Thursday, July 14, 2011

Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands

What makes some brands inspirational, while others struggle? The answer - Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands. Lovemarks, for those of you who are not familiar with Kevin Roberts, CEO Worldwide, Saatchi & Saatchi is a book that came out in 2004. Roberts was the inventor and promoter of lovemarks and became quite the fire-starter, when in 2006 he blew new life into JC Penney contract to the tune of $430 million.

We can talk about brands all we want. Back in the day it used to be that the manufacturers held all the cards. Then the retailers became the big power brokers, but now, no question about it, it's the consumer. The consumer has had the power for years. That's nothing new. Consumers are highly intelligent, they will not be manipulated. They know what they like. No company today can hide behind their brand. These days, brands have to be authentic and true. If your corporation is not socially responsible, ethically responsible or environmentally responsible (green), you are going to be challenged. Period.

If the America is the land of entrepreneurship, innovation and ideas where did all the love go? How can we even think about love? Isn't the business world all driven by numbers? Apparently it is, or should I say it was. We took a lot of well-known brands that made us this country great and exported them. Among them are McDonald's, Starbucks, Hollywood and Disney. Is there anything that we haven't exported? GULP!

When asked what is the difference between a great brand and one that's merely good? Roberts said "I love the concept of it. Great brands are ones you can really trust like Tide. You can always count on Tide. It will never let you down." The way advertising works has really changed. It's changed so much you can't even recognize it. It's all about the attention economy now. The Attention Economy is a marketplace where consumers agree to receive services in exchange for their attention. Examples include personalized news, personalized search, alerts and recommendations to buy. It's about consumers having choice - they get to choose where their attention is 'spent.'

Another key ingredient in the attention game is relevancy. What I mean by this is as long as the consumer sees relevant content they are going to stick around. And that creates more opportunities to sell. In the attention economy consumers want something new, and personalization is everything. When a company does their research, and crafts a personal message - it must be one that is detailed and sincere at directed at the consumer. After all we are the ones who are buying it.

Whatever happened to finding the "sweet spots," you know what I'm talking about... it's the place where marketers develop meaningful connections with interested consumers? If the true purpose of social media is to use new technology to facilitate the exchange of ideas, promote new products and foster brand, then who has actually mastered this? Finding these sweet spots takes time, but this type of investment can pay long-term dividends in trust and increased sales.

For many successful companies, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is no longer just a boardroom buzzword, but the key to a business that is thriving. CSR has also helped with major PR problems, think about BP's oil spill. It's great to know that companies are finally being held accountable. It's about time.

It can be easy to deny or ignore the value of ethical responsibility in business, but more and more often, signs of the value stakeholders place on ethical business are being revealed. Businesses have been hit hard by the weak economy, but many companies on have managed to outperform other companies on the S&P 500. Deere & Co. has been in business since 1837, and currently operates in three areas: agriculture and turf, construction and forestry, and credit. It's winning financially when it comes to outperforming the competition.

Environmentally responsible (or green) companies include ones that have an actual environmental footprint, a management of that footprint (including policies and strategies) and a reputation among environmental experts. The best example of this is Dell. Michael Dell, the chairman and CEO believes "The efficiencies we can all achieve through the use of greener products, solutions, services and programs should be an integral part of every corporate culture." It's no wonder the energy efficiency of its products, has helped customers save more $5 billion in energy costs since 2006.

So it's time to get back to basics and stand out from the crowd, get noticed, zig when others zag, Kevin Roberts is glad he did. Isn't it about time you followed suit?

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