Context, Content and Caring

A recent blog post by Brian Solis calls out a systemic issue we are faced with every day as marketers – the issue of understanding consumers. Brian points to a serious lack of understanding that brands have for the context in which their consumers live.

You see folks, there once was a time when businesses believed that they were in business because they had a product – not necessarily because there was a market for this product. And, there once was a time, only shortly after businesses believed their product was enough, that marketing was called upon to cater to the people who consumed. But, what catering to the consumer meant – at least at that time – was to put pretty pictures and nifty words on a poster and hope it would make people want the product.

The issue with this approach was that brands would broadcast to their consumers all the things they thought their consumers wanted to see and hear.

Now, with the advent of social media platforms and quick adoption rates, marketers, businesses and brands rejoice. There is a direct view to the consumer and more of what “we think they want”. This plethora of information has been taken in and more than one brand is taking the opportunity to talk to their consumer. But that’s the problem, isnt’t it? The dialogue isn’t really dialogue.

I recently gave a presentation at Social Media Masters in Toronto. The premise of my presentation was to share that brands must become human again. We, as marketers and business owners, must allow brands to become human again. Taking notice of the social media chatter is only one part… It empowers us to better understand the context in which our consumers live, but it also gives us the opportunity to see the type of content that genuinely engages them. It is this engagement that gets us one step closer to real dialogue. And real dialogue is the beginning of creating human brands.

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Emotional marketing: brand interactions

Over the past few days, I’ve been working on a presentation I’ll be sharing with some folks here in Toronto at the upcoming Social Media Masters event. My focus: emotional marketing. We know that people seek to repeat activities that will make them feel positive emotions (happiness, calm, joy).

Why is this important to marketers today? Because, quite frankly, we’re not always great at creating experiences that generate positive emotions. Let’s face it, the last time you bought toothpaste, how special did you feel? Better yet, did you feel anything?

You want to be memorable, to make someone feel something for your brand. So memorable, in fact, that your consumer should want a “second date”. There are three potential outcomes for any interaction between your brand and your consumer:

  1. A neutral experience:

This is just general bad practice. Sure, you may be lucky enough to be in an industry like toothpaste where it’s a basic necessity but you’re still on a slippery slope. From a consumer’s perspective, a neutral experience results in an I-could-take-it-or-leave-it state of mind. These experiences are not too difficult to put together – the basic premise: don’t screw up and have a reasonable or acceptable product or service.

If all you want to do is compete on price, then knock yourself out!

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POP psychology of Social Sampling

Recently, I was offered a box of #popchips from a twitter friend of mine who – apparently – was considered a key Toronto influencer according to Klout. At first I actually thought it was a hoax, but much to my surprise I received the box of perfectly “popped” chips and they were, as promised, quite delicious.

Now, I’m not writing this post to describe or define whether or not popchips were a good snack (though they were). No; rather, I’m writing to talk about how the popchips brand easily and smartly tapped into the psychology of status – and it worked!

As I’ve previously mentioned: the psychology of status – a concept originally coined by Herbert Hyman in 1942 – explains that people use groups of reference to determine their rank in status, as well as to determine a point of reference for where they would like to see their status go.

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Courage and minimalism: A new view to focus on your target

Courage. Now, there’s a word not often used in marketing – though often used in business. We call leaders courageous when they make unpopular decisions, usually internally, that change process significantly enough to create a turnaround. Perhaps to drive costs down, perhaps to drive morale up – but always to make a significant change. In marketing, in my humble opinion, courage is the ability to very clearly identify, select and stick with a target audience.

I believe those (marketers) who are most courageous are the ones who dare to dabble in the psychology of status – a concept first introduced by Herbert Hyman (1918-1985) in 1942. The premise of the psychology of status is that individuals use groups of reference to evaluate aspects of their lives – both positively and negatively.

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Thinking Consumerism has Been Keeping Me Up

Recently, the topic of consumerism has been keeping me up…  When we think about consumerism, we think of all the bad connotations. We think about the over-indulgences which led to the recent economic crises; and some of us may even think about how those driven by greed convert their indulgences into situations like the BP oil spill. 

Last month I attended Rogers TabLife TO – a conference focused on the advent of tablets (iPad, Samsung Galaxy, Dell Streak, PlayBook). What struck me wasn’t the technology – in fact, it’s expected that the technology should overshadow anything we are currently used to – i.e. the laptop. No, what struck me was WHY these devices are gaining in popularity.

 The speaker line up was brilliant, and the majority spoke about how tablets were changing: media, newspapers, philanthropy and retail (among other things). In the end, what stuck with me was the notion that these devices are tools for a new kind of consumerism.

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In Love with Loyalty?

Everything we do – as people, as companies – is about creating relationships, engaging the audience, shaping and creating true loyalty. We’ve made it our business, at least in buzz words, to focus on the emotional bonds between humans and brands. And, don’t fool yourself those emotional bonds are very real. In fact, I give you Dove.

So, if these emotional bonds are real, then why do so many loyalty programs lack a balance in considering rational decisions that humans make, as well as those emotional triggers which are by far much stronger, much more engaging, and can be the foundation of true loyalty. In the book “Switch” (by Chip & Dan Heath), the Heath brothers explain to us that the rational side of our brain is comparable to a rider and the emotional side, to an elephant. Think about that for a moment: if the rider knows where he is going, then he can easily guide the elephant there, right? But, what if the elephant decides he’d much rather get that jar of peanuts; you know the one that is 12 miles off course. Who wins – rider or elephant?

So, what does this have to do with loyalty? In early indications of an upcoming Maritz Canada Inc. research*, over half of the respondents say that the company brand influences their decision to join the loyalty program in the first place and also agree that the loyalty program becomes an important part of their relationship with the brand. Not only that, but they also say that they actually modify their shopping habits based on where they can earn loyalty points.

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