Friday, March 8, 2019

Think Like The Customer

I was meeting with the marketing committee of a not-for-profit organization on whose board I sit earlier today. We were discussing a major report that we intend to release to the community. The report is on a rather technical subject - river quality - and we talked about crafting frequency asked questions (FAQ) to accompany the report and press release.

This made me think of something that all skilled marketers are able to do. That is, put themselves in the customer's shoes and think and act like the customer. This includes knowing what concerns are on the customers' minds, how they are likely to view and process different topics, where they go to get their information, what their preconceived notions are, who they are inclined to believe and what is most important to them.

So taking the FAQ document that would accompany a river quality report card as an example, here are some of the questions that I would imagine might be asked:

  • Does this mean we can swim in the river without worrying?
  • What impact will this have on beach openings?
  • Can we eat fish that we caught from the river?
  • Should we worry if we get a mouth full of water?
  • Is the water potable, that is, is it ok for drinking?
  • When did you measure the water quality?
  • How often do you intend to measure it going forward? How often will we see updated report cards?
  • What exactly are you measuring? 
  • What are you not measuring that we should worry about?
  • What is the biggest source of pollution?
  • Who is the biggest polluter?
  • Is there anything I can do to help clean up the river?
  • How long will it be before the river is completely clean again?

I am not going to include the complete list of potential questions. But my point is that a marketer must always try to think like the customer. What is on his or her mind? What is he or she worried about? How will he or she react to this? If you were a water quality engineer or scientist you might have come up with a different set of FAQs, but would they have addressed the community's actual questions and concerns or would they have missed the mark?

I have noticed a similar thing in survey construction. A survey is not constructed with the respondent in mind if the most frequent answer to a list of possible responses is "other (please specify)." It means that the person who supplied the answer options really doesn't understand what is most important to the respondent. Sometimes the person who constructs the survey is so clueless that the list of options does not include anything that the respondent would choose. That becomes problematic because then the respondent has to pick something that he or she would not normally pick just to move ahead in the survey. 

As a marketer, you must understand your customer well enough to ask the right questions, create compelling messaging, place the marketing messages in the right media and get the customer to make an actual purchase. 

So, the bottom line is that you must think like the customer if you are to be successful as a marketer. And, while you may not be the target customer yourself, you must have done enough research and have enough empathy and insight to be able to walk in the customer's shoes anyway.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Brand Reputation Management

How should organizations measure and manage their brands' reputations? While many people suggest using something as simple as Net Promoter Score, which is a very popular measure of attitudinal loyalty, reputation metrics must include much more than that. 

Each brand has multiple audiences, each with its own expectations for the brand, so reputation metrics need to capture how each audience perceives the brand. The audiences include not just the different customer segments, but also shareholders, employees, vendors, business partners, the communities in which they operate and the general public.

So, the key question is, "What reputational elements are the most important for each of those groups?" Awareness is often a metric, as is preference. But perceptions of relevance, trustworthiness, quality, innovation, accessibility, responsiveness and value may also be important, as may customer service and technical support ratings. Being a good partner, collaborative, environmentally sensitive and a good corporate citizen are also possible metrics. 

So, the first step is to understand what matters most to each audience. The next step is to translate these into specific metrics. Then you must set up a system or systems to measure each of these on a regular or even rolling basis for all of the key audiences. 

You can also monitor social media sites, product/service rating sites and even your own customer and business partner forums to capture perceptions of the brand and especially against the chosen metrics.  And you can use online tools to monitor and analyze brand mentions. 

Further, you can add periodic questions to your brand/business pages on Facebook and in other websites. Each question would be designed to gather data on one or more metrics. 

I had already mentioned business partner forums. Businesses can convene specific forums to share information with customers and other business partners and can use those forums to collect brand perceptions. 

Focus groups, surveys and other traditional research techniques, online and offline, can also be useful sources of information on reputation. Qualitative research such as focus groups, mini-groups and one-on-one depth interviews can help you probe deeply on the areas of most interest or greatest concern. Topics for in-depth exploration might include areas of vulnerability and potential threats.

