Friday, January 30, 2009

Customers Own the Brand Experience

What do you when a key element of your brand experience may be past its time? When the traditional is now less perfect, more complicated, more expensive and more prone to product spoilage? Oh, and requires a corkscrew?

We’re talking about the wine experience and a little question of how you top that vintage bottle of fine fermented grape.

As a vintner, you can bottle with natural cork or a metal screw top, known in the industry by its brand name, as a Stelvin cap. You even have the option to use a synthetic, plastic “cork.”

The decision is not clear cut. Used to be that screw tops wines were sold by the jug, low in cost and quality. Yet today, some of the most celebrated wineries are using Stelvins for their finest reserve offerings. Natural cork has issues as well. A nasty little tree bark disease, or poor sealing, can cause a “corked” taste, ruining your wine. Plastic is no panacea either. Consumers find some synthetic corks difficult to remove. And they may not seal as well as natural cork, either, allowing unwanted air intrusion.

It seems that some wineries can’t, or won’t, make up their minds. Could be supplies of quality cork are getting harder to find and more expensive. Could be that they haven’t fully decided that one method is truly better for the wine than another. Or it could be that they’re hedging bets.

The right answer

From a branding perspective, the right decision has nothing to do with cork or metal or plastic. The right answer for your brand comes from your customer. Because your customers own the brand experience. A couple scenarios.

If your primary customer is knowledgeable about wine and confident in their selection. If they’re unafraid to “uncork” a screw top for friends. If convenience matters. If your brand has opened up a conversation with your audience and created a relationship. Then by all means. Go Stelvin.

If your primary customer or the occasion, say a romantic dinner for two, is one where the traditional custom of removing the foil and pulling the cork is part of the experience. Then natural cork is where you ought to be. Or if your target is skilled with a corkscrew yet likes the idea of enjoying a quality wine at a slightly lower cost, then consider plastic.

That’s the lesson in all this wine talk.

Think about how your customer experiences your brand. The places. Occasions. The total experience. Think about your reputation and your customer connection. Are you blogging the advantages of Stelvin as many fine wineries have? Have you conducted and published taste tests that illustrate your favor? Is your key customer part of a close-knit group of loyals that is part of your brand conversation?

Your customer knows

Now assuming, fairly safely, that we’re not all in the wine business, what’s your version of cork vs. screw cap? Two things I can tell you for sure. Great wine is great wine regardless of what keeps it from spilling out the top of the bottle until you open it. And, your customer has the answer.

Photos: (c)2009 Paul J. Hydzik ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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Paul Hydzik grows brand value. As a brand marketer and award-winning creative leader, Paul has more than 15 years of experience driving business success from start-ups to blue chips. His strategic resume covers all aspects of B2B and B2C branding from go-to-market to consumer insight to identity development and all forms of marketing communication.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Learning By Surprise

Have you ever noticed that you remember something better, during an otherwise ordinary and familiar situation, when something novel happens?

I have. Again and again. My grad school students learn better when I shake up the typical classroom—rearrange chairs or tables into a new pattern, hop up on a desk to dramatize a point, play a new music composition no one in the class has ever heard, have a student team teach an aspect of the lesson, bring coffee and cookies, walk among or sit with the students instead of staying anchored at the podium.

My clients respond positively to the right kind of surprise as well. Best of all, these surprises make it easier to sell breakthrough concepts and dramatic change.

Right kind of surprise? Well, here’s the wrong kind: “Oh yes, the bill, it’s higher than you expected.” Right kind: “The graphics for this marketing campaign were inspired by a little piece of ribbon our art director brought back from a trip to Italy.” Then show clients the ribbon by allowing a twirl of it to unwind from an index finger. Surprise. Graphics were 90% sold before they left the art bag.

So I often employ some surprising element in my class lectures, seminars and client presentations. I never understood why it worked, I just knew it did.

Novelty detector in the brain

Now there’s scientific evidence of what happens inside the brain—and how learning and memory may be improved—when surprise occurs. A study undertaken by Daniela Fenker and Hartmut Sch├╝tze, researchers at the University of Magdeburg's Neurology Clinic II in Germany, and excerpted by Scientific American, explains that “novelty enhances memory.

Turns out our brains have a novelty detector—the hippocampus. Located in the temporal lobe of the cerebral cortex, the hippocampus is involved in discovering, processing and storing new sensory information. And the hippocampus becomes more active in response to novel stimuli than familiar.

The hippocampus compares incoming sensory information with stored knowledge. If these differ, the hippocampus sends a pulse of the messenger substance dopamine to the substantia nigra (SN) and ventral tegmental area (VTA) in the midbrain. From there nerve fibers extend back to the hippocampus and trigger the release of more dopamine. Researchers, including John Lisman of Brandeis University and Anthony Grace of the University of Pittsburgh, call this feedback mechanism the hippocampal-SN/VTA loop….

This feedback loop is why we remember things better in the context of novelty.

