You recently surveyed 100 North American CEOs, and fewer than 1/3 felt that the brand strategy they had commissioned had been effective. Why do we so often get it wrong?
Branding campaigns fail or fall flat for several reasons: resistance to change, uncertainty around how to implement the strategy, too many competing ideas—maybe even business strategy that has moved beyond a recently completed brand initiative.
But there’s another big reason: branding is too much fun. (Yes, really!) Branding is the part of a marketing campaign that gets a lot of attention—the eye candy that the senior leadership is quick to notice. Why? Because it speaks to the emotional side of a product or service and is a great distraction from the day-to-day, boring details behind that product or service. But when you launch straight into branding before parsing those “boring” details—before you understand the exact space in the marketing landscape your company is uniquely qualified to fill—you’re putting the cart before the horse. A sexy or fun brand package is great to look at, but if it doesn’t capture a company’s role and relevance in the market (its position), then it’s little more than a pretty face without any substance to back it up. That’s where my DNA-based methodology comes in. It offers an actionable framework for using your company’s genetic makeup to determine competitive advantage.
If you are marketing a company, a product, an idea, or even your personal brand, you may feel the pull between the new-media world and the traditional marketing methods you studied in school. When new technologies emerge, it often seems like everything is changing. Whether digital, mobile, or social, we are looking for new ways to connect with our audience.
What if these new ways actually prevented a brand from reaching its potential?
How do you get people to stick around?
How do you engage people in a substantive way, winning them over?
Tom Doctoroff has more than 20 years of experience shaping hundreds of global brands ranging from Microsoft to Ford to Nestle. He’s appeared regularly on NBC, CBS, CNBC and other major media outlets. Tom’s new book Twitter is Not a Strategy: Rediscovering the Art of Brand Marketing is all about engagement. Its wisdom spans the two worlds, combining digital and traditional marketing to win and engage consumers.
The Marketing Identity Crisis
Tom, you’re the CEO of J. Walter Thompson in AsiaPacific and for decades have shaped some of the world’s biggest brands. Your new book title, Twitter is Not a Strategy, seems to imply some level of frustration. Did you write this book with some level of frustration?
I wouldn’t call it frustration exactly. But, yes, I do think the communications industry is going through something of an identity crisis. The fundamentals of advertising and branding are too often forsaken as marketers seek technological and algorithmic salvation. The rise of digital has led to marketer anxiety, consumer confusion and too many transactional brands. But old and new, traditional and digital, broadcast and “lean in” media are complementary.
“Each creative expression of the brand idea should be conceived with a specific behavioral objective in mind.” -Tom Doctoroff
Twitter is Not a Strategy is not meant to be a breakthrough book. Indeed it might even be “anti-breakthrough.” It is a call for the entire industry to stand up and reclaim the conceptual high ground of marketing communications. Carefully crafted strategies and executions—adherence to the ABCs of brand building—will remain our lighthouse. As brand pioneers, we must explore the shoals of a new digital landscape. But let’s not become stranded by anxiety and indecision. Timeless can be new.
Traditional versus New Marketing Tension
Your book explains the traditional top down branding approach (message clarity) with a bottom up (consumer empowerment) approach. How do these two approaches need to work together?
To avoid confusing consumers, engagement needs to be both authentic and constructed. Marketers must forge a paradigm that allows freedom within a framework, pulling off the trick of simultaneously permitting consumers to participate with brands while empowering marketers to manage the message and dialog. Marketers must achieve: harmony between the clarity of top-down positioning and the dynamism of bottom-up consumer engagement; between long-term brand equity and short-term tactical messaging; and between emotional relevance and results driven by data-driven technology.
Different kinds of media reach us for complementary purposes. Analog (traditional) media shape our brand preference while most digital media deepens our engagement and leads to brand loyalty.
The former boast broad reach. They forge perceptions across consumer masses. Film—with its sound, color, movement, and ability to break through clutter—is an indispensable tool to guide consumers amid an explosion of offerings. Even in the United States, despite the proliferation of smartphones and other digital devices, the 30-second broadcast television commercial continues to rule (and increase). Manufacturers spent some $67 billion on network and cable advertising in 2013 – and not for sentimental reasons.
The latter encourage engagement with brands. With more opportunity to trigger behavioral changes – learning more, using more, buying more, advocating more – marketers can increase the probability of purchase and repeat purchase.
Traditional media shape brand preference. Digital leads to loyalty.
As consumers move toward purchase, direct and digital media should dominate. These media provide more opportunity for engagement—that is, direct interaction with a brand idea and its creative expression. Marketers have more opportunity to trigger behavioral change and increase the probability the consumer will buy a product.
Advertising can encourage a limitless range of actions—from clicking through a banner ad and spending more time on a microsite to increasing consumers’ frequency of washing their hair. The arsenal of tools marketers can deploy to encourage certain behavior is broad. Marketers also can use analog media to trigger specific behavior during later phases—for example, by using stunning “product beauty shots” and other point-of-sale material to stimulate trial usage.
When others describe you do they use words like “visionary” or “dinosaur”?
Are you looking for a job?
How would you describe your own personal brand?
Have you missed an opportunity because someone thought of you incorrectly?
Take Charge of Your Personal Brand
Karen Kang is one of the world’s authorities on creating a personal brand. As a brand strategist, Karen guides individuals through a process to strategically create a personal brand. Karen knows what it takes to build a brand. She is a former partner with world-renowned Regis McKenna, Inc., the marketing firm that created and launched the Apple brand. She’s the founder and CEO of BrandingPays, and she has consulted with over 150 organizations around the world.
Her new book BrandingPays is a step-by-step guide to reinventing your personal brand. I recently had the opportunity to ask Karen a few questions about her work and her book.
Karen, you’ve worked with startups all the way to some of the world’s biggest companies. Although you continue to do corporate branding, your new work is mainly focused on individuals. Why is personal branding so important today? Has personal branding increased in importance?
Personal branding has gone from being a “nice to have” to a “got to do.” Competitive forces in business and communication—from globalization to social media—have combined to make personal branding a requirement. Gone are the days when you got on a career track with one company and rode it until the end of the line. Whether you work for a company or not, you are a free agent. You need to think like a “company of one” in how you position and market yourself.