In today’s rapidly evolving marketing landscape, it’s crucial for professionals to stay ahead of the curve. A fantastic start: Learning from the wisdom of other marketers.

This blog post offers valuable insights from three seasoned marketing experts who shared their unique perspectives and strategies on branding, inclusive marketing, and the integration of AI at AMA Madison’s January 16 Marketing Workshop. Read on to get a key takeaway from all three presenters: Laura Hulleman, Karen Baker, and Peter Prodromou

Takeaway 1: Streamline and Customize Small Business Branding with Identity Aligned Branding.

If you’ve tried selling branding services to small business owners, you’re probably all too familiar with these challenges:

  1.     Small business owners often don’t understand what “branding” truly is or why it’s important.
  2.     They either aren’t willing or can’t afford to invest in branding fully – their marketing budgets are already stretched thin.
  3.     They are heavily advertised to, which requires extra effort on your part to stand out amid the noise.

Our presenter Laura Hulleman spent years researching and recognizing these patterns, ultimately creating Endotype Branding, the branding system based on the Endotype Formula.

What is the Endotype Formula?

Unlike traditional branding models, which are designed to help larger corporations succeed and therefore fail to address the 3 challenges above, the Endotype Formula is tailored to the needs of small businesses. It does this by identifying the small business owner’s aligned brand before the sale even happens. This comes as issuing a simple, comprehensive, 4-question personality assessment.

The Assessment

In Laura’s experience, this personality assessment yields results that are so incredibly accurate that clients are often astounded by how much the assessment “gets them” and their brand. They immediately want to learn more. As a result, when that first client meeting occurs, the client already has a brand they identify with. They also come into the meeting already trusting you, which helps them agree to your ideas and make decisions faster, eliminating significant time waste.

The Meeting & Plan

Laura explained that during that initial client meeting, you can then interview the client to customize their branding plan fully. The meeting’s findings then materialize as a 16-page Brand Activation Formula using the Endotype Branding System. The key to this plan: Make it straightforward and simple for the busy small business owner to implement.

The beauty of this approach to branding is that it can overcome all 3 of the classic branding challenges:

  1.     It makes implementation easy for the small business owner by outlining an execution plan in just 16 pages.
  2.     It creates a brand that the client can authentically relate to, which helps them understand the value of branding and ultimately start seeing the benefits, like shorter sales cycles.
  3.     This approach is so straightforward that it can stand out over the other marketing pitches small business owners face.

Takeaway 2: Rethink Your Content and Marketing Narratives to Integrate Design Justice

Karen Baker, Founder and President of Boathouse Group, shared her insights on how we can integrate Design Justice into our marketing strategies. She opened up her session by introducing The Design Justice Network, an organization she is a part of. The Design Justice Network aims to spark conversations around the ways that design can harm people who are marginalized by systems of power. This includes examining design from an aesthetic perspective but also the strategy and planning that leads to its creation.

Karen highlighted two of the Design Justice Network’s core principles that she has found most useful in her work:

  1.     We prioritize design’s impact on the community over the intentions of the designer.
  2.     We believe that everyone is an expert based on their own lived experience and that we all have unique and brilliant contributions to bring to a design process.
  3.     Before seeking new design solutions, we look for what is already working at the community level.

Karen Baker shared that when you’re preparing content, you really need to listen. It’s vital to prioritize creating a dialog with those with different experiences from your own and to actively work to include communities at the design table who have traditionally been left out.

How Can We Practice Design Justice and Inclusive Marketing?

To dive deeper into how we can put Design Justice and inclusive marketing into practice, Karen touched on some of Trailhead’s principles of inclusive marketing practice we can all examine to get started.

Tone, Language, and Representation

Our words play a massive role in our efforts to have a positive impact by focusing on social issues and diverse populations and communities. That’s why it’s so important to be intentional about the language your marketing uses. When we get it right, we have the potential to become descriptive rather than prescriptive, inclusive rather than exclusive, and asset-based rather than deficit-based. Karen shared the example of:

  • Instead of: “This community lacks ___.”
  • We say: “This community is empowered by ___.”

Context, Appropriation, and Counter-Stereotyping

Context is everything. Appropriation is especially critical to investigate in a more product-driven world. Counter-stereotyping requires you to be actively aware of stereotypes in your content creation, asking yourself, “Which of the following actions should you take to ensure representation in your marketing message?”

Understand Your Audience from a Psychographic and Behavioral Segmentation

According to Gallup, brands that leverage behavioral data outsell competition by 85% on average. To truly understand your audience from a psychographic and behavioral segmentation, you need to ask questions about morals, values, what content they’re reading and watching, and how they feel about topics that affect the content you create. You can then use these insights to shape your content strategy to develop marketing tactics and identify mediums that will effectively represent issues that you want to create an impact on.

The Narrative

When Boathouse works with its clients, the narrative is a huge focus, zooming in on the themes, sentiments, and passion around the narrative the client wants to drive. It’s a matter of either amplifying the existing narrative or creating a new narrative to ensure they’re driving the message they aim to.

