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How Land O’Lakes Found a Mission Greater Than Sales

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How Land O’Lakes Found a Mission Greater Than Sales

It was a powerful moment. A CNN+ interviewer asks Beth Ford, “What is the purpose of your life?”

She replies: “I hope I will know success by the number of lives I’ve touched. I hope by changing somebody’s story, by helping them succeed – if that’s what my life is and ends up being, that is going to be the best joy of my life.”

Beth is CEO of Land O’Lakes, a farmer-member-owned company with businesses focused on agricultural production and consumer foods, including the famous butter.

She shares with CNN+ what she sees beyond business in that rural landscape: “I cannot tell you how painful it is to watch a family have to struggle or to hear that they’re doing their hardest and to worry how they’re going to feed their own kids.

“Seventy-eight percent of the counties in America that index as food-insecure are in rural America … And it’s just not right. I don’t see why we say it’s someone else’s problem. This is an American issue. It leaves us less secure.”

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How did Beth and Land O’Lakes become such fierce advocates for the American farmer? And how did that lead to the CNN+ interview? That story was told by Kim Olson, Land O’Lakes chief communications officer, at Content Marketing World.

Let’s rewind and start from the beginning.

Brand role, brand purpose

While the work in earned media and communications started as soon as Beth was named CEO, it more recently has been amplified and framed in enterprise purpose work led by Chief Marketing Officer Heather Malenshek.

Kim explains: “Less than 1% of the population is involved in agriculture, but 100% of us have to eat. We used to talk about farmers around the dinner table. Someone had an uncle or cousin that was out on the farm. Not anymore.”

Land O’Lakes determined the following:

  • Brand belief: Farmers are the entrepreneurs who truly change the world for the better.
  • Brand role: Magnify and champion farming’s true potential through relentless cooperation.
  • Brand purpose: Put farmers and retailers at the heart of creating a better world.
  • Brand impact: Sustainable futures, vibrant rural communities, and safe and plentiful food supply.

1669059903 655 How Land OLakes Found a Mission Greater Than Sales

Create a persona of the brand

To personalize the brand purpose and make it more tangible, the company created a persona – Maverick Advocate.

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Maverick Advocate portrays bravery and resiliency, using its brand voice for good. The character does not destroy a system but makes it better. Kim says Maverick Advocate leads with the kindness and compassion that resilient, kind, and family-oriented farmers appreciate.

Beth, who became the president and CEO in July 2018, in many ways embodies the Maverick Advocate character. A few months after she started, she dined with farmer members who talked about their day-to-day lives. Beth asked how they made use of opportunities for additional economic, educational, and health-care digital resources. To her surprise, the farmers said they often didn’t have opportunities because they don’t have access to internet connectivity.

@LandOLakesInc CEO heard farmers didn’t have access to the internet, prompting the brand’s American Connection Project according to @BethFordLOL via @kim_l_olson @dshiao @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Further research revealed over 42 million Americans lack access to broadband internet, Kim tells the Content Marketing World crowd.

Land O’Lakes had found its communications platform, closing the digital divide by expanding broadband access.

Develop a multi-year strategy

Kim helped conceive a three-year plan around this digital divide initiative. Beth served as the effort’s primary voice:

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1669059903 149 How Land OLakes Found a Mission Greater Than Sales

The first year focused on building awareness of Beth as the new CEO and the Land O’Lakes brand. The second year centered on driving advocacy for closing the digital divide. Building on the success of years one and two, the third year focused on performance – expanding the strong CEO halo to enterprise and executive influence.

Let’s explore each phase further.

Year 1: Awareness

The awareness phase focused on high-profile speaking events, media opportunities, and op-ed articles, Kim explains. In one of Beth’s first appearances, she spoke at the Economic Club of Chicago. Beth discovered people were receptive to her message and largely didn’t know about the issue.

On the communications side, Kim focused on forming a strong, unified, and consistent message across media placements in local, regional, and national outlets. She says when working with the media, momentum is key. A few initial placements lead to more, usually more high-profile placements.

@LandOLakesInc @kim_l_olson says momentum is key in media placements. That’s what eventually brought CBS’ @60Minutes @LesleyRStahl to them, says @dshiao via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

CBS News correspondent Leslie Stahl heard Beth speak. Her staff contacted Land O’Lakes to invite Beth to appear on 60 Minutes.

