WHAT’S YOUR STORY?

In today’s 24/7, 365 worlds of instant and constant information, we are all being barraged with things to read, watch, listen to, and share. The amount of content that is being served up on a daily basis is overwhelming and many brands are getting lost in the noise.

The most successful brands understand the importance of telling their audience a story – something that engages, inspires, and motivates them to do something, buy something, make a choice, and become a loyal fan.

Stories have been part of humanity since the beginning of time. From the caveman days with stick men on walls to the use of hieroglyphs by the Egyptians, humans have been telling each other stories because it’s in our nature to tell them and listen to them, as well.

In today’s noisy, techy, automated world, storytelling is not only still relevant, but it’s also imperative. In the digital age, we are more connected than before, yet many of us feel disconnected. Without stories we can connect with, a big part of the beauty in being a human gets lost.

As natural storytellers, we may forget names and faces, or what we learned in a class. But a good story? We don’t forget it. Our life is filled with stories that connect us back to good, and bad, times in our lives. These stories create feelings, emotions, and memories that connect us to certain key points in our lives. Many of these stories connect to companies and/or brands. We remember our first Apple or Dell computer, the first time we ate at Chick-fil-A or McDonald’s, and the first Toyota or Mercedes we drove. All of those brands tell stories that connect with our emotions, aspirations, and desires for our lives.

Yet, somewhere along the digital highway, we have lost the art of storytelling. Many companies think that they simply have to have a website, a CRM platform, lots of content online, and a strong social media presence. But, without a compelling story weaving through all of these channels, the brand appears shallow, disconnected, and not authentic. The art of developing and maintaining a consistent story is a commitment that requires a brand’s attention every day of the year.

If you doubt the importance of a story, think of how differently you feel about purchasing an Apple Computer vs a Dell or an HP. Or, think of the loyalty people have to Coke vs Pepsi, Nike vs Reebok, Lexus vs BMW. The emotional connections that these brands have created through their consistent storytelling are what separates them from their competitors. They’ve created compelling, aspirational, and emotional stories that align with their customers’ worldviews, philosophies, and opinions. They know the importance of their story, how it’s told, and who is going to align themselves with their brand.

As you’re developing your marketing plan, don’t forget that your story is the most important element. But, remember, it doesn’t start and end with marketing. The story must be woven through the entire brand experience. From the initial interaction – online or in person – throughout the entire buying lifecycle, and beyond. The story is the game changer. It’s the reason that your customers will be inspired to purchase from you, tell others about you, and become raving fans. So, what’s your story?  And how are you telling it?

DIGITAL IS A CHANNEL – NOT A STRATEGY

Since the onslaught of digital, you can barely look in the direction of a marketing professional or publication without being hit with a lot of hype about how awesome digital marketing is and how it is really the only “strategy” you need. Marketers continue to invest heavily in digital, at the expense of ignoring basic marketing fundamentals, and that is a huge mistake.

Digital marketing is a channel, like direct mail, print advertising, billboards, door hangers, events, social media, door to door, and other channels marketing professionals use to meet their target audiences where they are most receptive. Digital marketing is NOT a strategy, and if you rely on digital to be the only way you reach your customers, you are ignoring the tried and true marketing principal of media neutrality. That is, no channels should be prioritized before the appropriate market research, brand platform development and a marketing strategy have been formulated. To be digitally led is to put the tactical cart before the strategic horse.

What’s more concerning, is the value of digital channels has been questionable at best. In the past few years, click through rates have fallen (0.06 percent), fraud is rampant, and ad blocking is on the rise. Facebook was recently found to be overstating some of its metrics by 80%. In addition, a 2016 study by the AMA showed that more than 88% of its marketing executives couldn’t prove any ROI of their social media marketing.

It’s inevitable that digital channels will continue to be used in brand building and direct response marketing campaigns, given their continual presence in our daily lives. But, we should remember that they are just channels like any other, and will not be successful in isolation.

