Posts in brand messaging

How to PREVAIL in the Midst of Uncertainty

June 2nd, 2020 Posted by brand marketing, brand messaging, Brand preference, CMO, Consumer insight, Emerging brands, food experiences, Healthy Living, Marketing Strategy, Navigation 1 comment on “How to PREVAIL in the Midst of Uncertainty”

Emerging brand navigates change at the speed of a SpaceX rocket launch

Over the last five years there has been an unprecedented shift in food culture to favor new and emerging food brands. These new brands have found traction by reinventing existing food and beverage categories or creating new ones with elevated recipes, higher quality ingredients and an ethos to go with it.

When the pandemic suddenly descended like a quick-forming Hurricane headed on-shore, we watched in earnest to see how these bright upstarts would weather the storm. On the one hand, these new businesses often fulfill the desire for healthier options right out of the gate. On the other, as young organizations without the deep cash reserves of legacy counterparts they can be vulnerable.

Among the new brands Emergent has been following is PREVAIL jerky. PREVAIL was founded and is guided by Glen Kohn in Chicago, a financial services investment expert (understands the balance sheet) who had a personal penchant for jerky making that turned into his life passion.

Answering a prevailing trend of higher quality, better for you

PREVAIL has reinvented the jerky category with a truly clean formulation that rids the meat-centric snack option of unwanted preservatives, horrific sodium levels, added sugars and ingredients that food allergy sensitive consumers can’t stomach. What’s extraordinary is the taste and eating experience, an uncanny ‘secret sauce’ ability of Glen’s products to deliver a jerky sensory bite but without the toughness often associated with dried meats.

We wanted to find out how Glen and PREVAIL were faring as COVID-sponsored upheaval sent shockwaves through many businesses that are in early stages of their development and growth curve. Glen graciously answered five questions intended to gauge the impact of the pandemic. We include our observations and insights following Glen’s answers.

Five Questions for Glen Kohn and PREVAIL Jerky

  1. In the last 60 days much has changed for emerging food and beverage brands. How has the pandemic impacted your business and what changes have you made in how you go-to-market?

Glen Kohn: “Many of our retail locations such as hotels, health clubs and coffee shops closed down at the start and some remain closed. Given what was happening around us in retail channels, we knew to retain our momentum we needed to pivot to online. On the ingredient supply side, we believed that beef prices would likely go up, so we got out ahead of the possible challenge in April and purchased 100% grass-fed beef to control our costs.” 

Emergent: What’s evident here was the quickness and resolve Glen and his team showed to get ahead of the shifts and do their best to keep the velocity moving. Especially important was the supply chain decision given the significant escalation in beef prices.

PREVAIL sells at a premium to other traditional category jerky brands. While the value proposition justifies the extra cost, in an uncertain economy, it is possible for price premium acceleration to hit a ceiling and generate resistance from users. Wisely Glen avoided the pricing meltdown. He also sidestepped taking a hit on slender margins by banking his supply.

  1. What specific shifts, changes have you created to your sales and marketing strategies?

Glen Kohn: “We quickly shifted to go after more e-commerce retailers, corporate snack boxes, and B to B online platforms. We also saw a spike and increased interest in Affiliate programs. Dollars that were allocated to retail channel tastings and events were shifted to bolster PR and social media spend.”

Emergent: Food retail industry watcher and guide Brick Meets Click recently published a report showing online grocery transactions were up 18% from 62.5 million in April to an astounding 73.5 million in May. Also in May, household penetration reached 33% as 43 million consumers shopped e-commerce channels for food and beverage. This is way ahead of earlier food industry studies that forecasted household penetration on a much slower ramp, and offers proof that the pandemic has caused an inflexion point with online ordering. Out of necessity consumers have become more comfortable with this shopping behavior. Glen’s pivot to emphasizing e-commerce was a smart move.

Trust is at a premium these days and now more than ever, people rely on the recommendations of other consumers to inform their brand selection decisions. Social proof is the most important mechanism to validate what Glen wants the world to believe about his product efficacy and to encourage trial.

  1. How have investors reacted to the COVID-19 situation and what do you think they’re looking for now from brands like yours?

Glen Kohn: “Food is definitely king now. As evidence, shelf stable, healthy snacks are booming. If anything, now is the time to invest in food and beverage brands while other industries such as travel and hospitality wrestle with systemic challenges to their business model post-pandemic. Investors will spend their money on businesses with strong ongoing sales traction.”

