What Sports Teams Teach Brands About Lovemarks

Back in 2004, Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, put out the idea of Lovemarks: Brands that rise to such a high level of love and respect that they separate from the rest of the pack. There are a lot of brands out there — most of them are ones that we might like, but not really love.

Back in 2004, Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, put out the idea of Lovemarks: Brands that rise to such a high level of love and respect that they separate from the rest of the pack. There are a lot of brands out there — most of them are ones that we might like, but not really love.

Think of a graph, with axes going low-to-high with love and respect. On the lower-left quadrant is a commodity. On the highest end is the Lovemark.

The easiest example is thinking of coffee. In the low end of love and respect, the coffee is a commodity. On the high end is, of course, Starbucks. But, there’s a place that’s high on respect, but lower on love … that’s where Folger’s lives.

Folger’s is an iconic, well-established, and long-lasting brand … people like Folger’s. But in today’s crowded space of higher-end tastes, liking a brand oftentimes isn’t enough. Because while people like Folger’s, people love the premium brand Starbucks has created.

One of the concepts of Lovemarks is that people have “loyalty beyond reason” to these kinds of brands. We have relationships with them. After teaching brand strategy for 10 years to hundreds of students, I can confidently think everyone has a Lovemark brand. Each person has a brand they pull into their heart, and show to the world as an expression of who they are. Like a form of self-expression, we choose to show the world glimpses of our inner selves by the brands we choose.

And one of the kinds of brands that many of us use to define who we are is a sports team.

I recently attended The National Sports Forum, an incredible event founded and lead by Ron Seaver, who created an annual gathering for sales and marketing talent in the sports industry. People who work for teams from NFL, NBA, MLB, MiLB, NHL, MLS are there, sharing stories and techniques that work and don’t work, and generally learning and meeting with one another in an environment that’s best described as “The Forum Family.”

What is beautiful about the event — besides the people — is it reminds me what I teach in my class: sports teams are great examples of Lovemarks.

Because I grew up in Pittsburgh, I’m a big-time Steelers and Penguins fan. Even though my entire adult life has been in San Diego, the roots of these teams are so deep in my mind and heart that I’ve held a life-long adoration for these brands. Now, it’s not reasonable for me to expect them to win championships each year, but I still buy in, and believe in the teams. Even when they lose. Even when they break my heart.

I have loyalty beyond reason.

Just ask a green-clad fan going to last year’s Seattle Sounders title game, or the die-harder attending the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl parade. These championship teams seared enduring, unabashed, deep loyalty that goes beyond reason, into memory and emotion, of every single one of those fans. Or, ask fans of the Los Angeles Galaxy or Cleveland Browns, who didn’t enjoy the championship revelry this past season. These teams still generate love and loyalty, even through some disappointment or despair. The loyalty transcends rational thinking, and drives to the heart of a person’s identity.

I teach that you don’t have to be a big brand to be a great brand (one of my favorite brands Vibram’s is great, but not big). The great brands communicate with both love and respect to its “fans,” and the fans bring that love and respect back to them. The brands move to a place where they become part of someone’s expression of their life.

So, how can consumer, business, or nonprofit brands create this kind of loyalty? How can they become a Lovemark?

Creating a brand strategy plan around this is the first step, of course. But a plan starts with the end in mind. Instead of thinking about “gaining mindshare” or “increasing awareness,” go bigger. Think about “We want to become a part of our customers’ lives.”

To do this, every interaction needs to originate with an attitude of love and respect. It seems perhaps over-simple, but think about how you write website copy, respond to emails, answer the phones, etc. Are you acting with the highest Love and Respect for your audience? Is that what they feel when they engage with you?

No matter the size of your business, become a brand that is highest on the axes of love and respect. Become something that instills Loyalty Beyond Reason. Because when you go beyond reason into memory and emotion, you can rise up into that rarefied Lovemark status for your customers.

