Bio: Mickey Lonchar opted for a career in advertising after many assurances it would not require any math or heavy lifting. Having spent the better part of two decades creating award-winning advertising with agencies up and down the West Coast, Mickey currently holds the position of creative director with Quisenberry Marketing & Design, a full-service advertising and interactive shop with offices in Spokane and Seattle, Wash.
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- He understood his audience, and respected that a car or truck represented the second largest purchase a family would make. As such, he recognized that before a sale could be made, the customer had to trust him. Instead of selling cars, Worthington sold a personality. This made his brand “human.” And trustworthy.
- He developed a meaningful Brand Vision, and more importantly, he and his dealerships were consistent in living it. Worthington’s motto was “I’ll stand on my head to beat anybody’s deal” and his manic advertising illustrated that point in ads that would feature him performing over-the-top stunts such as riding a killer whale or wing-walking on a bi-plane. And from what I’ve heard from those who’ve purchased from him, his dealerships for the most part walked this talk.
- He understood the best way to connect with people is through emotion. People liked his entertaining, albeit campy commercials featuring him and his “dog spot,” who could be anything from a tiger to an armadillo. He viewed himself as an entertainer. He wasn’t afraid to be self-effacing. He came off as someone you’d like to know. And this haloed onto his dealerships.
If I were to ask you to describe your spouse, one of your children or a close friend, would you describe them as a “White Male, 25-49, College Educated, Household Income of $75,000”?
Yet that is often how we describe our customers or the audience we’re appealing to. Over the decades, we’ve gotten used to segmenting by such demographics. We were able to get away with that for a couple of reasons. First, our messages were being broadcast to a very wide, diverse group. And since every prospect was going to receive the same message, it was okay to over simplify. And secondly, we often didn’t really know that much about the people purchasing our products and services.
Since the onset of Marketing 2.0 however, things have changed dramatically. We’re now able to seriously segment our audiences by lifestyle interests, passions, preferences and context in which they use our products. We’re able to look at the different “triggers” that cause segments of our audience to act. And we are better able to deliver specific messages to specific audiences (sometimes specific individuals). This gives us the chance to make our communications more “personal.” We have the opportunity to design richer communications experiences that add more context to the narrative you are telling. It moves you from “selling” to “conversing.”
An effective way to start defining exactly WHO your buyers are is to create buyer personas.
A “persona” is a vivid lifestyle description that defines a prospect on an almost three-dimensional level. By culling user information, we are able to make accurate generalizations about what specific members of our audience are like. We can then use this information to create a detailed buyer persona that looks at our potential customer as an individual instead of a member of a large amorphous group.
A customer persona is a fictional character or ideal customer. This person may not exist in the real world, but their job, daily routines, pain points, beliefs, preferences and challenges do.
Think about your customers and the kind of issues and pain points they have. Think of the questions they ask you every day and start to build a picture of a persona. Most businesses have more than one type of customer so it is a good idea to create at least two, three or more personas (some organizations have been known to create as many as 50).
Often times, it helps to give your personas a back story, a detailed history and even a name. You may also use a stock photo or clipped photo from a magazine to give them a look.
The advantages of using personas is that you are able to create content for purposes of reaching that individual. And that “individual” is really an amalgam of a large swath of your target market.
It gives more context to the narrative you are telling. It moves you from “selling” to “conversing.”
Personas are as useful (in some cases even more useful) for business-to-business organizations as well as for consumer products and services. Here’s an example of a detailed persona developed for a company called Munro American, a maker of comfort footwear for women (you may wish to enlarge this).
How to get started on defining personas? A good start would be to inventory what you know about your existing customers, in detail. Survey them, and rather than ask “how satisfied they are” with their experience, probe deeper. A few questions to consider would be:
What is their job and their seniority?
What does a normal day look like for them?
What irritates them (both when it comes to your product category and their lives in general)?
What are their passions? Their hobbies? Their interests?
What are their aspirations?
What is important to them (once again, thinking beyond the category)?
When they are looking for information, where do they go?
Which social networks are they active on?
Answering questions such as these will help you build a picture of your buyers and will form the building blocks for future content and marketing.
