Thursday, August 19, 2010

Branding, Content and Segmentation

Is there a single voice?

We often talk about using a single voice and message as a means of conveying a brand to an audience.  This recommendation is based on the argument that we do not want to create dissonance and confuse the market with various and conflicting messages.  But what happens when there are several potential segments, each with their own view of the world and needs?  As an example, education deals with a very diverse set of segments, even within the same degree program. 

So, let's revisit the question:  How do we portray ourselves to different segments?

Creating different brand promises is not the answer.  All great brands have a single point of view or essence; often defining the category.  They own one and only one idea, e.g. Red Bull is the "energy drink." There are few brands that mean radically different things to different groups - Yamaha being a successful example in pianos and motorcycles.  

Audience segments are often described in terms of demographics and lifestyles.  But there is another potential dimension to explore: need.   What underlying benefit does a degree provide?  Is it skills to do something or is it a sense of accomplishment or is it fulfilling a life-long dream?   If we can get a prospect to talk about their vision of the future then we can better understand why they go back to or continue school.   If these views can be reduced to a small set of outcomes then a new possibility arises for developing content: Write the content in a way that reflects the underlying need.  Two really simple examples to illustrate the point:

Skills: describe the practical tools they gain; expertise of faculty
Achievement: provide job and career options; testimonials of successful placements

In this day of landing page optimization and dynamic key word insertion it isn't hard to envision an environment that works more like face-to-face selling.  By sensing what is important to prospects and responding with appropriate content we might be able to improve conversion.