Why Brand Values Matter to Consumers, Now More Than Ever

The proof is in the numbers

It’s more and more competitive to capture consumer attention, that’s why brand values matter to consumers more than ever. It’s getting harder and harder for brands to create positive impressions in the minds of consumers. Negative impressions tend to linger longer in our minds, and unfortunately for brands who try to make a positive impact on the world, there are innumerable examples of companies doing the exact opposite. From wanton environmental degradation and exploiting workers to harvesting users’ personal data without permission and companies bending to the will of authoritarian regimes abroad, we’re awash in stories about bad corporate actors.

 

This is all the more frustrating for companies who are trying to set good examples of what socially and environmentally responsible entrepreneurship looks like. When you’re trying to do the right thing and your message is drowned out by a sea of reckless and irresponsible businesses, it can feel hopeless.

 

Don’t worry, consumers will take note of your brand values efforts

 

However, companies who are truly committed to building a better world can take solace in one powerful fact: Consumers are on their side. As more and more stories about corporations behaving badly surface, consumers are increasingly looking for alternatives. These more environmentally and socially conscious consumers want to know that their purchases are going toward a good cause, and they want to see companies take a stand on social, environmental, and political issues.

 

When you consider the current political and social environment, together with increasing evidence of climate change, this change in consumer preferences becomes even more obvious. People don’t want to contribute to the destruction of our planet, and they want to support companies who are working to disrupt or improve the current status quo. Why wouldn’t they choose to buy from purpose driven-brands?

 

The proof is in the numbers

 

There’s plenty of research to back up these claims. Take this 2018 study from Accenture. They surveyed nearly 30,000 consumers from around the world about their purchasing decisions and the brands they support. Accenture found that 63 percent of the consumers they surveyed preferred to support brands that reflect their values and beliefs.

 

There’s more: Accenture also found:

  • 65 percent of consumers prefer to support companies treat their employees well,
  • 62 percent of those surveyed preferred to buy from companies that try to reduce their use of plastics and want to improve the environment.
  • 62 percent of those surveyed also wanted the brands they support to take a stand on the social, cultural, environmental, and political issues that they care about.

 

Accenture is not alone in their findings. A 2018 study from the research agency Edelman found that 64 percent of consumers will either buy from or boycott a brand based solely on the brand’s stances on social or political issues, which highlights the challenge for brands. This is why a brand-friendly PR firm is so important, we can help you navigate the risks and opportunities that optimize purpose-driven communication. The survey included over 8,000 people in eight different markets worldwide, and the researchers also found that 53 percent of those surveyed believed that brands could do more to inspire social change than governments can. Regardless of whether brands really have that power, consumers increasingly believe that they do and are basing their-decision deciding accordingly.

 

These trends in buying habits are particularly pronounced among one key demographic: Teenagers. A 2018 report from MediaCom found several important statistics related to teenagers’ buying habits and the brands they support. The survey found that 54 percent of teens age 16-19 had deliberately bought or stopped buying from brands because of the brands’ ethics. The research also found that 63 percent of teens are more likely to buy from brands that support causes or charities they believe in. However, skepticism among teens concerning brands is still rampant, as 37 percent of those surveyed were doubtful of brands’ claims regarding the causes they support and 69 percent believe brands overstate their level of support for their chosen causes.

 

Taken together, these data points represent a massive swing in consumer decision-making habits. In the past, many companies stayed away from social or political causes out of fear or because they didn’t want to risk a backlash from consumers. But the data show that if brands take a stand on social issues and can demonstrate their authenticity, consumers will respond positively and adjust their buying habits.

 

We can already see how major organizations are taking this data and incorporating it into their marketing efforts. The shoe company Toms has donated one pair of shoes for every pair sold since its founding 13 years ago, making it an exemplar for other businesses to follow. Additionally, Toms has become a certified B-Corp, meaning they meet strict standards for accountability, transparency, and social and environmental impact. Finally, Toms has also pledged to spend at least one-third of its annual net profits on charitable causes, which is much more than most other corporations can say.

 

So, where does this leave your brand if you’re dedicated to making the world a better place? It’s simple really: You need to get that message out to consumers, and you need to do so in a way that’s genuine. That may be a challenge for some companies and some PR agencies, but not for Avaans PR. Helping purpose-driven brands get their message across is what we do, and we can create a campaign for you that plays to your unique strengths.

