The name of the game

July 31, 2019

A new business opened up around the corner and I couldn’t help but notice the name. It is A-1 Iowa Plumbing and they’ve hung a big banner announcing that they’re open and ready for new customers.

The name is a good reminder of several common naming mistakes that I thought were worth sharing. Whether you are starting a new business or contemplating a name change for your existing business, your company’s name gives you an opportunity to begin to create a familiarity with your brand.

Starting your name with an A: Back in the good old days, when people relied on the yellow pages to find new vendors, starting your business with an A had some merit. It meant you were at the top of the listings. But, today it’s really not that relevant. When was the last time you reached for the phone book? Exactly.

Even though there are still people who use the yellow pages – it’s not the first place most people look. The truth is, most people ask their friends (either in person or on Facebook) or Google it. Others might turn to a tool like Angie’s List. But in all of those cases – a business with a name that starts with an A has no advantage.

Letting the map define your name: It’s not that there is anything wrong with showing your civic pride but it doesn’t help differentiate you from any other provider. If I look at ten plumbing companies online, via my friends’ recommendations, on Angie’s List, or even in the phone book – they’re all going to be from Iowa. Adding Hawkeye, Cyclone, Iowa or any other variation that tells me you’re based in Iowa is not new information.

If you work locally or regionally, then I already know you’re proud to be an Iowan. If you work nationally, then adding Iowa only makes you look like a local company that I might dismiss as not being big enough for my needs. Either way, it’s not really helping.

Creative Spelling: Unless you have a very large advertising budget, many locations with great signage or you own a lot of real estate that you can clearly mark as your own — – don’t purposefully misspell words in your name. Kwik Trip can make it work but odds are you’re working with a smaller marketing budget, so don’t create more work for yourself.

No matter how you market your business, you’ll spend valuable time and money making sure you have helped your audience spell your business name correctly.

Tell me how you’re different: If you can, use your name to differentiate yourself. Use it to tell me what you stand for or a promise you make to your customers. The local business Service Legends is a heating and cooling business. But where they stake their claim is in how they treat their customers. Their name makes us a promise – that their service will be legendary. That’s a name you’d notice.

Not being willing to change: For an existing business, it’s a delicate balancing act. Do you have so much equity built into your original name that you can’t afford to change it or would the change give you the fresh start and clarifying vision you need?

Walking away from a name that you’ve used for a while is a complicated decision, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it outright. If your business has undergone some significant changes, serves new audiences or is re-inventing itself, it might be worth the risk.

Your company’s name is a potential client’s first peek at what it will be like to do business with you. So choose every word with care.


Community Building

July 24, 2019

CommunityMost recently, we looked at the idea that content marketing efforts often stop short of actually building a community and by doing so, brands miss out on the incredible benefits of that strategy. The phrase “build a community” is nebulous so I wanted to give you a concrete example to spark ideas as you look forward to building out your 2020 marketing plan.

One of the most effective ways to build community is to bring your audience together to learn, discuss shared challenges, and to encourage them to be both the student and the teacher. One of our clients hosts an annual event that yields incredible results. Their annual one-day event focuses on sharing best practices and trends for the industry they serve.

They only invite clients and key prospects. Every invitee covers their own travel expenses but after that, it’s all on the brand. They host a full day of speakers, panels, and small group discussions. Everyone walks away with new connections, ideas, and renewed energy for tackling their shared concerns.

For their clients, it’s a perk of working with this company. For their prospects, it’s an opportunity to learn while learning more about their potential partner. But look at it from the brand’s perspective. Their best, happiest clients are mingling with their biggest prospects. What do they have in common to talk about? Two things. Their industry and the company that is hosting the event.

They bring in some big name outside speakers but most of the presentations are done by members of the host company’s team. This positions them as subject matter experts and they use case studies and other successes as examples as they teach. Imagine people flying to you, so you can walk them through your case studies of how you solved your customer’s problems.

