Brands are getting close to out-and-out owning music entertainers. What’s next?
In a promotional age more complex than any time in history, brands continue to look for ways to capture consumers at the visceral level. This is a tall order in societies like ours that splinter out consumers into ever-narrowing segments conditioned to deflect promotional messages as a default behavior.
In contrast, the music industry’s heritage is built on understanding and appealing to values, attitudes, interests and lifestyle. Music genres span every taste for every mood. So it’s no wonder that over the years, brands and bands have enjoyed a cozy fit: brands provide the money, bands provide the cache and association with lifestyles and values. Think Jimmy Buffett and you instantly taste the salted rim of a seaside margarita (Sandals Resorts?). Think Pink and you might get the urge to work out till you drop (Under Armour?).
A June 2016 Huffington Post blog packages the symbiosis well, citing three factors that attract brands to sponsor bands:
Bands Forced to “Sell Out”
The balance between the non-conformist, no “sell-out” image of bands, and the opposite commercially-driven essence of brands has always been tricky business, but recently has become totally one-sided. As reported in a NY Times article, streaming music services have crushed the revenue structure of the music business, leaving bands with only touring and brand sponsorships to put fuel in the bus and pay for new guitar strings.
Now deprived of revenues formerly generated by record sales, music entertainers are broke without sponsorships. Brands have poured buckets of money into live music sponsorships to the point they’re literally taking over the show. For example, an entire tour of Lady Gaga shows actually integrated Doritos product placement on stage and around the event. So where does all this lead? It seems as if brands are getting pretty close to out-and-out owning music entertainers.
Pure Branded Entertainment
That scenario might not be too far off the trend. Since consumers drench themselves in music every day and position it as a mood identity device in their lives, what better way to entrench in consumer value systems than for brands to develop bands and solo artists of their own that write and perform songs projecting the values created by the brand. Not to suggest Mickey D’s Fat Pack or The Viagras as band names, but rather real bands with real names and real music and lyrics that never (or rarely) mention the brand name. The difference between this concept and blatantly sponsored bands of today is that the band/entertainer would be developed from the ground up by the brand that owns exclusive sponsorship rights. The music, lyrics, and image would project the brand’s values and image (Brad Paisley and Dove Men?). The original “values-aligned” music could be leveraged (instead of licensed) for brand advertising, events, videos, internal morale and alignment, and many more applications limited only by the boundaries of creativity. A hit song could mean a boon for the brand. And vice versa. If the music is good, does it make any difference how it’s funded?
Would the market buy into this kind of low profile “brand-backed band?” What do you think?
For more perspective on bridging strategy and execution, including practical tools and processes for brand operationalization, get a copy of Getting There From Here: Bridging Strategy and Execution, by Greg French, founder of GroPartners Consulting. E-book at iBooks or hard copy from Amazon.com.
What do you think of when you hear the term cause-driven marketing? Is it about charity? Marketing? Brand? Or a company? The hazy cloud around this type of positioning makes me pause, considering that the basic function of marketing is pretty clear: activities involved in bringing products, service, or ideas to market. In essence, meeting demand with supply. So what does “cause driven” have to do with demand and supply?
I’ve worked in the marketing and promotion business for more than 30 years, and though everything is different, nothing has changed. Since the days of Darrin Stephens and Don Draper (or Draper Daniels, as it were), the promotional “P” of the marketing mix has scorched a path of skepticism between consumers and cause. Even as sustainability and cause- or purpose-driven campaigns trend higher, there seem to be only a few organizations that use these labels as little more than an emotional corkscrew to open consumer pocketbooks. And the organizational commitments often seem to fade as fast as the campaigns themselves. In my experience, weak credibility is often the consequence of attempting to position marketing as philanthropy.
All this said, the few organizations that base their corporate visions and values on a focused humanitarian purpose truly enrich society in ways that exponentially improve the quality of life for creatures of Planet Earth. In my opinion, the brands owned by these organizations earn their right to profitability every day in a way that deserves longevity. And today’s new millennial mind set contributes a very effective “BS filter” to help police exploitation of real causes. This blogpost presents some important distinctions between the different types of cause-driven efforts; distinctions that can make the difference between exploitation and salvation.
