Establishing Credibility to Earn Leadership

“A loyal constituency is won when the people, consciously or unconsciously, judge the leader to be capable of solving their problems and meeting their needs, when the leader is seen as symbolizing their norms, and when their image of the leader (whether or not it corresponds to reality) is congruent with their inner environment of myth and legend.” (Kouzes, Posner, pg. 3, 2011)

In a time when Social Media 2.0 is growing and the need for brand advocates is becoming more of a necessity in order to achieve “brand success,” it should be understood that being a leader in your field is not a right, but an earned privilege.

These days, consumers and potential clients are not limiting themselves to a company that can offer them products or services. Rather, they are looking to deal with businesses that come across as genuine and relatable.  In Credibility: How Leaders Gain it and Lose it, Why People Demand It, authors James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner note that  people are energized by values and visions that give their lives meaning and purpose.  These can be experienced in a single contact or conversation. 

I think of my grandmother, Mable Landis, and her loyalty to Sears, which dates back some 30 years now.  She always relates it to the fact that they show they care because “they always have the best sales going on and their employees are always so friendly no matter how you act towards them!”  She spreads the word as if it is the gospel because she lives by one simple rule: “Be nice no matter what and God will handle the rest.”

This is an example of a brand advocate.  She shops at Sears before looking anywhere else. She has no bad words to say about the company, and will defend the brand as if it were part of her bloodline.  It is this kind of earned credibility that drives one of the most powerful forms of marketing there is: word of mouth.

There are three qualities Kouzes and Posner say that you can find in every leader: Integrity, Competence and Leadership. 

For a brand leader, integrity does not stop at just being trustworthy; you must also display strength of character and conviction.  This may mean owning mistakes made due to a fault in your system during the return process and fixing them, or acknowledging that you did not offer the best products or services to a disgruntled customer and offering solutions to make it right. 

Those brand leaders that have been labeled “wise” – like Apple, for example - not only know themselves but have great competence in understanding their competition and surrounding environment. Typically, these “wise” companies are well aligned – both internally and externally. The employees know the company well, trust its decision-making and direction, and, therefore, have the credibility of believing what they say when speaking about the company’s product or services to others.  Brand leaders tend to inspire their followers, promote action, develop advocates, and provide direction to an improved lifestyle.

Achieving this status is simple.


Be consistent in all you do, believe in what you say, and know what you are saying is right for the one listening.  Get people to believe in you, and watch how effortlessly they will work with you to help grow your brand. 


Wishing You the Most Meaningful Myths 

We deal in storytelling and meaning every day here at Mythology. We have a deep belief that what we do each day should have significance beyond ourselves and add value to our shared experience in this crazy, mixed up world. 

That's why this time of year is so special. Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or all three, it's a time to reflect on meaning and faith. Our team at Mythology, like the rest of our society, shares many common beliefs, and diverge on a few others. But we focus on the unifying beliefs of our team and our world so that we can make a difference. 

C.S. Lewis talks of "myth become fact." The stories we share, the stories we believe, lead to the good that changes our world. Myth becomes fact every day, if we let it. Beliefs matter. 

And since businesses and "work" are where we invest the majority of our days, shouldn't we make the most meaning there? 

We wish you the most amazing holiday season ever. And we look forward to working with you to build belief in all those things that matter. 

Have a belief-building holiday season and a truly mythical 2012! 



Multiplying Your Brand Impact with Internal Alignment

Internal alignment enables your organization to consistently live up to the promises you make to customers, and better yet, to deliver those “surprises” that turn customers into fans who share positive word-of-mouth with their peers. It’s a core pillar in our Ten Pillars of Meaningful Marketing.

As a marketing management consulting firm, we believe that for your company to flourish there must be proper internal alignment. Many companies tank when they reach a point where alignment is lost. This often happens when a company or division grows faster than its capacity to build internal processes or infrastructure to keep up.

James L. Garlow’s book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership - Tested by Time, puts businesses in two simple categories: “There were those who followed…and those who didn’t.”  While most entrepreneurs know their purpose and plan for their company, they do not know how to keep it consistently communicated among their employees at every level. 

First, it starts with selection: you need people who are bought into your brand values and company purpose and who are ready to work towards those goals.

Secondly, consecration (the “the solemn dedication to a special purpose or service “) is a necessity:  clearly state your expectations and stick to them. A good on-boarding process in partnership with HR can go a long way towards building this commitment from the beginning.

The next step is impartation and demonstration: it is critical to lead by example. Show your employees your successful habits so that they are “fully charged” and ready to do what is appointed to them.  This is also where the leader shows by “doing” or on-the-job training. A well-defined internal mentorship program can do wonders in this area.

