Sunday, October 18, 2020

Tapping Into Human Needs


I am excited to announce that I have developed a new inexpensive online course entitled "Tapping into Human Needs." 

This one-hour seminar will help you better understand human needs and motivations. This understanding should inform brand positioning, marketing copy, selling scripts, and unique value propositions. We will cover Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, The Triune Brain, the power of fear, the two scarce resources (time and money), thirty-six powerful human motivators, how to differentiate brands by human need and eleven different market segmentation approaches. This seminar features several well-known brands as examples and six advertising videos associated with three of those brands. I think you will find a few of those ads to be quite timely and relevant. It also includes a few exercises and links to relevant online articles and blog posts. 

At the end of this seminar, you will have a much deeper insight into human motivation and how that relates to marketing and brands.

Click here to learn more about the course.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Marketing Needs Assessment

We have been running a continuous marketing needs assessment survey since April of 2017. Here are the latest findings. 

Organizational role:

  • CEO - 19%
  • CMO - 12%
  • Marketing director - 12%
  • Product manager - 12%
  • Marketing manager - 10%
  • Marketing vice president - 7%
  • Brand manager - 5%
  • Research analyst - 5%
  • Marketing analyst - 3%
  • Media planner - 3%
  • Creative director - 3%
  • Graphic designer - 2%
  • Account executive - 2%
  • Other - 5%
Industry (adds up to more than 100% because people can select more than one):
  • Consumer products - 20%
  • Consulting - 19%
  • Consumer services - 15%
  • Business services - 12%
  • Communications - 10%
  • Education - 9%
  • Financial services - 7%
  • Industrial products - 5%
  • Research - 5%
  • Healthcare - 5%
  • Energy - 3%
  • Automotive - 3%
  • Aviation - 3%
  • Hospitality - 3%
  • Defense - 3%
  • Software - 2%
  • Enterprise solutions - 2%
  • The biggest issue facing people's businesses today is increasing sales/growing the business.
  • The second biggest issue is successfully launching new products.
  • The third biggest issue is dealing with COVID-related challenges.
  • The forth biggest issue is generating more qualified leads.
  • The fifth biggest issue is lack of confidence in the marketing function.
  • The two biggest marketing issues are building brand awareness and successfully differentiating the brand.
  • The top specific issues are (1) finding the most cost effective way to reach customers, (2) developing a strong identity for the brand, (3) knowing how to best use digital, mobile and social media marketing, (4) determining the best way to spend the marketing budget and (5) better understanding customer needs.
We are always looking for additional feedback from marketing practitioners and business executives. To take the survey yourself, please click on this LINK. While the survey is anonymous, if you so choose, you may enter your name and email address for a chance to win a Brand Aid book, two hours of free consulting or a $50 gift card.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Transitioning to e-Commerce

I am conducting a free two-hour workshop on transitioning to e-commerce for artists on Sunday, September 27 from 4 pm until 6 pm. You are invited to attend.

This workshop will teach artists how to develop, host and promote websites for e-commerce including becoming familiar with different web development and hosting services, e-commerce platforms and payment methods. It will also briefly cover content creation, blogs, podcasts, YouTube channels, lead generation, marketing automation, search engine optimization, online promotion, web store organization, privacy policy generators, terms of use generators, and virtual museums, concerts and other events.

Register HERE now!

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Comprehensive Brand Positioning Course

This course will provide you with everything you need to position your brand to win. It is based on a proprietary process and set of tools that have been used to successfully position hundreds of brands throughout the world. 

This unparalleled brand positioning process was refined over 30 years and has been used by more than 200 highly successful brands in almost every product and service category.

To unleash your brand's full power, you must create a unique value proposition that is emotionally compelling. This requires a rigorous brand positioning process based on deep customer insight. And it requires an understanding of how brands can connect with customers through shared values and exceptional experiences.

This brand positioning process is part art and part science, using both the left and right sides of your brain. 

The course includes examples from many world-class brands and all the tools, templates and information you will need to position your brand to win.

The course is comprised of a video, seven handouts and links to 28 relevant blog posts. I will instruct you to use the handouts at appropriate points throughout the video. 

While the video is an hour and a quarter in length, the total course length with exercises and blog post readings will require between two and four hours to complete. You can stop and restart the course at any time based on your schedule. 

You can take the course here: Positioning Your Brand to Win

Monday, August 31, 2020

Marketing and Marketing Communication Are Not the Same

Frequently, I encounter organizations whose marketing departments consist solely of marketing communications professionals. Those organizations view marketing solely as marketing communications. The department is tasked with writing marketing copy, providing content to websites, running social media campaigns, creating brochures, crafting event announcements and the like.

