I can hardly believe I’ve been an independent consultant for a year and a half. The new lifestyle comes with pros and cons.
Cons: If I wake up early, it doesn’t mean I finish my day early. If the printer runs out of paper, I can’t ‘accidentally’ leave it for the next person to fill. I will have to find the lost, squished grape on the floor myself.
Fortunately, there are pros.
Pros: This is the best commute I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. I work with clients whose standards and ethics match mine. My lunchtime walks are through treed neighbourhoods not industrial parks. My dress code has loosened up drastically to include a wide range of ultra casual, industry billboards.
I wear your shirt.
Over the years, I’ve received many marketing research t-shirts at conferences. When I don’t feel a kinship to those shirts, I always find a happy taker in a client or colleague. The t-shirts you see in this image, however, made the cut and landed in my closet. I love the bright colours, the witty remarks, the nonblack options. A few are women’s sizes and I like those the most.
What else do they have in common? Except for one, you don’t see logos or brand names. All of these shirts actually do have logos either on the back or the sleeve but none of them are simply logos or brand names or [your unoriginal and actually uninspiring] tag lines. In other words, don’t waste your money creating a t-shirt that is a blinkin’ billboard. [Side note… unless your company name is Irrational in which case you’d get bonus marks for having a brand name that is also a witty comment.]
You’ll also notice that none of these shirts incorporate odd brand colours. I’ve gotten many shirts that were exact on-brand cousins of puce and turquoise that looked weird even with blue or black jeans – out the door!
Basically, if you’re pondering new t-shirt designs, choose colours that fall within the range of human perception, and then go witty or go home.
In case you’re not sure, the companies that are finalists in this extremely tight t-shirt branding competition are…
First, I laughed out loud.
Then I shared it on my personal Twitter account.
Then I emailed it to my friend.
Then I shared it with my colleague.
An hour later I was still laughing to myself.
And when I got home that evening, I chatted with my spouse about it.
For a Twitter post containing just nine unhelpful words about a marshmallow sandwich, I dedicated a lot of brain time to it. But there’s a fabulous lesson behind my laughter.
We expect a lot from brands. We expect them to be professional, helpful, resourceful, and respectful. When it comes to food and snack companies, we expect them to share an abundance of recipe ideas especially around holidays that celebrate families. When we complain about food products online, we expect them to apologize immediately and try to make things right. When we ask questions about their food, we expect them to do anything in their power to find the answers and get us through whatever precarious situation we’re in.
So when the Twitter manager at MoonPie decided to answer a consumer’s recipe request, silly as it was, with a flippant, unhelpful remark, it went completely against everything we expect from mainstream brands trying to stay on top of the pack. And we laughed.
Why was that flippant remark such a success? How did an unhelpful reply generate 114,000 likes, 31,000 shares, and over 250 comments (as of right now!)?
Because the voice of the reply was in keeping with the brand.
If MoonPie had been truly helpful and found a kitchen-tested recipe, say for chopping up MoonPies and using them instead of dried bread crumbs, it might have been helpful. If they’d offered advice on how to put MoonPies into a turkey without damaging the pies or the turkey, it might have been respectful. But neither of those responses would have been funny, let alone hilarious. And neither of them would have been in keeping with the MoonPie brand voice – fun and friendly.
It’s a good reminder that properly implementing your brand voice can have amazingly positive ramifications. Of course, you need to take the time to figure out what your brand voice is. Is it silly and flippant? Is it formal and professional? Is it casual and relaxed?
And now that I’ve completely analyzed the fun out of that tweet, maybe it’s time to try stuffing a turkey with MoonPies. Let me know how it turns out!
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This post was written in my role as a consultant for Sklar Wilton & Associates. SW&A has worked for more than 30 years with some of Canada’s most iconic brands to help them grow their brand, shape corporate culture, build successful innovation, define portfolio strategies, and maximize research ROI. They offer strategic advice, business facilitation, research management, qualitative/quantitative research, and analytics. SW&A was recognized as a Great Workplace for Women in 2018, and the Best Workplace in Canada for Small Companies in 2017 by the Great Place To Work® Institute. Inquire about their services here.
How to Make Research Visible
Andrea Sharkey, Senior Manager of Market Insights, CBC
- AAA available accessible appetizing
- Available – can’t be on a schedule, needs to be on our terms not theirs, how can we be the Netflix of data
- Accessible – bite-size, makes sense to the user, understandable, dashboards let people ask the questions they want and everyone gets the same access to that data, no silos of different data. Everyone works with the same set of data therefore all data matches. Executive summaries are always available.
