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A Brand with Feelings

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou

 

Maya Angelou’s life lesson is something we have the pleasure of taking solace in, and it’s what inspired looking at brands with feelings.  She understood the power of emotion with an audience, and I’ve dug a little deeper in this article to further articulate the ways brands can use emotion to build deeper customer relationships.

 

There are 8 basic emotions – which ones does your brand focus on?

It seems that the subject of determining how many emotions there are was started way back in the 4th century B.C. by the philosopher Aristotle, and explored much later by Charles Darwin. Most recently psychologists have concluded that there are anywhere from four to eight basic emotions.

In 1978 Dr. Paul Ekman, with the help of W. Friesen, developed the first and only comprehensive tool for objectively measuring facial movement – the Facial Action Coding System (FACS). Since then there have been over 70 others studies confirming the same set of results of seven universal facial expressions of emotions – anger, contempt, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise.

Psychologist Robert Plutchik developed the famous wheel of emotions which identifies eight basic emotions – joy, sadness, trust, disgust, fear, anger, surprise, and anticipation. His theory starts with these basic emotions then blossoms out to multiply variations creating a wide spectrum of emotions with opposing relationships.

Kendra Cherry author of Everything Psychology Book said, “The basic emotions, however many there really are, serve as the foundation for all the more complex and subtle emotions that make up the human experience.” There is some compelling evidence that shows consumers use emotions rather than information to evaluate brands. Emotions also create deeper and more visceral impressions that have impact on long-term memory.

Emotions are complex but for the purpose of building a brand based on feelings, we used Plutchik’s eight basic emotions.

 

Negative Emotions

Most companies try to stay clear of associating their brand to negative emotions. But some brands have been very successful in differentiating their brand with the contentious emotions of disgust, sadness, anger and fear.

 

Disgust

Disturbing graphic images on cigarette packs is a great example of using disgust to build the brand of anti-smoking. Gone are the days of the iconic Marlboro man, the ultimate American masculine cowboy brand, which drove Marlboro to the number one tobacco brand in the world. I have read that several actors who portrayed the Marlboro man over the years have rode off into the sunset prematurely due to smoking-related diseases–talk about disgusting. Dr. Ellen Peters, who conducted a research study on the effectiveness of smoking warning labels and graphic images with 244 smokers, says, “The images definitely did stir their emotions, but those emotions led them to think more carefully about the risks of smoking and how those risks affected them.”

Another brand that serves up a spoon of disgust is the famous Canadian cough medicine Buckley’s with the slogan “It tastes awful. And it works.”

But the most disgusting advertising for a brand has to go to OXY Face Wash with their series of zit popping videos. Say no more, the images speak for themselves!

 

Sadness

Is sadness the new happy? Does it leave a mark deeper than joy? Making people cry seems to be many brand’s objective these days. Take a look at all the holiday epic stories of lonely and sad people. The U.K. retailer brand John Lewis is built on pulling consumers’ heartstrings. But some would say that we can’t be happy all of the time so there is an authenticity in trying to get to a deeper brand engagement. Several insurance companies have cornered the market for ‘sad-vertising’ such as Thai Life Insurance (Unsung Hero), MetLife (My dad’s story) and Nationwide (Dead Boy).

 

 

Anger

Making people mad to buy a brand seems counterproductive but it is used to create an action or to make a strong statement. If you want to change a perception or get people to take action, anger can be a very persuasive tool. Generally, we feel angry when we see a person or a helpless animal hurt, or a major injustice being enacted.

Sadly, terrorist groups like ISIS have used this emotion effectively to build their brand. “They’re very good at branding,” said J.M. Berger, co-author of the book ISIS: The State of Terror. They have a complete visual look with a black flag, distinctive clothing, black masks and identical weapons. They use brutal violence against innocent people and public executions to generate widespread anger which also appeals to a small niche of supporters who want to take up their cause.

 

After the Great Recession, many brands tried to take advantage of frustrated and angry consumers affected by hard times by emulating further antagonism. Eastman Kodak did a rant about overpriced inkjet printer ink (I actually purchased a Kodak printer based on this fact). Post’s Shredded Wheat Cereal declared “Innovation is not your friend,” Miller High Life showed their support towards blue-collar customers and Harley-Davidson condemned “The stink of greed and billion-dollar bankruptcies” to align with their customers.

 

 

The most unique brand campaign I have seen that successfully angered its target audience was a simple billboard advertising that said: TEXT AND DRIVE with the company logo Wathan Funeral Home. The outraged and upset viewers went to the funeral home’s website to voice their angry but were surprised to find that it was a PSA to get people to stop texting and driving. Angry with a happy ending.

