Don’t let the title and the blue Twitter bird on the cover of this book deceive you (as it did me) into thinking this book is about social media, or brand marketing through social media.
That doesn’t mean it’s not interesting, but the title did make me expect something else.
Twitter is Not a Strategy is about brand marketing: positioning your product, service, or company in the market as to successfully distinguish yourself from your competitors. It’s certainly a much discussed topic in the last years with the rise of social media and digital technologies in general, and the perceived end of the era of TV and printed ads. How can brands successfully position themselves in all this noise?
Twitter is Not a Strategy
Author Tom Doctoroff (a marketing guru at one of the biggest firms) isn’t dazed by all the hypes. He insists that at its core, brand marketing is the same as fifty years ago: find an inspiring ‘brand idea’ that builds on what consumers need and want and communicate this in a consistent, engaging way. Not a novel concept then he brings, but old truths in a new, modern package. As he writes himself:
“Twitter is not a Strategy is not meant to be a breakthrough book. Indeed it might even be “antibreakthrough”. It is a call for the entire industry to stand up and reclaim the conceptual high ground of marketing communications.”
The concept of a ‘brand idea’ is fascinating of course. It’s at its core the identity of a brand, how you want consumers to see you and what differentiates you from the competition. Successful brands have a strong, consistent brand idea and everything they communicate is in line with that identity. Apple and Nike are two examples of brands with a long-term brand idea that is affirmed in every piece of marketing they do. When marketing and brand idea clash, the ad itself may be beautiful, but it will leave consumers befuddled as to its message. Doctoroff mentions Adidas who suddenly had Katy Perry appear in their ads next to well know athletes.
Of course in all the marketing, social media do matter. Engagement these days happens online as well. What interested me, was that even successful online campaigns in terms of views, even those that have gone viral, do not necessarily mean more sales. Doctoroff quotes Dove’s brilliant ‘Real Woman’ campaign which had a couple of viral videos like the ‘Real Beauty Sketches’. It did not result in more sales though, despite 70 million views. That’s a sobering reality for all of us who think that going viral is the ultimate goal.
There’s tons of info in this book, though not all of it is easily accessible and understandable for those without a marketing background. Still, it’s a welcome realistic, down-to-earth approach to marketing compared to the many hype-high books on marketing through social media. The many examples from his own experience and from various brands support the author’s realistic approach. The last chapter offers some creative ideas for online content that engages your intended audience.
What’s the big takeaway from this book then? What could non-profits and even churches learn and apply from this book? I think it’s good to be aware of the importance of a brand idea. For non-profits this means having a crystal clear mission and vision and finding an identity that fits this. Take Compassion for instance: they have a consistent brand idea around their slogan ‘Releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name’. Everything they communicate, including their website, donor magazine, stands at events, etc., supports that brand idea. If they were to suddenly make a commercial featuring oh I don’t know, Katy Perry, they’d violate that brand idea. So how strong is your organization’s brand idea? Does everything you communicate support that identity and how you want people to see you?
Secondly, the concept of engagement is one that many Christian organizations need to learn. Much of the communication of missionary organizations for instance is pretty much one-sided. You get newsletters, you’re asked for donations and that’s it. It’s the same for many non-profit organizations. But you only need to look at the incredible success of the ALS water bucket challenge to see where engagement with your supporters can lead to. How can you interact, dialogue, engage with your supporters/donors/friends/relationships/contacts in a way that fits your brand idea?
For churches, the whole idea of marketing is a dangerous one if you ask me. Of course you can successfully distinguish yourself from the church down the road. Of course you could brand your church as the ‘family friendly church’, or the ‘church for millennials’ or whatever. The question is if you should. After all, we are all part of the body of Christ and competing with each other to draw in more sheep, well that’s just silly.
That being said, I would love for the Church as a whole to consistently communicate their true identity. For anyone who wonders how to do that, look at what Pope Francis is doing. He is rebranding the Catholic Church in a big way – and quite successfully I might add. And he’s doing it in a way that fits the ‘brand idea’ of the church: Christ’s presence on earth, helping the weak, the poor and the oppressed. That’s a marketing concept I can get behind…