Friday, September 13, 2019

Historical Brands in America

John Jacob Bausch & Henry Lomb


I recently purchased The Branding of America book by Robert Hambleton at an art gallery used book sale. One of the things that I immediately found fascinating (though not surprising in retrospect) is that most of the earlier brands in America were named after the people who founded the brands versus using coined or associative descriptive names, which is a much more common approach in contemporary branding.

Here are some examples:

  • Colgate: William Colgate
  • Levi Strauss: Levi Strauss
  • Borden's: Gail Borden
  • Steinway: Heinrich Engelhard Steinway
  • Campbell's: Joseph Campbell
  • Heinz: Henry John Heinz
  • Bissell: Melville Reuben Bissell
  • Gillette: King Camp Gillette
  • Kraft: James Lewis Kraft
  • Maytag: Frederick Lewis Maytag
  • Schick: Jacob Schick
  • Bausch & Lomb: John Jacob Bausch & Henry Lomb
  • Westinghouse: George Westinghouse
  • Johnson & Johnson: Robert Wood Johnson & James Johnson
  • Dow: Herbert Henry Dow
  • Ferris Wheel: George Washington Gale Ferris
  • McCormick: Cyrus Hall McCormick
  • John Deere: John Deere
  • Yale: Linus Yale
  • Otis: Elisha Graves Otis
  • Crane: Richard Teller Crane
  • Pitney-Bowes: Arthur H. Pitney & Walter Bowes
  • Remington: Eliphalet Remington
  • Colt: Samuel Colt
  • Smith & Wesson: Horace Smith & David Baird Wesson
  • Winchester: Oliver Fisher Winchester
  • Studebaker: The Studebaker brothers
  • Buick: David Buick
  • Packard: James Ward Packard & William D. Packard
  • Ford: Henry Ford
  • Chevrolet: Louis Chevrolet
  • Chrysler: Walter Percy Chrysler
  • Pabst: Frederick Pabst
  • Saks: Horace A. Saks
  • RJ Reynolds: Richard Joshua Reynolds
  • Spalding: Albert G. Spalding
  • J. Walter Thompson: James Walter Thompson
  • Woolworth: Frank Winfield Woolworth
  • Sears: Richard W. Sears
  • Dow Jones: Charles Henry Dow & Edward C. Jones
  • Wrigley: William Wrigley Jr. 
  • Elizabeth Arden: Elizabeth Arden
  • Kresge: Sabastian Spering Kresge
  • Orvis: Charles F. Orvis

As an outlier, George Eastman named his company Eastman Kodak Company in 1892. The word Kodak was registered as a trademark in 1888. George Eastman said, "I devised the name myself. The letter 'K' had been a favorite with me - it seems a strong, incisive sort of letter. It became a question of trying out a great number of combinations of letters that made words starting and ending with a 'K.' The word "Kodak" is the result." The coined name 'Kodak' became the brand. 

Compare all of these brands with some of today's entrepreneurs and their brand's names:
  • Microsoft: Bill Gates
  • Amazon: Jeff Bezos
  • Patagonia: Yvon Chouinard
  • IKEA: Ingvar Kamprad
  • Virgin: Richard Branson
  • Starbucks: Howard Schulz
  • Tesla: Elon Musk
  • Google: Larry Page & Sergey Brin
  • Facebook: Mark Zuckerberg
  • Yahoo!: Jerry Yang & David Filo
  • Lululemon: Chip Wilson
  • Airbnb: Joe Gebbia & Brian Chesky
  • Uber: Travi Kalanick

It is interesting how entrepreneurs have largely moved away from naming brands after themselves to creating coined, associative descriptive or fanciful names. This is an example of how branding has evolved over time. 

Monday, September 9, 2019

Cognitive Distortions & Marketing



I think everyone should learn about the most common cognitive distortions (or thinking errors) as we are all subject to them. Importantly, I have increasingly witnessed political campaigns playing to many of these errors to achieve their intended ends. I believe this is highly unethical. But understanding what these errors are will help you understand how people (including you) can be and are being manipulated. And, as I am sure you know, politicians aren't the only ones playing to these errors. Anyone who is trying to sell you something has a tendency to do this if he or she knows about these errors and is less than completely ethical.

