You’ve determined your brand promise. You know your purpose, your mission, and your positioning. You’ve crafted the perfect brand strategy. You’ve got both your branding and marketing messaging squared away and ready to go. The only remaining question: What media will you use to reach out to your market? That’s going to be determined, in large part, by available budget and projected return on investment. But, these days, there are more options than ever, from pay-per-click ads to skywriting and everything in between.There are effective channels for even the most meager budgets. There are a couple of things to remember when drawing up your media plan. Like any other form of communication, marketing should be open, honest and regular. And it requires a certain amount of listening too. Let’s tackle that last point first.
Everybody knows by now that it’s not what your market thinks of your brand that counts. Your customer could spell out, in bullet points, everything that’s wonderful about your product. That doesn’t mean you’ll make the sale. Decisions are made by the lizard brain – in the limbic system. That’s what governs emotion. We know now that what matters is how a market feels about a brand. And that is determined by how the brand is experienced. So how does your market experience your brand? Do customers come into a retail environment? Do your clients lunch in your office? Is your trade show booth the place where you interact with your primary buyers? These are all experiential events wherein the people who matter most to the success of your brand actually get to rub shoulders with it. Promotional and advertising campaigns also give your market a taste of your brand. But, for most small and middle-market businesses, there is no retail environment, no hosting clients at lunch, no trade shows. There aren’t ever any promotional events. There’s no budget to do any real advertising. How then can the brand ever be experienced?
Every marketable asset has a brand. Every business, product or service is perceived and experienced by its market in some way, be it good, bad or indifferent. There exists, between any marketable asset and its market, some sort of brand relationship. However, regular readers of this blog know that’s not enough. It’s just bad business to simply accept a brand for what it is, then neglect it for the next couple of decades. Brands drive awareness, demand and ultimately revenue. But for that to happen, management can’t just let it lie there, dormant. They have to develop a strategy for the brand. They have to figure out what it is and where they want it to go. Then they have to propel it there. And to do that, management needs to communicate regularly with its market. Of course messaging takes many forms. A business will message its market through public relations, through social media, marketing communications and advertising. It hardly needs mentioning that the messaging should be consistent across all these channels. But, in every communiqué, in every radio ad, every brochure and every tweet, there really needs to be two messages.
Let me make a distinction between communicating sustainably and communicating consistently. I’ve written here before that, for most marketable assets, a good brand strategy should last for 15-20 years. (Less, if the asset is in a trendy business like fashion or entertainment.) That’s what’s meant here by sustainability. You should be able to make the same brand promise for all that time, without wavering. If written effectively and with a broad enough vision, the brand promise should allow for any occasional adjustments you may have to make to your lines of products and services. It should be able to respond to changing market currents over that time period. No matter what happens week to week, month to month, year to year, a well-considered, well-written brand promise should be sustainable, all that time, to function as a guiding light, a north star to lead your vision. Consistency, in your communication is a different matter. Consistency refers to all the people in your circle who will be making the brand promise. They need to be engaged and all singing the same tune and pedaling in the same direction.
Many young people feel that voting in political elections is an exercise in futility. But those same young people, brand savvy as they are, can be quick to organize the boycott of a business if they think that by doing so they can bring about social change. It’s hard to say just how effective those tactics are. But, more than ever, people feel that brands have the power to improve society. Indeed, many believe that brands have more power even than governments in this regard. This is why brands have to keep in touch with their markets. This is why we say businesses have to share the values of their customers. Because, cash-carrying customers have feelings about the businesses they patronize. And, as a business owner, you want those feelings to be good ones. One way to share those values and elicit those good feelings is to champion a cause that is important to your market. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to curry favor in that way.
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