28 August 2019
The ever-growing craft beer market—it’s a strange and unique animal. On the one hand, brewers have the ability to easily craft small batches of their barley bev of choice for a specific palate, flavor, style or season. More to the point, the masses are buying it. In passionate, perpetual quantity. On the other hand, this ease and interest have created an incredibly saturated market—a monster all its own where the average, non-Untappd-using drinker often chooses the next sixer based on packaging design rather than more common variables like ABV or price point. Even flavor profiles get ignored if the label is too cool to resist. Recognizing that the need to stand out on the shelf is more than half the battle, craft brewers have (smartly) turned to the creative industry for help. My, my, beer, how the tables have turned. The boom in the craft beer market over the past decade has created a veritable renaissance in contemporary design. Like skateboard decks of the ’00s, craft beer packaging design is exceedingly creative tolerant, allowing artists (or an agency) more room to take risks and produce more subjective work. This does have a downside, though. Grabbing some brews anywhere that carries a decent selection feels a bit like a scene out of Blade Runner … walls of cans aggressively fighting for your attention like a neon-lit alley in a dystopian future LA. Taking a line from The Incredibles: “When everyone is special, no one is. The ones that do it right, though, understand that it’s more than making a pretty label. It’s about the artists/agency being more involved, more fully hands-on—with the team, with the brew, with the success of the brand. Ultimately, they’re transformed into the brewer’s best and most trusted partner, rather than just another vendor. This trust allows the creative team to really hit the mark in terms of great concepts—ideas that are anything but arbitrary. Cutting through the beery noise are brands like To Øl (toolbeer.dk), whose designer/art director, Kasper Ledet, has been around since their beginning. Inspired by art history, architecture, contemporary art, politics and science, he believes the design is more than just marketing—it’s part of the actual experience. Then there’s Burial Beer (burialbeer.com), who approached their artist, David Paul Seymour, on Instagram. At the time, he was creating album art for some heavy bands—based nearly on interest alone, Burial knew Seymour would be perfect for creating their look from the ground up. Even local faves like MadTree and national giants Avery and New Belgium have upped their game when it comes to design, altering their established (somewhat iconic) labels in a targeted attempt to stand out more among the crazy craft crowd. So while craft beer continues to command attention and serious consumer dollars (despite InBev’s efforts to keep it corporate), the art of label design remains an ever-evolving, uber-competitive, highly creative field in the graphic design universe. The competition is fierce—what are you drinking?
21 August 2019
Social media and other digital channels have given analytical marketers exactly what they’ve always wanted: more numbers to drop in a spreadsheet. I’m not dismissive. Data is very useful and important. It’s how we determine how to invest resources, where to double down, when to cut our losses, switch channels or change messages. But for a discipline that is relatively new, there already seems to be an established orthodoxy for measuring results. In just a decade, entire industry sectors have sprung up to provide real-time analytics on the number of impressions, shares, comments, reactions, new followers, audience attrition … you name it. And all of these measurements can be very helpful if, as my colleague Kyle likes to say, you ask the right questions (subtle boss shout-out). The challenge arises when the metrics themselves become the measure of success. British economist Charles Goodhart described the problem when writing about national economies, but the principal still holds true—whenever one statistical measure becomes a stand-in for evaluating the whole, it will cease to be a useful measure. This doesn’t necessarily mean that people are gaming the system. It’s simple human nature to repeat actions that are rewarded—and if moving that “Like” number one percent higher than it was last month makes the boss happy, then that’s what we’ll do. Standby for adorable puppy video in 3 … 2 … 1 … So, your team pumps out some “fresh content.” Some people like it. Some comment on it. Some share it … and all the numbers look great again. But why? And why is that better? There are situations in which the basic metrics are, indeed, solid measurement tools. If you’re marketing a mass-market product, follower and impression counts certainly factor into your evaluation. Grade-A, certified-genius-level content might make you feel good, but it’s not going to move much product if only 17 people see it. Gaining new followers may be in order. Conversely, if you’re marketing a highly specialized product or service with only a dozen or so potential users in the known universe, even a few million fanboys cheering you on in a social space won’t help if you can’t reach those key decision makers. But unless you’re a big-time professional online influencer, audience growth is likely, in and of itself, not a business objective. Most of us are in the business of marketing products and services. That’s the entire point of your brand’s social presence. By all means, keep an eye on your social metrics and pay close attention to when and how your online audience is interacting with your brand. But understand those numbers for what they are: leading indicators, not business objectives. Finding the right audience is more important to your real-world business objectives than reaching the biggest one. And even then, it really only matters when we succeed in motivating some action based on what we’ve shared. Y’know, in the real world. That’s why.
