Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Most Desirable Brand Personality Traits

When considering brands, customers value some personality traits more than others. Below is a rank ordered list of desired personality traits. I have derived this list from numerous sources over the past thirty years.

Tier 1

  1. Trustworthy
  2. Warm/Friendly
  3. Responsive
  4. Intelligent/Smart
  5. Reliable/Dependable
Tier 2
  1. Honest/Possesses integrity
  2. Authentic/Real
  3. Knowledgeable
  4. Customer-service oriented
  5. Easy to work with
  6. Creative/Innovative
  7. Resourceful
  8. Agile/Flexible
  9. Compassionate/Kind
  10. Takes responsibility
  11. Hard working
  12. Has a sense of humor/Funny
Tier 3
  1. Professional
  2. Well-organized
  3. Attention to detail
  4. Strategic/Big picture thinking
  5. Good listener
  6. Learns from mistakes
You should consider which of these personality attributes would work best for your brand. And it is not a bad list to consider for yourself. 

This is an earlier blog post on the brand personality attributes most often chosen by my clients for their brands. And this is a blog post on using brand personality as a point of difference. And just for fun, here is a brand that has a very strong personality. 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Marketing Fundamentals

In the age of social media marketing, mobile marketing, search engine optimization, geofencing and big data analytics it is easy to lose sight of some of the fundamental and timeless aspects of marketing. In this post, I intend to re-anchor us in those marketing basics. Here we go.

  • People buy stuff. This includes products, services and experiences. In the end, it is all about the customer.
  • Marketing is all about getting people to buy more stuff, preferably profitably and sustainably. 
  • Putting oneself in the customer's shoes and using common sense rules the day. Who is the customer? What is she thinking? What is she feeling? What problems does she need to solve? Where does she get her information? Where does she shop? How can she be influenced? How does she think about the category? What does she think about your brand? What will get her to "buy now"? What will get her to buy more?
  • In the end, if you are likable, treat people well, solve their problems and make them feel good, they will come back to you again and again.
  • Have enough marketing tools in your toolbox. Consider brand identity, key messages, advertising, publicity, word-of-mouth, direct response, product design, product features, package design, product range, pricing, distribution, merchandising, strategic partnerships, co-marketing, etc. Don't keep on coming back to the same tool over and over again because that is the tool that you know best.
  • In marketing, remember that less is often better than more, especially regarding design and messaging. 
  • More often than not, social status sells. 
  • Fear sells - but use it sparingly. 
  • Aesthetics usually matter - a lot. 
  • Ultimately, you want your brand to be a friend who is trustworthy and likable. 
  • Marketing is not "rocket science" but it does require an understanding of human psychology and it relies on careful analysis and intuition, basic blocking and tackling and out-of-the-box ideas. 
As you become more adept at emerging marketing sub-disciplines, don't lose sight of marketing fundamentals. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Clash of Cost Savings and Brand Delivery

This was a battle that I fought when I was responsible for the Hallmark brand. Do we put different brand names on the same products to save money? Do we license our brand identity to a reading glasses company to make some quick cash? The answer to both questions was "No, we don't." 

At one point in Starbucks’ history, the company’s financial managers determined that switching from two-ply to one-ply toilet paper in Starbucks’ bathrooms would save the company a significant sum of money annually. Despite the potential cost savings, however, senior management rejected the idea. Why? Because inferior toilet paper does not support Starbuck's essence of rewarding everyday moments.

I am aware of a bank that wants to stand for simple and easy, but it has made several decisions in the opposite direction. As a customer convenience, it had coin counting machines in each of its branches but when they kept breaking down, the bank went back to requiring that its customers roll their own change before depositing it. In fact, the bank won't even allow the deposit of loose change. They also require that customers fill out deposit slips, even though the back tellers could easily process a deposit without them. Further, though they are aware of ATMs that accept, scan and provide customers images of deposited checks, they opted instead for ATMs in which deposit envelopes are required and the check images are not available to customers. Further, they are aware of the ability to scan a check on a smart phone as a convenient way for customers to make a deposit but have opted not to do that.

My point with the bank example is that the bank had decided that it would stand for something important to the customer and potentially differentiating - simple and easy banking - but instead, decision after decision, presumably due to cost or other resource considerations, decided to do the opposite leading to a brand that is comparable to or perhaps even inferior to other banks on the simple and easy scale, something that the bank was claiming for its brand. This is clearly not good brand management.

When you decide that your brand will stand for something unique and compelling, this should drive every investment and process decision. If you are not willing or able to support your brand's intended promise with real actions consider making a different promise or no promise at all. Or, better yet, initiate a project to align the organization's processes, systems and metrics in support of the brand's promise.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Airports and Place Branding

Airports are the primary transportation hubs of the twenty-first century, at least in the US, and in many other places as well. Most travel between countries and distant cities occurs by air today. Airports are the first things that travelers see when they arrive in a new place. And they are the first things that residents see when they arrive home.

