Limbic Marketing: How to Use Emotions, Memories, and Stimulation to Create a Connection


In marketing, we all too often rely on overused buzzwords without really processing what they mean.  Why are these terms overused? People know what they mean.  




Even experiential marketing.

These are terms that we use often...but what do they really mean? They seem to have lost their meaning in their overuse.

I was speaking with my creative director, recently, and he really glommed onto something: marketing — well, good marketing, anyway — should tap into three primary functions:

  • Emotions

  • Memories

  • Stimulation

It just so happens that these are all controlled by the limbic system in our brains! So  we began to play with the term limbic marketing.

Toss out all those clichéd buzzwords. We’re bringing a new one to town!

Limbic Marketing

Marketing can deal with just one of those functions (emotions, memories, or stimulation), but when you light up sensors for each, you have a much better opportunity to forge a connection and build trust with your audience.

If you want to sell hamburgers, you appeal to the lizard brain, which seeks to fill basic needs, like hunger. An image of a juicy burger will make mouths water, and you don’t need to do much more.

But what happens if you’re selling a travel destination or a high-end clothing line? You need a different strategy.

If you want to create lifelong customers, market to the limbic system. Become a limbic marketer.

Make the Limbic System Feel Safe and Included

While the lizard brain wants food, water, and shelter, the limbic system wants to feel like a part of something, to belong. Good brands already know this and successfully push the buttons for each of those three functionalities.

To evoke emotions that will build trust in a brand, a retailer might show a dad holding a newborn. Cue tears! Our limbic brain connects heartwarming scenes like this one with a brand that cares.

Memories, too, play a role in limbic marketing. When we have a history with a brand, we’re more likely to buy it again. Maybe you remember your grandma using White Lily Flour to make you biscuits on summer vacations, and so it’s the brand you pick up at the store.

Coca-Cola does a great job of pinging those memories. Who doesn’t see the ubiquitous Coke Santa or just the classic red wrapper and white logo and have some memory from childhood?

We’ve all heard the adage “sex sells,” and it’s true. But stimulation means more than just sex. Consumers can be stimulated by colors, shock factor, or even music. Keep that limbic system on its toes, and you’ll excite your audience.

We can even be stimulated to get up and do something. Outdoor brand REI uses images of people hiking, camping, and generally being healthy in nature, which can stimulate consumers to want to get off of their couches.

All three of these are valid marketing approaches, but what would happen with a powerful one-two-three punch strategy that used emotions, memories, and stimulation?

The next time you’re planning your marketing approach, use limbic marketing and hit each of these functions.


Impressions vs. Engagement: Which Matters To Your Brand?

Impressions vs. Engagement: Which Matters To Your Brand?


When thinking about your media spend on social advertising, that you want to maximize your dollars to get the best results. There are a two key metrics ways to measure results, and each has its own place for specific types of social media ad campaigns.

Measuring Engagement

A few years ago, we started hearing the phrase “return on engagement” in the marketing sphere. The point was, that while it was challenging (at the time) to measure precise return on investment, social media marketers could instead measure a return on the engagement they garnered on social media, in real time.  

And so marketers started paying attention to clicks, shares, and likes.

A photo on Instagram may not directly result in sales, but it builds brand recognition. The engagement is an indicator of how successful you are at creating visual content that resonates with your audience.

If you elect to run, for example, a Facebook ad campaign based on Cost Per Click, you will pay for each engagement you get (i.e. click to your site). Facebook has fabulous built-in analytics that tell you exactly what sort of return your Facebook ad is getting.  As long as the revenue from your social media campaign is greater than what you spend on the ad, all is golden. If it isn’t, we have a problem.

An ad like this one from Discover Card is likely based on clicks, not impressions. It’s got a clear call to action, which tells the viewer what benefits there are to clicking on the ad.

Who Should Use Engagement as a Measure

Engagement as a form of measuring social media advertising works best when you sell products online or can otherwise assign a value to the engagement. Impressions, as we’ll see in a moment, focus more on creating brand awareness, while engagement is a transactional form of measurement.

Engagement may not indicate a direct path to a sale, but it does tell you something interesting: that people are taking the time to absorb your social media content and make a note of it through one today’s social signals: a click, a share, or a like.

Measuring Impressions

The other primary way of determining whether a social media campaign is successful is by impressions. As I mentioned, impressions are great if you’re trying to brand your business and get it in front of more people.

Think about billboards. Magazine ads. Television commercials. It’s impossible to track a sale directly from these sources, and so their main purpose is to get in front of as many eyeballs as possible. A magazine reader who sees a high-end clothing brand advertised might see it again later in a store and decide to buy it. You can’t necessarily track that, so instead you focus on brand awareness.

Branded content is perfect for attracting social media impressions. It provides value for its audience, but it also doesn’t require any action to be taken other than seeing it. The second best-selling champagne brand worldwide, Veuve Clicquot, frequently posts appealing images of models enjoying its bubbly in geographically interesting locales. You can’t click to buy the bottle, so what’s the point?

Brand awareness.

Every time you see a post or an ad from Veuve Clicquot, you remember it. Later, when you’re selecting a bottle for a special event, I wonder which one you’ll consider first?

Who Should Use Impressions as a Measure

If you’re less concerned with viewers of your ad taking direct action, impressions are valuable in that they are a cost-affordable way to increase your visibility to a highly-targeted social audience.

The interesting thing about measuring by impressions is that typically engagement grows as your number of impressions increases, so you benefit from both.

How to Decide  

Before you can know whether impressions or engagement is a better measurement model for you, determine what your goal with your social media ad campaign is.

Do you want people to take action? Can they click to learn more or to buy? Sign up for your email address? Share with friends? These are all examples of when engagement works best.

Or do you want to elevate your brand visibility? Build a relationship with your audience? In that case, impressions may work for you.

You might elect to choose both methods and see which puts you in the better position. Nothing wrong with that at all. Just make sure you’re running just one campaign at a time to ensure untainted results.

Why Being a Thought Leader is Essential for Selling More

Why Being a Thought Leader is Essential for Selling More


After exhausting every avenue of marketing and advertising, you might be scratching your head, wondering how in the world you can get your audience’s attention.

