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When Mahlab met Bernadette Jiwa

Bernadette Jiwa talks difference thinking and how to create value for customers.

We sat down with bestselling author and renowned blogger Bernadette Jiwa to discuss her latest book, difference thinking and how to create value for customers.

Mahlab What was it that drew you to marketing?

Bernadette Jiwa People. The power to affect people and to change how people feel is what drew me to marketing. And it’s what marketing is all about! Some like to think that it’s about persuading people to behave or act out in a certain way but, at its most fundamental level, marketing is about changing how people feel. I’ve had many different professions in my life and they’ve all been very people-focused. I love helping people to tell their story – to get to the very essence of what makes them and their business unique – so marketing was a fitting path for me.

M You speak often about the importance of words; of creating a singular idea that really encapsulates everything about a brand. So, what’s in a name? What kind of process do you go through when developing names for brands?

BJ Brand naming is a tough gig. The interesting thing about the process is that it’s part science, part art. It’s an art in that a lot of the inspiration comes from the feeling that the brand wants to create for its customers. It’s an art because you’ve got to be empathetic. You’ve got to stand in the shoes of a potential customer and think about what’s going to spark something in them. But it’s also a science because you’ve got to think about the logistics underpinning the art. A brand name has to be easy to say, share and spell. You have to be sure that it’s legally unique, then you’ve got the added challenge of domain name availability and IP issues. And, ultimately, the process is dictated by what suits the client and what they want to convey about themselves, so it’s not just ‘let’s come up with a really cool name!’. There are so many other factors that go into it.

M What would your advice be for content marketers wanting to create a branding strategy that is wholly representative of their business and everything that it stands for?

BJ Create an authentic story. Don’t approach the task with a ‘let’s just stick the marketing on at the end’ kind of approach, like we used to do in the old marketing model.

We’re so comfortable with that old process – starting with a product, deciding how we’re going to price it and position it, where we are going to sell it and finally, how we’re going to promote it. But there’s been a subtle shift in the last few decades.

Because of the times we’re living in today, in our digital age, people have much more choice. They get to decide what messages they want to hear, so the old marketing model is no longer a feasible one. Last year we spent $500 billion on traditional advertising – a model that doesn’t work – which is why, I think, content marketing is creating such a buzz, and why people are looking to it as a process through which to create value for their customers.

M That answer leads perfectly into The Fortune Cookie Principle. Could you tell us about it?

BJ The Fortune Cookie Principle is my last book, which talks about the 20 elements of a brand story. The premise of the book is that people don’t buy what you do, they buy how it makes them feel. 95% of our decisions are made unconsciously, but we like to think that we make very conscious decisions about what we’re going to buy. In fact, if you think about any of the products we love to use, they’re all about the feeling and not the logic.

The other thing that The Fortune Cookie Principle explores is the question of what forms a brand’s story. We think that our story is just what we tell people, but it’s what people believe about us. And that belief is fashioned out of so many different things; things that aren’t always explicitly verbalised. People pick up subtle cues around design, name, what we say on our ‘About’ page. Things like the product is part of the story; the price is part of the story, the sort of people that the brand attracts is part of the story – so that’s why I wrote the book.

M You have another book in the pipeline, tell us about that.

BJ The follow up to The Fortune Cookie Principle covers something that I will be speaking about at Content Marketing World Sydney. It’s called Difference. It’s a new marketing model that I’ve created in place of the old marketing mix model where marketers just talked about what you and I spoke of earlier: product, price, position and promotion. It’s a new model that begins with empathy.

M Does storytelling play a part in this new model?

BJ There’s an interesting intersection between difference thinking and storytelling. A lot of brands believe that their story is what they are telling their customers; what they are telling people about their brand. It’s a very one-sided perception of a very reciprocal process.

CEOs and entrepreneurs that come to me will say, ‘How can we get people talking about us?’, but what they should really be asking is, ‘How do we create difference for our customers?’. That’s the intersection.

Use your brand story to create difference for your customers. If you can make your brand matter to customers and if you can make customers value your products and services, then they will spread your story for you. You won’t have to be asking the question, ‘How can we get people talking about us?’. Your loyal customers will have started the conversation for you.

M Feeling, empathy and connection play such fundamental roles in your marketing approach, but how can content marketers strike that balance between connecting with customers and proving return on investment?

BJ First and foremost, you have to be in it for the long haul. Brand-building exercises are not about ‘Let’s blast people with a 30-second commercial and hope that we get 100,000 more sales tomorrow’.

Content marketing is about building relationships. It’s about finding out what your customers want – it’s just as much about listening as it is about telling. If you can do it over a sustained period of time then you don’t have to spend $50k or half a million dollars on an ad campaign that just blasts everybody, not knowing who you’re targeting, because you actually know who your customers are.

M You’re such a renowned blogger. You have a style both eloquent and snappy that has many people dubbing you ‘The Female Seth Godin’. What’s your process? How do you do it?

BJ The are two key factors underlying my process: awareness and effort.

Firstly, I write about the things that I notice. Pay attention to what’s all around you. There are daily lessons out there, it doesn’t matter whether it’s something you pick up in a newspaper or something you hear on the radio; an interaction between a shop assistant and a customer – there’s a lesson out there for us everyday, we just need to be aware.

Secondly, I simply sit in the chair and do it; I make sure that I carve out the time to write – that’s so important. That’s the tricky thing with content marketing; people think ‘where am I going to get the time?’, but we all make time for other things like thinking about the next ad campaign. If you can make time for that, then you can make time for this.

M What ideas, industry movements, campaigns etc. have you been most excited about in recent years?

BJ What I’m most excited about at the moment is that we’re getting back to speaking to one person at a time as opposed to thinking we can target everyone. One of the headlines in Difference is ‘Relevance is the new remarkable’ because we’re finally getting the idea that we need to be relevant to our customers – everything we do needs to be about them.

I think Apple has really led the way with this and I don’t think we examine enough exactly what Apple has done. It’s not just about the products, it’s about the posture that Steve Jobs took when he was building that company. The lesson we can draw from Apple is that marketing is about understanding what your products can mean and the difference they can make in the lives of your customers.

Another thing that I’m really excited about is the time that were currently living in; a time where we can sit and create with nothing more than a laptop and impact people without permission from anybody. It’s an incredible privilege! I get a great deal of joy out of knowing that I’m able to sit here and write for people and help them make an impact to people’s lives.

Get in touch with Bernadette on Twitter @bernadettejiwa or visit her website

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