Last weekend, I saw the new batman movie, The Rise of the Dark Knight. I always liked the super-hero movies, not just to see the latest production magic, but also because the good guys always win and save the world. The recent Aurora massacre and tragedy at this movie made me think through a bifocal lens. Somehow, The Dark Knight Rises survives the darkest night in US movie history. I can’t say that I believe in limiting the filmmaker’s artistic vision of a super-hero story, because one psychopath picked this movie to commit a mass murder. I can’t completely fault good marketers who achieved the second highest midnight opening in history and are trying to change upcoming plans in response to current events. The videogame industry is larger than the movie box office, and movies in general are not as violent as videogames. This speaks to a greater culture of violence, which is a reflection of our society’s mind in general.
But I asked myself why would Warner Brothers, among others, promote “midnight opening” of a PG-13 movie and allow ignorant parents to bring their very small children to a midnight showing of such an adult movie? I questioned why we have more restrictions, screening and licenses for owning a car than owning a gun? I question why companies, such as Apple, can choose whether to sell products to Iranian-American citizens due to economic sanction, but gun control interferes with American freedom.
2012 truly marks the year where marketers can expect which programs will help establish new branding norms, while others protect the status quo, and at the very best, serve as lessons learned.
In a revolutionary world where consumers are increasingly inspired to stand up against Corporations with brand backlashes, aligning with popular entertainment or simply getting behind a charity sponsorship is not enough. The New World Marketplace demands an honest, authentic blend of social movement with social responsibility to lead the social and cultural change.
Consumers are hungry for stories and issues that have real meaning and substance. Brand building is like story telling, and marketers have resources and clout to explore and tell the stories that consumers hold dear and close to their hearts, and bring new ideas to life. Consumers are well aware of companies’ fiduciary responsibilities, but they will purchase from those who connect with higher purpose and shared values–they know the difference between an honest cause and just another way to make profit.
Can we look at unfortunate events and learn something different? Yes. But first, brands must evaluate their Value Proposition for their cause and movement. If it doesn’t create something better and more meaningful for the target market, there won’t be any motivation and engagement. Maybe movie marketers can go beyond editing trailers and re-evaluate their ratings, or at least minimum age for PG-13 attendance—demonstrate that they truly care about what’s right. Maybe Apple, among other companies, can stop racial profiling regardless of government initiatives.
Any good value proposition will have trade-offs as well as benefits. We are living in a bitterly divided political nation these days, and as easy as it is to judge the political candidates on their strategic trade-offs, it is nearly impossible to create a social movement and brand differentiation without them. The Dark Knight is not just a fantasy. We will always have dark and light forces all around us in life. Decide which side of this movement you want to walk on.
Why do so many companies and entrepreneurs with great products and services fail to deliver success? Is it lack of strategy and vision—or lack of knowing how to “execute” a strategic vision in the marketplace? Hint: maybe both.
Fast Food companies offer the same products with incremental differences in price and ingredients. Ethnic restaurants offer mainstream brand names and menu items that have nothing to do with their unique positioning. (I’m sure Dallas residents have seen quite a few Persian restaurants with Italian brand name, signage and décor.) Social media agencies and entrepreneurs all call themselves social media experts. Which one should we believe or prefer? Media companies chase after the same story and sensationalism, so flipping through new channels feels like watching reruns. Even airline companies, such as Delta, promote trust and integrity as their brand values, with no concept on how to execute these values.
We’ve been numbed to brand promises never kept or delivered. Many companies claim and promise universal values such as, trust, honesty and integrity …. But which one is delivering and how? Challenge is lack of decisiveness and know-how on the execution of these values in branding messages. Values stem from our beliefs, and our beliefs grow from what we see, hear and experience. It’s all about execution and delivery.
No doubt, future growth and profitability will come from a different way of doing business in the New World Marketplace. Here are 6 easy steps to get you started:
1. Define your strategic differentiation
Strategy is not about being the best, whether it’s operations excellence or best practices. Strategy is about being different. Strategy is just as much about what not to do as it is about what to do. It’s a combination of benefits and trade-offs that your brand offers, differentiating you from the competing alternatives in the marketplace. Trade-offs are essential to strategy. They create the need for choice and purposefully limit what your company offers in order to have a clear differentiation and competitive advantage.
