The following post is an excerpt from Digital@Speed, authored by digital marketing guru Mark DiMassimo. Visit the official website here to download your free copy today.
Apple. Virgin. Southwest. JetBlue. Crunch. Snapple. Groupon. BlueFly. Zappos. The Motley Fool. What do these brands have in common? They’re challengers, and successful ones at that.
They’ve mastered the art of zagging where others have tended to zig. They’ve taken on the goliaths of their industries and come out on top. The truth is, it’s a challenging world out there, and every marketer these days needs to be a successful challenger or go down.
Market leadership doesn’t create an exception. Look at Citibank and IBM, for example. By becoming their own best competition, they’ve looked like ready challengers, reinvented their businesses and continued to grow.
Here’s what challengers do differently:
1) The top dog is INVOLVED. Intimately.
Some folks think the reason they got degrees and big titles was so that they could independently run their own empire. Some of these people are actually pretty smart. But nine times out of ten, this attitude will do them in.
A boss is not a meddler to be avoided. If you were playing chess, you wouldn’t leave your Queen in the background and try to fight it out endlessly with your lesser pieces. Or would you?
Forget the org chart. Every player on the board is on your team. Use them!
If you want to make things happen @speed, you want the least distance between you and your boss. And you want to access the power your boss has to smooth situations and to make good tactical decisions into great strategic initiatives. Plus, you want the power to change things that you’re not personally responsible for, because changing those things will make all the difference in your ability to create success. So, you bring your boss in as a collaborator and ally. As much as possible, you lead hand in hand. It’s the challenger’s way to use every last person.
2) The advertising conversation and the business conversation are THE SAME CONVERSATION.
Don’t separate what you’re doing from why you’re doing it, even for a moment. You never want to be the one saying, “But we failed with work that was on the strategy we were given!” That is a level of responsibility, but it’s the wrong level.
You want to be responsible for the success of the enterprise. You want the brand and business to reach its full potential. You want to use not just your authority but your influence. Because nothing beats being a part of something great and you don’t want to leave that to chance.
In this context, great advertising is advertising that works for the business and brand. It brings the business strategy to life. It creates the connection that reflects the intentions of the business while both suggesting and fulfilling its promise.
This is where experience meets selling meets branding.
3) The work is seen as the ultimate weapon for conquering the competition.
Where is the unfair advantage to be found? You are not in a position to outspend. You’re not going to break the law. Or trying to change it to favor you. But you can pack more power into the product, the packaging, the service, the story, the propaganda. You can be smarter about the technology, the testing strategy, more ingenious and industrious about the optimizations.
You can win it in the marketplace of ideas. So, do that.
4) The brand is seen as a precious asset and the ultimate defensive fortification against copycats and commoditisers.
Challengers build unique brands and they value them above all else. Customers are intensely loved, but they come and go. Employees are highly valued, but the sort who are attracted to a challenger business can only be held by a great brand. A unique culture and point of view is often the only thing to hold onto in the perfect storm of growth.
A brand is armor and a full tank of gas. A brand is everything. And you only need a business to build one!
5) The VISION of the top dog drives the advertising.
Steve Jobs met every other week for intensive sessions with Lee Clow, the creative chairman of his advertising agency. In the most successful challenger businesses, the vision for the brand and advertising comes from the top. No question about it.
That kind of courage and purity of vision can’t be bought. It can’t be outsourced. No committee could sustain it. For a business that has its founder to get the full advantage of that fact, the vision must be owned and driven from the top.
6) The vision of the agency and the vision of the client are complimentary and synergistic.
The mutual inspiration society should include client and agency, vigorous discussions, sharing inspiration, lots of choices, and plenty of going back to the well.
The most sophisticated team wins.
7) Decisions get made in meetings, not just in between.
In big, bloated bureaucracies, meetings only ratify decisions that are made elsewhere. Which is why most people in those places feel that there time is wasted in meetings. Because it is.