Emergent: Equity investors often point to company leadership and their business skills as a primary driver underneath their investment decisions. Glen approaches the business not just as a guy with passion and a great recipe, but also a business brain who isn’t hesitant to make decisions in the midst of uncertain conditions. Combined with better jerky category relevance and salience, you can see why Glen should continue to attract operating capital as he works to scale the enterprise. Stay-at-home conditions and protein snacking make great bedfellows. 

  1. How do you see consumer priorities and behaviors changing as a result of the economic uncertainty and lifestyle impacts of the pandemic?

Glen Kohn: “Consumers are increasingly turning to healthy foods during the pandemic. The food industry is one of the only industries to surge during this time. People are snacking more throughout the day and they are looking for healthy alternatives that the whole family can enjoy.” 

Emergent: The pandemic has ushered in significant transformational changes in consumer attitude and behaviors. In our recent article, “Health is the New Wealth” we outlined the sea-change in the reshuffling of priorities and needs for people. The COVID-19 event has dramatically demonstrated how ‘out of control’ the world can be, upending every single aspect of life, lifestyle and career. What is the one thing people can control in a seemingly uncontrollable world? Their investments to enhance their own health and wellbeing through what they put in their bodies and active efforts to take better care of themselves.

A healthy immune system is at a big premium these days. Brands that actively partner and help guide consumers on their journey to healthier living have an extraordinary opportunity to build a lasting and sustainable relationship. Glen sees this and his company is positioned to take advantage of it.

  1. What guidance would you offer to the founders and investors of new emerging brands that will help assure their continued development? What are the top three things you believe they should do to help ensure continued growth?

Glen: “From what we have heard and seen it’s best to diversify channel strategy and watch behavioral changes. We have seen brands that were primarily in one retail channel and were crushed when the country shut down.

  • Be nimble.
  • Cash is king.
  • Don’t be afraid to take a chance.
  • When the timing feels right be a first mover.” 

Emergent: During uncertain times when the future appears to be unpredictable and changes are occurring around you at unprecedented speed, occasionally fear can set in that causes businesses to turn inward and go dark as they “ride out the storm.” We have ample historical evidence that this is a recipe for disaster. Brands that continue to invest in their growth, in communication with consumers, that remain present and work quickly to adjust to the changes going on around them are likely to emerge in much better condition than those which retreat.

You can’t cut your way out of a recession. No question cash management and burn are fundamental business issues to address. That said, it is more important than ever to be a builder and as Glen says, a first mover.

A brand name that inspires consumers during uncertainty

PREVAIL is an interesting and compelling brand name. On a very visceral level it is aspirational to the consumer experience. People want to prevail over what looks at times to be insurmountable odds. This brand as guide, coach and expert authority can take the journey with consumers as a trusted source and resource.

The characteristics and drivers of successful brand building have changed as consumers seek deeper meaning and shared values with the brands they prefer. Equally, brands need to position themselves as partners in helping improve their consumers’ lives.

To help them prevail.

Emergent is expert in helping build new and emerging brands and businesses. If you’re looking for fresh ideas and perspective, let us know.

Editorial note: Emergent would like to express our heartfelt thanks to Glen Kohn for participating in this story. We appreciate his time and efforts to help inform the industry.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to the Emerging Trends Report.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, The Healthy Living Agency. Traditional brand marketing often sidesteps more human qualities that can help consumers form an emotional bond. Yet brands yearn for authentic engagement, trust and a lasting relationship with their customers. Emergent helps brands erase ineffective self-promotion and replace it with clarity, honesty and deeper meaning in their customer relationships and communication. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

It’s About Storytelling – Not Story-YELLING

May 24th, 2020 Posted by brand marketing, brand messaging, brand strategy, branded content, Consumer insight, Content Marketing, Digital marketing, Emotional relevance, Growth, Higher Purpose, Marketing Strategy, Public Relations, Social media, social media marketing, storytelling, Transformation 0 comments on “It’s About Storytelling – Not Story-YELLING”

The five essential guideposts to successful brand communication

In a recent article about the COVID-19 disruption of conventional marketing strategies, an industry contemporary weighed in to say change is here. He opined that the latest digital media platforms must be deployed as relevant vessels to convey the product sales-building message. The story was a remarkable resurfacing of a fundamental mistake now driving an unnecessary (and unwanted) wedge between many brands and their users.

You can no longer game your way into someone’s heart and head. When every media form or channel is viewed as a pipeline for pushing messages designed to interrupt and snare people who are trying to consume useful content, the product messaging gambit represents a form of marketing denial about how brand relationships are created.

  • A classic (but now worn) example of this is the misuse and abuse of social channels, treating them as yet another promotion broadcast medium with some begrudging two-way conversation sprinkled in.

