They Like Me! So What?

Posted by on Oct 1, 2015 in Blog, Marketing, Social Media | 0 comments

like bandedFacebook used to be a marketer’s dream … millions upon millions of people on the platform every day, many times a day, restlessly scanning their news feeds lest they miss a video of Aunt Sally doing the Macarena at a family reunion or a cat doing anything at all. If people knew of your brand – and “liked’ your business page – chances were good that while they were scanning for Aunt Matilda they would at least see your logo. Getting that “like” was your main objective, so that with some pretty snappy content marketing you’d get an acceptable number of conversions.

But not anymore. Today, having 10,000 fans on your Facebook page doesn’t mean even 20 or 30 percent of the people who like your page will see your post like they would have in ancient times (2013 or so). Today, because of new algorithms Facebook instituted early this year, if you’re a brand with 10,000 page likes, instead of organically reaching two or three thousand people with any one post, you’ll reach a few dozen, or maybe even hundreds if it gets a few shares or likes.

Suddenly, Facebook doesn’t seem like a very friendly place for content marketers, and brands are faced with making some tough choices. Do you maintain a presence on Facebook or abandon it altogether? Do you reevaluate your marketing strategy to include paying $10 or $15 for every post you create? Or do you find new and innovative ways to use Facebook, knowing that it has evolved into something that is NOT a free advertising platform?

Sheer numbers make it hard to kiss Facebook goodbye (although some have, to varying levels of success). The social networking site has 1.49 billion active users worldwide; nobody else comes close. But these numbers must be put into perspective. What does this impressive statistic have to do with your business page? Very little, of course. So let’s get real about numbers. SocialSamosa cites that out of every 1,000 page likers, only 1% of them will visit the Facebook page at all; 990 of them do nothing after the “like,” and the other 10 people visit and click around, but that’s probably all. Likes don’t equal conversions.

So what’s a brand to do? There are some options and strategies to explore short of packing up your marketing marbles and leaving the playground.

Use Facebook as a way to get the email addresses of your targeted audience, so you can more consistently reach them through email marketing. How? Pay for Facebook ads that offer something of value to your customers – a discount coupon for a product or service, a free e-book, etc. – which they can get via their email. Boom, you’ve got a way to deepen your relationship with them.

Create high-value Facebook posts for organic reach. Pay attention to what kinds of content naturally draw engagement, in the forms of comments, likes, or shares – and then use that content on paid boosts. Figure out what your target audience wants, and give them more of that!

Use Facebook to communicate meaningfully with your fans. In order to burst through the noisy clutter of a newsfeed, content marketers must remember their primary goals – share timely, useful and engaging content, use media well (videos and compelling photography), and draw the reader into an irresistible and relatable story. Also, always respond to comments on your page to get that conversation started!

Have some fun! People naturally respond to friendly and clever content. So, relax, have fun, and go there. Engage in conversation, ask questions about your products, and make the user feel valued. Facebook’s algorithm changes have also put the kibosh on any messaging that includes pricing and anything deemed “promotional.” So, go with the new flow, and find new ways to use Facebook to take your brand to the masses.

Cutting Through The Noise

Posted by on Aug 6, 2015 in Blog, Writing | 0 comments

content writer

Our news feeds are crawling with headlines that triple-dog dare you to tap them, screaming something like, “She Opened her Freezer for a Popsicle and You’re NOT GOING to BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT!” It’s accompanied by a head-scratching image of a bloated kneecap, or a horned toad, or something you can’t quite identify.

What choice do you have but to click?!? And there goes three minutes of your life you’ll never get back.

So wages the daily battle to win the eyes of the reading public. There’s only so much information a person can take in, so it’s a helluva battle for content marketers, who are competing with these clickbaiters – plus social media, email, texts, voicemail and the rest of the internet – for attention.

So how can you, a Content Writer, ensure that your message rises to the top of the noisy heap? How can you most effectively communicate with your audience in a way that cuts through the babble, builds a trusting relationship and culminates in a conversion? There are a few proven ways to grab your reader’s attention … and keep it.

START STRONG. Studies show that the average attention span of an adult human is about eight seconds. So if you haven’t grabbed them with a headline and the first sentence or two of copy, you’ve probably lost them. And, to complicate your noble cause, let’s not forget that you’re competing for eyeball time against the thing “THAT MADE MY JAW DROP!” So it’s got to be a powerful headline and lead without being incredulous.