14 August 2019
The best marketing strategy in the world can only have temporary results if it doesn’t account for the entire customer experience. Sure, our first job is to get people in the door, on the lot or to the website, but that’s just the beginning of the journey. I was lucky to learn this at my first and only job before I started my professional career. I was working at a high-end butcher shop in downtown Cincinnati where the clientele had expectations for their rack of lamb just as high as my current clients do for their multi-million-dollar marketing campaigns. How does a teenager become a butcher at such a place and what did I learn from my time working there? For the first question, ask my dad. For the second, I think it’s safe to say that I learned as much working as a butcher as I did in college. Scary, right? The most important lesson I learned there is that the experience is just as important as the product. This is easy to overlook while organizations focus on product and process, but it can be the most important part of your business plan. Marketing’s job isn’t over when the customer comes through the door. In some ways it’s just beginning. Think about it. One of the first lessons at the butcher shop was wrapping orders. At the time I didn’t understand why my father made such a big deal about it. Finally, he explained that the package that goes out the door is a big part of the experience. The way it feels in our guest’s hands, the way it looks that afternoon in the refrigerator. The appearance, the aroma, the reveal when he first unwraps his roast or chops to start cooking. All those moments are an opportunity to reinforce his decision to choose us. The challenge is to own as many of those moments as possible. Why is that customer in the market in the first place? It’s a butcher shop, so the simple answer is for food. But probably not because they’re hungry. Usually, our customers were preparing a meal to be shared with others, and likely somebody they wanted to impress. That changes the equation. It means they need more than just quality product. They want and expect our expertise beyond which cut is particularly good that day. We’d make suggestions for preparation and serving, selecting side dishes and other ideas for making their meal a success. We understood that we were playing a role in that special meal and it could very well be one of the most important occasions in our customer’s week … or career or relationship. And the customer experience isn’t complete until the dishes are cleared from the table.
05 August 2019
Ask most business owners who their customer is and they’ll likely point to demographic characteristics or the different types of media they consume to support their answer. While these data points always are important, they’re just that—data points—without a more intimate understanding of what drives your customer to make a purchase decision, and more important, when she or he is likely to make it. It’s true … we live in a brave new data-driven world that is stunningly (frighteningly?) easy for both ecommerce companies and mass retailers to collect granular details about shopper habits. Data that they can then use to generate insights on their customers’ habits and behavioral attributes. How do you compete with that technology if you’re in one of those businesses where you can’t obtain a deep customer profiles? Or simply don’t have access to that level of in-depth detail? We encounter this data disconnect particularly with consumer or in-home services brands. Accurate information is even harder to come by in categories where the sales cycle is longer or more considered, or when purchases are driven by a specific, perhaps acute, need. This is key—because if you don’t truly know who this customer is, if you’re not targeting the type of customer appropriate for your brand, you risk losing them to a competitor who is. So are these companies destined to be left behind in the data revolution? Not if they use data for what it does best, and trust themselves to continue doing what they’ve already proved they do best. While it’s not easy to create the perfect data model of your customers, there are still ways to better understand them. The right answers start with asking the right questions: • What problem is your customer trying to solve? • What other solutions have they considered (or will they consider)? • What information do they need before choosing? • Where do they get that information? • Do they do their own research, or do they rely on referrals from family, friends or social networks? • Do they simply follow the brand they perceive to be the market leader? • Which customers are selecting your competitors over you, and why are some leaving you altogether? By answering these questions, marketers in less data-rich categories can build a better understanding of their specific customers. Even better, that puts them in a position to target the right customer with the right message—at the right time.