Whether you work at a non-profit, association or a for-profit business, your brand MUST lead the way at interpreting your business and digital transformation strategy. Period.
Why? Today's marketplace is hyper dependent on relationships ...and relationships are built on positive, useful, meaningful interactions and experiences. Therefore, l digital tactics cannot be layered on top of the way you have been doing business and call it a day. Even those days have gone!
Now, at a minimum, you have to:
Who you are trying to reach and what motivates them should be your North Star along with your brand defining what that looks and sounds like. Unfortunately, this nuance is where most go awry.
The good news is that technology -- specifically, tools for understanding, relating to and aligning with your audiences -- is leveling the playing field for all industries and sectors regardless of the size of your organization. So, yes, the little guy can absolutely outsmart the big guy overnight without needing decades of proof they are a leader. It's all about the customer, and whomever figures them out the best will lead.
Your starting point needs to be defining your brand. Doing so will help provide clarity about everything ranging from the type of partnerships and offerings you provide (now and in the future) to the type of customer service you provide, tools you use and activate your loyal followers.
This Google article helps shed some light on adopting new data strategies for better marketing.
Google/Purchased, How Brand Experiences Inspire Consumer Action, U.S. Smartphone Owners 18+ = 2010, Brand Experiences = 17,726, April 2017.
Econsultancy/Google, "Customer Experience is Written in Data", May 2017, U.S. (n=677 marketing and measurement executives at companies with over $250M in revenues, primarily in North America; n=199 leading marketers who reported marketing significantly exceeded top business goal in 2016, n=478 mainstream marketers (remainder of the sample).
"Classic demographics like age and gender – despite being tried and tested for years – appear to be losing their popularity among marketers as the most common forms of segmentation. The wealth of customer data now available means brands are increasingly evolving their approach to reflect their consumers’ behaviour, attitudes and life stage."
So what does this mean for your organization?
The bottom line is it requires pivoting from 'what has been' to 'what will work'. Making this shift will likely lead to listening to and researching what your members/customers feel, want, and desire. Only then can you map back to your organization and its different offerings. Doing so in this order will shed light on where the opportunity exists, including how best to segment and relate to the person(s) on the other end.
To read more: Marketing Weekly
Here is this year's survey (it's the 2nd ever) of more than 200 communications professionals about surfaces trends and best practices in corporate communications and public relations. The survey was conducted in partnership between Ned’s Job of the Week (JOTW) and Sword and the Script Media.
The survey also points out:
1) Storytelling, analytics and thought leadership are the top PR tactics and trends (press releases, white papers and awards are seen as less important/effective in today's world -- something to think about as you shape your budgets and marketing talent).
2) The top PR metrics and performance measures communications pros track (aka: hard to link to ROI when talking about changing behavior, opinions, which happens over time -- the challenge is real).
3) More communicators report to the CEO than to marketing (which isn't necessarily a good thing and part of the problem #2 above exists -- PR by itself is a tactic that needs context of a larger marketing strategy to be fully measurable).
BlackRock CEO Larry Fink says within the next 5 years all investors will measure a company's impact on society, government, and the environment to determine its worth
This Business Insider's headline caught my attention!
Wouldn't it be great? A counter balance to all the fighting, power struggles and fighting over wealth and resources. Rather than "either/or" Fink is suggesting in creating a reality of "both/and".
He's speaking my language. There is, after all, an intrinsic link between purpose and profit. And watching how greed is depleting our planet and the wellbeing of the people who live on it, I hope more leaders like Fink will start to innovate how they operate, market and lead.
If you are like most organizations who have been around more than a minute, I can guess you are speaking at customers.
How dare I say that? Well, it's based on a few reasons, starting with the fact the way business writing has been taught in schools. It's also the way marketing has been conducted for several generations. Last, but not least, sales mentality has been stuck on Maslow's hierarchy of needs for far too long.
Basically the boiled down approach has been:
We, X organization, have "Y solution". It's like no other (our distinguisher)... And, here's why you need it. In fact, we (X organization) are credible -- just look at our ads! Oh, and who is our leadership, on our board, what celebrity likes us! Look at the places we appear. We are where it's at. Your life will be better with "Y"... Trust us. Oh, and our foundation helps (fill in) so give a few more dollars while you're at it.
