Creating a Powerful Brand - Andrew Ford
‘Seek and you shall understand.’
In my favourite movie, The Matrix, machines have taken over the world and are using humans as batteries. In the film, the character Morpheus says a brilliant line to the newly awakened Neo: ‘Welcome to the real world.’
Luckily, you and I aren’t in The Matrix, but there are still parallels in the modern world as computers have, in many ways, taken over our lives. People don’t leave the house without their smart phone, social media is always being checked, the internet can answer all of our questions instantly and we expect constant connectivity. Mobiles, tablets and laptops are ever present in even the remotest communities and the world has shrunk to fit into the palm of our hands. Many Gen Y people I know don’t own watches, alarm clocks or cameras – instead, they have these on one device in their pockets at all times. While the role of computers in our lives is less obtrusive than it is in The Matrix, it still underpins our daily behaviour.
In recent decades, technology has completely changed how the world works, especially in relation to business. How people interact, their perspective of time, how they consume media and advertising and how they purchase products is vastly different than it was even ten years ago. But how can small business owners and entrepreneurs use this trend to their advantage?
In our new business world, traditional media, such as television, newspapers, radio and billboards – which I call ‘push’ marketing – aren’t as effective as they once were. These mediums were once used to inform and convince consumers about what brands to buy and from where, and for the last 100 years they have been central to marketing.
Today, social media like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, and a host of free tools, such as Google, DropBox, 99 Designs, Squarespace, GoDaddy, WordPress, Klout, Hoot Suite and many more, have made new forms of marketing both cheap and efficient for businesses. Now, when a business wants to sell its products, it can build a simple website for a very low cost, be found on Google and social media and easily reach its desired consumers. This is significantly disrupting many industries, as consumers are empowered with advanced search features on their phones, tablets and laptops - technology that gives them the power to talk directly to businesses, without the need for channels such as wholesalers, retailers and traditional advertising companies.
Think of the once-ubiquitous Yellow Pages business directory, a huge book delivered to your door once a year. I worked for Australia’s Yellow Pages, marketing the competitive digital products, and I saw, first-hand, the demise of a billion-dollar business in only five years, while digital grew exponentially. Luckily for me, I was the Digital Marketing Manager! I experienced the digital revolution changing the way small businesses went about attracting clients. It is a change in the way people think about advertising and worth exploring to ensure it is crystal clear.
The Digital Revolution
The digital revolution has been rapid. First consumers used search engines to find businesses and products they wanted, prompting the website revolution. Then consumers started asking their friends on social media such as Facebook for advice; today they search in applications on their phones for trusted sources such as review sites and peer opinions. They seek out brands that resonate with them, run by people they feel they can trust and relate to - owners who have a cause and passion for what they do, who are not just a business-seeking profit. The change in the market has been significant, and it’s only just begun.
This change has prompted the rise of the authentic entrepreneur, someone who genuinely cares about his or her products and customers. No longer can this be faked, hence the popular use of the word ‘authenticity’. Companies that are dishonest are quickly found out and ostracised. Just google ‘Cadbury palm oil’ for an example of a company having to change their ways due to public pressure. Some of this change has been driven by inspirational companies such as Apple Inc., which aspired to excellence in everything they did, due to their authentic and visionary leader, Steve Jobs. Compare Apple Inc. to their competitors and you will find organisations whose vision is to make financial goals, not improve the world. I worked for both IBM and Hewlett-Packard during the rise of Apple Inc. and saw both sides. This is one of the major changes in the consumer psyche: the quest to find meaning in their consumption. Those that can fulfil this need will be successful, and those that don’t will merely survive. The key to this is running a Personal Business, which is underpinned by a leader with an authentic and powerful Personal Brand. This book aims to provide you the mindset of the new marketing era, as well as an overview of the tools required to harness the new technology.
Let us begin, now.
Chapter 1- Marketing in the Digital Age
‘New marketing is about the relationships, not the medium.’
How did this book find its way into your hands? Was it a gift, did someone tell you about it, did you search for it online or did you come across my social media and then follow the links to my website? Perhaps you bought it at one of my training courses, or you are one of my consulting clients. However it fell into your hands, it is unlikely you were browsing in a bookshop and just happened to come across it. You probably didn’t see an advertisement in the newspaper or receive a leaflet in your letterbox, either. Most probably, you would have heard about the book through word-of-mouth via a digital medium, like Google, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.
Think about it for a moment: only a matter of years ago you would have only been able to buy this book in a bookshop. Today, that is the last place you would have found it. This simple example demonstrates the massive change in consumer shopping behaviour aided by technology. It doesn’t mean there are no more bookshops left or that traditional methods of reaching consumers are dead; far from it. What it means is that there are now alternatives that can be extremely useful, cost-effective and beneficial to your business. The importance of these changes depends on what type of industry your business is in.
Some industries have been significantly disrupted, creating tremendous opportunities for businesses and entrepreneurs. Think music, books, advertising, recruitment and retail. In these industries, the multiple barriers between buyers and sellers have been removed. Consumers can now find information and transact without the aid of the many layers of marketing, media, large companies and human intervention. It is the era of the consumer-to-consumer marketing, and to take advantage of these changes and aid your creation of a Personal Business plan, you need to understand a little more about advertising.