Novelty increases retention as well

Test subjects were shown photographs and given a series of words to remember while their brain activity was measured. The next day some of those same subjects were shown new images while others viewed familiar ones from the previous day. All the subjects were then asked to remember as many words from the previous day as possible. Recall was significantly better in the group that had just viewed new—novel—images.

Try surprise

In an earlier blog, Be more creative…do something different, I wrote how novelty can improve your creativity. Now there’s proof it enhances your memory. Try surprise and improve your abilities and your team’s. Or next time you’re giving a presentation, use an element of surprise to dramatize your point and aid your listeners’ retention. It’s fun, too. And fun is another proven way toward better learning.

Illustration credit: Brain Connection a Web resource from Posit Science.


__________________

Paul Hydzik grows brand value. As a brand marketer and award-winning creative leader, Paul has more than 15 years of experience driving business success from start-ups to blue chips. His strategic resume covers all aspects of B2B and B2C branding from go-to-market to consumer insight to identity development and all forms of marketing communication.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Great Advertising Like a Mini Movie

Great advertising tells a story. Involves you. Establishes a brand image. Creates desire. Separates you from the competition. Makes the most of its 30-second point of brand contact. Belgian beer maker Stella Artois really pulls it all together in their commercial entitled “Stella ArtoisThe Race, Do it for Papa!”



The TV spot recalls the atmosphere of 1930s-era bicycle racing. Two French brothers compete on their tandem bike on unpaved mountainous roads.

We join them just before the start as they both pay homage to their father, dedicating their race to glory that eluded papa years before. Shortly after the brothers take the lead, a flat sidelines them. While the one brother hurries to repair the flatted front tire, the other holds the tandem and watches a Stella Artois being poured in a nearby bar. The beer looks so delicious, so tempting that he secretly punctures the rear tire.

Their race now over, the two brothers take a seat at the bar. As they enjoy their brew, a gallery of old and yellowed photographs from races past reveals why papa’s glory was lost. Stella!

Well done, Sella! As a brand marketer, the storytelling, branding and production are simply outstanding. As a tandem cyclist who has learned to love the hills, this one’s right on the mark. Whadda ya think, beer drinkers? Time for a Stella?

__________________

Paul Hydzik grows brand value. As a brand marketer and award-winning creative leader, Paul has more than 15 years of experience driving business success from start-ups to blue chips. His strategic resume covers all aspects of B2B and B2C branding from go-to-market to consumer insight to identity development and all forms of marketing communication.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Act of Criticism vs. the Art of Critique

What went wrong with the Burger King Sacrifice social media promotion on Facebook: A learning opportunity in the building and execution of ideas.

Tearing down is vastly easier than building up. It only take seconds to bring down an old Las Vegas hotel that may have taken years to plan and build. Tearing down is fun, too. Crowds gather and cheer as the old is turned into rubble and dust. Lots of dust. Click and watch Vegas hotels implode for yourself on this HeroFlame video. C’mon, admit it. You want to look…you need to look.

On the other hand, building up is hard work.

All the worry and sweat and heavy lifting is usually done by smaller teams that have ownership and accountability for their product. No big crowds gather as the team burns the midnight oil. Concepting great ideas is tough work. Ensuring the flawless execution of those ideas is equally taxing. Results, reputations, money, and sometimes jobs, may be on the line.

Criticism is easy

Pick a victim and circumstance to tear down. Be fairly lucid as you skewer home your points. Then move on, smug in your superiority and scarcely moved by the rubble and dust you raise. The headline for this blog could have been,

Whopper Sacrifice Faceplants on Facebook.”

Easy and fun. But not constructive.

In case you haven’t hear about it, the Whopper Sacrifice promotion was released by Burger King on Facebook January 8—and killed just one week later by Facebook. According to Brian Morrissey at Adweek, the concept of the Burger King-developed social media promotion was to reward people with a coupon for their signature burger when they “sacrificed” 10 friends from Facebook. It noted that people who have been on Facebook for a while may have accumulated too many so-called “friends,” some of whom they may barely know.

Facebook reportedly killed the app for privacy reasons. If you think about it strategically, you may come to another conclusion.

I believe Erica Naone at Technology Review gets it right for at least part of the BK audience. “Facebook's primary value…lies in maintaining…second-string acquaintances. I'm not going to lose touch with my best friend, my husband, or my sister, and I hardly need to interact with them on Facebook. But there's a circle of people that I care about and miss but who are beyond my ordinary ability to stay in touch. Thanks to Facebook, I can find these people….”

Big oops! It's critical to understand how your target audience relates to the medium and how they use it. Another apparent big oops, especially for a big international brand--not having Facebook in your camp before you release the promo.

How do you set the stage early on to prevent yourself from making these kinds of social faux pas? Back to our learning opportunity.

Critique is harder—and better

If you live on the front line as a brand marketer, it’s your job to create and build. I find that I get lots more out of my team and our ideas—and take brands to greater heights of success—when we practice the art of the critique as we brainstorm and develop new ideas.

