Influencer marketing is not new. But, it is substantially better with today’s social media world.
Pre-social media, I launched a confectionary product, where we sent samples (in the mail) to every captain of the high school football team, every head-cheerleader and every student body President. It worked like a charm. Within the first month of our launch, we were the #1 brand in the mint category. No competitors saw it coming. I am not even sure we did.
I have to tell you that as a former VP marketing, I used to reject any brief or plan that said “drive awareness”. It was my pet peeve. I only earn my salary if the brand makes money. Last I checked, we don’t make any money from awareness. So I used to ask one simple question: “So if we get awareness, what do we get next?”. I would get various answers but I would try to steer them towards: “Well, I hope it tempts the consumer to want to try our brand”. I’d then hand back the brief and say “Put that as the objective then”.
Awareness is a crappy objective. Awareness has no movement. I can buy awareness. As a marketer, my marketing must have some type of action–to get consumers to think, feel or do–differently than before they saw our marketing. I want marketing that has movement and that creates a bond, whether an immediate one or over time.
Sure, influencer marketing does drive awareness, but when done right, it drives awareness with an action. The best influencer marketing has a finger wagging at the consumer–telling them what to think, feel or do–without the consumer really even knowing. The world is cluttered. There is more marketing crap out there than ever. Doing a TV ad or digital ads just adds more clutter to the crap we sift through on a daily basis. Aligning to an influencer who the consumer is willing to listen to helps break through and accelerate our brand’s potential for success
Brands are now all about relationships
No longer should a brand think about their consumers in a strictly functional or logical way. The best brands of today capture the imagination of their consumers and take them on a journey of delightful experiences that fosters a deeper emotional and lasting relationship. These brands treat their most cherished consumers with a respect that establishes a trust, that enables consumers to open up to a point where thinking is replaced with feelings, the logic of demand evolves into an emotional state of desire, needs become cravings and repeat purchases progress into rituals that turns into a favorite moment in the day. Consumers become outspoken and loyal brand fans.
The pathway to brand success is now all about building relationships
The best brands of today engage in a strategy that follows a very similar path to the rituals of a courtship. Through the eyes of consumers, brands start as complete strangers and if successful, they move into something similar to a trusted friendship. As the consumer begins to open up, they allow their emotions to take over and without knowing, they begin to love the brand. As the brand weaves itself into the best moments of the consumer’s life, the consumer becomes an outspoken fan, an advocate and one of the many ‘brand lovers’ who cherish the brand. From the strategic mind of the marketer, this follows a very similar pattern to the strategies of a successful courtship. The brand could move into a position where the consumer sees it as a forever choice.
To replicate how brand building matches up with the building of a relationship, I have created the Brand Love Curve, as consumers move through five stages including unknown, indifferent, like it, love it and onto the beloved brand status. This Brand Love Curve is an anchor used throughout the book to help guide the choices a brand should make to move the relationship along to the next stage. Where the brand sits on the curve guides the decisions the brand leader will make on the brand strategy and tactics, brand communication including advertising, public relationship and social media, the product innovation and the building of the culture that fuels the consumer experience with the brand. The vision of every brand should be to move the relationship with your consumers to the next stage, to become more loved by consumers, which increases the power and profit potential for the brand.
You have to understand where your brand is today to decide where you want to go next
Even with all these cool new toys available, if you are a Marketer, you need to keep thinking. Long ago there, there was an innovation adoption curve that maps out various types of consumers from innovators to early adopters to early majority to late majority to the late adopters. Depending on the type of product category, we all likely sit at various parts of the curve. I am an early adopter on golf clubs, but pretty much a late adopter on hair styles! My 18 year old daughter would be an innovator around anything connected to make up, while my 20 year old son knows all the great new shows I should watch.
Depending on where your brand sits on the brand love curve, you might deploy different types of influencers to match up to the type of consumer you are going after.
- For trend influencer type consumers, they always want the leading edge stuff and be first to try within their social set. They might dig in deep to the wise experts who they trust or rely on in the category. For cars, technology, fashion, entertainment or foodie brands, this might be the leading bloggers or expert reviews. Marketers with something revolutionary to the category, should be targeting and briefing these wise experts to ensure they fully understand your brand story and point of difference to increase their willingness to recommend the new products. The earliest stages of your own product development, the more impactful the voice of the wise experts will be. There is a reason why rumors fuel all the speculation of new products. You have to make sure the wise experts know before anyone else does.