So airports become a critical element in place branding. While the design of the airport itself can be distinctive and aesthetically appealing, that is not enough. The airport should also communicate the essence of the place. When one arrives in Orlando, there should be some excitement around theme parks, children’s characters and entertainment. When one arrives in Nashville, there should be some reference to country music. When one arrives in a western town such as Jackson, Wyoming, there should be some sense of the West. Resort community airports should communicate a sense of leisure. If an airport provides access to beaches, mountains or ski resorts, people should have some inkling of that at the airport itself. And when one arrives in a major metropolitan area, there should be some sense of its thriving business environment, culture and arts.

While hub airports must have some amenities that are not nearly as critical for non-hub airports, still the minimum expectation of airports has increased today.

While all contemporary airports should have a variety of restaurants and bars, interesting shopping and free Wi-Fi, many also have wine bars, massage establishments, water features and different types of entertainment venues. Further, many have sections that trace the place’s rich history, public art galleries, art installations from local artists and high visual impact overviews of their areas’ cultural and other attractions.

From a branding perspective, the airport should communicate whether the place has a rich history, unique geography or natural features, strong sports franchises, rich cultural attractions, unique outdoor attractions, a constellation of prestigious universities or something else.

Taking my hometown, Rochester, NY as an example, we might consider reinforcing any or all of the following at our airport:
  • Our rich civil rights history with Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass and the Woman’s National Hall of Fame
  • The Finger Lakes wine trails
  • The world renown Eastman School of Music, the Rochester International Jazz Festival and our numerous other museums, festivals and cultural amenities
  • The Strong National Museum of Play
  • University of Rochester, RIT and our sixteen other universities
  • That we are the US photonics hub (with an explanation of what photonics is)
  • Art installations from our famous artists such as Albert Paley and Wendell Castle
  • Our rich golfing heritage, with 100 regional golf courses and country clubs, such as Oak Hill, that have hosted the PGA Championship, Senior PGA Championship, LPGA Championship, US Open, US Senior Open and Ryder Cup
  • Our numerous bodies of water – Lake Ontario, The Finger Lakes, Genesee River, Erie Canal, etc.  - and their unique recreational opportunities

Every place has some proof points like this. Make your place interesting and exciting from the moment a person gets off the plane. Make the traveler want to slow down and learn more about your place as he or she makes his or her way from the plane to ground transportation.

My point is to not limit the promotion of the place to a visitor's information booth with brochures from the various local hotels and attractions. That is so 20th century.

I know this is asking a lot of airports, but having integrated this thinking into airport design will pay rich dividends in helping reinforce a place’s unique value proposition. After all, an airport creates the very first impression of a place and it is the first thing that welcomes the weary resident home again.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Brand Consistency, But at What Cost?

It is important for a brand to be consistent so that people know what to expect and so that they are not disappointed. Having said that, what if the only way to be consistent across thousands of locations in countries throughout the world is to offer a consistent mediocre product?

I will take Starbucks as an example. Most metropolitan areas now have dozens, if not more, different cafe/coffee house options. We certainly do where I live. Most of them offer not only their own coffee and other drinks but also their own selection of food items. I go to two different places because they make awesome almond croissants. One makes a very good yogurt bowl with fresh locally sourced fruit and freshly made granola. One place has a full menu of breakfast options from French pastries to omelets, Eggs Benedict and hearty American options including pancakes, waffles, French toast, bacon, sausage, etc. One place makes to-die-for brownies and another place makes to-die-for chocolate chip cookies. We even have one place that specializes in comics, cereal and caffeine - really. 

So, I am completely underwhelmed when I walk into a Starbucks with their consistent but completely mediocre food options They don't even offer a healthy option other than a pretty bad oatmeal with lots of packets of long shelf life stuff to throw on it. 

This all makes me wonder why Starbucks doesn't consider pursuing a business model in which they partner with local bakeries or other local food sources to provide fresher, tastier, healthier and higher quality food items. I wouldn't mind being surprised by the food items that I might find at a Starbucks in a different city, different part of the country, different country or different region of the world (assuming that they have a way to maintain the quality of the locally sourced items). Honestly, I have gotten bored of Starbucks. I can find a better cup of coffee at many places and the food is better at almost every other place. Consistency often works in a brand's favor but if it comes at a cost of quality, then one might want to reconsider the need for that consistency. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A Brand is Not Just One Thing

If a brand is owned in the minds of its target audiences, and it is, then it may have as many different meanings and positionings as there are people who perceive it. Marketers talk as if there is only one brand positioning for each brand, and perhaps there is only one intended brand positioning, but my thirty plus years spent working with hundreds of brands has taught me otherwise. In fact, one of the things I can learn quickly from brand equity studies is how consistently or inconsistently a brand has been experienced by different consumers or even the same consumer.