Today, there's a new way of operating, marketing and leading. This HBR article, "The 30 Elements of Consumer Value" (2016) is still worth a read to help consider how to start thinking differently and the psychology behind consumer decision-making.
As a result of technology connecting consumers together in ways public opinion rules the day, the approach is now more like:
We're listening to you first and foremost (not talking). When we do speak, we're responding to your (our customer) concerns and improving, building accordingly. Of course we initiate conversation too, but on subjects you say matter and of course relate back to our business in so much to better support your life. We also constantly look for ways to get your opinions on what you want more or less of. No, we don't toot our own horn -- you do that for us because you are providing authentic feedback all the time. And because we are listening, capturing and pivoting accordingly, it's generally positive. It's called relationship marketing and at center of our decision-making is you. When there is an error, our track record of fixing things promptly instills trust as does our willingness to let go of legacy offerings if they no longer fit the bill. Oh, and because we understand every organization has a responsibility to "lean in," we have built in doing good into our value prop so you can feel even better about our relationship and your money spent.
Imagine approaching your daily tasks -- be they administrative, in product development, operations or communications -- using the second mindset. How might your work be impacted by this shift?
According to a 2019 digital study conducted by HootSuite:
The report provides many more statistics, but lets first focus on these. The evidence is clear -- m-commerce is growing and there is a rapidly changing role marketing departments and their executives need to play. Three insights off the cuff:
I'm seeing a lot of CEOs and boards turning to (mid-level) digital strategists and/or social tools as their way of "updating" their organization online. Unfortunately, this leads to more expensive problems in the long-run.
The future lies in CEOs having a background in marketing, not just a financial prowess, as the future is understanding and relating to audiences in entirely new ways... on and offline. To do this successfully, strategically and proactively ...and in a way that resonates with consumers who have numerous choices anymore in every category of life, learning and membership... requires new ways of operating and leading.
In this article, author Kara Baskin give five reasons companies struggle with digital transformation.
Going through transformation isn't easy. It IS essential to survival. Just ask Macy's, Toys R Us and other big brands we know traditionally have big marketing budgets and whose job it is to appeal to consumers.
So what about industries and organizations, especially non-profits, whose purpose is different from consumerism?
Well, considering mobile technology (including social platforms) have put the consumer in the driver's seat and changed the process of decision-making, all industries and organizations must evolve... and fast or join the fate of organizations who saw transformation as 'down the road' or an IT upgrade.
Through the work we have done at Gokotta, we have helped clients understand the ripple effect of transformation projects. Among many other efforts, digital transformation requires:
Episode #316 is a good listen.
Touching upon many aspects of being CEO and different innovations at PepsiCo, Nooyi also talks about the marketplace and her experience managing the reality that "culture eats strategy". Nooyi shares her experience what she needed to do to manage (slow) change internally and (immediate) expectations of investors.
Bitcoin. It's not going away, but only growing. How? That's the exciting "TBD".
This podcast is an easy overview... and what you should know as someone keeping an eye on how the digital marketplace is shifting and impacting "business as usual".
For other information on the subject via Freakonomics, click here.
The Digital Marketplace - It's Changing Business. What To Do + Not Do (especially if Millennials matter).
What NOT TO DO: Dabble in digital.
With Millennials in particular, dabbling hurts reputations. Millennials can tell if you are a sophisticated organization or not. The most obvious way? By looking at your website or social pages to see whether it is reflective of the end user or the organization.
Most are still treating both as another communication channel where current marketing efforts repurposed online. The content falls flat, user functionality missing, and relationships building absent altogether. Storytelling about people's lives who are benefitting holds little value when its a tactic and not integral part of a brand's social mission or online strategy.
Unfortunately, the digital marketplace is not a highway to/from your website that becomes full of traffic with the right "look at me" ads (or content) strategically posted online. (If anyone in your organization says, "Just marketed online"... it's a clue more education is needed about how today's Internet environment works.)
The digital marketplace has actually become more sophisticated where information is power, brand currency is in people and their opinions, and the flow (and type) of information created determines growth or failure.
At the heart of it all?
Knowing consumers and what drives them, their needs and preferences. From there, it's a matter of determining how best to align your organization's greatest assets to meet those needs and preferences.
