Think about your most recent ad campaign. How did it make you feel?
The campaign, which is part of a larger strategy, looked good. But when you laid it alongside your other campaigns, did it feel disjointed? Did you question whether the message was the right one for the audience, or it it was even the right audience at all? As a marketer, did you feel lost and a little unsure as to how this ad fit into the larger strategy?
Advertising cannot be successful without doing your homework. Yet the pressure to get the next campaign out the door often motivates us to execute without proper preparation. If you don’t know to whom your ad is speaking and what they are open to hearing, how do you know what to say? How do you know if the feelings you evoke are on brand?
Outlined below are the three foundational steps you must take to create a consistent and results-driven advertising strategy. This strategy will ideally support a persona-first mindset and position your product or service as the answer to a question your target customer may not have even known they were asking.
1. Reinforce Your Brand
Allocating the time and resources to the development of a brand guide can provide stylistic and creative direction that can lead to a reduction in the number of edits before the collateral feels “right.” However, many companies, especially those just starting out, may not see the value in creating a brand guide. In their eyes, the time developing this internal document would be better spent working on customer-facing elements like print ads and press releases.
The opportunity cost for not developing a brand guide is high. An effective brand guide provides direction and constraints for your marketing collateral, giving in-house graphic designers and agency partners the guidelines to create consistent work. Without a brand guide, your creative is subject to needing additional revisions to make it feel “on brand.” Each additional revision leads to a cost increase. If you are outsourcing your creative work, applying a brand guide can result in a hard reduction in costs.
The cost benefits of a well-defined and shared brand guide extends beyond your design department and ideally infiltrates the entire organization. According to McKinsey’s “Making brand portfolios work,” more effective brand management has lead to revenue growth that is 2-5x higher than historic norms. In addition, it has saved companies 20% on their overall marketing expenditures.
The goal of your brand is to create a lasting emotional connection with your prospects. That connection relies on a consistent presence. When an organization acts, speaks or otherwise evokes a feeling that is off-brand, it creates what neuroscientists call cognitive dissonance. This cognitive dissonance can erase any good feelings the brand built up previously and can actually result in prospects trusting your brand less than if they’d never seen it before. A well documented brand guide is key to ensuring your next advertising creative is consistent than the previos, and avoids any cognitive dissonance.
2. Talk To The Right People
Every successful marketing campaign starts with knowing your audience. And no tool is better at helping you understand that audience than a persona, which creates a fictional, generalized character representing a like group of your target audience. In one page, you capture this segment’s demographic data, as well as psychographic information like attitudes, needs, challenges, pain points and motivations. Personas help unify the organization, and allow your design team and media team the ability to get inside the heads of your prospects, empathizing with them as they fill in any holes in the creative brief (if you have one).
Designers who have access to a persona are able to go beyond features and benefits to internalize the target’s needs, wants and aspirations, creating user-centered designs that evoke an emotional connection. Using a persona, the creative is evaluated through the eyes of the customer – not the unique opinion of each member of the management team. It takes the bias out of internal creative reviews, therefore reducing the number of revisions and ultimately, the cost associated with creating the ad.
Personas also provide valuable insights to how and where your target audience consumes content. Armed with this information, your media team can use demographic, contextual and behavioral targeting on channels that you know your prospects are consuming.
3. Say The Right Thing At The Right Time
While personas provide insights to our audience, we as marketers must authentically engage with our customers as they move through the buying cycle. According to Competitive Strategy In The Age Of The Customer, 2010 and beyond will be the age of the customer and “the only sustainable competitive advantage is knowledge of and engagement with customers.” If you’re wondering how marketers can engage with customers as their needs change at each stage of the buying cycle, the answer is through customer journey mapping.
Customer journey mapping allows us to identify the different opportunities to engage with the customer as they move through the sales cycle. Designed to improve the customer experience, journey mapping documents how those interactions influence a customer’s perception of our product or service. The map may begin before the customer even knows you or your product exists, and can last well beyond a customer’s first purchase.
Once your customer journey has been defined, you can create ad copy that aligns with your customer’s stage in the buying cycle. When ad copy is layered with the needs, wants and aspirations outlined in the persona, you appeal to internal emotions that even the most logically-minded customer will have a hard time ignoring.
The Power of Three
While we can look at the brand guide, personas and the customer journey as individual elements, it is their collective that creates well-targeted and consistent advertising creative. Taking these three steps first, fosters a persona-first mindset that ensures your ad creative engages the customer along each point of the sales cycle. It is for this reason that brand guide, personas and customer journey are the first three actionable components of Iterative Marketing.