Take Along, Share and Simplify: Essential Verbs to Enhance Your Brand Strategy in 2015, Part 2

Back in November, I shared with you two essential verbs to enhance your brand strategy: amaze and respect. Now I have three more verbs to share with you for your 2015 brand plans:

Back in November, I shared with you two essential verbs to enhance your brand strategy: amaze and respect. Now I have three more verbs to share with you for your 2015 brand plans:

Take Along
Pomegranates have always had a rough reputation in the world of fruit: How do you eat them? How do you peel or cut into them without getting that staining red juice all over the place? And, once you figure that out, how do you remove all those beautiful ruby seeds (actually called arils) out easily? Pomegranates are the antithesis of take-it-everywhere, eat-on-the-run bananas.

But 10 years ago, the folks at POM Wonderful took it upon themselves to make pomegranates more accessible to Americans and introduced the nutritional wonders of pomegranate juice in a big way to our health-obsessed country. Customers found POM Wonderful Juice delicious to drink, fun to hold and loved the antioxidant boost. Sales soared. Pomegranate juice became a part of healthy lifestyles.

Over time, the brand builders at POM took on this fresh fruit’s primary pain point among customers—extracting the seeds without a huge mess. There had been a brief instruction on the website, but then POM took it a step further—it was simply done for customers! POM introduced conveniently packaged arils in easy-to-tote cups so customers can use them in salads or just pop them in your mouth like you might raisins. Voila! Ease, convenience, antioxidants … all portable.

Brands that gain the coveted access into their customers’ daily lives do so by creating products that are in some way meaningful and easy to use. This “take along” effect (also mastered by others quite successfully like Starbucks and Republic of Tea with their traveler’s tins of teas) keeps a brand top of mind. Is there any way this “take along” verb would help your brand become a bigger part of your customers’ lives?

Share
GoPro’s founder and CEO, Nicholas Woodman, writes this:

We help people capture and share their lives’ most meaningful experiences with others—to celebrate them together. The world’s most versatile cameras are what we make. Enabling you to share your life through incredible photos and videos is what we do.

The verb share centers GoPro’s brand mission. Woodman elaborates, “Like how a day on the mountain with friends is more meaningful than one spent alone, the sharing of our collective experiences makes our lives more fun.” In today’s visually dominant world, the products that GoPro creates enhance its customers’ experiences and make shareability easier than ever.

As stated on the website: “Our customers include some of the world’s most active and passionate people. The volume and quality of their shared GoPro content, coupled with their enthusiasm for our brand, are virally driving awareness and demand for our products.”

Does your brand make sharing possible in some easy and virally visual way? How can you differentiate your brand through creative sharing strategies?

Simplify
In brand building exercises, it is quite common to play with questions like “What if your brand was an automobile … or a celebrity or a color? What would it be?” Those activities are often thought provoking if most of the conversation centers around the why that particular model/person/hue was chosen.

Along those playful lines, here’s another question to ponder: “What if your brand was a magazine … in this case Real Simple?” Real Simple is one of women’s favorite magazines because it truly demystifies almost everything … from cooking several course holiday dinners to removing wine stains to entertaining outdoors to mentoring. Here’s how the brand describes itself:

Real Simple is the everyday essential for today’s time-pressured woman, the guide she can trust to make her life a little easier in a world that’s more complicated by the minute. With smart strategies, genius shortcuts, and shoppable solutions, we help her simplify, streamline, and beautifully edit her life, armed with calm, confidence—and the power of the right lipstick.

Real Simple’s articles are practical and informative and surrounded by lots of white space and often summarized in the back of the physical magazine on perforated tear off cards that their readers can slip in their wallet and take to the store or save in an easy to find manner. Real Simple is part knowledgeable friend, part cheerleader, part organizer and the verb simple is a brand filter for all they do. In our complex, hyper speed, information-overloaded society, Real Simple is an oasis of uncomplicated and straightforward answers.

Customers crave simplicity (just take a peek at Google and Apple’s strategic success). Is “simplify” a conscious part of your strategic plan in 2015? How can this verb be incorporated more holistically across all your brand touchpoints?

Take along, share and simplify … three more robust verbs that have the potential to set your brand apart this next year. Think through these verbs in relation to your brand mission. Fast forward and consider how your customers might feel if these were a part of your strategy, and then, go ahead do something with these verbs!

I’m a Black Widow … What Spider Are You?

Over the last couple of months, I’ve noticed a growing Facebook trend—an increase in those annoyingly stupid quizzes. What flower are you? What actress would play you in the movie version of your life? What Rolling Stones song describes you? What else is surprising is that there is a marketing method behind this madness

Over the last couple of months, I’ve noticed a growing Facebook trend—an increase in those annoyingly stupid quizzes.

