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The Cults of Personalities

1 Nov

Three Takeaways from the 2016 Elections

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Guest contributor:
Matt Hillman, Creative Director

This blog was written in the final weeks leading up the 2016 presidential election, and regardless of where you stand in the political spectrum or what the results might have been, we can all agree: this was a rough one.

Sure, the issues are important and the stakes are high, but this race was particularly intense because the finalists in the election race were not just people—they were brands.

Brands aren’t reserved for names or logos; brands are what we feel in our gut when we are regularly exposed to a company, product, service or even people. And the people in this election were definitely larger than life.

With so much riding on their shoulders, the candidates came to represent more than just their platforms—people across the country associated the candidates with ways of life, with values, and in some cases the candidates became lightning rods for everything controversial.

So what can we learn from the campaign from a brand perspective?

  1. Brands Are About Belonging

As stated in a PBS Frontline episode, “people join and stay with cults for the exact same reasons as people join and stay with brands…the desire to belong to something.” Well beyond political platforms or ideologies, each candidate’s supporters projected what they wanted each candidate to represent onto them, viewing the candidate as the key to gaining what they desired most. We see this in brands all the time, with beverages suggesting they deliver a way of life or level of happiness that other drinks cannot.

  1. Brands Are Divisive

To those who align themselves with a brand, that brand is a symbol of something (or many things) the person values, respects, and supports. But conversely, that same brand can come to represent the opposite to others who don’t support it—something insolent, subversive, and even dangerous. While many enjoy Starbucks and feel good about the company’s policies, others see it as a money-hungry organization that dupes customers. Similarly, we saw this often with some fans not simply supporting their candidate, but growing to hate the opposing nominee—and the people associated with them.

  1. Brands Confound Logic

If someone is, say, a fan of Ford trucks, it makes absolutely no difference what the data says about power, capacity, style, etc. If this person is “a Ford guy,” none of that matters. Reason and logic take a backseat to association and alignment; in fact, if you push the issue too far, they become irritated and irrational. In other words, brand is all about emotion. Again, we saw this repeatedly in this election, with normally stable, rational people screaming and chanting, refusing to engage in civil discourse, or unwilling to entertain an opposing view.

So regardless of your vote, it’s important to remember that behind the people, parties, and platforms lurked brands—and a valuable reminder that just like Ford vs. Chevy, Coke vs. Pepsi, or Apple vs. Samsung, election brands can be an ugly affair.

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Our Take From Cleveland: #CMWorld Day One

8 Sep

 

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Our #CMWorld day one is done. And, these two first-timers are energized by the networking, excited to leverage what we’ve learned, and, okay, maybe just a little tired.

Here’s what’s caught Corey and Kate’s attention in Cleveland.

First, content marketers as a whole are working more from assumptions than fact.

Consider:

  • 57 percent of B2B marketers say they use audience personas
  • However, a mere 20 percent of audiences being reached have the info and means to purchase

Eighty percent of those receiving marketing messages don’t have the interest or resources to make a buying decision. The takeaway is clear: Relying on assumptions is wasting time and our clients’ money. The importance of research can’t be overstated.

Next, a consistent theme heard across the show is marketers are great at providing clients with solutions … but maybe not-so-great at listening to clients’ problems.

Ian Altman summed it up in his session on how content can accelerate sales: If your product or service doesn’t solve the client’s problem, they don’t care about your features and benefits.

Ardath Albee stressed the importance of understanding client challenges. She said our solutions must meet audiences and their problems along every step of the buyer’s journey.

Seems like a good time to step back and ask: Are we truly addressing clients’ needs or are we just telling them what we think they want to hear?

Additionally, Jeff Julian and Andrea Fryrear delivered a strong message about not thinking about content as campaigns. They stressed failing and winning fast, and using learnings to guide strategy, instead of spending time and money on one-time campaigns.

Finally, Rick Wion shared lessons on transparency and trust from his time at Kellogg’s and McDonald’s. Wion referenced Al Golin’s Trust or Consequences book and reminded us that building trust is like insurance for future issues. Because we all know at some point, there will be an issue.

We’ll close this blog with a fun fact learned today: DYK there’s a McDonald’s employee responsible for tasting eight hamburgers an hour, for eight hours a day, five days a week? That’s a quality control job we’d like to have! And, no, his name is not “Big Mac.”

