How Effective Branding Can Be Your Best Form of Marketing

on April 16, 2014

San Francisco is filled with thousands of startups that want everyone to see and use their product, but they don’t want to spend anything. Can they build a product and brand with little to no marketing budget? It’s more than possible. Some of the biggest new brands such as Uber and Dropbox have done just that, claim Victoria Treyger, head of marketing at Kabbage.

At an event entitled “Marketing 3.0,” produced by the Business Leadership Council (BLC), a division of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, a panel of marketing and branding professionals discussed successful and unsuccessful branding techniques. On the panel were:

  • Mark Steiner – Attorney at Duane Morris (moderator)
  • Victoria Treyger – Marketing at Kabbage
  • Guy Yalif – formerly of Twitter
  • Sue Hutner – Partner of the branding agency HDSF

Here are some of the issues and points of advice that came up during the branding discussion:

  • Branding exists all around you. There are brand elements you may not be aware of such as motion marks, color marks, smell marks, and sound marks.
  • The brand symbolizes the goodwill of what a company offers.
  • The brand is the sum of all the different touch points the customer goes through when connecting with a company.
  • A brand is a promise. You’re setting that expectation upfront. Through the procurement of the service and/or product you deliver on that promise through every single customer touch point.
  • You are reinforcing or detracting from your brand every time the customer touches it whether you intended to or not.
  • You can substitute the word “reputation” for brand.
  • Media is defined by where we as consumers focus our attention.
  • Digital media allows us to follow up with media consumers and engage. And we have the ability to create more content than we’ve ever created before.
  • For every profession there is, even in B2B, there are conversations happening about the brand every single day. Opportunities are available if you catch people in these moments.
  • The fragmentation of consumption makes branding and marketing more difficult.
  • With social media you can humanize your brand and have a direct conversation that you can’t have with a TV commercial.
  • You can build amazing companies with zero in advertising. Examples are Lyft, Uber, Dropbox. Success is through a great customer experience. That alone is so powerful.
  • Nothing is more powerful than your customers referring you. Dropbox gets 38% of their customers through referrals.
  • Two of the most effective forms of marketing are word of mouth and PR. You get that through experience. You want to feel it through everything.
  • Westjet did a PR stunt where they asked passengers when they were checking in what they wanted for Christmas. Passengers thought it was just a survey. When the flight arrived in baggage claim, their bags came and so did their presents.
  • Consistency is critical for brand. For example, with a company Twitter could tell that three of the tweets are from the marketing division and one is PR. You need a consistent voice.
  • Don’t hide from problems. You simply can’t do that anymore. Now we’re seeing brands showing humility. Depending on how you handle it, a disaster can pay off positively for you.
  • Create ownable brands. That’s differentiating. Easier with products, tougher with services. Sue’s example of the offices at AirBnB which are designed like the properties they rent out all over the world. That’s a differentiator.
  • Stay on top of your social media presence and what others are saying about you. Social media is your CRM.
  • There are more chances to be off brand when you’re delivering a service.
  • You can use services such as Elance, Scripted for writers, and Mechanical Turk. But don’t expect they’ll do the strategic work. You need to do the strategic work yourself.
  • Think through all the iterations and purchase your domain names. Like get the “sucks” version. There’s even a .sucks now. New TLDs are being released every month.
  • Simplicity is something people crave. In order to get someone’s attention, you need to be simple but do it right.
  • Context aware marketing and services will be the next wave of improved branding experiences.

Check out my interview on Spark Minute with Mark A. Steiner about “Trademark Do’s and Don’ts.”

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Derek Gavey.

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