The advent of digital and the decline of television viewing have caused a dramatic shift in marketing priorities. But these changes have also opened a new risk—one in which tactical choice becomes the driver and checklists become the way forward. The key to ensuring unique communications programs that deliver results and avoiding turning marketing decisions into commodity buying (:30 second spot, check; social media plan, check; video assets, check etc.) is in changing the algorithm for a successful campaign.
The goal needs to center on a higher order—and an emotional one at that. It’s not enough to be about awareness or even engagement, the buzzword of the last decade. The new algorithm is more of a virtuous circle; one in which the customer and brand are inextricably linked. Essentially, marketing programs should be designed to make customers feel good about the brand. When they feel good about the brand its reputation will improve. When the reputation is strong (and positive), it will inspire others to feel good about the brand, spurring a stronger reputation. To wit: emotional appeal (i.e.: feels good about…) is one of six critical dimensions (the others are product & service, workplace environment, financial performance, vision and leadership, and social responsibility) measured in the Annual Harris Poll RQ® Study and the only one that marketing/advertising can impact independently.
How customers feel about the brand affects engagement as well: a recent study by McKinsey showed that among 30% of customers interested in active co-creation, the bulk will only participate with brands they trust. And in case it wasn’t obvious already, it’s also good for business: according to APCO Worldwide’s Return on Reputation (ROR) Indicator 2012 State of the BioPharmaceutical study, just a one-point increase on Reputation Index can result in an estimated 987,922 patients asking their doctors about a company’s medicine.
The most effective way to build reputation is to take the strategic process from insight (the a-ha revelation that provides the connection point between brand and target) all the way through to outsight (the revelation the target will have about the brand after the marketing program is executed). Start with the target and ask the fundamental questions: who do we want to reach? What problem can we solve? How can we convince the target we’re the right solution? How can we encourage them to see for themselves? And then, once these questions are answered, add additional “outsight”-driven questions: How will this make the target feel about our company? Will the target associate our company with the solution to his/her problems? How will the target feel about his/her relationship to our company?
These reputation-oriented questions may seem like areas traditionally covered by the corporate communications team but, as marketing lines are blurred and programs become more and more integrated, they are becoming the most critical questions everyone involved in marketing needs to ask. As Maya Angelou wisely said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”