Bring it on, day two.

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Go for the B2B Gold

11 Aug

Butterfly Stroke Swimming Champion

The Olympics Inspire B2B Excellence

The Olympics has become one of the most anticipated events throughout the globe. You may even have favorite athletes or events that you always enjoy watching. With such stories of triumph, unity, and humanity the Olympic brand is personal and inspirational. From watching some of the games with my family, I realized that they can teach B2B marketers a thing or two when it comes to creating a long-lasting brand and engaging audience experience.

According to Sponsorship Intelligence, the Olympics not only wins on appeal, but scores higher than many other global brands on values such as inclusiveness, inspiration, and excellence. The games strive to bring the world together through sport, and its overall movement is for a higher purpose—going above and beyond consumer expectations.

Although the colorful rings are one of the most recognizable and beloved logos, branding doesn’t just stop with a logo. Branding is essential because it shows the development and thinking behind who your company is and why people will connect. These days people are bored of perfection, and throughout the Olympics there is a healthy amount of achievement, as well as humanity. A powerful moment in Olympic history that captured hearts across the globe was Jamaica’s first-ever bobsleigh appearance, and although they went medal-less, their story was so inspirational that it even led to a Disney movie.

During the Olympic games, the moments that have been most memorable for fans have showcased the personality of individual athletes, their “brand,” like Carl Lewis or Michael Phelps—it’s the people who define the movement for fans. It’s important to realize that while you may be marketing for business-to-business, there are people who are making the decisions within each interaction and are who you need to build relationships with. By doing so, your business can create its own legacy.

Whether it’s watching Michael Phelps win eight gold medals in 2008 or fans being inspired by the 2012 London Olympics to get out and get active, the Olympic brand tells a story of inspiration that virtually anyone can relate to. Most importantly, the experience for both fans and athletes from around the world is unforgettable. As B2B marketers, we need to strive to create shareable moments, just as the Olympics did with record-breaking tweets during London’s 2012 opening ceremony. Engaging with your audience across your brand’s many different channels to reflect your brand’s true personality—and for transparency—results in winning the gold.

So whether you are a marketing giant, or a triumphant underdog, this year’s games serve as a great source of inspiration for both branding and customer experience. Take heart like an Olympian, and bring your brand center-stage with inclusiveness, inspiration, and excellence.

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Oh Snap!

30 Jun

Is Snapchat the Next B2B Marketing Tool for Your Brand?

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For those who aren’t familiar with the mobile app, Snapchat, it is a multimedia app with more than 100 million users, that allows you to send brief digital content for in-the-moment experiences.

The challenge that marketers face today, whether it be B2B or B2C, is that you have to be involved with all of the different social media platforms in order to evolve. Many people fail to see how Snapchat can be another tool for B2B marketers, or do not take it seriously as a mainstream content contender, but they could be seriously missing out. Snapchat is not likely going away anytime soon, so to simply ignore it and say “well, that’s not where my customers are,” is simply an oversight, because whether they are on Snapchat for business or personal reasons, they are still there engaging with your brand. I recently heard the Global CMO for GE, Linda Boff, speak at #BMA16 and loved her point that:

     “Customers don’t log on to a different internet at night.”

With Snapchat being one of the fastest growing platforms out there, it provides your company the opportunity to better understand your audiences’ changing needs and desires and to get a summary on what has happened in the last 24 hours. Just this month, the app released a new API that will not only enable brands to purchase 10-second video slots, but will also allow your business to track who is coming into contact with your brand’s experience on Snapchat.

Now, what can B2B companies utilize it for? Most of the time social media platforms all get lumped together and treated as the same, when in reality, they accomplish and approach things in very different ways. How you communicate on Facebook is different from Pinterest, which is different from Snapchat—and people go to those channels for a different purpose. Facebook is more of a browsing, news and social outlet whereas Pinterest is very purposeful and very niche for different individual interests. Snapchat is a different way for you to communicate who your brand is through creation of stories that will add value to your audience. Understanding how to use the platform will make it easier for you to create appropriate content.

People no longer want bullet points from companies on the features and benefits of your product and why it’s so amazing. With so much parody in products and price, you cannot break through to customers without providing something different and showing that you are a brand that can engage with them.

