How To Ensure Authenticity In Marketing: 12 Critical Tips

Consumers have to deal with so much advertising daily that they are very particular about the ones they listen to. Thanks to the sheer volume of marketing efforts, buyers have become clued-in to what inauthentic marketing looks like. Consumers treat businesses that try to perform inauthentic marketing with disdain, and modern cancel-culture can lead to massive PR disasters.

Forbes Agency Council

If you want to connect with your clients, you need to do it in a way that resonates with them authentically. Below, 12 members of Forbes Agency Council share several critical tips to help businesses be more genuine in their marketing endeavors.

1. Make Your Customer The Superhero

If you make your product or people the superhero, you’re putting your brand above your customer and looking down at them. This positioning makes you appear inauthentic and untrustworthy. In your marketing, the superhero is always your customer. Your product or service is the tool that enables them to achieve the superior results they’re seeking. – Douglas Karr, Highbridge

2. Understand Your Brand Promise

Businesses should first of all understand their brand promise. What is it that their consumers expect of them? What is their core philosophy? What is the brand’s DNA — not its ideal, but the truth of its culture and impact? Once that is known, any message that strays from that brand promise will be inauthentic. – Stefan Pollack, The Pollack Group

3. Project What Your Brand Stands For

Every clever marketing campaign should project the heart of the brand and what it stands for. All marketing projects must be consistent in messaging to truly connect with the consumer and showcase the values of the brand, ensuring authenticity. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

4. Develop A Brand Style Guide Early On

Branding is storytelling, and authenticity and consistency are key. Developing a brand bible and style guide early is a helpful tool to crystallize your story. You should include elements like positioning, mission, pillars, dos/don’ts, visual identity, etc. These will serve as a North Star internally and will also enable partners, agencies and other extensions of your team to know your story. – Marc Becker, The Tangent Agency

5. Gather As Much Feedback As Possible

What you think customers want and what customers actually want are not always the same. Gather as much customer feedback and engagement metrics as possible to learn how they talk about your product/service and what they want or need from it. Use that information to build a marketing strategy and you will be sure to resonate with your target audience in an authentic way. – Donna Robinson, Collective Measures

6. Focus On Providing Value And Educating

The single best way to have authentic marketing is to give value first. Instead of always trying to sell, sell, sell, make sure you take the time to educate. We pride ourselves on our blog, training and learning hub. We give access to all of them for free because we believe in value first. If we can get our customers to trust us, then the selling will come even easier later in the funnel. – Marc Hardgrove, The HOTH

7. Feature Your Subject-Matter Experts

People trust people, not brands. It’s important to look for ways to feature the subject-matter experts behind your company because it’s easier for someone to connect with a person than a brand. People want to buy from people they trust, and learning about your founders’ stories, values and experience can help build that trust. – Kelsey Raymond, Influence & Co.

8. Have A Story With A Human Touch

Make sure your brand has a story with a human touch. Showing why customers need your product or service is not enough, you have to connect with them on a deeper level — and that’s where storytelling comes in. What’s the story behind the brand? Why does it exist? When your brand has a proper story behind it, you’ll win the loyalty of consumers and that’s priceless. – Randy Soderman, Soderman SEO

9. Focus On Product Benefits, Not Features

Authentic marketing always focuses on product benefits, not product features. To ensure authenticity, first understand how your product makes the customer’s life better, easier or more enjoyable; i.e., the product benefits. Then ensure that marketing content focuses on telling that product benefit story. This approach helps your marketing content resonate and keeps it authentic. – Aliza Freud, SheSpeaks, Inc.

10. Keep Your Message And Tone Consistent

Keep your message and tone consistent. If you’re clever, be clever. If you’re snarky, be snarky. It’s the inconsistency of this tone that can sound fake. If the written content on your site is a bit casual and loose, but the videos on your site are overly “corporate,” your brand will reek of inauthenticity. Clever and catchy are OK, but don’t do it halfway. – Bernard May, National Positions

11. Always Test Before Launch

Even the best creative can have a blind spot, so it’s critical to test before launch. Test it! Too often, campaigns come out without input from a variety of demographics. If you want to be authentic, you must first test it with your internal team and collect feedback based on how it makes them feel and how they expect the outside world will react. – Kathleen Lucente, Red Fan Communications

12. Don’t Be Afraid To Be Vulnerable

Be vulnerable. Nobody’s perfect, so if your marketing suggests that you are, it will always come off as inauthentic. I saw a restaurant that advertised that its rooftop bar was “well worth the three flights of stairs.” That’s clever and self-deprecating in a way that resonates with consumers. – Scott Baradell, Idea Grove

7 Smart Ways To Assess The Quality Of Your Brand’s Content

Anyone in or adjacent to the marketing world knows that “content is king.” Everything you create and share with the public should always be of high quality, as it’s a representation of your brand and is what will draw people to your business. But with a never-ending demand for branded content on your blog, social media channels and website, how can you be sure that each piece is top-notch before it goes out?

