Archive for July, 2013

Gut Reactions

DATE: July 24th, 2013

In the late 19th century, science began to unseat faith. Scientific discoveries changed the world. The Age of Science neatly merged into the Age of Technology — still based in scientific discovery and knowledge. The Age of Science successfully upset the Age of Faith. For our 21st century audience, faith is defined as the absence of proof — unscientific. But we are re-thinking the power of faith — or gut reactions that cannot be understood by knowledge or data.

Our educational context of science  leads marketers to build their knowledge on evidence. Focus groups, surveys, large collections of data. The problem is, data is easily misinterpreted.

New research of the brain reveals that gut feelings can override critical thinking.

For many years we have known that focus groups rarely provide accurate information. Few people admit to doing things they think are not logical. Let’s take Harlequin. No admits to reading Harlequin. Or at least not anyone I know. But they publish 110 title every month and are one of the leading publishers — world-wide. So someone not only reads, but buys Harlequin.

For the first time in history, we have access a frighteningly large amount of data. The challenge, though, is what to do with it.

Chris Anderson, CEO of 3D Robotics and former editor in chief of Wired on Quantified Self and the Internet of Things (GE’s “Industrial Internet”) says: Our ability to collect data is way ahead of our ability to make sense of it.”

Gerald Zaltman, the Joseph C. Wilson Professor of Business Administration Emeritus at Harvard Business School, has extremely interesting insights into understanding what consumers say, taking the data they offer. (To read an interview with him go to

Marketers, promoting new product,  services and social profit innovations have to understand their audience.

There are key things to look for when evaluating comments:

1. Know your audience’s context. No product or service can be humanly evaluated without context. Our brains store millions of responses and use them in evaluating new situations, products and decisions. We often joke about the varying cues for different generations — but that is their context. While I am warm to allusions to the Simpsons, my grandchildren will have no contextual framework to include the Simpsons. Your audience will bring their context into their decisions.

2. Position belief statements with action. Think about the media response to cheap labour in developing contexts. Apple received a lot of bad press about the physical condition of working sweat shops. Their audience may have articulated concern, but their action did not follow. On a lighter note, what focus group would have predicted the amazing success of the snuggly or growing grass hair on dogs, funny faces and other crazy things? Understand that what people say is not always what they do. While your audience may say they do one thing, their real, gut response is in their actual action. Track response.

3. Listen carefully. This requires human response and understanding to the focus group, survey or interview. Listen past the words. Understand the metaphors people use and why they use those metaphors.

A large part of marketing is understanding the human mind, the psychology behind the decisions people make.

There is a great article by Business Insider — it’s two years old, but the principles are still valid.

Great marketers — truly great marketers — understand human response from a gut level. They are able to translate data into marketing and communication that inspires response.

The Power of Content

DATE: July 2nd, 2013

Last week I attended the CMA content marketing conference… a day jam packed with people focusing on successful strategies of using content to gain market share.

I have been thinking a lot about the way we look for information to help us make decisions to buy things. The Internet has opened huge doors for us to research before we  buy. But, ironically, it has also slammed the door shut on companies and organizations who have not invested in relevant, interesting and sought after information.

That’s the crunch.

It’s not hard to get attention. The Best Flour Prank ever, posted yesterday, has had 2,371,371 views — already. The Because I’m a Girl ad by Plan posted 7 months ago has had 1,718 views. But developing relevant, interesting and sought for information that generates sales or new customer leads is a complicated dance with your audience.

Knorr Foods web site, What’s for Dinner, is an awesome place for content. It’s a bit of a no-brainer. Food, recipes, technique, easy… it’s all there. Transforming the traditional recipe card to infographics, simple and brilliant. The foundation? Figuring out what you want for dinner at 4:30 is a struggle — let’s make it easy.

Yes, when you see a great example of the power of content marketing, it seems simplistic.

The why isn’t it happening for everyone?

Here’s my take: While great content marketing seems obvious, it’s been built on a solid foundation of marketing 101 — it works because the team has taken the time to:

  1. define the audience
  2. articulate the unique benefits of the product or service
  3. and, most importantly, design the emotional intersections between the audience and the product

1. Define your audience.

One of the basic marketing principles. And yet, time after time I see it broken. No one company owns a universal market. Aiming for everyone is a losing strategy. I can’t tell you how often I am told that a company’s service or product is suitable for everyone. OK — let’s pretend it can be used for everyone — now tell me who is the most likely to use it. Apple is a great example. They have sold multi-billions of smart phones, tablets, computers and other products because they have identified — and honoured — one target audience. The creative geek who uses Apple wears sneakers (designer only), casual clothes (with a label) and casually messy hair (made possible with high end products). They love design and pictures. Most of all, they desire to be the leading edge.

Does the guy in the business suit buy Apple products? Oh yeah. Does the mom buy Apple products? Of course. But they market to the design nerd who is up on the best, latest and coolest technology. The others? Well, they are creative geeks wannabees.

2. Articulate the benefits of your product

Content Marketing, in today’s definition, is marketing your product without a direct pitch or description of the product or service. Lowe’s, while they still have a strong sales site — an online catalogue — they educate. Lowe’s is marketing to the woman who wields the home improvement list. They are putting the power into her hands, making home renovations, upgrades and decorating approachable, even easy. The benefit? I don’t have to hire an expensive professional — with a bit of help from Lowe’s I can do it myself.

L’oreal let’s me build “My L’oreal”, giving me access to tips, professional advice and an account that stores my personal preferences. The content is rich with tips and ideas. Some point to products that meet my needs perfectly (after I have described them), other content is simply information I can use to enhance my full potential. The content is rich enough to keep the audience coming back. The benefit? L’oreal builds a set of personalized products that are made for me, empowering me to be the woman I am.

3. The emotional intersection.

I weighed the options of putting this first in the list. But I think to truly establish a strong brand you need to identify the audience and the product. The brand is not a description of either. It takes the two and builds personality, inspiration and clarity. The brand promise is the foundation of everything you do in marketing and sales. When you are building your publishing schedule, there is just one question you need to ask: “Does this content meet the parameters of my brand promise?”

I know we chat about brand all the time — but great brands take time and discipline to build. Brand is a belief system. McDonald’s is committed to  “simple, easy enjoyment”. Not a word about food. Not a word about service. Everything in their brand points to making it easy for their audience to enjoy themselves. Their icon, store design, marketing materials, food selection, service … EVERYTHING is developed for simple, easy enjoyment. I know what to expect at McDonald’s. And it’s easy.

The brand promise is inspiring, chalked full of personality and believable.

Content marketing is hard work and requires a significant dedication to the creation of new, relevant and engaging content. You can only develop that kind of content if you know who you’re talking to, understand how important your product or service is to that audience and you believe in your brand.

Brand is not a science…. it’s an art.