Don’t forget the packaging

May 10, 2017

packagingWe seem to be in a marketing era that rewards straightforward, cut to the chase marketing and sales tactics.  The recession taught us that consumers were leery of any hyperbole or inflated promises so marketers let the pendulum swing to the other extreme – stripped down copy that was information based, educational in nature and absolutely void of spin or packaging.

I think we can look back at 2008 and see the birth of content marketing – the helpful era.  I’m a big fan of the genre and I believe serving our potential customers and current customers by going out of our way to be helpful is smart marketing.

But I do think the pendulum has swung a little too far.  I believe as human beings, we can’t help but appreciate a little bit of sizzle with our steak.  I’m happy to see the hyped marketing copy days in the rear view mirror but I do think we’ve lost something in our rush to pure practicality.  We’ve sacrificed some of the showmanship that allows us to build anticipation, celebrate our product/service’s ability to delight our customers and create buzz around our brand.

I’m not advocating that we go back to the “monster truck” style of marketing but I do think we need to remember that part of receiving a great gift is getting to unwrap a beautiful package.

When I use the word packaging, I’m not just limiting my meaning to the literal packaging of a tangible product.  Whether you operate a brick and mortar store, run a service business or sell something intangible – you can pick up your game when it comes to packaging.

How do you deliver the goods? The advertising industry is a great example of a profession that has allowed their packaging to be diminished over time. When I started in the business, computers were not the norm and everyone didn’t have access to one. When we wanted to present new ad concepts to a client – we delivered them in person.  They were mounted on a board and we’d cover our ideas with paper that was branded with the agency’s name and logo.

We’d “reveal” our ideas by lifting the flapped paper, almost like opening a curtain before the big show. It created a sense of drama and anticipation. Today, we just email PDFs – hardly an ounce of show in that.

Is the current delivery model more efficient? You bet.  But, does it help our clients truly appreciate the time and energy that went into creating those concepts?  No, in that way it sells our work short.

Do you beautify the ordinary? When is a box more than just a box? Tiffany’s blue box. Apple’s elegant packaging.  Can you take something that most companies just do out of necessity and make it part of the experience? Apple’s the master at this. Have you ever heard of “unboxing?” It’s a term that has been coined by Apple customers that is linked to unpacking a new Apple product.

For Apple fans – this is an event — an event worth capturing on video. Just search unboxing on YouTube and you’ll be amazed at both the volume of videos and the number of views.  One video of the Apple watch being unboxed has been viewed over 500,000 times.

What aspects of your product/service are necessities that could be re-engineered into something people would talk about? Savvy companies are doing with things as ordinary as a room key, a box, an invoice, delivery follow up, or customer service access.

If you want to be a brand worth talking about – make sure you haven’t stripped all the sizzle out of the equation. You don’t want to overdue it but adding some style and attention to detail elevates your brand and brings back some of the sexy.

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Remove the barriers

February 15, 2017

I recently spent some time at Walt Disney World and observed how brilliantly they remove barriers for their guests.

There’s a free Disney shuttle from the Orlando airport to any Disney hotel and back to the airport at the end of your trip. Once you’re on property, there are free shuttles to all the theme parks and other attractions (like their water parks, putt-putt golf area, Disney Springs – their dining and entertainment district, etc.) If you don’t feel like taking a shuttle, you have other options like monorails and boats that can get you around as well.

That free transportation probably saves the average family a couple hundred dollars in rental car fees for the average 4-5 day visit. In fact, most Disney hotel guests don’t bother with a car at all.

Given that Disney wants to fill those hotel rooms and keep their guests on property for as much of the vacation as possible – they just removed some significant barriers to make that happen.

You don’t need to know your way around. Just get on the right bus. It’s efficient and free. Now, if you want to visit Universal Studios or Sea World – you have to rent a car or take a cab. Most families, given the sheer volume of things you can do on Disney property, will just opt to stay put. More money in the Disney pocket.