Type 1: Cause-driven campaigns
These are marketing campaigns for goods and services in almost any category that donate a portion of their profits (in money or resources and/or supplies) to a cause, such as a charity.
Type 2: Cause-based organizations
In contrast to campaigns, cause-based organizations directly tackle a social problem with a donor-funded business model. Saha Global (http://www. http://sahaglobal.org) for example, began by enabling Ghana’s women—traditionally the ones in the home who are in charge of water—to become entrepreneurs through a training and monitoring program. Saha Global programs like this one teach the Ghana women how to collect and purify water by hand, and then sell the potable product at an affordable price. It addresses the issue of scarcity of potable water for villages while providing income for the women entrepreneurs.
Type 3: Cause-driven brands
Brands that are driven by cause focus on developing commercialized products, services, or programs to help solve issues that benefit society. Examples can be found in biological pest control (biocontrols) or crop protection product companies who research, develop, and manufacture natural solutions to keep insects and weeds from reducing food production of farmland or threatening public health. Considering that the earth will need to produce as much food in the first 50 years of this millennium as it did in the last 10,000 years, and the threats of vector disease such as the Zika virus, biocontrols are a big deal to everyone. Add to this many centuries of chemical pesticides stripping soil of nutrients and accumulating toxic residue that can end up in the food chain, and you’ve got a bona fide cause within a for-profit business model.
Another example of a cause-driven brand is Toms Shoes (http://www.toms.com/improving-lives). Toms Shoes is a unique socially conscious shoe company with a mission to improve the conditions of children living in poverty. There are no complicated formulas, simply for every pair of shoes purchased, Tom’s donates a second pair to a child on in need.
A conspicuous distinction of cause-driven brands is that they don’t focus on only cause-driven marketing, but operate on a commercial cause-driven business model. There’s a huge difference. A true cause-driven brand exists to serve its selected humanitarian issue by applying specific commercial solutions to targeted facets of that issue and thus leverage the economics of mass consumption to serve the cause. Unlike campaigns that come and go, donations that are ad hoc, or non-profits that directly address a humanitarian cause as their main course of activity, the cause-driven business model unites commercial and humanitarian motives. Rather than manufacture need, as in the case of the vast majority of brand marketing—or ask for handouts as in the case of cause-based organizations—cause-driven brands tackle existing humanitarian issues continuously as a part of their pursuit of profitability.
The cause-driven brand perspective can help unite and galvanize the entire value chain. The participants in the value chain—consisting of manufacturers, distributors, processors, retailers, and consumers that bring value to one another—can all focus on a purpose of greater good as common ground. This facilitates commerce among them all while solving real world problems.
Wouldn’t the world be a better place if every commercial brand operated this way? Let us know your thoughts.
For more perspective on bridging strategy and execution, including practical tools and processes for brand operationalization, get a copy of Getting There From Here: Bridging Strategy and Execution, by Greg French, founder of GroPartners Consulting. E-book at iBooks or hard copy from Amazon.com.
Many organizations are very good at developing brand and marketing strategies that have the potential to produce excellent business results. But often these strategies become diluted or even derailed due to misaligned execution. Other organizations are experts at flawless execution of strategies that may not align with actual customer behaviors and organizational goals. The reality is that it takes both to succeed. And that requires a holistic approach, connecting internal and external components to create a symbiotic brand.
When marketers fail, it is generally tied to their inability to connect strategy with in-market execution. My new book, “Getting There from Here: Bridging Strategy and Execution,” takes on the task of not only outlining how critical it is to bridge this gap but also identifying the rewards on the other side: operational excellence and in-market impact. It is an excellent reference for perspective and processes that help bridge expectations, experiences, and behaviors among all brand stakeholders at every touchpoint.
Visit http://amzn.to/1yK9DTG to download a copy. Whatever your goals, it will help you get there from here by giving you tools and processes to effectively bridge strategy and execution for better business results.
Getting There from Here: Bridging Strategy and Execution
Page 15: The power of the bridge between strategy and execution
Page 59: The RAPPORT Process; a master process and language that helps align every level of your organization
Page 125: How to conduct an effective Strategic Summit
Page 42: How to know a good vision statement when you see one
Page 116: How to build a metrics bridge dashboard
Page 17: The true relationship of brand and marketing
Page 21: Harnessing the relationship between business, brand, and innovation
Page 34: Finding strategic alignment control points
Page 53: How to be sure you’re selecting the right opportunities
Page 56: When estimating can be better than counting
A creatively relevant story about people’s lives can lead to stronger brand relationships…even in B2B.
