Addiction Marketing

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Addiction Marketing” is a phrase I started using a few years back while waiting in line for my drink at Starbucks. I was observing the mass of people who seemed almost desperate for their daily (if not more frequent) fix of caffeine. It was at that moment I realized the real power of one of Starbucks key business drivers, if not their most critical business driver – Starbucks sells products that cater to peoples addictive tendencies. What Starbucks has done better than many other addictive marketers is that they also make it cool and trendy to succumb to your addiction. In today’s blog post I’ll examine addiction as a key success factor in business.

Brands have always catered to our emotions viewing them as associative triggers – the tactics I’m describing are clearly not new. That said, has this practice crossed the line when addictive tendencies are being exploited for profit? Is this just creative branding and intelligent marketing, or are we merely sheep being led to slaughter? My intent is not to make judgments or draw conclusions, but rather just to have you wrestle with the following question: Are you an addict, pusher, or both, and if so, how do you feel about it?

When I was in school economics professors would lecture on using supply and demand drivers to create a business advantage, business professors would evangelize the strengths of the recurring value and stability of consumable products, marketing professors would espouse the benefits of customer loyalty and relationship marketing, but nowhere do I recall being able to register for a business class on addiction. However if you think about “Addiction Marketing” you’ll quickly realize what the “media pushers” on Madison Avenue and the product development and marketing gurus in the corporate world have known for years - all people have their unique set of vulnerabilities, which when creatively and effectively exploited will lead to strong sales and powerful brands.

In thinking about this topic with respect to media coverage, I recall that a few years back the Indian government was attempting to force Coca Cola and Pepsi to divulge the formulas to their popular beverage products. One of the charges being levied in the Indian High Court was that Coke and Pepsi products were addictive and unhealthy, Hmmm…More recently there have been a number of energy drinks and dietary supplements that have been pulled from retail shelves because of health hazards posed by addictive consumption.

Examine the following representative list of successful businesses and/or industries and come to your own conclusions as to whether these businesses or industries prey on the addictions of consumers world-wide to generate their revenue:

Las Vegas - The tagline “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” caters to virtually every possible addiction under the sun…Sin City lives up to its reputation.

Tag Body Spray - Tag’s recent commercial campaign has taken the phrase “Sex Sells” to a whole new level. In these campaigns all an adolescent male needs to do is to spray himself with the Tag product and he finds himself instantly being attacked by hordes of attractive young women. If you have a teenage son, it would be a safe bet that Tag is his cologne of choice.

The Beer and Alcohol Industry - You will be hard pressed to find a beer or alcohol company that doesn’t portray consumption of their beverage as the key ingredient to a lifestyle of fast cars, beautiful women, successful careers, etc.

The Tobacco Industry - The tobacco industry has been publicly hammered for selling products that leverage the addictive effects of Nicotine, and even with all the known health hazards smokers face, in many instances the addictive nature of the product is greater than peoples ability to make a logical decision.

I don’t think anyone will dispute the examples noted in the above list as obviously preying on consumer’s addictive tendencies. However what about the more subtle side of the addiction business? Isn’t Starbucks using the same addictive business tactics as those industries listed above? What about other fast food outlets? What about companies in the luxury products sector? Companies that sell high end products and services cater to the elitist attitudes of this segment allowing consumers to make statements about their socioeconomic status based on the products they purchase. Is this not also catering to addictive tendencies?

Okay, now I’ll hit a little closer to home and turn the spotlight on myself. What about my company’s value proposition? We sell success… Is it not possible to look at success as being an addiction? How about the social networking industry? Are social networkers and bloggers addicted to the interaction, attention, etc. that the social media platform affords? While I could go on, I think my point has been made.

I’m certainly not implying that all consumers are addicts, nor am I implying that all companies are “pushers,” but I am pointing out that addiction marketing sells and that many companies use this as a strategic advantage. In fact, I believe the evidence is clear that a business can create a strong strategic advantage in sustainability if they find no ethical flaw in what I’ve coined as “Addiction Marketing”.

The bottom line is that I love to travel and watch movies and I don’t think it makes me an escapist. I have a penchant for Starbucks, venti caramel frappacinos in particular and I don’t think I’m a caffeine addict (perhaps a sugar addict), and I appreciate fine clothes & quality automobiles and I don’t believe that makes me a social elitist. However I have also come to realize that my perceived addictive tendencies are clearly attempting to be preyed upon by creative and intelligent marketing and product development efforts. I’ll leave you with the following questions to ponder:

  • What is the difference between pleasure and addiction?
  • Do you feel “Addiction Marketing” is ethical?
  • Does your company partake in addictive marketing strategies and tactics? And;
  • When was the last time you made a purchase based upon your addiction?

Thoughts?

Brand Exposure

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Do you understand the difference between presence, visibility and overexposure? Have you figured out how to apply the laws of scarcity to brand management? If not, then this post is for you. While a brand without exposure is not much of a brand, I consistently find that brand exposure is an aspect of brand management that is all too often overlooked as a success metric. Whether you’re assessing the strength of a personal or corporate brand, finding the appropriate level of brand exposure is key to sustainable growth in brand equity. 

As I stated above, having an underexposed brand, or what I like to refer to as having a brand in stealth mode, means that you really don’t have much of a brand. Conversely, having a brand that is mismanaged through overexposure can cause a brand to go into decline by diluting hard earned brand equity. The reality is that premium brands are viewed as such because they jealously manage their brand exposure. They pay attention to the both the frequency and reach of their exposure. While they are careful to insure that their brands are visible to the right constituencies, they simply won’t allow overexposure. When a brand’s pedigree has an element of mystique, scarcity, intrigue, or sophistication, said brand will be in high demand. Let me be clear that I’m not advocating brand snobbery, just astute brand management based on time tested success principles.   

