The marketing landscape has changed significantly in the last 24 months. Market adoption of new technologies, and corresponding methods for information gathering and entertainment seeking, has completely altered the best practices associated with branding, marketing and advertising. So what is the new formula for marketing success? I believe it boils down to three fundamentals.

#1 Strategic Branding to Establish Market Position

In the 1980s, marketing success came by way of creating a compelling brand then promoting it on the four major television networks. Mass audience reach was fairly simple. Then came the information age. Now consumers prefer to find their products and services, instead of the other way around. Even though the game has changed, branding is still important.

A strategically positioned brand will first help you to enter the prospect’s consideration set, then it will help you win the decision battle. How is it done? While the fundamentals of developing a brand haven’t really changed, the execution of the brand has changed significantly. It’s much more about making sure the brand and its message is in the right place at the right time. Modern brands need to be social – they need to develop a first person voice, actively delivering marketable content to key audiences and joining conversations with relevant ideas and evidence. Brands quite literally need to be likeable, and this requires doing likeable things.

Wise marketers will start with the end in mind. They will clearly define the market position they want to own in the mind of the consumer. Based on this, they will profile the persona of the brand and identify the right mediums and strategies for executing that persona. They will use best practices for making these executions visible to their key audiences, while actively listening for feedback and opportunities to join conversations that are relevant to the objectives. Often this requires focus, as it is easy to be distracted by other mediums, bells and whistles that disconnect or are less effective.

#2 Inbound Marketing that Leverages Social Engagement

It’s imperative for marketers to recognize that opportunity doesn’t end at social engagement. That’s where it begins. As consumers begin to “like” a brand and its content, the brand should be ready to deliver invitations and reveal the path to consumption. This can be done in a way that is tactful and non-offensive.

A good inbound marketing plan will have the ability to recognize when a relationship with the brand is forming. Just like any relationship, there have to be actions that indicate interest, invitations that validate interest, and interactions that create value for both sides. As the consumer becomes interested in a relationship with the brand, they will seek validation from others who know or have had experiences with it. This requires ongoing nurturing of existing relationships as a method of forming new ones.

As a brand becomes socially engaged with existing and prospective customers, this engagement can be leveraged into invitations and validations, ultimately leading to trust. Once trust is established, consumption will occur for as long as trust is maintained.

#3 Outstanding, Integrated Outbound Messaging

Some misguided advertising agencies or marketing consultants may tell you that it’s more about quantity of content and much less about quality. Not true…anymore. The old advertising adage of “payoff” is becoming more important to the modern consumer. In other words, they want to be rewarded for the few seconds they spend with your message. If you attempt to sell them something without giving them something or making them feel something, your message will fail.

It is important that your outbound messaging completely answers the question, “Why should I care?” Too many companies focus their outbound messages on who they are and what they do. These types of messages become white noise in the mass of information consumers are exposed to everyday.

Keep in mind that the answer to “Why should I care?” also needs to be executed visually. Great design, catchy videos, infographics and stunning photography have a way of cutting through clutter, catching attention and getting shared.

Structuring your marketing plan around these three fundamentals will maximize the relevance and effectiveness of your marketing investment. I like the way Marty Neumeier sums up this notion in his book Zag: “In an age of me-too products and instant communications, keeping up with the competition is no longer a winning strategy. Today you have to out-position, out maneuver, and out-design the competition. When everybody zigs, zag.”