We simply can’t look at marketing outreach as “persuasion” any longer, a type of digital bullhorn to broadcast product features, dressed up to look like a more educational piece of publishing. People see right through it. Moreover, they won’t stand for it, sit for it, hear it, consume it or engage with it.

When marketing dollars become precious and every one of them needs to perform more powerfully, it only stands to reason that dialing into cultural context to enhance message effectiveness is important.

Brands must become trusted sources and resources

The relationship brands build with consumers must evolve.

Consider how real, human friendships are created and nurtured. And how real friends communicate with each other. There’s a difference between telling and yelling in both conversational context and messaging construction.

The great brand storytellers know who the hero must be – it’s the consumer and not the brand. Yellers see things from the polar opposite angle, casting the brand and product as hero of every message. The brand’s role should be depicted as trusted guide and expert that operates in service of improving the consumer’s life.

Impactful stories show how the brand fits into an idealized narrative around the consumer’s aspirational lifestyle. As we conveyed in an earlier article, Health is the New Wealth.

Five guideposts to effective brand communication

  1. Relevance

Effective stories always follow a basic element of human truth. If brand relationships must operate more like human friendships, then what people fundamentally need should be factored into the communications messaging platform. People want to:

  • Feel safe
  • Be loved
  • Be valued
  • Inspire others
  • Be successful

Stories should address what’s relevant to user needs and desires.

  1. Social influence

Leveraging trends is important. People follow them, talk about them, share with others and through this process ‘collective wisdom’ forms to validate the acceptability and popularity of cultural developments. Whether that’s adopting new tech platforms like Zoom, TV programs such as the runaway success of Tiger King, use of e-commerce channels to shop, or a surge in home baking, emergence of new trends is not to be overlooked in content calendars.

Stay-at-home is one of the most compelling, dynamic and influential trends of all-time. It presents a treasure trove of opportunity for guidance and conversation on topics ranging from how to re-set the home for work and learning, to spending more time with the kids, to exercising culinary muscles.

  1. Reciprocity

People are hard-wired to recognize, appreciate and reciprocate when experiencing self-less, useful and helpful behaviors. When brands stop looking at customers as walking transactions and see them as real people who need support, the entire dynamic of the consumer-to-brand relationship starts to change.

  • Unselfishness is an admired human characteristic that when added to the brand voice and outreach, paves the way for a respected and trusted relationship.

Educational experiences that help improve expertise and knowledge can be a wonderful way to hone the brand’s role as expert guide and coach.

  1. Emotional intelligence

A lot has been written lately about the value of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and no doubt there are areas where data can be applied to improve decision-making. Targeted media selection would be a prime example. But it can also be a false god. The brand’s goal isn’t to be the one that measures but rather the one that matters.

Imbuing your brand with deeper meaning and higher purpose is the on-ramp to emotional forms of communication. When emotional connections take root between a consumer and brand – the relationship crosses a chasm from habit to ritual. Jasmine Bina, respected brand strategist and noted author recently published on the topic, saying “it only makes sense that when our daily habits are prevented, we hold on even tighter to the rituals that define us.”

Deeper meaning is a matter of perspective. Pet food brands transform when they understand they are not in the pet food making business. Instead they are selling an instrument of love for furry family members and a perception of elevated health, wellness and longevity. Bina quotes noted neurologist Donald Calne: “The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions.”

What are the emotional catalysts in your business that will cause people to pause, feel emotionally involved and act?

  1. Authenticity

People yearn for the real and more authentic brand voices that are less formulaic and more credible – in part because the brand communication is human and conversational. People want to believe. To do so, though, they need to trust first and it’s harder for people to trust companies over the experiences and opinions of other consumers.

This may be the most important endorsement there is for social community building. It is when the voices of outside, third parties are enlisted that the requirement for authenticity is really served.

Authenticity and trust are siblings. Authentic means real, true and is less about false prophets, theater, artifice and magic. If the consumer were with us when we build stories they would say, “just talk to me like a person and remember it’s about me, my life and search for meaning and purpose, and not about you and your secret sauce and technical prowess.”

The obvious question then is how the brand comes to play. Messaging must be framed around consideration of the brand’s values, positioning and purpose. Which begs the question, what is the brand’s deeper meaning and higher purpose? Once that is correctly defined, the right messaging flows because it’s embedded with authentic, trustworthy, human characteristics.

So, my friend…examine your brand messaging strategy.  Is your brand supportive and telling – or self-involved and yelling?  Which friend would you rather have?

When this process is dialed in correctly, the outcomes can be transformational for engagement levels that lead to sustainable business growth.