But who is developing the brand's unique value proposition? Who is identifying its target markets? Who is determining the product mix? Who is deciding on each product's functions and features? Who is setting prices? Who is creating the distribution strategy? Who is crafting the customer service strategy? Who is responsible for publicity? Who is responsible for event marketing? Who is responsible for marketing research? Who is developing the overall marketing plan?

Often the answer is "the product planners" or "product development" or "sales" or "the business units." If the organization is a not-for-profit organization, the answer often is "the development person or function" or the "membership coordinator." But sometimes the answer is "I don't know," or worse yet, "no one."

If your marketing department consists only of people who write copy and design graphics and nothing else, you don't have a marketing department. You have a marketing communications department. While there is nothing wrong with having a marketing communications function, it does ignore all of the other marketing levers. It is akin to having a tool box that only consists of a pair of pliers. While the pliers come in handy at times, they are not helpful if a screwdriver or hammer are needed instead.

So please broaden your thinking about what marketing encompasses.

For further reading, consider these blog posts:

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Marketing to Human Needs

If one is not marketing to human needs, that person should not be considered a marketer. Marketers, and especially those who craft brand strategy and marketing communications, must deeply understand human needs to perform their jobs well. I have written a number of blog posts over time that speak to addressing human needs. I have compiled links to them here to help you more easily find them.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Brands & Storytelling

Stories are the glue that holds societies together. Consider the stories of Plymouth Rock and the Pilgrims, the Boston Tea Party, the Revolutionary War, the Declaration of Independence, the Civil War, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. These are the basis of our American Heritage. They provide us with a sense of history and values and common purpose.

Consider the Biblical stories of Adam and Eve, Noah and the Ark, David and Goliath, Jonah and the whale, Moses and the parting of the Red Sea, and more central to the Christian message, the birth of Christ, Jesus feeding the 5,000, and the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. These stories unite more than 2 billion Christians across the world today.

Consider your own family's stories. Your wedding night. Your honeymoon. Your first child. Your best vacation. Your child's first major accomplishment or recognition. A favorite place to which you returned year after year. A very funny moment. A shared tragedy. A special holiday. These memories are the glue that holds your family together.

I have been involved in Boy Scouts for more than 50 years. The memories that keep me coming back are the summers spent at Massawepie Scout Camps in the Adirondack Mountains, the 70-mile trek at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico, the National Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill near Bowling Green, Virginia, and the World Jamboree at Summit Bechtel Reserve in Glen Jean, West Virginia. I can and do share these memories with other Scouters across the US.

Republicans enjoy recounting tales about famous Republican presidents such as Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. While Democrats like to reminisce about the personalities, values and accomplishments of Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Barak Obama.

Whether you are a corporation, a not-for-profit organization, an industry conference, a brand of single malt scotch, a sports team, a rock band, a seaside town, a resort community or something else, you have your stories and your shared history.

Every society throughout history has had its stories. Every culture has had its myths and its folktales. Every religion has its parables and its stories about its founder and its history.

Stories provide context and meaning. They reinforce shared values. They tell cautionary tales. They imply standards of behavior. They provide a sense of heritage. And, most importantly, they create a sense of belonging to something bigger than oneself. They are what bind tribes together.

What are your brand's stories? Do they talk about the brand's origins? Do they convey certain personality attributes? Do they reinforce shared values? Do they reinforce your legendary service? Your extraordinary quality? Do they create a sense of community? Do they establish an emotional connection with its intended audiences? Are they memorable? Do they create a rallying cry?

I would contend that if a brand does not have its stories, it may be a brand in name only. I wish you great success in crafting and telling your brand's stories.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Marketing Needs Survey

If you are responsible for marketing in your organization, please share your marketing needs with us for a chance to win a Brand Aid book, two hours of free marketing consulting or an Amazon gift card. The survey will take less than 8 minutes of your time. I will post our findings in this blog when we have finished fielding this survey.