Here are some of the most common errors:

  • Anchoring bias - you are over reliant on the first piece of information that you see or on the first belief to which you were exposed
  • Conservatism bias - you tend to favor prior evidence or thinking over new evidence or thinking, causing you to be slow to change
  • Confirmation bias - only seeing those things that confirm your preconceived notions, including any prejudices or other biases 
  • Choice-supportive bias - when you have chosen something, you tend to feel more positive about that thing
  • Dunning-Kruger effect - people of low ability have illusionary superiority and mistakenly assess their cognitive ability to be greater than it is
  • Overconfidence - this is a variation of the Dunning-Kruger effect that might appear in people of any cognitive ability level
  • Availability heuristic - you overestimate the importance of the information that is available to you over other information that is not
  • Filtering (or selective perception) - seeing only what you want to see while filtering out the rest
  • Clustering illusion - seeing what you want to see in random patterns or events
  • Polarized (or black & white) thinking - if it is not this, then it must be that - there is no room for gray areas, complexity or nuance
  • Negative bias - you tend to believe in and respond more to the negative than the positive, related to this, you act more out of fear than hope or vision
  • Overgeneralization - making generalized conclusions based on one or a very few data points
  • Jumping to conclusions - making a snap judgement before all of the facts are in - deciding on the outcome prior to the analysis
  • Magnifying or minimizing the scale of an event or problem - blowing it out of proportion or significantly downplaying it
  • Oversimplifying - taking something complex and simplifying it to the degree that it cannot be properly understood or addressed
  • Bandwagon effect - this is a form of groupthink in which you are more confident in a position that a large number of people seem to share
  • Fundamental attribution error - you overemphasize your personal uniqueness
  • Always being right - assuming that you are always right and that anyone who disagrees with you must be wrong
  • Projection bias - you think people think like you, agree with you and support your point of view whether they do or not
  • Labeling - you might label something to make it look bad, argue against it or lump it with others in a larger group - you might also mislabel something
  • Emotional reasoning - making decisions based on how you feel rather than objective reality
  • Personalizing - taking everything personally, holding yourself personally responsible for something that was not completely within your control
  • Blaming - this is the opposite of personalizing - with this error, you do not take personal responsibility; rather you point the finger at others
  • Fallacy of change - thinking that others need to change for you to be happy
  • Confusing correlation with causation - just because two things appear to be correlated does not mean that one caused the other
  • Framing effect - you accept or reject something based on how it was framed
  • Context effect - for instance, luxury items only advertised in upscale magazines and sold in upscale retail outlets are perceived to be of higher quality
  • Taking something out of context - without context, something might be interpreted completely differently
  • Observing just a portion of the whole - you might observe data points that contradict the general trend, for instance, if you choose a different shorter or more limited timeframe
  • Placebo effect - believing that something will have a specific effect often causes it to have that effect
  • Authority bias - you tend to follow people in authority rather than your own conscience - you chose authority over your own decisions
  • Illusory truth effect (or reiteration effect) - the more something is repeated, the more you think it is true even if it isn't
  • Scarcity effect - the more scarce you think something is, the more you want it - this applies to exclusivity
  • Recency - tending to weigh the more recent information more heavily
  • Zero-risk (or loss aversion) bias - you would rather avoid any risk even if slight risk would result in a large reward
  • Pro-innovation bias - getting overly excited about anything new
  • Action bias - you prefer action over anything else even if the action is ill-conceived and dangerous or dysfunctional
  • Decoy effect - often marketers feature one or more items at a very high price (or a much poorer value) to make the other higher priced (or better value) items seem more reasonable
  • The choice paradox - the more choices you have the more anxious you feel


I could provide an example of how each of these cognitive errors was used in sales, marketing, persuasion or manipulation, but I will provide just five examples and leave it to you to think about how the others can be and are being used in this way.
  • Emotional reasoning - consider pharmaceutical advertisements in which there is an emotionally appealing scene of two lovers strolling through a field of wildflowers while the company is quickly mentioning the possible negative side effects of the drug
  • Labeling - consider the way our current US president labels his enemies as a way to make them seem less desirable 
  • Framing effect - this is what almost every public relations firm specializes in - marketing copywriters are also expert at this
  • Decoy effect - this is why many realtors show house hunters the highest priced, poorest value house first
  • Scarcity (or exclusivity) effect (and context effect) - this explains while luxury brands such as Vilebrequin limit their distribution to only a small number of upscale shopping centers in carefully targeted upscale markets

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Listen First, Talk Later


You may have heard the statement, "That is why God gave you two ears and only one mouth, to listen twice as much as you speak." Listening more than you speak is good advice for any human being, but especially so for salespeople and marketers.

