Brands Create Their Own Future


This is the season of predictions. Just the other day, we looked at more than 100 thought contributions to content strategy seen through the social media and marketing lens. The more uncertainty in our lives, the harder we look to firm up what's next.

Whenever we discuss trends, we notice signals in our present culture in an attempt to explain what is happening and seek actual evidence that it is indeed occurring by stabilizing with data what we observe via stories and anecdotes.

Then we plan to reach for that trend with our brands. So in a way, we do fulfill our own prophecies.

An alternative way of going about it is to map the brand based upon both a selling and buying strategy, as well as the inner workings of the business. Then analyze the gap between the promises made and promises kept, run brand scenarios to look at fresh ways to make better promises and help focus the organization on the most promising delivery model.

This is the category of brands that create their own future. You are able to connect the dots when you look back, if you do once in a while. Apple was one such brand.

Articulating what is already there

"A lot of the current marketing shtick
is about imposing something that isn’t there. Which is what makes so
much of it false, shallow and objectionable in the real world. Maybe the
job of marketers in the future will be to “articulate what’s already
there”." [Mark Earls in Hugh & the Rabbi, episode 3]

You can't give away what you don't have. Marketing is about expressing what a product and service already is and delivering on the business promise. 

Articulating what is already there starts with context. Whenever I work on a digital strategy, I look at the larger market context where customer behavior is occurring, as well as the specific signals within the customer community.

Some examples :

1. Usability

Investigating how approachable, enchanting,
interesting, and easy to learn your product and service are.

Kathy Sierra authored Creating Passionate Users, a blog is filled with information on usability and community.

Utility is a strong platform for deeper engagement with those who use your product
and service.

2. Fulfillment of desire

This goes way beyond the
basic needs.

By personalizing information and providing value in exchange for more information about your customer, you can then act as a filter to service those specific needs.

Thanks to brands' ability to peer into larger data sets about preferences for groups of customers, building context to fulfill a desire also means anticipating questions, and adding a dash of predictive adventure to the mix. Just enough to encourage experimentation on both sides of the interaction.

3. Peer-to-peer value

The brands that
offer a space that encourages collaboration or a product/service that fulfills a purpose get value back from peer-based exchanges.

Brands are used to dictating
the terms, timing, and scope of exchanges. However, moving to the role of curator or facilitator has its advantages, including being the room in which valuable information is being shared.

4. Learning by building

Collaboration, even when just in the storytelling part of the exchange offers a very tactile and tangible experience.

With technology fading into the background, connected customers also increasingly want tools to help them experience
new forms of interaction. Customers are beginning to engage with
visualizations, online learning, smart objects, and even 3D printing.

Because sense making is a constant human need — and there is just so
much information and data people can process at any one time.
Experiencing in more than one dimension using more senses helps with
sorting and ranking the results of comparisons and evaluations.

5. Being in beta

It is not just software perpetually in beta.
Your customers are in beta, too. Looking to improve, experiment,
connect, or find a moment of peace.

Leaning forward, you have people keen on taking control of those improvements by measuring progress, gaining self knowledge through numbers.

Quantified Self is a collaboration of users and tool makers
who share an interest in self knowledge through self-tracking. It's an
information exchange about personal projects, the tools people use,
tips gleaned, and lessons learned.

Leaning back, you have people looking to discover new adventures and share them with their friends. Which is why entertainment media companies that understand those needs are starting to enjoy greater levels of direct engagement with viewers through content.


Social currency influences behavior, it always did. When we develop the ability to see the present and articulate what is already there, we can start basing expenditures on customer income.

Because ROI comes from customers, not marketing activities, is it finally time to view marketing as a profit center?


[image: Whoopi Goldberg and Patrick Swayze, Ghost, Paramount Pictures]


Valeria is an experienced listener. She is also frequent speaker at
conferences and company events on a variety of topics. To book her for a
speaking engagement click here.

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