Archive for August, 2010

Defining Your Corporate Identity

Your corporate identity impacts all aspects of your business and plays a vital role in your customer’s overall experience with your organization. Having a strong consistent identity throughout your communication and marketing efforts is the first step to building your organization and a solid image. Many corporations accomplish this with the help of outside branding and corporate identity consultants, or specialists. These specialists ensure that the company is acting in a way which is consistent with its corporate identity, keeping the company’s position in the market strong.

A brand or corporate identity, serves to create associations and expectations among products made by a producer. A brand often includes an explicit logo design, font and typography structure, color schemes and symbols which can be used across all marketing materials. This corporate identity system shows the difference between the conceptual and technical borders of a sign as the identity, and an organized system of signs and visual structures. The creation of an identity program is beyond the design of simple signs. Corporate identity involves a company’s logo and design strategy, and is merely a component of an overall brand strategy. When all of these components come together, a memorable brand is created. If you have ever purchased something after seeing a commercial for it on television or after seeing a print ad for the product, than you already know just how effective this strategy can be.

Brand identity is a basic requirement for any company, product or service to launch itself into the branding roadmap. Every company should have a basic but well-researched brand portfolio that describes what the brand is and what it stands for. This model is based on the idea that brand identity is managed. Positive brand image that ensures a competitive advantage is build up when conveying brand identity to consumers efficiently and employing particular strategies of positioning. This identity is the most outward expression of the brand. It serves to distinguish your brand from its rivals while affirming market position.

Who do you want to be as a corporation. What values do you want your corporation to adopt and promote. When people think of your corporation, what would you like their first thoughts to be. When you are developing your corporate identity, these are some of the initial things that you should be thinking about. Your competition is working hard to develop their own unique branding and marketing strategy, which is why it only makes sense to work twice as hard to develop yours.

Four Axioms Of Brand Recovery In A New Economy

Though the economy is now hinting at improved conditions ahead, consensus remains that the recession’s effects on consumer spending habits will endure beyond the recovery. Much like the Great Depression changed the spending habits of a generation, the current recession has left consumers reaching past the lure of luxury in search of value-driven purchases. While this has been a boon to mass and value-priced retailers such as Target and Amazon, it has left many premium brands swooning.

To compete in this new environment, many marketers are finding themselves at square one, revisiting the basic tenets of connecting with consumers. Along with the economic shift, we have also seen a shift in the media landscape and audience media-consumption habits. So the fundamentals of how marketers approach and engage consumers must change as well. Here are a few marketing axioms and a look at how various brands are successfully approaching consumers in the new economic environment.

Connect on a personal level
Create opportunities to connect with consumers on a personal level. Find out what they think, what they dream and what they want. This affords you insight into their perspectives, motivations and needs. In turn, you can leverage this knowledge to benefit your brand as you provide real answers to the needs of your consumers.

Asus and Intel did this with the development of WePC.com. The two partnered with FM Publishing to create a site where users can share their ideas for computer features and uses, thereby giving the technology producers acute insights into consumer motivations. The crowdsourcing experiment has a yield of over 2,138 ideas submitted, 13,566 votes received and 3,944 “dream PCs” described.

This past year, the marketers at Lufthansa Airlines devised a method of connecting travelers with friends and family via MySkyStatus.com. Lufthansa established the site as a social utility to keep travelers connected with their social networks while flying. I had the pleasure of working on this campaign while at Profero NY (Lufthansa’s digital agency) and found that in the course of keeping users connected with each other, the airline successfully kept them connected with their brand.

This year, American Express put a social spin on crowdsourcing with its “Members Project” campaign. Leveraging social-media tools, American Express allocated a portion of its philanthropic spending and energy toward the causes advocated by voters at its site. Not only has the campaign been effective in generating a great deal of media exposure for the brand, but it also provides the team at American Express extensive insight into the values and motivations of its target consumers. This is precisely the type of intelligence brands need to facilitate connections with consumers.

Wear your heart on your sleeve
Develop a set of core values and create opportunities to communicate those values to your consumer audience. The more honest and revealing you are in communicating these values, the greater your brand’s potential to live in the heart of consumers as more than just a name.