 

 

Fear

Every brand has a call to action and in many cases, depicts a sense of urgency to respond. But brands would tend to prefer a positive experience and keep as far away from risk as possible. But there are brands who thrive with their use of fear, like Greenpeace. They have been effective in shutting down major projects and changing their prey’s business practices by way of fear mongering. They take mere possibilities and translate them into fearful statements, such as “Our health is threatened by climate change. Malaria, asthma, encephalitis, tuberculosis, leprosy, dengue fever and measles are all expected to become more common.”

 

 

President Donald Trump’s success is attributed to building his brand on fear. Alex Altmen, a Washington correspondent for TIME magazine said, “No President has weaponized fear quite like Trump. He is an expert at playing to the public’s phobias.” Barry Glassner, a sociologist at Lewis & Clark College and the author of The Culture of Fear, says Trump “is a master” at creating fear. “His formula is very clean and uncomplicated: Be very, very afraid,” says Glassner. I repeat be very afraid.

A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research demonstrated that consumers who experienced fear while watching a film felt a greater affiliation with a present brand than those who watched films evoking other emotions, like happiness, sadness or excitement. I believe this goes back to our basic instincts of survival.

So you see how negative emotions can successfully build a brand, but caution cannot be underscored enough. Graeme Newell, marketing consultant, speaker, and founder of 602 Communications says negative emotions can be a powerful tool to elevate a brand’s message, as long as they’re not delivered too bluntly and you must leave the audience with a positive takeaway. Greenpeace’s continuous use of fear has lost some value over time and has created its own challenges. How long can you cry “wolf” to get people to mobilize your brand?

 

Positive Emotions

As character Don Draper said in a Mad Men episode, “Advertising is based on one thing: happiness.” This is the territory many brands navigate using the emotions of joy, trust, surprise and anticipation.

 

Trust

Without trust the financial industry doesn’t work. In essence a five dollar bill or hundred dollar bill is the same simple piece of paper with different numbers on them, but the buying power is significantly different thanks to trust.  No surprise that the business and financial services industry needs trust to operate. Trust is integral to the success of all brands but foundational for those brands built on faith and intangible, complex components.

Generally, the emotion of trust becomes super important for a brand if it has broken this bond with the customer. I am sure VW, Toyota, and BP are working on this emotion extensively today.

In the UK’s 2015 Consumer Trust in Brands report, they state that food brands have one of the highest trust levels—its important to have repeat customers who aren’t sick or dying from eating your product. That is exactly what happened with Maple Leaf Foods Inc. in 2008, when they produced listeria tainted luncheon meats that killed 22 people and sickened 35 others. Sales were immediately hit by a 50% decrease but was only down 15% two months later.

“The very first thing that must happen in these incidents is acknowledgment, apologies, and action from the CEO,” says Hamish McLennan, CEO of Young & Rubicam. Maple Leaf Foods CEO Michael McCain felt the company’s transparency and immediate reaction in taking responsibility for the crisis helped win back customers. Morgen Witzel’s article, Maple Leaf Food’s response to a crisis, states, “The trust built in the days after the onset of the crisis laid the foundation for its eventual turnaround.” Today, I don’t think there is any trust issue facing Maple Leaf Foods thanks to Mr. McCain’s conviction to making things right and not listening to his lawyers.

Humanizing your brand helps build trust but you must foster an authentic and lasting connection with your customers to get there.

 

Joy

What brand do you immediately think of when you hear the word “joy”? Think of joy as a sudden burst of happiness on a high. Does “Joy in every bottle” ring a bell?

 

 

Most people are always on a quest to experience more joy in their lives and looking for those small indulgences of pleasure. Many brands have found the sweet spot, such as Starbucks, McDonald’s, Campbell’s Soup, Kraft Mac & Cheese, Zappos, Facebook – “likes”, and Ferrero Rocher chocolates to name a few.

 

Surprise

A pleasant surprise is always appreciated by consumers and can be leveraged across all consumer touch points (social, events, in-store, advertising, mobile, etc.).

In a social listening study conducted by DraftFCB (now known as FCB or Foote, Cone & Belding), using W. Gerrod Parrott of Georgetown University’s emotional framework (Anger, Love, Sorrow, Joy, Fear, and Surprise), they found “surprise” as a distant sixth place in association with brands. So there is room for brand differentiation in using this emotion.

MasterCard has been running their “Priceless” campaign for over 17 years  and in 2014 they introduced “Priceless Surprises” with the goal of surprising cardholders when they least expect it. For example meeting Justin Timberlake, Gwen Stefani or VIP tickets to special events. There is a strong emotional element in watching a fan connect with a star and MasterCard #PricelessSurprises made it happen. Raja Rajamannar, CMO of MasterCard said, “The success of Priceless is driven by the campaign’s ability to create emotion, influence behavior, unite people and touch upon consumer passions.” Their website says that over 97,867 cardholders have experienced a surprise so far. I’m still waiting for a surprise that doesn’t include 18% when I check my credit card bill!

