Saturday, 27 August 2016

What is Digital Strategy?

Our use of terminology forms the currency of communication and understanding, particularly in times of rapid transformation. Therefore the first task is to define what we mean by Digital Strategy. More than 50% of business executives say they have a digital strategy; a Gartner survey has found. What exactly do they mean?

Let’s start with the term digital.  Companies today are rushing headlong to become more digital. But what does digital mean?  For some, it’s about technology. For others, digital is a new way of engaging with customers. And for others still, it represents an entirely new way of doing business. None of these definitions is necessarily incorrect.

However, such diverse perspectives often lack alignment and shared a vision about where the business needs to go. This often results in piecemeal initiatives or misguided efforts that lead to missed opportunities, sluggish performance, and false starts. There must be a clear and common understanding of exactly what digital means to develop meaningful digital strategies that drive business performance.

It’s tempting even for us to look for simple definitions, but to be meaningful and sustainable, digital should be seen less as a thing and more a way of doing things. To help make this definition more concrete, we’ve broken it down into three attributes:

  • Creating value at the new frontiers of the business world,
  • Creating value in the processes that execute a vision of customer experiences, and
  • Building foundational capabilities that support the entire structure.

Strategy is, of course, a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.  It’s the art of planning and directing overall operations and movements. At its core, the essence of strategy is choosing a unique and valuable position rooted in the specific activities a company performs.

Repeating the past is no guarantee of success, therefore understanding the direction digital strategy is headed is paramount.  At the highest level, there are two options available. The first calls for extending digitization by repeating the current digital playbook to cover new functions and processes.  Transforming activity, and therefore the business, is the second option for digital strategy.

Experience changes our understanding. Digital is more than a set of technologies you buy. It is the abilities those technologies create.  Digital Strategy is therefore about transformation, and human performance is at its core. This enhanced human performance creates value that leads to revenue.

Thinking of digital as a set of technologies (analytics, big data, mobile, cloud, social, etc.) limits the digital potential of the instrument rather than the application. A smartphone, for example, has information intensity and connectedness, but it requires applications to transform value and disrupt industries. 

Every business is a digital business in the sense that digital transformation represents the next frontier of high performance. Everything is possible with digital technology, but a digital business and digital leadership must know how to separate what is possible from what is profitable. That difference extends a premium to the business – a digital premium. And finding this digital premium is the job of the Digital Strategist.

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Written by Andrew B. Giles. Andrew is the head of digital innovation and strategy at Goodbuzz Inc. You can follow him @Goodbuzz and on Facebook
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Goodbuzz is a digital agency based in Toronto, Canada. We help brands create and capture value from emerging trends in technology, society and the workplace. We prototype the future - and believe the best way to predict it - is to create it.  Follow us on Facebook or Twitter or if you have any questions contact us directly.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

The Evolution of Digital Strategy

The business of marketing has become an ever-expanding sprawl of options and complexity. There are multiple partners with niche expertise rather than truly broad- based integrated offerings.  Moreover, the traditional Advertising and Public Relations agency model’s are dead and competitors from unexpected quarters are moving in, forcing us all to work harder: whatever it takes to stay relevant – and valuable – to our clients.

To succeed today clients need broad-based, integrated offerings – not one individual agency’s niche area of expertise.  Therefore the role of the Brand Strategist has never been more valuable.  Today’s Brand Strategist must be a polymath. Their expertise must span a significant number of different subject areas and draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems.  Today’s Brand Strategist must also have a solid understanding of all media past and present: specialists and authorities in any number of disciplines.

We would further argue that if everything is digital, then nothing is.  And now that our "old media" as well as our modern channels are digital, the very term has perhaps outlived its usefulness. "Like air and drinking water, being digital will be noticed only by its absence, not its presence," as technology guru Nicholas Negroponte put it. So, by definition, today’s Digital Brand Strategist is simply a Brand Strategist.

