My, Branding has Changed

December 17, 2010

By Meghan Tetwiler, Brand Planner @ NYCA

How should a brand connect with today’s sophisticated consumers?

Over the course of a few short decades, the playing field for brands has changed dramatically.  Believe me, Hollywood’s depiction of Mad Men martini lunches and chain-smoking brainstorming sessions is no longer an advertiser’s reality.  With their fingertips on the Internet and mobile phones, today’s consumers have access to quickly retrieved information, are in control of when/where/how they receive content, and are more discerning about the information they consume.  This increase in consumer sophistication demands that brands evolve their approach and build lasting relationships.

Static media messaging touting a pithy catch phrase may have been the way for brands to win attention in the past, but today it isn’t enough.  In order for brands to meet consumers’ demands, they now must work harder to go beyond screaming, “buy me” and deliver What’s (really) In It For Consumers. Creating experiences that bring a brand’s ingenuity to life and opportunities for people to personally experience the benefits of a brand’s products and services are now necessary to impact purchasing behavior.

In theory, brand marketers can easily agree the era of marketing plans built solely on one-way communications are no longer sufficient.  They nod their heads when there is opportunity to incorporate experiential branding into their marketing mix.  What is difficult for them to stomach is when it comes time to reallocate traditional print/TV budgets to interactive online, retail or event-based experiences.  I see even my progressive clients struggle to embrace experiential branding.  It’s tough.  Gone are the days when marketing plans can be recycled year after year.

One common first step made by companies integrating experiential branding is that each brand must discover how to connect with its consumers through a shared passion.  This allows not only the tried and true one-way consumer interceptions but also more interactive consumer/brand engagements.

Check out the entertaining, educational and interactive experiences the brands below have created in effort to strengthen consumer bonds.

These are just a handful of 21st century brands that have successfully made the leap into experiential branding.  I’d argue the experiences these brands are creating, from Apple’s Genius Bar to Nike’s Running Club, are personalizing their brand offerings and, in turn, successfully contributing to winning over their consumers’ hearts and pocketbooks.

As this year winds down, its time to start thinking about the future.  I look forward to dreaming up interactive experiences to deepen each of my client’s relationships with their consumers.

“Those damn marketers.”

May 21, 2010

By Katy West, Associate Business Manager @ NYCA

Last Sunday, I decided it was time to purchase outdoor furniture for my back patio, so my roommate and I took a trip to the local Target Superstore. As we were strolling through the aisles toward the Patio Furniture + Garden section, I got completely derailed by the sight of softball equipment (this is normal). I looked at the bats, checked the weights and lengths and had wonderful memories of spending my summer days on softball diamonds. Then I saw something that caught my attention – a flowery, pink softball bat. My initial reaction was skepticism regarding the design of this particular piece of equipment. As someone who takes her sports seriously, I saw this bat as anything but! I vocalized this opinion and, unbeknownst to me, a passerby was listening.

This passerby was a very rugged man, about 70 years old, with one comment that struck me as hilarious and a bit thought-provoking. “It’s those damn marketers!” he said, “They’ve been manipulating us since the ‘50s.” After my roommate laughed at me, knowing where I work, and further encouraged the man to defame my career (jokingly, of course), we both talked about it.

As a “damn marketer” myself, I felt instantly responsible for the fact that a random consumer would so quickly place blame and guilt on the marketing industry as a whole. People are distrustful of marketing and therefore we need to be careful to be authentic in the minds of the masses. We must remain clear about the reason we are advertising in the first place: to sell a product that consumers need or desire.

Despite my initial reaction, that flowery, pink softball bat wasn’t an inferior product or object of poor marketing. It was merely meant for someone other than me. It was indeed authentic to the little girls and parents that purchase the bat because it is what these consumers desire. Hence the difference between marketplace choice and misfired marketing. As a fan of the former, I am also grateful for that anonymous consumer who reminded me to respect him. It’s a memory I’ll take into the conference rooms here each day.