Over the past decade, content marketing has become the staple best practice for strengthening brand relationships. Blogs (like this one), white paper marketing, book authorship, branded documentaries, and one of the most intriguing and creative forms—branded webisodes—provide today’s marketer with an expanded palette of options to deepen and broaden customer relationships. The use of Webisodes—part of a trend called branded entertainment—is growing because marketers are compelled to find new methods to reach consumers in an era when traditional media are losing personal engagement time to the Internet. Webisode formats can range from a previews/trailers; a promotional series, part of a collection of shorts, or conversely, segments of a long form piece such as a TV series.
In any of the above formats, effective webisodes:
Use entertainment and video storytelling to engage stakeholders
Television and movies taught us that visual storytelling is the “killer app” for engagement. Done well, ironic humor and humanitarian appeal are especially effective approaches.
Emotionalize the brand
Emotion adds dimension more powerful and motivating than even logic to any relationship.
Relate to issues first
Focusing on issues or cause (social, life stage, cultural, moral, political, or other lightning rods) tap into people’s mind at a visceral level in contrast to sales approaches that trigger emotional barriers.
Promote buying v selling
When people “buy in” to a cause or an issue, selling isn’t needed to make a transaction.
As my mom used to say, “Everything’s different but nothing has changed.” Blogs are really just reincarnations of the company newsletter with one big difference: WordPress and other digital blogging tools make it easier for anyone with a computer to be a publisher. White papers are still one of the best tools for thought leadership positioning. The difference here is digital creation and access. And webisodes are very much like early radio and TV serials, sponsored, owned, and produced by advertisers and their agencies instead of by producers and networks. The difference is the medium: broadcast versus the internet, the latter providing some game-changing advantages.
Media trending toward web video
It’s no longer news that web video is taking a bite out of TV viewership. Nielsen’s (television audience research) most recent study indicates that viewing by 18-24-year-olds dropped by a little more than 4-and-a-half hours per week. http://bit.ly/1p7nVvc That’s equivalent to roughly 40 minutes per day.
At the same time, YouTube now reports that:
YouTube reaches more US adults ages 18-34 than any single cable network
More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month
Over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube—that’s almost an hour for every person on Earth
100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute
YouTube is localized in 61 countries and across 61 languages
My purpose in citing these stats isn’t to diminish TV advertising. It’s still the 800-pound gorilla to beat. But rather, my point is to emphasize that webisode marketing done right—with focused objectives, cogent strategies, and the right metrics attached—can now create a serious competitive advantage with clear ROI. For many brands that either can’t afford TV time or don’t fit into the TV advertising model (such as B2B), webisodes can present a green field of opportunity.
Can webisodes deliver real business results?
Many media historians portray our current period as the “post-broadcast era,” implying that audiences are sharing more of their video consumption with the web and media other than broadcast. Not to say that web entertainment will replace broadcast or cable TV. That would be like doomsters of the 1940’s and ‘50s who presaged TV replacing radio. And though it probably won’t displace TV, web video does contribute to an ever-fragmenting, increasingly complex media landscape in which consumers have so much choice that traditional media-driven marketing it is neither practical nor effective. That’s why content-driven marketing provides a sorely needed solution. It creates valuable, targeted content to repurpose in as many media as possible.
On the flip side, in order to get views, web video needs to be supported with targeted search marketing, SEO techniques, social media, and traditional promotion. This support allows audiences to discover what’s important to them, in a compelling format, on demand—when they have a specific heightened need or interest. Webisodes fit this solution profile like a glove, versus dubiously relevant promotional content force fed as an inline component of entertainment programming (aka TV).
On October 6, 2006, rapper Sean Combs (aka P. Diddy) debuted DiddyTV, sponsored by Burger King. Today, YouTube shows the first webisode garnering more than 993,000 views and 70,000 subscribers while building a social web brand community for a cultural niche. Not bad for an inexpensive webisode series. However, if you look deeper into the comments and thumbs down click counts, you might see a balanced story.