It’s funny how the simplest answer is often the best, isn’t it?

Sharing your vast knowledge of your industry is, in fact, one of the best ways to not only capture the attention of your customer base but also increase sales. In a nutshell, making people smarter makes it easier to make sales.

The Value of Thought Leadership

Consider your knowledge as a commodity. It benefits you to spend it in the wisest manner possible: to bridge a connection with people who will buy from you.

People have questions. They thirst for the knowledge that you have. By providing it on the right channels, you can give them value that they will appreciate. Once they see how useful your knowledge is, they’ll be more inclined to follow you online and learn more about what your company does. From there, it’s an easy slide down your sales funnel.

Using your knowledge to establish your thought leadership can have more of an impact than any digital ad, tweet, or email. It can also enhance what you’re doing across various marketing and sales channels.

Where to Leverage Your Thought Leadership

There are so many channels available to brands to share their knowledge these days. Your company blog is the obvious choice, since this is your home. It’s where people go looking for you (or can find you through Google searches).

But what about reaching people who haven’t yet been exposed to your brand? Where can you connect with them?

LinkedIn is a fabulous channel for publishing content (clearly I’m a fan). Your articles are available for anyone to view, which has the potential to connect you to hundreds or even thousands of business professionals, if that is your audience.

Once you’ve published an article on LinkedIn, share it with groups there. There are groups for every interest and industry, so joining and participating in a few of these will help you establish relationships with the right people.

Holding your own summit  is another way to get in front of potential customers. By hosting a smart event designed to provide free information to your client base or audience, you automatically stand out in their minds as a company that cares, not one who’s pushing a sales agenda.

Videos are also effective as a channel for sharing information. While some people prefer to read blog content and articles, others like digesting data by watching a video or listening to a podcast, so diversify how you create content.

Your videos can be uploaded on YouTube or other video hosting site, then shared on your website, blog, LinkedIn, via email, or even social media.

Consider creating a series of videos to play up your expertise on a subject, and to give your video campaign greater gravity.

And don’t overlook writing content too: beyond contributing to your own blog, becoming a guest blogger on sites and blogs that cater to your audience is another strategy to get in front of new leads.

Tie your thought leadership efforts together by cross promoting. Link to your latest blog post on social media or send it out via email.

Email is, by the way, a fantastic way to show prospective clients that you’re thinking of them. Just a short note: “I thought this video/article might be of interest. I’d love to learn more about your business and how I might be able to help you.”

Remember: it takes ongoing and consistent effort to establish a name for yourself. A single article on LinkedIn or video on your blog won’t get the job done, but a series, over time, will.

Thought leadership remains one of the best ways to show the world that you know what you’re doing, thereby instilling trust in your brand that leads to sales.

6 Steps To Marketing And Branding Effectively In Hospitality

6 Steps To Marketing And Branding Effectively In Hospitality


Hospitality is at a place it’s never been before. Advanced digital perspectives, freshly educated clientele and a cultural shift in traveling has created a competitive market. As a result, branding has become one of the most vital foundations which determine sink or swim in a new world industry. We’ve compiled a list of 6 pillars that will aid you in protecting, enhancing and growing your brand.

1. Divide and Conquer with Clear Brand Differentiators

There are hundreds of thousands of hotels, millions of rooms and even more restaurants around the world so the question “What makes mine stand out?” should be at the top of your list. When creating your branding vision, asking yourself how you differentiate is crucial to getting ahead of the market. 

Are you the most affordable and stylish hotel in Chicago? Own it. 

Is your resort home to the most lavish pool in Jamaica? Show it. 

Does your Executive Chef have an incredible story? Tell it. 

Collectively speaking, there has never been an easier way to educate the masses on even the smallest details. Technology has enabled us to use a simple social media post to make an impact. Example: Creatively conveying you’re the only hotel in Charleston with a parking garage could lead to a boost in reservations of people planning to drive to the city. 

Take a look at your property, food and service and determine what sets you apart from the pack. From there, you’ll start to understand your “secret sauce recipe”. 

2. Open Eyes Through Social media

The digital age has swept in a new perspective on how to stand out amongst competition. Among the top of the pack is undeniably social media. Platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Pinterest have given hospitality brands an opportunity to both reach new audiences and keep their name fresh in their existent audience’s minds. 

Attracting New Eyes: Captivating photos, hashtags, relevant-community interaction and influencer campaigns are all essentials to bringing different eyes to your social media pages. 

Becoming Part of Your Customer’s Life: Through a “follow” you have access to a piece of someone’s attention every time you post or interact. Brands that don’t have strong conversion rates of purchase-to-follower drop a serious ball. Remember, your best customer is your repeat customer. 

These two ideas of attracting new eyes and becoming part of your customer’s life will work simultaneously through engaging content. Solid hospitality brands will learn how vital it is for hospitality brands to understand story-telling strategy for both of these points to work effectively. 

3. Empower Your Staff to Deliver Great Service

The most pivotal moments of how your brand speaks to your consumers will come through the actions and words of your staff. They are the physical representation of how your company gauges hospitality. However one thing to keep in mind is that rarely will a staff’s blunder be their fault more than your own. 

When operating any kind of hospitality business, management must perfect training, testing, reinforcement and follow up training procedures. These key tools must be repeated throughout an employees career with the company in order to both protect and enhance the customer experience. And perhaps most importantly of all, when you keep your staff smiling your guests will follow en route. 

4. Understanding Your Potential Customer Market

Don’t fall into the trap that your potential customer market sits at a specific age, gender, marital status or situation. Given the evolution of how hospitality and media work together, opening up the doors to new communities and demographics has never been more possible. 

However, don’t ignore what usually works. Even though luxury resorts may now be able to appeal to well-off, ready to spend millennials, they shouldn’t stop using their resources to attract older clientele. The truly successful brand will find a way to link the two of them together through initiatives that are appealing across the board. 

Analytics will help you in understanding your ideal customer while seasonal surveys and personal outreach will help you in understanding who actually is your customer. 

