Content Marketing

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

There's No Digital Special Sauce

...and please stop listening to ANYONE who says there is.

Whenever we start working with a new client, there is a period of discovery in which we need to dispel the myth of quick fix, digital special sauce.

It doesn't exist.  It's like when VC's talk about building a business so it will be a "cash generator." It's like, dude, if there was a plan to building a "cash generator," don't you think more folks would have used it by now? 

At the mercy of con artist "digital" salesmen, most of our clients have at one point or another sunk epic budgets into chasing this alleged special sauce.  It's been called many things over the past few years: Search Engine Optimization, Keywords, SEM, Social Media, Viral Videos, etc.  But make no mistake, they're all peddling the same thing in different disguises -- Digital Special Sauce.  They are preying on desperation and not addressing core business problems. They offer deep specialties that may result in a quick fix, but leave clients helpless once the agency engagement is complete.

Please note that lots of these digital tactics can be very effective if used properly.  KIMBA builds them into content strategies and execution plans where they fit.  But, they are part of a larger picture, not standalone answers.

Buzzwords and buzzservices render buzzresults (a common synonym for buzz is "fizzle"). Buzzresults blow away with the next strong breeze of innovation.  

We want to empower our potential current client partners to separate the ice cream from the bullshit when it comes to Digital operations and Digital solutions.  That empowerment is the very backbone of our in-house Content Studio framework and approach.  If we can empower you to discern between lasting, longterm investments in your business's health, and quick fix bandaids that will sooner or later need to be ripped off, we can eliminate a lot of the noise and clutter that's pervaded our industry since the early 2000's.  We can get you that much closer to addressing root problems that have been causing Digital symptoms all along.  We can hit your KPI's and then some.

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

Strategy Skimpin'

OMG WTF! How exciting is the INTERNET!? 

My loves, sometimes I feel like companies should just be thanking the internet all damn day for giving them such rich opportunities to better know themselves, and to better understand their consumers. Like, they should just be tweeting @ and hashtagging the shizz out of mother INTERNET, all damn day.  

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But wait a sec, my friends, the INTERNET can be pretty scarrrry, too.  There's just so much going on inside of it!  Sometimes I even feel this impending doom, like there's a 7,000 man-strong prodigy hacker army determined to undermine or overthrow all societal stability.  Sometimes I want to download the secret prodigy hacker army password from a bit torrent site.  Other times I fantasize about moving to Walden Pond where I can live thing-less like HD Thoreau.  

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Sometimes this same scare factor propels companies to do stuff on the INTERNET very quickly.  Reactions instead of responses.  In this rush, strategy is always the first step to get cut.  Strategy doesn't return quickly enough to meet quarterly sales report deadlines.  Strategy skimpin'.  The irony is that strategy is now more integral than ever before.

We think a lot of organizations are strategy skimpers because strategy can't be seen like a picture, video, P&L doc, or product packaging can.  Strategy is a thought process and rationale system that underlies and works through all the things we can see.  It's the insight-driven creative backbone that weds human behaviors to existing and emerging products.

We see the result of strategy skimping everywhere we turn.  Aside from spawning insanely dull microsites and banner campaigns, for our agency brethren, it's made life increasingly difficult.  The more complicated technology becomes, the more competitive markets get, the more strategy is needed to produce successful work.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch, clients' INTERNET-stuffs marketing/advertising budgets get smaller and smaller.  OMG WTF, you say?

Read on, for good news...

The silver lining is very real.  Smart people everywhere are pissed off.  They know how to use technology and they don't want to be advertised at anymore.  On message boards, comment chains, social media channels, and in plain conversation, they've been debunking the many lies which permeate our marketplace.  They've done their homework to be certain they're no longer susceptible to traditional methods brands have been relying on for decades.  Through ratings and reviews, they're making sure truths surface. 

So, the chief disconnect.  How do we help speed brands along to catch them up with the collective consumer conscience, behavior trends, and expectation set?  How do we help them meet the desires of consumers who wish to be engaged, valued, and treated humanly?

