Category Archives: Brand strategy & positioning

How to Successfully Launch a New Product or Innovation

Your company has developed a new product, innovation or line and you’re ready to launch.  The trick to launching a new product or innovation in today’s market centers around the success of your online launch efforts.

We’ve outlined the eight key elements of a product launch plan to increase your odds of a successful new product or innovation launch:

  • Discover your “what’s in it for me?” position.  To gain the attention of any potential customer, you must first provide them with the answer to their main question, which is “what’s in it for me?”  Regardless of the product or new innovation, if it doesn’t connect with the end user and offer a benefit to their needs, your product or innovation will be destined to fail.
  • Grow your user base.  Obviously, the most critical element to growth is to create and grow your customer user base.  Regardless of their size, every new customer counts, plays a pivotal role and is important to your overall success.  Quite often smaller customers become larger, longstanding consumers as your brand relationship develops and grows over the years.  Newer customers tend to be more vocal, providing more brand word-of-mouth advertising; whereas longstanding customers aren’t often as publicly vocal, they share brand support when asked by their inner circle, which typically provides stronger, qualified referral leads.
  •  Create a successful online social strategy.  A successful online strategy provides continued relevance to the consumer.  The easiest way to gain a new follower or obtain a “like” from a user is to provide a promotion or discounted offer; however, your real goal is have that consumer interact with you in an ongoing, two-way conversation online.  To do this, you’ll want to create content that not only draws a user in but also maintains their interest and incents them to interact with you on a regular basis.  Surveys and open-ended questions are a great way to get consumers involved.  Sharing curated content on relevant and timely issues and topics that relate to your brand is another great way to not only get consumers involved but to also provoke them to share content from your Facebook or Twitter page.  The activity of sharing content could extend your overall reach and introduce you to new potential customers.
  • Develop the mindset of speed.  Gaining new customers and growing quickly requires online mass reach in today’s global marketplace.  The fastest way to jump-start any marketing effort is to create a buzz.  Buzzworthy content (content thought to be worthy of being talked about or shared online) such as infographics, dynamic photo galleries or YouTube videos, will spread virally and rapidly, giving you access to a wider consumer base.  Buzzworthy content is also more prone to receiving feedback, which opens the door to natural two-way conversations and additional sales opportunities.
  • Add a splash of traditional flare.  Although the goal is to get consumers to interact with your brand online in order to impact sales, one of the easiest ways to get new, qualified leads to your online doorstep and jump-start the growth of your new product or innovation is to reach them via television or radio.  Adding television or radio to your marketing mix can drive new customers to search for you online or ask others about you.
  • Establish your marketing plan of attack.  To ensure optimal success, define your marketing product launch plan and control your message and frequency.  Create a content calendar which outlines the topics you want to cover at a high level and specifies the activities for each day.  You’ll want to connect with your users on a consistent basis, without spamming or overloading them.  Too much information too fast could be perceived as information overload and cause a potential customer to be turned off or a current customer to stop following you.
  • Measure your performance and map consumer engagement.  Not only should you keep close tabs on the performance of your product launch marketing performance, but you should also follow your consumer behavior.  What article, blog or social piece drove the new consumer to your doorstep?  What topic or conversation starter caused a current client to interact with you or make an additional purchase from you?  Knowing these statistics, as well as your overall sales numbers, will help guide and define your ongoing product marketing efforts.
  • Continue to add fuel to your fire.  Many marketers and business owners make the mistake of thinking their launch is the end of the event, when in fact it is simply the launching point for a never-ending process.  Doing a big push and then pulling back, assuming your launch is over, will no doubt have huge negative impact on your sales performance.  Prepare yourself for the mindset that your launch is simply the beginning and that your support and continued marketing efforts will be an ongoing effort.

While each of these elements on their own can have a positive impact on your new product or innovation launch, their value comes from combining them together.  Using all eight of these elements together can help you create a powerful launch strategy and provide you with a roadmap for product launch success.

Brand Development by Design

What is a brand?  Well, let’s first look at where the word brand comes from.  The word brand is derived from the Old Norse brandr, which means “to burn.”  Therefore, at its core, creating your brand is essentially “burning your company mark” onto your product or service.

So if we’re going to accept the term in its literal origin, then it’s easy to understand the critical importance of the design of your brand and the consistency that must be achieved in your product line and services.

The Goal of Brand Recognition

Without a doubt, the name of the game is brand recognition!  You want consumers to see your brand and immediately feel comfortable with you and your product or services.

There are a couple of key factors that go into developing strong brand recognition:

  • Distinctive design
  • Consistent user experience (with products or services)

Distinctive Design

With many small businesses, not enough attention is given to creating the appropriate company or product name or logo.  As frivolous as this may seem, these elements are core to the success of your brand recognition.