 

GoPro on a smaller scale had a campaign called “Everything We Make Giveaway” where every day one person wins everything they make. In the last five years they have given away 1,500 cameras and $4 million of GoPro gear. Don’t get too excited this campaign is no longer on.

For the last five years WestJet Airlines has implemented their “Christmas Miracle” by surprising a select group of customers or potential customers. In 2016, they surprised the residents of Fort McMurray, Alberta who were impacted by the devastating wildfires with a special “Snowflake Soiree”. Everyone who attended was given a free WestJet ticket.

 

Anticipation

I am sure you have been anxiously anticipating this last emotion. Researchers have found that people experience more intense emotions around anticipating future events/opportunities than remembering those in the past.  Booking a holiday is a great example of a positive and powerful emotion as a person waits for the exciting trip. High-end cruise liners have perfected the art of creating excitement with cruise planners and special updates prior to embarking.

Sandals Resorts understand the importance of anticipation with their beautifully stunning, natural blue and turquoise oceans and clear sky images, but more importantly, keeping the excitement growing with their social media activities. Tiffany Mullins, Social Media Manager says the Sandals Resorts “strategy is to evoke an emotion with every single social media post.” Not only are they humanizing the brand but their social media presence is creating a virtual vacation experience in advance of the actual vacation. Brilliant.

The Apple brand is an expert on contemplating the future and having their customers emotionally engaged beyond their current technology and living in anticipation of the next generation, like the iPhone 8 soon to be released. Each version is a stepping stone to further deepen the brand loyalty or cult-like following.  Apple is notorious for their pre-launch hype, limited availability, reorders and long lineups on launch day, only to be repeated again within another 12 – 18 months. Here we go again.

 

Emotional Branding

Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman says that 95% of our purchase decision making takes place in the subconscious mind, a place where emotions are king. If you are going to engage in emotional branding, understand how and where you want to connect to your customers so you can consistently build on every touchpoint.

As William Gelner, Chief Creative Officer of 180 explains, “We live such digitally switched-on, always-plugged-in lives, and yet we still also somehow feel disconnected from people. As human beings, we’re looking for true human connection, and I think that emotional storytelling can help bridge that gap.”

Pick your emotion(s) and start building your emotional brand story today, every step of the way.

 

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Top Brands that Hit Home this Holiday Season

This holiday season, successful brands continued the tradition of wrapping themselves in a feel-good message, hoping consumers will be pleased with their “presence” (sorry, I couldn’t resist). As they should, considering the US retail industry generated over three trillion dollars during the holidays. This number is from 2013 and I am sure it’s even higher today.  This equates to about 20% of total annual sales – and for some brands the number is much higher.

 

Three Trillion Dollars in Christmas Shopping

That’s a lot of money (even if one-third is on credit cards). But how does a brand ensure it gets its fair share? The holiday season is the perfect time to tap into the human emotions of peace, love, kindness and hope. It’s beautiful, yet frightening. Consumers are vulnerable and have credit! And ironically, during this time of harmony, brands are busy fighting each other for attention and won’t stop until the last dollar drops. That might be the reality of retail, but good brands understand the true meaning—it is better to give than to receive.

The best way to capture the holiday spirit is through a highly emotional TV commercial or online video (a topic of a previous article “Why Great Brands Still Needs a Great Commercial”). In 2015, there were over 100 holiday TV ads airing on US TV, but so far this year, there have only been 47 holiday ads reported by research firm Ace Metrix. Holiday advertising seems to be big in Britain and Germany where brands produce run-away winners.

Ben Mooge, Executive Creative Director at Havas London an advertising agency which created the very successful ‘Heathrow Bears’ ad says brands have a responsibility to contribute to the Christmas spirit and not just overtly sell their products. He says “they need to contribute to Christmas, and not just ride on the jingly back of it.” If a brand is successful “they just help it feel like Christmas.”

 

Santa Brands

It’s all about giving sincerely and inspiring the feeling of the holiday season. For many families, traditions, like watching the Griswolds light up their house (Christmas Vacation), or witnessing Bill Murray get a second chance to get it right (Scrooged), take us to fonder times and helps to recharge the soul. So while we’re all killing ourselves giving, the reality is that we need to receive appreciation. It’s here where brands have a responsibility to help consumers by framing the holiday season and help us have an enjoyable Christmas (for a price). And when they strike a chord, I can hear those cash registers jingling all the way!

The very best brands who have seamlessly carved a place in our minds during the holiday seasons and continue to reap the rewards are such brands as: Coca-Cola, Macy’s, John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Walmart, and WestJet, to name a few. But each year a new brand finds its holiday moment to shine and is rewarded by millions of views and likes from around the world.

