Is It Time to Diversify Your Brand?
Depending on your tolerance for change, considering diversifying your business can be anywhere between an exhilarating notion and a terrifying prospect.
Whether you need a reality check or the strength to go forward, the question that should always be asked is: Will diversity help or hinder your brand? Sure, branching into areas of product or services could put your brand on track for quick growth, as you sell more product or branch into new markets. But that’s the best-case scenario. Not every business can withstand diversification, while others may be primed for it. It’s crucial to logically weigh the risks against the opportunities.
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Top 3 Marketing Trends for 2013
Marketing in 2013 will actually be seeing a bigger shift than ever before in how brands connect with and market to consumers.
Three buzzwords that would apply to almost all of this year’s trends — and especially the top three — would be: personal, targeted and timely. Now those are far from new words to a marketer’s ears, but that doesn’t make them any less apt. It’s just the ways in which they will be achieved that are being ramped up.
Change can be scary, but marketers who adapt to these top marketing trends will see their brands thrive in the coming year:
1. Marketing Campaigns Become Flexible
Actually, marketing campaigns as we now know them will either get responsive or get lost. Literally and figuratively. Campaigns must be able to bend to real-time indicators, as consumers are thriving and communicating in real time.
In order to engage and convert, marketing messages must be able to timely flow in the same direction as consumer interests and needs. That means rigid marketing campaign structures that are planned far in advance are ceasing to be relevant. In 2013, marketers will have to streamline decision-making procedures and hone fast creative thinking and execution as consumers are engaging with their brand.
2. Mining Big Data to Really Know Your Customer
Social may be speeding up the timing in which marketers need to make decisions, but it is also bringing in massive amounts of data on your target customer. Chief marketing officers will need to invest in technology that collects this data across multiple sources and makes it possible to provide the targeted personal experience it will take to engage and convert consumers in the speed that is now needed. A clearer picture of customer behavior motivators will be formed and be able to be acted upon.
An important benefit to this data collection and implementation that shouldn’t go unmentioned is that more knowledge of your customers behavioral patterns — and implementing that information — will increase your company’s ROI on marketing efforts. A good thing in and of itself, but unconvinced CEOs will be looking at these numbers further in 2013 to measure the actual impact of new marketing tactics on sales.
3. Mobile Strategies Become Crucial
More mobile devices were sold in 2012, than personal computers. Let that fact sink in for a moment. Your target customer’s precious limited attention is increasingly and overwhelmingly focused on mobile devices. Is your marketing strategy? It makes sense that it should be, as your competitor’s marketing efforts will surely soon be concentrating on mobile.
Maybe your company has already implemented a responsive website design that converts to mobile or has a few mobile applications, but that is no longer enough. Actual marketing strategies need to be formed for mobile platforms — especially smartphones — and thoughtfully implemented.
Has your company already been concentrating on these top marketing trends for 2013? What other trends would you single out as important?
5 Ways Brands Can Remain Relevant
It’s a cold hard fact even top brands and marketing departments have trouble facing: Sometimes — even though customers recognize your brand — it is no longer relevant to them.
While it may be hard to separate the two, recognition and relevancy are entirely different things. While the first is a given if your brand is relevant, a recognizable brand doesn’t mean the value proposition is something that clicks with the consumer.
Some brands are lucky enough to spend decades holding their unique position in a dynamic market. Others have to work harder at remaining a product evolving consumer needs want. Here are five ways to do so:
1. Stick to Your Brand Promise
Keeping true to your brand promise doesn’t mean keep plugging away doing the same thing, forgetting about innovation and blindly hoping the market trends turn in your favor. It’s about looking at your brand with a truly critical eye and discerning if you are actually staying true to that promise of value offered to the customer. It also requires taking the necessary action to correct your product, service or message to realign itself with your original value proposition.
2. Make Competitors Irrelevant
Sometimes brands find that a competitor has sprung up to break off a part of its consumer base. In these cases, brands often try to regain that segment, counteracting by adding the desired product or service to the brand, making the competition irrelevant. Take the McDonald’s McCafe line, for example. McDonald’s was losing the coffee connoisseur portion of it’s breakfast business to Starbucks. So the fast food chain responded with its own version of premium coffee.
