Can anything good come from marketing? Musing on the potential it has to be virtuous.
Marketing often gets a bad rep and for good reason.
To non-practitioners the term marketing evokes any number of negative thoughts and feelings. Images of frivolous time and money spent on a new corporate identity worry the finance department while misgivings of manipulation and deceit caution the consumer whenever marketing is mentioned.
In some ways this mistrust of motives is deserved. Often, the consumer is left to fend for themselves like a fish surrounded by a sea full of nets, hooks and traps. Like the fish we're immersed in a world of the marketer's creation; advertisements, sponsorships, product placements, branding, displays, viral content and signage everywhere we turn.
Within corporations marketing can often seem like the undisciplined rogue department, wound-up on the latest internet fad, focusing on what seem like surface issues like colors or type or shapes when what really matters is the quality of the product or service. Marketing sticks its nose into other departments; business, too, telling engineering how to make the product better or asking manufacturing to speed up its production rate and pushing finance to change pricing.
So, it's not surprising that inside the company or out in the world, marketing is often viewed as a problem that no one knows how to rid themselves of.
I propose marketing can be virtuous. And by virtuous I mean beyond helping its company sell more widgets and thus increase the company's ability to be profitable. Of course, that's a virtue of a sort and no small thing when one considers the number of jobs that marketing either protects or helps to create, along with the general health of the company and so on.
But, marketing can be virtuous beyond what it does for the good of its own organization.
When done right and when done with integrity, marketing connects two parties; one with a problem, need or want and the other with a solution, product or service. Marketing helps these two parties find each other in a vast and oft confusing world. By doing so, it is facilitating the creation and realization of value for both parties. Marketing helps two parties that need each other get connected so that both can walk away better off than before they engaged.
According to our friend Adam Smith, that's a good thing—some would even call it virtuous.
For today's episode of Marcom Talk, Mike Gastin and Mike Nelson highlight the importance of having a marketing plan. Don't have a marketing plan, or perhaps you have one that's in need of updating? Don't worry, because it's never too late to get started.
What’s been on your marketing mind lately? What burning questions from your corner of the marcom universe are in need of answers? Let us know! We’d love to help by offering some of our thoughts in future episodes of Marcom Talk. If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to comment below.
Apple’s App of the Year winners and runners-up for both iPhone and iPad are all about the creation (or at least manipulation) of content. The apps listed are Instragram and VidRhythm for the iPhone, and Snapseed and djay for the iPad.
When chatting with colleagues, friends and relatives about the delineation between mobile computing and desktop/laptop computing, it’s often mentioned how consumption of content (mobile) and creation of content (desktop/laptop) defines how we leverage different computing platforms.
With the success of products such as the App of the Year honorees, and other apps built for content creation, we're starting to see a blurring of lines between the various computing platforms in the consumer space. It won't be long before we start to see a shift in the commercial space. For many, this change is already upon us.
OK, I know we’re not going to produce annual reports on our smart phones and send them to a 10-color press over the Whatever-G Network. But I’m curious – as marketing pros, how are we utilizing the strengths of mobile as of late, not so much as a destination for our messages, but in the creation of our messages?
In my case, I’ve adopted OmniFocus to aid the planning and management of communications design projects while I'm away from my desk. On many occasions I’ve found myself relying on Camera+ for photo scouting. These are just a few examples.
So, how about you? In what ways is the mobile platform influencing how you work as a marketing communicator?
On Tuesday this week, Mike Nelson and I recorded what will end-up being the first in a series of Bob Wright Creative podcasts. I'm really excited about this and wanted to give our blog readers a heads-up.
Our goal for the series is help our audience with marketing and communication design problems by sharing our experiences.
This was the first time I'd personally taken part in making a recording like this and it was a lot of fun—so much fun that we'll be doing it on a regular basis. Usually I'm helping a client develop this kind of content so it was a special treat to be behind the mic. Mike is an audio pro and made it easy.
So, keep an eye out for the launch. (We still have to edit, etc.) Of course, we'll shout it from the rooftops when episode one goes live.
If you have topic ideas or questions you'd like us to tackle, feel free to leave them in the comments.
I met with one of my client's senior management team today and something amazing happened.
A little backstory
We meet once a month to review PR opportunities. None of the people in the room are responsible for marketing, all of them overseeing one of the various departments in my client's company.
The meetings go alright. We churn through an agenda that I had inherited, looking for upcoming events that we can publicize and story ideas that we can pitch.
Actually, the monthly meeting was a dog. We did our duty, but it was not a good spend of everybody's time.
What to do?