It’s important to create a company or product name that conveys a mental image of what your product or service does.  For example, if your company creates horseshoes, then naming it Harry’s House of Horses probably isn’t going to explain to people what your main focus is.  In this case, something like Harry’s Hooves or Harry’s House of Horseshoes might do a better job of explaining this.

Once you’ve settled on a name, now it’s time to create a logo that can relay the same message as your company or product name.  A key element, of course, will be color.  Keep in mind that colors have a tendency to be associated with feelings, so if you’re Harry’s Hooves you might not want to use tons of red or black, as those colors tend to convey feelings of intensity, love, or trendy urban feelings.

Consistent User Experience

Once your brand is out there, consumers will begin the process of associating your products and services with their user experience.  The experience consumers have when they interact with your company, be it in person, on the phone or online, will begin to shape their perception of your brand.  It’s vitally important that your staff delivers a consistent experience to all consumers.

This consistency also extends to the products and services you offer.  For example, if Harry’s Hooves suddenly starts offering hula-hoop lessons, no one is going to associate that with Harry…even if his logo is sitting smack-dab in the middle of the flyer they received announcing the new service.

Whether it’s a product that they feel they can’t live without or a sales associate who always goes the extra mile for them when they call in, consumers will begin to develop feelings that will instantly appear whenever they see your brand.

From logos to colors, to fonts, to your message tone, if done correctly, your brand will be “burning your mark” on everything it touches.

The Art of Brand Social Presence

Let’s face it, creating and maintaining a social presence for a brand online is an art form.  There is more to it than simply writing a few blogs and posting some thoughts on Facebook.  Once you understand the basics, though, most small businesses can tackle this task fairly successfully on their own.

Today we’re going to explore the four basic elements of creating and maintaining a brand’s social presence online.

Outline Your Core Message

The first step, as with most projects, is the most critical. It’s the step that your entire online social presence will be built upon.  What is your core message that you want to convey to your audience?  Do you want to relay information about a new product launch or an upcoming sale or is your message going to be educational in nature?

Whatever your message, all content, either visual, social posts or traditional article-based content, must support this main message or theme and drive back to it.

Humanize the Experience

One of the simplest ways to get users to connect with your brand is to humanize it; put a face to the brand, company or product.  Think about it…consumers are people who are social creatures by nature.  It’s so much easier to be social and connect with another “human” than an entity.

If you’re a small-business owner, opt for putting your photo on the site or incorporate photos showcasing you or your staff interacting with other consumers on your blog or Facebook posting.   This simple act makes your entire brand much more personable and approachable.

Got products or services that target specific user bases?  Then give them names and create avatars to help personalize them.  Consumers are much more apt to connect with and associate themselves with something they can see and touch (even if only virtually).

Create Two-Way Conversations

A great way to maintain your social presence is to create a two-way conversation with your consumer base.  Don’t simply push information out…enlist feedback, suggestions or ideas from your consumers.  This not only allows them to feel more connected with your brand, but it’s also a great way of performing consumer research and finding out what your users really want from your product.

Another advantage to creating this two-way conversation is that it also creates additional, fresh content.  This content impacts your search results and your overall social presence, as the main search engines are constantly looking for fresh, relevant content.

The Importance of “Being There”

Now that you have your message, it’s time to get it out there!  As a rule of thumb, outside of your own site, you should try on a daily basis to hit at least one of the big three with your content: Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.  The trick is to make sure you stand out from the other noise currently hitting the social airwaves.

Here are a few solutions you might consider:

  • Create blogs and social posts that announce your new product or sale.  Develop a message campaign that builds excitement, giving hints or sneak peeks, as the launch date approaches.
  • Create an infographic that graphically demonstrates why your product or service outshines your competitors or that visually explains why consumers can’t live without your product or service. (This is also a great opportunity to have a little fun and let your creativity shine!)
  • Use newsletters to bring information “you might have missed” to your audience.  In your bimonthly or monthly newsletters you can highlight blog posts, media mentions or customer testimonials that your consumers might not have seen if they haven’t been to the site lately.
  • Create an educational message or product announcement that is delivered by your staff, either with a visual scrapbook or a video series.

Experiment with a combination of methods and see what works best for your company.  The most important factor is that you stay consistent and true to your message.

The Importance of Brand Awareness

Brand awareness is a measure of how well your brand is known within its target markets and audience.  Your brand is your image – it’s the meaning behind your company’s name, logo, symbols and slogans.

So you can see why having a unique and memorable brand is vital to your business; through your brand you not onlybuild brand awareness, but you create a reputation and long-term position in the marketplace.

