Cannabis Industry Branding Expert Patrick Toste Urges Cannabis Brands to Cherish Your Customers and Rethink Instagram
In an ongoing series this year, we’d like you to get to know some of the fantastic companies and people we’ve had a chance to collaborate with over the years. Our first interview is with an incredibly talented branding expert, Patrick Toste, co-founder of Seattle-based cannabis branding agency, Highopes.
First, a little background about you:
I’m originally from Rhode Island and graduated from California State University Long Beach with a BFA in Graphic Design. I’ve been designing for over 10 years and have had the luxury of working with both large and small brands nationwide. I am the Creative Director and Co-Founder of HIGHOPES Design. We are a creative studio that focuses exclusively on helping cannabis businesses nationwide unlock their potential through branding, packaging, web design, and marketing services. Our client list consists of over 30 cannabis companies that include Have A Heart, VidaCann, and Nuvata.
When did you first start working in the cannabis industry?
Upon moving to Seattle and experiencing the recreational cannabis market for the first time, I recognized an opportunity, and established a passion for, helping cannabis businesses build successful brands. I captured a handful of freelance projects with cannabis clients in Washington and California that I completed some branding and packaging work for. From there, I decided it was best to brand myself as a more established business than just a freelancer to provide more growth opportunities for myself and my clients.
What were you doing prior to the cannabis industry?
Before diving into the cannabis industry, I worked as a designer on the in-house branding team at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf which is a nationwide coffee chain based in Southern California. In this position, I gained experienced managing and expanding a large brand through packaging design, digital advertising, in-store marketing, and other similar avenues.
After moving to Seattle from Southern California, I decided to explore the world of advertising by joining the team at Publicis Seattle as a designer. At Publicis, I was able to work with even larger brands like T-Mobile and assist in a variety of nationwide digital advertising projects. However, my true passion for branding was established there when I led the design team on the rebrand of the locally world-famous radio station, KEXP.
What lesson did you learn BEFORE cannabis that’s been most valuable in cannabis?
I’d say the lesson I learned before I entered the cannabis space that has been most valuable to HIGHOPES and our clients is the importance of knowing and understanding your customers. This methodology was something I gained over the years of working with larger, nationwide brands like The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, T-Mobile, and even Under Armour. I was able to realize how these companies were branded and marketing was significantly impacted by what their consumers think, want, need, and feel.
Something I see all too often in the cannabis industry is a rush to bring a product to the market with the idea of targeting all consumers due to a scarcity mindset. Operationally I understand why these businesses feel this is the right approach, but in hindsight, they realize they do not know who their customer is and what delights them which results in an unfocused and unorganized brand direction.
Is there a particular cannabis branding project you’d like to highlight?
At HIGHOPES we are extremely proud of all the work we create for all of our clients, but I’d like to highlight the project we did for the California-based vaporizer brand, Nuvata. Nuvata approached our team with only a product and a vision so we assisted in establishing their positioning, messaging, branding, packaging, website, and marketing. Each branding and marketing effort we performed was put through the filter of the established strategy resulting in an immensely focused and concise brand for the market. With the Nuvata team’s help, we were able to identify and understand their target customer and then make every branding and marketing decision with the goal to bring them delight. The end result spoke for itself as within the first year they spread across the entire state of California and gained considerable brand awareness.
What’s the biggest misconception cannabis companies have about branding?
I think the biggest misconception about branding in the cannabis industry is that your brand is simply your logo when this could not be farther from the truth. In essence, your brand is actually not controlled by you but rather your customers. A brand is the opinion and feeling a customer has about your company based on a combination of your logo, products, packaging, website, marketing, social media, customer service, and so on. For that reason, cannabis companies can only strive to manipulate the emotional response of their customers with the goal of creating a positively recognized brand.
In your view, what is the biggest branding challenge facing cannabis companies today?
I think the biggest challenge cannabis companies face today when building a brand is the lack of beneficial advertising and marketing opportunities. As mentioned in my previous response, if your brand is simply the feeling a customer has of your company then it becomes very difficult to establish a positive association with customers when you cannot take advantage of the many ways of influencing their point of view. Additionally, customers cannot begin to create that strong bond with your company when you do not have the ability to raise awareness of your brand through advertising and marketing channels.
What will be the biggest branding challenge in 2020?
