Every Brand has a Powerful Story Behind It – 4 Ways to Find Your Own

(Originally posted in DailySEOBlog)

The Jeep brand is great at storytelling to influence their audience.

If there’s one secret to effective marketing, it’s that customers are drawn to powerful stories.

It makes sense. Compared to traditional sales tactics, storytelling is downright seductive. Where “selling” pushes the product on the consumer, storytelling pulls the consumer in with culture and a sense of belonging. Instead of spouting facts and features, storytelling provokes a positive emotional connection. And finally, where traditional selling pressures the customer to act, storytelling builds a need within the customer that the brand can fulfill.

As marketers find new ways to make these connections with buyers, creativity and storytelling become increasingly important. But it’s not enough for a brand to simply develop a personality; it has to translate into a story that truly resonates with customers.

If your brand wants to crack open the long-term benefits of building a fan base with storytelling, here are four steps you need to follow:

1. Research What Personally Influences Your Market

Your brand story is based on the unique personality of your brand and all the facets that have shaped it: its history, influences, and values, as well as the people behind it.

But even with an established brand story, the way you tell your target market this story depends on who those people are. To ensure the right message reaches the right people, you need to determine what personally influences your audience’s emotions.

First, you have to identify and target the right audience with segmentation. Pay attention to things like gender and demographics, as well as deeper segmentation, such as personality traits and your audience’s interests.

To see this strategy in action, just look at Red Bull. This brand has done a great job of telling a brand story that resonates with a certain segment of young males, including content focused on adventure sports, car racing, video games, and music.

Red Bull breaks out of its comfort zone with its content — just like its target customers strive to break out of their own comfort zones — and Red Bull’s branding and content reflects this message.

Jeep is another brand that successfully communicates its story with rugged, “part of the club” brand storytelling. This aligns with the values of freedom and adventure that are extremely relatable to its audience. Jeep has continued to connect to its audience throughout its long history of weathering the market, even as it introduces more luxury features to the brand with the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

2. Utilize Strategic SEO

Once you have a clear view of your brand story, you need to tell it strategically through digital marketing with content and SEO.

Content marketing creates a deeper connection with your audience by relating to them one-on-one or solving a persistent problem they face. This gets them so invested in your story that they can’t wait to share it with their own networks.

You need to reinforce this story with a backbone of strategic SEO, using keywords that relate to your product features and your brand story. Choose words that work as specific product descriptions and emphasize how your consumers want to feel.

For Jeep, imagine a customer searching “adventurous car to take on awesome road trips,” or “4-wheel drive, soft top, black.”
Keywords that speak to your company values and what your product can deliver will make SEO work for your search results and brand story.

3. Tell Your Story on the Right Platform

You may tell the right story to the right audience, but if it’s communicated on the wrong platform, your efforts are wasted. Tell your story on a platform that will resonate with your unique target audience.

Traditional platforms: While many trends are moving toward digital and live events, traditional marketing methods such as print and TV ads, billboards, letters, and direct mail remain important.

For example, Jeep still sends welcome letters to new Jeep owners with Jeep-branded leather keychains. It’s a traditional, simple touch that’s highly effective and continues to fuel its brand story of inclusiveness.

The brand also does an amazing job of telling emotional, inspirational brand stories, as evidenced by its latest Jeep Grand Cherokee campaign. This is a particularly powerful approach for high-volume viewing events such as the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics.

Digital advertising: Because it offers the largest number of platform options, digital advertising is a no-brainer. However, the sheer amount of engagement tends to create a lot of noise, making it more difficult to stand out.

Mix in your brand story throughout the digital landscape, starting with your company website and the social sites best suited for your brand story. Decide which platforms to focus on by researching each platform based on its merits and targeting the ones on which your customers are spending the most time.

Live events and promotions: Depending on the characteristics of your target customer and the brand story you’re telling, your brand might benefit from live events and promotions. Red Bull does this perfectly with campaigns that exemplify bravery and action, such as its Red Bull Stratos campaign. Ask yourself how your brand could create and promote similar events on a smaller scale to share your brand story.

4. Listen to the Playback

In the digital age, it’s easier than ever for consumers to contribute to a brand’s story. With so much conversation, it’s important for a brand to listen to its consumers’ version of the story and react accordingly. This is especially relevant on social media, where consumers are offering their own content and opinions about brands.

