Aug 25, 2011

Build a Timeless Brand

It’s easy to get caught up in the latest shiny objects. Right now Google+ is all the rage. A year ago the conversation focused on QR Codes and Twitter. And before that we were talking about MySpace.

We are living in an exciting time. It’s never before been easier to engage our customers. Google makes everything findable; mobile and apps untether us; and social media adds a whole new layer of communication. At the same time, I fear these tools are distracting companies from the real work of branding and marketing.

Leveraging social media or optimizing content to rank high in Google are tactics. Yes they are important, but it’s like talking about how to swing a hammer more accurately. Tools are tools. The real focus shouldn’t be on the tools, but creating timeless marketing.

Take a page from Shakespeare

Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet sometime between 1591 and 1595 – over 400 years ago. And since then the play has been reimagined and recreated in countless ways. You can see it on stage, on TV, on the big screen or even YouTube. West Side Story, High School Musical and Shakespeare in Love are all adaptions of the play.

Romeo and Juliet stands the test of time, because it focuses on the human condition. Even if the words sound funny and the social mores foreign, the story is timeless. Shakespeare wasn’t talking about the political woes of his time; he was talking about love, desperation and growing up.

There’s something really powerful in creating works that withstand the test of time.

Great marketing speaks to the human condition

Timeless marketing doesn’t speak to features and benefits, or play to the latest technologies. It speaks to human needs, wants and desires. It speaks to us at a deep emotional level.

The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty is an excellent example of timeless marketing. Dove broke the mold for a cosmetics brand and featured real women, not models, in their advertising. The campaign has a clear point of view that all women are beautiful, and portrays smiling women in all shapes, sizes and complexions. Each portrait is beautiful in its own right.

The campaign was originally launched in 2004, and continues to grow and evolve. What started as a traditional ad campaign has morphed to include digital, social media and mobile. Dove blends traditional and digital advertising together well, because their point of view and message is timeless.

New isn’t always better

30 years ago marketers had pretty limited options. They could push their message through TV, radio, print or direct marketing. All options had tight restrictions, and only facilitated one-way communication.

But the restrictions also led to impactful, creative marketing. If you only have a single page in a magazine to convey a message, it’s got to resonate. That’s where campaigns like Avis’ “We Try Harder” came from. A feature or a benefit will be lost in the pages, but a timeless message stands out and resonates.

Today is an exciting time to build and market brands. The choices are endless, and the technology is very democratic. But don’t forget your roots. I’ll take timeless over new and cool any day.

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