Ask Me Anything: TR CEO April White Answers Our Top 5 Marketing Questions
At a time when consumers are being presented with messages and products across multiple channels on a daily, hourly, and minutely (yes, that’s a real word!) basis, the importance of integrated marketing and PR has never been greater. Investing in an integrated marketing strategy ensures consistency of messaging and branding across all of your owned and earned channels. That cohesion helps build brand awareness and consumer trust while also boosting your marketing campaign results. Implementing integrated marketing may be a hefty investment, especially on the front end, as teams work to develop consistent messaging and branding. Still, it will save you time and money in the long run. An integrated digital marketing strategy allows you to utilize the same creative content across multiple channels, increasing brand awareness, building consumer trust while also improving your ROI.
Below, I will answer the top questions I receive as the CEO and founder of an integrated marketing agency, and share a few insights to help you achieve overall marketing success for your brand.
1. What should marketing departments be thinking about (but probably aren’t)?
Marketing agencies and departments need to factor in the state of the economy and international affairs when preparing any strategies for their target markets. In 2020, we saw how the pandemic quickly changed messaging strategies across virtually every industry, and brands faced pressure to underscore their efforts to run operations safely for their employees and customers. This is one example of an instance in which brands must consider the context of the customer experience – and how to position themselves, their products and their services in relation to the impact that global events have on their customers.
As we prepare to enter 2023, it is evident that people are starting to worry about inflation and a possible recession. Consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about how much they spend on groceries, gas and other necessities. If you aren’t already considering this in your overall approach as a marketing department, it’s time you start.
Is your tone of voice empathetic and helpful? Do your target customers even want that, or are you selling goods in a market where luxury reigns supreme? What does the audience you are speaking to need to hear? What pain points are you solving? What needs does your company fulfill?
Consider how you can shift your tone of voice, messaging, and other marketing tactics to factor in the experiences of your desired customer base, as it will likely play into your success as we enter a new year.
2. What trends should brands avoid in today’s shifting PR and marketing landscape?
There is an ever-increasing trend of brands engaging in activism in their marketing efforts. I do not believe politics, religion or other sensitive topics have a guaranteed place in brand positioning. In fact, the public statements of support many brands feel compelled to offer in today’s media climate end up sounding hollow and disingenuous. After all, today’s savvy customers can recognize a marketing play when they see one.
Unless your brand has a proven track record of supporting specific social causes, your company is likely better served by not tossing a hat in the ring when it comes to polarizing socio-political topics. Doing so without previous involvement makes those actions look inauthentic and can even damage brand trust — especially if your company doesn’t have a history of supporting that particular cause. Another reason to avoid this is that in some cases, it may ostracize half of your audience for an issue that may not still exist in a few months.
Developing consistent messaging guidelines and a master messaging document for reference can come in handy when polarizing topics arise. Some companies list social causes in their core messages, as it is relevant to the operation of their services. (Consider, for example, a freight company that has committed to be carbon neutral). In contrast, others might have a core message on not taking a public stance on behalf of any dividing topic. Whatever the case, consistency is critical. It lets customers know what to expect from your brand, and ensures you can back up your public statements with action.
3. What misconceptions about marketing have you noticed among brands?
One marketing myth I know has no place in authentic leadership is that a brand has to organize a “stunt” or say something outrageous to get attention and gain market share. I don’t like these tactics because the storytelling and the story-doing of the business usually aren’t aligned.
This approach comes off as too opportunistic when it’s not done from a place of authenticity, and is instead being done solely to generate headlines or social buzz. Conceiving a stunt for quick-turn press coverage can even be offensive to your target market, especially if you had a loyal following before the marketing stunt.
Companies need to remember that consumers want to trust the companies they are doing business with, and a key component of trust is consistency. If a company participates in a marketing stunt to gain attention, without an authentic tie-in to that brand’s mission, key messages and market interests, most consumers today are savvy enough to see right through it.
4. What kinds of results can marketing efforts generate for brands?
On the subject of “walking the talk” in your marketing efforts, I take my own advice when it comes to pursuing my goals for the future of Trust Relations. This past year, using the same methods we prescribe for many of our clients, I am proud to say I crossed an item off of my own thought leadership bucket list, and delivered my first TEDx talk. “Is Living United Worth the Fight?” delves into the power of self-reflection and moving beyond the differences that sow division and judgment in today’s society — something I am passionate about both personally and for my own company. I was also recognized as the Most Innovative Woman of the Year – Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations at the Stevie Awards, as a result of four years of continuous efforts to redefine public relations with our real-life approach to PR, marketing and “anti-agency” culture.
For clients, authenticity is similarly powerful. Our recent case study for client Fox Logistics is a good example. Fox Logistics has been revolutionizing the freight industry for over 30 years, with sustainable third-party ground, air and ocean shipping services. By telling that authentic story through PR and marketing strategies designed to highlight the company’s “IRL” efforts, we achieved a complete website refresh and generated more than 271 million media impressions.
5. What interesting trends did you see in integrated marketing and PR this past year?
I love when a brand figures out its critical differentiators relating to brand storytelling and then comes up with ways to activate that narrative in real life. When done right, it looks effortless and has a “no duh” factor because it is glaringly apparent that the action and the story behind it are a natural extension of the brand.
Consider the now-famous Dove Real Beauty campaign, which was far ahead of its time. This strategy kicked off in the early 2000s, when supermodels reigned supreme in the consumer marketing scene. Dove broke barriers by emphasizing that everyday consumers’ bodies were worthy of care and deserved to be celebrated — and they demonstrated that by actually featuring six average women in their national ads. The stunt worked because they “walked the talk” and really did feature average women, rather than scouting famous faces to portray their customers in those ad spots.
This type of approach ties into the very core of what “trust relations” is all about — honestly conveying a clients’ authentic actions, value and goodwill. In other words — especially in today’s market — you must do what you say before you can say what you do. Whenever I see a company do this well, I think, “This is brilliant. This is where the future of digital marketing is going.”
Similarly, when a partnership or collaboration is done in the same way — where it amplifies a brand through partnering synergistically with a parallel brand — that’s a great way to reach a new audience.
Consistency is key.
Consistency is the foundation for all marketing strategies, whether we are talking about a shifting marketplace, sensitive topics, or creative tactics to amplify brands. And consistency across multiple channels — the core of integrated marketing — is the ultimate driver of a marketing campaign’s results. For a brand to succeed in an ever-changing market, it is essential to be aware of how the social environment impacts your target audience while being a beacon of stability despite economic uncertainty.
Interested in learning how your brand can leverage these strategies to maximize success? We want to hear from you. Reach out to us here.
Trust Relations Team