Prepare Your Brand for Unpredictability

Become a Free Range Brand

For many years, the big brands dominated powerfully over all. Little-known brands struggled to be noticed, hoping for shelf space or a PR miracle that would catapult them to the top.

That’s all changed now says Nicole Ertas, who argues that it’s easier for a challenger brand to gain a following even without the massive marketing budget of the biggest players.

Good news for the smaller players and for personal branding, too.

With little money and recognition, how do the challengers gain traction?

And what must the big names do to respond?

 

Nicole Ertas is the founder and president of The Ertas Group and author of Free Range Brands. She has helped build some of the world’s most influential brands. I recently asked her to share her branding insights.

 

“Authenticity can’t be claimed on the surface, it needs to be practiced.” -Nicole Ertas

 

Design for the Unpredictable

What is a Free Range Brand?

unnamed-2The big legacy brands we’ve known forever were built in an era of one-way, controlled communication.   TV, print, radio, retail distribution were all very controlled and well planned by big brands with big money, locking challenger brands out.

But today, not only have the barriers lowered for the challenger brands, these brands are able to engage communities in ways the big brands don’t know how.  The big brands aren’t set up for this and are quickly losing relevancy.

The brands that are thriving in this new world have made the shift from the old-world model of planning for control to the new world model of planning for unpredictability.  In fact, they are designed for unpredictability.  They are set up to let go.   I call these the Free Range Brands.

 

“A brand must be timeless and trendy at the same time.” -Nicole Ertas

 

Transform Your Brand

How can a brand set itself up to navigate unpredictability and become more relevant?

Today’s consumers demand brands that embrace an unwavering authentic core, but in a hyper-relevant way.  This essentially means that a brand has to be timeless and trendy at the same time.  Unchanging yet reimagined constantly.  This is what the old-school marketing models don’t account for.

The shift to going Free Range is simple, but strategically profound.   It requires transforming your Brand Equity to Brand Currency. Free Range Brands trade in Brand Currency.  This is the new mode of engagement, and one that is true to what a brand stands for.

Brand Currency is the dynamic offspring of Brand Equity. It allows your brand to reinvent itself to become relevant without losing its authenticity. By transforming Brand Equity into Brand Currency, brands become agile in an unpredictable marketing environment where leaders need to make decisions quickly without jeopardizing brand value.

 

“Brand currency is the dynamic offspring of brand equity.” -Nicole Ertas

 

4 Consumer Personas to Understand

Free Range BrandsYou reveal 4 consumer personas who each interact with brands in a different way.  Tell us about them

The key is in shifting your mindset from making the brand the hero to creating entry points for a consumer to become the hero.  From brand purpose to consumer purpose, this is how you build community.

There are 4 powerful ways a consumer interacts with a brand – and they can be understood through distinct personas.  They are:  LORDS, LOVERS, HACKERS, and HAWKS

LORDS are the modern-day influencer.  In the past, influencers used to be celebrities. Today, everyone has some form of a following. These are the Lords.  They seek to be recognized and seen by their followers.

LOVERS:  All brands are headed towards commoditization.  This raises the bar for marketers to build a brand over a product.  Lovers connect on values.  What does your brand stand for that your audience values beyond functional benefits?

HACKERS:  Modern day consumers think if brands are for them, then they should have every opportunity to interact and co-create.  Brands that don’t let consumers “in” are missing a profound opportunity to connect.

HAWKS:  Transparency has unleashed generations of distrust of companies.  Now the Hawks are in power, and they know it.  You need to think about everything from sourcing to hiring to ingredients, or the Hawks will unleash with little warning.

 

4 Ways to Transform Your Marketing In An Analytical World

Transform Your Marketing

Whether you’re in a large business or you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve seen that how products and services are marketed has changed dramatically in the past several years. Our social, mobile, always-on, data-driven, analytical, highly-personalized world is changing at a pace never seen before.

How your message reaches the world is changing as fast as the technology changes. And the role of marketing has shifted, requiring marketers and business leaders not only to understand traditional marketing but also to mine data to make decisions.

Adele Sweetwood has just released a new book, The Analytical Marketer: How to Transform Your Marketing Organization. As Senior Vice President of Global Marketing and Shared Services for SAS, she guides marketing strategy and go-to-market programs. Her research and 30 years of marketing leadership make her the perfect executive to explain the shift in messaging and what to do about it. I recently asked her about the changing nature of marketing and analytics.

