To close out the year, the Target Marketing editorial staff reviewed all the content from the magazine, Today @ Target Marketing e-newsletter and blogs in 2013, hunting for some of the best marketing ideas and tips from our top experts to share with you.
Sometimes, when challenging my clients to think innovatively, I pull out Scrabble and take out two powerful letters, the E and the R. I then ask brand leaders to brainstorm words using those two letters as prefixes and suffixes. We make lists like these: REfresh, REinvent, REinvigorate, REpurpose, REmind, REmodel, REengergize and others such as strongER, easiER, quickER, slowER, kindER. Then we spend our time using those words as prompts and lenses to examine our existing marketing strategies and see how we can go one better: One better than where we are now, one better than the competitive offering, one better than our customer expects. It's our jumping off point for deeper strategic thinking, for pushing the envelope, for getting us out of our comfort zones.
As a merchandising and branding strategist, I abide by Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen's profound axiom: "A product has a job to do for your customer." In addition, I remind my clients their products (or services) either enhance their brand or detract from it. Right now, I am in the midst of finishing my upcoming book: "ThinkAbout: 77 Creative Prompts for Your Merchandising Muse," and I am living in a verb-saturated world, contemplating all the ways a multitude of products and services from a vast collection of industries live up to Christensen's advice.
I am a brand builder. I am a lifelong learner. I also am a Bruce Springsteen aficionado. Recently, after participating in one of his rock concerts at the Pepsi Center in Denver (no die-hard fan merely attends a Springsteen concert … we stand, sing, clap and dance all night, all 20,000-plus of us!), those three dots unexpectedly connected for me as I reflected on his nonstop, more than 3-hour exhilarating performance. Yes, the man is a rocker and a poet and a performer, but he's also an example of a long-lasting, very well-orchestrated brand that does things right. A brand we can all learn from, no matter your musical preference.
How is your brand expressing its gratitude to its employees? Its customers? Its partners? Do you have a gratitude strategy? I applaud businesses that make gratitude part of their business life. Here are just a few examples to inspire your own strategy.
Report cards. Just hearing those two words can generate angst even if you are no longer in school. They can raise the hairs on the back of your neck even if you were once a hard-driving honor student with such stellar grades that your parents proudly put bumper stickers on their cars. Report cards in the business world have the capacity to generate that same fear. We all want to measure up and never down. But what if I told you that with a few tweaks to the process, report cards can actually become a brand-enhancing tool you shouldn't live without?
It isn’t often I get to meet or spend time with my clients’ mentors. I had that honor recently when Paal Gisholt, CEO of SmartPak Equine, introduced me to his longtime mentor and now board member, Frank Zenie. His credentials include spending 25-plus years as an entrepreneur and chief executive, building innovative, market-leading and profitable companies (Waters Corporation and Zymark Corporation to name two), as well as writing a book called “StreetSmart Entrepreneuring.”
Simplicity may be the new black. I see simplicity winning all around me. Whether it's the return of vinyl albums for the younger generation, the 30 percent increase in the sales of canning supplies, or the surge in gardening, sewing or knitting, brands that tap into their customers' desires to counterbalance the highly complicated tech world we live in with high-touch activities will endear themselves to their customers.
Trust is an important component to building lasting relationships with your customers. Brand-builders need to spend time thinking about how trust is built (to woo new prospects), how it can be further strengthened (to increase market share) and how it can be lost (to proactively prevent!).
I cannot stop talking about our family's recent experience at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. For a person who makes her living by helping companies with their brands, that is a very good thing. Creating word-of-mouth "buzz worthiness" through customer-centric experiences is at the heart of all memorable branding.