Growth Hacking for customer attraction, advocacy and attribution
digital, seo, social media, strategy

3 Focus Areas for Growth Marketing: Attraction, Advocate & Attribution

Philip Kotler, the “The Father of Modern Day Marketing,” coined the phrase Marketing 4.0 in his book Marketing 4.0: Moving from Traditional to Digital (co-authored with Hermawan Kartajaya and Iwan Setiawan). The premise purports that modern consumers are confronted by alternatives at every turn and have increasingly less time and attention to devote to a brand. As such, the consumer of tomorrow is being shaped by an increasing sub-culture splintering, a shift in marketplace power dynamics, and the paradoxes wrought by connectivity.

Essentially, Kotler makes the argument that marketers need to “stand up, get their attention, and deliver the message [consumers] want to hear.”

If we break that down, we have certain fundamentals of Marketing 4.0:

  • The consumer as the center of everything
  • Data at the center of all strategy
  • Transparency in strategies is more critical than ever
  • Consumer communication being genuine, relevant and constant
  • To gain trust, marketers must focus on social, economic and environmental commitment
  • Marketers need to listen and have a proactive attitude

With Marketing 4.0, marketers must finesse the power of technology while presenting a “human” face to their brand or service.

Marketing 4.0 acknowledges that consumers will continue to have offline interactions with brands and companies, even as we move towards a more digitally-centric world. Therefore, marketers need to be positioned to engage prospects and established customers alike with multi or omni-channel initiatives across a variety of mediums—and they must do this while being genuine, relevant and human. This is the art of Attraction Marketing, which I will go into more detail below.

Another assumption within Marketing 4.0 is the understanding that a multi-channel marketing strategy means consumers will continue to have engagements with a brand after making a purchase. Marketers therefore need to not only perfect their upper funnel touchpoints, but should understand the impact that a negative interaction can have post-sale. In other words, customer loyalty is precarious in a world where transparency and relevancy can have a significant impact on a brand’s perception.

With Marketing 4.0, consumers want to have a say in a brand’s direction and success.

Marketing 4.0 also introduces the concept of the consumer (customer) community. Gone are the days when you saw an ad on television for laundry soap, then at the store you selected that brand without giving another thought to the purchase. Consumers, especially millennials and those of Generation Z, who are not only the most tech-saavy but skeptical group of shoppers in history, desire to be more involved with the brands with which they choose to engage. They seek to have a direct influence on a brand’s social, environmental and development direction while connecting and sharing their experiences with other consumers. To facilitate these interactions and holistically grow a brand in Marketing 4.0, marketers need to embrace models that support Advocate Marketing, which I will cover later in this post.

With Marketing 4.0, marketers need to understand the impact each dollar has for acquisition, activation and retention in order to profitably scale.

As marketers ramp up their commitments to include more multi and omni-channel initiatives in an attempt to broaden appeal to a very woke consumer, the ability to scale and grow is contingent upon a deep understanding of ROI (return on investment) for each strategic outlay. This is where Marketing Attribution comes into play—the art of evaluating each and every marketing touchpoint a consumer may have on their path to purchase. That is also covered in more detail below.

Attraction Marketing

Attraction marketing is all about getting consumers to purchase something without being told to do so. It’s showing consumers the desirability of the product through valuable information focused on features, usability and unique differentiation, so that the buyer makes the purchasing decision without any prompts to do so from the brand or company. Since attraction marketing sets your brand apart from competitors by focusing marketing efforts on what makes your product or service a more attractive option, it can be a powerful strategy to create awareness, activation and brand loyalty.

The key to success with attraction marketing is having a thorough understanding of your targeted audience, where they can be found and their pain points. Once those are defined, the draw to the brand or service comes in the form of educational content that creates credibility and authenticity while dispensing with the “salesy” messaging.

It’s also vital to put a human connection to your brand. People want to connect with people, not faceless brands. Think of ways that you can incorporate your product developers or other internal users into your messaging, or for an even stronger attraction strategy, utilize user-generated content such as reviews and stories to engage your audience.

Inbound marketing is the perfect vehicle for attraction marketing and is something that can keep traffic coming long after the initial investment in the content and delivery. That being said, I suggest that you focus your primary efforts on search engine optimization, making sure your content is laden with relevant keywords that will compete and perform well for contextual searches. Once you’re optimized, you can share the content in social, email and native ads.

