Understanding and Reaching the LOHAS Consumer

LOHAS Consumer PresentationKnowing your consumer is the first rule to successful marketing. Let’s face it, you don’t target people and market to them. That doesn’t work. You communicate with them in a marketplace setting. That’s marketing today. But it’s impossible to communicate if you don’t know who you’re talking to. Allow us to introduce you. View the presentation

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All American Pharmaceutical Selects Integrated Marketing Group To Handle Marketing, Advertising And Public Relations Efforts

SALT LAKE CITY — Integrated Marketing Group (IMG), a marketing and branding agency servicing a national and international clientele, today announced a working relationship with All American Pharmaceutical to provide marketing and branding services for the full-service ingredient supplier and contract manufacturer serving the natural products industry. In addition, the agency’s public relations staff will conduct ongoing media relations, trade show promotion and increase awareness of the company’s patented, pH-correct creatine products including Kre-Alkalyn(R) and Kre-Celazine(R).”We are looking forward to working with All American Pharmaceutical. They have a lot to talk about, including unique, patented products and a state-of-the-art manufacturing operation,” said Jeff Hilton, IMG president and partner. Continue reading

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Perspectives on Branding (Part 4 of 4): Communications Strategy and Message Integration

Communications Strategy and Message Integration

In my last article, I talked about the importance of cultivating the brand/customer relationship, moving the prospect through the stages of building brand equity.  Those stages being awareness, acceptance, trial, preference and loyalty.  Ultimately, marketing and branding are effective to the degree that they move the customer along that continuum.  And different tools in the marketing arsenal play different roles in the process.  That’s why they call it the marketing “mix”.

Different Tools for Different Tasks
Think of the marketing mix as a tool belt with different implements designed to accomplish a variety of jobs.  Granted, there is certainly some overlap, but each vehicle definitely has its particular strengths.  Failing to recognize that principle results in a myopic perspective that one tool (for example advertising) can address all of your marketing problems. So let’s consider what the key communications vehicles bring to the table:

Advertising.  The primary strengths of advertising lie in building aided and unaided awareness, reinforcing brand positioning/recognition and persuading and reminding the consumer to purchase.  Advertising can establish and enhance brand image, as well as communicate a focused selling proposition.  However, this is not a particularly strong medium for extensive product education, detail or demonstration.  It can be an effective direct response vehicle, but only if it is designed as such with a compelling offer and call to action.

Direct Marketing. Direct mail, direct response advertising and catalogs provide an immediate incentive to purchase such as a coupon or special offer.  They also are personalized and offer an opportunity to provide extensive product detail.  They can be used to demonstrate or visualize product function or benefits.  Unfortunately, much of direct marketing suffers from a negative image problem, and over half is summarily discarded or ignored.  Still, it can be a cost-efficient way to reach a broad range of potential customers.

Public Relations. It is ideal for re-tooling or reinforcing company or brand image and perceptions.  It offers third party credibility unmatched by other communications vehicles, and can create good will and positive energy for a product or service.  It can also stimulate demand given the right circumstances and exposure (can you say “Oprah?”).  In recent literature, PR has been called the new advertising in terms of its ability to help “birth” or establish a brand in the minds of consumers.  This is definitely a marketing discipline on the rise.

Sales Promotion. Usually defined as a marketing tool which shortens the distance between initial awareness of a brand and purchase of a brand.  In-store merchandising, coupons and sampling would be good examples. It generally incorporates a specific incentive for trial or purchase, and is best used to elicit response or action on the part of the consumer.  This is a tool best suited for short term, immediate results.  In other words, a spike in sales rather than a slow lasting build.

Internet. The most personal and interactive of all media, it is best used to foster and build a relationship with your current and potential customers.  It can deliver in-depth product information, features and benefits, and is a great research tool for perspective buyers.  Searching the Web often proceeds a purchase at a bricks and mortar location.  The core strength of this vehicle is its unique ability to engage prospects and invite interaction with the brand.  Differentiating oneself amidst the Web clutter is the major challenge facing Internet marketers, as the environment is increasingly competitive and overwhelming.

Speaking with One Voice
As you select the appropriate marketing tools, refine your positioning, and execute your creative strategy, don’t forget about the importance of integrating your message from both a strategic and execution perspective so that your disparate marketing efforts “speak with one voice.”  Once your value proposition and key selling message are defined for the brand, all marketing communications should serve to reinforce your agreed upon brand positioning.  As much as that may sound like an obvious tactic, I can tell you from personal experience that it is frequently overlooked.  It is easy to get caught up in the unique role of each vehicle and forget that the strategy and message must be clearly and consistently communicated across all channels.