When we do the ROI report for this event, the numbers are impressive. For a hard cost of around $40,000, our client will generate $300,000+ annually in new opportunities from both existing clients and prospects who become clients. In addition, the retention rate on the clients who attend is three times better than those that they can’t convince to come.

They keep that audience connected and give them additional opportunities to be both teacher and student throughout the year so that when they come back together at the next event, the ties are even stronger.

One of the aspects of this event that I really love but may seem counter-intuitive is that if a client is no longer working with the host, they’re still invited to the event. This is a bold move that’s aligned with the company’s values around relationships. In many cases, those former clients become clients again and even if they don’t, they become a referral source.

For some of you, this may be out of reach, at the scale they do it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t create community by bringing your customers together. If most of your clients are local, host quarterly breakfasts that spotlight a specific challenge. If your clients are scattered all over the globe, leverage technology and create learning groups. Host the meetings on a platform like Zoom so everyone can still see each other as they learn together.

The key elements are that it has to be educational, not promotional. You need participants who are willing to share what they know as well as learn from others and it can’t be a one-time thing. No one forms a lasting bond after one encounter. Be mindful and realistic in terms of what you can sustain, quarter over quarter or year over year.

This isn’t a quick win but the gains can be substantial, both from a revenue point of view but equally important, from a relationship, referral, and retention point of view.



Content Marketing – a two-way connection

July 17, 2019

content marketingWhen you hear the phrase content marketing what does it mean to you? If you’re like most B2B marketers, you may be associating that term with a combination of email campaigns and educational content. Most brands use gated (you have to trade your email address to access the content) content to build their email list and then deploy an email drip campaign to stay connected with the prospect until they are ready to buy.

Or the flip of that, they may offer educational content to their email list that they don’t make available to anyone not in their inner circle. These tactics are highly successful for many companies. But, there’s more to consider.

If you remember, we’ve been talking about three key takeaways from the content marketing trends report from Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and today we will unpack the third takeaway:

  • Well-researched personas can help teams create successful content; however, too few content marketers (42%) are actually talking with customers to understand their needs.
  • Nearly all of the successful B2B content marketers (90%) prioritize the audience’s informational needs over their sales/promotional message, compared with the 56% of the least successful.
  • B2B content marketers primarily use email (87%) and educational content (77%) to nurture their audience and may be missing other opportunities (e.g., only 23% are using community building/audience participation to bring new voices to the table.)

One of the biggest challenges with content marketing is that all too often, we treat it like traditional marketing. We think of it as a monologue. We send out broadcast emails. We produce a blog and turn off the comments. We create an ebook. All effective but not for encouraging conversation. We have an opportunity to actually use our marketing to connect with a prospect or customer who is willing to actually engage with us.

This doesn’t require us to abandon our current monologue efforts. We just have to adapt them.

This blog is a perfect example. Some of the most popular posts are in response to emails I get from readers who ask a question that I can answer in an upcoming post. But I haven’t been consistent in reminding you that you’re welcome to reach out and pose a question or suggest a topic. That’s true for most marketing tactics that appear to be a one-way conversation. They’re capable of being more but we don’t always take advantage of the opportunity.

Audience participation content is the simplest way to have that two-way connection. Building a community is another model but it’s going to take more time, effort and, in many cases, money. The effort yields you huge credibility and currency by positioning you as the brand that is a connector. If your clients are wrestling with some of the same challenges, why not create a place for them to come together to share hacks, best practices, and have the opportunity to learn from each other?

You could create an online forum for a niche audience or put on a conference. On a smaller scale, you could create a Facebook group or plan a quarterly meet up. What’s great about these tactics is that you don’t have to produce all of the content. The audience and their connections and conversations are the content.

A community can also be built around a shared cause or concern. I’m not talking about putting your logo on the back of a t-shirt here but really having a robust program that not only changes the world but changes your relationship with your customer.

