Change ... is Lord of the Universe. Everything is in a state of becoming, of continual flux. [Heraclitus, Panta Rhei]
There is a concept in Buddhism called anicca. It means impermanence is the bedrock on which everything thrives. It is this single word that is the core of Buddha's teaching. Everything is in a state of movement. Change is the only permanence. The great master, the "Knower of the Worlds" flourished some 2500 years ago. Yet, his teaching of dynamic reality propels us to achieve material gain with amazing success. He has successfully handed you the master key to open any door you wish, to fulfill any desire you have.
If change is the only constant of this material reality then growth is your only option to survive as a business. Because, as brand marketers, we all know that preferences change, demographics shift and somewhere along the way customers has to be replaced. In the face of this continuous state of becoming, you have to constantly evolve, re-package re-wire your brand perception. The GM story of becoming is still very vivid in my mind. From being the legendary company that once sold half of the cars on block, overnight the company was forced into a yard sale with Saab, Opel and Hummer. 2008 marked the collapse of the old way of doing business and companies like GM were forced to carve out a new and essential discipline: brand renewal. On the flip side of the coin, Toyota is the brand that lives and breathes the principle of becoming and renewal.
How do you stay centered in the swing of inevitable changes?
Holistic brand wisdom from the master himself.
“Resolutely train yourself to attain peace.” ― Gautama Buddha
The Buddha says, peace can only be achieved by understanding and embracing impermanence. It…"comes from within. Do not seek it without.” This holds true in understanding your self and in understanding your brand proposition. Define the core purpose of your brand with clarity. Strong brands grow from the core. It is about understanding the context where the brand resides. When obesity, diabetes and heart disease became the public outcry of our times, the global icon McDonald's responded by revisiting its core and came up with an evolved brand promise. “Simple, easy, enjoyment” expresses the classic McDonald’s proposition–good foods, delivered quickly. However, it went further by giving the brand permission to translate that promise into something more in context for today–fresh salads, new menus highlighting calories intakes and gourmet coffee. McDonald’s has peacefully evolved because it grew from the core.
Having a Plan B in place is another critical factor in attaining your individual peace and sustaining the vitality of your brand. Build contingencies in place, to deal with the unknowns and uncertainties. The Buddha literally advised married couples to buy property insurance to deal with the unknowns of flood and fire. I kid you not! Check it out. Anguttara Nikaya 8:49; IV 269-71
“The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you, depend on no one. Only the moment you reject all help are you freed.” ― Gautama Buddha
"There are no great limits to growth because there are no limits of human intelligence, imagination, and wonder." It is fear that haunts you like a mistress paralyzing your potential to evolve and touch your wisdom. Fear is the enemy of creation, fear is the enemy of innovation. Fear is the comfort of staying within the known faculties. Being fearless, you meet your expanded yourself—you are onto something bigger. When you are on this quest "dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.” You inspire your customers. Your brand becomes a powerhouse of new ideas that are sought after by new businesses..
Apple is a clear example of a brand that is fearless to demand premium price because it fearlessly shouts out loud and clear “man should not be subservient to machine.” The campaign "Talk to Chuck" embodies the principle of fearlessness by the brand Charles Schwab. The brand fearlessly courts investors who felt disrespected by other financial outfits.
“I don’t have to qualify to get guidance. I just get it.” Understanding your clients' emotions gives you a competitive edge. Fearlessly skate the edge!
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought.” ― Gautama Buddha
It is intellect that puts ideas in the form of thoughts, gathering and organising the thoughts at the same time. There are great ideas which lie beyond the ordinary human mentality, which can put on all possible forms. These great ideas tend to descend, they want to manifest themselves in precise forms. These precise forms are the thoughts; and generally it is this, I believe, that is meant by intellect: it is this that gives thought-form to the ideas. Centre for Consciousness Studies
How does this high philosophy apply to your brand nourishment?
When you think of Tide, you think of it as a cleaning agent that does a pretty good job. But did you know that Tide is a "biochemical masterpiece, without technical peer in the detergent world." It all happened because of an idea that was contradictory to the accepted science of the day. Who knew that reducing the proportion of cleaning agent would form the chemical basis of the popular detergent. "No one could figure out why it worked, but it worked." Moral of the story invest in customer-focused innovation. At the end of the day it gives you the economic leverage specially during the times of economic hardship.
