An earnest (marketing) situation

by Nick Eber, VP, Consumer, imre

The notion of brand purpose is nothing new. It’s been years since Millward Brown and Jim Stengel, Procter & Gamble’s former global marketing officer, demonstrated the competitive advantage of brands that deliver a higher purpose beyond the benefit of the product or service itself. Their research identified 50 brands that had built loyalty by focusing on ideals. In the process, those brands outperformed the S&P 500 by more than 400 percent over a decade.

But today some argue that these principles have been corrupted, as brands make increasingly shameless efforts to get noticed. So why would anyone really care about a brand, and why is your brand any different from the next one?

Customer trust may be at an all-time low, but marketers should take heed: People do still care about what you do as a brand, now more than ever. Customers’ specific motivators vary by generation, but on the whole, they gravitate toward brands that demonstrate a sense of purpose beyond just the bottom line.

Earnest Marketing is how we bring that to life for your customers. It’s a throwback to the more “honest” communications that some brands have lost track of, mixed with completely modern, tech-enabled customer-value-builders. Earnest Marketing is all about the customer’s experience with the brand, and how that experience affects long-term loyalty. It focuses on a total-brand approach to consumers through three critical marketing principles.

1. Presenting a brand’s 360-degree story, including its people, products, origins, values and overall purpose.

Everyone loves a good story. Sure, impressive product specs are important, but the story around the product is what catches our attention, even if it’s only for a few seconds. And a good first few seconds can turn into valuable minutes with a customer. Take imre client John Deere, the “godfather” of content marketing. The brand has been widely recognized for its magazine, The Furrow, which launched in 1895 and still thrives today. The magazine’s longevity and success is a direct result of its rich stories and the people who write them—people who are equal parts journalist and customer.

In addition to The Furrow and other custom publications, fans can get to know the brand, its employees and customers through The John Deere Journal, where they can read articles and watch videos about everything from the company’s blacksmith to how its new technologies are helping its customers feed the world.

2. A commitment to evaluating and correcting customer experience issues across the brand.

Nearly 80 percent of American consumers say that speed, convenience, knowledgeable help and friendly service are the most important elements of a positive customer experience. Add to that a lifetime of memories and you have Disney.

Disney is so widely recognized for all aspects of its customer experience that the company created the Disney Institute to help teach business professionals. When it comes down to it, the differentiator is that they “view exceptional service as an economic asset rather than an expense.” Disney puts that philosophy into practice every day.

As an organization, they have one common purpose that is understood and fulfilled by all employees at every level, from the C-Suite to Cast Members: create happiness by providing the best in entertainment for people of all ages everywhere. When everyone internally believes in your brand’s purpose, your customers will too. Consistency will keep people coming back.

3. Building a real relationship with customers.

Brands need to invest in the many facets of customer relationship management, including personalization, service and thoughtful affinity offerings. For example, relationships don’t get any stronger than Patagonia’s Ironclad Guarantee. The brand goes so far as to drive around the country repairing old gear, free of charge, through its Worn Wear program. Offering trade-ins and used gear for sale—on top of the repairs—also reinforces the brand’s values and commitment to environmental responsibility. And to think, the Worn Wear concept was derived from a blog started by an ambassador’s wife, Lauren Malloy, where people shared their stories about their favorite piece of Patagonia clothing.

Marketing forward

Earnest Marketing is a straight approach to showcasing a brand’s self-awareness and true values. It’s a sharp contrast to the slick, Mad Men-style, 60-second broadcast spots of earlier eras. Instead, it’s an investment in putting the brand to work for the consumer by understanding their motivations and looking for moments to engage.

Think of Earnest Marketing as a warm embrace and a family dinner, creating magnetism and energy around the brand’s core DNA. In this modern marketing world of slick targeting and user skepticism, brands can gain preference by returning to opt-in marketing and giving people what they signed up for. Practitioners of Earnest Marketing know how to provide value in return for data.

In the end, it all comes down to accessibility and accountability. This is the differentiator in today’s digital society, where customers are yearning for more—more truth, more simplicity, more peace of mind and more attention. Like any strong relationship, you have to be in it for the long haul and show that you mean it. That’s how you make something worth their while.

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