(Originally published in Entrepreneur.com)
Recently, I went car shopping with my wife. We were casually browsing when a salesperson approached us. After listening to his pitch, he turned to me and — in front of my wife — said, “Most of the ladies won’t care about looking under the hood, so I won’t bother giving her the marketing spiel on the performance.”
His comment surprised me. Yet this kind of stereotyping happens all the time in marketing. Just look at the gender bias in advertisements: Whether it’s a reference to sports, clothes or professions, companies try to typecast men and women in ads. But doing this can be detrimental to marketing efforts.
In fact, stereotypes can inadvertently prompt a company to ignore important customer segments — consumers who could be top buyers.
But when marketers explore other audiences, they may find an upside in places not expected. Look at Coca-Cola’s 2014 Super Bowl commercial. It depicted a wide range of people, from same-sex parents to hijab-wearing women, as red-blooded Americans. As a result, Coca-Cola may have connected with several new markets.
Stop stereotyping your customers: Instead, tap these ignored markets to reach people who may have wanted your product all along.
When you open things up to more genders, ages and cultures, you can find hungry new customers. Here are just a couple examples of underserved audiences:
The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is traditionally overlooked and incorrectly marketed to. Tiffany & Co., however, recently targeted the LGBT community with its first ad featuring same-sex couples. In an effort to combat pigeonholed gender marketing, the conservative jewelry company celebrated its same-sex customers.
Leaving out the powerful sector of elderly Americans could be a costly mistake. The age group of Americans older than 65 had 47 times the net worth of households led by individuals 35 and younger, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of 2009 Census data. Elderly Americans are living longer, becoming more literate online and staying active.
Discovering and incorporating hidden audiences requires better data but it’s entirely possible, thanks to the amount of social-media information available. In fact, many startups have successfully interpreted data, such as public Twitter feeds and Facebook pages and turned it into actionable insights. Tools such as Brandwatch, Sysomos Heartbeat and Radian6 can help inform a company’s content strategies.
While social-media insights are key, you still must consider your company’s mindset.
To understand and appeal to underserved audiences, adjust your company’s perspective from the inside out. That means your own team must be as diverse as the people you seek to reach.
Diversity influences a company’s success: A 2012 McKinsey study found that companies ranking in the top 25 percent for diversity in their executive boards experienced on average 53 percent higher returns on equity.
Not sure how to incorporate a variety of viewpoints within your walls? An all-inclusive approach to hiring and promoting will introduce new perspectives, reinforcing your company’s desire to reach out to a diverse audience.
Many startups get in a rut of hiring young people in order to exude a youthful image. In my opinion, your company is more likely to be innovative and effective with both industry vets and fresh-faced graduates alike. Age biases on the marketing side can be eliminated by hiring employees of various ages.
And large companies have also experienced challenges in attaining diversity. The New York Times pointed out in 2013 that only 16 percent of Fortune 500 executives were women and only 4 percent of S&P 500 executives were female.
The stereotype about women not caring about what’s under the hood is less likely to be perpetuated in a company that considers women and men equally valuable contributors.
It’s time to ditch the lazy stereotypes — both inside and outside your company. Determine the kinds of people who will buy your product or service. Sift through the social-media data to determine where these people are and how to get your products into their previously ignored hands. You’ll engage new audiences and build a better business in the long run.
(Originally posted in Entrepreneur.com)
Disney knows what its customers love and that’s just what it gives them. The entertainment media giant understands that a well-proportioned content strategy is crucial to effective marketing.
The media company satisfies its audience by posting behind-the-scenes movie footage and crafting engaging blog content that hooks readers. This works because Disney knows how to balance two important kinds of content: traditional and lifestyle content.
A call to action typically asks consumers to visit a store or fill out a contact form. But lifestyle content engages customers with information that adds value without a direct link to buy.
You’d be thrilled to read an email from your best friend, right? Treat customers like friends by developing relationships built on shared values and interests, rather than always asking them to do something for you.
With the right traditional-to-lifestyle content ratio in place, you can expand your company’s reach, increase click-through rates on call-to-action posts and improve your organization’s overall brand’s success.
The Future of Marketing is Here – Custom Content
Did you know that 78 percent of chief marketing officers surveyed a few years back considered custom content the future of marketing? With the lifestyle method of content marketing gaining momentum, you need to incorporate it into your promotion strategy.
For example, Puma has shifted its content focus from functionality of soccer shoes to lifestyle qualities such as self-expression and leisure. Puma lets its audience experience the branded lifestyle.
My company was intrigued by the move toward lifestyle marketing and wanted to identify the proportion of traditional content to lifestyle content. So my organization aggregated a year’s worth of Facebook posts from Adidas and Nike to compare how each used lifestyle content last year.
The findings? Nike used more lifestyle content than Adidas. Sixty percent of Nike’s posts featured lifestyle content and its traditional call-to-action posts received an average of 993 shares a post. In contrast, only 32 percent of Adidas’ posts featured lifestyle content, with its traditional posts receiving an average of 122 shares each.
If you want lifestyle marketing to work for your company, know how your company’s brand aligns with consumers’ values and become an extension of those values. You’ll use fewer calls to action, but the ones you post will connect more effectively with your customers.
Three Tips to Connect With Your Customers:
1. Conduct a professional or DIY branding session.
Figure out the following: What makes your brand special? Answering that question will help you build a content strategy that your customers can relate to.
