brand loyalty

Brand Storytelling: Why It Still Matters

once-upon-a-brand“Storytellers, by the very act of telling, communicate a radical learning that changes lives and the world: telling stories is a universally accessible means through which people make meaning.” – Chris Cavanaugh

With almost two decades in the marketing business, I believe that storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to add life and character into your brand. Capturing and sharing stories gives your brand and identity (it’s also a great content marketing approach!) that takes your target audience on a journey where they can find a personal connection with your brand.

The goal of storytelling is to increase your consumer’s emotional involvement in your brand by being well integrated into their daily online and offline lives. Although the idea of brand storytelling isn’t a new one, the emergence of digital media, content marketing, and social media, has presented opportunities for brands to share their tales in a strategic way.

What is a brand story?

A brand story is far more than a narrative with branded content. Everything you do tells part of your brand story. From the colours you use and the staff you hire, to the texture of your business cards and what your tagline is, each element should convey a truth about your brand to your intended audience.

Your brand story should be authentic, creative, and inspirational, and go beyond what’s written on your website and in your brochure. I tell my clients all the time that their story is not only what you tell people, but also what they perceive you to be, based on the messages your brand sends.

Speak the truth with some personality.

Try to keep in mind honesty and transparency are important when crafting your brand story. Your story should be rooted in the reality of your brand, industry, products, and services, and should follow the three primary steps of brand building: consistency, persistence, and restraint. If your stories are inconsistent, they will complicate things for your customers, which will set them off in search of another brand that meets their expectations. Be creative and keep your brand promise in mind.

Remember – brand stories are not marketing materials, advertisements or sales pitches. Exciting brand stories, full of personality, will attract and retain potential customers!

Create characters your audience will identify with.

Emotional branding has great potential to drive revenue and keep customers coming back. Since brands are a matter of perception, how a person feels about your brand typically determines whether or not they will buy your product.

When you tell a story that represents human challenges and triumphs, you create an experience that resonates with potential and existing consumers. Creating well-crafted characters that your audience will like and root for will deepen the bond customers have with your brand, and as a result, increase brand loyalty.

Why should you tell your brand’s story?

Without a brand story you are just another commodity with no way to distinguish your brand or business. However, creating a brand story isn’t all about getting noticed – it’s about building something people can care about and buy into. Frame your brand’s weaknesses, dictate your brand’s strengths, and help customers think beyond the usefulness and functionality of your products or services.

If I can leave you with one final thought – a potential customer’s relationship with your brand most likely begins before they buy your products and/or services (those are only part of the story). Your brand story is the foundation of your brand, and a strategy for future growth.

Does your business have a brand story? Share your brand stories with me and tell me how they have helped you reach success.

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Impressions vs. Leads: Where Does The Real Value Lie?

1As the owner of a strategic marketing agency, clients often ask me how many leads were generated from a campaign. My answer is often the same; what was the objective of the campaign? Was the campaign launched to generate leads or impressions?

But wait; can you have a lead without ever having made an impression?

If you are a smaller, unknown brand then generating leads can be challenging, but which comes first, the chicken (lead) or the egg (impression)? Although your marketing strategy should determine the objectives of a campaign, if you don’t have one, consider that there is a huge value in an impression.

In the spirit of “any PR is good PR”, impressions measure the number of times your ad was seen, which we consider to be brand building (a part of any solid marketing strategy). If someone sees your ad and, although they may not be your target market, they mention your ad to someone else they know who is in your desired target market, then voila, you have a lead! Now you must ask yourself how many viable leads resulted from that single impression.

Of course at the end of the day, marketing must measure engagement in hard metrics (like clicks, and conversion rates), but it is equally important to remember quality is more important than quantity and the path to that lead is often not as direct as you might think!

The engagement cycle takes many forms, starting with an impression that may result in a lead. In your online campaigns, which do you feel came first – the chicken or the egg? Share your thoughts in our comment section below.

Netflix is tuned-in to brand loyalty

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If you’ve heard buzz surrounding the release of the much-anticipated second season of Orange is the New Black, it’s because fans of the popular show could not wait to know what was going to happen next in the series. But you won’t have seen too much advertising traction as other popular shows. This is because it appears that the world of television is changing with the habits and preferences of its viewers, and Netflix, the creator of shows such as Orange is the New Black and House of Cards, is listening.

Instead of spending their multi-million dollar budgets on pricey, large-scale adverts, Netflix pours its investment into the creation and production of quality, highly sought-after content, like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards. With amazing writing and serious star-power (we’re looking at you, Kevin Spacey), that can’t be found on TV, Netflix subscribers are left wanting more without being bombarded with promotional material they don’t have time for.

Perhaps it is decreasing levels of patience or increased wariness of B2C advertising, but television viewers do not want their viewing experience interrupted by advertising. With the introduction of TV recording systems, many people PVR their favourite episodes and fast forward through the commercials – ads are simply white noise. Netflix understands this pet peeve and brings episodes to its subscribers without advertisements or commercial breaks. A Netflix subscriber doesn’t feel marketed or promoted to, which helps build brand credibility and trust between the company and its customer base.

