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Saturday
Mar232013

Marketing Perils and Pillars: #5 Mythology

Got any good stories to tell?

Humans are wired for stories. Until very recently, humankind passed down its history and wisdom to each other through stories. People from ancient cultures could recite long, detailed recitations that reminded them of their values and heroes of old.

Modern tools such as the printing press and, well, Google, have weakened our mind’s ability to regal each other with compelling stories. However, deep down, our brains light up with a good story.

Facts and figures represent Marketing Peril #5. Marketers, especially those in business to business or “high consideration” industries such as appliances or autos, can fall in love with TMI – too much information.

When the emotional part of our brain is impaired, we can't make choices.We too often assume that buyers are logical; in fact, many studies show that we make emotional decisions and then back them up with information. In fact, when the part of brain that handles emotion is damaged, humans cease their ability to make a decision, even simple ones.

The most compelling brands have embraced “brand mythology” as an approach to ensuring “sticky stories” with high emotional impact are developed to build the brand. Mythology is typically defined as a story that is passed along to communicate values and important cultural meaning. How we spend our money tells a lot about our cultural values, so it makes sense to connect brands with mythology.

In one of our favorite books How Brands Become Icons: The Principle of Cultural Branding, author Douglas Holt demonstrates how iconic brands’ power rests in large part on the brand myth that consumers can identify with. In order to satisfy the need to be a part of that myth, consumers will drink, eat and wear the brand.

What makes a great brand story?

The same thing that makes any other story great: heroes, villains, supporting characters, plot, tension, and resolution.

Here are several self-assessment questions that may help you evaluate your brand mythology:

Have you developed a brand positioning platform document that clearly outlines your company’s positioning and differentiated value proposition?

  • Yes – 5 points
  •  Partially – 2 points
  •  No – 0 points

 Does your brand represent a simple, compelling storyline?

  • Yes – 5 points
  •  Partially – 2 points
  •  No – 0

 Has your brand messaging been tested for adherence to best practice communication effectiveness and “stickiness” guidelines?

  •  Yes – 5 points
  •  Partially – 2 points
  •  No – 0 points

Does your brand messaging align with a clear emotional archetype that resonates with your target audience?

  •  Yes – 5 points
  •  Partially – 2 points
  •  No – 0 points

Does your brand storyline adhere to key elements of myth-development that leads to belief and enthusiastic sharing among target audience members?

  •  Yes – 5 points
  •  Partially – 2 points
  •  No – 0 points

Have you tested your brand messaging to ensure it is having the desired effect before launching within a broad campaign?

  • Yes – 5 points
  • Partially – 2 points
  • No – 0 points

How aligned are you?

25-30 points: You must have an in-house brand poet

15-24 points: You’re spinning a few brand yarns; keep sharing!

0 – 15 points: Your story skills could use some sharpening

Mythology has a compelling Assessimize Marketing Workshop designed to help you build your brand story. Contact us for more information. 

Friday
Mar222013

Customer Value Propositions: The Intersection of Ideas, Markets and ROI 

John Roth, Head of Customer Value Proposition, Xbox LiveOn the face of it, John Roth has a very cool job in a very cool industry. He’s the Head of Customer Value Proposition for Microsoft’s Xbox Live, the online service for Xbox 360 that transforms your TV into a connected entertainment experience.

Before you get too jealous, however, you should know his job is also tough. Within the Xbox team, the value proposition development role is a business strategy and planning function that sits between marketing and product development.

As in most companies, the care and feeding of a unique, powerful value proposition is a challenge. John describes his job as “cool ideas meet ROI and market acceptance.” His past experiences as a group product manager for Sharepoint, Project and Visio helped him sharpen is ability to develop clear, compelling value propositions.

Value propositions are not always thought out and clarified in a way that are simple yet meaningful enough to guide marketing managers eager to engage and software engineers excited to code their latest breakthrough ideas.

