building great brands

A Summer for Building Great Brands

By APRIL VARA-PAGÉS

For nearly 25 years, I’ve built a multi-faceted career in marketing and communications within the non-profit, start-up and global media categories. Specializing in global brand management and operations, I was the central point of contact for more than 50+ offices worldwide, responsible for developing and maintaining consistent brand strategy, marketing creative and communications for brands like Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet and ID Investigation Discovery, available to consumers in more than180 countries. I’m excited to expand my focus on how brands can more effectively deliver on their consumer needs through marketing strategy, best practices and process working with Noetic.

 

In just a couple of weeks, summer will shine upon us. My mind fills with visions of lively beaches, endless days swimming in the ocean, treasured moments with family and friends, and new dreams taking flight while sleeping in the sun. In the immortal words of Will Smith, summertime is “time to sit back and unwind.”

A Fresh start

Record scratch… but this summer, instead of building sand castles on the beach and diving headfirst into the water, I’m thrilled to be back building great brands. I am making an exciting professional plunge working for Noetic Consultants, a team I have partnered with and admired for the past several years. After spending a sizable amount of my career focusing on global media brands like Discovery, TLC and Animal Planet, I’ll get to dig into brand and marketing strategy for Fortune 500 clients, small companies and non-profits within a significant variety of verticals, brands marketers salivate over like an ice cream cone on the boardwalk. This truly is my summer daydream come true.

Noetic strengthens brands and the people who build them – everyone from NPR, Marriott and Wells Fargo to Mayo Clinic, Nike and SC Johnson. My experience working with them as a client – seeing firsthand their collaborative and positive spirit, their ability to take complex issues and simplify to core truths, and their help-first and solutions-focused mindset – was one where Noetic were the steady horizon in the choppy waters of gaining consensus on brand attributes amongst marketing strategists and creative leads from around the world. This was no easy task, but they led us to this best practice as easily as a sailboat glides across smooth waters.

a new chapter

So, while my summer won’t be a time of sitting back and unwinding, it will be equally as invigorating as a summer recharge. I am so happy to share my news – if you are a marketer working on a brand challenge, contact me… I’d love to explore how to help you solve, or as an excuse to reconnect. I can now be reached at April@NoeticConsultants.com.

And if you’re looking for that perfect poolside read this summer, I highly recommend Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill: How Senior Marketers Scale the Heights Through Art and Science written by Nancie McDonnell Ruder. For marketing executives, it’s a validating and enlightening read, no matter your level of tenure. With its two parts conversational and relatable, and quite a few parts humor, it pairs perfectly with a chilled mojito at your side.

Taking Action On A Customer-Centric Resolution

By Marci Klugman

Marci is a consultant for Noetic, and her career spans both the agency and the client side of the marketing industry. She has worked on iconic brands for companies like Procter & Gamble, Frito-Lay and Campbell Soup Company and spent more than a decade at Discovery Channel. At Noetic, Marci works with clients across various industries on brand strategy, research initiatives and marketing training.

For most of us, January means making resolutions. A time to look back at the year before and identify those areas that we can improve upon. It brings about a renewed purpose, and vigor to try harderwhether in our personal or professional lives. As part of this fresh start, January is often the time of year when many businesses resolve to become more customer-centric organizations.

Let’s face it. It’s easy to think about being customer-centric and preach its importance to our teammates. Many of us are familiar with the 3Cs model by Japanese strategy guru Kenichi Ohmae that rightfully integrates customers as one of the three critical factors needed for success. Our founder, Nancie McDonnell Ruder, has adapted this model to guide Noetic’s philosophy. In her book Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill: How Senior Marketers Scale The Heights Through Art & ScienceNancie states that the first Noetic “c” focuses on “staying connected to the customer, or being customer-centric.”

But how can you achieve that goal? How can you stay connected to your customer so that you put them at the heart of your business decision making? Implementing a customer-centric approach within an organization is a challenge that takes discipline and focus. There is no one-stop shop answer. But there are actionable steps to help you live up to that resolution.

define who you’re talking to.

Can you accurately define your customers? Are you able to embody them when you’re making key decisions on their behalf? As mentioned in Jack and Jill, marketers “must be well steeped in your products or services; you live inside this environment on a daily basis. It is never going to be natural for you to be with your customers on a daily basis, unless you are physically with them.” Yes, it’s unrealistic to physically have your customers next to you. But it’s critical to keep a clear, tangible definition of your customer alongside youliterally. And you can get creative with how you bring that tangible representation to life. Noetic worked with a client that constructed a muse from a mannequin, and brought “him” to every meeting to be sure he was represented as decisions were made. Creating a clear, tangible representation of your customers, based on qualitative or quantitative data, ensures they always remain top of mind.

take your definition further.