Digital, mobile, Apps... whatever you're thinking about integrating or calling it... going online is entering a new reality. A new era for your organization. There are many advantages and opportunities! Now the fun part is determining how to do so while serving your existing constituents (in particular Boomers and GenX who aren't going anywhere and definitely not using their devices to the extent of younger generations).
What TO DO: Invest in seeing the opportunity and let go of long-held systems in place of doing what works.
Digital IS a new business model that can benefit your organization ... that is IF you are willing to make the investment to do what works. That will be different for everyone so avoid out-of-the-box solutions. And please don't believe anyone that it's just about creating a new website or video content. Those are important tactics, but they become costly to fix if implemented sans the big picture or strategy guiding every decision.
Know that websites as digital brochures were okay when the Internet was new. But now they are phasing out. Consumers don't read or dig. So, it's all about creating a user journey online where your constituents get to what they need by one click or a swipe. (Easier said than done and requires knowing individual types of consumers, aka personas, who make up your constituent base.)
Based on your personas, you may actually need several smaller websites -- maybe a landing page or two OR a condensed site, called a microsite.
The point here is being open to think differently about how your present your organization and information is essential. What was is no more. Not everyone is not interested in the same thing about your organization or products, nor are they in the same place in life and everyone uses different tools to get their facts. So, the burden is on organizations to customize. Considering information structures (how we present information, data, make an argument for/against something) have changed, there's work to be done for most to align to people more effectively.
Awareness of this is shift is important so that investments made to update online infrastructure, content, social media tools, apps, team hires and special projects being defined for the organization avoid being experienced as inauthentic ploys by end users.
Let's not forget, thanks to digital technology and all the data it can offer about users and their preferences, and the automation it can provide and create greater efficiencies for team members in serving customers, marketing is now directly linked to ROI.. but only beneficial if the right investments, teams, and strategy are all in place.
To build on this last point and ensure your digital footprint not only brings people to you but also builds meaningful relationships where users want to come back, "going digital" is more than a marketing initiative. An organization and its leadership must be willing to take a step back and assess its "business" -- how best to align its internal team structures, technology, products, services, R&D efforts, assets, and even its culture -- if its goal is to be successful and create trust with Millennials and GenZ, who we know block advertisements and seek authentic brands who are transparent, customer-focused and invest in social good.
Whether you use Braintree Vault or not, that isn't the point. The point is:
(Insights in this post are in response to an Inc. article reposted on LinkedIn. All photo credits go to Inc.com.)
Interesting insights on the relationship between an organization's inner workings/operations and culture vs. it's external brand (...and the effectiveness of marketing that links the two).
If Millennials are important in your hiring strategy or building trust, Simon's observation is important to note.
He also provides an exercise in finding your "Why", which can be applied to understanding the value of your product/service or brand... according to others... as well as other interesting insights into sharing your value, effective meetings, and leaders taking ownership when things go wrong.
It's been my experience -- as a counselor, practitioner and client -- the daily list of "to dos" often get in the way of work that is important to be successful... tomorrow.
We're busy, behind in emails, and bogged down if not stuck in meetings all day. I get it and can be guilty myself. It's hard to prioritize when everything is a priority and teams are small. And, I understand how after achieving a certain amount of success or momentum, it's easy to double down on what worked in the past.
The only problem?
Like anything -- be it the food we eat, exercise we do, words we speak, goals we set -- what we do today shapes tomorrow. "Reactivity" has never been a successful strategy in business (or life). At best, it produces a leveling off. And, in today's fast-paced digital and social marketplace, actually can lead to your brand being seen as behind the times and/or ineffective.
Mobile technology is not bound to any particular industry. In fact, it is creating new business models (and competitors) in every industry.
Think about it. The "Amazon Effect" -- delivery and pricing are leading to big brands, stores (and malls) to down size or close altogether. In the mix: Sears, Macy's, JCPenny, JCrew, Kmart, BCBG, Gymboree, American Apparel... the list goes on.
This isn't a trend. Mobile technology is changing the business landscape.
You can argue these are consumer retail brands. You can argue it's a brick and mortar issue. But it's neither. And don't forget, many of us traditionally point to these very brands when saying they have the big budgets to do what works in terms of innovating or marketing.
So what's happening?