While pure criticism is a hammer that destroys. Critique is an art that builds.

Good critique requires you to have mastery of your territory. For marketers, you must understand your brand, your target audience, key stakeholders, the marketing and media tools. You must understand the needs of your marketing partners. And you must know how to communicate your thoughts and criticisms to your team in a way that enables them to see weaknesses and at the same time enjoy the thrill of having the chance to continue to build. That’s their passion. They’re great at it. That’s why you hired ‘em, right? So let ‘em build and love it.

Go hypothetical and put yourself in the room at the marketing agency as the Whopper Sacrifice idea is being born and developed. Let’s say you’re the director in charge. How would you have reacted?

Would you have recognized the fun in the idea? Would you have recognized the inherent controversy? That it asks Facebook members to cut people from their friends list. Would you have spotted the strategic disconnect between the Burger King objective—involve customers with the brand in a fun, new social way. And the Facebook objective—grow membership and branded relationships. Would you have killed it?

Instead, if you practiced the art of criticism and built on the idea, what would you do?

You would recognize the folks that generated the Sacrifice concept for their ingenuity. You would lead them to discover the strategic disconnect for themselves. You would direct them to advance the objectives of both promo partners. If you had given your team that goal, and had them take another go at it, would the Sacrifice idea have evolved into something great? I submit that the talent in that room would have been fully capable of achieving greatness. And that the next iteration of the program—though it would surely look different—would be running today in glory, instead of living in infamy on the trash heap of “good.”

Look at Kraft as a model.

Kraft is running a Facebook campaign in conjunction with Feeding America that donates meals to needy families when users get their friends to add the Kraft Facebook app. Every friend who adds the Kraft Supports Feeding America app will provide over six meals for an American suffering from hunger. As this blog is being written Kraft has donated 1,792,322 meals toward its goal of 3.2 million—nearly 60% of its goal.

The promotion drives the objectives of both promotional partners. And it looks as if it’s on its way to be a social marketing success.

Mistakes can be good…as long as they’re not repeated

Marketers entering social media are entering new territory. The right answers are not always known, nor are they obvious. Mistakes will be made--and online they're hard to erase. Learn from others. Set the stage for success early on. Learn the art of critique. And build great ideas. Every time.

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Paul Hydzik grows brand value. As a brand marketer and award-winning creative leader, Paul has more than 15 years of experience driving business success from start-ups to blue chips. His strategic resume covers all aspects of B2B and B2C branding from go-to-market to consumer insight to identity development and all forms of marketing communication.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Find your segmentation strategy personality type


When it comes to targeting your marketing efforts, nothing is more important than understanding your customer.

The better your know your customers’ wants and needs and desires, how they behave, where they are in the purchase cycle, how sensitive they are to cross sell efforts, lifetime value, (I could go on…), the better your marketing effectiveness.

Market segmentation, then, is the ongoing process of analyzing your customers and prospects and clustering them by similar characteristics that relate to their product or service needs. Here’s the key—clusters should be distinct and respond similarly to a particular marketing strategy or offer. Consumer or industrial, the objectives are the same, smarter segmentation can help you reach a more responsive audience with better results. You can better manage your marketing spend. You can enhance customer loyalty and boost satisfaction as you show your customers you truly understand them.

Test yourself and see. Which segmentation strategy personality type are you?

GeoDemo Monster
Segments customers along demographic lines—age, sex, family size, family life cycle, household income, occupation, education, religion, race, nationality. And geographics—region, county size, urban/suburban, climate and season, zip code.

How do you know you’re a GeoDemo? If you were to write a marketing brief for a consumer package goods product and your target audience description is: female, age 25-54, married, children, household income of $32,000-$70,000, living in A and B counties. Then you’re guilty as charged. What does this tell you about the target that’s really actionable? What about mom’s interests? Career? Lifestyle? What age are those children? What activities are they in? How does your brand relate to those kids and how does that make mom’s life better?

Geographics and demographics are starting points. Not destinations.

People just aren’t monolithic. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a Millennial, a baby boomer or a senior. One of my graduate students once asked me to help her with a marketing campaign targeting seniors. She queried, “What do seniors do?” I responded by asking several people in the class, “What do you do?” “And you?” “And you?” Of course, they were all different. And so are seniors!

At while back, I lived a couple doors down from a retired couple who loved cars and made a business of it. They got Detroit automakers to hire them to pick up the latest cars and drive them back to Chicago, check them over mechanically, shine them up, and turn them over to journalists to thrash for a few days prior to writing a review. The couple’s business employed a small number of like-minded folks—older and young—to help dealers deliver cars and fleet vehicles. Interest in cars, not age, defines this cluster. As I said, geos and demos are a starting point.

Confirmed Carpet Bomber
Distressingly common, though not formally a type of audience segmentation…more the result from a lack of applying targeting sophistication to marketing campaigns. Other names for this personality type: Scattergunner and Shotgunner.