I often ask these two open-ended response questions in brand research: (1) "Thinking about brand X, what comes to your mind?" and (2) "What, if anything, makes brand X different than or superior to other brands in the Y category?"

If you haven't hand-coded at least hundreds of these responses (and, with a quick calculation, I have hand-coded more than 100,000 of these responses over time), then you may not know how different these responses can be for the same brand. For instance, it is quite common for one brand's response to be "very high quality" and "very low quality." It is also not uncommon for the same brand to be known as both "convenient" and "inconvenient" and "old fashioned" and "leading-edge," though this last dichotomy is less common. My point is that due to product, service, technical support, distribution and even communication inconsistencies, brands have inconsistent reputations. 

I have done a lot of work in the health care industry. It is not uncommon for patients to have very different perceptions of a health care brand based on interactions with individual health care professionals, the medical conditions that they are dealing with, their prognoses and the outcomes. 

Customer service training and quality control systems also have a big impact on brand perception consistency. And even differences between products offered under the same brand name. Consider experience of a high-end limited edition version of a brand and its lowest priced entry-level product without many features. The brand might be described completely differently by people experiencing these two ends of a brand's quality/price/feature continuum. 

As a brand manager, don't assume that your intended brand positioning is always the brand's actual positioning in the minds of its target audiences. Further, you can be almost sure that your brand has as many nuanced meanings as there are people experiencing your brand. Having said that, it is your responsibility to insure that its intended brand positioning is communicated (and actually experienced) as consistently as possible repeatedly so that there is not a significantly different brand meaning for each person experiencing the brand.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Marketing Needs Survey

We are conducting a study of organization marketing needs. If you are a marketer working for an organization, please take five minutes to complete this survey. We will report the results here when our data collection and analysis is complete.

Here is the link to the survey: MARKETING NEEDS SURVEY

PS - At the end of the survey, you have the option of entering to win a Brand Aid book, two hours of free consulting or a $50 gift card.

Monday, July 23, 2018

39 Marketing Tactics that Work - Part 3

ADVERTISING is usually the most important element in any brand marketing plan, but many companies are finding that other approaches are also effective. Some have pursued these approaches out of necessity, being unable to support national advertising campaigns, while others are just more innovative than most in developing their marketing repertoires.