We’ll dig into this idea of how to build a community next time because I believe it’s worthy of more attention and consideration.


Stop selling, start helping

July 10, 2019

sellingA while back, we explored some of the key takeaways from a content marketing trends report produced by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), and I identified some trends worthy of more in-depth exploration. They included:

  • Well-researched personas can help teams create successful content; however, too few content marketers (42%) are actually talking with customers to understand their needs.
  • Nearly all of the successful B2B content marketers (90%) prioritize the audience’s informational needs over their sales/promotional message, compared with the 56% of the least successful.
  • B2 content marketers primarily use email (87%) and educational content (77%) to nurture their audience and may be missing other opportunities (e.g., only 23% are using community building/audience participation to bring new voices to the table.)

Most recently, we talked about the importance and power of personas when they are done well, with actual data to augment your own customer knowledge and insights. Today, we’re going to tackle the second bullet, which is all about understanding what kinds of content are useful in the selling process.

What this study is emphasizing and we’ve certainly seen this with our clients – is that the more you sell in your content, the less it sells. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, it’s much less likely that sales or promotional content will be found in the first place. Odds are, your audience finds your content through search. The search engines work hard to respond to the query with quality content that answers the question posed. Helpful, informational content is almost always going to rank higher than promotional copy.

The second reason why salesy content doesn’t sell as well is because it’s a sales pitch and as consumers, we don’t respond well to sales pitches, especially when we are in the exploration stage of the buying journey. We might not even be in the market to buy anything. But when a brand consistently helps us learn more, make better decisions, or do some DIY activities that serve our family or our business, we are indebted to them. We value their good counsel or how easy they made it for us to get some answers.

When we are further along in the buying journey or when someone asks for a referral, the brand that offered helpful, informative content and didn’t make us feel rushed or pitched, is going to be in our consideration set, if not our sole choice.

What does helpful and informative content look like?

  • How-to videos with demos
  • Downloadable documents with step-by-step instructions
  • Detailed answers to questions you get asked every day
  • Hacks that a novice might not know to have a better experience
  • Best practice metrics or guidelines
  • Questions to ask before you XY or Z (Do not slant these to make your product or service the only choice or option)
  • Webinars that teach
  • Podcasts with guests who illuminate, inspire or educate (or all three!)

The best helpful and informative content may not mention your specific product or service at all, but it speaks right to the needs of the people who would most likely value your product or service.

I get it. It’s so tempting to toss in a little sales message. Resist the urge. Fight to have your altruistic intentions remain pure. Don’t give in to the temptation. Be patient. Remember how you feel when a salesperson rushes at you. You want to flee.

Your whole goal is to make your audience want to come back again and again because you are so helpful. When they get to the right spot on the buying journey, I promise you, the results will speak for themselves. They will seek you out.

But you have to let them get there through discovery.


The power of personas

July 3, 2019

personasPreviously, we noted that content marketing is hardly a new methodology. Its origins trace back to the late 1800s, but it certainly has evolved as technology and access have made it possible for just about anyone to claim and prove authority and expertise. But it takes well-researched personas to create successful content.

In looking at the content marketing trends report produced by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), I identified some trends worthy of more in-depth exploration. They included:

  • Well-researched personas can help teams create successful content; however, too few content marketers (42%) are actually talking with customers to understand their needs.
  • Nearly all of the successful B2B content marketers (90%) prioritize the audience’s informational needs over their sales/promotional message, compared with the 56% of the least successful.
  • B2B content marketers primarily use email (87%) and educational content (77%) to nurture their audience and may be missing other opportunities (e.g., only 23% are using community building/audience participation to bring new voices to the table.)

Today we’re going to invest some time to talk about persona best practices. A persona is a fictional composite created by looking at a set of your prospects or customers that would react to your product or service similarly. Think of this “person” as a fictional character that makes it easier to craft your marketing because you can envision yourself talking to them, rather than addressing a static set of demographics or statistics. Creating personas helps a brand create more effective messaging, create emotional connections with the intended audience, and anticipate that audience’s questions, needs, and barriers to the sale.