You may recognize the sort, they tend to be siloed and think vertically. They may lead the direct or e-mail marketing efforts for a corporate division or department. And they’re charged with increasing loyalty and share of wallet from a customer database that crosses departmental lines. Confirmed Carpet Bombers have been known to deliver as many as three to five offers a month to the same folks. And ignore the fact that other corporate divisions are doing the same.

Their customers are bombarded with offers and become fatigued. What’s more, they wonder whether the business really values them as customers because the offers often don’t seem to recognize their needs. Responsiveness declines. Loyalty scores drop. Marketing dollars are not efficiently spent.

Behaviorist
Segments customers with analytical data in hand. Marketing stimulus and response. Observation and measurement. Algorithm- and analyst-oriented, Behaviorists are definitely the power-user among segmentation personalities. Watson and Skinner would be proud.

Behaviorists have a lot going for them. Numbers, for one. Behaviorists aim to predict, using customer and historical data, which clusters are the most likely to respond to a particular offer. This is incredibly valuable. They can split a customer database into increasingly discrete and actionable targets. One analytics partner I worked with recently found more than 20 clusters for a banking client where previously Confirmed Carpet Bombers reigned.

Today, Behaviorists are everywhere, tracking every sort of web-browsing behavior. Pages visited. Searches made. Display ads clicked. Friends linked.

Weaknesses? Two biggies.

#1—Metrics Mania. It wasn’t long ago when behavioral types were all about clicks. The more clicks the better. And they were convincing, too. With CMOs continually having to justify marketing solutions to numbers-addicted CEOs and CFOs, it seemed the solution was at hand. Problem was—and is for Behaviorists who aren’t careful—unless you’re selling clicks, you need to measure something closer to your business and marketing objectives. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Like quality leads generated. Customers acquired or lost. Like sales. Better yet, profits. Loyalty scores. You name it. It’s your business. Your objectives. Measure what matters.

Weakness #2—Human Connection. Strictly objective measures can create blind spots. Successful brands connect with people on a subjective level and the best create passionate (sometimes irrationally passionate) customers. Even in the B2B market, human motivations are drivers. Why spend $X million on a new software package? Because the decision maker is internally driven to succeed. Because they want to be heroes, get promoted. Because their team will work smarter and faster so they can all go home and play with their kids.

Psychologist
Segments customers based on lifestyle factors. What customers do. Where they go. How they think of themselves. What they do with their free time. They can be anyone or anything they want. You can recognize Psychologists because they’re doing what their customers are doing. Going where they’re going. Getting to know them.

Why? Insight. And for marketers, insight is actionable.

A case in point. What do capitalist publisher, Malcom Forbes, and a twenty-something art director have in common?

It sure ain’t geographics or demographics. One could live anywhere he wanted in the world. The other, still with his parents. One was a multi-millionaire. And the other…well, let’s just say he earns somewhat less. It isn’t purchase behavior, either. The billionaire bought dozens of these products. The art director is eating peanut butter sandwiches every day for lunch and vacationing in his back yard to help save up for one.

The key segmentation variable. Lifestyle.

Both love Harley-Davidsons. They think (or thought, in Malcom’s case) of themselves as motorcyclists. They describe the feeling of the wind in their face and the freedom of riding. And when that art director finally saved up enough to buy his Fat Boy, he was just like Malcom Forbes! Live to ride. Ride to live.

All-Rounders
Inclusive in their approach to segmentation, All-Rounders apply the techniques of multiple personality types. They draw from a base of GeoDemo tendencies and augment them with the analytical understanding and ability to quantify of the Behaviorist while applying the Psychologist’s insight into a customer lifestyle and mindset. The best of all worlds.

Smart All-Rounders are also known to understand another important characteristic of smart segmentation. Continual refinement. Analyze. Test. Refine. Retest. Refine again. Succeed.

Photo credit: Forbes image, AMA's Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum.

__________________

Paul Hydzik grows brand value. As a brand marketer and award-winning creative leader, Paul has more than 15 years of experience driving business success from start-ups to blue chips. His strategic resume covers all aspects of B2B and B2C branding from go-to-market to consumer insight to identity development and all forms of marketing communication.

Monday, January 12, 2009

SEO: 3 Simple Rules

Spiders and Bots and Websites, Oh My!

Make it easier for your customers to find your website by making it easier for search engines to find and index your web content. In a nutshell, that’s what Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is all about.

The closer your company’s results are to the top of a search list, the better for you, because your customers often don’t look past the first few pages of results. At least not before kicking off another, perhaps more detailed, query. The iProspect Search Engine Behavior Study, performed in partnership with Jupiter Research, shows 23% look at only the first few results, 39% the first page, 19% the first two pages, 9% the first three pages, 10% more than 3 pages.

That’s why SEO is so important to your business. Smart SEO can help you get your results closer to the top and help lead more customers to your online door. I use three simple rules to guide the optimization process for my clients. Before we get to them, it’s really helpful to understand how search works?