The task may appear Herculean, but the goal has not changed.  Today’s Brand Strategist must understand the complex world we have come from, the world we are in, and also be forward-thinking to anticipate future trends and create a path that ensures the success of a product or service. 

Being an on-trend, relevant, inspiring, purposeful, innovative and community-centric brand are the things that will make people pause, listen and pay attention.  Customers want to identify with a brand they can grow with, that earns their trust and makes them feel valued.   People want to evolve with a brand whose products and services help give their business or life meaning and significance.  End to end, a brand must become a consumer’s best friend.

After well over a decade of constructing digital strategies on behalf of clients, one thing has become abundantly clear: most are often confused about what digital strategy is and how to develop one.  When defining and developing any strategy, it’s imperative that clients understand that strategy follows structure, people and an idea.  Second, clients must understand that profit and return-on-investment (ROI) are outcomes, not the strategy itself.

There are numerous approaches to conducting digital strategy, but at their core, all go through similar steps:
  • Identifying the opportunities and challenges,
  • Developing a vision around how the online assets will fulfill those business and external stakeholder needs, goals, and  
  • Prioritizing a set of initiatives/tactics that can deliver on this vision.
It goes without saying that within each of those stages, a number of techniques and analyses may be employed. 

First, you have to define what you’re hoping to achieve for the brand, product, or service. Start by analyzing the following five factors:
  • Presence: Measure of the brand’s digital footprint,
  • Influence: Branded message adoption,
  • Perception: Emotional reaction to the brand,
  • Engagement: People organically participating in conversations,
  • Resonance: Reaction to the overall conversation about the brand.
You need to define your business’ overall mission/objective first – your digital marketing mission must fit into your grand plan.  Therefore it’s imperative that you ask the right questions and that you understand the brand objectives that most closely align with those key business opportunities and challenges.  You also need a very clear understanding of your brand truth. You should also answer this question: what is the overriding objective you want your digital marketing efforts to achieve? 

Once you’ve benchmarked the brand’s current equity and position, you must segment your target customers. Customer segmentation allows marketers to connect all customer touch points and identify what motivates a brand’s core consumers in a multi-channel environment.  

Once you have a clear understanding of the target, their path to purchase, goals, opportunities and challenges, it’s time to formulate your message and positioning. Positioning is a marketing strategy that aims to make a brand occupy a distinct position (relative to competing brands,) in the mind of the customer. 

The idea is to identify and attempt to “own” a marketing niche for a brand, product, or service using various strategies including pricing, promotions, distribution, packaging, and competition.  Ultimately, as we have previously explained, this power resides in the marketers' ability to cloak their product in the universal dreams, fantasies, and values of the masses.  We are therefore creating and selling modern myths that leverage the collective pool of cultural, psychological and mythical elements to create a "brand mythology."

Now look at your brand's story/positioning and ask yourself:
  • What is the story/positioning telling my target customer?
  • Why does my target customer care about this story/positioning?
  • What sort of emotions does my story/positioning evoke?
  • How does my story/positioning connect to the emotional needs of my target customer?
  • How will that story/positioning incite action on behalf of my brand, product, and service?
  • What is the source of competitive advantage for your digital business model?
  • How can you manage business complexity in the global digital economy?
  • How do you create digitized platforms that enable new and evolving digital opportunities?
  • How can you simplify your customer experiences without creating burdensome organizational complexity?
  • How can you create new information offerings that generate bottom-line value?
The resulting narrative enables the use of social channels, for example, as a means to convey a product, service, or brand’s benefits.  Brand stories are what drive interactions with customers.  If you need further assistance in refining your brand's positioning and subsequent messaging, we would suggest reading through the wealth of information provided by Beloved Brands.

You now should ideally have an intimate understanding of your brand’s current positioning, goals, objectives competitors and challenges. From here you should be able to ascertain where a winning brand message and position can be found in the future. 