My client and I agreed that the time was not well spent and that we needed to shift gears. We hashed some ideas around and decided the best plan was to back up and get his team more engaged in the overall marketing process. They needed context. They needed to be able to understand what direction we're taking their marketing and how they fit into it.
Talking fast to make it fit
So, today I spent an hour and a half taking the team through the three main areas of work that I've been focused on for their company: strategic, tactical and operational.
I shared the steps we went through in developing the strategic plan, the findings and the strategies. I shared the positioning work we did and the rationale behind it. I shared the branding that we've been developing and how it tied into the strategic work and positioning. We covered the overall tactical plan and how we're in the process of operationalizing their marketing function.
We covered a lot of info in a short period of time.
After I was done something amazing happened: they started getting excited about the opportunities and challenges before their company and they started to share some excellent ideas—not just PR ideas, but marketing ideas.
They were really good ideas, too, because they had context for the first time. The team started to understand how they each fit into the company's marketing strategy and that unlocked their expertise and creativity. It was quite dramatic.
If your company's marketing team is comprised of non-marketing professionals, take time to give everyone context. Don't just share with them what you did but share why you did it—the thinking behind your approach.
By doing so, you'll help them understand the big picture, how they fit and what unique piece they have to offer. You'll get much better contributions from the team and who knows, you might even have that "Ah Ha!" idea that's been eluding you.
Gap's actions over the last week expose some deep problems—problems that even great design can't fix.
The new Gap logo is old news. If you've been following their marketing train wreck you know that after getting tarred and feathered by the online community they backtracked by announcing they would crowdsource their brand in hopes of finding an identity that really gets the job done.
Besides the fact that their agency who created the new logo, Laird+Partners, must feel pretty unhappy and that Gap's management must be under intense shareholder scrutiny, the idea that a crowd is the solution is just wrong.
For the uninitiated, crowdsourcing is a problem-solving and production model that broadcasts a challenge to the public, asking it to put the power of a distributed network to work. It's been a hot topic ever since Wired's Jeff Howe coined the term in 2006.
I'm all about the idea of distributed networks and leveraging the power of thousands to get a job done. In fact, I love open source software, like Drupal's awesome CMS. It's a great example of a type of crowdsourcing as people all over the world work to make Drupal better, fixing problems, collaborating and generally delivering an awesome solution.
But, the people working on Drupal are all programming experts; they’re specialists. There are no good natured retired factory workers with a little spare time hacking code—unless of course they know code! If you're working on Drupal you're a programmer.
Gap's proposed solution is to throw the doors open to anyone with MS Paint. Forget any qualifications, experience or skills. Gap says they think you can fix their brand, and that's troubling on two levels.
First, does Gap disrespect their brand so much that they are willing to let just anyone work on it? Can a company that does hundreds of millions of dollars in sales, all based on its brand, actually just throw that brand out to the crowd and think that's responsible brand management? Forget the fact that a huge corporation that makes millions of dollars is asking hundreds of thousands of people to work for free. What makes Gap think the masses can fix their failure? Why don’t they understand that they need the help of experts?
Second, is Gap is really being sincere in asking the crowd for help? If they respect their brand and they know they need the help of experts, then they don't really think the crowd will have the right answer. Crowdsourching is just a PR ploy; manipulation to put a good face on a really stupid move and to get everyone to just shut up. If they don't expect the crowd, their customers, to have the right answer, then why insult them by asking for help? And let’s face it, if they really believed in crowdsourcning they'd put all their clothing designs up for grabs.
Gap does not respect its brand or its customers. They have a problem that runs much deeper than a design or marketing issue. They've got a leadership problem. I don't care how good a design solution is, paid or crowdsourced, great design can't fix a lack of integrity or broken leadership.
We often think of branding as a complex exercise, requiring lots of time and money to do right. But, you can make your brand powerful and effective for a few bucks. You can also destroy it for just as cheap.
A Simple Definition
Branding has meant many things through the years, starting with the mark that was put on cattle to identify who owned it. But, today, at its most basic level, a company’s brand has come to mean it’s personality. Your brand is who you are; fun, capable, smart, quick, intimate, global, inexpensive, rude, difficult. These are the kinds of traits that make up a brand; traits that ultimately create a personality that the marketplace associates with your company.
In a minute I’m going to share five things you can do for next to nothing that will build your brand. But, first I’ll share two recent experiences with you; one bad and one good.
Last week it was our creative director's birthday, so a few of us went out to get lunch together. We walked over to a local gourmet pizza place, sat down and put our orders in. Everyone, except for me, ordered a pizza. I got a salad.
