NASHVILLE MARKETING BLOG: Insights on strategic branding, marketing management, general business and Nashville marketing topics. By Monica Powers, Vanderbilt MBA and marketing consultant in Nashville, TN.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Rex Hammock: On Passion and Great Brand Communications

In case you haven't run across his musings in cyberspace, I'll introduce you to Rex Hammock. Rex is a prolific and eloquent blogger whose Nashville-based company, Hammock Publishing, is in the business of furthering brands through outstanding and distinctive communications.

That's how I would describe it, in any case. Hammock Publishing strengthens the bond between organizations and their customers (or members) using relevant and well-designed magazines and other print publications. To me, this has the makings of a marketing sweet spot--creating dialogue with a community of people who are already fans of your brand. So these were my questions for Rex Hammock:

"Your company helps other organizations tell their own "brand story" through good content. What are your guiding principles for keeping this content true to the brand it represents?

RH: First, I believe that customers and members (we do work for associations, also) want to learn how to be better owners, users and members. They want to talk to human beings who create the products they enjoy. They want to join communities of like-minded individuals. So, my guiding principles are built on principles we learn in all human relations: honesty, integrity, disclosure, passion, shared-interest; all should be reflected in how a marketer should "communicate" with their customers and members.

The types of customer media we create -- both in print and online -- are designed to help customers be better users of the products they purchase from our clients -- to get the most from the membership dues they pay to join our clients.

One of the universal "truths" we follow is that the readers and participants in the media we create like to hear the stories of other customers/members. A lot of the content of the work we do is about the readers, themselves.

In your business, how important are effective communications to a client's presence in the market?

RH: In the specific arena we work, most of the media we create for clients is designed for existing customers and members, rather than to acquire new members or customers. Some people may call this "loyalty" marketing or "retention" marketing, however, I think the recipients of many of our publications don't even consider the magazines "marketing." They look forward to the magazine and hang on to them. In some cases, they rate the magazine they receive from our client as one of the top benefits of being a customer or member. So in those cases, effective communications can be said to be their most important factor in their market.

You seem to have a marketing advantage in that you build on existing relationships for each of your clients--you start with a ready-made audience, so to speak. How does this change your approach, if at all?

RH: Good question that relates to the previous one. We start out with the knowledge that we are working with our clients in developing media for people who already have an affinity with our client: They have a fairly significant relationship, in some cases. Their hobby or their passion or their work is tied into their being a regular customer or member of the client. We're not, for the most part, creating media for the un-converted. In marketing, the challenge is often "breaking through the noise" and competing with others to get your message heard. When it comes to the type of customer media we develop, one of the beauties is how much the customers actually look forward to what we produce.

What role have blogging and social media played in the development of your own personal brand, and that of Hammock Publishing?

RH: Until I started blogging five years ago, I didn't really think of having a "personal brand." That may sound odd from someone who named a company after his last name 15 years ago. However, the whole "branding thing" with Hammock Publishing and me has been one of those stories like the cobbler's children who had no shoes. Blogging helped get me thinking about ways in which a company like ours can use emerging tools. Perhaps more significantly is the website, which we operate -- which, frankly, I operate with the assistance of an intern and tech guy. The vast majority of the site is a wiki -- a platform like Wikipedia that anyone can contribute to. Running it is a great laboratory for what works -- and doesn't -- in social media. We are working now on ways to apply those lessons for better marketing Hammock Publishing...and also, to better serve our clients.

Who would your dream client be?

RH: The obvious answer is that I already work for some dream clients: all of the ones we have -- but I assume you mean other than those.

I do enjoy working with associations. Despite the quirky governance dynamics you can run into, there is a shared passion and interest among members -- and thus the audience of the media we create for them. And I'm also going to avoid mentioning two dream-type projects we're pitching right now -- as I don't want to jinx them.

So, here's a dream client for a brand I have used 8-12 hours a day, have purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars of their products from 22 years, and know they are doing a lousy job in communicating with people like me: small business owners.

That's Apple Computer.

Despite their brilliance in consumer marketing, I'm continually amazed at their total disregard for even knowing I exist as a business customer of theirs. They would be a dream client because I know they have great products for business -- but they have no on-going and recurring programs to communicate with customers like me. The ROI on such an investment would be astounding."


Blogger Mack Collier said...

Another great interview Monica and really a great example of the Long Tail. You have a blog here where you are interviewing not only marketers, but marketers in the Nashville area.

Good stuff!

November 03, 2006 12:06 PM

Anonymous Scott Schwertly said...

I love the new marketing profiles. It's great to hear insight from fellow Nashville marketers and small business owners.

Keep up the great work!

November 18, 2006 9:07 PM

Blogger Monica Powers said...

Mack and Scott, thanks for stopping by!

November 18, 2006 11:31 PM


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