You also now should have a clear understanding of your target consumers demographics, psychographics, and technographic profile keeping in mind that you may have multiple target segments within any target group.  Note:  At any number of agencies we have worked at (or with) in the past, many have also employed the use of detailed Buyer Personas, which can be a helpful exercise – as the better understanding you have of your target(s), the easier it is to engage them.

As your target consumer base varies, the technologies and social networks you utilize to reach them will naturally vary, too.  Imagine you’re a retailer and based on your research and planning you’ve discovered that YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and a variety of social retail oriented platforms such as Pinterest or Fancy are best suited to help reach your brand’s target audience.

Let’s say that you’ve also discovered that more than one-third (33%+) of the activity surrounding your brand is based on your target consumer’s mobile behavior. You’d naturally want to define the experience that consumers will have with your brand’s products by channel, across multiple platforms, based on their behavior patterns. This exercise is also known as User Experience (UX) Mapping but the most important things you must ask yourself prior to creating any map are:
  • How do customers search and find information about my product, service, or brand?
  • What social platforms do they favour (Technographic Segmentation)?
  • What’s the purpose of the specific social platforms and technologies we’ve chosen to utilize?
  • How do these mediums play into our mobile strategy?
  • What is going to differentiate me from my competition?
As the world has shifted to digital and social media specifically, consumers look to fellow consumers to inform any purchasing decision.  Influencers are therefore a critical part of the digital market success as we move towards the new marketing models that make up social commerce and consumer experience.

Another helpful exercise at this stage is to create a Marketing Calendar that shows your brand’s marketing efforts across the channels you are leveraging in your marketing programs. Use it for benchmarks related to your digital strategy.  What are important dates for your brand's success?  This could be based, for example, around a Holiday, trade show, product release or any other points in the year that align best with sales. A social media content calendar can also be developed to support your Marketing Calendar.  Always keep in mind that when it comes to engaging prospects or customers that quality is far, far more relevant than quantity.

Creating benchmarks and key performance indicators (KPIs) by channel and platforms is also extremely important during this phase.  This is imperative in order to estimate your brand’s expected return per channel — and whether this return is measured based on awareness, engagement, online sales, or any number of other components.  From an agency standpoint this stage is also imperative to setting realistic expectations with clients.

The ultimate goal of engagement is to create a feedback loop that allows you to meet the goals you set forth in the strategy development phase. In order to be successful, you must continually evaluate and alter your digital strategy based on the information that you gain from your campaigns and digital initiatives. As marketers, it’s important that we measure everything.

Throughout every campaign, you must also utilize social listening tools to get insights into campaign performance, variances in brand health, and language cues that are indicative of purchase intent and overall brand performance.

Extending consistent on-brand, on-message content and collateral across all selected channels is imperative and the cornerstone of brand building.  Approach your constituents with the goal to engage their personal lives and experiences. Be authentic, honest and try not to increase friction or decrease participation. Execution is what brings the strategic plan to fruition. Sounds simple, right?

With a clear understanding of the elements above you’re in a strong position to frame and articulate a winning digital strategy for your brand.  Keep in mind we’re discussing digital strategy versus tactics. The terms tactic and strategy are often confused: tactics are the actual means used to gain an objective, while strategy is the overall campaign plan, which may involve complex operational patterns, activity, and decision-making that lead to tactical execution.

This framework/overview is based on our experience (and is a work in progress) however, what would you adjust based on your experience?  What do you think about it? Is there something irrelevant? Is something missing?  Looking at the sector you are working in, would you approach this differently?

Written by Andrew B. Giles. Andrew is the head of digital innovation and strategy at Goodbuzz Inc. You can follow him @Goodbuzz and on Facebook.