Omnichannel Integration at Sundance Falls Short

Being new to Park City, we had no idea how to get around, find the different theaters, get access to the freebies or rub elbows with the stars, but the team at Sundance had many of these challenges covered. That’s the good news. The bad news is there were a lot of knowledge gaps among the various Sundance volunteers, disconnects between their printed materials, Twitter feeds and their custom app, and a general feeling that we were walking up and down streets missing out on opportunities to have fun.

sundanceI’ve been spending the week in Park City, Utah — skiing and attending the Sundance Film Festival. Yes, I know, it’s been a tough gig, but as a vacation, it ranks right up there with diving in Belize and hiking to the remote city of Lo Manthang, Nepal.

Being new to Park City, we had no idea how to get around, find the different theaters, get access to the freebies or rub elbows with the stars, but the team at Sundance had many of these challenges covered. That’s the good news. The bad news is there were a lot of knowledge gaps among the various Sundance volunteers, disconnects between their printed materials, Twitter feeds and their custom app, and a general feeling that we were walking up and down streets missing out on opportunities to have fun.

We had been advised not to rent a vehicle, and that was excellent advice. The traffic was crazy and parking was not only at a minimum, but seemed to cost upwards of $40 a day. There is a free bus system in Park City that should be adopted by cities around the globe. It not only encourages riders to keep vehicles off the streets, but was set to stop on a schedule of “X” past the hour and half hour (posted on each bus stop sign), which was easy to understand. Bus drivers knew the answers to a myriad of questions and kept their cool despite a packed house.

Planning an outing was a bit more frustrating. The printed guide to the Film Festival often referred to their Twitter handle or app for current updates on music performances, free VR screenings and live events. Yet, the Twitter feed was often handled by a guest tweeter who provided very little information on anything other than their personal experience. To get a list of live music one night, we resorted to walking the main drag and asking people in line who they were going to see.

Finding some of the sponsors’ venues proved even more difficult. There was a Stella Artois tent that we never found, despite asking dozens of Sundance volunteers who all looked at us blankly. We eventually found the Canada Goose tent, but with 5 minutes to closing, we had little time to enjoy our beverage and enter the contest for a free Canada Goose down jacket (which I really, really wanted to win).

There was a Chase Sapphire Center with lots of free and fun stuff going on, and had we known well in advance that it existed and was open to cardholders, I and my five traveling companions agreed we would have all applied for and used a Chase Sapphire card. Talk about a missed marketing opportunity!

I asked my non-marketing friends how they thought Chase might have found them prior to our arrival, in order to market to them. There was a general agreement that since we had purchased Sundance tickets several months ago, Sundance should have shared our contact information with Chase, Stella and any other sponsor to enable them to promote and push the benefits of engaging with their brand in Park City. I asked our vacation organizer if she had received an email or e-newsletter in advance about some of the event opportunities with sponsors, she said if she did, she totally ignored or deleted it, but didn’t even remember if she received anything. However, she said if the subject line had been something like “Enjoy These Freebies at Sundance” she would have definitely opened and clicked.

The skiing experience at Park City has been phenomenal … even with 5”11” a day of fresh powder (yes!). But the best part was the trail map that was attached to the chairlift bar on each lift. Some enterprising organization figured out how to attach a 5” x 30” trail map to the bar and sell ad space on it. Volkswagen had purchased the space and was promoting their All-Track 4Wheel Drive — a smart choice given the streets were constantly covered in snow.

All-in-all, the week was a successful one having skied multiple days, attended multiple film screenings, rubbed elbows with Kevin Bacon (I’m now one degree of separation!) and Chelsea Handler, and danced with Michael Franti and Spearhead. If only we had easy access to more sponsor event information, we would have actually packed in a little more … and shown some brand loyalty.

Building Your Brand Religion

Even with the most finicky of customers in an increasingly chaotic and complicated world, lifetime value and brand loyalty can still be achieved. But not how you might think. It’s not the loyalty programs, frequent purchaser points (only 35 percent enrolled redeem these, per Forrester Research), and free gifts that stack up the purchase orders for a given customer. And it’s not the great service that can be matched by your competitors, either. It’s something much deeper. The same something that keeps the church pews warm, tithing coffers full and baptismal fonts busy.

