Category Archives: Branding

Communications plan or connections plan. Using connection planning to target and engage customers during the buying cycle.

When most marketers develop a communications plan, they start with their product or service, determining the target audience that represents the greatest revenue opportunity.  Smart marketers dig deeper to identify target insights, high-opportunity vertical segments or underdeveloped regions.

But if you want your marketing to go a step further and truly engage with customers, you should establish rich connections based on where they are in the purchase cycle.  This dimension is especially important if you are promoting a product with a long sales cycle, or a B2B brand.

For a prospect to consider selecting your brand, you must first establish a base level of knowledge and trust.  One quarter of the U.S. respondents to Edelman’s 11th Annual Trust Barometer indicated that they needed to hear something about a company 6+ times before they believe it.  Note that they said “hear,” not “be exposed to.”  With advertising exposure exceeding 3,000 messages per day, it is critical that marketers connect with prospects, rather than simply shout at them.

To start creating a connection plan, consider how your brand relates to prospects in each of these stages:

Unaware and Unengaged:  This is the largest, but also the most passive target group.  They have unmet needs, but have yet to begin actively looking for a solution.

Increasingly Interested:  This group has started to show interest in your category and may be attending trade shows, beginning to read relevant articles or looking for informational webinars.

Actively Searching:  Prospects who are actively searching are driven by a pressing need.  They are researching specific solutions and beginning to establish impressions of brands that best fit that need.

Confirming Credentials and Chemistry: This group is actively going through the RFP process (whether formal or not), narrowing their options and determining which brand has the right solution at the right price.

Establishing the Relationship:  Communications shouldn’t stop when the sale is made.  The value that current users place on the relationship will make or break both referrals and incremental sales.

By customizing the media and message to align with each of these stages in the purchase cycle, marketers will have the foundation for a powerful, multi-touchpoint connection plan.

–          Pamela J. Alvord, EVP Managing Director of Strategy and Operations

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A Good Move for Goldman Sachs?

There has been a lot of hype surrounding the recent launch of Goldman Sachs’ advertising campaign.  The firm that has built a reputation for being a group of elitist “bad boys” wants to change its image.  Perhaps it was the reference to the firm as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity” in a Rolling Stone article that caused the firm to act.  In any case, the most profitable U.S. securities firm in Wall Street history wants the public to know that it creates jobs and loves the small-business community.

The firm’s first ad appeared in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, and it has been reported that ads will follow in other daily papers across the country.  Initially, I was surprised that their first effort to “repair their image” was via a full-page ad in two of the nation’s costliest media outlets.   If the firm’s message is one of inclusion and engagement, hence the tagline, “Progress is everyone’s business,” why is Goldman Sachs choosing to limit its campaign to a one-way message rather than engage the public with an integrated campaign that includes social media and public relations tactics?

A Goldman Sachs spokesperson said the advertising campaign is meant to “reflect the work we do for clients and the effect on the economy as a whole.”  Writing and circulating stories about the work they’ve done, the jobs they’ve created, and the industries they’ve helped would bode well in social media and traditional public relations.  In today’s environment, these tactics can be the most powerful weapons in a marketing arsenal.

What do you think?  Is Goldman Sachs on the right track to repair its image?

— Debbie Dryden, VP, Thought Leadership

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Once an iPhone Junkie- always an iPhone junkie

The new Apple iPhone
Image by Victor Svensson via Flickr

Last time I posted a blog entry to our site, I shared a dark secret: I’m an iPhone junkie. Nothing has changed that fact since then (if anything, my obsession has grown), but the news and PR nightmare over the release of the new iPhone 4 certainly gave reason to examine my loyalty to this product and the Apple brand.

As the new products began to hit the doorsteps of millions across the nation, I eagerly awaited the Facebook updates, news articles, e-mails, commercials, etc., that would surely have me boiling over with excitement at the thought of my future upgrade. “Apple has done it again,” I thought, “they’ve actually outdone themselves.” But less than a week after the release, complaints with the new version hit the streets like wildfire. Poor signal strength, discoloration on the screen, the glass scratches much easier than before, defects with the rear camera, and more. It seemed Apple had released a faulty product and disappointed the masses.