Damon Collins, founder of Joint advertising agency in London who created the successful Amazon Prime holiday commercial ‘Imam and Priest’ says “There’s no time of year the spirit of human kindness is more relevant than Christmas. And there’s been no year in recent memory that the spirit of human kindness has been more needed than this one.”

 

Better to Give Than to Receive

The brands that are true to their values and avoid false sentimentality can build brand value during the holiday season. It’s more about sharing values and becoming part of the holiday traditions than trying to steal the show. As Cam Blackley, Executive Creative Director at BMF Advertising who developed the discount supermarket brand Aldi AustraliaMeet the Tinkletons’ ad explains that what doesn’t work is when “a brand cynically makes an ad riddled with fake Christmas sentiment devoid of an insight that is true to their values.”

 

Top Three Brands that Hit Home this Holiday

Without further ado, here’s my top three adverts for the 2016 holiday season:

  1. My favourite for 2016 is from Allegro, an auction site based in Poland. This commercial has all the ingredients for a wonderful holiday video including a dog.

(12,945,326 views)

 

  1. John Lewis, a UK-based department store, continues to hit the ball out of the park with their iconic holiday adverts. It too has a dog and other loveable animals.

(23,883,947 views)

 

  1. The top Canadian brand for me was WestJet. They continued to surprise and delight their customers, and focused this year on the people still recovering from the devastating fire in Fort McMurray, Alberta. A nice slice of Canadian values–giving.

(1,340,578 views)

Have a Merry Brand Holiday

If none of these have ignited the spirit of Christmas within your soul then I would suggest that you seriously consider becoming a member of the Ebenezer Scrooge Fan Club. Otherwise, I wish you all a wonderful holiday, sharing gifts and enjoy time with family and friends. Have a Merry Brand Holiday!

 

Honourable Mentions:

Heathrow https://youtu.be/oq1r_M5a6uI (4,802,852)

Apple https://youtu.be/aFPcsYGriEs (8,199,966)

ALDI https://youtu.be/aCZrWFrRgbQ (2,004,765)

Marks & Spencer https://youtu.be/V5QPXhStb5I (7,836,801)

Duracell https://youtu.be/iA7xYeiWg54 (17,651,693)

Please feel free to share your favourite advert for the 2016 holiday season and explain why.

 

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The Power of a Brand

How to extract value from nothing.

Years ago in my economic classes I learnt that supply and demand determined the price/value of most products especially commodities. If this is true, why is bottled water more expensive than gasoline? This is the power of branding.

 

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Transparency Market Research estimates that the global market for bottled water was worth about $157.3 US billion in 2013. In North America more bottled water is sold compared to milk or beer in terms of volume. Canadean research estimated that the global bottled water volumes would reach 233 billion litres in 2015. With all of Canada’s fresh water, Canada only produces less than one percent of the world’s bottled water of around 2.29 billion litres. However, US remains the fastest growing bottled water market outside Asia mainly due to customers becoming more health conscious shifting away from sugary carbonated soft drinks.

In many emerging markets, the scarcity of clean water makes bottled water a necessary staple rather than a value-added refreshment beverage like juice or soda. In North America the water in your tap is generally the same stuff you buy in the bottle. The big difference is that tap water is constantly tested to ensure they follow the drinking water quality guidelines. Bottle water doesn’t have the same stringent guidelines but does have the overall requirement of not containing “poisonous or harmful substances”. Let’s hope that the big brands follow some type of quality control.

Clean drinkable water is generally available everywhere throughout North America where the bottled water companies’ need to position their brands based on quality (healthy choice) and convenience (portable and handy). From this foundation the category gets complex with pricing strategies, water source and lifestyle attributes.

Magician duo Penn & Teller in their show Bullshit did a spoof on bottled water in a fine dining restaurant in Southern California to prove the general public can’t tell the difference between tap water and $4 a litre bottled water.

 

ABC’s Good Morning America conducted a blind tasting experiment in 2001 where they sampled branded bottle water such as Poland Spring, O-2, Evian and the popular New York City tap water. The results shouldn’t surprise you – NYC tap water beat them all.

 

If the bottled water is general the same thing as in tap water the real difference is the brand. Tap water is a commodity with no brand. It comes from any unmarked tap – hot or cold. You take the same thing, build a formidable brand image and you can extract a premium from consumers – by the litre (or ounce) at a time. Here is the secret on how to create brand value from nothing:

Power of Emotional Connection

Byron Sharp, professor of marketing science at the University of South Australia and author of How Brands Grow, says growing a brand is based on “physical and mental availability” suggesting most brand purchase decisions are made with the emotional brain so keep it simple to help trigger instinctual responses.

