Thursday, May 28, 2015

Brands, Pain & Pleasure

People are attracted by anticipated pleasure or driven away by anticipated pain. These are humanity's primary motivators. These motivators are so powerful that they override almost every other motivator. It is important for brand marketers to understand this. Your brand either needs to promise some sort of future pleasure or the ability to eliminate or significantly reduce some sort of future pain.  There are many possible paths to perceived pain and pleasure. Your brand needs to tap into at least one of them. Know that pain and pleasure can be physical or psychological or even spiritual.

Fear of death and damnation and lack of status and lack of virility and lack of acceptance and even the lack of meaning are all possibilities. On the positive side, safety and comfort and social status and sexual gratification and personal control and freedom are other possibilities. But the possibilities in both directions are innumerable.

The key is to understand that people will do almost anything to avoid pain and to seek pleasure.

Salespeople as Information Sources

Often salespeople are an organization's overlooked information source. They are out on the front line talking to customers and prospective customers about your organization's brand and its products and services. They hear a lot about customer needs and also about competitive offerings and messaging. The most productive salespeople have probably discovered some brand messages that open doors or even close sales. Wouldn't you like to know what they have found works? You could gather this salesperson information via informal conversations or more formal depth interviews or even focus groups. At a minimum, this approach with help with brand messaging, but perhaps even with brand positioning. Don't overlook your salespeople as a source of customer and marketplace information.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Blue is the Favorite Color

Per a recent YouGov survey, Blue is the favorite color across many countries. For more information on this survey, go here.

Online Brand Management & Marketing Resources

  •—Branding Strategy Insider helps marketing-oriented leaders and professionals build strong brands. It focuses on sharing thought-provoking expertise that promotes an elevated conversation on the discipline of branding and fosters community among marketers.
  •—Marketing news and expert advice, with a comprehensive archive of articles on all aspects of marketing.
  •—The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is comprised of more than 500 leading media and technology companies that are responsible for selling 86 percent of online advertising in the United States. The IAB educates marketers, agencies, media companies, and the wider business community about the value of interactive advertising.
  •— is a group subscription service rather than an individual news site that connects marketing, advertising, design, and new media industry professionals to:
    • News, in-depth analysis, case studies, and best practice from its leading industry websites
    • Jobs through the Madjobs portal
    • Exclusive discounts and benefits to conferences, training, and awards
    • VIP networking events
  •—About Marketing: articles, forums, chat, and more.
  •—The MarketingProfs editorial team finds the experts and in-the-trenches marketers who know what they are talking about and delivers practical advice that you can actually use through its newsletters, conferences, seminars, podcast, articles, and webcasts.
  •—MarketingSherpa is a research institute specializing in tracking what works in all aspects of marketing, offering practical case studies, research, and training for marketers.
  •—The mission of Web Marketing Today is to publish down-to-earth articles, tutorials, webinars, and podcasts to help smaller, local businesses succeed online. Its authors are Internet marketing experts.
© 2015 Brad VanAuken. Excerpted from Brand Aid, second edition, available at or

Business Benefits of Strong Brands

  • Decreased price sensitivity
  • Increased customer loyalty
  • Increased bargaining power with business partners
  • Independence from a particular product category
  • Increased flexibility for future growth
  • Increased ability to hire and retain talented employees
  • Increased ability to focus and organization's activities and resources
  • Increased market share
  • Increased stock price
  • Increased shareholder value

© 2015 Brad VanAuken. Excerpted from Brand Aid, second edition, available at or

Brands Command Time Premiums

Marketers talk about brands commanding price premiums. In fact, the ability to command a price premium is a primary indicator of a brand versus a commodity. Less talked about are time premiums. 

Some people have a lot of time but little money. Some people have a lot of money but little time. Some have neither time nor money. And a lucky few of us have both extra time and money. 

In calculating brand value, the numerator is the bundle of tangible and intangible benefits delivered by the brand, while the denominator is a combination of the time and money required to to interact with the brand. 