But you don’t have time to waste. So you’re not going to protect your own ego or anyone else’s by pretending for a second to agree with what you don’t. You’re going to have real conversations. In front of whoever is there. And when some people complain about that and they try to negotiate with you to stop the open, inclusive, challenging, passionate dialogue, you are going to say, “I understand how you feel. And, no. Absolutely not. Because that would be replacing occasional discomfort with the endless pain of mediocrity and failure. Which you wouldn’t tolerate for long… you’d be gone. So, no! Let’s just agree to be respectful to each other, to put the good of the work first, and to say exactly what is on our minds.”
Many people have learned to start a fire from the bottom, with kindling and firestarters underneath, then small twigs, and larger wood on top.
Expert firestarters will tell you to reverse that method – for more certain results, start with the top.
Brands built around a powerful emotional match – a single emotional strike zone ignited by a powerful emotional idea that sits above and informs every brand touchpoint – tend to grow faster and burn hotter.
Many marketers try to build a cohesive brand and a self-perpetuating business through offers, promotions, personalization and other performance marketing techniques. Starting from the bottom creates an unruly fire that needs constant tending and that often fails to achieve the integrity and heat of a self-perpetuating blaze.
Starting from the bottom leads to a common marketing malady –the balkanization of target.
Today personalization and micro-segmentation are all the rage. Performance marketers have built a multi-billion dollar industry, but much of the value they capture in the short-term is at the cost of the long-term brand and enterprise value of their clients.
Make no mistake, igniting action is essential to the creation of value, but action at the cost of brand is unsustainable and irresponsible.
Often the process of building a sustainable and growing blaze starts with putting the brand back together again.
Starting with key segments and personas, the successful marketer looks for a singular “emotional strike zone” – a common emotional target that is shared.
The “emotional match” is the key idea or purpose that strikes that target and ignites passion.
The process looks like this:
Segments and personas -> Emotional Strike Zone -> Emotional Match
Once the team understands the emotional strike zone and the emotional match, attention is turned to accelerating the actions that create value and growth for the brand and business.
When you start from the top, you build a marketing blaze that becomes self-perpetuating. You set it and feed it and the heat does more and more of your work for you. Does it really work? Check out some of our clients’ recent public results.
Agencies are split. They are bifurcated, balkanized.
Advertising from sales promotion. Creative from media. TV from digital. Brand from business. Consumer from B2B. Social from experiential. Strategy from execution. Content from Identity from Innovation.
Each responsible for their deliverable. None accountable for the client’s success.
And paid to treat decision makers as if they’re split too.
Rational vs. emotional. Buyers vs. brand users. E-mail responders vs. mobile app users.
But decision makers aren’t split. They’re whole human beings. Hearts and minds together. Real people who think for themselves and are susceptible to social influence as well.
Whole people who respond to whole brand experiences. Amazing, coherent, inspiring brand experiences that move them to engage, to hope, to trust, to desire, to share, to dream, to buy and to bond.
The experiences you create, and the purpose and meaning behind them, are what people talk about. They share, rate, report and buy experiences, and as they do, reputations are formed.
We have lived on the split side, worked in those agencies, large and small, every one of us as experts in our own silos, cut off from the whole.
We each chose the whole brand experience. The integrated, cross-trained team. The challenge of collaborating with the client to create the whole solution.
Here we are gladly accountable for the deliverables, but equally we are anxious to share accountability for your reputation, your brand and your growth.
We help our clients inspire people to make more inspiring decisions and form more empowering habits, connections and partnerships.
We work to be worthy of that whole partnership, and we’re as proud of our results as we are of our work.
Because today, your brand isn’t what you tell people it is. Your brand is what people tell people it is.
Our clients are responsible for building brands and businesses simultaneously.
This often means urgently lowering the cost of acquiring customers and revenue while launching, relaunching or refreshing the brand.
Brand + Business Building.
Often, before we started working together, these leaders felt they alone bore that responsibility and perspective. Lots of people had solutions to sell them, but fitting those solutions together into a whole wasn’t anybody’s problem but theirs.
When we started working together, for the first time they had accountable partners responsible for growing the business and brand, and able to speak in the language of the CEO and the board too – the language of results.
Not all of our clients are public companies, but recently some of our public clients have released results that I’d like to share.
Weight Watchers has just posted their fifth straight quarter of membership recruitment growth, and marketing is credited to helping drive the growth, of which DiGo played an integral creative role.