Another thing about personas: they are not set-and-forget. They should be an integral part of every communications brief. And just as real-life customers are ever changing, so too are personas. It pays to revisit them every month or so to make sure they are up to date.
Posted by Mickey
In this clip from the 1967 movie “The Graduate,” recent college grad Ben (portrayed by a young Dustin Hoffman) gets some career advice from a family friend. This advice describes the brave new world Ben is about to enter, and is condensed to one simple word: Plastics.
Today, the future of marketing can also be described by one simple word (well, two actually): Inbound Marketing.
In a nutshell, Inbound Marketing (also known as Content Marketing) is about building a marketing platform where customers come to you rather than you having to find them. It is about creating an array of helpful content in all forms and distributing it across the channels where prospects and customers are educating themselves about products and services. It is not about pushing sales messages, but rather giving prospects the content that allows them to conclude that your organization is the one to trust (and by association, to buy from).
As an illustration of this process, let’s look at how customers make purchase decisions in this post-digital age. Research shows that nearly 80% of all shopping journeys involve the Internet. It could be to learn more about products, compare prices, read third-party reviews, ask questions, find a store, download coupons or discount codes, or purchase. Inbound Marketing gives you a seat at the table. It allows you to “be there” while customers are searching, and provide custom content that will aid them in their customer journeys.
And most of all, we know Inbound Marketing works. One study from Wishpond shows that leads developed through Inbound marketing close at a rate TEN TIMES HIGHER than prospects attracted by outbound marketing.
Given that Inbound Marketing is the new Plastics, how can you prepare for this future? Here are four ideas that will help.
1. Be clear on what you want customers and prospects to feel about you.
That’s right, feel. Facts get forgotten, claims get discounted. But feelings become deeply embedded in our consciousness, and are proven to help you earn a position in your customer’s mind.
Find out what your most loyal customers love about you–what you do better than every other provider out there. Then figure out how you can make that aspect present at every go-to-market opportunity. It pays to be simple. Look at how some of the most revered brands in the world have handled this. Nike IS performance. FedEx IS reliable. Southwest IS the low fare airline. Apple IS intuitive, design-forward technology.
What are the one or two words you can stand for in your category that no one else is standing for?
2. Hire professionals to bring your strategy to life.
Creating a robust Inbound Marketing program isn’t as easy as administering a Facebook page. Social networks are primarily for those who already know and like you. They are ways of keeping fans engaged with your brand. It doesn’t take a PhD to develop this kind of content yourself.
Inbound Marketing, however is radically different. It is creating and disseminating all the things that influence prospects to come to you.
Inbound Marketing is about creating customers. About influencing decisions.
To be successful at Inbound Marketing requires two things: the content that people will seek out and want to engage with, and a plan to make sure this content is easily found.
This is where specialists can spell the difference between quantifiable success and a fits-and-starts program that struggles to gain traction.
Expert content providers can plan and create the kind of content that consumers are looking for. They can ensure you have a consistent presence. They can provide relevant content to prospects no matter where in the marketing funnel they are.
And SEO (Search Engine Optimization) experts have the know-how to make sure your content gets found. They know how to tag your content so it organically shows up. They can help determine which “long-tail” terms will generate the most bang. They can help you tell your story through search.
3. Quit with the “corporate” talk.
It’s important to find a personality and a voice for your company. Studies show people are more likely to engage with you if you sound human. So avoid the corporate-approved pap, and talk to customers like the people they are, with real needs and real concerns.
4. Reuse, recycle and reimagine.
It takes a lot of time and effort to produce a constant stream of useful content. So make sure you milk it for all it’s worth.
Blog posts can be combined to create whitepapers. Case studies can make compelling videos. Dry instructions can be reimagined as how-to videos. Corporate presentations can make interesting SlideShares. Customer questions can be the basis for podcasts or webinars. And “evergreen” content can be revisited again and again.
As your content vault grows, turn your organization into a “content chop-shop.” Great content not only lives forever, it can live forever in many forms.
As you’ve no doubt experienced, it’s a new age in marketing. The customer’s journey has changed. More and more customers want to educate themselves. Custom content will play a more and more important role in this process.
Posted by Mickey
Here’s some good news for marketers: consumers trust advertising significantly more than they did six years ago. This is the conclusion of new report from Nielsen that polled over 29,000 people in 58 countries.