The most powerful part of storytelling happens after you’ve crafted your message, identified your audience, and released your story, so monitor conversations and respond to keep your story relevant.

Every brand has a powerful story behind it. It’s just a matter of untangling that story for the right audience and releasing it on the right platforms. When you take the time to appreciate storytelling and its impact on your customers, you open the floor for your brand fans to latch on to your story and start sharing it themselves.

How World Cup Sponsors Fared Against their Non-Sponsor Rivals

(Originally posted in Digiday, by Curtis Silver)

One might be forgiven for assuming that the biggest game for advertisers to spend money on is the Super Bowl. But the FIFA World Cup puts that single-game contest to shame. Estimates put the ad spending this year at over $1.5 billion globally, with a good chunk of this coming via sponsorships. FIFA’s major sponsors pay upwards of $50 million a year to have their logos splashed in front of viewers.

And non-sponsors are strongly discouraged from attempting to hijack World Cup buzz for their own marketing ambush. But that doesn’t stop them from trying. Still, according to Mattr, a brand analytics firm, some of the major brands who paid to play during the World Cup are finding that they had some competition from similar brands that didn’t pay for sponsorships. When it came to pure engagement though, FIFA sponsors Adidas, Budweiser, Coke and Hyundai clearly beat out their rivals.

Tracking Via Brand-Promoted Hashtags

Nike and Adidas had the most Twitter engagement from FIFA followers during the World Cup.

Only non-official sponsor Nike was able to really sneak into FIFA’s reach, with 16 percent of its engagement coming from FIFA’s following. Adidas, a sponsor, paid to get a chunk of those FIFA followers. Nike did not but still grabbed more of them than Adidas did.

So what about the brands that weren’t looking to compete with the big boys and focused mostly on guerrilla marketing? According to Brandwatch, which was also tracking the World Cup, a few brands took a bite out of the social media marketshare.

“When it comes to non-sponsor brands, Snickers really chomped at the chance to commandeer the conversation when Luis Suarez bit Italy’s Chiellini,” a Brandwatch spokesperson said. “Since the start of the World Cup on June 12, Snickers has been mentioned on Twitter in posts that talk about Suarez or World Cup over 6,500 times.”

Additionally, brands like Waffle House — with its confusing “Ban Belgium Waffles” (shouldn’t it have been “Belgian”?) campaign leading up to the U.S. team’s game against that country in the knockout round — also garnered a few shares on social media and amusing media coverage. This campaign cost the company only man hours, a true win when it comes to social marketing.

The most interesting outsider, however, was Beats. It was banned from World Cup sidelines last month because Sony is an official sponsor. This, as could have been predicted, backfired when Beats became a more popular topic on social media than FIFA or Sony would have liked. According to Brandwatch, tracking hashtags between June 17 and June 26 (June 17th when the news about Beats being banned broke), Beats trumped Sony in overall impressions.


But while non-sponsored focused primarily on taking advantage of real-time opportunities and trending social media topics, the truth is the winners were the sponsors. Yet, as Mattr pointed out to me, it wasn’t just about engagement, it was also about reaching and marketing to the right “persona.”

“Overall, Adidas and Nike seem to be really ahead of the others. They were the only brands to match the most engaged persona of @FIFAWorldCup, that of a rugged persona,” said one Mattr analyst. Mattr defines “rugged” in this instance as “outdoorsy, masculine, western, tough” and “turned off by sophistication, rules, emotion.”

The analyst continued: “There’s a lot other brands could learn from this for future World Cup marketing. For example, people identified as ‘daring’ were not engaging nearly as much as other personas. Somewhat surprising given the description of daring people.”

“Daring” here refers to people who are “trendy, exciting, spirited, cool, young … up to date.” It might also describe any brand that ignores the growing popularity of the the World Cup in the United States (where over 50 percent of FIFA’s engagement came from). No doubt many brands, large and small, are already preparing their campaigns for 2018.