AdAge Collective

We asked the members of Ad Age Collective to share some unique ways to gauge the quality of your work before it gets published. Here’s how they recommend assessing your content.

1. Set clear standards.
In order to assess anything, you need to have clear standards. This goes for content as well. So, create a clear set of standards that cover things like tone, visual elements, key messages, restricted topics, etc. Standards may need to vary by media type. Then, the key is to have someone other than the content producer assess the content against the standards. – Dan Beltramo, Onclusive (formerly AirPR)

2. Make content on-brand, on-strategy and interesting.
High-quality content, like all marketing, answers three questions with a resounding “yes.” Is it on-strategy? It must have a clearly defined goal, target audience, etc. Is it on-brand? From logo usage to the tone of the messaging, it must look, feel and sound consistent. Is it interesting? It must be unmissable and unskippable, which is easier said than done. – Chad Robley, Mindgruve

3. Show the true worth of your content.
Make sure your audience can see the true worth of your content by making it different and clearly better than the competition. Connect to solutions people seek now, and show the impact it will make on key profit and loss line items. Once that happens, then your content quality is above par and it puts you on the path to being one-of-one (and not one-of-many). – Arjun Sen, ZenMango

4. Read it out loud.
This is such a simple step, but reading your content aloud helps you understand how it sounds to others. You’ll find any awkward phrasing or repeated words. Hearing your content spoken aloud also gives you the chance to assess if it’s conversational. It becomes easier to make changes to make it sound better. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

5. Test it out with a focus group.
Test your content and images with simple online focus groups to quickly see what resonates the best. This will help you determine which content is of the highest quality and connects best with your audience for the brand message you are trying to project. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

6. Put it in front of non-marketers.
Content is primarily the function of the marketing department. The risk is that piece of content comes across as too salesy or bloated when it comes solely from a marketing team without vetting. A good quick trick to see if your content is quality is putting it in front of other team members before publishing. My personal favorite: engineers. They’ll always tell you if a message is grounded enough. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap

7. Make sure the right consumers see it.
Part of producing quality content is ensuring it resonates with the right consumers, but equally important is making sure they see it. When producing content, writers and promoters need to be on the same page about distribution, what part of the funnel it represents and what persona it targets. This plan, produced for all content, is a prerequisite for reach and efficacy, and therefore also quality. – Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive

Stumped On Your Business Name? 8 Tips For Choosing The Right One

You’ve identified a need in the market, a product or service to fulfill it, a business plan to guide you and a team to make it all happen. You have everything you need for success — except a name for your startup. A business name should be memorable, descriptive and unique, which can be a challenging set of criteria to fill at once.

The members of Ad Age Collective know the importance of a brand name, as well as how to come up with a great one. Below, eight of them share their best advice for testing and choosing names for your company, product or service.

AdAge Collective

1. Test ideas with your audience.
There are so many factors to naming, such as inspiration, branding, legal and more. The real hurdle to get over is subjectivity. Years of experience can cause bias. Fresh ideas won’t reflect historical cycles. From the list, select your top picks and test them with your audience. Aren’t they the ones who matter at the end of the day? Use their insights to cut out consensus and inspire great work. – Nicole Oliha, City National Bank

2. Create mock-ups.
Creating design mock-ups of your products with the potential brand name can be very impactful. It will make your name more real. You can also print out content with your name and possible logo to get a feel for it. Then, when you’ve spent some time with it, you can get a sense of whether your name will work in the long run. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

3. Brainstorm as much as possible.
It’s a volume play to find the needle in a huge haystack of established businesses, existing trademarks and purchased URLs. Brainstorm like a mad person. Scribble everything down without editing yourself. Make up words like a modern-day Shakespeare. With hundreds of options on the wall, you can begin to narrow down the list based on the names that both reflect the brand positioning and are currently available. – Chad Robley, Mindgruve

4. Explain what your product is.
If you’re launching a complicated product to market with a limited budget, sometimes choosing a descriptive name can be helpful. A descriptive name does some of the heavy lifting on the marketing side. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

6. Reflect your passion and excitement with a story.
Names can be literal or creative. It is up to you to build it over time. It must reflect your passion and excitement, and you must have a story to tell. My daughter came up with the name of our business, ZenMango. Her logic was “zen” is a position of wisdom and rhymes with our last name, “Sen,” and “mango” is the world’s fastest-growing fruit and allows us to migrate current brand colors. When asked about our company name, I love telling the story with pride. – Arjun Sen, ZenMango

7. Make sure the name is available.
The mistake many business owners make is thinking that the name matters. What matters far more with a name is if you can claim the appropriate digital assets. Running a Google search along with a social media check for the availability for your particular name is crucial as you begin to market your business. Don’t stress on the name itself; make sure you can claim your digital real estate first. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap

5. Weigh descriptive names against generic.
Begin by deciding if you want to choose a descriptive name, like “Precision Tools,” or a generic name like “Amazon.” Descriptive names are often helpful early on because they require less explanation, but they can be confining if you think your business will grow into new areas over time. Some names like Netflix are abstracted enough to provide a bit of latitude in both directions. – Dan Beltramo, Onclusive (formerly AirPR)

8. Ensure it doesn’t feel ‘wrong.’
Don’t get hung up on finding the perfect name, because rarely does any name feel totally right at first. However, it is critical that you make sure it isn’t wrong. Always confirm that it is culturally sensitive, isn’t confusing, is available and so on. People often mistake that a name is a brand, but the company, culture and behaviors will create the power behind the name and make it “right.” – Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive

Need To Reinvent A Beloved Brand? 9 Important Steps To Take

No matter how well-established a brand is, there may come a time when it needs to reinvent itself. Whether the company is working to keep up with modern sentiments or reach a new target demographic, the process of reinvention should be carefully considered and implemented. Otherwise, you may end up alienating the very customers who built your brand in the first place.

Reinvent Your Brand - AdAge

To help businesses that are considering a rebrand, we turned to the experts of Ad Age Collective for their insights. Below, they share nine steps a company should consider when reinventing a well-known brand.

1. Leverage your historical emotional insights.
When brands need to reimagine their future, it is important to understand why customers had an emotional connection to the brand in the past. Leveraging that emotional insight to refresh the branding and marketing around a product in a new light is often where you can start. – Kristen Anna Roeckle, Concentric Health Experience

2. Conduct research and reinvent based on data.
Reinventing a well-established brand doesn’t mean starting from scratch. Be sure to conduct research with your customers to find out what they currently think of your brand. What parts of your brand are still relevant? What parts need to go? What do customers believe you can credibly stand for? Use a fact-based approach to create a refreshed brand that audiences will connect with. – Aaron Hall, Siegel+Gale

3. Involve your existing fans and employees.
Reinvention can be exciting, but for some it means changing the brand they have come to know and love. Avid fans and employees should be considered in any reinvention plan. How do you ensure continuity and inclusion for this passionate base? Involve them early and bring them along for the ride. This will ensure they are not left behind and remain ambassadors for the new brand. – Maggie O’Neill, Peppercomm

4. Expand the audience, but don’t alienate the core.
We are frequently tasked with repositioning a well-established brand to reach a younger demographic. An important step in this process is to consider options for a reinvention that avoid alienating the existing core consumer. For a brand that has established equity, new strategies should expand brand relevance to a younger audience, not leave long-time brand fans behind. – Issa Sawabini, Fuse

5. Test your strategies first.
When reinventing your brand, it’s vital to test the changes you’re going to make. Make sure that you do your research and test your new brand image with a small group of your core audience. Continuous testing and getting feedback will ensure that you don’t alienate your core audience. It will also help you make changes in the right direction. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

6. Go back to your ‘why.’
Brands often need to reinvent themselves because they either lost their way or their momentum fizzled. They probably lost their way because they lost their “why.” Or, they lost their momentum because they lost their drive. If companies can retrace their steps to remember why they started the business in the first place, they can inspire new direction or refill the tank with passion. – Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive

7. Make sure you have a clear path to engage new customers at scale.
Ask 20 adults to rewrite history or direct a do-over and what’s the response? No one chooses a gradual approach. Huge success scenarios with visions of landmark breakthroughs are voiced. This also applies to brands reinventing. Pursue outsized results by driving trials with solely new prospects. Proceed only if a path to engage new customers at scale is evident. If not, why reinvent? – Sean Cunningham, VAB

8. Stay true to the core brand.
Staying true to the core elements of a brand that have stood the test of time with the consumer should not be undervalued. A brand can do a face-lift by updating color scheme, images, messages and even refocus themes, but this should not deter dramatically from its brand equity and the value it spent building over time. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

9. Have fun and give the keys to your new brand ambassadors.
Classic brands like Converse and MINI really set the pace in terms of giving the keys to the brand to their customers. They didn’t necessarily need to reinvent themselves. But by allowing their customers to collaborate and use digital tools to “design their own Chucks” or “dream cars,” they got crucial brand insights while appealing to modern shoppers. What they did is now common. – Lana McGilvray, Purpose Worldwide

13 Ways To Update Your Brand Without Changing Everything

Whether a business is updating a marketing strategy or simply trying to keep up with modern sentiment, sometimes a company needs to refresh its brand a little. But while change can be good, a business might not want to do a complete overhaul—especially if the organization lacks the resources to do so, or if its existing brand is well-established and popular.

As experienced agency leaders, the members of Forbes Agency Council know how to successfully brand and rebrand businesses. Below, they share 13 ways a company can refresh its image across platforms without risking its established brand equity.