Even with the most finicky of customers in an increasingly chaotic and complicated world, lifetime value and brand loyalty can still be achieved. But not how you might think.

It’s not the loyalty programs, frequent purchaser points (only 35 percent enrolled redeem these, per Forrester Research), and free gifts that stack up the purchase orders for a given customer. And it’s not the great service that can be matched by your competitors, either. It’s something much deeper. The same something that keeps the church pews warm, tithing coffers full and baptismal fonts busy.

The secret to lifetime value and referrals from your customers is really no secret at all. It’s simply the psychology of hope, loss and rewards, and trust that has made religion the biggest industry worldwide. Without question.

Consider:

If loyalty were dead, all of this money could not be generated from the millions of loyal believers who give up, on average, nearly 3 percent of their annual incomes to their religious faiths. If you take just U.S. wage earners with an annual income of $40,000, that comes up to about $93 billion a year in tithing—the equivalent in revenue for the worldwide video game industry in 2013, according to Gartner Research. And you wouldn’t have nearly 44,000 people attending a single group’s service on Sunday where the only product being sold is hope.

While we direct marketers are clearly selling more than hope as we peddle tangible products and services to millions of customers each year, our marketing ROI could truly become divine if we follow even just a few of the tenets from religious psychology. The primary tenets or cornerstones of all successful religions are:

1. Hope or faith in a better life (in this case, an afterlife);

2. Trust in your leaders to guide you with integrity;

3. A sense of community, or like-minded souls who have the same values, ideals and beliefs; and finally,

4. A fervor so strong about your beliefs that you are willing to spend much of your time on this earth spreading your faith’s gospel and bringing others into the fold—all on your own time, at your own expense and without any pay (besides the joy of knowing you brought eternal joy to others).

These are the same four cornerstones that make for successful branding and must be present in any brand’s marketing programs today.

Hope: All products are emotional purchases—your car, life insurance, clothing, furnishings and even food. Each time you swipe that payment card, you are doing so with the unconscious hope of gaining some intangible value associated with that product. Be it status, safety, reliability, an image that will attract romance or job opportunities for you, or a break from the fear of failing your children, spouse or job. What is the hope associated with your products? And yes, this applies to both B-to-B and B-to-C.

Trust: I’m not sure if there has even been a lower level of consumer trust for big brands as there has been in the past decade. Regardless of what industry you are in, trust is fleeting and hard to get, even for a small moment in your customers’ lifetime. Consumers are eager to find brands they can truly trust to stand behind their promises and products, and to actually put consumers’ interests, and those of the community at large, ahead of their own. There a few who do that well. Tom’s shoes is a great example. Even though the company sells a pair of shoes for around $65 which costs it $9 to make—earning it a profit of around $56 a pair—people love and trust Tom’s, because it promises to donate one pair to a needy child for every pair sold. And Tom’s produces evidence that it really fulfills this promise. The leaders of Tom’s shoes are right up there with the rich pastors of the world for selling hope that the world can be a better place, providing people with a means to make it that way, operating with integrity and cashing in on millions at the same time.

Community: Also known as “congregations,” we flock toward people with like values to feel safe, validated and empowered. Many people lose their faith at some point in their lives and question the religion of their childhood, and a large number of these fallen-from-faith adults stay true to their religion at the cost of losing a community of support, friends and a trusted network to be there when they are in need. Leaving is too high a price. The same applies to brand communities. Brands that bring consumers together for events or group discounts like “Family and Friends” create unbreakable equity as consumers pay a price to switch that is far higher than money, in many cases.

