A Guest Post By Jim Joseph
Last week I had the distinct privilege of being a guest host on #prstudchat. At first I was excited to be invited, thinking that someone out there thought I was a stud. But when I realized it was going to be full of students … well as a professor at NYU I jumped at the chance!
I am a big believer in the overall brand experience as a way to think about marketing a product. But the truth is there are lots of people who have theories about marketing. For me, it’s less about theory and more about practicing and observing and learning and reapplying. Marketing is a spectator sport, and we can all learn from the marketplace and from each other. Twitter chats are one great way of getting together and sharing. And when it’s quick and 140 characters, all the better! I so enjoyed the “experience!”
QUESTION ONE: How does PR contribute to a customer experience that builds loyalty?
We are the lucky ones! I believe that public relations is actually the closest to the consumer. Especially with social media, we are the part of the marketing mix that is talking directly to consumers as they live their lives. We have been trained to talk WITH our consumers, not AT them (as in advertising). We seek out the influencers who they trust, even when it’s just their other girlfriends! In that way, our efforts seek to build relationships that lead to loyalty and ultimately create a lasting brand experience. That puts us in charge of building the brand experience and ultimately for me, the brand.
QUESTION TWO: What are favorite examples of companies with strong and consistent branding?
In my books, I discuss a number of examples where a brand has created a consistent and relevant experience that has created long-lasting loyalty. J.Crew is one of my favorites because they’ve been able to tailor their experience, yet keep it consistent across all of their venues be it retail, web, social media, or catalog. Every interaction is uniquely J.Crew, yet specific to the touchpoint.
Lady Gaga also comes to mind. She’s not just a marketer, but also a brand. Perhaps one of the best at having a strong mission for the “underdog”, consistent messaging about her fans, and a compelling experience that evolves and evolves.
I would say that brand Paula Deen fell off the wagon this month. She had a very consistent experience (like it or not) but she took a very sharp turn and it is jarring for her fans. Let’s leave it at that!
Can’t talk about the brand experience without talking about the magic of Disney – across all of their theme parks, movies, tv shows, merchandise – it’s all about the magic of childhood and recapturing it with your family. They own it!
QUESTION THREE: What communications touchpoints engage customers the most?
The answer to this one depends on the consumer and how they live their lives. But in general, I would say that the most effective touchpoints are the ones that seemingly naturally pop up when the consumer is in the right mindset for your brand. I’ve seen touchpoints in gyms that are more relevant than mass advertising or PR!
The best touchpoint is the one that bumps into your consumer at the time they might consider you. The other day I was at the gym and saw a poster in the men’s locker room for athlete’s foot. Now that’s a touchpoint and a brand message that is “right place, right time!” And you know what, they had samples at the front desk as well.
The best way to pick touchpoints is to know your consumer and how she specifically lives her life. Figure out ways to get in front of her when she needs you. That’s how she’ll jump onto your brand experience and then hopefully share it with others.
QUESTION FOUR: What advice would you give to PR students & pros about creating a better brand experience?
We could write volumes about this, and in fact I have! But to keep it simple, the first step is to know your consumer and to know her better than your competition does. To know her is to know how to market with her. The second step is to know what you, as a brand, are capable of offering her. You can’t give your consumer something that is outside of your brand’s skill sets and abilities. So the key is to match what she wants and needs with what you are uniquely able to offer to her. Then build the experience on her terms – when and how she needs you.
QUESTION FIVE: What are the secrets to finding success at a New York PR firm?
I think you need to be willing to do anything to learn. My best advice is to start out working on a smaller brand where you can play a bigger role. There’s not as much staffing on the small brands so you can become more of a leader and do more strategic activities sooner.
Make yourself indispensable to your clients and to your teammates. Be the “go to” person for the brand’s information and you’ll find yourself in the middle of all the meetings where decisions are being made. You’ll be in the middle of the action, not on the sidelines waiting to hear what’s going on.
Don’t expect anything to be handed to you. Use some sweat equity to build your own brand. Others will start to figure out that you are a future leader and they will gravitate towards you.
Think about what you want your own brand experience to be for the people you work with and for – make yourself valuable for them and you will rise!
Jim Joseph is the President of Lippe Taylor, the Author of “The Experience Effect” series and a professor at NYU