The advantages of message integration are many, but key benefits include:
•    Generates increased sales over time
•    Improves and focuses the creative product
•    Builds team morale, communication and output
•    Clarifies and reinforces consumer awareness and attitudes
•    Builds long-term brand preference
•    Adds value to your product positioning

My thanks to those who have followed this series from the beginning.  As simple as the principles of marketing are, the discipline will always be a challenging combination of art and science.  I have tried in these articles to guide you through the necessary steps for self-evaluation and self-improvement with the end goal of helping you to be more effective at marketing your products and services.  May you have great success.

Jeff Hilton
Co-founder, Partner
Integrated Marketing Group

Previously published in Functional Ingredients

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Branding Perspectives (Part 3 of 4): Cultivating the Brand-Customer Relationship

Cultivating the Brand-Customer Relationship

In my last article, I discussed the importance of creating a relevant and compelling value proposition which communicates to your sales prospects the core reason why they should purchase your product or service. It has both functional and emotional components. Once you have a strong value proposition, you can begin to develop advertising and promotional materials that encourage and foster a connection or relationship between the product and the prospect.

The goal of all marketing communication is to build some degree of customer loyalty to your brand. But it’s a lot like dating. As the chart demonstrates, the relationship with your future customer moves through stages, in both a theoretical and practical sense. Let’s briefly follow that path:

Awareness. At this stage, your prospective buyer first becomes aware of your brand’s existence. Key marketing tools in this phase include advertising, public relations, packaging and word of mouth communication or referral. Your goal at this stage should be to create exposure for the brand name and brand identity.

Acceptance. At this point, your prospect has done some research and checked you out with various influencers (family/friends/retailers), and has decided that your brand is a potential purchase alternative next time they are shopping in whatever category you compete. I call that becoming part of their “considered set.” Key marketing tools in this phase are the Internet and retail stores, as well as product literature. Your goal at this stage should be to get educational information out in all communications channels that focuses on brand features and benefits.

Trial. At this stage, your prospect has become a customer by making a trial purchase of your product or service. Key marketing tools here include sales promotion incentives such as in-store displays, coupons, bonus buys and other price incentives, which enhance perceived value. Your goal here is to provide compelling reasons to purchase that make your brand a superior alternative to the competition. Keep in mind that this decision is almost always made at the actual point of purchase. For example, when I go into 7-11 looking for a soda this summer, whichever one is on ice near the counter is most likely the one I will purchase, even if I was thinking about another brand when I came in.

Preference. At this point, your customer would prefer to purchase your brand, all things being equal. Those last four words are important, because brand switching is rampant in most consumer categories and can be influenced by price, availability, word of mouth recommendation, and point of purchase activity. Which is why working to keep loyal customers happy has become the focus of relationship marketing programs for most companies. Tools at this stage include bounce-back offers or coupons, rebates, advertising and public relations. Your goal at this point is to stay prominent in the minds of your customers and give them reasons to come back. When I used to work in the men’s shaving cream category, we would offer a bonus buy or special on-pack promotion every time our competitor would introduce a new product. It’s all about keeping your prospects attention away from the competition in any way that you can.

Loyalty. It’s the Holy Grail of marketing. But it’s not easy to find or keep hold of. Studies show that brand loyalty across all categories is declining. A Bain & Company study revealed that the typical U.S. company loses half its customers in five years. The reasons for declining customer loyalty are clear:
• Overwhelming number of choices or options
• Abundance of education and information easily available
• Increased price competition
• Increasing commoditization of most consumer categories
• Growing personal insecurity reflected in bankruptcies
• Greater time scarcity

Key marketing tools here include loyalty programs, advertising, public relations and other “value-added” strategies. It’s no accident that every hotel and airline and dry cleaner and bagel shop in the country has a loyalty program. You should too. Your goal here is to keep your customer satisfied and provide incentives for them to remain in the brand franchise. It’s important to remember that the consumer you were likely selling to ten years ago no longer exists. She has evolved. She is savvy, selective and much too busy to care about how much money you are spending to persuade her to buy your brand. She has plenty of options. So in your quest to capture her loyalty, it’s not just about working harder. It’s about working smarter. Get creative.

In summary, the goal of every marketer should be to move their customers up the loyalty ladder, so to speak. And with a solid brand identity, a persuasive value proposition and sound execution, that goal should be attainable.