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Goodbuzz is a digital agency based in Toronto, Canada. We help brands create and capture value from emerging trends in technology, society and the workplace. We prototype the future - and believe the best way to predict it - is to create it.  Follow us on Facebook or Twitter or if you have any questions contact us directly.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

The Evolution Of Strategic Brand Storytelling

Good marketing is good storytelling and for a product to be successful in this competitive era it must have an engaging story.  It may educate, inspire or entertain, but ultimately it must be memorable and it must extend across numerous media platforms.

As agencies, we must therefore figure out how to strategically craft the story structure of the brand using all the tools at our disposal.  Today’s marketer must think about story first before selling, because the way to the audience’s heart (and loyalty) is through compelling and memorable storytelling. In short, the foreseeable future of advertising may be less like David Ogilvy and more like Syd Field  and Joseph Campbell.

Field's most notable contribution is his articulation of the ideal storytelling paradigm "three-act structure".  Leveraging Field’s screenwriting devices such as the inciting incident, the controlling idea and genre, allows a brand story structure to be developed that motivates target customers, provides strategic clarity, builds emotional connection and most importantly, identifies the unique and authentic company characteristics that drive all brand story execution.

Joseph Campbell extends the modern storyteller an exploration of the classic hero cycle, including consistent and enduring hero patterns in literature, films, and real life.  Campbell essentially demonstrates how to apply the power of myth and symbolism with his 17 steps.

Ultimately, this power resides in the marketers' ability to cloak their product in the universal dreams, fantasies, and values of the masses.  We are therefore creating and selling modern myths that leverage the collective pool of cultural, psychological and mythical elements to create a "brand mythology."

Developing a compelling story for your brand is not an exercise in copywriting, instead strategic brand storytelling expresses the universal and differentiating truths behind your marketing.  If done effectively, brand storytelling captures engagement, defines and extends a winning narrative, responds to competitive threats, builds an emotional connection, shapes perceptions, and anchors the brand culture with an ‘ownable’ story that resonates with consumers.

The story itself is more important than the product or service.  As American Demographics put it, new media consumers will “be more tolerant of advertising because it will be more appropriate and customized.” In the new media, the goal of the marketing message is not the “purchase,” but “further interaction.” 

As life becomes a “perpetual marketing event” we will no longer be able to discern where advertising begins and where it ends. In a realm that could have been designed by Kafka, we shall all awake not as giant insects but as “productive reach” targets of an integrated brand story where we are the hero.

Need some help crafting an ‘ownable’ brand story that resonates with consumers?  We're here to help.
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Goodbuzz is a digital agency based in Toronto, Canada. We help brands create and capture value from emerging trends in technology, society and the workplace. We prototype the future - and believe the best way to predict it - is to create it.  Follow us on Facebook or Twitter or if you have any questions contact us directly. 

Friday, 4 December 2015

Asking The Right Questions

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” ― Albert Einstein

I had an old, grizzled Creative Director at an agency I used to work at that frequently said to clients, “if we could all agree on what the question is we could probably find an answer to it.”  He was right in many ways.   

The right questions are the foundation of any solid work. The quality of a solution rests on the right understanding of the problem. This is no less true when it comes to digital marketing and design. The first step therefore in any project should be to ask questions and listen.

Digital marketing and design never have a one size fits all solution. Each business has different markets and people that they serve, different products they sell, and different ways they communicate. For example, a tech company, a dentist, and a restaurant are all going to use digital marketing in different ways.

One may want to reach a nationwide audience but really only serve particular types of people and occupations. Another might serve almost anyone but only in a local geographical area. The bottom line is that cookie cutter solutions, whether they come from a blogger, an e-book, or by observing other brands, aren’t always going to work. It’s important to ask the right questions (and many of them) before you start trying to provide the right answers.

So, you’re probably asking - what are some of the right questions to begin with?  Let’s start here.
Who are you as a company?  If you don’t know who you are, it will be hard to define any of the other questions. What is your area of focus? Do you make a particular product? Provide a unique service?

Who is my ideal customer?  Once you’ve answered the first question, it will be easier to answer this question. Who are you targeting? Are you using analysis to define your ideal customer or your gut?