13 Ways to update your brand

1. Communicate Changes With Your Audience

The fear of rebranding whether large or small comes with the brand equity you’ve built with your audience. If you’re very active in communicating with your audience and customers on your journey, a small or large rebrand will not dissuade them in following your mission—they will stand excited and supportive. Your brand relationship with your audience and customer will allow changes to be made easily. – Tony Pec, Y Not You Media

2. Repackage Your Product, Service Or Knowledge

You can add a little sizzle to the agency in a number of ways. Create an information product that can be sold or given away online. Create a new software tool that supports your company and solves issues for your clients. Create and hold a live event. Write a book teaching things that you specialize in. Interview other specialists that benefit your clients in a podcast. – Breynan Hammons, Innvio

3. Find Ways To Connect To New Markets

As brands age, so does their target market. Brands find themselves stagnant because they have failed to remain relevant and evolve into new generations of consumers. Brands need to remember that equity is based on the perception of their target market. If a brand does a good job and understands and evolves with its consumers, it will remain relevant and “fresh” without the need to rebrand. – Revecka Jallad, DIVISA

4. Launch A New Campaign

Just like a beautifully executed haircut, you can easily give your branding a fresh look without making huge changes. We do this with new campaigns. There are a few ways to approach this, but right now, you should start with an idea that demonstrates your greatest values as an organization. Remember, public relations is about building relationships and creatively giving people things to share. – Jennifer von Stauffenberg, Olive Creative Strategies

5. Audit Your Existing Content To Enhance Your Brand Voice

A complete rebrand can be costly. Uplift your brand without the commitment of a complete overhaul by enhancing your brand’s voice. The key to success is a distinctive voice that is consistent in all aspects of your brand. This change will require an audit of your content and communications channels to ensure your new brand voice is positioned to connect with your external audiences. – Ana Miller, A2 Communications Group

6. Actively Engage In Conversation With Your Customer

If you want to raise brand equity without the risk of a rebrand, talk more. Actively engage in a two-sided public conversation with your customer. Social media has made this near-effortless. Extol your values, priorities, humor and brand by being an active member of the community you are trying to grow. You don’t always need a new logo; your customer needs to know you. – Kirk Westwood, Glass River Media

7. Rethink Your Content Strategy

An effective way to shift how your target audience views your brand is to re-tool your content strategy to focus on the intersection between your brand values and what’s important to the end-user. So consider re-aligning, re-interpreting and re-strategizing how your brand guidelines, personality and tone apply to your communication channels, including emails, blogs, social media, video and visuals. – Carey Kirkpatrick, CKP

8. Make Small Changes That Don’t Detract From Your Core Message

A little goes a long way. A facelift can be done by updating color scheme, images and messaging while still staying on brand so you don’t lose the core message or competency. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

9. Create Foundational Messaging And A Consistent Story

A brand needs a consistent story to feel cohesive and streamlined. It’s less challenging to introduce clear storytelling as a sort of refresh—identifying the concepts and stories that your brand stands for is a great way to create a sense of freshness while keeping the same style and brand aesthetic. – Lynne Golodner, Your People LLC

10. A/B Test Your New Messaging

We don’t know what we don’t know. Create your new message and A/B test. If it works, use it. Always study your data, as the story is in the data. I have seen many big agencies sabotage this by creating a “wow” factor for the client, but it fails miserably. – Qamar Zaman, KISSPR.COM

11. Aim To Better-Align Your Image With Core Brand Facets

Giving a brand a fresh new look doesn’t have to have anything to do with the core of what the brand is. The company’s vision, mission and values don’t change. In fact, any facelift should be done with the goal in mind to better align a brand’s image with these core facets. – Dmitrii Kustov, Regex SEO

12. Add A New Marketing Element Or Channel

When you feel that your brand could use some refreshing, try adding something new to your marketing. For example, if you only have corporate LinkedIn and Twitter, add Instagram and YouTube. Or slightly change the direction with your video content strategy by filming something you’ve never done before. Customers’ tastes are dynamic and unpredictable; just don’t be afraid to experiment. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

13. Keep It Simple

There are a lot of tactics a brand can implement without a full redesign. If brand equity exists, a brand can refresh by introducing secondary visual elements to their identity—complementary colors, new patterns or illustrations, updated photography styles, and so on. Even very minor adjustments such as correcting technical aspects of a symbol or word mark can give a brand the boost it needs. – Tripp Donnelly, REQ

11 Things To Avoid If You Want To Maintain Consistent Branding

Most consumers don’t stick to one marketing channel. It’s very likely that a consumer that follows your brand’s account on Facebook also does so on Twitter, Instagram or several other social media channels. Mass marketing like billboards or radio and TV ads also impact these same consumers.

AdAge

A company’s brand is its promise to the customer, but consumers might be confused if the message they get from a brand has mixed signals. So when someone sees a different message or tone in one advertising channel for a brand is distinctly different from another advertising channel for the same brand, it creates a disconnect. Consistent branding is a vital method of establishing the company’s face and tone, which are essential to engaging the right demographic. Consistent branding is such a necessary foundation for a company’s brand marketing that introducing inconsistency between marketing channels can be disastrous for the company’s customer engagement.

