Archive for the ‘marketing’ Category

Can the perception of a commodity product be altered with branding?

Smartphones are transforming the shopping experience, for better or worse. Stats show five out of 10 smartphone users reviewing product descriptions on their mobile phone before they enter a store. So why put the ingredients on the package if the consumer is reading them on their phones, reviewing them against competitor’s products, comparison pricing them and down loading coupons as a value proposition? It would seem that the retailer is just a warehouse and the shopping experience including product discovery happens on the handset.

SmartPhone media promises to increase purchase intent and promote store traffic to a CPG retail site or brick and mortar store. True to form, research firm InsightExpress noted that mobile ads were nearly five times more effective than web based display and search…despite the smaller format…but the coincidence of credit card, hand and cell phone has proven to be an effective launch pad.

The problem is this, the platform is effective with incentives and incentives add cost to marketing and merchandising budgets beyond the ad media costs which have to be reflected in the product price. If the brand isn’t selling on its own and the reason to buy a product requires incentives to convert branding to sales, then the price of the goods or the marketing needs to be rethought. The credo of branding is to create awareness of a product’s uniqueness, not its price on sale.

I grew up in the food business and know that every buyer wants a bargain until they decide they want the premium product. While you cannot eat a Vuitton bag, women will go hungry to acquire one as the maker doesn’t discount anything, ever and no one expects them to either. That’s branding…the value is in the goods and the name.

When the hype outshines the product, its failure is assured.

Bill Bernbach, a founder of the once famous Doyle Dane Bernbach advertising agency said it. Jerry Della Femina, another iconic advertising leader reiterated it, but it was Edward Deming, an engineer who made the words a practical philosophy that enabled Japanese manufacturers to overtake those in the United States with more innovative and better made products at competitive or lower prices.

Deming’s revolutionary idea was to treat manufacturing as a holistic system rather than “bits and pieces.” It was essential that the suppliers and the customers be included in the end to end system and to use their feedback to continually improve products, services and processes using facts and data.

Sixty-four years later we are still competing with the Japanese on production product quality, but we appear to have moved consumer engagement in the process to the aftermarket employing them to market and merchandise production products by way of social media. Even more curious is the fact that much of the production is now done offshore, but in countries like China which produce products of lesser quality and functionality.

There is considerable evidence that a growing majority – on both sides of a transaction –believe perception holds greater value than a product’s attributes.

Obviously, the most ardent believers of the perception credo are the media that handily profit from supporting the construct of merchandising myths and legends. So strong is their belief that they have created a raft of algorithms that affirm every assertion made of the faith that commands us to like, share, create content and follow everyone everywhere because if we are one of many, the tribe will prevail.

Having worked on both the product side and the marketing side, I have become intimately aware of the consumer’s response to the application of the product. Fielding live phone calls from consumers is a hell of a lot more authentic and informative than any comment, post or tweet. What it comes down to is a product that performs as promised at the price that presents a value for the dollar spent.

Can you imagine the quality of products we could be enjoying if a portion of the monies and energies that is presently going into the hype=space were injected into the product production space? Brands should represent real quality and practical benefit. Sharing those credentials should be the job of marketing not inventing them.

Big brands scale to the Lilliputian world of smart-phones.

To keep pace with the global consumer shift from computers to mobile smart phones with their miniature displays, branding has had to learn to think like a Lilliputian. All things small however, does not guarantee less expensive as we have Apple asking $1M for interactive engagement media on its iPhone. Their explanation is the user experience… advertisers should not have an exclusive window to their subscriber, but rather a shared engagement with the content.

One of every five consumers is using a smart-phone to make a branded purchasing decision. The small screen will be attracting growing numbers of transaction as device prices drop and current carrier contracts expire. Being able to present offers 24 hours a day coincidental to the consumers geo-location with GPS technology is a ticket to demographic Nirvana.

For there to be a mobile brand conversation icons et al have to be miniaturized. The 3G-4G consumers already know there is less functionality in a mobile app and web browsing is a richer content experience, but to be effective both must be consumer relevant, up to the minute and platform specific. The inherent functionality of the medium….phone, web site etc, needs to focus on the user experience, so a mobile version of a Web site is becoming a have to have rather than I will think about it option.

buy me, bring me, get me, take me, give me….if you want them to come back. Once again, branding is edging ever so much closer to sales promotion with bar code scanning and location aware proximity technology drawing them all together at the point of sale.

One caveat when creating your mobile marketplace…each platform; Apple, Android, Blackberry and Bada sees the code differently and each device sees that code differently.
Holding on too tight to your graphical standards could cost you your sanity unless you accept the idea that each consumer interaction is a one to one experience.

The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t being said.

It might be difficult not to believe an entrepreneur who has convinced thousands of investors to put their money behind an untried and untested innovation that their marketing directives will be successful. But experience has shown me that technological genius and capital raising acumen are not assurances for mass marketing mojo unless the image you are seeing in the mirror is Steve Jobs.

For everyone else, I recommend investing in marketplace research of both the wholesale and retail side of distribution as the euphemism of mine field will actually prove to be an understatement. Ask consumers for their opinions, watch for their unspoken reactions, challenge their willingness to please and respond to their aspersions with an open mind. With that input draft a psycho-demographic profile and challenge a variety marketing and media consultants to develop media plans and schedules. Keep in mind that your campaign must be in sync with product production, distribution cycles and media timetables – None of which are probably in lock step with your competitors, bankers or investor interests.

The new online social marketplace has presented communication professionals with unique opportunities for both free and paid impressions. The debate between CPM and CPC metrics hould not be taken as the only measures of success… brand recall isn’t SEO and unique visitors are not a measure of a customer’s willingness to buy.  More importantly, learning the differences will not suffice having practical experience. Being bloodied in battle and hailed as a victor keeps one both human and humble.