A marketer that has not asked open-ended response questions of customers and potential customers in depth interviews, focus groups and other qualitative research forums is at an extreme disadvantage. I even load my quantitative research instruments up with those types of questions. And a salesperson who sticks to the selling script and makes sure he hits on all of the qualifying questions without first building rapport and trying to understand the customer's hopes, fears, needs and desires is an ineffective salesperson.

I recently read an article that indicated that most people listen to formulate their response rather than to understand.

If I have said this once, I have said it thousands of times - a brand personifies an organization and its products and services. In this way, it is able to build an emotional connection with its audiences. Emotional connection starts with rapport building. It grows with understanding, deep understanding. I counsel marketers that they should know their customers' beliefs, attitudes, values, hopes, fears, anxieties, needs and desires. Further, they should know where these customers go for information and advice about the brand's product or service category. Frankly, they should also know something about the customer's personal life. I often ask the question, "What keeps you up at night?"

Listen first and speak later. And when the customer is on a roll, follow that line of thought. Did you know that people who do more listening than talking are more likable than people who do more talking than listening? Everyone wants to be heard. And one cannot be heard if you are too busy talking.

I was recently in a very high end men's clothing store. I was interested in purchasing a variety of items. But the salesperson, rather that watching me to see what I gravitated toward, kept on leading me to items and styles in which I had no interest. When I did not respond positively to his direction, he only tried harder. I did not buy anything from that store that day. My wife was with me and encouraged me to stay and try on the items in which I was interested. I respectfully declined to do so. I had to get out of there because the salesperson was annoying me to the point of complete frustration.

A good salesperson or marketer has a sense of what motivates people, why they act the way they do, when they are displaying buying signals and when they are signaling that they are annoyed, bored or angry. Being able to read body language is also a plus in this profession. But the most important thing is ask the right questions and then to carefully listen to the responses to those questions, including the nonverbal responses.

My client proposals have a very high acceptance rate. Why? Because when I am on a sales call, I ask the right questions to best understand the person's pain points, what he wants to accomplish and what he would consider to be a win. And then I feed that understanding back to him along with my recommended approach based on his very specific needs. People have used different words to describe this process including consultative selling and strategic selling. What is is not is transactional selling.

The bottom line: Listen to your customers before you say anything to them. You have two ears and one mouth.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Bulletproof Process to Reposition Your Brand



Over the past twenty-one years, BrandForward has successfully repositioned more than 200 brands in almost every product and service category. We have worked with start-ups, Fortune 100 companies, B2B companies, B2C companies, not-for-profit organizations, colleges and universities, financial institutions, health care systems, trade associations, municipalities and more.

Throughout that time, we have refined a proven process to successfully reposition brands to be unique, emotionally compelling and believable. And we have worked with many brands to transform them into "category of one" brands.

We have differentiated brands in commodity categories and built strong emotional appeal into brands that had previously differentiated themselves based solely on functional attributes. We have created brand positions that work across a wide array of product and service categories, rebranded merged entities and connected brand positions to marketing campaigns.

This brand positioning process normally costs tens of thousands of dollars. Today, I am offering you an online version of this process for only $275. This is inconsequential compared to most brand marketing budgets. And to sweeten the deal, I will give you a signed copy of my best-selling Brand Aid book ($29.95 value) and three hours of my consulting time ($1,000 value) for free. I think you will agree with me that the ROI for this small investment is exceedingly large.

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Friday, August 30, 2019

Beware of Asking Too Much of Marketing Copy



I have witnessed executives asking for a single communication to do too much. "I would like this communication to build awareness and initiate a purchase." "I would like this to speak directly to our customers, prospects and employees." "I want this communication to prompt them to give us their name and contact information and purchase our special offer." "This communication should get prospects interested in us and educate our customers." "This communication should introduce them to our brand and describe all of our products and services in detail."

Less is more. And, just as importantly, one needs to know what specific thought or action the communication is being optimized to achieve, and with whom.

Yes, one can use marketing vehicles and communications to achieve different actions in a multi-step sales or marketing process. But in that process, the first communication's objective might be as simple as making a prospect aware of your brand. Or it might be to help people understand your brand's unique value proposition. Another might be to establish your brand's credibility or thought leadership. Or perhaps it is designed to encourage a click-through from a social media platform. Yet another message might be designed to get someone to enter his or her name and email address. Or the purpose of a communication might be to get someone to watch a video. Another might be to get someone to sign up for a discussion with a salesperson. One of the final steps is usually to initiate a purchase. Most sales processes are multi-step processes. The appropriate marketing communication must be matched with each step.

In other scenarios, the objective of the communication might be to get someone to stop by your trade show booth or drop a business card in a raffle bowl. Or it might be to invite someone to a product demonstration or other event.