And the medium that has done the most to raise trust? Television. The good old Boob Tube. Nielsen’s study showed that TV ads earned the trust of 62% of consumers, up from 56% in 2007. (The percentages reflect the number of people who “completely” or “somewhat” trust ads.)
And more consumers trust, the more they believe you. And the more they believe you, the more they buy.
Why the big jump in trust? Here’s my theory: Marketers have figured out how to use the medium.
David Ogilvy once famously said “Don’t insult the consumer. She’s your wife.” More and more marketers have figured out what that means. They’ve learned that “old school” TV creative doesn’t work.
Shouting at people doesn’t work. Bluster does little more than elicit eye-rolls. Chest-puffing corporate talk is good for little more than a “meh.”
What consumers crave is content that benefits them. That explains how to solve a problem. That makes them smarter consumers. That informs them. Or communication that is self-effacing and makes them laugh. More and more TV creative is doing just that.
This is backed up by another finding of the Nielsen study, which asked consumers “What kind of TV advertising do you find to be most effective?” The number one answer by a landslide was “Humorous” commercials. “Lifestyle,” “Family-oriented,” “Celebrity” and “Animal Spots” all scored significantly lower.
What these findings show, I believe, is that people aren’t programmed to hate all advertising. Only advertising that doesn’t help them or entertain them.
All in all, what we have is in effect a cyclical agreement: consumers will find TV advertising more trustworthy. As long as the spot you are running is trustworthy.
Posted by Mickey
Loyal customers. The holy grail of marketing.
Converting customers who know you, like you and buy from you into advocates for your brand is what we’re all aiming for. And to help convert “frequent customers” into “loyal customers,” marketers have devised a host of offerings combined under the moniker “loyalty program.”
Buy-nine-get-the-tenth-free punch cards. Cards that track your usage and make recommendations (or send special offers) to you. Buy-one-get-one-for-a-friend offers. All aimed at “rewarding” customers for their patronage, make them feel special and convert them to loyal customers.
The thing is, though, quite often, such loyalty programs don’t work. Oh yeah, they may pry another transaction or two out of the customer, but they don’t build customer loyalty.
It is here we need to consider the behavioral studies done by Frederick Reichheld. His work showed that between 65% and 85% of customers who switch brands were satisfied customers, and really had no complaints. It’s just that they found a better offer.
In other words, they were quite content with buying from you. And likely bought repeatedly. But then another brand caught their eye, and, poof, like that they and their Loyalty Card hit the road.
It is important to distinguish between customers who buy from us repeatedly and those who are truly loyal. With repeat purchasers who aren’t particularly loyal, you’ll find yourself fighting for their business on a transaction-by-transaction basis. In this case, you’re not using a loyalty program to reward them, you’re using it to buy their next transaction. What happens at some point is the loyalty program loses its importance and does little to affect customer churn.
Okay, if the loyalty programs many marketers are relying on aren’t building customer loyalty, then what will? Building true loyalty requires creating a relationship with customers. One where you value them over the transaction. You are willing to make some sort of investment or personal sacrifice in order to strengthen that relationship.
Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba in their book “Creating Customer Evangelists” estimate that between 20 and 25% of your customers could potentially become “loyal.” But how do you convert them? Here are a few ideas:
• Align your values and actions with those of the customer. Instead of devising all sorts of ways to capture a higher share of wallet, try thinking of your customers as a community of like-minded people. Then do things for the good of the community, without expecting a quid pro quo.
• Involve your customers in building a better customer experience. Nothing beats actually hearing from customers and getting their feedback and suggestions. You can create a customer advisory board (similar to the Quisenberry Consumer Panel) that helps you identify things you excel at and things that need work. Be sure to give such a group access to corporate leaders.
• Give your most valuable product away. That ‘product’ is not the widget you’re selling, it’s the intelligence and knowledge your organization has acquired over years and decades. Chances are you have a heck of a lot more ways to help customers than just selling stuff. Share it with them.
• Take your customers “behind the scenes.” Customers who are loyal to you are hungry to find out more about you. It may seem mundane to you, but to customers, this is new stuff. Show them how the sausage is made. Give them access to way more information than you think they could ever use. This becomes fodder for them when they talk about you in their social circles.