Being able to describe your customer is a critical first step, but it doesn’t end there. As stated in Noetic’s book, “customer-centric marketing goes further. It’s about empathy—putting yourself in your customer’s shoes.” Uncovering customer insights is a crucial component of gaining deep customer understanding that ultimately leads to empathy. This is a muscle that needs constant flexing, and Noetic relies on a tried and true methodology to move from audience definition to insight. Once you’re able to uncover what your audience needs, you’re equipped to respond in the most relatable, effective and appropriate manner.

ACTIVATE customer insights.

If you’re working in a marketing research or strategy capacity, it’s likely that you’re responsible for generating audience insights. But, everyone within an organization needs to have a firm grasp on customer needs so that all have the ability to empathize. A great insight doesn’t do much good if it sits in a strategy deck filed away in Dropbox. Instead, share those insights across all facets of your organizationeither formally or informally. Everyone needs the ability to empathize with your customers in order to problem solve for them accordingly.

keep the dialogue GOING.

Once a rich insight is uncovered, customer engagement shouldn’t cease. On-going customer engagement enables you to remain customer-centric. This continuous dialogue can take on many formssurveys, ethnographies, or store visits. And all team members, from the most junior to the most senior, should be involved. The most customer-centric companies ensure executives have direct customer interaction, as corroborated by Suddenlink Communications CMO Jerry Dow in an interview featured in Noetic’s book: “Keeping frequent customer interaction, getting on the road with technicians, working a day in the store—not as an executive but
 as an employee—experiencing the customer and seeing the front line.” Having first-hand knowledge and understanding of your customers across all levels of your company maintain a customer-centric approach.

Becoming and staying customer-centric takes focus and determination. But, if you can tangibly represent your customers, understand their needs, and activate this critical knowledge throughout your organization, you can turn your business resolution into a reality.

A Time to Reflect: How Looking Back Helps You Move Forward

Note: This blog is the fourth in our ongoing Noetic series inspired by Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill: How Senior Marketers Scale the Heights Through Art and Science. This month, Noetic’s guest blogger is our own Laura Longobardi who has insight to offer to help start 2019―with purpose.

The sparkle of a brand New Year. For some, it is a blinding reminder of what was not accomplished during the past 12 months. For others, it is glowing with possibilities of what lies ahead.

I admit, I’m usually one of those people who tears up on New Years’ Eve when the clock strikes midnight. It can be a stark realization of goals where I may have fallen short.

But this year I am taking a nod from Noetic’s (Nancie’s) new book and from many of our blue-chip clients who have already begun their annual due diligence and reflection process as they look to brightly take on 2019. Let’s look at how they are using the New Year as a way to reflect and reframe their strategic and marketing plans.

1. Find comfort in discomfort 

As Barri Rafferty, Partner & President, Ketchum states, “You used to have an annual plan and a quarterly; now the scrutiny is so much tighter. You have to have the ability to bounce back. To strike out and get back up to bat again.”

Like Barri, the best marketers understand the importance of reflecting on the past to enable them to bring clarity on their path forward. They embrace learnings to become smarter, more strategic, and more adaptable. They realize that in order to be successful, we need to be comfortable being uncomfortable. There’s not a person in this world that likes to fail. But there are people who see it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Those learnings are the building blocks of your road ahead.

2. Use mistakes as seeds for success

inspiration, looking forward

If you look at failure differently―even call it by a different name―you’ll realize it’s a key ingredient to success. Think about a time when you lost your footing in public. What did you do? Maybe you made it look like you meant to do it, or laughed it off and kept walking quickly to escape the embarrassment.

Sara Moscowitz, Senior Vice President, Content Marketing & Merchandising at Audible states,You cannot innovate if you are afraid to take a risk. Make sure you try to think through every possible thing that could happen and plan for it, but if something does not work, learn from it – it is not a failure.”

Many of the brands we work with use the 70/20/10 methodology as a calculated way to lead with trusted bets, but also leave room for thoughtful marketing innovation.

3. Fast forward to the future

Norman de Greve, Chief Marketing Officer, CVS Health stated in Noetic’s recent book: “I believe what you do tomorrow is more important than what you did yesterday….Just go forward and do something better. No one really knows the answers, so iterate and go forward. I don’t hold onto failures at all.”

When thinking about marketing or strategic planning with our clients, we use the analogy of having one oar in where you are today, and one propelling you where you want to go tomorrow. It is OK to be (realistically) aspirational when planning and not totally subsumed with where you are at this moment. At Noetic we apply a Who/What/How framework to ensure our clients stay narrowly future focused on goals and objectives―keeping our eyes on the prize.

As you gear up for the holidays―and that final countdown of the year inches closer―I encourage you to reflect on all that has happened. Think about the good, the bad, the scary. Remind yourself of the times you lost your footing and how you’re a little more certain of the path now. Acknowledge that you will fall again, but you’ll get back up and keep on moving. You’ll always keep on moving forward―because that is how we pave our path to success.

 

thank you mentors

Ten Seconds for our Mentors

Note: This blog is the third in our ongoing series offering key insights found in Noetic Founder Nancie McDonnell Ruder’s recently published book, Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill: How Senior Marketers Scale the Heights Through Art and Science.