What flower are you? What actress would play you in the movie version of your life? What Rolling Stones song describes you? Are we so bored with our lives that we have to take a quiz to help us with self-actualization?

It always surprises me how many of my seemingly intelligent friends participate in these time-wasters. And I’m not sure I care that if my neighbor were a flower, she’d be a Lily … or if my sister were a dog, she’d be a lab.

What else is surprising is that there is a marketing method behind this madness.

As Americans, we love games, trivia, puzzles, quizzes—anything where we can demonstrate our superiority or prowess. I’ll admit that The New York Times Crossword puzzle is sometimes the sole reason I purchase a newsstand copy of the Times (and if you’re a regular reader of my blog, you already know that I’m obsessed with Words With Friends).

It should come as no surprise that smart brands have figured out how to turn this obsession into a marketing opportunity. Long before Facebook came into our lives, magazines used quizzes to entice readers to purchase—right from the front cover that screamed to us in the grocery check-out lane: “Are you a good kisser? Take this quiz and find out!” Cosmo turned the quizzes into an art form starting in the early 1960’s.

Online quizzes are simply a means to a financial end for popular quiz-maker Buzzfeed. They’ve figured out how to use the data to help brands market things to you.

When you take a quiz about “American Idol,” for example, you’re not just telling the network that you’re a viewer. By connecting the dots to your profile data, now the network knows your age range, gender, marital status and other habits like favorite alcohol, or food—and that can be a goldmine.

But Facebook isn’t the only one to cash in on quizzes to drive advertising sales, LinkedIn is also guilty. Recently we created a digital banner campaign for a B-to-C client that ran on LinkedIn for a few weeks. We tested different messages and offers, and our clicks (and subsequent registration) data was good, but not great. Then we leveraged their quiz option.

On LinkedIn, you create a single question with multiple response options, and the collective response results are posted in real time. After the targets answers the quiz, they are then exposed to the results—and to your banner ads—and the results were impressive. Much higher number of clicks, and a much higher percent of clicks, and a much higher number of registrants—all at a much lower CPC. Now that’s an ROI that makes much more sense to this marketer.

If a reader has figured out how to really leverage the Facebook quizzes for marketing gain, I’d love to hear about it.

And, for the record, if I were a city, I’d be …

Greed – With a Fear Chaser

We’ve all seen the TV ads: A man with a microphone and a bouquet of flowers walks up to a house and rings the doorbell. The adult who answers is handed a check that’s bigger than the car in his driveway (both actually and figuratively) while lots of screaming family members leap up and down with excitement over the windfall. The Publisher’s Clearing House Prize Patrol strikes again, only this time, I was caught in their trap

We’ve all seen the TV ads: A man with a microphone and a bouquet of flowers walks up to a house and rings the doorbell. The adult who answers is handed a check that’s bigger than the car in his driveway (both actually and figuratively) while lots of screaming family members leap up and down with excitement over the windfall. The Publisher’s Clearing House Prize Patrol strikes again, only this time, I was caught in their trap …

I was minding my business playing an online game, when, between turns, I was presented with an invitation to enter the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes and win $5,000 a week for life. I said to myself “Now that would make my life a tad bit better, so what the heck,” clicked, and started a long and winding journey. While it ended with the agony of defeat, along the way I was exposed to some of the cleverest marketing tactics I’d seen in a long time, and they reminded me of the power of personalization—and greed.

From the minute I registered for the giveaway, I received a steady stream of emails. Each one asked me to “click” or “accept” or “approve” some data point in some compelling way (ongoing engagement!)—and since I didn’t have time to read all the fine print, I definitely got the feeling that if I didn’t at least “do” something, that perhaps my chances of winning were in jeopardy. So, I was hooked. I opened each email and was led, like a horse to water, to drink from the fountain of hope.

“Verify your address so the Prize Patrol can find you!” one email proclaimed. Well gee, of course I want to make sure the Prize Patrol (PP) goes to MY house and not my crabby neighbor across the street! So I reviewed the data and clicked my approval.

“Confirm the location of your closest florist” another one requested (to make sure the PP could pick up my roses and ensure they were fresh when handed to me on camera). Shucks, the roses are all part of the big on-camera finale, so you bet I double checked the florist information and clicked my approval.

“Make sure we have the fastest route to your house!,” as the map from the florist to my front door was prominently displayed in the email. I actually took the time to carefully review the map and confirm that the route they had selected wasn’t circuitous, and again clicked my approval.

Alas, the final email gave me the disappointing news that I had not, in fact, won anything. But wait, there’s more!

Only a few days after discovering I hadn’t won a penny, I get an email that I was awarded the Badge of Honor and I was, in fact, entitled to a maximum number of 10 entries for $5,000 a week for life. And so the motivation continues …

All cleverness aside, my only criticism is that Publisher’s Clearing House sent too many emails, and after a while I became more confident in my ability to ignore them without risk. If you know anything about this promotion, you know its point is to sell you a magazine … or some other item (most are for just “3 easy payments of $X.XX!”).

