When you hear something enough times, it may be a fad. But when you start to see email spam about it, you know it’s a trend.
That’s the case with marketing trends such as email marketing and social media.
The problem with trends is that it’s usually a lagging indicator which means to seize the opportunity you may need to be an early adopters to reap the rewards.
If adopting new strategy and implementing fresh tactics sounds too risky, just take a look at the troubled newspaper and magazine companies and you’ll realize what I mean.
Similar to technology innovation, brand strategy is taking on an increasingly strategic role focusing not just on the bottom line but the ability to produce desirable financial outcomes. It’s no surprise that the most innovative brands also fail more frequently, it’s the nature of the tried-and-true culture.
However, it takes discipline, research, analysis and creativity to find the right fit that works for your organization. Whether you’re promoting your personal brand or your corporate brand, here are the 3 brand marketing trends to look for in 2010:
1.Brands Must Become More Social Online
It’s no secret that B2B or B2C customers have been talking about your industry and your brand. Now with social media it’s simply going to be “on the record” somewhere over the internet, searchable and conversable.
If you can deal with customers in person, why couldn’t you deal with them online?
Engagement with your audience creates brand awareness, increase brand loyalty and the opportunity to get feedback that can help to improve your product and services. Social engagement encourages crowdsourcing, use it wisely it can energize both you and your audience.
Provide transparency in what you do and demonstrate authenticity in what you say are the keys to building your online “street cred.” Organizations must look at the bigger picture and realize the emerging trend of social business branding and how it will impact all aspect of the company from internal collaboration to external engagement.
Becoming more social for brands means establishing a collaborative infrastructure within the organization to support the core brand strategy. There is no doubt that consumer wants to engage through social media so if brands don’t get into it, consumers will leave.
Ideas for action: Learn the tools of the trade in social media and (please!) put someone that cares about your brand to the task.
Research and identify where you customers are at talking about you, listen and monitor before you jump in. Analyze the conversation around any product, topics, or category and identify any detractors and advocates to take actions.
More importantly learn to communicate well online, respond on time, be clear and to the point. Provide value when interacting with your audience, focus on helping not selling and always deliver relevant and effective communications.
In addition, make sure you have a policy in place so you have a focused, consistent and cohesive approach in reacting to the situation regardless of which platform you’re using. The bottom line is that social media engagement without governance is a recipe for disaster.
It’s possible that your customers may not be on an open social network but on several discussion boards (forums/BBS), a private professional community, or even a popular blog where comments serve as dialogues. speak to your customers directly to identify where they get their information, use a survey and provide rewards if needed.
Myths to consider: We can’t quantify the ROI (return on investment), so let’s just not measure them. First of all, there are ways to measure all the marketing activities whether they’re meaningful to your organization is another story (yes you want the meaningful ones!).
The important thing is to cultivate accountability in your actions so you get results that can give you the insight to make real informed decisions.
My recommendation is to rank your marketing priorities that are most likely to pay off or generate the impact your want first. If your strategy is to aim for awareness and exposure, then put reach and volume first instead of experience and frequency.
Keep in mind that you need to be able to quantity to a certain degree so you don’t drain your marketing resource and budget.
2.Shift in Value Perception Creates Opportunities for Brands
Generic brands are nothing new especially in the grocery store where the house brands are marketed and sold side by side with the leading brands.
The economy has shifted the perception of value fundamentally into a do-more-with-less and value-for-money mode.
According to the latest IRI Times & Trends Report: Game-Changing Economy Taking Private Label to New Heights, “private label unit share has grown 1.2 points to 22.8% and dollar share has grown 0.7 points to 17.6% across all outlets in the past 12 months.” Simply put, private label brands are gaining momentum across all tiers of product categories from premium tier to value tier because they have the advantage to compete on quality as well as price.
This represents a significant opportunity for less known brands (startups, SMBs, personal brands) to compete for new businesses while leading brands still has their eyes on cutting costs (overheads, infrastructure) and reorganizing operations.
In addition with the explosion of social media, unknown brand can go viral instantly followed by awareness because brands no longer control the buying space or the conversation, it only needs credibility to explode.
Ideas for action: This is the time to take your brand to another level especially with more cost effective tools and technologies, why not take a hard look at your current setup for operations, sales and marketing?
Reallocate your investments and prioritize your marketing, branding or product development strategies.
Many out-of-your-budget marketing avenues have dropped in price dramatically, check your local advertising channels you may be in for a surprise on how cheap it is now to run radio, print and even TV ads.