It’s hard being a person.

It’s also wonderful, exhilarating, and joyful—but there’s no denying that at some points in our lives, every single one of us faces challenges, personally and professionally. We hit walls, we hit ceilings, we fall. Sometimes things are just plain hard.

As we make our way through our careers, this can be especially true. It’s hard to break into a new job, into a new role, into a new market or industry. It’s hard to get the right people on your team. It’s hard to adapt to change.

We’ve all been there. Every single one of us.

The pivotal word that gets us through these hard parts is that last word—Us. It’s the people who’ve reached out to us with wisdom, kindness, and patience—the ones who believed in us until we believed in ourselves again; those who help us pull out of hard places and rise in our careers.

Borrowing Wisdom from Our Neighbor

The recently released critically acclaimed documentary, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” surfaced a tremendously powerful moment from Fred Rogers’ 1997 Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech where he expresses gratitude to all those who helped along the way. In a tear-jerking twist, he calls on the audience to do the same, stating:

So many people have helped me to come to this night.

Some of you are here, some are far away…

All of us have special ones who have loved us into being.

Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are—those who have cared about you and wanted what was best for you in life.

Ten seconds of silence. I’ll watch the time.

[Ten-Second Pause]

Whomever you’ve been thinking about, how pleased they must be to know the difference you feel they’ve made.

The power of being on both the giving and receiving ends of helping, the power of us, is critical to rising up the professional ladder, in marketing and well beyond.

Help First

At Noetic, we believe this so important that one of our core values is to “Help First.” This means that we commit to doing a kindness for another just for the sake of doing it. It’s not always about a project or a way to move an initiative forward. Sometimes our clients and colleagues just need a confidential ear as they work through an issue, or a pep talk when things feel especially hard.

We believe in actively propelling and seeking out opportunities to advance the power of us, because we’ve all felt and are grateful for the impact others have had on our successes. And it’s more than just a notion of “Karma points.” There’s immeasurable value and positive energy generated through the cycle of giving and receiving. We are energized by it, and see renewed energy in others when we are able to help.

The Power of Mentors

This value proved a key theme in Nancie McDonnell Ruder’s interviews with top marketing leaders for her recently released book, Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill: How Senior Marketers Scale the Heights Through Art and Science. “Help first” was most often mentioned in the form of mentorship.

A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.

–Oprah Winfrey

As Nancie described, “Most of my Jacks and Jills spoke reverently about their mentors’ roles in their learning. They cited former bosses who took them under their wings, marketing guardian angels who appeared at key moments in their careers, and role models who are ongoing influences.”

Throughout the interviews, it was as though several of the featured “Jacks and Jills” had their own “Mr. Rogers” ten seconds, pausing to reflect on those who helped them rise up.

My best mentors have been less about helping me understand marketing or strategy or management techniques; it has really been about emotional intelligence learning. Understanding how to deal with conflict, ambiguous situations, complex organizational structures, and sophisticated board discussions… how to present oneself. If you listen and you are reasonably talented, you are going to pick things up that are very important.

–Steven Schiffman, Chief Executive Officer, Cooper Media

When my boss got promoted, she asked me if I would throw my hat in the ring for her role, and I had not been thinking about that at all. Then she prompted me again, and I really thought about it—and I got the job. Having a boss who believes in you is really motivating, because it makes you feel like you can take some risks, sink yourself into the work and not worry about the political waters. If you are performance-oriented in the first place, this can really give you a launch pad.

–Amy Winter, Executive Vice President & General Manager, UP TV

Take Your Ten Seconds

Now pause for a moment and give yourself the same Mr. Rogers’ ten seconds to reflect on who helped you become who you are today…

  • Who comes to your mind?
  • What did they do that was so important in helping you become?
  • How has that experience fueled your success?
  • Who do you think would think of YOU in those ten seconds?

As we move towards the Thanksgiving holiday, we at Noetic want to express our deepest gratitude to all of you who’ve played such critical roles in our success. We promise to continue paying that gratitude forward by helping first and doing our absolute best to keep propelling the power of the greater “Us.”

The Fierce Four

Rising in Fall: Elevate Your Career with The Fierce Four

Note: This blog is the second in our ongoing series offering a glimpse at key insights found in Noetic Founder Nancie McDowell Ruder’s recently published book, Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill: How Senior Marketers Scale the Heights Through Art and Science.

October. The last three months of 2018.

This final turn of the year brings a wealth of good things, like holidays, colorful leaves, candy corn. But, it may also bring a rising sense of unease, as 12 weeks doesn’t feel like near enough time to accomplish all we hope.

Thankfully, as marketers, we are uniquely armed with a keen awareness of the power three months can hold. Through our work, we know 12 weeks is the ideal amount of time to drive an effective, impactful campaign or to even begin elevating our own career paths.