Evangelism: We love telling friends about a great purchase and then getting great satisfaction (really, decision validation) when they buy the same thing. It is our innate need to know we are making wise choices that others believe are wise, as well. This is particularly strong when it comes to our faith. The Mormons are famous, partially due to the recent Broadway musical, “Book of Mormon,” for their aggressive missionary program—whereby they have 80,000 missionaries evangelizing all over the world paying their own expenses, and working for free to build the church’s membership base. Why do they do it? Because they truly believe they have found the secret to a happy life and an even better afterlife, and they are compelled to bring others into their joy. This same need to share sources of personal joy with others applies to customers. Like religions, brands just need to create the tools to make it easy to do. Religions like Mormonism and Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church have a book that members share with others. Religious-like brands have discounts and free trials for loyal customers to share freely.

When you find the right tools and provide the right incentives to your loyal customers, you can engage free marketers for your brand who will work on their own time, at their own expense and for the reward of knowing someone else loves your products, too! Seriously, what more can a brand want? (Other than a tax exempt status!)

As you start a crafting a new marketing plan, throw out the four Ps and starting focusing on the above “Four Cs”—the cornerstones of your brand’s religion—and see how quickly you reap the rewards in this lifetime (and the next!).

PPC Shockers and Secrets

Pay per click (PPC), particularly Google AdWords, is a marketing channel that can produce profitable results for your business, whether your goal is lead generation or sales. I have been managing PPC for businesses, as an in-house marketing leader as well as marketing consultant, for over a decade now. Though the years, I have noticed many secrets to success that I wanted to share—especially with business owners and marketers that haven’t tried PPC yet.

Pay per click (PPC), particularly Google AdWords, is a marketing channel that can produce profitable results for your business, whether your goal is lead generation or sales.

I have been managing PPC for businesses, as an in-house marketing leader as well as marketing consultant, for over a decade now.

Though the years, I have noticed many secrets to success that I wanted to share—especially with business owners and marketers that haven’t tried PPC yet.

First, I’d like to clear the air about a big shocker … or actually a fallacy … that you need a big budget to run an effective PPC campaign.

You don’t. If you happen to have a large budget, your ads will be shown more and you can spread out your ad groups and test different types. With a smaller budget, you do need to be more judicious with your efforts. But if you market smarter, not broader, your campaigns can still produce positive results.

I have run PPC campaigns with total monthly budgets of $1,000. I have run campaigns with total daily maximum budgets ranging from $25 to $50. These campaigns brought in both sales and leads, despite their limited spending. But they do require active management, strategic thinking, deep PPC knowledge and refinement/optimization.

The PPC Tri-Pod
What is going to determine the cost and return of your campaign are three simple things I call the “PPC Tri-pod”, as it supports your entire PPC efforts:

  1. Keywords
  2. Creative (or banner ad, if it’s running on the display network)
  3. Redirect URL

So in order for you to get the most bang for your buck with PPC, you should be aware of a few things regarding the PPC Tri-pod:

Keywords. The more popular the keyword, the more cost per click (CPC) it’s going to have. So it’s very important to do your keyword research before you start selecting your keywords as you’re setting up your campaign.

I like to use Keywordspy.com. The “lite” version is free, but you can also upgrade to the full version and see more results and have more capabilities for a monthly fee. Google used to have its Keyword External Tool, which has since morphed into Google AdWords Keyword Planner. You need a Gmail account to access this free tool.

Either of these tools will allow you to enter keywords or keyword phrases and then view popularity (actual search results), as well as what the average CPCs are. This is important for your keyword selection and bidding. You can also type in your “core” or focus keywords and get additional ad group/keyword ideas. To help refine your search terms, you can also choose broad match, broad match modifier, phrase match, exact match and negative match.

If you pick a word that is too vague or too under-searched, your ad will not see much (or any) action. Impressions will either not be served, or if they are served (in the case of a vague word), it may cost you a high CPC. In addition, a vague keyword may not be relevant enough to get you a good conversion rate. Because you pay by the click, your goal is to monetize that click by getting an instant conversion. And conversions, my friends, will be the role of the landing page. I’ll talk about that more in a moment.