I believe the biggest branding challenge in 2020 will be establishing and solidifying customer loyalty. Most cannabis markets, both medical and recreational, are seeing a surplus of emerging brands which provides customers with an overwhelming amount of options to choose from. Additionally, product innovation has not kept pace with the number of companies entering the market leaving customers with a plethora of brands essentially selling the same product. These two factors combined prove the importance of understanding your specific customer and catering everything about your brand to what brings them delight. When that emotional bond is created with a customer it creates a sense of loyalty and trust in your brand that becomes invaluable to your success.
What can companies do to alleviate their branding challenges?
When it comes to navigating the regulations around advertising and marketing in the cannabis space companies can look to outside-the-industry partnerships to alleviate these challenges. When a business understands their brand outside the lens of cannabis it allows the possibility of partnering with non-cannabis companies that share the same mission, vision, and values. Through these types of situations, cannabis brands can advertise and market indirectly through their partner to an audience that is similar, if not exactly, their type of customer. For example, Plus Edibles recently partnered with Casper for their line of CBD gummies as both brands can benefit from each other’s audience.
For establishing customer loyalty, cannabis companies simply need to take the time to understand who their target customer base is and either build or shift their branding to align with that audience. The more focused the ideal customer then the easier and more efficiently a brand can market to their wants and needs. Every move a cannabis brand makes should be filtered through the lens of their consumer.
In your view, what is the most under-rated tool in the cannabis branding toolbox for cannabis companies?
I believe the most under-rated tool in the branding toolbox for cannabis companies is their brand website. This goes for cultivators, manufacturers, dispensaries, delivery, and ancillary businesses. With all the regulations surrounding advertising and marketing, your website tends to be the only platform where you can comprehensively communicate to your customer all the details of your brand. Additionally, depending on your business type, it tends to be a major channel in driving sales. For these reasons, the proper investment should be made in creating a website that is aesthetically attractive, engaging with content, and functions as a conversion tool for your business. At the end of the day, no matter who your customer is, people tend to take brands seriously that look like they take themselves seriously and your website is the perfect platform to communicate that.
In your view, what is the most over-rated tool in the cannabis branding toolbox for cannabis companies?
Although still an important cog in a cannabis companies marketing plan, I believe the most over-rated tool in the branding toolbox for cannabis companies is their Instagram profile. Many of the cannabis brands we speak with feel that Instagram will drive a majority of their sales and the data just doesn’t support that theory. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s very critical for cannabis brands to have a consistent Instagram presence to communicate credibility to customers but I don’t think it requires a premium-level investment. The customer journey from Instagram to purchase is long and complicated resulting in frequent drop-offs, especially for CPG brands. Additionally, with the algorithm changes in Instagram, it’s most likely that only a small fraction of a cannabis brand’s followers are even getting fed their posts. My recommendation to our cannabis clients is to invest in their Instagram as a way to raise brand awareness but don’t throw all their marketing dollars at it thinking it will drive sales.
What’s the BEST piece of cannabis branding expert advice you give everyone you work with?
Focus on a target audience. Your brand doesn’t need to alienate customers, but it needs to understand who is going to hear you the loudest.
It’s no secret that social media applies to today’s brands. As I write this, Instagram is the social media darling of lifestyle, travel, and consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands. Subject to change pending finicky social media trends. In the meantime, I’d like to bring a fresh perspective to another social channel you probably AREN’T using because it’s coming up more and more these days.
Media Relations on Twitter
But if you’re wishing you had more media or are working with an agency like us, to garner earned media or free press, this tip is a great relationship builder with media outlets and journalists. Mostly when we look at the taskmaster that is social media, we consider the consumer’s journey. You probably even consider where the “hot” or most relevant influencers are spending their time. I bet when you think about influencers, you think of those magical unicorns appearing in so much news these days. But guess who is often more influential, both online AND in person than these folks?
Before I answer that question, please allow me to reacquaint you with a social platform you hear about every day, but probably don’t use much yourself these days: Twitter.
Today’s Twitter is a different than only a few years ago. The average person isn’t using Twitter much these days. But who ISN’T average? ACTUAL Influencers: journalists. Media relations on Twitter is different than approaching an influencer, but the platform has numerous opportunities for engaging journalists.
Moreover, Twitter users are above average in many ways. Further, the active Twitter user is hyper-engaged on Twitter.
According to the Pew Research Center (April 2019):
- Twitter users are much younger than the average U.S adult.
- Twitter users and are more likely than the average U.S. adult to have a college degree.
- “The most prolific tweeters – those in the top 10% by number of tweets – are responsible for 80% of all tweets created by U.S. adults.” And guess what else?
- The average Twitter user is younger than the average American, “Twitter users are nearly three times as likely to be younger than 50 (73%) as to be 50 or older (27%).”