Given this, NOW is in fact the right time to ask yourself, “Is my career on track to take me where I want to be by the end of this year?” If the answer is no, then perhaps it is the perfect time to build your three-month career climbing strategy.

Or in other words, it’s time to get “Fierce.”

Putting Success Into Action

Our founder, Nancie, interviewed 50+ top marketing leaders in her book, Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill: How Senior Marketers Scale the Heights Through Art and Science. Based on these interviews she uncovered a consistent “Secret Sauce” powering the success of these leaders.

But what really struck Nancie during her interviews with these marketing “Jacks and Jills” were four specific actions they take to get and stay ahead in their careers with a tenacity best described as FIERCE. Nancie has termed these: “The Fierce Four.”

Introducing the Fierce Four

The Fierce Four

Simply put, the Fierce Four power leaders to rise to a position of professional excellence where they are considered essential and helpful to their companies, clients and teams.

The Fierce Four, highlighted through direct quotes from the book’s “Jacks and Jills,” are to:

  1. Displace fear with learning

I simply love learning, and I believe you shouldn’t worry so much about what you know and don’t know. If you get a job you could do in your sleep, it’s probably not the right job. Push your comfort level and your boundaries of experience. Force yourself into that new environment. You should never stagnate in your career, or in life, in order to grow with the world and the consumer. If you ever get to a point where you’re no longer learning, you will lose your curiosity and your motivation.

— Ken Dice, Vice President & Global General Manager, NikeiD, Nike

  1. Seek out and commit to creative avenues to learn

I always try to be as teachable and curious as possible. I tell myself, “I may not be the expert on this now, but I will be by the time this project is over.” I have yet to come up with a challenge that I have not been able to figure out, though I do have a lot of bruises and scars, so I know with this I also have to be comfortable that there will be failure. There is a saying, “If you have a knot, patience will untie it.” Meaning, if I can work on something long enough, I can figure it out. I just take it one step at a time, go get the resources I need, partner really well, garner a lot of trust, make sure everyone is in it to win it.

— Meg Goldthwaite, Chief Marketing Officer, NPR

  1. Strengthen both art and science sides of marketing

If you are more of a scientific MBA kind of marketer, you can rise up in the world of marketing to the CMO level and move outside marketing if you want. If you are more of a creative marketer, at some point you have to wrestle with the other side. As much as I pride myself on making this jump, it is hard to be as energetic about it; it requires a new context for your energy. This is the challenge in the world of marketing today: bringing together these equally powerful aspects of marketing, and doing it in a way that gets to the right people to grow the business, to get the right ROIs.

–Ken Dice, Vice President & Global General Manager, NikeiD, Nike

  1. Surround yourself with strong teams

I believe a leader cannot be successful on his or her own. You have to work together, give credit, be surrounded by great teams with different styles. I think there is a spectrum [of art and science], and a successful team is going to have this spectrum.

— Barbara Goose, SVEP & Chief Marketing Officer, John Hancock

Get Fierce!

Start by asking yourself:

  • Which, if any, of The Fierce Four am I activating in my career?
  • Which of The Fierce Four could I take action on immediately?
  • What areas of learning should I target and why?

We all have room to grow in our careers, so don’t be anything other than excited by your answers. Be invigorated to set a few goals for the rest of the year. Give yourself the gift of rounding out the year strong – getting ready for a fierce 2019!

Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill: An interview with Nancie McDonnell Ruder

Nancie McDonnell Ruder, Founding Partner of Noetic Consultants, sat down with Noetic colleague Lauren Stradley for an interview about her new book, Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill: How Senior Marketers Scale the Heights Through Art and Science. Here’s the full story:

LS: What sparked the idea for jack and jill?

NMR: I have interacted with many, many amazing senior marketers over my career, both through Noetic and in my earlier years at Leo Burnett. I’ve seen so many things that I admire. I was struck by how some people in these roles were advancing and doing impressive things, even though the business climate seems to only have become more challenging. I loved the idea of doing research to really delve into that. And it was a way to give back to a community who has given me so much.

LS: Any other reasons?

NMR: I will also say that when I was little, I would write stories, title them and bind them with Elmer’s glue. It was something I wanted to do when I grew up.

LS: What do you think the seven-year-old Nancie would think about this book?

Noetic Assessment Art iconNMR: She would be very excited to see one of her dreams come to fruition. I was into everything creative as a kid—drawing, painting, writing creative stories—so the little girl I used to be would love to know there’s a big creative element in it. What she wouldn’t know, as I do now, is that there’s also another side.

LS: What do you mean by “another side”?

Noetic Assessment Science iconNMR: The premise of Jack and Jill is that there’s a balance of art and science that one needs to achieve in marketing today. Most people feel stronger on one side or the other. I felt strong on the creativity side (or “art”) and had to work more overtly on my science side to build those skills. The important thing to know—and Jack and Jill unpacks this—is that there are things you can do to strengthen your weaker side.

