The Benefits of Reframing Your Brand for the Digital Age

I was doing my usual trawling of the internet today, looking for new best practices and ironically tripped over an old, well-used tactic: reframing. For those of you who don’t know this strategic planning tactic, it is an exercise that, often through laddering, connects your brand to a larger, hopefully more relevant, context.

As I was reading through the article it occurred to me that many of the brands we work on these days are older brands, some twenty years old, some seventy years old. And some smart company or brand manager came up with that brand idea back then because it was smart and relevant then. But of course, now the world has changed, and has reframed dramatically around these brands. So doesn’t it make sense the brand is reframed as well to recognize the new realities?

This specific article I was reading was about the newspaper business; clearly an industry being challenged, to put it nicely, by new technologies. But I love how they “zero based” the research and ended up with a broader, more relevant brand proposition.

From those meetings, the group learned they weren’t just in the news business; they were in the“connection business.” “We connect information to readers, consumers to products,” said Bozeman (Mont.) Daily Chronicle publisher Stephanie Pressly. “We empower people.”

Benefits of Reframing

The benefits of reframing are many, as my company preaches (there’s the shameless plug you’ve all been waiting for):

  1. Reframing can bring added relevance to a brand that might be challenged by new competitors sneaking in from adjacencies, thereby increasing the ROI of marketing and communications activity.
  2. Also, reframed brands tend to move up the benefit ladder and this produces messaging strategies and content areas more conducive to the digital age i.e. providing utility, a shared purpose, a cause to champion, an information gap – all worthy of tactics larger than just ads.
  3. Reframing a brand also produces a treasure trove of new creative ideas. In this article that’s depicted in a creative execution where the paperboy throws something towards the house, only to reveal he threw an iPad. Well you get the idea.
  4. Also, the other benefit of reframing is it also produces ideas often spanning the other areas of business outside of marketing. I love when this happens because I am a true believer that marketing’s time to reclaim its role as the most important function in a company is now. The example in this article was providing reporters with, as they call it, a Mojo kit.

In addition, Pioneer has invested in new formats to deliver the news. The Chronicle equips reporters with “MoJo” kits that allow them to carry a laptop, digital camera, video, and audio recorders so they can bring readers breaking news and live blogs. The Tribune launched HTML5 websites for readers who prefer a tablet-based experience. Advertising representatives are also given tablets to take to meetings with clients to showcase online and mobile offerings.

Of course there are other great examples of brands that have reframed and produced significant disruptive innovation in their space. Some of those being: IBM, Dove, several P&G brands, Adidas, etc.

The article is worth checking out. It’s a short read. And hopefully it’s a great step forward for an industry that’s done a great job of educating us all.

Send me an e-mail if you have any other great examples of brands that have reframed successfully or are interested in discussing how we’d approach this exercise on your brand.

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New Ways Marketers Can Think About Digital

Most marketers these days are being presented with communication tactics from their agencies that are then placed in digital channels. This is a akin to the early days of radio where announcers read the newspaper. And while this is “ok” given these early days, we believe the new digital landscape provides marketers with so much more opportunity.

Though we are about fifteen years into this new digital world, it has only been because of recent phenomena that marketers can now get even closer to consumers through the advent of social, apps, enterprise resource planning tools, e-commerce, m-commerce, etc. We can now listen to consumer groups, interest groups, we can dialogue with them, we can gleen product ideas from listening, and we can get our service department to follow-up on complaints – all at relatively low incremental costs, if any. The real opportunity is to view digital as a means to amplify already sound business, brand and marketing communications strategies that provide utility to consumers and customers.

But though this new way of thinking seems to be starting to take hold, mostly in the U.S., it still is in the early days in Canada. So we thought we’d highlight some of the benefits of this new approach to digital, share a couple of examples of companies practicing it and suggest a few ways companies could implement it.

Research, Brand Health & Relationships

In terms of benefits to this new way of thinking about business, there are many. Firstly, businesses and marketers can get even closer to their consumers, customers and prospects than ever before. There are a myriad of ways to do this, from free social listening tools to subscription services. And we’d argue these can provide more insightful information than the staged conventional research methodologies, especially focus groups.

Secondly, by viewing digital as an overarching tool to a business or brand, marketers can create communities of customers; these can be demographic groups, pychographic groups, or interest groups. These communities allow marketers to reconnect their brands to the true interests and utility that consumers are looking for. As we all know, consumers don’t want a drill, they want a hole.

Thirdly, these tighter relationships can produce a pile of new product and service ideas – just by listening!! Perhaps there’s a need for an app that tells luxury hotel guests about the real authentic tourist sites close by. Or perhaps a second-place coffee shop sees a new service idea that Starbucks doesn’t provide. And all companies these days need to continue innovating to grow as the long tail of new competitors and adjacencies encroaches on their territories.