- Appetizing – visually appealing to clients. Most people use PowerPoint. Some of the best stories have pictures. Use a graphic designer to make everything clean and readable. Good data won’t just stand on its own.
- Find the right tool to share your data. It doesn’t aways have to be PowerPoint.
- Rethink your results. Stories are told differently with dashboards. Ppt means you control the story and you dictate what people pay attention to. People might start at the end of a story when they use a dashboard. Dashboards free your time but they might affect the understanding of the story. Maybe add some invites into the email so they know what to focus on. Produce the huge reports for people who need it and give them the dashboard. Find the right balance.
- Be willing to evolve, willing to pivot. Solve concerns along the way
How to Avoid the Pitfalls of Brand Positioning
Johanna Faigelman, Founding Partner and CEO, Human Branding Inc., Sarah McNab, Partner and CSO, Human Branding Inc.
- Have you experienced having the wrong target in mind, ignored the power of an established positioning, positioned too focused on the product
- Companies assume everyone will be very excited about their product, hard to be objective, that’s why outside suppliers help to bring objectivity
- Everyday consumers did not perceive a need for google glass, and professionals and B2B who did have a need were not a priority. Main ebenfit was it’s handsfree format. Positioned as for the general public but they didn’t see a broad need – entertaining breastfeeding moms whose hands are full is not a large market. They should have targeted police officers who need recording while hands free, etc.
- Target store positioned incorrectly. Canadians expected it to be the same in canada as in the USA – get a lot more for less and make sure the shelves are stocked. But target didn’t respect their positioning. Need to know your established brand so build trust and loyalty, leverage equity.
- Positioning is too product focused. Why do you need an emotional benefit when the product is so good. Being too functional is more about problem solving and not brand building. Competition can replace or improve on functional beenefits leaving a brand in the dust. You CAN talk about the performance of a sneaker to enhance athletic performance. Adidas looked at trends of casualness as a cultural shift in order to grow the size and appeal of their brand. Leveraged the athleisure trend. Create a cult status for your brand.
- Anthropology is teh study of human behavior and culture, and is completely applicable to marketing research,
- [ICEBERG ALERT! 🙂 ]
- Set the context. What is the right target and what makes them tick. Understand the motivations. Identify the white space.
- Understand the rational and emotional hot buttons. Do laddering based on a range of proactive statements, imagery, archetypes to pull out what is inherent in this brand.
- Need the Premise, promise, and proof in the positioning statement.
- Don’t stay in the space where you think the answers are. Go outside the space, push it.
You’ve seen the commercials on TV where the host or actor discussing the fantastic properties of the amazing product is wearing clothes and accessories that match the products packaging and branding perfectly. Sometimes it makes for creepy over-branding whereas other times it makes the commercial more calm and focused. In either case, the intent is to unconsciously teach you the brand colour so that when you are in the store, the familiar colour will draw you in, consciously or unconciously.
However, the world of research is different. Using brand colours as part of questionnaire design can significantly affect the outcome of research and whether that results in increased or decreased scores, the impact is negative. Results from surveys should reflect in-market experiences, not unconcious associations of brand colours. If you plan to measure brand recall, awareness, purchase, attitudes, or perceptions within the the general population or within category users, particularly if you want to compare with other brands, never brand your questionnaires with brand colours, text styles, or formats. Questionnaires formatting should be neutral in all ways such that unconconsious recollections won’t be created.
So when is it appropriate for questionnaires to use brand features in the design? When can you use your brand’s colours and fonts and styles to pretty up what can be generic, boring pages?
When you’re contacting existing clients or customers to ask about a specific purchase experience or brand experience. That’s about it.
In such cases, the bulk of the questionnaire will focus on the specific experience with the specific brand. There may be a couple of generic introductory questions, but 90% of the questionnaire will focus heavily on your brand, your employees, your shelves, your website, your selection, etc. There is no point in creating a sense of blind review or uncontaminated response because the brand must be revealed early and significantly.
If you’re not sure which way to go, there is a very simple solution. Never brand your questionnaires unless there is no way around it. Better safe than sorry.
Live note taking at #IMD16 in chicago. Any errors are my own.
Panel: Strategies of successful research agencies, Gillian Carter, Ross McLeanr, and Arusha Sthanunsathan moderated by Lukas Pospichal
- Clients don’t know what they’re buying until they are fully on board
- Use client’s excitement to book speaking engagements, win win for them to shine among peers and the research company can share their expertise through the lense of a client
- Overcommunication helps to avoid problems, overshare until you’re told not to
- Daniel Kahneman – experience is measured by most intense positive, negatives, and the end, and these are averaged for an event, measure these points well
- Use the advantages available to you, whether you are small or large, stand up for what you believe in, smaller companies can react more quickly
- Best clients will often let you talk about them in sales meetings even if they don’t want you doing so at conferences
- Leverage client pride in your projects, find all the spaces where their work deserves to be showcased and help them become more publicly recognized, and hey mind doing a case study for us?
