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How To Create A Meaningful Brand Online

Michael Brenner

When a recent global analysis by Meaningful Brands took a look at content marketing efforts around the globe, covering 1,500 brands in 15 different industries, it uncovered a harsh reality for digital marketing – 60% of content being created is underperforming. This failing content is considered by consumers to be irrelevant and serves the sad purpose of adding to all the clutter on the web.

Good content marketing really does work. We’ve all seen the impact of insightful, relevant, optimized content that seems to effortlessly express a brand’s story. When done well, it goes way beyond eye-catching and interesting. It makes consumers feel like they are a part of something bigger.

Poor content, on the other hand, doesn’t work. It simply isn’t capable of building the necessary bridge to consumers, generating leads, and building long-term customer relationships. If you’re not offering something unique through your marketing, something that adds value to people’s lives, then consumers probably don’t care too much about your brand. In fact, if three-quarters of all the brands disappeared, most people wouldn’t care.

Look at companies like Google, Ikea, or Wikipedia. We’d all be upset if they disappeared. They offer too much value, too many benefits for a huge chunk of modern society. They are useful, almost necessary from the high-quality products they offer to the droves of people they employ.

As a marketer, one of the most important questions you should ask is – would people be disappointed if my brand fell off the face of the earth?

Consumers expect more from marketers today

Who knows if the chicken or the egg came first, or if brands became more meaningful in response to consumer expectations or if consumer expectations became more sophisticated because some brands started delivering more in order to compete online.

Either way, today’s consumers expect a lot. 75% of people expect the brands in their life to do something to increase their well-being. Those marketers that have understood this have been able to help bring in incredible revenue growth for their businesses. Those companies that ranked high as Meaningful Brands have outperformed the stock market by 206% over the past decade!

What exactly is it that consumers expect? The 2016 Edelman Brand Relationship Index found that consumers have a pretty demanding list of expectations:

  • Help solve societal issues
  • Share a strong story
  • Listen to them
  • Respond to consumer needs

Richard Edelman, the president and CEO of Edelman, points out that these deeper expectations actually provide a huge opportunity for businesses, and for shaping an evolved consumer-brand relationship in the future. “The study shows when a consumer moves from a relationship rooted in ‘me’ to one powered by ‘we,’ a new world of buying and advocacy potential opens up for a brand.”

How to be meaningful through your online marketing

Look at some of the brilliant examples online to give you an idea of meaningful content marketing done well.

Denny’s quaint, quirky Instagram photos combine enticing visuals with a fun, witty personality, the type of energy that everyone loves being around. This marketing style holds something even greater within its messaging – a down-to-earth, life-is-simple value system that offers a respite from our complicated, high-stress modern lives. Now that’s valuable!

The Living Food Kitchen, a plant-based health food delivery company in the UK, offers customers recipe ideas and information on healthy living.

Need inspiration to get out there and conquer – or maybe put on your Nike’s and go for a run? Nike excels at motivational messaging. The company has been doing this for decades, encouraging millions to stick with their workouts and to empower themselves with Nike activewear.

In order to make your online marketing meaningful, the trick is to ensure that every piece of content you publish has a purpose – for your customers. Also, this meaning has to be consistent through everything that is published. For example, Denny’s would lose its effectiveness if it tried to put out a series of blog posts on heart healthy eating. Even though this would be helpful to consumers, it would serve the purpose of putting people off from their brand. Not that piles of pancakes and bottomless coffee aren’t good for the soul, but the heart…

SEO Consultant Hannah Smith points to three core principles that brands use to be meaningful.

1. Making customers smile

Brands that take the time to interact with customers on social media in an artful way can help to encourage a stronger connection and make all consumers feel like they are “heard” by the brand. You may not be able to communicate with every question or concern. You don’t need to. It’s more about the quality and creativity of your responses.