LS: Do people always demonstrate an “art side” or a “science side” as children?

Noetic Assessment Leaning towards Science iconNMR: It usually has to do with where you lean early in life. Let’s say, for example, you had some aptitude in math and also had a really great math teacher. Or, your mom was an engineer and brought out your analytical side. Then, you might build those science muscles more. I would say that most people don’t know how to build up their complementary side. Successful senior marketers sense that they need to round out their skill set and work toward that. Marketing is so fluid and vast that you need both.

LS: So, is that what jack and jill is about?

NMR: Yes! Jack and Jill is for people who have an interest in marketing, whether they are already leaders in their field or aspire to be one, with formal or informal interest. It helps folks understand core components of what is needed to be successful—as I put it, “the art and science of the discipline.” We offer an assessment so readers can discern where they fall on the art/science continuum, as well as a toolkit of activities, resources and tools they can use to strengthen the side where they may be weaker.

LS: I really like the title. Tell me about Jack and Jill. Are they the ones of nursery rhyme fame?

NMR: I did a whole body of research of senior marketers to take from their vantage point how they excel, and I refer to them as “Jack” and “Jill” in the book. It does bring to mind that nursery rhyme, in which they go up the hill then disastrously fall back down. But it also turns it on its ear. In our story, when Jacks and Jills fall down—which they all inevitably do because failure is a key component of the senior marketer journey—they get back up and continue striving and climbing again. There’s also the expression Jack or Jill-of-all-trades, which most people finish with “master of none.” I see “all-tradesness” as a positive. Jacks and Jills are generalists, who are resilient and keep a learning mentality, so their business and career can keep evolving and growing.

LS: The people you interviewed – most of whom allowed you to use their names – are pretty high profile, busy people. How did you choose them?

NMR: I worried about getting people who excel the most because, naturally, they are so busy. I first went out to those I had a significant relationship with, like a client or colleague, because I knew they would take the hour to talk to me. And then to get to over 50—a good qualitative sample number—I asked everyone I interviewed whether they knew someone who fit the profile and would appreciate the process. Most did and most enjoyed the hour we spent. It seemed to be a cool thing for them to put words around something they instinctively understood about themselves.

LS: I would have liked to be a fly on the wall for some of these! Tell us a funny or illuminating anecdote from your interviews.

NMR: As far as funny…one of my first interviewees was with someone I knew well. They said, “Some of these are horrible questions.” It made me pause. I had only interviewed a couple of people at that point, so I took the criticism and honed the questions further. And, of course, it was much better after that. What I found most illuminating was the role of resilience and grit. Marketing is hard. You are going to have to lean into innovation and change. It’s not like I didn’t know these folks were resilient. But it was striking how many mentioned it as a key to their success. They connected the dots—you have to take risks, you have to be willing to fail.

LS: Can people become more resilient?

NMR: It’s not like these rock star Jacks and Jills feel super-courageous every moment of every day. It’s about choosing a mentality of leading with learning and not worrying about being correct or putting yourself on the line. It’s about trying, and if it doesn’t go well figuring out how to right the ship. If someone feels they don’t have resilience—or as much of it as they’d like—these marketers and I would say that all you need is to want to have it. Failure isn’t a word they relate to.

Nancie McDonnell Ruder AuthorLS: What did you learn about yourself and your own work through this process?

NMR: It was harder in certain ways than I thought it would be. After talking to several authors, I knew it would be challenging, but it was more challenging than I expected. Having an editor early on was a really critical factor in getting it done. I also learned my Noetic team is as passionate about Jack and Jill as I am. I see the book as a vessel/platform for my co-senior marketers.

LS: I loved that you were able to bring our work at Noetic into JACK AND JILL, how did you achieve that?

NMR: The people involved with the book are either clients, could-be clients or are like clients. It is for and by the people we serve. So, it became a place to showcase what makes them so great and unpack that for people who don’t know. I also chose to include something I call “Noetic Notes” throughout the book, because I am so proud of and grateful for our team. Through the Noetic Notes, I bring in client stories and anecdotes that showcase how we practice what we preach. I draw from work and also even from my personal life—families are organizations, after all—and these principles apply pretty globally.

LS: What was the hardest part of writing JACK AND JILL, and the easiest?

NMR: The easiest was research. I loved doing it, and it was fascinating meeting and reconnecting with people. I could have kept going forever. The hardest was finding time to focus on writing. Creativity is interesting, and we discuss the nature of it in the book and how folks can develop theirs. Sometimes it’s counterintuitive. You have to make space for the muse to visit you. Because I was balancing writing with running Noetic, one of the places I was able to be most focused was on airplanes. And I wrote nights and weekends.

LS: What did you hope to gain from writing JACK AND JILL, and do you think achieved that?

NMR: I wanted to expand my community of marketing geniuses and give back to them, as well as create thought leadership for Noetic. I have achieved that. And I’ve helped that seven-year-old girl get her book done!