5. Experiential Marketing

Connecting your brand to your customer on digital platforms is all about experiential marketing.When this kind of outreach is done right it can result in your customers and vendors organically marketing on your behalf. Successful brands create experiences that tell a story and thus will incentive their customers to document their own experience to share with their family, friends and online communities. 

Another way to build creative, experiential marketing campaigns is to work with the right social media influencers. By tapping community authorities to tell your story, you essentially speed line the above “customer marketing” by working with people who are skilled in telling stories. 

Lastly, your digital marketing team should keep an eye to bringing the “experience” to an “engaging” one. Contests, giveaways, and incentives all play a role in formally asking your customers to help spread the word. Pro Tip: When they’re excited about your brand, they’ll have no problem participating. 

6. Know Your Food & Drink

When it comes to hospitality, there is perhaps nothing more important than your food and beverage program. When you elevate your dining and drink menus, you elevate your guest’s experience. Resorts and hotels especially should take note of this as the more you are able to keep your guests on site, the more loyal they’ll become to your brand. 

Food & drink programs should seek to incorporate the five prior points very specifically. There is nothing more important than giving your consumers a food experience that is distinct and caters to their demographic. Beautiful dishes, thoughtful cocktails and a rockstar wine menu will never cease to get people talking. 

Capitalize on the emergence of “foodie culture” by getting creative, sourcing locally and using your food to tell a story. The results will always speak for themselves. 

Lessons in Retail: Why Bonobos Lost Me as a Customer

Lessons in Retail: Why Bonobos Lost Me as a Customer


Now more than ever, the retail game is a tricky one. Online retail has shaken brick-and-mortar to its very foundation. People shop more on price when all products seem to be the same. It’s harder to stand out in an overcrowded marketplace.

While innovation and unique customer experiences are what attract customers, it’s the follow-through and subsequent relationship that really matters. Your best customer is your existing happy customer. 

If you’re not familiar with Bonobos, the brand’s unique selling proposition is its Guideshops. Make an appointment at one of these exclusive retail locations, and you’ll get a one-on-one shopping consultation with a “shopping ninja.” You’ll be pampered and cooed over while you find the perfect clothing. Then you leave...without your purchases. They are, instead, shipped to your home or office.

Bonobos, a retailer that strives to find the perfect fit for its male clientele, lost me as a customer long before they were acquired by Walmart. Here’s my story. May it serve as a lesson to other retailers in what not to do.

For a short while, I was not only a Bonobos customer. I was an evangelist. 

First-Class In-Person Experience

Eager to experience this unique style of shopping, I made an appointment with a Bonobos shopping ninja. Upon my arrival, he offered me a drink. I selected a beer. All was off to a good start!

I spent over two hours at the Guideshop. I admit: this was the best shopping experience for clothes I have ever had. And it has not been replicated since.

The ninja spent time understanding the way I prefer to dress. He asked about the clothes I currently had in my wardrobe. He was clearly invested in my shopping experience.

He spent time seeing how I looked in the clothes so that he could make suggestions for clothing that would flatter my body. I spent several thousand dollars at the store. Since the model for the brand is to carry no clothing in the store, I ordered online while in the store, and the clothes arrived a few days later.

The clothing I purchased truly did not disappoint.

Then the company made a fatal error. 

Where Bonobos Went Wrong

Whereas I had felt like a treasured customer with the in-store experience, that shifted after I received my order.

I was promptly dumped into Bonobos’ database and started receiving — and still receive — several promotional emails each week. Everything in the emails is on sale, taking away the shine of the brand being exclusive and high end.

And I feel that I overpaid for everything. Now I just feel like one of many, many, many customers. To reiterate, I was happy to pay retail price because of the experience, but finding out that, as an email subscriber, I could have paid a fraction of the price that I did disappointed me immensely.

Bonobos broke my heart when it treated me the same way any old retailer would treat a customer. All they had to do was to have my ninja send me a note inviting me back into the Guideshop for a preview of new style and a wine or bourbon tasting or a meet up with one of the designers. Anything that would give me another awesome shopping experience.

And yet, they went with mass marketing. They robbed me of that feeling of being unique and shuttled me in with the masses.

No one enjoys feeling like that.

How Retailers Can Do Better

Bonobos was at least on the right track with the in-store experience. Experiences are, after all, the new currency in retail. The industry is overcrowded as it is, so anything a brand can do to stand out in its customers’ minds is worth doing.

But you’ve got to have the follow-through.

You can’t treat customers one way in-store (appreciated, pampered, one-of-a-kind) and then another way with subsequent marketing messages. Be consistent. Perhaps Bonobos would have been more successful keeping me loyal if, instead of cheap emails, it had sent high-quality direct mail. A nice envelope with a handwritten address would have caught my attention more than just one of many emails in my inbox.

Personalization is absolutely imperative for high-end and luxury retail. Retail technology actually fosters customized communications these days. Emails can be more attuned to their recipients rather than scatter shot to anyone who’s ever visited a store. Even sending me customized suggestions based on past purchases would have made me feel less anonymous.

It’s unfortunate that Bonobos, in the long run, missed the mark with me. But other retailers should use this cautionary tale to better understand how to gain and retain customers and deliver what customers want, long-term.

Best Practices for Experiential Marketing Success

Best Practices for Experiential Marketing Success


No matter what marketing practices you use, your ultimate goal is to get people to stop, look, and listen to your brand. To buy from you again and again.

But does your brand have a clear and distinct voice that can cut through the noise that your competitors are making?  Does your brand voice compel people to take action?

If not, it might be worthwhile to add experiential marketing into the mix. When you get away from solely creating content online or only investing in digital advertising and begin to create real-life interactive experiences for your audience, you bring your brand to life.

Here are a few best practices to get the most out of experiential marketing.

Plan and Communicate

Before your event, establish your goals. What are you hoping to achieve with the event experience? Simply awareness of your brand? Do you want to drive traffic to your website or social media profile? Are you looking to get people to buy your product or service then and there?  

While you do want to allow breathing room in the actual schedule for the event, you still need to plan out what’s happening so that everyone’s on the same page. And after the event, reconvene to discuss the outcomes. Did you hit your goals? What could you do better next time?

