digital efforts

As a brand owner and owner of businesses which are in consumer products, I am regularly asked how I deal with digital marketing and social media. The questions normally centre on the issue of which platforms to use, how much to spend on paid-for media, how much time to spend on organic content and how to use more creative messages, video, affiliates, bloggers…the list is endless! In the corporate world, this seems to be the only conversation.

Therein lies the problem – there is a bewildering array of possibilities for any brand today and very rapid change in technology creating ever new opportunities for tomorrow. I don’t hear anything else. In this environment I don’t believe we, the brand owners, should be the experts nor do I think we can be. If we did not know about Snapchat till recently how can we be an expert in its use? If we do not know how Facebook Augmented Reality is going to look, or how Google’s VR will pan out or what use we will see being made of AI in marketing platforms then how can we be experts in the use of these opportunities? We can’t be.

So what should we do?

1. Spend more time on looking at your Brand, Tribe and Business (BTB)
2. Ensure that you are business-like in accessing outside expertise for marketing programmes

In BTB we are looking to ensure that our brand is able to generate customer loyalty. This can only be done if the core offering is appropriate and attractive (Brand), if we understand our customers (Tribe), their needs and what job we are doing for them. Finally, we need to take care of our company (Business) – all of the elements of margins, overheads, stock management, supply chain, human resources etc. which make up the profitability of our business and its ability to continue supplying great products.

It amazes me that this is not part of the daily conversation, that it is overshadowed by talk of digital marketing and other such communications issues. If your brand (product, packaging, pricing etc.) is not right it does not matter how well you communicate. If you don’t understand your customer, or if you don’t get the business structured properly, your social messaging is not going to be of any use to you. In fact, customer loyalty and repeat purchases take place solely because your product experience is really good, your brand is admired and because you understand what your tribe actually wants. And then structuring your business appropriately allows you to make money doing it.

When it comes to marketing we need to be rigorous in evaluating all and any outcomes. I get bored listening to how many likes we got, how many shares we had and all this talk about engagement. I want to know what this has done for our sales. There are too many campaigns that get create a buzz and maybe “go viral” – but if you don’t measure what that has done for your sales and therefore for your bottom line you could be wasting a lot of creativity for no gain. Of course, there are times when we want to get reach when we want to build a cool message for raising awareness or sharing brand values etc. and this is hard to measure. But this should be the exception – most of the time we should be measuring return on investment in whatever we do, no matter how new or sexy the medium is.

We need to access expertise from companies who make it their job to be abreast of trends and who have the right people in their organisations to understand what is suitable and relevant to our requirements. The skill that needs to be fostered is the ability to identify and use outside professionals/agencies, create marketing and communications programmes with them and then to rigorously evaluate what has worked and what has not. These outsiders bring their skill and know-how and let us get on with the BTB tasks that are so vital to the success of the business.

Just ask your friends what they think about brands such as Apple, Tesla, Starbucks and Amazon. They all use them regularly and if they do not use them they certainly respect them. Then ask them if they use these brands because of their social media presence or their skilful use of digital marketing – they will unanimously say No! They use them because these companies have got their brand offering right, because they understand their customer intimately and because they have structured their business for success.

So my answer, when asked about how to deal with these new communications platforms, is to say: if you don’t spend time getting your BTB right you won’t succeed whatever your marketing strategy. Reduce the social media discussion in your company and increase the BTB discussion.