Last time we discussed the need to have a very detailed, very defined end state for our brands in order to understand what direction we should be going for the future. All too often, brand managers and marketing executives are too afraid to think about the future, they stick with the traditional brand guidelines and strategies and try and force them into new and emerging communication channels. The result, a bunch of corporate Facebook and Twitter accounts with copyright and trademark symbols talking about brand assets and attributes confusing the community as to why they are so impersonal and nonresponsive. The unfortunate thing is this approach is just scratching the surface of the epic failure that is to come from these brands.
how do we fit into the complex lifestyle of our individual consumers to help support or facilitate their life?
However, the FutureCast Brand series is creating a new approach, one that takes into account what is currently happening now and the trends beginning to emerge for the future. We are developing brands that are sustainable in the future, by simply looking forward and knowing exactly what it is we will become when all is realized. Last time we took an in depth look at what factors will play a dominant role in the Future State of our brand. As consumers are self-segmenting themselves by affinities, philanthropies, cultures, locations, participation, etc. we as brands must respond with a consistent messaging and experience that fits within those individual lifestyles. That is the backbone of the FutureCast brand… how do we fit into the complex lifestyle of our individual consumers to help support or facilitate their life?
With the end in mind and the visualization of what we will be when all is realized, we will begin to see the path unfolding towards this end state. The next step now is to identify that map… What better way to develop a map than with cartography, Consumer Cartography. Here we will begin to merge the past and current brand with the end state brand through connectivity, relationships, partnerships, engagement, and marketing (communication) activity on a more localized, personal level. At the end of this practice, we should be able to now exactly what to do based on our goals and objectives, the consumer goals and objectives, as well as the topography of focus for the environment.
The game then becomes a mere “connect the dots” with value, excitement, anticipation, and aspiration at opportune times. But before we can play, we need to develop the dots. Let’s take a look at what’s needed in order to begin mapping.
Set the Marketing Funnel: In order to grow we need to understand what world we are playing in. We must know our constraints, opportunities, goals & objectives. By understanding this structure will give us the framework to begin creating our map.
Constraints – True creativity happens when we know our constraints. It also gives us the freedom to feel confident in our messaging. These constraints can be both internal and external factors. What regulations is our company under? What corporate information, can we not discuss with the general public?
Goals & Objectives – At the end of the day, we are in business to turn a profit, so we must know what our goals and objectives are and plan accordingly. Our goals will help determine certain activities and initiatives in our map. However, the FutureCast way of thinking allows us to revisit what our goals and objectives may be.
The Consumer: Really understanding the consumer on an individual level is both an input and output of the FutureCast brand. When driving towards this vision, we can prioritize our universe to drill down to each individual. This prioritization and segmentation, will give us key benchmarks and plots on our map to help us deliver value at every touch point for complete consumer satisfaction.
Segmentation – Segmentation is a great way to start a general conversation with each individual. However, we need to dig a bit deeper than traditional segmentation methods. Focusing on culture, subculture, behaviors, etc. will provide great avenues and opportunities to develop very focused messaging and value. Understand this behavior, connect on this culture, and you are quickly driving towards individual trust and engagement.
Behavior – The consumer / shopper / researcher has differing behaviors across differing situations. Knowing these subtleties is a key component of building individual relationships.
Adoption – Developing an understanding of the adoption rate of certain technologies, platforms, devices, etc. will help us develop the channel touchpoints across the various segments on our map. Knowing what the environment looks like, we can develop strategies and messages to optimize our conversations with each individual.
Expectations – What does the consumer base expect from your brand, industry, product, service? Managing expectations and exceeding them on every possible occasion is a strong factor for branding success. These expectations may vary across segment, touchpoint, or behavior, so including them on our map is a must when building our FutureCast brand. These expectations could include product efficacy, customer service, entertainment, etc.
Needs – There are basic needs each consumer has. We need to understand these on as much of an individual level as possible. Even if the needs don’t align with our product or service offering, we can strategize how we can support of facilitate these needs to best integrate our brand into the daily lifestyle of our consumers on a more holistic level.
Plotting the Course
The Terrain: Using the “end state” vision that we developed last time, we know what our brand will be once it’s fully realized. We need to keep that in mind when plotting our course and planning the terrain. In order to realize our FutureCast brand vision, we have to begin becoming that brand now. The terrain for our consumer cartography gives us the opportunity to have a complete view of what our brand becomes in the ecosystem of our individual consumer. Plotting these touchpoints, activities, and characteristics will build the foundation for messaging and execution. The result, a defined playing field with executional activities to realize the end state vision of our brand.