Emergent stands ready to help you create powerful, meaningful and relevant brand stories. Use this link to let us know if you would like to discuss further.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to the Emerging Trends Report.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, The Healthy Living Agency. Traditional brand marketing often sidesteps more human qualities that can help consumers form an emotional bond. Yet brands yearn for authentic engagement, trust and a lasting relationship with their customers. Emergent helps brands erase ineffective self-promotion and replace it with clarity, honesty and deeper meaning in their customer relationships and communication. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

Social Channels Deliver a Rapt Audience

May 11th, 2020 Posted by Agency Services, brand messaging, branded content, Consumer insight, Content Marketing, Digital marketing, Higher Purpose, Social community, Social media, social media marketing, storytelling 0 comments on “Social Channels Deliver a Rapt Audience”

A remarkable pandemic-authored condition

Don’t miss this chance to truly connect with your users.

The stay-at-home orders continue to shake-up every aspect of life including behaviors around social channel screen time. Your brand users and shoppers no longer go on-line. Instead they now live on-line. Kitchens, for their part, have become erstwhile home offices and educational centers to accommodate work and digitally-enabled classrooms for the kids.

  • How are you responding to this development?
  • How does his impact your social strategy?
  • What moves are you making to fill the need and address the opportunity for engagement?

We will answer these questions shortly, but first a little texture on what’s happening.

The blurring between work, education and leisure has spawned a behavior shift – social channels have moved from an occasional choice to a routine necessity as people seek  information – and guidance – and community – and social contact – and entertainment.

Has there ever been a time when your brand was presented with a near captive audience looking for useful content? The answer is unique to the pandemic, a historic first that is transforming life, health, commerce, time, attention and all the behaviors associated with it. This is precedent setting and now offers an unusual opportunity for brands and businesses to be of greater service and value, knowing that consumption of content is likely to be much higher and therefore more valuable than ever before.

  • A recent survey from Tin Man showed social channel use had risen 50% by the close of April 2020. Sixty percent of the population is on Facebook at least once (or more) a day and 27% are in Instagram. Daily screen time averages are up 50 to 75%.

Frequency and media choice = positive outcome

According to a social media report from Co-Schedule, brands that publish 16 or more social posts a month got almost 3.5 times more traffic and 4.5 times more leads than businesses that publish less often. Further, we observe video takes on added importance as a business generating medium with 64% of viewers more likely to buy a product online after viewing.

Your optimal social strategy

First and foremost, this is not the time to withdraw, go silent, retreat or otherwise disappear from the social-verse. Yes, messaging strategy has changed but the fundamental desire of people to connect and a need for interaction has never been greater.

The litmus test of sound strategy in social media revolves around this axiom: the brand should live in service of improving the health, wellbeing and happiness of its users. Social channels are not just transactional environments – and especially at this time, shouldn’t be managed as such.

This isn’t the time and place for a consumer hard-sell and we’ve now entered an era where overt brand self-promotion doesn’t produce results anyway. Consumers hold all the engagement cards and have shown themselves quick to tune out when the narrative isn’t relevant to them and their lifestyle aspirations.

We are now doing business in The Relationship Economy, founded on reciprocity and usefulness.

In the same Co-Schedule report, 21 ‘best in class’ examples of great content were profiled revealing one common element that shown brightly through all of them. In every case, the best content provided valuable information, guidance, utility and direction to the readers.

The examples noted were devoid of a strict self-serving narrative, nor grounded in product feature/benefit selling. To ensure the brand stays on the right social content path, follow this guardrail to keep the messaging on course: recognize that the consumer and their needs are always the hero of your storytelling and the role of the brand is to serve as expert guide and coach. Context is everything!

Yes, it is ok to talk about the product or deliver information about a retail promotion, but this should be no more than 30% of your content calendar. Know that the best material you will create is going to be a reflection of the lifestyle needs and aspirations of the people who comprise your fan base.

  • Glossier, a beauty product business built entirely on social channel engagement, is deservedly famous for creating content about their customers’ interests and needs first. They have become wildly successful as a result.

Social proof and community

Social channels are not one-way conversations. The most powerful asset you have is social proof – content created by your community that serves to verify and validate what you want people to believe about product benefits, shopping experiences or the lifestyle you advocate.

Testimonials are like gold. People will believe other people before they will ascribe credibility and truth to statements made by brands and businesses. It is important to encourage conversation, interaction, feedback and discourse from social community participants. You can do this by inviting it and asking questions.

  • An example: people adore their pets and will jump at opportunities to talk about their personal and anecdotal stories around lifestyle experiences, recovery from illnesses, behavior training tips and ideas, and opportunities to share photos and videos of their four-legged family members.

Pandemic specific social content guidance

Consumer culture has changed as a result of this unprecedented event. It has altered preferences and mindset. Here are some points to consider in social content creation.