As a corollary, join a cause that aligns your brand with a social initiative that reflects its core values. Social-cause marketing is an effective means of communicating that your organization shares a common set of values with your target consumer. Also, create opportunities for your consumers to get involved alongside your brand (either through sponsored events or purchase options that support your given cause financially through a portion of the proceeds).

Yoplait employs this strategy with its “Save to Save Lives,” where it donates $.10 in support of breast cancer research for every lid sent in by consumers (up to $1.5 million) with a guaranteed minimum of $500,000. The project successfully affiliates the brand with an issue that is of great importance to its largely female consumer base.

This year, Puma (in partnership with Fuse Project) is exhibiting this principle with the brand’s “Clever Little Bag” project. In attempt to reduce waste for the sake of sustainability, Puma has re-thought the consumer-packaging experience and reinvented the shoe box into something more eco-friendly. This initiative reaches beyond immediate commercial goals to satisfy larger social initiatives. Clever Little Bag is part of Puma’s corporate sustainability program that intends to cut its water, energy and diesel consumption by more than 60%.

When your brand stands for social progress, consumers will stand with your brand.

Constantly innovate
Innovation is the hallmark of a premium brand. Constant development and improvement distinguishes market leaders from their competitors. The economic performance of brands such as Apple, which has maintained a sales growth rate of 89% over the last three years, demonstrates that consumers recognize this commitment to excellence.

This year, Apple continued its legacy of innovation with the introduction of the iPad. At product launch, Gap was among the first set of marketers to establish a presence on the new device with its “1969 Stream” app. Gap partnered with AKQA to create a multimedia experience full of robust content intended to showcase all that the new platform has to offer. As an early adopter, Gap gained a competitive advantage as one of the few marketers with a presence on the iPad at launch.

This year, Domino’s Pizza communicated a sincere commitment to constant improvement with its “Pizza Turnaround” campaign, created by Crispin Porter & Bogusky. The campaign employed a viral documentary in tandem with a microsite and guerrilla-marketing tactics, all highlighting the company’s proactive response to long-standing criticism. It improved its organization. Its improved its product. And it improved dramatically. So far, the campaign seems to have resonated with consumers, as Domino’s celebrated $1 billion in online sales in February, just over a month after the campaign’s launch.

Remember the love
Probably the most important of steps, remember — or discover — what you love about your product. Remember what your consumers love about your product. And most importantly, remember what you love about your consumers.

ESPN employed this axiom when it teamed up with Wieden & Kennedy to produce the “One Game Changes Everything” campaign in support of the sports network’s FIFA World Cup coverage. The campaign led with a spot featuring a voice-over by U2’s Bono emphasizing the power of sport to unite men in the face of opposing politics, religion or other issues that divide humanity.

Another example of this principle at work is how BMW introduced its new “Efficient Dynamics” engineering, which the company touts as the linchpin for new innovations in its 2010 line. Instead of getting lost in science and tech speak, BMW simply states that “Joy is Future-proof,” reminding us that, beneath it all, it is the same car consumers have relied on for the ultimate driving experience for over 80 years.

Forrester: Why Most Marketers Should Forgo Foursquare

Marketers, hold off on Foursquare — for now. That’s the verdict of Forrester Research on location-based start-ups, which, despite their reputation as the hot new media, are still too small for major marketers. The research firm finds that these heavily-hyped apps currently make sense mainly for brands seeking male influencers.

In a study out today, Forrester finds that only 4% of U.S. online adults have ever used location-based mobile apps such as Foursquare, Gowalla and Loopt. Only 1% update these services more than once per week. What’s more, 84% of respondents said they are not familiar with such apps, leaving the vast majority of Americans online still in the dark about location-based apps, which have had the marketing world obsessing over them in recent months.

The report could also be a wake-up call for social media on mobile phones, especially when comparing the location services to the last social-media darling, Twitter. The micro-blogging service reports 35% of its 125 million registered users are in the U.S. and only a fraction of that number access Twitter via mobile. In April, Twitter said 37% of its usage comes via mobile clients. Apply that percentage to U.S. tweeters — we must extrapolate because the company does not break out U.S. users via mobile specifically — and the 16 million Americans using Twitter via mobile is about comparable to the location-apps audience in total.

