When Ian Botham smacked Dennis Lillee around the park in the Old Trafford test to seal the deal on his Ashes in 1981, he was sponsored by Duncan Fearnely and used their kit.
Right away, I had to have THAT cricket bat.
Nothing else would do. And when I drove the ball with a straight bat I made sure I 'showed them the maker's name'. Next up was David Gower. He used his Gray-Nicolls bat rather like a rapier to Botham's bludgeon. He was SO cool. And just like that, I had to have a Gray-Nicholls. Graham Gooch and his military march form in 1990, which included 333 at Lords, meant I moved on to the Stuart Surridge 333. Then followed Graham Hick and his 405, and it was full circle to Duncan Fearnley and its 405 bat.
For any international friends feeling a bit lost, I am talking about cricket. But don't worry, the point is this: these brands HAD me. But why, and how? They all used the same high quality English willow in their bats. They all used comparable techniques and tools to make them, and for an identical purpose. In fact, the precise specifications of the bats are laid out strictly in the rule book. The point is that they had relied almost entirely upon marketing to differentiate themselves. (I am guessing the same could be said about baseball bats!?)
Sure, one brand would argue about their superior bat makers and approach, but at the end of the day how do you get additional 'features and functionality' into what is effectively the same exact thing? You can't. But that didn't dampen my enthusiasm one bit. I needed Fearnly's Attack, Gray-Nicolls's Power Spot and Stuart Surridge's Turbo. Nothing else mattered. I was fully engaged with these brands and wanted to consume everything about them. My bat was my life. I slept with it. Come on - which young cricketers haven't slept with their bats!?
Thirty-five years on from Botham and his Ashes, that sheer engagement is exactly what we are trying to create for our clients in their markets. We believe companies can differentiate themselves through communications by truly engaging their market, and that the quality of that sustained engagement drives measurable business outcomes.
Of course, when it comes to our specialist sectors, building a brand, securing investment, generating leads and growing a business is not as simple as slapping a sticker on a piece of wood and getting a professional sportsman to tell the world how good it is. But that's where we come in...
For us, everything we do starts with the brand. How should it look and feel? Who should it be targeting? Where does it want to be seen? And what does it have to say?
We then set about building that brand, positioning it in the most appropriate way and creating the messages that support it. From that point flow the creative ideas that ensure those messages engage their audience.
Next, we ask what content is going to support that messaging and those creative ideas. It could be video, infographics, images, animation or really good copy-based content. And if it's going to be tagged, blogged, tweeted and shared it has to be like the best of our sporting heroes - original provocative, and compelling.
Then comes the question 'where does this content need to be seen in order to reach the audience?' Businesses need to consider 'media' in its fullest sense here - not just traditional, nor social - if they want to get the attention their brand deserves, and to ensure they have explored all the best possible ways of engaging their target audiences.
The other part of the triangle is search. To return to our metaphor, people love a cameo - and they can certainly help change games - but alone they are worth little. It is the 'daddy' hundred, ground out over a day, that ultimately wins the match. Similarly, we don't want our clients' content to play a cameo. Quality content shouldn't just be shot out like a firework - whiz, bang, looking good then fizzling out to nothing, never to be seen or found again. That's why integrating search engine marketing with your communications is so vital. It better enables your content to be shared, communicated and picked up by Google. What's more, search and analytics mean that you can measure the level of engagement your brand has among your target audience, and how effective that engagement has been at driving business outcomes.
At the end of the day, it's all about thoughtfulness, strategy and consistency. When it comes to communications you are on a sticky wicket if you focus purely on the tactical and functional, operating on a very narrow band in an un-coordinated way. Whatever your sector, you need to truly engage your market to secure the business outcomes you want. At Aspectus we know how to get peoples' attention, and keep it - it is our craft and trade. In short, and returning one last time to our now-strained metaphor, we can help you avoid the googlies and hit the opposition for six (that's 'curve balls' and a 'home run' for our international brethren...).