What, then, should those first sentences evoke? EMOTION. Whatever you’re selling needs to stir something in a potential buyer’s gut. The book Great Leads  says that, “80% of emotional impact will be determined by the first 20% of the copy.” So, from the start, your audience should know that your product or service will benefit them by giving them MORE of something: free time…control over their health…money in their pocket…attractiveness…popularity.

ENGAGEMENT. Chances are that your customers are looking for something meaningful or useful in their lives – something they can “buy into” before they buy. They want to learn something: a newer way, a better way, a more enjoyable way, a “greener” way, a more righteous way to go through life. If your product can deliver there, say so!

RELATABILITY. If a person can’t imagine himself or herself using your product or service, they’ll most definitely look elsewhere. Your goal should be to make them feel like the hero in the story you are telling in your ad copy.

BELIEF. Somehow, maybe not in the very first sentence, but sometime soon, the copy you write has to give some proof of the claim you’re making. Selling a weight-loss program? Give some results from clinical studies. Promoting an insurance company? Tell readers how they’ll save on premiums. You can’t just STATE something without providing a little back-up. There’s no trust built there.

At the end of the day, honest/useful/engaging copy will always trump the thing “YOU WON’T BELIEVE!” You can believe it.

A Little Insurance

Posted by on Jul 30, 2015 in Blog, Marketing | 0 comments

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In Dan Brown’s crap novel The DaVinci Code, a linguistics professor pretty much saves the world because he can decipher hidden meaning in a bunch of renaissance books and works of art, including Leonardo DaVinci’s painting, The Last Supper. Literary merits aside, the book’s hero triumphs because of his deep knowledge of arcane language, practices, and beliefs. Of course, in the real world these have very little day-to-day utility – unless you happen to work in marketing for the insurance industry.

There you’ll find an esoteric world governed by strange language, obscure terminology, and relationships so convoluted and complex that they’d make the Medicis wince. Let’s take a look at three reasons why marketing in this industry is unlike anything else in marketing.

Language – Insurance terminology is only slightly less obscure than a Dungeons & Dragons handbook. You think you know what “appetite” means? Sure you do – it’s when you’re hungry. In insurance it means, “the degree to which an organization’s management is willing to accept the uncertainty of loss for a given risk when it has the option to pay a fixed sum to transfer that risk to an insurer.” Is that clear? How about “marine”? That has to do with water, right? Well, not really – the term originally referred to goods shipped by boat, but today it applies to trucks and trains.

Abbreviations – Every vertical has its own acronyms and abbreviations, but in the insurance industry it’s a real alphabet soup. Everyone knows about agents and brokers, but what about MGA, ACC, AD&D, E&O, and MEWAS? There are plenty of glossaries to learn the right terminology, but for marketing folks new to the insurance industry (or even those with a few years of experience) it can be a cacophonous mess of letters upon letters.

Regulation – Few industries are under as much federal and state scrutiny as insurance. On one hand, that’s great for consumers, but it adds a whole level of complexity to even the most prosaic marketing functions. In most industries it’s pretty straightforward to write a product sheet, but in the risk-averse world of insurance just about everything has to pass legal review. And the lawyers who work at insurance companies tend to be very strict about what they approve – which is why so much of the content generated by carriers reads like proof-of-life letters from a hostage negotiation.

Of course, great marketers can learn to thrive in the insurance industry once they recognize the challenges in front of them. Learning the abbreviations and unique terminology takes time, but after a while it becomes second nature, and learning how to write interesting copy within the context of a regulated industry is an art form unto itself. All it takes is a bit of an appetite.





And Then There Were Eight

Posted by on Jul 23, 2015 in Blog, Marketing | 0 comments


What does an icy ball 3.67 billion miles from the sun have to do with an LA hard rock band? In a word, everything. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the world of Pluto, astronomy’s version of David Lee Roth. And while there might not appear to be parallels between the former (and current…with an asterisk) Van Halen front man and the former (and current…with an asterisk) planet, they have had remarkably similar careers over the last 20 years. And more importantly, the role that public opinion has played for both of them has been almost identical.