Awaken the Senses

People want to feel connected. They are looking for a reason to build a relationship with your brand. Online marketing can sometimes be flat, whereas creating in-person experiences that awaken the senses can give dimension to your relationship with your audience.

Images, of course, appeal to the visual sense. But go one step further. Give shoppers the tactical experience of holding and touching your product. Consider how Cinnabon’s fresh-baked smell hits passersby in a mall and gets them to purchase a cinnamon roll. Or how playing slower music in a restaurant makes diners linger longer. Incorporate as many of the senses as possible to stimulate your audience. Are these exmples of experiental marketing  not really.

Let the Event Happen Naturally

One issue with experiential marketing that I’ve witnessed is when brands over-curate the event. They have it planned to a T, with something action-packed occurring each minute. Information is thrown at guests, who experience data overload and shut down.

I suggest creating highlight activities and letting the rest occur organically. Give people breathing room to connect with your brand on their own terms. For example, if you want to hold an open house event at your winery, schedule a few events throughout the day and then let guests mingle in between. Perhaps you hold tours of the vineyards every other hour, and do a drawing for a prize in between. You could have stations set up for guests to play games and taste wines at their convenience rather than trying to force them on your itinerary.

Or if you have a cruise company and want to break out of the standard, dull shore excursions, you could find local artisans who could give a presentation to your guests on, for example, truffle hunting or cheesemaking. Get guests involved in the process: let them hunt for truffles or stretch out that mozarella.

Enlist the Aid of Powerful Ambassadors

The folks who represent your brand at experiential events need to fully embody it. This isn’t the time to hire $10 an hour workers from Craigslist. Instead, consider working with brand evangelists who have been gushing about your brand online and on social media. These are the people who are already excited about your products, and their enthusiasm will be contagious.  Ambassadors can not only appeal to your demographic at experiences but can also amplify your message if they have a strong social media following and can attract more interest in your brand.

Spread the Word About the Event on Social Media

In today’s digital landscape, if your event wasn’t documented on social media, it didn’t happen! Get a game plan ahead of time for who on your team will post images and updates to each of your social platforms. Consider using a special hashtag for the event so that attendees can also share their content and create even more of a buzz for it, and send links to the photos you took to guests after the event.

A lot of the success of experiential events comes from experience, but with these practices, you’ll be off on the right foot.


Why Cross-Device Marketing is Crucial to Your Brand

Why Cross-Device Marketing is Crucial to Your Brand


If you’re like most people, you use multiple technology devices on a given day. Maybe when you wake up, you check your email on your phone, then move to your desktop for work, followed by a little leisure time on your tablet in the evening.

This device-hopping has become a factor for how brands market to customers, and it’s something you need a plan of attack for in your own business. Reaching consumers now requires a multi-tiered strategy that ensures that you communicate with them on each device they use in the most appropriate way to engage them.

What Cross-Device Marketing Looks Like

For this example, let’s say you sell cashmere sweaters for women online. Potential customer Yvonne searches for “women cashmere sweaters” from her smartphone and your Google AdWords ad appears in search results. She clicks your ad, peruses your products, but ultimately doesn’t make a purchase.

Later when Yvonne has some free time, she hops on her tablet and visits her Facebook app. ‘Lo and behold: your ad appears on her sidebar. She makes note of it, and then proceeds to laugh at cute puppy videos. The next morning before work, she’s on her laptop and spies yet another of your ads on her favorite news site. She gives in, clicks, and buys from you.

Now that Google offers cross-device retargeting, a consumer who engages with your ad or branded content on one channel will see related content when she’s logged onto another device. This gives you more opportunity to grab potential customers’ attention, no matter where they are.

The Downside of Trying to Reach Customers This Way

Cross-device marketing is still in its infancy, but now that we know that 60% of all digital interaction happens on a smartphone or tablet and 40% on a PC, the need to figure out the formula has never been more needed.

The problem is: we’ve been marketing to devices the last few years, not people. And so marketers have had an understandably difficult time really connecting in a meaningful way with their audience.

Early adopters have realized that simply repurposing ad content for different devices isn’t working. People have different expectations about the content they engage with, depending on the device they’re using. This is where not really understanding your audience and what they want is a huge drawback. Yes, it takes effort to meet customers where they are, so if you’re not willing to do that, you will fail at cross-device marketing.

Why You Can’t Ignore It

One of the biggest complaints of brands who invest in digital advertising is having an over inflated ad spend without getting the results they aimed for. If you want to display an ad to a potential lead 5 times and you’re not using cross-device marketing, they might see your ad 5 times on each device they use, overwhelming them with your in-your-face presence, and costing you much more than you budgeted to try to convert that one lead.

Customers give you clues about who they are and what they want. They’re tech-savvy and rely on multiple devices throughout the day. Ignoring how they’re using them means you’re missing out on serious opportunity to have a conversation with them. On the other hand, staying close to them across all devices they use means you will continually deliver exactly what they’re looking for at each stage of the buyer’s journey.

As you build your advertising and marketing strategy for 2017, make sure that you include how you will reach your audience across multiple devices.

Here's what the DMA has to say:

How to Remain Profitable in a Discounted Marketplace

How to Remain Profitable in a Discounted Marketplace


The internet has made the world smaller, and at the same time, given consumers so many choices that they are now in control of what they pay for your products or services.

To be successful at selling your product or service you now have to be skilled at the art of negotiation. Do you stick to your guns and charge what you want, making much fewer sales than you need to stay afloat? Or do you drop your prices and therefore devalue your brand?

There’s no easy answer.

What is clear is that your brand needs to differentiate itself from all the other brands out there that sell similar products or services.

First, Define Your Brand Value

When we talk about brand value, we’re looking at what makes your brand stand out. If you charge exactly what 10 other brands do, what makes your customers seek your product out above the others? That’s brand value.

It might be your stellar customer service (Zappos definitely has cornered that market) or your speedy shipping (we have Amazon to thank for that). It might be that your products last longer, or that your sales team goes above and beyond during the purchase process.

Whatever that “thing” is, it’s your differentiator. It costs you little or nothing to provide that value, and it can turn prospects into clients, and clients into brand evangelists.