Creative. This is your text ad (or banner ad, if you’re running in AdWords’ display network). For Google to rank your ad favorably, and more importantly, for you to get the best conversion results possible—there needs to be a relevancy and synergy between your keyword, text ad and landing page. Google will let you know if you’re not passing muster by your ad’s page position and quality score. Once you’ve carefully researched and selected your ad group keywords, you’ll want to make sure those keywords are consistent across the board with your ad and landing page. Your text ad has four visible lines with limited character count:

  1. Headline (25 Characters)
  2. Description Line 1 (35 Characters)
  3. Description Line 2 (35 Characters)
  4. Display URL (35 Characters)

Your keyword must appear in your text ad, as well as follow through and appear in the content of your landing page.

This will give you a good quality rank with Google, but also help qualify the prospect and carry the relevancy of the ad through to the landing page. Why is this important? It helps maintain consistency of the message and also set expectations with the end user. You don’t want to present one ad, and then have a completely different landing page come up.

Not only is that a “bait and switch,” but it’s costly. Because you’re paying for clicks, a great ad that is compelling and keyword rich, but not cohesive to your landing page, will not convert as well as one that is. And your campaign will actually lose conversions.

Redirect URL. This is your landing page. Different goals and different industries will have different formats. A lead generation campaign, which is just looking to collect email addresses to build an opt-in email list, will be a “squeeze page.” This is simply a landing page with a form asking for first name and email address in return for giving something away for free—albeit a bonus report, free newsletter subscription or similar. It got its name because it’s “squeezing” an email address from the prospect. Some retail campaigns will direct prospects directly to e-commerce sites or catalog pages (as opposed to a sales page). Direct response online marketers will drive their traffic to a targeted promotional landing page where it’s not typically a Web page where there’s other navigation or distractions that will take the prospect away from the main goal. It’s more streamlined and focused. The copy is not technical, it’s compelling and emotional, like promotional copy you would see in a sales letter. The anatomy of your redirect URL will vary on your goal and offer. It will take optimization and testing to see what’s working and what’s not. And that’s par for the course. If you’re testing, I suggest elements that scream and not whisper, such as long copy vs. short copy, or headlines and leads that are different themes. However, no matter what your goal, whether it’s going for the sale or the email address, you still need keyword consistency between all creative elements.

Tips And Tricks For Maximum ROI
Whether you have a big or small budget, there are a few things I’ve learned during the years that help the overall performance of a PPC campaign. Some of these are anecdotal, so if you’ve seen otherwise, I suggest testing to see if it makes a difference to your particular industry.

Ad and Landing Page. In general, I have noticed that shorter, to the point, landing pages produce better results. And the rationale is quite obvious. People searching the Web are looking for quick solutions to a problem. This means your creatives have to not only be keyword rich, but compelling and eye-caching. You have seconds to grab a Web surfer’s attention and get them to click. In the same sense, the landing page has to be equally relevant and persuasive, and typically shorter in copy. Keep in mind Google has many rules surrounding ad copy development. So write your text ads in accordance to its advertising policy.

Price Point. Again, in my personal experience, most Web surfers have a price threshold. And that’s items under about $79. When running a PPC campaign, think about price points that are more tolerable to “cold” prospects; that is, people who haven’t built a relationship with you or know anything about you. They have no brand loyalty. They don’t know you from Adam. So getting a sale at a lower price point is an easier sell than a product you have that costs hundreds of dollars. Luxury items or items with strong recognition and brand loyalty are the exception to that rule. As a direct response marketer, I urge you to price test and see for yourself.

Campaign Set-up. There are a few tactics I notice that help with ad exposure, clicks and saving money. When you’re setting up your campaign you can day-part, frequency cap and run ad extensions. Day parting allows you to select the hours of the day you’d like your campaign to run; ad extensions allow you to add components to your text ad to help visibility and call to action—such as location, site links, reviews and more; And frequency capping lets you set a threshold on how many times you’d like a given person to see your ad (based on impressions).