"The greatest quality is seeking to serve others."
"The greatest precept is continual awareness."
"The greatest action is not confirming with the worlds ways."
"The greatest magic is transmuting the passions."
"The greatest generosity is non-attachment."
"The greatest patience is humility."
"The greatest wisdom is seeing through appearances."
A brand that adheres to these precepts is a brand that stands the test of time. It stands on the high ground of transparency, authenticity and accountability.
Question to ponder. Does my brand make the cut?
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"We are not just passing into another historical period or another cultural modification.......But more specifically we are terminating the last 65 million years of life development." Thomas Berry, historian philosopher
The universe is constantly coming into being through irreversible steps of transformations; from a lesser to a greater order of complexity, from a lesser to a higher mode of consciousness. [This thinking holds true only if you subscribe to linear theory of evolution, which is opposite of cyclical evolutionary theory...well that is another conversation for another time]. It has been professed by social scientists that genetically we are very different from our forefathers some 200 generations ago as they were different from the Neanderthals. "What we are catching is an exceptional time." This growing complexity is evident in our social lives and in our business lives. Needles to say, if you are a brand marketer you are in for the ride of your lifetime: you have umpteen different social media sites to peddle your stuff and unnumbered "How To" blog sites to master one single craft. To compound that, new social media tools are launching every day and new marketing best practices are emerging every minute of your waking lives.
But you are not alone.
Get this, 90% of people move between devices to accomplish one single goal. Talk about a disjointed social culture on the verge of total disarray. It is like we have been handed over the technology of the gods without being primed for it.
As marketers, is sanity an achievable alternative? The short answer is yes.
If we take a step back from this massive marketing permutation and combination that is going on every second of the day
and focus on the human currency of our business and cultivate them we create tangible value for ourselves and our businesses. "Hidden in Plain Sight is Today's Greatest Overlooked Growth Opportunity ... It is our Customers."
Bill Lee, author of The Hidden Wealth of Customers: Realizing the Untapped Value of Your Most Important Asset maintains that once you identify your star customers and nurture them in such a fashion that increases their personal value proposition, you now have re-defined your relationship and transformed your customers into your brand advocates and key influencers in your industry. He calls this community marketing. Because, you are helping your customers build reputation that help them expand their support groups and build communities.
Cash rewards, discounts or 'try it before you buy it' is the game of marketing as we know it. It is usually tailored towards customer life time value which is based on how much money they are prepared to spend. On the other hand, customer-centric marketing increases customers' life time value. It helps build their social capital, increases their reputation and gives them access to new treasure trove of ideas. "This new concept of building customer advocates, peer influence-based, community-oriented marketing, hold much greater promise for creating sustained growth through authentic customer relationships."
How do you do it.
Each industry is different. However, there are some basic principles that can be enacted across all industries.
Identify Industry Trends: Create a space (virtual or face to face) in your customer community and set up an exercise that identifies trends and insights of your industry. Trade shows and events are great venues where you may single out such trends. Bring forth those ideas to your marketing team to discuss product enhancements, service improvements and rewiring of brand proclamation if needed. Infusing your internal team with these ideas will advance your business with customers in mind always, all the time.
Here is how Amazon does it: Jeff Bezos periodically leaves one seat open at a conference table and informs all attendees that they should consider that seat occupied by their customer, “the most important person in the room.”
Create pixel spaces for your different product or services. Populate these spaces with FAQs. Links these spaces with popular social media channels. Make it very simple for your customers to navigate to these different groups from the home base. Ask your customers what improvements they would like to see on the offered products. This helps build brand loyalty. Give your customers a reason to visit the community. Make good use of it. This is your platform to highlight customer success stories. It’s also a great way to get your customers to be your brand evangelist. Some collaboration platforms for your knowledge, product and brand communities that you might consider is Jive and Akiva
Empower your customers to be co-creators: Encourage your customers to contribute in white paper study to build their reputation. Encourage them to blog, share and tweet stories. This helps build individual authority and circles back to the primary goal of creating customer advocates.
Partner with your customers to build videos and webinars that illustrates how your customers' business have been impacted as a result of smart choices that she has made with your help. Gradually, as you build a network of rock star customers, you host local events and participate in trade shows to bring such advocates together with prospects and media people.
