Marketing and Research Consulting for a Brave New World
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If I ask a marketer, “How do you want your customers to think about your brand?”, I bet they immediately go to customer service and quality ideas, like being easy to do business with, fair business practices, cares about me, best performing product.

Let’s try a different line of attack, one where advertising and branded content play a more pivotal role.

Let me start with a personal realization: I don’t know how to think about my favorite brand of coffee (happens to be Seattle’s Best, Level 5).

It probably gets about 80% share of my coffee purchases because I love its taste…Starbucks Italian Roast- like…maybe even stronger and it is reasonably priced for a premium coffee. But what I KNOW about the brand stops there as I’ve never seen the brand advertised. I just found the brand one day on the store shelf, next to Starbucks and Peets, it was on sale, and thought I’d give it a try. 

The good news is that it quickly became my favorite. The bad news is that the marketer never told how to think about the brand. I was left to my own devices to create a brand narrative in my own head and heart about this brand. 

The marketer should have curated the creation of this story!

Patrick Hanlon is author of one of the best books on branding I’ve ever read, “Primal Branding”.  Its principles have been adopted by many marketers, including Google (in their YouTube creator community) and the TV show “The Chosen”.

Pat talks about brands as belief systems with creation stories, heroes, creeds and sacred words. Even non-believers (yes, those who would never get on a Harley help to define the brand too.)

As a customer, I don’t know the primal code for Seattle’s Best but their marketing should be helping me and other customers to learn that. They could form a Facebook group or other communities but to really achieve scale, I suggest a marketer needs to use advertising.

If I were advising them on advertising and media strategies, I’d suggest that they commit to video advertising (linear TV, CTV, online video) as I anticipate that video should be best at telling a story.  I would also embed online video in retail environments. For example, you can create a brand presence in Amazon that is highly brand-building oriented with video included.  This communication challenge transcends the funnel. Brand advertising is typically mapped to generating awareness and intent among non-customers; but I am referring to advertising to curate the belief set of customers towards your brand among those you have already converted.  I suggest this is not a goal many marketers focus on…but they should.

When I first started consulting in 2010, I suggested to Pat that the researcher in me wanted to add to his Primal branding platform, “Primal METRICS”. How would a marketer’s research team report how well they are doing at creating the narrative and a community who shares the belief system that leads them to your brand? Of course, statistical analysis could then confirm the power of this knowledge at driving brand business outcomes.

I have suggested that marketers need two tentpoles in the brand guidance system…ROAS (drive the ROI of advertising to the point that it is self-funding) while also monitoring brand health.  The latter will pick up considerations like what do customers think about your brand beyond preference and awareness and get into what do they KNOW about your brand. Can they replay key message ideas?  Do they uniquely associate these ideas with your brand?  If ROAS AND brand knowledge are both growing, the brand is in really good shape for the future.

So, imagine the CMO convenes the brand leadership team on Zoom…the brand manager, researcher, creative agency, ad agency. And the CMO asks these questions:

What do customers think about our brand?

How do we WANT customers to think about our brand?

How do we know?

How will the brand leadership team answer and what will the action plan be?

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