To recap: Roth sang on Van Halen’s first six albums, became a superstar, and ultimately left the band in 1985 because – depending on the version of the story one chooses to believe – he didn’t fit in with the other members. After having a few early hits, Roth sort of faded away until Van Halen dragged him out of mothballs and grudgingly put him back on stage. Pluto, which was discovered in 1930, enjoyed more than 60 years as a planet before the International Astronomical Union (IAU) declared that it wasn’t really a planet at all. That might have been the end of it…but people freaked out. After a few years of bad publicity, the scientists compromised and sort of let Pluto back in the club when they declared it a minor planet.

This is a marketing blog, but what do an aging rocker and a frozen rock have to do with marketing? In a word, everything.

That’s because both of their orbits are proof that public opinion matters and that enough sustained pressure can make a difference. Van Halen was actually more successful after Roth was replaced by Sammy Hagar, but the band’s older fans never let the band forget who the real singer was – going so far as to derisively dub the reformulated group “Van Hagar.” For over 20 years they kept the drumbeat of criticism going until bandleader Eddie Van Halen finally relented and invited his nemesis back into the fold. In a similar vein, Pluto aficionados immediately went on the offense in support of their demoted orbiting body. Several state legislatures proposed and even passed resolutions declaring Pluto to be a planet. Pro-Pluto shirts became de rigeur for the nerdcore crowd, and a number of Web sites advocating for Pluto’s reclassification as a Planet, rather than a lame-ass “Kuiper belt object,” popped up. Under public pressure, the IAU sort of caved in and upgraded it to the status of “minor planet.”

When most people think of public pressure, they think of it in terms of calling politicians to task, forcing companies to change policies, or simply getting people to change their attitudes and behaviors. But the strange case of Pluto and David Lee Roth is proof that enough people caring – and voicing their opinions – can make a big difference.

And they will both go down in history as rock stars.







Management Consulting: Avoid the Basic Marketing Mistakes

Posted by on Jul 17, 2015 in Blog, Branding, Marketing | 0 comments

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Over the years VerbFactory has developed marketing programs for a number of great management consultants ranging from the world’s largest firms to one-person operations. Here are some of the things we’ve learned about what to do – and what not to do – when it comes to helping these businesses get the word out.

1 – Figure out what you’re selling. “Management consulting” is a catch-all phrase that can mean just about anything, so it’s critical to figure out exactly what your real offer is. Are people paying you for a comprehensive report, or do they want someone to take a hands-on role to make real changes? It’s human nature to try to cast a wide net, but it’s better to present yourself as an expert in a few things than a generalist in many areas.

2 – Uncover what makes you different. If you’ve ever read management consultants’ Web sites, you probably don’t remember who said what. That’s because most of them are completely interchangeable – at least from a marketing perspective. What really makes you tick? Remember that prospective clients are going to be evaluating several firms, so standing out from the crowd is essential.

3 – Determine what role the founder or CEO is going to have in your branding. Bigger firms tend to build their public personas around the company, but smaller shops and solo consultants often pin their identities on a charismatic leader or expert. It can be a great strategy, but be careful: it can be difficult to scale a personal brand because clients are going to want to work with the “A team,” not secondary consultants.

4 – Tell the client story, not yours. Most people who run management consulting businesses are very smart and have a lot of expertise…but they can also get hyper-focused on describing what they do rather than clearly articulating what problems they solve for clients. Using case studies and third-party testimonials lets you focus on the “Why” part of your story, not just the “What” or “How.” Don’t worry – if the pitch goes well you’ll have tons of time to talk about your approach and methodology, but don’t lead with it. Successful car salespeople don’t open with an hour-long lecture about the engine specs.

5 – Be what you are. This is more of a philosophical issue than a marketing one, but clients and prospects are going to figure out pretty quickly what you can and can’t deliver. Build up your credibility by being honest about your strengths and limitations in your core messaging and marketing collateral.

There are many different kinds of consultancies, so there’s no one perfect marketing approach for everyone to follow. But by following a few simple suggestions, it’s possible to avoid the pitfalls that often affect this industry and build sustainable, lasting, and successful brands.

Rock Star, Guru, Diva or Evangelist? Finding Marketing Expertise in an Age of Super-Egos

Posted by on Jul 2, 2015 in Blog, Branding, Marketing | 0 comments


Anyone can be famous (or infamous) in an age of constant self-promotion afforded by so many social media platforms. Andy Warhol (famously) predicted that at some point “everyone would be famous for 15 minutes.” Unfortunately, there’s an alarming braggadocio that seems to have spilled over into the professional realm in pursuit of clients. If the experts are calling themselves rockstars, evangelists, divas or leaders, move along. Or, ask for proof.

