3 Ways to Communicate and Market Effectively to the Brain

Here are 3 ways to communicate effectively to the brain:

1) You want the brain to remember your marketing message for as long as possible: in the short run, and the long term. You need to repeat your messages often for that to happen. Also, activate emotions and provoke the senses in the reader’s or viewer’s brain, so that you can register the message better.

2) Use pictures to back up your words.  Pictures speak a thousand words, remember? The brains remember things much better by pictures, and not through texts.

3) The brain can only focus effectively (I mean effectively, not half-heartedly) on one thing at a time. So focus your marketing message on just one key theme.  ONE theme.  ONE message.

Mind of the Consumer. Every marketer wants a piece.
Mind of the Consumer. Every marketer wants a piece of it.

What Marvel Comics Taught Me About Branding

XMen: One of the most interesting comic brands of all time
XMen: One of the most interesting comic brands of all time

I have been a fan of marvel comics since I was a teenager.  My favourite comics?  The X-men series, and the line extensions such as Cable and Uncanny X-men.  It helps that my room mate then was an avid comic fan, who worked part time at a comic shop, and who later opened a comic shop of his own later.

Here’s what Marvel Comics taught me about branding:

1) You need to exercise a lot of creativity and create a story around each character.  This is the character’s branding.  Regardless of decades of time since the birth of Iron Man, the story and branding behind the character have lasted through generations.

2) You can have parent branding for individual characters by putting them in a group.  E.g. the Avengers defend planet earth from alien threats, and the members are the Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and Hawkeye.

3) Each of the characters form a stronger portfolio (group) than if they fight enemies on their own.  Hulk provided his amazing strength and fury, Thor used his heavenly hammer to punish invaders, and Hawkeye uses his sharp accuracy to shoot enemies down.

4) The characters can change their personality to suit the changing times.  E.g. during World War 2, Captain America was active in defending US from Axis enemies.  During the 1960s, Captain America was active in Avengers defending against alien threats instead.

5) The characters each has an admirable quality that the readers can aspire to.  Iron Man was aspirational in his intelligence and passion in science, while Captain America inspired with his patriotism and athleticism.

6) The characters can change their costumes (packaging) to suit changing times.  Spiderman started off with a bright blue and red costume, then eventually turned into a dark blue and darker red colored costume.  When he turned into venom, the costume turned black to signify the shift towards evil.

7) The characters always meet obstacles along their fight against evil, but through perseverance and willpower they managed to always defeat the enemy in the end.  Likewise in branding, we may meet difficulties at times, but if we persevere, we will prevail in the end.

8) Comic characters are always full of fun, as they use their unique powers to add fun to their lives.  Similarly, branding can be fun, so always see it that way.

Work on the Strengths of Your Brands, not the Weaknesses

Focus on your brand's strengths, and build muscles in the right places.
Focus on your brand’s strengths, and build muscles in the right places.

Let’s face reality.  Nobody is perfect.  Everybody has their strengths and weaknesses.  However, everybody tries to fix the weaknesses, rather than developing the strengths.  This is especially true in Asia where parents and bosses are just not satisfied with weaknesses in their children or subordinates.  If a child gets 90 marks on all subjects except for one subject where she obtains 50 marks, the parents will expend stupendous efforts, time and energy to focus on the weaker subject.

Same thing for a brand.  No brand is perfect.  You cannot be a brand that pleases every person on planet earth.  You cannot be a brand that is low priced, and yet offers you luxury quality materials.  Your product cannot be a sports car and yet be roomy enough to hold a big family.  You cannot be the best tasting beef burger, and yet boast of low calories.  Every brand has a strength, and that is what you focus on developing.

Volvo has strengths in safety of its cars.  Yet in certain years it tried developing powerful engines for sports cars.  Will the loyal customers of parents love how the brand is developing?  I certainly don’t think so.  Parents love Volvo for its safety, and now it has confused that strength with its sports cars.  If I have responsibility over the Volvo brand, the paramount objective is to strengthen its safety core even further, far away from the reach of competitors.  Volvo will be forever the safest car in the world.  It may not be the fastest, loudest and most sexy car, but it will be the safest car of them all.

