Monday, December 19, 2016

Non-Marketing Books for Marketers



I am an avid reader. I read about fifty new non-fiction books each year. My home library contains more than six thousand volumes, most of which I have read. Having read my share of brand management and marketing books, I can attest to the fact that most of them rehash stuff that has already been said many times before. Having said that, I think marketers can gain insight that will help them with their careers from non-marketing books. Here is my list of interesting non-marketing books for marketers:

  • Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics by Richard H. Thaylor
  • Predictable Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
  • Irrational Exuberance by Robert J. Schiller
  • SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes And Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen Dubner
  • The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
  • Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion by Anthony Pratkanis and Elliot Aronson
  • The Dynamics of Persuasion: Communication and Attitudes in the 21st Century by Richard M. Perloff
  • Snoop: What Your Stuff Say About You by Sam Gosling
  • Nine Nations of North America by Joel Garreau
  • American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard
  • The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
  • The Prince by Nicole Machiavelli
  • The Will to Power by Friedrich Nietzsche 
  • The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman of P. T. Barnum by Candace Fleming
  • The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James
  • The Future of Illusion by Sigmund Freud
  • Zero to One by Peter Thiel
  • The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse
  • Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jerad Diamond
  • Political Ideologies and Political Philosophies by N. B. McCullough
  • The Art of Strategy: A Game Theorist's Guide to Success in Business and Life by Evanash K. Dixit and Barry J. Nalebuff
  • Co-opetition by Adam M. Brandenburger and Barry J. Nalebuff

For a listing of my nine favorite brand management and marketing books, click here. To order my Brand Aid book, click here.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Market Disruption

Robots have replaced a large number of factory workers in many industries. Robotics have largely replaced people in most distribution centers. Digital photography made film-based photography obsolete. Smartphones replaced lower end cameras. Digitally delivered music is replacing CDs. Uber and Lyft will hugely disrupt taxicab service. Self-driving cars will eventually impact the trucking industry. Airbnb has brought new competition to hotels and motels. Medical diagnostic systems based on AI will radically change the role of Internists. The Internet has changed the way news is created and delivered. Drones may become a major method of package delivery. We now have smart homes that can be monitored and managed remotely. CreateSpace allows for on demand printing of books sold on Amazon.com. 



Everywhere you look, there is disruption and there is no industry or job that is safe including knowledge worker jobs and other professional jobs. To be able to anticipate these disruptions and even capitalize on them, you must first understand their sources. Here are some of the sources of disruption:

  • The Internet
  • Robotics
  • 3D printing
  • 3D printed body parts
  • Digitization
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Voice recognition
  • Augmented reality and vision
  • Virtual reality
  • Aerial photography
  • Remote sensing
  • Wearable and ingestible sensors
  • Smartphones
  • Network effects
  • Nanotechnology
  • Big data analytics
  • Photonics
  • Advanced battery technologies
  • Composite materials
  • Exotic meta-materials
  • Self-driving (or autonomous) vehicles
  • Distributed embedded experiences
  • Gene editing
  • Organ repair and regeneration
  • Smart infrastructure
  • Distributed ledgers and blockchains
  • Smart cities
  • Seemless intermodal transportation
  • Deep learning
  • Providers become platforms
Underlying all of this is Moore's Law. In the 1960s, Gordon Moore predicted the continuous improvement in price, performance, size and power utilization of computing power.  

The business owner or marketer who is not aware of these sources of disruption is likely to be left behind by them. The person who is aware of them and is entrepreneurial and opportunistic may just create the next eBay, Uber or airbnb. 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Ten Most Important Things to Know About Your Customers



Most marketers agree that market research and customer insights are very important to brand management and marketing strategy. This begs the question, "What are the most important things a marketer needs to know about his or her brand's customers?"

Here is my list of the ten most important questions a marketer needs to answer about his or her customers through research:

  1. What needs (functional, emotional, experiential and self-expressive) are fulfilled by products or services in your brand's product or service category?
  2. Which of those needs are met by all brands and which are met by only a few or no brands?
  3. Which product/service functions or features are critical and which are optional?
  4. Who shops the category?
  5. How can the category's customers be segmented? Which segments promise the greatest potential for  your brand?
  6. What are the customer's unmet needs within your brand's product or service category?
  7. What are his or her frustrations within the category?
  8. Who or what does your customer listen to (website, expert, friend, periodical, trade show, etc.) to make decisions in your brand's product or service category?
  9. Where is he or she most likely to go (distribution channels and specific stores) to find products or services like yours?
  10. How sensitive is he or she to prices within the category? What are his or her expected prices and what are the maximum prices he or she would be willing to pay?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Brand Aid



Brand Aid is used by more than two dozen colleges and universities to teach brand management and marketing. Here is what professors are saying about their use of Brand Aid:

'I am a huge fan of Brand Aid #2 and have been using it in my keystone graduate class called IMC 463 Brand Communications Decisions. I feel your book is one of the most practical and valuable books ever written about brands. I love the checklists and remind the students that your book is my graduation gift to them because it is a resource they will find useful every day they are developing, managing or increasing the value of brands.'