Branding: The First Step

The main goal for marketing and advertising is to create brand awareness.  Before you can create a favorable impression or motivate customers to buy, they have to become aware of your brand and its meaning.

Define your company goals and core beliefs and then incorporate that into your brand message.  Your brand message should not just be able to explain what you do, but also why you do what you do.

Once you have a clear definition of your brand, it will be time to get the message out to the masses!  Although print is still important  ensure that your marketing plan includes ample resources for online activities such as online ads, content development and social media involvement.

Being active online is an effective way of making consumers aware that you exist, creating a natural buzz in the market and helps drive traffic to your business.

Top of Mind Brand Awareness

The highest level of brand awareness is top of mind awareness. Top of mind awareness is when your target audience thinks of you first whenever they need to make a purchase within your product category or market.

You can build top of mind awareness through repeated online exposure and consistent delivery of a good product and customer service over time. Top of mind awareness is a huge advantage in the market as it ensures you are top of mind when customers enter a buying situation.

Build Brand Equity

Brand equity is the value your brand has beyond your physical assets, such as buildings and equipment.  In order to develop strong brand equity, you have to develop a high level of brand awareness; so once again, it’s all about staying relevant and top of mind.

The more people are aware of your brand and the stronger your reputation, the greater your profit potential and overall brand value. Word of mouth in the market plays a strong role in helping your brand grow and as is often the case in today’s modern world, it’s all about building relationships with your custom base online.

Over time, as you build these relationships, your consumers naturally become your brand advocates and begin touting you and your brand to others.  It’s this type of priceless brand equity that you strive for and must work to protect.

Measuring Your Brand Awareness

As with all marketing efforts, you will want to monitor your brand awareness in order to make adjustments to your message or target focus.

One of the many advantages to online marketing is that you can better track your consumer behavior – i.e. what was it that brought the consumer to your site and what they did once they were there.  Keeping close tabs on this information ensures your time and efforts for creating brand awareness online are being used most effectively.

As long as you continue to see an increase in user activity, both in purchasing and in social promoting, then you can be sure that you have strong brand awareness with a clear and effective message.

Managing Your Brand’s Klout

If you and your brand are active in social media, then you most likely already know about Klout.  What you might not know though is what exactly Klout is, why it’s important and how can you best manage and impact your Klout score.  These are the topics around the “mystery of Klout” that we’ll be tackling today.  Ready?  Let’s dig in then!

What is Klout?

Klout is an online platform that measures a brand’s social media “influence” throughout the online world.  Based in San Francisco, the start-up was founded as a way to measure a user or brand’s performance on Twitter.  However, the platform has rapidly expanded and now includes activity on Facebook, FourSquare, Google+, LinkedIn and a handful of other social media sites.

To anyone in the advertising, marketing or social media professions, knowing your Klout score is like knowing your social security number or your height and weight – it’s just part of your statistical make-up and a fact about yourself or your company that you keep track of.

So before we go any further, let me explain why your Klout score is actually more important than you may realize.  Klout measures your brand’s overall social reach (i.e. how many people will see your message online).  The higher your Klout score, the more people you reach, and thus, the more people see and are potentially impacted by your message or promotional campaign.

How Can I Impact My Klout?

Now before you panic about what all it’s going to take to create a good score, take a deep breath and keep reading.  Klout measures your brand’s overall influence based on your ability to “drive action.”  So basically, it tracks not only how much fresh content you put out there, but also how much you engage with and interact with others; so really, the trick here is to simply manage your content and interactions.

The only extra step you’ll need to do is join Klout.  Once you’ve joined, then it becomes all about managing your interactions more effectively.

Knowing that most small business owners don’t have excess time to spend on social media, let’s look at those key elements that will impact your Klout score that you should focus on:

  • Build a relevant social network built around your target audience (i.e. folks who will respond to your message and serve as your brand advocates)
  • Create content with a relevant message and a strong call-to-action (i.e. talk about your services and what makes you different, then offer a promotional code or coupon)
  • Stay active on social networks 5-7 days a week (for you “do-it-yourselfers” out there, you can set up your content to post via programs like Hootsuite, which keeps you from having to post new content manually each day)
  • Focus the bulk of your messages on Twitter and Facebook as they carry the most weight when measuring activity and influence on Klout
  • Hand out your +Ks on a weekly basis for two reasons: it shows that you are active and, typically, if you give +Ks, then you’ll receive +Ks

Flaunt Your Klout

After you have been on Klout for about 30 days and are making an effort to drive up your score, it will then be time to brag about your Klout score socially! Add your Klout score to your LinkedIn and Facebook profiles and let everyone know that your brand has a social media presence with true Klout!

