The Marketing Guy

Rooting for Good Marketing Since 2009

Archive for Marketing Guy

The Fragility of Your Brand and its Impact on your Marketing

With resources still being cut to the bone, there aren’t too many companies out there with extra marketing dollars just sitting around waiting to be spent (unless you’re rolling in the iPad money these days—but I digress). Now on the one hand this makes for more resourceful marketing—unleashing creativity and trying out new and unconventional activities that can take your business in new and exciting directions. But it also removes most of the margin for error that marketers have when something unexpected happens.

We’ve talked in this space before about the challenge of managing your message when increasing amounts of marketing are out of your control. The social media explosion of information and access means that you’re one bad customer experience and a video camera away from a viral video that hits millions of people instantly through Twitter. For us marketers then, this puts a huge emphasis on making our companies and brands as strong as possible, so that we can withstand the inevitable surprises and assaults from the marketplace and irate customers when something goes wrong.

Pick up any one of a thousand of books on branding these days, and you’ll read a lot about building your brand, but not nearly as much on maintaining it. But the maintenance, while often less glamorous and exciting, helps you sustain these downward cycles. So at your next quarterly marketing review, ask a question of your team—first, think of a worst case scenario for your company—product recall, defect, viral video—whatever it is for you. Then ask for a straight up or down vote—would our brand and company be able not just to survive, but recover from such an event? The answer you provide will say a lot about the fragility of your brand and the type of marketing you need to be engaged in right now.

Now don’t think you’re alone if you aren’t able to truly answer in the affirmative. Again, most of us don’t have the resources and sheer amount of equity that the big brands do—for many of us, we’re just a few unhappy big customers away from having a real problem on our hands. But if you don’t think you’d be able to survive the “big crash,” have a realistic conversation on what you need to do to be less fragile. What steps can you take, what programs can you initiate, but PR can you generate that will start to build up some equity in case bad news occurs?

We’re seeing examples all around us these days of what happens when brands don’t have anything in reserve to sustain the backlash of the marketplace. Take heed of their issues and ensure you have a plan in place to start stocking up.


Is There a Customer Voice in your Marketing?

Man there’s a beehive of marketing activity out there right now—you can’t turn around without a blizzard of new products being launched, updates to old versions, something “new and improved” compared to the model that seemed new just last month. Now for us marketers this is fantastic—and certainly beats the mood of 12 months ago, when no one was marketing anything—everyone was just hunkered down waiting for the worst part of the storm to pass.

But as the worst of the storm clouds start to dissipate and revenue forecasts and profit margins start to become just the slightest bit more predictable, those companies that best weathered the storm are now sending wave after wave of new products into the marketplace to consumers and buyers that are finding a few more pennies in their pocketbooks.

So it’s instructive as we see things like new phones and electronics, software built in the cloud, and updated service offerings to keep in mind the perspective of the buyer. Who are they? How have they been affected by the last year’s economy? And what is it they’re looking for in the products that they do have budget to buy today? As usual, we marketers think we have the answer; but that answer is often tied into the features and functionality that we’re most interested in talking about in our new products and what the products “d,” not the fundamental problem or challenge that the customer is looking to solve by using our product or service in the first place.

If you haven’t had the chance recently, take a look at your messaging frameworks for your products and services. First, have they been updated recently (if not, given that almost every nook and cranny of the global economy looks different now than it did in 2008-2009, you really need to review them to ensure they still makes sense—like now. Go on, I’ll wait)? The core value proposition that you had 2 years ago is likely way different today. Markets have gone away and reformed; old competitors have disintegrated and new, more nimble ones have rushed in to take their place; and technology continues its light-speed pace rendering yesterday’s “unsurpassed advantages” to a distant memory.

Second, look at your messaging from a dispassionate point of view—the unsuspecting customer. The old “WIIFM” or “what’s in it for me” argument applies here. Are you talking about how great your newest feature is and what it does, or how it benefits the customer? Do you tend to focus on features when your customer now buys on price? And what about value? What value will the customer gain from using your product or service. Most customers today are not inherently buying on price—they’re buying on value, in which price plays a role—but not *the* role.

It’s these key fundamental themes that are missing from so much of our marketing today—reading an inventory list of all the cool things in your product on a website or brochure doesn’t speak to me as a potential customer—it speaks to you as a vendor and how proud you are of everything you’ve done. An agency I once worked with called this approach “teenage marketing”—“it’s all about me, me, me.” And they’re right. Our job as marketers is to find the customer’s voice and infuse it into everything we do. We’re always talking about establishing a bond with our customers and keeping them “for life.” The first step in that process is speaking to them in a language they understand—theirs.