Or had they? At the same time the news focused on the higher profile errors of the iPhone 4 and the damage likely to be done to the Apple brand, I also began to see efforts to rally against the bad media and defend the brand and its product. Status updates spoke of pure obsession over the new iPhone 4 and having little or no problems at all. Tweets near and far called for a reality check– these issues could happen with any cell phone! Steve Jobs gave that same check to the nation when he commented, “We’re not perfect…phones aren’t perfect.” As a brand supporter and product enthusiast, I agree with Mr. Jobs. The iPhone is not perfect, but for me, the hundreds of things this device can do right get it pretty close. Opinions like these have slowly started to pop up in articles addressing the issue, as more and more iPhone junkies like me work to have our voices heard and remain devout loyalists to Apple.

Though the issues remain, and more are certain to develop with each new product, I foresee the strength of the brand to continue growing. Apple is loved, admired, and defended endlessly by so many junkies, myself included. Though I won’t deny a dropped call every so often is frustrating, or that having an application close out on me unexpectedly is annoying, at the least, I know I’ll eventually get over it. In the end, it’s worth it to me. It says something great of a brand’s reputation when a customer can take the good with the not so good and remain more than happy with the product. And that those customers go beyond contentment to actually rise up and profess their loyalties to the brand when the going gets tough says even more.

Keep it up, Apple. Now when can I expect the iPhone 5?

— Beth Madigan, Account Executive

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Representing your brand; do your research

One of the more popular urban legends is how the Chevrolet  Nova sold poorly in Spanish-speaking countries because “no va,” in Spanish, literally translates to “it does not go.” Despite whether or not this story is true, or really just a legend, the moral behind the story is still as relevant as ever. Poor representation of your brand will greatly affect your sales.

I was not as disappointed with the commercials during the 2010 Super Bowl as in previous years. I commented on the smart ones, chuckled at the funny ones, and made fun of the ones that just fell flat. However, one that I believe has poorly represented its brand was Audi.

When I watched the “green” Audi commercial the first time, I thought it to be a smart approach — tackling the eco-friendly automobile industry. However, it wasn’t until the following Monday where I was reminded that the “green police” was another name for Hitler’s Police during World War II. The Green police were at the heart of numerous deportations, ghetto-clearing operations, and massacres.

So I watched it again. And perhaps I am being too sensitive, but I found it incredibly distasteful. The way the police showed up at the store arresting the consumer on the counter for choosing a plastic bag, or taking someone out of their home for using the wrong kind of light bulbs – all while having a re-recorded version of Cheap Trick’s “Dream Police” as “Green Police” playing in the background. Was it not hypocritical to be wasting water by pouring it out of bottles simply because they were plastic? It just reminded me of the cruelty of the Nazis simply because they were in positions of power.

To make it even worse, Audi is a German company, owned by Volkswagen. I realize that the point wasn’t to make light of the Holocaust or even to try and emulate Hitler’s Police of the 1940s, but there is a much better way to portray your new eco-friendly, “green” automobile. How Audi approved such a concept is beyond me, but their ad agency should have done their research and been more sensitive.

All brands should be perceptive as to how to represent their brand. And German brands like Audi and Volkswagen, should know better than to associate with the “Green Police”  65 years after World War II. This misrepresentation is as bad as telling Spanish-speaking people that your vehicle simply “no va.”

— Jonathan Ginburg, Account Executive

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Ban the Strategic Buzzwords

We’ve all been there.  A meeting is called to discuss marketing strategy, and the result is a carefully crafted value proposition, brand promise or campaign strategy that is nothing more than a series of carefully connected buzzwords:

Our commitment to excellence provides exceptional value to our customers.

Our innovative product design and best-in-class sales team provide service and quality that exceed any customer’s need.

We are driven to provide the best customer service in the industry.

Trust and confidence built on a history of innovation.

Our people make the difference.

We do the right thing.

Who wouldn’t say they do the right thing?  What company doesn’t believe they are committed to excellence? How many organizations try to claim that their people are different and better than everyone else?   Are these referring to a bank, a car or a box of cereal?  These statements satisfy everyone but inspire no one.

To develop a more powerful marketing strategy, first understand what your customers truly want, and then articulate how you solve that problem or address that need better than anyone else.  If you ban the top 10 buzzwords from your strategy meetings, you are one step closer to a relevant and inspiring statement that will set you apart in the marketplace.

Here are my nominees for the top 10 marketing buzzwords.

  • Best-in-Class
  • Commitment
  • Customer-Focused
  • Expertise
  • Innovation
  • Integrity
  • People
  • Quality
  • Trust
  • Value

What buzzwords are on your list?

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