What actually happens when you search online

Before you go to the web to initiate a search, Google and the other search engines have already been there. Using sophisticated software spiders (or robots or bots), Google continually crawls, or searches, the web, looking at the information on web pages in order to create an index—a very large index to a very, very large library.*

When you go to Google to search, Google actually goes to its own bank of computers and checks its index. That’s why you can type in “SEO” and get more than 271 million references in two tenths of a second.

How does Google choose an order for its results?

Relevance and popularity scores, my friend. And that’s where SEO comes in. The closer your customers search terms match the key words on your web pages—the more relevant they are—the closer you’ll come to the top.

If you were looking for information on Search Engine Optimization and typed “SEO” into a Google search, as I did a moment ago, you’d get a host of relevant items. A useful Wikipedia definition, some SEO providers. But the sixth item on first page of results included a reference to the Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, a non-profit that provides mentoring for high school students of color in New York city. Relevant? Perhaps not to our blog posting today. Search isn’t perfect, but it gets us there.

Where are people searching, today? comScore November 2008 U.S. Search Engine Rankings show Google dominates the market with 63.5% (up 0.4% from the previous month), followed by Yahoo at 20.4% and Microsoft Sites at 8.3%, Ask at 4% and AOL 3.8%. Between Google and Yahoo, you’ve got almost 85% of the market.

Organic vs. paid search

There are two kinds of search in this world...organic and paid.

Organic, or natural, results are ranked and presented by search engines according to their relevance to the search terms. Organic results are free.

Paid results are generally listed under a heading of “Sponsored Links” often at the top or right side of a page. They require a fee for the search engine to list their link for particular keywords. Google AdWords, where advertisers pay each time someone clicks the link in their ad (Pay Per Click, or PPC), is a leading example. We’re going to stick with organic results for today, however.

Rule #1—Customers First

Whatever the technical aspects of your website, make sure that it’s customer friendly. The more relevant and engaging you are to your customers—the better the quality of the experience and information you provide them—the more they will want to find you—and over time, the higher you’ll rank.

So before you go any further, step back and answer this question, “Why should your website should rank above all others in your field?” Give customers a reason to visit, return and buy. Be the expert. Provide a useful tool. Entertain. Don’t forget that branding and design matter.

Next, think about how your customers search and the terms they use. Keyword research is a critical step in the SEO process. Brainstorm. Survey your customers. Take advantage of online tools, like Wordtracker, that can provide information about specific search words. Don’t forget alternate spellings and phrasings. Analyze the competitive landscape of a search term or phrase to see how easy, or difficult, it will be to rank for a particular term. The SEOmoz KW Difficulty Tool can help you determine which would rank higher, “SEO” or “Search Engine Optimization?”

Then test…and test again.

Rule #2—Rank High

In addition to relevance, search engines rank results by their popularity. For Google, that measure is called PageRank. Basically, each link to a page on your site from another site adds to your site's ranking. Not all links are created equal, however. Quality of content matters. Links from other highly-ranking websites count for more than lower-ranking sites or spam links.

All things considered, your SEO efforts should aim at getting you the highest PageRank you can. To do this, you need to get as many inbound links from as many high PageRank web pages as possible. Quality matters. And often takes time.

Rule #3—Prepare to study up or find a good SEO partner

In order for your site to rank well in search results pages, it's important to make sure that Google can crawl and index your site correctly. The territory is technical and, if done improperly, can actually damage your website’s ranking.

A good partner will help you

  • Review site content and structure
  • Provide technical direction on website development
  • Research keywords
  • Develop content and optimize how it’s written
  • Provide SEO training
  • And more

There are lots of online resources to get you started. Here are a few:

A few caveats

  • The best time to optimize is right from the start, when you you’re planning to launch a new site or when you’re planning a redesign.

  • SEO isn’t always the right strategy for every website depending on your objectives. Building high quality, relevant web pages that engage your target audience and persuade them to act is. Remember, customers first! Set objectives for your web and determine the appropriate measures of success. Clicks don’t matter, quality leads may. Or conversion to sales. Find the right metric. Measure it. Revise and update your strategies and your web pages to meet your goals.

  • If you already have a high ranking website, be careful to preserve your rankings when you change pages or move to a new site. Your SEO partner will help you (with a 301 redirect) to pass on the page rank from your old to the new.

  • Avoid SEO experts who promise a #1 ranking. It can’t be done! And beware of what are known as “Black Hat” techniques, also called spamdexing. Search engine operators are aware of these deceptive tactics and the penalties in your web ranking can be severe and even result in having your listing removed.

  • SEO isn’t a set it and forget it kind of thing. If you rely heavily on search engine traffic, remember, there are no guarantees. Search engines periodically change their algorithms, how they analyze and rank web pages. Take a big picture view and make your overall marketing efforts less vulnerable to these vagarities. Look at creating your own inbound marketing system, including e-mail, social media and blogs, among others, to help you find more of the right prospects and convert them into customers.