How am I uniquely suited to serving my ideal customer?  What can you do that others in your space can’t?  There must be something.  What separates you from the competition? What will allow you to stand out from your competitors in your space?

Where does my ideal customer live, work, shop, etc?  Once you know who you are, who you’re looking for, and what unique value you bring to them, you need to figure out how you reach them? Will you need a website? Online advertising? Social media marketing? Maybe a Billboard?

Where do I want my business to be in six months?  How about a year?  Knowing how much money you want (and need) to bring in over the next six months will help you focus on the key areas you need to invest in to get there?  This focus will help you find the key levers that will allow you to grow and begin moving those levers.

What triggers my ideal customer to think of me? Is there a particular problem that causes your ideal customer to think of you? What brings you to the top-of-mind for them? Is it an email? A social media post? A physical loyalty punch-card in their wallet?

How much time and money am I prepared to invest into the solution? This is the key question that comes after all the previous questions. Once you know about yourself, your ideal customers, how to reach them, how to get their attention, and where you want to be in six months - you can then make sound decisions about how much you can wisely invest into your methods to ensure you still get a reasonable return on investment.

Certainly it’s an overused quote that is attributed to any number of people but it’s absolutely true - “the best way to predict your future is to create it.”  Need some help prototyping your future path?  We’re here to help.

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Goodbuzz is a digital agency based in Toronto, Canada. We help brands create and capture value from emerging trends in technology, society and the workplace. We prototype the future - and believe the best way to predict it - is to create it.  Follow us on Facebook or Twitter or if you have any questions contact Goodbuzz directly.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Building An Extraordinary Brand

Many clients think their logo is their brand. But a brand is much more than a graphic image. A brand is a set of associations that a person (or group of people) makes with a company, product, service, individual or organization.  It’s the way people feel when they interact with your marketing. It’s the promise your company makes to your prospects and to your customers. It’s your brand’s personality.

Branding is a way of clearly highlighting what makes your offer different to, and more desirable than, anyone else’s. Effective branding elevates a product or organization from being just one commodity amongst many identical commodities, to become something with a unique character and promise. It can create an emotional resonance in the minds of consumers who choose products and services using both emotional and pragmatic judgments.

So, ask yourself - what comes to mind when you think about your brand? What do you want to come to mind?  Whatever you want your business to represent, you need to consistently instill that idea in everything that is your business.

You achieve consistency by doing the same thing in the same way so it produces exactly the same result each and every time you do it. For your customers to be able to expect consistency, you must be able to clearly identify the elements that make up consistency in your business.  We all welcome (and crave) the familiar and we shun the unknown (and tend not to trust it.)  So, do your customers a favour and give them something to count on. 

Brand loyalty creates brand ambassadors and brand ambassadors help drive growth. So put your best foot forward and never leave first impressions to chance.  So, you want to build a brand that stands the test of time?  Take a page from organized religion as notable brands and religions have a lot more in common then you’d think.  Both share:

A Sense of Belonging
Psychologically, ‘sense of community’ is one of the major tenants of self-definition. Belonging to a group can involve language, dress, and/or ritual.  To be part of the group gives meaning and association with a larger group provides emotional safety and a sense of belonging and identification.   The influence is bi-directional.  Think: Nike, Apple, or Harley-Davidson Ownership; the individual shares mission with the larger group.

A Clear Vision
Both Religions and Brands are unambiguous in mission and intent (to reach heaven, achieve spiritual enlightenment.)  Like religions, successful companies and successful brands have a clear, and very powerful sense of mission.   Think: Apple’s Steve Job’s statement in the mid-1980’s, “Man is the creator of change in this world.”  

Power Over Enemies
Successful religions strive to exert power over their enemies (and have so since the beginning of time.)  Taking sides against the “other” is a potent uniting force psychologically.  Even more so if there is an identifiable enemy, as it gives us the chance to not only showcase and articulate our faith, but also to unite ourselves with our fellow believers.  A community united by a common enemy.  Think: Coke vs. Pepsi, Apple vs. PC, Us vs. Them.