Next, Build an Experience Around Your Brand

When we think of a shopping experience, especially one that takes place online, it’s usually pretty straightforward. You search for a product on Google. You click a link and browse results. You make a purchase. The product gets delivered.

And yet, if the average buying experience is so cut and dry, you as a business have so much opportunity to make it better. This is where you can really shine in standing out. In The Experience Economy: Work Is Theater & Every Business a Stage, the authors talk about how the buying experience is like theater. It’s up to you to create an experience that is memorable and that exceeds expectations.

The first part of this is simply making the checkout process easy and streamlined. Reduce the steps and information required to make a purchase. Make sure your checkout page loads quickly so your shopper doesn’t lose patience.

But then take that experience a step further. For example, rather than a boring “Your order has been processed” landing page, maybe your customers get to a page with a GIF of confetti raining down with the message “We’re so excited to process your order! Our elves are already getting it ready to ship to you.”

Or maybe after the order is placed, the buyer gets a personalized email from you, thanking them for their business.

Maybe when the product arrives, there’s a little something extra in the box. You could partner with another brand — let’s say one that sells candles — and include a bonus gift that not only makes your customers smile but also introduces them to another potential shopping avenue.

Bonobos, a clothing retailer, has an unexpected shopping experience. A shopper makes an appointment at one of the brand’s Guideshops, where he is given one-on-one assistance in finding the perfect fit. Once he makes his purchase, he walks out without bags of his purchases, which are instead delivered to his home. This innovative shopping experience creates loyal customers who then are comfortable shopping online on Bonobos’ site.

These are all efforts that can enhance the buying experience and make people come to you whenever they need to buy the kinds of products you sell. And the right experience can be nearly as valuable as the product itself.

Don’t try to compete on price. You’ll quickly win the race to the bottom, and your profits will be nil. Instead, focus on delivering more value to your customers through the right experiences, so that they’ll choose you every time, even if it means paying a little bit more.

How to Turn a Mistake into a Business Opportunity

How to Turn a Mistake into a Business Opportunity


Businesses like yours are made up of people. And people make mistakes. Unfortunately, when those mistakes involve your clients, they can result in a loss of business, or at the very least, a frustrated customer.

But a mistake can cost you more than that one customer: an irate customer may tell a dozen of her friends — or even hundreds of her social media followers — about that negative experience with your brand, which means you’ve essentially been blackballed from an entire group of people who know nothing more about your brand other than that someone had a bad interaction with it.

And while some customers will be very vocal about their displeasure with your company’s mistake, others may leave without you ever knowing why. These unhappy customers may ghost on you, and you’ll never be the wiser.

And yet...a mistake doesn’t have to mean demise for your brand. It’s possible you can turn it around to your benefit, helping you not only keep a client but even turn them into a brand ambassador as a result.

Listen to Find Out How Your Customer Wants to Resolve the Mistake

Often, customer service agents have a scripted list of potential issues a customer might call about, as well as options for resolution. But sticking to the script often prevents a brand from really being able to make things right with a customer.

Your staff needs to engage in active listening to understand what the customer wants — an apology? A refund? Account credit? A conversation with the CEO? — to actually resolve a misstep.

Empower your customer service staff to make decisions that are best for the customer, or like Nordstrom, known for its stellar service, encourage them to take “creative action” rather than sticking to a script.

And don’t stop with the basics of making up for a bad experience. Giving an unhappy restaurant customer a free dessert is nice, but imagine what helping that customer get a hard-to-get reservation might do to change that situation. Suddenly that customer is not just happy, but he’s actually gushing about how you bent over backwards to rectify a situation. He’s going to tell everyone how wonderful your brand is.

Don’t Make the Mistake in the First Place

Sometimes rather than putting on your corporate thinking hat, you need to instead put yourself in your customer's’ shoes. Will this action make them happy or anger them and cause them to leave you?

I’ll give you an example. Credit card companies are known for mailing offers to entice people to become customers by offering 100,000 free rewards points for applying for a card. Depending on how these points are used, they could have a value of up to $2,000.

The problem with this strategy is that these direct mail pieces are usually not targeted, and existing customers receive them too. How would you feel as a customer of a credit card company if you saw that new customers could get $2,000 worth of rewards points that you didn’t have access to?

This issue is one that any company should resolve by offering existing customers the same promotion. Of course, it requires that customer to actually call and complain, which may mean it’s already too late to rectify the situation. But what if on that same mailer there was fine print saying “existing customers can activate this offer by calling us today?”

Suddenly, there’s no problem. You can guarantee that not everyone will bother to call to get the deal, but at least the mailer doesn’t exclude existing customers.

Be Conscious of When You Falter

You can’t expect your business to be perfect, or even to make every single customer happy. But it takes diligence to constantly pay attention to where you trip up, and then courage to fix that mistake.

Be open to failing, but strive to correct and stay true to your customer.

How Can Luxury Brands Connect with Consumers In Today's Ever-Changing Landscape?

How Can Luxury Brands Connect with Consumers In Today's Ever-Changing Landscape?


High-end print magazines, once the familiar home for luxury brands looking to advertise to their customer base, are cutting back, converting to digital, or closing down entirely. Online advertising is an overcrowded space, and social media isn’t always an easy channel to get people’s attention.

Old school marketing in a new school marketplace has proved challenging for many luxury brands. So how can a luxury brand still reach its customers when every avenue previously used is no longer achieving the same results it once did?

Challenge: More People are Shopping Online

Luxury brands, for the most part, have had to jump on the ecommerce bandwagon like any other brand. But how can we get people back in those stores?

That’s where sensory branding comes into play. We’ve long heard of brands who pipe the smell of fresh-baked cookies into their store or play soothing music to get shoppers to spend more time there. There’s a reason for that: it works.

Adding components to appeal to each of the senses — touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing — can build rapport between a brand and its customers and make that store an experience in and of itself.

And speaking of luxury experience, let’s give customers one they’ll never forget. Have the guests meet the watchmaker, the fabric designer, the artist. Pull back the velvet curtain and let folks become a part of your brand story. This will not only get them in your store and off of the internet, but it will also turn clients into brand evangelists.