• Give loyal customers early access to new product offers, use them as a beta test group or devise exclusive offers that are just for them. The more special you can make them feel special, the more likely they’ll be with you through thick and thin.
Steps such as these have the potential to create not only real loyalty, but real evangelism on your behalf. These are customers who are going to buy from you, no matter what. And they are not only willing, but excited to share their experiences with you with others. In that regard, a worthwhile organizational goal could be to create good stories. customers love to share them.
Yes, taking steps to build true loyalty involve a lot more work than printing off a couple hundred punch cards. But the dividends are well worth it.
Posted by Mickey
Last month, several noteworthy brands rose up on the anniversary of 9/11 to get a word in. No doubt you’ve seen a few examples.
I’m not talking about horribly misguided advertising (like the ad pictured here). I’m talking about brands, however well intentioned, that felt it necessary to say anything at all. The butter brand, the laundry detergent, the car dealership vowing they will “never forget.”
The sentiment expressed by these brands seemed genuine. But were they appropriate? Wedged between quirky photos of cat memes and 10% limited-time offers, is it really necessary to distill one of our nation’s most life-altering events down to a 140-character tweet or a trending hashtag?
As I mentioned in this blog post from a few months back on the practice of “newsjacking,” tragedy is not an opportunity to build social currency. It’s not something to leverage, tap into, or harness in the name of making a brand statement. It’s not something that helps your audience or makes your brand more relevant to your consumer.
The default action among many brands in social seems to be to “over contribute”–to say something just because they think they “should.” To me, brands that insist on interjecting themselves into every passing news event is like the blowhard at the cocktail party you try your best to avoid. He figures as long as his mouth is moving, he must be saying something worth listening to. Sorry, that’s usually not the case.
What would be appropriate messaging for an occasion such as a 9/11 anniversary? If you’re using the occasion to launch a fund to cover medical bills of first responders, then tweeting that out would be relevant and useful.
But for most brands, such occasions provide an opportunity to go dark. To take a time-out from your regularly scheduled content. To fight the urge to “say something” even if it sounds like it came straight out of a greeting card.
Give people the space and time they need to self-reflect and catch their breath. Your brand doesn’t have to be right in there to “stand in solidarity” beside them.
Sometimes, saying nothing is the most profound statement of all.
Posted by Mickey
“Don’t judge someone by what they say. Judge them by what they do.”
We’ve probably heard variations of that phrase our whole lives.
That warning applies to how we view today’s consumer as well. Too often, we marketers over-rely on what the consumer tells us. They self-report on themselves. The problem, of course, is that either consciously or subconsciously, they are trying to tell us what they think we want to hear, or what they should say. And often times, that bears little resemblance to how they really feel or act in the real world.
It’s only when you get away from the focus groups and the surveys and actually observe consumers in the wild that the discrepancies become apparent. It’s not usual for a consumer to go into vivid detail in a focus group about how they use a specific product, or how important it is to them. Then when your view their actual behavior, you find it doesn’t line up at all.
A recent global research study from Young & Rubicam entitled “Secrets & Lies” shows this discrepancy between what people say and how they act in great detail.
The study — conducted in the U.S., Brazil and China — finds that consumers often hold views that are the exact opposite of what they say. And they are often hiding their most important desires and triggers (what we call “insight”) from marketers — and maybe even from themselves.
One example researchers point to is the whole question of whether or not “sex sells.”
Provocative advertising almost never tests well. Traditional copy testing scores are usually abysmal. But when you leave the controlled testing environment and see how consumers react to those messages in real life (via eye tracking studies, recall or preference scores), you’ll quickly conclude that sex does indeed sell. Or at least it gets the attention of the audience, and helps them feel positively about the product. It’s just that on some level people are uncomfortable admitting how motivating sex is.
The point we’re trying to make here is to take with a grain of salt any kind of research that relies on self-reporting. Use it as a starting point. Then follow your consumers out into the real world and confirm whether or not their self-reported behaviors hold water.
Posted by Mickey
Cal Worthington, the famous car salesman/spokesperson whose wacky commercials and catchy “Go see Cal” jingle helped sell an amazing number of cars since the 1950s, passed away a few weeks ago at the age of 92.