Strong brands can command time premiums. When Wegmans or Trader Joe's opens its first store in your area, people flock to those stores, spending a great deal of time there. The same is true of Costco, Bass Pro Shops and a number of other high-demand retail brands. Just as people want to spend time with popular people, they also want to spend time with popular brands. How much of a time premium does your brand command? Do people go out of their way to spend time with it? Do they linger? Do they find any excuse to spend time with the brand again and again?

Time premiums are as much of an indicator of strong brands as price premiums are. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Considerations in Crafting Brand Strategy

These are just some of the considerations when crafting brand strategy:
  • Who are this brand’s target customers and other audiences and why?
  • Which customer groups are the largest, fastest growing, most profitable and most loyal to the brand?
  • How aware are target customers of this brand within its most relevant product/service categories? Is it the first brand recalled within these categories?
  • Have we defined the brand’s product/service categories in the most beneficial ways?
  • How are the categories in which the brand operates changing? What are the brand strategy implications of this?
  • What is this brand's competitive set? How are those brands positioned?
  • What is this brand's mindshare?
  • What does this brand stand for in the minds of its target audiences?
  • Is the brand unique and highly desirable to the most important target customer groups? That is, does it have a unique value proposition?
  • Is the unique value proposition sustainable? Can its value proposition be expanded upon and protected?
  • What are the proof points for the brand’s promise or unique value proposition? What are the opportunities for additional proof points and reasons to believe?
  • Does the brand connect with people emotionally?
  • Does the brand stand for something?
  • Does the brand have a unique set of values that align with its customers’ values?
  • Does the brand’s meaning allow for growth across relevant new product and service categories?
  • Are there also sub-brands, endorsed brands and named products in the brand’s architecture? Does each of these other entities serve a useful purpose?
  • Can the brand architecture be simplified?
  • Have we articulated the brand’s unique value proposition in a pithy tagline?
  • Does the brand have a well-crafted story and elevator speech?
  • Is the brand’s identity system powerful, nuanced, robust and flexible?
  • Does the brand’s organization design reinforce the brand’s promise or work against it? If the latter, what must change?

As one can see from this list of considerations, brand strategy is much more than brand identity or communication strategy. I wish you great success in crafting your brand strategy.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Some of My Favorite Taglines

  • American Express (1975): Don’t Leave Home Without It.
  • Apple (1997): Think different
  • Avis (1962): We Try Harder
  • BMW (1970s): The Ultimate Driving Machine
  • Brylcreem (1950s): A Little Dab’ll Do Ya!
  • California Milk Processor Board (1993): got milk?
  • FootJoy (2013): FJ. The Mark of a Player.
  • Las Vegas (2003): What happens here, stays here
  • Lucky Charms: They’re magically delicious!
  • M&Ms (1950s): Melts in your mouth, not in your hands
  • Miller Lite (1974): Great Taste…Less Filling!
  • National Livestock and Meat Board (1992): Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner
  • Nike (1988): JUST DO IT.
  • Verizon (2002): Can you hear me now?
  • Wendy’s (1984): Where’s the beef?
  • Wheaties (1930s): The Breakfast of Champions

Friday, May 22, 2015

Brand Strategy– A CEO’s Favorite Organization Alignment Tool

When we help organizations craft strategy for their organization brand, the chief marketing officer or another senior level marketer in the organization usually hires us. However, when we facilitate discussions and decisions regarding the organization’s mission, vision, values, essence, archetype, personality and unique value proposition, it is the CEO who gets excited because he or she knows that it is a mechanism to align and rally the leadership team and the entire organization around strategic direction.

We conduct these sessions with the CEO and his or her leadership team. When we conduct these sessions, we talk about business model, competitive environment and competitive strategy. We explore industry structure and sustainable competitive advantages. We also explore target markets and revenue sources. This is often informed by significant marketing research. The organization brand is synonymous with the organization itself so the organization brand strategy largely overlaps the organization’s business and competitive strategy. Having been schooled in Michael Porter’s competitive strategy frameworks at Harvard Business School, we integrate these into our process.