Getting customers into the store also requires unique rituals. That might mean offering a customer a cappuccino or champagne when they walk through the door, letting them hand-blend their selection of bath products, or inviting customers to pick up their new Porsche off of the assembly line. Invite them to a VIP guest appearance after store hours. Make them anticipate those rituals and continue to surprise and delight!  

The Challenge: Cat Food Marketing Techniques Don’t Work Here

If luxury brands can’t reach consumers through channels like print magazines, should they try Facebook ads or Twitter? Email marketing or blogging?

The problem is: luxury brands can’t mimic others outside of their world and expect to get results. Just as Purina wouldn’t spend $1 million to advertise in Vogue, Hermes wouldn’t be very successful with a pay-per-click ad on Google.

The fact is: luxury brands do not sell products. They sell lifestyle, or perceived lifestyle. We don’t want the Omega watch Cindy Crawford is wearing, we want to be Cindy Crawford. Or George Clooney. Or that carefree guy on his sailboat. So we buy the watch, the shirt, the car, in an effort to get as close as we can to that lifestyle.

Before we can hope to choose the appropriate marketing channels for luxury products, we must focus on what makes these products unique. Their origin, craftsmanship, and other distinct features all need to be a part of the marketing story tell.

The Challenge: Flagship Stores, While Building Brand, Often Operate at a Loss

Tiffany, Louboutin, Bergdorf Goodman. These brands — along with their flagship stores — have become icons in the luxury market. A shopaholic’s trip to New York City isn’t complete until she’s got bags from the best-known high-end stores swinging from her arm.

And yet, the very exclusivity of these stores may mean that they’re in the red. When the economy tanks, sales do, too. While we don’t want to hold a fire sale to get shoppers streaming in, there’s got to be a way to ensure that flagship stores don’t sink the brand.

Customization offers are one way to boost revenues and attract more sales. Luxury products, by their very nature, are exclusive. What better way to make people feel like they’re part of an elite club than to personalize their products? Letting the customer select the color, material, or design gives a bespoke feel, which will naturally attract new customers.

The Challenge: Social Media is a Tough Nut to Crack

Luxury shoppers aren’t scouring Twitter for coupons, nor are they using animal filters on Snapchat. But the power of social media is still there. It’s just important to ensure that the content published is a) on the appropriate channel to reach a very specific luxury market and b) valuable to that audience.

Bergdorf Goodman uses Tumblr not to sell but simply to curate images of products, as well as scenes from photo shoots on location. And Louis Vuitton leverages the celebrity influencers who wear the brand on Instagram, giving followers a taste of what the brand’s lifestyle is all about.

The Challenge: The Same Old Blog Post Isn’t Going to Cut It

A post on fashioning a scarf isn’t likely to generate much excitement for a luxury brand. That can be found anywhere. Instead, luxury consumers want exclusive content.

Barneys New York gets this. Its branded content hub, On The Window, isn’t overtly branded as Barneys property. It just looks like a blog about high-end fashion. And yet, Barneys cleverly places a “Shop the Story” section at the end of a post so that readers can do just that.

Many luxury brands are testing out branded content, both in print and online. Because it’s more likely to get read than an ad is to be studied, this is another way to get relevant content in front of a luxury-buying audience.

In the end, luxury brands have to have a clear sense of how and why customers buy today.  The sales place is changing, and it’s clear that old tactics will no longer work.

Using the Power of Food & Drink to Brand Your Destination

Using the Power of Food & Drink to Brand Your Destination


Take a look at any traveler’s social media updates and I guarantee food and drink will factor heavily into that stream. Sure, the must-see tourist traps and sunset selfies make the cut too, but it’s the food and drink that make the memories people relive again and again. 

 Understanding this as you market your destination can have a powerful impact on results. In other words, what you find at the end of your fork or at the bottom of your glass can be a powerful marketing tool. 

 Cuisine as a Marketing Tool

Don’t underestimate the power that food and beverages have in swaying your audience to book a vacation at your destination. Travelers — and not just those who consider themselves foodies — are looking for unique dining, cooking, and tasting experiences that create a sense of place through food. Food and drink experiences are about discovery; with local and regional cuisines trending right now, tapping into your destination’s rich food culture can help you attract new visitors. 

 Using food as a branding mechanism can have serious impact on people’s perception of your destination. Just look at Australia. Never considered a foodie destination, in 2014, Tourism Australia put more focus on the luxury travel market, with special emphasis on dining experiences through its Restaurant Australia campaign. Efforts that included a corresponding cooking television series, as well as pop-up dining experiences, paid off: as a result of this campaign, international visitor spending on food and beverage in Australia is up 16.6%. 

 Cruise lines in particular have the opportunity to get creative by taking the gustatory experience far beyond the stuff-yourself-silly buffet. Take note from Celebrity Cruises, which offers a Top Chef at Sea experience that lets guests compete in culinary challenges. And Princess Cruises has partnered with celebrity chef Curtis Stone to launch two restaurants aboard its ships. Your cruise line could do something similar or launch a food or wine-themed specialty cruise. The possibilities are limitless. 

 And hotels can also benefit from amping up their efforts to put food and beverage at the forefront of their marketing. By reinforcing the excellence of your dining options, you can keep guests on your property, where they’ll spend more money for that exquisite dining experience that only your brand delivers. 

 How to Incorporate Food and Drink in Your Marketing

Take a look at the kinds of food and drink experiences you offer from a traveler’s perspective. Are they exciting and worth planning an entire trip around? If not, start creating fantastic experiences that will draw travelers from around the world. 

The Ritz-Carlton in Cancun offers cooking classes to adults and children, which isn’t your typical activity for a beachy vacation in Mexico. In Halong Bay, Vietnam, you can dine in a cave. These are the kinds of food and drink experiences that beg to be front and center in your marketing. 

 Do you have a world-class chef on staff? Do you offer ‘round-the-clock gourmet room service? Do you carry an exclusive wine brand? Whatever food and beverage experience you offer, feature it prominently in your marketing materials. Share food porn on Instagram. Interview your chef on your blog. Integrate that dining experience in every aspect of your marketing so that people see that if they book your destination, they’ll come home with memories they can savor for life. 