 

How Avaans PR Can Help with Brand Values

 

We’ve already helped a number of brands do exactly this. In one case, we worked with a nonprofit organization focused on helping pre-Kindergarten students from economically disadvantaged families become better students. We had to create compelling content aimed at two very different audiences: The families who needed help and state legislators considering funding more early education problems.

 

We kept the design of our content simple, using visuals wherever we could, and maintaining a supportive tone throughout. This encouraged families to share content with one another and avoided coming across as paternalistic or lecturing, which also helped to avoid alienating decision-makers at the state level. And the campaign worked: The state legislature funded the early education problems, and we generated over 401,000 impressions among our targeted audience during the length of our six-month campaign.

 

If your brand is seeking to expand its reach and you’re not sure where to begin, we want to help. You can set up a call with our team by visiting our contact page, or you can find us locally in New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Denver, Honolulu, and Phoenix. We look forward to hearing from you.

Why do PR? Emerging or growing brands often ask should I hire in-house or use a PR agency?

They’re asking themselves this question against a wild backdrop and volatile marketplace. But even during corrections, thousands of businesses are finding their footing and growing. It truly is the wild, wild, west in right now. The reason executives are asking themselves this question is because regardless of lay-offs and investment size, what both these businesses also have in common are some enormous plans that require PR and marketing.

Many companies have concerns about hiring agencies, they worry about finding the right PR agency, they worry about disclosure to people outside the company; they worry about failure. Those are legitimate concerns, many of those same concerns can be an issue with employees, but with an agency, they can be addressed with strategic questions and planning, and taking a little time to get to know your potential pr agency. And the good news is that the best agencies seem to know one another. If you find a great marketing agency or a great branding agency, chances are, they know a PR firm they like and trust.

In-House PR Advantages

Proximity

If you like having someone to bounce ideas off on a whim, in-house PR teams offer that flexibility more than PR agencies. PR agencies are typically a little more formal about meetings and goal-setting.

Cross-Departmental Integration

As companies and brands grow, it’s often great to have someone in-house who formalizes internal communications and ensures other departments are considering PR implications.

Agency Management

If you’re managing multiple agencies, like a marketing agency and a public relations agency, having an in-house point person is a great advantage. Agencies will often work together, but someone needs to ensure the brand’s objectives are always at the forefront.

But what are the practical business reasons for hiring an agency over an in-house team for brands?

Cost-Effective

A single hire’s salary can cost you more than an agency, and that single hire, because they are human, has limitations. Agencies specialize in providing you with the team of specialists you need when you need them. Add this to the fact that you won’t be paying benefits, payroll taxes, and health insurance, and it adds up to savings for both big brands and startups.

Think about it, in addition to your CMO and/or a Communications Officer, who will each need a manager and team, including a media relations specialist, a content writer, a social media manager, a graphic designer, and a multitude of marketing and listening tools which can all easily add up to $400,000 or more, plus benefits.

Plus, if something dramatic happens, it’s also usually less expensive to separate from an agency. Many PR agencies, including us, have a separation agreement in the contract that spells out the process if something radically changes, so it’s a reasonably straightforward process that brings peace of mind to executives in this volatile time.

The IRS Sees PR Agencies As an Expense

Agencies streamline payroll AND they are also a straight business expense.  Talk to your CPA about what makes the most sense for your business.

PR Agency Superpower: Scaleability

Think of your agency as your expansion team. In addition to receiving top-notch strategy and planning, you’ll also have access to team members who are in the thick of it and can give a point of view from the front lines too. When you have a team of people, it’s easier to tap into insights and trends that you might otherwise miss. But it’s also important to note that when you hire a cannabis PR firm or a cannabis marketing firm you’ll get a team of professionals who can more easily scale up during launches or big campaigns.

Even if you do decide to take certain elements in-house, your agency continues to serve you with perspective and resources that support your in-house team. For example, many brands want a PR expert in-house for a multitude of reasons, especially corporate communications and investor relations. But your PR executive still needs a team to help execute, especially in the area of media relations. Few in-house communications executives are actively pitching and engaging with journalists as often as our team is, our media relations team is a top-notch time saver for in-house PR teams.

Seeing the Forest Through The Trees

It’s easy to lose perspective when there’s a lot going on. An agency can provide additional listening and strategy insights you might not have considered. Having a team that has your back and isn’t bogged down in your office politics can really keep things moving along.

