Drew McLellan’s a 25+ year marketing agency veteran who lives for creating “a ha” moments for his clients, clients’ customers, peers and audiences across the land. Sadly, for his daughter, he attempts to do the same thing at home.
Over the years, Drew has lent his expertise to clients like Nabisco, IAMS pet foods, Kraft Foods, Meredith Publishing, Make-A-Wish, and others.
Drew is also one of the world’s top marketing and branding bloggers.
Recently he has appeared in the New York Times, Entrepreneur Magazine, Business Week and Fortune’s Small Business. The Wall Street Journal calls him one of 10 bloggers that every entrepreneur should read.
Many people, myself included, believe in the power of a strong brand. Brand positioning has influenced buying decisions for years and a company with a strong sense of their own brand and a commitment to authentically walking out that brand is at an advantage over their competitors.
In the past, a great brand could significantly influence if not determine the absolute value of a product or service.
But, is that marketing truth evolving?
I've just finished reading the book Absolute Value, What Really Influences Customers in the Age of Nearly Perfect Information* by Itamar Simonson and Emanuel Rosen and it digs into this issue. The book offers many examples of how consumers have viewed and evaluated brands in the past and how they are coming to interact and judge them today. When you see the trends spelled out, in example after example, it's pretty eye opening.
To kick things off - the authors list 5 widely held beliefs and suggest that they are all becoming less true today.
The authors assert that most brands are losing their role as a definer of quality and that a consumer's past satisfaction is not as anchoring as it used to be. They also contend that because of the abundance of rational information that is so readily available to all of us, our methods of evaluating products and services has changed dramatically.
We really don't shop/buy the way we used to. Let's say you need to buy a car. Back in the day, you either went to a dealer based on your brand preference or you might have reacted to a TV spot or your neighbor's experience.
But today, what would you do? You would look online and read the reviews. You'd look at safety reports. You'd then go to a site and could review exactly what the dealer paid for any car you were interested in. Finally, armed with print outs and a price you knew was 3% over dealer invoice, you'd head to the dealership.
Suddenly, you have access to all kinds of data that wasn't readily available a decade ago and much of that data is ranking, grading and critiquing the item in question.
Given those two choices - a fuzzy brand preference or hundreds/thousands of reviews from other people - which do you think will influence you more today?
If you're like most other people, you'll trust the masses more than your own perception or previous experiences, unless you're already a brand zealot.
That's where the problem comes in for marketers. In this new marketplace, there's a voice that is overshadowing theirs. And it's not just word of mouth. It's word of mouth, amplified. Many voices and they're so much easier to find/listen to. And it turns out, their collective wisdom and experience is quite compelling.
This book is a thought provoking read. (Buy a copy of the book**) It will make the marketer in you tilt your head and really wonder about the effectiveness of your efforts. It will make the consumer in you examine your own purchasing patterns and identify some of your biggest influencers.
But whichever hat you're wearing - it will force you to look at our world and your work in marketing a little differently. Just like your consumers are doing.
*I received a copy of this book from Emanuel Rosen but I really did read it and I really liked it and found it thought provoking. You'd be amazed at the number of books I receive that I don't really like... and therefore, don't mention to you.
**Amazon affiliate link
Content marketing. It seems like everyone's talking about it. But what exactly is it and what can it do for your business? Odds are, if you're doing any marketing at all - you're at least accidentally dabbling in content marketing.
But, should you be a content marketer? Let's look.
First - it goes by many names. Some people call it custom publishing or branded content. Other people slap the label of social or digital marketing on. And all of those names are accurate.
Content marketing is a broad term for any marketing technique that creates and distributes valuable, helpful and relevant information that demonstrates that you know your stuff. These tactics draw the attention of people who are already your customers or could be your customers and they consume, share, and value the content.
The ultimate goal of content marketing is to create a sense of trust and comfort that will lead to someone making an initial purchase, making an additional purchase or referring you to someone who's ready to make a purchase.
The way you build that trust can differ, however. Let's look at four of the main goals of content marketing and the types of content marketing tactics you can employ to accomplish each.
If you want to entertain your audience, you might:
Make a branded video
If you'd like to inspire your audience, you might:
If you would like to educate your audience, you could:
In you need to convince your audience, you could:
This list is neither exhaustive nor is it exclusive. A speech can do more than inspire, it can also educate or entertain. A webinar can do more than convince - it can educate or inspire. The subject matter, the delivery style and the intent will dictate the outcome of your efforts. And hopefully, if you produce quality content - it will accomplish more than one of the goals.
But this isn't something you should just jump into. Like any marketing strategy - content marketing requires forethought and planning, especially because producing a blog or podcast or even putting on a contest requires a significant amount of time and effort. You don't want to exert that level of effort and not maximize your gain.
