Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Why Branding?

In one word? Memorability

To say that 'online competition is massive', is the understatement of the decade. We are all swamped by the number of choices online. For every single product, service or question there are tens of thousands. 
Maybe we can muster the energy and time to visit or consider a few dozen of them. Maybe we even dedicate a bit of time to each of the websites or web pages that caught our attention.

The overwhelming majority of them end up in the dustbin though. They are forgotten the second we have clicked away.
This is how the human mind deals with excess information: we simply choose to ignore it.
It's a survival technique like any other. If we had to stock all information that passes by, we would go mad, or no longer have energy for anything else. 

How to get through that shield?
You would say that simply standing out is sufficient. 

Just by being better and more original than 90% of all other websites in the own industry would do the trick, no?

You would say that as long as the content of our website is excellent, people will remember it, right? 

Well, it does - somehow. Not in an optimal way.

And you want it to be optimal, because marketing is incredibly expensive. You can pay up to 1-6 Euro just for one single website visitor. Even if you do not spend money on paid advertising, this could still be the cost of the time spent on social networks. 

It has been investigated and proven that on average, a company or brand name needs to be repeated 12 times before our mind remembers it. If you remember 'Coca-Cola' that is because as a child you have heard the expression a minimum of 12 times. 

Can you imagine what that means? It would mean that a visitor needs to stumble 12 times over your website, or you would have to pay 12 clicks in Google AdWords, before that visitor would even remember your name. 

You can calculate the costs. Try to find a process that combines enough advertising, billboards alongside the road, business cards and meetings at network events, gets you knocking 12 times at the door of the memory of a fellow human. 

Branding is then the attempt to make that process shorter. 

How do you do that? 
Branding is a science in itself. As per usual in this blog: let's take the short cut. 

  • Create one single and unified look and feel for your business
  • This look and feel says 'professional' from the word go
  • This look and feel helps to remember the product or service
  • This look and feel is consistent in all marketing materials
  • This look and feel is likeable and memorable
In short, this look and feel sets you in the mind of the customer that you are the only solution to his or her need. 

What's your profit?  

It is far more easy to increase your sales by increasing website conversion and memorability, than by SEO. Far less time consuming and much more cost-effective. 

That's why it's sometimes said that marketing success starts with Branding. 

It's the keystone and lynchpin.


Coffee, Tea, Tobacco

Suppose that warnings of danger on tobacco packaging make you smoke more

(No need to put your grey cells into motion: this has already been studied and has been confirmed - danger sells. Big Tobacco celebrates and governments can save face... everyone happy).

Suppose that warnings that you can die of cigarettes make it more likely that you will die? 

No need to think too much about this question either, it's the material of psychologists who have been banging their head against mahogany desks for a decade, did not find the answer yet, but there are scientists (from the shady to reputable level) who do think so: your thoughts, worries and predictions have a way to slam back to the body. 

A brand of PepsiCo, battling the Coca Cola
company on the tea front.
Suppose that extensive research has indicated that women prefer horizontal objects and men vertical objects?

There's no proof to be found online, but given the fact that manufacturers have poured fortunes into horizontal tea packaging and vertical coffee packaging, hints that somewhere, someone, sometime DID pop this question and investigated it.

Now, suppose that the very first one to discover this, worked in a business with a market of tens of millions of people - just how big would his or her advantage over competitors be? 

If it can result in an extra income of millions, it will have been researched. 

Multinationals do not have the budget for a full-time neuro-psychologist on the payroll. They have the budget for a team of top experts in the domain, with assistants, with volunteers, working in laboratories and eye-tracking equipment and a budget to invite thousands of people for further behavioral tests.

So what about the free spirits, who have no brand loyalty whatsoever. Are they a 'nightmare for marketing departments''?

Marketing departments don't have nightmares (they would be fired). They have challenges. For any scientist on the way to a discovery, there's a top-knotch marketer with a child-like enthusiasm to unearth a new strategy.

If it is been monitored how many cents extra you are willing to pay for the parking lot if it saves you 68 metres of walking - why wouldn't free spirits be monitored? 

The most famous example is the proud statement of the person in a Spanish shopping mall: "I don't fall into the trap of any Brand. Sometimes I buy something at Zarah, then at Bershka, the next day at Pull and Bear, Massimo Duti, Bershka..."

