Journalists seek the truth. They don’t always find it and the truth doesn’t always find its way into the published story, but the pursuit remains. In marketing communications, as in journalism, the need to challenge and to question is equally important.
These are the core questions that a dedicated brand builder must continually ask:
- Why should anyone care about our messages or our products?
- Have we walked a mile in the customer’s shoes?
- Are we merely talking to ourselves?
- What is the company’s true point of difference in the marketplace?
- Where do the customer’s interests intersect with the brand’s?
Discovery is fundamental to the communications profession.
These core questions—when left unanswered—will hang on the air like late-summer humidity in Houston. They’re also capable of making people sweat.
Asking tough questions (whether or not trust has been established) may put the person with the purse in a defensive position, and that’s risky business. Yet, there’s no point in going forward until the fundamentals of the marketing proposition are properly aired. A client may want to believe that his product is the only basis for a conversation that the company needs. But it’s rarely the case because people don’t want to be pitched. A brand’s true task is to meet people on common ground.
Mediums Change, People Persist
Customers are not abstractions. Customers are not personas. Customers are not uniform. Customers are people and people are complex individuals.
I advise clients to push past personas and get to know the real people who buy and who consider buying from them. It’s not helpful to appeal to a false composite named “Jane” or “John”. There are real people on the other side of the communications. What do they need to hear? What will move them to care?
My role as a content strategist is to develop and hone the voice of the brand. My role as a copywriter and creative director is to execute on the agreed-upon direction, so the brand voice is consistent and compelling.
To perform my duties, I need to dig in, in order to gain greater understanding. I need to put on my brand journalist’s hat and find the truth inherent in the product, and the truths embedded in the customer community, or it’s just more marketing noise and there’s zero value in that.
Bill Bernbach’s “unchanging man” is obsessed with survival, with admiration, love, and family. Can your product or service rub up against these things? If “yes,” you’ve got a strong starting place on the way to creating customer-centric marketing that meets people on their terms.
Successful marketers know how to connect with the audience on the audience’s terms. I understand that it can be hard for some clients to see it this way because they have something to say and the money to say it. Helping them flip the script and see things as the customer does is one of the most valuable services that we provide.