The One Competitor Marketers Underestimated

The One Competitor Marketers Underestimated

Looking back at 2018, there’s one competitor we underestimated
this year.

It’s slowly draining the attention of every human on the
planet.

It plays into almost all human needs —
as they are defined by the Maslow Hierarchy
.

It’s the rectangular status-seeking device in your hands.
That’s right. It’s your smartphone.

Maslow’s needs start with the basics. Starting at the bottom
of the pyramid, we all need food and water. Then safety. Next up is
belonging, then esteem, then self-actualization.

The hierarchy was first introduced in a research paper by the
psychologist Abraham Maslow in 1943. He had no idea that 64 years
later, the invention of the smartphone would supercharge the famous
pyramid.

Here’s why: We now check our phones
the equivalent of one day a week
, and 20 percent of adults
spend 40 hours a week on it. The stats suggest we check our phones
80 to 150 times per day, on average.

That’s not new news after a decade of the smartphone’s
existence, but one of today’s biggest marketing mistakes is
underestimating what people are doing with those phone checks.

With Maslow’s guidance, it’s clear we are reinforcing our
need to belong, checking our status, and ultimately building our
esteem toward self-actualization.

So, what can brand marketers do about it?

Marketers Marketing To Marketers

This amplified need to belong and check status has turned into
hundreds of millions of personal advertising campaigns,
all competing against brands for attention
.

It is much more likely for people to adopt a brand based on
friends and family sharing content than TV, Facebook and YouTube
advertising combined.

They’re not just looking at friends and family content all
day. They’re making it. Millennials might spend two hours a day
creating and posting. Plus, there’s important time spent checking
the metrics and seeing who liked their posts.

The sheer weight of personal messages from friends and family
minimizes the “cut through” ability of advertiser-paid
messaging. Literally, everyone is building status in real time,
24/7, with instant gratification of shared photos and videos
traveling at lightning-fast smartphone processing speed.

If you multiply personal posts by the total number of friends on
everyone’s contact list, you have a lot of ground to cover to
join the conversation. The world of organic reach is a nonfactor
for brands, leaving engagement as the affordable metric of
choice.

Going forward, your job as a marketer is not just to engage one
audience group. You also need to engage friends of friends.

That means, stop focusing on just your target market. It’s
your target’s target you need to reach.

So, what to do differently in 2019?

Create A Brand Community

Fans sometimes love the identity of a brand so much, they brand
themselves with it. Why is this important? Because whatever
they’re doing ultimately will be the formula for building organic
participation. When there’s enough participation, a
community forms around the brand
. Once that happens, creating
friends of friends is no longer insurmountable.

Logically, if people are talking positively about your brand to
reinforce their status, the marketer-to-buyer barrier is broken.
You are one of them. In the friend set.

“Superfans” are those who feel a true sense of identity in
their chosen brand relationships and are able to say that their
friends would agree. Superfans are more likely to share content and
brand themselves with the identity of their favorite brands than
other fans. They “mentally smile” when they see others using
their preferred brands.

Brands have achieved success in cultivating this type of
following by following a formula:

1. Ignite the Fire
2. Fuel the Flame
3. Pass the Torch

This is the path for competitive brands going forward. The cost
of finding that moment in the world of “friend posts and
shares” as an outsider is a price tag that few can afford.

Ignite The Fire

Brands that
have a unique story
easily can get past “advertiser” and
move to “friend” status.
What’s true about your story?
What’s likeable about it? Can
you tell it in an inviting way?

Fat Face is a European clothing chain that got its name when its
founders didn’t want to get off the French mountain they were
skiing on. They were from the UK, and the name of their favorite
slope translated to “Fat Face” in English. They started selling
“Fat Face” t-shirts out of their VW van. Those original
t-shirts amplified into a line of clothing and stores, and a style
all their own. It’s a real story. And people want to brand
themselves with it.

Organic Valley calls itself the “un-corporation.” It started
as a group of independent farmers — and though the farmers
themselves haven’t changed, they now they bring more than US$1
billion worth of dairy goods to stores throughout the U.S. They
have videos with their CEO barefoot, and they show an organization
chart with him at the bottom. Packages with cows kissing farmers
just makes it a great brand and a believable story.

Fuel The Flame

Driving involvement in your brand can take many forms — from
unique lingo and secret menus to co-creation concepts and gaming.
The point is to give the consumer a connection point. Xbox allows
users to custom design its own game controllers. It’s personal.
It’s virtual. And it’s tactile. All in one idea.

Starbucks has a simple form on its website entitled “My
Starbucks Idea.” This began in 2013 — and the company has
created 277 products from more than 150,000 suggestions, including
free WiFi, splash sticks, cake pops and pumpkin spiced lattes.

Designing shoes, playing games and interacting all lead to real
conversations and entertainment, and allow brands to meet consumers
where they already live and play. Joining them before they join you
is the groundwork that all marketers need to do.

Pass The Torch

Appointing loyalists to tell your story builds reputations
organically, as long as the tone is sincere and the rewards are
fulfilling.

Southern Tide is a clothing line that targets a college market.
It does so by recruiting college reps and benchmarking their status
with trendsetters who are selling their credibility every day. For
some, getting chosen to rep the brand has as much status as getting
into the school of choice.

TheSkimm is a daily newsletter targeting a female audience.
Advertisers can participate — not by submitting ads, but by
providing rewards for Skimmbassadors. How to become one? Get 10 of
your friends to sign up for the service. There are now 12,000 of
them and more than 5 million readers.

Taco Bell created a wedding chapel in Las Vegas. The package
includes memorable (and shareable) moments and a taco 12-pack for
guests. It’s joining people where they are and having fun with
them. By the way, there’s a four-hour notice required in case you
get the marriage fever.

Consider the economics of owning versus renting. Much like any
other equity, it’s better to own. Own your data. Own your
audience. Don’t be beholden to social networks. Email and
e-commerce are far more affordable than paying for reach.

So, the lesson for 2019, is to move past just asking consumers
to buy the brand. Instead, ask them to join the brand.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Norty Cohen, CEO
and Founder of Moosylvania and author of Join the Brand, 2018, and The Participation Game, published in
2017.

The Blake Project Can Help:
The Strategic Brand Storytelling Workshop

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic
brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy,
Brand Growth and Brand Education


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The One Competitor Marketers Underestimated