Developing a thriving customer community keeps your bottom line on target and makes your top marketing dollars accountable. At the end of the day, your goal as a marketer is to create new opportunities for your business. One, sure fire way to do so, is to sustain your focus on ROR factor as postulated by Ted Rubin (return on relationship) and echoed by Bill Lee. ROR is a robust virtuous cycle in which you, (the marketer) provide them (your customers) with superior value and they (your customers), in turn, enrich your company.
At the end of the day, you have taken control of your sanity. You have stayed true to your focus. Your life is enriched because you have helped another person flourish ... Atlast, you kick back and as you get to marvel at your own greatness, you come to "admit there is something glorious about being you."
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"You market when you hire and when you fire. You market when you call tech support, and you market every time you send a memo." This is the perennial face of marketing. It transcends culture, community, space and time.
What has changed today, is the different streams in marketing. We have a garden variety of choices. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, You Tube; just to name a few are the channels through which our messages are dished out. "Inbound" is the refreshing concept in digital marketing, engagement is the sustenance of it and delivering delight is the ultimate target of todays' marketers. Digital marketing dominates our lives. We are inundated with never-ending stream of emails, instant messages, text messages, and tweets that has given way to mediocrity leading to diminished creativity and stifled critical thinking. Keep in mind, these are the marketing messages that we have all opted in. The result: We all suffer from this new disease called, digital distraction.
One of the articles published by moz.com Offline is the New Online Link Building Strategy talks about a physical event that was hosted by a high-end European fashion retailer and how the event was designed to draw attention to their brand and distributed across the social channels. Today, these events are considered offline link building, but prior to the internet it was simply called public relations. Back in the 1920s when the PR genius Edward Barneys was hired to rally more women to smoke, he devised the NYC Eater Sunday Parade-"Torches of Freedom". Today, instead of having a photographer taking the pictures and then distributing around the world; he would have used the technological eco-sphere of hashtags and Instagram.
Today, we have the infinite space of the internet. [Our finite minds are finally starting to grasp the concept of infinity.]
But, we miserably fail to draw people's attention. Partly because, we are all swimming in the sea of sameness. Making advertising messages stand out is the scorching challenge of marketers today. The life span of your twitter message is 90 mins and your Facebook update is 3 hours. Hence, the dire need for your messages to strike an emotional chord. Your Facebook updates, your tweets need to have triggers built in so that people take action. It should be no different than putting an ad in the trade magazine that prompts one to take action. In fact, you can do better than that. Follow the 10:4:1 Rule. [For every 15 of your social media updates, 10 should be pieces of other people's content, 4 should be your own blog articles, and 1 should be a landing page.]
What is the Key Differentiator in Marketing Today: It is You, the Marketer
It is no longer the few, the powerful and the furious who shapes our collective destiny as a species. It is you who choose the destiny of your tribe. With so much marketing data available at the click of your mouse, targeting the right buyers at the right time is of key importance now. "Marketing was inefficient without the intelligence that is commonplace with most marketing and advertising platforms. When marketers began to decrease their print ad spending, it wasn’t because print advertising was a bad idea; it was just less intelligent compared to most digital platforms." Today, the ability to target individuals based on their behavior and interests is the key difference between then and now. Today, you have the option to use Cloud2You or MarketSync, which deliver mail to individuals based on behavior. The keyword here is behavior.
Fusing the Old and the New
While we have established that the kernel of marketing is essentially the same amidst the changing media landscape, we now have to focus on the creativity and the strategy of the content that we put on line. We have to craft our messages with the same delicacy and intent as a high-end print ad or that of a Super Bowl Ad. If you’re creating blog posts, eBooks or look books for content marketing purposes, you need to advertise these materials just as you would a free demo or sale. "You need to market your marketing". As C.C. Chapman says: People always seem to forget that little part. Have to prime the pump for those first eyeballs.
It is about time that we move into a mind set that fuses the old and the new paradigm thus ushering the age of post digital fusion marketing. Here we use the different marketing tool sets as and when needed.
Above all, "Our job is to make change. Our job is to connect to people, to interact with them in a way that leaves them better than we found them, more able to get where they’d like to go. Every time we waste that opportunity, every page or sentence that doesn’t do enough to advance the cause, is waste." Seth Godin
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It is language that creates the idea of who we are.