Brand strategy is not marketing strategy, and it is especially not marketing communications strategy. Yes, brand stories and marketing communications can result from the strategic process, but that is downstream. The purpose of brand strategy is to create a unique value proposition and a competitive advantage in the marketplace. This provides direction for corporate culture, organization design, systems, processes and other organization-wide decisions including investment decisions.  That is why CEOs love this process. It is a tool for them to explore, align and motivate their organizations around well thought through competitive strategies.

To learn more, go to

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Role of the Marketer in Communication

The role of the marketer in communication is to:

  • Simplify the complex
  • Make customer decision making easier
  • Convey the feeling in an emotionally compelling story
  • Create repeatable sound bites
  • Engage the customer in a conversation and an experience
  • Probe and explore on how you can help
  • Offer a solution

Brands and Humanity

"A brand is the personification of an organization and its products and services."

This is my favorite definition of a brand. Given that, you must keep your brand human. In particular, you must make sure your brand expresses the optimal persona and a carefully crafted set of values, attitudes and behaviors. Further, it should believe in something and it should stand for something. It should be authentic and trustworthy.  It should express empathy and be engaging. It should initiate dialogs and create and deepen relationships. Further it would do well to be intuitive, creative, passionate, a good listener, responsive and kind. In a phrase, it should act like an admirable human being. This, not your organization or its products or services, is what will bring humanity to your interactions with customers and clients. The brand is the human overlay. It vivifies organizations and their products and services. Never forget this.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Defining the Target Customer

Focus is an important part of a brand’s success. Brands focus on a target customer and often narrow their focus to a particular customer need segment. Customer targeting is the first step in brand design. Everything else emanates from that. So let us start with how to identify your brand’s target customers. Look for customers who meet the following criteria:

  • They have an important need, and your brand meets that need.
  • Your brand has the potential to be preferred by them.
  • There is something about your brand that they admire.
  • They have the potential to provide your organization with ample revenues and profits over the long run.
  • Your organization can grow by building a long-term relationship with and increasingly fulfilling the evolving needs of these customers.

At a minimum, you should identify and understand the following target customer attributes:

  • Demographics
  • Lifestyle
  • Needs/desires
  • Attitudes/values
  • Hopes/aspirations
  • Fears/concerns
  • Product purchase behavior
  • Product usage behavior

© 2015 Brad VanAuken. Excerpted from Brand Aid, second edition, available here

Friday, May 15, 2015

Brands and Freedom

Sometimes brands can help people feel certain emotions, emotions that may even be only tangentially related to the products themselves. Brands can create tremendous appeal by linking to or promising desired emotions. For instance, people long for freedom. Brands that offer people freedom tend to be in demand. Consider the appeal of the USA’s promise of freedom and opportunity for all of its citizens.  Or think about why Occupy Wall Street is such a powerful brand for some people. It focuses on freeing the US government and its citizens from undue corporate influence and creating a financial system that is fairer to the average citizen. On the other side, the Tea Party focuses on freeing US citizens from an over controlling government. The French Revolution initiated the dismantling of theocracies and absolute monarchies, replacing them with republics and democracies. Harley Davison promises freedom of the road along with the comradeship of kindred spirits. Besides being a campaign to transform Marlboro from a feminine cigarette to a masculine one, The Marlboro Man was created to be a symbol of independence. In part, it was designed to make post-adolescent youth declare their independence from their parents. At a slightly more tactical level, as consumer dissatisfaction increased with the creation of new airline fees, Southwest Airlines launched its very successful “Freedom from Fees” campaign. For decades, the Jeep brand has been linked to freedom, authenticity, adventure and passion.

Think about all of the strongest positive emotions that people could have and then determine to which of those emotions you could link your brand to its greatest advantage.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Marketing vs. Brand Management

"Is brand management part of marketing or is marketing part of brand management?" I have been asked this question many times throughout my 30-year career in brand management and marketing. My answer is always, "Yes." Yes, brand management is a part of marketing, which can also include marketing research, product development, product management, advertising, promotion, package design, pricing, distribution, public relations, trade relations, direct marketing, social media marketing, brand licensing (when it is separate from brand management), customer relationship management, retail design, merchandising, sales support, trade show management, and sometimes (but rarely) business development and sales. 