Almost 80% of location-based service users are male. Close to 70% of them are between the ages of 19 and 35, and 70% have college degrees or higher. Forrester also found these location-app users to be influential (the report finds they’re 38% more likely to say friends and family ask their opinions before a purchase) and they are especially receptive to mobile coupons and offers. This set is up to 20% more likely to consult their phones before a purchase, and are far more likely to research products and services and read customer reviews.

This small audience is still attractive to some marketers. Forrester recommends that gaming, consumer electronics and sportswear marketers lead the way with testing these apps. Location apps have already proved they’re not only for male-oriented brands. PepsiCo, Starbucks, Oil of Olay, Bravo and, most recently, Campbell’s Soup have all launched campaigns with location apps.

Forrester analyst Melissa Parrish believes that male-oriented brands should forge the way and other marketers should hang back until these apps get bigger audiences. To date, Foursquare has more than 2 million users; Loopt 4 million and MyTown 2.5 million. Scale could come to the category if digital behemoths such as Facebook, Google and Twitter, which have already made moves toward location services, develop their own products.

by Kunur Patel,  July 26, 2010
AdAge

The Power Brand Identity

Have you ever purchased a product after seeing a commercial for it on television? Have you ever had a jingle from a commercial stuck in your head? Well, you have experienced the power of brand identity marketing firsthand. Brand identity is defined as the desired perception of a product or brand in the mind of the consumer, and advertising and marketing agencies work hard to achieve what their clients define as the correct perception of a particular product or brand.

Agencies begin with a product, defined as something that is produced to function and exists in reality, or simply the idea for a product, and brainstorm to come up with brand qualities. These are the feelings, expectations, thoughts, and associations generated by a product. For example, a kitchen cleaning product creates very different thoughts, feelings, and expectations than a bag of dog food. The kitchen cleaner makes one visualize a clean kitchen, while the dog food creates images of healthy, happy dogs.

Brands speak to the needs of the consumer or audience. If you have dry, damaged hair, you will probably search for a shampoo that is specially formulated for your hair type. But which one will you purchase? This is where the concept of brand recognition comes into play. If a product has been properly branded and marketed, then you will associate it with clean, hydrated, healthy hair. You may remember the commercial that you saw for the product, or the packaging may be aesthetically pleasing to you, or maybe the jingle for the product is still stuck in your head. Either way, you choose one product over all of the others on the shelf and put it in your cart, usually without even realizing why you have decided to do so.

Brand identity marketing strategies are geared towards the concept of the brand as a valuable asset. A brand, unlike a product, does not have physical attributes. This means that the physical attributes of the brand must be shaped in the mind of the consumer, sometimes even before they see the actual, tangible product. You may have a clear picture of what XYZ shampoo is, based on the commercial that you saw, before you actually see a bottle of it in person. Maybe you remember the images of the models in the commercial with healthy, bouncy hair, or maybe it was the image of the poor woman with frizzy, fried hair who had hair just like the models by the end of the commercial spot. Either way, XYZ shampoo is on its way home with you, thanks to the power of brand identity marketing.

Most Brands Still Irrelevant on Twitter

Attention brands: Twitter users aren’t talking to you or about you. In fact, they barely know you exist.

The most mentioned brands on Twitter tend to be there because they are part of constant daily conversation, not because of anything the brand is or isn't doing on Twitter.

That’s one of the conclusions of a six-month analysis of the service’s ubiquitous 140-character messages conducted by digital agency 360i and released today. Despite marketers’ embrace of the medium, brands are finding themselves on the outside of the conversation. Of the 90% of Twitter messages sent by real people — the other 10% come from businesses — only 12% ever mention a brand, and most of those mentions are of Twitter itself.

Further, only 1% of consumer tweets that mention a brand are part of an active conversation with that brand, meaning marketers are, for the most part, conducting one-way conversations — the opposite of the way consumers often use Twitter.