Truth, Love and Power in Marketing

The Ultimate Goal of All Brands
The Ultimate Goal of All Brands

I was just reading Steve Pavlina’s website on the pinnacle of human development through Truth, Love and Power.  Steve claims that personal growth will have to start with these three fundamental elements.

In marketing, it is also through truth, love and power that we grow our businesses.  It is through truth of what our products can do that establishes trust with our consumers.  With the truth about how our products can make consumers healthier or make their lives better, consumers will be willing to form a stable, long lasting relationship with us.  If we resort to marketing gimmickry and falsehood, we can get customers to come once, and then never again.

Through love, consumers want to have deeper relationships with their friends and loved ones.  If we can help them to make this easier, consumers will love us to bits too.  There are various kinds of relationship enhancements that a product or service can do.  One is to make the consumer more attractive.  Another is giving gift options for them to share their love.  Also, if you help them to save time, they will have more time for their loved ones.  Gradually, your brand will be included in their circle of loved ones.

Finally, power.  Achievement has always been what keeps us all motivated in pursuing our goals.  Men, especially wants to display their achievements through status symbols of an expensive watch, or the latest Mercedes series.  Women too are not to be left behind.  Women are getting more educated, and are increasingly found in the upper echelon of the corporate ladder.  If you can help them to reach their achievements earlier, or allow them to show their success through your products, your brand will achieve success too.

5 Tips on How to Better Manage Product Life Cycles

5 Tips, on How to, Better Manage, Product Life Cycles
Caterpillars goes through different life cycles. So do products, and each stage requires a different management.

Products are born, and then they evolve, and some just die after a few years.  As marketers, we know that we are under consistent pressure to grow our sales year after year.  How do you keep brands growing continuously?  Here are 5 tips:

1) Continue to improve the product.  If you have the best lawnmower version 1.0, produce an even better version 2.0 in 2 years time.  This way your competitors are kept far away from your pot of gold always.

2) Produce line extensions.  They help to leverage on existing brand power to sell more products, and gain more sales.  One note of caution, don’t over line extend to stuffs that don’t share brand equities with the parent brand.

3) Promote awareness when the products are newly launched.  Then, focus on differentiating them vs. other competitors.  Bring out your unique benefits and USPs.

4) Grow your ‘question mark’ products (BCG Matrix) to Stars, with fast growth in market shares.  Once you are the dominant player, you can ease a little on your investments, and reap the profits with your cash cows.

5) Divest off products that are not making money.  These are usually products in non-growing categories, or where competitors fight fiercely with price wars.  You are also facing slow market shares growth despite large advertising expenditures.

3 Most Neglected Advertising Truths

3 Most Neglected Advertising Truths
Make a fashion statement. Guaranteed to bring out the sweet you.

Marketers advertise on a regular basis.  Often, it is just communicating the benefits of the products or services to your target consumers.  In the next campaign, you may impart a new creative twist to the communication.  Rinse and repeat.  In doing these, what do common marketers miss?

1) Advertising needs to build brand equities for the product.  First, rank the important attributes of the product category for your target consumers.  In soap, it may be fragrance and sudsiness.  In beer, the taste and how fast it fills you up.  In clothing, it may be expressing your unique self.  Out of the top few attributes, select one that your product has the potential to own.  Then, advertise in the direction to own it over time.

2) Advertising needs to evolve with changing product life cycle.  If your product is new, then awareness is key.  Give more information about the benefits, and reinforce a consistent brand image.  Then when the product matures, you may need to tell your consumers why your product is better vs. existing and new competitors.  Finally, as time progresses further, you need to remind your consumers that your product is still around, and is still one of the better choices.

3) Advertising may not build sales directly.  Advertising can be about creating awareness, but it may not be persuasive enough yet.  It may not have gained the critical mass, or acceptance by the masses.  Huge advertising costs initially may interest only the early adopters and innovators, but not the critical masses.  After some time, word of mouth and testimonials will increase your sales.  It also depends on the category growth and size.  If you have 70% market share, your growth may slow down despite the massive advertising that you do.