The following year, Mini Cooper launched Starsky & Hutch/Dukes of Hazzard webisode spoof “Hammer & Coop.” The effort, which centered around a six-episode web series, generated 1.5 million views and consumer interest that eventually translated into 800 vehicle sales (at least that’s the official report). But Mini didn’t just entertain visitors, it also presented a Mini web configuration tool to bring visitors closer to buying. The official report is: “Three hundred seven thousand unique visitors went directly to Hammerandcoop.com and spent an average of six minutes viewing the videos. Another 722,000 connected there through miniusa.com. Of the 722,000, 355,000 of them configured a Mini (by model, engine and extras); 22,000 people saved their configurations; and 2,400 of those sent them to dealers. Min reports that data represented about a 33% conversion rate that translated to about 800 vehicle sales.” http://adage.com/article/madisonvine-case-study/initial-results-mini-s-hammer-coop-effort/116193/
While I see a couple holes in the metrics strategy (from what I can tell, the 307,000 hammerandcoop.com visitors weren’t directly connected to configuring a car or the resulting sales funnel), this early example of webisode infotainment broke new ground for the medium. Bottom line: Mini Cooper sales were down 4% Q1 2007 YOY. However, US Mini Cooper annual sales hit their highest historic point to date in 2008, at 54,077 units. http://www.goodcarbadcar.net/2011/01/mini-cooper-sales-figures.html It gives pause for thought.
Webisodes for B2B
What about for business to business brands? Blendtec makes blending technology for home, manufacturing, and foodservice. They launched their webisode series “Will it Blend” (www.willitblend.com) in 2007, featuring its founder, Tom Dickson, in a wacky role as a lab technician attempting to grind up everything from cubic zirconium “diamonds” to iPhones in Blendtec brand blenders. YouTube shows more than 6.7 million views on the “diamond blend” show including more than 16,000 likes and only 2013 thumbs down.
AnotherB2B example is an animated production by Lawson, a provider of software and service solutions in the manufacturing, distribution, maintenance and service sector industries. This webisode provides a good competitive positioning tool, effectively promoting Lawson’s “Simpler is Better” brand. It’s no slouch for such a nichey industrial target at more than 89,000 views. I’d like to see a metrics bridge that connects these views to results in a shift in positioning, revenues, and/or margins.
Business-to-business brands can use content marketing—including webisodes—to exploit market niches with a fresh approach to engaging their customers, limited only by imagination and, of course, budget. Unlike broadcast TV, web presence is free, so the only cost in getting a series on the web is production, which can be managed incrementally with theme, creative development, and production values, which new technology has made dramatically more efficient.
But wait. TV has built-in audiences (that’s what you pay the stations and networks for). With webisodes, you’ll have to generate the audiences yourself (you knew there had to be a catch). This “detail” has been the primary barrier in the success of many web videos.
What’s the right objective for webisodes?
Social media and advertising can get pretty expensive in the quest to promote your webisodes for customer acquisition. So why not start by using them to improve the lifetime value of your current customers? One excellent use for webisodes is cross selling lines to existing customers. Webisodes can provide context (relevant issues and situations that uncover real needs) in dramatic, comedic, or simply interesting ways (how to, etc.). This leads the customer to buy into a larger brand context and a larger solution set. With effective funneling surrounding the webisodes, it’s possible to tightly track ROI on existing or past customers.
A proven ROI formula?
Despite a few days of exhaustive research on the web, I haven’t been able to identify any recent B2B webisode examples. Maybe that’s because there’s not yet a tried and true formula that links webisodes to ROI. GroPartners is now engaged with one of our clients in an effort to do just that. We’ll keep you posted.
Meanwhile, if you have any additional information on webisodes that you’d like to share on my blogpost, please leave a comment (link top of page). I’d love to post it.
A strong corporate brand strategy is one of the most powerful forces an organization can marshal. Properly operationalized, it can measurably improve top-line effectiveness for product brands and bottom line efficiencies throughout the organization from the stock room to the board room − and everywhere between. In the best brands, the strategy acts as a guide for every stakeholder decision, from the highest level to the most granular, which can result in reduced management costs and greater employee satisfaction.
But just as any other kind of strategy, the true power of brand strategy is activated only with aligned execution. A brand strategy road map helps brands stay on track with clear process, aligning business, vision, people, and process.
