Category: Messaging

19
Sep

Are You Using an A.C.E. Moderator?

Over the course of my 20+ year marketing career, first as a client, then as an agency planner, I have participated in hundreds of focus groups, brainstorms and interviews from both sides of the glass. Throughout these years, I have learned that you can train someone to be a good moderator, but that the skills required to become an A.C.E. moderator are innate … they are hard-wired into who the person is at their very core.

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Selecting the right moderator is the first, and most important, step in truly understanding what customers think and feel. A great moderator is the foundation of a great strategy.

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Authentic. Curious. Empathetic.
Three words used to describe Sue Northey’s moderating style.

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Sue has spent over 20 years uncovering unexpected insights which inspire communications and build brand affinity. She is a skilled communicator, having moderated over 750 interviews, focus groups and workshops in order to brainstorm new ideas, understand consumer motivations, evaluate new products, assess brand equity and evaluate communications. One of Sue’s specialties is leading branding workshops with multidisciplinary teams, working collaboratively to understand and reposition brands.

Sue has spearheaded efforts for well over 100 consumer, business-to-business and nonprofit brands. Her work experience encompasses the client, agency, academic and entrepreneurial sides of business. Her previous leadership roles at a major CPG company, a notable advertising agency and a D1 university all prepared her to launch her own consulting firm, Branding Breakthroughs, in 2015.

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01
Sep

5 Reasons B2B Brands Should Be on Social Media

One of the most common questions I get as a brand strategist is whether a B2B brand should be on social media. There is a common misconception that social media only benefits consumer brands. The truth is … social media can equally benefit both consumer and business-to-business brands if a clearly thought out and well written social media strategy is in place. There are at least five solid strategic reasons why B2B companies should be on social media.

One.

The single most important benefit of social media for B2B marketers is the opportunity to increase awareness of your brand. Consider the following awareness-to-loyalty continuum. Without awareness, a prospect doesn’t even know you exist, so how could they consider purchasing you? Social media is a cost-effective means to increase awareness among individuals you believe are your core prospects.

Awareness – Loyalty Brand Continuum

Two.

As a B2B business, you are not reaching out to the 321 million people that live in the United States … a feat that a consumer brand may have to realistically consider. Instead, you are reaching out to a finite group of individuals. The key is to discover which social media channels your prospective target is frequenting. Gone are the days when the number of followers you have on social media is the lynch pin to success. If you have 500 followers but they are exactly the type of individuals you are trying to connect with, that lower number of followers may be a virtual goldmine.

Three.

Each channel serves a purpose and, therefore, should be selected on the basis of your specific needs. Many articles talk about the big three for B2B: LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. While these channels may represent a good starting point, they may not be the most appropriate channels for your business.

  • LinkedIn provides a perfect forum to connect with other like-minded individuals in your industry. Join a special interest group to talk about industry trends, ask customers to endorse your brand or to write a recommendation, publish original content to establish your company as a thought leader or find young professionals who share your company’s passion to hire for that open position.
  • Twitter is a terrific channel to establish thought leadership by using industry hashtags or a special hashtag you have created to showcase something specific to your company. It is also a great way to remain plugged in to industry news and happenings. Follow industry leaders to understand which issues and topics are top-of-mind and tweet relevant and important topics to individuals that will begin to turn to you for advice.
  • Facebook is a good forum to showcase your corporate culture, engage with customers on a personal level and show a little bit of the fun side of your personality.
  • YouTube is a perfect platform for brand storytelling or how-to videos that help your brand come alive.
  • While the jury may still be out on the overall effectiveness of Google+ as a networking forum, there is one thing that is irrefutably true – it elevates your brand in Google search, providing an easier way for current and prospective customers to find you.
  • If you work on a particularly visual brand, perhaps Instagram or Pinterest will provide you the perfect forum to connect with others looking for infographics, how-to pictures or suggestions on how to use your brand in unexpected ways.

Four.

How do you stand out from your competitors? As President Mike Crawford of marketing firm M/C/C points out, “As a B2B business using social media, your goal is to position the company as an industry leader.” If you have a blog on your website and are struggling to get people to read it, social media provides a forum to broadcast your content. So much of what is shared on social media is regurgitated information, so original content can really break through the clutter and establish your brand as a thought leader, helping to build credibility and trust in your overall brand.