  1. An empathetic and more human voice is essential in the content you publish.
  2. As a general subject platform, health and wellness is the top concern for people now and thus relevant to the material you develop.
  3. People feel out of control of the world around them. Provide guidance and ideas that help them regain a sense of control. Taking charge of personal health and wellness is how to do it.
  4. Loss of confidence is a thing. Anything you can do to reassure people about the future and give them confidence about improvements in the road ahead will be welcomed.
  5. Your brand should be guided by a higher purpose (a mission that transcends commerce and selling things), deeper meaning and shared values with your consumer. Know this matters and they are paying closer attention to your words and actions.

It’s extraordinary that an event like this could alternatively create an environment where people spend so much extra time online and in social communities. People yearn for contact and guidance, information that provides hope and helps them navigate the incredible changes they have experienced. You are no longer just selling products and stocking merchandise, instead you are in the deeper meaning business and have a much more important role to play in your customers’ lives.

It’s an important calling and comes with responsibilities. That said, it brings forward a unique opportunity to form relationships with your fans and followers that will last well beyond the current crisis. Now is the time to upgrade, enhance and invest in social channel outreach.

Use this link to let us know if you need help building the right social channel strategy, and content that will inform and endear your users.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to the Emerging Trends Report.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, The Healthy Living Agency. Traditional brand marketing often sidesteps more human qualities that can help consumers form an emotional bond. Yet brands yearn for authentic engagement, trust and a lasting relationship with their customers. Emergent helps brands erase ineffective self-promotion and replace it with clarity, honesty and deeper meaning in their customer relationships and communication. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

Emergent’s Pandemic Brand Marketing Checklist

May 4th, 2020 Posted by brand marketing, brand messaging, brand strategy, branded content, change, Content Marketing, Digital marketing, Higher Purpose, Human behavior, Insight, Marketing Strategy, Navigation 0 comments on “Emergent’s Pandemic Brand Marketing Checklist”

World has changed, now what?

Marketing and communication will not be the same as lock down conditions begin to abate.  Consumer confidence is in need of triage and should be foremost on your radar as you make plans to re-energize the business.

  • Confidence in their own safety.
  • Confidence in your businesses’ on-premise and product safety protocols.
  • Confidence in how and where they shop for food, whether that be from grocery or restaurant delivery.
  • Confidence your brand has their best interests and welfare at heart.

This checklist is intended to help inform your thinking and strategy in light of the transformational lifestyle shift consumers have experienced.

You might agree that any marketing plan must be founded on respect for the consumer’s mindset and behaviors. Families have endured one of the most harrowing, precedent-setting and impactful changes in their world, ever.

What we know about the COVID-19 impact:

  • Health and safety are the top priority for people.
  • At home is safe, out of home is not safe.
  • Invisible threats exist that can impact your health or take your life.
  • These events have disrupted every aspect of living and society.
  • People cannot control these conditions and are forced to adapt based on self-diagnosis of their own needs and preferences.
  • What consumers value changes when life is literally upside-down.

The key changes:

  • At home: time and space have become more fluid, less regimented.
  • Blurring of home and work separation.
  • Desire for guidance on home-focused activities from exercise, to gardening to cleaning/decluttering to baking/culinary.
  • Digital experience now a necessity for art, music and escape.
  • Content consumption is nearly 24/7 as average weekly screen times skyrocket.

Top priority for people:

  • Physical, mental and emotional health.
  • Staying well.
  • Boredom, anxiety and uncertainty meet desire to be distracted/inspired/entertained, productive and composed.

What we know about people:

  • Human beings are feeling creatures who think – not thinking creatures who feel. Emotion governs behaviors, decisions and actions.
  • How brand relationships are cultivated and built must adjust to be respectful of where people find themselves, emotionally, now.

Marketing and communication priorities

Insight:

Every brand is unique; what do your core users care about, need, want, desire?

Diagnostic:

Is the brand correctly positioned for shifting lifestyle relevance and empathy?

Strategy:

Holistic solutions that answer, tangibly, how you can help improve your core users’ lives.

Media:

Digital first and emotionally relevant content is king.

Social:             

Now more than ever social community building is embedded in the desire for conversation and interaction. Witness Zoom is a verb and people long for regular contact and interaction. Social channels have acquired an entirely new and uplifted value proposition.

Tactics:

  • Overwhelming importance of shared purpose, meaning and values in messaging.
  • Emotional communication vital to engagement.
  • People believe other people before they believe companies – who is speaking?
  • Health is the new wealth – your brand is the guide, expert and coach.
  • Storytelling vs. story-yelling – days of shameless brand self-promotion are over.
  • Consumers feel out of control, how can you give it back to them?
  • Trust creation as core brand platform – earn belief through higher purpose.
  • Be careful, data can be a false god – algorithms don’t dream.