Following are some examples of nontraditional marketing techniques:
  1. Word-of-Mouth, Folklore, Testimonials, and Referrals
    • Taco Bell ran a television commercial about dropping a truck from a helicopter in Bethel, Alaska, to bring residents its Doritos Locos tacos.
    • In its Global Word-of-Mouth Study, GfK Roper found that consumers worldwide cite people as the most trustworthy source of purchase ideas and information. In fact, it finds that by a very wide margin over advertising, people are the best source of ideas and information for prescription drugs, new meals/dishes, retirement planning, restaurants, saving and investing money, new ways to improve health, places to visit and hotels to stay in. Word-of-mouth tends to be more effective than paid-for marketing communication because it is more persuasive (coming from a third party) and more targeted (only communicated to people who are likely to find the information valuable).
    • According to Keller Fay Group research, 93 percent of word-ofmouth occurs offline.
    • In his book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Jonah Berger outlines six things that cause ideas, products, and messages to become contagious: 1) social currency (i.e., people share things to make them look good to others); 2) triggers (it is important to make sure the message is linked to everyday occurrences in the target customer’s market; e.g., the Kit Kat + Coffee campaign increased Kit Kat sales by a third in the first tweleve months of the campaign); 3) emotion (awe, excitement, amusement, anger, and anxiety—coupled with the message—increase the contagiousness); 4) public availability (making things more observable makes them easier to imitate); 5) practical value (people pass on useful information to others, which tends to be highly targeted and therefore more likely to become viral); and 6) storytelling (make sure the product or brand benefits are integral to the story so that they are not lost with the story’s retelling).
    • Focus on hard-core users, opinion leaders, and what Emanuel Rosen, in his book The Anatomy of Buzz, calls “network hubs”: They read, they travel, they attend trade shows and conferences; they serve on committees; they participate in best practices benchmarking studies; they do public speaking and write books, articles, newsletters, and letters to editors; they teach courses, they consult, they advise others.
    • Expose people to things that make great “cocktail party talk.”
    • Give people sneak previews, “inside information,” “behind-thescenes stories,” and factory tours. Let them meet the product designers.
    • Give new products to the trendsetters (seeding).
    • Ask your employees to spread the word to everyone they know. Give them free products as a perk. This technique will attract people who like the product category and brand. It will also familiarize them with your brand’s products so that they can make better salespeople.
  1. Shopping Channel. Many companies have discovered that the QVC and other home shopping channels is a great way to promote new products.
  2. The Neiman Marcus Catalog. In the catalog, BMW once offered a limited edition of its Z3 Roadster with a “Specially Equipped 007” dash plaque. After BMW sold all 100 cars, there were still approximately 6,000 people on the waiting list!
  3. Product Placement. Featuring your brands and products in movies and TV shows.
  4. Covert or “Stealth” Marketing. For example, companies pay a) doormen to stack packages featuring their logos in building lobbies, b) people to sing the praises of a specific brands of alcoholic beverages in bars, c) actors to pose as tourists asking passersby to take their picture with a new camera/cell phone product, and d) models to ride their scooters around town. (When companies are caught doing stealth marketing, it may have a negative effect on brand equity and cause consumers to become even more jaded, especially if the tactic is more deceptive than it is creative.)
  5. The Poison Parasite Defense. Robert Cialdini of Arizona State University discovered that a new way to counter and dilute a competitor’s message is by creating ads that offer opposing arguments embedded in visuals that link to the original ads being countered. An example is a successful antismoking campaign that featured mock “Marlboro Man” ads depicting macho cowboys on horses in the same rugged outdoor settings as the original ads; however, in the mock ads, the cowboys are coughing and showing other signs of ill health associated with smoking, thus triggering this new highly negative association with Marlboro.
  6. Airline Radio and Television Shows. Virgin America, JetBlue, Singapore Airlines, Air Canada, and Emirates provide this opportunity on their in-flight entertainment channels.
  7. Unusual Advertising Media. Companies have used everything from sidewalks (ads written in chalk), walls above men’s room urinals, and posters on bulletin boards, to the sides of trucks and buses, athlete’s clothes, and crop art (images created by plowing fields in certain patterns). A German company is now printing advertising messages on toilet paper. Evian funded the repair of a run-down pool in London in return for featuring its brand’s identity in the pool’s tile design, which could be seen by people flying into and out of nearby Heathrow Airport. Procter & Gamble placed upscale porta-potties (air-conditioned, with hardwood floors and aromatherapy candles) at state fairs to reinforce the luxury of its Charmin toilet paper.
  8. Scarcity, Exclusivity, and Secrets. These qualities make people feel like insiders and make things seem more valuable; they may make things more likely to be talked about.
  9. The Internet. Online marketing (and, in particular) is covered in greater detail later in Chapter 11 of Brand Aid.
  10. Traditional Marketing Techniques "on Steroids." Here are some traditional techniques taken to an extraordinary level of success:
    • Packaging. Method’s line of ergonomically designed, minimally printed household cleaning products; Mio’s “Liquid Water Enhancer” that fits pleasingly into the palm of the hand; Ty Nant’s use of cobalt blue bottles to break into the mineral water category, and Voss’s use of aesthetically pleasing cylindrical glass bottles to do the same; the use of blue bags for home-delivered papers by The New York Times.
    • The Product Itself. Never underestimate the power of design to differentiate! Think Apple’s iPhone, and the Smart Car and MINI Cooper.
    • Vehicles, Uniforms, and Signage. Coca-Cola, FedEx, and UPS use trucks as billboards. UPS uses its delivery people’s distinctive brown uniforms. Lucent displayed large branded signs in front of each of its offices.
    • Point-of-Sale Signs and Merchandising. Mass displays of Coca-Cola cases to bring the brand to the top-of-mind. Signs, posters, and coasters featuring a particular brand of alcohol are intended to accomplish the same in bars and taverns.
    • Free Product Trial. Candy Crush Saga and Words With Friends both offered a free app to attract users to their games, with the option of additional features if the customer purchases a low-cost upgrade. Element K provided e-Learning IDs featuring run-of-site (over 800 courses) for free for three months. This works especially well with low variable cost items for which there is some perceived risk of purchase.

Excerpted from Brand Aid, second edition available at

Friday, July 20, 2018

39 Marketing Tactics that Work - Part 2

ADVERTISING is usually the most important element in any brand marketing plan, but many companies are finding that other approaches are also effective. Some have pursued these approaches out of necessity, being unable to support national advertising campaigns, while others are just more innovative than most in developing their marketing repertoires.

Following are some examples of nontraditional marketing techniques:

