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Exploring the power of brand storytelling with David C. Edelman

Posted by Gretchen Hyman on January 31st, 2011 at 6:22 pm

iMedia caught up with David C. Edelman for a sneak peek at some of the brand strategy and management insights he's planning on sharing with attendees at the upcoming March Brand Summit. A partner and global co-leader of the Digital Marketing Strategy Practice at McKinsey & Company, Edelman was recently published in the Harvard Business Review [http://hbr.org/2010/12/branding-in-the-digital-age/ar/1] exploring the McKinsey-developed concept of the Consumer Decision Journey (CDJ), and its essential role in the framework of compelling and meaningful brand messaging.

What’s the elevator pitch for a better understanding of the Consumer Decision Journey?

Think about your allocation of spend in a way that actually matches all of the touchpoints that influence consumers as they consider, evaluate, buy, experience, and advocate or bind with your brand, versus focusing on the more traditional view of paid media spend, which tends to emphasize the “consider” and “buy” stages. When you do that, you find that it's especially important to invest more in helping consumers "evaluate" and "advocate," which are traditionally ones that campaign plans tend to overlook.
What needs to change first and foremost in an organization to make this fundamental shift toward successful brand “story making”?

The first thing that needs to change is the way you do research, because you need to understand a more longitudinal view of how customers are going through their decision journey, and it needs to cross not just advertising or even traditional marketing but extend into sales channels, post-sales service, and ongoing CRM. From that research, you need to change the design of the marketing planning process to start with the CDJ as the core framework instead of just thinking about specific campaigns, and only then can you decide where to focus campaigns. Do you need consideration up front, or to build advocacy from existing customers? Or do you need to change the way you look in channels? You need to decide what your campaigns need to do across the CDJ and then design the campaign.
What are some of the different archetypes of consumer segments that you use as examples for clients?

Two contrary consumer segments to consider are those that use digital media to engage socially, learn from others, and contribute to a broader conversation within a category, versus those who see online purely as a narrow tool for getting specific tasks done. For the first segment ("Networkers"), you want to offer more content and ways to interact with a brand, whereas for the second segment ("Task Doers"), you want to have a tight, streamlined path where consumers can get the exact information they need and transact easily.
 
Is digital essential for this transformation for a brand, or can it still apply to traditional “push” marketing?

Digital is becoming essential in most categories because of the power it provides to Word-of-Mouth (WOM). Even if the direct reach of digital is limited -- not reaching a critical mass of buyers in a category directly-- the online buzz that it can create can often get amplified in the press, among the general public, and from sales people. So because of the amplification of WOM, at a minimum, it has a role to play somewhere in your marketing strategy. Even in low-consideration categories like shampoo, we are seeing thousands of conversations online that mention brands and provide opinions. So there is more going on online than most brands realize.
 
What are some of the biggest client success stories you want to share, and what are examples of some of the more compelling brand storytelling you’ve seen?

A major consumer electronics brand realized that they needed to provide consumers with a much more consistent set of content across all the different digital and in-store interactions consumers had. Most of those interactions had been managed by different parts of the organization. Things like model numbers, critical product attributes, and even prices rarely matched up as a consumer went through their journey, and nobody had looked at that in a longitudinal way. They dramatically rationalized all of the different places where content was created, and they built a central product marketing hub with a Content Management System that could send content out from a single source that they could update centrally. They also shifted 50 percent of their budget out of traditional paid media into digital media of many kinds, including website upgrades, paid placements with e-retailers, and better search positioning. The result was their most successful new product launch ever, a doubling of market share, and a template that they are now rolling out across all of their products globally.

Where should brands look for insight, inspiration, and change?

Brands provide an aspiration for a consumer. They provide a promise. And brands should be looking for the broader aspirations and affinities that their consumers could associate with being involved with their products. So in some cases, for example, an iconic brand like Coke doesn't just focus on the refreshment of their beverages, they also focus on building platforms and partnerships that link their brands to fun, such as music, sports, and motion pictures. So brands must find ways to use digital to help their consumers realize something broader. Another example is Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese, a product that had limited growth for many years until it created a recipe contest with Paula Deen http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/paula-deen-and-philadelphia-cream-cheese-launch-real-women-of-philadelphia-88897177.html  that ignited interested in cream cheese as an ingredient in the broader notion of comfort food, and the program is credited with igniting a new burst of sales growth.

What tech gadget should every marketer have?

Before getting into the now classic answer of a smartphone or a tablet, at an absolute minimum, every marketer had better be managing more of their family communications via SMS. It is a first, but an important, taste of understanding the change in how younger generations conduct their communications. And then you can see how the ripple effects of reliance on communications like texting are reflected in the growth of social services like Twitter, as well as all of the place-based messaging that is just starting to proliferate.

What digital brands are using this insight into consumer behavior to their true benefit and how?

Nike has done an outstanding job of building a portfolio of digital platforms that help consumers "do it." They offer essential services to consumers such as Nike Plus, which tracks your running, and similar platforms for other sports where consumers track their performance, join a broader community, and get engaged in ongoing promotions. Nike has not only built communities, but it has also taken advantage of digital interactions that can gather customer information and then reuse that to add more value back to the consumer, which creates a cycle that drives more and deeper interactions with the brand. Building these types of engagement and data-driven cycles are how Marketers will reap the value from digital channels over the longer term.

David C. Edelman will be giving the Insight Presentation "Beyond Reach: Aligning with a Changing Consumer Decision Journey" at the upcoming iMedia Brand Summit on March 8, at 10:15 a.m. To learn more about the summit.

One Response to “Exploring the power of brand storytelling with David C. Edelman”

  1. Stories are powerful and connect us. A brand is telling a story and generating a theme. Many people associate brands with big companies, but really the smallest of businesses can use branding methods that will help provide them with great rewards. When a home-based business ties a nicely designed theme on all of there products telling the story of whom they are as a company and where they are coming from, it makes the branding work. Any time people see your logo, it's branding and it helps build your business.

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