- And for those of you courting females: The most prolific tweeters among U.S. adults are especially likely to be women. Among the most prolific tweeters – again, those in the top 10% by number of tweets – 65% are women. Women account for 48% of less prolific users.
- 60% of Twitter users reported that they definitely voted in 2018, compared with 55% of all U.S. adults.
WHY THIS MATTERS MOST IN MEDIA RELATIONS
When you look at the above statistics, who do you see?
I know who I see: journalists and freelance writers. Journalists are more trusted than influencers like Kim Kardashian, more connected than the average American, and open to new experiences. In short: journalists are more important than influencers.
According to News Media Alliance, Twitter is “now it is considered almost a requirement that writers and journalists have Twitter accounts and that they actively participate in conversations happening on the platform,”
Here at Avaans, we help bridge that gap between journalists and businesses and we’re here to say: if you’re interested in media coverage, you need to be on Twitter. There’s a reason PR firms call it “earned media” as opposed to “free press,” and that’s because media coverage isn’t free and relationships matter.
Look at journalists and the media as the people MAKING the news and this group of influencers is very active on Twitter as a group.
Journalists and writers are using Twitter to source stories, see if a brand is worthy of coverage and yes, talk amongst themselves. Twitter is useful in finding out about a journalist’s point of view, recent stories and personal interests all of which can be helpful when framing a conversation or suggesting a story idea.
3 WAYS TWITTER IS DIFFERENT FOR BRANDS
You can (and should) use Twitter differently than you use your other profiles, but do use Twitter for media relations. Consider it an opportunity to present your story and products to a group of highly engaged and influential community.
- Share news, branded content and yes, content from journalists and media outlets.
- Don’t worry too much about measuring engagement, because the average Twitter user is reading more than posting, liking or sharing, “The median user tweets just twice each month,” (Pew), but do be aware that the most engaged user is using Twitter A LOT.
- You may wish to share news and updates more than once and you may wish to stand out with others by actually engaging.
And if that’s not enough for you, keep in mind that the Twitter user skews younger than the average U.S. resident, younger than Facebook and open to new experiences, overall, sounds like the average cannabis user.
Fundamentally, our advice about social media is to pick the channels you can do well-and do them well. In the case of Twitter, it doesn’t take much to do it well and can be an outstanding place for your brand to be seen by real influencers.
Social Media Is Your Partner in Travel Branding
It’s no secret that today more than ever, digital branding in travel and tourism matters.
According to Google, only 9% of travelers know the brand they want to book with when they start their digital travel search. This is both an opportunity and a challenge for hotels, airlines and even destinations.
Does this mean consumers have no loyalty? Well, yes and no. It’s well documented that increasingly, people want experiences over things and travelers today lead that trend. Today’s travelers need one of at least two things: a unique experience (for which they will usually pay more) and on-demand information about pricing. It’s more important than ever that your brand is front and center during all phases of research. It also means that your brand needs to reinforce the experience using digital.
Social Media Throughout The Customer Travel Experience
Social media is useful in all phases, but especially the exploratory phase. The exploratory phase is where initial budgets expand as experiences cement themselves. For example, a traveler may be thinking of going to Hawaii, and every airline flies there. But what airlines make the journey even more special? What location has the most unusual once-in-a-lifetime experiences? And how are real people experiencing those experiences? Integrating the day-to-day experience of the visitor on social media helps the travel shopper see themselves in the experience. Moreover, today’s traveler wants to see a blend of “glossy” travel pictures combined with unfiltered real life.
But it’s more than that. Once the experience is over, what is your brand doing to reinforce their experience? Do you have a program in place which allows them to easily share their experience via social media? Do YOU share their experience back to them? That’s the cementing of brand loyalty and word of mouth almost all travel brands miss. How are you engaging your customers using digital while they are on-site? What can you do to turn complaints into delightful experiences? How can you show you’re engaged with their entire experience?
The other reason this is important is that the mobile experience is front and center. eMarketer predicted that in 2017, mobile bookings would surpass 40% of digital travel sales. Mobile is social and social is mobile. According to Expedia, 27% of Millennials have posted a potential trip on social media to canvas opinions before booking! Obviously, your website needs to be mobile-friendly, but how on-par is your social branding and advertising?
Does it provide a direct experience for booking?
Are you using chatbots on social to improve customer service?
How can you radically improve the investigation and booking phases using digital?
Convenience is exceptionally important to today’s traveler, who have embraced single-site travel booking experiences. BUT, today’s traveler is ALSO looking for boutique experiences, something particularly unique and for that, it’s almost better if it isn’t on a single-site because it gives the air of uniqueness. So balancing the booking trends with experience demand is important, and social media leads in this regard, because you have the change to meet the consumer where they are.