Sensory Appeal
All great religions, (whether church, temple, or mosque) have unique sensory appeal.  The air, the incense, the smell of the wood, the ornate stained glass, and the sound of the organ or bell.  All integral parts of the otherworldly experience.  Whether annoyance or longing, sensory qualities evoke an emotional response.  Think: “Hello Moto” or Intel’s Sound Branding.  Maybe the smell of a new Mercedes, or the sleek, aesthetically pleasing lines of the iPod. 

Whether New Testament, Torah, or Koran---EVERY major religion is built upon a heft of history and stories (mostly gruesome and miraculous.) Most notably, the rituals (i.e. praying, kneeling, meditation, fasting, singing hymns, receiving the sacrament, etc.) are rooted in these stories (and therefore are repeatedly and unconsciously reinforced.)

Most religions celebrate a sense of grandeur and awe.  This ensures that one comes away from the experience as mere mortals dwarfed by something far greater than ourselves. Even today, no building in Rome is permitted to be higher than St. Peter’s Cathedral. At the Temple of the Golden Buddha in Bangkok is a nearly eleven foot tall, two-and-a-half ton Buddha made from solid gold (and valued at close to $200 million.)  Think: The Bellagio Hotel, Louis Vuitton’s flagship store in Paris, Apple’s store in NYC, Google’s offices.  All created their own Vatican and stir up notions of grandeur.

The cross.  A dove.  An angel, or crown of thorns.  Organized religion is full of iconography and symbolism that act as an instant global language, or shorthand.  This is also true of products and brands.  A brand or product  (symbol) logo can evoke powerful associations, just like religious icons.  Think:  Lance Armstrong (Nike) “Live Strong” bracelets.  Originally given away for free, once they became a symbol of challenging adversity and charitable giving---Armstrong’s Foundation ended up selling some $70 million worth (and inspired a slew of copycats.)

In religion, (where the unknown can be as powerful as the known,) mystery is a powerful force.   Think of the mysteries of the Bible, the Shroud of Turin, the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail, or the da Vinci code.  When it comes to brands, mystery is equally effective.  Think: Coca-Cola’s or KFC’s secret formula.

A mischievous Unilever employee in Asia added the sentence “Contains X9 Factor” to a shampoo bottle label.  This last minute addition went undetected by Unilever, and soon millions of bottles were shipped out. As it would be too costly to recall, Unilever let it be.   Six months later, Unilever reprinted the label without the reference to containing “X9 Factor.”  To their surprise sales dropped dramatically and they received a slew of outraged mail from customers.  None even knew what “X9 Factor” was, but were offended that Unilever would dare consider getting rid of it.  In fact, many customers claimed the shampoo wasn’t working anymore, and that there hair had lost its luster.  It just goes to show that the more mystery and intrigue a brand can cultivate, the more likely it will appeal to us.

When life feels uncertain and out-of-control, we often seek out the comfort of that which is familiar. Ritualistic patterns make us feel consistent, stable, safe, and grounded. Whether most of us are aware of it or not, we don’t want to tamper with the region of our brain that makes up our “implicit” memory (which encompasses everything you know how to do without thinking about it---from riding a bike to tying your shoelaces.)   Product rituals give us the illusion of comfort and belonging, while also helping us differentiate one brand from another.  Once we find a product or brand experience we like, it’s human nature to make it a ritual.  

Savvy marketers find and exploit the rituals associated with their brands. Products and brands that have rituals associated with them are much ‘stickier’ than those that don’t.  Think: The many ways to eat an Oreo cookie, Lime in the Corona, or the Starbuck’s ordering process.  It’s clear that people ritualize positive experiences and keep coming back for more.  