Current Platforms – As a brand, we are currently participating in our consumer’s lives. We need to know what these activities are and how effective they are. Where are there opportunities to engage better? What are our consumer’s expectations with our brand on these platforms? What are the consumer adoption trends on these platforms?
Future Platforms – with our “End State” vision in mind, we can have a feeling and understanding of what our future platforms may look like. Looking at trends in the industry (whether social, mobile, digital, etc) we can begin to build our brand dynamically, to allow for interaction and growth on whatever new platforms may arise; foregoing the static-ness of our current brand guidelines and styles.
Relationships – Building off our current relationships with our consumers and aligning them with the relationships we have in our “End State” vision, we can optimize what we are currently doing and provide more focused messaging on the right platforms, at the right time.
Cultures (Subcultures) – As mentioned above, we must take into account the cultures and subcultures of our consumer base. Placing these on the map will allow us to connect messages, goals, and value through the correct channels in the correct context.
Brand Information – As consumers get more empowered, the more information they require for purchase, repurchase, and loyalty. Things like product sourcing, product development, and brand values are playing a strong role in what brands consumers support. Knowing what is important to the consumer and where they require that information, allows us to put this on the map.
External Relationships – To support and facilitate life with our brand, we must look at all aspects of the life of the consumer. The external relationships like affinity brands, philanthropies, and causes, we can grow with our consumers on an emotional and holistic level. Placing each relationship and affinity on the map will show opportunities for value and relationship building for the consumer.
Creative and Messaging
Using all information that we have available, we can now begin developing messages and creative to bring our FutureCast brand to life. We have each touchpoint, each consumer behavior, all value needs and expectations mapped out according to where we want to go, now we just have to manage the map through creative, development, and messaging. Each will be developed with a very specific purpose and a very specific role. The message should move the consumer relationship to the next logical place in the consumer funnel to achieve business goals, as well as the consumer goals. The strategy behind the messaging is a determining factor for success, the creative is the emotional bond to bring the strategy to life.
However, we have to bridge the gap between the current state with the end state. Rolling out the FutureCast brand over a specified timeline, will allow relationships to grow organically and holistically as to not “creep out” the consumer with a blunt launch.
The creative and messaging across the differing touchpoints will take the static brand guidelines and make them dynamic and living; each interaction growing to the next. Keeping consistent with brand guidelines will deliver a seamless flow of relationships to deliver the best output possible.
Launch and Execution: With the map developed and the creative and messaging strategy aligned with our “End State” vision, we can now begin launching our FutureCast brand to our consumers. The execution has to be flawless in order to develop the strongest relationship possible with our consumers so we can slowly integrate into their daily lifestyle.
Marketing Timeline – As mentioned above, shifting to the end state vision right away may confuse or scare your consumers. We need to put each activity and initiative on a timeline and execute accordingly.
Digital Distribution & Engagement – One thing that is important to keep in mind with this type of branding, is that our brand is becoming more and more dynamic with the use of digital and technology by our consumers. We must know how our brand engages in these platforms and train accordingly. Our people are our brand too. Getting the right people to engage the right way is a key component of the FutureCast brand success.
CRM – Truly knowing your consumer with a running conversation will allow for more integration into our consumer lifestyles. Keeping all of our interactions and data about our consumer will allow us to pick up on and continue the relationship with our consumer throughout their lifetime relationship with our brand. Having a sophisticated data plan and customer relationship management tool for your brand. Be sure to track these relationships and use the data wisely.
Measure & Optimize
We have a specific opportunity to track and measure almost everything. This gives us the distinct opportunity to optimize everything. The great thing about the FutureCast brand is that it makes us nimble in the world of our consumer and we can optimize almost in real time. We can also track everything back to our brand goals and objectives to ensure our business success.
Now we have all of our “dots” defined, plotted, and the pen (messaging & content) ready to connect. However, before we can connect these dots, we must first prepare our brand to participate in this highly dynamic and conversational world. With the “static-ness” of our current brand guidelines, assets, and documentation, we need to give our brand a life, preferably a SuperHuman life. Next time, we’ll discuss what needs to happen before execution of the Consumer Cartography in the FutureCast Brand.
Photo courtesy of Flickr – jared