Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The strategic role of content in proving brand promise

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Social Media has confused many marketers for many years. Mostly because it isn’t a media. It’s an exercise in relationship building.

It tends to be thought of as a channel of amplification – “hey social guys, here’s my great idea/piece of content (ah hem, advert) go do magic to make it famous”.

It is, of course, a channel of advocacy.

In many ways social has more in common with the promise proving role of CRM and loyalty than it does with promise making role of brand strategy - not least because social is and always has been the single most effective way to have an open door to your customers at scale.

Whether you open that door to gather data (information about the needs and wants of customers and potential customers) or to build relationships (with customers, and potential customers) what is clear is that you don’t throw that door open and try shouting through a megaphone through it.

So, to help clarify the role and effectiveness of social content – and that of other content, I’ve developed this simple model (see diagram above).

You’ll note that I’ve annotated each of the bands with ‘Awareness, Consideration, Conversion’. This is something of a simplification (evaluation is, for example also taking place in social – and there are cross-overs, social can also deliver awareness and consideration, and it’s not unheard of for ATL (above the line) to trigger an immediate sale) but they do, I believe, focus on what each of Brand/Content/Social strategy is best at delivering – and therefore a guide to where the focus of each should be.

Social is a conversion channel because it is the truth medium. It is where we report the truth of  experiences – and it is where we turn (to each other, to our friends) to discover the truth behind the promises. This is where the proof of the promise a brand strategy makes and a content strategy brings to life is either made or has its bubble burst in spectacular fashion.

Google’s ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth) - the point at which the purchase decision is made (a conversion is delivered) is therefore the point at which we discover a friend’s positive report of the truth of the brand’s promise. So social’s focus is on building advocacy in small audiences (right down to one to one) through rich relationships in modes of content where the user has the control.

Content that has value in this is that which inspires, discovers, aggregates and/or amplifies reports of the proof of the promise. Why? Because that’s what drives conversion. The more easily a potential customer can discover a positive user-generated report of the brand’s promise being true – at the right time in their own decision making process, the more likely a customer is to buy.

A test for this comes when the shiny content guys come to call. “Hey social guys, here’s my shiny thing, make it famous for me!” To which the answer should be:

Sure. So long as you can give me positive answers to the following:
        Will it build advocacy?        Will it build trust/relationships?        Is it in the user’s control?

If so feel free to ‘amplify’ through the relationships social has built. If not, stick to the channels most appropriate for building awareness…

Friday, June 27, 2014

The two killer apps of 21st Century marketing

Image via  http://www.alchemyofchange.net/
Neither of the two killer apps of marketing in the 21st century is part of most marcomms plans or marketeers skill sets.
How so?

A quick reminder on where I stand on how consumers make choices today:
1. Brand: Makes the promise
2. Marcomms: Brings the promise to life
3. Social Media: Is where we turn for proof of the promise (in the experience of our peers, the Google ZMOT if you will).

This is driven of course by who we trust. If we trusted brands and marcomms we'd accept their promises. Sadly its a rare brand which can command that level of trust today. Mostly we ask each other for the proof. This means of course that much more spend and focus should be on number 3 versus 1 & 2.

It also begs the question: how do you inspire people to publish the good experiences (the proofs of the promise) they have had.
First, of course, you must prove that promise.
Over delivering seems to do the trick. Go beyond the normal and I'm likely to post a positive review or comment.

Our ability to generate “wow” moments worth sharing with peers (reviews included) come down to what we are prepared to GIVE over and above normal service. Primarily the give is great customer service (delivered by a human) or an upgrade of some kind ( a cost).

This is bottom-up proof that the brand has our best interests at heart (the true measure of trust). That's killer app one.

Scaling this is tough and relies on peer-to-peer discovery and pass on. Often this can appear too slow to a brand with a broken connection to its promise they are desperate to fix. They may not have the will or capacity to deliver the small moments of wow which have made google, amazon, spotify etc more trust-worthy than long established rivals. They use your data to deliver things to you in a way that makes us feel they have our best interests at heart. We can rationalise and note that they have a business imperative. But actually, us consumers aren't very rational at all when making decisions. How we feel is most often more powerful than what we know. (Read Mark Earls Herd for a primer on that if you aren't convinced from your own experience).

With what brands can learn from your data, we can deliver the feeling that the brand concerned has our best interests at heart: Top Down - killer app two.

The magic, the wow, is not now in what we are given by way of over delivery of goods or services, but in the surprise and delighting we do by showing we know our customer's needs so well that they feel we really do have their best interests at heart (the foundation of building brand trust in a world of relationship marketing (as discussed in my book The 10 Principles of Open Business).
My guess is that we will continue to need BOTH top down and bottom up.
Trust in the brand can be built at scale via the top down approach, but to deliver the TripAdvisor-topping reviews and publication of peer recommendations we will need to continue to GIVE more than expected, not just fit need exceptionally well.
After all, when was the last time you tweeted about how well Amazon made you a recommendation?

Monday, June 16, 2014

The value of not knowing the right way

I watched a young band play in a pub garden recently. As they went through their covers routine it struck me that when I had been playing in bands at that age(ish) I'd gone straight past the covers phase, direct to playing my own material.
Guess why? I didn't actually know the right way to play other people's songs - so I wrote my own.
That lack of knowing the right way forced me to find a new way.
 In fact I'd go further. There appears to me to be an increased risk of not being able to discover new ways if you are too keen on learning the 'right' way.
Be happy if you don't know the way things have always been done. Yours is the road to the new.

Friday, June 06, 2014

A great week for Open Business

It's been an extraordinary week for raising the profile of Open Business.
At the start of the week I received my copies of the June issue of Admap - the magazine for marketing professionals. It includes a three-page feature on The 10 Principles of Open Business.

The same day I was sent a link showing an article referencing quotes from myself and The 10 Principles (and particularly Open Capital) was included in the June issue of the British Airways in-flight magazine Business Life.

And last night The Guardian published an article they asked me to write on Open Business and its role in the true sustainability of business.

2014 is turning out to be the year of Open Business.

Click here for all previous press references to the book.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Perhaps we need to care more about Meh

The place the internet likes to call Meh is a very interesting space because it is the one where most human conversation operates but also because it is the place least represented digitally today.

For example, a work colleague may ask me what I thought of the film I saw last night. And if I think it was just 'meh' I'll say so. But if I thought it really sucks or is really brilliant I may have already tweeted about it. In short we digitally report what we think will be useful to our peers.

One of the challenges we face in understanding the influence of user reports of expeience - particularly in FMCG - is that for the most part we feel Meh about them.

Humans in the real world talk to each other about the Meh. It's one of the reasons (perhaps the key reason) why 90% of conversations about brands remains offline (according to Keller-Fay).
So it's not that we don't care to report Meh to fellow humans, it's just that the current technical barrier of doing so online (where it can be valuably stored, searched for, discovered and reshared) is too high for us to be bothered reporting what we're not really too bothered about.

In the real world we don't face that technical barrier at all - we just open our mouths and speak to the person opposite.

As the technical barriers of digital sign-in and access fall we can and should expect an increase in reported Meh - the neutral ground of sentiment if you like. And that will mean our measures will have to become more sensitive, more able to note and record the difference between indifference, ok and so-so and therefore more able to predict the influence of Meh on the purchase and other decisions we all make.

Meh - perhaps we need to care more about it.


The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?