In order for a brand to appeal to consumers, it must stand out from the competition. Fortunately, this doesn’t mean your business has to set up an inflatable tube man out front; creative marketing simply means that when other brands zig, yours should zag.
Suzanne Copeland, former CMO of Sterling National Bank, found ways to zag every day. It was her job to market Sterling in a way that distinguished it from other banks and turn consumers’ heads. With a marketing background and a sharp instinct for creativity as her go-to utilities, Copeland innovated campaigns that paid dividends for her bank.
You can hear Copeland speak about her creative marketing experiences on the Renegade Thinkers Unite podcast below.
As a lateral thinking whiz, Copeland offers some expert advice for making brands stand out. Here are three creative marketing tips that can help your business make a name for itself.
1. Do What Other Brands Don’t Do
Whatever your company’s industry, there are probably like-minded organizations with the same goals that offer competitive benefits to consumers. Although it’s important to provide customer experiences that are just as good—if not better—than your competitors’, it’s equally important to bring something new to the table. Copeland acknowledges the struggles of differentiating a brand, citing the specific challenges she faced in banking marketing. She says, “Everybody tells you that their customer relationship is better. It’s kind of hard to really tease that out to some specifics that explain exactly how you’re better.”
Complex problems like this require renegade thinking—and that’s exactly what Copeland used to help Sterling contrast itself from rival brands. Even though many marketers in the banking industry have sought out digital platforms to promote their brands, Copeland’s team went old-school with one of its primary advertising projects. The finished product was Connect Magazine, a print publication featuring the success stories of Sterling’s business clients. Copeland says, “Connect is a beautifully produced magazine. This is a small magazine, but it’s something that you would stop and take a few minutes to look at.”
Connect Magazine doesn’t just help Sterling’s clients get their brand names out there; the publication also helps Sterling present itself in a special way, as featured clients explain how the bank has helped them achieve their goals. “There is some relationship building with regard to the prospects, and, quite frankly, most of Connect is mailed to prospects, and that helps build our brand,” Copeland says. “But at the same time, it is going to our clients…it is creating brand ambassadors that will praise our services.”
2. Maintain Brand Focus
As any marketer knows, there are seemingly endless outlets for promotion in this day and age. Unfortunately, having too many options can distract marketers from their advertising goals. Copeland sees channel proliferation as a potentially harmful trend. “It’s almost endless, the different choices I could be making,” she says. “[Channel proliferation] is dizzying, especially as we try to make the marketing function as efficient as possible, spend the fewest number of dollars, and have them go to the exact perfect ways to get the exact results we want. And with more choices, that makes it much more difficult.”
Copeland’s solution is simple—focus. Know where you want to take your business and maintain a grounded approach when exploring new marketing frontiers. She explains, “I think you’ve got to have a focused plan…I think it’s so easy to get distracted by the new shiny object and start pursuing new tactics and get lost in the weeds.” The more focused your creative marketing strategy, the more sharply it can identify and follow through on the company’s larger goals.
3. Stay in Touch
Any lapse of consistency between how a business runs and how it is marketed can also muddy the brand image. A disjointed business structure could hinder a company’s objectives, says Copeland: “Many times there is a disconnect there, and I just think it’s hard to make good marketing decisions if you don’t know what makes the business run.”
The best ways to avoid this problem are to communicate clearly with the other parts of your business and to stay in touch with your industry as a whole. Marketing is, of course, just one component of any business structure, so it’s important to know what surrounds it. Copeland explains, “I think that the biggest ‘don’t’ for me is getting cornered in the marketing world. I think you’ve got to be able to have relationships beyond that in the organization and really understand what other parts of the organization are doing.” Keep those words in mind at your next company picnic.