John Greening, Associate Professor at Northwestern University in Evanston IL heading up the Brand Management specialization in the Graduate Medill Integrated Marketing Communications Program



'Since we first communicated, I have used your book in graduate level branding course for three cohorts. Simply, your book is a tremendous asset to me and my students. They rave how your content and writing style is so practical, direct and applicable. Furthermore, the cornerstone of the course is a group assignment where the students complete the Brand and Brand Management Audits for an organization of their choice. I couldn’t be more pleased and impressed with their effort and the quality of their work.'

Brian Vollmert, Assistent Professor of Marketing at North Park University



You can order your copy of the book here.

College/university instructors can order their evaluation copy of the book directly from the publisher here.


Monday, December 12, 2016

Brands and Integrity



I have read Ryan Holiday's book, Trust Me, I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator. In the book's introduction, Ryan Holiday says "If you were being kind, you would say my job is in marketing and public relations, or online strategy and advertising. But that's a polite veneer to hide the harsh truth. I am, to put it bluntly, a media manipulator - I am paid to deceive."

In his book, All Marketers are Liars, Seth Godin explains that "when consumers are motivated by irrational wants instead of objective needs and there is almost no connection between what is actually there and what we believe, presenting stolid factual information about a product is a losing strategy. Instead, marketers should tell "great stories" about their products that pander to consumers' self-regard and worldview. Because consumers prefer fantasy to the truth, the marketer's duty is to be "authentic" rather than honest, to "live the lie, fully and completely" so that "all the details line up"-that is, to make their falsehoods convincing rather than transparent."

One person who was searching for my marketing consulting services indicated that he was looking for a "master of the dark arts." Others talk about manipulation and deception. A relatively new form of marketing is stealth, covert or undercover marketing in which a paid actor poses as a regular person and pretends to love the brand or product in question in a setting in which many people may be using the product or brand and similar products or brands. Sponsorship ambush is a marketing concept in which the non-sponsor brand upstages the sponsor brand to be perceived as the sponsoring brand but at little to no cost. Nike has done this a couple of times at the Olympics in which it successfully upstaged Converse (in 1984) and Reebok (in 2000). 

In this US presidential election cycle most experts agree that the election was swayed by a preponderance of false news which was accepted as true and spread across social media and word-of-mouth by many people. The candidate who was the most knowledgeable about domestic and foreign affairs and who mostly talked policy (functional benefits) lost, while the person who didn't say much of substance but who provoked strong emotions won.

Some say that we are living in an age in which truth does not matter. All that matters is how you make someone feel, even if that is through the placebo effect. Marketers have switched from talking about functional benefits to emotional, experiential and self-expressive benefits.

There is an often repeated quote inside the Washington, DC beltway: "The main thing is honesty. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made."

Maybe we have gotten to a point in our history where very few people need much of anything tangible. Rather, they just want to be entertained and feel good. In the 1999 film, The Matrix, the main character Neo is offered the choice of the red pill or the blue pill. If he takes the red pill, he escapes from the matrix into reality, which turns out to be quite harsh. If he choses the blue pill, he remains blissfully ignorant of reality in the made up world of the matrix. 

In one recent study of integrity by profession, only 4% of Americans thought that the marketing and advertising industry demonstrated integrity. That was dead last after US Congress, which had a slightly higher percentage of 6%.

And yet, people want to be able to trust their brands. They want to be able to rely on their brands. They want to be able to count on them to consistently deliver on their promises. They do not want to be deceived. They want their brands to do what they say they are going to do. 

Call me old fashioned, but I believe that brands must operate out of integrity. (By the way, I believe every person and institution should too.) While people might enjoy gorging on cotton candy, in the end, they need real nutrition to survive and thrive. Marketers who would deliver "good feelings" through smoke and mirrors but nothing else might reconsider their value proposition. It reminds me of motivational speakers who are hired to pump an audience up but who really say nothing of substance that can be used later. I have heard many of them at national sales meetings, which seems to be one of their favorite venues. 

Style is fine and making people feel good is fine, but an absence of substance will catch up with you in the end. And marketing is much more than deception. I see my role as a brand consultant as one who helps organizations and their brands rediscover their reason for being, what makes them unique and compelling, what they believe in, what they value and how they are uniquely making the world a better place. That is highly motivating to me, to the organization and its employees and to the organization's customers. That's how I roll. I am hoping that's how you roll too. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Strategies before Tactics



I get a lot of my blog post ideas from interacting with clients. I was recently reminded again how important it is to approach brand management and marketing at a strategic level before identifying and executing the supporting tactics. 

What are you trying to accomplish? Are you trying to increase brand awareness, change brand perceptions or behaviors, introduce the brand to new market segments, increase the perceived value of the brand, create more emotional connection to the brand, move the brand more upscale, extend the brand into new product or service categories or something else? What are you trying to accomplish?

Bosses who want marketers to jump right into "actionable" tactics without providing the strategic direction first do the brand a great disservice. 