Secret sauce to success:

Put your consumer at the center of planning, decide relevance matters most and work backwards from there.

To help you navigate these unprecedented changes and chart a course to sustainable growth Emergent can provide deep CPG and retail marketing experience, insight to consumer behavior, health and wellness lifestyle expertise and transformational ideas. Use this link to let us know if you’re ready to explore new solutions.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to the Emerging Trends Report.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, The Healthy Living Agency. Traditional brand marketing often sidesteps more human qualities that can help consumers form an emotional bond. Yet brands yearn for authentic engagement, trust and a lasting relationship with their customers. Emergent helps brands erase ineffective self-promotion and replace it with clarity, honesty and deeper meaning in their customer relationships and communication. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

Mining Emotion Fuels Business Results

April 29th, 2020 Posted by brand marketing, brand messaging, brand strategy, CMO, consumer behavior, Consumer insight, Emotional relevance, Growth, Higher Purpose, Insight, Marketing Strategy, Social media 0 comments on “Mining Emotion Fuels Business Results”

Emotional connections can drive consistent growth

Your consumer is not an analytical, fact-based decision-making machine. Ironically, however, most brand marketing and communication automatically presumes people lean into logic to rationally assess the prevailing evidence of superiority or product benefits companies provide.

The Pandemic has added an exclamation point to this intel as consumers increasingly want brands to be authentically rooted in shared values, beliefs and a higher purpose. Understanding how the DNA of successful brand/consumer relationships has changed is vital to gaining business traction. As you’ll see in the Harvard Business Review case study we review later,  evidence is piling up that mining emotional connectivity is simply a far better business-building decision leading to increased sales and market share over time.

We now have data that confirms brand relationships tethered to emotion are far more effective in delivering the engagement and business results you seek. Here’s the headline: all people are emotionally-driven creatures whose decisions are governed by how they feel about your brand.

Like a lightbulb to a lamp, brand growth is powered by its relevance with consumers who show the highest propensity to engage. Emotion and engagement are uniquely bonded in a vital marriage that will stand the test of time, weathering adversity and continuing to grow deeper, richer like fine wine in the cellar.

How important is this discovery about emotion-led marketing to your business?

Motista conducted a study of 100,000 consumers across 100 different brands and learned that emotionally-connected consumers are more valuable to the balance sheet than the ‘highly-satisfied’ customers you may covet. The former spends, on average, two-times more with retailers they prefer and have a 306% greater lifetime value to the business. Emotionally-invested consumers even recommend favored brands at a much higher rate than those who claim to be super satisfied – 30.2% vs. 7.6%.

Motista concluded emotional connectivity is the most valuable, predictable and enduring strategy you can deploy to build a business that routinely surpasses category growth rates.

Insight Informs Your Strategic Platform

  1. Emotional connectivity happens when your brand reflects back to the consumer values, desires and aspirations consistent with their own. If you want a deeper relationship with your users, then imbue your brand with deeper meaning.

 

  1. Knowing your customer on an intimate level is necessary to provide the understanding and ability to secure three important qualities of like, know and trust. This will require an ongoing investment in consumer insight research designed to unearth details of what they care about and who they are.

 

  1. All purchases today are largely symbolic gestures designed to flag to the rest of the world around us what people value and who they are. It isn’t possible to achieve this kind of relevance without knowing what your best users desire.

 

  1. Which leads to this key question: is the relevant lifestyle symbolism people look for embedded everywhere your customer is likely to encounter the brand online and off? Said more succinctly, is the entire customer journey infused with the insights that feed emotional communication?

Harvard Business Review case study offers proof

HBR published an intriguing report to fully test the hypothesis that emotional connectivity leads to out-sized financial results. You can read the report here. Their conclusion, when brands are able to successfully build emotional connections, the payoff is significant.

The journey begins with correctly assessing emotional motivators that are relevant to your brand. An example: “I am inspired by a desire to…”

  • Enjoy a sense of well-being.
  • Have confidence in the future.
  • Become the person I aspire to be.
  • Experience fulfillment and purpose.
  • Feel secure in the midst of uncertainty.
  • Experience a sense of freedom.

HBR reported on a fashion retailer who participated in the project. Appropriately, the company identified a “propensity to engage” segment they characterized as Fashion Flourishers. The segment represented 22% of the customer base but accounted for 37% of sales. This enthusiast customer group spent $468 a year on average vs. $235 for traditional shoppers, and 46% visited the stores at least once a month over 21% for everyone else.