The danger in creating personas is that if you get it wrong, you can take your marketing in a direction that ranges from ineffective to downright damaging to your brand. You know the adage about what happens when we assume. Well, that’s the inherent risk of using personas if you don’t base those personas on research. Going back to the CMI trend report, the key takeaway from their findings is that well-researched personas can help teams create successful content. The study also found that most marketers were skipping that crucial step. If you don’t conduct the research, your personas are based on bias, assumptions, and guesses. Not the stable foundation you need.

You will want to do both formal and informal research as you develop your personas. Along with audience segmentation studies, you might consider focus groups, customer intercepts or interviewing your front-line staff, salespeople and call center reps. The more angles and viewpoints you can include, the better.

Once you’ve used the data to define your personas, you’ll want to go into a testing phase. The trick is to assume nothing. Test everything. What messages resonate with each persona? What triggers an action or reaction? It could be anything from a specific word in a headline to the color of a button on your website. The more you test, the more you can narrow down the choices, so you are left with only the most effective options.

As you’re expanding your data set for each persona, be sure that you’re working off a template to help you gather the same information and insights for each persona. Then begin to build out the customer journey maps. Each persona will have their own, so don’t stop at one. As you create the journey maps, you’re going to find they’re a blend of the facts, stories and personality traits you uncovered during your research.

One of the most significant benefits of properly creating your personas is that as you go through the effort, the marketing opportunities and messages will become very clear. The more you get to know them, the easier it is to communicate effectively with them.


Trends in content marketing

June 26, 2019

trends in content marketingContent marketing is not new. It has its origins back in the late 1800s, but for most of us, it became apparent during the infomercial era. There have always been trends in content marketing.

If you’re 40+, you might remember the Tony Robbins infomercials. They were thirty minutes of TV programming that was a blend of useful information, testimonials from famous people and the opportunity to learn more through the purchase of books, cassette taped coaching and live events.

Tony Robbins, way before we coined the term content marketing, was a content marketer. He was positioning himself in his books, infomercials, coaching products, and live events to be a personal and professional growth subject matter expert.

Many people found him obnoxious and changed the channel. But millions of people did not. I remember reading that he bought an island to conduct his highest costing private retreats. So clearly, his sales methods were working. That’s the power of content marketing. It repels people who are not likely to be your customers and attracts those who are. You’re not wasting dollars or effort on an audience that will never be relevant for you.

When the internet emerged, content marketing became more democratic and more B2B friendly. You didn’t have to have a budget or product that was suitable for TV or any other mass media. Now anyone who was willing to create compelling content and share it had the opportunity to attract and retain a clearly defined audience. The goal remained the same — earn their confidence and trust so that when they were in the market (a day or decade later) for certain products and/or services, you’d be in the consideration set.

The technology, as usual, was available long before the audience had adopted it. Back in the early 2000s, you could have produced videos, podcasts, and other vehicles but the internet and our cell phones weren’t ready to make those channels easily accessible. Remember, YouTube didn’t come into existence until 2005. So, the early days of content marketing were primarily the written word in the form of blog posts.

We were one of the early adopters, launching our agency’s blog in 2006. Thanks to the fact that we were very consistent in publishing and that there were very few out there doing it, we were catapulted to a national stage, earning a position on prestigious lists like AdAge’s Power 150 and garnering the attention of the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and others. Blogging is still an incredibly effective way to earn your prospect’s attention as well as influence your position on the search engines, but it’s hardly our only choice in 2019.

Content Marketing Institute, which is arguably the world’s premier authority on all things content, looks at and reports on trends in content marketing. There are some big takeaways that I’d like to unpack over the next few weeks as I think each is worthy of a deeper dive as you think about your marketing plan for the coming year.