2. Determine your strategic priorities
Trying to be all to everyone is like being nothing to no one. Are you trying to promise and deliver efficiency, high quality, low price, innovation, superb customer service, high profile/image and fastest to market—all at the same time? Can you? Focus and prioritize your strategic execution. High-performance companies tend to focus on one or two primary strategic priorities, and they align their culture to support them.
3. Align company culture with strategy
Your company culture must be aligned and fully focused on your strategic priorities. Achieving and sustaining this alignment long term is the biggest challenge most organizations face in achieving business success. When culture and strategy align, both people and functions work toward a common goal and purpose. Definition: Company culture is a set of shared values, beliefs, causes, assumptions and behaviors that reflect how a business strategy is executed. The key to effective execution is having everyone in your organization internalize strategy in their daily thinking, actions and behaviors.
4. Choose your customers
Many companies need to re-evaluate their existing target customers, based on the 3 major macro trends in The New World Marketplace. More importantly, remember that strategy is about which customers and which needs. You can not effectively communicate to your changing customers, unless you carefully choose which customers you can deliver and execute specific needs to.
5. Align your company values with your chosen target customers
Businesses must appeal to the values that their target customers hold dear, and they must also know how to express those values in branding messages. This means aligning your values with those of your chosen customers, believe in what they believe in. I call this marketing to the inside not outside of the customers. Customers don’t just buy what you do, but why you do it. Most companies know what and how to sell…but they don’t know why. Like it or not, customers decisions are emotional, and you must engage them on an emotional level to change their minds and behaviors. This is a different way to interpret reality than rational levers of facts and features. Pick and choose the emotional values that you can and know how to truly deliver on, and then communicate it.
This is, and should be, the last phase of strategic execution. More often than not, companies of all sizes jump to the communication phase without completing the prerequisite steps. Nothing hurts the company performance more than communicating a branding message that is not consistent with your strategic differentiation and priorities. Bringing your strategic vision to life in your communication tactics is not easy. If you don’t know how, you should consult with an expert and make the best use of your marketing dollars. Otherwise, you’re confusing your customers while your competitors are getting it right.
We’ve all heard Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. Most of us may have even read the book. We stereotype genders, and get stereotyped ourselves…more than you can imagine. There are many theories, articles and books – many scientific – that claim women’s brains are clinically different from men’s. Many attempts to rationalize why women and men behave and react differently. Why? Just so we can understand our “segmentation” theories and market to them accordingly? How are you and your companies stereotyping these human behaviors?
It’s not that there really are more working men than women. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics April 2010 report, women hold 49.8% (130.2 million) of the jobs in the U.S. That’s about as close to a 50-50 workforce as possible. The Labor Department further breaks it down. In 2008, 76% of unmarried mothers worked, as well as 69% of married mothers. Only one in five households had a stay-at-home mom. A single mom heads up one in ten households and single women account for 27% of all households in the U.S.
For the first time in economic history, the male unemployment rate surpassed the female unemployment rate – and it just kept getting worse. By December of ‘09, 10.2% of men were out of work, versus 8.2% of women. During the worst of the job losses, male workers were handed 82% of the pink slips. (more…)
Few of us remember our teen years fondly. It’s a time of pimples, raging hormones, fights with parents, and urges to belong. All those feelings of insecurity coupled with a sense of invincibility has a clinical diagnosis called adolescence.
The 2006 UN report indicates that almost half of the global population is under the age of 24 – fully 85% of the world’s working-age youth is under the age of 24. Interestingly, 85% of the world’s working-age youth, those between the ages of 15 and 24, live in the developing world.