The most mentioned brands on Twitter tend to be there because they are part of a constant daily conversation, not because of anything the brand is or isn’t doing on Twitter. The most mentioned brands on Twitter are, in descending order, Twitter, Apple, Google, YouTube, Microsoft, Blackberry, Amazon, Facebook, Snuggie, eBay and Starbucks.

Embedded in the culture
Snuggie is the surprise brand on the list, but that appears to reflect the brand’s place in the culture, not its own Twitter activity. Official Snuggie profile @OriginalSnuggie has just 591 followers and @WeezerSnuggie, an account set up to promote the once-popular Weezer video, has just 693 followers and has been dormant since November.

After spending six months going over a statistically significant sample of 1,800 tweets, 360i Senior-VP Sarah Hofstetter was struck at just how mundane and personal they were. “They’re mostly doing what people mocked Twitter about in the first place, as in, what I had for lunch.”

The vast majority of real people’s tweets, 94%, are personal in nature. Most tweets, 85%, are original and not re-tweets of other messages. They’re also very often conversational: 43% of tweets begin with an “@” sign, meaning they’re directed at another user, not the sender’s followers at large.

While marketers such as Dell, Comcast, Ford and Starbucks have been, at times, clever participants on Twitter, the majority of marketers use it as a mini press-release service. Only 12% of messages from marketers are directed at individual Twitter users, meaning marketers still see it as a broadcast medium rather than a conversational one.

Showing up isn’t enough
“There is still a misperception that if brands show up, people will listen to them, kind of like Facebook a few years ago,” Ms. Hofstetter said. “Twitter can be used as a promotional RSS feed, but that’s not going to establish a relationship with anybody.”

The study was conducted before Twitter took any advertising, from October 2009 through March 2010. Twitter has since rolled out a series of ad units including promoted tweets and trends. Ms. Hofstetter said the ads are great to help boost things already popular on Twitter. “They are only going to work if they are relevant in the first place,” she said.

Twitter posts are intrinsically navel-gazing, conversational and personal, but they aren’t predominantly self-promotional. Depending on your circle of connections, it can certainly feel, as Wired’s Evan Ratliff noted, that “self-aggrandizement” is “standard fare” on Twitter. But the 360i study found only 2% of tweets were professional updates or career-related.

What do Twitter users talk about? Beyond the 43% of individuals’ tweets that are conversational, 24% are status updates, 12% are links to news or comment on current events, and 3% are seeking or giving advice.

The good news for brands is that when a consumer does mention them on Twitter, they’re usually not complaining about it. Only 7% of tweets mentioning brands indicated negative sentiment, 11% positive and an overwhelmingly 82% neutral.

by Michael Learmonth, July 27, 2010
AdAge  

Tradeshows are Expositions of Opportunities

Many businesses overlook the power of a tradeshow or even community business exposition for getting the word out about their goods or services. Depending on the anticipated crowd, these shows can deliver massive exposure both to potential business clients and the general public at large. Other types of shows are ideal for adding to the knowledge base a business has and learning about advancements in industry related fields.

Trade shows are devised in a number of different ways, with each offering their own brand of potential benefits for participants. Show types include:

  • Industry trade shows. These are devised for like businesses to get together to network, share ideas and even drum up some potential business. Typically, the general public isn’t invited to attend these shows, but the opportunity to learn and share ideas can be more than worth the price of admission. Plus, depending on the industry in question, media might be present at the show, which could result in some serious free advertisements.
  • Technical trade shows. These are designed for those in the technical fields. Also meant to include networking and educational sessions, having a booth at one of these shows can net potential clients and at least some industry exposure. Whether attending to show items or services, or for the benefits of attending learning sessions, these shows are valuable for many businesses.
  • Educational tradeshows. Not necessarily meant for selling a product, these shows are good to attend for those who want to learn more about what they do and get cutting edge ideas that might have an impact on a certain field.
  • Community business expositions. These are generally put on by local chambers of commerce. They are ideal for service and sales-based companies to get their names, goods and services out to the general public. The shows are generally highly advertised and are attended by potential clients, customers and other businesses. They’re ideal for getting the word out to many different types of people at a single time.

No matter what type of business you have, it’s very likely it would benefit from your attendance at trade shows. While not all shows are meant for businesses strictly to market themselves, most are ideal for doing so.