To say Worthington fundamentally changed the way vehicles are sold would be a gross understatement. He got his start in the days when the model itself was king, and the dealer was given little thought, perceived mostly as fulfilling the sale. Cal elevated his franchises beyond the “dealers are all the same” perception, and actually created the first true “brand” of auto dealers.
The way Cal built his brand is amazingly consistent with how successful brands across time have been built:
You can view a compilation of some of Cal’s most famous stunts, set to the melody of his famous “Go see Cal” jingle (based on the children’s classic “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.”) here:
They say the highest form of flattery is imitation. In that regard, Cal’s success spawned an unending number of half-hearted reprises from dealers who didn’t get the whole story behind Cal’s success. Most either had no personality or were more interested in the hard sell. Ironically, this fed the popular perception of car dealers being insincere.
In closing, please allow me to share my own verse of Cal’s famous jingle:
“If your sales are a-saggin’ Go See Cal.
If your messages are laggin’ Go See Cal.
If you need a better vision, then I give you all permission to
Go See Cal, Go See Cal, Go See Cal.”
Posted by Mickey
In marketing and advertising, it isn’t that hard to get your audience to like you.
It isn’t hard to get them to agree with your reasoned argument.
It isn’t hard to lead them all the way to the water’s edge. To get them to acknowledge what they should do.
The hard part is getting them to drink. To act. Specifically, if it means somehow changing their behavior.
Trying to get prospects to change their behavior based on logical arguments is an uphill climb that makes Sisyphus’s job a walk in the park.
An example of how difficult it is to get consumers to change behavior based on logical arguments is the “green movement.” While an overwhelming majority (70%) of American consumers agree that “buying green” is important, only 19% list it as their primary criteria for their purchases. The other 50%+ are in essense saying “Yeah, we know we buying green is important, we know we should do it, but you know, I’m still buying that new SUV.”
If measured logic and the “sober adult talk” won’t entice consumers to change their behavior, what will?
One place to look for possible answers to this question is in the field of Behavioral Economics, which studies the effects of social, cognitive and emotional factors on economic decisions (wow, that’s a mouthful). In short, that means you’ll have way more luck motivating consumers to act by redesigning the experience around the way they already act rather than rely on rational arguments. This approach will bear way more fruit than trying to change behaviors.
You need to make it almost intuitive for them to act. An example: putting the veggies within easy reach increases the chances your diet will succeed. Not because you’ll prefer broccoli over glazed donuts. But because it’s the easy solution. You’re able to act before your “lizard brain” has the opportunity to talk you out of it.
The challenge for marketers is figuring out how to make conditions right so prospects will make that behavior change without really thinking about it. To entice action before the instinctive, non-thinking part of your brain (which hates change and loves patterns and predictability) has a chance to talk you out of it.
The real-time interactivity of today’s online tools and social platforms can be powerful tools in shortening the distance between “intention” and “action.” A great example is the idea of “text to contribute,” where after getting “agreement” from the prospect, you give him an easy, almost effortless way to follow though (“Donate $10 by texting ‘RedCross’ to 4343”). Way more effective than hoping he’ll copy down a phone number or URL from a TV spot and follow up on it when his program ends.
Changing behaviors, even subtly, is a delicate balance indeed. You want prospects to consciously agree. Then instinctively act.
Posted by Mickey
One of the hottest marketing buzzwords of the moment would have to be “native advertising.” Native advertising is loosely defined as a form of paid online advertising that looks and feels like the content that surrounds it.
If this sounds familiar, it is because marketers have been doing the same sort of thing off-line for decades, except we called it “advertorial.”Advertorials have generally become known as little more than sales messages cloaked as publication-approved content.
The reason for the recent interest in native ads is essentially the same reason marketers were intrigued about advertorials. They were seen as a way to sneak advertising messages past people who don’t read ads.
This comes as a direct result of the perceived ineffectiveness of the online space’s pre-eminent ad form: the banner ad. It’s no secret that banner click-through rates (CTR) have been plummeting for years, to the point where a 0.05% CTR is considered acceptable. (Though in my opinion, CTR is a lousy way to evaluate banner effectiveness.)
