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Archive for the ‘Branding & Awareness’ Category

I just saw a great slideshare presentation from Sarah Goodall, Head of Social Media – EMEA, at SAP.  Entitled, “Storytelling to Storyselling,” it’s exactly the type of resource I’ve been searching for to help put pattern and process behind that elusive — yet incredibly important — art of storytelling.

Her premise is this — in an age of information overload, getting your audience to remember anything is a challenge.  Yes, you could keep repeating yourself, and at some level that may work, but it’s more efficient to tell a story.  Why?  Because stories are how we are “wired” to remember things.  Think of it as the Three R’s: we Relate to what we’re hearing and therefore build a context that we can Recall and Refer to later on.

As for process, I really like this chart Sarah presents, because it helps me see the pattern in storytelling:

So How Can You Move to Storyselling?
The value in this chart for me is that it demonstrates that storytelling begins with positioning – you need to know who your customer is, what problems they face, and how you solve the problems before you can tell them a story.  Once positioning is established, you move on to messaging, which is where most people “stop.”  I remember hearing Lou Hoffman, the storytelling guru, say essentially that messaging is useless in this day and age.  He posits that executives are so “trained” to parrot messages, that what they say ends up not resonating with their audiences because it sounds too “canned.” 
 
I think he’s got a point.  But messaging is still a key step to the storytelling process, because it customizes the value propositions for each audience.  It’s also an invaluable tool to communicate those value propositions within your organization, not only creating alignment among groups, but also giving the individuals in your organization the opportunity to evangelize your value to their networks.
 
Next comes  storyboarding.  If you’ve never heard of storyboarding, it’s a technique used in theater and film to visibly express a story, scene by scene.  My own belief is that it is this step that is the “missing piece.”  Okay, what do I mean by that?
 
What I mean is that traditional case studies don’t give you a story!   Not only that, they can be really boring — problem, solution, result.  Yada yada yada.  Who cares?  Especially nowadays when communications are everywhere and our attention is diverted so easily to other topics?
 
So, how does storyboarding solve that problem?
 
Storyboarding gets story tellers to think visually.  That is the missing piece, critical element or communications “chasm” to cross (to mix my metaphors).  Once you start thinking of telling your story in visual blocks, it makes you think multidimensionally — and encourages you to use multiple communications strategies to communicate your message.  This means that you gone from appealling to just the logical mind (via the written word) and extends your engagement power by introducing visuals — pictures, sequence & scene, texture, sounds.
 
More on storyboarding in my next post.
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I went to an IABC meeting last week (International Association of Business Communicators) here in Silicon Valley.  The event was a luncheon and — a surprise to me — the room was packed.  The audience was experienced communications professionals from some of the most well-known high tech companies.  The communications glitterati, if you will.

The topic was “Social Media Meets Corporate Storytelling.”  It was a great session, very interactive.  One of the speakers, Lou Hoffman, is very well known for his advocacy of Storytelling as a method of communication.  His premise, and I agree with him, is that if you can tell a story, you will engage an audience.  People will much more readily remember what you are trying to communicate if you put it in story form.

Those of you who have met me know that I am not shy.  So, I popped up during the Q&A and asked if they know of any best practices on going from “case study” to “storytelling.”  The answers I got, interestingly, were garbled.  One of the speakers said that I should encourage executives that I am training to tell stories to stick to topics that excite them.  Okay, useful.  But not a best practice.  Lou said that he has some storytelling workshops that he does and that anecdotes are under appreciated storytelling devices.

This is interesting but not what I’m trying to get to.  I want the equation.  I want the pattern.  I want the elusive thing that makes a case study into a memorable story. 

So, I’m looking into storytelling from a different perspective.  From the perspective of the script writer, the novelist, the “great communicator.”  This must translate into the business world.  I will relay what I learn in this blog.

In the meantime, I’m reaching out to my virtual network and asking you:  What makes a good story?  And do you have any storytelling best practices to share?

Can’t wait to hear from you.

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One of the most frequently voiced complaints I hear about marketing is that it’s “squishy.”  People have trouble drawing a connection between the research, branding, positioning and communications that we do into real-world, value creating action.  One of my favorite illustrations of how a company successfully has translated “theory” into “action” is a recent advertising campaign from Symantec.  

The messaging in the advertising focuses on the customer – what their concerns and fears might be surrounding security.  Then, they created scenarios that illustrate their fears — but not in a frightening way.  Instead, they opted for entertainment value to create memorable scenarios that drive home their key messages without intimidating their viewers.

The TV commercials in the campaign showcase scenarios of cybercrime (watch them here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avG0Eh-Uq2g).  For example, in “The Bank of Nikolai” you meet Nikolai, a cyber thief.  He tells you that he has a bank, it’s very safe and if you give him your money, it will be very safe — “right here, in my front pocket.”  The video closes with Symantec’s key message for that commercial — a statistic about cybercrime, “Cybercrime has now surpassed illegal drug trafficking as a criminal moneymaker.” 