If you intend to bring your business and its wares to the general public at a tradeshow, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Display. You’ll want something attractive that quickly shows people who pass by your display what you do and who you are.
  • Focus. A good display is focused on one or two main ideas for pulling viewers in. The appearance should be clean, but flashy enough to catch attention. The attention, however, should be kept on your business’ strong suits.
  • Giveaway items. A good display will bring people in, but it’s the giveaways that bring them back to your business. Items should clearly display the company’s name, telephone number and at least a brief explanation of what the company does or sells if it’s not evident in the name.

Tradeshows are wonderful for businesses for a number of reasons. Whether they’re purely educational or meant to help a business get its name out there, a good tradeshow can be great for a business that needs to improve itself. Don’t miss out on the good opportunities that come your way.

13 Great Tips for Getting Emails into Your Customers Inbox

Legitimate email marketers still have to contend with spam filters. Consider the filters while you are designing and writing your email.

  1. Maintain a good balance of graphics to text in your HTML emails. Many experts recommend you try to maintain a balance of 60% text and 40% graphics.
  2. Never send an email that is one big graphic.
  3. In addition to the HTML version, always include a text only version. The filters reward those who take the little bit of extra time to create both versions.
  4. AVOID HYPE!! Ideally, you would avoid exclamation marks and ALL CAPS and in the subject line and the content or use in moderation.
  5. Do not use phrases that seem too good to be true. Yes, there are “once in a lifetime opportunities” but they don’t arrive in your Inbox.
  6. The filters don’t like “money back guarantees.”
  7. “Urgent!” It is not that urgent if the email ends up in the junk folder.
  8. Don’t claim you have made a “breakthrough.”
  9. Avoid using unusual fonts, all red type, flashing objects, and other assorted weirdness.
  10. Avoid very small fonts.
  11. Avoid excessive text about money. Of course, if your topic is money you have to talk about it but try to be economical.
  12. Configure a Sender Policy Framework (SPF) record in your Domain Name Service (DNS) records for your domain name (yourcompany.com).
  13. If you are getting too many spam complaints, then consider putting the unsubscribe link at the top of your email. Many times if people cannot find the unsubscribe button right away, they will default to pressing the complain button or spam button (found on email services provided by AOL, Hotmail, MSN, Yahoo and Google). It is much better to have people unsubscribe than to register an electronic complaint.

Dailey Marketing Group can help you with any of the issues you might be experiencing with your email blasts.  Dailey Marketing Group’s email system is a recognized white listed email system which allows us to provide our clients with the best way possible to get their message to the Inbox of their customers. Call us today to get started. 888.364.6584

Behavioral Economics Helping Marketers Better Understand Consumers

The next time you’re standing in the coffee aisle at the grocery store and pick up one particular brand of joe over another, ask yourself why. The answer might be rooted in behavioral economics 101.

Marketers and their agencies have been trying to decode why consumers buy what they do since the 1920s, when N.W. Ayer suggested people would “walk a mile for a Camel.” But lately they’re turning to behavioral economics, a blend of psychology and economics that has until recently been a mostly academic discipline, and could be described most simply as the study of how consumers make economic decisions.

It deviates from traditional economics in that it doesn’t assume consumers behave rationally, like a market (in theory) does, making decisions based solely on facts or logic such as price or quality. Rather, emotions and social psychology affect or dictate decisions and create sometimes predictable “irrational” tendencies. Those tendencies form the tenets of behavioral economics. The health care, finance, and even government policy industries are turning to behavioral economics. The Credit Card Reform Act, for instance, is cited as one big behavioral economics document with ideas such as clearly labeled interest rates and terms and tables of actual spending on credit card bills to “help” consumers make decisions more easily on which card to get or use, how to spend within their means, etc.

President Barack Obama’s administration is rife with behavioral-economic proponents such as Cass Sunstein, head of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, who co-wrote “Nudge” with revered behavioral economist Richard Thaler. And while many of the government’s uses for behavioral economics, such as upping nutrition labeling and financial reforms, have been positioned as counter balances to an advertising world that pushes unhealthy food and spending to feel good, marketers themselves are exploring and adopting behavioral economics to do more and smarter product pushing.