How do you predict and guide the trade-offs between short-term customer growth, profitability, and lifetime value? How do you factor in unpredictable disruptions in a fast-moving industry such as gaming and home entertainment platforms? How narrow or broad do you cast your net for specific customer segments?

The Xbox team must live in that tension between short-term market share, fiscal year requirements and their LRP (long range plan). Along the way John must factor in competitors with a diverse set of market approaches and entry points in a highly competitive industry. John’s value proposition work must guide the marketing team on what content is most relevant to produce and the software developers on what product priorities take precedence.

The work of Kellogg School of Business professor Mohan Sawhney has been influential in John’s work, as it has been on many other Microsoft product groups and business divisions.

Learn more about the Value Proposition "teeter totter" Dr. Sawhney’s value proposition model can be viewed as a teeter totter that balances the customer view of cost (i.e., revenue their willing to give the company), effort (how much of a hassle is it to buy/use) and risk (what will the customer lose if he bets wrong?) on one side, and the value, differentiation and support promises made by the company on the other side.

If a value proposition is fuzzy or seems like an unequal tradeoff, it’s a loser. A powerful value proposition will appeal to an optimal (profitable + strategic) number of customer segments that the company desires to serve.

Don’t feel too bad for John Roth and his tough job at Xbox Live. His stress level isn’t something a little Gears of War action can’t relieve. 

Do you need to strengthen your company's value proposition? An Assessimize Marketing Workshop will do the trick. 

Friday
Jan042013

Marketing Perils and Pillars: #4 Alignment

According to the CMO Council’s State of Marketing 2012 Report, senior marketing executives marketers looking to advance will need to know where they fall across the four critical areas of leadership and strength:

  • Purpose: Having a clear agenda and outcome-oriented mindset. 
  • Pull: Making marketing meaningful to the organization and mobilizing stakeholders around shared values, a clear strategic direction and well-understood business goals. 
  • Power: Supercharging execution around a common purpose with full organizational participation and support. 
  • Productivity: Managing for strong results in order to achieve the business objective, including outstanding team leadership and marketing skills. 

Consider a marketing message that generates an interested prospect. Imagine how delicate that precious lead is and all the ways the interest could get snuffed out quickly:  

  • They can’t find the offer on your web site.
  • They call your 800# and the call center acts like they’ve never heard of the offer.
  • They walk into a retail branch and the sales staff are clueless.
  • They search YouTube for the ad they saw that generated the interest, but can’t find it.

The many moving parts of marketing set the stage for a lot of logistical mishaps. Sales teams not knowing what the marketing team is up to. Marketing teams having no clue what sales reps really want in a “lead.” Customer service or retail staff not being adequately trained on a product launch.

We call these issues Marketing Peril #4: Squishy Handshakes. These marketing black holes exist because:

  • Internal teams have not agreed on specific roles and responsibilities.
  • There are fuzzy goals across teams members.
  • Incentives and job descriptions may be out of whack.
  • Technology systems may not be able to support what marketing needed to happen.

In other words, a lack of firm handshakes.

Meaningful Marketing Pillar #4 is Alignment. It’s about internal buy-in and readiness. Are your people and systems ready? Alignment helps your team see, understand, believe and live out the vision of the brand and marketing goal.

Like external marketing, alignment is as much emotional as it is functional. Many alignment issues are generated because the leader of a group integral to success isn’t bought in. Maybe it seems like too much extra work, or maybe the assigned task works against his or her personal agenda. Internal branding and extensive relationship-building are critical to achieving alignment.

Mythology’s Team Alignment Assessimize solution provides valuable insights and action steps to align your core teams around common marketing performance indicators.

Here are several self-assessment questions that may help you evaluate your internal marketing alignment:

Do you know what percentage of your employees can articulate your company’s differentiated value proposition in no more than 1-2 sentences?

  • Yes – 5 points
  • Partially – 2 points
  • No – 0 points

Have your employees been trained and assessed for their understanding and buy-in to your company’s mission and values?