Millennials Don’t “Own” Social Media Travel
These technologies, like chatbots and mobile-friendly booking, are no longer for just the largest brands. They accessible and important for today’s traveler of all ages. It’s easy to think only “millennial” travelers are using these tools, but it’s simply not true. Consider that GenX’ers are in their mid-to-late forties already and their perfectly comfortable on Instagram and Facebook as well. According to Nielsen, Adults 35 to 49 were found to spend an average of 6 hours 58 minutes a week on social media networks, compared with 6 hours 19 minutes for the younger group.
If you’re looking to engage your potential and current audience in social media and digital branding for travelers, please contact us. We have ideas and most importantly the resources, to step up your digital travel branding in every phase of the experience.
Marketing to influencers and advocates is all the rage, fueled in large part by social media.
But if you’ve ever developed a campaign with influencers and/or advocates, you know it can be filled with land mines.
Part of that is what inspires advocates and influencers is different.
In the my last post about Captivation Motivations, I shared with you the secret driver you’ve already heard of behind so many of our snap decisions and just BARELY touched on rewards and lures.
But they’re actually super closely related to what’s behind our fastest decisions to click, like, join, sign up or buy.
If you’ve played an app or computer game anytime in the last 7 years, you’ve probably noticed that these games are getting more and addictive (eh, em, Candy Crush anyone?).
It’s not just better graphics and faster speeds that are making these games addictive, it’s the deeper understanding of what really motivates people to continue playing and one of those is the power of rewards.
I’m going to get to the secret successful games use in a minute, but first, I want to share something else with you.
If you’re thinking of running a give away, a promotion or even thinking of starting an app, you want to keep reading.
If you’re using digital and social media to market your brand (and I know you are), you’ll want to keep reading.
What I’m about to share with you is particularly important and will ultimately, make or break your product or promotion and even marketing relationships with influencers and advocates.
You Scratch My Back…Carefully.
The last time someone bought you lunch, I bet your parting words were “It’s on me next time!”
You probably said it without asking where you might go or checking your bank account or even your calendar.
You just blurted it out.
The truth is, we’re hard wired to return favors.
Think about that for a minute.
We are deeply, sincerely uncomfortable when we think we need to return a favor. Next time you run a promotion on Facebook, do a test. Ask people to like the page BEFORE entering the contest and compare that to the results if you ask AFTER you’ve given them something, even if it’s just a chance to win.
Chances are you’ll find that if you ask AFTERwards, your conversion percentage goes way up AND those people remain engaged for longer.
This is because lures trigger our sense of reciprocity.
Want to hear an old school example of this?
Ever received mailing labels from a nonprofit that you didn’t ask for?
Did you know that sending mailing labels with a request for a donation has been shown to DOUBLE donations?
And guess what? The average donation is way, way more than the value of the labels.
Why? Because reciprocity is a compelling motivation and it comes with a quirk: what we give in exchange for what we received has very little to do with the financial value of either.
You give something, ANYTHING of some value without placing a value on it, the reciprocity trigger kicks in.
This is the idea behind successful content marketing.
Why You Should Never Pay Your Advocates
There’s a lot of discussion today about influencer and advocate marketing.
Lures and rewards are different.
Lures give without the expectation on the givers part of receiving anything in return. That triggers reciprocity by the receiver.
Rewards are given with the expectation of the receiver to get something in exchange, so no sense reciprocity is triggered.
Rewards (generally) kill reciprocity, but they can create habits if done correctly (like training your dog).
But it’s extremely difficult for marketers to get the consistency required to create a habit. Hell, it’s hard to get the consistency required to create a habit in dog, ask anyone who’s tried.
But marketers can more easily create reciprocity, which is an extremely powerful motivation that rewards do not trigger.
Here’s the rub though: reciprocity has some limitations too.
If you offered rewards to those who were already advocating for you to do the things they were already doing, you’d begin to see that their desire to support you moving forward would be slipping.
That’s because offering a reward on contingency (do this 3X/week and receive that reward) for something someone is ALREADY motivated to do, it decreases the desire.
And unless you understood this motivational fact, you’d probably be left scratching your head about what happened.
Tread lightly with your advocates because the way you show appreciation can actually decrease their motivation if you aren’t careful.
This isn’t to say rewards aren’t effective. They can be very effective.
“Share this and receive that…” you see it all the time. That’s a reward, not a lure.
