Marketing is an ever-changing beast. Just as one trend gains traction, the next one is on the horizon and gaining pace. Having said that, there are a number of core strategies emerging, which will hold their weight in 2014 and help marketers carve their own path for success in the year ahead.
As a marketer, it is very tempting to get on board with the latest fad, to mirror the successful campaign of another company or to push an advertising strategy that doesn’t correlate with the values of your brand to see a quick return on investment, however, the most important element of marketing is building a consistent brand, with recognizable values.
Of course, marketing is about thinking outside the box, recognizing emerging trends and when relevant, leveraging new platforms to promote your brand. But these kinds of campaigns need a solid baseline from which to operate.
We discover what it takes to build a consistent, sustainable and recognizable brand in 2014.
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Consumer expectations are greater than ever
Consumer expectations are growing at an astonishing rate and show no sign of slowing, yet research would indicate that brands are falling behind. In today’s society consumers expect to be able to contact a company instantly with questions or concerns, they demand fast and efficient customer service and what’s more they will not settle for anything less than world-class outcomes.
If a consumer tweets their favorite brand they expect a timely response, if a product is faulty they expect a replacement and problems such as late deliveries, technical glitches and incorrect billing will not be tolerated. Furthermore, consumers have become used to seeing regular updates from their favorite brands. It’s no longer good enough to tweet once every so often or update your Facebook page only when you have something to promote. People expect you to interact, engage and entertain them and if you don’t succeed they will look for alternative brands.
Marketers play a huge part when it comes to ensuring world-class customer service and it all begins with online communication and social media. Put in place rules and regulations when it comes to responding to consumer comments and feedback and make sure you have the capacity to deal with all forms of communication - be it positive, neutral or negative.
Brand identity is King
The strength of your product is no longer the be-all-and-end-all. If you don’t have a solid brand identity consumers are far less likely to engage and certainly less likely to purchase your product or service. Think about the world’s top companies – the Apple’s, the Starbucks’, the Coca Cola’s and the Facebook’s – they all possess a solid brand identity, which is not only recognizable, and consistent but also ‘cool’.
The identity of your brand is important – think about what the company stands for, the audience it wants to attract, its main goals and core values. Finding a niche and focusing all your energy on perfecting that is critical to success. It’s also important to think about the share-ability of your brand (it’s look and feel). Take Apple and Starbucks as perfect examples. Apple put a huge emphasis on the packaging of its products and encouraged customers to share the ‘revealing’ of their new devices. Marketers and designers at the company developed packaging that slides open, slowly uncovering the product inside.
Starbucks has also been extremely savvy when it comes to shareable design. Its take-away coffee cups have become something of a fashion statement and recognizing this the marketing department launched a competition whereby drinkers had to share pictures of their coffee cups on Instagram to win free drinks. Brand identity is not something that can be underestimated; in fact it’s probably the most important consideration when developing your marketing strategy.
Starbucks coffee cups have become fashion statements in their own right
Mobile optimization will be a deal maker or breaker
Building the identity of your brand is number one, but if people find it hard to access your company on the move they will be turned off faster than you can say ‘smartphone’. Not only have people got used to being able to access online content whenever and wherever they wish, but Google has also factored mobility into its new algorithm, meaning that companies without a mobile presence will suffer in terms of search engine ranking as well.
Engagement and personal connection is vital
It’s no longer sufficient to send an email blast to ‘Dear customer’ – in fact it’s not longer acceptable to communicate with customers (even if you use their first name) if you are sending anything other than personalized and relevant information.
Marketers need to be on the ball when it comes to ways of personalizing communication with customers. Data, consumer trends, online surveys and internal systems can ensure communication is as seamless and relevant as possible.
Internal systems, which track individual customers – the products they have bought, the frequency with which they interact with the company, any questions or complaints they have made in the past – can help with personalization. If a person walks into a store and the attendant has on screen in front of them information such as a preferred nickname, the devices or products that customer uses and the last time they purchased something, they can offer a much more tailored service.
Apple is recognized for being one of the most pioneering companies when it comes to branding
Total integration is the way forward
People are beginning to access data on a number of different devices and as such want to be able to view their favorite brands across multiple-platforms. Not only do consumers want to be able connect with brands via social media, online portals and in person - on smartphones, laptops and tablets across different operating systems – they also want their interaction to be seamless.
Total integration across multiple platforms, devices and channels is no longer a bonus but an expectation. To take this one step further, brand identity also comes into play here. All channels, from social media, to the company website from a design, content and communication perspective need to sync with one another for a fully integrated and seamless customer experience.
Corporate social responsibility will attract more long-term customers
We have talked a lot about branding and accessibility, however one element that marketers need to be more in-tune with in 2014 and beyond is CSR (corporate social responsibility). With greater accessibility comes greater accountability from consumers and therefore brands need to ensure they are promoting a responsible and considerate culture.
Donating a portion of sales to charity, minimizing environmental impacts, giving back to communities in which they operate and treating employees fairly while paying a reasonable living wage are all ways in which companies can gain respect from their customers. Research also indicates that companies with solid ethical practices have a more engaged workforce, which in turn leads to better customer service and thus profitability.
A brand is not developed over time, it takes careful planning and consideration
Content marketing is the new SEO
Content marketing was a key buzzword in 2013 and its importance has not waned. When it comes to building your brand’s identity the leverage a company blog can have is not to be underestimated. We live in a world where everything is more personal and accessible and thus interviews with CEOs and prominent business figures within the organization are extremely interesting to potential customers. In-depth articles about business best practice, commentary on the latest trends, video content, top ten lists, GIFs and more are also points of interest that will draw consumers to your brand.
Building your brand’s identity is infinitely more important than pursuing flash in the pan marketing fads, which ultimately will not deliver the message you want your customers to hear. Once you have established your brand, you can begin thinking about smart marketing tricks and leveraging ‘trending’ platforms, only if they compliment and enhance the overall identity of your company. Don’t dilute your message by having your fingers in too many pies, but remain true to your core identity and be individual when it comes to pushing boundaries and thinking outside the box.