 And don’t forget about tapping into local food culture. A hotel in Chicago could give guests a one-sheeter with the best hot dogs in the city. A Bermuda resort could greet guests with a classic Dark and Stormy, as well as offer guests the opportunity to tour the iconic rum factory that contributes the flavor for this well-known beverage. An Alaskan cruise could have an excursion to a salmon fishing facility, giving guests an inside look at the industry. 

 Creating events around cuisine, such as a food and wine festival, is an excellent strategy to drive reservations during typically slow periods. Highlight local cuisine and high-profile chefs to magnetize die-hard foodies to you, as well as appeal to the traveler who appreciates good food, even if she doesn’t consider herself a foodie. 

 Weave those local and regional institutions into the stories you use in your marketing. Talk about where the food comes from. Highlight the farmers and producers. Play up the farm-to-table movement that’s captivated the country. Show that food is more than nourishment; it’s comfort. It’s experience. It’s elevated. 

 Travelers just need a reason to choose your destination above all others. They want a connection, a relationship with the brands and destinations they choose. Nothing connects people better than food and drink, so leverage that to show travelers that you’re more than just a destination; you’re an experience.

Where Video Content Fits Into Your Marketing Plan

Where Video Content Fits Into Your Marketing Plan


Blog posts. Infographics. Social media. Email. Photos.

As if you don’t have enough going on in your marketing, now you need to throw one more thing into the mix: video.

A few years ago, only brands who could afford expensive video equipment engaged in video marketing. But now, every single person is carrying around a perfectly adequate video camera in their pocket.

No longer does your audience expect a professional-grade video, and your smartphone is more video-sophisticated than you give it credit for. The fact that 74% of all internet traffic in 2017 will be video means that if you haven’t started incorporating video in your marketing plan, you’d better do it before you get left behind.

Facebook as a Bellwether

If you’re not convinced that you need to go to the trouble of adding video to your marketing strategy, take notes from Facebook. The social media company, which posted record second quarter earnings, is putting a lot of energy into integrating video on multiple levels.

First, there’s Facebook Live, which appeals to users mainly because the potential reach of a Live video is far more than what a traditional video on Facebook can achieve.

And now the brand is pushing video advertising like never before. Because people spend more time on Facebook now that there are more videos, this is an amazing opportunity for brands like yours to capture an audience where they’re already spending time.

Pay attention to Facebook, folks. Not only are they trendsetters, but they’re also future-predictors. And they’re betting the farm that video is going to pay off in a major way.

So, What About You?

If you want to get started today leveraging the power of video, where can you start?

I’m glad you asked.

First, set up profiles on the sites that really highlight videos, if you’re not already active there. These include:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Snapchat
  • Twitter

(Before you sign up for all of them, make sure your demographic is spending significant time on a site first.)

This isn’t to say that video won’t benefit you on other social channels, but these tend to get more visibility for videos specifically.

Next, spend some time thinking about what kinds of videos might interest your audience. The possibilities are endless, but keep your viewer in mind. Some ideas include:

  • Product demos
  • Tour of your facilities
  • Interviews
  • Answer customer questions
  • Skits
  • Imagery that emulates your brand ethos

As you publish your videos on various channels, you can pay attention to which types attract more users. This can guide you to creating more in that same vein.

And finally, play with different types of video. Snapchat is fun because it’s instant, unrehearsed, and simple. Facebook Live might give you the opportunity to engage with your fans. Or you can spend time writing a script and setting up a more involved video. Or do all of the above! Remember: your audience doesn’t expect perfection, but they do want to be entertained.

Video content refuses to be ignored, and doing so could make it harder for you to keep up with the competition. Start your incorporation of video gradually. Pay attention to results and let them shape your future endeavors.

Why Branded Content Matters

Why Branded Content Matters

If ever there was a buzzword in marketing, “branded content” tops the charts. Experts argue about what exactly branded content is, and, as people like to say on Facebook: “it’s complicated.”

As part of the Defining Branded Content for the Digital Age’ research project, the Branded Content Marketing Association (BCMA) commissioned the following definition from Oxford Brookes University and Ipsos MORI:

“Branded content is any content that can be associated with a brand in the eye of the beholder.”

I think we can all agree that branded content — whether that be a blog post, video, commercial, or social media update — is designed to encourage an audience to trust a brand.

Now, branded content is nothing new. Print magazines (remember those?) included what they called “advertorials:” glossy, informative articles urging readers to book a vacation in Bermuda, buy a weight loss supplement, or indulge in a particular wine. Now in the digital world, we’ve expanded beyond just articles to fine-tune what our audience wants through great content in many forms.

Whereas the former iteration of branded content was little more than shameless product placement, today’s version takes the modern customer into mind, and strives (when done right) to not only introduce a consumer to a brand, but also inform her as to why it’s worth her time and money.

But Why Does it Matter?

Isn’t branded content just one more channel to use in the never-ending slog of reaching new customers? Not exactly. There’s an unbelievable amount of content out there, and much of it is poorly written or unreliable. When brands invest the time and money to create authentic branded content, they’re establishing themselves as trusted authorities in their verticals. If they do it well, people will share it, helping them reach an even larger audience.

We know advertising typically doesn’t work. There’s simply no reason for consumers to trust in your brand simply because you bought a banner ad on a website. So how do you build that trust? By providing useful, contextual content.

In Carlton Doty’s Advertising Age article linked above, he talks about the importance of context:

“Enter the contextual marketing engine: a brand-specific platform that exploits customer context to deliver utility and guides the customer into the next best interaction.”

So not only is this content relevant, but it’s also exactly what the customer needs for a given problem.

The Difference Between Branded Content and Advertising

Ads focus on the features of a product. They use emotion to play with people’s minds and make them think they’ve got to have that $2,000 watch, new sports coupe, or hottest fashion trend. But people aren’t stupid,and they’re onto the ploy.

What consumers really want is to see the benefits of a brand. What will it do for them? How will it improve their lives? Understanding that brands care about features, where customers care about benefits is essential to succeed with branded content.