Ammar Mian writer at SocialRank says the emotional tipping point for bottle water occurred back in the early 1980’s when Perrier launched its ‘Earth’s First Soft Drink’ campaign. This campaign embraced the belief that their sparkling water comes from the purity of nature, straight from mother-earth. This emotional connection resonated with consumers who were becoming more health-conscious and wanted an alternative to soft drinks. Other premium bottle water brands jumped onto the branding wagon touting the image of purity, youthfulness, healthy and earthliness. Water can’t get any better than this unless you turn it into alcohol. Here’s more on Emotional Branding.

 

Power of Convenience

The brand must be easy to buy – when and where you want it – ideally everywhere. Not unlike tap water. Remember the days of drinking fountains? We though they were convenient – if we could find one. But it was like drinking from a water hose – only one quick sip if there was a line-up. Perhaps the biggest development in the bottle water industry growth has been the mass distribution systems that are dominated by the same companies that have covered the world with sugar water like Coca-Cola (who has such popular brands as Dasani and Glacéau smartwater), Nestle (who has all the water champs such as Perrier, Pure Life, S. Pellegrino, Deer Park and Poland Spring) and PepsiCo ( with Aquafina). Where is Evian in the distribution mix you ask? In 2002, Evian signed a distribution agreement with Coca-Cola Co., Inc. which ended in 2014. Then Evian found new wings with distribution partner Red Bull. And Fiji Water? Dr Pepper Snapple Group website states that they distribute Fiji Water in various territories.

Power of Fame and Attention

Getting people to pay for water where its widely available, safe and free is hard work and takes a great deal of money to build a distinctive brand. It doesn’t hurt to have a big bank account to ensure the advertising messages get noticed and the brand stays top-of-mind. Back in 2003 (based on an article in The New York Times) TNS Media Intelligence/CMR estimated Aquafina spent $24.6 million on media and Dasani spent $18.8 million on media, while Evian spent only $800,000. Ten years later, Evian is still spending around a million in measured media annually according to Kantar Media and over the years have lost market share to the more aggressive competitors, sitting in 3rd place behind Fiji Water and Smartwater. Eric O’Toole, president-GM at Danone Waters North America (parent company to Evian), contributes the brand stabilization in recent years, in part, to the launch of the Baby & Me advertising effort. Great creative never hurts if you can’t afford to advertise year-round. See more on Creativity.

 

The soft drink industry is notorious for using celebrity endorsers to help push their sugary drinks (check out a partial list of famous celebrities and soft drink brands). It’s not surprising that the bottle water brands use the same branding tool to build credibility and gain the coolness factor. Evian has used Maria Sharapova, the young and popular tennis champion, while the elite Fiji Water has uses the former James Bond star Pierce Brosnan. Glacéau smartwater has used actress Jennifer Aniston to create a buzz around their relatively new brand.

A Memorable Story

Great brands always come with a great brand story. Many bottle water brands have great stories that would put National Geographic to shame. My favorite is the Fiji story or as some say the Fiji myth. Fiji Water, natural artesian water bottled at the source in Viti Levu (Fiji islands), is a leading premium bottled water in the United States and one of the fastest-growing brands worldwide. Here is their story of the world’s finest water and it should be for the price of $3.50 – 4.00 per litre (3 times the price of gasoline). For more on Storytelling.

 

Stunning Design

Water has no distinct taste, no unique colour, no smell and all water feels wet – physical there is no difference from one glass of water to another, so packaging is king. If nothing else is going to sell you, it must be the memorable packaging, beyond the great stories and celebrities who would never drink it if it didn’t look good.

Packaging can help define a brand experience. Do you remember the first iPhone, iPad or iPod you unwrapped from its packaging? The simplistic and beautifully designed box with everything in its own place – clean and white. A perfect brand fit.

 

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Since 2008 Evian has been working with some of the world’s most prestigious designers to create a limited edition bottle each year. Evian has worked with such creative artists such as Diane von Furstenberg, Paul Smith, Christian Lacroix, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Elie Saab, KENZO and most recently with Alexander Wang (2016 limited edition bottle). Former zone director for the Middle East & Indian Ocean for Evian, Elias Fayad explains the limited edition concept: “Our water is untouched by man and perfected by nature, so we attempt to give the bottle an artistic expression.” In a September 9, 2015 press release from Evian, they explain each collaboration as “a renewed celebration of purity and playfulness and a reinterpretation of evian’s spirit through art and design.” I have to remind myself that we are talking about a simple natural resource that can be found anywhere on the planet (except currently in California) – simple water.

Dreams or Nightmares in a Bottle

Water is living proof that anything can be branded and can be elevated from no value to high value with sufficient investments. It is through the brand investments and the dreams the brand image creates that help achieve the value. In essence, consumers are buying dreams in a bottle. Dreams to be on a pristine tropical island or a youthful energetic baby once again. Stories of spiritual purity, blissful health and a fountain of youth – the water of life. Potentially over $200 US billion worth.

