2010 Forrester Marketing Forum, Brand Adapted

Josh GordonFor my money, the most impressive presentation at the 2010 Forrester Marketing Forum, without a doubt, was the presentation from Nickelodeon CMO Pamela Kaufman. Her obvious zeal for both the brand, and the brand adaption project showed through, and her enthusiasm inspired the group in attendance. Adapting a marketing organization at the corporate level is a massive undertaking full of powerful inertia, naysayers, and doomsayers. The sheer willingness to agree to take on the project was impressive enough, but the explanation of the marketing group's rationale and methodical approach was enough to leave everyone in the audience with an actionable takeaway and plenty of food for thought.

According to Kaufman, the resounding theme within her department and the important people at Nickelodeon was, “Everything is going great. Why change?”

This is an important bit of initial feedback from the group. Not only did Nickelodeon need to invent the proper way to define its brand, then align all of its products accordingly, the first step was to convince everyone that there was a problem where no one else could see it.

Like an old Magic Eye picture where only one person can see the image, Kaufman began defining a problem that is not unique to their marketing organization. Nickelodeon has many products (from individual shows, to channels, to Web sites, to personalities) and many audiences (carved up into age group from 3 to 18, then a new one – families). In fact, the company had grown to a point where each individual entity was taking on a brand of its own. From an organizational standpoint, Kaufman correctly identified that the current layout at the time was not scalable – or even manageable.

The first necessary step for Kaufman to begin eliminating confusion and adapting the Nickelodeon brand for the new realities of media consumption was to define the primary brand focus. For her it was simple – the brand is Nickelodeon. Kaufman argued that the brand was in desperate need of clarity individually and across the various products. Kaufman identified the brand as Nickelodeon, and attached a mission to the brand.

In order to adapt that brand to the myriad products Nickelodeon had, each product was essentially placed into an audience bucket. Sponge Bob? That goes in Nick Jr. Home Improvement? Nick@Nite. Nick Cannon? TeenNick. Every Web site still has Nickelodeon on it, but each primary product was carved up by audience alone – not style, format, etc. which we see often from other media sources. The brand now has clarity, and each primary product underneath the brand umbrella has focus. Each product adopts the principles of the brand, but adds new descriptors to enhance focus and differentiate. This fantastic blueprint for how to approach adaptive marketing, whether you market for a global entertainment entity, a software company, or a local restaurant.

This type of adaptive brand clarity is important to create and execute successful direct digital marketing, too. While the primary focus is established at the brand level, and that clarity is essential for properly coordinating the direct digital marketing campaigns that are necessary for driving sales and preserving relationships.

Adaptive marketing is fueled – even forced – by whatever is changing. The consumer is always changing, and so is how the consumer interacts with brand. The more clear the brand is at the top, the easier direct digital marketing is because whether an interaction is through email, mobile, or the Web site, the brand endures. Direct digital marketing is responsible for taking the principles of the brand and communicating them at the most minute – and important – levels.

Nickelodeon identified the changing consumption behavior of its audience to drive adaptive marketing changes. It realized more families watched that individual kids. Therefore programming had to change, too.

What is changing in your organization that calls for adaptive marketing?

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