Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Brand Building During COVID-19

What can brands do when people are stuck in their houses and not able to eat out, shop at local shopping centers, go to concerts or do anything else that is not connected to "sheltering in place" and home delivery? And what can brands do when people are laid off, have lost some or all of their income and are watching their retirement nest eggs diminish rapidly as the stock market crashes?

Some industries are more likely to thrive in this environment. Consider Zoom, Purell, Clorox and But most will struggle, especially as people try to cut back on nonessential household expenses.

Here is what brands can do. Innovate. Restaurants are offering take-out services, sometimes with items that were never featured on their menus. Universities, of necessity, are delivering their courses online. Medical doctors are delivering some of their services via telemedicine. Orchestras are delivering online concerts. Public art galleries are posting virtual galleries online. A friend of mine who loves to cook has started a soup brand and delivery service.

Arts organizations and other not-for-profit organizations are doing what I would recommend that all brands do - offering free content, advice and interactive online experiences to maintain ongoing relationships and to create goodwill with their members and patrons. As a member of Writers & Books board, I have been asked to read and record some of my favorite poems and passages from literature to be delivered to our members for their edification and pleasure. Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has created, a website for sharing at-home family activities. The website is open to all families whether they are involved in BSA or not.

Some organizations' free YouTube videos have gone viral. Have you seen or listened to any of these in your Facebook feed? South African Roedean School's rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah?" Berklee College of Music Students' rendition of "Love Sweet Love?" Or virtual tours of these art galleries - National Gallery in London, Guggenheim Museum in New York, National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, Musée d' Orsay in Paris or the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam?

Now is the time to edify, entertain and engage your customers and potential customers online in the comfort of their homes. They are bored. They are anxious. They are scared. They are feeling claustrophobic. They have cabin fever. Help them out. Stay in frequent contact. Keep your brand top of mind.  Build a greater emotional connection with your customers. Show them what you can do. Show them the best that you offer. Be real. Be empathetic. Give them a reason to feel tremendous gratitude toward your brand.

Now is not the time to go dark. Now is the time to engage with social media, email, webinars, YouTube videos and the like.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Marketing's Revolving Door

You may have experienced marketing's revolving door as a marketer, as an HR professional or as a business manager. The median tenure of a chief marketing officer is 27.5 months but some organizations are replacing marketing people at all levels as frequently as annually. Obviously, this is not ideal.

One could surmise that one or more of the following might be the problem:

  • The quality of candidates in the marketing pool
  • Flawed candidate screening and selection, including hiring for the wrong skill sets
  • The increasing complexity of the marketing role, especially the CMO role
  • The rapidly changing nature of the marketing role, especially with the emergence of big data, marketing automation and digital marketing
  • The increasing dominance of small businesses in the job market. They are less able to pay top dollar for top marketing talent. They are also less able to pay for ongoing training. And some marketing departments are so lean that there is only one person in the department, leaving no room for on-the-job learning from more experienced marketers. 
  • The continued inability to measure the ROI of many marketing activities
  • Inadequate marketing budgets
  • The organization's culture is sales, operations or finance-driven and does not value marketing as a function
  • The wrong organization design or structure
There may be other problems too. If the company has inferior products, services, business model or value proposition, skilled marketing can only go so far in driving increased revenues. 

If you are a staffing professional, hiring manager or company executive and if you have been unhappy with your marketing hires, I would encourage you to assess and rectify root causes for this problem before you hire your next marketing professional. 

Revolving doors are costly to organizations and their employees. Please try to understand why your marketing personnel choices are not working out before you hire your next marketer.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Need-Based Marketing

When you stop to think about it, isn't all marketing need-based marketing, especially if you include desires under the umbrella of needs? After all, desires are psychological needs, whether what a person desires is ultimately good for him or her or not. So what do people need?