Intelligent brands create at least some level of focused planning surrounding the issue of access to prevent overexposure. Once a brand is overexposed it becomes commoditized, diluted, and ultimately. will go into decline. While you might not detect brand taints associated with overexposure in the short-term, this principle holds true across most genres over time. Think about any overexposed brand that comes to mind and you’ll see that it quickly begins to lose its luster. Once a brand’s appeal begins to erode, it will require significant time and expense to recover. It is simply a more intelligent approach to consistently manage brand exposure than it is to let your brand run wild and then attempt to triage overexposure.  

Let me offer just a few examples to help connect the dots: Recording artists that release too many CDs over too short of a time period hurt their own appeal. The same holds true with authors that release books with too high a frequency, or actors that churn out too many movies. You may also notice that politicians who confuse their real job with that of a media celebrity will lose the respect of their constituency and taint their effectiveness.

Please keep in mind that the personal brands of business people are not immune to the phenomenon mentioned above. The goal of a sound brand exposure strategy should be to increase your demand, which in turn allows you to pick and choose your opportunities, which in turn further increases your demand…the goal is not to seek every opportunity in the marketplace, but to have the right opportunities seeking you. 

I’ll close today’s post with a prime example of personal branding overexposure that while a pet-peeve of mine, will certainly draw the ire of many. I’m a huge believer in the use social media and social networking to further brand exposure. That said, I have little use for social networking junkies who collect friends/followers/contacts just for the sake of watching the numbers go up, while adding little or no value to their network. I would suggest that if your brand is based solely upon the quantity of contacts in your LinkedIn network, or the number of followers you’ve amassed on Twitter, and not the qualitative relevancy of said contacts, then you are more likely stroking your ego than you are acting as an astute personal brand manager. If no real interaction, no real value add, or no real engagement takes place, then while you migh have a lot of contacts you likely have very few relationships – there is a difference. 

Thoughts?

How to Build a Brand

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

How to Build a BrandAssuming that you have deep pockets, a talented staff, and a lot of patience, growing a recognized brand isn’t difficult…spend heavily across all mediums with consistent, creative, on message advertising while simultaneously conducting aggressive public relations and social media campaigns. Avoid controversy, maintain a high likeability factor, consistently and proactively engage your customers, be a business of character that engenders trust and confidence with your target market(s), produce a quality product or service at a competitive price point, and provide great customer service. The preceding description paints the perfect illustration of why branding is one of my favorite topics…It is complex. Unless you are a very large enterprise it is unlikely that you have the time, money, staffing, or external professional relationships to execute a brand management strategy such as the one outlined above. In today’s post I’ll share 8 tips for common sense branding that entities of any size can put into practice…

So what’s the best way to build a brand if you’re not a Fortune 500 company? Be very, very smart. Unfortunately I’m not kidding - if your business isn’t one of the deep pocketed companies capable of executing a strategy like the one mentioned above, then you must understand how to cost effectively appropriate and deploy your resources & talent in a manner that still produces results. The simple truth of the matter is that building brand equity with limited resources is one of the most difficult things to accomplish in the business world.

The following 8 items constitute the basic tenants of branding, which if incorporated into your brand management strategy will help build a solid brand regardless of the size of your company or your ad budget:

1. Treat your brand as an asset not an afterthought: If building brand equity is not a key strategic focus for your executive team don’t be surprised if your brand remains in stealth mode. If branding is not someone’s full-time responsibility then your brand will suffer from the part-time results that the part-time efforts yield.

2. Keep your word: Living up to expectations (brand promise) is critical if you want to keep your brand from going into free-fall. If you can only do one thing is business, I would strongly suggest that it be to keep your commitments and honor your promises. In absence of any other action this will keep your brand on solid footing, and in combination with the other items mentioned here will propel your brand equity with maximum velocity. 

3. Never sacrifice quality: Your products, services, leadership, management, culture, customer service, communication, etc. must all reflect high standards of quality. Quality equals value in the eyes of the consumer, and as a result often corresponds into justifying price premiums.

4. Focus on the customer: Make sure you understand the needs and desires of you customers/clients and do everything possible to satisfy them. If customer centricity is nothing more than a buzzword, and not a core value reflected in your business practices, creating growth in brand equity will be a challenge. Put the customer first in all decisions and good things will happen.

5. Understand the competition: Creating competitive separation is a must. Without strong and clearly recognized competitive value propositions you will be forced into the commodity market of competing on price points alone.

6.  Broadcast vs. Social: It is also critical to understand the difference between broadcast and social media.  The world has changed, and if you haven’t adjusted your messaging, positioning, communications, and engagement strategies accordingly, your brand will suffer. If you don’t have a big advertising budget, and even if you do, social media provides a significant opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations and interactions with your customers that broadcast media simply cannot produce. If you don’t have the luxury of being able to spend across mediums, select the medium that will give the most frequency, reach, viral shelf-life & engagement and build from there. Put simply, if you’re going to spend your time and money do it where you get the biggest bang for the buck.

7. Be consistent: Consistency in all things throughout the value chain is critical. Continuity should flow from values to vision, mission to strategy, and objectives to tactics to process. Mixed messaging or practices has killed many a brand.

8. Innovate: Your brand will have at best a limited shelf life if a culture of innovation doesn’t pervade your business. Even category dominant brands can fall into rapid decline as obsolescence sets in. Don’t fall into the trap of resting on laurels and assuming that a great product or niche market will endure the test of time without constant attention to the shifting needs of a fluid marketplace.