As the legendary advertising man, Bill Bernbach, once said: “It took millions of years for man’s instincts to develop. It will take millions more for them to even vary. A communicator must be concerned with unchanging man.”

 

BRANDING 101

There seems to be some confusion about the topic of branding and how to develop a brand that has enough depth and longevity that it transcends marketing and embodies every touch point and experience a customer with the company. Some of this confusion is due to the way customers get their information. Since most customers do their research about a company and their products online, companies have the idea that as long as they have a website, they’re on social media, and they push out digital content, their brand will be well received by their customers. If only it was that easy, everyone would do it, right?

As marketing professionals for over 25 years, the team at Engage Marketing & Consulting thought we’d do a simple Branding 101 list to show you what you need to consider when you’re putting together your brand platform.

Step 1:  Conduct a Brand Assessment

Take a close look at everything about your company to see how it stacks up to your competition. This includes doing a comprehensive review of your competition to see what their unique selling propositions are, how they are marketing themselves, what their brand position is and how their brand story is being told across all the various digital channels.

After you’re done looking at the competition, turn your attention to your company and do an internal marketing assessment. Take a close look at your website, your marketing materials, your digital content strategy, your customer UX, the way your operations team interacts with customers, and your online reputation. All of these things need to be in alignment with your brand story and should be integrated and seamless across all platforms.

Step 2:  Develop your Brand’s Four P’s

  1. Promise – The brand promise is a one-sentence statement of the largest value proposition the brand can credibly make to its audience. This provides a clear, easy-to-understand message of the overarching benefit the brand delivers and helps to organize and prioritize all other benefits.
  2. Personality – The brand personality is the brand’s personality attributes that will always be delivered through all communications – visually and in written and spoken communications. The brand personality will guide the development of a clear, well-integrated visual and written identity.
  3. Position – This is how your brand is currently positioned within the competitive landscape. The brand position determines how your company compares to other industry leaders and establishes your unique selling propositions and differentiators.
  4. Pyramid – The pyramid contains the core values are important to your brand and shows how those are communicated throughout every part of the company. These values should resonate with your staff as well as your target market. This is a list and description of the beliefs and ideals that guide the behaviors of the company and its employees. It helps to create a strong, cohesive culture, helps stakeholders to “live” the brand, and establish trust in the brand on behalf of customers and business partners.

Step 3:  Create/Update your Brand’s Story, Marketing Messages & Marketing Assets

Now that you’ve established your brand platform, you can develop your brand story. Your brand story integrates all the elements of your brand platform in a narrative story that tells your customers who you are, what you stand for, and how they can expect to be treated when they interact with you. After your story is developed, you will have a clear idea of how your company should be presented across all your marketing channels. The brand story will inspire the development of your creative materials. The images your brand story evoke will be a huge part of how your story will be told across print, digital, and in-person.

Step 4: Develop your Comprehensive Marketing Plan

After your brand platform and marketing assets are developed, it’s now time to develop your comprehensive marketing plan to guide your marketing across all channels. This plan should include an Executive Summary, a SWOT analysis, Strategies, Objectives, Goals, KPIs, and Tactics/Channels you will be using to promote your brand. Of course, no plan can be implemented without a realistic budget, so make sure you have the appropriate budget to be successful.

Step 5:  Implement, Test & Assess

Now, you’re ready to implement, test and assess. It’s important to be open and flexible with your marketing plan and be ready to make changes if a tactic is no delivering results. Of course, every channel needs enough time to work, so make sure you are giving each channel the proper reach and frequency that is appropriate for the channel. A good rule of thumb is to give a channel a minimum of 30 days to deliver results. During that timeframe, make changes to your creative or content through various A/B tests to see which message will best resonate with your audience.

If you need assistance with developing your brand platform and marketing plan, reach out to rmarston@engagemarketing.biz. Our team of professionals is ready to help!