  • More time
  • More money
  • More respect
  • More self-respect
  • More attention
  • More social status
  • More intellectual stimulation
  • More laughs
  • More affection
  • More intimacy
  • More comfort
  • More passion
  • More pleasant surprises
  • More pampering
  • More sex
  • More beauty
  • More safety
  • Less anxiety
  • Less fear
  • Less chaos
  • Less uncertainty
  • Sometimes less drama
  • Sometimes more drama
  • Sometimes more excitement
  • Sometimes less excitement
  • More cravings
  • Fewer cravings
  • More peace of mind
  • Better health
  • Better fitness
  • Better body image
  • Richer sensory experience

And the list could go on and on. Here are some other blog posts that I have written regarding marketing and human needs:

When you are designing products and product features, when you are positioning a brand, when you are communicating a brand's unique value proposition and when you are crafting marketing messaging you must keep in mind what needs and desires your products and brands are primarily addressing. If you do not understand this and can not communicate this, you are less than a fully competent marketer. 

For further reading on this topic, purchase Brand Aid here.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Cost-Effective Marketing

Marketing departments are seldom given enough money to accomplish what they feel they should accomplish on behalf of their brands. And marketing budgets are some of the first to be cut when organizational belt-tightening is required. So what is a marketing professional to do?

Here are some of the approaches I recommend to market brands on the cheap:

  • Strong media relations, especially with the most trusted industry publications
  • Generating publicity
  • Including well thought-through publicity stunts
  • Doing something outrageous or unexpected, something that will create a buzz
  • Holding contests
  • Creating a board of advisors
  • Creating new product preview events for your best customers and top prospects
  • Offering webinars on topics related to your brand's expertise
  • Authoring a blog
  • Writing a book
  • White papers to establish thought leadership
  • Speaking at meetings, conferences and trade shows
  • Establishing a customer referral program
  • Interacting with customers and potential customers on social media sites
  • Conducting surveys to identify prospects and build awareness for your brand
  • Creating customer clubs and meetups
  • Email newsletters with viral components
  • Automated, personalized email campaigns
  • Podcasts
  • YouTube channel
  • Influencer marketing
  • Supporting industry analysts
  • Building strong relationships with the industry's most trusted consultants
  • Business partner referrals
  • Strategic partnerships
  • Co-marketing with other non-competing brands
  • Using other people's money
  • Using LinkedIn to identify leads
  • Always suggesting that people share your content with others and providing them an easy way to do so
  • Including providing ways for people to share your content on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and other popular websites
  • Always including strong branding, links and contact information on email signatures

Answers to the Luxury Brand's blog post quiz on Wednesday, February 12: 

1 - 3 (Opus)
2 - 4 (Phineas Auden)
3 - 2 (Briggs & Stratton M550)
4 - 3 (Janus CRX 507)
5 - 3 (Oliver Silas)
6 - 4 (Jasper Dashiells)
7 - 4 (Errazuriz Chardonnay Max Reserva Aconcagua Costa)
8 - 1 (Seraphina)
9 - 1 (Samuel Hutchins)
10 - 2 (Ascona)
11 - 1 (McPearson Z500)
12 - 2 (Spellman)
13 - 3 (Xanadu)
14 - 1 (Yacht Club de Cuomo)
15 - 3 (Basel International)
16 - 1 (The Crypt)
17 - 3 (Delatour)
18 - 3 (Lake Bord)

Brand Aid: A Quick Reference Guide to Solving Your Branding Problems and Strengthening Your Market Position sold here.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The Most Popular Posts by Year

These are the 77 most popular Branding Strategy Source blog posts by year:


Luxury Brands Quiz

Just for fun, I have created a luxury brands quiz to test your knowledge of luxury brands.

