Selling, Generating Interest, and Everything in Between.
An idea turns into a prototype, a prototype turns into a venture, a venture turns into a business that becomes a well-oiled machine, which at some point spreads its wings and becomes something bigger than those who created it in the first place. We often find ourselves serving the business, working to feed it, and forgetting the original and authentic place we started from. And then there are the unexpected side effects we can’t always anticipate. Growing is key, but how do we stay loyal to our brand?
If Your Brand Died Tomorrow, What Kind of Eulogy Would It Get?
One of the questions I tend to ask my customers at the start of every shared work process is, what is the story behind the business? If the business was a real person, who would they be? How would they act? What would they find important in life? What would make them unique or different? Who are the customers? What do they lack? What drives them?
Most customers begin answering with slogans that serve no one: professionalism, agility, innovation, fast response, competitive pricing, and so on. Slowly but surely, however, the outer layers peel off and the brand’s true and authentic identity emerges.
When I work with SMB’s, I research the owners, and when I work with organizations, I research the entire management level and the organization’s storytelling itself. It’s important for me to know how the organization has developed over the years, the products and messaging that it stands behind. When the brand and business identity are established and fully formed, it’s easier to return to them as a guiding compass whenever we reach a fork in road and need to make an important decision or when we need to scale our working process.
Selling, Generating Interest, and Everything in Between.
Some of you will probably disagree with me, but I believe that brand values aren’t just “nice to have” — they’re a must. They force us to refine what we find important, what guides our work and our business strategy both in the short term and in the long run. They also help us gather people around us — both employees and customers — and connect them to something that’s deeper and greater than both the product itself and the people behind it.
Forming values allows us to create marketing processes that relate to the brand identity, and those ultimately serve our business goals. After all, we’re in it for the ROI, everything else is foreplay.
But let’s not forget that the life of a marketing manager isn’t an easy one. As the company grows bigger, marketing will be assessed based on sales growth. When growth slows down, it will be assessed based on cutting expenses. Marketing managers constantly find themselves under the magnifying glass, but with the responsibility for the bottom line comes the right to determine the best way to get there. Building a brand requires spending money in the right places and choosing the right investment channels on the organization’s behalf. Part of this means investing in linking the brand with values, associations and memories, knowing that there are various areas of interest that will produce a great amount of value in the long run, even if it does not necessarily lead to direct or measurable profit.
Luckily, today more than ever, the digital world has the power to create changes in depth at relatively affordable costs. Unlike investing in traditional media that is always one-directional — from advertiser to the consumer — digital lets us open a dialogue. Organizations and companies have realized that in order to adapt to the new reality, they must listen to their customers, address criticism and answer the hard questions directed at them.
Master? Slave? Hell No.
Silicon Valley is a great example of how to manage a crisis by highlighting an organization’s values in a positive manner and taking responsibility for mistakes made along the way.
After being accused of using outdated language that sanctifies and preserves racism and social hierarchies, giant tech companies began revising their problematic, albeit deep-rooted, terminology. GitHub, which was purchased by Microsoft and is host to over 50 million developer projects, announced its intention to abandon its outdated phrasing in favor of more politically correct terms. Instead of the term ‘Master’ (the primary version of the code), they now use the term ‘Main’. Apple, for their part, changed the terms ‘Blacklist’ and ‘Whitelist’ to ‘Block List’ and ‘Allow List’ respectively, so as not to conjure up any possibility of discrimination or racism. Meanwhile, Drupal abandoned the terms ‘Master’ and ‘Slave’ in favor of ‘Primary’ and ‘Replica’.
What if Your Product Feature Is Being Used for a Different Purpose Than Was Intended?
It will be interesting to see how social networks react to what seems like an ever-growing phenomenon in the US. Geektime have recently published an article on several cases of American police officers loudly playing copyright-protected music on their phones while being filmed by civilians as they were (legally) detaining them in the course of enforcement activities.
The article focused on Sennett Devermont, an activist who tends to live-stream his encounters and clashes with the LAPD to his 300 thousand followers. Devermont arrived at the Beverly Hills police station in order to retrieve the video from the bodycam of an officer who had given him a citation. As always, he was live streaming his visit to the police station on Instagram. At one point, one of the officers got a bit irate that he was being live streamed. The officer asked Devermont how many people were watching the live stream at that moment, to which Devermont replied, “Enough.”
Upon hearing this, the officer whipped out his mobile and began playing “Santeria” by Sublime. Devermont tried to confront the officer outside the station, but yet again, the officer replied by playing loud music. Devermont took a few steps back but the officer beckoned him to come closer, saying he couldn’t hear him from so far away. He did this so that Instagram’s copyright algorithms would quickly identify a copyright breach in real time and block the live stream. I wonder what old Mark Z. would have to say about this, considering his vision for creating intelligent dialogue and offering the online public a bigger picture has turned into this.
Our working premise as marketing managers and business owners should be that consumers are intelligent and skeptical people. They ask questions and look before they buy. We must offer them not just interesting content, great service and a smooth customer experience, but also a wide array of values filled with essence, transparency and added value. You’ll probably make some mistakes along the way, but it’s part and parcel of the process. Growing your business and then maintaining your place at the top means owning your mistakes and taking full responsibility for them. After all, mistakes often have a tendency to teach us a lesson and point us in a much better direction.