Eleven entrepreneurs from Ad Age Collective have raised their brands to prominence over the years, and they are well aware of the things that a company should avoid if it wants to maintain consistent brand messaging. We consulted them about some of the most troubling things to avoid — here’s what they had to say.

1. Setting it and forgetting it

Too often, companies assume that digital branding is a one-time investment. They are eager to be visible across the web but forget about the commitment they are making to uphold their brand value online. To keep a brand fresh and consistent across channels, companies need to be constantly updating their digital content to reflect seasonal deals, promotions and marketing initiatives. – John Ghiorso, Orca Pacific

2. Keeping brand-related information undocumented

When it comes to branding, details matter. A tiny inconsistency can become glaring to your audience. A lack of consistency can create a poor impression. It’s important to document exactly what hex color code, font type or aesthetics you use, and where you use them also matters. Keeping your brand appearance consistent makes them recognizable to customers and builds a professional image. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

3. Putting on an act

People want to buy from people — and how buyers view your brand is a huge factor in how they feel about your product. Steer clear of the false advertising and keep it real. Using an authentic voice across all platforms and allowing buyers to see the real you is the best way to build a true connection with your audience and deliver a better all-around experience with your brand. – Latane Conant, 6sense

4. Rushing to publish content

Content marketing was king in 2019, and likely to also be very important in 2020. In the mad rush to pump out as much content as possible, companies can create fragmentation in their message as different content writers and designers produce material of varying quality. It might take a little longer to publish, but be sure to appoint an overseer who ensures every piece is consistent with the brand. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap

5. Placing identical creative across all platforms

If there’s one mistake I see more than any other, it’s when brands treat social platforms like ad units, placing identical creative across places where platform users expect unique things from that platform. Different platforms have different social use cultures. Be consistent in your principles and story, but execute with authentic sensitivity to each platform’s culture. – Scott Montgomery, Bradley and Montgomery (BaM)

6. Using too much stock photography

It’s impossible to create a consistent brand narrative if you rely excessively on stock imagery. Every platform is becoming more visual in nature, and, like it or not, the photos, graphics and videos you share say as much about who you are as your tone and choice of words. When you use too much stock imagery, you water down your visual narrative and risk looking like every other company out there. – Todd Morgano, Falls

7. Confusing consistency with replication

Never duplicate your content from platform to platform. Otherwise you’ll just burn people out and they won’t care. A lot of brands confuse consistency with replication. It’s not about copying your look and feel across platforms. Remember that consistency is driven by point of view — by tone of voice, by your personality and by the stance you take in the world. – Marc Landsberg, SOCIALDEVIANT

8. Straying too far from the familiar

Changing your style guide to be completely different, whether it’s a new color scheme or unrecognizable and unconnected images, will degrade the brand equity you have built on other platforms. Content should be very specific and personalized for different formats, but straying too far from the main brand will lose the customers’ association with the mother ship and all that has been invested in it. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

9. Assuming everyone ‘gets’ the brand

With the breadth of platforms and tactics available to marketers — media, social, website, email, etc. — we often have diverse experts managing each tactic independently. Alignment is critical. If brands leave individuals on islands and don’t architect each tactic’s role in building the brand story, platform experts may drive their own agendas rather than contribute to a cohesive brand story. – Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive

10. Treating platforms as silos

People jump from device to device, and have hundreds of digital touch points with brands. To make sure messages are consistent across all of them, brands cannot treat the devices and channels as isolated campaigns. Brands can leverage advanced analytics, such as machine learning, to connect these touch points together and better understand their customers, leading to a true omnichannel campaign. – Kevin Dean, Experian

11. Using multiple providers

Companies shouldn’t use multiple providers. Using one provider per communication channel creates a disconnect, along with chaotic data and ad experiences. Having one omnichannel partner to keep it branded and relevant to the consumers on all channels is important to keep branding consistent across all platforms. – Oz Etzioni, Clinch

7 Strategies For Gaining Better Customer Data

Your quality of engagement with customers hinges on how useful your customer data is. With deep insight into customer behaviors and thinking processes, you can make an impact on your core consumer base. However, getting this customer data isn’t as easy as it initially seems. The accuracy of data depends on how the business intends to collect it. The methodology shouldn’t be invasive and should encourage the consumer to trust the company with their data. That trust is built on a rapport that the brand needs to establish with its customers over time.

7 Steps for consumer data

With better customer data, the insights that you generate to connect with your consumers would be more substantial. You’ll find that your marketing efforts have more direction and engagement with the audience. However, the success of these efforts still depends heavily on the quality of data used to obtain those insights. The principle of “Garbage In, Garbage Out” is as true for data analysis as it is for any other technical field.

The entrepreneurs from Ad Age Collective are well-versed in how good customer data can impact their business’s efforts in marketing, so we asked them their secrets when it comes to wrangling higher quality data from their consumers.