2. Help customers define themselves

A New York Times study on the Psychology of Sharing, found that people carefully choose what they share in order to define their own personality to friends and followers. The study found that most people tend to fall into the following personas:

  • Altruist – shares helpful, thoughtful advice
  • Careerist – shares intelligent business articles with a focus on LinkedIn
  • Hipster – more concerned about their social identity, will only share what is considered to be hip, innovative, or cutting-edge
  • Boomerangs – share information with the goal of getting a reaction and validation from peers, heavy users of Twitter and Facebook
  • Connectors – focus on thoughtful information, relaxed and creative content that others would appreciate
  • Selectives – share resourceful, informative content

This knowledge can help you create content that your target audience can use to express themselves on their own social networking sites, whether they want to show others how cool they are because you posted edgy visuals they can share, or because they want to demonstrate how thoughtful they are by reposting your healthy recipe article to their personal networks. Understand your buyer personas, and then give them what they want.

3. Stand for something

Give consumers something that they can be a part of. Toms does a great job of this, selling earthy, practical, yet fashionable footwear – that makes a statement of social awareness. They use their online branding efforts to help get people involved, while also offering consumers a product that they can feel good about wearing.

Your brand doesn’t have to be eco-conscious or politically active to stand for something – it can be about standing for a value or life philosophy, just like Nike do for inner strength, Apple for the spirit of innovation, or Rolex for luxury living.

Meaningful brands have figured out the boon of online marketing – that quality, value-driven, meaningful content is a gift that will keep on giving. Not only does it generate leads, but it builds a formidable brand presence – one that the world wouldn’t want to be without.

For more online marketing strategies that get results, see What Are The New Rules For Engaging An Online Community?

Image: pixabay

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About Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of  The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider GroupHe has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and   a top  CMO influencer by Forbes.

3 Millennial Expectations Every E-Commerce Business Needs To Address

Tracy Vides

Ah, the millennials – the generation brought up with the Internet and the rest of the digital revolution! While there may be a good deal of stigma attached to this crowd, there’s no stopping the fact they are flooding the job market and are predicted to spend $1.4 trillion in the U.S. retail market by 2020.

Due the fascinating point in history this age group grew up in, they are an extremely tricky bunch to market and sell to. They have essentially caused a lot of brands to throw out their entire playbook and start from scratch.

Let’s a take a quick look at a couple of the top brands today: Amazon, the leading retailer, does not own any physical stores. Uber, the leader in transportation, does not own any cars. Both of have one thing in common: the point-of-sale happens electronically.

This phenomenon is a big indicator that e-commerce is taking over. Modern shoppers (particularly millennials) have much different values and expectations than shoppers did 20 to 30 years ago. No surprise, therefore, that for most online companies, appealing to a millennial audience has become a top priority. Let’s discuss three of the most prominent expectations these shoppers have for e-commerce businesses.

1. Persuasive social media presence

Hundreds of years from now, when historians discuss the biggest breakthroughs happening early in the second millennium, the rise of social media will undoubtedly be one of the most debated topics.

What took off in the early 2000s now has a collective user count around 2.5 billion, many of them millennials. In fact, a recent survey found that 88% of millennials get their news via Facebook.

With this many eyes on social media, having a strong brand presence on popular outlets is no longer an option. The harsh truth is that millennials are not responsive to traditional ads or played-out sales tactics. While social advertising is proving to be very effective, one of the main goals of your brand’s social media presence must be to give your messaging a playful and humanized tone that connects with the younger audience on a more in-depth level.

Red Bull is well known for its superior social media presence. It uses its accounts to become so much more than just an energy drink. If you follow Red Bull, you’ll see how good it is at promoting original, branded material such as films, competitions, live shows, and of course, user-generated content.

In addition to favoring e-commerce brands with a human touch, millennials value consistency and responsiveness across channels. Be sure you are keeping up with all your accounts in all networks to remain in touch with your audience.

2. Personalized user experience

Even though the development of technology and the evolution of the Internet have done a lot to bring us together as a species, e-commerce is getting more individualized. Millennials are not fazed by traditional marketing and sales pitches. They want interactions to be tailored to their needs.

Unfortunately, there is no formula written in stone about how to deliver the perfect personalized experience.

However, there are certain things you can do to embrace this concept. For example, Amazon’s homepage looks different to each and every customer. Using workflows and user information, it recommends relevant items to customers based around their online behavior.

The overarching goal for retailers is to understand customers’ needs throughout the entire sales funnel. The most effective way to do this by implementing marketing automation within your e-commerce platform. For example, Shopify lets you profile customers, map their journey, market to them across digital channels, and provide a consistent shopping experience across multiple devices, online and in-store.