Again, ask my dogs. They know if they do something, there’s a good chance there’s a treat in it for them. That’s a reward, they’ve been conditioned to expect it.
Rewards can be very powerful tools for increasing reach.
It creates increased reach by those who AREN’T your advocates and depending on your strategy, that can be very important.
Just don’t confuse people you give a reward to as an advocate.
Time: The Biggest Reciprocity Trigger
If you’re really interested in triggering reciprocity, then you should probably do two things:
1) get to know your customer really well
2) think beyond monetary lures (discounts, coupons, even product give-aways).
The reasons for this are two-fold:
Our 90% of the brain (the oldest, largest and most primitive part of our brain) inherently knows that time is more valuable than items.
We inherently value experiences (millennials especially) more than items, so although the default is often a coupon or discount, experiences are more highly valued.
Receiving an experience from a product or brand increases reciprocity. So if you use an experience as a reward, you can trigger reciprocity.
But to offer an experience that is highly valued, you really have to know your customer. What YOU think your customer values maybe completely different than what they actually value.
In the last post, we talked about information seeking as a dopamine trigger, but it can also be a reward. So can mastery – this is the essence of gamification. Becoming good at something is it’s own reward and the longer we spend on achieving that reward, the more we value it.
Again, what your customers value may be something else all together: inclusion in a tribe, recognition or status.
All these things can be valuable rewards AND lures for brands.
The other thing to understand is that placing a distinct financial value on a lure (or a reward) kinks up the perceived value.
Let me give you an example:
If I invited you to dinner at my house for a homemade dinner that was wonderful (of course it would be FABULOUS), but then I spent all night talking about how much I spent on buying the ingredients of the dinner, two things would happen. 1) you would view the dinner as a sum of parts rather than it’s whole value of time, effort and community and 2) you probably wouldn’t feel a sense of reciprocity at all, no matter how fabulous the dinner was.
Don’t force your influencers OR your advocates to view your rewards or lures as a sum of parts by involving money too heavily; it kills goodwill AND reciprocity.
If you’re going to use rewards or lures, remember, make it something the customer values and think about how to make more valuable than money.
Here’s the bottom line: use rewards for influencers and lures for advocates.
Can you think of a time when a marketing strategy with lures or rewards turned you off? Share them with me here or in social media, it’s a fascinating discussion I love hearing about.
About the Captivation Motivations:
The Captivation Motivations are all built around what I call our “other 90%” of our brain. The part of our brain that is the oldest and most developed part of our brain.
I didn’t make up the Captivation Motivations, I’ve simply been studying them and their effects for the last four years. I’ve been testing them in my strategies and tactics, reading and writing about them.
Simply put, these motivations are not some flash-in-the-pan-do-whats-trendy-now strategy, these are strategies which trigger reactions from the oldest part of our brain. Over the last few years, more and more has been understood about these motivations. But one thing is clear: despite the fact that these motivations developed in the earliest days of humanity’s survival of the fittest experiences, these motivations are very much alive and well today. What triggers them in the modern world is just different than what triggered them in our earliest evolutionary days.
Captivation Motivations can significantly change your content strategy.
This is the second installment of a series on the seven Captivation Motivations. This installment is all about your owned media and creating a content strategy that meets your objectives while also thrilling and delighting your audience.
Did you know that we’re all ruled by a super-powerful hormone? It’s true.
This hormone dominates decision-making, especially split-second choices like the ones digital users are making every day.
Decisions like “click,” “like,” “retweet,” and more importantly, “buy” and “subscribe” are all significantly impacted by this hormone.
Savvy marketing strategists have been triggering this hormone for years, some knowingly, some stumbling upon it.
You’ve undoubtedly heard of this hormone.
You’ve heard about in the context of drugs, sex and even food.
But what does this hormone do for marketers?
I’ll get to that in a minute.
First, a little more about this hormone: dopamine.
See? I told you you’ve heard of it.
Dopamine is best known as the “pleasure hormone.”
It’s the hormone that creates the surge of euphoria that we feel after a particularly satisfying (insert pleasure here).
But, the surge of satisfaction is not actually the most powerful tool in a communicator’s arsenal.
The most powerful tool for the content communicator is anticipation.
And it turns out that dopamine is actually more aptly described as the “wanting and seeking” hormone.
Ah. Now you get it right?
It turns out that the “wanting and seeking” trigger is MORE powerful than the “satisfaction.”
This means we’re hard-wired to keep looking, keep seeking until we satisfy our wanting and seeking.
And then we’re hard-wired to do it all again.
