10 Ways for Brands to Keep Their Mojo as Markets Evolve

PR and marketing pros share interesting examples

EBay Backpack Final“eBay is like a kid who goes back to a high school reunion. Even if he or she changed, people think of them as the same. Our brand won’t stray from our auction marketplace roots, and now we’re taking who we are with us. These days our items are mainly new, not secondhand, and most are not sold in an auction format,” said Suzy Deering, CMO North America at eBay.

Deering was one of several speakers at the Financial Times (FT) Future of Marketing Summit on Wednesday in New York. PR, marketing, media and technology executives shared their perspectives on the complexities of global, national and local marketing.

We’ve distilled the day’s sessions into 10 communications, branding and marketing related takeaways. While many of these serve more as reminders rather than new points to consider, the novel approaches each company has taken are worth noting.

1. Go with the flow as brands evolve

“Ensure that you’re living with who the brand stands for now and have the brand evolve in that direction,” added Deering.

Another brand, Grubhub Seamless, adapted its approach as it became a public company, according to Steven Tristan Young, Grubhub’s vp of growth marketing. “We’ve changed over time, and are a bit less risky in our marketing now, but have retained our essence.”

2. Minimize promotional brand self-talk

“Brands have fallen into the trap of talking non-stop about themselves,” observed Hannah Grove, CMO of State Street. “So we partnered with TED Talks, and our employees presented on financial topics.” She reported that the talks have been viewed about 12 million times.

State Street Emojis Final3. Explain complex terms creatively

“We’ve broken down our acronyms, and now we’re explaining the complex terms in emojis,” said Grove. The movie The Big Short also used clever ways to help viewers understand complicated financial concepts.

4. Leverage humor effectively

“Brands need not be so precious about themselves,” said Matthew Harrington, global chief operating officer at Edelman. “The KFC ad with actor George Hamilton (known for deep tans) promoting crispy chicken sunscreen signaled to consumers that the brand is in on the joke.” (For other ways to leverage humorous content, check here.)

REI Skiing Resized5. Stick to a core purpose

“Consumers want their brands to be authentic and have a purpose,” said Harrington. He cited REI, an outdoor clothing retailer that closed its stores on Black Friday last year, urging its customers to go outside instead, via the hashtag #optoutside. Customers appreciated the move, which also generated extensive publicity.

6. Partner wisely for social impact

For eyeglass manufacturer Warby Parker, retail with a social cause has always been part of their business model. “We partner with Vision Spring, an organization that gives people around the world access to glasses,” said co-founder and co-CEO Neil Blumenthal. Though charity isn’t the leading reason consumers buy their brand, it’s the key reason employees work there.

7. Open up and share information selectively

“Be careful about sharing company information,” advised Harrington. He said GE Patents and its reverse engineering project serves as an example of a company who did so effectively. “They opened up their storeroom of expertise to let people play around.”

8. Use technology as an enabler

Trust in technology companies continues to remains high in Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer, according to Harrington. Despite hacking and privacy issues, he attributes that score to the fact that technology drives innovation and performs well for consumers. Deering concurred: “Let technology be your advocate,” she advised.

Orlando Magic Amway Center Resized9. Take a focused approach to local markets and media

“What works in New York media won’t work in San Francisco,” noted Young. Our subway ads in New York give us a way to deliver memorable lasting impressions with effective reach.”

10. Offer value added customized experiences

“The Orlando Magic basketball team worked with VenueNext to create an app. It connects fans to the entire experience at the Amway Center Stadium, so season ticket holders have more options,” said Anthony Perez, evp strategy. They can trade in extra game seats for Magic Money, for perks like locker room tours and mascot visits. “If you’re at a sports venue and not using an app, then you’re living in the past,” added John Paul, VenueNext’s founder and CEO.

(Images courtesy of Grubhub/Seamless; eBay; State Street; REI and Amway Center)