To all the upper-funnel gurus who feel marketing exists solely to create brand adoration, a quick reality check: we cannot lose sight of the fact that all of that “brand-y goodness” we’ve created needs to make its way down the funnel – preferably much sooner than later.
To that end, here are the 5 key pillars every brand marketer must remember:
1) All marketing should be about selling something today or selling something tomorrow. Everyone wants their brand to be loved, but remember that positive brand opinion does not always translate to sales. The Pepsi Refresh Project was a groundbreaking social media marketing program that drove tons of social engagement … but ultimately didn’t sell a single additional drop of Pepsi.
Now kudos to Pepsi for even trying this, since no one knew what the short- or long-term results of this campaign would be. But literally no boost in sales should indicate that this program shouldn’t be repeated.
Lesson: If your current branding efforts drive warm fuzzies and brand love – but not sales – it’s time to try something else.
2) Sponsorships and big experiential events can be totally appropriate – but it depends on your industry. If you work in what is fundamentally a commodity business (insurance comes to mind), sometimes just keeping your name and brand top-of-mind with consumers through supporting something they value is a strong strategy. Similarly, bringing an A-list celebrity into your retail store (LeBron James at your car dealership) might be a great way to simply drive traffic.
But here’s the key: if you sponsor something even tangentially relevant, it can be much more effective (State Farm presents Property Brothers, Jeff Gordon at your car dealership, etc). Creating a branded experiential event that is specifically designed to delight your target customer can start paying dividends almost immediately.
Lesson: Sponsorships and events are great for getting you brand in front of eyeballs, but keeping them focused on your core business is the best use of that marketing budget.
3) If people don’t know it’s from you, you are wasting your marketing dollars. I once got in a … um, “spirited debate” with the head of marketing of one of Ford’s European markets because he wanted to create a new episodic music program on Facebook to highlight emerging artists.
My concern was the program was creating really cool – but completely unbranded – content. And the one product in our portfolio that was vaguely integrated into the videos was the one this customer had no interest in buying – our cargo van.
This marketing director flatly refused to have any reference of either the primary brand or any of our other products that might actually appeal to young music lovers for fear of “selling out and diluting the purity of the content.”
The result? Thousands of video views. Did it affect sales? No idea. Since there were no tracking cookies on the content, no surveys to see if these videos changed consumer opinion of the brand and no CTAs to drive people to our website, no one has any idea if this worked in driving short- or long-term sales.
Lesson: If consumers have no idea you produced, sponsored or paid for the content, you aren’t building a brand – you are wasting money.
4) If you are going to utilize your product in the campaign, make it the hero. A Tale of Two Campaigns: One market in Europe partnered with an avant-garde artist to encase a Ford Fiesta in a solid block of ice and let it melt over a few weeks in front of an art museum. Another European market exploited a key insight of their culture to make a series of hilarious videos showing people rigging up DIY solutions to mimic the new technology on the new Fiesta.
The first campaign saw tens of thousands of people walk by and presumably wonder why someone decided to freeze a small hatchback (which most people couldn’t even tell was a Ford). The second saw tens of millions of video views and highlighted all of the technology in the new model, driving double digit increases across the funnel, from awareness to purchase intent.
Lesson: Figure out how to make engaging content where your product is the hero and you’ve struck gold. Creating awareness without demonstrating brand or product benefits is a lost opportunity.
5) Always conclude your brand content with a Call to Action (CTA) for more. In this world of content marketing, every marketer should be engaged in creating useful, relevant branded content for consumers.
But at the end of every video or article, there should always be two options for the consumer: 1) see more like this or 2) go deeper. If you have a customer’s attention and have just provided them something of value, why on earth would you intentionally end the conversation and set them free?
Lesson: Having your customer’s attention – but not creating that effortless next step for them to continue to engage – is not letting your content work as hard as it could for you.
So just remember that as critical as branding efforts are, if they are disconnected from anything that persuades people to want to use your product or service, you may be wasting your marketing budget. It doesn’t matter how big your business is or what industry you are in – you need sales. Or as we say at Customers 1st Marketing: Without customers, your business is just a really, really expensive hobby.