Infographic: Who’s the Audience? FIFA World Cup Edition, June 16

The US soccer team may be out, but US athletic apparel company Nike is still very much in the World Cup. Nike is overshadowing World Cup Official Sponsor Adidas in more ways than one during the 2014 tournament.  As confirmed all over the news last week, their stocks continue to rise and their sales continue to sore.  When it comes to Social Marketing, some are claiming that the Nike and Adidas campaigns are fairly even, but our weekly social analysis tells another story based on the audience they’re attracting through their campaigns.

Nike managed to attract Twitter engagement from 32% of the same Rugged Males who were the most socially-excited soccer fans for @FIFAWorldCup during the week of June 16-22. It’s those die-hard fans that all World Cup sponsors and ambush Marketers should be aiming to attract.  Adidas, on the other hand, pulled the bulk of their less-than-stellar engagement from Wholesome Males.

A couple of weeks before the World Cup began, the same social analysis showed that both Adidas and Nike were on the right track with their Marketing efforts, attracting the same active FIFA audience on social. This week- Nike has left Adidas in the dust.


Only Nike matched @FIFAWorldCup's most engaging persona this week.


Week Highlights: Adidas Fails to Go #Allin

Engagement is the name of the World Cup social game, and Nike’s #RiskEverything campaign has that edge over Adidas. In line with ‘Rugged’ personality traits, Nike was successful in tweeting short, tough-toned tweets that got noticed and retweeted by soccer fans around the globe. In fact, their tweets were consistently retweeted by the thousands (2,649 times for the tweet below, to be exact), while Adidas lagged far behind.

Adidas’ highest engagement for their #allin hashtag appeared to originate from soccer stars who wear Adidas boots, like hurt US player Jozy Altidore, rather than from Adidas themselves. Pulling engagement from popular soccer celebrities is a given. Being able to take the social reigns as a stand-alone brand and still pull in large audience interaction is like scoring the winning goal.


Nike post short, tough-toned World Cup tweets that pull lots of engagement.
A sample of a ‘Rugged’ Nike tweet that pulled high engagement.


Of Interest: Nike Numbers Don’t Lie

It’s one thing to run our own analysis on which brands are getting the right message to the right audience to help increase social engagement.  It’s another to go straight to the source to get a full list of social stats that show in more detail why one brand might be ahead of another. Nike recently released some of it’s early social stats, shared in this post- among them, that they’ve seen over 650,000 uses of the hashtag #riskeverything in social media, and over 22 million campaign engagements overall.

Those are some stats worth reporting! Any brand out there that’s still holding out on joining the social and digital revolution should take a good look at these stats and consider the obvious advantages.


3 Social Media Lessons You Can Learn From a Box of Beauty Samples

(Originally posted in Memeburn)

What do Birchbox and Adidas have in common? One is a rugged sports icon, and the other is a wildly successful “stuff in a box” beauty subscription service, but both companies have impressive histories.

Birchbox raised US$72-million in funding in just four years and grew its subscriber base to more than 400 000, while Adidas has pulled in an excess of €10-billion for the past four years straight.

But that isn’t all. These brands boast impressive social media followings, and it’s not because they’re incredibly active (though they are); it’s that they understand the power of becoming ingrained in their audience’s lives rather than being just another company.

Birchbox boasts impressive Social Media Marketing techniques.

Whether you’re an established brand or an up-and-comer, you can learn from these social icons. Here are three powerful lessons from Birchbox and Adidas that can help you build a genuine relationship with your customers:

1. Target the right people with audience segmentation

The first step in developing a solid brand identity is to identify unique traits and characteristics of your target personas. Adidas nails this tactic by focusing on its rugged young male market and spending US$25-50 million per year sponsoring FIFA and the FIFA World Cup.

Audience segmentation is critical for connecting with your followers, and fortunately, social media analytics streamline this process. You can discover what makes your customers different from one another and what interests them, and then use those insights to identify topics that will capture their attention.

2. Aim for conversations, not conversions

Once you’ve identified and segmented your target audience, you can focus on the meat of your social media presence: becoming a part of that audience’s conversations.

Just take a look at Birchbox’s Twitter feed. Its tweets ask customers for their opinions, express enthusiasm over a fashion or makeup trend, or simply work to build a positive, happy vibe. Customers can smell a direct sale on social media from a mile away, so your content must be interesting and engaging on its own.