Personalization has become a staple in many e-commerce operations. In fact, a study by Gartner predicts by 2020, smart personalization engines used to recognize customer intent will enable businesses to increase their profits by up to 15%.

Basically, younger audiences want e-commerce companies to show them exactly what they want to see.

3. Transparency

Sales techniques have seen a huge shift as millennials gain spending power. Smartphones have literally given people all the information in the world in the palms of their hands. With this in mind, e-commerce brands need to come to terms with the fact that each buying decision will be well-researched.

“Millennials have changed the old retail model of price obfuscation, especially in online commerce,” says Jason Goldberg, VP of strategy at Razorfish. “They have grown up with transparency and information available to them at their fingertips, so brands have to design their business around transparency.”

Everlane, a luxury clothing store, is a prime example of how to use this concept in a business model. It openly promotes how all of its products are made, from A to Z, directly on its e-commerce website.

It doesn’t hide any manufacturing costs or warehouse details from the public. A lot of companies are known for relying on cheap labor, and the stigma around that helps get Everlane’s transparent approach into millennials’ good books.

Additionally, it maintains a strong social media presence that constantly reinforces its values. For example, it famously gives its audience behind-the-scenes glances at its factories in action via Snapchat. Using raw footage like this puts customers in a better state of mind about their purchases.

Transparency and authenticity are essential for gaining traction with millennials. It’s not just about what you sell anymore. It’s about how you promote it.

Parting words

Millennials are a fascinating group. Apart from the selfies and constant social media updates, they have a lot to offer in terms of digital consumerism. The truth of the matter is the online shopping landscape is incredibly crowded. Regardless of what products or services you provide, chances are there hundreds of other businesses working towards the same goals. Since millennials have been brought up in the middle of this reality, they have no problem looking around until they find an experience that really speaks to them. It’s up to you to differentiate yourself as a brand that meets them where they hang out.

For more on marketing to today’s consumers, see 5 Steps to Your Customer’s Heart with Emotionally Aware Computing.

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About Tracy Vides

Tracy is a content marketer and social media consultant who works with small businesses and startups to increase their visibility. Although new to the digital marketing scene, Tracy has started off well by building a good reputation for herself, with posts featured on Steamfeed, Business 2 Community and elsewhere. Hit her up @TracyVides on Twitter.

Ready To Jump On The Instagram Bandwagon? Expert Tips To Help You Succeed

Michael Brenner

If you are marketing for a visually intense industry like travel, food and beverage, or the arts, or for any brand that targets millennials, you can’t afford to ignore the latest force to join the social media leviathan lineup. While relatively new when compared to Facebook (which purchased Instagram in 2012), Twitter, and Pinterest, Instagram has risen to prominence rapidly – and I mean Bugatti Chiron 261+ mph-type fast.

From its inception in 2010, the network today captivates one-third of all Internet users. And its forecast 2017 global mobile ad revenue? $2.81 billion!

It is also right now a gold mine for brands that target millennials, with 90% of users under 35.

BrightEdge CEO and digital marketing expert Jim Yu describes Instagram as a perfect complement to Facebook, specifically for mobile engagement. This is because it is so well integrated to Facebook; it has in many ways become Facebook’s creative little sister. Cultivating a strong presence for your brand through the biggest social media site’s cooler younger sibling may not be a bad idea. With its premium Zuckerberg ownership, we can count on Facebook channeling its penchant for efficient innovation through this highly popular medium.

Ready to start creating your own fantastic Instagram marketing campaigns? Here are some expert tips to inspire your strategies.

Use Instagram to compel

President of Ignite Social Media Jim Tobin explains that one of the best ways to use Instagram is to motivate others by showing products being used in compelling ways. When people can see how amazing/thrilling/soothing/fun a product can be via a stunning Instagram image, they imagine themselves using that product and having a good time. They can visualize the value they will derive from the product.

Tentsile, a company that sells tree tents, or “portable treehouses,” is an excellent example of the power of compelling visuals. See for yourself – who wouldn’t want to ponder the universe perched above the ground in their very own tent treehouse?

Use hashtags to define your brand on Instagram

Instagram marketing expert Jenn Herman uses this site to build the “we’re-all-human” bridge between brands and consumers. It’s a place to connect more intimately. To do that, you need to define your brand’s personality on the network, which can be done eloquently and effectively with the hashtag. This will help your audience identify what you’re all about and show that your brand shares their interests.

