Brand positioning isn’t for the faint of heart. There’s quite a bit that can go wrong between “This is who we are as a brand, now let’s turn it into an unforgettable ad spot” and “Mom, why isn’t Dad going to work anymore?”
Marketing expert Jeff Kamikow cut his chops in the rough-and-tumble print advertising space and made the transition to digital before “online marketing” was a thing — certainly long before anything to do with the Internet was profitable for anyone but the phone company and, okay, probably old-school modem manufacturers too. In fact, one of Jeff’s favorite stories harkens back to his days in print, when he’d literally give away online banner ad space to companies that bought extra ad spots in his magazines.
“I’d say, ‘Buy a couple extra spots in the next issue and we’ll give you this thing called the Internet for free,’” he recalls.
These days, Kamikow is brand marketing expert in a mobile-first world. During a decade-long career in the digital advertising and lead gen space, he has architected more brand turnarounds than his superiors can count — including some that no one thought he could pull off.
Problem is, changing technologies and ever-evolving consumer tastes mean that the online branding goalposts are forever shifting. At the same time, putting forward a first-rate brand is increasingly table stakes for companies looking to compete in any market, period. As anyone who’s had to perform in the clutch knows, the combination of complexity, high stakes and unfamiliar players can lead to tremendous — sometimes spectacular and job-ending, too — failures of execution. Forbes has a great look at some of the brand strategies that CMOs and other key decision-makers fail to execute.
Knowing what to avoid is a great start. If you’re keen on learning critical brand marketing strategies to try, check out Jeff Kamikow’s top tips and see which fit your organization best.
- Make Your Brand Aspirational
Everyone loves a good story, particularly when that story offers hope that the future will be better than the past.
That’s the essence of aspirational marketing, an increasingly common hallmark of well-executed corporate branding campaigns. Think back to the last Coke or McDonald’s commercial you saw: Unless you’re a certified cynic, the message likely resonated — even if the product didn’t.
When Jeff Kamikow worked at digital trade publications back in the 1990s, he was most definitely in the aspirational marketing business. After all, the promise of the PC revolution — a powerful machine, and later a bona fide connection to the rest of the world, in every home — was the quintessential aspirational message. These days, he’s built aspirational campaigns for successive clients in a wide variety of industries, all of which have positive stories to tell.
- Emphasize Your Human Side, No Matter What You Do
It’s a bit cliche to say that you should treat your brand as you’d treat a fellow human being, but that’s actually not a bad way to approach things at the outset.
When Jeff Kamikow helped Time Inc develop its first sustainable revenue strategy, he focused on connecting with readers on a personal level — demonstrating that his employer wasn’t just a faceless, profit-driven publisher, but a thoughtful member of the business community.
Kamikow’s gamble paid off big time: By the time he exited, he’d left Time with a multimillion-dollar revenue machine at the properties he’d managed.
- Make Sure It’s Cashflow-Positive
Speaking of revenue: It’s not a good idea to build a brand around a revenue strategy, but it’s also not a good idea to focus on aesthetics and other non-financial considerations to the detriment of revenue.
Once you have the bones of your refreshed brand in place, every step of the process — and every branded component or property that you deploy — should have a clear path to lead generation, conversion and revenue. Ask the question every time. Remember, the perception problems that necessitate brand refreshes are very often financial in nature — or so closely bound up with revenue as to be indistinguishable from true financial issues.
- Play Up Your Philanthropic Activities
Let’s clear the air: It’s not cynical or disingenuous to claim that you’re an upstanding member of the community if you really are.
Investing a few hours per month or a small percentage of your net income in charitable activities, such as volunteering at shelters or clean-up sites, or donating funds to reputable local and national nonprofits, is a great way to reinforce your company’s fundamental decency without breaking the bank. A decent brand is a strong brand. Sometimes, doing the right thing for others is also the right thing to do for yourself.
- Make Sure You Can Deploy and Respond in a Hurry
Jeff Kamikow recommends investing in a brand refresh every year or two, regardless of whether you feel like your brand “needs” it. By the time you recognize a pressing need to change, after all, you’re liable to have already threatened your brand’s integrity.
On the other hand: During the course of your campaign, you’re sure to encounter lots of situations in which a rapid, responsive turn is imperative. These situations take numerous forms, some more dangerous than others.
A benign example: A breaking news story perfectly dovetails with your solution or value proposition, so you spring into action to create and deploy complementary website, blog or social content. Brands with in-house marketing departments or on-call externals can turn such content around — conception to publishing — in a couple hours flat, and perhaps even sooner for raw pieces (like an off-the-cuff webcam video or unedited blog post).
A malign example: A serious employee gaffe (possibly the person in charge of your social media accounts) demands immediate damage control. Apologies are one thing; branded content that helps suppress and ultimately erase the online (and, to an extent, offline) record of the damage is another. If you’re set up to produce slick spots on timelines that stretch to days or weeks, you’re simply not equipped to handle the digital cycle.
What’s your favorite brand marketing strategy?