Tuesday, February 27, 2018

BrandForward's Next Level Growth Process

BrandForward is proud to introduce a new proprietary process that guides our clients to identify opportunities for accelerated growth. This process features opportunity identification maps, an online survey instrument and a strategy formulation workshop among other components. It helps you identify new markets, new revenue streams, new business models and new competitive strategies. It also helps you identify marketplace gaps, brand positioning opportunities and opportunities for add-on sales. It looks at everything from strategic partnerships, licensing opportunities and alternative pricing strategies to product bundling, line extensions, new product development and alternative distribution strategies.

It includes exploration of productization, scalability and network effects. It also identifies potential sources of industry disruption and paths to “category of one” branding.

If you want an intense “deep dive” in identifying high potential growth opportunities for your organization, this is a highly efficient way to do so. Applying all of the latest growth strategy tools and an objective outside perspective to your organization’s growth potential, it teaches you how to identify, explore and amplify that potential. And its modest investment promises a very high return.

Brad VanAuken, who concentrated in competitive strategy at Harvard Business School, leads all workshops. Brad was also the lead new business development strategist for Hallmark. For more information on how you can grow your business with this process, contact Brad VanAuken at vanauken@brandforward.com.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Brands are People Too

Brands are the personification of organizations and their products and services. In this way, those organizations and their products and services can take on human qualities. They can stand for something. They can make promises. They can have personalities. They can share values with their customers. They can be funny. They can be friendly. They can be dependable. They can be trustworthy. And, in this way, people can relate to them, like them and even feel emotionally connected to them. 

Think of the qualities that you most admire in a person. For me, it is compassion, intelligence, playfulness and quick wittedness.  For you, it may be something else. 

Now consider the personalities that have been given to specific brands, sometimes by brand spokespeople or characters, at other times just by sensory design and brand messaging. Consider GEICO's gecko. He is cute and likable and funny with a pleasant accent. And Dos Equis' The Most Interesting Man in the World is debonair and successful with a plethora of rich experiences and stories. It implies that life will be more interesting with Dos Equis.  And Farmer's Insurance University of Farmers advertising campaign presents Farmer's Insurance as a calm knowledgable, seasoned brand that can handle anything because it has seen everything. And remember Tom Bodett's folksy voice that says, "I'm Tom Bodett for Motel 6, and we'll leave the light on for you."? This is folksy, friendly and reassuring. And remember Alistair Cooke, host of PBS Masterpiece Theatre? He epitomized civility, informed nonchalance and authority, just the right mix for Masterpiece Theatre. 

I must admit, that on the other hand, I do not understand the appeal of Progressive Insurance's Flo, the fictional salesperson character appearing in more than 100 of their commercials. To me she is unattractive, awkward, plain and geeky without much going for her, not a spokesperson I would want for a brand. Having said that, I am clearly missing something as there are multiple Flo ProgressiveGirl fan pages with tens of millions of likes on Facebook. 

I think you get my point though - brands are intended to add human qualities to organizations and their products and services so that they can better connect with people in an emotional and loyalty-building way. Have you thought through what type of person you want your brand to be? 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Brands & Goodness

According to BrandForward's research, one of the top attributes brands strive to be is trustworthy. Related to this, brands usually also strive to be customer service oriented, responsive, reliable and dependable. Other research has shown that people want their brands to have positive intentions toward them and to be capable of carrying out those positive intentions. 

I will express this in several different ways. People want to be able to trust their brands. They want their brands to possess integrity. They want brands to deliver on their promises. They want their brands to tell them the truth. They want their brands to have their best interests in mind. They want their brands to care about them. They want their brands to do what is right on their behalf. In summary, they want their brands to be GOOD. 

So brands that lie, intentionally deceive, cut corners, make promises on which they cannot deliver, are not focused on meeting the needs of their customers, are greedy, are unethical or otherwise are not good are brands that are in trouble. 

Take the US Congress as an example. Based on the average of many different polls, Congress' job approval rating has remained around 16% for the past several years. Why is it so low? Because US citizens are not confident that their representatives are doing what is right on their behalf. Instead, they believe those representatives are serving the special interests that fund their campaigns. I would argue that the US Congress brand is is trouble. While this is an extreme example, it is not the only example. I have written a few times about brands that do not deliver on their promises. United Airlines has been a poster child for this. BP is also a brand that has not made good on its environmental promises. In fact, there are countless other examples of this. 