It is hugely suboptimal to try to get a single communication to achieve multiple ends. When this is tried, it usually achieves no end well. It is ineffective. So when you are designing a marketing message or writing its copy, make sure you are very clear on the objective (singular, not plural). And the objective shouldn't have multiple parts either. If each communication is written well with one objective in mind, it should achieve its goal and move people through the sales process.

Think twice and then push back if you are being asked to write copy to achieve multiple ends, and especially with multiple audiences. If you don't you might end up with something that doesn't achieve any particular objective well.


Thursday, August 29, 2019

Everything is Fantasy



I am writing this from my Adirondack home where it occurred to me that most everything is fantasy. Here is what I mean by that. I have enjoyed decorating my log home with a wide variety of pieces that I have found from Adirondack rustic furniture and decor stores. My house is chock-a-block with black bear, moose, loon, trout, fly fishing, canoe and pine tree motifs. The furniture is mostly hand-crafted from wood and leather and everything from paintings, sculptures, lamps, placemats, towels, wall hooks and switch plates feature the Adirondack rustic look and feel. I have created a fantasy for myself and for the people to whom I rent the house when I am not here. One could build a normal house in the Adirondack Mountains, but most do not. And one could rent a normal house in the Adirondacks, but most do not.

This is not the only example of creating fantasy. Some people buy automobiles to reinforce a certain attitude, feeling or lifestyle. We often do the same with our dress. Are we powerful business executives, laid back beach bums, professorial types, rebels without a cause or something else?

Restaurants have themes. When I was in Moscow, I encountered restaurants with the most elaborate ethnic themes played out in costume, decor, menu items and even musical instruments. Japan has a lot of themed restaurants including one very questionable restaurant based on a toilet theme and another based on an Alcatraz prison hospital theme.

Harley-Davidson promises the feeling of complete freedom on the road and the comradeship of kindred spirits. I worked with a client who ran branded private campground resorts. They were designed to feel like exclusive private country clubs.

When you think about it, we all create personas for ourselves. We want to be perceived in a certain way and fit into a certain group. Some people love Walmart, others love Target but would never step foot in a Walmart store. Some Target fans pronounce Target as "Tar-J" to reinforce its more upscale feel to Walmart. While others would laugh at the "Tar-J" label and not step foot in either store. They feel more at home in stores such as Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue or Bergdorf Goodman.

Beyond, food, water and shelter, we begin to think about things such as friends, camaraderie, social status, who we are or who we want to be and how we fit into the world. All of these play well into choosing the "right" personas and interacting with the brands that reinforce who we believe we are or who we want to be.

So as much as some brands may cringe at the thought of having something in common with Walt Disney World or Las Vegas, all brands are building a little bit of that fantasy into themselves because people enjoy creating and responding to fantasy, especially as it helps them define who they are and what they love.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Secret Ingredient - Caring About People


Most markets are populated with mature brands that struggle to maintain differentiation because it is easy for competitors to match any function, feature or service that is of value to customers. Most sources of differentiation don't last that long anymore. They quickly become "cost of entry" benefits.

But in working with more than 200 brands across a wide variety of categories I have discovered one differentiator that is difficult to identify and even more difficult to copy - genuinely caring about people. I have worked with several brands that have this as a differentiator. It works in every category that I have witnessed and it is real. These brands' customers will tell you how important it is to them to interact with people who really care. Friendliness, empathy and genuine concern are difficult to fake. And frankly, while leaders can intentionally design organizations to develop and nurture caring cultures, I have also found that organizations with those cultures tend to be clustered in specific metropolitan areas. I have been tempted to tell the economic development arms of those cities to add friendly, caring employees to their lists of regional strengths.

And as people become satiated with physical "things," the only thing left to sell them are services and experiences. Services and experiences are largely dependent on human interaction for their delivery. Again, caring employees matter.

Here are some of the employee attributes that contribute to a truly caring customer experience:

  • Genuine concern for others - narcissists need not apply
  • Good listening skills
  • Empathy
  • Intuition about human needs and emotions
  • Willingness to slow down and spend time with others
  • The ability to accurately read body language
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Emotional maturity
  • The strong desire to truly serve others
  • High acceptance of self and others
  • Meeting each person where he or she is without judgment
  • "Thick skin"
  • A positive attitude
  • A sense of humor

I have witnessed first hand how this differentiator directly results in increased market share, customer retention and profitability. This is a differentiator well worth exploring in this era of hyper-competition.  Good luck in pursuing caring, compassionate employees.