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of." ~ Edward Berneys

Rachel’s Organic Butter, for example, chose black for its packaging design so it would stand out from the typical yellow, gold and green colours (representing sunshine and fields) used by competitor products. The result is that the brand appears more premium, distinctive and perhaps even more daring than its competitors.

Defining your brand
Here are a few key aspects you should consider as you’re building your brand:
·      The big idea – what lies at the heart of your company?
·      Values – what do you believe in?
·      Vision – where are you going?
·      Personality – how do you want to come across?

If you can start to answer these questions with clarity and consistency then you have the basis for developing a strong brand.  Let’s take each of these in turn.

The big idea
The big idea is perhaps a catchall for your company or service. It should encapsulate what makes you different, what you offer, why you’re doing it and how you’re going to present it. The other ingredients are slightly more specific, but they should all feed from the big idea.

The big idea is also a uniting concept that can hold together an otherwise disparate set of activities. Ideally, it will inform everything you do, big or small, including customer service, advertising, a website order form, staff uniforms, corporate identity, perhaps right down to your answer machine message.

To pin down your own big idea you will need to look very carefully at your own business and the marketplace around you, asking these types of questions:
·      How can you stand out?
·      What is your offer?
·      What makes you different?
·      What is your ‘personality’?
·      What do consumers want or need?
·      Is there a gap in the market?

Once decided, the articulation of these ideas can be put into action through branding techniques such as design, advertising, events, partnerships, staff training and so on. It is these activities that set up the consumer’s understanding and expectation of your company; in other words, its brand. And once you’ve set up this brand ‘promise’, the most important thing is to ensure that your products and services consistently deliver on it.

Generating a vision for your company means thinking about the future, where you want to be, looking at ways to challenge the market or transform a sector. A vision may be grand and large-scale, or may be as simple as offering an existing product in a completely new way, or even changing the emphasis of your business from one core area to another.

Although corporate visions and mission statements can often appear to be little more than a hollow dictums from top management, a well-considered vision can help you to structure some of the more practical issues of putting a development strategy into action. If you’re clear on what you’re aiming at, it’s obviously easier to put the structures in place to get there.

Like the word brand itself, the term brand values is perhaps a little over-used in design and marketing circles, but it does relate to important aspects of how people see your organization. It’s what you stand for and it can be communicated either explicitly or implicitly in what you do. But imbuing your company’s brand with a set of values is tricky for a number of reasons.

Firstly, everybody wants the same kinds of values to be associated with their business. A survey by The Research Business International found that most companies share the same ten values, namely: quality, openness, innovation, individual responsibility, fairness, respect for the individual, empowerment, passion, flexibility, teamwork and pride.

Secondly, it’s not easy to communicate values: overt marketing may seem disingenuous, while not communicating your values in any way may result in people not seeing what you stand for. And lastly, any values you portray have to be genuine and upheld in the way your organization operates. 

Once you have established your ‘big idea’, vision and values, they can be communicated to consumers through a range of channels. The way you decide to present this communication – the tone, language and design, for example – can be said to be the personality of your company.

Personality traits could be efficient and businesslike, friendly and chatty, or perhaps humorous and irreverent, although they would obviously have to be appropriate to the type of product or service you are selling.  And for smaller companies, the culture and style of the business can often reflect the founder(s), so its values and personality may be the same.

Here are a few examples of how you can start to control the elements of your company’s personality, conveying certain aspects to customers in different ways:
·      Graphic design: The visual identity – hard corporate identity or soft, friendly caricature?
·      Tone of voice: Is the language you use (both spoken and written) formal or relaxed?
·      Dialogue: Can your users or customers contribute ideas and get involved in the organization? Or is it a one-way communication?
·      Customer service: How are staff trained to communicate with customers? What level of customer service do you provide?

Using these key ingredients will give you a solid understanding of your organization’s brand, as well as strategies on how to present it to people.  Starting with the big idea, you can then go on to refine and set out your company’s vision, values and personality. And once these are all in place, you can think about hiring designers to turn your brand blueprint into tangible communications.