Branded content engages an audience so that they care about your brand, want to learn more about it, and are more likely to make a purchase. It can do that through education or entertainment.

Here’s a lighthearted example of entertaining content: Friskies partnered with Buzzfeed to launch its “Dear Kitten” video series. While the videos aren’t blatantly advertising cat food, they are establishing their brand in the minds of the millions of people who watch and share the videos.

How to Succeed with Branded Content

There’s a fine line between creating branded content that is aspirational as well as attainable. Yes, you want your audience to feel, after consuming your content, that buying into your brand will somehow improve their lives. But you also don’t want to set it so high that they feel it’s impossible, or that it’s for another demographic other than them.

You want your audience to think, “I can do this. I can take this trip. I can buy this product.”

So how do you balance between attainability and aspiration? It’s all about knowing your audience and what triggers they respond to. Emotion is always a good one, as well as storytelling where people can place themselves into your story.

Trends in Branded Content

Written articles are valuable, but the more immersive the branded content experience, the more likely your audience is to return. Mobile apps, while slightly less red hot in popularity as they were a few years ago, are still a way to deliver a branded, contextual experience.

Look at Starbucks’ new Coffee Passport mobile page. With it, Starbucks customers can take notes on brews, save favorites, and learn about the beans that the brand uses. There’s value, and they’re not selling anything (though you do have to buy a cup of coffee to benefit).

But before you jump on the mobile wave, make sure your audience is there. It’s important to match the platform with your demographic. If they’re on social media, which sites (not all of them)? How do they like to consume information? The more you know about your customer, the better the branded content experience you can deliver.

Social media is a wonderful delivery channel for your branded content. Consider using Twitter chats to brand your own hashtag and drive people to an online event around a particular topic.

If you know your audience responds to videos, create an informative series and post them both to your website and to YouTube to maximize views.

Create in-person events that entertain and engage your audience. For example, you can hold a customer appreciation event with a wine tasting experience or sneak peek at upcoming products.

If you do branded content correctly, you can just stand back and let the magic happen once you create it. But remember: it takes constant effort to stay relevant and provide value that your audience can’t find anywhere else.

How Experiential Marketing Creates Raving Fans of Your Brand

How Experiential Marketing Creates Raving Fans of Your Brand


Digital and email marketing are among the most popular forms of connecting to customers, but another important tool that stands to turn consumers into raving fanatics of our brands — experiential marketing — often takes a back seat.

     Why is that? Why do so many marketers overlook the single best way to connect — really connect — with the people they want to forge relationships with? Likely it’s because they think it requires more effort than automating an email. In fact, it does, because it requires a rare commodity these days — human interaction — but the payoff is much longer lasting and effective.

     Here’s why you need to incorporate experiential marketing into your strategy: by creating an interactive and immersive experience that a consumer can participate in, you forge strong bonds with a potential customer.

In The Experience Economy: Work Is Theater & Every Business a Stage, authors B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore liken experiences to a theatrical performance:

     “But when [the consumer] buys an experience, he pays to spend time enjoying a series of memorable events that a company stages — as in a theatrical play — to engage him in a personal way.”

     In the case of experiential marketing, the consumer doesn’t even have to pay for the privilege of having an amazing experience; it’s your job as the marketer to deliver it in an effort to better brand your business, and therefore build relationships.

Who Needs Experiential Marketing?

     While most brands can benefit from experiential marketing, it’s those that sell high-end products or services who need to leverage it. The high-end customer isn’t going to just hand over her money after seeing your Tweet. She wants more. By creating an experience that she can touch, taste, or interact with firsthand, you’re proving to her that yours is a brand that gets her. Trust me: she’ll clamor for more.

Experiences Beat Things

     Recent studies show that people value — and derive more happiness from — experiences more than items. Because we are the sum of our experiences, not our tangible goods, experiential marketing plays into that fact by creating memorable, buzz-worthy events that consumers will recollect much longer than they will that pen with your logo on it.

     But before you think you need a multi-million dollar fireworks display, caged tigers, and flashy costumes, realize: it’s not about how much money you spend on an encounter. It’s about creating an authentic, can't-be-bought experience that turns a prospect into a client, and a client into an evangelist.

Experiential Marketing Spurs Word-of-Mouth

     Few consumers will chat with their friends about the latest banner ad for a brand, but 59% of consumers who experience event marketing tell others about that live experience within 48 hours. This is a major boon for your brand, because nothing beats word-of-mouth marketing. When consumers become advocates of your company, that’s where the magic happens.

     Journalists, too, play a role in spreading the word. Strategically including reporters who cover your industry could get you free media play, helping you reach thousands or even millions of people through their articles about your brand.

The Role of Emotions

     The goal of any marketing should be to evoke positive emotions in your audience. That’s difficult to do with, say, email marketing, but much easier to do with experiences. Imagine the roomful of tears at the keynote delivered by a man who lost an arm as he struggled to survive in the wilderness. Or the delighted giggles of the students who received a balloon animal instead of a Coke with Coke’s Happiness Machine.

     When you can spur emotions, you automatically connect in meaningful ways to your potential customers. All things being equal between your brand and another, who do you think a customer will buy from: the company that made them laugh or cry, or the one whose Facebook page they follow?

What Makes a Stellar Experience?

     When brainstorming for your own experiential marketing, keep the concepts of surprise and delight at the forefront of your mind. You don’t have to go overboard in your planning; simply do something that helps your brand get noticed. This can be as simple as a handwritten note, which, in the past, used to be the norm, but is now a rare occurrence. Just think of the elation your customer will have when receiving a heavy, linen paper envelope with a friendly note in the snail mail!

     Your memorable experience can be a special dinner, an exclusive showroom event, or an ultimate hot dog tour. People like getting first access and behind-the-scenes looks at your company. It makes them feel special.

     You can also use the experience to make your clients smarter. Set up a corporate wine tasting event that not only educates them on the nuances of wine, but also entertains and engages them. It builds trust and loyalty.

     Experiential marketing isn’t forcing a marketing message down people’s throats. It’s not a one-way conversation. It’s building relationships and trust by delivering a customized experience people will never forget.