  1. Special Events. Community-based and grass-roots events are especially favored, such as Adidas holding streetball festivals and track and field clinics.
  2. Proactive Publicity. This 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,2 and articles are more credible as they are perceived to be third-party endorsements vs. self-promotion. And the average salary of an in-house copywriter is very low compared to the average ad agency fee for creating an ad. 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.
  3. Outrageous Marketing Breakthroughs:
    • A nonprofit organization, whose mission was to encourage woman over age 40 to get mammograms annually, wanted a message that would “break through.” I suggested they feature a bare-chested woman with a double mastectomy on outdoor signs along major highways, using shocking copy such as “Over 40? Don’t wait until it is too late. Get a mammogram today.” Or, “Which pain is worse? Over 40? Get a mammogram today.” (Imagine the buzz this billboard campaign would create.)
    • To create buzz about the movie Frenzy, Alfred Hitchcock floated a dummy of himself down the Thames River.
    • In the “Will It Blend?” campaign, Blendtec demonstrated the power and durability of its blenders by posting a series of YouTube videos of its blender blending everyday items (an iPhone, marbles, baseball, crowbar, Bic lighters, Super Glue, etc.).
    • Taco Bell quietly conducted nationwide research to find twentyfive men across America named Ronald McDonald, and featured them in television and web ads enjoying items from Taco Bell’s breakfast menu.
  4. Brand as a Badge. For this technique to work, the brand must stand for something the consumer wants to say about himself or herself. Examples: the Nike swoosh; Mercedes-Benz; FootJoy: The Mark of a Player; and Tesla Motors.
  5. Cobranding. Kmart and Martha Stewart, Hallmark Confections and Fannie May Celebrated Collection.
  6. Ingredient Branding. Dolby, NutraSweet, Intel, Kevlar, Lycra, Nylon, Gore-Tex, and Culligan.
  7. Comarketing with Complementary Products. Identify organizations with which your target customers are likely to interact at the same time that they might be ready to buy your product or service. Better yet, find a quality branded product that your customers would use in conjunction with your product. Best, find another product that matches these criteria and that provides complementary distribution opportunities. Examples: bundling a free sample of a washing detergent with the purchase of a new washing machine, or accounting firms referring clients to financial service firms and estate planning attorneys, and vice versa.
  8. Contests. Crayola Kids Coloring Contest and new crayon color contest; Mars Inc.’s “Choose the next M&M color” contest.
  9. Being Helpful while Building the Brand. The Charmin SitOrSquat mobile app helps people find clean public restrooms all over the USA.
  10. Brand Magazines and Newsletters. Crayola Kids, Martha Stewart Living.
  11. Network Marketing. Primerica, Sprint’s Framily Plan, Amway, Mary Kay, Avon, Tupperware.
  12. Colossal Ads. The 500-foot-high working Swatch watch draped from the tallest skyscraper in Frankfurt, Germany.
Excerpted from Brand Aid, second edition available at

Thursday, July 19, 2018

39 Marketing Tactics That Work - Part 1

ADVERTISING is usually the most important element in any brand marketing plan, but many companies are finding that other approaches are also effective. Some have pursued these approaches out of necessity, being unable to support national advertising campaigns, while others are just more innovative than most in developing their marketing repertoires.

Following are some examples of nontraditional marketing techniques:
  1. Membership Organizations. Harley Owners Group (HOG), Hallmark Keepsake Ornament Collectors Club, Pond’s Institute.
  2. Special Events. HOG Rallies, BMW Motorcycle Owners International Rally, Jeep Jamboree.
  3. Museums and Factory Tours. World of Coca-Cola Museum in Atlanta and Las Vegas; CNN Factory Tour in Atlanta; Kellogg’s Cereal City USA in Battle Creek, Michigan; the American Girl Place in Chicago; the Crayola Factory tour and store in Easton, Pennsylvania; the Hallmark Visitors’ Center in Kansas City, Missouri; the Ben & Jerry’s factory tour in Waterbury Center, Vermont; Hershey’s Chocolate World in Hershey, Pennsylvania; The Vermont Teddy Bear factory tour and store in Shelburne, Vermont; Dewar’s World of Whisky in Aberfeldy, Scotland; and MacWorld Expo (85,000 make this pilgrimage!).
  4. Theme Parks. Disney World, Cadbury’s Theme Park, Legoland, Busch Garden, Knott’s Berry Farm.
  5. Flagship Stores. The Apple Store, Niketown, Warner Brothers Store, and the Disney store at Times Square; ultra-deluxe flagship megastores from fashion designers DKNY, Donna Karan, Gucci, Hermes, Hugo Boss, Hickey Freeman, Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Tommy Hilfiger.1
  6. Limited Distribution for Product Launches. Create a sense of scarcity. Focus on those outlets known to be frequented by enthusiasts.
  7. Sponsorships. Rolex and high-end sports events (such as horse shows and races, yacht races, polo); Izod Arena, Allstate Arena, Capital One Bowl.
  8. Sponsorship Ambush. Converse was an official sponsor of the summer Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984. Nike upstaged Converse, however, by creating huge tributes to Nike-sponsored athletes on buildings in downtown L.A. In 2000, Reebok was an official sponsor of the Olympics. Nike upstaged Reebok by contracting with many athletes to wear Nike-branded athletic wear. In both instances, Nike received a much greater “share of mind” than the official sponsors in its category. (Of course, using this technique says something about the brand that uses it. The technique is not compatible with the intended personalities of many brands.)
  9. Larger-Than-Life Brand Owners. At the December 1999 Brand Master Conference, Sixtus Oechsle, the manager of corporate communications and advertising for Shell Oil Company, said that 40 percent of a company’s reputation is based on the reputation of its CEO. Examples in more recent years include Richard Branson (of Virgin), Anita Roddick (of The Body Shop), Mark Zuckerberg (of Facebook), Bill Gates (of Microsoft), Ted Turner (of TNT), Jeff Bezos (of Amazon), Steve Jobs (of Apple), and Martha Stewart (of Martha Stewart Omnimedia).
  10. Frequency Programs. Hallmark Gold Crown Card, Starbucks Rewards Card, and any number of frequent traveler reward programs for hotel chains and airlines.
  11. Businesses with a Social Conscience. Ben & Jerry’s, The Body Shop, Tom’s of Maine, and Newman’s Own products.
  12. Cleverness That Creates Buzz. Consider Geico’s Maxwell the pig campaign, Verizon’s “Can You Hear Me Now?” and the Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man in the World.”
  13. Cause-Related Marketing. McDonald’s sponsors the Ronald McDonald House; American Express alleviates world hunger; and Pfizer has donated fluconazole, an AIDS drug, to South Africa.
Excerpted from Brand Aid, second edition available at