And yes, marketing is a part of brand management, which can also include brand strategy and positioning, brand identity development, brand equity measurement, brand pricing and distribution strategy, brand extension and the largest non-marketing pieces, customer touch point design and inside-out brand building, which typically impacts employee training and communication, corporate culture, recruiting criteria, common measures, organization design, process design, customer service design, recognition and reward systems and organization investment priorities. 

Consider marketing and brand management as two separate functions that have a significant amount of overlap. Picture a Venn diagram with two intersecting circles, one being marketing, the other brand management.

In some organizations (typically houses of brands), product management and brand management are combined. In other organizations (typically branded houses) these functions are managed separately. Some organizations have one person in charge of brand management and marketing, while in other organizations, these two functions are managed separately. Some organizations combine brand management, marketing and organization strategy under one person at a very senior level. While others keep organization strategy separate from brand management and marketing. Sometimes, sales is a part of the mix at a very senior level, while often it is not.

And then there is corporate communications and public affairs. This is occasionally part of marketing, but more often it is managed separately.

Finally, because of brand management's impact on organization design (brands must deliver on their promises), there are a few rare organizations that have combined brand management and human resources at senior levels.

Clearly, the reason people have this question is because the answer to it can vary across organizations depending on the organizations' goals, business models and depths of understanding of these functions.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Small Business Marketing Techniques

Many small businesses cannot afford the techniques persued by larger companies. The following techniques are ideal for individuals and smaller businesses.

  • Conduct demonstrations, classes, and workshops. A restaurant’s chef can teach a cooking class for a continuing education program or for a department store or cooking supply store.
  • Speak at conferences and for professional associations. Join your local chapter of the National Speakers Association and register with speakers bureaus. Publicize your speaking engagements.
  • Hold contests.
  • Write articles for newspapers, periodicals, and professional journals.
  • List yourself as an expert (e.g., in Radio-TV Interview Report; the Yearbook of Experts, Authorities, and Spokespersons; Broadcast Interview Source, Inc.; ProfNet). Connect with journalists (HARO— Help a Reporter Out). Post your press releases on PR distribution sites (PressReleasePoint, PitchEngine, PR Newswire, PRWeb, etc.).
  • Host a local radio or television show on your area of expertise, or be a guest on one.
  • Network online and offline (in professional associations, conferences, trade shows, benchmarking groups, chambers of commerce and popular social media channels).
  • Publish newsletters (online or offline).
  • Write a book.
  • Hire a publicist.
  • Maintain relationships with the press.
  • Get involved in civic organizations.
  • Donate money to local charities, especially complementary causes.
  • Volunteer to judge competitions.
  • Wear branded shirts and other clothing.
  • Cross-promote with complementary or nearby businesses.
  • Give away insignia merchandise (featuring your business’s name, logo, tagline, and contact information).
  • Write letters to new residents introducing them to your business (perhaps offering them a free or reduced-price trial).
  • Script your customer service and tech support people to cross-sell and upsell products and services as appropriate. Be careful not to over-incent people. They should only cross-sell/upsell in the most helpful way as appropriate.)
  • Include your brand identity and website address in your email signature. 

Excerpted from Brand Aid, second edition. © 2015 Brad VanAuken.

Order your copy of Brand Aid here.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Dove's Real Beauty Campaign

”The Dove brand is rooted in listening to women. Based on the findings of a major global study, The Real Truth About Beauty: A Global Report, Dove launched the Campaign for Real Beauty in 2004. The campaign started a global conversation about the need for a wider definition of beauty after the study proved the hypothesis that the definition of beauty had become limiting and unattainable. Among the study’s findings was the statistic that only 2 percent of women around the world would describe themselves as beautiful. Since 2004, Dove has employed various communications vehicles to challenge beauty stereotypes and invite women to join a discussion about beauty. In 2010, Dove evolved the campaign and launched an unprecedented effort to make beauty a source of confidence, not anxiety, with the Dove Movement for Self-Esteem.”

Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty website

To Dove’s credit, this campaign does not to play off of a woman’s fear that she is not beautiful, but rather celebrates the truth that everyone radiates beauty in her own way. This ad campaign is based on a more enlightened view of the world.

Warc recently announced that 'Real Beauty Sketches,' from Ogilvy Brasil São Paulo Dove, is the world's most successful campaign over the past two years, according to data from its Warc 100. (Source: Dove tops Warc 100 long-term rankings, 22 April 2015)
Watch Dove Real Beauty Sketches here.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Mind Blowing Brands

You know you have a vital, relevant, compelling brand when customers think or say the following things about your brand. (These statements are taken from real customer feedback on brands with strong emotional connection.)
  • It affects people at a visceral level.
  • It “gets in your blood.”
  • It evokes strong emotions.
  • It speaks from the heart.
  • It speaks to the heart.
  • It opens up people’s sense of what is possible.
  • It creates a sense of possibility.
  • It opens people up a whole new world.
  • It is inspiring.
  • It is empowering.
  • It is invigorating.
  • It helps people see that they can make a difference.
  • It makes people believe that they can change the world.
  • It helps people articulate what they have been trying to say.
  • It is the first time that people feel as if they really have been heard.
  • It is unique.
  • It is fresh.
  • It is original.
  • It is one-of-a-kind.
  • It breaks all of the rules.
  • It breaks down all the boundaries.
  • It is “a breath of fresh air.”
  • It defines the category.
  • It is quintessential.
  • It sets the standard.
  • It stands apart from all the rest.
  • It can’t be categorized.
  • It is in a class all its own.
  • No one else is doing anything like that.
  • It has new ideas.
  • It is very influential.
  • It is seminal.
  • Everything else is derivative.
  • It reinvents the category.
  • It is genuine.
  • It is sincere.
  • It is real.
  • It is pure.
  • It is trustworthy.
  • It is approachable.
  • It is endearing.
  • It stands for something.
  • It believes in something.
  • It is passionate.
  • It has a distinctive attitude.
  • People in that organization love what they do.
  • It is powerful.
  • It possesses great energy.
  • It is entertaining.
  • It is elegant, beautiful, and/or haunting.
  • It is admirable.
  • It is visionary.
  • It possesses a timeless quality.
  • It possesses a universal quality.
  • It has successfully stood the test of time.
  • It is still relevant years later.
  • It is as it is meant to be.
  • It is “bigger than life.”
  • It has a presence that you can’t ignore.
  • It demands to be heard.
  • It is legendary.
  • It is enshrouded in mystery.
  • There is a certain mystique about it.
  • It is profound.
  • It is captivating.
  • It is otherworldly.
  • It is mesmerizing.
  • It is indescribable.
  • The only way that people can fully understand the brand is by experiencing it for themselves.
  • It is unstoppable.
  • It is extraordinary.
  • It is flawless.
  • It is genius.
  • It is a “crowning jewel.”
  • It is riveting.
  • It is “mind blowing.”
  • It doesn’t get any better than that.
Are people saying similar things about your brand? If not, what not? 

Excerpt from Brand Aid, second edition, available here.

© 2015 Brad VanAuken

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Proactive Publicity

Proactive publicity can be one of the most powerful and cost-effective marketing tools. Publicity is free, approximately six times as many people read articles as read ads, and articles are more credible as they are perceived to be third-party endorsements vs. self-promotion. Here are some examples of proactive publicity:
  • When Hallmark launched the industry’s first personalized, computer-generated cards, they sent cards to talk show hosts.
  • EasyJet invested a large portion of its marketing dollars in a lawsuit against KLM, claiming unfair competitive practices, positioning itself as the underdog on the side of the public.
  • Trivial Pursuit marketers sent games samples to celebrities featured in the game and to radio personalities who had an affinity for trivia.
  • The Peabody Hotel in Memphis has ducks march out of the elevator down a red carpet to its lobby fountain twice a day with great fanfare under the direction of the Peabody Duckmaster. Hundreds of people watch and take pictures, many of which are posted on social media.
Excerpted from Brand Aid, second edition. © 2015 Brad VanAuken. Available here.