Run in the other direction if you hear any of the following requests outside the context of a specific brand management or marketing strategy (or, better yet, ask what objectives or strategies these are intended to support):

  • I want you to run some ads in [a specific medium].
  • Come up with some "out of the box" marketing ideas and execute them.
  • Create a new marketing campaign.
  • Start advertising on Facebook.
  • We need to start using QR codes. 
  • We need to come up with a new logo. This one has been around for too long.
  • Just do something different. The other stuff hasn't been working.
  • Create a campaign for Millennials. Baby Boomers are starting to die out.
  • I'd like to see some big outdoor advertising.
  • You need to decrease your marketing budget by 30%.
  • I would like you to run an ad featuring me. Work me in somehow.
  • I got a great deal with the [call letters] radio station for some advertising. Reach out to them to buy some ad time.

You may laugh at some or all of these or maybe you have experienced one or more of them yourself. Either way, make sure that every brand management and marketing plan or action is based on some carefully thought through objective. 

This may seem basic, but I am surprised by how many organizations seem to jump straight to the tactics before thinking through what they are trying to accomplish with the tactics. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Brands and Consistency versus Surprise



I and most other brand consultants and especially brand identity experts talk about the importance of consistency in brand identity and execution. This is because a consistent identity is what leads to successful memory encoding and decoding. Any amount of inconsistency works against this process. Consistency in execution works because people have the assurance of knowing what to expect. Consider a McDonald's experience in one place versus another. And finally consistency is important because people can count on it. The brand is trustworthy, predictable and reliable. 

Having said this, a brand can benefit from presenting elements of surprise or unpredictability, but only if those elements are pleasant surprises. 

I have often said that a brand is the personification of an organization and its products and services. Given that, it is instructive to consider the role of consistency and unpredictability in people. 

It is important that you can trust me, that you can rely on what I tell you is true. It is also important that you can predict how I will treat you (hopefully well) and what you can expect from me and what you cannot expect from me. 

Having said that, would it be terrible if you discovered that I had an amazing voice and sang you my own rendition of "Happy Birthday" on your birthday or that I am an accomplished oil painter and painted a lovely picture of your prized possession, your sailboat? I think not. If we surprise people in delightful ways, it can only add to people's perceptions of us. So paying it forward or committing random acts of kindness are not elements of unpredictability that detract from the brand experience but rather are elements that can enhance it.

So, your brand's identity must remain consistent to increase brand recognition and recall. And your brand must remain trustworthy and deliver on its promises. However, building a more subtly textured personality and random elements of surprise can create a more nuanced and interesting brand that is more intriguing to people as long as those elements of surprise are positive.  

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Leading-Edge Brand Management & Marketing



I usually write about timeless or evergreen brand management and marketing topics - the fundamentals that were true years ago and that are still true today, the topics and concepts that every brand and marketing manager needs to know to be successful.  But today, I am writing about what is new, what is current, and what is leading-edge. 

Given the importance of customer insight, I will start with the latest market research. These are at the forefront of today's market research approaches:

  • Big data analytics
  • Combining data mines with attitudinal research
  • Attitudinal segmentation
  • Knowing when to apply which statistical technique - regression analysis, ANOVA, factor analysis, cluster analysis and logistic regression
  • Eye-tracking technology
  • Using MEG, GSR, EEG, SST, QEEG, FMRI, PET and CT scanning to understand likes and dislikes
  • Better understanding memory encoders and triggers
  • Improved retail traffic flow pattern measurement and analysis
  • Drawing on the insights of behavioral economics
  • Measuring ROI
  • Identifying sales drivers
  • Antropological studies
  • Conjoint analysis and AI
  • Emotion measurement tools
  • Online focus groups
  • Mobile research options
  • Color science and emotional response
Here are the most recent areas of focus in brand management:
  • Shared values
  • Community building
  • Using cultural symbols
  • Employer branding
  • Internal employee and system/process alignment
  • Brand co-creation with customers
  • Brand storytelling
  • Customer touch point design
  • Strategic partnerships and co-opetition
  • Game theory and competitive strategy
And here are some leading-edge trends in marketing:
  • Hyper-personalization
  • Geo-targeting and geo-fencing 
  • Undercover, stealth or covert marketing
  • The poison parasite defense (to reposition a competitor's brand)
  • Buzz (aka word-of-mouth) and influencer marketing
  • Creating influencer swarms
  • Content management, scaling content, creating viral content
  • Co-creating content with customers
  • Value-based community building
  • Proactive publicity as a primary tool
  • Unusual advertising media (crops, escalators, human tattoos, sidewalks, etc.)
  • Flash mobs and street team marketing
  • Authority marketing
As expounding on these topics could easily fill a tome, I would admonish you to conduct an online search for any of these for which you do not have a firm understanding so that you can learn more. Or let me know if there is a particular topic you would like me to cover in depth. This is the current or perhaps leading-edge state of brand management and marketing today.

PS - I would also be curious if you think I missed something.