The effort and planning are well worth it. Content marketing allows a business to connect with a prospect long before they're ready to buy. It gives them a sense of your product, service and expertise. It also lets them "sample" you and see if you're a good fit. Good content marketing tools communicate not only your expertise but it also gives them a very good sense of your brand's personality. It will attract the best customers for you and, as odd as it sounds, repel those customers who wouldn't be a good fit long term.
There are a lot of benefits packed into this marketing strategy. Every business can find a content marketing tactic that is the perfect fit for your industry. It takes some time and effort - but the up sides are hard to ignore.
In marketing, we're always being asked to look into the future and foresee what's coming down the road. We get plenty of help as the New Year rolls in, as the predictions freely flow.
One of the most comprehensive looks at the coming year is JWT's Trend Report. Their report is the culmination quantitative, qualitative and desk research throughout the year. They identify the top ten trends that they believe will significantly impact the coming year and explore how these trends will show up and impact our day to day lives. It won't surprise you that technology finds itself in the center of most of the trends - interestingly, in some cases as we embrace it and in others, as we try to escape it.
Let's take a look at the ten trends and how we're already seeing signs of them in our world.
Immersive Experiences: This trend has significant marketing impact. It's all about how consumers don't want to passively watch - they want to actually be immersed in their entertainment, narratives and brand experiences.
Early signs: In 2013, visitors to the Museum of Modern Art could control the rain in a special exhibit and Nike launched their "The Art of Science of Feeling" in New York City, using sensory technology to simulate barefoot running on various surfaces to promote the Nike Free Hyperfeel shoe.
Do You Speak Visual: We're shifting to a visual vocabulary that relies on photos, video snippets and other imagery, chipping away at the need for text. Apps like Snapchat and Pinterest are making photos the medium of choice.
Early signs: Taco Bell has been sending disappearing, 10-second coupons and new product teasers to consumers using Snapchat and Sony created a program called "Pin it To Give It" that donated a dollar to the Michael Phelps Foundation every time a Pinterest user re-pinned from the board.
Proudly Imperfect: Imperfection in its messy, ugly and flawed glory-is taking center stage in a world that's become neatly polished and curated. Imperfections provide an unfiltered, very human version of reality that reflects all the diversity that's seen in everyday life.
Early signs: For a while, everyone was focused on putting their best photo shopped foot forward in their profile photos and status updates. Recently ugly selfies have become a counter to the glamorous self-portraits that proliferate on social media. Trending today are selfies that get tagged with #badhairmondays or #nomakeup moments.
The End of Anonymity: Thanks to the barrage of new technologies and ever increasing efforts to collect personal data, it's practically impossible to remain unobserved and untracked. As anonymity becomes more elusive, consumers will pushback and there may be a growing paranoia around technologies and services that affect privacy.
Early signs: NEC IT solutions developed a facial recognition system and are selling it to retailers to help salespeople recognize VIP customers and on the flip side, counter-surveillance fashion and accessories are on the upswing for those who don't want their data collected; OFF Pocket designed by technologist Adam Harvey blocks GPS, wi-fi or cellular signals from reaching a mobile phone.
Raging Against the Machine: As we move further into the digital age, we're starting to both fear and resent technology, worrying about what we've lost as we chase this unprecedented speed of change. 65% of American adults believe that technology is taking over our lives.
Early signs: In Amsterdam, Kit Kat launched wi-fi free zones for people to "have a break." Simple "analog" toys like wooden puzzles, simple costumes and blocks are flying off the shelf as adults hunger to give their kids a taste of a non-tablet, non-tech life.
Remixing Tradition: No one can say that the world isn't changing. Our social norms have been dramatically altered and it's not about to stop now. With this shift comes a new blending of cherished traditions with some very interesting twists that reflect this new world.
Early signs: Pope Francis, who is proving to be far more progressive than his predecessors is shaking up some Catholic traditions and is the first Pope to embrace Twitter. Another sacred icon, funerals, is now being live-streamed so that those far away can join in the event.
Mobile Opens Doors: Especially in emerging markets and poverty stricken areas, mobile devices are becoming a gateway to new business tools, education, and new markets.
Early signs: iCow is a mobile application that helps cattle farmers in Kenya optimize milk production and provides tips to keep the animals healthy. The app also keeps track of milk production, breeding and gestation.
Telepathic Technology: As brain-computer interfaces become more sophisticated and accurate, we are getting closer and closer to actually being able to read someone's mind and mood. This technology can then instantly create custom responses, based on the data input.
Early signs: In Australia, as part of an effort to raise awareness about driving a car was designed that uses neuron-technology to make it go when drivers are paying attention and slow when they're not. In a joint project, the Japanese and US Armies are attempting to develop a helmet that would read brainwaves and eventually could allow soldiers to transmit code words to each other just through the power of their minds.