For one, mobile = all about relationships with and serving consumers. It's about the way they are now looking at information, making decisions, and what they deem valuable. It is less about having a mobile friendly website and posting content. It is more about how an organization aligns its best assets to its constituents in ways that matter and add value to them. (Period.)
Look at Warby Parker (eye ware). They are a digital company who, because of its success, is now moving into brick and mortar real estate. So shopping in stores isn't going extinct. They grew from an idea into a multi-million dollar business despite experts scoffing at their vision. It's a result of their formula of offering quality, an experience in how they interact with customers, and giving back.
And there's the Lyft and Uber. They've empowered a second career for many. Only requirement - owning a car and a valid license. This is hurting traditional cab companies, and now Uber is expanding into food and delivery services. So why didn't the traditional companies think of this first?
It's probably the reason most of us don't see what's right in front of us... we are operating in ways that reflect the past. Lyft and Uber, on the other hand, have the advantage that they are thinking consumer-first as the way to run their company, apply the technology, and grow their business.
Associations, as well as traditional BtoC and BtoB businesses, alike are impacted by this change in consumer decision-making.
Maybe ironic, but this change within the marketplace has less to do with the technology itself, but rather about the "people" on the other end of business: customers/members/constituents (including employees).
That being the case, mobile IS the changing the way consumers research and make decisions; how they want to be treated; and what they find valuable. They care about being heard, engaged as part of a brand's DNA (even part of the R&D process), and want less advertising. In its place: a two-way communications where transactions are replaced by an ongoing relationship. (This is especially if Millennials or GenZ are on your ideal customer list.)
Think about how that impacts:
Mobile-friendly websites, advertising and regularly content posts are only a piece of the whole equation in approaching the digital marketplace successfully.
The good news: the answers and opportunities lie within each organization. And, those who can re-envision their future and do so in a way that moves away from the traditional ways of thinking, operating, marketing and leading, will stand to make the most gains in the next two to five years.
One way I work with clients to discover the potential: Expand the traditional SWOT analysis to look beyond your peer organizations. Look outside your industry and from your customers' POV. You'll be surprised what is right in front of you.
That's the question a wise friend (and successful business owner) reminded me of as I shared my experiences as a consultant helping clients understand how today's marketing approach is vastly different from even five years ago.
Despite long conversations, advice, and examples shared, for many clients their reality is focused on keeping existing realities of today going. Proactively shaping tomorrow is near impossible.
To be fair, the clients I'm fortunate to work with are superheroes in their jobs. They are actively trying to do both and essentially drink from a firehose as a result. But, unfortunately, they are at the brink of capacity every day, which isn't sustainable. Even if they raised a red flag about the inevitable cliff quickly approach (that is if you intend on reaching anyone with a mobile device), the reality remains company cultures or decision-making processes often slow progress.
It is what it is and yet managing business as usual while trying to champion evolution (often with limited budgets) is a tough place to be, especially when you are a small to medium-size business or association. You can't do it all right away.
But as my friend reminded me, that’s no excuse to stop... "How serious are you about reaching your goals?"
It's a good question. It puts today vs. tomorrow into check, if not provides a reality check.
Do you want to focus energy staring at the barriers (e.g., current budgets, internal politics) or put that same energy into what's possible, needs to be done, and how best to do it in order to come out ahead?
Size of your organization doesn't matter. What does matter? A vision, a plan how to get there, plus an internal commitment to do what works to ultimately come out ahead.
A VISUAL LOOK AT WHAT'S CHANGING
There are, of course, more nuances to this, but here's a quick visual look at the shifts taking place.
Traditional marketing used to represent the way an organization operated and existed in the world. It relied on a "marketing funnel" that guided potential consumers to a specific decision, even creating need in the marketplace using traditional communication channels. While there was audience tailoring and targeting, compared to what's possible today this was more of a mass marketing approach.
With the digital era, came a new way to reach people online. Websites were essentially digitized brochures that allowed for more content and proof points to be "pushed" out or linked to consumers.
Websites could also do something printed brochures couldn't -- a better job of targeting key audiences thanks to search engine optimization (SEO) and the vast knowledge found on the Internet Content became a bit more specific and bloggers (everyday journalist and content creators) were birthed. In this era, websites and marketing still represented how the organization operated and prioritized internally. This is an important point.