Some of the common ways to employ attraction marketing are:

  • Blogs
  • Webinars
  • Podcasts
  • Ebooks
  • Videos/Livestreams
  • Newsletters
  • Surveys
  • Online classes
  • In-person classes

And, you don’t always have to start from scratch with content. One of the easiest strategies is to repurpose content that you have already created by either converting it to another format or updating it with new content, imagery or linking. Once you do so, you will want to make sure you have resubmitted the renewed content to Google and the other search engines for fresh indexing.

Pactimo, an online retailer of cycling clothing, created a page addressing why someone would choose bib shorts as opposed to those without the straps (Why Cycling Bib Shorts? Padded Bib Bike Shorts Explained). The page falls into into the number one position on Google for searches for “cycling bib shorts,” organically introducing the brand to hundreds of potential new customers per week. Because the page not only has relevant information to the topic, but engages with links to more information, premium products and a $250 prize drawing, it has become a source for new customers.

Use relevant blog content to attract new customers organically. This builds credibility and leads to a higher activation rate.
Answering a question like why wear bib shorts has proven to be a source for many new customers for Pactimo.

Advocate Marketing

We have all experienced word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing. Let’s say you’re at a party or get-together with friends and a recent purchase comes up. Someone might tell a story of a great buying experience or the incredible efficacy of the product, which leads you to imagine making a similar purchase. My wife and I bought a robotic vacuum cleaner. Every time someone came over to our house we raved how incredible it was—even going as far as using the app to launch it around the room so they could see it in action. Two of our friends have since bought the same brand.

Word-of-mouth recommendations are one of the key contributors to advocacy marketing.
Word-of-mouth recommendations prove to be one of the best sources for new customers.

Statistics show 92% of consumers trust WOM marketing recommendations over all other types of marketing, and future customers who were referred by other existing customers have a 37% higher retention rate.

Advocacy marketing is act of exciting and equipping your customers to generate buzz around your brand through social mentions, reviews, and word-of-mouth marketing. It’s the art of making the product or buying experience so good that customers feel compelled to share. When that occurs, a brand advocate has become one of your most high-value brand assets for growing awareness and loyalty. They will not only spend more than the average customer, but they’re also passionately-versed on your brand and products, making them a fantastic source and reference for new customer leads. On average, brands with a strong loyalty, rewards or ambassador program see a 650% ROI for every dollar invested in advocacy marketing.

Since advocacy marketing is extremely cost-effective with the potential for high-yields through customer acquisition, retention and reengagement, it is a growth hacking must.

Here are a few of the key components of successful advocate marketing:

  • Provide an excellent product or service
  • Deliver unforgettable brand experiences
  • Operate with a consumer-first mentality
  • Make it easy for consumers to advocate for your brand or service
  • Actively seek new advocates

Attribution Marketing

As discussed, multi and omni-channel marketing is a highly effective way to attract, engage and activate customers. But, it also means the funnel is anything but linear. A typical customer may encounter your brand or service across a multitude of touchpoints before actually making a purchase. For example, was it the blog post you shared on Facebook that brought the new customer to your ecommerce site? Or was it a cool photo of a customer using your product that you posted to Instagram? Maybe it was all the work you’ve done to SEO your product features infographic page. These are important questions you’ll need to answer if you want to determine ROI and scale or when determining CAC (customer acquisition cost).

With attribution, marketers can determine which channels and messages had the greatest impact on the decision to convert. It’s a reporting strategy that allows marketers and sales teams to see the impact that a specific marketing strategy had toward a goal, usually a purchase or sale. For example, if marketers want to see how a blog post or social media strategy impacted sales, they might use marketing attribution techniques., one of the leaders in marketing attribution describes it like this:

Unlike legacy attribution (like Adobe or Google) which focus on just channels, Heap’s behavioral attribution ties in every user action, like opening emails, reading blog posts, or watching videos. As customers switch from web to phone to email, Heap ties together all that behavior into a single, accurate identity. Finally, marketers can accurately see how behavior influences conversion.

With something like Heap, marketers have access to multi-touch attribution reports allowing marketers to pinpoint the exact channel or initiative that led to a funnel goal or sale. This information can help to make better-informed decisions about future channel decisions, strategy initiatives or investments.


With the full advent of Marketing 4.0 and the move towards a more digitally-centric world, marketers need to be positioned to engage, acquire and retain customers through multi or omni-channel initiatives across a variety of mediums. Attraction Marketing is the perfect method to reach these new prospects in an authentic, credible manner, where sales come holistically as customers become drawn to the brand and product features. Advocacy Marketing is the strategy that activates these customers as brand loyalists who will spread the word about the products and services. Not only will the more intimate relationship drive up LTV (lifetime value) with the advocates, but it supercharges the referred customers buying power as well. Measuring results and knowing when to scale or abandon initiatives should be measured with a multi-touch Attribution Marketing tool. This allows for an accurate study of ROI and campaign analysis where anticipated CAC can be used for predictive scaling.