In fact, according to Hubspot, today you are statistically more likely to survive a plane crash that click on a banner ad.
So advertisers are looking to native ads as the potential savior for online advertising. And the thing is, they just might be. If they’re done right.
Native advertising holds a promise that the paid advertorial never had. It is an opportunity for marketers to provide interesting, helpful, useful content to their audiences in places where they control the message. It’s an opportunity to share knowledge and experience with customers, without coming off as a sneaky hawker.
Another reason native advertising is so promising is that it can be created in almost any form. It can be a repurposed blog post. An original article. A recipe or how-to tip. A Vine video. A game. A Sponsored Tweet or Promoted Post. Or a paid search listing on Google. Here is an example: a six-second Vine video from Lowe’s:
Anything goes, as long as the sponsored content passes the “useful content” test.
Because most native advertising will be original content, and because it will rarely be scalable (you can run the same banner ad on 800 sites, but that’s not the case with sponsored content) a native advertising program can be expensive. But the upside is huge. People engage with content they find interesting and useful. And not only will they respond, they will often share it forward.
So native advertising, done right, could prove to be the “killer app” of the online advertising world. Done as a dressed-up sales pitch, however, it will be little more than a money drain.
Posted by Mickey
One of the universally accepted foundations of building a successful brand is to stick out from the competition. To be different than any other option out there.
A proven way to do this was made popular by Al Ries and Jack Trout in their 1981 landmark marketing manual Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind. In their book, Ries & Trout popularized the concept of Share of Mind–that basically, consumers have room in their consciousness for two or maybe three brands per category, and if you are not one of them, you must find a way to supplant one of the brands already there. And the way to do this, according to the authors, is to find a customer need that is not being addressed, and make your product the solution to that problem.
Many a successful brand has been launched using the framework Ries & Trout championed more than three decades ago.
But as with a lot of things in marketing, some marketers have taken this “search for a solution” bit to questionable extremes. They have found ways to make their products different all right, but not in a way that answers any real problem its users seem to have.
A few popular examples that come to mind are Freshness Dating introduced by Diet Pepsi in 1994, and Coors recent Cold Detection Can that lets you know that your beer is, well, cold. Here’s the Diet Pepsi spot that introduced Freshness Dating.
It’s hard to imagine users of either brand asking questions beforehand like “You know, I wonder when this can of Pepsi was made?” or “Is this beer cold enough to drink?”
What these marketers have done, in effect, was create solutions to non-existent problems.
Now it appears Google is getting into the act as well, with its new Gmail message filtering system. Put simply, Gmail now breaks your emails down into five tabs – primary, social, promotions, forums, and updates – and automatically determines where to place incoming emails. On its blog, Google justified the change by proclaiming, “Sometimes it feels like our inboxes are controlling us, rather than the other way around.”
On the surface, that might make sense. At least until you talk to real Gmail users.
The idea that consumers are constantly worried and deeply affected by the scores of emails plugging up their inboxes completely ignores the facts. Figures from the DMA’s Email Tracking Report 2012 show that about 40% of consumers who receive brand emails (which get filtered out of the stream) are getting no more than three a day on average, and about 2/3 receive no more than six. Add to that the fact that 74% of consumers report preferring to receive commercial communications via email, and you can quickly surmise that “Inbox Overload” is a creation of Google, not a legitimate need of the marketplace.
In my opinion, creating solutions that require fabricating a phantom problem is a gross form of mismarketing. It deceives consumers into thinking they have a problem they don’t even know they have (“Gee, how many cold beers did I drink in my life that weren’t really cold?”). Given that all of us have plenty to concern ourselves about, we don’t need marketers trying to raise our anxiety levels just so they can stand out in the marketplace.
The good news is that in these days of user-controlled conversations, mismarketing tactics such as these are easily exposed and outed for what they are.
If you’re looking for a meaningful way to make your brand stand out, get ready to burn up some shoe leather. Get out into the marketplace and spend some time in your customers’ shoes. Experience what they experience. Understand the context of your product offerings.
That’s really the only way to find legitimate holes in the customer experience. Then be prepared to alter your offerings so these needs are directly addressed. To create a better customer experience, and not to just “be different.”
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to check my shirts for Ring Around The Collar.
Posted by Mickey