All of this information needs to be gathered by a responsible party, who aggregates, sorts, formats and reports on the findings in the form of a dashboard or scorecard. And then action should be taken based on the findings. The findings should result in objectives, goals, strategies, tactics and action plans. 

All of this needs to be supported at the top of the organization. There needs to be real commitment to the process. 

It is my strong recommendation that you develop brand reputation metrics that are tailored to your brand and company. The process of managing against those metrics should also be tailored to your organization's specific requirements. I wish you great success in developing a robust system of brand reputation metrics and management.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Will Brands Even Be Around in Ten Years?

As a brand strategy consultant, I have ridden the upward trajectory of brands and branding for the past 20 years. In the 1980s and before, brand management was mostly practiced by consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies. By the mid- to late-1990s, large companies were beginning to manage their corporate brands at an executive level. This was the timeframe during which I was put in charge of the Hallmark brand. Since then, brands and brand management has become ubiquitous. I have been called upon to brand museums, universities, trade associations and other not-for-profit organizations. I have also branded municipalities and geographic regions...and restaurants and medical practices and health care systems and medical devices and individuals. It seems that everything is branded these days. 

And yet, there have always been prophets predicting the end of brands. Naomi Klein argued against brands (and, in particular, the consumptive environment they fuel) in her book, No Logo in the late 1990s. And many have come out since then either predicting their demise or calling for their demise. In fact, I have always wondered how long the phenomenon of branding would last. 

So, here are my arguments for and against the end of brands.

Arguments for the end of brands:

  • Big data analytics, automated sales funnels and individual targeting make brands far less important in the purchase decision process.
  • Product and service quality have gotten so good across the board that almost any brand will meet or exceed our needs. Therefore it doesn't matter which brand we purchase.
  • Information access provided by the Internet creates much greater brand transparency and gives consumers much more power over brands.
  • No brand lasts forever and with the rate of technological disruption, increasingly, brands will come and go in a matter of years rather than decades or centuries.
  • Because of the maturity of markets, few brands are really that different from any of their competitors.
  • Most markets have gotten so hyper-competitive that most purchase decisions are now based on price.
  • Mergers, acquisitions, venture capital (VC) takeovers and other significant changes in ownership lead to inconsistent brands that cannot be relied upon. This reduces the value of brands.

Arguments for the end of all but a few mega-brands:
  • Very simple, Amazon, Google and Facebook will end up owning the world. No other brand will matter.

Arguments for the continuation of brands:
  • Brands are all about relevant differentiation and unique value propositions. If your products or services do not have these, they are commodities and their sales will largely be driven by price. No one wants this.
  • While technology lowers industry entry barriers and allows for the emergence of new brands at a very rapid pace, it is only the long-term reputation of a brand that guarantees quality, service and desirable attributes. Brands are the way to break through the marketplace clutter to purchase something that you know you can rely on.
  • Brands imbue products and services with human qualities. This is the only thing that can result in emotional connection with consumers and consumers are mostly driven by their emotions. 
  • Strong brands still result in many financial and other business advantages: increased sales, market share, profitability, stock prices, shareholder value and customer loyalty, decreased price sensitivity, increased ability to charge a price premium, increased ability to attract and retain talented and motivated employees and increased bargaining power with business partners.
  • Brands can share powerful values with their customers, so much so that they can become the self-expressive vehicles for those shared values and the organizers of communities for people who share those values. This is an extremely powerful "glue." 

As you can see, there are some arguments for brands slowing fading away and arguments that they will continue to be an important part of our world. I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Friday, February 15, 2019

How Brand Experience Can Overcome Time Constraints

Generally, people feel two types of scarcity in their lives. They often feel as though they do not have enough money to do everything they want to do. And they often feel as though they don't have enough free time to do all that they want to do. So, the two scarce commodities are time and money.

And it is now almost a cliche when someone responds to the question, "How are you doing?" with "I am busy, really busy." It seems to be the standard answer to that question by most people these days.

So, how is it that some brands can make time seem to stand still for people as they interact with the brand? Have you ever interacted with a brand that seems to put you into a flow state? You lose all track of time and really don't mind it if you have spent too much time with the brand. These are the brands that create amazing experiences.