A common misconception is that narrative = storytelling in general.

  • A narrative is infinite – it’s open-ended and constantly unfolding but consistent over time, allowing you to measure it.
  • A story is finite, with a beginning, middle, and end, and can be used as a tactic to ensure your narrative is resonating.

Once Boathouse has understood a client’s narrative, they look at assessing and empathizing. Here, they look at the audiences the client is impacting, the issues that impact that strategy, and the factors that impact business. This way, you can assess whether you’re being effective in your tactics. Then, you design or redesign impact-driven content with a focus on empathy.

When your narrative amplifies your message on an ongoing basis, you get real value in benefits like congregating and organizing movement members, these members start sharing their stories, and you attract even more new followers, champions, members and partners who believe in what you’re doing.

What is Your Overall Impact?

Even if your product or service isn’t directly about advocacy or social good, you still have an impact you’re trying to make. Identify what that is, whether that’s moving the needle within your industry or being an innovative presence in your industry. To figure out the answer for your organization, it’s worth asking exactly what impact you’d like to make and what your audience cares about the most. By continually reassessing your content and marketing strategy and its impact, you can create more effective, empathetic, and socially responsible output that makes this world a better place.

Takeaway 3: Together, Performance AI and Human Intelligence Can Strengthen Brand Relationships

AI has been on the rise across industries, and marketing is no exception. As a result, many marketers are facing pressure from leadership to implement AI into their work to enhance their output and efficiency. For many marketers, they’ve given AI a try via generative AI tools for tasks like content brainstorming. For others, it’s a tool they’ve been reluctant to explore due to anything from the fear of AI replacing humans to skepticism fueled by highly publicized mistakes made by generative AI tools.

In his presentation, Peter Prodromou, Founder and President at Boathouse Group, acknowledged these doubts and fears, maintaining that AI has massive potential to provide value for organizations but that human intelligence is still a critical piece. He went on to showcase an example of how he and his team at Boathouse Group have found ways to use AI that go beyond the standard copywriting assistant function.

Using AI to Strengthen Brand Relationships

Years before ChatGPT exploded onto the market in November 2022, Peter and his team were already searching for ways to use performance AI to gather massive amounts of information and datasets and organize them to understand the narratives behind brands. Since brands today are being redefined almost daily, Peter knew that this AI capability would be massively valuable in helping brands understand the dialogues taking place among their audiences and proactively shape their narratives in response. The result: brands could create better, more dynamic relationships with their customers.

Ultimately, Peter and his team built a custom dashboard using performance AI technology from several software companies. This tool gave them extremely precise outputs so they could help their clients understand the sentiment of the conversations going on around their brands more comprehensively. And unlike traditional data analysis tools, this AI-powered tool can crunch data on an ongoing basis from millions of sources.

Case Study 1: Airline Competitors

First, Peter shared the example of an airline case study focusing on customer connection among the three largest carriers in the U.S.: Delta Airlines, United Airlines, and American Airlines. Their AI tool’s research output found that Delta had a better perception and higher passion and intensity than the other two. Regarding the number of social media posts, they found that Delta had a substantially greater number of posts during the time period they were evaluating, but American was generating significantly more impressions. That posed the question: Is Delta’s social spending as effective as it could be? When it came to demographic and source analysis, the tool showed gender breakdown and the topics that were driving conversation, as well as hashtag volume and which channels performed the best. These kinds of datasets can be used both for big campaign ideas and to better address customer relationship management.

Case Study 2: Clorox

Another example was Clorox, which used AI technology to determine what conversations people were having regarding product preference. They wanted this information so their innovation group could use it to develop new products. During the pandemic when everyone was washing their hands even more than usual, it was really easy to sell hypoallergenic cleaning products. As the pandemic became less of a prominent issue, Clorox realized that demand for these products diminished greatly. As a result, their innovation group was focused on trying to figure out how to source conversations that could better inform the types of products they develop. Using AI, Peter and his team identified where key conversations were occurring, in what kind of use and volume, and whether the terminology they’d been using was actively used by their audience. The results: People don’t use the term “hypoallergenic.” They talk about specific conditions and symptoms. They also found that Reddit was the channel where the most interesting, useful conversations were occurring. Another key takeaway that helped Peter and his team refine their AI approach was that human intelligence is vital when analyzing datasets this huge in volume.

It’s our responsibility as marketers to educate our organization on what AI can be used for, mind its limitations, and identify how we can best use it to enhance our marketing team and the broader organization’s performance. It’s about cutting through the hype and the fear. 

Here’s to Adaptable, Inclusive, and Innovative Marketing

Together, these insights underscore a critical theme: the need for adaptability, inclusivity, empathy, and innovation in marketing. Whether it’s rethinking branding for small businesses, championing inclusive and socially responsible marketing practices, or harnessing the power of AI while valuing human intelligence, these approaches underscore the importance of staying ahead in a constantly changing landscape.

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