Think for just a moment about the advantage to your content and overall marketing strategy if you can trigger this motivation.
Images can trigger our wanting and seeking. Ever seen a really great close-up shot of your favorite food and searched for how to have it delivered at lunch that.very.day?
Images of just about anything we want can trigger our “wanting and seeking” hormone.
This means you really need to think about the images you’re using in marketing and advertising, because images are incredibly key to the top of the funnel.
While we see food and sex all the time in marketing, it might be that those images aren’t appropriate for your brand.
Good news for you.
Because there’s more.
Guess what else fuels our anticipation?
This is super important because not all businesses and campaigns are suitable for triggering the food, sex and drug urges.
The brain experiences dopamine rushes when we’re curious for more information.
Think about the last Google search you did. Ever been sucked down the rabbit hole of Google and found yourself coming out of the other side 45 minutes later?
That’s your insatiable, hormone-driven seeking and wanting trigger.
That’s your brain on the anticipation train.
Our quest for information is basically never-ending.
We’re hard-wired that way, and from an evolutionary standpoint, this is a splendid thing.
Now WHAT information triggers this is the key.
This is where we circle back around to audience identification and personalization.
We’re inundated with information, so we have to be very, very clear on our audience so we understand WHAT kind of information or curiosity triggers our target audience.
Motivational triggers work on all people, but what triggers the motivation is where your marketing research and strategy comes in.
Another thing that triggers our wanting and seeking hormone is unexpected prompts that are auditory or visual.
You know what does this exceptionally well?
Your phone. It beeps, or vibrates or a message pops up and you almost ALWAYS stop what you are doing to look at it don’t you?
If you don’t, it takes an active and conscious effort on your part.
This is why my most hated and dreaded marketing tactic, pop-up messaging is so powerful.
I personally drop right out of a page when I get a pop-up because I feel like it’s insensitive to the reader, but the truth is, it works on the vast majority of people because the surprise triggers the wanting and seeking.
Novelty and unpredictability also trigger our seeking behavior.
This is why “New and Improved” works.
The Counter Intuitive Path
You’ve probably heard over and over again to simplify. The message is too long. The funnel is to long.
Overall, this is good advice.
HOWEVER, once you really understand the “seeking and wanting” hormone, your path can actually be quite long, so long as it keeps triggering curiosity and gives information in small bits and pieces, if it gives anything until it offers the solution.
Ever seen an ugly landing page that was all text that you ended up reading despite yourself?
Really awesome copy writers understand how to use this tactic in writing to move you through the process.
Interestingly enough, the more time you spend on something, the more committed you are.
So long copy, long funnels, they have a purpose and in the right situation, the right circumstance, the right audience, they work.
In A Nutshell:
Here it is in a nutshell, for fast and motivational results: trigger the wanting and seeking hormone.
Make your audience curious.
Lead them down a path that satisfies in bits and pieces.
Experiment with what triggers curiosity in your audience, experiment with the strength of their curiosity with funnel length.
Triggering the “wanting and seeking” hormone is the very premise behind free information in content marketing and the internet in general.
The Pursuit of Pleasure Captivation Motivation is tied closely to how we internalize rewards as well. The next post in this series will be all about rewards, the kinds used in promotions, so stay tuned.
About the Captivation Motivations:
The Captivation Motivations are all built around what I call our “other 90%” of our brain. The part of our brain that is the oldest and most developed part of our brain.
I didn’t make up the Captivation Motivations, I’ve been studying them and their effects since 2009. I’ve been testing them in my strategies and tactics, reading and writing about them.
Simply put, these motivations are not some flash-in-the-pan-do-what’s-trendy-now strategy, these are strategies which trigger reactions from the oldest part of our brain. Over the last few years, more and more has been understood about these motivations. But one thing is clear: despite the fact that these motivations developed in the earliest days of humanity’s survival of the fittest experiences, these motivations are very much alive and well today. What triggers them in the modern world is just different than what triggered them in our earliest evolutionary days.
PS: If you’re really interested in this topic, I suggest you read some of the academic works by Kent Berridge; he’s done some really amazing research on the topic.
Why do you need a digital strategy and what is it?
Since digital and social media are so accessible, it’s easy to think the results are just as accessible.
But the truth is, simply BEING on social media isn’t a strategy any more (if it ever was enough).
The digital world has brought us many, many advances, but it’s also brought a much more distracted and diluted market place.
The average person is exposed to over 5,000 messages a day.
Perhaps even more, especially if they are heavy social media users.
We used to tell brands that every person needed exposure to a message 7 times before it sunk in.