Instagram hashtags aren’t just about keywords. They’re about expressing commonality with your audience. That does take some research, tracking what your buyers are talking about on social media, researching trending hashtags at the moment, and evaluating what works, what doesn’t, and why.

Herman has shared her secret Instagram hashtag formula to get the most brand-building traction:

  • Use a total of 15-20 hashtags in a post
  • 4-5 should be popular, generic terms like #digitalmarketing, #startup, #videos
  • 5-7 should be moderately targeted to your brand or industry
  • 2-5 should be niche-specific; these are the target keywords your audience is searching for
  • 1-2 are specific to your brand

Tell a story with your images

Bianca Cheah, founder and managing director of Sporteluxe, a popular lifestyle blog, advocates using Instagram to tell your brand’s story in order to relate to potential buyers. “I always tell a story through my images and make the image as relatable to the viewer as possible,” she explains. “There’s a fine line between being too inspirational, where it becomes out of reach, and then being on a level where viewers feel like you’re one of them.”

There are lots of ways to launch powerful visual storytelling on Instagram:

  • Use your audience to tell your brand’s story by encouraging user-generated content. This is perfect for travel and tourism, and fashion and beauty brands.
  • Post images of your team at work to give your audience a glimpse into the inner workings of your agency. This works well for B2B marketing.
  • For nonprofits, posting visuals that tell the story of the difference their organization makes can be very effective. CharityWater does this well, showing images of the people who are directly helped, or of their volunteers and staff in action.

Be consistent

To be effective and digestible to your audience, be consistent in terms of style and timing. The best way to help your buyers recognize your brand is to create a cohesive presence that they can come to expect, like their morning cup of coffee with caramel syrup and a splash of coconut milk.

Make sure your images fit seamlessly with your brand. If you are clean and minimalistic on your website, use the same style on your Instagram account. Is your brand lighthearted and colorful? Then be quirky and eye-catching on Instagram. Have you been posting pictures using a particular filter that makes your brand really shine out? Keep using it.

Second, stick to a consistent posting schedule. This doesn’t mean over-posting. In fact, posting too much is one of the biggest Instagram mistakes you can make. Two to three posts a day is a standard that many brands use for successful social media marketing, but be flexible and use what works for your brand.

These expert tips can guide you as your create your brilliant marketing campaigns on Instagram. This social media site is an effective tool that you can use to build your brand, and is essential if you are marketing to a younger audience. Instagram is growing faster than most other social media networks, and this growth is expected to continue, especially as sites like Twitter and Facebook begin to feel more “aged” in our very trend-driven digital world.

Right now, however, Instagram is still young, which means it has a lot of room to grow. Jump on the Instagram bandwagon now so you can take advantage of the power of visual marketing and serious social media engagement for your brand.

For more on marketing strategies that get results in today’s connected world, see How To Master Social Media Marketing In 2017.

Image: Instagram

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About Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of  The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider GroupHe has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and   a top  CMO influencer by Forbes.

The Future of Cybersecurity: Trust as Competitive Advantage

Justin Somaini and Dan Wellers

 

The cost of data breaches will reach US$2.1 trillion globally by 2019—nearly four times the cost in 2015.

Cyberattacks could cost up to $90 trillion in net global economic benefits by 2030 if cybersecurity doesn’t keep pace with growing threat levels.

Cyber insurance premiums could increase tenfold to $20 billion annually by 2025.

Cyberattacks are one of the top 10 global risks of highest concern for the next decade.


Companies are collaborating with a wider network of partners, embracing distributed systems, and meeting new demands for 24/7 operations.

But the bad guys are sharing intelligence, harnessing emerging technologies, and working round the clock as well—and companies are giving them plenty of weaknesses to exploit.

  • 33% of companies today are prepared to prevent a worst-case attack.
  • 25% treat cyber risk as a significant corporate risk.
  • 80% fail to assess their customers and suppliers for cyber risk.

The ROI of Zero Trust

Perimeter security will not be enough. As interconnectivity increases so will the adoption of zero-trust networks, which place controls around data assets and increases visibility into how they are used across the digital ecosystem.