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Kim worked with Beth to convince the broader leadership team about the opportunity. (After all, a story on 60 Minutes isn’t always that flattering for a company.)

1669059903 102 How Land OLakes Found a Mission Greater Than Sales

They invited 60 Minutes to a member’s farm in Pennsylvania to see the dairy operation. They involved Land O’Lakes chief technology officer Teddy Bekele to discuss broadband and the digital divide. The team helped 60 Minutes tell the story of what’s happening to farmers in rural America.

The program aired in October 2019 and it was a big success. It generated a lot of awareness and opened the door to more opportunities.

Year two: Advocacy

In year two, Land O’Lakes launched the American Connection Project (ACP) initiative to generate awareness and advocacy to address the digital divide. An ACP policy coalition included 177 companies from multiple industries that all agreed to the importance of broadband access for rural communities.

Member organizations include Cleveland Clinic, Microsoft, and Purdue University. In this phase, Land O’Lakes generated notable earned media placements. Sample headlines:

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  • Land O’Lakes Played Key Role in Securing $65B for Federal Broadband Funding
  • Land O’Lakes, Inc. Teams up with Center on Rural Innovation To Launch American Connection Communities
  • Wolf Leads Bipartisan Effort in Calling on President, Congressional Leaders To Invest in Broadband Internet Access

These efforts culminated in November 2021, when Beth joined others on the White House lawn when the president signed the historic infrastructure bill:

Year 3: Action

During the pandemic, broadband access became more essential, heightening the seriousness of the digital divide. The Land O’Lakes team and their members, partners, and the coalition took action. Tina May, Beth’s chief of staff and vice president, rural services, led efforts to expand the American Connection Project.

Many provided free Wi-Fi access to their networks in their parking lots. The American Connection Project members and other Land O’Lakes partners rallied to provide free Wi-Fi access. In all, people could access free Wi-Fi at 3,000 locations.

The action didn’t stop there. The American Connection Project added more initiatives. American Connection Corps brings in young fellows who go back into rural communities to talk about digital connectivity and help workers improve their skills. The fellows also provide planning and consulting to these workers. The first initiative took place in Aberdeen, South Dakota.

Follow-on phase: enterprise-wide expansion

In a follow-on phase, Beth and members of the executive team elevated the collective voice and influence of Land O’Lakes to the broader world of business. Their earned media coverage featured numerous members of the C-suite, with placements in MarketWatch, VentureBeat, National Rural Business Summit, and.

1669059903 18 How Land OLakes Found a Mission Greater Than Sales

Beth now sits on The Business Roundtable, a nonprofit association eWeek based in Washington, D.C., whose members are chief executive officers of major U.S. companies. Beth has earned coverage in broader business publications, such as Fast Company and TED.

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Be the next Land O’Lakes

At first blush, you might think, “This is a great story, but Land O’Lakes is a Fortune 500 company and this doesn’t apply to me.”

But it does. You can apply several things from this story to communications in any-sized company.

Land O’Lakes strategy was about the audience, not sales. How can you help your target audience’s lives?

Land O’Lakes didn’t execute its mission alone. It partnered with over 175 companies to join the cause. What businesses, organizations, and people could help you achieve your audience-focused mission?

The other key to being like Land O’Lakes? Remember, they took over three years to execute it. Create a detailed plan but make sure it’s long-term.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy

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Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy

Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy

As we march closer to the 2024 U.S. presidential election, CMOs and marketing leaders need to prepare for a significant shift in the digital advertising landscape. Election years have always posed unique challenges for advertisers, but the growing dominance of digital media has made the impact more profound than ever before.

In this article, we’ll explore the key factors that will shape the advertising environment in the coming months and provide actionable insights to help you navigate these turbulent waters.

The Digital Battleground

The rise of cord-cutting and the shift towards digital media consumption have fundamentally altered the advertising landscape in recent years. As traditional TV viewership declines, political campaigns have had to adapt their strategies to reach voters where they are spending their time: on digital platforms.

1713626763 903 Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy1713626763 903 Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy

According to a recent report by eMarketer, the number of cord-cutters in the U.S. is expected to reach 65.1 million by the end of 2023, representing a 6.9% increase from 2022. This trend is projected to continue, with the number of cord-cutters reaching 72.2 million by 2025.