Did I make a purchase? I must admit I finally broke down and did buy something, but when I win my $5,000 a week, I’ll be able to buy a lot more … And isn’t that the whole point?

The Best Brand Gift Ever!

I know you are a YES person. A DIY person. A BRING IT person. A CAN DO person … excellent at all you do—conscientious, responsible, dependable, overachieving. No doubt, it’s how you got where you are. All wonderful qualities. So this Christmas, perhaps the last thing you need or want is something from “The 12 Days of Christmas.” What you just might need this month is 12 days and ways to say NO.

I know you are a YES person. A DIY person. A BRING IT person. A CAN DO person … excellent at all you do—conscientious, responsible, dependable, overachieving. No doubt, it’s how you got where you are. All wonderful qualities. So this Christmas, perhaps the last thing you need or want is, as the song says, some version of “12 drummers drumming, 11 pipers piping, 10 lords-a-leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids-a-milking, seven swans-a-swimming, six geese-a-laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves or even a partridge in a pear tree.” You don’t need or want more stuff. You want a meaningful, long-lasting, brand-enhancing and life-affirming gift. Something useful and practical.

What you just might need this month is 12 days and ways to say NO.

The deal is that no one can give this gift to you. It’s a selfie. There’s no outsourcing this skill to a personal shopper, no concierge service that can do this for you. It’s a true DIYer.

As YES people, the word NO is an infrequent part of our vocabulary—in our brand lives and in our personal lives. But I have found that the happiest and most productive people have given themselves the gift of NO. They have learned to make NO a natural part of their DNA … both in and out of the office.

So, before you head out of the office to start holiday celebrations, why not raise a toast to that little two-letter word NO and see if these bits of inspiration may encourage you to treat yourself (and the brand you lead) to this very important present:

1. The gift of a new discipline … making no an art form. Missy Park, founder of Title Nine, echoes the power of no. “In my book, saying yes is over-rated. Fact is, it’s easy to say yes. No difficult choices, no disappointments. Ahh, but saying no. That is the real art form. There’s choosing to say no which can be wrenching. There is choosing when to say no, which is often. And then there’s saying it graciously, which is very hard indeed.”

2. The gift of throwing in the towel … the towel that really doesn’t matter. I greatly admire Bob Goff. He’s an author, an attorney and founder of Restore International, a nonprofit human rights organization. He wisely shares: “I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.” With that in mind, Goff makes it a habit to quit something every Thursday. It liberates him for new things. What can you be simply done with?

3. The gift of margin … build in white space … everywhere! Dr. Richard Swensen, a physician-futurist, educator and author, advocates for purposefully creating mental, emotional, physical and spiritual breathing room in our full-to-brimming professional and personal lives. He calls it margin—like the white space around pages of books. He counsels that we need it more than ever. Appropriately saying NO gives us more white space.

4. The gift of focus … just say no … perhaps three times or more! Steve Jobs, Apple’s brilliant and passionate founder, shared this: “Focusing is about saying no. You’ve got say no, no, no. The result of that focus is going to be some really great products where the total is much greater than the sum of the parts.”

5. The gift of eliminating even more non-urgent and unimportant time fritters. Stephen Covey, author of “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” cautions us to be careful of defaulting too often into what he calls Quadrant 4 of his time management matrix … the place we naturally drift after spending lots of time in urgent and crisis modes: trivia, busywork, mindless surfing. Just say goodbye to all the nonessentials.

6. The gift of stopping … count the ways. Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great,” encourages us to create STOP DOING LISTS. That’s right … enumerate all things you are no longer going to do. Start by simply saying no to his Venn diagram of three crucial things-activities that are you are not deeply passionate about, that you feel you are not genetically encoded for and things that don’t make much economic sense.

7. The gift of holding back … a permission slip for more B+s. Must everything be done to an A+ perfection level? Pick and choose those activities that really warrant this kind of energy. Challenge yourself to not be an honors student in all you do. Award-winning author Anne Lamott had to remind herself in midlife that “a B+ is just fine.”

8. The gift of less … hit that delete key more often. Do we really need (or have time to read) all those subscriptions? Must we? Find satisfaction in architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe “less is more” philosophy. Go ahead—delete, unsubscribe, edit, curate. Whatever you have to call this process, just do it.

9. The gift of simplicity … now. Years ago naturalist and poet, Henry David Thoreau warned us: “Our life is frittered away by detail … Simplify, simplify, simplify!” Alan Seigel updates that sentiment for brand leaders in his book: Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity. Perhaps it’s time to give yourself and your brand the gift of a serious simplification process.