 

“If you don’t like change, you’ll like irrelevance even less.” –Eric Shinseki

 

Deliver A Great Customer Experience or Risk Extinction

Data analytics is all the rage in helping executives make decisions. How is it transforming traditional marketing?The Analytical Marketer_Book Jacket

Being a customer-centric business was once the exception, not the rule. Now businesses across all industries need to deliver a great customer experience or risk extinction. Marketing can lead this transition by defining what a meaningful interaction looks like for that business’s consumer. The best marketers today have a keen sense of, and clear focus on, the demands of the customer, through sophisticated analytics and data-driven methodologies. In our digital “always on” world, where we’re continually collecting copious amounts of real-time data about our customers, marketing is in the best position to own and leverage that data to understand and service the customer in ways that weren’t possible before.

 

“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.” –Arthur Conan Doyle

 

Develop Multiple Skills for Success

Since we learn that a numbers-orientation is left brain whereas creativity is right brain, is it really feasible to be equally skilled at both?

I don’t believe anyone is exclusively left-brained or right-brained. Being more analytically-oriented or more creative can certainly be innate in someone, but with training, new skills can be learned and developed. Marketers have traditionally worn many hats, so flexibility has been a long-standing component of the job. While a member of my team may not need to tap into her entire skillset every day, she absolutely needs a wide variety of skills that include analytics, social media, storytelling, and creativity to be successful.

 

You say that marketing is traditionally reactive: Launch, wait, try again. What’s changing?

The reactive approach to marketing simply doesn’t fit into a customer-centered business culture. Marketing now is more about science or math that is driven by an influx of data, channels, mobility, and, most importantly, changing customer demands. Analytics is driving campaigns. As a marketing department, that means leaning more on the work of folks who help analyze behavioral data and the digital footprint of our customers and prospects.

In fact, some of the most interesting work within our marketing department at SAS comes from those focused on data forensics. This is the practice of using data discovery to establish the facts of a marketing activity, a campaign, or a broader initiative. But beyond the basics of data digging, data forensics incorporates intangibles. They are the piecing together of anecdotal and qualitative tidbits along with quantitative data to develop a rich picture of what is working and what isn’t. With that data and analysis, we’re creating campaigns that are more focused on where customers are in their decision journey and what they are looking for. We’re not blasting an email campaign and waiting for results – we’re a step ahead.

 

“Data beats emotions.” –Sean Rad

 

Common Challenges

As you talk with marketing leaders across different fields, what are some of the common challenges they are facing?

12 Powers of a Marketing Leader

Today’s Marketing Leaders

Today, many marketing leaders report that they are having less impact and are not satisfied in their jobs. That may be somewhat surprising since marketing methods and capabilities are in the midst of exciting changes and the opportunities are like never before.

 

Research: only 44% of marketing leaders satisfied with career.

 

Thomas Barta, a former McKinsey Partner, and Patrick Barwise, Emeritus Professor of Management and Marketing at London Business School, just conducted the most extensive research ever on what drives marketers’ business impact and career success. What drives impact? What does it take to thrive in marketing today? With data spanning 170 countries and over 8,600 leaders, Thomas and Paddy distilled the results into what it really takes to drive customer and company value.

Thomas and Paddy recently shared more with me about their new book, The 12 Powers of A Marketing Leader: How to Succeed by Building Customer and Company Value, and the extensive research behind their findings.

 

“When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘we did it ourselves.” -Lao Tzu

 

Your research revealed that most senior marketers aren’t satisfied with their career paths. Why not? What’s different for them than they expected?

12 Powers of a Marketing LeaderThat’s right. Only 44% of marketers are satisfied with their careers—and in the 360-degree data, marketers’ bosses, when comparing the career success of all their direct reports, put them last. We think there are two reasons. First, as customer experts, they likely think they should have more influence on key business decisions rather than being limited to decisions on advertising and promotion. Recent research by Frank Germann, Peter Ebbs and Rajdeep Grewal shows that they’re right: having a CMO in the C-suite and having an influential marketing department do help companies become more customer-focused, increasing business performance. Secondly, they lack job security. While average S&P 500 CEO tenure is six years plus, average US CMO tenure is only four years and possibly decreasing: search firm Spencer Stuart recently reported it was down to forty-four months in 2015.

 


“Leaders must encourage their organizations to dance to forms of music yet to be heard.” -Warren Bennis

 

Balance Leadership and Functional Skills

You say that leadership skills matter more than technical marketing skills. I passionately agree. Is there a certain time when this matters more in a career? How do marketers balance the constant need to stay up with new technologies with the need to learn leadership skills? 

Leading marketing isn’t the same as doing marketing, and many marketers underinvest in leadership skills.

