Back to School: 5 Elements Bring Your Brand Back to Marketing Basics

back to marketing basicsIf you’re like me, your newsfeed is full of those back-to-school pictures everyone snaps to memorialize the return of their little darlings. For colleges, it’s pics of move-in day, as new freshmen move into the dorms to start their college careers. So, it seems appropriate that we return to marketing basics.

Why marketing basics matter

Too often I run across marketing folks who either don’t have marketing chops or who aren’t using them to their full advantage. That’s a shame because those marketing basics work in real life and, if you aren’t using them, your efforts won’t produce the marketing performance they might.

Marketers get used to doing marketing the way it’s always been done, focusing on advertising and selling, rather than recognizing the value of the other 3 Ps of marketing — product, place, and price. They focus too much on pushing products to consumers and not enough on pulling consumers to their products. The results can be disastrous.

Marketing basics

So, let’s take a look at the principle marketing basics to review what you should be doing:

marketing basics - segmentationSegmentation – 

not all consumers are alike (in fact, they can be very different) and they don’t all want the same things from a product. So, it makes sense to divide up the market into groups that share a similar location, lifestyle, communication channels, demographic characteristics, needs, etc. Often, practitioners call the resulting group personas.

Once you have your groups, personas, then construct specific marketing messages that likely resonate with this group. Every product has a range of uses and features. Simply highlight those uses/ features most important to each target group. But, be careful not to say anything that one persona will find disturbing — remember, messages tend to overlap markets, not stay easily within a single market.

mobile advertisingValue — 

consumers don’t care about price, they care about value. If your brand provides sufficient value, then it’s a simple matter of helping them afford your brand with things like financing, discounts, etc.

Again, value is not absolute. It’s a function of how a particular persona views your product, so some personas might find more value in your product than others.

Because the price isn’t the ultimate decision-making variable, dropping your price is often not the right strategy. Instead, use the money you might have lost to a discount to improve your product — increase its value.

influence marketing
Image courtesy of TapInfluence

Influence — 

advertising is just one form of influence. While not the most effective, advertising does have significant reach (how many people see your message) and frequency (how often they see the message) and offers greater control than other forms of influence. Maybe at one point, advertising was a bigger influence on buying decisions, but that time is long gone. Now, social influences are more important in driving customer decision-making.

Today, rather than crafting influential messages, the marketer should focus on motivating the spread of messages favorable to their brand through their chosen markets. That means creating engagement both online and off. Here are some options:

  1. Sponsor a cause that resonates with your target audience, whether that’s political, social, or humanitarian. And, do that sponsorship in a public way, such as sponsoring an event, sharing the message of your sponsorship among influencers, or highlight your charitable efforts using traditional media. Sponsor with more than money, or if you do give money, make it big. For instance, JK Rowling, who wrote the ‘Harry Potter’ series recently dropped off the billionaire list through charitable giving, which sparked a firestorm on social media.
  2. Tap into influencers by giving them a reason for supporting your brand. For instance, give them access to free products, insider access to your people or events, recognize their efforts to support your brand, or trade support for them in exchange for them supporting you. The key here is that it has to be authentic, not just giving people stuff to buy their good reviews. For instance, NASA invited a group of Twitter influencers to watch a launch, giving them the same access as traditional reporters.
  3. Use Cialdini’s weapons of influence –
    1. Reciprocity
    2. Consistency and commitment
    3. Social proof
    4. Authority
    5. Liking
    6. Scarcity
road to digital marketing success
Image courtesy of ExasolAG


Consumers need to be happy with their purchases both immediately after making the purchase and in the long run, especially for products seen as durables.

Happy customers buy again (are loyal), share their appreciation for your products, and reduce the cost of handling complaints, returns, etc.

Many companies do a good job of tracking satisfaction by sending out surveys, monitoring online sentiment … But, too few use this information to improve market performance.

Instead, listen to what consumers say about your brand, your competition, and in general about the problem your product solves. Put that information to use in crafting better products and better messaging to position your product in the market.

One simple step toward improving satisfaction is to do what your promise customers, then keep (or exceed) expectations. Don’t promise the world then deliver the state of Nevada. Promise them Nevada. This is where advertising kills the golden goose — by promising the product will outperform anything possible. Think about cleaning products, for instance. They promise they’ll get something clean with minimal effort and almost nothing delivers on that promise. Hence, the trend back to products like ammonia and away from more pricy branded products that don’t exceed the performance of these simple ones.

Innovate to stay on top

If your brand isn’t moving forward in a substantive way, it’s moving back. That’s one of the most foundational marketing basics: change is inevitable.

Your market  preferences and needs change

Your competitors catch up and pass you by

Technology changes allowing newer products and processes

Innovation means more than just doing a “new and improved”. It means creating totally new products or significant improvements over existing ones. That often leads to creative destruction, whereby you’re creating the replacement for your existing brands. Firms that fear such cannibalization sentence themselves to defeat by a competitor who will.

And, when I say innovate, I don’t mean just your products, but your tactics, as well. Don’t just do the same marketing you’ve always done, simply changing the message. Shake it up; do something new.

Measure, forecast, monitor

Finally, don’t just do things. Forecast what the change means for your bottom line today, in five years, in 10 years.

Measure the results of your marketing plans.

What worked and what didn’t?

How do you improve the things that didn’t work based on learning from those that did?

Monitor performance. Do A/B testing.


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