LS: When is it coming out and where can we all get it?

NMR: Jack and Jill is available on Amazon.com.

 

 

 

Featured image photo credit: Coyle Studios

Pass the Secret Sauce: Winning Strategies for Senior Marketers Coming this Fall

By: Lauren Stradley

Climbing to the top of the marketing hill isn’t easy. And staying there can be even more precarious. We know, because a big part of what we do is to help clients navigate the complex, ever-changing marketing landscape.

Confronted with a dizzying array of new platforms and constant content consumption, how do we, as successful senior marketers, cut through the din?

Noetic is built upon a research-based approach that uncovers insights clients need to overcome challenges and achieve goals. It’s the heart of what we do—with every client success strengthening our heartbeat. This past year, we set out to do more.

Introducing Jack and Jill 

Noetic Book Jack and Jill

We launched an effort to augment our focus on  company, branding and marketing objectives to include guiding marketing leaders to overcome professional challenges. We applied our IDEA methodology to help senior marketers elevate their careers. That project became a book. And, we couldn’t be more excited to announce the upcoming launch of Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill: How Senior Marketers Scale the Heights Through Art and Science, authored by our fearless leader, Nancie.

To write Jack and Jill, Nancie drew upon her own 25-year career and insights from Noetic’s work with big brands like Nike, Wells Fargo, and Discovery Channel. She reached deep into our team’s networks to get firsthand best practices and lessons, and conducted in-depth interviews with more than 50 of the world’s best marketers, learning exactly what makes them tick, what drives them, and what helps them stay relevant.

The Secret Sauce of Marketing Leaders

Nancie found many commonalities among these marketing rock stars, including an elusive “secret sauce”—the uncanny ability to combine what she calls the “art” and “science” of their discipline. Every tidbit—often straight from the marketers’ mouths—is “news you can use,” including activation-ready insights and tools, like The Fierce Four, The Noetic 3c, and The Noetic 4p. Jack and Jill also offers a toolkit, featuring a powerful assessment to determine where readers are on the marketing art/science continuum and help them ascend from there.

Coming soon!

The book is just several months from release, and we can’t wait to share it with you. In the meantime, visit our Jack and Jill page and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get inspired and start exploring the key themes and career-altering advice of Jack and Jill!

Resilience

Want to Succeed in Work and Life? You’re Gonna Have to get Gritty.

by Nancie McDonnell Ruder, Founding Partner, Noetic Consultants

JILL IS RESILIENT. BE LIKE JILL.

This year I have been exceptionally focused on the importance, and underpinnings, of resilience. Life is long and challenges come up for all of us. How do I best navigate these challenges, and help those I care deeply about—my children, family, friends, and, of course, clients and colleagues—cope?

Resilience, grit, courage, strength. These terms are close cousins and we employ them frequently to admire those who overcome much in chasing accomplishment. “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration,” the inventor Thomas Edison famously said. Dale Carnegie also valued “grit.” “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed no hope at all,” he said.

Grit and resilience in life are hard to come by, certainly, but in marketing a special breed has it in spades. These exceptional folks are the focus of a book I have been writing that will be published in the fall, “Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill: How Senior Marketers Scale the Heights through Art and Science—and You Can, Too!” I interviewed more than 50 successful senior marketers for this project, and saw that resilience is a key attribute all share.

By virtue of the field, they know standing still means stagnation. Instead, they move, try, fail, and then try again. Each time when they–or their ideas–get knocked down, they simply get back up. Through my investigation of this topic with these remarkable individuals, I have identified four critical factors that enable “Jacks” and “Jills” to keep on keepin’ on, no matter the conditions. (The Noetic team and I look forward to sharing more about these “Fierce Four” factors, and other insights from the upcoming book, with you in future posts!)

Savor the Climb. No matter what’s on the other side.

I recently had the privilege of traveling to Miami for a two-day event where I was honored among women business owners. During this time I had the opportunity to meet so many successful women, and was struck again and again by their amazing stories of resilience. One of these formidable women shared her story of emigrating from Somalia as a child and building her business from scratch after putting herself through school. Now that she is established and successful, she is pouring her efforts and resources into helping young girls in Somalia have the resources to do the same.

Another woman with a $100m business sat uncomfortably next to me at the pinnacle awards dinner. She was embarrassed to be called to the stage so late in the meal, because the awards were being given by company size–hers being among the largest. I turned to her and asked, what was most difficult as you built it? She shared that she has five children, and her husband died in a plane crash at 42, when her kids were two to 13 years old.

“What did you do?” I asked. “Well,” she said, “I didn’t want to get out of bed. But then I thought, am I going to let the kids stay in bed? No. So I got up. And I just kept getting up. And now I am here. It was a mountain that I climbed one step at a time. I am still climbing, slow and steady. And I enjoy it.”

Pace yourself. identify your stress release valves and use them to recharge.

