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Posts Tagged ‘Brands’

Despite what some spittle-lipped sharpsters might try to sell you, social media’s rapid behavior-changing adoption is still far from settled enough for anyone to analyze and measure.  The marketing industry still bobs chest deep in the churning waves, making assessment difficult at best.  The one incontrovertible truth is that in remarkably short order, Twitter, Facebook and other social networks have powerfully reset both who we communicate with and how, leaving brands scrambling to determine just what to make of it and how to adjust.Picture 2

Today’s consumers enjoy a radical new level of access and empowerment; marketers enjoy a unprecedented access and insights.  And everyone involved must now balance the benefits of another powerful new platform even as we assess the drawbacks and limitations.

All of which makes Catharine Taylor’s latest post on Social Media Insider a great jumping off point for timely client discussions.  Under the provocative heading “Is Social Media Turning Us Into Whiner Nation,” Catharine raises the issue of determining the relative quality of social media input.  Sometimes this dialogue can inform and reshape productively, but many times, they amount to so much hyper-empowered bitching.

On one level, companies can consider all of this new social input the equivalent of having a world wide complaint desk that’s always open–a vastly enhanced, far more powerful version of the old one-employee department that existed solely to provide disgruntled shoppers an outlet for their frustrations.  And to a point, that’s reasonably accurate (consider Motrin, and just recently, Amp).  Social media provides a mass channel for opinion, and it can be skewed heavily by special interests or a vocal minority.  Worse, the most destructive of those opinions often spring from people far outside a brand’s core target, rendering them less relevant but still potentially damaging.  Should brands respond then or should they abide, enduring a temporary tempest before the shouters move on to the inevitable next offense, another issue of another new day?

These are questions brands and their advocates must address.  Like it or not, advertisers are well served to monitor these inputs, and make adjustments if necessary.  But to do that, we must all get more skilled at assessing those tweets and blogs–their relevance, resonance and virulence.  And we must also get better at assessing positive feedback; it’s far too simple to slip into easy acquiescence after hearing one or two glowing reviews.  Positive sources can be just as suspect as negative ones.

Perhaps the greatest irony of this new reset in the advertiser-consumer relationship–from a one-sided platform driven by wealthy brands to a two-way dialogue powered by basically anyone with broadband–is how hard it is for marketers to reconcile the fact that consumers now have a voice.  And speak up.  Pretty loudly sometimes.

We always thought that was our job.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79
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Picture 1Conde Nast’s announcement that they were shuttering Gourmet magazine after nearly seven decades of glossy publication came as a shock to many.  I can’t pretend that I am so accomplished or interested a cook that it affects me directly any more than the simultaneous news that two of their two Bride titles—Modern and Elegant—were closing as well (I’m not sure that they put out a Hillbilly Bride but if so, that survived).  Still, one aspect of this announcement has a distinctly contemporary spin…

Conde Nast plans to continue the Gourmet brand.  While declining ad sales doomed the magazine, Gourmet-branded cookbooks will continue to appear in the market.  A new Gourmet TV show debuts on PBS on October 21.  And in a bit of grim irony, Gourmet recipes will even remain on Epicurious.com, the very type of free recipe site that hastened it’s editorial demise.

So while sister publication Bon Appetit will probably fulfill the balances for Gourmet’s subscribers, the name itself will not disappear from popular—or at least foodie—culture.  That is a very smart decision—brands are powerful things: difficult and expensive to build, but resilient and enduring in the public mind.  That’s why a savvy holding company has been able to leverage the Pabst Blue Ribbon brand through contract brewing.  It’s why a similar strategy revived Indian Motorcycles.  And its why the Gourmet brand does have a future—just not in the format where it was built.

The world changes.  Brands that adapt to that reality can create a sustainable future, even if it’s one that their brand stewards never imagined.  Or candidly, particularly wanted.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Something happens during natural disasters–something oddly positive.  As the floodwaters rise or the fires spread, people reach out in cooperation, banding together as ad hoc communities with a common cause.  Long after the damage is over and property has been repaired, people remember those tense moments and how quickly they created a thrilling closeness, a powerful bond.

Oh.  That bump.

Oh. That bump.

I can only hope we’ll all feel a similar communal sense when the current storm of advertising changes finally passes and we once again achieve some semblance of equilibrium.  In the latest Adweek/Brandweek, Steve McClellan interviews a number of industry leaders for a feature that tries to identify just what that new normal might be like.

Among quotes from industry leaders like Google’s Eric Schmidt and WPP’s Marty Sorrell, Sue Mosely, Initiative’s worldwide director of research, noted that “Brand loyalty has been badly shaken.”  

Indeed.  And there’s growing concern that consumers who have traded down might not trade back up later.  Perhaps this new fiscal austerity will stay, benefitting discount or store brands at our clients’ expense.  As people in the brand-building business, this represents an alarming scenario.  So what can we do to protect the eroding value of our brands?