Moreover, a survey conducted by Pew Research Center in 2023 found that 62% of U.S. adults do not have a cable or satellite TV subscription, up from 61% in 2022 and 50% in 2019. This data further underscores the accelerating shift away from traditional TV and towards streaming and digital media platforms.

As these trends continue, political advertisers will have no choice but to follow their audiences to digital channels. In the 2022 midterm elections, digital ad spending by political campaigns reached $1.2 billion, a 50% increase from the 2018 midterms. With the 2024 presidential election on the horizon, this figure is expected to grow exponentially, as campaigns compete for the attention of an increasingly digital-first electorate.

For brands and advertisers, this means that the competition for digital ad space will be fiercer than ever before. As political ad spending continues to migrate to platforms like Meta, YouTube, and connected TV, the cost of advertising will likely surge, making it more challenging for non-political advertisers to reach their target audiences.

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To navigate this complex and constantly evolving landscape, CMOs and their teams will need to be proactive, data-driven, and willing to experiment with new strategies and channels. By staying ahead of the curve and adapting to the changing media consumption habits of their audiences, brands can position themselves for success in the face of the electoral advertising onslaught.

Rising Costs and Limited Inventory

As political advertisers flood the digital market, the cost of advertising is expected to skyrocket. CPMs (cost per thousand impressions) will likely experience a steady climb throughout the year, with significant spikes anticipated in May, as college students come home from school and become more engaged in political conversations, and around major campaign events like presidential debates.

1713626764 529 Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy1713626764 529 Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy

For media buyers and their teams, this means that the tried-and-true strategies of years past may no longer be sufficient. Brands will need to be nimble, adaptable, and willing to explore new tactics to stay ahead of the game.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday: A Perfect Storm

The challenges of election year advertising will be particularly acute during the critical holiday shopping season. Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which have historically been goldmines for advertisers, will be more expensive and competitive than ever in 2024, as they coincide with the final weeks of the presidential campaign.

To avoid being drowned out by the political noise, brands will need to start planning their holiday campaigns earlier than usual. Building up audiences and crafting compelling creative assets well in advance will be essential to success, as will a willingness to explore alternative channels and tactics. Relying on cold audiences come Q4 will lead to exceptionally high costs that may be detrimental to many businesses.

Navigating the Chaos

While the challenges of election year advertising can seem daunting, there are steps that media buyers and their teams can take to mitigate the impact and even thrive in this environment. Here are a few key strategies to keep in mind:

Start early and plan for contingencies: Begin planning your Q3 and Q4 campaigns as early as possible, with a focus on building up your target audiences and developing a robust library of creative assets.

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Be sure to build in contingency budgets to account for potential cost increases, and be prepared to pivot your strategy as the landscape evolves.

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Embrace alternative channels: Consider diversifying your media mix to include channels that may be less impacted by political ad spending, such as influencer marketing, podcast advertising, or sponsored content. Investing in owned media channels, like email marketing and mobile apps, can also provide a direct line to your customers without the need to compete for ad space.

Owned channels will be more important than ever. Use cheaper months leading up to the election to build your email lists and existing customer base so that your BF/CM can leverage your owned channels and warm audiences.

Craft compelling, shareable content: In a crowded and noisy advertising environment, creating content that resonates with your target audience will be more important than ever. Focus on developing authentic, engaging content that aligns with your brand values and speaks directly to your customers’ needs and desires.

By tapping into the power of emotional triggers and social proof, you can create content that not only cuts through the clutter but also inspires organic sharing and amplification.

Reflections

The 2024 election year will undoubtedly bring new challenges and complexities to the world of digital advertising. But by staying informed, adaptable, and strategic in your approach, you can navigate this landscape successfully and even find new opportunities for growth and engagement.

As a media buyer or agnecy, your role in steering your brand through these uncharted waters will be critical. By starting your planning early, embracing alternative channels and tactics, and focusing on creating authentic, resonant content, you can not only survive but thrive in the face of election year disruptions.

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So while the road ahead may be uncertain, one thing is clear: the brands that approach this challenge with creativity, agility, and a steadfast commitment to their customers will be the ones that emerge stronger on the other side.