  • Yes – 5 points
  • Partially – 2 points
  • No – 0 points

Do you have an employee “on-boarding” process that infuses your company’s mission, value proposition and values into new hires?

  • Yes – 5 points
  • Partially – 2 points
  • No – 0 points

Have you mapped the customer experience path from initial inquiry (lead) through to purchase and use?

  • Yes – 5 points
  • Partially – 2 points
  • No – 0 points

Do your non-sales employees understand how their role influences customer satisfaction and loyalty, and therefore the health of your company?

  • Yes – 5 points
  • Partially – 2 points
  • No – 0 points

Do you regularly publish to your employees a small number of key performance indicators (KPI’s) that are critical for your firm’s success?

  • Yes – 5 points
  • Partially – 2 points
  • No – 0 points

Are the job descriptions and objectives of each of your job roles mapped to align improvement along your KPI’s? 

  • Yes – 5 points
  • Partially – 2 points
  • No – 0 points

Do your employees – including both sales and non-sales team members - receive clearly aligned rewards based on their improvement of KPI’s?

  • Yes – 5 points
  • Partially – 2 points
  • No – 0 points

Can your channel partners (retailers, value-added resellers, distributors, etc.) articulate and do they believe your differentiated value proposition?

  • Yes – 5 points
  • Partially – 2 points
  • No – 0 points

Are your channel partners rewarded for the type of service you require to ensure a quality customer experience related to your product/service?

  • Yes – 5 points
  • Partially – 2 points
  • No – 0 points

 How aligned are you?

  • 35 – 50 points: Nice firm handshakes going on.
  • 25 – 34 points: A foundation is forming, but a lot needs built.
  • 0 – 24 points: Your marketing return is being severely degraded

 

Thursday
Jan032013

Marketing Perils and Pillars: #3 Differentiation

Peril #3 in our series of Marketing Perils and Pillars conversation is: We’re the Same…Just Better! We’ll use WTSJB to save some typing, OK?

The WTSJB syndrome is related to Peril #2, Unfocused Marketing. When you’re not entirely sure who you are uniquely targeting because you uniquely can fulfill their needs, you are not…unique. Simply saying, "We're as good as the others guys, just better" is not helpful. 

WTSJB derives from an organization’s inability to clearly prioritize a smaller set of customers that they can best serve and build from for future business. It’s often rooted in the fear of leaving potential customers (and their revenue) on the table.

Unfortunately, by trying to be as broadly relevant to many potential customers, they lose the ability to capture the subset of those who would be most passionate to be their customers.

In an interesting book, The Paradox of Choice, the psychologist Barry Schwartz makes the case that too many choices causes depression in consumers. The mind tends to shut down over worries about making the wrong decision vs. making a clear, confident decision that best meets its needs.

When choices are too similar, it makes it even more difficult for the brain to tune in and make a quality decision. When your organization’s brand is too watered-down, too similar to all the others, you’re making it more difficult for customers to choose you.

The antidote to WTSJB is Meaningful Marketing Pillar #3: Differentiation.

Differentiation embraces the competitive strengths that set you apart. It involves finding the core of who your organization is and why that is special and unique in both emotional and functional benefit categories for specific customers.

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandies once said, “America has believed that in differentiation, not in uniformity, lies the path of progress. It acted on this belief; it has advanced human happiness, and it has prospered.”

Differentiation drives growth. It creates separation in the minds of potential customers from your competitors. Without separation, customers default to the easiest or most comfortable choice, making it easy to stick with their status quo.

We often joke in our Mythology Marketing Strategy Workshops that the process is simply the eHarmony of business: Based on the most important emotional and functional factors, which customers are the best match for you? By defining this clearly, your marketing has a significantly greater chance of connecting and converting customers.

One of our favorite books is Blue Ocean Strategy, How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant. The point of differentiation is to carve out a competitive marketspace that is so unique and valuable to a defined set of customers that there literally seems to be no other competitive choices. The process involves mapping out the decision criteria typically used within your industry to make buying decisions, scoring competitors and yourself, and identifying areas of potential innovation that leads to differentiation.