- Work hard to make your clients look smart to their superiors
- She gets big respect for being able to say the alphabet backwards really fast
- Should my company be a pokestop? Is this for business, what is my strategy? What is the right question to ask?
- You should be asking how do i do this.
- 200 million numbers are on the do not call list and 44% of direct mail is never opened [me and me]
- People aren’t watching commercials either so should we move commercials over to where people are watching now?
- The vehicle/channel is being discarded, consumer behavior is changing
- People watching changing behavior will win, if you uncover meaning in your own behavior you will win, create epic content and you will win
- Companies have changed from big media buys to social media buys but they haven’t changed what they’re offering
- People won’t tolerate impersonal messages anymore
- Consumers will no long tolerate companies that inconvenience you, “batteries not included” is no longer acceptable
- Make sure you can get to your own data, you need meaning of this data
- We don’t help our clients understand the outside world enough, we focus too much on inside data
- Your goal isn’t more facebook engagement, your goal is more clients. Potential clients need to find your facebook page, click on your fb CTA, and proceed down the sales funnel
- ABC – Always be closing, ABH – Always be helpful, is your service helping to make their day better
- You need to put your top people on content marketing, it’s not a job for interns [oh my, the worst blog posts come from people who are trying to fill word counts not create opinions]
- We let social media take us wherever it wants to go but you must have a strategy
Branding you: Sales tips for market researchers by Dan Rangel, Survox
- Join a few meetup groups, and maybe start your own, then you’re in a leadership role
- Consider putting your photo on your business cards
- Althways think about WHY should this person do business with me
- Show them the money, talk about ROI
- It’s not about you, always listen.
- Weekly project plans are important for the larger projects, let client see where the status is, what they will need to do, what you still need to do
- Nurture the human bond. Go to a baseball game, lots of fun, lots of talking time, and builds a good relationship
Live note taking from Viz-Fest Day 1. Any errors are my own.
The future’s bright, The future’s branded by Lucy Davison, Keen as Mustard
- Know what you are and what you do, follow through in every aspect of your organization
- What are the three most valuable marketing activities? Branding and strategy, website, content marketing
- Biggest marketing problems: Awareness, don’t get on pitch lists, don’t know who we are or what we do
- Need to get your brand right first, relevant messaging and strategy
- MRX companies underinvest in marketing – More than half spend less than 5% of revenue on marketing. Average for a B2B company is 10%
- Things are stormy but far in horizon there is possibility,
- Big data is freely available, why do MR anymore? It’s faster, cheaper. Don’t need methods controlled by agencies. Now we have robots and algorithms doing our jobs.
- Other businesses are encroaching on our space – Google, amazon. [oh, it’s not ‘our’ space!]
- What can we learn from other B2B industries? Advertising – Saatchi & Saatchi reinvented themselves. M&CSAATCHI – Brutal, simplicity of thought. Cut back to only essential concept. BarleBogleHegary changed to BBH with a black sheep – it’s about being very different, going against the grain
- How do clients pick agencies? Obviously, good people they trust, clients follow good people. Good technology to support what they say they can do. Want a new perspective, always be growing, better intellectual capabilities, end benefits to their stakeholders, make it easy to buy.
- Look at logos of top 30 MR companies – all the logos look the same – blue acronyms.
- If you aren’t buying legacy, what are you buying?
- Most MR organizations are grey or blue, dull, boring. Even though we are dynamic and colorful.
- It’s what they say about themselves – world, global, intelligence, insights, research, provider, strategy, growth, customer, unpredictable, precision, analytics
- Must live and breathe the brand, it’s different, it lets you charge more
- It’s time to change – we have so much content and intellectual property, we need to charge for business solutions not processors, we need to stand up to apple and google and be branded like they are
- It’s how you behave with clients not just what you look like
- MR is like a giant IKEA warehouse of flat pack companies, no idea how they’re different
- Find your secret sauce – what is it that you have that is distinctive? Find your philosophy, make it meaningful, what culture do you have to deliver that
- WHY do you do what you do, tell your company story
- How branding helps agencies – pique client interest to get that first conversation, makes repeat business easier, methodology is far easier to copy than philosophy, more latitude on cost when proposals aren’t directly comparable, provides basis for staff recruitment, loyalty, and retention
- How does this help clients? They know what final product they will get. Makes the final product predictable and reproducible. Reduces the need for pitching. More likely to partner on new techniques. More obvious which agencies are a good cultural fit. Makes my life easier.
