Why Your Company Doesn’t Need Another Ad Campaign
If your dreams include perfectly geometric, color-coded marketing plans, a good wake-up call is in order. While there is a place and time for thoughtful marketing plans, all too often considerations for brand are forgotten; or worse, thrown in the mix as a tactic. Rather than scheduling branding “tactics” as part of your advertising mix, take a step back and consider whether your brand and marketing efforts are working in harmony to increase loyalty and sales alike.
Know the Difference Between Marketing and Branding
First, consider the black and white definition of marketing: the promotion and selling of products or services, to include market research and advertising. Then, today’s definition of branding: what people say and feel about your company. Yes, your products and services influence your brand, but at the end of the day, what people remember is how you, the company, made them feel.
When you manage your brand, you’re really trying to influence what people think about your company. This is much different than selling a tangible product. Feelings go well beyond benefits, and are difficult to change once they’ve had an experience, good or bad, with a company. A successful plan takes careful consideration of selling products and establishing brand.
An easy example is Coca-Cola. Its mission is: To refresh the world in mind, body and spirit. Soda isn’t the focus; rather, it’s the experience. You’re exposed to this branding on television, your devices, and with other engagement activities. On the flip-side the company implements promotions throughout the year to sell more product. To endure, a company needs brand and marketing, and Coca-Cola has become a master of both.
Align Business Objectives with Branding Objectives
Every successful business model has clearly defined objectives. These may evolve and change as much as annually, but everyone on the team knows what goals need to be met. While your brand is part of this conversation, it isn’t the sole answer to it. Anyone who works on your branding efforts should be aware of your business objectives. These should help drive the brand, but not in a way that leads your brand into nothing more than a sales pitch.
Simply put, your marketing plan is a reflection of your business objectives for the year, and your culture goals are directly tied to your brand story. Here’s one way to put the pieces together: Create a document that places your business objectives front and center. Lay it on your desk in plain sight. Then, place a copy of your brand brief next to those business objectives. Start thinking about your brand story and how your company enriches the lives of your audience. Then, consider how you can express this in a way that either builds loyalty with existing customers, or captures the attention of potential customers. When you bring brand and goals together, you’re more likely to succeed in both areas. Keep these documents handy for regular gut checks along the way.
Your Tribe Wants to Be Part of Your Brand Story
Within the last few years, the tides have turned and consumers, not brands, are leading the charge. Offers and unique selling propositions are being replaced with customer experience opportunities and data-driven tactics. As mentioned before, your brand is what they say it is. And what they say gets around faster than you can spend your advertising dollars.
Instead of focusing on another advertising campaign, companies can be more effective by spending time getting to know their audience, or tribe. Where do they hang out? What types of conversations do they have? What other products are they loyal to? When you can answer questions like these, you can look for easy, organic ways to enter their space.
Harley Davidson is an example of a company that took the idea of “tribe” to another level. The company started by building solid, quality motorcycles. Using the company’s history to its advantage, Harley Davidson created a brand story that invited people to participate. The company encouraged customers to acknowledge that, while they may be a suit-a-tie corporate leader by day, they can freely express their nature-loving, thrill-chasing side. Harley Davidson gave them permission to express their inner biker. Who doesn’t want to join a band of cowboys? By committing to this story throughout its marketing and branding efforts–not just a single advertising campaign–Harley Davidson grew its tribe, and brand loyalty.
Just remember, the notion of, “fake it ‘til you make it” doesn’t work with branding. Your story has to be authentic. And the way your company functions has to reflect your story. In other words, live your brand and your tribe will welcome you with open arms.
You Can’t Read the Label When You’re Inside the Bottle
There’s a reason marketing agencies exist: Internal marketing teams are stuck inside the bottle. You know the company from the inside, out. You live and breathe what leadership wants and believes. The phrase “task-driven” also takes on a whole new meaning. All too often, marketing teams get caught up in the next email, print ad or poster. This is when the shoot-from-the-hip ad campaign comes into play.
Becoming consumed by tasks leaves no room for actual strategy, nor that glorious company vision you painstakingly helped clarify. At this point, it’s nearly impossible to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Your team is maxed out and resources are scarce.
Rest assured, hope is not lost. It comes in the form of an outside expert. As a consultant or a fully engaged partner, a branding agency can give you much-needed clarity, direction and time. Not only does this guidance lead to better brand management, it also enhances your internal culture.
Goodbye Campaign. Hello Enduring Brand.
No matter how carefully you organize your marketing plan, there will be moments where advertising will threaten to overshadow your branding efforts. Though difficult, this is the best time to take a step back and reconsider where you’re headed. Brand and marketing need to work together, consistently, to elevate the conversation about your company while moving you toward your business objectives. Creating harmony can be challenging, but it is possible, and will lead to a meaningful and enduring brand.
The answer lies in knowing when to bring an outside expert in, and leaving the advertising campaign off the table.
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We would love to hear more about what you have in mind for your next project. Call Greg Daake at 402.933.1094.