The most resilient among us also understand that a continual 24/7 grind is not the way to sustain for the long haul. They find ways to recharge so they can show up and shine again. One senior marketer, whom I interviewed for the book, put it this way: “The pressure is particularly intense in the world today. I think some people get personally burnt out on the process. I am a huge believer in a mental AND physical competence, building your own stamina and your own stress release valves. Everyone does this a bit differently. For me it is getting up early and doing yoga and meditation, taking walks outside when traveling….ways of getting the physical energy. I also think you have to build a level of confidence.”

Be continuously passionate in areas that authentically interest you.

Angela Duckworth who authored Grit, offers that the grittiest among us are thoughtful about what they pursue. “Each was chasing something of unparalleled interest and importance…even if some of the things they had to do were boring, frustrating, or even painful, they wouldn’t dream of giving up. Their passion was enduring.”

Don’t hold on to failure, or even label it as such.

Innovative marketers understand that lack of success means valuable learning toward the next effort. Another talented marketer I interviewed explains it like this: “I believe what you do tomorrow is more important than what you did yesterday…just go forward and do something better. No one really knows the answers so iterate and go forward. I don’t hold onto the failures at all.”

Stepping forward when others might stand back and raising a hand when others might sit on theirs, are both important parts of resilience. This means seeing opportunities where others may not see them, or at least won’t have the courage to seek them out. Successful marketers see these avenues and determine that they can be a change maker by taking them on. They persevere with passion. I am grateful that my observation of them feeds my own passion and perseverance to accomplish more. I look forward to sharing again with you soon!

Nancie

qualitative research

Research: The Foundation of a Sound Strategy

We are already a month into 2018. This means most of us are beginning to execute our 2018 strategy. But, first, consider the role of research in your strategy. Research is often thought of as a tool to validate a new product or to understand your evolving customer landscape. While these are great reasons to initiate a research project, research is an imperative step for any project or strategic planning effort. It is powerful for: validating an investment, achieving internal buy-in on a project you feel strongly about, or exploring a big new question in your industry.

Spending the time and resources up front for research ensures you are headed in the right direction strategically. You might think this will cost you momentum, but quite the opposite is true. Getting halfway through an initiative and realizing it is not strategically sound will cost you much more. Strategic marketers and business planners are wise to conduct this due diligence at the beginning of any project.

What is the Big Research Question?

Research should always be designed to lead to a decision, and not simply to reduce ignorance. While eliminating ignorance is never useless, it is not the most powerful and strategic investment of your dollars and time. Start with the decision you are trying to make, or the question you are trying to answer. Then, determine the data you need to make an informed choice. For example, you could be in the alcohol industry and need to know how the legalization of cannabis will alter your customer messaging now that consumers have new choices. This is an example of researching to answer a big question.

Research is a powerful first step to take to approach your projects in the most strategic manner. It is easy to overlook among those projects that don’t seem to demand it. However, it is a very powerful lever to pull to strengthen your strategy and give you an edge against your competitors. But, research is an umbrella word that covers many different methods. Which is the right type for the decisions you are trying to make?

Beyond Just the Facts. 

What Kind of Research Do I Need?

Broadly speaking, there are two buckets of research: quantitative and qualitative. Each encompasses a variety of methods that are useful for different decisions. Quantitative research tells you the what and the how of your audience. These are important questions to answer to make informed messaging and channel decisions. Quantitative research distills who your customer segments are, the key attributes that describe them, and validates qualitative research conclusions. Quantitative research requires a large sample size and includes methods like conjoint analysis and surveying.

Alternatively, qualitative research uses smaller sample sizes and uncovers the why. Qualitative research goes more in-depth and provides rich consumer learnings that lead to insightful actions. It allows you to explore and diverge with your customers, to truly understand why they make the choices they make. Qualitative research often uncovers a primal need state that your organization can leverage to be customer-centric. Because qualitative research operates with a smaller sample size, it is often less expensive and faster than quantitative research.

As an example, Noetic worked with a Senior Living Community on a brand positioning project. We began with a series of 1:1 interviews with current residents to understand how they felt in their new home. Through the research, we uncovered that there was a lot of initial fear about the uncertainty of moving to a new home. Residents felt like it was a closure of their life, with possibilities now limited. As a result, our findings directed this organization to position their messaging around new and expansive opportunities, to address and soothe this fear.

Setting an Informed Research Formulation

Qualitative research is something Noetic specifically champions because of its ability to uncover those key consumer insights. A strong insight is the basis for all strategy, especially marketing strategy. It is our experience that most people associate qualitative research solely with focus groups. Focus groups are one great tool. However, they are not the only qualitative research method. There are many ways to conduct qualitative research.

  • 1:1, Dyads and Triads: In depth interviews are typically 1-2 hours in length and involve 1 interviewer with 1-3 interviewees. This method is time intensive. Yet, it is one of the most powerful methods to truly understand the motivations of your customers. Noetic worked on a B2B marketing strategy for a higher education nonprofit. We conducted in-depth interviews across 3 different audience segments: states, businesses, and other nonprofits. We uncovered that each segment had differing motivations for degree attainment among their respective constituents. Our client was then able to tailor their messaging to best communicate with each audience. Organizations that resonate the most, will achieve the most.