10. The gift of benign neglect … just ignore it! Do we really have to have a multiplatform constantly clean inbox? Who cares? What’s the point? Mani S. Sivasubramanian, author of “How To Focus – Stop Procrastinating, Improve Your Concentration & Get Things Done – Easily!” writes: “Information overload (on all levels) is exactly WHY you need an “ignore list.” It has never been more important to be able to say “No.”

11. The gift of checking back in with yourself … so, what matters now? In her book “Fierce Conversations,” leadership development architect Susan Scott suggests people change and forget to tell one another. That is true. Sometimes we even forget to tell ourselves. What has changed for you or your brand? Your energy level? Your tolerance? Your interests? Your competition? Your customers? What needs revisiting so that your yeses are truly yeses and your nos are truly nos?

12. The gift of a do-over … recycle your mistakes. We’ve all made the mistake of saying yes when we should have said no. Jot down a few of those do-overs on a post it note. What were the learning lessons? Keep that note to yourself handy.

‘Tis the season for gift-giving. Be kind to yourself and to your brand and make the practice of gracious NO saying not only a year end gift, but a long lasting part of your DNA.

Getting Started With Email Segmentation

Creating effective email connections that drive response and revenue requires segmentation. That sounds fine in concept, as many marketers know they need to do more segmentation in order to engage subscribers and break through the clutter. However, many marketers struggle with getting access to data and developing creative approaches that match the customer lifecycle. I urge you to not be intimidated. Demand greater data integration and access from your vendors. Start testing new content and creative approaches so that you can be automated and fully functioning immediately.

Creating effective email connections that drive response and revenue requires segmentation. That sounds fine in concept, as many marketers know they need to do more segmentation in order to engage subscribers and break through the clutter. However, many marketers struggle with getting access to data and developing creative approaches that match the customer lifecycle. I urge you to not be intimidated. Demand greater data integration and access from your vendors. Start testing new content and creative approaches so that you can be automated and fully functioning immediately.

Ease into segmentation to avoid overtaxing your precious resources. Use early tests to learn about subscriber interests and understand key success metrics. Doing so will build your confidence and help you make a case for automation, data integration and creative services — all of which are essential for advanced segmentation and better results.

There are two ways to get your arms around your segmentation opportunity, both with the goal of “right message, right person, right time.”

  1. Segment by customer profile and craft messages around customer demographics, firmagraphics and behavior.
  2. Segment by customer life stage and speak to customers who are in specific life stages.

Customer profile segmentation: With profile approaches, even simple segmentation can make a big difference. Separate your file into large segments that distinguish subscribers by a factor that has significance to your business. Clickers are a good place to start. Those subscribers who have clicked on something in the past month are more likely to be engaged than those who haven’t.

You can do less storytelling with clickers. For example, a retailer may simply alert clickers that a sale continues until Friday or put in specific sale prices for pants, sweaters and scarves. A business software marketer may send clickers three of their most popular whitepapers or an invitation to participate in a LinkedIn community. In both cases, clickers need less background info and more options to get them to act, whereas nonclickers may need more guidance and education prior to taking action.

Why burden clickers with info they don’t need and that gets in the way of their actions? At the same time, don’t skimp on critical storytelling information for nonclickers, as they clearly don’t have a strong connection with your offer yet.

Other starter segments worth testing include new subscribers versus long-time subscribers, buyers, geography (e.g., north versus south) and gender.

Draw segment lines around key drivers for your business — i.e., differentiators that give you a clear path to a custom message that will make an impact. For many B-to-B marketers, the most important driver of customization is job title. For B-to-C retailers, the key data point is most recent purchase. Don’t choose geography if location has no bearing on purchase behavior. Your business is unique, but good marketers understand the key customer attributes that lead to increased sales and satisfaction. Focus there for your segmentation and you’ll be rewarded with the biggest lift.

Life stage segmentation: To effectively segment by life stage, first abandon the notion that every email program has to be a long-term affair. Short-term email conversations can be even more powerful, particularly because they address a specific need at the time when that need is most acute. A four-message reminder series that disrupts the messaging flow around renewal time can be much more powerful than a generic newsletter which comes like clockwork every two weeks. Why not replace the newsletter with custom messaging for all customers who are up for renewal in a particular quarter? Similarly, create custom series of two messages to 20 messages that cluster around that particular life stage.

Remember to think through the dialog of the conversation if the message series is longer than three messages so that you can intensify, cease or adapt the message stream to accommodate response. For example, stop pitching the purchase midstream if someone has already upgraded from a free trial.

Not every email program has to be long term. The goal of “right message, right person, right time” can be achieved through segmentation that focuses on a specific life stage as well as customer profile.

What are your biggest challenges when it comes to nurturing engagement via segmentation strategies? Perhaps I can address them in a future blog or learn from others handling of them.