Leveraging Celebrities

How do you leverage celebrities that help in building your brand?  This is a sensitive topic, as it can be a quick way to top of mind, or it can be a quick way to your brand’s downfall.  Look at Tiger Woods, a clean, disciplined sportsman who got his reputation tarnished recently when his harem of girlfriends was discovered.

Get the right celebrity and your brand can catapult to the top of the charts.  The most important thing is to ensure that the celebrity is aligned with your brand equity.  Sexy lady for a family brand of cereals?  Richard Gere to promote acne creams?

You need to manage your celebrity like a talent manager would.  Treat them with utmost respect.  One good example will be when you approach them for a discussion, do you send your junior staff to talk to them?  I am sure the celebrities will rather to talk to someone more senior.

Next, you need to leverage them more.  Instead of them appearing just on your product packaging or on a TV ad, leverage for extra PR with them being interviewed by journalists.  Before I forget, send them lots of your products as well.  Look at it this way, if the celebrity does not fall in love with your products, you can be sure the relationship will be short lived.

Optimize Radio Advertising

Radio advertising has always been a challenge for many, as it is deemed difficult and challenging.  Most of the people on planet earth are visual people (up to 70%), as in they can visualize things better than hearing them.  This is an obstacle, but also an opportunity.

The keyword is visualize.  Create vivid descriptions that make the audience visualize pictures and images in their mind.  You have to give more details on the picture you want them to have.  E.g. at 1 am in the morning, I woke up to a cold night of 1 degrees C.  I went trekking over a rough, jagged, and craggy terrain, which was enveloped by dark sky, adorned by many bright stars.

Use sound effects and vocal variety to enhance the message better.  Go soft or loud, stretch certain words, and vary the tempo.  You will create very vivid pictures in your consumers’ minds.

One final advice I have is to not have the perception that TV is the same as radio advertising.  You cannot use similar or identical format towards both media.  Each requires its very own treatment.  The worst kind is just to port over the TV ad to a radio ad, without the visuals.  What you can do is to have similar messages for both media, but vary the format and treatment.

Be Consistent

Always be consistent in your campaigns.  I have handled so many different launch or re-branding campaigns in my life, and that could be a bad thing.  Look at it this way.  Take for example Volvo.  Volvo means safety.  Don’t try to distort the message, because this is a really good positioning.  How many other car brands compete with Volvo for the same brand positioning?  Not many, or shall I say none?

All the time marketers are trying to bring news on their brand.  Yes, consumers need new news to excite them, and forever keep your brand in top of their mind.  However, too many messages can clutter their minds, and the true message you want to bring across to them.

There’s a way to do it.  Say you are the brand manager of Volvo.  Your brand equity is safety for the driver and the passengers.  Safety is such a big category, and can encompass things such as safety in crashes, safety from skids, safety for kids, safety of braking, and safety from overturning.

You don’t need many new product launches or new messages to achieve the above.  Simple and elegant branding message.  Just the way I like it.  A very focused positioning that is consistently reinforced.

Why Do People Buy?

So why do people buy?  A simple question, but yet with not so straightforward answers.  To meet their needs?  Then features and benefits will do well.  If that is so, it is hard to find an edge in branding nowadays, with technological advancement lowering barriers for copycats.

Do consumers buy based on price?  Yes, to a certain extent.  This is especially dangerous for low involvement products like soap or dish washing liquids.

My take on this?  People buy based on symbolic cues.  Read Jay Conrad Levinson’s book on marketing memes.  Yes, I know that its something that is hard to pin down.  The EASIEST method: inspire trust from consumers in your brand of products.  Let them know that it works well, tastes good, is value for money and is safe ALL THE TIME.  Miss it once, and your trust is gone.  Gone with the wind.

Market Research

Love it or hate it, market research is essential.  Let me say it again, market research is essential for marketing success.  I used to have a boss that only believes in quantitative research.  He claims that getting a bunch of housewives to yak among themselves and giving them a lot of weight to influence our marketing direction is overdone.  Is that true?

Let me talk about why market research is essential: to reduce risks.  Not too expensive or tedious to do, but it certainly helped to prevent major career limiting failures or boo boos.  Use focus groups to start off the research, and to refine the research direction.  Yes, most educated consumers are aware of focus groups and the big group of people behind that big mirror munching on pop corns while making comments on them.  So, that makes focus groups less effective now, but nevertheless good as a starting market research tactic.

My take on research?  Go for small, frequent, low cost qualitative research for your marketing efforts.  Big annual research are expensive, takes a long time, and usually reveals nothing much new.  Small ones allow you to focus on say one big question for each research, and get it answered properly and thoroughly.

Concept testing is best accompanied by prototypes.  Yes, consumers can imagine, but can you ensure that they see the same thing as you do in their minds?  Bring magazine cut ups, drawings, prototypes.  Limit them to 2 to 3 concepts, and not 10!  Do your own work first to narrow down the concepts!  Don’t use housewives to do your marketing work for you.  Check on linkage of concepts with your brand, because you need to boost your brand equity.

Differentiate or Die

Ah, differentiation.  Such a simple word, and yet such a complicated concept for marketers.  How do you differentiate your brand from competitors?  How do you stand out from the clutter of brands that only increase by the day?  Every body claims they are the better product, so who’s telling the truth?

You try to differentiate by offering more line extensions, and try to claim the positioning of ‘the most comprehensive brand’, but others can easily do that too.  You also run the risk of offering too many choices, turning consumers off.  Claiming you are a better company that hires better people that produces better products is overused.

Differentiation is difficult, but yet we need to trudge on.  We need to tell the world that our brand is the best for their needs.  The first part of projecting our identity to our consumers are easy.  Tell them our company name, and category we play in.  E.g. L’Oreal, beauty.  Then comes the complex part.

The next part is to tell the consumers why what you are selling matters to them, and how to make it irresistible to them.  Krispy Kreeme and that irresistible sweet doughnut.  Irresistible, but now no longer, as doughnut shops are popping up like mushrooms everywhere.  Irresistible, but sustainable differentiation.  Like Coca Cola.  Hey, no one said marketing is easy.

What is a Brand?

What is a brand?

This brings me back to the story about the origin of brands.  Two cow boys were herding their own respective cows in the open plains, where the cows were grazing on grass.  At the end of the day, the cows have wandered all over the grass field, that no one can identify which cow belongs to whom.  Oh dear.  That seems like a real big headache.

They managed to compromise on the cow selections, and each went back to their own farms.  The management scratched their head, and voila!, came up with a brilliant suggestion: brand the cows.  Take an iron brand heated up by fire, and then brand each of the cows with the symbol of the company they originate from.

That might suggest brands refer to identity.  Yes, to a certain extent.  So marketers have claimed that the logo and the distribution channels are part of the brand.  And that the products and services are part of the brand.  Yes, again, only to a certain extent.

You see, branding today is about how the brand is perceived by the consumer, not by the marketers.  All the elements above form part of the elements of branding, that influences how the consumers perceive the brand, and the feelings invoked by the brand in them.