Oct 17, 2013

Ripples and Splashes: Growing Your Brand

Miley Cyrus created a splash at the 2013 MTV VMAs. Her “twerking incident” was a cannonball, and as the Wall Street Journal wrote, “Miley Cyrus is twerking all the way to the bank.”

Miley Cryus’ performance was a highly choreographed marketing splash, and it generated a ton of buzz. Following her performance on August 25th she was the top trending topic on Google for four straight weeks, she was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, and she hosted Saturday Night Live.

So what’s the lesson? A well timed splash can change the trajectory and reach of your brand.

Ripples sustain the brand

Mitch Joel has been influential on my approach to marketing. He wrote in Six Pixels Of Separation,

Think ripples, not splashes … Splashes do work (when done right), but only for a very limited time. Think about it. You drop a rock in the water, and the splash comes up high and fast, but fades just as quickly. The only way to keep your momentum is to keep making splashes, which, as you know, gets messy and confusing quickly … Ripples work in an entirely different way. With less energy, you can toss a small pebble (your ideas) into a big lake and let the ripple effect take hold. True, it’s not as dramatic as a splash, but it sustains itself for a longer period, covering a much wider area.

Mitch’s philosophy is correct. Ripples go further. They sustain relationships, and they help you drip, drip, drip your way to a sticky brand.

And most companies are quite good at maintaining the ripples. Blogging, email newsletters, trade shows, search marketing, social media, relationship management and PR are all tools to stay active and create ripples. Each piece on its own isn’t very spectacular, but as a whole they grow brand awareness over time.

The challenge with ripples is impact. A ripple won’t bring a wave of new prospects and clients to your company.

Splashes create impact

Miley Cyrus’ performance at the VMAs is an eye opener. She had the ripples—her albums, touring, TV and media appearances, and social media—to sustain the brand. The splash elevated her brand and her reputation to be in line with A-list performers.

And there are clear parallels to business brands. Apple has made several splashes that have shaped their brand and their industry, such as the 1984 commercial for the Macintosh and Steve Jobs’ launch of the iPhone. Each splash propelled Apple to new heights, and broadened their reach and impact.

Apple and Miley Cyrus may be stunning examples, but you will find smaller splashes all around you. What was the last major event that happened in your industry? A game-changing product launch, a major merger, a crisis, or a stunning speech at an industry event? What happened that got people talking?

Splashes happen all the time. Some aren’t huge, but they’re big enough for the intended audience to see.

Make a splash every now and then

The foundation of an effective marketing strategy is based on ripples. And a splash is out of the question if your company is still working to maintain the day-to-day activities of marketing.

But if you’ve got the platform built and it’s humming along, maybe it’s time to spice it up to grab unexpected attention. Maybe it’s time to architect a major event that generates a ton of buzz and propels you to the next level.

Creating a splash isn’t easy. They often take months of strategy, planning and work ahead of time to make them work brilliantly. But when done right they can change everything.

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