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Brand Research Topics

These are some of the areas of customer, brand and marketing research that I think could better inform brand management and marketing activities and decisions:
  • Understand how well this generic four part segmentation scheme applies to a wide variety of product and service categories: (a) price conscious customers, (b) convenience oriented customers, (c) brand loyal customers, and (d) category enthusiasts who love to try new products and brands. Determine to what types of products and services this segmentation scheme mostly applies. 
  • Identify the top few visual triggers for each of the top 100 brands. Include auditory, tactile, olfactory and gustatory triggers as applicable. 
  • Determine the primary and secondary personas for people who prefer each automotive brand, make and model. 
  • Understand what categories and brands are most effective in signaling social status within each social class. Categories to explore might include college/university affiliation, private club affiliation, religious affiliation, political party affiliation, city or town of residence, housing preferences, vacation preferences, hotel preferences, automobile preferences, hobbies, sports, musical preferences, food preferences, etc. Explore which brands across all categories are the most accurate and powerful indicators of social status. 
  • Related to the previous bullet, identify the top 100 brands that serve as self-expressive badges. 
  • Segment the US population by anxieties and fears. 
  • Develop complete psychological profiles of each Democratic and Republican segment including attitudes, beliefs, values, hopes, anxieties and fears. Better yet, explore these segments independent of political party to identify organic groupings of voters.
  • Identify price sensitivities across product and service categories for different customer segments.
  • Determine the degree to which trustworthiness, consistency, reliability and dependability contribute to brand loyalty. 
  • Determine the degree to which emotional versus rational appeals influence purchase decisions in different product and service categories. 
  • Develop a brand loyalty scheme that considers whether and under what conditions (including scarcity and extreme price variance) people will substitute or switch to another brand versus waiting until they can purchase their fist choice brand.
  • For different categories, determine what going upmarket or downmarket does to brand perceptions and loyalty for current customers. 
  • Understand the categories in which aspirational brands can have the biggest impact.
  • Understand what elements must be present for people to believe a brand's claim of social consciousness. 
  • Understand the impact of brand message repetition on believability, quality perceptions, preference and sales. 
  • Understand the effectiveness of reach versus frequency in generating incremental sales by product or service category. The incremental sales could come from current customers, new customers or both. 
  • Explore the effectiveness of different types of humor used in different ways in brand advertising. 
  • Identify the top 10 value-aligned brands in the world. Explore what values they embody and to what groups of people those values most appeal. 

Monday, July 20, 2020

Brand Aid Book Among Best-Selling Brand Books

I am proud to announce that Brand Aid is #31 among the top 100 best-selling branding books of all time. 

Best-Selling Brand Book

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The Lincoln Project Advertising

I have been a student of brand advertising for more than 35 years. I was involved with Hallmark's award-winning Hallmark Hall of Fame commercials. And, as a consultant, I have advised more than 100 brands on their advertising. Throughout my career, I have seen more bad advertising than good advertising. And, for decades, I have been fascinated by political advertising.

I think many marketing professionals would agree with me that Republicans have always been better at labels, soundbites, slogans and advertising than Democrats have. Perhaps, this is because they are a more business-focused political party or perhaps it is because they have always tried to appeal to the reptilian brain more than the cerebral cortex. And, that is not a slam. Marketers know that most decisions are emotional decisions, not rational ones.

Which brings me to The Lincoln Project's advertising. The Lincoln Project, created by a group of conservatives, is aimed at drawing Republicans away from Donald Trump. Simply put, I think these ads are brilliant - the best I have seen in some time. Each ad focuses on one thing that makes Donald Trump seem pathetic, repulsive or weak. They play into people's fears and the images and symbolism are carefully selected as are the cinematographic styles, camera angles, framing, common graphic elements, hues and associated music. Rather than talking about each ad and what I like about it, I would refer you to The Lincoln Project's YouTube subscription page, which is here. It features all of their ads.

Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, a Donald Trump fan or a Donald Trump detractor, if you are a student of advertising, you should watch these ads, analyze these ads, think about how they make you feel, and figure out what elements in each of the ads make them powerful and compelling. As you view the ads, identify the elements that are common across most or all of them. And identify the choices they are asking the viewer to make.

My hat is off to the people who created these ads. I think they are brilliant. And I don't often say that.

One other thing is worth mentioning, these ads are examples of repositioning someone else's brand, in this case President Trump's brand.

As an update, this Politico article by Joanna Weiss was just brought to my attention. She is saying the same thing that I am only with more detail and more examples. It is worth reading.
What the Lincoln Project Ad Makers Get About Voters (and What Dems Don’t)

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Potential Long-Term Impacts of COVID-19