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Using 1-800 Numbers in Marketing Campaigns

Have you heard of the J. G. Wentworth brand? You might have if you need cash now (or even if you don't). The brand's television commercials featuring its operatic jingle are difficult to forget, especially the jingle's refrain of "Call J. G. Wentworth 877-CASH-NOW." Click here to view the latest J. G. Wentworth television ad. When viewing the ad, consider the use of a repeated message and musical theme and familiar visual cues (opera singer with horned Viking helmet and J. G. Wentworth himself). 

We have watched similarly constructed personal injury attorney ads in the Rochester, NY market. William Mattar, personal injury attorney, has run an ad with the following jingle and telephone number for years, "Hurt in a Car? Call William Mattar 444-4444." View the ad here.

Competing personal injury attorneys, Celino & Barnes, began running a similar ad featuring a 1-800-888-8888 telephone number. Its repeated message is "Don't Wait, Call 8! And its repeated jingle is, "Celino & Barnes Injury Attorneys 800-888-8888." To view this ad, click here.

1-800-Flowers uses the URL and its own YouTube channel. And Beaches Family Resorts uses 1-800-Beaches in its television advertising. View one of their advertisements here.

While some people may say that these types of ads featuring memorable telephone numbers repeated in jingles are not as sophisticated as other brand ads, they have resulted in a substantial increase in revenues for J. G. Wentworth, William Mattar and Celino & Barnes. 

If you are interested in how this approach could work for your brand including the use of powerful and memorable 1-800 numbers and URLs, please contact me at

Monday, July 9, 2018

Targeting Children to Create Early Brand Loyalty

Studies have shown that children are expressing brand awareness as early as age two and that the average three year old in the US can recognize 100 different brands. Young children cannot distinguish between fact and fantasy so many consumer packaged goods companies target children when they are most susceptible to marketing messages. 

In fact, many brands try to build their brand franchises early by targeting young people. 

It has been disclosed in court filings that tobacco companies had historically targeted different youth market segments in their marketing campaigns. I am sure tobacco companies supported the chocolate cigarettes that I and my elementary schools friends used to buy at our corner store. National Rifle Association (NRA) is a significant sponsor of Boy Scout Camp rifle and shotgun ranges and sponsors many joint programs in the shooting sports including the BSA/NRA Brownell Youth Ambassador Program. And many businesses sponsor youth sports, including paying for uniforms on which their logos are displayed. The Strong National Museum of Play features a Wegmans Super Kid's Market that teaches children how to shop for groceries at Wegmans. There was a time when most airlines gave out free branded "junior wings" or "kiddie wings" to younger flyers. And Cub Cadet and other vehicle brands sell toy riding tractors and other vehicles.

Product placement in television programming and movies targeted at children is widespread. Further, there is increased product placement in children's fiction books. American Idol, America's Got Talent, Dancing with the Stars and The X Factor are some television programs with the most product placements. Brands also frequently appear in The Simpsons, Futurama and South Park, though in some cases, it is as a parody. Many people may remember the Reese's Pieces placement in E.T. Animated films with the most product placements include Foodfight!, Eight Crazy Nights, Free Birds, Curious George, Oliver & Company, The Chipmunk Adventure and Bee Movie. 

Marketers are also using YouTube videos, social media celebrity endorsements and mobile alerts to reach the youth markets with brand messaging.

For better or worse, many brands have targeted youth to begin building a lifetime of brand loyalty. Pediatricians, psychologists and others have pushed back on this citing consumerism, materialism, the over commercialization of our society and the focus on brands as an indicator of social status as the negative consequences of these efforts. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Brands - The Broad View or the Narrow View

I tend to think about brands in the broadest terms, but others view brands in narrower terms. When someone talks about a brand others may or may not have the same understanding of what that person means. And when someone says he or she is a brand consultant, that person may mean it in the narrowest sense, the broadest sense or something in between. The same thing is true for the brand manager title. 