Because each social platform has something different to offer, you should customize your content for each platform. For example, Instagram is good for visual stimulation and teens, Facebook is getting much more popular with parents, and Twitter highlights current news and trends. Realise that your brand might fit into different social sites at different times, and find your perfect niche.

If you’re at a loss for how to start a conversation, look to your calendar and top trending lists. Identify topics that are relevant to your various audience segments and jump on them. Then, consider what’s going to happen in the future so you can start planning content around those events, such as graduation, back-to-school shopping, seasonal sports, and popular concerts.

3. Use the right tools to maintain authenticity

Successful social media marketing requires a steady commitment over a long period of time. Just look at Birchbox’s 50,000 tweets since 2010 and Adidas’ twice-daily Facebook updates.

But producing a high quantity of high-quality engagements requires backup. Here are three tools that can help you encourage authentic conversations:

  • Monitoring tools, such as Hootsuite, can help you follow the conversations going on throughout all of your social networks to identify the most relevant content themes to your audience.
  • Hashtag reporting tools, such as Keyhole, show the most popular trending hashtags, which can give you an idea of what people are currently discussing online.
  • Content creation tools, such as Easel.ly, allow you to create visually appealing infographics with limited design experience. Graphics are a great way to convey information on topics that excite your audience, and they work well across several social sites.

Far too often, marketers try to replicate the social success of companies like Adidas and Birchbox by launching their platforms and plugging their old promotions into their Hootsuite scheduler. But that’s not how effective brands build a dedicated following.

Direct marketing simply doesn’t work in the world of social media. You’ve got to focus on the conversations, not the conversions, and become a genuine, useful, and personable force in your customers’ lives.

What’s your brand doing to make real connections with your audience?

Infographic: Who’s the Audience? FIFA World Cup Edition, June 9

Women are taking over the social universe (and perhaps the stadium stands!) during the World Cup, according to our social analysis for the opening week of June 9.  What’s been a constant ‘Rugged Male’-dominated audience for @FIFAWorldCup the last couple of months, has now switched genders, with the women coming out ahead based on social engagement.  Were World Cup Marketers in tune with the fact that females would enjoy futball as much as their male counterparts?

World Cup Official Sponsor Coke seems to be in the know.  After several misses over the last few months in regards to which Personas they were attracting on social media, they’ve now hit a bulls-eye, with 25% of their social engagement coming from ‘Rugged Females’ (matching @FIFAWorldCup ‘Most Engaged Persona’ this week).


Week Highlights: Women Rule the World (Cup)!

Coke’s engagement shot up during the opening games of World Cup as expected for all Official Sponsors.  Great news  for them!  But even better news is that it appears they caught the eyes of the same ‘Rugged Females’ whose eyes were glued to the matches.   It was obvious that Coke not only pushed their digital campaign last week, but did it in a way that resonated with these passionate women.   Was it luck?  Perhaps.  What’s clear is that, as Coke has stated, they’re “taking a Marketing leap and trying something innovative” through their digital campaigns.

In fact, Coke created 2 in-house teams prior to the World Cup, designed to bring their real-time digital campaigns to life.   World Cup 2014 stands as Coke’s largest collaborative approach to real-time digital to date- and that’s no small feat!

Kudos to them for deciding to take this jump during one of social media and digital’s most popular events worldwide.  To stay ahead of the game, Coke needs to rely less on ‘experimental approaches’, and more on FIFA audience analysis and segmentation to really discover what type of content is most valuable to soccer-enthusiasts.

Of Interest: Pepsi Falls Flat on Social, but Scores Big as a ‘Sponsor’

Pepsi didn’t fare as well as Coke in regards to engagement during the first few matches.  Although they pulled a hair of engagement from the most engaged FIFA personality (Rugged), both Sophisticated Males and Females were almost even in the rankings.  Which means Pepsi is missing the boat with the actively engaged and super passionate World Cup audience of Rugged Males and Females.

On a more positive note, non-sponsor Pepsi apparently scored the highest awareness as a World Cup ‘sponsor’ among US consumers- meaning that although they didn’t pay the high bucks to sponsor the actual tournament, there are still several consumers who believe they’re an official sponsor.  Pepsi has a real chance to use this ‘notoriety’ to their advantage, and pull more engagement on social through the coming weeks.