Company Culture

The Brand Story: More Valuable to Employees than Consumers

Have you ever been to a social gathering, standing in a circle of 5-6 people, when two people launch into two different stories at once?  They both pause and exchange social cues to insist the other continue.  Finally, one person takes the floor, and starts their story from the top.  

Yada, yada, yada

Yada, yada, yada

What if we lived in a world without social cues, and both of those people just continued talking over one another?  I actually have had this experience with intoxicated people, and I usually walk away because I can't hear either story.  That volume of interruption (times 10) is where we're at when it comes to telling Brand Stories to consumers.  

Traditional Advertising and Marketing relies on the notion that every person is comprised of both their current self and the self they wish to become.  These industries cater to the latter -- the aspirational self.  

From college seminar to company conference room, Marketing 101 teaches that the most effective way to tap into that aspirational self is through storytelling and therefore, that the telling of the Brand Story is the most effective way to reach consumers.  As Digital opened up a plethora of new channels through which brands could tell their stories they began to flood fresh infowaves.

ad block level ninja

The Branded Content universe has become saturated so quickly, we're now in the age of the disconnected consumer.  Not physically disconnected, but emotionally disconnected.  We're becoming hyper-focused on utility and convenience and we really don't care so much about a brand's story when it comes to connecting with them.  We'll toss a smiley emoticon or a "Like" at it, but it has no value in our daily living.  

Susie Sallypants doesn't have enough hours in a day to watch and read stories about her favorite soda, granola bar, clothing company, bra manufacturer, restaurant, gym, and car.  She also won't make the time to do so when the information available doesn't directly pertain to or enhance the moment in which she is.

Hence, our reality is one of conflicting needs -- brands who have been sold the idea they should use new channels to tell their Brand Story and consumers that care about brand messages only when they offer utility.

jesus you're doing it wrong

The true legacy of Steve Jobs as a business visionary is that he knew how to keep his employees engaged and aligned around the vision and mission of Apple.  It was the way he lived Apple's Brand Story through command, design, innovation, and persistence, that inspired his employees.  

His example plus the current market climate, teaches us that the ones in real need of falling in love with a Brand Story are the people that work for it.  

It's unanimous, alright.

Why does everyone hate their job? It's because they are the ones emotionally disconnected from the brand, and therefore, their purpose within a larger picture.  They aren't focusing on answers to questions such as:  What is my company accomplishing on planet earth?  Who started the company and why?  What value is my company providing to our customers (whether B2B or B2C) and how does this value impact and change lives?  

5 day weekend employee engagement

There is real emotion and meaning within those answers.  There's inspiration and love in that telling of the Brand Story.  

So, should companies continue to tell their Brand Story?  Yes, but they need to redirect its attention to a new audience and as a result, create new Brand Storytellers.  It must be told, refined, and used where it can make the most profound impact -- in the workplace.  It is only when an employee understands, connects with, and lives this story, that they will innovate to push it further.  That's the heart of sustainable growth and it's the first step in becoming a Digital Business that adapts to the law of Customer Experience.  The ripple effect resonates from that point.

Forget the investment in Influencer campaigns (starting at $8k/month).  What about repurposing that investment internally towards workshops, technology, or process improvement to make your employees experience purveyors who in turn will naturally influence others?  The sentiment of holiday parties, company retreats, and Summer Fridays for flip-flop lovers is good, but how can we inspire employees to love their company 365 days a year?  The Brand Story is how. 

Image credits: Reddit, Google, & other fine humans

C-Suite Tasked with Creating 'Digital Culture'

KIMBA defines the 5 core dynamics of any business as: Vision, People, Culture, Process, and Technology.  All operations and scenarios fall somewhere under or between a configuration of those elements.  

We look at Culture as a result, or byproduct, of how a company's Vision lives and breathes through its People.  The very nature of Culture as a concept is less predictable and containable than the other 4 elements classified.  Therefore, creating a 'Digital Culture,' a buzztask with which nearly every CEO/COO/CMO has been challenged over the last 5-10 years, must start with an examination of both a company's Vision and its People.  

Tasked with redefining their corporate Culture, most organizations' impulses have not been to look inward at their own Visions and People, but instead, look elsewhere for new "Digital Talent" to recruit.

