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Some New Year’s Resolutions for Marketers

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I normally find New Year Resolutions to be boring. Hearing about another person’s resolutions is a little like hearing about their golf game or their weird dream or the paint color they’ve chosen for the bathroom. So I’m not going to share mine with you, professional or otherwise. I don’t want to bore you.

On the other hand, CREATING resolutions for OTHER people…? That, I find very interesting. It plays to my busybody mom instinct. But since I don’t have a desire to lose any friends, I’m going to hone my laser critical focus on America’s brands. Here are 7 New Year Resolutions that many American marketers SHOULD commit to for 2017:

 1.) Don’t allow your ads to appear on Fake News sites and give them any credibility.

This is a biggie. I applaud the efforts of the Twitter group Sleeping Giants who have started to hold brands accountable for ads that show up on Breitbart. See the New York Times article here.

Mainstream advertising dollars have kept these sites viable for too long. Facebook and Google have started to guard against funneling money to the sites (a bit late, perhaps), but brands need to pay attention and take responsibility for where their digital ads appear. If they don’t, you can be assured that consumers will start holding them accountable.

2.) Keep pushing for diversity in advertising, even if it’s not a trending topic.

A lot has been made about “political correctness” in the wake of the American election. There are some who feel like it’s been forced on them. However, reaching out to the diverse tapestry that is the American public and showing it in a company’s marketing isn’t political correctness. It’s basic reality and reflects a sense of decency. The more people can see themselves in society, the more they feel included and welcome. And the more they will contribute to that society. I find Deddeh Howard’s project (see it here) to be incredibly powerful. Howard is a Liberian-born model who has recreated some of the world’s biggest fashion campaigns, putting herself into the frame instead of the white celebrity models who originally starred in the campaigns. Her images are every bit as powerful as the originals, in some cases even more so. If seeing her in an ad makes just one little girl feel more beautiful and more valued, then that’s a good thing for everyone.

We should all also push for diversity in our staffing. At Origin, we’re going to start with the (admittedly small) step of creating an internship for a student of color. We have struggled to find applicants look different from us. We’re going to make an effort to rectify that in the future.

3.) Stop planning brands for a consistent, yet completely generic global positioning that is irrelevant to even its biggest markets.

Consistency is fine, blandness is not. Over the past 15 years, I’ve witnessed companies taking their brand planning more global and bypassing marketers in key countries. Often, the planning is done by parent company execs in Australia or in Britain. And, just as often, the final campaign is either irrelevant to consumers in the U.S. and/or China (likely a brand’s 2 largest markets), or it is so generic as to be irrelevant everywhere. I understand the desire for a global platform, but often these brands invest huge funds in sponsorships, partnerships or spokespeople who don’t speak to a majority of their consumers.

Don’t be afraid to let a brand have a personality that reflects the local consumers. Don’t be afraid to let consumers help you define your brand. LaCroix Sparking Water has done a fabulous job of that. Take a look at their Instagram feed. Consumers have defined LaCroix and they LOVE it. It’s not incredibly consistent, except that it always reflects a colorful optimism and passion on the part of the consumer.

4.) Start investing in digital POS.

Even though my company makes a huge part of our revenue off the creation of paper POS, I am AMAZED that it’s still around. I was certain 5 years ago that it was on its way out. Between clean store policies and the affordability of digital technology, the industry has been exceedingly slow to change. Let’s get on with it, people! By working more with digital technology, we can produce more campaigns, change messaging more frequently, get a feel for what works best, AND have a positive effect on the environment. What are we waiting for?

5.) If you’re a tech company, make a new commitment to privacy and be very clear with your consumers about what you’re doing to look out for them and the sanctity of their data.

Consumers are shockingly unaware of their digital footprints. Between Siri, Alexa, Google, Amazon, ApplePay and OnStar, Big Brother has already arrived. We’ve willingly let eyes and ears of others into our homes and our private conversations. All of these conveniences work as long as consumers believe in the inherent benevolence of government and law enforcement. With a new, possibly more authoritarian administration, people are thinking about this in ways that they never have before. Whether that’s paranoia or not remains to be seen, but either way, we need to demand more from our tech providers. And we, as consumers, need to be more aware of what we’re clicking when we mindlessly hit “Agree” on our user agreements. 

6.) Invest in better online content.

Most companies understand the potential for creating an online space that builds their brand and makes it a resource for content that consumers will actually seek out. Many invest in creating content. Few do it well. Just take a look at some big brand websites and social media posts. So many are just phoning it in. Often, they have silos planning content that are not aligned with the marketing or overall brand positioning. Often, they mistake marketing campaigns for interesting content.

Some do content well. I particularly like purina.com (and I don’t even have a pet right now). They’ve made themselves into a resource for pet owners, beyond simply talking about pet food. On their site, you can match yourself to the best dog breed for you and get a crash course on dog ownership. They even developed an app that’s like a Fitbit for your dog.

More brands could invest like Purina does. But it’s not cheap and it’s hard to draw a straight line between the effort and retail success. 

7.) If you’re a mass-produced brand, stop pretending that you’re “bespoke” or “hand-crafted.”

Enough said! You’re not fooling anybody.

Julie Wood