With today’s clutter and fast-paced media world, I put that number at closer to 12 today.
But having a digital marketing strategy saves you time and money and can even possibly reduce the number of exposures required.
A lot of people are reluctant to spend the time on a digital strategy thinking that the digital world is so fast moving that the minute you settle on a strategy, things will change.
Actually, it’s the opposite, the more thought out your marketing strategy, the more you’ll be able to roll with the punches.
Strategy allows you to be more fluid, not less.
And even if you DO change your strategy, at least you’ll do so with intent.
So what IS a digital strategy?
A good digital marketing strategy answers ALL you’re “Why’s”
If you can’t defend a piece of content, a post or an answer of how that benefits your company and it’s customers, then you don’t have a strategy.
A good digital strategy has three components:
Outstanding audience identification.
Start with the customer. Always.
Your digital audience may be a sub-segment of your larger audience or it may be your entire audience. It doesn’t matter, really.
What’s most important is that your extremely clear on your audience’s pain points, interests and emotional triggers
If you’re clear on who you’re speaking to, everything in your digital strategy will improve.
This will require some research, because no matter what you THINK you know about you’re customers, if you do some research on them, you’ll learn something about what resonates, what’s memorable and what matters to them.
The customer research will help you stay on message and consistent regardless of platform choices. You’ll know you’re on the right track because you have the research to back it up.
Product and Service Voice Clarity
How will you communicate with your community in the digital space?
Sometimes, the tone of voice in digital is different from the tone of voice in other mediums.
In fact, most of the time it is.
Once you know your audience, you can start to blend in their preferences with how they like to be communicated WITH along side the brand consistency you’re trying to accomplish. Voice consistency takes time and intention to develop and implement, but once you do it, you’ll be well on your way to executing a great digital strategy.
Chances are, you have some competition in the digital world.
Take a careful look at your competitors. What’s missing?
What can you do better than anyone else?
This takes brutal honesty, because you’ve got to be incredibly clear on who you are, who you want to be and how that meshes with how your community sees you and what you’re willing to do or not do.
The digital user is quick to point out the inauthentic, so be honest with yourself here, so you can be honest with your customers.
Your digital distinguishers should include your product and service differentiation while integrating with what makes your customers unique.
This is the place where it all comes together.
Once you’ve put all these pieces in place, a real digital marketing strategy can start to emerge.
Now you can start to identify content types, frequency, messaging and platforms that support your strategy.
With the inundation of messages today, the ONLY way to be in the digital space is to do so with a strategy, otherwise, you’re actually doing damage to your brand and you’re seriously missing out on opportunity, relationships and dollars.
Are you done yet?
If you’re like most of the media and most of America you’ve had it with the Kardashians.
We’ve moved past not caring and into outrage.
But how did this happen?
We can look to the Kardashian social media strategy for part of the story.
How did the Kardashians go from being little known D-listers with Instagram and Twitter accounts to being the most hated family in America?
I mean, it started off innocent enough, a group of spoiled beautiful girls with a notorious last name, living the day-to-day drama of having too much of everything.
It’s the kind of thing America watches, sometimes to feel morally superior, sometimes with an aspirational sigh.
And the girls were social media mavens.
They WORKED Instagram.
They LIVED on Twitter.
Snippets of their daily lives seeped into our consciousness one tweet and pic at a time.
But the Kardashians crossed several lines, specifically Kim Kardashian, who has turned pop-culture fascination into outrage and disgust.
Here’s where they went wrong:
The Line Between Transparency and Pathology
In the beginning, Instagram and Twitter followers loved how the girls lived their lives shamelessly out loud.
Their family feuds and heartaches on display for all to see.
We loved that curvy Kim and Khloe owned their curves proudly.
We even endured the occasional well-placed stunt by them and their family members.
The personalities turned into personas.
We like personas it allows us to put people in neat little categorical boxes.
It gives us context.
Personas aren’t terrible. Actually, from a branding perspective, they can be quite fantastic.
So even though their celebrity sky rocketed, their personas kept them “real.”
We DID like to see them at some exotic beach, we did like seeing their pretty selfies…until the selfies became over-orchestrated photo shoots.
But the Kardashians forgot something: they were interesting when we could relate to them, or at least identify on an aspiration level.
And this is where they REALLY went wrong:
the Kardashians never missed a chance to put distance between themselves and their followers, in an effort to show how special they really are.
We went from relating to them as they journeyed through life to feeling more and more like they were nothing like us.
Most of America would never marry a celebrity for the media bump, and it isn’t even something most of America aspires to.