The term “adolescence” – and its definition – actually only came in existence in 1904 with the publication of “Adolescence,” by G. Stanley Hall, the first president of the American Psychological Association. Once that new developmental stage was recognized and accepted, massive changes in social institutions, such as education, health care, social services and the law were changed to recognize that these 12 to 18 year olds needed more time to grow up. Who would’ve thought we would be saying the same thing about 20-somethings a century later? (more…)
The significance of the total amount of economic impact – $2.8 trillion – once again proves that women-owned firms are not a small, niche market, but are a major contributor and player in the overall economy. We often hear that small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy, but when we speak of the U.S. economy, visions of large corporations and Fortune 1000 companies fill our heads. Again, we need to shift our thinking about what the U.S. economy is.
We cannot downplay the importance of small businesses in the overall economy. According to SBA’s Office of Advocacy, 99.7% of all employer firms are classified as “small businesses (less than 500 employees);” small businesses employ 51% of all people; have generated nearly two-thirds (64%) of net new jobs over the past decade and a half; and produce 13 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms. In fact, large corporations account for .03 percent of all firms and employ fewer people than small businesses. And women are in the forefront of creating small businesses. (more…)
Farnaz Wallace was interviewed by Lucy Soto of Atlanta Woman for her article, Being Authentic, on her successful and inspirational career and life. Farnaz’s method of and outlook on marketing Church’s Chicken is truly influential and have led to Church’s outstanding results. Farnaz explains, “At the end of the day, one of the things I’ve really discovered is in order to be successful you have to be authentic. And that state of authenticity allows you to be creative and productive. Diversity translates into numbers. Inclusion and diversity translates into bottom line profits for companies. Once you prove that and you gain the respect, love will follow.” Download the PDF.
Chain Leader discusses in its article, Church’s Chicken Drives Five Years of Positive Same Store Sales Growth, how Farnaz Wallace’s breakthrough marketing strategy, successful new campaign and lineup of new products, and increased focus on non-TV markets have led to Church’s Chicken’s fifth year of positive same store sales in the United States.
Farnaz says, “the brand has always won when it comes to delivering real and authentic fried chicken at the best value. Yet now, more than ever, customers need more motivation when it comes to purchasing meals. Our quality differentiator is that Church’s offers freshly prepared food that is made with the same care and attention as home cooking – we make our crunchy, juicy chicken right in front of you – at a value that is attractive to your pocketbook. But what we’ve found is that customers also want to feel good about their purchasing decision. There’s an emotional satisfaction factor that comes into play, and it is our job to empower our cutomers with the knowledge that they are making a wise decison when they choose Church’s.”
Farnaz also explains that “the brand’s ‘I Know What Good Is’ advertising campaign caters to Church’s multicultural, cross-generational customer base by acknowledging that the customers themselves have a unique understanding of ‘good’ in their own lives. The campaign gives the customer his or her own voice by focusing on authentic lifestyle scenes that illustrate how Church’s meals offer value and functionality in the customer’s daily life.” Download the PDF.
Farnaz Wallace discusses Church’s marketing strategy and value-driven positioning in Chain Leader’s article, Church’s Chicken Outlines Marketing Strategy. Farnaz explains that “the introduction of the value menu gives customers an affordable option in stretching their dollar while satisfying their taste. The new value menu is just one more way to stay true to Church’s no-frills positioning. It underscores Church’s price-value position of providing good, authentic juicy marinated fried chicken – the menu serves comfort foods without premium costs.” Download the PDF.
Most companies and marketers obsessively examine demographics and trend shift data to make their strategic decisions in a linear fashion. Often, we forget to research and examine realities that redefine who we are. Some companies go further by defining psychographics that are need-based, which is very helpful…but who is defining realities based on social and cultural change?
I have found a fascinating report from The Brooking Institution, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation titled, “State of Metropolitan America: On the Front Lines of Demographic Transformation”. This report shows that the United States now faces five “new realities” that will redefine who we are, where and with whom we live, and how we provide for our own welfare, as well as that of our families and communities.
These “new realities” are: Aging population; Income polarization; Uneven higher education attainment; Growth and outward expansion, and Population diversification. See the “who we are – our 5 new realities” article for more information on these 5 new realities. (more…)