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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.

Why $4.6 Trillion Was Left In Abandoned Online Shopping Carts In 2016

Aaron Solomon

Nearly 70% of online shopping carts are abandoned without the customer ever completing the purchase. According to Business Insider, that added up to over $4.6 trillion in the global economy in 2016. So, what can online retailers do to fix this problem? Keep reading to learn why cart abandonment is so prevalent, and the steps you can take to recapture potential sales in your business.

Top 3 (preventable) reasons for cart abandonment

Customers abandon online carts for a variety of reasons, ranging from issues with your online store to simply getting distracted and leaving their computer. Studies show three common, and often preventable, reasons customers do not complete the checkout process.

1. Shipping cost sticker shock

For a whopping 61% of U.S. shoppers, the number one reason they don’t complete the checkout process is unexpectedly high shipping costs. Customers may have found your product prices acceptable, but high shipping costs can change their view completely. Not every company can subsidize shipping, and even fewer can on all orders, but here are a few things you can do to try to reduce your customers’ shipping cost shock:

  • Price fairly: Review what you are charging your customers for shipping against what your actual costs are. It’s no sin to turn shipping into a revenue stream, but if these costs are excessive, it may be costing you more in sales than it’s worth.
  • Offer options: Depending on your carriers, consider offering customers slower, but more cost-effective options, such as UPS 3 Day Select instead of Next Day or Second Day Air.
  • In-store pickup: If you also have physical stores, consider offering in-store pickup as an option.

2. Lack of trust in your site

Whenever a first-time customer makes a purchase, they are demonstrating trust in your ability to fulfill their order, charge them accurately, and most importantly, protect their data. There are several website attributes that could cause customers to consider shopping elsewhere:

  • Site maintenance: If your site has blurry images or broken links, customers may doubt your ability to meet their needs.
  • Online security: Include a “Trusted Site” logo from your certificate authority on your site to tell customers that you have properly secured your site.
  • Return policy: Having a complete and accessible return policy on your online store can provide customers with the reassurance that if the product does not meet their expectations, there will be a way for them to address this issue.
  • Shipping clarity: A shipping information page provides customers information they will want to know before committing to a purchase, such as how long after an order is placed it will be shipped or what shipping carriers and delivery options are available.

3. Frustration during the checkout process

The main perk of online shopping is convenience. If your checkout process is slow or tedious, customers get frustrated quickly. Take the following three points into consideration to mitigate this concern:

  • Guest checkout: In 2016, 33% of U.S. shoppers abandoned their carts when forced to create an account. Having a customer create an account can be beneficial for your business, but, if customers are forced to create an account to make a purchase, is it worth it? Consider leaving the option for them to check out as a guest to simplify their shopping experience.
  • Coupon codes: If you offer promotions with coupon codes, make sure that all your marketing information has the correct coupon codes and expiration dates for these codes.
  • Make it easy for customers to reach you: As a best practice, online stores should always have a “Contact Us” page to allow customers to easily reach out. If customers are experiencing frustration, being able to reach you can be the deciding factor on whether they give up or not.

Successful online retailers manage these issues to ensure that when customers abandon carts, it is not due to failures of the business. Taking these steps can reduce the amount of lost revenue, as well as increase your business’ reputation with both current and prospective customers.

For more insight on selling through digital channels, see Primed: Prompting Customers to Buy.

This blog was originally posted on the SAP Anywhere Customer Success Portal, and has been reposted with permission.

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About Aaron Solomon

Aaron Solomon is the head of Training and Content Development for SAP Anywhere. With a dedicated history in knowledge management and consulting, he is driven to provide quality information to customers and help them understand how best to grow their businesses. His areas of expertise include e-commerce management, data analysis, and leveraging technology to improve efficiency.

Using Philosophy To Find Happiness In A Hyperconnected World

Adam Winfield

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, published in 1974 by Robert M. Pirsig, has been called the biggest-selling and most widely read philosophy book ever. A fictionalized autobiography of a motorcycle road trip the author took with his son Chris across America, the book became influential thanks to its transcendent philosophical digressions. Despite the title, it’s not really about Zen Buddhism – or motorcycles – but living a good and meaningful life.

Pirsig, who died earlier this year, showed us “it might actually be possible to unify the cold, rational, numbingly systematized world of science and technology with the warm, intuitive realm of art and the spirit,” according to writer Tim Wilson, who interviewed him the year the book was released.

“If you run from technology, it will chase you,” Pirsig told Wilson, a caution that carries increased significance in a time when GPS tracks the location of our smartphones and high-bandwidth wireless Internet coverage smothers much of the populated land on Earth.

Pirsig’s point wasn’t that we should run from technology, or hate it. He called out the self-defeating hypocrisy of loathing and resisting technology but lapping up the standard of living it provides. Instead, technology should be considered part of nature, and part of humanity. “The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of a mountain or in the petals of a flower,” he wrote.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, 2017 edition

Had Pirsig taken his road trip in 2017 he’d be faced with a very different world to the one of 1974, more than 25 years before the Internet went mainstream. Given his willingness to embrace technology, we can assume he’d have taken a 4G-enabled smartphone along for the ride. The technology – the satellites, the data, the sensors – wouldn’t be chasing him; it’d be right there in his pocket.

Unlike those who retreat into nature for “digital detoxes,” not realizing their addiction to technology rather than technology itself is the problem, Pirsig would have seen the beauty in a connected device that made his journey through the American wilderness more enjoyable, safer, and easier.

He’d have been with nature in all its glory, but also connected to the rest of humanity, dipping into the benefits that offers whenever he deemed it necessary or worthwhile. It’s unlikely he’d have felt the urge to check the latest gossip on Twitter or Facebook, but Google Maps, TripAdvisor, and Airbnb sure would have come in handy.

Those more suspicious of today’s hyperconnected technology might say this fails to consider the dark side of sharing your browsing habits, your whereabouts, and other aspects of your existence through your smartphone. To take advantage of the best your device can offer, you must in turn give up so much of your privacy to companies looking to make a buck off the data you’re generating.

Take location-based marketing, for example, which sends location-specific advertisements to consumer’s mobile devices. Sounds pesky and a little… dystopian, doesn’t it? It evokes the scene from the 2002 science fiction movie “Minority Report,” in which Tom Cruise’s character is hit with a personalized ad that tells him he could “use a Guinness right about now.” Pirsig would have felt location-based marketing’s full brunt as he made his way across 2017 America, seeking food, shelter, and supplies.

How would Pirsig have felt about location-based marketing?

Again, though, he likely would have taken a more pragmatic view than the dystopian Luddites. You cannot, surely, buy a 4G smartphone, blindly connect it to servers around the world, and then fly into a rage when you discover your data and location is being sold off to the highest bidder. Unless human microchip implants are written into law, we’ll always have the option to avoid that inevitability.

For those naturally more open to the idea of location-based marketing and the serendipitous moments of magic it can help create – as well as those who stand to profit from it – 2017 looks like being a good year for the technology.

Nearly a third of the world’s population will own a smartphone this year, according to Statista, and 80% of social media activity now happens on mobile devices. This gives companies a much fuller picture of what people are doing and where they’re doing it. People aren’t afraid to use their phones to buy things, either; global mobile e-commerce revenues are projected to reach $549 billion in 2017.

These trends are converging with breakthroughs in technology that are taking location-based marketing to new levels of complexity. Sensors enabling near-field communications (NFC) are not new, but they’re coming down in price. This technology was included in the last two generations of Samsung and Apple phones. Elsewhere, geo-fences use GPS, Wi-Fi, electromagnetic fields, or RFID technologies that capture data from consumers situated in specified areas – a concept Google and Apple are invested in.

Pokémon Go showed that people are ready for augmented reality; again “Minority Report”’s Guinness holograms offer us a vision of how that technology could translate into the world of advertising. And then there’s context, the plumbing of location-based marketing. Context, which feeds on Big Data, is only getting richer, giving brands a deeper understanding of where consumers are, where they’re headed, and what they might want to buy. Done well, all this technological advancement is undeniably useful for consumers too.

So, next time you get out on the open road looking for a clean break from your neurosis-inducing technology habits, consider taking your smartphone with you. It will almost certainly come in handy. As Pirsig might have said (albeit more eloquently), nature and technology are friends, not enemies. Embracing both, warts and all – and embracing them wisely – is the key to living a full and happy life.

For more insight on technology and the well-balanced life, see Give Me Technology, But Help Me Deal With It.

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About Adam Winfield

Adam Winfield writes about technology, how it's affecting industries, how it's affecting businesses, and how it's affecting people.

Running Future Cities on Blockchain

Dan Wellers , Raimund Gross and Ulrich Scholl

Building on the Blockchain Framework

Some experts say these seemingly far-future speculations about the possibilities of combining technologies using blockchain are actually both inevitable and imminent:


Democratizing design and manufacturing by enabling individuals and small businesses to buy, sell, share, and digitally remix products affordably while protecting intellectual property rights.
Decentralizing warehousing and logistics by combining autonomous vehicles, 3D printers, and smart contracts to optimize delivery of products and materials, and even to create them on site as needed.
Distributing commerce by mixing virtual reality, 3D scanning and printing, self-driving vehicles, and artificial intelligence into immersive, personalized, on-demand shopping experiences that still protect buyers’ personal and proprietary data.

The City of the Future

Imagine that every agency, building, office, residence, and piece of infrastructure has an entry on a blockchain used as a city’s digital ledger. This “digital twin” could transform the delivery of city services.

For example:

  • Property owners could easily monetize assets by renting rooms, selling solar power back to the grid, and more.
  • Utilities could use customer data and AIs to make energy-saving recommendations, and smart contracts to automatically adjust power usage for greater efficiency.
  • Embedded sensors could sense problems (like a water main break) and alert an AI to send a technician with the right parts, tools, and training.
  • Autonomous vehicles could route themselves to open parking spaces or charging stations, and pay for services safely and automatically.
  • Cities could improve traffic monitoring and routing, saving commuters’ time and fuel while increasing productivity.

Every interaction would be transparent and verifiable, providing more data to analyze for future improvements.


Welcome to the Next Industrial Revolution

When exponential technologies intersect and combine, transformation happens on a massive scale. It’s time to start thinking through outcomes in a disciplined, proactive way to prepare for a future we’re only just beginning to imagine.

Download the executive brief Running Future Cities on Blockchain.


Read the full article Pulling Cities Into The Future With Blockchain

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About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is founder and leader of Digital Futures at SAP, a strategic insights and thought leadership discipline that explores how digital technologies drive exponential change in business and society.

Raimund Gross

About Raimund Gross

Raimund Gross is a solution architect and futurist at SAP Innovation Center Network, where he evaluates emerging technologies and trends to address the challenges of businesses arising from digitization. He is currently evaluating the impact of blockchain for SAP and our enterprise customers.

Ulrich Scholl

About Ulrich Scholl

Ulrich Scholl is Vice President of Industry Cloud and Custom Development at SAP. In this role, Ulrich discovers and implements best practices to help further the understanding and adoption of the SAP portfolio of industry cloud innovations.

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4 Traits Set Digital Leaders Apart From 97% Of The Competition

Vivek Bapat

Like the classic parable of the blind man and the elephant, it seems everyone has a unique take on digital transformation. Some equate digital transformation with emerging technologies, placing their bets on as the Internet of Things, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Others see it as a way to increase efficiencies and change business processes to accelerate product to market. Some others think of it is a means of strategic differentiation, innovating new business models for serving and engaging their customers. Despite the range of viewpoints, many businesses are still challenged with pragmatically evolving digital in ways that are meaningful, industry-disruptive, and market-leading.

According to a recent study of more than 3,000 senior executives across 17 countries and regions, only a paltry three percent of businesses worldwide have successfully completed enterprise-wide digital transformation initiatives, even though 84% of C-level executives ranks such efforts as “critically important” to the fundamental sustenance of their business.

The most comprehensive global study of its kind, the SAP Center for Business Insight report “SAP Digital Transformation Executive Study: 4 Ways Leaders Set Themselves Apart,” in collaboration with Oxford Economics, identified the challenges, opportunities, value, and key technologies driving digital transformation. The findings specifically analyzed the performance of “digital leaders” – those who are connecting people, things, and businesses more intelligently, more effectively, and creating punctuated change faster than their less advanced rivals.

After analyzing the data, it was eye-opening to see that only three percent of companies (top 100) are successfully realizing their full potential through digital transformation. However, even more remarkable was that these leaders have four fundamental traits in common, regardless of their region of operation, their size, their organizational structure, or their industry.

We distilled these traits in the hope that others in the early stages of transformation or that are still struggling to find their bearings can embrace these principles in order to succeed. Ultimately I see these leaders as true ambidextrous organizations, managing evolutionary and revolutionary change simultaneously, willing to embrace innovation – not just on the edges of their business, but firmly into their core.

Here are the four traits that set these leaders apart from the rest:

Trait #1: They see digital transformation as truly transformational

An overwhelming majority (96%) of digital leaders view digital transformation as a core business goal that requires a unified digital mindset across the entire enterprise. But instead of allowing individual functions to change at their own pace, digital leaders prefer to evolve the organization to help ensure the success of their digital strategies.

The study found that 56% of these businesses regularly shift their organizational structure, which includes processes, partners, suppliers, and customers, compared to 10% of remaining companies. Plus, 70% actively bring lines of business together through cross-functional processes and technologies.

By creating a firm foundation for transformation, digital leaders are further widening the gap between themselves and their less advanced competitors as they innovate business models that can mitigate emerging risks and seize new opportunities quickly.

Trait #2: They focus on transforming customer-facing functions first

Although most companies believe technology, the pace of change, and growing global competition are the key global trends that will affect everything for years to come, digital leaders are expanding their frame of mind to consider the influence of customer empowerment. Executives who build a momentum of breakthrough innovation and industry transformation are the ones that are moving beyond the high stakes of the market to the activation of complete, end-to-end customer experiences.

In fact, 92% of digital leaders have established sophisticated digital transformation strategies and processes to drive transformational change in customer satisfaction and engagement, compared to 22% of their less mature counterparts. As a result, 70% have realized significant or transformational value from these efforts.

Trait #3: They create a virtuous cycle of digital talent

There’s little doubt that the competition for qualified talent is fierce. But for nearly three-quarters of companies that demonstrate digital-transformation leadership, it is easier to attract and retain talent because they are five times more likely to leverage digitization to change their talent management efforts.

The impact of their efforts goes beyond empowering recruiters to identify best-fit candidates, highlight risk factors and hiring errors, and predict long-term talent needs. Nearly half (48%) of digital leaders understand that they must invest heavily in the development of digital skills and technology to drive revenue, retain productive employees, and create new roles to keep up with their digital maturity over the next two years, compared to 30% of all surveyed executives.

Trait #4: They invest in next-generation technology using a bimodal architecture

A couple years ago, Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president at Gartner and global head of research, observed that “CIOs can’t transform their old IT organization into a digital startup, but they can turn it into a bi-modal IT organization. Forty-five percent of CIOs state they currently have a fast mode of operation, and we predict that 75% of IT organizations will be bimodal in some way by 2017.”

Based on the results of the SAP Center for Business Insight study, Sondergaard’s prediction was spot on. As digital leaders dive into advanced technologies, 72% are using a digital twin of the conventional IT organization to operate efficiently without disruption while refining innovative scenarios to resolve business challenges and integrate them to stay ahead of the competition. Unfortunately, only 30% of less advanced businesses embrace this view.

Working within this bimodal architecture is emboldening digital leaders to take on incredibly progressive technology. For example, the study found that 50% of these firms are using artificial intelligence and machine learning, compared to seven percent of all respondents. They are also leading the adoption curve of Big Data solutions and analytics (94% vs. 60%) and the Internet of Things (76% vs. 52%).

Digital leadership is a practice of balance, not pure digitization

Most executives understand that digital transformation is a critical driver of revenue growth, profitability, and business expansion. However, as digital leaders are proving, digital strategies must deliver a balance of organizational flexibility, forward-looking technology adoption, and bold change. And clearly, this approach is paying dividends for them. They are growing market share, increasing customer satisfaction, improving employee engagement, and, perhaps more important, achieving more profitability than ever before.

For any company looking to catch up to digital leaders, the conversation around digital transformation needs to change immediately to combat three deadly sins: Stop investing in one-off, isolated projects hidden in a single organization. Stop viewing IT as an enabler instead of a strategic partner. Stop walling off the rest of the business from siloed digital successes.

As our study shows, companies that treat their digital transformation as an all-encompassing, all-sharing, and all-knowing business imperative will be the ones that disrupt the competitive landscape and stay ahead of a constantly evolving economy.

Follow me on twitter @vivek_bapat 

For more insight on digital leaders, check out the SAP Center for Business Insight report, conducted in collaboration with Oxford Economics,SAP Digital Transformation Executive Study: 4 Ways Leaders Set Themselves Apart.”

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About Vivek Bapat

Vivek Bapat is the Senior Vice President, Global Head of Marketing Strategy and Thought Leadership, at SAP. He leads SAP's Global Marketing Strategy, Messaging, Positioning and related Thought Leadership initiatives.