Every day, new methods of reaching people pop up and new technologies enable us to capture more information about how people behave and buy. New products come into existence every second. Earlier this month Facebook’s Global CMO, Gary Briggs, said:

“Nearly 100% of our revenue now comes from ads and products that did not exist five years ago.”

How do you plan for things that don’t even exist yet? Sometimes it feels as if the ground underneath us changes so quickly that we don’t ever feel we can plant our feet long enough to choose a direction, make a statement or execute with absolute certainty.
I get that way, too, but then I take a deep breath (or a drink if it’s close by) and remember that while the methods in which we interact and receive information change, basic principles of marketing and sales do not.

Someday, we may all happily have a Google antennae surgically implanted.

If you’re going to weather the perpetual storms and be ready for when people start communicating through Google antennae (BTW, Google if you like the idea, it’s yours for a small fee), you will need a strong brand with a good narrative that does two things: creates a connection and secures trust.
Connection – Your brand must connect to your audience’s deep needs and how they see themselves. Here’s my obligatory Venn Diagram:

Notice the circle on the left doesn’t say, “What you do.” Of course they need to know what products or services you provide. But more importantly, they need to know who you are and what you stand for.
My favorite example for this is Apple. Ten years ago (June 29, 2007) Apple introduced the iPhone and people waited in line for it. They camped out like loonies for days. Was this because Apple made great phones? No, the company had never produced a phone before and they certainly were late to the smart phone game.
What they did have was a brand that communicated, “We are about individuality and creativity.” That brand was cultivated through ads, PR, the quality of their products and every touch point. The brand connected to what people saw in themselves, so when Apple said cool phones, millions of cool people had to have a cool phone.

2007: people camping out because of a brand, not a phone.

Trust – Sticking with the mobile phone arena, I worked on the original launch of cellular phone companies. (I will throw out this alternative fact: I was two years old, a marketing prodigy.) At the time, there was a 92% awareness of them and only a 2% saturation. Contel and Cellular One were offering front loaded deals and discounts just to get people to sign up. Their ROI was tremendous. But if you only look at short term ROI you will lose. Back then we tried to warn them. In study after study when people were asked to name a cell phone company, AT&T always appeared at the top. Even though at the time AT&T didn’t offer cellular service. We observed people going into a store, check out a Contel phone, then put it down and pay $25 more for the SAME PHONE with an AT&T logo on it.
Contel did nothing to create their brand and trust, AT&T did. Today AT&T has about 130 million subscribers and Contel is ancient history.
Contel replaced the brand story with front loaded deals. These days we substitute a brand story for data. We forget that while media is targeted, emotions are universal. You must have a story, you must have a hook and a hero. All the story elements that have drawn people in throughout human existence are still required to pull in new audiences in and keep your current ones.
So, when you ask, “What’s the ROI on that?” make sure you’ve accounted not just the customer you can convert today but ones who you warm up now to convert in the future.