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Dec 10, 2008 | 9 minute read

Webinar Recap: How to Break Bad Habits and Survive a Deep Recession

written by Linda Bustos

This post is a summary of Dangerous Marketing Ahead: How to Break Bad Habits and Survive a Deep Recession with Jeff Molander, CEO, Molander & Associates, Inc. and Jonathan Salem Baskin, Entrepreneur, Consultant and Author of the controversial new book, "Branding Only Works on Cattle."

This webinar is split in two parts, one presented by Jonathan Salem Baskin, and the second by Jeff Molander. The overall theme is how to break your old habits of marketing and branding rather than doing the same old things and expecting different results. They call this "dangerous marketing" because it challenges you to rethink everything you ever learned about branding.

Summary of Jonathan Salem Baskin's talk:

Idea 1: Don't Just Say, Do

Actions speak louder than words. Your brand's actions speak louder than its words. So your brand marketing strategy should focus on doing something, not just stating you do something. This is especially important for social media - since conversations through this medium are often based on customer experiences with your brand or business.

Actions are also the "responses" you want from your brand marketing. There is no "there" out there, only moments of interaction that have a "prompt" and a "response." If your branding doesn't trigger a response or follow up, you're probably wasting your money.

Takeaway: If you're considering a marketing or branding activity, and there's no action attached to it, think twice. Or don't do it. Speaking the "language of behavior" will help knock down "knowledge silos" in your organization, and enable people from all departments participate in (and contribute to) your outbound efforts.

Idea 2: Make Every Activity Marketing-Relevant

If other departments in your organization don't understand your branding objectives and guidelines, trouble can occur. For example, toy safety. Well-known toy brands spent millions of dollars to associate themselves with family-friendly brand attributes. But their product sourcing activities were diametrically opposed to them. Lead paint became the brand attribute that mattered to consumers.

Non-marketing functions in the organization simply aren't touching the consumer. The branding "look and feel" of these activities don't matter to them. Do you view every activity as marketing relevant?

Takeaway: Share responsibility for the brand with everyone. Never use the words "change management" or "adopting the brand," simply let them co-own it. This will also help break down barriers and open up brand conversation in your organization for true collaboration.

Idea 3: Quantify Your Brand Strength

Your brand is real-time, 24/7. It's as up to date as the results of the latest internet search query, last customer interaction, last service request or latest product release. People are not your customers. You don't have "x" number of customers, there are no guarantees they will purchase from you again. People don't interact with your brand, rather their interactions are your brand. Your branding is how you deliver and map these interactions.

Takeaway: You can start measuring your brand health by tracking "behavioral levers." Rather than a qualitative assessment of how people feel about your brand, measure it quantitatively like GDP or a temperature gauge. This empowers you to see clearly what is going on, what's working and what isn't and allow you to take specific and timely actions to change these metrics.

Jonathan hands it over to Jeff:

What people think about your brand doesn't get you paid. What people do is what matters. (You may have the image of a nice, ethical company but are people buying?)

According to the CMO Council, only 10% of marketers are viewed by senior decision makers as “highly strategic and influential.” The traditional approach to branding hasn't succeeded. To survive, digital marketers need to change the fundamental meaning of branding and let the Web’s inherent interactivity – it’s ability to create measurable behavior – drive strategic decision making. Marketing tactics should connect with corporate strategies, and these strategies must reach outside the marketing department.

The Web is infinitely ‘trackable’. It promises to lift the veil on what advertising works and what doesn’t. It’s built for measurement, though most Web marketers still don't measure to the extent that they apply what they know to influence customer behavior.

Jeff's 2 big ideas:

1. Redefine Search

Allow search (customers’ desire to discover everything about your brand through search engines) define your branding processes rather than letting branding drive search goals.

Non-branded terms (think "flannel pyjamas" vs. "Old Navy flannel pyjamas) are the most competitive, most expensive, but still where all the action is. But attempting to brand your company by bidding on non-branded terms is a waste of money and time. It lacks a clear, measurable call to action.

*Note: branded products are considered non-branded if they are not associated with your business name. Example: "Nike basketball shoes" is non-branded because it's a competitive term not specific to one retailer, whereas "zappos nike basketball shoes" contains 2 brands, one of which is specific to one retailer.

Your PPC ad isn't creating consideration simply because it appears in search results. So Jeff recommends you stop telling people "our brand is relevant to your product/service query -- please consider us." Rather, give searchers a reason to take action that puts them in your sales funnel. Invest in prompts that create measurable demand.

2. Build a Content Marketing Strategy

Build a content marketing strategy (become a publisher) and measure it improve sales and other key performance indicators.

Customers are in control.

People today have access to so much content and many ways to gather news and information. They also hold power over it, so the likelihood of your marketing message penetrating the clutter is virtually nil. Now with social media, customers' messages about you are more powerful and valuable than anything you create. Example: product reviews. They’re automatically authentic and inherently trustworthy. Reputation and trust now drive purchase decisions.