Weight Watchers’ Member Rolls Rise for First Time Since 2012
After last year’s tax season, Jackson Hewitt moved their account to DiMassimo Goldstein, and the company has just reported our first results together. The short of it is that we preempted the rest of the industry and, with our smaller budget, outperformed everyone, including H&R Block.
Jackson Hewitt Announces Strong “First Season” Results
These are public companies turning a corner. Their management teams are tight and urgently focused on results. They can’t sacrifice brand for revenue or revenue for brand – they need both urgently.
In this, they have a lot in common with our growth-stage clients who are changing industries and bringing the new world of Direct 3.0. The marketplace is changing quickly around industries, and while we help our clients seize the opportunities in Direct 2.0 platforms and technologies, we help them transform marketing for the marketplace beyond with powerful direct brand experiences – Direct 3.0. (Here’s a video on Direct 2.0 to whet your appetite for learning more about Direct 3.0.)
If you are at a giant company with a strategic sourcing department and a matrix management structure, you probably can’t hire us because you probably aren’t on a team with a leader who really is responsible for building both the brand and the business, and because you probably can’t really use a truly integrated, accountable partner of our size.
But if you are at the moment of extreme focus in your business where both marketing results and brand value are urgently essential to building the value of the enterprise, then finding true partners may just be a possibility worth considering.
If the results referenced above prove anything, it’s that when your brand inspires action and those actions build your brand, some wonderful things can happen.
If that’s what you’re working on, know that we are with you!
A social world favors brands and businesses that are social to the core.
Too many marketers think of social as a channel, and others think of social as merely an opportunity or a challenge.
Social is more than that, as we’ve seen with the dramatically outperforming campaigns of a series of near-instant billion-dollar brands, from Dollar Shave Club to Warby Parker to The Honest Company. But social brand thinking can also relaunch, refresh and revive brands with their roots in the pre-social age.
We proved it for Memorial Sloan-Kettering when we shifted the center of its brand marketing from reiterating its superior care and outcomes to empowering and giving voice to heroic cancer patients through our “Talk Back to Cancer” campaign. The growth of Memorial Sloan-Kettering since the launch of that campaign has been phenomenal.
We proved it again when we helped Weight Watchers put its members in the center, using our patented Selfifesto® process, and helping to turn around recruitment.
Refreshing a brand for the social world means starting with reversed assumptions. Instead of thinking of a “target” whom we need to seduce, we think about how a prospect becomes a user and then becomes a brand-lover and loyalist.
We reimagine the brand from the user’s point of view. We realized that in a world of choice, what matters is people choosing to use our brand and our marketing as part of their own campaigns for themselves! If we become part of the user’s campaign to be more, better, happier … we win.
For us, the old way is anti-social thinking, and the new way is profoundly social thinking. Social brands just win.
We track all the KPIs on our brands, every single day. So, I can assure you that this isn’t some crunchy philosophy, but rather a key insight with geometric effect on the bottom line.
It’s simply the way brands outperform today.
I like awards.
There, I said it.
No, this doesn’t mean that I conduct my work with awards in mind. And it doesn’t mean that I’m selfish, or narcissistic. It means I’m human.
And yes, it’s possible to like awards and still be virtuous. In fact, most award winners are. They hold their work to a higher standard. They put in the extra hours. They care.
But they care about the award too, because awards carry influence, and award winners know that better than anyone.
Not just for the athlete or the recording artist, but for the restaurant owner, the real estate agent, and the business executive as well.
So I don’t feel bad when I say that awards matter, and you shouldn’t either.
That’s why I am so thrilled to announce that I have been named one of the judges for this year’s Gramercy Institute Financial Marketing Strategy Awards!
Having been to many of Gramercy Institute’s events over the last five years, I have been fortunate enough to experience firsthand just how much value this award can offer — and my business is better for it.
This particular award recognizes strategic excellence in financial marketing, and the winners will be invited to and recognized at a ceremony in front of the world’s best financial marketers. If this interests you, the deadline to submit an entry is February 15. You can enter and find additional information on the website HERE.
Wishing you an award-winning career.
-Mark DiMassimo, Chief