Most of America doesn’t make the extreme personal journey of their family members about them.
And now there’s today’s pregnant photo of Kim.
We’re now at the point where the transparency has turned into pathological and pathetic.
With this photo, Kim has managed to make the beautiful, sad.
From Mysterious to Saturated
A well placed nude photo or leaked video (eh, em, Kim) can actually be GOOD for a celeb.
But when you start to see nude (or nearly nude) photos of a celeb several times a year, it’s no longer exciting, titillating or even interesting.
Three times this year already we’ve seen Kim nude.
Here: Feb 2015
Here: May 2015
Here: July 2015
I mean, is there no end in sight?
Now, not only are you pathetic, you’re worse: you’re common.
You’re the OPPOSITE of special.
You’re now just another naked person – just like the one we see in the mirror everyday.
Nothing special about pathetic and naked. Nothing aspirational about that. At. All.
Even nude models and porn stars know better than to show up naked on Instagram everyday.
Because mystery is a good thing.
Leave a little bit on the table.
Let ’em wonder just.a.little.bit.
It’s not just the whole naked thing.
We started to get the sense that the Kardashians never said no to anything that might make them money.
From fashion brands to tell-all interviews.
From appearances to marriages.
If you had dollars, the Kardashians would be there to hoover it up.
Standing For…..Shallow and Surface?
And through all this, America begins to wonder, “What DO the Kardashians stand for?”
I mean, besides makeup, hair extensions and designer brands and boyfriends?
We’re left wondering if they are really as shallow as all that.
Do they lend their voices to causes that might make them more human?
Do they use their celebrity to advance a passion that might make the world a better place?
What little they apparently DO do for charity seems opportunistic and self aggrandizing.
Even Donald Trump, who Kim had to one-up with her naked photo today, has a cause.
You might not agree with Donald Trump, but at least he stands for something besides money and wrap-arounds.
We can’t defend the Kardashians anymore because we can’t even justify their celebrity anymore.
And so begins the downward slide of some of the earliest and most prolific social media celebrities.
We should thank the Kardashians for their lessons in personal branding, except they’d probably charge us for it.
This week, with the Dave and Busters “Juan” tweet yet another social media gaffe made it’s what into the collective conversation.
It sparked furious cries of racism.
It sparked snickers.
It sparked the “holier than thou” media to earn mega points for traffic.
Imagine for a moment, the alternative tweet: “I hate tacos” said no one ever. #tacotuesday.
Imagine what THAT would have caused: crickets.
Which of those two messages was more brand consistent, more interesting, more compelling and took more courage?
Branding is like getting a tattoo: it takes guts and commitment.
This is why brands and businesses must be crystal clear on who they are, what they stand for and who their target customer is. I’m not suggesting that every brand and business rush to the edge of every cultural controversy and insensitivity in order to create some reaction to their message. But in order to make it interesting they HAVE to know where the line is on risk taking. Brands and businesses have to accept that people who AREN’T their customers aren’t going to “get” it and they have to stand with their customers who DO. If you insist on completely bland copy, messaging and creative, you will get some bland results.
I’m actually disappointed Dave and Busters didn’t fire back to the haters with another pun. Dave and Busters is a GAMING VENUE for grown ups. It isn’t a financial company, it isn’t a children’s nonprofit, it isn’t a government agency, it isn’t a church. It’s supposed to be FUN. Taco Tuesdays are supposed to be FUN. I don’t know about you – but I could use a little fun in my tweet stream.
So here’s where we’re at with a collective lack of spine in the social, marketing and advertising world: be creative, be dynamic, create conversation and excitement, but DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES TAKE RISKS. Does the marketing and advertising world really want to be known as the analysis paralysis industry whose signature color is beige?
Yes, let’s think through things. Yes, let’s consider context. But let’s stop freaking out the minute someone with 2,000 followers takes issue with an edgy statement. Let’s understand our brands, their purpose, their customers and values and let’s stand by those values even when everyone else doesn’t get it. It’s OK. If you’re brand is truly defined, not everyone will.
Yes, the pain of nasty-gram tweets and email is piercing, they don’t last forever, in fact, in most cases, those very same people are off on an entirely different tangent tomorrow. Being a wishy washy brand isn’t good for anyone, except dish soap – and those consequences are far longer reaching.
Tweet: Being a wishy washy brand isn’t good for anyone, except dish soap – and those consequences are far longer reaching.
Stand tall. Take smart risks. Stand by your customers. Have some brand confidence. Stand by your brand.
This post originally appeared on Akamai Marketing