But the transportation system is peanuts compared to their new magic bands. They are a master class in removing barriers. That wristband is your room key, your ability to charge food, merchandise, tickets, etc. and gives you the ability to skip the lines on popular rides. They have a corresponding website and app so you can customize your vacation months in advance or on the fly as you walk through one of their theme parks.

I was just there for a week and never had to pull out my wallet. Every member of your party has their own band and, if you want, their own charging privileges. Imagine the increase in food, beverage and merchandise spending since they implemented this program.

But don’t think barrier removal is just for the big boys. Every one of us has the same opportunity to identify what slows down or gets in the way of a potential buyer during their customer journey and blast it out of the way.

Here are some of the areas many businesses could make smoother/easier:

Contract/Project sign-offs: Are you still sending your clients paper contracts to review and sign? Then what? They either need to fax them back (assuming they still have a physical location and a fax machine) or they have to scan them so they can digitally get them back to you. Why not use one of the many e-signature services available today? With a few clicks, the authorization is signed and work can begin.

Access to you: People hate voice mail and with good reason. Why not forward your work number to your cell or better yet – get a number that intuitively knows which phone to ring, no matter where you are. At the very least, in your voice mail message — give them another way to reach you (email, mobile number) if it’s urgent.

Anticipate their concerns: The bigger your price tag, the more concerns your prospects are going to have. Answer their questions and worries before they ask. Create a FAQ section on your website. Include a PDF of it with your proposal. Go out of your way to answer all of their worries before they even express them.

Spend some time identifying the biggest barriers in your business and put together a plan to reduce or eliminate them all together. That could lead to an impressive 2017!

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Disruption – Are you the next Dodo bird?

September 14, 2016

disruptionMarketing is always ripe with buzzwords that may or may not have any traction. Part of our role as marketing professionals and business leaders is to recognize when it’s hype and when it’s important. One of the words/trends that seems to be the new darling is the idea of disruption. This is one we can’t afford to dismiss as hype. It’s a huge opportunity and a huge threat.

Many people misunderstand the term. Disruptive does not mean that your marketing tactics disrupt or interrupt your audience. Instead, what it actually means is that a new technology or product is going to disrupt an existing market or industry and actually create a new market or value proposition. Often this leads to the extinction of the original product or service by replacing it with something better. It’s the ultimate in creativity and destruction, all in one.

A great example is the point and shoot camera. The smart phone crushed the demand for inexpensive cameras and today; it’s tough to even find one in a store. The camera function wasn’t the primary focus of the smart phone, it was simply a feature. But that feature, coupled with technologies that actually made it superior to the original, ended up being a product killer.

Disruption isn’t about making a better mousetrap. It’s about making the mousetrap obsolete. Just ask Blockbuster or Kodak. They’re a great example of incredibly successful and profitable businesses that are now obsolete.

Disruption is fine and dandy, if you’re the one doing the disrupting, but how do you know if a new trend or technology has you in it’s sights?

Keep your perspective broad: Odds are, the disruption won’t come from within your own industry. It’s likely a technology that’s developing in a completely different field. It’s probably an innovation within it’s own category but runs the risk of being a game changer in yours.

Listen to your best users: It’s always a good plan to listen to your customers but if you’re worried about disruption – you need to step it up to a whole different level. Watch for an erosion of their usage or loyalty. Listen to their requests for product enhancements or add-ons.

Track trends: Disruptors don’t appear out of the blue. Typically they’re born from a broader trend or cultural shift. Watch for emerging trends, especially those that impact your super users/customers. If the trend is going to alter their lives, it could well alter yours too.

Explore and innovate: The best way to avoid becoming a disruptor’s victim is to keep evolving. You have to keep experimenting and exploring new ideas for the needs your customers have today and the ones they don’t even know they’re going to have tomorrow.

Measure and monitor: Part of surviving a disruptor may mean knowing when it’s time to pivot because you’re fighting a losing battle. You can’t afford to be caught off guard so now is not the time to get lax with your key performance indicators.