Jeff Hilton
Co-founder, Partner
Integrated Marketing Group

Previously published in Functional Ingredients

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Healthy Foods Conference And Expo East Tap IMG's Hilton For Education Sessions

SALT LAKE CITY — Jeff Hilton, president and co-founder of Integrated Marketing Group (IMG), a marketing and branding agency servicing a national and international clientele, announced today his invitation to participate in education sessions at both the Healthy Foods Conference and Natural Products Expo East happening Wednesday, September 26 through Saturday, September 29 in Baltimore, Md. During these two presentations, marketing expert Hilton will provide insight on the many issues facing healthy products suppliers and manufacturers, including the importance of market research, strategic product positioning, regulatory compliance, effective merchandising and a solid brand identity. Continue reading

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Branding Perspectives (Part 2 of 4): Creating a Value Proposition for Your Customer

Creating a Value Proposition for Your Customer

In my last article, I reviewed the importance of building a proprietary brand identity to support product differentiation in the marketplace.  Once that identity is established, the critical process of translating that identity into meaningful consumer language begins.  In other words, it’s not enough to have a good idea if you can’t tell people about it in an effective and persuasive manner.  That of course is the job of good marketing.  I call this step building or communicating a value proposition.

Consumers buy products and services because they provide unique satisfaction of needs or wants.  That exchange brings the consumer value or something of worth for monies expended.  The job of advertising and packaging and sales promotion activity is to communicate brand value in a compelling way.  The ultimate goal is to move the customer along the path from brand awareness to brand acceptance to brand trial.

So what is a value proposition?  It’s a summary of the persuasive and relevant reasons why the customer should buy your product or service.  It flows out of your brand positioning and brand identity.  It is comprised of two major components: functional benefits and emotional benefits.

Functional benefits include the practical and physical advantages featured in your product.  This might be how the product is packaged, the dosage form or delivery system, unique coloration, or some extraordinary ingredient.  For example, when Hero Nutrition was looking to introduce a new supplement for kids, they discovered an opportunity to package it in a “pixie stick” delivery system for powdered supplements.  Kids love pixie sticks.  Moms love that kids love pixie sticks.  This delivery system makes kids happy and mom’s job easier.  Win win.  And so Yummi Blast™ was born.

Emotional benefits relate to how the product or service will make the consumer feel.  How will they interact with it?  How will it affect their daily lives?  Will it make her day go better because of its convenience?  Will it improve his love life?  Will it allow them both to spend more years together free of disease?  Will it make someone feel important?  Will it make someone happy?  Will it relieve guilt?  You get the idea.  The point here is that it’s hard to overestimate the degree to which people buy products and services for emotional reasons that are not necessarily logical or rational.  It’s why people spend more for a Lexus.  It’s why women pay more for lingerie from Victoria Secret.  It’s why men go to the gym every night when they would rather stay home.  People remember what they felt long after they’ve forgotten what they heard.  Never forget that consumers buy with their hearts as much as with their heads.  So in formulating a value proposition, keep in mind how the customer will relate to what you are selling on a purely emotional basis.  And then make sure you speak to that in your marketing communication.

Once you have identified these functional and emotional benefits, then you are ready to begin working on ways to communicate them in a creative and relevant manner.  Those two words are carefully chosen.  Creativity is necessary because research shows that people react more positively to new stimuli that are different from that previously received.  By taking new and distinctive approaches in your marketing communications, be it advertising or merchandising or packaging, you are more likely to attract and maintain your customer’s attention.  Being relevant underscores the importance of delivering messages to your customer in a way that is meaningful and important to him or her, not just to you.

Real World Applications

IMG recently helped a Midwest company launch an innovative new brand of liquid soap called Fresh Scents™.  Through a patented process they had combined liquid hand soap with a separate air freshener in one convenient container.  This product had clear functional benefits in its economical, dual use capability.  It also had significant emotional benefits embodied in its boutique fragrances and elegant, sleek bottle design that would compliment any décor.  Subsequently, our advertising and merchandising materials reflected both types of benefits with great success.

Nutri-Grain does the same thing with its “Respect Yourself” campaign.  The functional benefit lies in the low fat content of the bars.  The emotional benefit is that since your are what you eat, this low fat snack will look better on you than a high fat muffin or Danish.

So, to recap, communicating a value proposition means defining the functional and emotional benefits of your product or service and then sharing that message in a creative and relevant way.

In my next installment, I will talk about building brand equity and the importance of brand integration in successful marketing.