As a brand guy, I think of almost everything as a brand or at least as being capable of being branded. So, rock brands and other musical groups are brands. Colleges and universities are brands. Cities are brands. Museums and art galleries are brands. Amusement parks are brands. Restaurants and night clubs are brands. And people are brands too. I am sure you have lost track of time when interacting with some of these brands. And I am sure you have wanted to spend more time with some of these brands.

Convenience and accessibility have become very important to today's consumer. He or she wants everything "now." Consumers have been spoiled by everything being a click away on their smart phones. Long copy, long ads, long anything can not seem to hold people's attention anymore.

And think about how people feel about long commutes. This is a major contributor to quality of life or lack thereof. It's hard to keep up with all of our work. We don't have enough time for our families. We don't have enough time for our hobbies. We don't have enough time to exercise. Our vacations are too short. We don't have enough time for ourselves.

And yet, some brands seem not only to overcome this feeling of scarcity but literally to pull you into an experience for which time doesn't seem to matter.

Not many brick and mortar retailers can compete with online retailers regarding price or selection or being open 24/7. So brick and mortar retailers must create a better experience to attract and retain customers. Von Maur department stores feature pianists playing music in the stores. Bass Pro Shops have large aquariums filled with fish.

And let me tell you about my experience with Tesla. I love riding in the car so much (because of the quiet, high performance road handling, the acceleration, the spacious uncluttered interior, the Tesla streaming radio and the amazing sound system) that I look for excuses to get in the car and drive around. Now that I have a Tesla, I am running many more errands for my wife. "Honey, is there anything you need me to pick up while I am out?" "Where are you going?" "I don't know. Just out." To create a legitimate purpose for spending more time in the car, I have taken to driving for Uber and Lyft. It results in barely a blip in my income, but it allows me to drive around in my spare time and to share the experience with others who may not have experienced riding in a Tesla before.

The point of this blog post is to encourage you to create a brand experience that is so desirable that people not only do not complain about it taking too much time but rather complain about not being able to spend enough time with the brand. What sort of brand is yours? One that people are too busy to interact with? Or one that people can't wait to interact with? And one, that when they do interact with it, they lose all track of time.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Positioning Your Brand to Win!

I am pleased to announce that I am now offering an online version of my highly acclaimed brand positioning workshop. The workshop provides you with everything you need to create a unique and emotionally compelling brand promise along with every other element of a comprehensive brand positioning statement. For more information, click here.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

55 Ways to Sabotage Brands

If you are looking for ways to sabotage your brand, here are fifty-five different ways to do that, taken directly from real life examples encountered during my brand strategy consulting experience.