Irrational effects
Dan Ariely, author of “Predictably Irrational” and a behavioral economics professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, often works with agencies and marketers, has an ongoing relationship with neighbor ad agency McKinney in Durham, N.C., and has trained and consulted on specific clients. He warns that professional ad people often don’t see what nonprofessionals see — and the irrational effect people’s emotions have on their choices. His research with agencies and marketers is meant to help them understand consumer choices and the forces behind them.

For example, McKinney and Mr. Ariely are working together using behavioral economics in one example they provided, to figure out what makes people go to the gym. Traditional focus group research has found that people will say they would go to the gym if it were closer to their office, or less expensive, or even offered free babysitting. However, gyms have offered all those things without measurable increases in attendance.

Mr. Ariely found through his behavioral research that people are more likely to go to the gym when they have an appointment with a trainer — perhaps because they paid for the extra help in advance, felt ashamed for not showing (and now someone else knows they didn’t go) or felt guilty that they had just wasted another person’s time. Jeff Jones, partner and president of McKinney, said they’re also studying different payment structures that drive behavior, and gave the example that instead of paying via a monthly credit-card deduction for membership, what if consumers didn’t pay at all except if they didn’t go to the gym?

“Who knows what the economic impact would be?” he posited. “But what might it do for the churn rate?”

“Behavioral economics gives Ph.D. credibility and academic rigor to intuition,” Mr. Jones said. “It’s really hard today to make million-dollar decisions based on intuition. This helps clients realize there is data behind the decisions and there is research behind the decisions.”

And indeed financial pressures, ad-agency marginalization and greater availability of sophisticated consumer data are all reasons ad agencies and marketers are increasingly drawn to this formalized process of analyzing consumer spending choices.

DraftFCB, New York, has adopted behavioral economics as a key discipline within its recently launched Institute of Decision Making, which also looks at other emerging areas of study such as neuroscience. It recently pitched a utility company using behavioral economics.

“It’s easy to get people to agree that they should use less energy — 86% of them strongly agreed they should — but they don’t do it,” said Matthew Willcox, who heads the institute as executive director (and continues to serve as director of account planning at DraftFCB, San Francisco). So DraftFCB researched and included specific ideas in the pitch, such as the number of things the utility could ask and people would be willing to do to reduce energy, or the things they would be willing to tell others about saving energy.

One concept of behavioral economics that’s particularly practical for marketers is framing — the way in which an offer is framed or put in context for consumers, along with the bias and experience that each consumer brings to that purchase.

Another concept, called anchoring, refers to the fact that when people are given a number, they tend to use that number as a kind of permanent benchmark for future thinking.

Behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist who won a Nobel Prize in economics and is considered the “father” of behavioral economics, described anchoring in a McKinsey Quarterly video in May 2008. He said when people are thinking about quantities, the first number that gets mentioned has “enormous impact.” So if he asked people if the tallest tree in the world is more or less than 900 feet, most people would correctly guess that is way too tall and say it’s less. However, he points out, he’s now made you think of very tall trees. The opposite would have been true if he used 100 feet as an “anchor” number.

Behavioral economics is not about whether a person might be into a new brand of coffee or what they think of coffee brands in general, but what coffee a person picks off the shelf, said Joel Rubinson, chief research officer at the Advertising Research Foundation.

Also, as brands have become less powerful today, thanks to a plethora of choices and information, it’s become more important to figure out how and why consumers purchase. “Market research today is studying purchase intent, but not really studying how people make decisions,” said Mr. Rubinson. “When only half of people who say they plan to buy something actually go out and purchase it, and 50% of decisions are made at point of purchase, that’s leaving a lot on the table.”

He adds that marketing does a good job of studying brand equity, a less than perfect job at studying brand activation, and mostly very little in studying how consumers purchase. “Brand equity and purchase intent are fine, just incomplete,” Mr. Rubinson said.