I hope you found this helpful, and wish you luck in your growth hacking!

Twitter profile on large monitor
social media, twitter

8 Tips to Grow Your Twitter Following

We’d all like to have a huge following on Twitter, and a large follower base can be remarkably helpful in creating awareness for your company or personal brand. But, growing that following is not always easy. It may even feel rather discouraging at times when you get little interaction with your posts or profile.

I’d be willing to speculate that it’s not a lack of effort that’s preventing you from getting momentum. It’s probably your focus and the image you are conveying. You could simply not be attracting the right people, or even putting forth an identity that turns potential followers away.

Here are a few simple tips that should help you get on the path to follower growth and creating a broader reach for your products, services and personal brand.

1. Attract the Right People

On social media it is especially important to attract the right people. After all, there’s no point in getting followers who are not generally interested in the same things that you are. These are merely false follows, who will unfollow in a week or two when they get bored with your posts. To be wholly successful, you need to attract people with similar interests who will engage with you, your posts, and others who are following the same topics. These people will stay with you over time.

Similarly, when you have an active following, you look more attractive to others who want to get in the conversation and engage.

Plus, an active following makes Twitter much more fun. You’ll even begin to think of many of them as Twitter friends, you’ll learn their personalities and look forward to their posts, comments and shares.

2. Your Profile Needs to be Engaging – Not Misleading

Everything about your profile needs to be carefully crafted to attract the right people. Make sure your bio, header image and tweets are focused on your target audience and do not convey ambiguity. There are a lot of bots, suspicious players and scammers on Twitter (as on any social platform), and making sure your profile is free from questionable references, confusing phrases or unrelated imagery will greatly help with attracting follows.

Make sure your bio, header image and tweets are focused on your target audience and do not convey ambiguity.

3. Your Bio Needs to Clearly State Your Purpose

When you engage or follow someone, or when a person visits your profile, they’ll take a few seconds to evaluate if you are legitimate and worthy of a follow. As mentioned above, ambiguity is the worst thing you can portray. Instead, I recommend taking a few minutes to examine your bio with fresh eyes.

  • Does it truly convey who you are and what you are bringing to Twitter?
  • Does it include a bit of personality or show something unique about who you are?
  • Have you included a few hashtags, which not only make it easier for people to find you, but stand out in the small clutter of words?
  • Have you added a call-to-action in the form of a link to your personal or business website, a published piece of writing, or portfolio?

4. Images Should be Authentic and Relevant

When selecting a profile photo, make sure it’s either your company logo or a photo of yourself that looks both professional and friendly. You’ll want good contrast from the background and to make sure you are smiling, as if you are someone who is both knowledgable and approachable. While the temptation is to be artsy and clever, I highly recommend that you keep it simple and clean.

Take a look at the following profiles and you’ll see the ideal style and framing for the profile photo.

Seth Godin's Twitter profile is a good example on how to use images and text to attract followers.
Profile and header images on Twitter should help convey your purpose and serve to attract followers.
Andrew Chen's friendly-appearing Twitter profile photo makes you want to follow him.

Notice how all those profile photos are primarily the person’s face. Framing that shows your entire body will only make it hard for people to see who your are, especially in a timeline of tweets where your profile photo will be markedly smaller. When people can’t see your face, they will be less likely to click, engage and follow.

Header images, which are the large photos that appear above your profile, should convey something about you that is relevant to your goals on Twitter. Ideally, you want it to answer questions about what you stand for or who you are intending to reach or help with your content or tweets.

Neil Patel uses a header image on his Twitter profile that helps explain who he is and what he can offer.
Erik Larson uses his header image on Twitter to announce a new book offering.

The header is also a great place to display a current marketing campaign, book launch or something else you may want to highlight. Don’t forget to include text that clearly identifies your offer and directs people to click a link in your bio.

Don’t worry if you’re not proficient at Photoshop or other photo editing software, you can still have a great looking header. Canva has a wide selection of templates to get you started.

5. Don’t Forget to Pin a Tweet to the Top of Your Feed

Pinning a tweet to the top of your feed is another great strategy for informing visitors either about your interests or offer. It’s truly some of the most valuable space on your profile, so don’t overlook pinning. If you don’t have a specific offering, use this space to highlight your most popular tweet, one that got a lot of retweets, likes or comments. This will show you have engagement and will entice others to share and follow.