In-house team members tend to be front-line advocates internally. And that’s a really important role, especially if you’re trying to build a culture as many brands are. But those day-to-day tasks, meetings, and internal cajoling tend to make consistent outward-looking perspectives difficult. Use your agency to bring you a consistent overall vision of the marketplace and strategies that will set you apart for the long run. Look for agencies with whom you can have open and collaborative dialogue to get the most out of your agency.

Get to Work Fast!

The right agency can get to work much faster than onboarding an employee.  Agencies have a client on-boarding process that will be systematic and strategic because they want to get to work too. You won’t spend your time showing someone where the coffee maker is, you’ll spend your time reviewing strategy and goals.

Access To The Latest Technology & Tools

You pay a fair share for platforms and services that are critical to your business. So do agencies. We have top-notch monitoring, analytics, and communications platforms – you get access to those without adding those non-critical operating costs to your bottom line.

Is the press release dead?  For years now, that question has been hanging over the public relations/journalism world. And the question is a fair one – when millions of press releases are issued daily, often without consideration of the journalists receiving them, do press releases work anymore? And issuing a press release through a credible pr distribution wire service is an extra cost of about $3,000 or more depending on variables like length, number of images or videos, and frequency.

Given their expense, is a press release worth it?
What we’re talking about here is legitimate company news that is appropriate for a wire service, but isn’t securities and exchange or public shareholders requirement. So this legitimate news could be based on research, a new hire, a new product, it can even be a statement based on industry news, issued over a pr distribution wire service like PR Newswire, Business Wire, Globe Newswire or similar who distribute and publish an online press release.

A press release is but one tactic in the media relations tool kit. It’s extremely unusual that your news, even your most exciting news, (“We launched..! We bought…! We secured…!”), applies to every single media site, without customization about why it applies to the reader or journalist’s beat. There are plenty of occasions when direct outreach to the media contacts database will generate better quality and more tailored media coverage. Plus, journalists aren’t really all that jazzed to receive the same (untailored) information as hundreds of thousands of other journalists; at that point, they view it as a status update instead of news.  But then why do these services charge so much?

Well, most quality pr distribution wire services reach thousands of outlets at once and most will get reprints of your press release in at least a few national online media outlets.  But that press release syndication can come in handy on the web.

The press release isn’t dead, it’s just viewed differently by both journalists and public relations professionals today. So when SHOULD you go through the expense, sometimes over $1,000 per release, of using a wire service? Here are 5 times issuing a press release over a wire service can serve your strategic interests.

It’s Still Got Social Proof:

When you search on a business name and  the release appears under “news,” tell me that doesn’t impress you a little? Of course. That’s why earned media is so valuable. Vendors, customers, investors, they all like seeing that too. It shows you’re committed to your brand, your growth, and your reputation. If you’re positioning for acquisition, IPO, or investors, having a consistent history of press releases provides credibility and social proof.

Consistent (but not overwhelming) press releases are also a good way to stay in front of news outlets. When your brand is top of mind at the moment editors are assigning stories or looking for ideas, it allows your public relations budget to go even further. Press releases also offer background information for journalists writing today’s story; they serve as a good historical marker to your company’s achievements, which can get buried on a website.

You’ve Got Video on a Major News Item:

If you or your company has a unique point of view on a breaking news item, especially if it’s video,  TV stations are always looking for high-quality video for of-the-moment topics, that’s a great opportunity to send out a well-timed press release.  Make sure your video has a distinctive point of view and that it’s relevant to your key messaging. Make sure your video is high quality enough for TV and name your video using relevant and keyword researched words.

Help producers and journalists by using your press release to give context to your quote and be sure to show the speaker’s name clearly in the content.

You’re ABSOLUTELY Clear On Your Audience:

Most of the time your audience is the press, after all, those are the subscribers to wire services – to pretend there is any other primary audience is misleading. But given that most journalists aren’t responsive to press releases, there may be an opportunity to be a bit disruptive.  There may be an occasion in which your release speaks directly to the consumer as opposed to the journalist with a jazzier (note: not promotional) lingo, maybe direct to consumer quotes, and direct to consumer ideas or recommendations that could also interest slow-news-day fodder. Note: we’re not really dealing with many slow news days these days.

Sometimes those press release reprints can give you enough legs to support other content initiatives and social proof initiatives.

Let me be clear: do not treat a press release like a blog post, they are complementary, not interchangeable. But, addressing to the consumer’s issues within the context of a newsworthy release may be a useful, if non-traditional, tactic occasionally.