Out with the old: Internal branding and you by Virginia Monk, Network Research
- Move from being information providers to knowledge providers to providers of wisdom, a three or four-year journey, need to do this internally and externally
- Rebranding isn’t easy, must be all consuming, across all media, all interactions, staff, stakeholders, partners, clients; should impact everything you do not just cosmetic changes, must be sold to the business so they feel comfortable with it
- New visual identity need to align to new positioning, which signal change internally, and positioned the company appropriate externally
- Needed to work out SWOT, find their philosophy
- Competitors are technology providers, data providers, analytics providers not just other MR companies
- Old logo looked exactly like the generic logo Mustard had built, fifteen years ago it was cool and new but now clients and new employees didn’t know what the logo was
- Now the logo is a bright blue supported with orange for slight differentiation and a strapline, something to fit their identify around, tells customers who they are and what the benefit it
- Needed to change colours/branding on more than just the logo
- Asked a long-time client and a new client what they thought of the new logo with no prompting. They understood what was being said. Liked the three dots as a ‘watch this space’ more to follow
- Invested money so people connected emotionally with the branding and how it impacted them personally, had to work with all employees not just client facing employees
- Had a launch party for staff, not just a few drinks after work. Used an external location that related to the branding. Chose St. Paul’s in London. Strong, beautiful design, internal and external strength, and has a great view just like the strapline.
- Needed a sensory impact too. See, hear, taste, and smell the branding. Redecorated the office over the weekend, new paint, new decorations, new kitchen appliances and dishes, new furniture.
- Gave every employee branded gifts – cups, paper, water bottles, orange chocolate, oyster card holders, stress balls, new business cards and collateral
- Felt cheesy but it made a different. People love the oyster card holder, non-employees want them too
- Changed some job titles, changed email signatures, people were excited when this happened
- Circulated a brand book to everyone, new set of key works and terms for report and proposals, new iconography as well, lots of training on how to talk about it in this new way, training on new story-telling, operationalized the values for non-client facing staff – have an opinion on everything they do
- Use it in their appraisal forms and scorecards
- Branding is flexible and permits brand extension
- Must start with the business strategy, what are you and what do you want to be; staff engagement must come at the beginning; executing the brand is more important than the branding itself; more effective to have multiple strands to an internal rebranding strategy with constant repeats
- Recognize different learning styles, some people want a book, some want to be told, some want to play with it
- Bedding in the brand takes time and is a cumulative process
- Senior employees must live the brand and believe it, act it, not just lip service
- Business must be prepared to adapt for maximum impact – redecorating the office must have seemed excessive but it wasn’t
- Consider how it affects proposals early
- Create a handbook of terms and meaning for all staff
- Training never ends
Branding your insights by Mathew Sell and Daniel Tralman at Northstar
- Advertisers and public relations know how to sell themselves, hard for researchers to do the same
- Research has become too commoditized, need to make it more interesting, actionable, easier to access, it has a PR problem, we forget basic branding for ourselves
- Our research needs to stimulate creativity and inspire action, need to value individuality and creativity
- Insight doesn’t cut through the noise, so much is jostling for attention
- Insight Campaign Strategies – we need to practice what we preach, concepts not projects, interpretative visualization, disruption and dissonance
- Concepts not projects – we create concepts and clubs that people want to be a part of
- #20ExtraordinaryStories was the name of a new project, promoted storytelling not just research findings, gave it life, told clients that they were one of only 20 in the study
- Needed people to want to be part of the club, put the logo on every piece of content
- Font echoed a sports team, hashtag showed digital, color indicated luxury, club word was for unity and participation
- Created an online portal and membership packs, keep respondents engaged in the project and part of the community, required the skill of a journalist to give real time information
- Community allowed two-way communication, everyone had the same information at the same time, strengthened emotion engagement
- Interpretive visualization
- Design isn’t just logos and fonts, it’s symbolic representation not just design and not just direct, need to capture qualities of things
- Client wanted to center around a single word in multiple EU markets “good”
- Created a character around the word good, needed as few words as possible backed up with visuals
- Same with the word sustainability – use colors and images to support the word, even use those things as the font
- How light hearted does the style need to be to bring people along the journey, particularly when the image needs to be dark or negative
- Don’t worry about communicating directly with life like imaging, avatars indicate characters without specific details, removing facial expressions means you concentrate on other attributes of an image
- Disruption and dissonance
- Insight is easy to file, it’s linear with a start and finish
- Hand out booklets as people leave a presentation
- Use teaser campaigns to highlight studies, hand out popcorn, make posters and mugs, use physical assets along with digital [people love free stuff!]
