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Brands Under ATTACK: 5 Ninjas

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Brand Attack

My friend Mark Traphagen, who many know from his G+ leadership, wrote a much better introduction to the 5 Ninja Attacking Brands on his G+:

Even though we seem to live in an age of endless messaging opportunities, branding is actually harder than ever. In this must-read post by proven brand-marketing genius +Martin W. Smith you’ll find out about the five stealthy ninjas that are slowly but surely killing off the “tried and true” branding methods of the past.

Marty calls out the ninjas by name:

1. The Death of Traditional Media
2. The Rise of Mobile
3. The Rise of UGC (Everyone’s a Publisher)
4. Clean Slate Brands (not mired in the old assumptions)
5. Social Media Conversations

Even though Marty’s piece is more warning than “5 Steps to Better Branding,” wise readers will be able to reverse engineer what they should be doing to become “clean slate” brands who understand where the branding opportunities are today, and more important, where they will be tomorrow.

When I was hired by Procter and Gamble in 1981 the brand train was losing momentum. Brands are more important than ever. Brands send complex messages FAST. When information CHAOS goes UP brands help know what matters.

But there’s a problem.

Branding and brand messaging grinds on even as it is clear less attention requires more money. If that sentence sounds like the beginning of the end you win new and improved Tide. Consumers don’t believe, aren’t trusting and are ready to discuss their experience always, from anywhere and instantly.

The Ninja attack is ON.

Death of Traditoinal Media Ninja Scenttrail Marketing

Brand Attack #1:Traditional Media Dead Man Walking

The newspaper business was an upside down castle teetering on the head of a pin. Newspapers are costly to create and dependent on a single vein of gold – classified ad sales. When Craig Newmark decided to create one of the ugliest most visited websites his costs were low in comparison to printing a daily newspaper.

Craig Newmark GAVE AWAY his list and newspapers died a little.

Then phones become many times more powerful than the first computer I purchased in 1984 (for $5,000). Smart Phones increase the speed of our “connection revolution” thanks to social media. Before you can say dominoes falling print media is on a respirator.

TV feels like the new print.

TV ad sales are doing great, but TV is sick. Will TV do a better job moving online than print? Wouldn’t be hard, but seeds of destruction are present:

  • DVRs mean no one watches the ads.
  • Cable’s monopoly means no one feels good about paying an increasing amount to fast forward bad ads.
  • Netflx’s use of the web and Roku to steam video and create a new on demand “TV Channel” makes US (consumers) DIY TV programmers and we don’t include ads.
  • The desperate attempt to move traffic to (or whoever) and force-feed ads feels like print’s poor attempts to understand digital distribution and marketing.

Brands are realizing they can’t double down their way out of this one. Spending more doesn’t solve their communication problem. This “web” is a NEW thing, a new and very different thing.

Brand Attack Ninja Mobile Me

Brand Attack #2: Mobile Me

Imagine the frustration of the current Snickers brand manager. When I worked at M&M/Mars in the 1980s Snickers spent half a billion in advertising. How could you spend such an ad budget now? Can’t buy print since the audience is GONE. Can’t buy TV because that much television would irritate those you are trying to reach.

The Snickers brand manager isn’t stupid.

She has children in her product’s core demographic. She knows her son’s friends live on their phones. They text message, play video games, load content she worries about into social nets, Instagram and Snapchat.

No market to be made or at least not one she can sell her boss and the Mars family. The Snickers brand manager has a sinking feeling next year will be harder than this one and so on and so on since she knows her son and his friends aren’t going to become LESS mobile anytime soon.

Brand Ninja UGC on Scenttrail Marketing graphic

Brand Attack #3: Everyone Is A Publisher, UGC

Customers are hard to find and harder to engage. “New and Improved” feels stale. Faith Popcorn’s brand marketing summary has never been more true:

People don’t BUY brands they JOIN them. author Faith Popcorn Brain Reserve

The poor Snickers brand manager sees her 18 to 30 year old male customers JOINING World of Warcraft, texting a language only they understand on their Androids, and having more conversations in more ways than she could have imagined when she was her son’s age.

The more THEY (customers) publish the less anything my two former employers, P&G and M&M/Mars, says matters. As User Generated Content explodes customers are increasingly impossible to reach.

Red Bull is a “clean slate” brand. Red Bull doesn’t have years of preconceived notions. Red Bull doesn’t set customer aspirations. Red Bull FOLLOWS their customers. Reb Bull helps document, brand and share their customer’s extreme revolution. Red Bull gets what Snickers needs to learn – we are all media companies now.

Brand Attack Ninja Clean Slate Brands on Scenttrail Marketing

Brand Attack 4: Clean Slate Brands

Brands are learning Aesop’s lesson – familiarity breeds contempt. After millions in advertising over decades consumers know brands, consumers use brands and consumers talk about brands.

“New and Improved” is a gimmick and today’s consumers know it.

We live in skeptical times. A constant drumbeat of over promises met firmly with under delivery creates skeptical customers. Politicians, infomercials and brands preach, drone and tell the same stories for years.

Customers want NEW and BETTER stories.

Clean slate brands take advantage of the inevitable. As brand entropy sets in consumers become open to a new pitch, a new version of their favorite brand. Watch the current CEO of Tabasco Sauce explain how the brand his family created is under attack at timecode 9:00 on this 60 minutes video:

If tabasco sauce is under attack ALL BRANDS are under attack.

Brand Attack 5: Social Media Is A Conversation

Imagine you’ve been doing something the same way for fifty or a hundred years. Are you likely to spontaneously change?

Yesterday brands could buy their way into consumer hearts and minds.

In a connected Internet world creating brand advocates depends on an army of communication “Sherpas”. Brand advocates sacrifice time and social connection to help favorite brands share their stories. Brand advocacy requires LOVE.

No one advocates the mundane, boring or familiar.

We share the stunning, awesome and “purple”. Our bar for “amazing” keeps going UP. Social media is sharing more information faster. As sharing becomes instantaneous global habituation happens in an instant.

The good news is someone somewhere is talking about your brand. The bad news is someone somewhere is talking about your brand.

The really bad news is how few brands realize THEY are part of that conversation. Go to your favorite brand’s twitter page. Bet they follow less than 5% of their followers. Brands don’t want to have a conversation.

And it doesn’t matter what brands want.

The conversation is happening.

May, 2015 Note: updated the graphic with great ninja I found here:

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