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*Google calls its web spider Googlebot. Yahoo refers to its version as WebCrawler. MicrosoftBot for you know who. These bots are frenetically busy. Currently the Official Google Blog claims that they have indexed more than 1 trillion. Of course, no search engine has indexed them all.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Strategy First, Tweets Second


Twitter is a stupid waste of time. Twitter is the stuff of genius. Where you fall on that spectrum often has more to do with how you see this important social medium strategically than how knowledgeable you are about the ins-and-outs of Twitter. Or any social medium, for that matter.

Those who contribute to the social media landscape write often and extensively on the HOW—tactics. Less so on the WHY—strategy.

Not that hows are bad, especially as social marketing is so young. They help you visualize what’s possible. Check out “50 Ideas on Using Twitter for Business” published by Chris Brogan last August and see how businesses are beginning to use Twitter.

Ultimately though, hows are just a tactical laundry list.

You might do this. Or you might do that. Sure you might, but every business is different. Why a particular approach is right for your business. Or not. That’s the key.

If you’ve begun to explore social communities, like Twitter, but haven’t been able see real benefits, don’t blame the medium. More than likely, you haven’t strategically connected your objectives to your audience and the medium. Without that connection, you really can’t answer a very basic question, “Is Twitter right for my business?” Just using the latest cool platforms isn’t enough. Especially in this economy. Results matter.

Not familiar with Twitter?
Twitter is a social networking website founded in March of 2006. It defines itself as, “a service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?”

Twitter users communicate online (and via mobile web, mobile phone and instant message) by sending and receiving short 140 character messages, called updates or tweets. These updates appear on the user’s profile page and are delivered to others who sign up to receive them. Members can also restrict message delivery to those in their community circle, if they wish.

See for yourself at www.twitter.com/help/how. Click and watch the short video.

Just a moment…make a plan
In the rush to go social, otherwise smart businesses may get ahead of themselves when they tweet first and think strategy second. Successful marketing has a strategic hierarchy. My clients, co-workers and grad students all know this. And I’ll admit to being something of a stickler here. Not because I like stickling (or hierarchies, for that matter). But because the model is simple and it works.

Objectives

Strategies

Tactics

Objectives set the goal and define how your success will be measured.

Strategies are the directions you take to achieve your goals.

Tactics are the tools you use and how you use them.

When you start at the hierarchy’s bottom, it’s easy to get seduced by a tactic and jump off on the wrong track. Then how will you measure success? Likely you’ll be disappointed. On the other hand, if you start at the top, with objectives, you clearly outline the path you need to take. Then you can make informed decisions that link your brand with your customers and the communities they create and share. And, based on how well you achieve your objectives, you can determine your success.

By the way, if strategic thinking is hard for you, take comfort in being in good company. Make a plan using these five steps.

1. Start with your audience
As with all things brand marketing, begin with your customers. You walk the customer-centric walk, don’t you? The Forrester Social Brand Strategy study, just released December 17, had this to say about social networking (order the full study if you like, but the executive summary tells the tale).

“…companies must understand who their target is, how that target seeks to engage, and the role that distinct social media channels play in their brand experience.”

Where does your brand come in contact with your target audience? Your customers probably tweet, media mavens say more than a million people do. You recognize that your audience has important things to say about your brand and you want your brand to be part of that conversation. Not to direct it. But to be part of the give-and-take that defines conversations. So how do you join a conversation that’s already taking place?

You start by listening, not talking. Use TwitterSearch as your ears.

See what’s being said. See how the medium is being used. Identify the influencers and the followers. Think about the roles your brand can play in the conversation. Yes, roles. Plural. Don’t stop with customers. What about employees? Strategic partners and vendors? Channel partners?

2. Set your objectives and strategies
What can you do in 140 characters? Quite a lot, actually. Look at just a few possibilities.

Enhance brand loyalty
A community provides a sense of place and a means to increase customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. A Deloitte and Beeline Labs study, "2008 Tribalization of Business Survey," researched 140 organizations with communities and found that nearly ¼ of them had already seen increased loyalty. This is especially impressive when you consider the majority had been around two years or less. One of the study’s major takeaways, “Communities can increase revenue per customer dramatically, i.e., 50%.” Who’s doing this? How about Southwest Air (7,609 followers at the time this blog is being written) and Whole Foods (13,910)?

Establish your leadership position
If your business is news, or you deliver useful and newsworthy information, social networking may be made for you. Marketing. Public relations. Or network news. CNN Breaking News has 70,988 followers who stay informed—and who also participate in the news through commentary and the sharing of ideas. Next time a story that he reports intrigues you, send a Twitter message to @RickSanchez (41,531 followers). Who knows? Your tweet might just appear on air because, according to CNN, “Rick’s newscast is…YOUR newscast!” Who else in the media is on Twitter. Have a look at just a few: http://mediaontwitter.pbwiki.com/United+States+-+NATIONAL

Generate better ideas to generate better products
Involve your customers in your products and gain the benefits of thousands of outside thinkers. Shorten your design cycles and go to market faster with better products—designed by the people who buy them.

