Lynn Manternach/Tree Full of Owls
It used to be so easy.
You build a great ad campaign. You figure out how to achieve the needed frequency and reach with the right mix of TV, radio, newspaper and/or outdoor. Then, you wait to see how it all works.
Just about everything about the marketing environment has changed to disrupt the simplicity of the one-to-many marketing approach. New forms of media are showing up every day. Consumers have an amazing array of choices.
Despite that, the fundamental marketing model has not changed. People and businesses still want useful products and services, along with relevant messages. Marketing is still about identifying needs so consumers line up to buy. What has changed is how consumers want to learn about products and services and receive messages.
Today’s consumers are cynical about advertising. They don’t have much time. They want highly directed media that helps them find what they want, when they want it. At the same time, they are looking for something more than a transactional relationship with companies. They want to be advocates of their brand choices.
That’s why, despite all the changes, building your brand still has to be the foundation for your marketing strategy. Traditionally, strong brands have been built by strong marketing. Marketers that do a good job of marketing get a brand. Those that don’t do a good job marketing get a brand as well, but it may not provide many advantages. The benefits of a strong brand are well-documented. The company with the strongest brand wins.
Your brand is the unique promise your company makes to consumers. But ultimately, your brand is defined by your consumers – not by your marketing department. Consumers get to decide whether or not you’re delivering on the promise, and they will vote with their dollars.
The consumer’s experience can make or break your brand. Consumers have a powerful voice in the marketplace, and they know how to effectively get their message out there. Their opinions are considered much more credible than the marketing messages you are working so hard to craft.
You need to understand the consumer experience within the context of your company’s unique promise – what it feels like now, and what the ideal consumer experience feels like. Your entire organization has to understand the importance of delivering the ideal consumer experience, and every individual in your organization needs to be able to articulate their role in delivering that experience – regardless of their role within your organization.
The best way to understand the customer experience is to talk to customers. Your research can be formal or informal, but you cannot simply assume you know. You have to ask. This is something you have to get right to effectively position your brand for success.
Your brand is the total experience consumers have – both online and offline. You can maximize brand opportunities by doing your best to manage the experience your customers have with your brand, but you can’t directly control the conversations they are having about your brand.
You can, however, enable conversations. A powerful content strategy is one way to help consumers meet their information needs while providing a way to connect to the brand. People don’t want to know why they should buy from your business. They want “how to” information, success stories and expert interviews. They want free guidance and assistance.
Great content is sharable. When people share your content on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, qualified traffic is pushed back to you. If you can develop content that is targeted to what consumers want and need, and connect it closely to your brand, you will get the consumer attention you’re looking for. Even more importantly, you’ll give consumers another reason to be an advocate for your brand.
It’s clear that the changes we’ve seen in marketing are still evolving. Building a powerful brand remains critical, regardless of the marketing tactics a company chooses to deploy. The goal is to use the right mix of tactics, tools and technologies to make it easy for consumers to be advocates of your brand. They’ll do the rest.
Lynn Manternach is brand arsonist and president at MindFire Communications Inc. (www.mindfirecomm.com) in Cedar Rapids and the Quad Cities. Contact her at email@example.com.