Last issue we talked about how to apply common sense lessons from the big world of business to the uncommon world of mobile entertainment. In this article we’ll explore branding and promotional strategies and their relationship to one of the most challenging aspects of our industry: competing for attention.If you were to ask ten people at random to define marketing, it is likely that most, if not all, would mention advertising. I’ve done just that-asked clients or seminar audiences for a definition of marketing-countless times. To most people (mobile entertainment industry or otherwise) the words marketing and advertising are virtually synonymous. A few people offer additional examples, like trade shows, publicity, websites, or brochures. While these are all relevant promotional tools, they do not fully define the concept of marketing.
Some companies even go so far as to refer to their marketing function as “the advertising department.” Others say, “Our ad agency handles our marketing.” The dictionary cross-references advertising and promotion to the extent that a casual reader would conclude that they are the same thing. However, for our purposes here, let’s use the following definition:
Promotion is the process of delivering controlled messages about you and your products to your target customers, audience, and other stakeholders. Stakeholders may include your staff, vendors, community, financial investors or creditors, or the general public.
A Word About Branding
Just like marketing, advertising, and promotion, we hear the word “branding” used in a variety of business contexts. So what is branding anyway?
Branding is the creation of indelible images of you and your products in the minds of your target customers, audience, and stakeholders.
Your brand is a set of symbols-both visual and verbal-that creates a positive connection between you and your target audience. Your brand is the symbol of what you do and what you stand for. As such, promotion is a set of tools for building your brand.
Let’s look at some examples from the music world to illustrate this point. While music fans are unlikely to say “I really like the Rolling Stones’ big lips brand symbol” in casual conversation, they are likely to recognize that brand when they see it and think of what it stands for-the mark of the “World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band.”
Think of single-name artists and the images that come to mind: Beyonce’, Usher, Prince, Madonna, Sting, Cher, Ludacris, Rihanna. How about band names like Metallica, U2, the Eagles, OutKast, Coldplay, and so many others?
Likewise with jazz fans. All you have to do is say “Duke” or “Louis” or “Miles” or “Bird” or “Wynton” in a jazz context and an image comes to mind. Or how about country music? Hank, Willie, Garth, Reba, Loretta…the list goes on. We could do the same for virtually every genre of music. The name, logo, and other images remind fans and music business people of something special (hopefully something good) about the artist and their music.
Here’s the business point: Those artists sent controlled messages to their target customers, audience, and stakeholders consistently and over a long enough period of time to have become “brands.” You do the same thing in your mobile entertainment business as you build your brand.
Three Key Questions Regarding Your Promotional Strategy
As you review the many promotional options available, you may wonder what combination of tools is best for you. While the sheer number of promotional opportunities can be overwhelming or confusing, take comfort in knowing that you have control over your specific situation. Here are three key questions to ask yourself as you plan the promotional link in the marketing chain:
1. Do I need everything? The list of promotional tools includes advertising, publicity, trade shows, sales literature, showcase performances, demo DVDs, websites, newsletters, wearables, identity items and direct marketing. Do I have to use all of them? The answer is “probably not,” at least not all at once.
2. How much does it all cost? What can I afford? The range of promotional expense budgets for most mobile entertainment businesses is 1%-10% of total revenue. Some businesses spend more, some less. If you are spending less than 1% of your total revenue on promotion, you are probably not promoting enough. If you are spending more than 10%, you are either spending too much or your promotion is not working effectively to drive revenue up.
3. Who’s going to do the promotional work? What if I’m not good at writing marketing copy, doing graphic design, or creating promotional strategies? This is a big question, and points to the value of building a team that includes people with promotional expertise. That team can be made up of employees, freelancers, marketing service companies like ad agencies or publicists, or a combination of all three. The point is that someone needs to do the work, and if it is not you, then find someone who you can pay to do better work than what you would have done yourself.
Here’s the Point…
I hear some mobile entertainers say “I get my gigs through word-of-mouth. I do great shows and know how to please the crowd. I’m working as much as I want to by referrals.” Does that sound familiar? If yes, you are fortunate (lucky?). These days it takes a whole lot more to compete for clients’ attention.
Promotion is essential to long-term success in the mobile entertainment business. You need to promote and build your brand in order to get the attention of your target customers and keep that attention focused on you rather than your competitors. While this is a huge challenge, it is manageable if you approach it in a systematic way.
Note that I did not specify a dollar amount for your promotion budget, but rather a percentage of planned revenue. It is much better to back into the promotion budget after planning revenue than it is to first commit to all the promotional things you’d like to do, and then figure out how to pay for them.
Many mobile entertainers get burned by spending too much on the wrong things during the early stages of building their businesses. After getting a sour taste of the world of promotion, they go too far the other way and don’t use the available tools effectively. Still have a few boxes of fancy pens with your old phone number on them? How about too many size “small” logo t-shirts in the wrong color? You get the idea. You can prevent that problem.
Next issue we’ll pick up here and talk about the top ten promotional tools and branding tips in more detail. In the meantime, best wishes for success in mobile entertainment!
John Stiernberg is founder and principal consultant with Stiernberg Consulting, the Sherman Oaks (Los Angeles) CA-based business development firm (www.stiernberg.com). John has over 25 years experience in the music and entertainment technology field. He currently works with audio and music companies and others on strategic planning and market development. His book Succeeding In Music: Business Chops for Performers and Songwriters is published by Hal Leonard Books. Contact John via e-mail at email@example.com.
Filed Under: Business, Issues from 2008
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