The hardest part of branching out into a competitor’s niche is credibility. Consumers have to be able to believe your brand can deliver on quality and value.
3. Evolve with Innovation
Instead of chasing every competitor’s must-have trends, brands can choose to be boldly innovative themselves. Thus becoming the brand to be chased. Brands do this by creating or taking over new categories or subcategories in the industry. Oftentimes providing the consumer with something they may not even know they wanted, but solves pain points and elevates their brand experience.
The obvious example is Apple. Synonymous with brand innovation, Apple keeps evolving its superb design, advanced technology and superior usability.
4. Create Brand Energy
Build and promote a common view of your brand and crystallize brand values–your corporate identity. These are a brand’s guiding principles, expressed through everything the brand does; strategically contributing positively to your brand. Brands demonstrate a responsibility to the individual, natural and social environments. Management, employees, suppliers and customers can align with it and grow through interacting with brands.
5. Modify Your Value Proposition
Re-positioning can be the saving grace of brands who are no longer relevant. Tweak your value proposition to re-brand in a way that is relevant to current market trends. Old Spice is an example of brilliant brand re-positioning. Around since 1937, Old Spice became thought of as an aftershave your grandfather might use, but has successfully extended its reach to younger males. It tread a careful line between recognizing its longevity and re-branding into a younger masculine product.
Do you think about your brand’s relevancy?
Have you had any success with these tactics or other ones?
10 Trailblazing Brands to Watch
There are brands that struggle to find their footing and there are those brands that blaze ahead, carving new paths for others to follow.
It’s the latter that smart brands can track to learn from and use the lessons to start making initiatives of their own. Sometimes these savvy brands hit upon a new way of marketing, but oftentimes they are dusting off old tactics, making them once again relevant and, most importantly, supremely effective.
Here are the best tactics and the thought-leading brands who execute these the best:
1. Be Yourself with Boldness
Red Bull does so much right with its branding, that it is almost hard to believe the culture that has sprung up around a simple energy drink. But what the company does best is the innovative boldness its brand experience. From energetic packaging to extreme sports event to quirky animated advertising, Red Bull’s advertising definitely has subtly cool wings.
2. Mastering Mobile Marketing
There is more to mobile marketing than just throwing out an app and hoping for the best. It needs to be something consumers want and can use to solve a problem, even better if it solves multiple problems. Starbucks has managed to do a great job of this with its mobile content, which includes a store locator. It also provides nutritional information, turns smartphones into loyalty cards and encourages customers to play with its product by creating personalized drink.
3. Adhering to Brand Values
Consumers want to buy brands that reflect their core values and they don’t want these companies to be wishy-washy in these shared beliefs. Patagonia, an outdoor clothing and gear company, resonates with their buyers by sharing a portion of profits with environmental programs. Their Common Threads initiative takes the belief one step further by encouraging consumers not to buy clothes they don’t really need, all in an effort to reduce environmental footprints.
This wasn’t just lip service. On Black Friday, Patagonia took out a full page ad in The New York Times to tell consumers not to buy a popular jacket they sold, because of the excess water and energy it took to make it.
4. Superior Store Design
It’s no secret that most of the awesome sauce behind Apple is iconic design. This even carries over into it’s brick-and-mortar stores. The brand has managed to execute the refined experience and culture into its stores–so much so that these have become tourist destinations for Apple enthusiasts around the world.
5. Smart Gaming
If done right, gamification can be a powerful marketing tool for brands. Buffalo Wild Wings took the smart approach in 2011 by planning and timing their game event for maximum effectiveness. The game was timed around the 12 weeks leading up to March Madness and tasks were designed around taking photos of their food and people watching basketball games in the restaurant. BWW heavily advertised in restaurants and on social networks, so you couldn’t miss what was going on. This effort–across 730 locations–resulted in 184,000 players.
6. Furthering the Mascot Story
Brand mascots are nothing new, but what is new is how brands are giving their characters a more developed persona online. This allows consumers to go beyond just seeing the mascot in advertisements, feel a connection and to actually begin seeking out the subtle advertising for the entertainment value–ultimately spending more time in a brand-created experience. Kraft Foods is at the forefront of this mascot movement, evolving online characters like Mr. Peanut’s stunt double, Peanut Butter Doug, and a video diary prone, part-granola puppet, named Mel.
