Throwing the Checklist Out

5 08 2008

As I was going through my morning feeds, I started to read a piece shared by my copywriting partner from Alan Wolk’s Toad Stool entitled One Size Does Not Fit All.  What I realized was that too often it seems, marketers are seeking a magic formula: a dash of facebook, a jar of broadcast, the zest of a print campaign, and a dash of public relations, and a company is in the black because sales have increased threefold.  If only it were that simple!

But, marketing communication is all about the context of the company, its product, the environment, and its consumers.  And none of these things are constants.  Because of all these variables, we are required to think about a client’s business problem from multiple angles and come up with a customized solution that contributes to their success.

Yes, this solution can have some of each of those ingredients that I mentioned in the first paragraph (Facebook, TV, print, PR), but I discourage thinking of marketing as picking from a menu.  I realize that this is a challenge of subtlety because of what we do and the channels that we operate in, but it is a valuable lesson nonetheless.

We at relentlesspr are fortunate to work within a integrated agency, an expert in brand planning, PR, social media, or interactive marketing is down the hall, or up a flight of stairs.  But even within a small team, no two individuals come from the exact background, and have the same idea.  I encourage people to talk a problem out and debate.  As any good creative will tell you, 90% of their ideas are thrown out before leaving a brainstorm session.  And the 10% left is something they are very confident will be a successful campaign.

While Alan’s piece was about social media, the message of it certainly had me thinking about much more than one channel of marketing and avoiding the traps we can fall into.


The Brand Experience

11 06 2008

The term “brand experience” has been heard a lot more in the halls of agencies lately. If you haven’t heard of it, it has two definitions, one for marketers: “the strategic organization of all interactions that people have with an organization, person, or product.” And one for the consumer: “the overall satisfaction that an individual has when interacting with an organization, person, or product.”

With the advent of (buzzword alert!) Web 2.0 and the increased power it has allowed consumers through blogs, YouTube videos, and Facebook, marketers have been forced to rethink the way that they communicate their message. Better yet, they now have to participate in a conversation about their brand.

This conversation may have started small, family and friends spreading the word about what they love and hate, but now its huge. A worldwide public forum is available and with a little effort, any individual can see what is behind the advertising on television, a microsite, or a canned press release and let everyone else know.

Our clients are looking for us, be it PR, creative, planning, interactive, or direct professionals, to play a role in helping them reach out to the consumers and understand what the consumers are saying back. The challenge goes beyond keeping up with the sheer magnitude of people writing (112.8 million blogs & 70 million active Facebook members, to start) but achieving the strategic organization of all these interactions, building to loyal customers and a profitable brand.

David Armano, an influential blogger and experience designer, created the visual that displays the two paths that a brand can go down. Holding true to the old adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” I can’t say it a more succinct or elegant fashion.

Ok, I stretched the truth, I have something more to say about his visual. It also establishes that there are steps and we can’t gain customer loyalty overnight or earn back their trust if we lost it.

As a brand interacts with the consumers, it starts to move, up or down, depending on what the brand is doing. If the product does what the advertising says and the website says they donate 1% of all profits to charity and the PR team gets an article in the NY Times about how that 1% helped so many people, then ALL of that better be true. Humanitarian actions may not be in the scope of marketing, but they should be. You’ve already shown that you are consistent, everything lines up. And you tell the truth and come from a position of authority, everything makes sense. Now you’re credible.

You can see where that was going. On the other hand, if the brand is all over the place with its advertising and you don’t understand what any of this has to do with the product they offer, then things are going down.

The real value of understanding the principle of brand experience comes from understanding that value is achieved through a unified effort pursued by all involved in a brand, from the receptionist who answers the phone to the CEO’s interview on CNN. But remember to temper your enthusiasm with patient thinking and feedback gathering. The consumers will let you know if what you are doing is what they like or not.

It’s a long way to heaven and like anything worthwhile, requires a lot of effort, listening, and maybe a few bruises.