Archive for September, 2013

So which it it?

DATE: September 20th, 2013

Today’s Canadian Marketing Associations’ update claims: Researchers working on Student Price Card’s “Pulse of the Canadian Student Shopper” study say teens and millennials are less committed to brand names than they were a year-and-a-half ago. … The researchers called it an “inflection point” for millennial culture, and said youth are returning to a culture of individualism and brand negativity seen in the late 90s.

Marc Pritchard, Procter & Gamble’s global brand building officer, believes the digital marketing era is “almost over”, arguing that marketers should instead now be thinking simply in terms of brand building.

So which is it?

I wonder if both statements are too reductive. Marketing and sales are a complex dance between the consumer and product provider.

So let’s unpack this.

Without a question, unlocking Millennials is challenging. They think differently.  They are savvy. They are onto brands who market with shallow sales strategies and unfulfilled promises. They want to experience the brand. They want to be informed, but they don’t trust the sales pitch. They are much more likely to go online to do their research. They trust what they learn online even more than they trust their friends – a twist from previous generations.

So after reading a bunch of stuff… here’s what I gleaned:

  1. Millenials trust the brands that talk to them like people, personalize their messages and have awesome online content. They don’t trust brands that have high pressured sales tactics.
  2. Think seriously about content marketing. Provide as much information as possible online. Strip the content of false platitudes and weak promises. Use video. Use humour. Use people who look like they do. Use trusted experts.
  3. Start a conversation. By conversation, I mean a dialogue. That means someone speaks while the other one listens. And then the roles are reversed. It’s very simple, really. But marketing tends to talk a lot, listen a lot less. This is where brand really comes in. When the millennial gets that you are really listening to them, they engage.
  4. Inspire with content. Don’t underwhelm them. Challenge them. But watch out. Their sensitivity radar is keenly aware of inauthenticity. That will put them off immediately. Even when buying body soap and frothy beverages, millennial look for an authentic experience with a purposed company.
  5. Millennials embrace difference. Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty was a hit because they chose to walk away from the generic model and show feminine beauty from many different perspectives. Millenials are willing to disrupt the status quo for valued change.

To say millennials are walking away from brand is a little like writing No Logo in 2013. They embrace different brands than expected AND they tend to walk away from the brands their parents choose. Brands that choose to build messaging that does not resonate with their product need to rethink their strategy. Perceived authenticity is a high value.

For those of you that are in the not-for-profit sector, now is the time to tell the truth. Tell it with strength, with courage and with difference. In the retail market, build a product with purpose, tell your story with strength and with a new twist. In either case, you’re going to have to take the things you did before and rethink them.

Does that mean that print, TV, Radio, outdoor…. And all the channels and tactics we once knew are obsolete?

I don’t think so.

But it means that the hiatus of poorly designed, simplistic campaigns are over. The marketing team must be bright and savvy. They must learn to listen and be eager to respond. More than that – they have to be real.

To Thine own Self be True: the quest for authenticity

DATE: September 9th, 2013

Polonius is an old, busybody — a comic muse in Hamlet. In the first quarter of the play, he was named Corambis, the direct translation meaning “reheated cabbage.”  Shakespeare, in his classic ironic tone, gives him lines like: “To thine own self be true”, an echo from Socrates’ “know thyself.” That is one of the most often quoted lines from Shakespeare. We twist it and make it out to be more than a comic line given to an old man with a reputation of being boring and redundant.

Today we have rephrased Polonius — we call it being authentic.

But is authenticity in marketing a scam? This little slideshow casts doubt on the veracity of marketing, in general.

Without a question, with the rise of the buzz around “content marketing”, authenticity is overused. But why don’t we start with Socrates? There is a lot of wisdom around that simple statement: “Know thyself.”

The need to be authentic isn’t new, nor are the millennials the first generation to discover the unique benefit of authenticity. I think marketers miss the mark when they start with their “ideal” audience and then do amazing creative gymnastics to get their product to fit into that ideal customer. The product and the audience has to engage. To be authentic, one must know themselves entirely and resist the temptation to become apologetic about it or to promote themselves as something they aren’t.

Beer companies almost always get it right. They know where their products and their audiences intersect. And they work it.

For nonprofits, authenticity is always a tough call. World Vision just launched a TV spot that profiled child labour on a shopping channel The ad is clever and engaging, but it does not reflect an authentic World Vision. I think the ad takes donors and potential donors down the wrong track — it’s like World Vision came for dinner in a Hallowe’en mask covering its core personality.

Authenticity starts with understanding who you are. Carefully and strategically, nonprofits must understand why who they are is appealing to donors. When they clearly understand that, they can speak boldly, with confidence and with authenticity.

More than that, when they clearly understand who they are, they don’t waffle in uncomfortable situations. Without thinking about it, they respond out of their core attributes, making sure they remain true to their vision and mission.

Finally, authenticity allows a nonprofit to listen to their donors. When they are clear about who they are, they can face criticism with a vulnerable, but confident position. Because they know who they are and are not struggling to please their audience, they are very appealing. They don’t have to twist their promise into new messages, because they know their core message. They are able to  be vulnerable to their audience, because they are true to who they are.

That doesn’t mean they don’t take a creative or fresh approach — they must do that to stay current — it simply means that their creative maintains integrity to their core personality.

At the core of humanity is the compassionate kindness to care for those in need. The techniques of manipulation used over the years have churned out a generation who is cynical and wary of “hard sells”. Traditional direct response tactics must be modified to renew relationships. Content marketing is critical in telling the stories that surround us. Content marketing gives nonprofits an opportunity to tell the truth and then offer donors a solution.

Too often authenticity is used as a buzzword where marketers and fundraisers believe they must make the customer or donor believe them to be authentic. But when the voice is positioned in ways that are manipulative, trust is broken.

Know who you are, what is appealing about you in today’s society and show the real you to your audience.