  1. Change the brand identity system every time a new marketing vice president is hired. 
  2. Change your brand's positioning or messaging as frequently as possible. 
  3. Increase profitability by eliminating product functions and features.
  4. Extend a luxury brand into the mass market segment to reach a broader audience.
  5. Institute a telephone customer support system that is fully automated, requiring multiple layers of choices and no real contact with a person.
  6. Skimp on customer facing customer service employee training.
  7. Implement a system that makes it difficult for someone to purchase your brand's products.
  8. Compensate for revenue shortfalls by slashing the marketing budget.
  9. Begin selling a luxury brand in Walmart and other discount stores to broaden distribution and increase sales.
  10. Do not link your online retail store to your brick and mortar retail network.
  11. Ask for the same customer information (email address, credit card information, etc.) multiple times during a transaction.
  12. Suggest add-on sales aggressively and often.
  13. Cram as many messages as possible on the product packaging. 
  14. Include as many brand benefits as possible in brand messaging.
  15. Create ads in which the brand identification is only incidental or even nonexistent.
  16. Make sure your technical support, customer service and other customer facing departments cannot share information with each other instantaneously. 
  17. Don't worry about clean bathrooms in your restaurant or retail outlet.
  18. Keep on raising prices to see what the market will bear.
  19. Make the same claims as your competitors.
  20. Revise your brand's identity system to look similar to your competitor's brand identity system.
  21. Maintain banker's hours (9 am to 5 pm) at your retail locations.
  22. Create lots and lots of brands and subbrands.
  23. Target the wrong markets with your brand. 
  24. Enter the market without any understanding of who your customers are or what they want.
  25. Use a brand spokesperson who turns out to be a pedophile. 
  26. Offer your expensive luxury products at extreme discounts in other channels of distribution to unload the skus that are not selling.
  27. Focus on short-term profitability (and meeting Wall Street's quarterly expectations) at the expense of investing in things that will result in long-term growth and market domination.
  28. Create the products first. And then, only after they are created, think about how you are going to market them. 
  29. Define your brand as a product category (or make it synonymous with that category) rather than designing it to own a unique and compelling brand benefit or shared customer value.
  30. License your brand out to other product categories to make a little extra money without regard to whether those other categories reinforce the brand's promise or unique value proposition.
  31. Extend your brand into as many product and service categories as possible so that it completely loses its meaning.
  32. Create new brands or subbrands for internal purposes regardless of whether the new brands or subbrands make any sense to external audiences. 
  33. Allow special interest groups to turn your brand into the "poster child" for something they hate.
  34. Treat the brand management function primarily as a logo cop function.
  35. Don't worry about whether the organization is actually delivering against the advertised brand promise.
  36. Claim what everyone else is claiming.
  37. Try to own brand attributes or features that can be easily copied or superseded by competitors. 
  38. Try to be the best at something versus the only brand that is delivering something important to the target customer.
  39. Don't keep up with industry innovations.
  40. Don't set up any central control system for execution of your brand's identity. 
  41. Define your target customer as broadly as possible to get the most sales, for instance, all women or all people.
  42. Offer a cheaper version of your brand to more downscale markets.
  43. Choose a generic name such as Information Systems or Furniture Outlet.
  44. Spend as much money as possible on price promotions and trade deals so that there is little to no money left to build the brand.
  45. Don't assign responsibility for brand management. Leave it up to everyone.
  46. Don't worry about decisions made by other departments or divisions that might hurt the brand.
  47. Don't waste your time on customer research. 
  48. Don't waste your time on customer journey mapping, customer touch point design or customer experience design.
  49. Choose brand colors that are the same as or similar to every other brand in your brand's product or service category.
  50. Don't bother building brand metrics into a balanced scorecard or common measures. 
  51. Don't waste time or other resources measuring your brand's equity.
  52. Don't link brand plans with other business plans. Better yet, don't create brand plans at all.
  53. Ignore research findings if they do not agree with what you want to do.
  54. Just think of brands and products as the same things and treat them accordingly.
  55. Don't worry about your brand's consistency or reliability. Who cares if people can trust your brand to deliver a consistent expected result time after time.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The Power of Simplicity in Branding

In branding, less is more. Whether it is a simpler logo, a simpler tagline or a simpler elevator speech, less is more. Copywriting and graphic design are extremely important to brands and brand communication. The simpler the design or message, the more impact it will have and the more memorable it will be.

I have spent a career writing brand plans, brand promises, brand elevator speeches, brand taglines, brand missions, visions and values and brand advertising copy. A real talent is to be able to take something complex and present it simply so that everyone will understand it. I have taken many writing courses in high school, college and elsewhere. The most useful one I ever took taught me this - use an economy of words. The writing exercise I remember most was one in which we wrote a paper after which we were told to cut it in half without losing any meaning - again, again and again until we got the paper down to one paragraph. Our professor said, "Now you have mastered the art of writing well."

Blaise Pascal, John Locke, Benjamin Franklin, Henry David Thoreau, Cicero, Woodrow Wilson and Mark Twain have all been quoted as saying something similar to this - "If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter." Anyone who has written taglines knows that eloquently capturing a brand's promise in three words or less is no easy task. 

When I worked at Hallmark as a marketing executive, our CEO suggested that if we could not fit our communication on a 3 x 5 sheet of paper, we should rethink our communication. 

One of the best print ads we ever ran at Hallmark featured white space except for a black and white rendering of the Hallmark logo and one very short Hallmark brand positioning statement artfully  related to the magazine's content on the magazine's back cover. It was such a successful ad that dozens of magazines approached Hallmark to run the ad in their magazines. The ad was mostly white space. That is why the brand and its message had such impact.

