Advertising can be an effective way of communicating your product or service, but the average consumer is reluctant to trust traditional advertisements. Referrals and word of mouth are much more effective ways to get your message heard because these methods come from trusted sources: friends and family. The best way to ensure positive word of mouth about your company is to create positive experiences for your existing customers. This is especially important in the age of social media, when every individual has the ability to communicate with hundreds, if not thousands, of people with a couple taps on their phone or clicks of their mouse.
Before social media, a company shaped its brand primarily through advertising. It was easy to control the message and project the desired brand image. Since the advent of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus, Pinterest, etc., the game has changed dramatically. Companies now have a way to interact with customers and shape their brand in real-time. This can be either good or bad, depending on the company's approach to branding and marketing. Companies who were comfortable with and preferred a tightly controlled brand message are having a difficult time adapting to the new media landscape. On the other hand, companies who prefer a more customer-focused approach now have countless tools at their disposal.
It's no secret that people prefer to read about relevant topics. When a headline mentions a recent news item or a trending topic, it is much more likely to be read. Your company may not always be in the news, but it is relatively easy to become part of the conversation. In fact, leveraging current events and interesting news items is one of the best ways to generate press for your business. Many PR strategies focus on what the particular company is doing, but it is often more effective to determine how your business can fit into what is already being talked about.
Along with "innovation" and "disruptive", branding has become one of the most overused words in business. This is unfortunate since branding is such an integral part of any company. The concept of branding may seem like marketing fluff to many who believe that the products a company produces or the services they provide are the only things that matter. However, branding defines a company's identity. This doesn't just refer to the perception that others have of the company (although that is certainly an important aspect of branding), but the brand also serves as a guiding force internally. A clear brand identity sets the tone within a company, guiding operational decisions, customer service policies and company culture.
Most business strategies focus on how to beat the competition. It seems obvious that the success of any business relies on its ability to outperform its rivals. However, Renée Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim present another option in their widely-acclaimed business book "Blue Ocean Strategy". The book argues that you can actually make competition irrelevant by creating uncontested market space, or "blue oceans". Although finding these opportunities is certainly easier said than done, the book offers a comprehensive outline of the practices other companies have followed to create their own blue oceans.
What business are you in? The way you answer that question will determine the long term success of your brand. If you answered that question by naming the product you sell, it is critical to expand that view of your business. Instead of focusing on your product, focus on your customers' needs. Whatever product you offer, you are really in the business of fulfilling certain needs. If necessary, shift your focus to meet these needs even if that means abandoning your product. In fact, if you focus on only the product, you are bound to become obsolete.
It is often assumed that B2B and B2C businesses must approach marketing very differently and utilize completely different strategies. While B2B marketing extols the benefits provided to a company and B2C is aimed at the individual consumer, when it comes down to it, you are still marketing to a person.
Nowhere is the power of branding and marketing as clear as it is in the bottled water industry. Despite virtually zero product differentiation, bottled water has become a billion dollar business with a wide range of prices, many distinct brands and strong brand loyalty. Brands like smartwater, Fiji, Voss, and plenty others have effectively found a niche within an undifferentiated market.
This industry represents a microcosm of virtually every other market. Without any product differentiation, these companies have come to rely on branding as the only way to stand out. It is the ultimate test of branding, illustrating how powerful marketing and branding can be to influence consumer behavior.
A strong brand is essential for connecting with consumers and helping your company stand out from the crowd. However, marketers often approach each advertising campaign, website or piece of sales collateral as individual, unconnected items instead of tying them together to form a cohesive brand image. Each marketing item should fit together like a puzzle and solidify your overall brand. It's this collective whole that defines how your company is perceived by consumers. This brand image should always be taken into account when implementing any new marketing project or your carefully crafted brand will erode over time.
The media loves to highlight "disruptive" companies and technologies - organizations that are shaking up the status quo in their respective industries. However, there are many businesses out there who are terrified of this type of change. If you are one of those that see change as a threat, then you need to learn how to embrace disruption if you want to thrive, or even survive.