  • Well-researched personas can help teams create successful content; however, too few content marketers (42%) are actually talking with customers to understand their needs.
  • Nearly all of the successful B2B content marketers (90%) prioritize the audience’s informational needs over their sales/promotional message, compared with the 56% of the least successful.
  • B2 content marketers primarily use email (87%) and educational content (77%) to nurture their audience and may be missing other opportunities (e.g., only 23% are using community building/audience participation to bring new voices to the table.)

As you begin to think about your 2020 marketing plan, be sure that content is a part of the mix.


Take a stand

June 19, 2019

How consumers interact with the companies they do business with, and their expectations of us evolve and are a direct reflection of our culture and core beliefs as human beings. That could not be more evident than today. A study (it’s done every year) called the Edelman Earned Brand Study is one of the most comprehensive pieces of research on how consumers (B2B and B2C) view their relationship with the companies they consider doing business with. The message from the 2018 study is unequivocal. Consumers, across the globe, expect us to take a stand.

The research found that 64 percent of consumers around the world now buy on belief, a remarkable increase of 13 points since 2017. These “Belief-Driven Buyers” will choose, switch, avoid or boycott a brand based on where it stands on the political or social issues they care about.

One of the most startling statistics in the study is that 65% of consumers will not buy a brand because it stayed silent on an issue that the consumer believes the brand had an obligation to address.

This seismic shift over the past few years (it’s a trend we’ve been tracking since 2015) is a direct reflection on how we as a people are feeling about our society, our risks and our government. 53% believe that brands can do more to solve social ills than government and 54% believe it is easier to get a brand to address social problems than to get the government to act.

It’s not just about features and benefits anymore. Whether people are shopping for toothpaste or a truck, they’re factoring in a brand’s principles as much as its products. According to the research, silence will cost a company customers and revenue. Staying on the sidelines is no longer an option for brands.

This belief set is no longer fringe or limited to a particular age group. The Belief-Driven Buyers are the majority in every country surveyed, across all age groups and all income levels.

Buyers are just as likely to express the intent to purchase after viewing a communication focused on a brand’s stand as they are after seeing a product-focused communication. And if you’re trying to create raving fans, this is even more important. Any communication focused on a brand’s stand has an even more significant effect on a consumer’s intent to advocate for the brand than one focused on product features.

If you want social interaction and to get your best customers talking about you – take a stand. The study showed that people are much more likely to talk to their family or friends about you or post something online (a reply, like or share) if the topic is your stand on an issue, as opposed to your product’s features.

The Nike ad featuring Colin Kaepernick is a perfect example of this strategy that is playing out before our eyes. Think about how it dominated our social channels, the traditional media, and our water cooler conversations when it came out. Many consumers either vowed to never buy Nike products again or went out of their way to reward them for taking a stand by making a purchase.

In the polarized world we live in, I can see why a company’s first instinct is to remain neutral. Why provoke either side? Why risk losing half of your potential customers because you spoke out on an issue or societal issue? But if this study is to be believed, and it’s one of the most reputable studies in the space, you actually risk losing more consumers if you do nothing. Neutrality is an expensive choice.

How will your organization respond to this? I don’t think you can avoid answering this question much longer.


Delivering bad news

June 12, 2019

newsIt’s inevitable. We are going to screw up and have to share that with our customers, prospects and in many cases, with our employees or teammates.

That we will have to do it is a given. But there’s quite a bit of latitude in how we do it.

In the latest security breach at Facebook, 50 million users were exposed. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg quickly alerted the public and explained in detail what happened, why it happened and how Facebook account holders should secure their accounts.

At first glance, it appears as if Facebook was very upfront and handled the breach well. But Zuckerberg’s statement was widely criticized because he did not express remorse or apologize for exposing people’s information. He did not say “I’m sorry.”

And that is one of the key elements of how to handle a mistake. First and foremost – apologize. Don’t infer or imply it. Say the words. But you have to mean them. An insincere or begrudging apology is worse than no apology at all.