Five.

But, the most convincing reason to use social media as a B2B company is that, plainly and simply, it works. Research conducted by the Content Marketing Institute shares a number of very impactful statistics.

  • Over four-in-five B2B marketers (86%) use content marketing to reach their targets and social media is a prime way to distribute that content.
  • Over half of B2B marketers use five social media platforms – LinkedIn (91%), Twitter (88%), Facebook (84%), YouTube (72%)  and Google+ (64%) and usage of all these channels is on the rise.
  • While there is certainly room to optimize their usage of social media, B2B marketers believe that LinkedIn (63%), Twitter (55%) and YouTube (48%) have proven to be effective for their businesses.

Should you make a decision to move forward with social media, do not tiptoe into the effort. Making a half-hearted attempt to engage in social media can set you up for greater damage than doing nothing at all. (See: Are You A Drive-By Social Media Marketer)

Drive-by MarketerThroughout this process, please keep in mind that building a loyal social media following takes time. Services that offer you thousands of followers for a small price merely populate your follower count with individuals that are not your core target.

Evaluate. Plan. Provide adequate resources. Take the time to execute properly. You will not regret it.

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Branding Breakthroughs Social Media

Twitter     Facebook    LinkedIn     Google+     Instagram     Pinterest     Tumblr

 

 

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10
Jul

Is Brand Strategy Just BS?

In my work at Branding Breakthroughs, one thing has become abundantly clear … people think they understand Brand Strategy, but they really don’t.

So, just what is Brand Strategy and why does it matter?

What Brand Strategy Is Not

Perhaps it is best to begin by explaining what Brand Strategy is not.

  • It is not your logo.
  • It is not your website.
  • It is not your product.
  • It is not your brand name.
  • It is not that fancy newsletter you publish.

What Is Brand Strategy?

Think of it as the frame of your house. The 2x4s that make up the walls, the roof, the ceilings, the floors. These important pieces form the foundation of your house. If you use inferior materials or hastily construct it, your house may not withstand normal wear-and-tear; worse yet, it definitely will not hold strong when the high winds of that unexpected storm hit.

Which Questions Do I Need Answer?

Here are some of the questions you should answer in order to create a compelling Brand Strategy.

Brand Strategy Questions

So, now perhaps you understand that BS stands for Brand Strategy and that it is a really important building block for your brand.

 

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26
May

Little Golden Books Illustrate Why Visual Storytelling Is So Powerful

I want you to go back in time to your childhood days and remember one of your favorite books.

Got it?

Now put yourself back into the body of that five year old and snuggle in to listen to your favorite story.

You may recall being tucked in bed with mom or dad perched next to you, sitting on grandma’s cozy lap which was just right for your little body or curling up on the floor next to classmates as your kindergarten teacher picked up that book. As each read to you, they held the book up, showing you all the colorful and wonderfully imaginative pictures. Some may have brought the story to life even more with animated facial expressions and voices that imitated the characters they were reading.

Now I want you to envision that story being read to you once again … but this time I want you to imagine listening to the story with your eyes closed.

The story loses a bit of its punch, doesn’t it?

Why? Because the visuals – both from the book and from the person reading – were such an integral part of the storytelling process.

Perhaps without those pictures. you wouldn’t have been able to envision just how saggy the Saggy Baggy Elephant was.

a

Or how adorably cute The Poky Little Puppy was … even if he did get in a lot of trouble.

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It is the visuals that truly animate the story, bringing it to life in a way that many of us could not do on our own. Without visuals, each of these stories may have faded from our memories over time. The creative pictures and illustrations that Little Golden Books provided to so many of us as children help us better understand why visual storytelling is so effective, particularly when inundated by a virtual sea of communications.

Research has shown that 65% of individuals are visual thinkers and the mind processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text (GT Ignite). We bring moments back to life much more rapidly through the images we collect and store in our brains.