It is important to recognize that with platforms such as Snapchat, Vine, and Instagram, B2B marketers need to start acting like media companies. Snapchat really isn’t a space for traditional and glossy advertisements, it is a source for creating awareness and experience for your brand because your audience has become more savvy and are aware when they are being “sold to.”

Snapchat is very experiential, very in the moment and therein lies the major opportunity. So, if you’re at a tradeshow, or a conference, or you are doing a demo, you can post behind-the-scene videos and pictures to invite your audience into that experience.

How do people interact with your product? B2B has a lot of manufacturing involved; if you are in that space, seeing how a machine works, how it provides a solution, how it makes somebody’s life easier—you can show that visually with a video, a picture, you could time stamp it, or you could create your own geofilter. If you’re a larger corporation and seeking to humanize your brand, then you can find ways to further build on a relationship with your audience. Is the CEO going to engage in a 10-second Snap that will resonate with who your brand is and create personality for your brand? The options are limitless and the rule book is out the window.

While Snapchat may not be the end-all-be-all for your marketing approach, its strong digital profile can organically create a sense of content urgency like no other platform. Because of the way content disappears after 24 hours, and keeps the length of stories very short, consumers are more likely to keep coming back for more.

Lastly, the assumption that Snapchat is primarily for millennial entertainment purposes does not discount the app’s value from a business standpoint. Millennials are becoming more and more active in the industry and they will continue to seek information and entertainment through channels that they know. A recent survey found that Snapchat is more popular than Facebook among 72 percent of millennials. It is important to play the long-game and plan for the future, because while Millennials may not be your biggest customer segment, they will become that in the future, and what they’ll remember is how your brand’s experience made them feel through its social presence.

Whether your B2B brand is geared toward the building industry, healthcare professionals, or something else entirely, developing and utilizing a consistent Snapchat strategy will create brand loyalty and can generate awareness through engaging your audience with unique content.

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Why Do B2C Brands Have More “Epic Fails” Than B2B?

26 Apr

Marketing Fails

hillmanGuest Contributor:
Matt Hillman, Creative Director

Google the term “fails” and you net more than 350 million results—everything from proposals gone wrong to typos on billboards. Narrow it to “brand fails” and that number drops to just under 90 million. Expand the search to “b2b brand fails” and it falls to 325,000.

So what is it that’s protecting B2B brands from the foray? How is it that not even 4% of the brand fails are categorized as B2B?

One answer might be market size, the sheer volume of business in B2C vs. B2B makes for more opportunities to fail, but that’s not the case. If anything, B2B dwarfs B2C. In fact, by 2020, Forrester research projects the US B2B eCommerce market alone to be worth $1 trillion—twice the size of the US business-to-consumer (B2C) eCommerce market. Every year, B2B companies spend billions of dollars marketing their products & services with print and digital ads, trade shows, websites, collateral, and more; so there’s plenty of opportunity.

Then what is it? Why don’t we see the catastrophic failures in B2B marketing that we see in B2C? I suspect it’s a number of things—publicity, saturation of visible media, how easily broad B2C audiences can take offense to things—but most importantly, it comes down to the very intimate conversation in B2B between a specialized brand and a specialized audience.

There’s a unique level of understanding between B2B brands and their audiences, regardless if they’re selling building products or engagement surveys or auditing software or anything else. Where B2C requires an exploration of demo- and psychographics to find cues for connecting with various consumers (e.g., “White and Hispanic, suburban, college-educated women, 24–40, with multiple children, seeking time-saving solutions to maximize family time”), in B2B, we focus on clearer audience sets (e.g., “manufacturing company CFOs and COOs looking for greater shipping efficiency”).

Over time, that understanding means a greater ability to forecast how messages will be received, what matters most to those you’re talking to, and how to speak to them on their own terms.

Add to that the direct feedback between purveyors of B2B products & services and those who purchase them—or at the very least influence that decision—and you build a familiarity that simply doesn’t exist in most B2C marketing. As a result, B2B marketers can be less prone to putting their foot in their collective mouth.

But let’s face it: seeing the fails happen to someone else’s brand can be oddly satisfying—whether B2B or B2C. We take a deeper look as to why that happens in our latest whitepaper, “The Appeal of Brand Fails (and Six Ways B2B Brand Can Avoid Being One.” Get it for free right now.

 

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