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Tinuiti Marketing Analytics Recognized by Forrester

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Tinuiti Marketing Analytics Recognized by Forrester

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By Tinuiti Team

Rapid Media Mix Modeling and Proprietary Tech Transform Brand Performance

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Tinuiti, the largest independent full-funnel performance marketing agency, has been included in a recent Forrester Research report titled, “The Marketing Analytics Landscape, Q2 2024.” This report comprehensively overviews marketing analytics markets, use cases, and capabilities. B2C marketing leaders can use this research by Principal Analyst Tina Moffett to understand the intersection of marketing analytics capabilities and use cases to determine the vendor or service provider best positioned for their analytics and insights needs. Moffett describes the top marketing analytics markets as advertising agencies, marketing dashboards and business intelligence tools, marketing measurement and optimization platforms and service providers, and media analytics tools.

As an advertising agency, we believe Tinuiti is uniquely positioned to manage advertising campaigns for brands including buying, targeting, and measurement. Our proprietary measurement technology, Bliss Point by Tinuiti, allows us to measure the optimal level of investment to maximize impact and efficiency. According to the Forrester report, “only 30% of B2C marketing decision-makers say their organization uses marketing or media mix modeling (MMM),” so having a partner that knows, embraces, and utilizes MMM is important. As Tina astutely explains, data-driven agencies have amplified their marketing analytics competencies with data science expertise; and proprietary tools; and tailored their marketing analytics techniques based on industry, business, and data challenges. 

Our Rapid Media Mix Modeling sets a new standard in the market with its exceptional speed, precision, and transparency. Our patented tech includes Rapid Media Mix Modeling, Always-on Incrementality, Brand Equity, Creative Insights, and Forecasting – it will get you to your Marketing Bliss Point in each channel, across your entire media mix, and your overall brand performance. 

As a marketing leader you may ask yourself: 

  • How much of our marketing budget should we allocate to driving store traffic versus e-commerce traffic?
  • How should we allocate our budget by channel to generate the most traffic and revenue possible?
  • How many customers did we acquire in a specific region with our media spend?
  • What is the impact of seasonality on our media mix?
  • How should we adjust our budget accordingly?
  • What is the optimal marketing channel mix to maximize brand awareness? 

These are just a few of the questions that Bliss Point by Tinuiti can help you answer.

Learn more about our customer-obsessed, product-enabled, and fully integrated approach and how we’ve helped fuel full-funnel outcomes for the world’s most digital-forward brands like Poppi & Toms.

The Landscape report is available online to Forrester customers or for purchase here

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Ecommerce evolution: Blurring the lines between B2B and B2C

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Ecommerce evolution: Blurring the lines between B2B and B2C

Understanding convergence 

B2B and B2C ecommerce are two distinct models of online selling. B2B ecommerce is between businesses, such as wholesalers, distributors, and manufacturers. B2C ecommerce refers to transactions between businesses like retailers and consumer brands, directly to individual shoppers. 

However, in recent years, the boundaries between these two models have started to fade. This is known as the convergence between B2B and B2C ecommerce and how they are becoming more similar and integrated. 

Source: White Paper: The evolution of the B2B Consumer Buyer (ClientPoint, Jan 2024)

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What’s driving this change? 

Ever increasing customer expectations  

Customers today expect the same level of convenience, speed, and personalization in their B2B transactions as they do in their B2C interactions. B2B buyers are increasingly influenced by their B2C experiences. They want research, compare, and purchase products online, seamlessly transitioning between devices and channels.  They also prefer to research and purchase online, using multiple devices and channels.

Forrester, 68% of buyers prefer to research on their own, online . Customers today expect the same level of convenience, speed, and personalization in their B2B transactions as they do in their B2C interactions. B2B buyers are increasingly influenced by their B2C experiences. They want research, compare, and purchase products online, seamlessly transitioning between devices and channels.  They also prefer to research and purchase online, using multiple devices and channels

Technology and omnichannel strategies

Technology enables B2B and B2C ecommerce platforms to offer more features and functionalities, such as mobile optimization, chatbots, AI, and augmented reality. Omnichannel strategies allow B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses to provide a seamless and consistent customer experience across different touchpoints, such as websites, social media, email, and physical stores. 