While this might seem to be a cliche, I think it comes down to the Golden Rule. Is your brand treating its customers the way you would want to be treated? If your answer is "no," you have a lot of work to do to get your brand back on track. The problem could be the result of leadership, metrics and scorecards, systems, processes, employee recruiting criteria, employee training, recognition and reward systems, organization structure or just plain greed. Whatever its cause, as a brand manager, you need to get your brand back on track. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Finding the Hook in Marketing

I just returned from a local Boy Scout council marketing committee meeting. One of our agenda topics was the promotion of Earth Day merit badge workshops. The two merit badges in question are "Energy" and "Nuclear Science." Two professors from SUNY Geneseo are teaching the workshops. Professor Dennis Showers, an Eagle Scout and author of the Energy Merit Badge book and Professor James McLean (physics and astronomy) are leading the workshops. Activities and demonstrations include Geneseo's eGarden, solar powered car and a particle accelerator. Professor Showers will sign copies of the merit badge book that he wrote. Both of these merit badges support our country's emphasis on STEM.

While not always the most popular merit badges, we wanted to get a good turnout for these workshops.

The council publishes a newsletter that is sent directly to parents of scouts. Given the timing of the workshops, we felt as though this could be one of the primary communication vehicles to promote the workshops. There certainly was enough to promote that might spark interest in the workshops, from the solar powered car and the particle accelerator to the eGarden and signed copies of the merit badge book. Yet, were these powerful enough to get the scouts to sign up for the workshops? Then we thought about what parents of scouts want most for their children - success and happiness in life. So why not promote the fact that there are a wide variety of career options in energy, all of which pay quite well. Careers in energy would lead to a comfortable life. And isn't that what merit badges are all about - helping scouts to explore various hobbies and careers?

We decided that our primary communications target is parents. And we we decided that the lead message would be lucrative careers. We will still hype the other fun parts of the day, including visuals of the cool demonstrations the scouts will get to see. This will play well with the scouts themselves. 

This simple promotion exercise led me to think about how everything a marketer tries to sell needs a powerful "hook." This emerges from a solid understanding of the primary target audiences and what is most likely to motivate them to take the actions you intend to have them take. Never neglect the "hook" in your marketing communications.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Brand Sounds

Visual identity elements are the first things that come to most marketers’ minds when brand identity is mentioned. However, visual identity elements appeal to just one of the five senses – sight. Today, I want to call your attention to how sound is used to identify brands.

Over time, there have been many powerful advertising jingles. Do these words bring a tune or a brand to mind?

Commercial Jingles

“Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is.”

“Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.”

“Nationwide is on your side.”

“I wish I was an Oscar Mayer Weiner”

“Hotdogs, Armor Hotdogs – The dogs kids love to eat.”

“I’d like to teach the world to sing.”

“The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup.”

“Ba da ba ba ba I’m Lovin’ It.

Sometimes a sound or a sequence of sounds is just as powerful or even more so than a jingle with lyrics. Consider the power of these sounds in conjuring up specific brands.


NBC’s musical notes, G, E, C

Intel theme music

Apple Mac boot up

Each version of Microsoft Windows has its own boot up sound sequence

Harley-Davidson engine

MGM lion’s roar

And finally, sometimes brands have theme songs without the lyrics.


John William’s Olympic Fanfare and Theme

ABC’s Wild World of Sports theme song

National Geographic theme song

Loony Tunes theme song

When developing brand identity systems, don’t forget to consider unique and ownable sounds.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Brands vs. Brand Names

All brands have names and identity systems. The identity systems typically include type fonts, colors, icons and other visual elements. Sometimes they also include auditory, olfactory, gustatory and tactile elements. And they sometimes include taglines. 

The brand name can convey a specific intended meaning or feeling or it can just be a name that has been assigned to the brand without that intention. The tagline goes further in communicating the brand's intended promise.

But a brand's name is just like your name. It is merely a label. It is a way to identify you with words. And a brand's identity is the same as your visual appearance and perhaps the other sensory queues that you emanate such as your voice or pheromones. 

The brand, on the other hand, is more than its name and identity system. It is what is behind the name and identity system. Just as you are more than just your name or appearance. You are a complex sentient being who has a personality, a style and set of values, certain attitudes and behaviors, likes and dislikes, etc. You are the sum total of all that goes on in your head and your heart and your body (and some would say in your soul too). You are your thoughts and your words and your deeds.

Brands have the same complexity.

People perceive you not just based on your name and appearance, but also on your personality, attitudes, values and especially your behaviors. The same its true for brands. 

So, as a brand manager, you need to be concerned about the products and services and processes and systems and organizational culture and strategic partnerships that impact your brand's values, attitudes and behaviors, especially as they relate to the end customer.