Mindful Living: It should come as no surprise to us that the bombardment of technology upon our daily lives is causing both a huge surge in usage and an almost counter culture shunning of it. People are hungry to live in a more conscious way, shutting out distractions and focusing on the moment.
Early signs: Google holds bimonthly silent "mindful lunches" that allow their employees to commune with themselves and just be. Along the same lines, there's a big backlash against the FOMO (fear of missing out) movement, which drives people to multitask and feel stressed because they can never keep up. The JOMO (joy of missing out) crowd encourages people to be grateful that they can and do shut down their technology and the noise that comes with it.
The Age of Impatience: Ironically, the last of the ten trends is all about how the constant on-demand economy and information flow has accelerated consumers' expectation for speed and ever-availability. This combination of impatience and impulsiveness just keeps intensifying.
Early signs: This is one of the more mature trends, so it feels pretty mainstream. Services like Netflix have turned us into binge watchers - often consuming an entire season's worth of shows in a single weekend. In the same vein, Amazon's same or next day delivery has made the more typical 3-5 days delivery seem out of touch and unrealistic.
These are trends we can't ignore. They're already influencing our world and it's just begun.
I like to pass along people, ideas and events I think you'll find valuable.
My friend, Steve Farber, is a world-renowned leadership expert. He consults with global 100 brands. His book The Radical LEAP has been named one of the 100 best business books of all time and if you've been reading this blog for a while - you know that in my opinion, it's one of the three most brilliant business books I've ever read.
To announce the Extreme Leadership Summit, coming April 11-13 in Chicago, Steve is offering an MP3 audio download of his popular program, Extreme Leadership: How to Put More Love, Energy, Audacity, and Proof into Your Work. The DVD of this 2-hour speech sells for $90, but Steve is offering this audio to my friends for free.
Yeah, he's a pretty cool guy. I'm confident you'll resonate with Steve's call to take a LEAP in your life at work and at home - this is, to practice Extreme Leadership through Love, Energy, Audacity and Proof.
You'll learn how to:
Not only is Steve's program packed with great content, his delivery is entertaining, provocative, and funny.
Click here and opt-in to receive the MP3 file. You'll find Steve great company on your commute, your next flight, or during your treadmill tribulations.
Steve delivers high value in everything he does, so I'm confident this is a relationship you'll appreciate and cultivate.
Consider it a holiday gift from Steve and me to you. To your success in 2014!
I have the opportunity to review many business plans and one thing that always causes me some concern is that every business owner believes that they can generate a significant amount of marketing exposure by getting media coverage.
They pepper it throughout their plan because to them, it feels free and easy to get.
I hate to tell you, but media coverage is not a given.
My concern comes from how unrealistic business owners, non profit directors and business leaders are about the type and amount of media coverage they're going to be able to garner.
Here's the reality check most need:
Let's dig into each of those reality checks to see if we can identity some best practices that will increase your chances of getting the coverage you want.
It has to actually be newsworthy: Earning media coverage can be daunting. Journalists have a finite amount of space/time and they have to decide which stories are going to be of value to their audience.
As you consider pitching a story, ask yourself - how would the reporter sell this story to his editor? What benefit or value would the reporter's audience get? What could make this story so compelling that someone would share it with someone else who hadn't seen the news coverage?
If these questions have you stumped, odds are the story isn't newsworthy and you shouldn't risk damaging your credibility by pitching it.
You have 3 seconds to peak their interest: Reporters and editors get buried in pitch phone calls, emails, faxes and snail mail releases. They can't possibly read all of them thoroughly. They're going to read the headline and scan the release, so you need to write it with that in mind.
Your headline will make or break you. If it doesn't grab the editor's attention, you're headed for the "thanks but no" pile in a hurry. Make sure your headline makes them want to read more and tells them exactly why this is something their audience needs to know about.
Don't let your laziness or ignorance cost you coverage: Because of my blog, I get pitches from PR pros and business owners every day. I'm often embarrassed by their efforts. They clearly got my contact information from some list - but have no idea what I write about.
Before you hit send be sure you're sending it to the right reporter and the right publication. Take the time to review the last few issues/shows and get to know the kind of content they routinely cover. Don't embarrass yourself or irritate the reporter by waving your laziness under their nose.
Say please and thank you: Never forget the importance of having decent manners. Be helpful, be available and be grateful if they tell your story.
More important than just simple good manners - don't be a pain. Don't call them incessantly to see if they got your release or if they're going to use it. Don't get ticked when they tell you "thanks but not this time" or it will be the last time. And if you really want to earn their appreciation and trust - you might give them a story or two that don't involve you or your clients.
Earning media coverage takes some time, some preparation and some forethought. But most of all - it requires you take an objective look at your "news" and only pitch it when it's worth pitching.