A Layered Approach

Companies that embrace trust as a competitive advantage will build robust security on three core tenets:

  • Prevention: Evolving defensive strategies from security policies and educational approaches to access controls
  • Detection: Deploying effective systems for the timely detection and notification of intrusions
  • Reaction: Implementing incident response plans similar to those for other disaster recovery scenarios

They’ll build security into their digital ecosystems at three levels:

  1. Secure products. Security in all applications to protect data and transactions
  2. Secure operations. Hardened systems, patch management, security monitoring, end-to-end incident handling, and a comprehensive cloud-operations security framework
  3. Secure companies. A security-aware workforce, end-to-end physical security, and a thorough business continuity framework

Against Digital Armageddon

Experts warn that the worst-case scenario is a state of perpetual cybercrime and cyber warfare, vulnerable critical infrastructure, and trillions of dollars in losses. A collaborative approach will be critical to combatting this persistent global threat with implications not just for corporate and personal data but also strategy, supply chains, products, and physical operations.


Download the executive brief The Future of Cybersecurity: Trust as Competitive Advantage.


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To Get Past Blockchain Hype, We Must Think Differently

Susan Galer

Blockchain hype is reaching fever pitch, making it the perfect time to separate market noise from valid signals. As part of my ongoing conversations about blockchain, I reached out to several experts to find out where companies should consider going from here. Raimund Gross, Solution Architect and Futurist at SAP, acknowledged the challenges of understanding and applying such a complex leading-edge technology as blockchain.

“The people who really get it today are those able to put the hype in perspective with what’s realistically doable in the near future, and what’s unlikely to become a reality any time soon, if ever,” Gross said. “You need to commit the resources and find the right partners to lay the groundwork for success.”

Gross told me one of the biggest problems with blockchain – besides the unproven technology itself – was the mindset shift it demands. “Many people aren’t thinking about decentralized architectures with peer-to-peer networks and mash-ups, which is what blockchain is all about. People struggle because often discussions end up with a centralized approach based on past constructs. It will take training and experience to think decentrally.”

Here are several more perspectives on blockchain beyond the screaming headlines.

How blockchain disrupts insurance, banking

Blockchain has the potential to dramatically disrupt industries because the distributed ledger embeds automatic trust across processes. This changes the role of longstanding intermediaries like insurance companies and banks, essentially restructuring business models for entire industries.

“With the distributed ledger, all of the trusted intelligence related to insuring the risk resides in the cloud, providing everyone with access to the same information,” said Nadine Hoffmann, global solution manager for Innovation at SAP Financial Services. “Payment is automatically triggered when the agreed-upon risk scenario occurs. There are limitations given regulations, but blockchain can open up new services opportunities for established insurers, fintech startups, and even consumer-to-consumer offerings.”

Banks face a similar digitalized transformation. Long built on layers of steps to mitigate risk, blockchain offers the banking industry a network of built-in trust to improve efficiencies along with the customer experience in areas such as cross-border payments, trade settlements for assets, and other contractual and payment processes. What used to take days or even months could be completed in hours.

Finance departments evolve

Another group keenly watching blockchain developments are CFOs. Just as Uber and Airbnb have disrupted transportation and hospitality, blockchain has the potential to change not only the finance department — everything from audits and customs documentation to letters of credit and trade finance – but also the entire company.

“The distributed ledger’s capabilities can automate processes in shared service centers, allowing accountants and other employees in finance to speed up record keeping including proof of payment supporting investigations,” said Georg Koester, senior developer, LoB Finance at the Innovation Center Potsdam. “This lowers costs for the company and improves the customer experience.”

Koester said that embedding blockchain capabilities in software company-wide will also have a tremendous impact on product development, lean supply chain management, and other critical areas of the company.

While financial services dominate blockchain conversations right now, Gross named utilities, healthcare, public sector, real estate, and pretty much any industry as prime candidates for blockchain disruption. “Blockchain is specific to certain business scenarios in any industry,” said Gross. “Every organization can benefit from trust and transparency that mitigates risk and optimizes processes.”

Get started today! Run Live with SAP for Banking. Blast past the hype by attending the SAP Next-Gen Boot Camp on Blockchain in Financial Services and Public Sector event being held April 26-27 in Regensdorf, Switzerland.

Follow me on Twitter, SCN Business Trends, or Facebook. Read all of my Forbes articles here.

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