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What Frank Sinatra teaches us about marketing

Frank Sinatra caricatureHe hasn’t been with us for over a decade, but Frank Sinatra left behind his legendary music and a timeless set of oh-so-smooth rules to live by.  The icon had many mantras, and a handful of them are most apropos for those of us who make marketing our profession.  Yep, you read that right:  Ol’ Blue Eyes can teach us a lot about image management, audience engagement and brand longevity.  Before you dismiss the idea, remember that Sinatra’s success spanned 60 years, despite ever-changing cultural trends and musical tastes, so he must have done something right.  Here are five great lessons.

Work your mojo and remember, style counts.
Sinatra’s trademark black fedora was stylish indeed, and part of his bigger brand and persona.  It was tough to think of one without the other. Similarly, marketers strive to develop and bring out the best in an organization’s image and brand. Think of companies with great style: Apple, Emma, Lexus, Ray-Ban. These companies know who they are and what they stand for, and, based on that, they have developed cool personalities. Heck, just by associating with these brands, we feel cool, too. When companies are confident in what they are doing, selling and saying to their customers, it shows. Remember that, as a marketer, you are often your organization’s best brand ambassador and a very public face, so whether you are crafting employee communications or speaking to a crowd of 500, always be classy, confident and cool. What personifies your organization?

Think multi-channel and diversify your talents.
Sinatra was a tireless entertainer, and because he was everywhere – TV, radio, stage, movies, records –  he left no stone unturned, no talent undiscovered and no audience untapped. Your company is probably “multi-talented,” too. take a good look at it. Look again. Chances are very good that your organization excels at more than one thing, and appeals to a varied audience and diverse consumer base.

As marketing continues its transition from traditional forms to digital, mobile and social practices, it’s more important than ever to take your multi-channel brand and align your online and offline marketing efforts [1].  Diversification exposes your organization to new and different audiences, and spreads your messages across potentially untapped markets. It also challenges you to dig deeper into the human assets of your organization, uncovering hidden talents and untapped skills.  Find thought leaders and evangelists in your company who can showcase the organization in different ways, by guest-writing a series of blog posts, hosting a webinar, speaking on an expert panel, etc.

Sing ballads and jingles.
Sinatra was no less himself crooning “One For My Baby” than he was while letting loose in “A Marshmallow World” with Dean Martin — he just presented his brand in two very different ways.  Every organization has a different story to tell about their people, products and brand, and fortunately, marketers are great storytellers [2], just like Sinatra was.  While your primary goal is to bring out the best in your company and build relationships with your stakeholders, the way you communicate can, and should, vary greatly.  Determining the appropriate tone of your marketing efforts is important; you can successfully maintain a strong, singular brand persona while mixing up the way you tell the story of your brand.   There is a time and place for more formal and structured communications (ballads) just as there is a time for playful, informal communications (jingles).  Once you determine what you need to say, and who you need to say it to, you can set the tone, take centre stage and sing to your audience.

Remember, you don’t have to write the song to sing it.
“My Way,” a signature Sinatra song, was penned by Paul Anka.  Although Sinatra merely sang the song – without having written it — was its quality affected? Did he change the way he communicated to his audience? Absolutely not. He made it his own and stood his ground – and so should you. What’s right for one company may not be right for another. If you’re a marketer today without a rabid Facebook following who doesn’t speak in bursts of 140 characters you’re dead-in-the water, right?  WRONG.  There is a common misperception that, at every turn and for every campaign, marketers must immerse themselves in social media.  That’s not altogether true.

What is important is a solid grasp of what social media is, how it functions, and why it might be important to your organization, your brand and your stakeholders.  If you understand how it could affect your company and how you can integrate the best parts of social media into your overall marketing strategy if you choose to do so, that’s aces, my friend.

Do more than just watch the charts, LISTEN to your audience.
Sinatra didn’t just measure his success against the Billboard top 10, but he also listened to his audience, and understood what he meant to them. Are we, as marketers, doing the same?

In a recent Mediaweek opinion piece, author Denise Lee Yohn ponders whether Marketing is losing its mojo, and suggests that while social media and analytics are important tools for marketers, they are no substitute for big ideas:

“All this focus on social media and analytics seems to be sucking the creativity out of marketing.  This is a serious threat to marketing’s ability to drive business growth.  While there’s no question that social media includes some very powerful new communications platforms, we must not confuse tools with content. At the end of the day, the effectiveness of marketing is based on representing well the brand identity and positioning.”

Don’t get me wrong:  Marketers who ignore social media and the conversations within are missing a huge opportunity for brand management and business growth.  But it’s critical for us to do more than rely on the quantitative aspect of social media measurement, and it’s important for those numbers to tell a story and be more than, well, numbers.  We must infuse them with emotion, context, sentiment and relativity and extract true business intelligence from social media [3], or those numbers are simply heaps of data and useless pie charts.

There you have it.  Words of wisdom and some smart strategies for today’s marketer from none other than the Chairman of the Board.  We’d love to hear your stories of integrated marketing strategies.

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