However, even the early adopters and aficionados understand that behavioral economics is not a replacement or panacea, but rather an additive set of tools for marketers — and other industries, for that matter — to use. “It’s not about ‘We used to do it this way and now it’s a wholesale change and we’re doing it this way,'” Mr. Jones said. “These are just new ways of understanding how and why people make decisions. And it’s just smart marketing to understand them and use them.”

by Beth Snyder Bulik, July 26, 2010
AdAge

Business-to-Business Brands in the Internet Age

Brands are more important than ever.

Sure it’s a cliché. It seems every book I have read on branding contains that sentence. Yet, the Internet has created an environment that makes that statement truer than at any prior point. The Internet enables incredibly fast access to an enormous amount of information and provides connectivity and community that can empower buyers.

According to a popular branding theory, when marketplace choices increase, buyers tend to have an increased preference for familiar brands, thus, saving them research time and limiting their exposure to risk. The Internet has, without question, increased the amount of choices for business-to-business buyers.

Buyers increased access to information often results in increased expectations. In markets where products and services are largely perceived as commodities, or  strong weight is given to technical  specifications and price, given that all other things are equal (e.g., delivery time, etc.), a strong brand may be the single characteristic that differentiates a product from competitive offerings.

The significance of geography, which had once created advantages for many companies and obstacles to others, has, in many instances, been greatly reduced. Customers can now quickly and easily research product information, detailed specifications, experience computer-based presentations, search competitor offerings, find peers through professional associations or affinity groups where they can ask questions and share experiences, as well as make purchases online.

PROPAGANDA IS OUT. DELIVERING ON PROMISES IS IN.

There’s an old saying in the advertising world: “Nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising.” With the mainstream adoption of the commercial Internet, the time it takes to kill poor or undifferentiated products (for the sake of simplicity, this paper uses the term “products” to describe both products and services) has been shortened considerably. Innovations are quickly imitated by competitors, rarely providing long-term sustainable advantages.

It is clear that the most sustainable advantage any company can have is a strong brand.

In the age of the informed customer, the concept of “image is reality” is dead. The revised formula is: Image + Information + Customer Expectations + Customer Experience (delivery) = Reality.

Customers new found access to seemingly endless amounts of information results in their being more demanding than prior to this access. While image remains significant, the new access to information often results in placing increased weight on specifications, capabilities and price during the buying process. This complex situation may appear to lessen the significance of brands, but, in actuality, it has elevated the significance of the brand.

Great B2B brands have the right technical specifications, connect with customers, deliver on promises that matter, exceed expectations and have a positive buzz within the buying community.

Consider the popular mantra of IT professionals: “No one ever got fired for buying IBM.” This is a good example of a brand that stands for quality in the minds of customers and provides them with a shortcut in the buying process that helps them avoid risk.

The ideal brand connects with customers on an emotional level.

Think B2C brands are the only ones that do this? Consider commercial photographers and Kodak; graphic and multimedia designers and Macintosh; business executives and recruiters and Harvard Business School; computer professionals and IBM; and mechanics and Snap-On.

Smart B2B brands use the Internet to deepen emotional bonding between the brand and customer. These marketers will often create places customers can go online that help encourage their bonding where they can find out more information about the brand, communicate with other brand advocates and feel a sense of a community that is connected by the brand. Microsoft is excellent at creating emotional bonds with the developer community through its various developer groups. These groups have their own special sections of the Microsoft Website, training (including some at no cost), special access to information (they can receive advance notification of announcements prior to the general public), membership, online events such as seminars, discounts on Microsoft products (software and books) plus offline meetings and events.

Microsoft understands how to meld the offline and online worlds together for the benefit of its brand.

THE FALLOUT FROM THE “NEW ECONOMY” HYPE

During the dot-com explosion, the Internet became so over-hyped it seemed that many people had lost touch with (or never understood) sound business principles. Huge amounts of cash were spent in a mad rush to be first to create strong brands in “Internet Speed.” Now, long after the Internet bubble has burst, in many instances, there has been a reactionary backlash –a tendency to discount all things related to the Internet.

Either extreme is unwise.

The Internet is certain to play an increasingly significant role in how business is done and the management of brands. Those interested in building and maintaining strong brands need to understand and exploit the Internet’s power, integrating it with offline efforts.