So, is it really that surprising that visual mediums are the fastest growing of all social media channels? The following chart from Tech Crunch identifies the top three fastest growing social media platforms as Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram.  You can’t read a post lately without some mention of the power of visuals. Twitter is rife with posts on how visuals increase engagement with your tweets and LinkedIn recently launched a publishing platform that includes an image as an integral part of the post.

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So, in this day of storytelling, remember that visuals can help bring your brand to life far more effectively than words alone.

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Check out Branding Breakthroughs visual content on our social channels.

Website     Pinterest     Twitter     Instagram

 

 

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20
Apr

How To Tap Into Consumer Emotions In Qualitative

“The buyer journey is nothing more than a series of questions that must be answered.”  Dr. Michael Bernstein, Stanford University

Dr. Bernstein could not be more accurate – the quality of information obtained in qualitative research is only as good as the dialogue that occurs between the moderator and the people in the room.

So what questions should be asked to truly understand a consumer and the journey they take when making a purchase decision?

We all know that if you ask a consumer a direct question, you typically get the first answer that pops into their mind … and often that answer is very rational.

Moderator: What’s most important to you when buying a new car?
Consumer:  Price is always #1.

If we believed that price was the single most important criterion when purchasing a car, we might surmise that this consumer would buy a nissan versa or a Chevy Spark because they are two of the cheapest new cars on the market today. But, of course, we know there are many other factors that weigh into their buying decision. We also know that most people will not buy a car they happen to think is ugly.

When faced with a direct question, consumers often respond quickly and habitually. Quite often, they are not even aware they are providing a faulty answer.

So, how do we tap into the deeply held emotional triggers that consumers often do not even realize have a profound effect on their buying decisions?

The answer is to ask for their opinion over and over and over again, but instead of asking direct questions, to use associative and projective techniques to evoke visceral and emotional reactions. These types of responses occur so spontaneously that consumers do not have time to filter them through the logical side of their brain.

Let me share a few favorite techniques with you.

Associative Techniques

Unaided Association

Why? This is a wonderful place to start because it allows consumers to clear their mind of everything they immediately associate with the brand.

How? Ask the question: What are all the thoughts and images that immediately come to mind when I say X? Anything else?

Picture Sort

Why? Many assume that people prefer to communicate through language, but in fact 65% are visual thinkers. (Prime/Neil Fleming)

How? Create a library of royalty-free images that reflect different people, emotions, situations, objects, etc. Print these images on card stock or photo paper. For each project, pick a sample of 20-30 images to show to consumers, asking them to spontaneously select those that most fit the brand being discussed.

Pictures - Web_Small

Word Sort

Why? While most individuals are visual learners, a number still process best by reading. This is where words come into play.

How? Create a comprehensive list of words that describe people and their emotions. Print each word on card stock. Select 20-30 words for each project and follow the same guidelines described in the Picture Sort.

Adjectives - Cropped

Color Sort

What? Each color has a unique meaning and each evokes different emotional responses.

How? Create color cards in a similar format to the images created for the Picture Sort. The colors of the rainbow are a great starting point. Additional colors to consider are white, black, grey and brown. This can either be done as a group exercise or a stack of color cards can be given to each individual. This YouTube video illustrates how colors were used in research to explore emotional reactions to the Apple watch.

Colors - Web_Small

Projective Techniques

Brand Personification

Why? This is an excellent technique to humanize your brand and to better understand its personality and voice.

How? Challenge consumers to think of your brand as a person and ask them a number of questions about that person. Is it a man or woman? What kind of car do they drive? Do they live in the city, suburb or country? What kind of music do they listen to? If you met them at a party, what would they be like?

A Trip to Corporate Headquarters

Why? This is a very simple way to understand how consumers perceive the company behind the brand.

How? Ask consumers to take a virtual trip with you in their mind to the corporate headquarters of Brand X. As you are going on this journey, ask them questions. What kind of cars are in the parking lot? What does the building look like? Can they walk right in the door or is there a security guard? Once inside, how are people dressed? Do they welcome you as you enter, ignore you or ask you what you are doing there? Can you get in to see the president unannounced?

Obituary Exercise

Why? This exercise can often provide the Achilles Heal for your brand or a competitor’s brand. It is also a great way to hear from some of your quieter group members.