I have had clients whose businesses were extremely complex with dozens or more subsidiaries in different lines of business. Yet, they wanted brand elevator speeches that tied everything they did together under one brand umbrella while communicating the breadth of their business offerings. Crafting that is also more difficult than it appears. If crafted well, it will seem to be a simple and easy statement to those who read it. Much like a world class figure skater's routine seems much simpler than it is when executed flawlessly and with style.

And to add science to this, research has repeatedly shown that the more complex the message is with more benefit statements, the less the message is remembered. 

So, if you remember one thing in crafting brand communication, it should be "keep it simple."

The Power of Socially Conscious Brands

Brands that are socially conscious outperform brands that cater to Wall Street's quarterly expectations. Being mission-driven, making mission-driven decisions and creating an employee-empowering culture lead to far above average financial results. 

There are three concepts that socially conscious brands should consider:

  • Conscious Capitalism - this recognizes some of the dysfunctional byproducts of modern capitalism - lack of equality and opportunity, worker exploitation, growing disparity of wealth and income, corporate moral and ethical irresponsibility (such as wholesale export of critical manufacturing jobs, complicated corporate maneuvers to avoid taxes and excessive participation and influence on the political process and policy making) and ecological disasters.There are the four components of conscious capitalism: (1) having a higher purpose, (2) sustainable integration of all stakeholders -  employees, customers, vendors, business partners, the communities in which they are embedded, the environment and shareholders, (3) conscious leadership by people who are ethical and are willing mitigate the greed impulse to achieve long-term value for all stakeholders and (4) sustaining a culture of trust, accountability, caring, transparency, integrity, learning and egalitarianism. 
  • Triple Bottom Line Companies - this is a concept that broadens a business' focus on the financial bottom line to include social and environmental considerations. A triple bottom line measures a company's degree of social responsibility, its economic value and its environmental impact.
  • B CorporationsIn the United States, a benefit corporation is a type of for-profit corporate entity, authorized by 33 U.S. states and the District of Columbia that includes positive impact on society, workers, the community and the environment in addition to profit as its legally defined goals, in that the definition of "best interest of the corporation" is specified to include those impacts. Traditional C Corporation law does not specify the definition of "best interest of the corporation" which has led to profit motivations being used as the main driver for best interests during the period of late capitalism.
Here are some interesting books on the subject:

Friday, February 1, 2019

Unleashing Brand Power

Why do some brands command premium prices, while others are forced to compete on price? While some companies are racing frantically to the bottom, others are gliding effortlessly to the top. These world class brands win the admiration of their customers, the envy of their peers, and claim the lion's share of their market's profits. 

They achieve this through something I call "brand insistence” – a state where your customers don't just have a preference for your products and services . . . they demand them. 

Ultimately, these brands can become a “category of one,” standing alone without peers. After having helped 200+ companies create powerful brands, I have crafted a 17-minute presentation to show ambitious companies how they can unlock the full potential of their brands to become a “category of one.”

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Social Media Marketing Strategy

I will be delivering a talk on social media marketing strategy at a local American Marketing Association (AMA) chapter meeting in a couple of weeks. I thought I would share the outline of my talk here. 

These are the things one should consider when developing a social media marketing plan.
  • Start with clear objectives (including intended metrics)
  • Deep customer insight is essential – beliefs, attitudes, values, hopes, anxieties, fears, etc.
  • Facebook has the best targeting – take advantage of its AI and big data analytics capabilities
  • Let Facebook refine your target audience
  • You must be an expert at sales and persuasion techniques and copyrighting
  • Choose newsfeed ads
  • Carousel ads have their advantages too
  • Online advertising makes testing different copy and images inexpensive and easy – this can hugely increase advertising effectiveness
  • Videos are king
  • The rule of thumb is short videos, but long videos have a purpose too (weeding out all but the most serious buyers)
  • Minimize the number of steps people will need to take to help you achieve your goals
  • Blogs work, but you better be prepared to run a marathon
  • Striving for thought leadership is a worthy goal
  • Make friends with influencers
  • Collect email addresses and own the email list
  • WordPress is the platform of choice
  • Google Ads/Keyword Planner, Google Books Ngram Viewer and Google Trends are powerful tools – don’t forget to use them
  • Know and consider managing to “the long tail”
  • Are you using the Internet to achieve scalability and network effects?

