Roger L. Kay founded Endpoint Technologies Associates, an independent technology market intelligence company, in 2005. Previously, he was a vice president at IDC, covering desktop and mobile computers. Before that, he ran his own research and analysis firm and worked for a variety of companies in the technology arena. He is multilingual, a frequent world-traveler, and has even bicycled over the Alps. He now lives in Massachusetts with his wife and two children.
What is the key to making a company highly visible in the market? What methods do you use to make this happen?
To create a clear brand image, a company has to make repeated and consistent brand impressions. The marketing can't get out ahead of the product, but once the product is solid, marketing expenditure is what will drive visibility and revenue growth. All brand elements have to be in place when the campaign begins. Spending marketing dollars when you don’t have the product in place is essentially a waste. You’re calling attention to the thing when the thing isn’t ready. Your customers wander away. They might kick the tires, but they won’t stay with you.
There’s a point at which your product is generating its own traffic, through word of mouth and excitement. The people who try it like it. You can get that level of affirmation from non-marketing expenditures, such as the WhatsApp situation. They didn’t have any formal marketing; it was entirely a product play.
Once you have a real product, you can amplify it. It’s pouring gasoline on the fire. That’s the point at which it makes sense to spend money on marketing, to give people the opportunity to have the same experience as the initial loyal customers. Somebody finds you, they like what you’ve got, they tell a few friends, and you can take that good feeling and expand it further.
Social media feedback should be incorporated as it comes in. You have to know something about each platform. LinkedIn is more professional, an adult, buttoned-down-shirt kind of place, where your approach is more businesslike. Facebook is more whimsical, and more about personalities. You have to develop a persona for each of those forums that matches what people expect there.
But consistency is what will make the brand shine and attract notice. Everybody gets all proud when they get a quote in the Wall Street Journal. It turns out that one impression is close to valueless. Unless it’s the quote that ended the world, it’s not going to make that much difference. You need multiple impressions so you get people to notice—thousands of impressions, multichannel, in all kinds of different places. At some point, it’s in someone’s unconsciousness and they think they’ve heard of it.
What do you frequently see businesses doing that hurts their visibility instead of promoting it?
Constant adjusting of the brand image blurs the aggregated impression. "What do these guys stand for, anyway?" is not what you want readers, viewers, listeners to be thinking. Batten it down, test it, and tighten it up some more first. Then, go out with it through appropriate channels. Creative should be varied and interesting, but the core brand values ought to be as steady as the North Star.
The “lipstick on a pig” metaphor works pretty well. You can’t really polish something that’s not any good to begin with. The product has to be really worthy. The marketing job should be easier because when you’re talking about something really good, and you’re enthusiastic, you don’t look like an idiot. You see marketing people touting stuff that’s essentially terrible, but they don’t have the option to admit what everyone can see: that the product is terrible. They’re paid to say it’s great, and it’s really hard to do if it’s not great. It’s much better if the product is up to speed.
What tips do you have for companies that want to simplify their processes, as well as make the workplace more innovative?
It's important to pare away the superfluous, to shave the company down to its essence. That allows everyone to focus on the value proposition that drives market presence and revenue. The degree of innovation depends on the industry, the character of the company, who the CEO is, and whether employees can make meaningful creative contributions.
For example, I was just on Virgin America yesterday. They have a safety video that’s well done. It’s not really marketing, though it is, because it supports the Virgin brand. It’s high-production-value stuff—good music, great video, the actors are professional, the dancers and singers are great. And they probably spent quite a lot of money on it. Now, it’s just a safety video, right? Other airlines would say, just have the stewardesses do it live. But [Virgin CEO] Richard Branson has said that airlines don’t know how to make you feel good, and that airlines make you feel terrible most of the time. The business of flying is sheer misery. So let’s do different things, make people feel better, and have a really nice safety instruction video.
Sometimes management just needs employees to do the work, which isn't always creative. But employees should be encouraged to find more efficient ways of doing their jobs. That's to everyone's benefit.
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