7. Winning Pinning
Since Pinterest began skyrocketing in popularity, brands have been signing up for accounts and pinning away in an attempt to reach consumers. Yet some brands are just beginning to understand that the innovation behind using the social photo pinning site is connecting with customers in a more organic way than just piling on the product photos and company links. Whole Foods Market has created a superior Pinterest experience that embraces values that not only the company stands for, but also their target customers. The grocery chain does this by…gasp…using Pinterest like people do. Their pins are based around their interests–a crunchy, wellness-oriented lifestyle–and they do this all without massive self promotion.
8. Content Marketing
Content isn’t just king, it’s the master of the branding universe. American Express is on the forefront of content marketing with its Open Forum. Here the company builds consumer trust and relationships with current and future small business owners with relevant tips, advice and news stories all geared towards helping businesses with their most important goals: surviving and thriving. This isn’t just a nameless corporate effort at content though, and in that lies some of the brilliance. There are guest bloggers and open community participation.
9. Try Something New
It’s a big deal for brands to put a new twist on a tried-and-true product. So much so that most of these incarnations rarely leave the development lab. No one wants a purple ketchup level flop on their hands. The problem with this is a company that never tries something new risks becoming stale and boring. That’s something Bacardi can rarely be accused of, as the rum king frequently introduces new–and sometimes never before paired together flavors–for consumers to enjoy.
10. On Top of Trends
There’s nothing earth-shattering about a brand trying to be trendy; the trick is all in how you package it for the consumer. Menswear company Mr. Porter has done an exemplary job of this by creating an almost magazine-like experience on their website with “The Journal.” By packing their website with style tips, celeb interviews and more, the company offers value to customers. All of this is, of course, with handy ‘Buy’ buttons.
Do you use any of these branding tactics or see one that you plan on implementing?
Top 10 Brands with Klout
Sure the top brands on Klout have millions of fans across their networks, but there are lessons to be learned from each one that can help raise even the smallest start-up’s social media influence with consumers.
Klout scores are fluid numbers, but here are the top ten brands in their category and what your business can learn from them:
1. YouTube | Product/Technology
As the only brand on Klout with a perfect 100 score, YouTube is listed as a celebrity. So it’s only appropriate that the viral video sharing site leverages the acknowledgement of other celebrities to up their own influence. When Justin Bieber and Jimmy Fallon mention them on Twitter, YouTube is smart enough to retweet. When Good Charlotte stops by the office you can bet they snapped a pic and posted to Facebook.
But it’s not all about celebrity cache, most of their sharing revolves around the interesting videos uploaded by users.
2. WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) | Sports Team
WWE gets content marketing and uses it to drive engagement across all its networks. Knowing they have a fan base that’s insatiable for updates, the wrestling entertainment company cross-promotes original articles, video, pictures, posters and more.
3. Starbucks | Food/Beverage
Want to know something interesting? Starbucks Coffee has 30 million Facebook fans and about 2.5 million Twitter followers, yet Klout cites that 100 percent of their influence is from Twitter. That’s largely because the coffee confectioner is engaging people by @mentioning people who mention Starbucks in Tweets.
4. Amazon | Brand/Technology
Online book selling behemoth Amazon is excellent at turning the conversation back to themselves. With products that span every topic imaginable, they are able to make trending topics relevant to their conversation. Amazon rates a Klout score of 81 and hasn’t even linked up to the site.
5. Taco Bell | Brand/Dining
With a ‘Live Mas’ attitude, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Taco Bell’s social streams seem more alive than most. The food chain has embraced it’s quirkiness and keeps the personal in it’s social media by engaging consumers, answering customer complaints and, above all, keeping it funny.
6. DC Shoes | Brand/Retail
Extreme sports footwear, snowboard and clothing company DC shoes lives and breathes the culture it serves. That means its social networks are chock full of extreme sporting updates, photos and conversations. This immersion in its niche is why consumers and Klout consider the company a thought leader in the industry.