Conduct a branding session to identify the unique appeal that sets your company apart. Your budget will determine whether you commission a branding project from an agency or dig into the data with your own team.
2. Target customers with a few limited, personality-based topics.
When dating, you work hard to find out and cater to your partner’s likes. Do the same for your customers.
Create a branding persona that captures every detail about your target audience, including a wide range of their interests, such as music preferences and hobbies. Use this data to build a style guide and content strategy that encourages engagement and makes customers fall in love with your company.
3. Channel the campaign through an influential network.
Your company’s brand doesn’t have to be fronted by a celebrity to make a big impact. Networking is a powerful factor in lifestyle branding, so put your energy into building a network of influencers. Just like a circle of friends who share information with one another, these influencers will talk about your brand and share your content within the context of an authentic lifestyle.
According to advertising legend Keith Reinhard, one of the big obstacles to effective marketing is “the obsession with quick results.” If you’re not careful, your focus on numbers will overshadow effective lifestyle marketing. Instead, understand your audience and use that knowledge to strike the perfect balance.
Is Your Brand Really Getting Greener?
Monitoring the effects of a campaign on your brand has never been very easy, particularly if it’s a specialized campaign, like trying to increase your brand’s reputation for environmental friendliness.
To address this need, we’ve added two exciting features to the Overview section of an influencer report. The ‘Time Machine’ allows you to go back to the baseline of when a report was created or any range of days in-between.
Now you can see the percent of environmentally-friendly people responding to your messaging as a simple ‘Before/After’ metric, or monitor the changes in real-time as you launch new content. Use Time Machine to track the report metrics most important to your campaign, everything from influencer interests to audience personas.
Further, we all want to see social metrics tied to our campaigns. Are specific brand handles gaining or losing followers? Are our engagement numbers increasing or decreasing? Each of these metrics is now available to you in near real-time, as well as time ranges from creation to current.
Want to see for yourself? Check it out now; it’s live on your reports! Select any of your current reports, including your Favorites, and go to the Overview screen. See the video links below for a more in depth description on how the new features work.
We hope you find great value in these two features and continue to send excellent feature requests and feedback our way!
2014 has come and gone, and while the holidays provided a nice time for reflecting on all that happened during the past year, they also gave us the opportunity to look ahead to 2015. Another year of hopes and possibilities. Another year of advancements in digital and social media. What will the new year bring? What’s the next Selfie or the next Ello? How will Facebook change its platform next – and how many times in the next 12 months?
Over the past few weeks, we’ve been thinking about potential trends and advancements our industry will see in 2015 based on things we’ve already seen and what we’re hearing from customers.
Here’s what we think will happen in 2015:
Traditional researchers will begin to incorporate social media data into their current research methods.
We’re already seeing this to a degree, but we think we’ll see the practice increase significantly in 2015. There are vast amounts of information readily accessible to researchers online and as it continues to grow at a rapid pace, more and more will realize the power of using it. But we’re not only talking about secondary research. Brands and Marketing organizations need to connect with customers in a seamless, ongoing, meaningful and personal way. Using social media for conducting primary research can be an efficient and less costly way to handle gathering primary data compared to traditional formats like focus groups. Some social media analytics companies are already strengthening relationships with researchers, doing things like giving them guidance on how they can use social media data.
Marketers will expand the uses of influencer marketing beyond pushing promotions and begin using it for things like product development.
For some reason, when marketers think “influencer marketing” there seems to be a tendency to think about it in a very push manner, focusing only on sales – how can we use these influencers to help us sell products? In 2015, marketers will realize how shortsighted that type of thinking is and how valuable influencers are for a variety of other functions. They can provide worthwhile information and opinions that can help companies develop new products, new markets, refine distribution or customer service and improve creative.
The continued growth of mobile will make it more important than ever for marketers to know their customers at an intimate level – and far beyond simply their interactions with their brand’s products.
Technology analyst firm IDC predicts that sales of smartphones will reach $484 billion in 2015 and account for 40% of all IT spending growth. While not the rapid growth we’ve seen in some past years, those numbers still indicate a strong, growing mobile industry. In the past few years, companies focused on omni-channel marketing have popped up all over to help sellers unify their efforts between the digital and physical sales spaces – but the continued rise in mobile displays a need for marketers to go further in their customer research than simply knowing the platform customers are using for purchases. Customers can be reached everywhere now, and targeting them with the right message at the right time is more important than ever. Marketers will need to see more qualitative research on their customers showing information such as what they read, their values and who influences them.
Next year we’ll see marketers proactively incorporating data into their campaigns.
You might be saying, don’t marketers always incorporate data, since you know, big data has been all the rage in 2013 and 2014? True, big data has been popular, but marketers haven’t been using data as much as they could. While the past few years have seen an influx of data readily available at our fingertips, these large amounts of data have led to analysis paralysis. There’s a lot of measurement being done, but it’s not always used in the best way possible – sometimes it’s not used at all. A comprehensive data strategy with streamlined data analysis will make it more likely that in 2015, marketers will actively use data, not just collect it.
2015 will see some evolutionary changes in marketing, due primarily to advancements in big data solutions and the strength of the CMO in the executive suite. Will you adopt more social data into your research? Start to use influencer marketing for product development? Stay in touch with what we’re seeing by subscribing to our blog.