How? Each individual is asked to write an obituary for your brand or a competitive brand. In this obituary, they are asked to include the following: cause of death, who came to the funeral, what was said in the eulogy and who will most miss the brand. Obituaries can be read out loud or read privately after the groups.

About the Author

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Sue Northey offers a wealth of strategic brand and communications moderating experience acquired through a robust career spanning a multi-billion dollar packaged goods company, national advertising agency and public relations & social media firm. Her expertise centers on creating intuitive target profiles, compelling brand positionings, single-minded messages and meaningful communications strategies that connect with customers and drive business revenues. Her career has spanned the client, agency and academic sides of branding and communications and she has had the pleasure of working on an extensive portfolio of consumer, business-to-business and nonprofit brands.

If you are interested in obtaining a moderator bid, please initiate a Request for Proposal on the Quirks website or email Sue directly at Sue@BrandingBreakthroughs.com.

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07
Apr

The Passion Play: What Is Your Brand’s Kryptonite?

Do you have any passion brands in your life?

By passion brands, I mean those brands you cannot imagine living without. Brands that would leave you brokenhearted if they were to disappear tomorrow.

As I think of this question in my own life, I can only think of three: 1) Excedrin Migraine (absolutely nothing works as well on a killer headache); 2) iPhone (my life is tethered to so many apps that I would have a hard time functioning without it); 3) Long Tall Sally (they offer fashionable clothing that actually fits my long limbs). When you think of the hundreds of brands I interface with every week, it’s hard to believe that only three have achieved this status in my life. But, I bet you don’t have a whole lot more in your quiver either.

Why is that?

As a marketer, your driving goal should be to catapult your brand to passion status for as many of the individuals in your target market as humanly possible. An irreplaceable brand creates a shortcut to consumer decision-making. This is a real advantage to time-starved consumers. It also means there is no wiggle room for another brand to sneak into your target’s hearts and minds. That’s an advantage to your bottom line.

But, while becoming a passion brand is an aspirational goal for all marketers, it is far easier to wax poetic about its benefits than it is to accomplish. So, just how do you go about making your brand a passion brand?

I am sorry to burst your bubble. There is no secret black box or magical crystal ball that can circumvent knowledge, investment and hard work. Your brand must intercept the target at numerous points along the decision process, earning their attention, teaching them what makes you special, encouraging them to consider you and ultimately buy you and then creating such an incredible brand experience that they must tell others about you. That is the magic behind The Passion Play.

The_Passion_Play

First, of course, is to get people to notice you … to become aware you even exist. As you well know, the old adage of “if you build it, they will come” never really works nor does tweeting a few posts or announcing a new product on your website. The most important way to get noticed is to figure out who your bull’s eye target is, where they live, work and play, what matters to them most and what emotional benefits they are seeking from your brand. Only then, can you connect with them in a meaningful way.

Once you are noticed, you have to help your target grasp who you are at your very core. They need to develop a crystal clear appreciation for your point of differentiation versus your competitors. This phase answers the question: What is my kryptonite … my secret substance that no one else has? Despite some not-so-complimentary opinion pieces on how flawed qualitative and quantitative research is, designed properly there is no substitute for getting close to your target and understanding what makes them tick.

Once you have earned your target’s attention and demonstrated your value as a brand, the end-game is to entice them to consider purchasing you. Consideration is a precursor to trial. Now, you may think coupons are the answer because you consistently hear women in focus groups say, “If you give me a coupon, I’ll try it.” But recent research shows that coupons generally reward current users of your brand. According to Hub Magazine, “Traditional promotions work well to reward current users for their loyalty, rather than to drive consideration or trial.” So, what about sampling? Well, sampling is great if you have a demonstrably superior product and a fat marketing budget, but for many brands, sampling is just not feasible. Viral marketing? Despite what many marketing companies may promise, there are no guarantees that a cool new product or a catchy little video will go viral or that Public Relations will place that awesome story on the cover of Fortune magazine. So, here is the cold, hard truth:

“You must know who you are,

what differentiates you from competitors

and who you are targeting

in order to develop a simple, powerful message

that inspires your target to take action.”