It’s important that we all recognize that we won’t escape disruption forever. It isn’t new and the world has always evolved over time. Think about the impact of the first cars, TV sets, and the personal computer and what they did to carriages, radio and typewriters. Disruption has always been around. It’s just that it’s coming at a pace we’ve never seen before. Technology is accelerating the disruption and that’s not likely to stop.

Your industry might have dodged it so far, but odds are – change is coming. You can brace yourself for the impact, you can see it on the horizon but most of all – you need to be thinking like a disruptor.

How can you evolve your offerings before someone makes you obsolete?

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Are you leveraging visual content?

September 8, 2015

visual contentIf any of the trend reports from the last five years are accurate — visual content should be a critical element in your marketing and content strategy.

If’ve you’ve master this — you’re in the minority.  While a picture may be worth a thousand words, marketers have not turned a strategic lens on optimizing the return from their visual media content investments.  While 65% of senior marketing executives believe visual assets are core to how their brand story is communicated, only 27% have the ability to aggregate, organize and manage these assets across marketing and non-marketing teams—including those outside of the organization.

A new study from the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council—entitled “From Content to Creativity: The Role of Visual Media in Impactful Brand Storytelling”—reveals that marketers believe visual assets, including photography, illustrations, infographics and videos, are core to customer engagement and will increase in usage in the coming year. Video will most dramatically increase in importance in the near future, according to 79 percent of senior marketers. Infographics (60 percent), photographs (50 percent), and illustrations (41 percent) will also increase in usage. The 17-page strategic white paper is available for download today by clicking here.

Conducted in partnership with Libris, a PhotoShelter business unit, the study reveals that internal silos, disconnected content development strategies and a vast list of other marketing priorities have prevented visual assets from being fully leveraged across the organization.

“Marketers have been remiss in approaching the visual asset dialogue as part of the strategic customer experience and engagement dialogue,” said Liz Miller, Senior Vice President of Marketing for the CMO Council. “Perhaps because visual assets have long been the domain of creative or agency resources, the conversation around maximizing value across the organization has fallen off of the priority list. But as customers continue to react in meaningful ways to visual media, marketing cannot afford to stand idly by and not include visuals in the content ROI agenda.”

Consumer research shows that 40 percent of customers will respond better to visual information than plain text (Zabisco). Marketers have, in turn, shifted content production to include vast quantities of graphics, videos, photography and illustrations. Infographic production, by one estimate, increases by 1 percent every day (Zabisco). Yet according to the 177 marketing executives surveyed by the CMO Council in the second quarter of 2015, current investments in centralization of these assets do not reflect this level of priority.

The audit, conducted through the CMO Council’s Content ROI Center, tapped into the insights of 177 senior marketers, with 52 percent from B2B organizations, 18 percent from B2C companies and 30 percent from hybrid organizations selling to B2B2C. A quarter of respondents hail from organizations with more than $1 billion in annual revenue, and 41 percent hold chief marketing officer, head of marketing or senior vice president of marketing titles. Areas explored in the paper include:

  • The role of visual content in marketing and brand storytelling strategies
  • Anticipated shifts in the importance of visual content
  • Budget allocations and anticipated shifts in spend for visual content development
  • Key challenges and obstacles to maximizing ROI
  • Impact and value of visual content aggregation and consolidation

About the CMO Council

The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council is the only global network of executives specifically dedicated to high-level knowledge exchange, thought leadership and personal relationship building among senior corporate marketing leaders and brand decision-makers across a wide range of global industries. The CMO Council’s 9,000 members control more than $450 billion in aggregated annual marketing expenditures and run complex, distributed marketing and sales operations worldwide. In total, the CMO Council and its strategic interest communities include more than 35,000 global executives in more than 110 countries covering multiple industries, segments and markets. Regional chapters and advisory boards are active in the Americas, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Middle East, India and Africa. The council’s strategic interest groups include the Coalition to Leverage and Optimize Sales Effectiveness (CLOSE), Mobile Relationship Marketing (MRM) Strategies Forum, LoyaltyLeaders.org, CMOCIOAlign.org, Marketing Supply Chain Institute, Customer Experience Board, Digital Marketing Performance Institute, GeoBranding Center and the Brand Inspiration Center. Learn more at www.cmocouncil.org

 

About Libris

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If they don’t care, are you even there?