I typically pin tweets that mention my book since it includes a link to Amazon and helps reinforce that I am a writer.

Pinning a tweet is a great great strategy for informing visitors either about your interests or offer.

Here’s a few other examples of pinned tweets. Notice the engagement numbers!

Pinned tweets help people understand your purpose on Twitter and what you may bring to a follower relationship.
Pinning popular tweets shows people that you have engagement and serves as a follow call-to-action.

6. Be Consistent When Posting

One of the biggest turn-offs when someone comes across your profile is seeing that you haven’t posted in days, weeks or even months. After all, why would they bother following you when you have nothing to say. Therefore, a key component to building a following is consistency of posts. It is generally believed the ideal number of daily posts is around fifteen. If you can, you’ll also want to make sure you are making those posts during optimal times for engagement when your target audience is most likely to be online. Buffer, one of the many apps that allow you to schedule tweets, has a great article showing the best time of day to get clicks, engagement and retweets.

Here’s a quick summation of Buffer’s findings on the best time of day to tweet:

  • Early mornings are the best time to tweet to get clicks.
  • Noon to 1:00 p.m. local time, on average for each time zone, is the most popular time to tweet.
  • Evenings and late at night are a good time for engagement.
  • Tweets sent at the 9:00 p.m. hour in the U.S. get the most retweets and favorites.
  • Tweets sent between 2-3:00 a.m. earn the most clicks on average.
  • Tweets sent between 2-3:00 a.m. earn the most total engagement on average.

Obviously, you’re not going to stay up all night tweeting. That’s where scheduling apps like Buffer come in handy. While I highly recommend using one of these apps to build engagement and followers, I also caution you to use them judiciously. The last thing you want to do is come across as spammy. Even if you are trying to promote sales or business offerings, you need to limit those types of posts to one or two a day at the most. Anything more than that and people will abandon you.

And, you never want to use an app that allows you to automate comments, follows or post likes. That would be in violation of Twitter’s terms of agreement and could get you banned.

Here are some of the apps I recommend for scheduling tweets:

7. Use Hashtags to Increase Your Chances of Being Found

Hashtags allow users on Twitter to search for trending news or topics of interest. People can even follow hashtags, so tweets of that topic appear in their feed. If you’re not sure which hashtag to use, experiment. But don’t forget, the more obscure the hashtag, the less likely it will lead to any engagement. So, while it might seem clever to use something like #StarvingWriterSeeksAgent, it is not going to help anyone find you. Thankfully, Twitter helps identify the hashtags that are popular and trending at the moment. Just start writing a few letters and it will pop up a list.

Makes sure to use hashtags when you post so your tweet gets in front of a relevant audience.

However, like everything in life, too much of a good thing can actually turn bad. Try to only use a maximum of three hashtags in one post. Anything more than that will turn your post into visual pollution, complicate your message or worse, appear desperate.

8. Build Relationships and Engage

Now that your tweeting content-rich tweets designed to attract your target audience, you need to take the next step in growing a following. Engagement with others.

Think of Twitter as a cocktail party with people standing around chit-chatting. We’ve all been to one of these and experienced the blowhard who talks incessantly about themself. Ten minutes goes by, then twenty and still they have not asked a single question about you or your life. You begin to think–how can I get away from this person. It’s the same on Twitter. If you only tweet about yourself, you’re the cocktail party blowhard.

Instead, you need to engage. Ask questions and participate in other people’s tweets by sharing a story, a tip or saying something that lets your personality come through. As you join in the conversations, reply to tweets and retweet other people’s trending topics (so long as those tweets will be palpable to your target audience) you’ll notice they will begin to treat you like a real person, which is a huge hurdle on social media. Soon, you’ll feel as if you have a new network of friends as people recognize and invite you into conversations.

In Summary

Twitter can not only be a great place to spread word about your business, service or personal brand, it can be fun, engaging and extremely informative. Taking the steps to focus on a target audience, build a clear persona and engage in a timely manner will make you attractive and desirable. This will keep them loyal and engaged, which in turn, attracts more followers.

Happy tweeting!

Social Media Strategy – Step 1: Assessment

Social Media Strategy – Step 2: Implementation

Social Media Strategy – Step 3: Monitor & Measure

You Scratch My Back Social Strategy

Rebranding Made Easy - Laptop on desk with coffee and phone
branding, strategy

Rebranding Made Easy!

