A marketer’s job is never finished. There’s really no light at the end of the tunnel for this line of work, if you think about it. Status quo? There’s no such thing. IBM says there are no more static or predictable patterns in business—change is the new normal. This means for marketers, there’s no defined plan to succeed. There might be guidelines worth following, but all of those depend on proper execution to be fruitful.

Keeping up with the target market alone is already a full-time job—one that never ends. Marketers need to constantly get a feel of the pulse of their target market, including their attitudes and behaviors. Even so, those very attitudes and behaviors are in constant flux. Their job is basically a never-ending cycle of keeping up with the customers.

In order to win in the industry, you need to do more than just “keep up”—you need to be bold and do something different. So how exactly do you do that? Here are some lessons we can learn from other brands. Whether it’s for your social media campaign, content marketing, or any part of your marketing efforts, these lessons are certainly worth considering.

Seeing What Others Don’t

Many, if not all, of today’s leading brands is thanks to the power of observation. Instead of looking at the little things or the bigger picture, someone had that eureka moment of seeing what’s not there. Or, as is sometimes the case, they observed the obvious and saw its potential.

Seeing things with fresh eyes is a great way for marketers and businesses to get ahead of the competition. It’s the thing that makes you slap yourself and ask, “Duh. Why didn’t I think of that?”

One example here is Nike. Back in 2006 when running was just picking up its pace, Nike saw that people loved their music with their exercise. And then came the Aha! moment of making it easier for consumers to get their music, and giving them feedback and coaching on their physical activity. A partnership with Apple bore the fruit that is Nike+. The ability to recognize what’s not there or to see what other marketers don’t is crucial for any brand building strategy.

nike and apple

Playing Your Weaknesses

It’s no secret consumers tend to be skeptical of marketing claims—for good reasons. Many ads and copies are simply not credible. The best this, the best that; nothing is best if everything is.

volkswagen_lemon-http-creativedirectoroftheworldYou’re probably told not to use negative words in your marketing efforts, but breaking that rule can be worth it if you do it right. Take Volkswagen’s classic Lemon ad.

Lemon is probably the last word you’d want to see in any ad copy about cars, but there it was printed in front of a VW Beetle. The copy went on to describe the vehicle’s flaws. It then went on to say that the preoccupation with the small details is what makes VW cars longer lasting and easier to maintain. “We pluck the lemons; you get the plums,” it ended.

Before that, there was the “Think Small” campaign that basically said “So what if a VW Beetle is small? It still outperforms many cars on the market.” If done right, playing your weakness and being honest can pay off.

Targeting the Sweet Spot

Big data, analytics, and studies are important in developing a marketing campaign. But don’t forget that consumers have a sweet spot for stories and things that cannot be explained. While numbers and statistics are good, don’t forget some customers may not like it. What distinguishes good marketers from the great ones is their ability to focus on the customer’s sweet spot. subway-diet-002

You can’t always force facts on customers and hope you’ll win because of it—some of them are not interested in facts. Some prefer content, products, and ads delivered in a way that interests them. For this, you need to find out your consumers’ interests and passion, and direct your message to this sweet spot.

Subway Guy Jared Fogle illustrates this perfectly. Fogle’s claim to fame is that he attributed his weight loss to a diet of Subway sandwiches. People remembered him and the brand not because Fogle lost a lot of pounds or that the sandwiches had fewer calories, but because the audience connected with his story.

Turning facts into a story targets that sweet spot in customers, making magical things happen. Stories are easily digested and transferrable, making them perfect for a market where social media is a penultimate tool for information sharing.

Shaking the Competition

jiffNo brand wants to be put in bad light, which is why marketers and businesses always work to be on the right side when it comes to consumer reception.

One clever way to promote your brand and take a dig at others is by repositioning the competition. Jif peanut butter succeeded in this strategy with their “Choosy moms choose Jif” campaign. Suddenly, competitors were repositioned as the product for mothers who didn’t care about what their kids eat. What mother didn’t want to be classified as a choosy mom?

Keeping Ideas at the Heart of Campaigns

We have all the data to help us target our customers, but the one constant that still drives success is a compelling, bright idea. Marketers have thousands of ways to use data, thousands of places to put it, and thousands of ways to deliver it. All these won’t matter if there’s no central idea that’s providing the heartbeat to your campaigns.

doveDove soap was built on the simple idea that it cleans and moisturizes, while other soaps back then just cleaned. Its brand promise—being one-quarter cleansing will not dry the skin the way ordinary soap does—was supported not only by dermatologists, but by passionate customers as well.

The simple idea of making women feel more beautiful still connects today. Social media and other online resources give us great opportunities, yes. But it’s still the simple idea that matters.

“The key success lessons from the Dove Campaign for Beauty are  1) Make it about the customer, not the brand,  2) Drive the campaign through customers sharing conversations, dialogues, and stories and 3) create emotion engagement.”  – Peter Friedman Chairman and CEO of LiveWorld (The social media agency that created the initial online community/social media aspects of the program).

These lessons may not be everything you need to know to succeed—again, there are no definitive rules to digital marketing, but there are guidelines. In a fast-moving, super competitive market, however, these will give you a wholly solid foundation, one that’s good enough to push you to get ahead of the competition.