Moving From Cool To Critical: What We Learned At The Forrester Marketing Leadership Forum

David Cooperstein

Last week, Forrester got about 700 of our friends together (ok, conference attendees) to figure out what is cool and what is critical in marketing today as well as what is likely to cross from the former to the latter. We had amazing presentations from major consumer goods, retail, insurance, and technology brands tackling these different issues.

Below, I have included the graphic illustrations of these presentations (courtesy of Kate Dwyer at Collective Next), highlighting the key takeaways from each. In them, you can see the stories and concepts that our speakers revealed to help the audience progress in this complex marketing world we now live in.

What's cool?

  • Branding is cool again, according to Chris Stutzman. He studied the relationship expressed by consumers between things like brand pride and brand uniqueness and how they influence premium prices and willingness to recommend. His insight: 21st century brands will be built on different foundations than 20th century brands, especially as they  relate to what leads the marketing effort. Product-led brands will suffer as experience-led brands thrive (Note: His report will be coming out soon, but here is preview from Advertising Age). 
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Four Reasons Interactive Marketing Is Ready To Lead Your Brand

Nate Elliott

Brand marketers don’t spend much online. It’s been a long-time frustration for me, but it’s undeniably true: According to our most recent interactive marketing forecast, marketers in brand categories spend less than half as much of their marketing budgets online as marketers in direct response categories. Brand marketers also continue to spend a huge portion of their marketing budgets on TV.

I’ll be honest: Five or 10 years ago, this made sense. Although lot of us were shouting from the rooftops back in 2000 about the scale and power of the Internet, the truth is back then its scale and power were relatively limited. The majority of the population still wasn’t online, Internet usage averaged only a few hours per week, and the brand stories we could tell online were constrained by both tiny banner ads (anyone remember "half banners"?) and tiny bandwidth (broadband access, and with it online video and other rich creative, was years away from the mainstream).

In that environment, it made sense that TV was by far marketers’ most important channel for building brand. After all, it offered brand marketers by far the largest media opportunity (more total users, and way more total hours, than any other media channel) and by far the richest brand impact of any platform. Marketers would have had little choice even if they wanted it: 30-second TV spots were the be-all and end-all of how they explained the meaning of the brands, and all other channels — online, radio, print, outdoor, and everything else — were simply a chance to reinforce the messaging in the TV spots.

But the conditions that made TV the de facto heart of our brand messaging no longer exist. Today, interactive marketing is ready to lead your brand campaigns, for four key reasons:

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Differentiate Digital Experiences By Building A Strong Brand Personality

Ronald Rogowski

Ever wonder why most digital interactions fail to engage users? In part, it’s because users can’t easily decipher who they’re dealing with. Instead of actively developing unique experiences that support how they want their brands to be perceived, companies chase features and functions that others have implemented. At best, the result is bland cookie-cutter experiences that leave users uninspired. At worst, brands can seem downright schizophrenic to users who get unpredictable experiences as they move from channel to channel.

It’s not easy to create a strong emotional bond through an interface because it’s difficult for users to see the people behind digital interaction points. Instead, they see a mere screen or a system. But people are far more predisposed to creating connections with other people than they are with an interface. That’s why firms need to pay attention to the brand personality they’re trying to convey and make their digital experiences feel more human. Of course, the solution isn’t just to plaster your website with happy faces or buzzwords. Instead, firms can take a more systematic approach and follow the principles of Forrester’s Emotional Experience Design framework. Here are a couple of ways for firms to establish brand personality:

  • Match visual designs across channels so that users can easily recognize the brand as they cross interaction points.
  • Keep in sync with the brand attributes that they want people to associate with them by creating content that conveys brand messages and by crafting the right voice to further convey those messages. 
  • Adopt a human tone that lands in the right place in between robotic, just-the-facts approaches and overdone marketing speak that comes off as fake.
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