Well, my dearies, there's been a North American and European renaissance in brand strategy and interactive marketing.  An uprising, I say.  All over, we're seeing likeminded thinkers emerge in clusters with a determination to bring creative excellence and strategic thinking to brands.  In fact, there are so many of these little shops popping up that we had to name ours after Mike's first dog KIMBA because names like Prophet and Audacity were already taken!  

We believe it's actually socially irresponsible, and just plain OFF TOPIC to launch a program, campaign, or product without a thorough strategy.  The people can smell its absence from a text ad away! 

Brands must be smarter and more deliberate when it comes to positioning themselves, offering value, and turning an empowered shopper into a lifelong customer.  

This state of affairs excites us.  We relish its multiple challenges and the fierce competition and opportunity it inspires.  We like to partner with folks who are up for the challenge and who know they need to start thinking like strategists or expect significant loss of market share.  Who's down to defy impending doom? #KIMBA

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The Business of Social Media (it is a business, right?)

Win the internet..but to win we need benchmarks. In order to set benchmarks, most brands and their agencies focus on how other businesses are using social media.  In this new business of Social Media, we apply historic communication metrics to measure our success: 

  • Size of fans
  • Impressions
  • Viralness (term meaning "a lot of impressions")

Reporting these metrics is how we keep our retainers, win more projects, and justify promotions.

So, are you gunning for a promotion?

Halloween is fast approaching, it's football season, and holy smokes, the Emmy's are almost here!  What are you doing to prepare for the chaotic whirl of opportunities to place your brand in the center of the action? It could be HUGE. Your brand could be the next Oreos.

We've got 27 people.  What can we do?!

OPTION A

4 Social Media Monitors (the geniuses who identified Halloween, football and The Emmys as culturally relevant topics/events)

3 Art Directors (how can our product resemble something in this photo we found on iStock?)

3 Copywriters (what pun works best here?)

2 Community Managers (seriously -- who is going to post this thing--we have like 5 social pages?!)

2 Graphic Designers (where should our product and pun go in the image?)

1 Analyst (to report "buzz")

4 Lawyers (we can't say 'trick r treat' because the Sugar Council of America will be a nightmare)

1 Marketing Director (the KPI is buzz.  Are we buzzing?! Must make sure we're buzzzzzZZZzzzing! - those extra z's get me extra $!)

6 Interns (need someone to blame)

1 Developer (it's definitely gonna need a microsite)

Goal:

Get on someone's blog post featuring brands that had the best Pumpkin carving of Aaron Rodgers passing the Emmy to Eric Stonestreet while the rest of the Modern Family cast tackles Nick from the New Girl.

If you were excited about that, leave now. If you cringed please hang out, you're cool. 

So, is this type of communication in your strategy?  Did your agency talk you into this?  Is your view of your customers that flat?  Does this strategy really help them get closer to your brand and business?  Your product and service?  Like for real.  Did it?

Social Media and Content can have much more impact and usability when their preconceived viability is abandoned and evolved from more than outward communications and awareness channels.

So, rethink…hard...

OPTION B

4 Social Media Monitors (scouring the web to find opportunities for your brand to create a positive experience for someone during their point in the customer journey)

3 Art Directors (to ideate on creative solutions for your customers' biggest problems)

3 Copywriters (have them audit, organize and edit all company communications so the brand promise and themeline is consistent across all channels and touch points)

2 Graphic Designers (create the visual materials that bring the brand promise to life across every medium)

1 Analyst (research and analyze consumer behavior and user experience and develop insights to share with your company so everyone can build a closer connection to the customer)

4 Lawyers (replace them with coffee pots, just kidding Howard)

1 Marketing Director (go hang out with the customer service dept,  r&d, and interns to soak it all up and rethink your strategy)

6 Interns (pair them with the aforementioned employees so they can actually learn something -- hell, teach something)

1 Developer (build something meaningful, anything, break it, build it again, then use it or kill it and move on to the next thing) 

Goal:

Reject an ineffective perception of Social Media and solve problems to create closer connections to the people that buy your stuff. 

 

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?

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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!