CAFE: Marketing Model of the Future

My last column talked about the challenge brands are facing as they move from simply amassing followers on social media to actually trying to use social to grow their business. The advice is the same as it always has been: it’s easy to get tons of followers. The hard part is getting some value out of them.

At the end of that column, I mentioned a new marketing model called CAFE that is useful in developing a strategy that is complete and focused on driving real value. A few people reached out, asking for some more details on this, so this column is a larger cup of CAFE, exploring the components, as well as why this is a model not just for social media, but for an entirely new way of thinking about marketing.

The CAFE Components

CAFE is an acronym and a handy way to remember the four elements that you need to have in your marketing strategy. To develop your strategy, get out a nice clean sheet of paper and write the following words out, in big block letters: Content, Advocacy, Fans, and Engagement.

The CAFE model assumes that you have already established an overall plan as to what you want to achieve from a campaign. As a company or with your agencies, you will have to come together to decide that you want to achieve something specific in a specific way. For example, let’s say you sell pens. You have already decided that you will sell your new product (a pen that writes in several colors) to a particular demographic (new college students) by tapping into their desire to be creative.

CAFE takes that core strategy and gives you a clear pathway to begin marketing in a way that fits not only with the nature of media, but – more importantly – how consumers want to interact with brands and get to the point of making a decision.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the components, then see how they all work together.

  • Content: Everything that you create, from hour-long demonstration videos to 140-character shout-outs to your customers, should be considered content. Calling something content has become one of the clichés of the Internet marketing age, but that’s because it’s a critical concept. An “ad” is simply a stimulus, but “content” has more weight to it. Content contains something and invites exploration. Today, there’s a strong prejudice in the consumer mindset away from anything that isn’t seen as valuable in its own right, and simple stimuli doesn’t cut it.
  • Advocacy: In the past, we’ve imagined that our communications pieces only connected to one person, and we only wanted that one person to take the single action of making a purchase (or, at least, becoming more predisposed toward making a purchase). That was way too shortsighted. We need to understand that we can add a third action that we’re trying to compel, which is creating marketing momentum by passing a message on to friends or incorporating into a social network.
  • Fans: I completely love the word that Facebook uses for people who opt in to receive communications from your brand: fans. When you have a fan, you have a truly powerful ally – someone who will support you, rather than just get stuff from you. Think about your fans in the same way that the Red Sox do. You need to focus on getting opt-ins, but when someone becomes a fan, know that you can activate them at a much deeper and more emotional level.
  • Engagement: This is another big breakthrough concept. No matter what channel we communicate through, we need to try to get people to spend time with us. The simple rule: every second we get online above 30 represents value above and beyond what we could get in traditional broadcast television. The 30 second ceiling is the first goal that everyone should aim for, and you can do it not just by providing stuff to look at, but opportunities to discover and feedback.

The Secret: Past Stimulus

Ultimately, we need a model that moves us past a view of advertising as simple stimulus. We’re way past the stage where we can imagine that one really cool visual and a snappy headline can truly compel someone to make a purchase. It may work occasionally, but really, we have to be ready to understand and engage.

CAFE is meant to provide you with a path and a set of tools that gets you beyond stimulus and into really doing business and interacting. While this model is highly influenced by the emergence of social media, the implications are much broader. We should approach all communication in a way that gets us out from behind the ad and into the world of consumers.

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Overhead view of a row of four business people interviewing a young male applicant.