There’s nothing wrong with having a healthy dose of confidence and the ability to create a professional profile your mom would be proud of. Still, the field is awash with so many self-described marketing and branding experts that even the move to a 24/7 marketing cycle wouldn’t seem sufficient to keep everyone busy.

If you’re in need of marketing and branding expertise to hire, it’s “buyer beware” or at least, aware. With slick websites featuring stylish visuals, snappy prose and a presence on every social media platform, how can you tell if an individual or agency is the real deal with skills beyond aggregation and a point of view? They might be good at making themselves look good…but how do you know if they can do it for you?

Even if you have a small budget and your priority is finding competitive fees, there are small and mid-sized agencies with solid credentials and proof of experience and results to meet your needs.

Here are a few guidelines to help you choose wisely and not be swayed by the superficial, but rather inspired by the substantive.

47 Things to Know Before You Hire a Branding Expert

As you review capabilities before making a hiring decision, ask:

What is their relevant experience?

Expert aggregation of views from other marketers or brand experts does not equal marketing expertise. How long has the firm been in business? Can you verify credentials? Have they won any awards?

Think about the expertise and skills you need. If you require significant content development, look for former journalists who know how to tell a story succinctly and meet deadlines. Almost everyone does some writing these days – even if only in 140 character bursts – and that’s led many to claim a talent for writing.

Also, look at firms that bridge marketing techniques or move “beyond the click” as outlined in a Forbes Brand Voice column. While its easy to get excited about the next new thing, there’s significant value in a firm that can write a press release, work a trade show and advise on the latest digital strategies.

5 Things To Look For When Hiring Your Marketing Agency

Do they offer case studies and can you look at their portfolio for completed projects?

Case studies offer a great opportunity to demonstrate program results. Along with portfolios, they also illustrate whether a firm is creative, strategic and understands your line of business. Not every case will be germane to what you want to do but it serves as a concrete example of how folks think. Portfolios will also show you whether clients benefit from custom strategic marketing or branding work or whether the same ideas are used again and again.

Do they offer recent client references?

You wouldn’t hire someone to work for you without checking references, and you may be spending well more on a marketing campaign than you’d pay a single employee. Do due diligence – it pays. If a firm can’t offer multiple recent client references, that should be a red flag.

Are they willing to meet for a free consultation?

Besides the tangibles of what to look for when choosing your marketing or branding experts, there’s also that feeling you get when you meet the agency’s principals or team members. You want to make sure they’re the right fit for your organization or project since you’ll be spending time (and money) with them. And honestly, who wants to work with a diva or an evangelist?



The Case of the Disappearing Logo…and Text …and Branding: The Upsides (and Downs) of Visual Marketing

Posted by on Jun 26, 2015 in Blog, Branding, Marketing, Social Media | 0 comments

bird in cage


Branding, like beauty, might be said to be in the eye of the beholder. It means different things to different people, but the key to branding is knowing that the message – however it is designed and on whatever platform it is delivered – belongs to a specific company. That may no longer be so easy to discern, at least according to recent reports of what happens when visual content is shared on social media.

Sharing is a great thing, right? We were all taught so as children and now, in a social media environment, sharing has meant a branding bonanza for many companies — drawing attention for free or next to nothing. As it turns out, however, with so many marketing/branding campaigns in visual mode not all the information required for branding (like your logo) makes the sharing cut. That’s a problem.

There are solid reasons for the move away from text-based formats to visual ones on social channels:

  • The brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text
  • People are significantly more likely to remember what they see when it’s in visual form. And, the stats show when social media uses a photo it does significantly better than text alone, earning:
    • 53% more “likes”
    • 104% more comments
    • 84% more clicks on links.

Brand Detection by Kuznech

If you have a strategic marketing or branding campaign underway, chances are it has a major visual component. If your brand identity is stripped or disappears when sharing because only the photo is forwarded, it begs the tree-in-forest question: If the visuals shown in your branding or marketing campaign are shared, but no one knows it’s your company, does it leave a mark? Can you consider the effort a success? You can’t create or move a community to support your brand or product if it’s not identified as yours.