7 Tips to Increase Brand Recall

Every marketer wants a piece of a consumer’s brain.

How do you increase brand recall in today’s era of hypercompetition?  If you are the leading brand, how do you maintain your sales lead with perpetual launches by new competitors?  How do you increase not just share of voice, but share of mind?

Here are on 7 tips on how to increase brand recall:

1) Start consumers on your products as early as possible.  Car manufacturers are seeding teenagers with car branding when they are still in high school.  There are toys branded with real life car brand names, and guess who do they reach?  The junior school kids!

2) Link your product attributes with something relevant.  If you are promoting fast cars, show striking visuals of rockets or cheetahs running next to your products.  If you want to link with ‘freshness’, show colourful pictures of fruits along with your products.

3) Make using your products a daily habit.  If you sell lip balms, educate your consumers to put on lip balm after they have applied their daily moisturizers.

4) If you suffer from a large portfolio of line extensions and products, highlight your bestsellers.  Tell your consumers the 2-3 items that are the most popular to make buying decisions faster, and your key products easier to remember.

5) Use nostalgic visual icons or ads to bring back old memories.  Old memories are just that, they don’t fade with time.  Bring back the childhood ads that your consumers have seen.  It will generate warm feelings and buzz, and that’s good for recall.

6) Celebrities may sometimes distract consumers from your products, but they generate heck of a lot of recall.  It makes your products more familiar to consumers.

7) Use word of mouth marketing.  WOM marketing apparently is able to generate more positive emotions in customers compared to normal, traditional ads.  This increases brand recall.

The Consumer is Boss

Yes, your majesty, what problems will you like to see solved today?

The consumer is boss.  He pays our salaries, and he grows the economy.  He helps to put food on our table, and the reason we have a roof over our head is because he buys our products.  Hail the consumer!

How do we repay the consumer?  Help better his life and help him solve his problems.  The best products help solve consumers’ problems in big ways.  The iPod put 1000 songs into his pocket.  Fedex help him send medicine to his critically ill dad overnight.  When he dropped pop corn all over his furry carpet, Swiffer help him clean it up quickly and easily.

Your company and products do not come first.  Consumers and their problems do.  Your opinions or your colleagues’ opinions come second, because the consumer is boss, and his problems are our priority.

When you have a super product that solves his problem, don’t end your career by telling him in a wimpy way.  Wow him with how your product can be his next best friend.  Tell it in a way that really cuts deep into his heart, to let him know that the problem he has been trying to cope with, now has a solution.  Bring tears to his eyes as you tell him more about your product, that it’s finally here.  Not 1 Gb of storage space, but 1000 songs in your pocket.  Tears of joy will flow down every music fans’ eyes.

Verbs for Branding

You know how we always use ‘xerox’ to mean ‘photocopying’ something? “Hey, can you help me to xerox 10 copies of this document?”

That’s verb branding. Other examples are Amazoning a couple of books for my research and FedExing a parcel overnight to someone.

Does your brand stand for a verb?

Emotional Branding

This is especially important for the beauty industry. Everything needs to communicate. This includes the packaging, the way you dispense the content of the product, the secondary packaging, and the in store displays.

So is the tobacco industry. You think that the cigarette tastes real nice? How about the positive emotions of open spaces, freedom, and adventure offered by the Marlboro advertisements?

Benetton has got this a little wrong. It provoked people with shocking images of abortions and racial discriminations. Sure, it got lots of attention, but short term only. The images and messages need to be aligned to their target consumers’ values, and provides a solution to solve their concerns. Benetton has since received backlash from certain consumers, affecting its sales.

Tommy Hilfiger hit a note with teenagers when they programmed a series of shows with young kids and their love and friendships, of course wearing Tommy Hilfiger clothings. They also held singing contests that can lead to cutting albums. Response was overwhelming.

Branding is about cultural relevance and emotional connection, not hype.