One of the latest buzzwords clamoring around the cybersphere is 'Cause Marketing.' And there is no shortage of opinions -- or definitions -- for the concept as marketers scramble to incorporate cause-related activities into their strategy, hoping to tap into the halo effects of a goodwill perception in response to overwhelming research indicating that this has become a key influencer in brand affinity, acceptance and buying behavior.
In April, former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker announced a new program to restore confidence in government. The effort, known as the Campaign for High Performance Government, couldn't come soon enough. Confidence in government is near an all-time low. A survey released in mid-April by the Pew Research Center found that only a small minority of Americans—22 percent—believe they can trust the federal government "almost always or most of the time." More than half of the respondents (56 percent) said they were frustrated by government's actions; 1 in 5 (21 percent) said Washington makes them angry. And who can blame them? As I noted in an April column, "Managing Perception, Ignoring Reality," Washington appears out of control. The rules of the game seem to be rigged to keep government growing while few problems get solved. Nobody is held accountable and performance seems irrelevant.
Simon Sinek has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership all starting with a golden circle and the question "Why?" His examples include Apple, Martin Luther King, and the Wright brothers -- and as a counterpoint Tivo, which (until a recent court victory that tripled its stock price) appeared to be struggling.
So you've got an elevator pitch — a short, pithy description of why your business is special, exciting, and unique. Yawn. Today, elevator pitches are the economic equivalent of speeches at a beauty pageant: predictable, often vapid, always bland. Here's a suggestion. Try a Dumbwaiter Pitch instead. It's an exercise I often do with startups, giant corporations, social entrepreneurs, and investors. Its goal? To strip an organization right down to its bones, and see how compelling it really is.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a fan of Google. This isn’t a post to describe my personal affection for a corporate entity, but it is an attempt to describe one element that I find particularly appealing. Don’t Be Evil. This phrase is Google’s infamous, informal corporate motto. I love it. Not only does it help reinforce my romantic, naive teenage dreams that I could become the next Richard Branson or Bill Gates just by doing good in the world, but it also helps prove that in the new business world, evil is bad for business.
For nonprofits, fundraising -- on any scale -- is an operational imperative. Without supporting funds, there is no organization, period. And while mobile giving is being crowned as a charity's newest savior, it's a rather useless one if the organization doesn't have a proper structure. And by proper structure, I mean a having robust and sensible PR and marketing strategy -- of which mobile is a part. Simply having a mission and a vision to "do good" is all well and good, but it falls flat when no one knows about a nonprofit's work. In today's climate, a nonprofit has to market itself like a business, yet most don't.
In the midst of every marketing meeting, there comes that point where the entire room leans forward in their seats. The tension heightens. There's an almost palpable sense of voyeurism; everyone strains toward the reveal of that titillating morsel that represents insider access. And the question is asked: "So, what's the consumer insight?" The strategist slowly rises and says, "We always knew that the consumers say this, but did you know that they really do this?" Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's shock and awe time. As a planner at heart, that's my bread and butter. What this very authentic example of consumer-insight fetishism raises is the question of what to do when your brand represents one thing but consumers are searching for another. Said differently, what can be done when your brand marketing becomes more about reflecting the reality of your consumers and less about your brand's aspirational identity? To keep your unique brand-driven narrative alive and prevent it from turning into a slow-moving episode of "60 Minutes," there are a few things that I believe every marketer should strive to do.
Zappos has grown gross merchandise sales from $1.6M in 2000 to over $1 billion in 2008 by focusing relentlessly on customer service – a potent digital marketing tool. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, kicked off day one of PubCon 2009 with a keynote on the importance of delivering happiness through service. Founded in 1999, Zappos has grown to 1,400 employees and is listed at #23 in Fortune Magazine’s “100 Best Companies To Work For.” Zappos is “Powered by Service.” Its goal is to provide the best online shopping experience possible.
Every brand makes a promise. But in a marketplace in which consumer confidence is low and budgetary vigilance is high, it's not just making a promise that separates one brand from another, but having a defining purpose. This point and its implications were made clear to me at the recent Association of National Advertisers conference in Phoenix where CMOs from some of the smartest organizations explained why purpose-driven branding is essential to success in this "new normal" environment. While it may sound a bit like Philosophy 101, a company whose employees can answer the question, "Why are we here?" will be the company that makes stronger connections with consumers in search of solutions to life's new normal issues.
As you know, we’re big believers in the idea that brands are increasingly defined by a company’s internal culture. The two examples that we use in our presentation to clients to make this point are Zappos and Method. So it was a rare treat for us to be able to get a tour of Method and spend time with Eric, on our recent trip to Planningness. Apart from some very cool and top secret stuff they are doing on a product front, the stuff that impressed me the most was the amount of energy and creativity that they devote to their culture. It’s no accident that culture is what defines them. One of the things that really stuck with me was something that Eric said offhandedly, “we always try to find ways to help our people feel like they’re working at a place that matters.”
Last week I had the pleasure of hearing the Director of Vision, Innovation, & Strategy for the San Diego Zoo, Beth Branning, speak about “Implementing Organization-Wide Strategic Alignment.” The story of her efforts to drive through the organization the Zoo’s 5-year strategic plan provides some valuable insights and takeaways. In addition to the difficulties inherent in strategy implementation, Beth faces some unique challenges.
Years after cracking the very code of the Web to lucrative ends, Google may be in the midst of trying to conjure the most complicated algorithm yet: to wit, can goodness, or at least a stated intention not to be evil, scale along with the enterprise?
Times are tough. People are hurting. Your mission to help people is critically important. But please don't confuse "mission" with "strategy."
I was 10 on April 2, 1993, the day that the brand died. On that day, Phillip Morris dealt a 20 percent slash to the price of its cigarettes in an effort to take on bargain brands, which were seriously pawning Marlboro’s market share. The slash had serious repercussions. If Marlboro’s carefully groomed brand wasn’t enough to take on the generic brands, then there no longer was truth to the brand equity mania that had rocked the eighties.
What we're seeing is the trend toward brand alliances. Brands that are mutually complementary team up with each other and with their partners' brand missions.
Too often, I hear about businesses that just might be a dream come true for their owners, but hardly for the people they seek to recruit or the customers they hope to snare. What do your prospects dream of? What would get them to wait in line?