Eventually the pizzas came out, but no salad. Before I had a chance to ask about it the waitress darted away. I figured the salad would be out any minute. Boy, was I wrong.
Over the next 30 minutes I asked a few times if my food was coming out soon. Each time I was assured it was almost ready. In fact, one time our waitress said it was up she just needed to go get it from the chef. Then she disappeared for ten minutes and, alas, my salad did not emerge from the kitchen.
It eventually came, way late. No explanation, no apology, no discount. Nothing. I was not happy. I was ignored, embarrassed and lied to over a $12 salad. I will never go back to that place and spending money. Never take my family there, never take a client there and never meet a friend there. They lost their good will and reputation, not to mention hundreds of dollars in future sales for 12 bucks!
This weekend I was working on my personal web site when I noticed the server was incredibly slow. I host all our domains, personal and business, with Media Temple. I quickly checked their status page to see if there was an issue, but that would not load either. Uh oh!
I shot off a quick note on Twitter asking if any other Media Temple sites were having trouble. Within minutes the issue seemed to resolve itself. A Media Temple person responded to my Tweet apologizing for any inconveniences and let me know they had the issue sorted. Nice. Then, I got a private message from the same person thanking me for my business and asking me if I’d like any Media Temple ‘swag’.
After giving him my shirt size and mailing address he let me know that a package with free gifts was on its way. Now that’s cool!
I’ve been with Media Temple for years and spend about $100 a month with them. I expect an issue once in a while, because that’s the nature of the technology behind the internet. Even though I’ve always liked their service, the free swag, which I bet costs about the same $12 as the aforementioned salad, further cements my loyalty to Media Temple.
Five Easy Things You Can Do
So now that I’ve shared two examples of how real companies have either broken or built their brand for $12 let’s look at five simple things you can do for your business.
1. Keep sight of the big picture
It’s easy to loose sight of the big picture. Reduced staff, tighter budgets, demanding customers and market pressures all conspire to make us forget about the big picture and to focus on whatever tactical issue is in front of us at the moment.
Why do you do what you do? Why is your company in business? What problems do you solve and what value do you provide? Why do people do business with you? What needs are they trying to meet and what expectations do they have? Make every decision with the big picture in mind. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish.
2. Empower your people
Your frontline staff need to be empowered to fix problems. They are the ones who see the problems first hand. They deal with your customers, serve them, engage them. They need both the authority and encouragement to fix problems.
In my recent restaurant experience how would I have felt if the waitress came out quickly and said, “Sir, the kitchen is having some trouble getting your salad ready on time. I’m going to make sure you are not charged for it and I’d like to offer you a complimentary drink or something else on the menu.”? I may not have become a raving fan, but I would have been pretty impressed and surely would have given them a second chance.
3. Listen and respond
Your customers are talking. It used to be pretty hard to listen. You had to hire a market research firm to conduct focus groups and expensive customer surveys. Those days are gone. Social media has made these conversations public. Monitoring Twitter, engaging customers on Facebook and keeping an ear to the ground on the internet via Google Alerts has made it quite easy to listen. People are talking about you, you just have to take the time to hear what they’re saying.
Of course, listening is only half the game. You need to respond. That’s the beauty of social media: it allows a two way interchange, a relationship. See this recent interaction I had with Wegmans for a great example of a company who is listening and responding.
4. Make it personal
When you engage a customer, make it personal. Don’t just send out a form letter with a coupon. Engage them on an intimate level. Even huge companies can do this now via social media. Direct message, refer to people by their name, talk about the problem together and how you’re going to fix it. Companies used to want to put forward a big corporate image. These days we all want to deal with people. So, wether you’re Wal-Mart, GE or Joe’s Shoe Shine, we want to deal with individuals, just like us.
Connect with your customer, its not that hard to do. A little personal attention goes a long way. A phone call or a Twitter conversation only needs to take a few minutes and the impact is far deeper than a form letter from your marketing department with some coupons stuffed in for good measure.
5. Get your team aligned
All of the above points don’t work unless you’ve got your team aligned on the important characteristics of your brand. What are your core values? What is your brand promise? Your team should know these by heart. That way, when they are empowered and they are listening and responding on a personal level, they are doing it in a way that fits your company and its brand.
That's it. Five easy things that are virtually free, but will powerfully impact your brand. They may seem simple but many companies ignore them. As my salad story illustrates, they do so at their own cost. Start improving your brand today!