 

  • Social Listening: Social listening is a method of qualitative research that analyzes various social media channels to determine the sentiment of your brand across customers, as well as compare the sentiment for your competitors. It is a bird’s eye view, and should not focus on one-off mentions. Look for consistent themes that lead to actionable insights. Social listening allows your organization to rapidly respond to shifting dynamics and remain relevant. The ability to create actionable strategies differentiates social listening from social media monitoring. For example, Tesla realized that many customers were complaining that drivers would leave their cars parked for hours at charging stations. This inhibited other drivers from charging their cars. Because this was a consistent theme, Tesla was able to address customers with a communication from Elon Musk that this would be taken care of.

 

  • Ethnography: Ethnography is a qualitative research technique borrowed from anthropology. It involves observing consumers in their natural environments to uncover hidden pain points. Observation can often uncover subconscious habits or need states better than consumers self-reporting. As marketers, we are most curious about what consumers do vs. what they say they do. If this method sounds time consuming and expensive, that is because it is. However, it often produces some of the best insights for research & development, as you observe subconscious pain points consumers are not even aware of themselves. Boston Consulting Group employed ethnography techniques in their book Rocket. They studied brand advocates of the most successful brands in their natural environments and homes.

Getting Started.

There are many ways of approaching research. What is most important, is that you do in fact embed research as an upfront step to any initiative. A well-informed strategy that is founded on actionable consumer data is powerful. Customers will resonate with your brand or messaging because they will feel known and understood by you. In today’s world, customers expect this, and will reward the brands that put in the effort to do so. Let us help you create the strongest strategies based on key consumer research this year!

Marketing Objectives

Starter Guide: Get Started on Your 2018 Marketing Planning with Objectives, Goals and KPIs

With 2018 right around the corner, you have likely started setting marketing objectives for the new year. This is always an exciting exercise. I feel invigorated by the possibilities a new year holds, and I imagine you do, too. But, how do you know the right marketing goals to set that will meet your objectives? And how will you measure for success? Setting clear marketing objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs) are how you do just that.

SETTING MARKETING OBJECTIVES

A marketing objective could be considered your marketing strategy for a particular area, and it will likely include your goal. It should tie back to a specific business situation, and ultimately, support your company’s enterprise wide goals. Think of a business situation as a potential challenge or opportunity, that if addressed, will help achieve those broader enterprise wide goals.

3 Steps to Setting the Right Marketing Objective

Step 1: understand your business situation and write a few draft marketing objectives that could address it. This will be a brainstormed list that you will refine later.

Step 2: research the key factors that influence your company holistically: customer, business, brand and landscape. Analyze these aspects to inform which draft marketing objective is strongest, or possibly evolve an existing objective.

Step 3: identify your best, refined marketing objective, and create specific goals that further define what success would look like. Aim for 1 to 3 specific goals.

Let’s consider an example where your competitors have significantly larger social media audiences than you do. If this is the case, your marketing objective could be to increase your social media follower base. Your goal would go a click deeper and could be: To increase your brand’s social media follower base on Facebook by 5% in Q1 of 2018 among your A-list customers. You want to ensure your goal is SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timebound.

Lastly, ensure your goal coincides with where your target customers are in their journey with you as a brand. These journey phases are: initial consideration, active evaluation, closure, and post-purchase. For example, the social media goal we described above is specific to A-list customers, who would be in the post-purchase phase, and already aware of and loyal to your brand.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT KPIs

KPIs are a measurable value that demonstrate how effectively you achieve your marketing goal. With your defined goal as a guide, list the 1–3 specific KPIs that track your progress toward achieving that goal.

3 Types of KPIs

There are 3 types of KPIs: operational, performance, and diagnostic. Operational KPIs are the degree to which customers successfully accessed or interacted with your product or service. A Performance KPI measures the success of a specific effort, such as the number of Call to Action responses. Lastly, a Diagnostic KPI is an internal measure that helps you determine your progress, like how many new accounts you followed on social media to grow engagement.

To identify the right KPIs to track, take your marketing goal and cascade it across these three types of KPIs. Take a moment to brainstorm what KPIs in each category you could track. I like to call this the diverge stage. Next, look at this list and converge on which KPIs would be the most hardworking to capture that truly measure the success of your goal. Looking back to our social media marketing objective and goal, you would likely want to track KPI’s such as the number of Facebook followers and posts with highest engagement (shares, likes, and comments).

New Year, New Goals

So, with the new year right around the corner, I hope you feel empowered and inspired in your planning. By choosing few, clear objectives – you will be set up for great success. I know I speak for the whole Noetic team when I say, we can’t wait to see what you accomplish in the New Year!