1. Start with the source.

More accurate customer data needs to start with the source. Assign the individual or the demographic cluster a unique customer ID. You can then input various strategies across different platforms, changing the creative, media and messaging, but targeting the same customer or demographic to see which elements of the campaign strategy are more effective and deliver the highest ROI. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

2. Go after the ‘why,’ not just the ‘what.’

Tons of data is available on what customers do, both at your brand and away. That data does not tell us why they do it. Accurate data comes from identifying insights into the core of a customer and unlocking the drivers of behavior. That insight makes it easy to connect with customers and make action inevitable. – Arjun Sen, ZenMango

3. Seek noninvasive, regular feedback.

The key to gaining new customers is understanding your existing ones. Tools like Retently allow regular customer data to be gathered without overburdening clients. Doing this will allow you to pick up on trends — similar pain points that caused clients to choose your business or best aspects of working with your business, all of which can be used for more targeted campaigns to attract new leads. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap

4. Set up loyalty programs.

They are not new, but they have the strong benefit of being “opt-in” in a privacy-sensitive world. They also offer an explicit exchange of value, i.e. your company provides loyalty currency in exchange for certain actions or information from your customers. Sometimes, tried and true is just that. If you are seeking passive data collection, talk to companies that aggregate mobile data. – Dan Beltramo, Onclusive (formerly AirPR)

5. Connect data with other digital and offline points.

Brands rely on first-party data to understand customers, but it only tells half the story. It’s important for brands to connect data with other digital and offline data points. If brands can take the data available to them and connect it using innovative technology, such as AI and ML, they can achieve the elusive single customer view. That leads to more relevant messages and effective campaigns. – Kevin Dean, Experian

6. Say goodbye to siloed point solutions.

Today, the challenge is that each function of the revenue team has its own suite of applications. With disparate data, integration gaps and lack of tight coordination, you can kiss your dreams of accurate insights goodbye. To uncover, orchestrate and utilize valuable buyer data, the entire revenue team needs to utilize one cohesive account-based platform with AI and big data built into the core. – Latane Conant, 6sense

7. Be careful how you define your competitive arena.

Marketers tend to envision zero-sum games within product categories, and design research to report within that arena; meanwhile, customers may be shifting behavior to buy outside your defined arena. Design research that lets you discover if your true competition is entirely off your radar. Who gets a bigger slice of the pie doesn’t mean much if your customers have switched to cake. – Scott Montgomery, Bradley and Montgomery (BaM)

8 Top Tips To Consider When Crafting A Compelling Brand Story

A brand is a promise that a business makes to its customers. You can find this definition littered across the internet, but it doesn’t tell you exactly what that promise should be. Brand promises are crafted through their stories. Brand stories try to communicate the brand’s worth to consumers in a noninvasive way, which allows the potential buyer to connect and form a relationship with the brand. Today, many brands see the brand story as a way to humanize their corporate face so that consumers feel more comfortable with them.

Brand Story

Building a brand story requires a professional to focus on the audience rather than the product. The company already knows in great detail what the product does and how it benefits the consumer. The brand story tries to communicate that to the buyer, while at the same time making the story focus on the customer. The process of changing a brand story from a business-centric model to a consumer-centric model requires a lot of skill.

These professionals from Ad Age Collective have learned how to present the brand story best to engage customers and build a rapport. We asked them what things a company should be mindful of when developing their brand story into a compelling narrative. Here’s what they had to say.

1. Be authentic and consistent.

Be authentic, period. A majority of consumers, especially the younger generations, demand it as they want to feel inspired, to have an honest connection and be part of a like-minded community. Avoid inconsistencies between your image of the brand and its reality, as it will have a material impact on brand perception and equity. – Kurt Kaufer, Ad Results Media

2. Think more about hearing it than saying it.

You want your brand story to say certain things about your company and you are going to put a lot of thought into that. Put a similar amount of energy into understanding how your target personas are going to hear the story and the emotions that it will elicit. The recent Peloton ad that raised some controversy is an example of a story that was heard differently by some than was anticipated. – Dan Beltramo, Onclusive (formerly AirPR)

3. Be honest about who you are.

Another way of putting it is to be genuine. Your brand should be an extension of the honest truth about who you are, what you stand for and your reason for being. And it should connect logically and emotionally with a need or value you and your constituents share. – Todd Morgano, Falls Communications

4. Humanize the brand.

A brand needs to have a personality and something to resonate with. If you can give your brand innate human characteristics that people can relate to, they will feel more drawn to the brand naturally without even knowing why it is so compelling. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

5. Find balance between what matters and what’s true.

A compelling brand story must converge on the epicenter of three components: It must be culturally relevant, emotionally compelling and built on something true to the brand and organization. Brands must balance stories that matter with their ability to be true to the story. -Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive

6. Elicit an emotional response.

A product doesn’t become a brand until it is connected with feelings, experiences, memories or utility in a person’s mind. A brand is an emotional connection built over time to which consumers default, especially when choosing among products with similar attributes. Your brand story must elicit emotion and be sustainable to create consumer connections that withstand the test of time. -Sean Cunningham, VAB

