Have you ever seen a commercial or viral campaign that was captivating and entertaining, and yet, an hour later you couldn’t remember what they were selling? It happens more often than you’d realize, and it’s a symptom of a campaign that got caught up in the creative process but lost sight of its goal. No matter how high or low the production value, if there’s no brand recognition, then there is no ROI on that marketing spend. An audience needs to be aware of your brand and the value it provides them through every stage of the journey, from awareness through purchase.
Humor, vibrant visuals, and special effects are great tools to capture attention. Layering a dramatic hook over a core brand message makes creating effective awareness campaigns a skilled exercise. The difficulty may be compounded when everyone on a team understands the brand mission because they live with it every day. This implicit understanding is a subtlety that allows content to get all the way to the final product without the brand team realizing that the key message was lost to production values.
To avoid a costly error, we recommend that every product launch campaign begins by identifying and separating evergreen brand content from marketing trends. Evergreen content is messaging about a brand that lives throughout all seasons and sales cycles. Evergreen content should never be diluted or obscured by trends in buying habits, colors, styles, or the latest social media tool.
Give your next campaign a stable communication platform and consistent brand messaging by defining your evergreen content before a launch strategy is developed. Here are five steps to take that will help to separate trends from evergreen content.
1. Identify your brand’s core mission.
If you don’t have a defined brand mission, it is worth taking time to identify three or four essential characteristics that drive the product development and sales goals for your brand.
We often see corporate brand presentations that include some variation of brand pillars: 3 or 4 vertical pillars holding up a structure that represents the brand. The brand pillars are typically one word or concise phrases that cover a broad topic; for example, value, service, industry leader, innovation, etc.
These pillars serve as the starting point for all brand decisions. Brand pillars should be concepts that will ring true for years and not just seasons. They usually only change or evolve when there are changes at the corporate level.
The pillars are also the place to start when creating a launch campaign. Don’t assume that everyone has absorbed this as part of your culture; formalize this with a simple statement that “Brand X stands for A, B, C, and D.” Having this tool alone can eliminate fuzzy logic or gut reactions when it comes to making decisions about your product line.
2. Develop evergreen messaging from your brand pillars.
Now think about your brand pillars from your customer’s point of view. How would the core values of “service” or “leadership” resonate with the buyer? These evergreen statements will serve as guides for future campaigns, so be sure the messaging is accurate and meaningful to your target audience.
The plumbing fixtures brand Kohler has design aesthetic at the core of their mission. Expressed in their mission statement as “gracious living… marked by charm, good taste, and generosity of spirit,” they’ve been launching products for homeowners since 1883.
In 1967 Kohler’s advertising team introduced the tagline “The Bold Look of Kohler,” which has become a compelling evergreen message. It has survived over 60 years and is still relevant today.
A brand with “value” in its pillar content may have an evergreen messaging statement “quality at an affordable price.” This is not to say that every campaign should include that exact phrase. Evergreen messaging isn’t just about words. Colors, fonts, and photography styling all convey messages to the viewer.
With “value” as a guide, product development would veer away from cutting-edge materials and experimental colors. Marketing campaigns should include photography styles that are more reflective of middle-America and not an urban loft in Manhattan.
3. Test your evergreen statements against your brand goals.
Before you run down the trail of campaign-building, make sure the evergreen statements you developed above would survive several cycles of product development. If they wouldn’t apply to your brand a few years down the road, then they represent market trends and should not be considered evergreen content.
Is your product team exploring exotic ingredients and luxury flavor profiles? Then “quality at an affordable price” wouldn’t hold up for very long as the message about value. Your company’s expression of “value” might be closer to “luxury within reach.”
4. Define the market trends that will draw buyers to your new product.
You should have much of this information in your product planning and justification materials. Someone in R&D should have compiled notes on why this particular product is right to launch this year. Those market trends should carry over to a creative brief, along with the brand pillars and your evergreen messaging.
Trends are items that won’t survive long-range product plans. If you’ve ever watched “I Love the 80s,” then you’ve seen design trends in action. Turquoise, torn paper, and scratchy angular text were all on-trend for that decade and showed up in a lot of unusual ways in the marketplace. Think of all the mauve and turquoise upholstery that appeared in restaurants and hotel lobbies.
5. Know where your audience is consuming content in each buying stage.
It is easy to overlook the idea that every touchpoint is new to a shopper. Your evergreen messaging should be apparent in “awareness” campaigns so it will draw your customer through all stages of the buying journey. Television ads and viral campaigns are experienced far away from the shelf. If the primary brand experience is not evident in a commercial or a social post, then it will never connect to the shopper at the point of sale.
With evergreen content serving as a guide, develop each component so it reflects your target audience and what stage they are in the buying journey. Your campaigns will be stronger, and you'll convert more shoppers along the way to the shelf.
The concepts of evergreen and trend content are vehicles we use every day in our work with clients. Beyond brand messaging, the idea of evergreen information applies to product details, catalog content, package design, and the hierarchy of information in sales tools.
To learn more about how evergreen information applies to product marketing and how we use these principles in our client work, give us a call.