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But there is a dark side to this story. While dreams are created and value generated from the replenishing resource, there is a social cost. Today Wikipedia lists over 144 bottled water brands, and from the statistics, the market continues to grow. The Pacific Institute, which conducts research on water use and conservation, has estimated that bottled water is up to 2,000 times more energy-intensive than tap water. It is estimated that in 2006, U.S. bottle water consumption used the energy equivalent of 17 million barrels of oil and produced over 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide – in one year. There’s also the worry that we are shifting water consumption from one region to another, creating an imbalance with consequences to our planet and to our future consumers.

Just because we can create formidable brands to extract more value, it doesn’t mean we should. As marketing and brand experts, it’s important we use our craft wisely. We have the ability to create formidable brands and extract value to support business growth. But if we aren’t able to balance the benefit for the consumer, society and environment, we need to consider how we’re using our power of branding.

 

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Is Your Brand Ready for Content Marketing?

The hottest new brand trend is brand publishing, or also referred to in a less aggressive way as content marketing. Some marketing experts are declaring this is the next marketing breakthrough – to become a brand journalist, replacing the fragile main-stream media outlets. I hesitate to think that brands would be very good at replacing media in trying to portray a balanced point-of-view (even media outlets struggle with this equality). But what brands can do well is be subject experts. They have a rich understanding of their customers’ wants and needs, and often have the resources and desire to explore content that media won’t cover. The challenge is keeping focus on helping the customers and resisting the desire to sell at all opportunities.

Don Peppers and Martha Rogers authors of the 1993 best-seller The One-to-One Future predicated the internet would allow brands to build personal relationships with consumers at scale. Marketing guru Seth Godin took this idea a step forward and said brands need to move from interruption marketing to “permission marketing,” defined as anticipated, personal, and relevant. Interesting that Seth Godin’s book Permission Marketing was published over 16 years ago. In 2008, Seth Godin said that content marketing is the only marketing left. More recently he said “Real content marketing isn’t repurposed advertising, it is making something worth talking about.”

The Business Case for Content

Here are some good reasons why you should consider becoming a brand publisher:

  • A Roper (2011) survey found that 74% consumers say they prefer to get information about a company in a collection of articles, rather than an ad. They also found that 65% said that custom media helps them make better purchase decisions.
  • A study done by AdKeeper and 24/7 Real Media indicate that the average industry click through rate is less than 0.09 for online advertising. Not very good for advertisers.
  • HubSpot, experts in online inbound applications, learnt through their lead generation data of over 4,000 companies, that those companies who blogged 15 times per month get 5 times more traffic than companies that don’t blog.
  • Custom Content Council (2011) says 72% of marketers think branded content is more effective than advertising in a magazine; 69% say it is superior to direct mail and PR.
  • In a study done by AOL and Nielsen (2012), they discovered people spend more than 50% of their time online with content and an additional 30% of their time on social channels where content can be shared.
  • In a study done by Marketing Sherpa (2013), they concluded that content creation ranked as the single most effective SEO tactic by 53%.
  • Demand Metric global marketing research found that for every dollar spent, content marketing generates approximately 3 times as many leads as traditional marketing.

What is Content?

Content comes in many different formats, shapes and sizes. There is visual brand content such as videos, short video clips (Vine-like), imagery, selfies, charts, graphs and infographics. There is the written brand content such as PowerPoints, blogs, digital magazines, e-mails, text messages, articles, white papers, stories, tips, reviews, and the 140 character tweet. Last but not least, there is the audio brand content such as music, podcasts and audio clips. Depending on your audience visuals and video content can enhance your content viewership. According toSkyword articles containing relevant images gain on average 94% more total views than articles without images. Get the picture!

Content marketing is about engaging prospects and consumers with informative or entertaining content they’ll want to use or consume for its own sake, rather than pushing or interrupting them with direct sales or promotional messages.

Do Consumers Need More Content?

Every day there is about two million blog posts written, 500 million tweets shared, 1 billion pieces of content shared on Facebook including 250 million photos, 294 billion emails sent, 864,000 hours of video uploaded to YouTube, 70 million images posted to Instagram, and 18.7 million hours of streamed music on Pandora.  And oh by the way 50 million visits to PornHub, where over 216 million X-rated videos are viewed on a 24 hour period. Crazy cyber-consumption in one day.

So do we need more content? There is an unlimited appetite for great content. The trick is producing relevant, compelling and engaging content consistently, every day. Make sure you have the right channels to distribute and amplify your content to ensure you reach your audience. If you hit a home run they will reward you by ensuring everyone they know sees your content.