7. Know your brand’s natural persona.

Every brand has its own natural persona. Authenticity comes from knowing the persona clearly, being consistent and comfortable with it. Connecting to why a brand exists adds purpose that resonates with the customer emotions. The blending of authenticity and purposefulness creates long-term feeling equity, which is essential for meaningful connection. In the end, we are all in the feeling business. -Arjun Sen, ZenMango

8. Be relatable and purpose-driven.

It may be overused, but starting with the “why” is the foundation of a compelling brand story. No one cares about your products, what they do or what you’re selling until they care about you! A brand story that has a strong “why” will always win, because people like to do business with those that share their innate values. The more relatable you are, the more people will care. – Patrick Ward,Rootstrap

3 Ad Campaigns That Resonated With the Gen Z Audience

Gen Z is completely shifting the way advertisers work. The long-held mindset of heritage, comfort, and familiarity is being upset by this up-and-coming generation of digital natives. Gen Z approaches the world differently than previous generations, and their way of thinking is coming to the forefront of today’s society. Their passion for social justice, demand for authenticity, and short attention spans have forced brands that target Gen Z consumers to shift their advertising strategies accordingly.

3 Ad Campaigns GenZ

Today, brands are starting to get better at picking up on what Gen Z values and learning to adapt. From a company structure perspective, this can mean implementing more corporate social responsibility initiatives; while in advertising and marketing, this can mean deploying messages, media, and strategies designed to resonate with Gen Z consumers. There are a number of one-off ad campaigns that have redefined success with this generation, as well as continuous campaigns and brand behaviors that are molding and shaping the way marketers and advertisers target this audience.

Here are examples of three very different ad campaigns that have resonated with Gen Z in unique ways, and how they did it.

Aerie ‘Real’ Campaign

Historically, clothing brands have promoted themselves with bombshell supermodels who possess unattainable beauty. It may seem simple, but Gen Z is challenging that paradigm by calling for and responding to ad campaigns that feature “normal” people, and by rejecting impossible beauty standards.

In the early ’00s, brands began receiving backlash for digitally enhancing the faces and figures of their models in noticeable ways and removing anything that might be seen as an imperfection. Once it became clear that this imagery was harmful to the development of young girls’ self-esteem and confidence, American Eagle’s intimates brand Aerie decided to connect with its target consumer, Gen Z, with a different approach — body positivity.

In 2014, Aerie’s “Real” campaign was born. American Eagle started by announcing that it would not only cease the use of supermodels, but would also refrain from digital retouching. That campaign received a flurry of attention as the first-of-its-kind and was a big success. Since then, Aerie has continued to expand the parameters by which it chooses lingerie models. Campaigns have included women with curves, cellulite, small chests, large chests, disabilities, medical illnesses, stretch marks, body hair, and more. Furthermore, the “Real” campaign has expanded by including Aerie consumers. The brand encourages people to feel positive, confident, and comfortable in their own bodies and show it off by joining in with the hashtag #AerieReal on social media.

Not only has this approach helped Aerie stand out in the market and build a positive reputation with Gen Z, but it’s also increased sales year-over-year, with a 38% increase in Q1 of 2018, alone. Overall, the “Real” campaign enabled Aerie to earn credibility in authenticity, diversity, inclusion, and body positivity spaces. Aerie was also ahead of the curve, and many brands are now embracing body positivity and inclusion in their own branding.

Casper

Casper is a new age mattress company that has completely shaken up its sector. A traditionally brick and mortar industry, Casper took a direct-to-consumer approach to mattresses that appeals to a younger-skewing audience. Casper has succeeded with this business model by incorporating selling factors that are important to Gen Zers.

Before Casper, the idea of getting a bed-in-a-box was unheard of and viewed as impractical. Casper, however, had a deep understanding of its target audience and realized a DTC approach could be effective, if the brand positioned itself as a master in the mattress space. To that end, Casper deployed a robust content marketing campaign. The company leveraged social media and retargeting to garner attention and create brand awareness. Once its audience was engaged, Casper established itself as the expert in the space, using product comparisons, customer reviews, and influencer marketing to move the consumer down the funnel toward purchasing a mattress they had never even touched before.

In addition, Casper invested in building a sense of community around its brand. Campaigns like Staycation Story Hacks, unboxing videos, “Waffle Crush Wednesdays,” and the publication Winkle were all geared toward giving consumers many different ways to engage and interact with the brand, and with fellow brand customers. Together, Casper’s marketing efforts have brought in upward of 100,000 video views; 2,000 to 10,000 likes per post; and increased its valuation to $1.1 billion, in just five years.

#RevolveAroundtheWorld

Revolve, an e-commerce clothing brand geared toward Gen Z, has targeted and engaged these consumers, not with traditional advertising campaigns (like Aerie), but by putting its marketing dollars toward a large group of Instagram influencers — 3,500 of the most successful fashion influencers Instagram has to offer.