It’s a good time to build your email marketing campaign, run promotion events or even redo your old website so it’s more social media friendly.
You can even try partnering with someone locally to share the cost or co-brand some offerings together. Another idea is to create a new brand allowing you to expand into other categories or verticals utilizing the resources you already have.
Brand extension can help secure new revenues and reinforce brand strength without compromising your current brand equities.
This is the time to drive appeal and awareness to build recognition. Use today’s digital communication platforms to collect meaningful customer data, conduct surveys and optimize your digital presence via social networks.
Reevaluate your brand strategy, be innovative with your products and services, create a culture that reward your people and update your performance metrics.
Myths to consider: We don’t have the time, money or resources for marketing and nobody is buying!
If you don’t have a plan to convert data to actionable insight, a process to collectively review the effectiveness of your marketing strategy, how do you know what you’re doing works?
If you don’t invest in marketing or advertising, how are you going to differentiate the unique meaning of your brand? Without differentiation you will loose pricing power and competitiveness.
If your brand isn’t even in the run for consideration, how will your customers know that you exist? And people are spending, just selectively in a timely matter. According to the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, “amid their (consumers) cautiousness we are seeing some areas where people are willing to increase spending.”
There is a shift in how businesses and consumers are expressing their priorities, but that doesn’t mean you should be reactive, in fact I would argue that being proactive now will benefit your ROI in the long haul.
3. Community Building is Now a Priority
Moving forward, brands will have to focus on fostering their own community to own the communication distribution network.
Building a community is about connecting and sharing experiences, I’ve outlined this previously specifically in social networks, which still applies to other platform as well.
The fact is that the adoption of new communication platform (ie. email, radio) has led to a new wave of user experience in which the context (ie. direct mail, website) and the message (ie. ads, PR) must stay relevant.
If the community is trusted by the members, they will extend the trust through word-of-mouth that could mean more opportunities for brands to increase buying frequency using content or conversation marketing tactics.
Keep in mind that you should get involved in the right channel and passively direct customers to your community. Effective engagement can also lead to permission-based marketing. According to a Forrester Consulting study commissioned by ExactTarget, “One-half of consumers said unsolicited messages were unacceptable even from companies they did business with regularly. That was up from about one-quarter in 2008.” When your audience allows you to contact them, you essentially have a direct line to access a targeted customer base.
Ideas for action: For low barrier to entry options, look into building a community using one of these: Facebook fan page, Twitter account, Google group, LinkedIn group, Yahoo groups; or create your own social network (with blog, discussion forums etc.), Ning, KickApps, ThePort, SharePoint, Drupal, Joomla, WordPress, Posterous, Moveable Type, SocialText, SixApart, and Pringo just to name a few.
If you’re tech or internet savvy, you can use a combination of them but I suggest to focus on becoming versed in 1-2 first then expand to others. Personally, I’m using a combination of a WordPress blog (you’re reading it now) and Twitter (@designdamage).
You can also use video sharing sites like Youtube and Vimeo to help funnel traffic to your community. Another import tip is to leverage RSS feeds to push your message from one-to-many networks.
It’s easy for someone to discover if there’s any participation in your community or not so if you’re going to have a community, you need to be there for your audience.
Dedicate a set amount of time to regularly check the activities in your community, answer questions, drive conversations and connect with members. People have short attention span especially on the internet, so make sure you work on your message (goes to number 1 above) and keep your audience interested.
The goal is to mobilize brand advocates to drive word-of-mouth for greater engagement.
Myths to consider: We’ll just hire an expert and let them do the work like how we outsource web design and SEO.
Although we’re at the age of outsource-anything today and get it done tomorrow, it’s hardly a sustainable long-term strategy especially when it’s about your brand’s core value and mission.
Too often we forget that people are at the center of any holistic effort to improve business performance and accountability.
Outsource to gurus may get things done, but you need to take the time and effort to work with them not to mention they’re hard to find, afford and keep. I’ve clean up some mess for clients before where the outsourced expert created more problems than what they were hired to solve.
This is why so many brands fail to update their websites regularly or refresh their SEO campaigns. Take the time to educate yourself some of the trends will benefit you in the long run, or get your team involve and split the workload across multiple heads.
The takeaway: The evolving marketing and media ecosystem is putting pressure on brands to innovate and evolve, or risk becoming extinct.
These trends will be here to stay and is essential for brands to be successful moving forward.
Have you made the transition yet to accommodate these trends? What are you doing to make the necessary changes to your brand strategy?
I will be reviewing the trends in digital marketing, specifically social business branding next, stay tuned.