Of course the title of this post is ridiculous.

Rebranding is never easy. It involves a great deal of planning and strategy, a whole lot of hard work and some fantastic collaboration on a million different levels..

But, having gone through a major brand refresh and several small rebrandings, I have come up with these tips for, at the very least, making it just a little easier.

Define Objectives

The first step is defining drivers and key objectives. That means answering questions like, is this a brand refresh or a brand transformation?

Once you understand your drivers, you can focus more clearly on the objectives and deliverables.

For example, a transformation may included a new company name, logo, positioning, messaging and brand identity, whereas a refresh builds on earlier brand progress. That’s not to say that a refresh is easier. In nearly every case, a refresh is going to have a whole series of challenges built in that cannot simply be ignored and likely includes the creation of an entire brand system and architecture. Many times a refresh is needed because a company has not previously established a systematic approach to brand identity, architecture, or brand management. In that case, a color palette, graphic style,  naming convention and brand personality will need to be either created or changed.

Knowing what you need to accomplish, and clearly establishing that as a focus, will save you a lot of headaches during the next steps and the final implementation.

Determine Approach and Scope

The second key principle is agreeing on how to approach your objectives. What is the scope?  Over what time and at what cost?  Who will make decisions besides the CMO, Vice President or Marketing Director (depending on company organization)?

Continue reading

Digital Marketing professional looking at statistics

Digital Marketing Strategy – The Basic Planning

As most businesses have found out over the last few years, marketing online requires a whole lot more than just having a website, optimizing it some for the search engines and maybe buying some adwords. Doing just those things will leave you way behind the pack and struggling for traffic and return visits.These days a digital strategy can be really complicated and can include a number of components, such as:
  • Designing your overall brand experiences (beyond just the website — this should encompass everything that your business represents — and should be translated to your website).
  • Coding those experiences for mobile and other access, not just the web.
  • Deploying these brand experiences in ways where analytics and data can be easily accessed, consumer engagement can be measured and effectiveness can be measured.
  • Hosting the digital experiences in easy-to-maintain and updatable environments, such as a CMS.
  • Having sufficient resources, people and technology, that can evolve as needs shift.
There is a lot going on there that needs to be mulled over before jumping in and building a website. If you just start building a site without getting at the core essence of the business first, you will fall flat on your face in no time. The key thing is, stepping back and getting a good grasp of the company’s business goals.
Define the vision and business and operational strategy for the company and brand in general. Then, take that a step further and determine the specific marketing objectives for customers and product lines. Once you have all of that in place you can begin to determine how your current business processes should either be supported by a web presence or altered to accommodate a new way of thinking.
Business objectives and digital marketing strategy must go hand-in-hand. Otherwise you are building out something that will only drain precious resources and pull the business in a direction where targeted expectations cannot be met.
A sound digital marketing strategy will always be built on sound business goals — not on online marketing aspirations. Success will always come from focus and exploited opportunities, leading to market-share growth and a competitive advantage.
Step 1 in your digital marketing strategy should always be the establishment of a sound business strategy.
(Photo courtesy of ijeab)
Web User Interface being laid out on laptop

It’s Always About the User Experience

I recently wrote about an almost perfect example of interface design, the London Underground map. It was Harry Beck, an electrician with London Transport, who came up with the design based on an electronic circuit diagram. Part of the genius of Beck’s design is that he removed everything that was superfluous and even altered the true topography of the rail lines to make the information more visually digestible. The most important principle of design that Beck employed was thinking of the information as a user.

If you have ever been on a subway or underground railway then you know that you really have no concept of where you are going. When you look out the windows you see either blackness or tunnel walls. So there is no real relationship with where you are and what may be above you. Beck realized that the actual physical location of the stations was irrelevant to someone who just wanted to know how to get from one station to another. At some point during his design process he was able to remove himself from all the details he knew about the rail lines and concentrate on developing a map strictly from a user’s standpoint.

Good interface design always centers upon the user’s experience.

That statement is pretty obvious. But the focus on the user gets lost a lot of the time on either the drive for a particular aesthetic or the need to fulfill certain interactive functions (i.e., registering or buying something). The design process gets much more complicated when you have multiple people involved: designer, developer, programmer, DBA, security analyst, CEO! Many times the user is completely forgotten as the web application evolves and all the stakeholders and participants ensure their needs are met and make their individual contribution.

Designing for the web is all about making things as easy as possible for the end user without requiring the completion of special training or reading of instructions. I am sure we all remember ten years ago when someone would roll out a redesigned website and have a link to the “site tutorial!” That is a perfect example of disregard for user interface design in favor of making something cool (and complicated).