This is the continuum of how one might perceive a brand from narrowest perspective to the broadest perspective:

  • A name
  • An identity system (name, icon, type fonts, colors, etc.)
  • A unique value proposition or a promise of relevant differentiated benefits
  • All of the above plus a unique essence and personality
  • Manifesting itself as a unique and compelling customer experience
  • Supported with a certain type and level of service and technical assistance
  • Possessing a certain set of values and standing for something
  • Pursuing carefully crafted customer engagement strategies
  • With a thoughtfully designed underlying organization culture
  • And a carefully crafted business model
  • Led by someone with the perfect leadership style for the brand

The difference in how one thinks about brands can be due to any or all of the following:
  • How one was schooled in branding
  • How brand management and marketing was organized in the organizations in which that person has worked
  • What that person's training and background is - graphic designer, copywriter, account executive, brand manager, marketing researcher, merchandising designer, digital marketer, CMO, general manager, CEO
  • Whether that person's experience was primarily with graphic design firms, advertising agencies, media planning firms, marketing research firms, brand identity firms, web development firms, brand strategy consultancies, general management consultancies, staff marketing positions, line marketing positions, sales positions, organization design/organization development positions or something else

Obviously the skill sets and scope of work vary greatly depending on how one defines "brand." And the complexity, expectations, experience level and focus of the work will vary greatly. If you have been assigned the role of brand manager or brand champion, make sure you know how people in your organization understand the meaning of "brand." You don't want to be focused on logo design when people are really looking for a culture change or vice versa. Also, when you are hiring a firm to help you with your branding, make sure you know what type of firm with what skill sets you are hiring. I wish you great success with this.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Timeshare & Resource Sharing Brands

I remember thinking that timesharing and resource sharing would eventually hit every industry back in the mid to late 1980s when I was responsible for new product development at Hallmark. It was a trend that I thought would explode due to the more efficient sharing of resources. Back then, timesharing mostly applied to vacation rentals. Since then, RCI, Wyndham Worldwide's vacation timeshare exchange network has been one of my clients. But consider the categories and brands in which timesharing and resource sharing now operate:

  • Home rental - Airbnb, VRBO and numerous other brands. I use to rent my Adirondack home when I am not using it.
  • Home exchange (aka house swapping) - Love Swap Rental
  • Couch surfing - Couchsurfing
  • Motor vehicle sharing - Zipcar, GetAround, Enterprise CarShare and others
  • Ridesharing - Über, Lyft, Sidecar
  • Car subscriptions (allowing one to drive a selection of cars for a monthly fee) - Clutch, Carma Car, Flexdrive and others
  • Boat chartering - Sun Charters, Charter World and others
  • Boat sharing - Carefree Boat Club, Boat Share Direct and many others
  • Boat exchange - BVC International
  • Jet sharing (air charter, fractional jet and jetpooling) - CEOFleet, JetSuite, PrivateFly, NetJets, Flexjet and others
  • Bike sharing - Zagster/Pace, Velib', Citi Bikes, Bixi and others
  • Computer sharing - at public libraries and cyber cafes
  • Art rental programs - numerous local brands throughout the US
  • Sharing communities - Ouishare, Shared Squared, The People Who Share, Unstash, Let's Collaborate, P2P Foundation

And, in a way, hotels and libraries have always existed based on the resource sharing concept, as have country clubs and yacht clubs. 

So what are the other advantages of resource sharing (outside of resource efficiency and lower costs per usage)? Lack of maintenance and insurance worries. Fewer possessions to which one might feel tied. A much lighter environmental footprint. Lowered entry barriers for people with more modest financial means. The possibility of greater variety. And even a sense of community and sharing.

So, if you want to create a breakthrough business and brand, consider what else can be timeshared and then build a business and brand around it. 

Friday, June 29, 2018

Customer Journey Mapping

I have witnessed dozens of approaches to customer journey mapping leading to dozens of different types of customer journey maps. They all have one thing in common - they attempt to map the customer journey. Many approaches overlay the purchase decision hierarchy: awareness -> consideration -> preference -> purchase -> repeat purchase -> loyalty -> advocacy. Each approach highlights individual customer touch points and the quality of the interaction at each of those touch points. The touch points could be through a mobile device, over the telephone, in a magazine, on a television, in a conversation with a friend, in a store, at the point of purchase, at a service location, at a technical support desk, at an ATM or somewhere else. 

Mapping this journey is only useful if it helps identify purchase influence or decision points and how to affect outcomes at those points.

Obviously, the journey is different for every customer and sometimes for the same customer at different times. So, there is no definitive map that outlines the journey for all customers from every segment for every need state. 

The journey will be different depending on the type of purchase. For instance, large, one-time purchases have a different journey than the purchase of everyday consumables. Consider the purchase of a new home or a yacht versus that of toilet paper or milk.

And impulse purchases are an entirely different category of purchases. 

Some purchases are habitual. The trick with those purchases is to interrupt the habitual behavior if you are interested in stimulating brand switching. It is important to identify the most promising points at which to interrupt that habitual behavior.

