What do Barbie™ and legalized canna-business have in common? First, both have been making headlines, popping up in my social feeds for the last several weeks, with news about revolutionizing existing products or launching revolutionary services. Second, I believe both are experiencing flashpoint moments in their histories that make them ideal candidates for peer-to-peer Employee Advocacy programs.
Cultural icon Barbie™ has a whole new diverse squad of pals whose squad goals and attitudes reflect a shifting society. On the opposite end of the culture spectrum is the brand new legalized canna-business industry, racing to shift beliefs and capture early market share.
Looking first at Mattel, Inc. Potential benefits include: improved brand perception, increased employee satisfaction, high quality recruitment and increased retention, increased revenue.
Mattel's Barbie™ brand has taken its fair share of lumps over the years in the press and the court of public opinion, with loss of market share reflected year-over-year on Wall Street. A simple search for "Barbie body image" tells what could be the whole story, but Mattel's strategic move to develop a contemporary collection of dolls makes room for a different story than the one the "internets" want to keep telling.
Newly energized with new product and new management, this is an ideal time to empower Mattel's most loyal employee ambassadors with brand approved content and tools, helping them share Barbie's evolving success story right now. Positive things are happening across the organization and keeping teams up to date through a transparent employee communications strategy has potential to:
Switching gears to the legalized cannabis industry's Pineapple Express. Potential benefits: Regulated business showing transparency and increased consumer confidence, undiluted brand value through carefully controlled content, developing franchisees into local experts and thought leaders.
Pineapple Express is a "publicly traded company that invests in, expands, and brands existing and newly established canna-businesses through expert consulting and cutting-edge technology." Talk about a revolution! Operating in a highly regulated industry could foster fears around social sharing, but when approaching this challenge through an employee or brand advocacy framework, those fears begin to melt.
Why? Because an advocacy approach sets up clear guidelines with pre-planned content that insures those who are sharing stay within legal (or brand defined) guardrails. This applies to employees or franchisees.
Like all franchised businesses, I'm assuming Pineapple Express will be responsible for providing franchisees with quality marketing and promotional material. Likewise, they may need to keep those "franchisees" up to date with any legal requirements at the national and municipal levels.
Their business will be under more scrutiny than the average start-up, and I believe a branded advocacy program can deliver:
Would four blindfolded judges turn their chairs hearing your authenticity, intention, and unique perspective? Who's doing the talking for your brand? That is, the social talking across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Your CEO, CMO, or Communications Director will likely represent you in press materials and conferences but who will we hear when we engage with your brand through social?
No doubt about it, this is a tricky one - and yet - we immediately recognize the distinct tone of an irreverent street sounding Thug Kitchen or the dearly departed Daily Candy that spawned hundreds of imitators. In both examples we believe in the person behind the screen because they're not talking AT us ... they're talking TO us in the exact same way they'd be talking to us if we were in a room with them. Thug Kitchen would still be throwing F-bombs while demo-ing soba noodle recipes, and Daily Candy would still be the smart slightly snarky girl at your gym who really does know what all the latest and greatest trends are before anyone else.
They make it look easy but it can be done! I worked with a non-profit client whose mission was to encourage routine voluntary HIV testing in a hard-hit region of the country. While the virus impacted every CDC category identified, we still needed a unified voice from which to move forward.
I struggled with who was doing the talking for them but I was very clear that it wasn't the voice of the Project Director. The PD fulfilled certain requirements like professionalism, respect, knowledge of the medical issues involved, passion for the conversation but on balance was too dry to capture attention in a social space, especially when the audience could be young teenagers or mothers with questions for their families. That voice left no wiggle room for creative discussion or a crucial guidepost for engaging in conversation.
Then during a presentation by the campaign's Public Health Liaisons, a team of respected multicultural HIV educators doing outreach across the entire community, it hit me! The PHLs came into contact with every conceivable demographic on a daily basis, and from the public's point of view they were the TRUE VOICE of the campaign. They created a no-stigma zone sharing expertise, smiling, holding someone's hand, and never passing judgment.
The difference between their approach and that of the Project Director was their perceived humanity.
You could literally see people lean in to the conversation because they felt safe and perhaps understood, and this is what happened each time they connected with the public. It was like a VOICE four-chair turnaround because it was the real unmanufactured deal and it couldn't be ignored or denied. Our job was to replicate that energy and intention on social, and that realization changed everything about the campaign's social strategy.
What brands do you think would garner a four-chair turnaround for their clear unmistakeable voice? Leave your thoughts here or on the original LinkedIn post.
Let's talk about your logo and your brand life. Since the start of the new year I've had four separate conversations about what brand identity means and how to incorporate that brand promise across social touchpoints.
Every business is unique but each of these conversations were nearly identical. They went like this:
KC: Tell me about your brand.
Colleague: Oh! We have our logo - it's great!
KC: Fantastic. That's not your brand, though. Can you tell me a little something about who Biz ABC is?
Colleague: We provide ___ service to ___ customer.
KC: That's what you DO but I'd like to hear you are ARE?
It's always at this exact moment where the crickets start chirping.
Before I go on, let me say that all four of these colleagues are super smart, accomplished in their chosen fields, and super nice people as an added bonus but all are still operating on an old paradigm that said "We are our logo."
Scott Stratton of UnMarketing has been talking about this for years. You might remember the Ritz Carlton customer experience story he shares to illustrate how a global presence, even like the venerable Ritz Carlton, isn't in business today because they have a nice logo. It's about the expectation they've established that your stay with them won't just be a great (lower case) experience but a BOLD ALL CAPS EXPERIENCE.
The first conversation centered around a tech platform that facilitates creative critiquing by ones' peers. It's a fantastic idea and still in beta. Now's the time for them to decide WHO they are by outlining their core brand values. It's the right time to determine what those creative souls -- brave enough to float their ideas out to the universe for praise or commentary -- will gain emotionally from participating.
Another conversation started with, "We always ask ourselves 'what would Prada do'?" I get that. It sounds like they want their customers to have a perception of luxury, of quality down to the last detail. They want to sell aspiration, a piece of a perceived lifestyle. But I still don't know WHO they are or what they stand for. What's the experience I'm going to have if I buy your product that will make me tell all my friends? That's the content I'd like to see them develop -- and of course with impeccable attention to what that content looks like.
What would Prada do? I think they'd start with these three things:
Your brand is a living breathing thing. Your logo is not. That's where we begin in our work together.
A fresh notebook of thoughts on taking a social-first approach to modern marketing and the shifting sands of social storytelling. Shamelessly mixing metaphors on the way.