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Stop Chasing Customers - Start Building Your Brand

Today I read a piece in Ad Age where the CMO of a major restaurant chain said, “In the past, over 80% of the marketing plan would be executed the way you originally planned. Now, it’s like 20%,” so you better be agile.

I have to say – I completely disagree with this point-of-view and think you should too. Here’s why.

Real-Time Is Not A Brand Strategy

Later in the article, Jim Farley, exec VP-global marketing at Ford Motor Co., said, “Social media has got us thinking differently about advertising not just as a digital media mix transformation, but more fundamentally about getting away from campaigns and moving toward being ‘always on.’ Digital really begs for an ‘always on’ content factory that’s producing content all the time that’s relevant to the news cycle.”


Since when did consumers decide they want your brand to be CNN? 

Sure, I get it. Everyone sees Oreo light up an otherwise dark Super Bowl with a single, extremely clever tweet, and thinks I need me some of that in my marketing! Look at all the “free” awareness/publicity/brand love Oreos is getting.

But did anyone run out and buy Oreos? Did anyone go out the next day or the next and buy Oreos? Did the tweet change brand preference or just reinforce brand loyalty and entertain non-users? I’d argue that the tweet was largely an incredibly funny distraction while the folks in the Super Dome figured out how to get the lights back on so the game could resume. And after the relatively short news cycle run it received… outside of a few marketing bloggers like me bringing it up, the average consumer/buyer has completely forgotten about it.

Because that is how ads work. And make no mistake – that tweet was an ad.

And the problem with ads is that consumers begin to forget them the moment after they’ve seen them. Advertising Awareness Decay has been studied repeatedly and consistently reinforces that consumers have more important things to remember than a single advertisement. Even if that advertisement appeared as a Tweet.

The Consumer Does NOT Own Your Brand

This is another fave of the keynote speaking, content marketing and especially the social media crowd.

Seriously? Do you really think the consumer and not your own marketing has the last word on your brand? If you believe consumers do, then call me because you’re doing it wrong. 

Those social media channels that you think your customers have so much power over… last time I checked, you have access to ALL OF THE SAME CHANNELS and unless you’re a solopreneur, you can throw a lot more human and content creation assets at those channels than any one consumer can. Toss in a bit of traditional advertising and public relations (I know hearsay right?) and no brand has an excuse for not controlling its brand image and perception.

Stop Chasing The Consumer Trend

By default, if you’re chasing the consumer you’re behind them. So unless you do something so compelling, so helpful, so epic as to convince them to stop long enough for you to catch up, I’m afraid you’ll never get that chance to sell something to them.

Stop chasing the latest trend. Stop chasing consumer behavior. Consumers are fickle. What’s in today is gone tomorrow… hence the very reason we call them trends. And if your sales and marketing strategy is chameleon like, changing to fit what’s hot/cool/relevant today… well then I’ll just say that a brand that stands for everything stands for nothing in the mind of the prospective customer.

Instead, use your advertising, social media, public relations, sales force and direct marketing efforts to build a brand that stands for something that is relevant today, tomorrow and for many tomorrows. Stand for something that improves your customers’ life. That never seems to go out of style.

Then reinforce that point of view and if someone tries to muddy the waters, concentrate your attention on correcting that misinformation.

Hell, if I can convince people that Mardi Gras is family friendly by using nothing other than Twitter and an iPhone (to hear the NPR Story, fast forward to 12:08 in the audio stream), I darn sure think any brand with even a modicum of effort can ensure the proper branding of their product or service.

I know it’s cool to say that the Internets and social media have changed everything.

Newsflash: they haven’t. The principles of good branding are alive and well… they’re just being activated across more channels.

photo by Thomas Hawk

Join The Conversation

  • TomMartin's picture
    Dec 18 Posted 3 years ago TomMartin

    Thanks Hailley,

    Always nice to hear others think like I do.


  • hailley's picture
    Dec 18 Posted 3 years ago hailley

    Love this post, Tom! 

    Brands that lead the consumer rather than follow, are the ones for which social media 'works.' Other brands who only use social media to attract new customers while something relevant to their company (or not) is trending, are doing it wrong.

    Thanks for the great post! 


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