- Performance is the next level of engagement
Live note taking at the AMA Houston conference. Any errors or bad jokes are my own.
- Our consumption capabilities are going to flatline, content shock, creating more content than is being consumed
- The audience doesn’t care about your branded content, people don’t wake up wanting to see what their favourite brand said today
- Only 30% of people have liked a brand on Facebook, when did you last like a brand? It’s not a relationship
- There is so much content that is vastly more interesting than branded content
- Individual people are taking content away from brands – eg, unboxing videos, fanatics showing off their new shoes, someone who does toys review videos
- How do brands compete
- Planning: know your audience and your target, know the demos of each social channel, know where your audience lives, know what motivates them; agree on KPIs and goals for brand awareness, engagement, sales, lead generation, retention and loyalty; have a documented strategy, know what you want to achieve
- Lead with purpose and values
- [damn that pandora ad where the kids find their mom by touch alone is a tear jerker]
- Emotional connection doens’t always mean crying
- Give/get strategy – give 80% to get 20%, don’t focus on a heavy CTA
- Content should entertain and drive interest, not tied to “thanks for viewing now buy this” GE does a great job of this
- Budget first, idea second
- Focus on what you do weekly, monthly or quarterly, e.g., social media is weekly, papers are monthly, information is quarterly
- Save 20% of budget for promotion if you don’t have a media budget
- Consider waht is foundation a exploratory, or in review
- Be agile in publishing, different formats
- Test all variables – headlines, CTAs, length, type, distributions, images
- Some brands give us hope – ADOBE, Nordstrom, airBNB, IKEA, TSA, Jaguar
Live note taking at #IIeX in Atlanta. Any errors or bad jokes are my own.
I didn’t do anything wrong: The inventor’s dilemma by RIck West
- In 1989, lots of people had nokia’s which were awesome phones at the time, bricks that never broke. In 2008, smartphones started to enter the market. Why did Nokia go from 55% share to 3%? They did nothing wrong so how did they lose?
- We don’t want to be sitting here five years from now screaming that we’re relevant
- But I invented this and we coined this phrase!
- Today, no one swipes their credit card on a physical charge machine. We swipe in on a Square. No bank certified that charge marchine. Inventors of the charge machine are now out of business.
- Five years from now, you will not be doing the same business you’re doing now without major change
Completing the consumer journey with purchase analytics by Jared Schrieber and Bridget Gilbert
- How do people purchase alcohol for attending an event
- Data collected from a purchase panel, people take photos of every receipt they get from every purchase everywhere
- Groups “The Socialite” and “The Rebel” – rebel spends 20% more
- Trigger, ready to buy, and buy – three stages of the purchase
- Journey for millenials is straightforward – invited to some event, think about the occasion, speak to someone, mental budget, added to list, talk to friends, check the fridge section, check for sales, compare prices, buy [darn it, I tried to avoid millenial talks!]
- Millenials are always talking to someone at some point in the journey
- Key differentiator with rebels is they don’t speak to people, they have ghost influencers, more likely to say they bought someone else’s favorite type of alcohol, they are thinking about friends or family or whoever will be attending the event [or is this simply self justification of a larger purchase – “it’s not for me”]
- Socialite – liquor store, express lane, after 5pm, shop in pairs, has a baby, lower income
- Rebels – grocery store, stock up trip, before 5pm, shops alone, has a pet, higher income
Brands and American mythology: Narrative identify, brand identity, and the construction of the American self by Jim White
- We are all tellers of tales, give our lives meaning and coherence
- We don’t construct this identity in a vacuum, it’s within our culture, the mythology of our culture, we try to align our lives with the this we’re familiar with
- We edit and reedit our identities
- Brand strategists need to spend more time listening to consumer stories
- We rarely step back and listen to customers talk about themselves
- Six languages of redemption – atonement, emancipation, upward mobility, recovery, enlightenment, development
- We use brands to tell ourselves stories about who we are, to try and give ourselves some reality
- Brands can be markers in our lives, can tap into that notion of our lives
- Understand how personal myths draw from cultural myths
- Ask people to tell stories about themselves not about your brand
- Find the tensions they need to resolve, can my brand help smooth those contradictions, actualize th story they want to tell
Reimagining the traditional consumer panel by Bijal Shah
- She’s a promotions company and they have millions of purchase records in their database, they are not a data company
- Rely on panels but there is a sever lack of scale, not enough information about the entire population
- We try multiple data sources but often can’t link sources
- Partner with a DMP to make your data actionable like krux, lotame, Adobe
- Find unique data source to enhance your data assets