Symantec effectively created an entire series of these commercials that showcase their key messages.  They have been very effective in communicating these messages in an entertaining way and on a medium (YouTube) that makes it easy to forward the video to your friends.

Symantec did one thing very well — they focused on translating all that research, positioning and messaging into something tangible that created value for their company.  Bravo!

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A brand messaging architecture is the first thing you should develop to help you manage your brand image and communications.  It is primarily used by internal departments and external vendors (such as PR firms) who communicate externally to customers, partners, and influencers.  The brand messaging architecture is a formal structure that summarizes and communicates messages about your company, products, and services. 

There are a lot of components to messaging and not all of them will be needed for every brand messaging architecture.  Depending upon your situation, you will choose from the following components to develop the messaging that you need:

– Vision Statement
– Mission Statement
– Positioning Statement
– Value Proposition
– Key Messages
– Proof Points

Here’s an example of a brand messaging architecture for a global non-profit professional association, the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals (it’s an older version of the brand architecture, so I can share it).

Example: Brand Messaging Architecture

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Branding is as much an art as science.  As a science, there are the “to do’s” of branding which encompass processes and procedures for marketing a product.  As an art, branding is about influencing and managing perception on a grand scale, a much trickier proposition.

So it’s clear there is a lot to building a brand.  Now, where do you start?

Before you create that product launch, media event, or advertising campaign, you’ll need to be clear about who you want to talk to, what you want to say to them, and how you want them to feel about it.  In addition, consumers should be hearing the same messages about your product from all parts of your organization.  So, if you are selling an apple, it wouldn’t be good if some people in your organization describe the apple as red, juicy, and delicious, but others are talking about how great apple trees are for planting in a garden.

My new book, Before the Brand, contains a process that will help you create a messaging baseline for your company, product, or service.  I developed the process over the course of many years providing messaging for high technology companies such as Apple, Adobe, and Cisco.

But the value in the process described in Before the Brand isn’t simply the solid foundation you will create with positioning and messaging.  Rather, one of the most significant values of the messaging process itself is that it’s experiential.  You will take the people who know and care about your company, product, or service through a step by step process that results in alignment of participants – from company executives and stakeholders to partners and customers.  In addition to creating alignment – and therefore making it easier to communicate consistently – participants will also consciously debate what kind of perception they want to create in the mind of your consumer.

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You have a great idea for a company, product, or service and you want to make your mark.  You want the world to know how revolutionary, helpful, or significant it is so that they will participate in it, or buy it, or let all their friends know about it.  You want to create a wave of interest so that your product is successful.  Basically, you want to build a brand.

So what’s in a brand?  The dictionary will tell you that the word “brand” is a noun, adjective, or verb that means “label” or “mark.”  But as marketers, we know that a brand is so much more.  To build the multidimensional thing known as a brand, you’ll need to incorporate several components:

  • Look and feel.   How your company, product, or service appeals to the senses.  It may include the logo, colors, packaging, product design, texture, user experience, or other distinctive physical attributes.
  • Product features.  Attributes of the product such as the task it performs or services it provides.
  • Product benefits.  Advantages your product delivers to consumers which will solve their problems or otherwise improve their lives.
  • Perception.  This is the “holy grail” of branding.  How do you want your consumers to feel about your product?  What do you want them to think about the product?  The perception that your consumer has about the product is the most important function of branding because it is the reason most consumers will buy or re-purchase your product.  Your consumers may not remember the product features or benefits, but they will have a perception about it.  Most of brand building is perception management – and messaging both captures and conveys that perception.

In other words:

Look + Features + Benefits + Perception = Brand

In my next post, I’ll go deeper into Brand Perception.

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It’s been a while since my last blog post, and that’s because I’ve been in the process of publishing my new ebook!

I am truly excited to announce the publication of  “Before the Brand: Using Positioning and Messaging to Build Brand Identity.” 

Think about it.  How is your brand perceived?  Unless you consciously define your brand, your customers will create their own perception. This book helps you take control of your brand by defining what your brand is before your marketplace does.  It contains a step-by-step process to create positioning, value propositions and messaging, making it much easier to influence customer perception of your brand.

To learn more, or to purchase a copy ($10 USD), click here.

And there is another change you may have noticed.  My blog brand has changed from “Marketing Magic” to “Before the Brand.”  I’ve had so much interest in the intricacies of positioning and messaging that I’ve evolved this blog to cover that topic more fully.  In upcoming posts, you will learn:

  • How to create a value proposition
  • How to manage brand perception
  • How to position your product
  • What the difference is between vision statements and mission statements
  • …. and much, much more!

I’m pleased to bring my subscribers new, useful tools to help them in their day-to-day work.  Go forth, and make your mark!

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