According to Vovici, December 15, 2008, My Starbucks Idea generated—and prioritized—55,000 ideas. OK, this one’s not on Twitter, but it’s the result of a thriving and active community. On Twitter, in its first 18 months, Dell IdeaStorm (244 followers) generated over 10,000 ideas. What could your business do with a great customer-centric idea?

Increase sales
Sure. Will a million bucks do? According to ZK of WebTrafficROI.com, December 26, 2008, and a Dell Outlet tweet December 19, 2008 (3:07 pm), Dell produced that amount in an 8 month period through sales alerts. People sign up to follow the DellOutlet receive messages, or tweets, alerting them to product discounts. DellOutlet has 3,452 followers and has expanded to multiple Twitter accounts, including DellHomeOffers (595), DellSmallBizOffers (475), DellSmallBiz (415), TeamDell (293), StudioDell (201), and DellintheClouds (165), among Dell’s 65 Twitter accounts.

3. Develop tactics that reflect your strategic plan
Go back and dig out your tactical laundry list. Use your knowledge of your customer, and your brand, coupled with your objectives and strategies to cull through the tactics to see where there’s a fit.

Don’t copy. Be creative. Who knew you could have an online wine tasting in real time? You can with TwitterTasteLive.

Develop a voice. Are you the authority? Then be authoritative. Are you all about entertainment? Then be entertaining. Are you creative? Then be amazing. Every time. Be real and human. Be open to suggestions and criticism. Remember, its your customers you’re conversing with. They know something about your brand and your products.

4. Now tweet!
...and tweet with confidence, because you’ve considered your audience and connected your brand objectives and understand how you can utilize the medium to achieve the results you want.

5. Measure your results and refine…then repeat
Your job as a marketer doesn’t end once you launch. Track results. Improve your tactics. Then repeat the circle again. What do you measure?...why the metrics that most closely describe your objective, of course.

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Paul Hydzik grows brand value. As a brand marketer and award-winning creative leader, Paul has more than 15 years of experience driving business success from start-ups to blue chips. His strategic resume covers all aspects of B2B and B2C branding from go-to-market to consumer insight to identity development and all forms of marketing communication.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Be more creative...do something different

A light snow got me thinking about creativity today. If every snowflake is unique, then people who live by their creativity—and everyone else who uses their brain for a living—should be different every day as well.

In countless brainstorm sessions I’ve led, one sure way to energize rusty brain cells and bump them out of their rut is to invite the team to put themselves in a fresh frame of mind. Try this yourself on the way into the office tomorrow.

Do something different.

If fact, do several things different. If you take public transportation, then walk or ride your bike. If you must drive, then take a different route. If you’ve got a choice, take the more fuel efficient car…“Honey, I’m taking the hybrid today…please.” Go the wrong way if you have time. Get up 15 minutes earlier and make the time.

Work downtown? Cut through a different building. Eat breakfast if you never do. Eat lunch someplace brand new. Cut them some slack and enjoy the way the servers are learning their way around a new menu and a new system.

Listen to a different radio station. Or borrow someone else’s iPod. Ask first! Put away your laptop and Blackberry and read a newspaper. Read a book by a friend’s favorite author. Take your camera along...and take a picure. Shovel your neighbor’s walk before you shovel your own. Switch from coffee to tea, diet to water, red wine to white. Kiss your sweetheart with your eyes open instead of closed.

Doesn’t matter what you do that’s different. The idea is to break your routine. Form new connections in your brain. Open yourself to the unexpected. Tune your brain to be that much more responsive to new concepts.

Who knows, you might find that you like hip hop. Or free jazz. Or opera, for that matter. You might discover a new short cut. Or reconnect with a fabulous architectural inspiration, as I did recently when I cut through the lobby of Chicago’s Rookery Building.

By the way, doing things different is habit forming.

Photo: (c)2003 Paul J. Hydzik ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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Paul Hydzik grows brand value. As a brand marketer and award-winning creative leader, Paul has more than 15 years of experience driving business success from start-ups to blue chips. His strategic resume covers all aspects of B2B and B2C branding from go-to-market to consumer insight to identity development and all forms of marketing communication.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Top 4 CMO Strategies for 2009

A study published today in Advertising Age by the Marketing Executives Networking Group (yes, I’m a MENGer), shows that the economy is driving the nation’s top-level marketers back to basics for 2009.

More than half of the marketers surveyed say they expect budgets to be cut, which, of course, has tendency to sharpen one’s focus. So what do they consider “most important?”

1. Customer satisfaction (79%)
2. Customer retention (76%)
3. Marketing ROI (65%)
4. Brand loyalty (61%)

Other concepts jumped in importance compared with last year, led by credit availability, (went from 9% to 35%), housing markets (from 15% to 30%), and my personal favorite, alternative energy (from 31% to 41%).

