Archive for the ‘Content Marketing’ Tag

Unbrand to stand out in the market

For organizations hoping to grow, the mantra is often: faster, better, cheaper. But is this an effective way to build and sustain a brand in an age of consumer skepticism, marketing noise, economic uncertainty and declining product differentiation?

Studies show that as consumers move online, buying decisions increasingly hinge on factors such as social proof, honesty and regular engagement. Firms that fail to pivot their marketing strategy to address these trends increasingly lack integrity and purpose in the eyes of consumers and put themselves at risk of becoming targets of fickle, social-media-enabled customers and activists (see: J.P. Morgan’s #AskJPM campaign).

That’s why some companies are embracing what I call “unbranding” to maximize brand equity and minimize risk. While traditional branding appeals to the left side of the brain — faster, better, cheaper — unbranding appeals to the right side: trust, aspiration, purpose.

  • Trust is is achieved by building credibility through transparency (see: Costco).
  • Aspiration is achieved by developing a brand that aligns with who the customer wants to be (see: Coach).
  • Purpose is achieved by articulating a clear set of values that permeates the entire customer experience (see: Apple).

McDonald’s Corp. is perhaps the most successful unbrander to date. Spurred by customer research and in response to socio-cultural developments, they launched “Our Food. Your Questions.” — a digital hub where McDonald’s employees, suppliers and nutrition experts answer questions from curious consumers and dispel myths that have long plagued the global fast-food giant. Here is a sampling from the site:

Q Is your meat made of cardboard?
A “Cardboard is for moving boxes, meat is for eating.”

Q Did McDonald’s hold a competition to make an edible burger out of worms?
A “We’ve never held such a competition.”

Q Is your beef processed using ‘pink slime’ or ammonia?
A “No.”

Q Why is the food at McDonald’s so cheap?
A “Buying power.”

Q Is your food tasty?
A “Is the Earth round?”

This program is not about bragging, preaching or evading. Rather it’s about dialogue, humility and openness. For McDonald’s, this represents a paradigm shift in how the company builds its brand and reinforces its core message of quality.

“Today, brands need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and challenge convention,” says Antoinette Benoit, senior vice president, national marketing, McDonald’s Canada. “It’s important for us to have an ongoing and transparent two-way conversation with our customers in order to make a meaningful and long-lasting connection with them. This not only enables us to tell our story but also to evolve our brand based on what’s important to our customers.”

This unbranding strategy has contributed to improving the overall perception of McDonald’s. The idea came out of the Canadian wing of the company, but benefited from further development by McDonald’s France and McDonald’s U.K., both of which were able to overcome business and public relations challenges and grow revenues. The campaign has now been adopted in Australia, New Zealand, the United States and parts of Latin America.

Behind the success of this unbranding strategy was an up-to-date understanding of consumer needs, a return to focusing on historical core values (“quality” in the case of McDonald’s) and courage on the part of management to follow though on the program’s requirement for honesty, transparency and directness. Moving forward, McDonald’s will build on the strategy’s success by incorporating these learnings across the entire customer and partner experience through new training, advertising and more.

How can you make unbranding work for your business?

  1. Understand who you are as company. This should be based on your institutional values, history and how you are perceived within the marketplace.
  2. Identify your customer’s needs. This should be accomplished through both traditional and new marketing-research techniques.
  3. Create a vision or ethos for your company. This should encapsulate who you want to be and how you want to be perceived as an organization.
  4. Select the appropriate communications methods. Understanding how to articulate your message is as important as knowing what your message is.
  5. Unify your message across all customer touch points. Consistency is key in articulating a message that will both resonate and change perception.

For more information on our services and work, please visit the Quanta Consulting Inc. web site.

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Dos and don’ts of content marketing

It has never been more difficult to connect brands with customers. One of the best ways to break through the clutter and add value is through content marketing.  Content marketing (CM) is the creation and sharing of relevant and unique content to attract consumers, promote engagement and build brands. Billions of dollars are being spent every year on content marketing.  Are companies getting adequate returns?  If not, what must they do to get their programs right?