Then came mobile devices... hence, the mobile era we are now in.
In this era, our assumption has been to naturally insert mobile and social media as additional channels. In other words, we layer "mobile and social" tactics (including mobile ready websites and clever content) on top of the traditional funnel to get targeted personas (audiences) to spread the word about "us".
The problem is, it doesn't work this way.
Even though logical in thinking (and appears to be the easiest way to manage), it is ineffective and long-term costly to fix -- in brand equity, time and resources.
These two articles ("More than digital plus traditional" and "The consumer decision journey") from McKinsey & Company explain why.
I have always believed in and seen the proven benefit of not drinking the Kool-Aid when approaching a problem or opportunity. There is a thing called "group think," which in the everyday of running an organization looks like heads down and people choosing the path of least resistance until quitting time.
We can put pool tables and coffee bars in our organizations in support of creativity, but those gestures really fall short of what really pushes organizations and its people to put its best foot forward. What's more effective? Giving permission to think, expand, attempt and fail. Yes, fail. Failure is the only way - personally and organizationally - to succeed.
If "managed" (aka flexibility and agility of teams) and an emphasis on the pursuit of excellence and success, team efforts can take organizations to new stratospheres -- just as we did reaching the moon.
Rather than focusing on our "to do" lists as a day well spent, why not step aside to reflect and learn -- to sit in a new environment, read or listen to something new that's compelling, and/or journal -- at least once a month. The research on the benefits of doing so is out there.
In the everyday:
Two resources that can help jump start your understanding:
" If you’re not growing, you’re dying.
There is no such thing as a plateau, or a comfortable, even place...
If your business is not growing, it’s dying."
- Tony Robbins
If you sell anything -- be it a product, service or event -- these are two important reads from McKinsey & Company.
The point is the world is changing and so must we in how our organizations align to customers, which is also impacting how teams must come together internally.
The first step is understanding customers - their motivations, as well as the newfound power they hold in the palm of their hand thanks to mobile devices and social technologies that promote community influence.
Depending on where you sit within an organization has shaped your definition of going digital.
To some, going digital has meant an overhaul of their computing systems -- modernizing how their network of computers are interconnected to a "data center" protected by a secure firewall, and maybe included a centralized database for things like sales tracking, time entry, expense and HR submissions, and/or customer information.
More recently, the cloud, cyber security (hopefully), and/or the discussions of BYOD have been added to the mix.
Often, CIOs, COOs, HR executives and CEOs have these discussions on their radars.
But, going digital also has a different meaning -- one that may just disrupt how an organization has set up its computing system in the past. Going digital relates to future viability of consumer interest in and interaction with an organization's brand and offerings, and that is something marketing and communication experts have been trying to stay on top of as their industries are (also) being redefined by the same technology.
Going digital used to mean converting print brochures to online versions with expanded capabilities (aka more "space" to pack in more information at a lower cost). Then came the social platforms, which created communities of like-minded to share, shape and impact reality.
Now we are in the mobile era meaning business models need to shift from tactical execution of brand-appealing posts and self-serving news and information to creating and nurturing relationships online in ways that are meaningful to customers.
As HBR's recent (May 29, 2017) article points out:
Even the word “digital” now means something different. It used to be synonymous with “IT.” Nowadays, a company’s digital strategy practically drives the roadmap and goals of many departments, from marketing to sales to HR.
This point cannot be emphasized enough. Yet, many of us are still thinking old school, hierarchical decision-making, marketing and managing.
According to the same HBR article:
In our most recent survey, executives say they look to digital initiatives primarily to increase revenue and reduce costs. These are worthy goals, of course, but it also means there’s less priority being placed on innovating and implementing the latest technologies into their products.
Tomorrow is upon us. The race is on which organization is savvy and will be able to spark new levels of growth, and which ones will not. As such, it is essential for executives to speed up their digital investments and transformation initiatives if staying relevant is a goal. In doing so, here are a few initial considerations to keep in mind:
1. Include a senior marketing/PR expert (with a digital experience) in the conversation, if not have them lead an internal AND external needs assessment. Since there are two ways of defining "going digital" both need to be represented at the table as equals to uncover opportunities and help define solutions for challenges that will arise.