1. Which of these is not a superyacht builder?
  1. Lürssen
  2. Vard
  3. Opus
  4. Cantiere della Marche
2. Which of these is not a tailored clothing brand?
  1. Gieves & Hawkes
  2. Huntsman
  3. Richard James
  4. Phineas Auden
3. Which of these is not a jet brand?
  1. Dassault Falcon 7x
  2. Briggs & Stratton M550
  3. Embraer EMB190 BJ Lineage 1000
  4. Bomardier Global 7500
4. Which of these is not a helicopter brand?
  1. Leonardo AW169
  2. Bell 505 Jet Ranger
  3. Janus CRX 507
  4. Airbus ACH145
5. Which of these is not a luxury watch brand?
  1. Patek Philippe
  2. Richard Mille
  3. Oliver Silas
  4. Chopard
6. Which of these is not a luxury furniture manufacture?
  1. Giorgetti
  2. Boca do Lobo
  3. Fendi Casa
  4. Jasper Dashiells
7. Which of these is not a fine wine?
  1. Château Pichon Longueville Lalande Pauillac
  2. Rotem & Mounir Saouma Châteauneuf-du-Pape Omnia
  3. Château Léoville Barton St.-Julien
  4. Errazuriz Chardonnay Max Reserva Aconcagua Costa
8. Which of these is not a luxury hotel brand?
  1. Seraphina
  2. Soneva
  3. Aman
  4. Rosewood
9. Which of these is not a famous glass artist?
  1. Samuel Hutchins
  2. Winnie Teschmacher
  3. Pavel Novak
  4. Robert Dane
10. Which of these is not a world class ski resort?
  1. Courchevel
  2. Ascona
  3. Zermatt
  4. Aspen Snowmass
11. Which of these is not a luxury automobile?
  1. McPearson Z500
  2. Lamborghini Sesto Elemento
  3. Pagani Huayra BC
  4. Bugatti Divo 
12. Which of these is not a high-end loudspeaker brand?
  1. Klipsch
  2. Spellman
  3. KEF
  4. Moon Audio
13. Which of these is not an exclusive enclave for the rich and famous?
  1. Hvar
  2. Ibiza
  3. Xanadu
  4. The Maldives
14. Which of these is not an exclusive yacht club?
  1. Yacht Club de Cuomo
  2. Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club
  3. Yacht Club Costa Smeralda
  4. Yacht Club de Monaco
15 .Which of these is not an elite equestrian event?
  1. Palm Beach Masters Series
  2. Vejer de la Frontera
  3. Basel International
  4. Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event
16. Which of these is not an exclusive college club?
  1. The Crypt
  2. Porcellian
  3. The Fly
  4. Skull & Bones
17. Which of these is not a jewelry brand?
  1. Chopard
  2. Graff
  3. Delatour
  4. Van Cleef & Arpels
18. Which of these is not a destination travel lake?
  1. Lake Titicaca
  2. Plitvice Lakes
  3. Lake Bord
  4. Lake Como
I will provide the answers to this quiz in my next bog post.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Retain Customers by Building Community


While some may think that an annual customer retention rate of 80% is good, that means you loose one out of every five customers each year. Theoretically, this translates to 100% turnover every five years. And, as most business owners know, it is much more cost effective to retain a current customer than to acquire a new customer.

There are many approaches to retaining customers. Frequency programs purport to do so as do other customer loyalty programs. CRM systems are supposed to help with this. Some companies try to lock customers in through multi-year contracts and automatic rebilling. But the best approach to customer retention is community building because community building creates emotional connection and stickiness. People stay with the brand because it has created a community for them.

Think about how powerful coffee klatches, book clubs and bridge groups are. Imagine if you could create that type of community with your brand's customers.

So, what are some community building techniques?

  • Producing user conferences.
  • Creating customer advisory boards and customer steering committees. 
  • Engaging customers through Facebook pages and other social media platforms.
  • Holding customer meet-ups.
  • Creating local brand-focused customer clubs.
  • Creating physical spaces where customers can interact.
  • Holding customer holiday parties and appreciation events.
  • Recruiting panels of customers to beta test your new products.

Hallmark sponsors local Hallmark ornament collectors' clubs. Tesla Owners Clubs hold frequent owner meetups. Many wealth management firms hold holiday parties for their clients. Orvis offers free fly tying and casting clinics for its customers. Robert Graham offers exclusive closed door events for people who achieve Master Collector status within their Collector's Club. Most colleges and universities invite their graduates back to reunions every five years. Large churches create small groups focused on different interests to retain parishioners. Patagonia supports grassroots groups working to find solutions to the environmental crisis. Eastern Mountain Sports encourages people to share their outdoor photographs on Instagram with #goEast. SONY's Playstation has create an online space for gamers to connect. Harley Owner's Group (HOG) has more than one million members and holds HOG Rallies around the world. P&G created "Being Girl" as a resource for teenager girls to connect and find answers to the difficult questions that growing up entails. Lululemon's brand community offers free yoga classes, festivals and events and even an experiential store in Chicago featuring fitness studios and a juice bar.

If you want to retain more customers, identify and implement ways to create community among those customers.