Branding and direct response marketing

I read an article the other day about branding and direct response marketing. The author made a point that companies need to choose only 1 approach. They cannot do both. It’s very rare to be successful to do both. His argument (the author) made me worried a lot.

Branding marketing is a long term investment. Its objective is not to sell a product per se. It sells a concept, a philosophy, and a belief. Direct response marketing on the other hand is to sell a product. This approach promotes product features and pricing. You communicate to new / different audience almost all the time.

There is nothing wrong with both approaches. They work to different types of companies. But, you cannot do both. I don’t like the direct response approach and want to change it to the branding approach. I will have to do both for a period of time. It could be a while.

But, I don’t have other options.


Social media, PR and Marketing

We recently communicated to our customers about how our industry is structured. Many customers shared their thoughts that the industry needs to changed, which is not the response we wanted to hear. This conversation was posted in our social media channels. Our marketing team responded and managed this conversation (and social media overall). There was a push from the top that PR should manage social media, not marketing (we seperate the 2 units).

I disagreed, not because I want to keep social media in marketing, especially the service-related aspects. My main reason is PR is one-way communication. The PR function prepare press releases and send them out to journalists. I know this function does more than that but this is the nature of PR – a one-way communication.

Social media on the contrary, is a two-way conversation. We engage in conversations with everyone, customers, employees, suppliers, etc. It’s a one to many conversational structure. You say something to a group of followers and they say something back. Some would agree with you and some wouldn’t.

And, my final point is PR might have a better writing skill. However, social media is not just about grammatically correct grammar. It’s important but the ability to communicate in the simplest form and to manage an online community is much more important.


My promotion formula

I have to do a number of promotions each year. They are mostly to drive short term results. It’s something that I try to change because it’s short-sighted and there are only 2 approaches to play with namely giving discounts or offering adds-on.

But, I am about to come up with another short term promotion. My formula is I go through the below steps of thinking:

  1. I first decide if I will go with offering a discount or an add-on.
  2. I then design a promotion (what is an offer?). This step is important. It has to be a “purple” cow offer i.e. my audience need to stop a car to watch the purple cow.
  3. I decide on a one short message that sums up the promo e.g. A CEO 1-2-3 sale.
  4. I choose an audience network – who will receive this promotion.
  5. I track the result.

Step 2 above is the most important step. If you cannot be different, cannot stand out, you shouldn’t waste your time to send a promo out. Everyone did the Black Friday promotion last year. I mean everyone. So, they all got a very small to nothing for their promotions.

Find the way to stand out. If you decide to have a crazy promotion, you have to go to the extreme.


Do you use ephemeral content?

I never use it before. Do you? Does it work for you? For those who don’t know what ephemeral content is, it is short-lived but long-remembered content. It is rich media, primarily images and videos, that are only accessible for a brief period. You can guess that it’s widely used on Snapchat and Instagram.

The benefits of ephemeral content are quite a few. It takes advantage of FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out. So, this type of content is very engaging. Additionally, it generates an immediate response to your campaign.

I would think videos would work best for this content type. The target market would be quite young, under 35 years old. I still don’t know how to use this content in our campaign. If I could find a way to do it, I will share with you later.


Social media influencers

Do you use influencers to promote your company, your brand, or your product? We do. Are you happy with the result? I am not entirely sure yet.

We use influencers for lead generation, content creation, and brand awareness. As you can see, lead generation is the only activity in the list that can be measured ROI. In that front, it doesn’t work well for us. It could be because we expect too many things from the program – quantity, consent, data, etc.

But, I find that using influencers for content creation (videos, photos, posts, etc) is worth doing. It’s very cost effective and you will get different perspectives, which is necessary if you have to maintain your social media.

My final advice is you should work with a few, long term influencers. Building relationship with a few is more important than working with a number of short term ones. They will know your product better and they will put more effort to work with you.


My other challenges

Part of my job is to do marketing to Asian market. This market is massive and includes places like South East Asia, Japan and China. There are great market opportunities there but those opportunities are for the people who could figure out how to crack it.

South East Asia for example have more than 11 countries. They are all different in one way or another. China and Japan are so different from other countries. Chinese consumers are so advance that we cannot even follow.