Two great examples come to mind of companies operating and thinking in new ways about digital:


The first is Nike and specifically Nike Digital Sport, an incubator of teams that develops products and services for consumers to track and measure their own statistics across a myriad of sports. Very different than placing Tiger Woods in an expensive TV ad, shortly after his P.R. fiasco. As a recent article in Fortune mentioned:

But Digital Sport is not just about creating must-have sports gadgets. Getting so close to its consumers’ data holds exceptional promise for one of the world’s greatest marketers: It means it can follow them, build an online community for them, and forge a tighter relationship with them than ever before. It’s part of a bigger, broader effort to shift the bulk of Nike’s marketing efforts into the digital realm — and it marks the biggest change in Beaverton since the creation of just do it, or even since a graphic design student at Portland State University put pen to paper and created the Swoosh.

And with results:

So is it working? Is Nike’s massive digital push a true replacement for its marketing past? Its unconventional approaches have won accolades from insiders. “They have their finger on the pulse of what their customer is looking for,” says David Carter, executive director of USC’s Sports Business Institute. Institutional investors who pay close heed to Nike’s subtlest moves have voted in favor of the changes: The company’s stock has returned 120% over the past five years as the S&P 500 index (SPX) has returned just 2.5%.


Another great example is Kawasaki and the interesting work they’ve been doing to use social as a research tool, a demo tool and a sales tool in a very crowded category, while keeping costs down. You can check out a cool interview here on Mashable at

How To Implement
So how do marketers begin to think differently about digital? Some thought starters:

  1. Firstly, you need to audit your planning process. Are you asking the right questions throughout your process? Most companies have this in place but it is good to review.
  2. Within each stage of planning, ask if you are getting the most relevant, progressive, and insightful information from the right channels and suppliers. Can you get some of this information from new means and at a lesser cost?
  3. Third, make sure you are interpreting the findings correctly. Consumers want jobs done, they want specific outcomes and often there are barriers in the way. Drill down to the most basic level to uncover the opportunities. Is this job or outcome best done in communication or do you need to provide a new product, service, promotion, app or some other utility-offering tactic?
  4. Fourthly, ask if these findings are being shared with cross-functional teams. And whose job is it to share the findings, gather additional information then inevitably comes up at these meetings.
  5. Also, try stuff! Test stuff. Do it in a way that is small, has little risk, and learn from it. Nike tried things in the early days and not all of them were successful. Google tested four Super Bowl ads online before it decided what to put on the broadcast.
  6. Lastly, re-look at how frequently this analyis is done. Most companies do this annually. We would argue this should be done more frequently. We prescribe to a practice we call Horizontal Thinking ™, which means we want to listen, think and engage almost everyday with our customers. Think being in perpetual beta mode, not the old approach of one time per year we all take a look around, build a plan that will be executed months from now.

These are relatively early days in the digital world, but great days for marketers because they now have access to more information and tools then ever. This new way of looking at digital will help not only fuel great creative, but also fuel the total marketing mix, company value chain and provide real utility to consumers and customers.

If you have any other thoughts as to barriers companies face or ways to implement this new thinking, we’d love to hear them.

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Unilever Gets It – Digital Assets And Digital Media

I read a great article today in Ad Age. It was from two days ago (I guess I’m behind in my Google Reader reading). Anyway the article highlighted two important points I share vehemently:

1. We have to move from just applying communication tactics in the digital space and move to offering larger, more value generating platforms in the digital space

2. How to fund digital media.

To this first point, Babs Rangaiah makes the point below via the old paradigm shift from print to radio:

“To this day, most of what you see is banners and buttons and pre-rolls — translations from old media to new,” Mr. Rangaiah said. He likens it to the early days of radio, when broadcasters read newspaper stories until an RCA middle manager, David Sarnoff, persuaded superiors to air a heavyweight boxing match.

“Just like David Sarnoff, there are going to be some people at some companies, hopefully ours, that are going to reframe the space,” Mr. Rangaiah said. “Media companies will be part of that, too.”

That’s why Unilever has made it a point to forge relationships with Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter, Mr. Rangaiah said.

To the second point around how to fund digital media, as we at The Super Market Inc. also believe, you fund digital slowly over time as it proves itself. And you take those funds from paid media as the digital eyeballs begin to grow.

“To get earned media, you need to create great assets in the digital space,” Mr. Rangaiah said. “The idea is that by creating great earned impressions, you can take from the paid impressions. And if that’s your strategy, you need to shift your budget. That’s not an easy thing to do. … It takes a lot of proposals and perseverance. But it goes a long way toward backing up your strategy.”

There are a number of other great points here, worth reading. Do you agree with these philosophies? Feel free to comment below.

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Great How-to Enterprise Social Media Centre of Excellence

Image representing Cisco as depicted in CrunchBase

Cisco, thanks to P. Neiger, does a great job of outlining an approach to the daunting tasks of implementing a social media committee and operationalizing this across a large company. She says:

“At Cisco, we often speak at different venues about how we set up and operationalized social media. We always receive so many questions on this topic that we decided to share our process and lessons learned with the larger social community in a more organized and methodical way. We have partnered with Frost and Sullivan to create a guidebook on “Operationalizing a B-to-B Social Media Center of Excellence”. This case study talks about how: our Social Media Marketing Hub emerged; we defined the charter, roles and responsibilities of this hub and, we engage with the various parts of the organization, also known as spokes”.

Yes these new challenges are hard. But when looked at through a lens of the fundamentals, it is manageable. What does your company need to do to get this started? Do you have a partner that you can engage with at this level?

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