Since brand names aren’t generally included in keywords, trying to find a logo in social networks can be a challenge. New visual search tools available perform “brand detection” so you can accurately monitor and assess sharing and effectiveness. One company – Kuztech – promises to uncover “hidden visual conversation” based on how often images are shared.

If photos or videos are part of your innovative approach to marketing and branding but you can’t measure results, it’s a hobby, not a business. Besides having systems or tools for measurement, you still have to make sure that your brand identifiers remain when photos or videos are shared.

What can you do to make sure that a campaign dominated by visual content doesn’t go unnoticed or unattributed? Here are a few suggestions:

 Don’t just go visual. You can’t (usually) sell with visuals alone. And using only images or videos limits the ability of your audience to find and share your content. Add social sharing buttons to encourage optimal message distribution.

Combine text on top of your visual. It’s visual plus text that gets shared the most. Customers need information, and using text makes it search-friendly.

Brand your images. Embed text and include your URL or watermark in your visual offering so people can find the original. Use colors and fonts and other identifiers that are consistent with your brand.

Make sure that marketing and visual design are strongly integrated. Surprisingly, many organizations are not accustomed to tightly aligning these. Today’s multitude of platforms requires a visual strategy.

Visual Content Mistakes To Avoid

So, mix it up with visual and text – everyone processes information differently. But make sure – no matter where you to go to deliver content and hopefully earn that lovely sharing – that your fingerprints are clearly all over it. Because it used to be that a picture was worth a thousand words. Now if you do it right, it’s worth much, much more!


Doing Well By Doing Good: “Catering to the Conscientious Consumer” Goes Global

Posted by on Jun 11, 2015 in Blog, Branding, Marketing | 0 comments

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Chances are if that you’ve been shopping recently you’ve heard about sustainability or a living wage or some other social issue along with the product description. As consumers are re-thinking what they buy and where they buy it (or even rent or share it), smart companies understand there’s a new value proposition in play.

Today’s conscious consumer cuts across age groups and national borders – it’s a global movement. Once mocked, socially conscious consumers were often derided as a small group of Birkenstock-wearing Berkeley residents searching for products that met a long checklist– sustainable, organic, fair trade, shade grown, women-friendly, and more.

But it’s no longer a niche customer category. A wide swath of companies from beer (Anheuser-Busch – we use less water making our beer!) to travel (Carnival’s new brand category features socially conscious trips in partner countries) are trying to appeal to consumers who care about more than the physical attributes of the products they buy.

The ethical interests and behaviors of this group vary widely and can’t be reduced to a single profile, but companies know that they need to pay attention: 65% of executives agree consumers are more socially and environmentally conscious than they were the previous three years, according to a 2014 Accenture Institute for High Performance survey of 600 executives. At the same time, 40% of these executives also think consumers are unpredictable! What should be considered for corporate positioning and marketing campaigns is how social issue preferences translate to consumer behavior. That’s complex – and requires really understanding your customers.

According to the Cause Marketing Institute, 89% of consumers are likely to switch brands to one associated with a cause given comparable price and quality. And 42% would actually pay more for a product or service if the company were committed to social issues and the environment. But for some, it goes even further – 69% of global millenials want businesses to make it easier for them to get involved in societal issues.

Statistics Every Cause Marketer Should Know

So, how does all this affect you? If you’re smart, you likely already have a marketing strategy that transcends merely describing your products and services. Conscious consumerism should influence how companies think of themselves in a much broader context than simply how they produce goods or deliver services. Really, it’s not just about you anymore. But you already knew that, right?

Here are a few tips to help you get it right:

Don’t Bootstrap Social Issues

Make sure that whatever issue you select – as a cause, for your CSR program, or through partnerships – is connected to what you market. Trying for calculated appeal with an issue you think is “hot” is less likely to be perceived as authentic and will ultimately cost more than a program that honestly integrates what you do with what you want to do.

Have Realistic Goals

It’s unlikely you’ll reverse global climate change or abolish child labor – at least with a single campaign. There’s nothing wrong selecting a big issue, but don’t be grandiose. Setting reasonable goals about what your company, employees, partners and your customers can do to make a difference enhances your credibility. And when you have goals that are attainable and measureable and you can meet milestones – that’s positive information you can share with your customers and community.