You’ve Done Keyword Research:
If your website is new, or if you’re trying to build traffic, these consistent high-value links can contribute nicely to your SEO. Let’s be clear sending out press releases alone isn’t enough to radically change your SEO, but it can be part of your off-page tool kit that supports your overall SEO strategy.

Keep in mind, a press release jacked up with keywords isn’t effective AT ALL. Google’s got your number and generally, a press release written only for search engines is ineffective; it’s also considered spammy by journalists, so used wrong, it can discredit your company in the eyes of the media outlets.

What you want to do is keyword research on ACTUAL news so you maximize the opportunity. Wire releases DO create high-value inbound links. Plus, wire service releases generally present well in search results, so it’s a double-win if you or your PR team have done their keyword research.

The Moment is Momentus

Using a press release to document a historic moment in your company’s history presents a timeline and momentum to your company and adds social proof. Also, going back to the keywords, press releases live in “news” for much, much longer than even an earned media story.

Press releases using this strategy also serve as a way to get press on track to watch for future announcements, clarify your business positioning, or get stakeholders on the same page.

Do we believe press releases are dead? No, we do not. We also don’t believe every announcement needs to come in the form of a press release. Use press releases strategically, and to compliment your media relations,  and they will serve you well.

Cannabis Branding Is About To Become Extremely Important To Cannabis CMOs and Founders

Adult-use marijuana is on the ballot and in the minds of thousands of people in the United States this fall. Adult-use, especially in California, because of its market size will change everything for cannabis companies. What should cannabis brands be thinking about in preparation for market expansion? As a cannabis entrepreneur, you might be so busy keeping up that you haven’t given much thought to branding.

Before we jump into our 3 tips for cannabis branding, let’s talk for a minute about what branding is (and isn’t) so we’re all on the same page.

Branding: the emotional response the consumer has to your company and products. 
Branding: the humanity of your company.
Branding:  the often difficult to define, but easy to spot feeling people get when they know whether they want to “hang around” your brand.

 

Maybe the most important question is why should you CARE? Strong brands develop customer loyalty and they sell products for premium prices. Interested?

I thought so.

You know what companies are branding masters? Alcohol and tobacco. Technology. Beverages like soda, water, and sports drinks.

Truly great brands incorporate values, voice, design, and especially the customer into their presence, whether it’s in-person, online, or in-store. Notice I did NOT say that branding is the packing and logo. Those two are important aspects of branding. Logos and packaging should not be the last thing you ever do with branding. Branding should be a cornerstone of culture, communication, and position that your customers continue to relate to.

Strong cannabis branding will be a steady platform from which you make decisions on everything from products to partnerships, hiring and marketing campaigns. Cannabis brands need to nurture and develop their brands to be ready for the expansion of adult use. This is particularly important in California where consumers expect sophisticated brands and branding.

So, regardless of where you are in your branding process, it’s never too late to consider these 3 tips for cannabis brands in the adult-use market:

 

BE REALLY CLEAR: WHO is your customer?

Many people hear this question and they immediately think of demographics. That’s fine, be clear on demographics, it will save you time and money. But dig deeper. Think about your customer’s lifestyle, their other passions, and what motivations you’ll be tapping into when they see your brand.

Are your customers proud proclaimed pot users or have they been an “in-the-closet” user for most of their adult lives? If they aren’t open cannabis users, why is that? Is it because of kids, jobs, cultural fear? The potential of adult-use is tapping into the existing cannabis user or the adult whose perception of cannabis is changing and they’re beginning to see marijuana like a craft beer. This is future of cannabis branding-it’s wide open. You can do some really powerful branding when you understand these deeper aspects of your customers.  Do 2-3 customer profiles as you would if you were writing a bio on someone, this simple exercise can give you extraordinary clarity on your customer.

The potential of adult-use is tapping into the existing cannabis user who is in the closet or the adult whose perception of cannabis is changing even though they aren’t regular marijuana users. These new to marijuana customers will gravitate towards brands that are as well-rounded and credible as the other brands they’re used to buying. This is the future of cannabis branding-it’s wide open. You can do some really powerful branding when you understand these deeper aspects of your customers.

To prepare for these different customers, do 2-3 customer profiles as you would if you were writing a bio on someone, this simple exercise can give you extraordinary clarity on your customer.

 

ASK YOURSELF: Do I really SPEAK to my customer?

Now it’s time to look at the way you speak to your customer? Depending on how you view your brand, your voice might be “friendly-let’s-hang-out” or it might be “knowledgeable advisor” “edgy-hipster” or “couch-locked stoner”. There is room for each of these voices, but not within the same brand.