If you are available where your target usually shops and you are offered at a price they consider a good value, they will finally commit to trying you. Here’s where the rubber meets the road. This is where the value proposition needs to deliver against customer expectations. If the product underdelivers, you will not earn the privilege of repeat purchases. If the product overdelivers, it is not achieving its full market potential. The optimal scenario is to perfectly match the performance of the product with your target’s expectations. Only then, will you achieve maximum trial and repeat.

In decades gone by, a marketer’s panacea was to achieve brand loyalty, but today the goal is to inspire your target to become a champion for your brand. To create a customer that is so passionate about your brand they must share their brand experience with others. They may do this more publicly, through Twitter, Facebook or their blog, or in the shadows where interactions are not as easily tracked, in face-to-face conversations, texts or emails. These are the most passionate of the passionate, the individuals you can invite to participate in your brand.

Making the progression from awareness to brand champion can be a lengthy and expensive process, made only more arduous if you do not have a sense of the essence of your brand and a clearly defined profile of your bull’s eye target. So, start this journey by doing your homework. Just like in the classroom, if you don’t do the work, your chances of making the grade are slim.

 

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23
Mar

Why Spray-and-Pray Isn’t The Best Messaging Approach

We have all seen it … the brand that is all over the map when it comes to their communications messaging. They rationalize that everything they are saying is true, so why not say it? Aren’t they selling their product short if they don’t communicate all the reasons why their product is the best?

At first blush, it makes sense. Why dilute your message and run the risk of losing prospective clients that might buy because of one of the many things you tell them?

In truth, reality suggests the exact opposite.

Too many messages can and will dilute the equity of your brand. It leaves consumers adrift, wondering who you really are and what you have to offer. In a simple word, it confuses them. When a consumer understands who you are, they understand what they can expect from you … every single time they interact with your brand. In the absence of consistent brand messaging, they don’t know what to expect and, thus, are often disappointed with the brand experience. With no brand consistency, it is far too easy to turn to a brand that offers a clear brand promise.

Let’s look at Jimmy John’s to understand this concept a bit better. I am sure that most of you will agree that one thing the U.S. didn’t need was another sandwich shop back in 1983 when they opened their first restaurant. After all, the local Subway, Cousins or Suburpia was satisfying the hunger pains of residents just fine. So, just how did Jimmy John’s progress from a seemingly unknown to one of the biggest providers of sandwiches in the country?

Let’s think about the Jimmy John’s tagline for a moment.

Freaky fast.

This tagline is brilliant in its simplicity. It clearly and succinctly describes Jimmy John’s point-of-differentiation relative to every other sub shop in town. The word freaky exemplifies its brand personality, while simultaneously describing just how fast they are. Anyone that has listened to a Jimmy John’s commercial, walked into a store or ordered a sub on the phone can tell you there is something about them that is just a bit off center. Rapid-fire speech. Offbeat personalities. Comedic exaggerations. Couple this with their willingness to deliver one lonely sub to your home or office in record-breaking time and the simplistic beauty of the Freaky Fast tagline and positioning takes on a whole new meaning. As a consumer, it’s an understandable and memorable brand promise. Every time you order a Jimmy John’s sub, it will be delivered in record-breaking time, with a healthy dose of brand spunkiness along the way.

Another terrific example is General Electric, who is arguably one of the world’s largest and most diverse conglomerates. The task of creating a single-minded brand positioning for a behemoth company that offers a dizzying array of products and services appears to be an insurmountable task; yet, create a single-minded message they did.

Imagination at work.

Whether selling multimillion dollar MRI machines to hospital administrators, slick stainless steel refrigerators to consumers or energy consulting services to businesses, GE issues a rally cry to its employees the globe over – we will only market those solutions that push the edge of convention. Does this mean they will never sell me-too products? Of course not. However, it does imply they will not spend money promoting products and services that don’t respond to their corporate challenge.

Both of these companies, among countless others, demonstrate that single-minded messages that get all of us nodding our heads in agreement are the ones that viscerally connect with us. They leave us with a clear impression of who the brand is and what they promise to deliver on every single occasion we interact with their brand.

That kind of clarity usually earns our vote in the best possible way … through the dollars we spend.

Brand_Promise_Schematic

 

 

 

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