Are you a TV binge-watcher? Binging defined as watching more than one episode of a show in one sitting. The trend of “marathonning” episodes is becoming more common as today’s viewer demands instant gratification, immediacy and efficiency in their entertainment. Also, due to busy schedules, viewers want to be able to watch their favourite shows on their own schedule, which speaks to the large popularity of PVR. Viewers do not want to wait between episodes, and again, Netflix is listening: Netflix released Orange is the New Black season 2 in bulk – every episode available for subscribers at once, so they could watch at their own pace, without commercial interruption.

It seems as though Netflix is very tuned into their audience – listening to their viewing public and providing quality content that people are willing to pay for. Could all television be going this way soon? Do you subscribe to Netflix? How has it changed television viewing for you? I look forward to your thoughts below.

#WeAreOne: Overcoming Brand Fails

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A company’s brand is built up over years and even decades, where carefully crafted marketing, long-standing traditions and thorough PR tactics ensure that an audience receives the messaging a brand wants them to. Unfortunately, it can take only one misstep by a brand – an off-hand comment or the release of a tasteless ad – to undo years of brand loyalty. And it is not easy to get back.

We’ve seen the stock for Canadian clothing company Lululemon continue to suffer since November 2014, after founder and chairman, Chip Wilson, made excuses for the deteriorating quality of the Lululemon exercise pants by saying that “some women’s bodies just don’t work for the pants”. Only after a very public outcry and rapidly growing distaste for the brand, did Wilson step down from his position at the helm of the company. His eventual apology, however, was directed more to Lululemon staff who had to “manage the brunt of his actions” as he indicated he was “very sad about the repercussions of his actions” although, at no point did he retract his statement or apologize to his customer base.

The most recent brand fail in the media in recent weeks has repercussions that affect more than just the immediate company. Released audio clips of racist comments made by the LA Clippers franchise owner, Donald Sterling, shook the faith of thousands of fans of not only the Clippers, but of the NBA as a whole.

It could have been an extremely dire situation for the entire league, if very important decisions were not made quickly with upfront and sincere honesty. Fortunately, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver addressed the league, the owners and the public very quickly with a decision to issue a lifetime ban on Sterling, a $2.5 million dollar fine, as well as urging the Board of Governors to force the sale of the team. Meanwhile, marketing for the Clippers took quick action in releasing a simple message, #WeAreOne on their website, a message that was picked up by other teams and truly resonated with fans across the country.

While the personal brand of Donald Sterling may never recover, fans of the LA Clippers and the NBA as a whole seem to be re-establishing trust with both brands as they separate Sterling’s comments with the values of the organizations. This brand fail was remedied by swift action, accepting responsibility and engaging the fan base.

What are some of the brand fails you remember most? How did they attempt to make things right with the public? I look forward to your thoughts below.

Can You Spot the Difference?

branding2When branding your company, not only will you need to communicate how you are different from your competition, but what value(s) are placed on that difference.

Although your logo is essentially the face of your brand, there is a lot more to your brand than your logo.

Your brand is how the public is able to identify with you visually, but it needs to be supported by brand values. In other words, to make the sale, you’ll need to “convince” your consumer that your brand (product or service) is right for them – it needs to resonate with them.

In marketing, we make connections with our consumers by determining your brand values and making sure they accurately reflect your brand.

After you’ve established your brand values, you’ll need to create supportive messaging for your brand. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Put your best foot forward: Determine or develop a positioning strategy that makes your brand a leader in your category.
  2. Make the right colour choice: Establish colour as an icon that represents your brand exclusively. Think UPS.
  3. What they think matters: Talk to your stakeholders to be sure that their perception of your brand accurately reflects the reality of your brand. It is a good opportunity to validate your values as well.
  4. Sync your brand logo and culture:  Your brand logo should reflect your values and also help to differentiate you.

Branding is complex, but if you are able to build these four steps into a cohesive message, you will be well on your way to strengthening your brand and make it easier for you to sell your products or services.

Do you feel if you have a brand that accurately reflects your brand culture? How important do you think it is to have a cohesive brand?  Please share your experience in the comments below.

Brand Advocacy – Shares Drive Action 10 Times Higher Than Paid Impressions

Rarely do we think of tweeting, posting or pinning as drivers for social advocacy, but that’s exactly what they are. Every day people have millions of conversations about brands around the world, which result in increased brand recognition and sales.

In a recent study conducted by Ogilvy, they looked at 7 million media mentions, 22 brands and 8 feature films spanning four countries.   Their study suggests that social shares drive action at a rate as high as TEN TIMES that of paid impressions! In some cases, passion about a brand generated more advocacy than blockbuster movies!

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The research suggests that up to 80% of reach from marketing campaigns now comes from network amplification through advocacy. This means brands that can’t generate substantial advocacy will simply pay more to market less efficiently than those who make advocacy a brand priority.

The study makes five recommendations to help brands build advocacy and amplify passion:

  1. To drive passionate advocacy, know and focus on your fan’s true advocacy
  2. Identify and use your brand’s differentiated advocacy drivers
  3. For global relevance, emphasize product features
  4. Move beyond the blunt metric of “sentiment” to tracking advocacy levels
  5. Encourage and enable advocacy everywhere

For full details go to: http://www.slideshare.net/socialogilvy/socialogilvy-advocacy-studyjuly2013-1

I hope you have enjoyed this insightful presentation about how advocacy mentions help brands significantly amplify their marketing.

I am always interested in hearing from you. Did you enjoy this study? What is your take away? Will the results of this study influence your strategic marketing? If so, how?  Let me know in the comments below.