June 18, 2015

Two pieces of white paper with the word invisible turned into visible

Two pieces of white paper with the word invisible turned into visible

Your creative needs to be creative.  No doubt about that.  But sadly, many people think that’s enough.

I received an email from a college student, asking if he could interview me. Two of his questions in particular caught my attention because they put the spotlight on a dangerous mistake that many seasoned marketers make.

It all revolves around the idea that marketing needs to be wacky or groundbreaking with the end goal being that it’s memorable. I can think of a lot of crazy, funny and touching marketing tactics that I’ve remembered for years that never prompted me to buy the product.

Should your creative be fresh, interesting and different from what everyone else in your category is doing? Sure.

But you can’t stop there. And you can’t start there.

You start with understanding your own product or service as objectively as you can (how does it rock, where is it weak, etc.) and who the ideal consumer for that product or service happens to be.

And you end by telling those ideal customers enough about your product or service that they understand why it’s the perfect fit for them.

You have to match your sweet spot customer with the benefits that make them the right buyer for what you sell.

I thought at it might be useful to you to see what he asked and my replies.

Q: When developing a concept do you try to go with something new and groundbreaking or do you have a more straightforward, proven approach to getting the message out to the target audience.

The truth is – what sells is the truth. We begin by understanding our audience and what they care about. We learn as much about them as possible. Every product/service has a “perfect fit” customer. It’s our job to figure out who that is and then craft our message to appeal to that person.

What is new today will be old hat tomorrow. So gimmicks and shock value and crazy aren’t good marketing strategies. Look at the Kmart “Ship My Pants” ads. Are they funny? Are they memorable? The answer to both those questions is yes.

But will it sell more stuff? I don’t think so. And THAT is our job. We help clients sell stuff. If we don’t do that – no matter how funny or memorable our work is – we got it wrong.

So the creative approach depends on the audience and what will connect with them and help them see why what we sell is what they need or want most.

Q: I believe that promoting brand recall is the most important objective in a message strategy. What is your favorite way to do this?

First – I respectfully disagree.   I believe the most important objective in a message strategy is to help the audience understand how this product or service is uniquely positioned to benefit THEM. The most important objective is brand relevance. Again, it doesn’t matter if you are memorable if you aren’t relevant.

The best way to develop brand relevance is to understand your sweet spot customer and why they would care and then figure out how to deliver value towards that for them. A brand’s job is to be important to the consumer. Harley does this brilliantly. For Harley riders and prospects – no other bike will do. Anything else is a poor substitute. Harley is about living the dream of a biker – freedom, independence, camaraderie etc. No brand captures and sells that like Harley. Harley could run a bunch of ads that promote the name so we’d never forget it. But instead they promote the dream/fantasy of owning a motorcycle and tie their name to delivering on that dream.

I’d much rather have 100 sweet spot customers reach for their wallet than 10,000 people remember the ad. Remember that and you’ll enjoy a long career in this crazy business that I love. Good luck!

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Creative versus strategy

March 6, 2015

Creative versus strategyCreative versus strategy. For as long as I’ve been in advertising and marketing – there’s been that age-old tug of war.  Should advertising and marketing tools be creative/clever/funny/pretty or should the emphasis be on strategically driving the sales message?

As you can imagine – the real answer is both.  An ad, website, brochure, e-book etc. that is visually interesting and has a compelling message is much more likely to have impact when it comes to trial or purchase of whatever is being sold.

But sooner or later, compromises need to be make due to budget, timeframes, or other considerations.

When it comes to the creative side of the equation, your materials need to be:

Aligned with the visual brand: Carry the look and feel of your brand through everything you do.  Don’t ask your consumers to try to play connect the dots.  You should use creative elements to link each piece back to your brand.