Best in Class

Today, there are many channels to allow brands to build time-sensitive, pertinent and quality information or solutions. Publishing is all about the scale of creation and distribution. Do you want to be a New York Times or the local weekly journal or just a trade magazine or a community newsletter? Brands that succeed do more than provide customers with what they are looking for. They make them want it! You have to build the right level of infrastructure to support the right level of content for your business and customer needs.

Red Bull is a great example of a brand that when above and beyond selling a beverage and became a publishing media outlet. James O’Brien of Mashable’ssays “Red Bull is a publishing empire that also happens to sell a beverage.” As a matter of fact, Red Bull’s publishing is another revenue stream for the company. Their content is all about adventure, extreme sports and fast-paced fun. No surprise their content focus mirrors the essence of their brand. Today, Red Bull has over 4.4 million YouTube followers, 43 million ‘likes’ on Facebook and 2 million followers on Twitter. Then of course there is the Red Bull TV which has over 156 shows, 85 live events and 1,118 episodes and countless viewers.

So Red Bull is the extreme example, which isn’t realistic for most brands. B2B companies like General Electric, IBM, Microsoft, Adobe, and Deloitte have mastered the role of content with a library full of valuable information that is educational, informative, and relevant to their brand and target audiences. Hubspot has a great article that showcases 10 Exceptional B2B Content Marketing Examples.

How to Become a Content Publisher

Not unlike an advertising campaign or publishing a magazine, you need to start with a strategy that clearly defines goals and objectives, key target audiences, key messages, theme, budget and success measurements. Take baby steps, first look at converting existing printed material with some editing to compliment the right channels. Mark Ragan, CEO of Ragan Communications states “Brands need to master telling their stories indirectly. It’s about the brand, but the focus is always about the audience.” Building an editorial department of journalists that understand your brand isn’t a small task. But once you start publishing you have to continue to feed the beast day-in and day-out with quality content. Be realistic about how you will maintain the investment in resources and time to reach your goals.

Home Depot is a good example of creating useful educational content for the do-it-yourselfer by providing tips and advice without blatantly selling their products. They have 1,067 timeless, how-to videos posted on their YouTube channel.

How to Measure Success

Here some simple questions and tips to determine the success of your content publishing:

  • Have you turned your content into a valuable asset that supports your business objective?  Check out the 100 page YouTube & Google Playbook on how to build great content.
  • Are you able to publish new content consistently – daily or weekly? Build a calendar with the 3H content rules: Hygiene, Hub and Hero
  • Are you producing meaningful and useful content for all customers? Utilize various measurement tools and determine who’s consuming your content (followers & subscribers), and what are they doing with it (likes, sharing, retweeting, favorites, links, comments, etc.).
  • Is the content building on your brand’s vision and voice? Are you learning what content works or doesn’t work? Look at the content that is the most successful and determine why. Check out Buzzsumo to see what are the hot topics and if you can capitalize on any trends.
  • Are your metrics continually improving? Compare yourself against your competition and best in class. Do you have a loyal and growing following? Track your Klout score.

To succeed in a cluttered branded world, you need an army – or better yet, you need to support an army of followers. If you can give them content to solve their problems, inspire their dreams or provide them with a smile, they will reward you by sharing your wisdom. You must always provide extra value to guarantee engagement. Genuine content will always outperform glitz and selling content. Share your expertise and passion, it will be appreciated.

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Best Seller – Brand Storytelling

We all live for a great story. A story that we can retell that has suspense, adversity and a great ending. Humanity has been built on stories. Since the beginning of time, storytelling was the only way to transfer knowledge and inspire people to move forward. The first written story was the The Epic of Gilgamesh an epic poem dating back to 2100 BC written on 12 clay tablets. Today, there are over 129,864,880 books in the entire world according to Google’s advanced algorithm – unfortunately I can’t say I’ve read them all – yet.

Storytelling is the hottest and newest branding tool on the market. But in reality it is the oldest and most enduring element of human civilization. Except, we no longer sit around a smoky fire pit wearing stinky and somewhat revealing leather gear, while the storyteller points at the holographic on the cave wall. Today, we have progressed to boring PowerPoints and uncomfortable three piece suits.

Joh Hamm’s article Why Agencies and Brands Need to Embrace True Storytelling says “Stories are how we pass on our accumulated wisdom, beliefs and values. They are the process through which we describe and explain the world around us, and our role and purpose in it. Audiences have always known this and asked for stories—they’ve never asked for content.”