Another critical element to a successful mea culpa is your brand. When you apologize with style or grace, it is so disarming that you can neutralize a hostile customer base. I can’t think of a more volatile customer group than people on an airplane. They’re almost bracing for a fight because they expect bad service, flight delays, or seatmate issues.

I was on a flight recently, and it was a few minutes past the time that they should have closed the cabin doors. The pilot came out and got on the PA system. Here’s what he said:

“Folks, you know when the captain comes out of the cockpit to talk to you, it’s not good news. We’re going to be delayed because there’s a malfunction in the oxygen system in the cockpit and if something happens mid-flight, believe me; you want a conscious pilot. I know I’m old, but I promise, I’m more alert when I have oxygen. This problem is only in the cockpit. There’s nothing wrong with the oxygen system in the main cabin.

I’m am very sorry about this, and if anyone wants to yell at me about the delay, please come on up. But, I want to warn you – I’ve been married for 30 years, so I’m pretty immune. But you can still yell if it makes you feel better. Once the maintenance crew gets here, it should take them about ten minutes to fix the problem, so I expect we’ll be in the air in thirty minutes. If I think it’s going to be longer than that, I will let you know.”

When he was done, people laughed and applauded. They applauded a flight delay announcement. That doesn’t happen very often. So, what did the pilot do to earn everyone’s grace?

  • He was sincere and genuinely apologized.
  • He explained the root problem and the risks of not fixing the problem.
  • He gave specific details as to the timeframe to fix the problem.
  • He promised to keep his customers informed if there was a change in the plan or timeline.
  • He was warm and approachable.
  • He used humor at an appropriate level.
  • He invited customers to express their discontent.

That’s a pretty impressive outcome for a speech with fewer than 175 words. And actually, that’s one of the other things he did well. He didn’t wrap his notification and apology in a lot of excuses, explanations or weasel words. He was straightforward and candid.

In this era of 24/7 news, spectator captured video, and everything showing up on the internet, learning the art of the graceful apology seems to be a skill that would behoove us all.


You’re not going crazy

June 5, 2019

crazyHave you ever been watching TV while simultaneously playing a game or surfing the web on your phone and suddenly it feels like everywhere you look there’s an ad for the same product? For example, you just heard (because you were looking down at your phone) a TV spot for the latest Toyota vehicle and then the next mobile ad that is served up on your phone or tablet is also for the same Toyota vehicle? You’re not going crazy. But you are living in 2019 – the era of automated content recognition.

Automatic content recognition (ACR) is an identification technology that allows our devices to recognize content being played on our TVs. In English what that means is that every TV spot and every TV show is chipped with a pixel that allows our smart TV and our smart devices to know exactly what we watched and when. This chip is sometimes called a watermark, and we can’t see or hear it as viewers. But our phones can.

This technology has been around since 2010 or so, but today, it’s pervasive and being used in some really interesting ways. As your smartphone “hears” what you are watching, it can serve up ads, opportunities to interact with content, provide extra content, lotteries, real-time polls or add the viewer to a database of people exposed to that particular ad or show.

This technology becomes increasingly valuable as our population continues to cut the cord from traditional TV suppliers like cable and satellite, making them more difficult to reach. Streaming services like Hulu or apps like HBO Go also have these watermarks and are collecting data so advertisers can better target their digital ads.

How can we as marketers take advantage of this technology?

Align screens: We know that in 2017, over 74% of adults watched TV while surfing the web or using an app on their phone. One valuable offering from this technology is that it allows advertisers to reinforce their message by pushing complimentary content to the viewer’s phone while they’re receiving the same message on their TV.

Conquesting: This is a technique of intercepting a buyer when they’re considering your competitor. You can now create a digital media buy that “cuts in” when someone in your target audience is watching TV and is served up one of your competitor’s ads. You can then, within seconds, serve up your ad to their phone or tablet.