As companies all over the world struggle to figure out how to use social media, one Rochester retailer gets it right and scores a customer service bull's eye
Saturday's cold weather seemed like a perfect opportunity to make a big pot of chili con carne for the family. My wife Lydia agreed and made a quick run to our local Wegmans to pick up supplies for the meal.
One of my jobs was to brown the ground beef, which Lydia had picked up on the aforementioned shopping run. We had 6.7 pounds of 90% lean ground beef from Wegmans. (We were making two batches and we've got two teen boys if you're wondering about the volume!)
When I was done cooking the meat we both were stunned to see how much liquid had cooked off. We'd never noticed that much before. Honestly, we don't buy much ground beef from Wegmans, so we thought it might be an issue with their quality. I snapped a quick pic with my iPhone and posted it to Twitter with the following comment:
Here's the picture that I attached to my tweet:
Within a few moments I received a response from Wegmans, even though my tweet was not directed to them. I knew from my Twitter use that Wegmans monitors their name in tweets and interacts with people that talk about them. For example, last week someone mentioned that they were going to Wegmans for a quick lunch. Wegmans tweeted after lunch asking them what they had and how they liked it.
Here's the direct message they sent in response:
My wife and I were blown away! An almost immediate response, right in our kitchen, from the retailer. When we first saw the liquid we felt like something was wrong and immediately assumed Wegmans was at fault. Within seconds of posting the pic and comment we got recognition and a promise to get more info. We were impressed and I was able to immediately shift my feelings from mistrust to guarded trust.
Even though the response made us feel better we were still a little skeptical. Maybe it was an automated response. Maybe they're just trying to get us to not publicly complain. Maybe they won't get back to us.
Sunday went by without any info, but I expected that. It was the weekend after all. Monday morning I received the following:
Wegmans had an answer and wanted a better way to contact me. They also started following me so that I could send my email addy via direct message and avoid having to publish it to the whole Twitter community. My direct message response:
Within a few minutes I had a personal email assuring us they did not modify the meat, explaining that our experience with the meat was normal and why and how to best work with ground beef.
You can download a PDF copy of the email response Wegmans sent by clicking here.
I was sold. Not only had Wegmans convinced me that their product was fine, they improved their brand's value in my mind with the amazing way they dealt with this issue.
Kudos to Wegmans for their use of social media—they really get it!
They never hit me with 'special offers' via Twitter. Something that lots of companies do, including Kodak and JetBlue, and which I find tiresome
They engage anyone who mentions them. They do it in a friendly and even playful way that engenders social media users to them
They keep a close eye out for potential problems and respond quickly, as in my experience
They keep their word and follow through, working to resolve the issue
Great job, Wegmans! I've always been a fan, but you really hit the ball out of the park with social media.
Remember the days when you had to develop a creative brief to kick off a project? You know, when budgets were not an issue and the three-martini lunch was standard?
Yeah. Neither do we and we’ve been at this for over 40 years.
But, don’t let that stop you from taking advantage of this great tool. Creative briefs can make your job much easier, help avoid mistakes and keep your project focused from start to finish.
What is a Creative Brief?
A creative brief is a planning and guidance tool. It outlines the critical information that’s needed to deliver a successful project.
It’s a simple document, usually one or two pages, that keeps the project team focused on what matters by answering important questions.
Creative briefs typically provide the following information:
General project information
Project purpose and goals
Target audience info
Requirements and restrictions
Why Use a Creative Brief?
A creative brief helps the project sponsor set the project up for success by allowing them to think through the important questions before diving into the project.
A good brief helps the creative team by defining boundaries. Many people think of the creative process as something that should be wide open. They’re afraid that the results might be stunted if they impose limitations. But, oddly enough, the opposite is true! We deliver our best work when we have boundaries.
It also helps all the stakeholders by defining what a successful project will look like. You may be an experienced marketer and can tell good design when you see it. But, can your boss? How about your board? What about your business partner?
Not everyone understands marketing, but many times they are put in a position to evaluate or even approve a design project. A creative brief spells out the problem, project goals and target market, giving non-marketing stakeholders a focused, logical set of data that they can use to evaluate the project’s success, keeping them away from subjectivity.
Elements of A Creative Brief
So, what should a good creative brief contain? The following elements should provide you with a guide to creating your own creative brief.
The name of this element is self-explanatory. Right?
Trebuchets R Us Store Promotion Campaign
A brief summary of the project in a few sentences.
The Trebuchets R Us Store Promotion Campaign is designed to drive traffic to our new retail location in Miami through a direct mail campaign.
Explain your current situation, challenges, what’s wrong, what needs to be changed and what’s working. Talk about why you need to do this project and what you hope to achieve by it’s successful execution.