2. Have IT and Marketing co-leads define the "what"(it is) being recommended starting with the consumer and working backwards. This obviously builds on #1, but the point worth noting here is the intention of focusing on the desired experience of the mobile device consumer/member and NOT the other way around (or what works internally best based on traditional roles and responsibilities).
3. Be prepared to redefine your organization's operations. Digital redraws the lines and how decisions need to be made. This isn't easy but reality. Think about a lawyer who recommends to the CEO not to respond to a potential issue... 10-20 years ago the lawyer got his way. Today, however, if you take that advice your brand is likely to be publicly scorched and take a costly reputation hit. Just ask the airlines. It's not just crisis responses that need to be instant. ALL out reach needs to be timely, meaningful and serve to add value. Yet, many organizations are still so entrenched in past ways of managing their brands and reputations -- often requiring pre-vetting of content and responses before they "go live" -- which screams outdated to Millennials most of all. Speaking of Millennials, who don't trust traditional ways (of business, government and associations), organizations need to interconnect budgets, agendas, and outcomes between departments unlike ever before. This takes us to point #4...
4. Revamp your understanding of (and annual budgets for) marketing and communications. Digital marketing means integrating Marketing, PR and Public Affairs. These divisions are no longer separate but integrated and build upon each other. Coupled with this reality are things like: Traditional websites are no longer effective for mobile consumption and visually identify an organization as out-of-date. Consumers/members need to be integrated in the process of building new products. Social media isn't mean a place to overtly advertise; and, not every organization should be on Facebook or Instagram. Content needs to be customized and organizations need to provide ongoing value or lose trust.
Like it or not, change -- that "avoid-it-at-all-costs 'C-word'" -- is a part of life.
Yet, most of us do everything we can to avoid it. After all, it is uncomfortable, especially since fear is part of the package.
But the truth of the matter is whether you appreciate change or rank it scarier than the monster under your childhood bed, it (and fear) is what makes life (and business) evolve.
If you've studied successful leaders and profitable entrepreneurs like I have, then you know it's also a study of failure, change and fear -- three constants in the recipe of success. But, as Jen Sincero's quote indicates, feeling fear is not a sign of doing something wrong, but something right.
(A concept is backwards from what we're taught as kids at home, in school and/or how we are rewarded at work.)
Of course change often is accompanied by vagueness, uncertainty, and a dash of chaos, and doesn't guarantee a certain outcome. But, focusing on these aspects of change, quite frankly, is only half of the truth. Change is also accompanied by unexpected gifts, new highs, and growth.
It's up to each one of us which side of the equation we're going to focus on and manifest; moreover, is indicative how we will experience life as a result.
It's not all our faults. Culturally (including those in our work places), we celebrate innovation, yet fall short on supporting the messy process change entails. And without being taught how to embrace the unknown and see what is yet to be created, we start grasping and limiting what's possible.
In our jobs, as more is asked of us or perceived to be taken away, the reaction becomes more about saving one's hide, accumulated perks, and/or perceived position of power than doing what needs to be done to succeed as a whole.
Unfortunately, leaders often incorrectly react to these behaviors by assigning the wrong value to fear -- as an indicator of heading the wrong direction or doing something wrong rather than a sign of stretching and growing.
How we manage uncertainty and change in our personal lives does impact the professional realm and vice versa. After all, we are the ones managing change. Who doesn't want easy, familiar, comfortable in our every day? But the reality of life is easy and staying put = a dead end.
The way through change? Eleanor Roosevelt wisely said:
You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face...You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
Or, put by C. JoyBell C.:
Don't be afraid of your fears. They're not there to scare you. They're there to let you know that something is worth it.
Next time we are facing change or fear, how might we go about seeing it as an opportunity to evolve, let go of what's no longer working, and/or try a new way of experiencing life/work?
If in a leadership position, how might we give people permission and the liberty to find new opportunities, innovate, and grow at work and personally?
Target recently announced it is changing two of its main brands to appeal to the preferences of Millennials.
So what? (You’re probably thinking.)
This move is more than just about a vendor change. It’s representative of how brands and “doing business” needs to evolve IF organizations (and that includes associations) want Millennials to care.
Gone are the days of “build it and they will come. ” Instead, it’s the era of building what makes sense to the consumer and mapping back to an organization’s mission – even if it means disrupting how marketing, operations and leadership has done it in the past.