Whatever your voice is, be sure it’s one that your ideal potential customer can relate to. The cannabis market is expanding beyond the traditional young person’s product and while there’s still room for that branding, the market is expanding.  Today’s marijuana user isn’t necessarily hiding from their parents, they might be hiding it from their kids. I hear a lot of cannabis entrepreneurs say that they absolutely understand their market because they are marketing to their friends. Well, that’s a great start, but the average person only has 338 Facebook friends – you’re going to need your business to be a lot bigger than that, so you may have to dig deep and really think about whether your brand is relatable to a larger audience.

 

REMEMBER: Be consistent!

Now that you’ve identified your customer and the voice, take a hard look around at the rest of your branding. Is your branding consistent from the four senses perspective – does it look, feel, smell, taste like your brand? Would your ideal target customer buy and more importantly recommend to their friends? Sophisticated branding will take all this into account.  Commanding a higher price for your product requires that you consider these elements. Set some branding goals for your company and prioritize based on budgets. But do set them because as the market opens up, the strong brands who have developed loyalty will be the ones truly capitalizing on the future of cannabis branding.

 

The A-Team specializes in converging great brands with marvellous stories the media wants to write about.

Ah, the early adopter. They’re the people who grab on to things first, they start trends and they are influencers in their respective communities.

Whether you’re a startup, a movement or a personality, you need these early adopters. Marketing to early adopters can be slippery though, what they grab on to is almost entirely motivationally based. In other words, toss out your traditional “Three P’s” of marketing if you want to capture this crowd, you’re going to need to think through what makes them tick.

Whether you’re building a product or starting a movement, keep your early adopters in mind. Early adopter marketing will be easier if you keep these strategies in mind.

Early Adopters Value Intellectual Stimulation

It doesn’t matter what your target market is, a certain segment of them are early adopters and early adopters like to be challenged and stimulated. Puzzles and quizzes are intriguing to these people, but they get bored easily, so make sure the content matches the intelligence level.

Don’t mistake this to assume that every puzzle or quiz is intriguing to early adopters. They aren’t necessarily the “Buzzfeed” quiz takers. They like to learn and be challenged but they aren’t interested in dumbed down versions of anything. By the time something has caught mass adoption, early adopters have either “been there/done that” or are already deeply engaged in using the product.

Early Adopters Have High “FOMO”

Because they value their role as early adopters, they never want to be “out of the loop” or miss something that’s particularly cool.

Tap into that “Fear of Missing Out” during the earliest stages. Give them ways to be cool to their community by letting them be the gateway to a broader audience and you’ll be tapping into their desires to be seen as an early adopter.

Google generally does this really well when it launches products. It does an initial invitation to known early adopters and gets everyone else clamoring to be part of it in the first phase and SEEN as an early adopter. Google definitely has marketing to early adopters down.

Early Adopters are Attracted to Art, Emotion and Adventure

Perhaps more than any other target market, early adopters are pulled in by emotion, art and adventure.

This is one reason why Apple’s early emphasis on design caught on with early adopters, they loved the elegance of the product and interface, the art of the experience.

Remember, art, emotion and adventure can happen online and offline. This is a place where you can really get creative and have some fun. It’s also easy to identify these people based on where they go because events like TED and TEDX inherently draw early adopter personality types.

Because of this constant searching early adopters have, curiosity is a primary trigger for action. Tripping the curiosity trigger requires some thought because early adopters aren’t generally suckers for the usual mass-marketing techniques; they’re a little more sophisticated than that. You’re going to really have to think of something that genuinely makes them curious.

The “Why” Seriously Matters

Early adopters are very observant, they generally see through tactics and need a reason to be inspired.  Your marketing message to early adopters needs to be centered around something inspiring, something bigger than the features of the product.

Instead of focusing on product features, tap into the deep intellectual and emotional reservoir of early adopters and give some insight to them about why this product or movement matters. You’ll likely need to do some message testing here, but it will be worth it once you hit on the “why” that matters most.

Don’t Confuse Early Adopters for Extroverts

It’s easy to lump the two together, but research shows that messaging that targets extroverts actually repels early adopters. Early adopters like intrigue and creativity, they aren’t particularly attracted to social attention in a public way. This doesn’t mean they aren’t on social media, it just means that their triggers are different. They like to have their role as early adopters confirmed, but they also like to be the messenger of that delivery.

 

In your experience, what motivates early adopters?

 

This blog originally appeared on akamai-marketing.com