The major challenge I have right now is how to get our offers to them. I mean communication channel wise. Asians use email yes but not to the same extent as Australia or the US. They spend more time on messaging apps. Thai and Japanese people use Line. Chinese use WeChat. Malaysians and Indonesians use Whatsapp.

This is really difficult. Any tips?


The 2 types of mass marketing

Are you happy with your marketing efforts? I am not. As a marketer, we are facing great challenges here. One of them is we have to overcome not only one mass marketing syndrome, there is another type of mass marketing now.

  1. Consumer sided mass marketing: this is the traditional definition that we just blast our marketing message to a large audience and hope something will stick.
  2. Competitor sided mass marketing: I throw this definition out there because this is a major challenge for us all. My point is we cannot do average work because there are so many competitors, so many people that do similar things as you do. In order words, your work is average in a sea of mass competition. If you fall into this syndrome, you chance of success is super slim.

Let’s start working towards a goal of doing things remarkable from today.


The rule of 100

We should all try to avoid doing a discount promotion. I know I have to. However, with a pressure to increase a short term gain, we all need to do discounting. As it doesn’t require much of a brain work, let add some intelligence behind it. There are 2 ways to do discounting – absolute (or numerical) discounts or relative (or percentage) discounts. Which way is working better than which? The rule of 100 is your answer.

Researchers find that whether a discount seems larger as money or percentage off depends on the original price.

  • If the prices are lower than $100, the percentage discounts (e.g. 10% off) will seem larger.
  • If the prices are higher than $100, the numerical discounts (e.g. $100 off) will seem larger.

Let’s try this rule in your next promotion.


Intensity vs Consistency

These 2 key words will be used in a background of my strategy this year. They will be used in different context. And, they are both important.

Branding: consistency is more important. We need to be consistent in our positioning, our messages, and our content creation.

Strategic priorities: there are so many things to do. Instead of setting a priority and allocate resources the old way, we will do them all but apply intensity levels to each priority.

Staff training: I will need both intensity and consistency. Intensity alone won’t make knowledge sticks. Consistency alone won’t change their behavior.

Leadership: consistency is a key here. I have to communicate more often with the messages towards our agreed strategy.


What is strategy, really?

I am always interested in strategy. I feel that it’s a term that we all use, but not many people know what it actually is.  It happens to me a lot at work. It’s always like this, I talked to my team on, say, our social media activities, I asked one of my team why there was no progress. One of many answers always is – “I don’t understand why we are doing this. I don’t think we have a strategy for our social media”. I then asked “OK, we have discussed this many times. Before I go through it with you again, can you please tell me, in your words, what is a strategy?” If it happens to you, your boss asks you this question, what would be your answer? It’s intriguing, and I really want to know your answers.

When asked, what is a strategy? I often heard something along the line of – it’s planning, it’s how a company uses resources, it’s a way to achieve our goal, etc. It’s not wrong, but it’s also not right. I am not saying what I have in mind about the answer to this question is the right answer. However, I did some research to get to the bottom of this.

The outcomes of my research for the answers to this question involves the following keywords:

  • Problems
  • Competitive advantage
  • Strengths/weaknesses
  • Execution/Implementation
  • Choices (what to do and what not to do)
  • Differences
  • Change of external forces
  • Branding/Positioning

I also found terms like strategic planning, strategic building block, branding positioning, resource allocation. If you do the search yourself, I bet there is an 80% chance that your search results would be the same, with those keywords.

With all of the above, I want to propose my own version of what a strategy is. I am a big fan of Richard Rumelt’s book (Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The difference and why it matters) so I am influenced by his thoughts. Below is my proposal.

“A strategy is an activity that utilizes the insights of your challenges to design a coherent set of actions based on your strengths to address newly identified opportunities or to overcome obstacles.”

According to Richard, the first step to check if you have a strategy at all is to see if you understand your challenges or not. In his words, “A great deal of strategy work is trying to figure out what is going on. Not just deciding what to do, but the more fundamental problem of comprehending the situation”. Basically, what he said is, “diagnosis is a judgment about the meanings of facts.” I think his book is impressive and if you have the same interest as I am (in Strategy), you should read his book (if you haven’t done that yet).

Strategy work is important. It determines lives and deaths of companies, battles, negotiations, everything. It’s more important than many people thing. Surprisingly, not many people understand what the true strategy is.