Brand strategy originates in your organization’s vision and values. Aligning business goals, customer wants and needs, and employee satisfaction with that vision is critical to sustainable growth.
Virgin operates 53 separate brands, as diverse as airlines, records, books, and health. All Virgin brands are based on the same vision and values:
“Virgin believes in making a difference. We stand for value for money, quality, innovation, fun and a sense of competitive challenge. We strive to achieve this by empowering our employees to continually deliver an unbeatable customer experience.”
Experience…Founder Richard Branson showcases the Virgin brand with his swashbuckling extreme sports, spaceships and experience-steeped TV commercial roles. By contrast, many organizations mistake the branding process for an identity exercise. And while that is an essential piece of brand, there are three major components to branding:
A brand strategy road map helps communicate the process to senior management and provides “gates” that must be sequentially satisfied to move through the process. (Click graphic to enlarge)
Your company’s best branding strategies will almost always come from aligning customer insights with organizational vision, values and business objectives. Those strategies are brought to life with brand development (logos, messaging, governance, programs, products, services) and should permeate your organization’s processes and culture/employees. Only on this strategic footing is the brand ready to push outward to customers through sales and marketing touch points. This process helps organizations “live the brand,” so customers’ and consumers’ brand experience is consistent with what the brand stands for. This consistency provides a host of business benefits from enhanced productivity, support for premium pricing, and deflection of competition, to higher revenues and margins.
Mergers & Acquisitions
When a merger or acquisition occurs, though there may be solid business due-diligence behind the transaction, brand misalignment is likely. Rarely are two brand cultures so similar that an alignment action isn’t needed to optimize business performance. Developing a brand strategy roadmap, along with some seasoned facilitation and guidance, helps resolve brand misalignment issues so people and processes support a common goal.
Get the (big) picture?
Alignment essentially assures that people, processes, and business goals all understand the vision and support each other. Alignment of talent, brand delivery, marketing, operations, and other functional areas and stakeholder groups make up the entire alignment picture. “People” include not only employees, but also distributors and customers.
Chicken and egg
There’s a debate among brand consultants about whether business strategy drives the vision or vice-versa…that business strategy may change the organizational vision. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. Leave a comment (see top of post).
Delighted customers are worth more than their individual revenue streams.
In my August, 2010 frenchonbrand.com, “Is Customer Delight Overkill?” (http://wp.me/pU6PC-25), I downplayed the concept of customer delight as potentially over-performing on the premise that people don’t necessarily want to be delighted, merely satisfied. My logic was that over performing in this area causes excess cost. Since then, and as a result of one of my reader’s well-informed and thoughtful comments (thanks, John H. FMB!) — and more research on the subject — I’ve moderated my position on customer delight and pass along the following convincing metric: a way to measure the impact of customer delight on word-of-mouth promotion to optimize the investment.
I realized the impact of customer delight extends far beyond the customer, after a review of W. Edwards Deming’s Profound Knowledge and Fred Reichheld’s “The Ultimate Question” (Net Promoter Score a.k.a. NPS). In this holistic approach to business, operationalizing customer delight becomes essential to its importance. Instead of viewing “delight” as overkill, I can now reconcile it with other favorable business results, such as increasing the lifetime value of a customer (promoter) beyond the customer revenue stream, and into areas such as:
Low-cost customer acquisition via referrals (reduced marketing costs)
Viral customer acquisition (referrals of referrals)
More nimble market response due to vibrant customer connections (innovation)
Continuous improvement of operations through cultural alignment (operationalized brand)
And many more
The result is sustainable growth.
To measure customer delight word-of-mouth radiance, Reichheld offers the following formula (this can be modified per individual situation). A customer survey is needed to capture the information needed to perform the calculations below (contact GroPartners for specific survey content).
Pick a benchmark date in the past (for example, the past 12 months, or last fiscal year). Then use this measurement process.
1. How many delighted customers do you have?
Find out how many of your new desirable customers were referred by other delighted customers (NPS of 9 or 10, meaning “on a scale of 1-10, how likely would you be to refer a friend or colleague to your brand?)
2. What is your average new customer worth?
Calculate (or see industry analysts’ calculations) what your average new customer is worth in dollars and cents.