When influencer marketing really began to take off, Revolve saw an opportunity to grow its relatively new brand and build buzz. The company established an ongoing relationship with Instagram’s most popular fashion influencers, including Kendall Jenner, and began throwing #RevolveAroundtheWorld events in popular destinations, including Palm Springs, Turks and Caicos, and the ever-important Coachella — a super hub for influencers and Gen Zers, alike.

These lavish trips and events are invite-only and create a space where influencers can come together and do what they do best — advertise Revolve’s products by modeling the clothing and publicizing them all over their Instagram accounts. An event exclusively filled with popular Instagrammers effectively gets the brand name out there and capitalizes on the “wish you were here” mindset that Instagram seeds in its users. Consumers have their attention grabbed by the glamorous photos and then may feel inspired to buy the trendy clothing they see. They both relate to and aspire to be like their favorite influencers. Clearly, this approach is working, as Revolve was recently valued at $1.2 billion.

Final Thoughts on Gen Z Ad Campaigns

In today’s world, it is vital that brands— old and new, alike — continue to evolve in the ever-changing advertising landscape. Brands that target Gen Z have to shape their marketing and advertising strategies to convey authenticity, relatability, consistent engagement, and progressive social values. American Eagle’s Aerie, Casper, and Revolve have each taken a highly distinct and unique approach, and each has succeeded in its own way. There are lessons to be learned from their similarities, and their differences. There are many ways to craft campaigns that resonate with Gen Z, but they won’t look like campaigns of the past.

What’s The Value Of A Sports Sponsorship Or Integration? Too Often, Brands Have No Idea.

Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media. 

Today’s column is written by George Leon, chief strategy officer at Hawthorne. George Leon, Chief Strategy Officer

The fall is a huge time for sports. There’s the World Series, weekend football games, the beginning of the grueling NBA and NHL seasons and NASCAR winding to a close. Sports fans dedicate significant amounts of time to watching sports – on many different devices and channels – and brands are taking advantage of the many opportunities that affords.

Across the media landscape, inventory pricing is increasing but advertising budgets are not. As interest in sports sponsorships and integrations rise, agencies must find the right ways to evaluate these opportunities. Brands must apply the same path of attribution here as they do with their other advertising efforts.

The World Series is a high-profile event with major teams. Last year, it was the Dodgers and the Red Sox, two top five market teams. The series ended in five games, and advertisers were disappointed it didn’t go through the full seven because the campaigns did so well. This year, networks and advertisers continue to hope for a competitive World Series between the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals that continues through all seven games.

The Super Bowl, in contrast, is a singular cultural event that is difficult to measure from a KPI standpoint, but it is high in consideration in terms of interest, earned media and social mentions.

Over the past few years, the sports media universe has expanded dramatically. There are the mainstream networks, such as NBC, and cable networks, such as ESPN and Fox Sports, as well as an increase in conference-specific networks, including the Southeastern Conference Network, Big 10 Network and ACC Network. These networks open up sponsorship and integration opportunities that enable brands to deliver direct messages to particular regions and consumer segments. The evolution of these networks has added incremental opportunities for advertising and revenue, and brands of all sizes are taking note.

Whatever the network, attribution and accountability are key. For example, a big NASCAR sponsor will likely see a major increase in site traffic whenever there is a mention of its brand on TV during NASCAR races. This type of lucrative advertising avenue requires that it is measurable. It’s important to align sports sponsorships and integrations with results, such as branded impressions and ecommerce sales lifts.

There are several companies that look at the impression-level performance of sponsorships and integrations, but brands need to go beyond that and evaluate the value of particular campaigns. Often when sponsorship packages are offered by Fox Sports, NBC or ESPN, a big focus is on the creative element and the impressions for the events. However, there may not be any mechanism to measure the value of each element of a sponsorship or integration and their impact on brand metrics.

With attribution methodology, a very straight and clear correlation between when a brand’s logo appears and the impact on visits and acquisitions can be seen if rigorously measured.

Say a company buys branded signage at a televised event. The proposal is then evaluated based on the channel, the number of times the signage could be seen on screen and the mentions within that. It’s also considered if there is a different value depending on whether the logo is on the bottom of the screen, part of the background or part of the signage of the particular medium. If you look at any arena or hockey game, there are at least eight to 10 different brand logos. How frequently and for how long do those images appear onscreen? What is their prominence?

During the campaign, not only is the date and time in which the logos appear onscreen evaluated, but also the data and airtime of the advertising response. Brands should be able to understand how consumers react to these types of sponsorships and integration. How do they behave after seeing it? What’s the immediate or latent response?

We know they are not going to have the same audience delivery or measurements as a TV ad campaign, but often sponsorship and integration campaigns are seen only as a branded awareness configuration. Brands should also start considering them an acquisition and consumer response channel. It’s not just about the audience – it’s also about consumer engagement.

Now that sports season is in full swing, there’s no better time for brands to explore sports sponsorship and integration opportunities and how they can be evaluated for impact.