The hunger for Digital Talent has swelled over the past 5 years.  It used to be that anyone who had an entry-level position servicing ads on DART ended up fighting off recruiters with a stick just 2-3 years into their careers.  At KIMBA, we are always asked to refer the best "Digital Talent" to mature businesses, agencies, and startups alike.  As the demand mounts, the reality becomes more clear -- not only is Digital Talent hard to come by, but due to demand, people who qualify as Digital Talent are incredibly difficult to retain.  In some cases, the existence of and need for Digital Talent as a remedy is entirely mythological -- like hunting for Digital Unicorns.  

Thanks, Google Image for this "Digital Unicorn!"

McKinsey recently published an article on the difficulties of holding down solid Marketing Analysts.  In it, they stated only 3.4% of Senior Marketers feel they have the right Digital Talent!  Just a month prior, ADWEEK published a similar study, citing interviews with 750 Fortune 500 Ad Execs and did an elementary infographic to help showcase the grim findings.  The title of the piece was "There is a Digital Talent Gap."  

So, here we are, after all the effort and momentum put into the deep sea scour to acquire Digital Talent, and still NO ONE is satisfied!  In fact, the scarcity of talent has become even more bleak and troublesome!  Why is this?

Adobe Research recently conducted interviews with 1,004 U.S. Marketers.  Their findings boiled down to two key concepts:

1) All Marketers know they need to adapt and change

2) These same Marketers don't believe they know how to change.  They don't have the resources or training to meet the challenges that await them

The Adobe findings speak to the missteps made in addressing the Digital Talent shortage.  They speak to the reality that KIMBA has examined for some time now.  

What most people fail to recognize is the skills they are hiring for have not existed until now. The training for the positions they are trying to fill isn't linear and prescribed as it is in most traditional industries.  The training often takes place amidst new business challenges, born from new technologies, and treated with new solutions -- all of which have yet to be traditionally defined or analyzed.  This means recruiters need a deep understanding of the business functions for which they are filling roles.  That way, they can identify hybrid and cross pollinated talent with a breadth of experience primed for refinement within their organization.   

Those fortunate enough to have worked exclusively on forward-thinking, cutting edge Digital projects and products, throughout the past 10 years that such opportunities have even existed, are in a unique class.  And within that class, those who live to innovate may never be satisfied working for a traditional organization.

We believe, and have so developed services against the idea, that most companies actually have more "Digital" resource and Talent than they are aware.  With the right training, attention, alignment and process implementation against current employees (People), the hunt for Big Foot Digital Talent may not be as necessary.

Realignment of and investment in personnel is an integral part of any Digital Transformation process.  Adaptation to the reality of rapidly shifting consumer culture must start on the inside, with an organization's Vision and People.

People Don't Care about Branded Video Content

I read this article the other day which was written by 2 widely revered ad dudes.  The topic of the article was brands needing to invest larger portions of their media dollars in the creation of video content.  The authors' chief postulate was that PEOPLE like VIDEO and banner ads suck.  Wow!  Did you just feel the earth shift?  ;P

The dialogue in this article reminds me of a conversation I had in a client boardroom about 4 years ago.  My talented and tireless agency team had been creating deck after deck, packed with insight after insight, about how, yes, people watch video.  And, better yet, they watch it because they like  it.  A war fought in the noble effort to push that budget, inch by inch, towards the creation of more video.   

So, anyway, I'm reading this article and totally disagreeing.  

Our country's Advertising and Marketing practices have been founded on the hypnosis of sensationalism.  Early on, master creatives knew they needed to employ theatrics to dress up brands and their mundane product sets.  They needed to weave elaborate and heavy-handed tales in order to attract, magnetize, and often hypnotize the consumer.  The best brands produced products that lived up to promises they marketed and advertised.  The crap brands fell off the map.  Long live the democratic evening out process of free market. 

Take it back 15 years-- broadcast is king of the consumer eye and the :30 spot is j'everything.  The sensationalism and bold cinematography in a Mazda commercial is almost enough to suck out a tear drop or two.  Today, we see the same technique applied to the TV spot.  Ever get :15 deep in a commercial filled with profound quotes and epic nature shots yet you have NO IDEA what the commercial is advertising?  Is this an effective tactic?  

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I don't think brands need to be creating more video as much as brands and their agencies need to accept that consumers aren't looking to brands for great video content and immersive viewing experiences.  Consumers look to brands for great products and solutions that offer them value and benefits in their daily lives.

