Marketing: The Art of Creating Change

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When you think about it (and even when you don’t), on the most fundamental level, all marketing is about change. If everything were perfect…if there was not another customer to be had, another dollar to be made, another product to be added to the portfolio…no change would be needed and there would be no reason to spend a cent on marketing. But, that is never the case. There is always some change in the marketplace that will benefit your brand and grow your business.

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That is why every project should begin with nailing down a clear, concise understanding of the desired, meaningful change. It may sound pretty fundamental and intuitive…a no-brainer, right? Well, not so fast. It’s easy to say “we want to”: grow share, or profitability, or have a successful launch. But, that is the goal for the brand, and not necessarily a meaningful change in the marketplace. Most often those real changes in the marketplace are rooted in the target.

While marketing is commonly thought of, and approached, as more of a science (think target segmentation, etc.), we have come to realize that there are aspects of marketing that benefit from a healthy dose of “art” as well. In fact, we believe that the success of our inductive approach to marketing strategy has often depended on the art of marketing (no, it’s not an oxymoron) to generate some of the more unexpected, innovative and effective solutions. And so…the Art of Creating Change.

In one not so unusual case the Brand team’s goal was to grow share. To help them accomplish that goal what we did was focus the change on having the target rethink their perception of the product. But, the rethink was specifically relative to their current choice, other available choices and a “surprise choice”. That helped us understand how to change the brand’s role in meeting the target’s requirement. In that case it was a change in the brand’s “persona” and the “tone” of the messaging. We have very effectively applied an artful change-based strategic approach to a wide variety of marketing activities – messaging, brand planning and market research to name just a few.

Perhaps your own experience has shown that successful brand growth almost always comes back to changing a target’s perception or behavior, demands or desires. In applying change-based strategic development over the years we’ve uncovered a few principles that have helped us get the most out of that approach. Here are just a few things to keep in mind as you apply it yourself.

Be prepared for goals to change We’ve found that many times when we have worked with the client to define the meaningful change in the target or marketplace that the initial assumptions about the goals of the project needed to be rethought as well. Project goals almost always benefit from a more precise focus and scope for the project. The size of the opportunity can change as well. Sometimes the real opportunity turned out to be somewhat smaller than originally envisioned. Disappointing, yes, but a good thing to know going in. But, we’ve more often found the opportunity turned out to be greater once the impact of the real world change was identified and understood.

The deeper the change, the longer lasting There are a number of levels on which change can be achieved. In general, the deeper in the target’s psychographic profile the change resides, the longer the effect of the change. We’ve seen a general hierarchy of change persistence. Change in behavior affects what people do on a very functional level. A valuable goal for short term, promotional gain, for instance. The next level is change in perception. This can, for example, be applied to creating competitive superiority. The deepest and most permanent change has seemed to result from a change in belief. This is the level on which things like long term loyalty and deep brand attachment reside. When the target behavior has been hard to rationalize or they seem to ignore all evidence to the contrary, we have often traced it back to deeply held beliefs. Change isn’t always easy to achieve, but powerful to have on your side.

Not all change is meaningful Avoiding “change for change’s sake” can insure that the result is worth the effort put into a project. Just because we believed we could affect change in a particular area we have, at times, had to conclude it was not the right course of action. We have had to be confident that the change would result in a meaningful outcome.

Do we know enough to know? The first thing to know when searching for meaningful change is what represents effective change. Sometimes the target is so well known and understood that the relationship between change and in-market results is almost intuitive. But, in other cases the nature of meaningful change wasn’t evident. In those cases we have done a preliminary step of change analysis. Very often, through Data Mining and inductive analysis of existing information we have been able to map “change and result” dynamics to effectively guide a project. In a few other cases the client decided that the brand would benefit from a primary investigation into change dynamics before moving to a change-based strategy. In any case, the key is always to be sure we know what change to pursue and what results to expect.

So in anticipation of setting off in pursuit of meaningful change, for today’s Strategy Break here are a few questions to ask yourself related to creating change in the marketplace:
  • What change in target behavior, perception or belief will have the greatest impact on brand success?
  • Do I know what I need to know to identify meaningful change?
  • Do I currently have projects underway that would benefit from an analysis of change dynamics?

And when it’s time to create some change in the marketplace give us a call. We’ve been told we are true artists when it comes to shaking things up!

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