By Peter De Legge
Marketing Today

Hispanic Market Hits Tipping Point

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) — If you’re looking to reach upholders of traditional American values, your best bet might be the Hispanic market.

The market is growing: The 2010 Census expected to count a record 50 million Hispanics, or one in every six U.S. residents, meaning the Hispanic population will have increased a stunning 42% from the previous census in 2000. (By comparison, the non-Hispanic population will have edged up just 5% in that decade.) It’s also got scale: Hispanics are now the nation’s second-largest consumer market after white non-Hispanics, who are still the largest group at about 200 million.

But perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Hispanics in America is how closely they exemplify our idealized concept of 1950s America. They are young (their median age is about where the whole nation was in 1955) and more often live in large, traditional, married-with-children families with lots of participation from grandparents.who's speaking what

 

More often than not, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they eat family meals at home, and spend less than average on alcohol. They’re moving to the suburbs, tend to be community-oriented, and have high aspirations for their children. In short, they are the sweet market for consumer goods and services that the entire nation used to be when baby boomers were young.

Hispanic children are overwhelmingly U.S. born. Fully 91% of Hispanic children were born in the U.S., compared to only 47% of Hispanic adults, which has great implications for the demographics’ speed of acculturation. With the Hispanic market at this tipping point, one of the biggest challenges for marketers is reaching young, acculturated bilingual Hispanics who behave differently than their parents who didn’t grow up in the U.S. and don’t spend as much time with Spanish-language media, but still feel a deep sense of Latino identity.

More than 1 in 3 Hispanics in the U.S. (34.3%) are children under 18 years old, as compared to fewer than one in four children (22.5%) that are non-Hispanics. The youthful U.S.-born Hispanic population means that children of immigrants, who typically attend public schools, where they learn English, will acculturate much faster than their parents did. And, in fact, English is making gradual gains as the language U.S. Hispanics are most comfortable speaking. Some 27% are most comfortable in English, with another 17% comfortable in both English and Spanish; meaning that nearly half—44%—of the demographic is at ease in English.

Over the next decade, as millions of bilingual Hispanic teens become young adults, we can expect their consumer behavior to move closer to other non-Hispanic young adults. However, the very large size of this segment suggests that the Hispanic culture is likely to remain strong, even among U.S.-born children.

The major difference between today’s immigrants and those who have come before them is the phenomenon called globalization. Inexpensive air travel, the internet and native-language TV stations featuring content from country of origin all allow this group of immigrants to come to the U.S. and become acculturated but still have close ties to their home countries in ways that past immigrant groups could not. That is having and will continue to have a transformative effect on the U.S. culture, including music, food and sports, as illustrated by this year’s World Cup fervor.

Hispanics will become a major force in U.S. consumer-spending growth over the next decade and beyond. The slowing growth and aging population that characterizes other segments of consumers means that younger and larger Hispanic families will be more vital to future growth in consumer spending than at any time in the past.

The Hispanic population is, on average, more than 10 years younger than the average for non-Hispanics. Their median age is just under 28, which means that 75% of adult Hispanics are age 18-49, compared to 56% of non-Hispanics. The household size of U.S. Hispanic families is the largest of any segment. The average Hispanic family has 4.0 members, compared to 2.9 members in the average white, non-Hispanic family. And only 4% of adult Hispanics live alone, compared to 15% of white non-Hispanics.

Hispanic consumers are the most geographically concentrated of any large consumer segment. The eight states with the most Hispanics are home to 76% of all U.S. Hispanics. About half of Hispanic consumers live in California and Texas. The other six states having more than one million Hispanics are Florida, New York, Illinois, Arizona, New Jersey and Colorado. By contrast, the eight states with the largest concentration of non-Hispanics have just 44% of that consumer segment.

By 2015, millions of baby boomers will have begun retiring, thus reducing their consumer spending. Hispanic consumers will play a major role in replacing those retirees in the consumer marketplace and will contribute to the upsurge of retail spending and economic growth.

And given their growing influence on this country’s culture, perhaps one day we may be saying: “It’s as American as dulce de leche.”

By Peter Francese, July 26, 2010
AdAge