If you live in the Rochester, NY area, please sign up for my Lightening Talk on February 14th at 11:30 am. If not, a good resource for this subject is David Meerman Scott's book, The New Rules of Marketing & PR. I highly recommend it. 

Monday, January 21, 2019

Marketing Careers

I am often asked by college students majoring in marketing about what types of marketing positions, paths and careers are open to them. Careers in marketing are myriad and often require very different skill sets. Without going into great detail about any one of them, here are just some of marketing positions and paths open to people:

  • Brand manager (broad skill set, typically have P&L responsibility, develop the marketing strategy, fairly autonomous responsibility regarding their brand or brands, works with several internal departments and external marketing agencies)
  • Product manager (responsible for the functions, features and sourcing of one or more products, often have pricing responsibility as well)
  • Product development manager (responsible for developing new products, marketing research is an important component of the job, work with engineers, scientists, prototypers and other designers)
  • Brand identity manager (responsible for maintaining consistent brand identity standards throughout the enterprise and with business partners, typically also responsible for brand architecture and naming standards)
  • Brand marketing manager (responsible for developing all marketing materials for a brand or a portfolio of brands)
  • Product marketing manager (responsible for developing all marketing materials for a product or line of products including product information sheets and other sales support materials)
  • Advertising manager (responsible for developing, producing, fielding and measuring the impact of advertising campaigns against a set of objectives often given them by the brand manager, works very closely with advertising agencies)
  • Promotions manager (responsible for price discounts, contests and other promotions designed to accelerated sales, works closely with brand manager and retail channels of trade)
  • Direct marketing manager (responsible for direct marketing through post cards and other mailings, responsible for purchasing, scrubbing and using customer lists, this is moving more and more to email marketing and coal media marketing)
  • Marketing research analyst or manager (responsible for designing, fielding, and reporting the results and implications of marketing research studies, must choose the most appropriate methodology given the research objective and action standard, often works though outside marketing research vendors, can include both qualitative and quantitative research, if actually doing the analysis, requires strong statistical analysis skills)
  • Focus group moderator (moderates focus groups including developing the discussion guide, moderating the groups themselves, writing the report of findings and implications and working with focus group facilities, requires good interpersonal and group facilitation skills)
  • Media planner (plans the right set of media and the frequency and sequencing of ads to achieve advertising objectives for the target markets, must be familiar with all media sources)
  • Media buyer (buys advertising according to the media plan)
  • Account executive (responsible for the overall management of a client account on behalf of the marketing agency, responsible for the profitability of the account, requires strong project managements skills and strong interpersonal skills)
  • Creative director (responsible for translating the marketing objectives overall and for a variety of marketing pieces, from television advertising to sales brochures, into strong creative content that has breakthrough power and that communicates the intended brand messages)
  • Graphic designer (works on ads, collateral materials, social media advertising, anything that requires visual and other design elements, often also is skilled in creating logos and brand identity guidelines)
  • Copywriter (develops powerful copy that paints a picture with words, can craft compelling brand stories, can also create power calls to action, translates the brand's promise and personality into words)
  • Corporate communications manager (responsible for corporate communications, includes media relations that maintains close working relationships with the media, prepares and executes crisis plans as necessary, is responsible for shaping the overall reputation of the company)
  • PR professional (may be someone within a corporate communications department or an external PR consultant, responsible for placing positive stories, increasing public awareness of the brand or company, keeping the brand or company in the news, may also create and execute publicity stunts or events to achieve specific marketing objectives)
  • Data science analyst (responsible for large data analysis and fetching important information)
  • Solution architect (responsible for solving specific problems using big data analytics, need to understand databases and programming languages)
  • Other big data analysis careers - database administrator, database developer, data modeler, data scientist, business intelligence analyst, database manager, data warehouse manager, and big data engineer)
  • Inbound marketing manager (data driven, manages the lead generation and sales funnel for a company, converts traffic to leads and nurtures those leads)
  • CRM specialist (closely related to inbound marketing manager, responsible for selecting, developing, refining and maintaining customer relationship management systems)
  • Blog manager (needs to be a good copywriter, a savvy wordsmith, creates and maintain s the company's voice, is responsible for optimizing content for search engines and lead generation)
  • Content marketing manager (manages the development and use of content across applications from blogs, white papers, educational ebook, webinars and all other possible applications)
  • Social media/community manager (needs to know all media platforms and online metrics, may also be responsible for mobile and digital marketing, develops and executes strategies to build and maintain online communities)
  • SEO expert (responsible for maintaining high search engine rankings for the brand or company based on the selected sets of search criteria)
  • Email marketing manager (grows email list organically, manages email marketing campaigns, measures results of campaigns, manages email database, segments markets based on email behaviors)
  • Brand licensing manager (responsible for licensing company-owned brands and other properties to outside business partners for strategic (brand extension) reasons and additional revenues and profits, also responsible for licensing outside properties for use with company products)
  • Trade marketing manager (responsible for marketing to and through a certain channel of trade or a certain set of retailers, works closely with the company's salesforce and retailer buyers and category managers, also works closely with promotions manager, often responsible for the optimal spending of co-op advertising funds)
  • Trade relations manager (responsible for maintaining close cordial relationships with important retailers)
  • Marketing operations manager (manages the overall marketing operations and the relationship between the marketing and sales functions, requires strong interpersonal skills)
  • Display designer and virtual merchandiser (designs retail displays including seasonal displays)
  • Retail store designer (responsible for overall store design, considers space optimization, aesthetics, brand identity reinforcement, shopping patterns, ways to increase impulse purchases and ways to minimize shoplifting)
  • Brand strategy consultant (consults on the overall strategy of a brand to bring it back to health or to take it to the next level, requires strong market research, brand equity measurement and brand positioning skills, often considers the interaction of brand strategy with business strategy including business model strategy and competitive strategy)
  • Chief marketing officer (overall responsibility for the marketing strategies of a company, interacts will all other company functions, ensures the overall success of the marketing function including its delivery against key metrics, responsible for the recruiting, development and management of all marketing functions and for optimizing the mix of marketing capabilities and recruiting the right people and other resources to fill them, )