Web users need to be able to intuitively navigate, use and accomplish tasks on a site.

Web interface design needs to take people’s general interactions with everyday life into account. You enter an elevator and you push the button for a particular floor. You didn’t need to read instructions. You didn’t need a tutorial. Maybe the buttons look a little different from other elevators you have been in…maybe they are on a different side of the car or have a different shape. But intuitively you know that when you push the button it will light up and you will be carried to the floor you selected, and when you arrive, the button will turn off and the door will open. Users expect the same sort of intuitive experience on the web.

In the broad sense of things, web interface design should:

  • Present the information to the user in a clear and concise way.
  • Give users choices that are obvious.
  • Ensure that an expected action occurs through any action taken (clicking a button).

In theory, we will always want to engage a user focus group to evaluate anything that we are going to design, especially in the case of web applications. However, that is not always possible based on budget, time constraints, or a myriad of other business pressures. No matter how well thought out, you will always learn something about your design from a focus group that you would never have imagined. But on those occasions when a focus group is just not possible, we can take a moment and think of Harry Beck, and ensure that we have the user’s experience as our guiding design principle.

(Photo courtesy of

Branding experts developing a buyer persona
branding, strategy

Developing a Brand Story

It’s a crazy, cluttered world out there, especially when it comes to marketing and advertising. There’s more brand pollution now than ever before. With the average consumer being hit by a constant barrage of branding, advertising, messaging and hype, how does a company stand a chance at standing out and connecting with potential consumers?

Theoretically, it’s easy. Just be compelling.

When a company becomes something other than ordinary it suddenly stands out as meaningfully differentiated from others in the same market or industry. And, it’s at that point where an emotional connection is made between the company and their customers. It all happens through a relevant and compelling Brand Story.

Here’s six steps that are extremely useful in developing a compelling brand story.

1) Develop Your Back Story

Back story in fiction writing is a set of events or history invented to lend depth or believability to the main story. In branding it is the background necessary to explain the problem that must be solved for the brand. It includes an thorough assessment of the brand’s past and existing culture as well as problems and opportunities it faces in the marketplace.

“Backstories influence expectations, perceptions and, ultimately, how consumers value a product,” says Dan Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University and the author of New York Times bestselling books, “Predictably Irrational” and “The Upside of Irrationality.”

“Think about the experience of drinking coffee,” Ariely says. “Part of it is the actual smell and the sensation on your tongue, but the other part is what you expect it feels like to drink regular coffee versus . . . coffee that was picked in the mountains of Indonesia.”

2) Create a Brand Persona

Developing a brand persona simply means humanizing it, with a voice and values that come across as genuine and can connect with the consumer.

It’s a highly important step in the process, as brands that successfully take on human like traits are the most revered. People seek them out, become attached to them and assign human personalities to them. After all, brands are like friends, hanging out with them says something about us to the people we know and encounter.

A good example of a company who has successfully created a likable brand persona is Target. Not only has Target clearly distinguished themselves from competitors like Walmart and Kmart by skipping the whole ‘low price’ thing, but they’ve done a great job of incorporating style, design and lifestyle into content. Plus they’ve employed hip, trendy language in everything they do, which has become their friendly, fun brand voice.

3) Develop a Story Brief

A story brief serves the purpose of outlining the entire brand story in ways that promote an empathetic understanding of the brand. It should include story or narrative arc charts, which serve to establish a chronology of the plot or action. This is also the time when you’ll want to develop a strategy around the creative supporting the story and the methods for telling it.  Imagine the story brief as a detailed game plan or internal mission brief.

Here’s a few considerations to keep in mind when developing a story brief:

Tell a real story. Craft your brand story around people and their dreams, not around your products and business challenges or successes. “The best brand stories are irresistible, compelling and provocative,” says Mary van de Wiel, founder, CEO and global brand therapist at “The most memorable brand stories tell the unexpected, speak directly to the heart or dare you to live life to the fullest.”

Keep creative simple. The look of your story should reflect the mood and tone of it, and nothing more. A polished story cluttered by elaborate effects or overwrought imagery will only present a disjointed message.

Serialize your story. Find ways and places to tell the story in glimpses. Keep people coming back to discover more.

Give your story momentum. Make it exciting. Build revelations and twists into what occurs over time. Brand stories come alive for people when they feel they are participating in it.