Of course, Global Agencies don't want to sniff these roses.  To accept this state of affairs would mean they'd need to abandon the sexiness of being in Advertising.  All of the Art and Creative Directors who really just wanted to direct indie films will need to concede that this may not be the industry for them to actualize those fantasies.

As opposed to "hey brands, make more VIDEO content," I'd prefer a blanket directive like, "hey brands, spend your resources, your people, your dollars, on building products that add value to the lives of people who use them.  Invest in technology and start to understand integration and enhancement of the product set you've crafted.   Then, around those products, create ways to communicate their utility and benefits in a manner that is inviting to those you wish to attract."

This doesn't mean KIMBA isn't going to suggest we create video content as part of a brand's content strategy and creative mix.  It's an important piece of a larger picture.  It helps tell a visual story in concert with other content: ratings & reviews, apps, customer service forums, curated editorial, photos, articles, data visualization, etc.

BUT, the ingestion pace of today's consumer culture doesn't want to slow down for the hypnosis of more and more branded video content.  Sure, it can be fun.  And sure, any Fortune 100 brand can throw millions at top comedy writers and directors to produce an SNL caliber spot in which their brand is tastefully featured.  However, people would appreciate more direct communication.  Less fluff.  They want great products from their brands and for great video "content" they'll continue to turn to theaters, Netflix, cable (had to?) or bit torrent! 

Old World Order

Old World Order

Thanks, America Online!

Don't get too excited because this isn't a snarky piece of commentary on the many brand and organizational makeovers AOL has undergone over the past 18 years.  That's been covered.  I just want to throw a quick nostalgic shout to the 56.6 kbps magic that started it all -- this Social Media business of ours.  

Do you remember when AOL OWNED the internet and chat room romance (A/S/L)?  I do!

I remember the world seeming to expand each time I heard that nasty fax dial-up sound clip the mini speakers of my family's Compaq Presario desktop computer. I remember the rush I felt when entering a chat room as the 23rd and final member.   I remember scanning endless lists of public chat room titles and then making up names of private chatrooms where I could huddle with a select few individuals.  Strangers, most of the time!  17/M/CT's!!  I remember this: y0 DuDe, waSsuPperZ?

tumblr_m0z13cSbnr1qlztl9o1_400.jpg

Particularly special to me was America Online's gift of new music discovery through social connection.  I was one of those punks that used every text field of my profile to list bands.  My digital identity needed to scream "I care only about music."  Using the profile "search" function, I would enter two diverse artists, click return, and then scour the results of other members' profiles who shared similar taste.  I would scan their lists, and from them,  discover some of my favorite bands to this day -- At The Drive-In & Sunny Day Real Estate to name a few.  It was the OG recommendation engine.

There was magic in that proactive hunt for personalized experiences.  It was charged by a hunger for connection, discovery, and identification.

Recommendations, personalization, and customization are now part of every smart digital product.   The smarter the product, the more human it feels and behaves.  The industry, and the creativity flowing through it, seem to precede a 100% consumer run ecosystem in which useful digital products and people connecting to them will reign supreme.  

As a buzz term, SMO came and went.  However, there was something fundamentally compelling in its system.  Obvious, but still compelling.  Content should be ranked based on its relevance to collective social and cultural behavior.  That was the key engineering principle of the first iteration of Google's search engine -- interlinking pages.  

Soon, agile teams run by big thinkers will create such a breadth of delicious digital utility (all-screen compatible), that all the paid media in the world won't be able to grab true "share of voice."  Banners, text ads, and purchased YouTube spends will never win!  They will bow to a democratic evening out process in which functional and innovative services dominate every vertical.  

However, we know that companies will be busy for years to come investing in Content Ad buys (that's the new thing now -- just putting your shit on someone else's shit), MORE SEO, and banners.  All strains of the same trickery and deception.

In this gradual, sometimes painfully tedious, yet always surprising revolution, Mike and I knew we had to form our own agile team to service brands in a meaningful way.  We had to fight the right fight.

As nothing is the same about the way consumers consume and nothing is the same about the places and points at which they do their consuming, then doesn't it follow that nothing can be the same about how we (as brands and agency partners) service these audiences across said channels and platforms?   That's what KIMBA is about.  Come join us on the road to true value for consumers.  L8!