That's how Inditex ensures they catch everyone, anytime. 

Bath products for men. Vertical. Showers rather than bath.
Standing up, ready to jump out in case of danger.

'Suppose that my aunt smoked and had wheels, she would be a steam train'.  

Supposing is the very first job of a (very good) marketer. For it all starts with the question: what has no other company discovered before?  What are the black holes?  What's the missing link?

It's not the marketing tool that gets you far. It's being the first to discover and use it. All the rest is just hopping on the bus, until they have to do so in order not to loose out too much, instead of actually gaining something.

(Example of a few years back: "you have to be on YouTube"!  No, you don't. It was advantageous for the first ones, and for the best ones). 

(At this very moment it's Google+, but more about that later). 

Friday, 11 October 2013

Tribes, Love and Safety

I just checked the all-time Top 3 of most read articles in this blog. It are the blogs about Tribes, Love and Safety

Yes, over Friendship, Success or even Happiness, it were these 3 topics you were most interested in and that's a very valuable marketing lesson.

Firstly because they are closely related. They all come with the same sense of belonging, the cocoon of sweet... safety.

The main reason why humans always lived (and still live) in a tribe, is that sense of safety.

Not only for protection, but the knowledge that for every situation, there is a specialist at hand.

It is little miracle that so many parents in so many cultures still want their children to marry within the tribe. 

Secondly, because safety can be found at the bottom of Maslow's Pyramid. 

Again confirming that, yes, one of the primary human needs is also working well in the Online era. Ergo: many a marketing strategy targets right that: your need of safety.  

Targeting tribal instincts as well creating a sense of tribe stand very high on the agenda of the marketing strategists of the major brands. 

Belonging to a tribe provides us with a sense of safety, love and success - we just can't live without belonging to one. Who do you think is the happier person?  The one with just many friends, the one with few friends but who all know each other, or the one with many friends also all know each other? 

The sense of happiness goes from low to high.

One can have very many friends, but if they are at your birthday party, and you are the only link, your life feels fractured, your self divided into too many roles without one pillar to cling to. 

Basically you are just floating about in your own private bubble.

Should they all know each other, forever meet each other at different occasions - then you are part of a tribe. You have your own role (The Comedian, The Psychologist, The Protector, The Handyman, The Caring One, The Translator, The One That Gets The Party Started, etc). 

You know who you are, you have your place in society, and enjoy the assistance of the others in basically all situations of life. 

The basic human needs... just how many times will it be reconfirmed that these are still the pillars of today's successful marketing - online or not? 


Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Is SEO dead?

There are a few million articles online asking this question. 
You found and picked a few of them over all the others.  

So, no, SEO is not dead.

Not even having a mild cough. If anything, it has become super resilient.

So much so that any article about it is almost useless. There are 15 million 'SEO tips' online and 26 million pages more offering 'SEO Advice'.

Together promising a billion people that they will rank high and become rich and live happily ever after (you, me and our neighbours have a full-time job for the next 10 lives). 

When I first started with (some) SEO in 2003, you could still hear comments as: 

"I have SEO", "do you have SEO"? 

Not 3 years later such phrases had become flabbergasting. For it sounded as: "I have transport".

Okayyyyy... could you be a tad more precise? Are we talking a half broken bycicle or a private luxury jet? What between all the hundreds of options and levels are we talking about? 

So you can imagine what that is today. I'm flushing purple that I once said to be 'a SEO specialist'. For if that were true, I would not live in Brussels but own it, together with a medium-sized Caribbean island. 

I only know how to keep a small company afloat (or myself). And even that took a year of full time personal tests and a learning curve of another 2 years.

At the same time I know that (a very good, advanced, clever level of) SEO can be highly advantageous and is the gold of the 21st century - so I do reserve a day a week just to keep up with it. 

If you do not have that time or energy, there's one alternative: 

The very, very best, most cost-effective and only logical SEO strategy?  
Offer content that people will love to read. 

'Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light'. 
Joseph Pulitzer

That, will be loved by all search engines.
And is something that you can do.

If only by stopping any copy/paste business which is like shooting yourself in the foot and boycotting your own business (and don't get me started on stock photos or template websites).  

All SEO techniques will come and go but Quality is that one and only strategy  that will never go out of fashion. It's a good investment for tomorrow, next year, 10 years down the line and 30 years.