Additionally, the execs remain optimistic that R&D spending and innovation initiatives will remain the same (75%) or even increase (21%). Marketing research is also expected to be level or increase by two-thirds.

So where will you focus in 2009?

In my previous Brand Contact post, "Silos," both examples speak right to the top 4 list. No. 1, customer service, ought to be an airline industry marketing priority (right after staying in business). My banking example hit Nos. 2, 3 and 4 on the CMO list, showing profit gains of breaking down internal silos and focusing attention on customers and retention initiatives.

The study was conducted online among MENG members, between Nobv. 15 and Dec. 2 of 2008, by Anderson Analytics. More than 35% of the membership responded. This is the group’s second annual marketing trends survey.

Read the entire article here at: http://adage.com/cmostrategy/article?article_id=133521

__________________

Paul Hydzik grows brand value. As a brand marketer and award-winning creative leader, Paul has more than 15 years of experience driving business success from start-ups to blue chips. His strategic resume covers all aspects of B2B and B2C branding from go-to-market to consumer insight to identity development and all forms of marketing communication.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Silos...good for grain, not for marketing

If your business is agriculture, silos are useful, providing a secure place to store your crops.

If your business is brand marketing, silos are downright harmful for the communication barriers they create. Internally, especially in large corporations, vertical thinking sets up walls between departments and complicates decision-making. Externally, vertical thinking sets up walls that distance you from your customer. Both waste precious marketing capital.

Try this little experiment.

Dial up your favorite airline. Best time to call...during a winter storm that puts your departure in jeopardy. Adds nicely to the tension and immediacy. Slides your tootsies right into your customer's increasingly desperate shoes. You know what will happen next. If your flight isn't canceled (disappointing, but merciful), you'll be delayed. If it's really not your day, it'll be delayed again and again.

All you want is an answer to the obvious question, "When do you think we'll be able to fly?"

But the people at customer service can't answer you. It's not their fault. Their department can only communicate what another tells them. So you're told your flight is delayed for 35 minutes. Delayed again for an hour. Perhaps another. You wonder, can't the airline just be honest? Tell you the plane you're supposed to fly out on hasn't even arrived at your airport. (So how in the world was it ever possible that that first delay would be over in only 35 minutes? Eh?)

As I said, silos create barriers.

How will you feel about the airline? Customer service is a key point of brand contact. Bad experience here is like a reverse form of frequent flier points, stealing from your passion for the brand.

Another example. This one, with a happy ending.

You're a large international bank with millions of credit card customers from whom you'd like to generate additional usage--to increase retention, enhance your bank's share of wallet and boost profits. Because your departments are siloed, with their own business objectives, each is mailing to your cardholder database with little regard for other business units.

From the customer's point of view, you're carpet bombing. You're not tying your marketing offers to each customer's need. They begin to wonder about their value to the bank. They begin to get fatigued by the constant offers. Responsiveness falls. As do profits.

What would happen if the bank instead switched to an integrated, customer-centric approach to its marketing?

Coordinating efforts company-wide, the bank undertook a detailed predictive analytical study with a major decision management solutions partner. It clustered customers by their responsiveness to cross-product offers, creating highly-targeted market segments. It then optimized product and offer selection across product lines based on the ability to maximize profits while accounting for multiple business constraints (like revenue and risk, among others).

By breaking down the silos, integrating marketing efforts and gaining a detailed understanding of its customers needs and responsiveness, the marketing team was able to project more than $10 million per year profit increase. (Specific results are proprietary.)

Want to make your marketing efforts more effective? Remember, silos are not for marketing. Break down those walls. Integrate your thinking.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Tabula rasa...not so much

Every time you launch a blog, you begin with what initially looks to be a blank slate. It's not, of course. To this white space you and I both bring our knowledge. Our experiences. Our points of view.

Brand Contact is a personal look at branding, strategy and all things marketing.

I plan to share a broad look at the current, and future, state of the art. From the essence of brand to building customer relationships to the media and creative tools available to help marketers reach their audience.

Our bent will reveal itself in short order. But here's a hint. Spending formative years with and then helping to lead an integrated marketing agency that proudly holds no media biases creates a decidedly customer-centric point of view. The solution, as we see it, is rarely so simple as to, "heavy up the advertising plan." Nor, "you just gotta be on Twitter." The world is open--and the solutions highly creative. One size does not fit all.

The key is truly knowing your audience and connecting with them with the right message in the right places. Every potential point of brand contact should be singing from the same brand music. The product itself. Packaging. Paid media. PR. Online. Sales. Trade and distribution channel messages. Executive speaking engagements. Internal communication. Customer service. I could go on.

What matters is results. Building brand value, sales and profits. Creating energized employees and passionate customers.

As I share my point of view with you, just as I do in the graduate school classes I teach or the seminars I give, I hope to open a conversation with you that advances our craft and benefits us both. I look forward to hearing from you.