Initial analysis showed this cohort was less price-sensitive and remained a loyal customer over a longer period of time. The goal was to initiate direct investments in forming emotional connections with this group.

To start, the company conducted discovery research around emotional motivators for the segment and found three distinct attributes:

  • Makes me feel more creative.
  • Makes me feel a sense of belonging.
  • Makes me feel a sense of freedom.

Marketing programs were created around the insight. For example, to leverage the sense of belonging motivator, the retailer invited customers to submit selfies wearing their favorite outfits which were then posted as slide shows on video walls inside the stores.

Further the company weighed into emotionally-relevant media and experiences such as social channels and enhanced store design to marry the shopping experience to the emotional traits. Similarly, an email campaign was created around messaging that nurtured the ‘makes me feel creative’ attribute.

Outcomes confirmed the hypothesis

As a result of investing in emotional connections, stores optimized to reflect the emotional interests of Fashion Flourishers averaged 3.5% annual sales growth vs 1.0 percent for other stores in the chain. Inventory turns improved by 25% and customer advocacy scores grew by 20% year over year.

Key to success

Emotional motivators will vary across brands and audience segments, which underscores why the insight research component is so important to achieving results.

Bottomline, brand communications focused on building emotional connection is the secret sauce to consistently strong business results. Emotional connectivity works because it is respectful of what we now know about how people operate and how they make decisions (not analytically).

Thus, it is important to marry the emotional-driven strategy to every touch point and contact opportunity consumers may have with the brand. COVID-19 and the cultural disruption it is creating will change the face of marketing. The emotional-led strategy is aligned with these shifts and can help improve the future business results for brands that are wise enough to pursue it.

We can help you develop the strategic plan and execute the appropriate research for building emotional connections with your consumers, as well as bringing it to life with creative communications tools. Let us know if you would like to discuss informally.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to the Emerging Trends Report.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, The Healthy Living Agency. Traditional brand marketing often sidesteps more human qualities that can help consumers form an emotional bond. Yet brands yearn for authentic engagement, trust and a lasting relationship with their customers. Emergent helps brands erase ineffective self-promotion and replace it with clarity, honesty and deeper meaning in their customer relationships and communication. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

How to Create Growth When the Future is Uncertain

April 21st, 2020 Posted by brand marketing, brand messaging, brand strategy, CMO, Content Marketing, Growth, Insight, Marketing Strategy, storytelling 1 comment on “How to Create Growth When the Future is Uncertain”

Keys to address now – preventing paralysis while accelerating engagement

Businesses and brands don’t like uncertainty. The pandemic has delivered a heaping pile of vagueness on what the future looks like. However, a modest number of companies will avoid the creeping advance of paralysis and will position themselves for industry-leading growth when the pandemic begins to subside. Here’s how to recognize the presence of business-defeating thinking and strategies, while making the right investments that will turn the current batch of potential business lemons into lemonade.

“Fear is like a mall cop who thinks he’s a Navy SEAL” – Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic.

This is a challenging time for nearly every business in food, beverage and lifestyle categories. Competing theories exist on where business will go in the next six months, compounded by conflicting forecasts of what business results will look like and what the future holds generally.

In the face of uncertainty many organizations are sorely tempted to retreat, to pause, to pursue a defensive rather than offensive style strategy. The theory at work is to wait out the storm before attempting to map a more progressive future. That said, some studies suggest the defensive approach can infect the business in the wrong way, and inadvertently set a course for handing over leadership to other brands that determined they would not succumb to a holding pattern during these uncertain times.

What’s really happening here anyway?

Fear begins to replace optimism and some businesses subsequently stop working to create a better reality. Elizabeth Gilbert in her book Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear, poignantly describes the condition: uncertainty breeds fear. “Fear is programmed by evolution to be hyper-vigilant and insanely over-protective,” she reports. Fear believes that any uncertain outcome is already foretold to end in failure and disappointment. Fear’s job is to induce in varying degrees, a form of panic whenever an organization is about to embark on a path that is less than certain.

Historical evidence points to the right path

Harvard Business Review (HBR) in 2010 published a comprehensive report following the Great Recession of 2008/09, to help diagnose what conditions contribute to growth and what strategies set an organization up for unsatisfactory outcomes. The study looked backward at previous recessions and found common ground on approaches that either contributed to losing momentum or acquiring it.

Some organizations look at uncertainty and focus on what could be described as a ‘loss minimizing’ or siege mentality that can put the business into survival mode. Prevention strategies are founded mostly on cost cutting. However, the data shows firms that cut costs faster and deeper than rivals don’t necessarily flourish.