Jeff Hilton
Co-founder, Partner
Integrated Marketing Group

Previously published in Functional Ingredients

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Perspectives on Branding (Part 1 of 4): Power Branding

Power Branding

Welcome to my world. This is the first of a four part series examining a discipline I like to call Power Branding. Branding of course is the ongoing process of creating a unique and compelling brand image in the minds of current and potential customers. Power Branding involves taking it to a new level by evaluating traditional branding philosophy from a multi-dimensional perspective. Specifically, giving consideration to four key activities:
• Building brand identity
• Communicating a value proposition
• Cultivating the brand/customer relationship
• Creating brand equity

In this installment let’s consider the first task. It’s critical when you are marketing a product or service to always remember that your brand image is a composite of impressions delivered at multiple points of contact with the customer. For example, my mental image of the Lexus brand is not one-dimensional; rather it is a combination of inputs including advertising, direct mail, what my brother who owns a Lexus thinks of his, how the salesman at the dealership treated me when I took a test drive, and what the New York Times had to say about Lexus and corporate social responsibility. Doesn’t that ring true in your experience with brands that you like or dislike? This premise builds a case for integration in marketing messaging that insures that your overall marketing campaign speaks with “one voice” in the marketplace. My point here is that nothing you do in branding your product or service will really matter at all if your messaging is not integrated and focused. That is clearly Job #1. And that happens through clearly defining marketing and creative strategy, identifying key messages relating to the features and benefits you bring to the marketplace, and effectively coordinating all of your different “voices” including advertising, public relations, packaging, sales promotion, relationship marketing and online communications.

What is Brand Identity?
Brand identity has to do with how the consumer views and interacts with your brand. Consumers perceive and consume brands on several levels:

Brand as Product – this includes the physical attributes, features and benefits of your product or service. It might be an easy open closure for seniors, a qualified FDA heart health claim, or a novel new delivery form.

Brand as Organization
– this includes your policies and procedures, business practices, and your corporate citizenship within the community. Customers are increasingly aware of and interested in what type of company you are behind the image they readily see, and with the World Wide Web that information is easily accessed.

Brand as Person – we have found through years of qualitative research that consumers generally describe brands using terms that they might use to describe a friend or acquaintance. For example, I might describe Maytag as “reliable” or “dependable” or “trustworthy” in my attempt to characterize the brand as I perceive it.

Brand as Symbol – this refers to the imagery connected to or projected by a brand including graphics or a logo or even a color scheme. When I think Nexium, I see purple. When I think Nike, I see the swoosh. There is a reason for that.

All of these perspectives play into your customers impression of your brand image, and each one needs to be considered as you craft and build a memorable and relevant brand identity.

Real World Applications

There are of course many national marketers who are actively implementing these types of strategies on an ongoing basis. Look at the Altoids brand. There is probably no more compelling brand personality in marketing today. Breath mints are the epitome of a low-interest category. No one actively thinks about it. Yet Altoids has managed to create a unique and memorable niche for “curiously strong mints” and they own it outright. Each ad maintains the same outrageous visual style, and the second you see an ad for Altoids, you recognize it. Even line extension ads promoting the breath strips and sours have maintained that same distinctive tone. Masterful. And as a result, they own the category and brand loyalty is intense. Ever had someone open a box of generic mints and say “Want an Altoid?” Enough said.

To recap, Power Branding begins with the task of building brand identity. It’s vital to consider your brand from various perspectives, because the consumer certainly will. In my next article, I will discuss the whys and hows of creating and communicating a value proposition. Please join me.

Jeff Hilton
Co-founder, Partner
Integrated Marketing Group

Previously published in Functional Ingredients

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How Bad Advertising Happens to Good Companies

From Nutrition Industry Executive, February 2006 Issue
By Jeff Hilton, Integrated Marketing Group, 2006

Whenever I have a few moments to spare, usually on an airplane, I look through industry trade and consumer magazines. Yes I read the articles, but often I just look at the ads. I consider myself to be a student of advertising, and I enjoy studying it from both a strategic and a creative perspective. So I pick out an ad and try to back into the creative strategy that the Client had in mind when they and/or their agency developed it. Sometimes it’s clear and the strategy is obvious. Other times the key selling message is confusing and clouded. And occasionally it seems impossible to decipher what the company was trying to communicate at all. Of course I realize that this process is subjective, but after 30 years of either being a Client or working with them, it has become increasingly clear to me how easy it is for company decision makers to get “too close” to the process and begin creating advertising that speaks primarily to themselves and not really to the target customer. Continue reading

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Building Strong Brands

by David A. Aaker
Hardcover – 380 pages (December 1995)
Buy from Amazon.com

“The single most useful book I’ve found on brand development. Aaker presents a thorough, but easy to read exploration of the many branding complexities. Giving the reader a framework of inter-related concepts, he gets the essence of each point with useful examples. You immediately understand the idea and move comfortably on to the next – quite an accomplishment for such a complex subject.”
- from Amazon.com

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