Storytelling is Best Seller on Social

It seems that social media has given new life to storytelling. For brands, attracting consumers with captivating, engaging stories that are significant and meaningful is a new competitive edge.  If all employees could tell the company’s brand story (promise) with passion and emotionally-charged, descriptive language using no facts and figures you wouldn’t need advertising.  Susan Gunelius’s article How to write brand stories that builds emotional connections on Forbes website states “Stories are the perfect catalyst to building brand loyalty and brand value. When you can develop an emotional connection between consumers and your brand, your brand’s power will grow exponentially.”

Close to seven million people have viewed the of Coco Chanel’s story on YouTube. A story about transforming women’s fashions, and the transformation of a woman who build the CHANEL empire.

We all know it’s much easier said than done.  Recently, Colleen HendersonPresident of Perfect Pitch Consulting coached forty of my team members in how to write a good story. Everyone struggled to write one emotional sentence of what we do for our customers. It isn’t easy writing compelling and inspiring brand stories. If it was easy everyone would be doing it.

Start the Story with Why

The best brand stories are aimed to get the audience to care by answering their question “why?” Many successful brands only talk about the “why” and less about the facts.  Neil Patel writer for Forbes says when someone is “interested in your brand’s story, they feel connected in a powerful way. This feeling of connection then turns them into customers.”

Toms shoes uses storytelling to convince thousands of people and customers to go a day without shoes with their annual “One Day without Shoes” campaign to raise awareness of the millions of children around the world who have no shoes.

The campaign is actually on right now until May 21. If you Instagram your bare feet with the hashtag #withoutshoes they will give a new pair of shoes to a child in need. Check out my lovely toes at #withoutshoes.

Jonah Sachs author of Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell (and Live) the Best Stories Will Rule the Future says “It’s critical for brands to shift from messaging to storytelling. After all, a brand is nothing more than an ongoing story – a set of meaningful emotional experiences – unfolding between itself and its audiences.”

So what makes a good story or story-selling? A brand DNA is all about where it came from and how it got to where it is today. But a great story needs conflict. Dove’s Real Beauty “You’re more beautiful than you think” campaign is a great example.

All good stories has the following elements: introduction to set the stage, a protagonist (the hero) an antagonist (the villain), a conflict, a climax, a resolution, and a reason why the audience should care. Better yet, you can follow Aristotle’sSeven Golden Rules of Storytelling: plot, character, theme, speech (or dialog), chorus (or music), decor and spectacle. Ideally you want to make the customer the hero but in some circumstance you want to make your brand the hero.

Don’t Mix Facts with a Good Story

Facts actually make people more sceptical on what they are seeing and hearing.  Researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not correcting misinformation, but doing the complete opposite, make misinformation even stronger. We often base our opinions on our beliefs, which don’t always mesh with facts, so we chose the facts that best fit our beliefs.

Do you remember the Oscar winning movie Sidways? It was a movie set in California’s of two men on a week-long road trip in the wine region of Santa Barbara. Throughout the movie the lead actor Paul Giamatti, a wine aficionada, declared his love for Pinot Noir and his distaste for Merlot. The movie led to a strong upswing in the sales of Pinot Noir and a drop in Merlot.  Facts can be questioned and rationalized, but when a beloved character that people can empathize with endorses a product or brand, follower goes along with no questions asked. Just ask Playboy model and actress, Jenny McCarthy about her crusade against vaccinations.

Final Chapter

Today, we are inundated with information loaded with facts and figures. Benefit statements, promises, testimonials, demonstrations, research and new scientific evidence. A story well told that is authentic, relevant, engaging and human can cut through the clutter and noise.

One of the great storytellers was the late Steve Jobs because he informed, inspired and entertained. He always stuck to the rule of three. He understood the power of “3”. Not exceed the list of 3 nor going below 3 things.  He also made sure his stories always had a hero and a villain; most times it was the competition. He also made sure he was prepared. His delivered flawlessly but to do so he practices until it looked effortless.  And finally, he always left the audience with something inspiring like he did with the introduction of the iPhone where he said, “I didn’t sleep a wink last night. I’ve been so excited about today…There’s an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love. ‘I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.’ We’ve always tried to do that at Apple since the very, very beginning. And we always will.”

Successful brands tell the story of who they are, not only the people behind the brand, but also how their customers connect to their products in ways that give them the ability to do more with their life. Stories that inspire passion in life and illustrate the why and how behind the what and where.

Seth Godin reminds us, “Great stories agree with our worldview. The best stories don’t teach people anything new. Instead the best stories agree with what the audience already believes and makes [them] feel smart and secure when reminded how right they were in the first place.”

Henderson suggests that everyone should have three stories ready to be given at any moment. 1. What brand do I represent? 2. Who am I? 3. Who have I helped? Each story should be engaging and well-crafted. No longer than 90 seconds and well-rehearsed.

I leave you with Steve Jobs commencement address to the 2005 graduation class at Stanford University where he tells three touching stories. “Stay hungry. Stay Foolish.”