Trebuchets R Us recently opened a store in Miami, FL. This is our first retail store. We are having trouble getting people to visit the store.
Market research shows that people do not know about our store and they don’t know what a trebuchet is or how it can be useful to them. We want to alert people of our existence, educate them about trebuchets and communicate the value of a trebuchet for the average suburban home.
Here you define your audience and identify any unique characteristics it may have. This section should include any demographic information you have, distilled, of course.
Our target audience is grouchy white males, aged 56 to 75. We know that they are not worried about their safety. But, they do worry about neighbors walking on their lawn and want to find a way to keep people off it without building an expensive fence. These men take great pride in their lawns, live on a pensioner’s income and drive a GM vehicle.
What are the primary goals of this project? It’s important to have goals that are measurable because without measurable goals you can’t know if the project was successful. You’ll be left evaluating things like how much your coworkers liked the direct mail piece or how nicely it was to work with the agency.
The general goal of Trebuchets R Us is to drive traffic to our new retail location in Miami. Specifically, we have 10 people a day visiting our store. We need to increase daily traffic by 50%, which equals 15 customers a day.
Requirements and Restrictions
In this section we define any requirements that have to be met and any restrictions that need to be placed on the project.
Typically, both requirements and restrictions are technical in nature. You don’t need to address things like budgets or the fact that your CEO wants to approve everything before it goes.
- Three mailings executed within one month
- All printing to be done by InkMaster’s House of Printing
- All mail fulfillment handled by Stuffer Sam
- Mail piece format must be based on USPS standard sizes
- Restricted to existing marketing database. No new names will be purchased
This is where the project’s schedule gets defined. It can be as specific as a timeline with dates or more general with blocks of time assigned to each phase, or simply a due date.
Project complexity will drive the level of detail needed. As always, simple is best. If you want tons of detail, leave it out of the creative brief and make a Gantt chart.
Jan 2 - Project kick-off
Jan 18 - Initial concepts
Feb 3 - Final concepts
Feb 6 - Final concepts approved
Feb 7 - Files to printer
Feb 22 - Printed assets to fulfillment house
March 1 - First mail drop
March 15 - Second mail drop
March 30 - Third mail drop
Here you identify who has a stake in this project and what their involvement will be.
This helps you think through who to include in the process, both internally and externally.
Also, this helps the creative team to know who they need to consider when doing the project. If it’s clear from the outset that accounting gets final approval then the agency can present their solution in terms that make sense to the accounting department.
Ed Big, CEO - Ed will have final say on pretty much everything
Wilma Barney, Product Manager - Wilma will take part in initial brain-storming session and sign off on all copy
Chet Armstrong, Marketing - Chet is project sponsor and will be involved in all aspects of the project
Sam of Stuffer Sam - Sam will handle all fulfillment aspects
Michelle Breeze of MB Creative - Michelle will art direct the project and handle all client and vendor relationships
Who Should Write A Creative Brief?
Finally, who should write the creative brief, the client or the agency?
Of course, there’s no hard and fast rule--either can do it. The key is not really who writes it, but that the document is a collaboration.
The marketer sponsoring the project at least needs to be able to help answer the key questions: general information on the project, its purpose and goals, the target audience, requirements, restrictions and timelines.
The agency can take the lead on developing the creative brief and help the client flesh out their answers. Both the client and the agency need to approve the document once it’s done for it to be valuable.
Now you know all you need to develop a creative brief for your next project. Make sure to leave a comment and let us know if you found this post to be helpful.
I meet with my local competitors as often as possible. Rochester is a small community and it's nice to get to know the people working in our industry. Recently, I met with two different competitors and was struck by the difference in each of their approach to online marketing.
I won't get into all the details here, but the point that struck me is this: One agency was throwing all its resources and energy behind social media. Everything in their view was about leveraging the communities of Twitter, FaceBook and the like. The other agency, although social media savvy, viewed social media as just one tool in the marketer's toolbox.
Anyone that follows me on Twitter (@mikegastin) or works with our firm knows that I align closely with the latter. Social media and SEO are tools. They're important and can be useful in a greater strategy, but at the end of the day, they can't carry your company's marketing needs on their own. In fact, I don't believe any one tactic is enough, traditional or digital.
How about you? Have you dumped collateral, direct mail and print ads all in favor of on line marketing? If so, do you have metrics to show how it's worked out? Or, have you decided to keep some of your traditional marketing efforts and mix them with on line marketing? I'd love to hear about your experiences, so please leave a comment!