For decades, ‘trust’ has been one of the bedrock brand value, but we can no longer assume ‘trust’ alone will suffice.  In a more cost-competitive world, it can come off as a nebulous benefit.  Planners and creatives alike will need to take up the charge and uncover or create compelling new reasons for people to invest in our brands.  How can our brands help?  How can they make things better, easier or richer for people?  What else can they bring to the experience?

Finding ways to add value and keep consumers engaged with our brands will become the new marketing imperative.  And given the increasing parity within the marketplace, it will no doubt stay the imperative for a long time to come.

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Picture 1Guest Blogger: Kim Noles

As an EVP/Management Director at Element 79, Kim Noles juggles an inordinate amount of responsibility, overseeing our Cricket and ConAgra businesses and spearheading new business.  She’s spent all of her twenty years in advertising in Chicago, working for agencies large and small with a heavy emphasis on foods, beverages and travel. Kim has been a critical part of the agency leadership team, driving our recent digital reinvention.  She was instrumental in re-engineering our internal structure to focus on Inciting Interaction and taking a pro-active stance on two-way engagement between brands and consumers.  This demanding workload may also explain her equally passionate appreciation of fine wine…

A dear friend once said to me, “You know what confidence looks like?  It looks like generosity.”   What a lovely thought.  A truly confident person doesn’t need to tear others down to build themselves up, or hoard their talents, or refuse to help others.  A confident person knows who she is and lends her talents openly and willingly.  She is generous with others; with her expertise.

This is true of brands too.  As we look across the fragmented media environment and try to help our clients connect with their targets in meaningful ways, it becomes more and more important to find ways to add value to people’s lives.  In the old days, we talked about stopping power, disruption, and break through.  But today, consumers can find brands when and where they want; you no longer need to stop them in their tracks, but rather encourage them come to you.  However, consumer expectations are higher than ever – you better make it worth their while.  One of our colleagues at E79, Tom Napper, recently attended a 4A’s Conference on social media in New Orleans and he offered this great observation: “85% of all social media users want to have a conversation with brands. Not only that, but they expect brands to contribute, to give something to the conversation. They are seen as content experts.”

What Can You Offer?

What Can You Offer?

Brands are content experts and consumers expect way more than simply the product or service a brand offers for sale…  That’s a profound change.  To make it worth their time, consumers now expect brands to share their expertise: to educate or provide expert information, to facilitate community, to support causes, offer valuable tools or simply entertain.

At Element 79, we have always helped our clients define their brand’s mission. But lately, we’ve been having more pointed discussions with our clients about activating those missions in more engaging ways.  What is the brand good at? What can it contribute?  What else can we offer in exchange for consumer attention and engagement?  How much can we afford to give away?  And just how comfortable are we with the opinions about the brand out in cyberspace?

Fundamentally, we offer the same advice to marketers as we might to our friends:  be generous and confident members of the community.  That is, be generous with your expertise; it’s like bringing a hostess gift to a party. Whether it’s a better user experience on a website, a treasure trove of information, or a little mindless playtime, as long as what you offer links back to the brand mission, it adds value and contributes to the community.  And that’s helpful because a confident brand, like confident people, attracts others to its cause.

Instead of worrying about things like the changing media environment, losing control of the brand or the cost of sitting on the sidelines, brands should enter the world of social media confidently and generously — offering their unique talents openly and willingly.

In these crazy times, what’s more attractive than a little generosity?

By Kim Noles, EVP/Management Director, Element 79

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I’ve read and heard hundreds of definitions of brands over the years and while many of them are compelling in one way or another, most of them get bogged down in intellectualism.  To me, the definition is simple: brands are opinions.  

Of course, thinking of your brand as a collective opinion of your market reveals the classic notion of brand management as a rather hollow conceit.  Today’s socially-networked, highly-viral world enables the exchange of opinions with unprecedented reach and speed, thus the idea of ‘management’ overpromises; a more precise word would be ‘advocacy.’

How You Feel About a Brand = The Brand

How You Feel About a Brand = The Brand

Further, the Web 2.0 revolution means we no longer control every brand conversation.  To be truly effective today, we must move beyond the static concept of reporting structure management to a more nimble, balls-of-your-feet stance. Protecting and advancing consumers’ often quicksilver opinions demands we stay highly aware, consistently focused, and quickly responsive.

When I first started this blog, the convergence of digital and traditional advertising seemed critical to this changing industry.  Yet despite all the jawing and posturing, that is currently well underway; digital agencies are hiring traditional agency people and digital people are increasingly mainstreamed within traditional agencies.

Nevertheless, convergence remains the central issue, but it is increasingly the convergence of advertising and public relations.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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