step 3: Define your realistic ROI goals, timeframe, and measurement techniques.

The key to this entire process is the dreadful word  “time.” The ROI process can be quite involved. Use ROI as a tool to capitalize on observed consumer patterns, not as a “be all, end all.” Used properly, ROI will help your marketing efforts in the long run. Initially, you will have to use your best judgement about the experts’ suggestions against your competitors’ activities. Isolate variables as best as you can to get a clear picture.

Step 4: Set your budget against your ROI goals.

Decide what resources of human capital and monetary assets will be dedicated to the observation of ROI. Good measurement of ROI takes money, people, and time.

Step 5: Communicate clear responsibilities and accountability.

Establish expectations. Make sure that everyone understands your comfort level, ROI expectations, goals, and method. You cannot receive clear reports unless all parties understand their responsibilities and direction.

Step 6: Activate marketing program.

Let the plan roll.

Step 7: Measure, adjust ROI strategy, measure again.

Be prepared to adjust ROI strategy to accommodate the affect of external and internal circumstances. Has the government enacted a law that affects the variables? Are there strange weather patterns? Does a different variable exist for better measurement?

If used properly, ROI is an outstanding tool,  as it gives you the opportunity to see efficiency and effectiveness within your strategic goals. However, don’t let ROI hold you back. Use your arsenal of tools, techniques, and strategies to get the best customers for your business.

You Can't Win What You Don't Put In

"You Can't Win What You Don't Put In."

You Can't Win What You Don't Put In

There’s a poker saying that states “You can’t win what you don’t put in.”

I believe this to be true in marketing, you only get out of it what you put into it. But putting into it is a decision that plagues most businesses.

Marketing requires finesse, you will win some hands and lose some hands but you can’t be discouraged to continue to play. You will need someone to filter through those wins and losses and help you make the best decision about the choices to make next. This is where businesses need the guidance of marketing professionals who are dedicated to continued marketing education. You always want to better your hand, so we stack the deck with knowledge to give you the best opportunity at a winning hand.

Don’t gamble your money away, play smart, consult a marketing professional to put the odds in your favor for success.

Comparing Competition

Don't Destroy, Differentiate from the Competition

Comparing Competition

Comparing Competition in Politics to Business 

There was a morning news show where a round-table of political analysts heads were discussing the extreme toxicity and competition in America’s current political climate. One of the hosts recalled a conversation he had with a political strategist comparing and contrasting the politics to business. In this conversation, the political strategist recalled the time he asked a marketing expert, “Why hasn’t Burger King ever directly attacked McDonald’s to gain an advantage?” The marketing expert replied, “The #1 rule in business competition is to never destroy the field.” What exactly does that mean?

David and Goliath 

McDonald’s is presently the #1 fast food burger chain in the world with Burger King at an out of sight distant second. Conventional wisdom would lead one to believe that if Burger King took on McDonald’s as David took on Goliath, Burger King would at least make a dent into McDonald’s market share. As the marketing expert noted, though this tactic sounds good in theory, there’s the real risk that Burger King would damage both companies by negatively branding the fast food burger industry. This is exactly what has unfolded in political competition over the last 30 years as the Democratic and Republican parties have destroyed the field of government in their polarizing attacks of one another. I’ll leave it to the political historians to discuss and debate which party started it. But with Congress’ approval rating at an all-time low, and social unrest spreading across the nation, the question of the outcome of such tactics may have already been answered.

Create Value, Innovate, Differentiate, Revitalize

In business, the goal is to outperform your competition and not attack them. The companies who consistently develop products that create value for consumers that can be sold for profit wins. You want to constantly innovate your product so it’s better, cheaper, faster or cooler to make your competitors weaknesses your strengths. Then you want to develop a creative marketing campaign to highlight the new product and get the attention of your competitors’ customers to make them your customers. One of Burger King’s first major attempts to differentiate itself years ago was to allow customers to make their burgers to order in their “Have It Your Way” campaign. Burger King immediately saw a spike in sales that forced the entire fast food industry to follow suit. The next time Burger King challenged McDonald’s supremacy it triggered the “Dollar Menu War” where both companies started putting premium items on their 99 cent menu. This discount battle lasted for less than a year as it depressed the profits of both companies, but Burger King attracted enough old and new customers to their stores to try new items during this time that it revitalized their brand. In both cases, no matter which company won or lost, the customers won – except around the belt line.

Prove Yourself 

The two major political parties are the exact opposite of Burger King and McDonald’s. They’ve calculated that the best way for their candidates to win is to simply tear down the other. Where a company like Burger King wants to prove that it can be better than its big brother McDonald’s, most political candidates only want to prove their opponent is worse. Burger King would never accuse McDonald’s of hiring illegal immigrants to gain an advantage. McDonald’s would never accuse Burger King of using cheap contaminated food to gain an advantage. You’ll never hear this line in a political debate: My opponent has a good plan, but here is why I have the best plan for the people. The political climate is so bad that any politician who dared be that candid would lose his or her own supporters. Why? Because years and years of the two parties destroying each other has destroyed civil politics which has disrupted the process of good governing.

Attack and Risk a War 

Surprisingly, two well-known companies actually did directly attack one another back in 2008. SABMiller launched a “Vote Miller” advertising campaign as a play on the Presidential election year which pitted a person named Miller against a horse representing their competitor – Budweiser. Budweiser initially ignored Miller’s campaign until it started gaining a lot of traction. Budweiser is world-renown for their creative advertising so it had to sting a bit that their #1 competitor was making gains on their turf. Eventually Budweiser started responding directly to Miller which only emboldened Miller to take things farther. This included buying a giant billboard displaying Miller Lite products next to Budweiser’s headquarters in St. Louis and filming an attack commercial at Budweiser’s gates. Budweiser took off the gloves by specifically stating, “How can Miller run for President when they’re not American owned?” This was a factual statement as Miller had merged with South African Breweries (SAB) a few years prior. All the same it seemed like a low blow to many. Eventually both companies started suing one another after they even started launching attacks on the convenience store level.  At this point both companies started to back off once they realized how far and fast things escalated. Their behavior was starting to upset many of their respective customers which was creating an opportunity for independent microbreweries to take advantage. If these companies had of continued at it, they would’ve risked destroying the field of mass-produced light beer which account for a majority of their respective sales.

State Features and Benefits 

And this brings us back to the current state of politics. Why would citizens have a favorable opinion of any politician when many of them state that government is inherently bad – even as they fight to keep their job in government? “Vote for us because we’re not our opponent!” is not a slogan that will make anyone take a favorable view of politics. Where are their statements of features to the voters? Where are their statements of benefits to the voters? Where are their statements of value to the voters? Why would any citizen believe politics can be better when both major political parties are racing to the bottom to win elections at the expense of those they are supposed to serve? Most of the American people are disgusted with our current government because politicians have tirelessly worked to destroy their field as a scorched earth strategy to beat their opponents.

Prioritize Value 

Burger King may never catch up to McDonald’s and become #1 in the fast food industry. But by not attacking McDonald’s as a last second Hail Mary, Burger King can at least find comfort in that they’re not sinking an industry that has faired pretty well during the best and worst of times. Businesses who prioritize creating value for their customers stay in business much longer than those who prioritize knocking off their competitors. Firing cannons to sink your opponent is a terrible tactic when you’re both on the same ship. Burger King and McDonald’s understand this to be true. Pepsi and Coca-Cola understand this to be true. BP and Exxon understand this to be true. FedEx and UPS understand this to be true. SABMiller and Budweiser learned this truth the hard way. The world will just have to wait and wonder if Democrats and Republicans will ever understand this truth.