Ancient sages and now cutting edge science have now come to the same conclusion: Life is just an idea. Life as we know it does not exist. Only thousand and thousand living processes exist.
There is nothing like life.
Life is not a noun. It is a verb, Life means living. Be aware of this moment and you will realize: everything is becoming, nothing is stagnant. Even when you are at rest, there is a process going on, something is happening. You are breathing. Your heart is beating. Everything is in a constant state of flux. Human energy needs to be in constant flow to remain alive. You are like the river and more. A river needs to be flowing, changing course in different plains and mountains until it reaches the ocean. But the destination of your life energy is not the ocean. It is a river that is always seeking and searching – and that is finding but there is always more to explore, to experience, to express. It is this urge for more that makes us aware of the dual aspect of our human nature. It makes us restless and strikes us with conflict. Often we find ourselves at the crossroads of selfishness and generosity, of love and hate, frailty and strength, hope and despair. We are in a constant state of embracing and accepting these apparent contradictions as the "key to transforming each twist and turn of life's journey into a new discovery of who we are meant to be." In doing so we throttle the wonder that dwells within us...that so desperately wants to find its unique expression through us.
It is said, that before he died, Einstein was asked "If you are born again and God asks you, I am certain you would like to become a great physicist and mathematician again." He said, "No, never! If another opportunity is given to me, rather than being a physicist I would like to become a plumber. I would like to live a very very ordinary kind of life, anonymous, so that I could enjoy life more easily with nobody coming in my way. My fame, prestige, research -- nothing coming in my way, so that I could have a deeper communion with existence."
You are born brilliant. You are an universe unto yourself. But very soon, you start compromising. And, when you do so, your talents disappear, your intelligence disappears. The world is not enriched by your unique expression. "It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable it is nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open." Martha Graham
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We are living in exciting times. The concept of traditional marketing is being challenged every day. Fresh waves of ideas are consistently hitting the shores.
The blogosphere is inundated with articles describing the fact that brand equity cannot be linked to actual firm equityor any other recognized financial metric. There is a huge uproar that in a world infused with social-media madness; "traditional marketing and sales not only doesn't work so well, it doesn't make sense." A lot of speculation rolls around the market place as to what is going to replace the old medium; new possibilities of peer influence-based, community-oriented marketing hold much greater promise for creating sustained growth through authentic customer relationships.” In the past, marketing would decide how they want their brand to be perceived amongst their potential buyers and then the message would be forced fed to people via advertisements. Now, the dice has rolled in favor of the consumers! Consumers have more and more technologies like DVRs, caller ID, and spam blockers that enable them to avoid unwanted advertising and messages. This means that, in order to get their attention, you have to earn their permission.
How do you earn it?
One such method is being skilled in the Art of Enticement! Not often used in our everyday vocabulary, enticement is a key factor in trade show marketing, media, public relations as a means of persuasion. Persuasion leverages the art of enticement to achieve a set goal.
Focus on your goal. In our case, decide on why are you going to trade shows. Often, I am told by clients that procuring leads is only one of the factors that dictates them to exhibit. Increasing brand awareness and sustaining brand memorability are some of the dominant factors that urges them to engage in this sort of face-to-face marketing.
Enticement starts at the beginning of the design phase. Design your booth with flow, lighting and augmented presentation. Highlight a concept product. Ask for viewer feed back as to how they will improve on the design (to give an example). Have them participate in your social media channel and digitally carry the conversation beyond the venue. As you do so, always keep in mind marketing is always about them (your clients and prospects), not you.
You always offer your prospects an enticing factor to pay attention to your marketing. The enticement may be a prize for playing a game as simple as: turn the wheel and you get something. It could be knowledge about your industry that prospects consider to be valuable. Perhaps it's membership to a privileged group such as, once a month session with the CMO of your company or an entry into a sweepstakes. It might even be a discount coupon from one of your partners. All you ask in return is permission to market to these people. Nothing more.....
The secret sauce. Give people something great to talk about your brand. Trade shows are great venues where you may access each person as a node in a community and this, my friend is the new era of community marketing.
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In my writings I am often an explorer, a map maker, sometimes a voyager of the human mind and other times: a creator who is tormented by the inner longing to expand, express and delight !