These days, consumers are shutting off the traditional world of sales and marketing, and shunning much of the digital variety. For example, their PVRs enable them to skip television advertising; they often ignore magazine and newspaper advertising and; email filters and online surfing habits allows them to avoid banner ads and pop-ups.   Sales reps that don’t add unique insights are being shunned.

Ron Tite, CEO of content marketing agency The Tite Group says, “Consumers are skipping advertising that interrupts or gets in the way. You know what they’re not skipping?  Great content.  If it’s worth watching, they’ll watch it.  And they don’t care if a brand paid for it, either.”

Simply put, CM is the art (and increasingly science) of communicating regularly with your customers and prospects without overtly selling them.  According to The Content Marketing Institute (CMI), 91% of B2B Marketers and 86% of B2C marketers already use CM in their marketing mix.  The premise is simple: firms that provide interesting and helpful content will deliver more value and a better brand experience, thereby generating higher awareness and purchase intent as well as stimulating word of mouth advertising and community building.

Firms are flocking to CM for many reasons.  For one thing, it works.  Julie Fleischer, Kraft’s Director of CRM Content Strategy & Integration says, “The ROI on our content marketing work is among the highest of all our marketing efforts.” Secondly, CM is meeting the needs of today’s demanding customers. Google research finds that consumers require twice as many sources of information before making a decision today than they did just  a couple of years ago. Roper Public Affairs, a research firm, found that 80 percent of business decision makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus an advertisement, while 60 percent say that company content helps them make better product decisions.

Some companies are using CM in powerful ways that deliver strong financial returns.  For example:

McDonald’s – Created an online Q&A site that has fielded over 10,000 questions (including all the tough ones), successfully educating consumers and delivering key corporate messages.

Open Text – Built a personalized new customer onboarding site offering a variety of assets and content to welcome new clients and provide upsell, cross-sell opportunities. Over 1,700 new contacts were identified along with 31 new opportunities worth $1.8M.

Xerox – Developed a premium magazine (in partnership with Forbes magazine) targeted at top 30 accounts, yielding $1.3B in new pipeline opportunities.

These success stories, however, are the exception and not the rule.  A CMI survey of 1,400 companies found that only 36% of respondents considered their CM initiatives effective.  According to Tite, “To be blunt, a lot of brands are just doing it incorrectly.  A content approach isn’t a campaign or quick hit viral video.  It’s something you do every day.  Marketing departments aren’t typically built to support that type of commitment.”

What separates the leaders from the also-rans?  The leaders really understand their client’s preferences, develop the right capabilities and track the right metrics.  To be world-class, content marketers should heed these Dos and Don’ts:

Dos

  • Focus on the objective – CM should be about inciting readers or viewers into doing something desirable like purchasing a product or requesting a quote.
  • Have a systematic process – Organizations should cultivate, track and engage customers through their CM journey. To drive efficiency, marketers need to ensure they are using and measuring the right metrics like leads by content, on page conversions and share ratio by content.
  • Maximize SEO – To maximize CM’s impact, companies should periodically refine their search engine optimization programs including keyword choice and site design.
  • Stress quality – Poorly crafted and executed content can detract from your CM program and brand image. CM benefits from an iterative approach that regularly explores customer preferences and tests out new creative executions.

Don’ts

  • Choose the technology first – Technology is an enabler not a strategy.  Get the right structure, people, and value proposition in place before choosing any CM tools.
  • Under-invest – Producing quality requires the right people and resources, as well as a creative license.  CM capabilities need to be nurtured for long-term success.
  • Ignore organizational implications – Leveraging CM requires the buy-in and collaboration of many parts of the company to unlock key knowledge.

For more information on our services and work, please visit the Quanta Consulting Inc. web site.