Clicks and keywords are monetary metrics not brand credentials

It wasn’t that long ago that advertisers invested in producing truly creative print ads, radio spots and TV commercials to engage consumers in a dialog with product marketers and their brands. So artful were these efforts that the Museum of Modern Art built a collection of the best examples.

More recently it was learned that the once presumed family friendly social networks; Facebook, MySpace, Google et al, have been aggregating the personal ID data from site visits and sharing it with their advertising media networks to effectuate higher click-thru rates.

Besides the unethical business practice what should concern all of us is the shift from earning the hearts and minds of consumers through relevant content exchanges to spying on consumer activities in an attempt to ambush their attention as they navigate the net.

Worse still is the thinking that a click is a value metric in building a brand franchise with a consumer. The click doesn’t actually measure a positive or negative brand recall, but it does serve as an accounting methodology.

Roy Grace, creative director of “Spicy Meatballs”– “good advertising is achieved by cooperative effort between agency talent and clients with courage and intelligence. For those that know there are short cuts, but choose not to take them — I’m with you.

Content is its own virus

So much of our current marketing energies are focused on abetting the ability of a prospect to locate a brand online that the “solutions” which consumers are actually searching for may be overlooked in an effort to execute optimization.

Solutions of real value are most often found within current, relevant content that addresses the answers to the; who, what, where and why questions… the DNA of a successful brand.

Truth be told, it is easier to optimize a site than it is to imbue the essence of a brand with relevance, substance, character, merit, functionality, purpose, resolve and then affirm those key brand terms with performance guarantees.

 Invest in the underlying values and the credibility of a brand will become the subject of peer conversations both on and offline.

The conversion of an interest to an outcome

We are sponsors of a culture driven by virtual conveniences craving irrefutable credentials to support what appear to be its impromptu choices.

Appearances can be deceiving though as the traditional exemplars of “branding” have evolved through the socialization of marketing. Personal networks now endorse the role of the consumer as the publisher of its peer to peer messaging. While the brand continues to be perceived as a personal credential, the consumer, rather than the brand has emerged as the “qualified” expert.

The “why” answer is a question of trust. The consumer is skeptical of media messages and has been empowered with the tools to verify the credentials of a product by communicating with a global community of peer users. Managing that interpersonal correspondence can present unanticipated consequences – both positive and negative.

Today, marketers need to actively participate in the conversations of the peer community and do so openly to be compliant with FTC guidelines in the interest of a truthful outcome.

Who you are and where you are as important as who are your friends and even more importantly, what you are sharing with them.

Facebook, Google and Yahoo want to know as do all their advertisers.

Google dominated the web by facilitating searches based on words, phrases and the pages containing them. Links from one site to another along with the volume of traffic counted in determining the most relevant pages for a searched term thus creating a successful search engine valuing the interest in specific words as an advertiser media. But words alone and links to the pages they resided on are no longer the most prolific source of relevant referrals — instead, people sharing content with other people via social networks like Facebook and Twitter have become the new grail of relevance and bankable targeted messages.

Google is paying social network sites for access to their public updates, but it does not have access to the personal profiles or the intimate details that Facebook does of those engaged in the sharing.

Facebook is building a potentially more powerful search engine: One that delivers search based on relationships and interests to value relevance. With the innovation of the “Like” button, Facebook will know more about individual preferences than those that preceded them.

Competitively, Google may be in a position to “buy” a solution or give one away. In fact, Google confirms free turn-by-turn directions coming to iPhone.

Free turn-by-turn Google Maps Navigation has already threatened an entire industry of GPS navigation companies whose livelihood depends on selling paid versions of what the search giant is now giving away for free. Currently Google Maps Navigation is available for Android phones only, but Google said it will bring free navigation to the iPhone along with other platforms.

Real time and historic proximity data coupled with actual purchases is proving to be valuable media criterion for advertisers seeking direct retail purchase performance metrics. Traditional branding campaigns are aggressively transforming into a direct sales influence on the internet and mobile platforms.

Viral marketing is velocity marketing

Digital viral marketing is the uniquely organic process of a customer connecting to a potential customer linking their social networks to share their online discoveries and experiences. The promotional benefits of viral marketing are many fold: little or  no media cost, high velocity of correspondence, peer recommendations, multiple linking sources which raise search rankings, exponential awareness which draws the attention of the press accelerating “buzz” and increases the opportunity to convert larger numbers of potential customers to purchasers – ultimately building a brand franchise in real time.

The magnets for engaging site visitors are opportunities to participate in; surveys, questionnaires, entertainment and relevant interactive content with a reward for sharing information about your product thus making them brand ambassadors.
Unlike traditional brand marketing which typically can take years, the metrics for success are the dollars spent to engage and the conversion to sales measured in real time.

Let them do the talking, but listen intently.

Traditional brands may be hesitant to accept this paradigm, but web analytics show us that consumer generated content posted to sites dominates the brand related content space over the content created by the marketers of brands themselves. In fact, “77% of YouTube Twitter and Facebook listings that appeared for brand searches were created by someone other than the marketer.”

Marketers have come to learn that consumer collaboration creates immersive, shareable experiences. Peer sharing is essential if a product is to connect virally with consumers. While the acceleration of content distribution can be exhilarating and a great savings over paid media, the quality and tone of the user messages may not always be positive to the brand.

In anticipation of potentially negative correspondence, it is critical for brand marketers to have a plan and the means to address the situation immediately. Correspond with the detractors, generate new content to engage users to provide positive testimonials, stimulate sharing, but do not ignore those little nagging voices as they can become screams.

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