Pay Attention to Customers

Make sure that you understand what your customers care about and why. You should have a process in place to solicit feedback on issues and product, interact with, and activate customers. That will create customer relationships and community, moving them to tell others about you and what you do. And, make sure you communicate in a way meaningful to them —don’t use corporate-speak to impress others who don’t buy what you sell. Again, it’s not about you.

Finally, the best news is that there is a positive return when a company does the right thing. A column in the Harvard Business Review looked at 28 companies identified as the “most conscious” based on characteristics including stated purpose, generosity of compensation, quality of customer service, investment in their communities, and impact on the environment. The analysis found the 18 publicly traded companies (of the 28 companies on the list) outperformed the S&P 500 index by a factor of 10.5 from 1996-2011.

According to columnist Tony Schwartz, these results should not be surprising. “Conscious companies treat their stakeholders better…their suppliers are happier to do business with them. Employees are more engaged, productive, and likely to stay. These companies are more welcome in their communities and their customers are more satisfied and loyal. The most conscious companies give more, and they get more in return. It pays to care, widely and deeply.”

Companies that Practice “Conscious Capitalism” Perform 10x Better

I don’t know what conscious consumers might call a win-win-win… Let’s ask them.



The Zeitgeist of Authenticity: Mad Men to Now

Posted by on May 28, 2015 in Blog, Branding, Marketing | 0 comments

Mad Men

Unless you live under a rock, you now know the Mad Men series finale closed with a real 1971 commercial – Hillside, or I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke. The ad reflected a seminal shift in advertising…and maybe a change in Don Draper’s character after an authentic experience at a Big Sur ashram. Ok, maybe not that last part.

The iconic ad showed people of all nationalities singing about “sharing” (with purchase), communicating more a heartfelt feeling or value than a product. It signaled a move beyond product for a specific customer like McCann-Erikson’s heartland Miller Beer drinker: “He works hard, he likes things that don’t talk back and he drinks beer.”

Fast forward more than four decades and authenticity is again meaningful for some of today’s most well regarded companies and their strategic marketing campaigns. In fact, Forbes calls “authenticity” the number one trend for 2015 that marketers should budget for.

While millennials and baby boomers report that authenticity is important to them, the way a company translates this to marketing campaigns varies widely.

Companies that lead with meaning and get authenticity “right” are able to focus beyond a single sale to cultivate customer loyalty and create lasting brands. The payoff may be a different type of customer – one that will stay with you based on the values of your company and the goods you promote. It’s an important differentiator in today’s competitive environment with constant demand for attention and dollars.

So, in the sincere desire to help you achieve genuine authenticity, here are a few suggestions:

Support your claims and positioning 

Make sure you can support what you say to promote your company or products – if you can’t prove it, don’t say it. The popular “Made in America” claim is one many companies are eager to make. Unfortunately, the company responsible for conferring the “certification” was accused last year by the FTC of selling the label to any company able to pay the price. Once tainted by trying to fool customers, it’s hard to recover.

Weave your mission or values with sales 

Don’t forget to sell stuff in your commitment to being authentic. Some companies focus on connecting with customers so much that they can lose sight of what they’re trying to sell. Your marketing approach must balance content and intertwine messaging on meaning with products.

Tom’s is widely lauded for their balanced marketing approach selling shoes and accessories in its mission to donate shoes to children in need for every pair sold. The company website gives equal space to its online store as it does to telling their story and promoting their values. For Tom’s, the mission may be paramount, but marketing of the product is also front and center. Success is measured by associating the company with its products and values – you don’t think of one without the other.

Let others help tell your story 

If you’ve successfully connected with customers through marketing your company and product, you may be able to create a community willing to help tell your story. Consider it an authenticity “bonus,” as it’s also cost effective. How you choose to use or frame such customer feedback may vary, but listening carefully must be a first step.

Patagonia created a Worn Wear campaign to demonstrate its commitment to long lasting gear to support its mission to reduce waste and consumption. To help customers keep their favorite worn-out gear in use, the company hired 45 repair technicians to patch and stich back together much-loved products that might otherwise be tossed into a landfill.

The program became a cross-country tour (6 weeks, 5,641 miles, 21 states, 18 repair stops and one flat tire) offering free repairs of well-loved items as well as teaching customers how to do their own mending. Patagonia now has a popular online video of fans telling their stories about the company and their products. It is authentically appealing.