In fact, the HBR report revealed those engaged in loss minimizing have the ‘lowest probability’ of pulling ahead of the competition as economic conditions turn around. The prevention mindset is founded primarily on safety, security, avoiding losses and minimizing risks. This defensive approach also tends to trigger a form of pessimism internally that spreads like wildfire as strict controls and rumors of impending cuts put people in the organization into survival-style behaviors.

  • HBR’s study of 4,700 companies found that 56% of prevention-oriented businesses cut their head count, while only 23% of progressive companies laid off staff and in far fewer numbers. This begs the question, what is a progressive company?

A progressive approach is essentially a balanced strategy that focuses cost controls primarily on identifying operational efficiencies (rather than head count), combined with continued investments in marketing and innovation. The report found that 37% of organizations taking this more aggressive approach were more likely to emerge as leaders later.

For executives working to build the optimal plan it’s important to recognize the barriers to progressive thinking. This can include a mélange of challenges if failure isn’t respected in the organization as the ultimate teaching and learning moment. Additionally, when personal self-worth can’t abide any form of failure, the uncertain conditions often leads to retreat.

Why is marketing investment so important?

Gordon Leavitt, the former Dean of Marketing at Harvard Business School wrote a book called The Marketing Imagination, a profound and enlightened view of marketing’s role in how an organization wins in the marketplace. In it he states, “the purpose of business is to get and keep a customer, therefore every department, every executive, every decision is in fact tied to marketing.” Leavitt believed that everyone is involved in marketing whether their job description says so or not. For the very reason that marketing is not a department, it is the organization’s collective behavior to get and keep the customer.

Granted much has changed since he wrote the book and “purpose” is now a much deeper construct than just commerce. However, his point remains essential in looking at why investments here matter even in the presence of uncertainty. Customer-focused thinking and behaviors prove over and over as a viable path to growth in the midst of adversity.

Ideas and inspiration are required to navigate uncertainty

Ultimately it is ideas that will power growth, especially in the face of doubt. What can get in the way of inspiration that informs great ideas? Most often it is drama, anxiety, distractions, insecurities and fear that can draw the horns inward. These characteristics, corporate or individual, are not receptive to inspiration.

In fact, ideas can be banished with a single word: NO.  In some instances, businesses are culturally organized to say no, no, no and no.

Instead businesses should focus on the essential principles that support creativity including:

Courage

Enchantment

Permission

Persistence

Trust

What are the characteristics needed to promote an atmosphere that invites inspiration, creativity and ideas? Executive leadership that is diligently focused on the customer and their journey, and is driven by attitudes founded on faith, belief, courage and devotion to respecting and caring for the health, wellbeing and welfare of the brand’s users.

It is the ultimate expression of putting their needs at the top of the priority ladder and working backwards from there to identify ways to bring that commitment to life. It is a form of fearlessness that manifests in rallying the organization’s focus to the customer rather than myopic devotion to self-preservation.

When fear is eliminated there is an opportunity to cooperate fully, joyfully and humbly with inspiration, entering into a contract of sorts with it that “we are required to fulfill,” says Gilbert.

Purposeful marketing

Translation of ideas and inspiration into world-class marketing solutions is best seen in the creation of deeper meaning and higher purpose in the brand voice.

According to Kantar Research, successful brand marketing focused on building higher purpose for the business, exhibits three principles:

  1. The organization has an established history supporting a purposeful positioning.
  2. The brand partners with credible third parties who are also passionate about that positioning.
  3. The company is committed to providing tangible solutions that help reassure and guide consumers to a better future.

It should be noted here that the ultimate expression of higher purpose is in the storytelling conducted by brands, their customers and stakeholders. Our brains rely on stories to make sense of the world around us. Yet storytelling has been largely missing from marketing for the last 30 years, as businesses have focused primarily on conveying product features and benefits.

A bright future ahead

Now is the time for an improved story based on a higher purpose delivered fearlessly, creatively by a brand devoted entirely to its customers’ welfare. Erasing self-doubt and self-protection behaviors, the brand can get on the path to future leadership, while successfully navigating the challenge of today’s uncertainty.

Brands that invest now will reap the benefits later in improved strength and growth in their respective categories.

Let us know your questions and challenges, we’re happy to help build your strategic plan, create messaging and content to tell your story.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to the Emerging Trends Report.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, The Healthy Living Agency. Traditional brand marketing often sidesteps more human qualities that can help consumers form an emotional bond. Yet brands yearn for authentic engagement, trust and a lasting relationship with their customers. Emergent helps brands erase ineffective self-promotion and replace it with clarity, honesty and deeper meaning in their customer relationships and communication. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

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