There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind marketing has changed. However, many of us in marketing are still trying to get our minds around the latest changes and decide what to do about them. What’s at the heart of these changes? What exactly do we need to be doing now to make marketing more successful? During a recent episode of the yorCMO Podcast, Joseph Frost of yorCMO spoke with Rich Taylor about a success Rich has had serving as a fractional CMO for one of our clients. Rich’s work with the client may help answer this fundamental question about change and how to achieve marketing success. The key to being a more successful marketer now is authenticity and letting go of outdated practices.
Rich is no stranger to change in marketing. He began his career more than 25 years ago with Leo Burnett, working on General Motors. He then served in leadership roles at other top agencies working on leading brands in a variety of industries. During his talk with Joseph, Rich spoke from this deep experience to clearly lay out the problem: “We live now in a world where marketers and brands alike are consumed with tactics. Planning has become an afterthought for people … many marketers jump right to execution and expect quick results by simply following widely promoted ‘best practices.’”
The result, Rich says, is that it is no longer effective to skip straight to tactics and expect quick results. Effective marketing requires you to genuinely understand your audience, which means doing some research to begin with. Then, using what you’ve learned about your audience, you need to plan a strategy, he said. That strategy can’t just be to create ads that are entertaining or clever or that rely on a specific offer — which are all things that have worked in the past. He explained that many of these traditional tactics don’t work anymore because there’s so much clutter in the marketplace and consumers have seen it all before.
“The strategy has to be authentic – and a brand promise must be genuine, believable and deliverable,” Rich said. He has had great success helping companies develop a marketing strategy rooted in authenticity with a tool he calls the “story workshop.” The workshop is a planning session that enables a leadership team to uncover their brand’s genuine and meaningful story that really connects with people, he explained. Once a brand has a strategic framework or blueprint to communicate more effectively, the story and narrative can be applied to tactics in ways that will deliver more sales from marketing.
Rich shares this wisdom on marketing strategy, story and authenticity, along with coauthors Mark Toft and Jay Sunny, in a brand-new book coming out in January 2020: Authenticity, Building a Brand in An Insincere Age (Praeger Press). Rich believes brands that choose to focus on authentic storytelling will achieve far greater marketing success in coming months and years.
Authentic Marketing Messages Maximize ROI
Rich reminds marketers not to think of authenticity and the story workshop as a tactic. To make modern marketing messages effective, we instead need to begin thinking of marketing as a process to ensure expenditures actually deliver a return on investment. He said the alignment between the principles in his book and yorCMO’s six fundamentals for effective marketing is the primary reason he began working as a fractional CMO for us. The story workshop fits into the third yorCMO fundamental: Positioning Your Offer.
Recently, Rich began working as a fractional CMO with a wholesaler, taking the company through all the steps of planning, including a marketing audit (research) and a story workshop to help them analyze and understand the customer experience and what actually makes the company unique. The planning process revealed that the brand’s strong word-of-mouth referrals were the result of a specific approach to service. Using this insight, Rich built a strategic framework for the client – a Story Messaging Map© based on the workshop – that clarified the brand’s unique approach to service. After the workshop, however, Rich learned some months later that the company was unable to successfully implement the framework, so they came back to him to ask for help getting “un-stalled.”
The company’s marketing director was a focused tactician, according to Rich, but needed a mentor and coach to help put systems in place that would bring the brand’s authentic story to life. The yorCMO process was the perfect way to help the company get the leadership and planning they needed without being overly costly and time-consuming. Rich helped the company break down their plan into quarterly sprints, with 3 to 5 priorities to focus on during a 90-day window, using a scorecard to measure progress and then providing guidance, leadership and coaching to ensure that the plan would deliver results.
“[This management planning] has been the missing piece,” Rich said. “In the past, the marketing director has been sort of a one-man band without the experience or knowhow to manage the overall marketing process in a way that is both efficient and, more importantly, truly effective. That’s been the breakthrough for them.”
Rich equated the process of mentorship as a fractional CMO to following a recipe. Only a master chef knows exactly what to do with a recipe to get exceptional results. “The client is really pretty happy with how this is all working,” he said, suggesting the biggest short-term impact was cultural. Creating a framework and story focused on the company’s unique service, rather than simple marketing tactics, has created consistency and energy across the entire organization.
Traditional Focus on Brand Image Creates Inauthentic Pathways for Marketing
Rich and Joseph discussed how this new approach affects a traditional marketing path based on value propositions (27:29 in the podcast recording). “Professionals these days are still being taught the same old things — that brand image matters. The old legacy leaders from the ad industry believed firmly that your image is everything,” Rich said, “and in my opinion that is really kind of out of date.”
Rich suggested that attention for attention’s sake doesn’t work anymore. “You have to do it in an authentic way,” he explained. “The customer experience you deliver has to live up to the promise, and when it doesn’t, in an age of social media and instant information sharing, the minute you convey one message to consumers and they have a different customer experience that isn’t consistent with that, you have instantly ruined or tarnished your reputation.” He referred to research that says only 16% of the public believes or trusts any advertising.
Rich’s advice is to stop creating ambitious value propositions and messages designed to promote brand image — the attention-getting gimmicks that worked 20 years ago. Instead, focus on creating advertising that genuinely reflects what makes your brand unique. And create a fundamental process for planning, managing and executing marketing that cuts through clutter to genuinely connect with potential customers and get a return on investment.
For more information about yorCMO’s affordable, effective fractional marketing planning process – or to speak with Rich Taylor about his approach to building brand authenticity – call 773-368-5135 or send an email to rich@yorCMO.com.
About the Author:
Rich is one our fractional CMO’s and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s held leadership roles at top agencies, directed marketing for a Fortune 100 company and been CMO at a leading regional retail chain. He’s also worked successfully in a number of start-ups and fast growth venture capital backed firms. Rich is an expert in integrated marketing, including analysis, strategic planning and campaign management, He is also co-author of “Authenticity: Building a Brand in an Insincere Age” which is available from Praeger Press in Jan 2020.
Rich is based in the Greater Chicagoland Area and has strong experience working with clients in Retail, Grocery, Food & Beverages and Consumer Goods.