Mass advertising can help build brands, but authenticity is what makes them last. If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.” ― Howard Schultz, Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time

Photo courtesy of peoplecreations.

Laptop and phone with Instagram social media
social media

You Scratch My Back Social Strategy

I recently came across an article on Social Strategy by Mikołaj Jan Piskorski that appeared in the Harvard Business Review late last year, and felt his analysis was extremely insightful. Successful social strategy, Piskorski surmised, is primarily about helping your audience build relationships, something he calls the You Scratch My Back strategy.

Piskorski studied more than 60 companies across industries ranging from manufacturing to consumer packaged goods to financial services and determined companies that performed poorly in social media settings were employing digital tactics as their overall social strategy. Essentially, they had broadcast commercial messages or sought customer feedback on social platforms…things we all know (or should know as marketers) customers adamantly reject. After all, people join social platforms to connect with other people, not with companies, and especially not with advertising.

I like the example Piskorski provides:

Imagine sitting at a dinner table with friends when a stranger pulls up a chair and says, “Hey! Can I sell you something?” You’d probably say no, preferring your friends’ conversation over corporate advances.

Employing digital marketing tactics in a social (media) setting can not only be detrimental to the brand, it comes across as just plain rude.

What was interesting, was his supposition that companies who devised social strategies that help people create or enhance relationships experienced significant positive returns. Specifically, he details cases where the company introduced the customer other customers or companies. This strategy works, he says, because they’re consistent with users’ expectations and behavior on social platforms.

Returning to Piskorski’s dinner analogy:

A company with a social strategy sits at the table and asks, “May I introduce you to someone or help you develop better friendships?” 

It’s really not an earth-shattering revelation the companies that fared poorly were being stupid. But, the idea that a smart social strategy is primarily focused on helping people establish or strengthen relationships–relationships where the company may serve merely a facilitator or host–is pretty unique.

His theory is sound…in a B2B setting. This strategy would be extremely unique and definitely supports the notion of playing socially in a social environment. It allows the company to engage in the sharing of ideas and while simultaneously positioning itself as a helpful mentor.

However, in a B2C setting it could prove too risky. Playing host means a company may actually be introducing their customer to a competitor. Piskorski’s simplified theorem also ignores the value social interaction brings to a company. Customers want to feel close to their favorite brands, and social media sets a perfect stage for this to occur, giving the customer a voice and medium for expressing themselves. Of course all of that serves as useful intelligence and gives the company a platform to surreptitiously encourage buying decisions.

A properly deployed social strategy will truly impact a company’s organization, culture, processes, systems and bottom line. It shapes the perception a customer may have of a company and the way they will engage with that company in the future. While I find Piskorski’s ideas useful, I don’t think I would define my social strategy as narrowly as he, especially in a B2C marketing environment.

The London Underground with a train and passengers

The London Underground: An Example of Perfect User Interface Design

Interface design is the art of making the user’s interaction as simple and efficient as possible with regard to accomplishing specific tasks or goals. As designers we facilitate user experience. Good design means we do so without compromising the usability of the application or information and that we include natural intuition into the design process. The more intuitive the user interface, the easier the application is to use or the information to understand.

Steve Jobs, the late and great, visionary CEO of Apple, once said, “design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.“ That is actually pretty basic thinking, but it is the core principle behind good interface design.

Let’s look at an example of interface design in print that changed forever the way that Londoners have viewed their city for nearly a century…the Underground logo and map.

The first line of the London Underground system opened in 1863 and ran between Paddington and Farringdon. Over the next 70 years there would be over 160 separate and independent companies simultaneously running busses and underground trains on the rapidly expanding network of station and rail lines. While each company had its own branding of sort with unique uniforms, an advisory committee suggested in 1924 to the Minister of Transportation that the current conditions were confusing to travelers and that something should be done about the “acute and wasteful competition.” In 1931 London Transport was born and with it came the challenge of demonstrating efficiency and unified purpose to London travelers.

Frank Pick, the first managing director, did something quite unheard of in his day…he created the very first unified corporate identity. He felt that a unified operating system with a new single visual identity would not only create easily recognizable stations but would come to represent consistent and reliable service as well. The visual framework that he foresaw being employed across the city would send a clear message that the rail lines and busses were now under a single managing and integrated entity. With this vision in mind, Pick solicited Edward Johnston, a Uruguay-born calligrapher and professor at London’s Royal College of Art, to design the original Underground logo and its san-serif typeface.