Out-Branding (Emirates)

We talked in the last newsletter about how marketers will be focusing on building an authentic voice in 2012. Emirates® is doing an exciting job of telling its imaginative story worldwide through its Hello TomorrowSM marketing campaign.

Hello Tomorrow tells the story of how Emirates airline unites people, places and cultures through business and personal exploration of other countries. Videos, digital content, social media, placement in outdoor, print, TV, radio and online sites all contribute to a fresh breath in the air.

Unapologetically luxurious, Emirates recalls the golden age of air travel when flying was an exciting adventure and you dressed up as if you were going to a special event. Pictures of sky lounges, shower suites, filet mignon dinners, stylish (and yet modest) hostesses and TVs and phones in every seat back make you think of the world’s finest hotels rather than an airline. Customer service and customer experience is the constant message of the brand.

The website Emirates.com is particularly effective at telling the brand story. From the neutral earth tones that convey desert sand in a chic way, to the exciting photography that draws you into the Emirates story of exotic locals, interesting people and the life-changing nature of foreign travel. The implication is clear: Flying with Emirates is an adventure – more like a cruise ship than the “bus” so many airlines are today.

Upcoming website features (you can register now) invite readers to contribute their adventures, music and pictures. “Harmony” will allow you to create your own global song with nine musicians. “Share a Smile” will let you send unique greetings to your friends from Emirates and “World Streets” will let you explore the great cities of the world online.

Even when talking about the basic in-flight services of the airline like menus and in-flight entertainment, the copy and photos are luxurious and draw you in. I found myself spending a lot of time reading about wine pairings for lobster dinners and spa lounges even though I’m not flying overseas any time soon!

The coordinated campaigns use the same colors and themes as found on the website and focus on what travel brings you – adventure, discovery, human connection, personal growth – rather than airplane features or one-time statistics.

Online ads and facebook campaigns encourage travelers to share their experiences traveling (with Emirates, of course) with pictures and conversations – including feedback on the ads. The focus on bringing the world together is consistent throughout with a wide diversity of actors and travel scenarios.

In one ad, a British and an Indian woman share shelter somewhere in India during a sudden rainstorm The ad says “Tomorrow Brings Us All Closer.” It is simple and compelling. It conveys culture, travel, adventure, and bonding experiences in one quick snapshot and there’s nary an airplane in sight. One facebook reader makes a joke about the Indian woman’s expression – which is the point. These aren’t typical actors smiling for the camera – it is a snapshot in time that you might take while traveling…if you worked for National Geographic and were a world-class photographer.

In conclusion, the Emirates brand campaign offers a true 1:1 customer experience – tailored to customers’ needs, dreams and imagination. Emirates makes you want to try an adventure for yourself. Always wanted to see Wimbledon? A live concert on the other side of the world? Cricket in India? Emirates will make it happen for you. The copy is brilliant in its simplicity and clarity. The brand prompts the imagination and makes me want to buy a ticket today!

Out-Branding

When it comes to digital marketing, Bell Helicopter really gets it. Their Your Mission campaign is one of the best I’ve seen for tying in digital communications, branding, web presence and a brand message that works. Each new piece of the digital puzzle fits seamlessly with the others and each piece focuses on customer needs.

I like the campaign because it elevates the “nuts and bolts” of helicopter operation to life-saving tools that serve a higher purpose. As part of its growing digital strategy, Bell Helicopter launched its redesigned www.bellhelicopter.com “internet presence” in order in March to reach new and prospective customers, helicopter enthusiasts and industry professionals and tell the story about its industry-leading aviation technology.

By showing the many mission critical uses for a Bell Helicopter, a brand story is communicated to customers, potential customers, investors and industry partners. Its “ripped from the headlines” approach brings in a sense of urgency and relevancy.

Everything on the new site is aimed at the customer experience rather than what Bell Helicopter wanted to tell customers, prospects and partners about itself, per se. One of the clever aspects of this site is its clean, user-friendly navigation, which helps visitors find information tailored to their interests – fast.

Over 90 percent of content displays in only two or three clicks. Visitors can explore owning a Bell Helicopter including mission solution overviews, commercial and military aircraft platforms, support and service offerings, enhanced supplier information, career opportunities and a blog from CEO John L. Garrison. In addition, Bell Helicopter uses the site to generate feedback, share success stories and highlight customer successes.

It invites a high level of interaction and transparency with its customers. While this approach encourages negative as well as positive communications, it is very authentic and sets Bell Helicopter apart from its aerospace peers.

In another unusual twist, Bell Helicopter took a holistic approach to the website and brought together teams from aircraft manufacturing, web design, information technology, advertising communications and public relations to provide input.