7. Lowe’s Home Improvement | Brand/Retail/Home Improvement Store
Lowe’s is another brand that uses content marketing to it’s advantage, by inserting seasonal projects and products into follower’s social streams. It’s not, however, a barrage of products and prices. The home improvement store asks and answers questions to help and engage consumers.
8. Versace | Brand/Retail/Luxury
While luxury clothing brand Versace is also able to trade in on celeb connections and is on top of fashion news, it also regularly posts gorgeous pictures. This is a tactic that works well with visual consumers, but it’s worth noting that more engagement is needed to maintain influence. While still the high-end clothing brand with the most Klout, Versace’s score has actually fallen by seven points in the last month.
9. American Airlines | Brand/Airline
American Airline’s Twitter stream is a constant customer service outreach, proving they recognize that their customers are on the move–smartphone in hand. But what the brand does extremely well is gamification. It’s Facebook page is full of contests, quizzes and scavenger hunts to get consumers involved with and feeling good about their brand.
10. American Express | Brand/Services
Consumers love exclusive content on topics they love and American Express uses its sponsorships to give it to them. Fans follow the brand on social media to get the inside scoop on where to get these exclusive goods. The credit card company is always smart to associate itself with the famous and already popular products.
Do you successfully use any of these tactics in your brand’s social media strategy? Which ones?
Top 10 Tips for a Successful Brand Launch
Do you have a sound new product and are aiming your sights on a successful brand launch, but are wondering just how to go about it?
There’s no automagic solution. It takes smart planning that includes every aspect of your company and any detail related to your product. That doesn’t mean your success or failure is up to fate–there are some things you can do that are more likely to tip the scales in your budding brand’s favor.
Utilize these ten tips to start your brand off in the right direction–towards success
1. Employee Ambassadors
What your brand stands for and your product’s selling points shouldn’t be on a need-to-know basis that only includes your marketing team. Every employee, and especially those that interact with the public, should be aware of these aspects and be passionate about your vision. This is how you build quality teams and discern which employees will make the best brand ambassadors. Those that can relay that passion to consumers will be invaluable to your brand’s future.
2. Market Immersion
Go above and beyond when learning your desired customer inside and out. What are their problems and motivations? How do they relate these and where do they congregate? Never assume anything about your target customer or your pitch will seem unauthentic and miss its mark.
3. Don’t Go Cheap
Limitless budgets may not be an option for lean start-ups, but don’t just go with the cheapest options just to save a few dollars. A bargain isn’t really a bargain if you are compromising quality. There’s a reason why “you get what you pay for” is a cliche.
4. Protect Your Investment
Make sure to research and protect any copyrights or trademarks. A brand that is taken to court–and especially one that loses the battle–will needlessly drain your resources. More importantly, it could cause you to have to re-brand and re-launch.
5. Be Likable
Obviously everything about your brand should be approachable and desirable, but does your name leave lips smoothly? Is your logo simple enough to be easily recalled? Consumers can’t ask for a product if they can’t articulate the name or visualize the logo.
6. Brand Consistently
Design and decide on your logo, tagline and colors and not only stick with them, but make sure anything the customer comes in contact with includes them. Consumers need to see these multiple times before the branding becomes ‘sticky,’ so don’t go changing things around before they have a chance to become brain tattoos in consumer minds.
7. Have a Meaningful USP
Your unique selling proposition (USP) should be just that–unique. It should solve a problem for your target customer in a way that other products do not. Hone your USP’s message into an elevator pitch and you will find your brand’s sweet spot for selling.
8. Brand Authentically
Basically be honest with your customer from the start. Don’t over-promise. What you say has to be the reality for the customer. If it isn’t, consumers will catch on and start bad-mouthing your company.
9. Execute the ‘Wow Factor’
If you’re not pushing what differentiates your brand to those who need it most, then you’re asking for irrelevance and apathy from customers. What makes your product pop should be the driving force of your brand’s value to consumers.
10. Don’t Box Your Brand In
While it is great to have or strive for an amazing and instantly recognizable product, your branding should be recognizable, but not necessarily synonymous with that product. Leave room for your brand to expand to other products in the future. Even Kraft is more than mac and cheese; the brand has over 60 brands/products under its banner.
Have you successfully launched a brand? Share your tips with us in the comments.