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Common (And Not So Common) Brand Problems

As I was doing my research for an article that I am writing on brand problems, I realized that I had written much about common (and not so common) brand problems in this blog. So rather than write yet another post on this, I thought I would provide you with links to all of the previous posts in which I address brand problems. Here they are...

If you need help solving your brand problems, give me a call or send me an email message. I am extremely likely to have encountered and helped overcome those problems. You can find me at
And to read more about common brand problems, you may want to read Brand Aid, available here.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Brand Building Advertising

Advertising and other marketing campaigns can have many different objectives - for instance, increasing brand awareness, changing brand perceptions, increasing emotional connection with the customer, transforming customers into brand advocates, or driving sales.

However, the key distinction I want to make is between brand building advertising and advertising that sells. The latter usually includes an offer or a promotion and always includes a strong call to action. Whereas the former generally does not include any of these elements, but rather strives to do one or more of the following:

  • Build brand awareness, increase the brand's popularity (most ads for new products and brands)
  • Help the customer to pronounce and remember the brand's name (GEICO's gecko, Slinger's allusions to Swingers)
  • Increase emotional connection with the customer (Hallmark's Hall of Fame commercials, Dove's "Real Beauty" campaign)
  • Establish the brand as a badge (Apple is for smart sophisticated people, Luminox is for highly competent people, FootJoy is for serious golfers)
  • Communicate key brand benefits (Liberty Mutual's accident forgiveness, GIECO can save you 15% or more on car insurance, Snickers satisfies)
  • Associate the brand with strong positive emotions (Teleflora ads, Harley-Davidson commercials, many automobile brand ads)
  • Give the brand a distinctive personality (Dos Equis' "The Most Interesting Man in the World" ads, Pistachio's elephant, Motel 6's Tom Bodett)
  • Romance the product itself (Olive Garden ads, Cinnabon ads, Christian Louboutin ads, many food-related brand ads)