It’s the era of customer relationships as a strategic differentiator.
Here is part of what Target announced:
"Our new brands are all about the changing face of our guests -- what they need, what they’re looking for from Target. When we took a close look at our existing assortment with this in mind, we saw a disconnect. We knew we’d need to refresh our offerings--and define new ones—so our guests continue to love what they’re discovering at Target and want to keep coming back, again and again."
This statement is rich with insight with at least two top takeaways:
1. Brands (organizations, associations) must ACTIVELY listen, align with, and take action based on what their customers want.
Certainly, business has always been about managing supply and creating demand. But what’s new in this Millennial and mobile era is the customer truly is a partner in development and marketing process. What they want, how they want “it”, and the way they want to find “it” is how organizations need to realign their assets and how they operate.
And they are a diverse generation so this isn’t as straightforward as one might think. Creating an App, a cool looking website, and/or posting content on social platforms that is based on what an organization thinks is important is the worst thing a brand can do in the digital realm. This type of self-promotion and self-centric content is waste of time and money. It also turns off Millennials and GenZers, who expect the focus to be on their desires. Period.
Doing anything otherwise is the equivalent to putting lipstick on a pig and the fastest way to hurt a brand.
This shift sounds subtle and easy to implement via marketing and advertising. But, it requires so much more than that. Just look at what Target is doing:
Successful implementation requires a level of disruption, or innovation, within Target Corporate, but this move of many shows the executives behind the brand understand that doing what has always been done won’t work in the future.
This cannot be emphasized enough. Millennials MUST see themselves in the brand and know they and their values are core to the businesses they support, and not the other way around.
Target’s announcement reinforces this:
“But it’s not just about creating a great product assortment—it’s how we bring the brand to life for our guests in stores, digitally and in our marketing, so that at every touchpoint, our guests understand that this brand’s not just new—it’s created especially for them.”
This leads us to our second takeaway…
2. Answers how best to leverage mobile technologies, social media and Millennials/GenZers are ever-present and easy to find if building an ongoing, active relationship with them is a priority.
By listening and engaging constantly, not just once a year or whenever a research study can be funded, both critical insights are uncovered and trust is built.
These days, CRM (customer relationship management) capabilities are commonly integrated into social media tools and as part of bigger database tools, such as Salesforce. As a result, there's no reason the pulse of consumer preferences and opinions is costly to obtain. With the digital nature of these tools and desire of younger generations interest to be an influencer with their social networks, there is significant opportunity to integrate them strategically into the traditional R&D process.
As a result, targeting Millennials and GenZers requires a new mentality, responsiveness, internal alignment of resources and decision-making process, as well as expanding the type of skills on marketing/communication teams. It also demands MarCom being a strategic asset with a strong voice at the executive roundtable, if not already.
Unfortunately, many organizations try to cut corners in ways that diminish their full potential. For example, many organizations assume being on every social platform (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, LinkedIn) is a good approach. It's not and communicates a lack of sophistication to our youngest generations.
network of people will self-populate and run itself if they build a design-savvy “community center” and offering online. Not so.
Others will go so far as to invest in game-like features and cool incentives (e.g., lunch with a celebrity or discounts to popular stores), but stop short of investing in the needed community managers and content developers that will keep an active ear to the ground and keep the relationship(s) going. You know, that “front-line” feedback where real-time innovation is possible that also builds loyalty and trust with these younger generations.
Sure, we all have to draw the financial line somewhere, as most of us don’t have the budgets Target has at its dispense. But, Target didn’t start out that way. We all have to start somewhere and if going digital (mobile, App, social media) or going after the younger generations is a priority, then it is imperative to do it right… or not at all.
Mobile and digital are no longer tactics and additional communication channels to spread the word about all the great things an organization or brand is doing. Not to Millennials anyway. This is their entire social connect point so brands that speak AT them, advertise and are angling for a transaction will be shut out.
Brands, however, that listen, adapt, offer, and grow as a result of building a relationship with Millennials and GenZers will find the key to opening the floodgates.
Of course, the type of innovation this requires within an organization is nothing at which to sneeze. Yet, “going digital” means new levels of value add, authenticity, transparency and engagement so that the customer is knows their interests are at the heart of a brand they support. Only then will mobile and social efforts flourish to the degree possible.
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