With this month’s release of my new book — “Marketing for Dummies,” a new edition that focuses on the digital era — I find myself pondering all of the things I’ve learned in my career about what’s smart, and what’s not so smart about marketing today. The following are three “parts” of marketing strategies that never fail for brands big and small, as well as in all industries.
It’s Not About Creative
Thinking that the more clever or shocking your advertising is, the more your sales will go up is a trap that many big brands fall into. Take a look at the Super Bowl ad phenomenon.
GoDaddy historically does the worst, most tasteless ads every year. Yet they have experienced consistent growth each year and are at a pace to grow 20 percent. On the flip side, Budweiser always has the most heart-warming, talked-about ads with its horses and puppies, and quite often earns the coveted “most-liked ad” in the USA listings the day after. Yet, as pointed out in an article in Money.com, during their roll of Super Bowl ad success, sales have been going down along with their dominance in the beer category.
The takeaway here is clear: Creative entertains and builds name recall, but not necessarily sales results. If you are okay to entertain with your ads and not worry about the impact on sales, then go hire a creative team who can create a mini-movie in 30 seconds. If you need advertising to drive sales, ROI and profitability, like most businesses, then put your resources into the next three parts. Not saying creative is not important, but it should not be what drives your marketing strategy. What should drive it is a product of the knowledge you have about what inspires, moves, motivates and engages your customers — consciously and unconsciously.
Empathy Is the Foundation
The definition of empathy is: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Now more than ever, understanding consumers’ and what moves them to engage, trust and assign loyalty is critical for acquisition and retention. CRM and data analytics platforms and so many more programs help us understand how and why consumers make choices so we can build highly relevant content to deploy across channels used daily by those we want to reach most.
Yet, if our communications focus only on what we learn from “data” about their transactions, we fall short. We need to understand what drives consumers emotionally and psychologically to engage. What are the feelings that influence their ability to trust and what actions create positive feelings toward brands? As I’ve written in many columns and throughout my book, these feelings that drive consumers toward our brands are much deeper than the satisfaction with our products or services. They are the feelings associated with what drives human nature: a sense of belonging, respect, value and altruism toward common causes.
Your communications and marketing content needs to be rooted in “empathy” of shared feelings and mutual understanding. With all of the research about consumers’ values and their support for companies that engage in sincere CSR programs, it’s not hard to get a glimpse of the feelings that move sales today.
Survival Is in Our DNA
After years of studying human psychology and how it drives choice and behavior, this single fundamental element of human nature stands out the most: We are wired for survival, just like any species is, and all of our thoughts and actions follow suit.
Survival relates not just to our physical well-being, but to every aspect of our lives. Consciously, and more so unconsciously, our need to survive socially, professionally, and emotionally is part of the big and small choices we make daily. Shopping for a dress for the company holiday party is not just about what makes you look good, it’s about projecting the image you believe will help you look powerful, sophisticated, and smart in order to maintain your current position or ready you for a new one that is better and enhances your professional and financial position.
When you can create personalized communications, or mass communications around key personas for your customer groups, you hit the emotional chords that get customers to engage and start a journey with your brand to see if it will lead them to a stronger position in the areas of life that matter most to them: social, professional, emotional, financial and more.
While there are many more than three parts of survival for brands marketing products and services in today’s dynamic and complex market environments, these three fundamentals are part of any “smart” marketing plan. No matter what level you are in your marketing career, you will “dummy” down your short- and long-term results if you don’t apply empathy, address the survival DNA, and keep your creative or marketing content relevant to these two drivers.