“Promise, large promise, is the soul of an advertisement.”

Samuel Johnson


“If marketing has one goal, it’s to reach consumers at the moments that most influence their decisions.”

Mckinsey & Co.


“In our factory, we make lipstick. In our advertising, we sell hope.”

Peter Nivio Zarlenga

Decoding Modern Marketing

1. Getting Awareness

This book is constructed so each of the first six chapters builds on the previous chapter. In Chapter 1 I outlined the strategic planning process that a brand needs to go through. This results in a Playbook of tactics for 12-18 months and a Roadmap outlining the long term vision for your brand’s eco-system and infrastructure. Chapter 2 builds on this by exploring how to create your brand. This covers all the elements that make up a strong, relevant modern brand. Underlying this strategic planning and brand strategy should be your business strategy, which precedes them. Business strategy answers questions like, what business are you in? what are you selling? what’s your pricing strategy and what are your target markets? Assuming that all of this work is done, you will not only have a healthy brand and a strategic plan in place, but also most of the answers you need as you prepare to connect with consumers for the first time.

From the consumer’s perspective your brand is a promise. It’s your promise of what you’re going to deliver and the experience they are going to have. As I described in the last chapter, aligning the promise you make with your delivery is the key to success. But before you can prove your promise is true, you first need to communicate it. That process starts with Brand Advertising and Brand Activation, which deliver your brand promise to your target audience.

Before you can prove your promise is true, you first need to communicate it.

Getting awareness and sales used to be pretty straightforward. Brands had their agency create ads and then buy media. The focus was mostly on the creative since the number of media options was limited. The ads themselves were even more important than they are today, because they had to do most of the heavy lifting, not only creating awareness with the target audience, but also by presenting the whole value proposition. While this simpler world hasn’t been around in almost a generation now, many people think this is still the way things work. Today, however, it is much more complex, like everything else in marketing, and paid media advertising is only one piece of the puzzle.

Where ever your brand sits on the awareness continuum today, from completely unknown to household name, you need to create awareness with your prospects as a first step in getting your story out. If your target consumers don’t know your brand exists, then nothing else much will happen. In order to understand how to do this we first need to take another look at the consumer journey.

Create awareness as a first step in getting your story out.

As I outlined in Chapter 1 – Develop the Plan, consumers go on a journey. We used to think of it as a one-way journey with the funnel metaphor. Now we think of it more as a circular journey, starting with a trigger point, going through to purchase and then looping around into loyalty and advocacy.


  • Trigger – What causes a consumer to begin thinking about a purchase?
  • Consideration – Is this purchase necessary and feasible? What will it mean?
  • Evaluation – Which product is better and why?
  • Purchase - How and where is the purchase completed? Why should you buy now? Is it easy?
  • Loyalty – What is the experience of the product? Will customers become advocates?

The trigger stage starts the ball rolling. The job at this stage is simply to get your brand on the awareness radar of your target audience. Unlike in days gone by, you don’t have to also make the entire pitch, and close the deal, at the same time, which should be a big relief. That’s because the consumer’s mindset as they approach buying has changed.

Think about how you buy just about anything. First you decide you have need. That may be because of a genuine need, or because marketing helps you identify a need you didn’t know you had. Let’s say you get inspired to start thinking about buying a convertible. This initial trigger can be an ad, a social post, a viral video or just seeing a good looking car drive by. It may spark your interest in the category or it may even start you leaning towards a particular brand. This first step usually just sets the emotional stage. It doesn’t push you directly into evaluation and purchase, but rather into a gentle education process, where you are exploring the possibilities and what they might mean for you. This is the education phase. You start to dream about what owning a convertible would be like, you explore models online, and begin to learn what your options are. Then the moment comes. You get a bonus at work and decide to go for it. Now you’re serious. You probably already have some brands in mind. You may already even have your dream car all spec’d out. You have moved into evaluation mode and your analytical skills come to the fore as you weigh your options, make your selection and prepare to negotiate a deal.

Make that initial connection with the target consumer by creating the trigger that starts things off.

From the brand’s perspective this process is one of Connecting, Cultivating and Converting. In this chapter our focus is Connecting; making that initial connection with the target consumer by creating the trigger that starts things off.


  • Brand Advertising - this includes advertising campaigns, both brand campaigns, which shape the perception of the brand, and direct response campaigns including search, which are designed to drive sales activity.
  • Brand Activation – this includes all of the other experiences you can create to engage your prospects from a mobile app, or retail event, to a viral video.