The Advertising Revolution
After working in marketing for fifteen years in some of the world’s largest companies, plus consulting to high-profile athletes, models, actors and business professionals, I realised that the traditional approach to promotion and advertising was not as effective as it once was. I saw that there were new ways of getting messages to target customers faster, cheaper and more efficiently.
Imagine if, instead of bombarding everyone with your message in the hope of hitting a customer who wanted your product, your customers found you! Luckily, the technology enabling this dream to be a reality is now available. This technology is very effective, virtually free, and readily available to all; however, you need to know a few rules to leverage it. We will explore this soon, but first, it’s worthwhile reflecting on why these changes have occurred.
Traditional advertising includes television, radio, newspapers, magazines and billboards, plus other means of reaching customers such as the Yellow Pages, catalogues and cold-calling. But now there are so many variations of these traditional media channels that it can be confusing to non-marketing people. For instance, television used to purely consist of free-to-air commercial stations that provided entertainment to the consumer in exchange for the opportunity to show advertising. The model – or value exchange – was that if you wanted to watch TV for free, you had to put up with the ads.
Then people began creating technology that enabled consumers to skip advertising. TV stations reacted by putting more ads in commercial breaks, product placement into shows, visual ads into sports and myriad other ways of reaching viewers. However, consumers don’t like ads because only a few will be meaningful to them, so they paid even less attention. Advertising companies – eager to make ever-increasing revenue – responded with yet more advertising. The more they pushed, the more consumers retreated. This cycle has played out in every advertising sector, be it television, radio or billboards. It seems you can’t leave your house without being besieged by advertising messages. Notice how many you see next time you are going to work. It’s scary when you do.
Advertisers were forced to become more creative and put more advertising into content to trick consumers into watching them. Think of all the product placements in TV and movies, celebrity endorsements, infomercials based around advertising and reality TV. They even made ads even more annoying so that they stood out! The result was that consumers became so inundated by messages that they just didn’t notice them as much, and their level of trust in the message was massively reduced.
Frustrated consumers decided to get their information from more trusted sources, such as their friends and other consumers. Think of all the sites that rely on consumer reviews, such as eBay, Facebook business pages and restaurant and travel review sites. Even LinkedIn is a review site for people with the advent of recommendations and endorsements. Now the advertisers were out of the loop completely – they had bastardised their channel of communication so much that consumers had shut them off.
Consumers created new ways of deciding which brands, companies and products suited their needs and were cool. For the first time in a hundred years, the advertising model of business-to-consumer (B2C) had become the age of consumer-to-consumer (C2C). Consumers now had the power to make or break brands, and what they thought about the brand became reality. Corporate and media control of consumers was reduced, not completely, but much less than in previous generations.
In this new era, companies must listen to their customers and encourage them to tell their friends to recommend their brand. Consumer power is here and you can take advantage of that for your business. It is an incredible opportunity. Follow the principles in this book, understand technology and yourself, build your Personal Brand in social media and leverage your Personal Business to attract new and exciting opportunities.
Marketing Is Information
The evolution of the smart phone, wi-fi (invented in Australia by the CSIRO, by the way), search engines and social media have revolutionised not only advertising, but basic human communication too. People can share information instantly and regularly, they feel more empowered to make their own choices and they don’t need to be ‘told’ what to buy – they will make up their own minds. When consumers consider a product, they talk about it to their friends, experts in the field and even complete strangers, and trust their advice over that of the business selling the product.
For marketing to be successful, it now needs to shift from telling people what to do, to informing them. Instead of selling a dream, your message should be authentic, transparent and genuine. No longer can you promote the advantages of your product and ignore the downsides, as previous users of it will have already shared the good, the bad and the ugly somewhere online. Review sites are everywhere, and there is instant access to information about every company, brand and product, so you can’t hide.
These are the three rules of the new online marketing world: authenticity, transparency and individuality. If you provide anything less, your community will lose faith in you. Gone is the age of spreading a message to a captive audience through one-way communication channels. There are now communities of consumers who can be engaged through two-way relationships. This point is really important.
There has been a fundamental change in consumer behaviour over the past few years. A statistic from the 2013 Neilson report states that four eighty per cent [CH1] of consumers trust peer recommendations, which is the highest form of trust in communications.1 This is not just a small change in consumer sentiment, but a massive cultural phenomenon that has transformed the marketing and advertising industries in a significant and permanent way.
People have always trusted their friends, but now the capability to communicate these opinions has been massively increased due to technology.
In this new landscape, I believe that branding is the key to business success. Your logo and your company name form only a small part of your brand. Central to a successful brand is what consumers think of you; essentially, it’s your reputation. This is developed in every interaction you have with customers, from how you answer the phone to how you advertise, to the look and feel of your website. All your interactions with clients affect your brand. You need to focus on branding yourself or a product/service in a personal way, usually in order for your target market to get to know, like and trust you, or in order to build a relationship with them, rather than simply marketing impersonal business opportunities/products/services to them.
In the past, companies could control the messages related to their brands via exclusive and trusted advertising channels. As discussed, this is no longer the case, and consumers have the power to make or break brands based on discussions online. Do you know what consumers are saying about your brand? If not, you’d better find out!
So if consumers are the new advertising channel, how do you take advantage of this new medium? The answer is to build a business around the people.
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