Study the audience to build better strategy: With ACR, we can determine some key facts: 1) What shows and commercials are individuals watching on a second-by-second basis 2) What the viewer’s IP address is, which will then allow us to know their physical address and which websites and apps they visit 3) How the viewer is watching – is it Netflix on an AppleTV, CBS using a rooftop antenna, an on-demand show from Mediacom via a set-top box or a show they’re watching via DISH TV Now on their Xbox.

Retargeting: Mobile usage peaks during TV commercial breaks. As a result, brand recall from TV ads can suffer. With this technology, you can connect with your TV audience across all screens and reconnect your audience to your campaign. Advertisers can use the database created to target those individuals and serve up anything from postcards in their mailbox to video ads on their phone, based on their viewing habits and ad exposures.

ACR is a way to maximize your ad spend, dramatically increase your frequency and connect with your audience in a multi-media campaign that is very efficient from a budget point of view. It also gives you incredible insight into your competitor’s ad spend and placements and when done well, it can escalate product trials and purchases and knock your competitor off their game.


Should your brand take a stand?

May 29, 2019

brand take a standAlmost a year ago, Nike released a “just do it” ad campaign for their 30th anniversary featuring Colin Kaepernick, the football player at the center of the “taking a knee” controversy in the NFL. The reaction to the campaign was immediate and loud. The media exploded, social media couldn’t get enough of it, politicians tweeted about it, and investors reacted to this brand taking a stand.

The hashtag #Nikeboycott emerged and within 48 hours of the campaign’s launch, the stock prices fell as people voiced their objections to the campaign. People posted photos of them burning their Nike gear and swore they’d never buy another Nike product.

That’s what made the news but there are other facts that we should take into account.

  • Kaepernick has been a Nike sponsored athlete since 2011 and he’s been featured in many campaigns for Nike football and training gear
  • The campaign also featured other athletes like Serena Williams, LeBron James, Lacey Baker, and Odell Beckham Jr.
  • The focus of the campaign is showing athletes overcoming obstacles
  • The initial drop in stock prices (there was a reactionary sell off the day the campaign came out) righted itself (It was $82.20/share the day before the campaign broke and dropped to $79.60 24 hours later. On Thursday, 9/13/18 it was at an all-time high of $83.90)
  • Nike added over 170,000 followers on Instagram in the weeks after the campaign launch
  • Online sales were up 27% the week after the campaign launched but have now gone back to a more “normal” level
  • In a December 2017 Harris poll, virtually no one had a negative opinion of Nike. The same poll, taken a few days after the campaign launched, in September 2018, showed that 17% of respondents viewed Nike in a negative light. However, 29% of men 18-29 said they were going to purchase more Nike products. 19% of respondents of all ages said they were more inclined to purchase even more Nike products in the future.

We have always advocated that brands need to stand for something. A brand with no point of view can’t really differentiate itself from its competitors. But does that mean a brand should take a stand on a controversial issue or topic?

A brand can’t exist in a vacuum. It must believe in something. It must stand for something. Every great brand has a set of core values that drives its decisions and determines how that brand will connect with its audience. According to Edelman’s 2018 Brand survey, “over 50 percent of consumers worldwide say that they will make belief-driven purchase decisions more than they did three years ago. They will buy your brand, switch from it, avoid it – and at the extreme – boycott it over your stance on a controversial or social issue. This is the new normal for belief-driven consumers.”

Today’s consumers, especially those under 50, believe that every brand is either part of the solution or part of the problem. 69% of Millennials are belief-driven buyers. 67% of Gen Z and 56% of Gen X also fall into that category.

Nike’s campaign is a great case study on the courage it takes to live by your brand beliefs. I’m sure there were sleepless nights before the campaign launched and during its first few days as the general marketplace expressed itself.

But to survive and thrive, they didn’t have much choice. Today’s consumers are demanding that brands stop hiding in the mushy middle and step into their beliefs. How will you respond to that expectation?