1930’s Logo
Today’s Logo

While the new logo accomplished exactly what Pick had intended, one might still find the map detailing the rail lines confusing and hard to visually digest. As we can see now, it failed to serve the simple function of any informational graphic since it did not communicate the complex information quickly and clearly.

Harry Beck, an electrician for London Transport, designed a map based on the layout of an electronic circuit diagram. Beck realized that since the railway ran mostly underground, the physical locations of the stations were irrelevant. Only the topology of the railway mattered and there was no need to replicate the true geographical locations of stations or lines. To further simplify, Beck only ran lines vertically, horizontally, or on 45 degree diagonals with connections differentiated between ordinary stations by tick marks and interchanges with diamonds. Because the scale of Beck’s map was not fixed, he was able to provide more space around crowded stations making information easier to understand and providing a more intuitive representation for the user.

Beck’s design and the process for arriving at it is a lesson for all designers. Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the French poet said, “a designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” This is exactly how Beck approached his map. He removed the elements that were extraneous to the information being communicated and even altered the true geographical locations to focus the user on the relevant specifics of the railway system. His depiction of London and the surrounding area became a graphical depiction of true information in an abstract way, which, in essence, takes advantage of the visual language of communication which is far more universal. Beck’s information is no less true, but far easier for our minds to grasp.

Today Beck’s design and Johnston’s Underground logo are instantly recognizable as representing London. Both are plastered on t-shirts, postcards, and other touristy stuff. In 2006, Beck’s map design came second in a televised search for the most well known British design icon.

From this we, as designers, can learn to never forget that we are responsible for making the user’s interaction as simple and efficient as possible. If we can do so, as Beck did, without compromising the information, the tasks, or goals, then we have properly facilitated user experience. We can apply this principle to every single project we undertake whether it be print, web or signage.

Laptop with SEO strategy
seo, strategy

SEO Strategy Development – Determining the Target Audience

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in search engines via the “natural” or un-paid (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results. In general, the higher a webpage is ranked on the search engine results page (SERP), and more frequently a site appears, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine’s users. SEO may target different kinds of search, including image, local, video, academic, news and industry-specific vertical search engines.

As an Internet marketing strategy, SEO considers how search engines work, what people search for, the actual search terms or keywords typed into search engines, and which search engines are preferred by their targeted audience. Optimizing a website will most likely entail editing content, HTML and associated coding to both increase its relevance to specific keywords and remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines. Optimizing also involves incorporating elements from the overall digital marketing strategy to take advantage of social awareness, develop inbound linking strategy, and/or to create topic relevance and authority.

In order to develop a comprehensive SEO strategy, one needs to do a lot of homework, and it isn’t all just keyword research. It’s also extremely important to take time to know and understand a site’s target audience.


Many times SEO consultants or agencies will jump right into Google Analytics or Google Adwords and start throwing together list of keywords without taking the time to either reconfirm or develop a target audience profile. I personally think this is a flawed approach. Understanding a site’s audience is probably one of the most important things that can be done to develop a targeted and successful SEO strategy.

Knowing the audience means not only being able to predict their search patterns, but capitalizing on all of the ways they can be reached through digital marketing. And many of those mediums will need to be optimized for effectiveness as well (i.e., social media, affiliate marketing, online advertising).

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Woman working on Brand Strategy on two large monitors

Developing a Brand Strategy

Over the past week I have been thinking about brand strategy. After all, it is the first step in creating or evolving a larger marketing plan.

I always start at the same point when presenting a brand strategy to an internal or external team, which is emphasizing that a brand is not just a logo or a color scheme. I make sure they understand a brand is much more. It is every experience a customer may have with a company. It needs to be functional and emotional; intrinsic and original; active and intentional. Leading brands are championed by everyone and, therefore, meet compelling needs, create a premium, inspire loyalty and insulate against the competition. And more than anything else, leading brands are responsive. They respond to customers, competitors, the market and any other influence that can have an effect on the brand experience.

Creating a brand, and the strategy around it, is rife with challenges. Sometimes the biggest challenge is within the particular company itself. I have met with a lot of clients, as well as leaders at large, successful companies, who don’t get branding.

Why don’t they get it?

Because branding is anything but tangible. The process of building a brand can be extremely abstract and metaphysical. It’s the part of business development where perception reigns supreme. Consumers are not rational. They follow their instincts and are driven by a hundred different factors at once. Successful branding has to be one step ahead of consumer perception. And the leading brands are very adept at this.

Branding is a Business Process

Where some chief executives and business owners can’t see themselves spending more than a few minutes picking logo colors (the full extent of their brand strategy), others know that branding is a business process.

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