Be consistent inside and out (and online and offline) 

The values expressed through marketing products should be consistent with company behavior. Consumers notice any disconnect, and a sense of schadenfreude helps spread the word.

A study of corporate brands vs. product brands demonstrated that a majority of executives (87%) understand that a strong corporate reputation is as important as product brands. And they’re right. Many customers (40%) will not buy a product if they believe there’s a disconnect or lack of integrity between the corporate and product brands. Even if you think your company motto has it covered (“Do No Evil”), make sure that consistency and authenticity are hallmarks of your marketing.

Authenticity done well transcends time and demographics and even product–although even the Coca Cola Company now also sells bottled water.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Fairest of them All?

Posted by on May 21, 2015 in Branding, Marketing, Uncategorized | 0 comments

That’s what the Evil Queen in Snow White wanted to know.

If you asked the same of someone controlling marketing dollars – and you’re over the age of 50 – the answer would not be YOU.

Instead, anyone who qualifies as a “millennial” (aged 18 – 34) seems to be the favorite target customer for companies with marketing and advertising budgets, no matter what they’re selling.

What’s behind the millennial preoccupation? Maybe it’s the lingering theory that if you hook ‘em when they’re young, you’ll have brand loyalty for a really long time. That’s misguided for many reasons – including the average shelf life of most companies, products and services. More importantly, this focus on younger consumers misses the mark given what we know about the purchasing power of baby boomers.

According to a recent AARP study, boomers account for nearly half of all consumer spending, yet only 10% of marketing dollars are aimed at them. NPR’s Ina Jaffe recently highlighted this lopsided approach to spending and demographics. Citing data from research firms like Nielsen, she reported that the trend will only grow: in five years, nearly half of all adults will be over the age of 50 and have 70% of all disposable income. Obviously, not everyone in this category is affluent, but they’ve had more time to earn and may have moved beyond some of life’s biggest expenses such as purchasing a home and paying for college tuition.

This is the “most vibrant market that’s hiding in plain sight,” according to Ken Dychwald, CEO of Age Wave, a San Francisco-based research and consulting firm focused on seniors. They have money, time and interest and make purchases for adult children and grandchildren including cars, vacations and starter homes. Dychwald believes that entering “new life stages” will also require a wide range of products and services. And, he suggests that boomers are less likely to be brand loyal – 20% of them will change religion and 50% change spouses!

As we spend time thinking about which consumers should garner marketing attention and why, a recent New York Times column proclaimed the return of the yuppie. Well, sort of. The term was coined to mark a certain type of conspicuous consumption, but today’s yuppie may be less voraciously acquisitive and more interested in simply keeping what he or she has. This instability has also splintered the group into many different types, or “micro yuppies.” Millennials would probably be yuppies, too, were it not for an uncertain job market and the burden of school loans. For now, their consumer lust is likely to be met by lower-priced items such as tech products, not cars.

Marketers often talk about customers as “aspirational” and use content to reflect a brand lifestyle beyond reach. The irony is that companies may be aspirational when it comes to targeting their marketing dollars because they aim for the customers they wish to have associated with their company or product. When such goals are not realistic, reaching marketing and sales targets become a challenge.

There’s an antidote for this ailment, and it works as preventive medicine, too: set your targets and develop your strategy using solid research and data. Make sure you hire experts and/or consult credible firms to conduct research or access and interpret consumer data. Work with firms experienced with evidence-based marketing strategies that suggest you measure performance and results. Hint: don’t hire firms that appear to have spring up overnight claiming to specialize in the latest must-appeal-to customer category like “diverse, fun, millennial mom.”

Marketing is both art and science. With so many different ways to reach potential customers, it can be confusing to make the right decisions about where to spend your budget. The television and cable networks get this. As part of their recent “up-fronts” (where they secured nearly $73 billion in marketing/advertising dollars), companies were promised new data-driven products to help them move beyond age and gender factors to sell, whether over the airwaves or online or mobile. And yet, after all of this research the most coveted sell-to age category remains 25-40.

Whether your current target audience is millennials, boomers or yuppies, the smartest strategy is to be data-driven. Don’t generalize or exclude. Try micro targeting. Use psychographic data. Don’t ignore consumers over age 50. And measure performance, tweaking your marketing approach as needed. Because as anyone who owns a mirror knows — one size never fits all.


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