While marketing is a function dedicated to creating demand and ultimately sales for products and brands, brand building ads are designed to create strong emotional bonds with people. They are designed to make brands more admirable and endearing to people. This ultimately leads to sales, brand loyalty and brand advocacy. When a non-marketer gives you grief for an ad campaign that does not include an offer and a call to action, educate that person about the long-term sales power of creating strong emotional connections between brands and people. Some marketing campaigns should be focused on generating immediate sales while others should be reserved for longer-term and ongoing brand building.

Here is a fun YouTube video featuring heart touching commercials. Or how about this vintage Hallmark commercial? This is what I am talking about. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Brands as Social Status Signals

Most people feel more comfortable spending time with people with whom they have something in common. Often people can find like-minded others though organizational affiliation. Churches provide this function as do country clubs, alumni groups, political parties, hobby-related organizations and civic organizations. But product and other brands also serve as identifiers of like-minded people. For instance, someone who drives a Prius might assume that he or she would be more comfortable interacting with someone else who also drives a Prius versus, for instance, someone who drives a HUMMER.

I am fascinated by the brands that seem to provide coding for social status. And, within a given social strata, there are specific brands that highlight even more nuanced differences.

For fun, I will mention a series of brands associated with different individuals. These are fictional composite individuals. But, based on these brands, just notice how you react to each individual. Can you relate to him or her? Does he or she seem alien to you? Or perhaps, he or she turns you off. For some individuals, you may not be familiar with some or even all of the brands. You may be able to assign a label to one or more of the individuals. Can you guess whether the person lives in a city, a suburb or somewhere rural? Can you tell in what part of the country or the world he or she lives? Can you guess that person's eduction level? Is he or she working class, middle class, upper middle class, well to do or uber rich? Does he or she have a particular hobby or profession? To which individual or individuals can you best relate? Or can you not relate to any of them? What does that say about you? Now, compile a list of your own favorite or most used brands. What does that list say about you? I hope this has made clear that brands signal much about an individual. And it helps people quickly locate their "tribes." When developing your brand, consider if it could or is being used as a "badge" or self-expressive vehicle for those who use it.

PS - Congratulate yourself if you know most or all of these brands. It means that you have either participated in or interacted with many different socio-economic groups throughout your life or you are an advanced student of brands, including luxury brands. And, if you have personally used or been associated with many or all of these brands, I don't know what to say other than you have lived a very full life and should count your blessings.

Individual A:
  • Carhartt 
  • International Harvester
  • Winchester
  • Kent
  • Dekalb
  • Stihl

Individual B:
  • Walmart
  • Stanley
  • Irwin
  • Dickies
  • Ford F-150
  • Red Wing

Individual C:
  • Barneys
  • Vilebrequin
  • Jeffery Levinson
  • Hermes
  • Rolex
  • Christian Louboutin

Individual D:
  • Rosewood
  • Jumeriah
  • St. Moritz
  • Gulfstream
  • Lurssen
  • Patek Philippe

Individual E:
  • Cub Cadet
  • Subaru
  • Dockers
  • Kenmore
  • Applebee's
  • Macy's

Individual F:
  • Vespucci
  • John Whitaker
  • MUCK
  • Le Chameau
  • Blue Seal
  • Featherlite

Individual G:
  • BMW
  • Morton's The Steak House
  • Big Green Egg
  • The Greenbrier
  • Beaver Creek
  • TUMI

Individual H:
  • JC Penny
  • Kia
  • Wendy's 
  • Aldi
  • Frigidare 
  • Bridgestone 

Individual I:
  • Nautor's Swan
  • Harken
  • Lewmar
  • Westerbeke
  • Garmin
  • Gill

Individual J:
  • The Thatcher School
  • Porcellian Club
  • Bohemian Club
  • Mill Valley
  • Caymus
  • Tesla

Individual K:
  • Under Armour
  • Bass Pro Shops
  • Shakepheare
  • Eagle Claw
  • Sun Dolphin
  • Matador