As a junior marketer, most of your effort will inevitably go into becoming excellent in the particular technical area you’re working on. As you become more senior, you have to achieve more through other people. But at all stages, it’s important to keep developing your broader business and leadership skills.

Our evidence is that many, perhaps most, senior marketers are getting so sucked into the ever-changing technical issues that they lose sight of the bigger picture and the need to build and mobilize a great team, keep it aligned around the CEO’s agenda, spend time with their non-marketing colleagues who mainly determine the quality of the customer experience, and so on.

Patrick Barwise Patrick Barwise

As a senior marketer, you should aim to be a leader of leaders. You need enough understanding of the latest technical developments to hire the best people, mobilize them, align them with the strategy, and constructively challenge them when necessary. But your main role isn’t to try to keep fully up to speed on the technicalities (an impossible task); it’s to ensure that, as a group, the team contributes as much as possible to the development and execution of the strategy. Crucially, that includes mobilizing your boss and your non-marketing colleagues as well as your team (and yourself).

Functional skills and leadership skills matter. Getting the balance right is a big challenge, but really important for both marketing and the company.

 


“Recognizing power in another does not diminish your own.” -Joss Whedon

 

Take a 360 Degree View of Leadership

You distill your findings into 12 traits that drive success, and you put them in 4 categories (boss, colleagues, team, yourself). That’s basically an internal 360 degree view from where you sit in an organization. What are some of the symptoms that demonstrate you have it wrong, e.g., you’re focusing too much on the boss and not enough on the team or otherwise have your balance out of whack?

That’s exactly right about the 360 degree view. Our beef with most work on leadership is that it’s only about managing your subordinates and perhaps yourself. But most leaders – in fact, everyone up to CXO level – also need to manage their relationships with their colleagues and bosses. The traditional picture of leadership is incomplete except for perhaps the CEO – and even the CEO is accountable to the chairman and the board.

The main way in which senior marketers get this balance wrong is by spending most of their time inside the marketing department managing the team’s activities rather than walking the halls to energize everyone around the customer agenda. The symptoms are that non-marketers in these companies will likely say: “Marketing is a silo,” while the marketers will refer to themselves as something like “the coloring-in department” – that is, limited to advertising and promotion, with little influence on the company’s products, prices, distribution, service support, etc.

 

The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader

  1. Tackle only big issues
  2. Deliver returns, no matter what
  3. Work only with the best
  4. Hit the head and the heart
  5. Walk the halls
  6. You go first
  7. Get the mix right
  8. Cover them in trust
  9. Let the outcomes speak
  10. Fall in love with your world
  11. Know how you inspire
  12. Aim higher

 

Cover Them With Trust

I appreciate your chapter Cover Them with Trust. Talk about trust – what steps should a leader take to build trust?

Tomas Barta Tomas Barta

To build trust within the team, leaders need to go beyond professionalism (knowing a lot, being reliable, and so on) and our key recommendation to get people to “ask for forgiveness, not permission.” People like strong leaders who trust them and genuinely listen to their ideas and concerns, but they also want to know the real person behind the business leader. That’s why, at times, it’s critical to be willing to show weakness, too. Michelle Peluso, former CEO of online shopping site Gilt, for example, shared her own 360-degree assessments with her team and asked for help. You can’t put a value on that. Conversely, having and showing a big ego destroys trust. So make your corner office the team room. Praise people. Take one for the team at times.

 

“A big ego destroys trust.”

 

The 4 Most Important Powers

Why Leaders Must Deliver on Promises

Setting Expectations

Recently, I purchased a gift basket for an employee who goes above and beyond, day after day. She never seeks praise, but quietly serves others in a way that is admirable. She consistently demonstrates the 9 Qualities of A Servant Leader. The basket we picked was pictured on the website and looked like this:

basket2

 

Yum, right? Full of fresh fruit and other goodies, we thought it would demonstrate some small measure of gratitude for all she has done for others. That picture set our expectations and it seemed a fitting thank you.

 

“Be so good they can’t ignore you.” –Steve Martin

 

Unexpected Disappointments

When she received it, she was grateful. That’s who she is, part of what makes her successful. But then she took a picture of the basket, and I did a double-take. Because here is what it looked like:

basket1

Not exactly as advertised, huh?

We were shocked.

A brand isn’t a logo. A brand is a promise. It’s an experience.

 

“Building a brand is about a thousand little new touches.” -Eric Ryan

 

This particular business has destroyed its reputation with the experience.

We all know that this destruction can happen with corporate brands. It can also happen with personal brands: