December 30, 2012

Process is Not a Dirty Word

I am unabashedly a Harvard Business Review (HBR) blog fan and a recent HBR blog post from Sarah Green called Making Process Planning Cool Again really struck a chord.

As Green mentions, just the simple utterance of the word 'process' tends to elicit shudders of horror from Millenials and paints the speaker as an out of touch, anal retentive school-marmish librarian -- ouch!

While Green's post focuses on the work of the Toyota Production System Support Center (TSSC) - a non-profit within the auto company, process isn't just beneficial for manufacturing.  It's also necessary for effective marketing.

As any marketing leader will tell you, it's the execution of that amazing, integrated marketing strategy that moves your business metrics! And that execution means keeping many different balls in the air - from brand management, to search keyword optimization, to banner and/or print creative development, to social media posts, to media planning, to event planning, to promotions, to website A/B testing, to metric dashboard development - and the list goes on and on.

Each ball with its own discipline, specializations, tools, strengths and weaknesses.  Each element needing to pull its weight driving cost effective awareness, adoption, trial, purchase and retention while also consistently reinforcing the brand and addressing customer needs and pain points. If this juggling act doesn't scream for process, I do not know what does.

Here's why I believe process is cool. It's because for my marketing teams, process doesn't constrain, it liberates.  Process allows the blocking and tackling of coordination and optimization to be part of the "routine" -- daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly -- thus allowing us the mental freedom to invest time/energy in exploring new ideas and new tests.  It is the fact that there is a process that allows us to be creative and out of the box while also not dropping any of the many balls in the air.

So, to 'borrow' a sentiment from A Few Good Men (let's say it together with your best Nicholson impression), "somewhere, deep down inside in a place you don't talk about at parties, you want a good process, you need a good process!"

December 19, 2012

Legos Brand Core to their Success

My son, Roark, is 6 and loves his Legos. This is not an over-statement or hyperbole. Every single entry on his letter to Santa this year was a Lego set and our most effective 'carrot' for good behavior continues to be access to his Legos.  In fact, this picture was taken just this morning on the floor in his room and yes, that is an industrial sized storage tub full of them...

A recent NPR story on Legos gets to the heart of it.  Legos help my child express his 'story' - whatever his story happens to be on any given day - pirates, ninjas, cops and robbers, school, etc.

Despite its patents expiring some years ago, Lego continues to dominate in its the market.  NPR reports it is 70% with its closest competitor, Mega Blocks, at 30%.  Legos has made many smart business decisions -- including exclusive licensing of Star Wars, Toy Story and Harry Potter experiences.  These popular branded experiences appeal both to kids and to the adults "helping" them to build the sets.

While these licensing deals are key for differentiation and demand, I would also suggest that Lego's longevity and success also has a lot to do with their commitment to their intrinsic brand promise: that every single Lego piece fits with every other Lego piece.  NPR reported that even their manufacturing process is designed with this in mind.  They imprint information onto every brick to make it easy for them to identify and correct any 'bad' batches so the consumer only has positive experiences building with Legos.

Because, as any parent of a Lego obsessed child knows, every set that has ever been painstakingly built for hours will sooner or later be dismantled in order to create something new.  And that something new is more than likely something from the child's own imagination.  And Lego's ability to continue to allow my child to play and create even after his interest in any one set wanes...well, that's something I'll keep paying for!

December 12, 2012

Emotion First, Then Rational Thinking

This morning I read an interesting article on by Kimberly Whitler linking the discipline of marketing with the study of neuroscience. She reinforces an idea from my Mind Pops post last month, tying the discipline of marketing with an understanding of how our brain process information and stimuli.

Whitler shares that our brains first react emotionally and, only then, after reacting emotionally, does it access our rational thinking. It is this ‘emotion first’ order of our brain’s processing that is likely behind our sometimes seemingly “irrational” decisions.

All marketers should remember that our brains are wired to always work this same way: emotion then rational.  'Emotion first’ processing is as relevant to B2B as to B2C marketers. because our neuroscience physiology doesn’t change just because we’re working or making decisions in our professional life.

‘Emotion first’ is why strong brands matter.  Brands influence how customers feel about our companies and our products and about buying and using our products.  ‘Emotion first’ is also why benefit and solution messaging (when executed well) tends to be most effective.  

Of course our target audiences still need marketing content with all of the facts, figures, graphs, charts, videos, comparison tables, case studies, testimonials and white papers, etc.  All of that is still necessary to address their subsequent rational thinking.  It's never "just" emotion or "just" rational -- it is always both.

Building and executing your marketing strategy thinking about your target's emotional and rational thinking will lay the best foundation to successfully influence your customer's behavior.

December 6, 2012

It's not boring to your customer

Earlier this week I read Sean McVey's Content Marketing Institute blog post on how it's possible to create engaging content even for "boring industries".

His case study was a supply chain professional services firm offering supply chain focused educational and thought leadership content in its blog for its 7,000 supply chain managers.

Ummm, yeah -- that makes sense.  A supply chain professional services firm would want to offer supply chain managers the information, insights and community interaction around what they need to be successful.

Maybe it was the use of the word "boring" and the implication that "no one" could possibly be interested in supply chain management.  And that this firm somehow achieved the impossible and made the topic interesting.

"Boring" is great, provocative copy for a headline about content marketing. But supply chain related guidance, tips and white papers are not at all boring to supply chain managers.  I would like to believe that this is the career these folks have chosen, where they have developed their skills and proficiencies over time and where they find their flow

So to me, this case study once again illustrates the goodness that can happen when you learn about and understand your target audience.