PPC Networks. It’s smart not to put all your eggs in one basket. In addition to Google AdWords, try running campaigns on other PPC networks, such as Bing/Yahoo, Adroll (retargeting through Facebook), Advertising.com/AdSonar.com, SiteScout.com (formerly Adbrite.com), and Kanoodle.com. Then see where you get the best cost per click, cost per conversion and overall results.

I’ve only touched the surface here. There are more tactics and features that can help a PPC campaign’s performance. So get yourself familiar with it, read up on the best practices, and don’t be afraid to put your toe in the water. As with any marketing tactic, some channels will work for your business, and some won’t. But you won’t know unless you test. Just remember the foundation of success hinges on the PPC Tri-Pod. The possibilities are endless.

Are Your Videos Champions of Your Brand?

If you advertise in an ordinary way, it’s safe to expect ordinary results. However, when you take the extreme and it doesn’t work, then what do you do? Answer: Consider your branding checklist! Video production is nothing short of being an ambassador of your brand’s strategy. Video, just like with your other advertising tools, is something that has to be maintained regularly. Most times when a campaign has failed, it’s because of confusion with your brand.

If you advertise in an ordinary way, it’s safe to expect ordinary results. However, when you take the extreme and it doesn’t work, then what do you do? Answer: Consider your branding checklist! Video production is nothing short of being an ambassador of your brand’s strategy. Video, just like with your other advertising tools, is something that has to be maintained regularly. Most times when a campaign has failed, it’s because of confusion with your brand.

Let’s ask a couple of valid questions that you will want to consider to help keep you inline with your video production when it comes to using this as part of your marketing mix.

Keep these questions in mind when producing your company’s videos:

  • How are you communicating?
  • What are you communicating?
  • When and how often do you communicate to your customers?
  • Who are the most important people to communicate to?

Video is meant to solve a direct and specific problem. If your project is meant to create more brand loyalty, then that needs to be in your message. How often you solve problems is just as important. If the last video you created on your website was from last year, or before there was digital film, perhaps a fresh new approach could lead to better results. The other element most people forget when branding through video is the emotional aspect. Were people connecting to the video because they could relate to it? If your video has not been resonating with enough people through your campaign, you haven’t given them enough reasons to love you. Your video production needs to focus on that problem and how your brand solves it.

Since your brand helps people solve problems, don’t be afraid to get creative, but remember to stride for champions of your brand. Many things can achieve brand loyalty, use humor, and hire talent that people relate to. Your goal should always be cultivating loyalty. Don’t forget to measure that loyalty by checking your analytics before and after. You can also request a survey by the viewers to see if you’re hitting the mark.

If what you’re doing isn’t working, then don’t be afraid to change it. Don’t get stuck on results of one idea. If the first video didn’t work, try something different. Marketing is an on going process. As a business owner, you have to get used to regularly changing marketing tactics. Don’t be afraid to be flexible and update your videos often. If your competition is changing their video content often, then why isn’t it a part of your plan?

Let’s talk about your competitors for a minute. Are they going after the same business you’re going after? Don’t they have the same customers that you have? If they have video production that clearly defines their brand, then wouldn’t you think your responsibility to your clients is to do the same only better? If the videos that they have on their website are done professionally with clear messages, then why would you cut costs and provide your clients with 3 minutes of you talking in front of a messy desk from your iPhone using a flash light or the lamp you picked up in the 80’s? Let’s face it, you’ll have to step up your game, or you will lose.

If you’re going to recruit someone in video production to help brand you, it is imperative to find someone who can deliver the following:

  • Someone who clearly understands your core values
  • Someone who will be loyal to your brand
  • Someone who can be a champion of your brand?

The more you demand that this is done with every employee and vendor, the more success you’ll have.

Now for your slice of humble pie: Ask yourself if you’re living by these standards?

Do you embrace your own concepts? Are you passionate about your brand? How loyal are to you to your own company? Do you have a solid plan for your brand and are you sticking to it?

Coming up with a concrete knowledge to your brand strategy and gripping your marketing plan will not only bare you results, you will have a more rigid foundation to launch this and the rest of your campaigns with confidence and security.