Are we talking too much?

As Twitter comes under scrutiny for its position and action, or lack thereof, on Twitter ‘hate crimes’ (trolling and nasty, racist or  aggressive Tweets to either celebrities or ordinary people), I am wondering – are we talking too much?

Social media has been heralded as the greatest evolution in communication. We now have instantaneous access to people and their views on anything from revolutionary action in the Arab Spring to whether the latest deodorant is really doing its stuff. And of course, it is great to observe instantaneous thoughts and actions. However, human communication has taken thousands and thousands of years to evolve and generally, we have learnt to be careful about what we say out aloud.

Great communication is natural, but considered. Generally, we don’t tend to tell people that we dislike how they look, what we really think of their partners or whether we like the coffee they drink. We try not to bore them with how our kids are doing at school, the details of the recent flu or the latest shenanigans in the office. (Not if we want to talk to them again, at any rate). So it follows, that companies and organisations should keep communications natural, flowing, relevant and above all, interesting.

I have seen so many businesses and organisations keen to have a social media presence. They start Tweeting or Facebook messaging, without thinking what their core messages should be. Poor performers don’t tend to think about engaging their target audience or about starting conversations with relevant and interesting people in a meaningful way. So many messages are boring, lack charm, are way off brand message and are far too sales orientated.

Understanding how audiences think and how they relate to brands in a modern age is really important, as is a natural chatty style and relevant content. The latter tends to be what people want to hear, which unfortunately, isn’t always the same as what many companies tend to say!

Having witnessed so many poor social media performers, there are certainly a number of masters out there. They are inspirational and manage to capture and retain our attention over a prolonged period of time. So, just before you hit the send button next time you’re chatting to your target audience, think twice, who do you want to talk to and how do you want to converse. Make sure that your social media presence is really a two way thing.

Don’t use that tone of voice with me, son!

tone of voice

I can just hear it, a lippy teenager giving an elder a correct reply, just said in too-smart a tone of voice. However, having the right tone of voice should not just be a distant memory of how we as rebellious youngsters used to get back at teachers, parents or other figures of authority, its very relevant in the business world.

We read so much about content in this age of digital communication, but delivering the content with the right tone of voice is just as important. Of course, this is just as true of traditional forms of promotion such as advertising, PR, brochures and even pack design as it is of social media and web.

That there is more than one way to say things is easily seen if you think about newspapers, a tabloid headline sounds significantly different compared to a broadsheet’s. The former being more familiar and to the point, the latter more formal and hopefully more eloquent!

Certain industries and sectors tend to traditionally verge on formal, conservative tones of voices. Many financial institutions forget that they are dealing with people and we receive stuffy, pompous communications. The same can be said of many public sector messages. New entrants to the market are often successful because their whole strategy is focused on communicating the same messages in a more user friendly way. Think of how dry insurance advertising used to be, compared with the more engaging, wittier approach used in the recent campaigns of Compare the Market, Go Compare and Sheila’s Wheels.

I often see highly erudite people, who are very charming and great company, falter when it comes to social media. Their Tweets and Facebook messages fail to engage, because their tone of voice is too professional, too dry and full of professional jargon; whereas, a chattier, informal tone would have yielded much more success. The key is to engage and inform through the tone of voice you might use if talking naturally to a person from a given segment.

So what are the rules?

  1. Understand your target audience, making sure that you are using the right tone of voice for each segment.
  2. If you are dealing with a complex target audience, you might need to consider several different tones of voice and utilise a segmented approach to communications. Just as we might modulate our tone if talking to children, spouses or colleagues, we might wish to adopt a different approach for the same message if dealing with different countries or sectors. What might be ‘cool’ in Australia, might be ‘too hot’ in China or UAE.
  3. Communications whether formal or informal, should always be clear and coherent.
  4. A good message, delivered through whatever medium, should sound natural and be relevant and be medium appropriate too.
  5. Avoid long stuffy, communiques.
  6. Just because everybody else in an industry sector communicates in a certain way, doesn’t mean that they have got it right!
  7. If possible test your style through research or a trial. What response are you getting.
  8. Finally, the tone of voice should always be brand appropriate too.

Listening – The Secret of Real Engagement

The marketing industry’s buzzword in recent years has been engagement. Forget all the old ways, we are told, engagement is where it’s at. I couldn’t agree more, getting your target audience interested enough to interact with your brand is essential to success. But I think successful marketing goes deeper than this. Before we get to engagement we need to understand not only the dynamics of the marketplace, but the way our customers and prospects think and behave.

It has long been The Marketing Forge’s belief that getting into the mindset of a given customer base is really important. What is important to companies providing goods and services, might not be what motivates customers. It might seem logical that a target audience might be motivated by one key factor such as say, service or reliability. It is tempting to take such logic as a given. However, the target audience might be searching for immediacy, or quality, or sustainability, or expertise or any other number of factors.

Successful marketing communication must identify not only what these factors are but we must be able to priortise key issues from the consumer’s perspective. (This is true whether dealing directly with consumers or if working in a specialist B2B market). Sure, social media is one way to help identify such factors, but real understanding comes from original research, when consumers are given a chance to articulate their decision making criteria and behaviours. For those of you who have never experienced it, there is nothing so enlightening as listening to respondents in a qualitative research setting discussing their purchase behaviour and decision making criteria. Who are the decision makers? Who are the influencers? How do their perspectives differ? How is your brand viewed in relation to competitors? Which brand is associated with the attribute that’s being searched for?

So, before you assume that your marketing is great because your use of social media is prolific, make sure that you understand the psychology of your customer base. Listening is the route to success.thinking

The Grown Up Brand – The Real Meaning of Brand Value

The Grown Up Brand – The Real Meaning of Brand Value

In the old days a brand was as big as the vision of its management team. Brands could boldly go where they wanted and marketers could tightly control how a particular brand was seen. In some cases, a brand was distinctly hampered by both a lack of corporate vision and a failure to appreciate the feelings of the marketplace.

However, things have changed in our world. Information is instantaneously available, delivered through the highly effective medium of social media. We can sympathise with the Japanese victims of a Tsunami, get behind those fighting for greater freedoms in The Arab Spring and globally engage in The Olympics like never before.

People have greater empathy with others across the world and our personal vision and experience is sharper than ever before. The Grown Up Brand has to take account of all of these changes. It is no longer isolated and controlled only by a team of managers, but part of the real world, in which we live, tightly connected to the pulse of its target audience and to global changes too. The Grown Up Brand has to take not only responsibility for the here and now, but be mindful of the future and of the brand footprint on the planet.

A client with whom we are working on a new project personified this recently. As we were working on brand creation, he decided that it was only right and proper that this new brand expand its raison d’etre from an online art shop, to encompass the support of young artistic talent worldwide. We didn’t force this value on him, but he felt that as an entrepreneur, it was beholden on him and the brand he was creating to be socially supportive to struggling youngsters. Well done him! Needless to say, it is a pleasure to work with someone who appreciates the power of The Grown Up Brand.

From medical marketing to consumer goods, brands that will survive will need to be globally aware and responsible, even when working in local markets.