Marketers have been reduced to influencing and prompting desired actions, recognizing marketers are no longer in control of the message. So what’s the new “influence and prompt secret sauce?” Becoming publishers and mastering the art of story-telling.

The challenge is to determine what matters to customers on an emotional level. Then we can formulate strategies to "activate" them - motivate customers and prompt them to take action. So it's critical to only publish stories that matter to customers. This requires listening, being honestly respectful of what customers care about and expressing authentic concern for their concerns.

Marketers need to form new habits including embracing business focused analytics, not just dashboard data. Stop talking about visitors, clicks, views, conversion and traffic. Rather, measure customer actions in business metrics that the CEO understands like lifetime customer value.

"Personas” and “behavioral architecture” are effective approaches to group customers and leverage known traits and behaviors. This translates to realizing how individual marketing channels interact and embracing accountability, and then acting upon these insights. “Conversion Attribution” refers to calculating “what role each tactic/campaign played in an eventual, final customer transaction.” This viewpoint considers an calculates each marketing channel's role, ie. search, email, PPC and weighting them. It's the science of understanding proper attribution of the end behavior – a sale, lead, download, etc – by tracking and revealing a customer’s digital Chronology of Purchase Intent. This is about changing marketing's dials/levers and watching them in real time.


Jason mentioned a blog post we did about Drs Foster and Smith's informational email that performed better than transactional: Should Retail Email Sell or Inform? An A/B Split Test Case Study

Also mentioned is a study by the Rimm-Kaufman Group on the incremental value of paid search comparing branded vs. non-branded search.

In defense of bidding on branded terms, the RKG group advises you separate branded and non-branded terms in your campaigns.

Enquiro also did a study and found showing your branded ad next to organic listings improves click through as it re-inforces the relevance of your brand to see 2 listings, even if the searcher clicks on the organic listing.

"Also, if a user sees BOTH your organic listing and your paid ad on the first page, your credibility goes through the roof. A recent study by Enquiro Search Solutions shows that owning both the top organic and paid position easily outperforms either spot individually. Combining the 1-2 punch of organic plus paid can increase not only your click-thru rate, but also ultimately your conversion rate as well."

Plus, if you're competitors are bidding on your brand, you may want to appear there too.


Q: What about customer service as a branding strategy, i.e. investing in amazing CSRs and return shipping vs. display and print ads. How can I measure the return on this directly?

A: Most customer service metrics are time spent on call, cost of servicing, minimizing interactions etc. Zappos great example because their approach is spend as much time with customers as necessary.

There are definitely metrics you can measure: customer satisfaction, customers that call back, how many times you touch these customers, positive response and so on. You can also have internal metrics for CSRs themselves. Make customer service a locus point for the organization, not a department but a rotating position that everybody goes through. Measure ability to engage with customers, Net Promoter Score etc. The core metric is repeat purchases.

Q: Does PPC meet your criteria for behavior based marketing?

A: Absolutely, it's built for that. But use it exclusively as a direct marketing vehicle rather than a branding exercise, with a measurable call to action. Marketing has a culture of hocus pocus to a certain degree where relationships with CEOs and CFOs rely on the fact they just don't know what you're talking about. Measurable actions developes accountability.

Q: Has search entrenched itself as a cottage industry? What does widespread attribution mean to the search industry?

Search has entrenched itself and may be trying to get out. It's highly scientific and highly technical and people who operate these business need to drop the veil. In order to have a seat at the table we all need to speak the same language and look at same business goals.

Conversion attribution, how is it oging to roll out? All the large ad networks think XYZ is the answer, the future, what they're running toward but the question is what value do we extract as advertisers and what value do we attach to this.


Jonathan Salem Baskin
jonathan @

Jeff Molander
jeff @

Jason Billingsley
jason.billingsley @

Twitter: @jbillingsley

Next Webinar

Selecting eCommerce Software in Six Weeks or Less

Wednesday, January 21, 2008 9am PST / 12pm EST

Guest speaker:
Bill Mirabito,
Principal Analyst, B2C Partners

Research indicates that ecommerce is growing, in spite of the economy. The online channel will be more important than ever in 2009, fueling upgrades of ecommerce platforms. With leaner budgets, meeting needs and mitigating risks require more scrutiny, even as the launch deadline looms. Four essential factors will mean the difference between reward and regret.

In this one hour webinar, Bill Mirabito of B2C Partners will share his process for identifying the right ecommerce platform and achieving consensus in six weeks or less. You will learn:

• How the economy will accelerate vendor consolidation
• How to build a vendor short list that reflects your business model
• How to organize RFP selection criteria for useful decision making
• How to conduct client reference calls that are candid and insightful
• How to present a recommendation and win the support of stakeholders

There will also be time for your questions. Sign up today