Processes

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.

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.  

Replica_of_Thoreau's_cabin_near_Walden_Pond_and_his_statue.jpg

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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