Finally, delegation and supervision.  This is the time to trust your staff and empower them to work on their own.  While everything will not be perfect, this is where your staff will mature and grow the most.  Once your employees have finished their allotted tasks the manager will step in and “clean-up” or approve the work in ways to keep it aligned with your company’s mission and brand values.

In a business environment where employees are not allowed the opportunity to grow or contribute, the company itself suffers and cannot grow.  But when a company aligns its people with its goals, the business maximizes its opportunity to flourish.  The main principle of leadership, according to James L. Garlow, is “being able to multiply yourself.” 


Who’s Your Bestie? Customer Segmentation in a Non-Linear Social World 

The Bravo Network identifies their besties as Metro Competitors, Newborn Grown-Ups, Will and Graces, PTA Trendsetters and Better Me’s.

Do you know who your best friends are (from a business perspective)? Who are the pockets of customers who are most influential and valuable to you, and how should you engage them?

Bain & Co. defines customer segmentation as “the subdivision of a market into discrete customer groups that share similar characteristics.” Pretty straightforward, right?

Segmenting your customer and prospect base by logical, actionable criteria can turn marketing mayhem into a meaningful marketing. Rather than diluting yourself with a generic message and engagement approach, you can focus and magnify your impact.

This year was a big year for customer segmentation projects here at Mythology. We helped non-profits such as the National Boy Scouts of America identify priority segments for launching the Summit Bechtel Reserve and International Justice Mission prioritize key pockets of avid advocates to grow in their fight against human trafficking.

Corporations weren’t far behind. A major insurance firm needed to improve their emotional connection with their customers, so we helped map the right audience triggers. A gaming company needed to transition from good old coin-operated bar games to the fast-growing iPad consumer market, so we helped develop influencer audiences to target.

Unfortunately, there are many ways to segment and it can get pretty confusing. You could potentially target a group of similar customers by any number of criteria:

  • Demographic – Stuff you can easily find out about people such as age or income.
  • Geographic – It’s pretty easy to figure out who’s in your market region, if you’re limited to that.
  • Psychographic – Lifestyle preferences and core beliefs can be reliable predictors of response.
  • Behavioral – Identifying who and when the best targets are open to your value proposition based on recent or consistent things they do, such as visiting a web site or moving from one community to another.

So which do you pick, or which combinations do you concoct? The simplistic but true answer is, whichever helps you engage most effectively and generate the most return on investment (ROI).

In a world where people can gather around random topics instantly via social media, this can require some trial and error. But often you can eliminate more of the error by utilizing test campaigns, simple surveys or social media interaction to capture a relatively good idea of what will generate response and conversion.

We like to look at targeting in terms of emotional archetypes. What role do you play in filling an emotional need for your customers? The answer to that can go a long way in helping you target more people with that need.

At Mythology, we discovered that our best segmentation wasn’t necessarily by industry, or region, or even size of company. We found that the best predictor of whether a client was a “fit” or not was how ambitious they were and how much they recognized building an effective marketing system was key to their growth. Those types of clients value what Mythology brings to the table with our comprehensive approach to growing marketing ROI.

Everyone can’t be your best friend. But those special friendship connections can often last a lifetime.  


How Scary is Pepsico-Frito Lay's Marketing?

Boo! Big brands are out to scare you into buying their products! 

So say some bloggers regarding Frito Lay's content-driven Asylum 626 and Hotel 626 campaigns targeting teens. (NOTE: The sites are only "open" from 6pm to 6am, because, says the agency behind the campaign, "We wanted people to visit the site at night, after hours, when guards are down and they are the most immersed in what could happen.")

Here's a snippet of what Frito Lay has produced: 


This is another great example of how brands, in order to customize and control the context in which they sell their products, have begun to create their own content and gaming experiences. It is a tricky thing to pull off, especially for the teen audience Frito Lay is shooting for, because brand-produced content has an automatic barrier of lack of authenticity. Kids are smart. They know when you're trying to push your products. 

However, some brands are pulling it off by letting the content speak for itself vs. becoming a direct shill for the product. Frito Lay has done a good job of that here. 

The digital age is creating many situations where the lines of content vs. sponsorship advertising are blurred. The traditional :30 or :60 spot continues to struggle to break through, especially for younger audiences, so more and more companies are looking to produce their own content where brand themes are woven into the storyline. 

A valid question to ask is, does scaring teenagers help sell Doritos? Like any marketing investment, the proof will be in the measurement. But for a low-consideration consumer goods purchase scenario that relies on brand awareness, affinity and (to a certain extent) emotional loyalty to drive sales, the answer is "probably." 

What content makes sense for your company to produce? Entertainment, educational or both? Mythology has some strategy workshops available to help you find out the answer to that and other key questions. 

Perhaps we can make your marketing ROI a little less scary in 2012. 





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