- The early adopter consumers rely on their innovator friends for the details of new brands. But they will also look to the social icons to see if they are using the product. This gives them an assurance that this new brand is about to hit a tipping point and they want to become users who are out ahead of the curve (pardon the pun).
- As the brand moves to the masses, whether early or late mass consumers, we see that they look for the advice of trusted peers who they respect to know enough about the latest and greatest. They also look to the early brand lovers, who have fallen so deeply in love with the brand, they become outspoken advocates who want to influence their friends. This gives them evidence that the brand does deliver upon their promise. So they feel comfortable to jump in on this trend.
The traditional marketing is not working so well. Old-school marketing used to yell at all consumers hoping some would try it. It was all about the brand funnel, going from aware to purchase and loyal. Now, we must cultivate our harem of ‘brand lovers’ to create the most amazing consumer experiences that will prompt them talk about their favorite brand. Brands need to learn to whisper to those who love the brand their most, so they will whisper with influence to their own network. I always ask brand leaders “do you treat your best customers the best?”. I keep hearing “No, we treat them all pretty much the same”. I quietly say in my head: ARE YOU FREAKING CRAZZZZZY!!!”
It is crucial that brand leaders understand exactly where they are on the curve, because the same reason the innovators and early adopters came into your brand is the same reason they may quickly leave.
Four types of brands
Most brands start out as a single product. Early on, brands are desperate and engage more in selling than marketing. They have this mistake that they should appeal to anyone who might buy. The brand begins to meander to meet the needs of any potential customer that walks in the door. The brand’s external reputation quickly becomes “whatever you want it to be”. Once you try to be anything to anyone, you will end up nothing to everyone. The brand has become a cluttered mess in the marketplace, unable to build one consistent brand reputation. Internally, the employees can no longer even explain the brand in a consistent manner. The most remote sales reps have a different message from each other, which does not at all match to the scientist in the lab or the latest TV advertising. Even in the boardroom, various functional leaders now hold a different version of the brand. Internally, the brand will now be a cluttered mess. These innovative brands completely mis-read the power of creating a brand. Brands must use a big idea to establish a consistent delivery of the brand while effectively managing all 5 touch points. While brand communication can drive the brand’s promise into the marketplace, the product must deliver or even over-deliver on the consumer’s expectations of the on that promise.
For new brands, I recommend that you look to start as a rebel brand that goes against the entire marketplace, then gradually move to an island brand on its own. Once you have a loyal following, you can then move into a challenger role that can go head to head with a power player brand that is in the leader position.
The rebel brand takes the aggressive stance that everyone in the market is stupid, to stand out as a completely different and better choice to a core group of trend influencers who are frustrated with all the competitors in the marketplace. This group becomes your most motivated consumers to buy into your new idea. You must bring these on board and use their influence to begin your journey.
At the rebel stage, you must take a high risk, high reward chance on who you will be. At this early stage, the brand should not worry about the mass audience, because most times, they will naturally resist ‘brands that are very different’ as they do not yet see the problem. Playing it safe will be your own destruction. Later on, the mass consumers will follow ‘trend leaders’ who not only identify new solutions, but will eventually use their influence to create new problems in the mass audience. Please never use the word “alienate” when determining your target market. You should naturally alienate those who are not yet ready. Not only does a great brand say who it is for, it should equally say who it is not for. Be careful, you do not try to be mass too soon, or you will lose your base, while not even getting the mass audience.
The rebel brand must own a small niche, that is far enough away from the market leaders to avoid getting squashed before your brand can gain any real traction. If you can find a path to expand, having a loyal following of early brand lovers gives you strength to move forward. If you end up staying a niche such as In-N-Out burger, you can solidify your defense of that niche.
To read more on the 4 types of brands, click on this link:
As marketers, we always have to be thinking before we decide whether we should engage a certain tactical tool within our tool kit. My hope is that this challenges your thinking and opens you up to see how influencer marketing can fit your brand.
To read more on how to create a beloved brand, click on this powerpoint presentation that forms one of our workshops. My hope is that it challenges you to think differently about your own brand situation:
Beloved Brands: We make brands stronger and brand leaders smarter.
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