Through our Brand Assessimize solution offering, Mythology provides an efficient process for helping you define a unique marketspace and strengthen your differentiated value proposition.

Here are some self-assessment questions you can use to determine how strong your value proposition is: 

Based on the beliefs and behaviors of priority customers and prospects, does the value proposition of your company/product/service map to a priority emotional and/or functional benefit in their minds (i.e., does your primary positioning statement map to something that matters to them greatly in the purchase process)?

  • Yes – 5 points
  • Partially – 2 points
  • No – 0 points 

Is your value proposition clearly differentiated and unique from any other competitor in your industry/geography?

  • Yes – 5 points
  • Partially – 2 points
  • No – 0 points 

Do you know many of your customers/prospects understand , believe in and can articulate your differentiated value proposition?

  • Yes – 5 points
  • Partially – 2 points
  • No – 0 points 

Is your differentiation sustainable over time? In other words, is it not easily copied by a competitor?

  • Yes – 5 points
  • Partially – 2 points
  • No – 0 points 

How did you do? 

  • 15-20 points: You're an easy choice for the right customers
  • 8-14 points: You have some potential, but need to sharpen your position
  • 0-7 points: Excuse me, didn't we just meet you? 

 Touch base with us at info@mythologymarketing.com, we have some useful exercises that you might find helpful in defining your differentiated value proposition and avoiding the WTSJB peril. 

 

 

Tuesday
Jan012013

Marketing Perils and Pillars: #2 Priority

Perhaps it’s best to let some notables share their thoughts on Marketing Peril #2: Unfocused Marketing

“One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.” - Tony Robbins

“That's been one of my mantras - focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”  - Steve Jobs

During our popular and effective Marketing Strategy Workshops, one of the most difficult exercises involves stack-ranking customer segments in terms of which are most important for success. Many executives do not want to admit that their products and services aren’t necessarily appropriate for everyone, that there is a subset of unique customers with unique needs that are the best target for their unique product or service.

The result? Diluted marketing impact and low return on investment.

The devastating impact of unfocused marketing is exacerbated by the fact that many organizations have limited marketing budget in the first place.

Not surprisingly, the antidote to Unfocused Marketing is Meaningful Marketing Pillar #2: Priority

Have you stack-ranked your most profitable customers, considering all the investments made in each of them to generate and support their business (e.g., sales force coverage time, customer support, etc.)?

  • Yes – 5 points
  • Partially – 2 points
  • No – 0 points 

Have you analyzed the customers/prospects who are most likely to purchase your product/service based on historical factors?

  • Yes – 5 points
  • Partially – 2 points
  • No – 0 points 

Have you stack-ranked customers/prospects by the potential new business they represent, and do your sales/marketing investments map to that potential?

  • Yes – 5 points
  • Partially – 2 points
  • No – 0 points 

Do you have a plan to “fire” unprofitable customers or transition them to less expensive service options?

  • Yes – 5 points
  • Partially – 2 points
  • No – 0 points 

Do you know who within your customer organizations are the most influential during the evaluation and decision-making process, and is your marketing effectively reaching/influencing those individuals?

  • Yes – 5 points
  • Partially – 2 points
  • No – 0 points 

Have you identified the most influential voices in your industry or geography who shape the opinions of your target customers, and do you have a clear, effective plan in place to “influence the influencers”?

  • Yes – 5 points
  • Partially – 2 points
  • No – 0 points 

 How'd you do? 

  • 20-30 points: Wow, you are a lean, mean prioritized marketing machine
  • 10-19 points: You're on the right track, but you could be generating better ROI 
  • 0-9 points: Time for an intervention

 Mythology's strategy workshops and Assessimize solutions can bring you a long way towards achieving a far greater level of priority in your marketing, which, over time, will lead to higher return on marketing investment. 

Make it a priority to prioritize your marketing in 2013!