Guest column by Tom Marin, Orlando Business Journal
Brand marketing is facing a power-shift in today's marketplace. Customers want to be part of a brand's direction and development.
Listening to their expectations can determine your firm's level of success. To take full advantage of today's market share, companies will need to "lose" control of their marketing strategy to ultimately gain it, by embracing this powerful dynamic of customer expectations.
Fifty years ago, there weren't the number of brands or media choices there are today. The market is filled with brands, sub-brands, cross-brands, and strategic-brand partnerships. Add to that list the ever-increasing media choices, including Internet marketing, and it's difficult to make a minor change to a brand that will affect top-line sales significantly.
Investing in cutting-edge, no-cost and low-cost promotional tools for branding ideas will allow you to market your company profitably.
Consider these suggestions for energizing your brand in today's marketplace:
• Create uniqueness. Uniqueness is a brand's No. 1 asset. The greater the brand uniqueness, the higher its score in market share. And those brands that create a unique brand category usually become the leaders. What comes to mind when you consider: theme park, soft drink or overnight delivery? Most likely it is Disney, Coke and FedEx. They are the recognized leaders, though there are other brands in their categories. Your brand's uniqueness can be determined by completing this sentence: Our (brand name) is the only (product category) that (does what).
• Replace repetition with interactive promotions. A common branding strategy is repetition of the brand message to build awareness. This strategy is not as effective as interactive promotions. For example, a 30-day trial use, a sample pack, an on-premise presentation or a portion of the service you offer are all effective interactive strategies. They allow customers to discover the benefits of your brand and move closer to making a purchase decision than the repetitious sales pitch provides.
• Replace outbound marketing with inbound branding. Traditional methods of outbound marketing include telemarketing, voicemail campaigns, e-mails and direct marketing. These standard marketing strategies have become less effective because people use spam-ware, caller ID, firewall devices and the "circular file" to eliminate them. Internet searches have become a primary source for obtaining product information. Popular Web sites such as Google and Yahoo are tapping the exploding volume of today's online buyer.
To increase your potential customer base, consider using these methods:
1. Publish articles on Web sites that are relevant to your target audience.
2. Write book reviews on related topics for Web sites such as Amazon.com.
3. Publicize your brand on Web sites like prnewswire.com and prweb.com.
4. Increase your online identity with listings on LinkedIn, ZoomInfo, Ziggs, Naymz and others.
• Replace monolithic marketing with customer-centric branding. Don't be a follower. If you're trying to overtake a brand leader, don't emulate their strategies. Create your own. And let your strategy strike at the heart of what your key customers want. Of course, knowing what they want will be paramount to your success, so ask them.
• Don't plan for overnight success. If someone offered me $10 million to help them launch a successful brand tomorrow, I'd tell them instead to give me $1 million and five years to make their brand successful. Understanding this dynamic of time, I'll bring home the bacon based on what prospective customers want.
Accepting and using this branding power-shift between you and your customer will allow you to involve their needs in your strategy and, in time, will establish your brand successfully. Their involvement offers them new reasons for becoming a loyal customer.