The Top 4 Things That Matter in Marketing Today

In a previous post, I spoke about the fact that the old approaches of marketing don’t work any more, and that consumers are now in control.

In that kind of world, what do brand managers of the old guard need to do to stay relevant?

The good news, is that the fundamentals don’t change. The bad news is that the fundamentals are a lot more complicated now. Here they are:

1. Are you making a great product? Do you know who your developing it for? 

2. Are you leveraging the people that care about your brand to help? 

3. Are you answering her questions?

4. Are you focusing on your core business or getting distracted by shiny objects?

Let’s break ’em down one by one.

1. Are you making a great product? Do you know who your developing it for? 

At first, this seems pretty obvious, and most brand managers automatically assume the answer for them is yes. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple.

Great doesn’t mean slightly better than competition; or effective but indistinguishable from other options. It means that the brand is special and extraordinary in a particular way that resonates with your consumer.And your consumer, instead of being a demographic stat dump is a lot smaller and a lot more subtly specific – a “tribe” of people with similar values/attitudes, even if they don’t conform to a demographic of any kind.

Brand managers frequently think that this kind of brand strategy is only relevant in high involvement industries, like cars or technology, but it is truly universal. For example, “sensorial housewifes seeking a touch of romance in their every day chores” unlocked a new kind of laundry detergent that combined laundry softeners with top end perfumery to jumpstart a multi million dollar product line.

2. Are you leveraging the people that care about your brand to help? 

Either via established brand loyalty, or because you are doing something that your target consumers find extraordinary, great brands start to get fans. Find a way for them to be part of what you’re doing, and reward them with content that they’ll find interesting.

Ask for their help, develop assets that they’ll feel smart to share with others and (ideally) reward for them for taking the time to support you to others. Your brand’s fans are a precious media channel that money can’t buy; its instead more like a long term investment that keeps giving back. Because they are passionate about your brand and the industry, they will have an opinion about what you do sometimes as well – and sometimes hate you for choices they don’t like.

But that’s okay.

Because it means they CARE, and indifference is the death of brands.

Most brand managers are terrified to give consumers such a huge amount of control in their marketing, usually because they either (a) don’t have the agility to respond and change their plans based on consumer feedback; or (b) they don’t have the confidence or judgement to stay the course in the face of criticism  (or throw away their plans if consumers seem indifferent).

A great example of how to do this well is the Samsung Galaxy S4 (NZ) Launch. This video tells the story:

Samsung Galaxy S4 Smart Line

Synopsis: The recent launch of Samsung Galaxy S4 in New Zealand offered its fans a virtual line (instead of having to physically queue up for the phone ahead of launch day). Virtual line attendees would be sent content about the upcoming phone, and if they posted it on to their social media accounts, they would advance their position in queue. The first ten people in the line would not just receive their Samsung phone earlier than the rest of the country – they also received it for free.

This example is fantastic: they leveraged their community and also found away to reward them for doing so in a way that created even more buzz. Consumers got a convenient way to pre-order (and a chance at a free phone). Samsung got prized word of mouth from a loyal fan base that competed with each other to post the most and get the best positions in line. The creation of an actual line made up of digital avatars was a second stroke of genius: in addition to increasing the novelty of posting content (it appeared in a speech bubble over the digital line while you watched) it also created a novel experience that secured record coverage for Samsung in the NZ press. Kudos to Colenso and the Samsung NZ team for a brilliant program!

3. Are you answering her questions?

Fans and new users will inevitably ask questions. They’ll be impatient, and want it on their terms – the Internet has trained us to expect instant answers. Overservice them at this point, and they’ll forgive many slights in the future. Neglect them and they’ll just move on to the next best alternative.

Does your content instore and online provide easy navigation to her most fundamental questions? Does the relevant content appear when she searches these questions on Google? Do you answer her when she asks questions on forums and social media (especially if it’s on your page!).

Sadly, companies frequently have so many layers that a timely response (outside of a customer service center) is impossible online. That’s just not good enough.

Major brands and online stores are even offering 24/7 Whatsapp contacts to instantly respond to questions (Lancome China), as well as chat systems on their site to offer real time consultation (Burberry).

burberry customer service

4. Are you focusing on your core business or getting distracted by shiny objects? 

Whether its the latest new product or the latest thing in media (I’m looking at you, viral videos!), marketers are sometimes so distracted by shiny new things that they focus on them instead of the less glamorous but effective “core” work. Search optimization and search marketing will deliver consistently more to your business than any other digital intervention you can make – but how often is it the top priority for a brand to get right?

While new products is important, it’s vital to find a balance between new innovation and getting the fundamentals right, and marketers tend to get tired of their brands much faster than consumers do. Look for bigger, but fewer product innovations and small pilot tests for new ideas. Use the bulk of your spending and investement to perfect and expand on what you’re offering consumers today that they already love.

Some of the most competitive and innovation driven industries is technology, but even institutions in the field such as Apple, Microsoft and Sony maintain a regular innovation cycle of around once per year (or in the case of video game consoles, cycles of around 4 to 6 years).

In addition to helping defray innovation costs, this also helps the bulk of the organization focus on perfecting the product in hand for consumers instead of always chasing the next big thing.

So there you go – four questions that set you up for the new world of marketing. Are there any more that I’m missing?

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