Starting From Scratch
If you’re launching a new business, you’re in a unique position to operate as what is often called a ‘challenger brand’. This means that you can take a look at a market sector from the outside, assess all the players, opportunities or gaps in the market and then launch your product with a brand that challenges and shakes up the conventions of the sector.

It’s hard to do this once you’re established as there’s more to lose, so think carefully about how brave and ‘rule’-breaking’ your product or service can be if you’re about to launch to market. At this stage you’re small and therefore responsive and adaptable, with no existing processes that have to be changed to create a new brand. In short: you’ve got one shot to do something exciting, relatively cheaply, so go for it.

Our chief task is to break the ice, disrupt, and engage (ideally under the radar) by exploiting certain "triggers" to boost relationships with prospective customers.  Any successful method of persuasion uses triggers to elicit a certain response.  These triggers include power, trust, mystique, prestige, vice, alarm and lust.   Ultimately, we are part of a fascination economy where the consumer is constantly asking “why do I give a shit?”  We therefore need to draw irresistibly the attention and interest of (someone). Our task is to really to add value by informing, educating, and/or entertaining.

Curiosity and fascination are ultimately both instinctive drives that catalyze countless behaviours, including purchasing decisions.  Our task is to bring meaning to all types of otherwise meaningless scenarios by combining such triggers as lust, power, mystique, and trust in different proportions to reel in consumers and reinforce messaging.

  • Instead of marketing and advertising being focused on "the individual", we must relate to people in interconnected groups.  
  • Instead of attempting to persuade people to believe an ad message, we must try to tap into what it is that people already believe and care about.
  • Instead of being focused on selling, the way to connect must be dedicated to driving “sharing.”  The brand is secondary.  
  • Instead of controlling the message, we must learn to relinquish control and let the movement do what it will with the message.  
  • Perhaps most radical of all - brands must learn to stop talking about themselves.
  • Instead of making our brand relevant to an existing, trending topic - our focus here is on understanding the needs of the people who will benefit from what our brand does and sparking a movement that meets those needs.
  • Ultimately it’s about creating a marketing model that is in harmony with what your consumers have been saying (and thinking) for years. “You want to sell to me, get to know me! Be part of my tribe! Care about the same things I care about, and I'll buy from you. But you have to come along side me first.”

Modern brands have real power if channeled into positive causes that benefit society and the brands themselves. Consumers now expect brands to make positive contributions to society. If they don't the consumers will vote with their feet, and wallets.  So break from the immediate past and assume thought leadership of the category.  Become idea-centric rather than consumer-centric. Create symbols of consumer re-evaluation.  
The status quo is dead so break with the past: assume nothing, take no one and nothing for granted, and constantly ask "What if?" and "Why not?"  Strive to create ideas that are engaging, provocative, self-propagating, and that create competitive advantages.  So strive for simplicity, common sense, and creativity - any approach that gains access to consumers' hearts and minds, develops ongoing relationships with them, and, most important, embraces them as partners in the process of developing and advertising.

Cut through the bullshit and show you brand is ultimately as human as they are.  This requires finding and leveraging a unique consumer insight the consumer already has about your product or service.  The most effective advertising involves consumers in two critical areas; one, consumers must  take part in the development of communication and two, consumers must be involved in the communication itself.  Simply put, creating dialogue with consumers will allow advertisers to know exactly what consumers actually want in a brand and product, and consumers should not be told what to think, but they should be given persuasive facts and allowed to make up their own minds.

Let us know if you need any assistance. We love this stuff.
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#Goodbuzz is a digital agency based in Toronto, Canada. We help brands create and capture value from emerging trends in technology, society and the workplace. We prototype the future - and believe the best way to predict it - is to create it.  Follow us on Facebook or Twitter or if you have any questions contact Goodbuzz directly.