However, with every great leap forward comes its own set of challenges. The convergence of B2B and B2C markets means increased competition.  Businesses now not only have to compete with their traditional rivals, but also with new entrants and disruptors from different sectors. For example, Amazon Business, a B2B ecommerce platform, has become a major threat to many B2B ecommerce businesses, as it offers a wide range of products, low prices, and fast delivery

“Amazon Business has proven that B2B ecommerce can leverage popular B2C-like functionality” argues Joe Albrecht, CEO / Managing Partner, Xngage. . With features like Subscribe-and-Save (auto-replenishment), one-click buying, and curated assortments by job role or work location, they make it easy for B2B buyers to go to their website and never leave. Plus, with exceptional customer service and promotional incentives like Amazon Business Prime Days, they have created a reinforcing loyalty loop.

And yet, according to Barron’s, Amazon Business is only expected to capture 1.5% of the $5.7 Trillion addressable business market by 2025. If other B2B companies can truly become digital-first organizations, they can compete and win in this fragmented space, too.” 

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If other B2B companies can truly become digital-first organizations, they can also compete and win in this fragmented space

Joe Albrecht
CEO/Managing Partner, XNGAGE

Increasing complexity 

Another challenge is the increased complexity and cost of managing a converging ecommerce business. Businesses have to deal with different customer segments, requirements, and expectations, which may require different strategies, processes, and systems. For instance, B2B ecommerce businesses may have to handle more complex transactions, such as bulk orders, contract negotiations, and invoicing, while B2C ecommerce businesses may have to handle more customer service, returns, and loyalty programs. Moreover, B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses must invest in technology and infrastructure to support their convergence efforts, which may increase their operational and maintenance costs. 

How to win

Here are a few ways companies can get ahead of the game:

Adopt B2C-like features in B2B platforms

User-friendly design, easy navigation, product reviews, personalization, recommendations, and ratings can help B2B ecommerce businesses to attract and retain more customers, as well as to increase their conversion and retention rates.  

According to McKinsey, ecommerce businesses that offer B2C-like features like personalization can increase their revenues by 15% and reduce their costs by 20%. You can do this through personalization of your website with tools like Product Recommendations that help suggest related products to increase sales. 

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Focus on personalization and customer experience

B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses need to understand their customers’ needs, preferences, and behaviors, and tailor their offerings and interactions accordingly. Personalization and customer experience can help B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses to increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy, as well as to improve their brand reputation and competitive advantage. According to a Salesforce report, 88% of customers say that the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services.

Related: Redefining personalization for B2B commerce

Market based on customer insights

Data and analytics can help B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses to gain insights into their customers, markets, competitors, and performance, and to optimize their strategies and operations accordingly. Data and analytics can also help B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses to identify new opportunities, trends, and innovations, and to anticipate and respond to customer needs and expectations. According to McKinsey, data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to acquire customers, six times more likely to retain customers, and 19 times more likely to be profitable. 

What’s next? 

The convergence of B2B and B2C ecommerce is not a temporary phenomenon, but a long-term trend that will continue to shape the future of ecommerce. According to Statista, the global B2B ecommerce market is expected to reach $20.9 trillion by 2027, surpassing the B2C ecommerce market, which is expected to reach $10.5 trillion by 2027. Moreover, the report predicts that the convergence of B2B and B2C ecommerce will create new business models, such as B2B2C, B2A (business to anyone), and C2B (consumer to business). 

Therefore, B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses need to prepare for the converging ecommerce landscape and take advantage of the opportunities and challenges it presents. Here are some recommendations for B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses to navigate the converging landscape: 

  • Conduct a thorough analysis of your customers, competitors, and market, and identify the gaps and opportunities for convergence. 
  • Develop a clear vision and strategy for convergence, and align your goals, objectives, and metrics with it. 
  • Invest in technology and infrastructure that can support your convergence efforts, such as cloud, mobile, AI, and omnichannel platforms. 
  • Implement B2C-like features in your B2B platforms, and vice versa, to enhance your customer experience and satisfaction.
  • Personalize your offerings and interactions with your customers, and provide them with relevant and valuable content and solutions.
  • Leverage data and analytics to optimize your performance and decision making, and to innovate and differentiate your business.
  • Collaborate and partner with other B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses, as well as with other stakeholders, such as suppliers, distributors, and customers, to create value and synergy.
  • Monitor and evaluate your convergence efforts, and adapt and improve them as needed. 

By following these recommendations, B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses can bridge the gap between their models and create a more integrated and seamless ecommerce experience for their customers and themselves. 

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