Sometimes a brand can insert itself in the process while a customer is looking for another brand. Again, identifying the best place to do this is critical to success.

A brand is particularly vulnerable to brand switching if it is less than totally accessible. For instance, another brand may be able to get the sale if the preferred brand is not available 24/7 or does not offer 24/7 support. It is also vulnerable if it is "out of stock" or otherwise unavailable. Greater responsiveness on the part of a substitute brand could get the sale if the preferred brand is not nearly as responsive.

Another thing to consider in the customer journey is at what points emotional connection can be made with the customer. I lead volunteer development (fundraising) efforts for a number of not-for-profit organizations. In that role, I have learned that an organization needs to raise friends before it can raise funds. Initial interactions with potential donors are focused on creating relationships and emotional connections, not asking for money. That comes later. The same is true for brands.

It is also important to determine how much of the purchase decision is based on price, convenience, brand loyalty, habit or category enthusiasm/exploration for a given customer in a specific category. This will impact how to alter interactions at specific touch points or whether to create additional touch points.

It is important to identify the customer's emotional state at each touch point. It is also important to discover what triggers the purchase. And finally, identifying the "moments of truth" can be very helpful.

Anthropological research and depth interviews will inform the mapping, as will other carefully constructed research methodologies. 

The key outcome of this process is to identify places in the shopping process at which brand choice can be influenced and a purchase can be stimulated. Further, customer journey mapping affords the opportunity to improve the customer experience at each touch point.

Finally, it is important to note that customer journey mapping is not "rocket science." It is a label applied to a more methodical and thorough process for understanding the customer's journey and how to best make it work to your brand's advantage. I wish you great success in mapping your customer's journey.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Common Brand Problems

Over the past twenty years, I have helped more than 200 brands in a wide variety of product and service categories. Here are the most common problems that brands seem to encounter.

  • A disruptive technology has made the brand's core product obsolete. Example: Kodak.
  • The brand's level of service and product innovation has not kept up with the competition. Example: Burger King.
  • Stuck in the middle. The brand is neither low cost/high convenience nor does it deliver a high-end or unique customer experience. Example: Sears.
  • The brand has extremely low customer awareness. Example: many start-up brands.
  • The category has matured and all of the brands in the category seem to offer the same product quality, functions and features. Example: this has occurred in many categories.
  • The category has been infused with new life through investment in advertising/marketing, but the brand in question has not participated in that investment. Example: any insurance brand that has not begun advertising at a fairly high level.
  • The CEO or other organization leader has created a dysfunctional culture. Example: more brands than you would think.
  • The brand's leadership is risk-adverse and so the brand (and its products and services) has not been proactive about reinventing itself. Example: numerous brands, Hallmark being one of them.
  • A venture capital firm buys the brand, strips out costs and assets, dresses the company/brand up for sale but has not really invested in the long-term viability of the brand. Example: I have encountered many examples of this. I do not want to name them.
  • Profit-focused management driven by Wall Street demands has gradually reduced the quality or increased the price of the brand's products (or both) until the perceived value is noticeably diminished. These actions can also be influenced by retailers such as Walmart that have huge leverage over manufacturers and how they price their products. Example: Newell (Rubbermaid). 
  • In the effort to increase sales significantly, a more upscale brand broadens distribution to a mass channel, significantly diminishing its brand cache. Example: Columbia (vs. Patagonia or North Face).
  • A brand walks away from or ignores its primary differentiating benefit in an effort to broaden its offering and gain more sales across more customer need segments. Example: Volvo (safety).
  • A premium brand extends its product line down to the mass market but in so doing risks decreasing the social status associated with the brand. Example: BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar have had to grapple with this tradeoff as they try to extend down into the aspirational or mass luxury market
  • Through rapid expansion and wild success, the brand becomes ubiquitous increasing the difficulty of maintaining uniform quality standards and feeling more commonplace in peoples' minds. Examples: Nike and Starbucks.
  • The company and brand have been complacent for a long time, so much so that they have not kept up with evolving customer needs or the competition. Examples: Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
  • The brand's product or service is so new, revolutionary or complex that people really don't understand what it does or how it works. This is a communication problem. Example: I have encountered this with several high-tech start-up brands that are based on new product concepts.
  • Management does not have a good understanding of who their target market is, what they really want or what messaging or product configurations would work best for them. Example: I have encountered this more often than one might think. Stuhrling (watches) is one example of this.
  • The brand has a ill thought through pricing or distribution strategy that does not support the positioning of their brand. Example: I have had a few clients that have had these problems. 
  • The brand's founder, leader or spokesperson has encountered personal problems that reflect negatively on the brand. Examples: Anita Bryant and Sunkist and President Donald Trump and the Trump brand.

Hopefully, none of these problems seem familiar to you or applicable your brand. If they do, you need to take action before it is too late.