What to do when often the product is the marketing…
Typically we see clients looking to their agencies to create and craft communications tools. In many cases the “ask” is quite prescriptive: we need a [fill in standard tactic here] for this project/launch/introduction. The request goes out. And many firms are content to provide their form of nail for the available budget hammer.
Every so often these efforts to gin-up awareness lack the ability to inject demonstrable change in a company’s future trajectory. They aim low – perhaps not purposefully but publicity, advertising, events, promotions and experiences by themselves are often simply shiny objects in the toolbox of marketing hope. Why? Consumers work to avoid anything that looks or smells to them like self-promotion, self-reverential selling.
We’ve determined that consistent successful outcomes requires a redefinition of what an agency is in business to offer; for the very reason that it takes more effort, bigger thinking, a larger canvas on which to create outsized wins – rather than another press release or humorous bus card.
What do we know? Let’s take inventory…
There’s no shortage of need for transformational ideas. And there’s no business model that won’t benefit from consumer insight that creates the foundation for this kind of innovative thinking. In the absence of insight, tactics in search of a strategy far too often lead to what might be termed ‘clever non-performance’.
Yet over and over we see agencies defined and deployed on the basis of tactics and tactical execution in a media environment that has exploded. Thus, the communications universe has bifurcated into specialties ranging from digital plumbing to content creation to social media to PR to advertising to events and experiences to media planning and on and on. Consistency and alignment across platforms is also constantly challenged.
What lies above ideas that can inform company behavior?
An organization’s mission, higher purpose and belief systems will (must) inform how the business behaves, and will impact the resulting brand narrative. Looking at consumers solely as transactions-in-the-wings disables a company’s ability to inspire meaning and increase ‘valuable-ness’ beyond the product.
Corporate culture and employee participation in delivering the overall mission is as important as any marketing initiative aimed at painting an attractive picture externally. How you behave is what you are.
Brand relationships are now based on reciprocity and greater alignment between the business and the consumer’s lifestyle interests, passions and concerns. Is the go-to-market strategy built around enabling lifestyle connections and operating in service of cultivating belief and trust – or is the directive to simply increase sales via focus on features and benefits?
What is the true Alchemy of Success?
Transformational growth comes from transformational thinking that changes business and brand behavior. You just can’t get there in a vacuum.
Refinement and optimization of what a company’s Higher Purpose should be precedes the development of effective messaging and communication. For example, trust creation is paramount now in how brands grow and succeed. Trust building is not a thing to be bolted onto the marketing plan.
Trust is an outcome of everything you do before you say anything.
The new agency model: business optimization before marketing!
Some strategic questions need to be answered ahead of communications: what business are you truly in (hopefully founded on consumer insights)? What is the organization’s higher purpose? How does this translate down into the design of products and services; ingredient sourcing and supply chain; what innovation looks like; how you hire and how you train; how is the organization’s culture brought into alignment with this understanding?
Only from there can we address brand positioning, message and outreach strategies because the former will inform the latter. So at Emergent, we start way upstream from communications to conduct the kind of analysis that addresses refinement and optimization in what the organization believes, behavior and how it is organized on all levels to go-to-market.
The distance between what you believe, what you say and trust has been shortened to “hand-in-hand.” Our work helps embed and bake optimal strategy into every aspect of how you design, build, market and deliver products and services.
The sheer act of taking this journey moves what was once less informed communications tools to an entirely new level of meaning and value. The connectivity and engagement potential is amplified exponentially because consumer understanding has been injected into every aspect of the organization’s reason for being.
Think it’s only practical for emerging brands on the way up? To be sure, it’s easier to do this when you’re in formative stages, but this is precisely the kind of strategic refinement that’s necessary for established organizations to respond to the food and beverage culture sea change that’s going on as we speak.
This is why Emergent exists: to help bring thinking that takes communications to the next level of value: marketing people actually want!
Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent Healthy Living. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies. Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.