Professionally produced: Yes, I know you can make a brochure in Microsoft Publisher.  That doesn’t mean you should.  I can use a pair of my own scissors to cut my hair too.  But I think we can agree it’s going to look better if I let a pro cut it.

Using graphics/photos that connote quality and that you do this for a living: Unless what you sell retails for $3.99 or less, clip art isn’t going to cut it.  There was a day when it was new enough that people found it cute or quirky.  But today, it just screams cheap.

Attention grabbing:  If your ad look like every other ad in the paper – no one is going to look at it.  Whether it is with words or visuals – you need to pop from the page, whether that’s on the web, newspaper or trade show booth.

Everything should be on purpose: Think through every element of your piece from font selection to size.  If you can’t explain why an element has to be there or be a certain way – it should go.

On the strategic side of the equation, your materials need to be:

One piece, one message:  If there is a universal sin in marketing – it’s that everyone writes too much.  Cut the copy in half.  At least.  You can’t possibly tell the whole story in a single ad or marketing piece.  So focus on one core message and make your point powerfully and succinctly.

One piece won’t cut it: Consumers want multiple pieces, in multiple places so they can browse, download and review over time.  They’re going to be shopping you for a while, so don’t bore them with only one thing to look at.

WITFM:  Your audience wants to know how what you sell is going to make their life easier, better, etc. They need to know you’re credible so unless your brand is a household name, you do need to tell them a little about you. But they want the focus to be on them so think 80/20 and no, you’re not the 80.

Location, location, location:  If I can’t find you, you don’t exist.  And I want to find you in multiple places.  Being found on Google and the other search engines is mandatory today. But you also need to know where else your consumers go to look for you and be there with bells on.  Don’t assume that online is the only game in town.

Most B2C marketers tend to lean too heavily on the pretty (think the Super Bowl ads) and most B2B marketers are a bit like the old Dragnet’s Joe Friday – the facts ma’am, just the facts. (Think most niche B2B magazine ads).  The key is finding the balance between the two because at the end of the day creative versus strategy isn’t an either or.  You need both.

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Is creativity bad for marketing?

April 8, 2014

funny eggs with facial expression: scared screaming and being terrified.As a writer just typing the question – is creativity bad for marketing – hurts a little.

Advertising and marketing people pride themselves on their creativity. After all, it’s one of the lures of the profession for most of us.

But does it serve our businesses and our business goals?

On the surface, it’s easy to argue that creativity is essential to good advertising and marketing. Whether it’s strategic nuances and insights, being innovative in your brand and how you express it, or marketing materials that capture the audience’s attention and imagination – all of those are built on a foundation of creative thinking.

But I’ve been in some situations recently where it was evident that the long-term objectives were not being well served by an infusion of creativity. Then, sadly the answer is yes…. creativity can be bad for marketing.

So let’s look at how the very thing we work so hard to capture can also be a detriment.

Too many ideas: This can be a killer. When a team is on fire with great ideas and falls in love with them all, the end result can be a mess. Sometimes the team tries to pack in all the ideas so rather than building a message hierarchy where you lead with your key message and then support that message — you get five pounds of ideas shoved into a one pound bag. That results in a lot of superficial messaging rather than a well-developed story with depth and relevance.

The other possible outcome of too many ideas is that the team decides to use them all sequentially. That typically means that no one idea is left in place long enough to really take root. Remember, about the time that we as the creators are getting sick of the ad/brochure/tagline etc. is about the same time the intended audience is just noticing the communication. If you pull the plug too soon, you lose all momentum and have to start all over.

Unbridled creativity: As the brainstorming pendulum swings, it often goes to an extreme that’s beyond the audience’s sensibilities. Sometimes a team can get so enamored with being provocative or wildly creative that they forget who their audience is. We’ve all seen ads that were very outlandish and got a lot of attention but in the end, were too far over the top and the company ended up issuing an apology or retracting the ad.

Marketing has a very simple purpose – to sell something. It might be selling a product, or an ideal or a candidate or a charity’s cause. But it does not exist to entertain, provoke a reaction or win awards. If it sells AND entertains, all the better. But it needs to do its job. Which means the audience’s perspective must always be front and center.