3. Calculate the total value of those new delighted customers
Multiply the data from #1 (above) by #2 (above)
4. Calculate the value of positive comments
In your NPS survey, also ask respondents for positive or negative comments that support their NPS rating. If x number of positive comments generated $y in revenue (from 3 above), divide y/x to calculate the value of each positive comment
6. Calculate the value of each promoter
In your survey, find out the number of people per year to which each promoter might have commented, and multiply the average number by the value in #4 (above) to get the value of word-of-mouth per promoter. This is the “magic number” that helps optimize customer delight.
Anything can be measured. Even the power of customer delight. Now I’m a believer. How about you?
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GroPartners Consulting helps middle-market organizations bridge strategy and execution for better business results.
Brand is the network of relationships that surrounds a business or product, including all its touch points.
I once spent the better part of a year convincing the CEO of a marketing organization that brand was not a subset of marketing, but instead, the reverse. To my surprise, during that year, I noticed his perspective is fairly common, even among marketing folks.
To many people (especially direct marketers and finance folks), “brand” associates with really fluffy connotations. In reality, brand is much bigger than marketing. In fact, it’s bigger than the products brought to market and even bigger than the companies that make the products that go to market. Why? Because the brand includes not only the company and its products, but relationships among its people, all its functions, channels (distributors, etc.), customers and even – to a degree – its competitors. It encompasses values, purpose, beliefs, and ultimately, identity. Essentially, brand is about that precisely dicey issue of “what you stand for” and what that means to people in the context of their lives. Finance guys often get heartburn from brand discussions mostly because they can’t easily and accurately prove out ROI on brand investments. An operationalized approach to brand investments can quench the heartburn. This means placing strategic metrics among and between internal operations, customer touch point metrics, marketing results, and financial results.
The difference between Marketing and Brand
Click image for a larger view.
Marketing builds and measures transactions. Brand builds and measures relationships. Even though marketers refer to building relationships through marketing, the goal is transactions, so technically, there’s a little brand blended in with the marketing mentality. Brand relationships continue after marketing has delivered products to customers. The goal of branding is to build relationships as a pipeline for transactions.
Where marketing is about all the intelligence and activities it takes to drive transactions, brand focuses on the underlying relationships and expectations among stakeholders around the transactions. When positive relationships exist and expectations are met, the stage is set for a continuous stream of transactions (i.e. successful sales and marketing campaigns).
This sets into motion a chain of operational implications, both internal and external. Brand-aligned organizations use this as an opportunity to examine the dynamic and causal relationships among employees, customers, and operations. Identifying cause-and-effect among these forces builds business value – the goals at the core of business operations. To do this successfully, an operationalized brand metrics program should first be in place (for more on this, contact Gropartners).
The truth is, most people feel more comfortable gaining a level of trust before they take the leap into a transaction. Until they experience a level of satisfaction or value as “compensation” for the currency they trade, customers experience anxiety and feel vulnerable. But they may not even take the leap until they feel they can trust the seller (kind of “chicken-or-egg” first). So whether an ad campaign puts a friendly face on the brand, a sampling campaign lets you “try before you buy,” or a recommendation from a trusted friend disarms you, some level of pre-transaction relationship is usually required to help minimize the feeling of risk and start the flow of transactions. This, and it’s post-transaction counterparts (“customer care,” etc.), wrap the transactions up in “relationship wrappers.”
Brands are relationships between people and products, services, or ideas, which are made of three fundamental elements: focus, distinction, and trust. The word “brand” should be distinguished from ‘branding.” “Brand” focuses on the strategic dimensions of a relationship while “branding” refers to execution. “Branding” is a term that broadly defines the scope of activities that bring the brand to life for stakeholders –- creative application of brand values, identity and communications (logos, taglines, guidelines, messaging, etc.). These activities “voice” the brand to stakeholders. And while these are certainly essential elements of brand, they are usually products of creative execution under strategic direction.
So when you hear or use the phrase “brand marketing,” it generally relates to issues about customer relationships and delivering on the promise. In contrast,”product marketing,” issues are mainly about transactions and delivering the product. That’s how brand marketing and product marketing work hand-in-hand to build business value. And that’s why you find many high-profile CEOs personally driving brand conversations and initiatives. The big picture guys get it.