Cart before the horse creativity: Believe it or not, good creativity is actually the outcome of a very disciplined process, at least in marketing. To truly be creative in a way that nets the desired results, you have to do your homework before you release the creative juices. Until you define the goals, identify and get to know your audience and understand your unique position in the marketplace – you hold your creativity in place.

When you unleash it too soon, you may come up with the most compelling marketing tools that drive the audience to action, but they might be the wrong audience, might be taking the wrong action or might play to one of your competitor’s strengths.

Like most things, creativity isn’t good or bad, at least not in the world of marketing. It’s how we use it that makes it either a huge asset or a hindrance to us achieving our ultimate marketing goals.

 

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Want to up your creativity?

October 27, 2013

idea_lightbulbNo matter what you do for a living, you need to be creative.  Innovative and fresh thinking are always in demand, whether you’re a cop, a plumber, or a marketing pro.

Unfortunately, on the job, we can’t wait for the muses to strike.  We need to be creative on demand because there are clients, deadlines and projects waiting.

Want to up your creativity?

Having a career that demands creativity every day has forced me to find ways to keep that particular saw sharp.  Here are some of my favorites:

Exercise your brain: My goal is to keep my brain cooking at all times, so if I need to call on it, it’s already fired up.  I love brain teasers, word games like Scrabble, games of strategy and even lumosity.com which is like a brain obstacle course.

Simmering: When I’m stuck or every idea I come up with seems tired and overdone, I tuck the challenge in the back of my mind and let it simmer.  I do other things, concentrate on something else entirely and just let my subconscious work out the knots.

Blood, sweat and tears: Okay, skip the blood and tears part.  But sweating really works.  When we move our bodies, all kinds of endorphins are released.  Those magic chemicals put us in the perfect state to create.

Hang out with creative people: This is not only effective, it’s great fun. Actively look for opportunities to talk to creative people about creative things.  Listen to the language they use, the stories they tell and even how they use their body to enhance their tales.  If you live in Central Iowa, you have the perfect opportunity this Thursday.

The Iowa Creativity Summit is Thursday night from 6 – 8:30.  Come hear from David Burkus, the author of The Myths of Creativity: The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great Ideas.  Check out the event here.  I promise — you’ll get your creative juices flowing for sure!

If you’re like me, your creativity is a tool you rely on.  Like any tool, it’s my job to keep it in tiptop condition so it is ready when I need it.

So how about you — how do you keep your creativity flowing?

 

 

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How does your paper resume stack up to this?

May 1, 2013

The world has changed.  Things are different.  This is the new normal.  This ain’t your grandaddy’s marketing.

We can say it a million ways but some folks just aren’t going to get it.  Or at least not yet.

With the tools out there, the connections that can be made and the audience’s diminishing tolerance for being shouted at — there are many things we need to do differently.  Including finding a job.

Check out this slideshare (PPT) presentation that Lorenzo Galbiati sent me as he embarks on a job hunt.  (Email him here if you want to chat about career possibilities)


Imagine you need to hire someone.  You get a standard paper resume and this PPT.  You can only interview one candidate — who would you choose?

We need to re-think everything and there are plenty of sacred cows that need to be done away with.  If someone ever says to you — this is how it has to be done or this is the standard — ask more questions, think beyond the “usual” and remember that the world has changed.

The last thing you want to demonstrate is that you haven’t been keeping up.

 

Can’t see the PPT?  Click here to view over at www.slideshare.net

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How does your customer use what you sell?

August 24, 2012


An exercise we don’t do often enough (especially if you sell a service rather than a product) is taking a look at how our customers actually use what we sell them.

When you make the time (not take…make) to actually dig into the functionality, the how and where they use it, and what they have to do to it to make it more practical/useful, etc. you learn some very interesting things and it’s a great way to innovate an existing product.

How do you suppose Puffs came up with the tissue box that fits into your car’s cup holder?

 

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