It is interesting to think about the potential long-term impacts of COVID-19, including the opportunities and threats for businesses. Here is what comes to my mind in no particular order:
  • More people will continue to work at home rather than in the office. This means less commuting, which may continue downward pressure on gasoline prices. This may result in more purchases of SUVs and other gas guzzlers. It also means office spaces may downsize, opening up opportunities to convert some of those spaces to residential or mixed use spaces.
  • With more people working remotely, the choice of where to live will be less dependent on commuting concerns. People will not need to live within a reasonable driving distance of offices. 
  • COVID-19 (and presumably other potential pandemics) spread much more easily in densely populated urban centers. People in Manhattan and other densely populated cities may choose to move to small towns, the suburbs or smaller, less densely populated cities. This may slow down the urbanization of the US. The places that may mostly benefit from this are less densely populated cities with rich cultural elements and a high quality of life. Cities like Portland, ME, Rochester, NY and Ashville, NC come to mind.
  • More meetings will continue to be conducted online. Zoom and its competitors will be the beneficiaries of this. 
  • More market research may be conducted online, especially focus groups. 
  • Big data analytics, automated marketing and personalized offers will continue to increase in their usage.
  • Software jobs will continue to be in high demand. 
  • More restaurants will want to include an alfresco dining element to their dining experience. This may require zoning changes in some municipalities. 
  • Online learning has not proven to be a preferred alternative to the in-person college and university experience and it creates the opportunity for more cheating. Colleges and universities are likely to bounce back, but perhaps with an online teaching option for older professors who are more vulnerable to pandemics.
  • Companies offering effective UV sanitization solutions will do well. 
  • Use of public parks and open spaces for picnics and other activities may continue to see increased use. Municipalities should focus on maintaining these assets. 
  • Child care centers will need to substantially rethink how to maintain safe environments and reassure parents that those environments are safe to continue to grow and thrive. 
  • This will likely add pressure to adopt universal health care to protect the most vulnerable, including those laid off of jobs that included health care. Businesses might benefit from not having to offer health care to employees. 
  • Despite their discomfort and potential stigma, face masks may become more normal in the US the way they are in many Asian countries. People may be more apt to wear them when sick. 
  • Air filtration and circulation on cruise ships, airplanes, busses and subways will need to be improved. This provides a significant business opportunity. 
  • Federal, state, municipal and even personal debt may add a drag to the economy for a decade or two. 
  • The immigration restrictions put in place during COVID-19 may slow population growth and create more unfilled service and migrant worker jobs. 
  • The lifting of environmental restrictions during COVID-19 is likely to lead to more air and water pollution and accelerate global climate change leading to more severe weather, ecosystem breakdown, disease and refugee problems. This will have a significant negative impact on property insurance rates and the need for more National Guard and military spending.
  • Online purchasing is here to stay and more people will make purchases online, causing many brick and mortar retail businesses to fold and more shopping mall owners to rethink the mix of businesses in malls (more food and entertainment as a beginning). Online purchases will increase the use of packaging materials leading to the need for more landfills. It will also increase the use of delivery service companies. 
  • Home delivery of every kind will increase, including home delivery of groceries. 
  • Continued shifts in employment will lead to more minimum wage service jobs including shopping and delivery jobs. This may put pressure on the need to raise minimum wages. 
  • More people are likely to invest in their homes and properties making them more pleasant for future quarantines. This includes garden supplies, landscaping services, decks, patios, outdoor entertainment spaces, swimming pools, home entertainment centers, wine cellars, etc.
  • Gun sales will not abate and security system sales will increase. 
  • Staples and other home office supply centers will thrive.
  • Concert halls, theaters, airlines, travel companies and other related businesses may struggle for awhile. This will reduce the quality of life for those who can afford arts, culture and travel. 
  • Live concerts will take a hit. Independent music venues will have a difficult time surviving. And musical performing artists will find it more difficult to earn a living. 
  • Many churches have found that their attendance has increased with online church services. While congregants value personal interactions and the sense of community, more churches may offer an online version of their church services to extend their reach.
  • The problems in nursing homes will likely cause even more senior citizens to want to age at home, increasing opportunities for businesses adapting homes to aging needs, home health care and mobile medicine. 
  • Employment and job placement will be in flux. Many talented employees will have been laid off of struggling businesses and industries while other thriving businesses and industries will be looking for talent. 
  • Leadership will become more important as more crises arise. The leaders will need to be smart with high emotional intelligence, ethical values, empathy, vision and charisma. 
  • Excepting specific industries vulnerable to contagion (such as airlines, cruise ships, travel, etc.), COVID-19 has mostly accelerated the demise of struggling businesses, especially in the retail and restaurant sectors. 
  • To remain successful, businesses will have to become more adaptive, nimble, and opportunistic. Being able to pivot quickly is perhaps the most important component of long-term success in uncertain times. 

        Tuesday, June 2, 2020

        Values Survey

        We have created a survey to explore the personal values of people who reside in the USA and its territories. It is a simple 5-minute survey and all responses are anonymous. We hope you will take this survey and then share its link with your friends, family members and business associates so that they can take it too. Thanks in advance for taking our survey. We will present the results here in an upcoming blog post.

        Here is the survey link: Values Survey

        Tuesday, May 26, 2020

        Societal, Technology and COVID-19 Trends

        As marketers, we need to stay abreast of societal and technology trends. Here are some trends that will have large impacts on our lives:

        Societal trends:

        • While globalization continues, nationalism and "buy local" trends increase
        • Rise of the global middle class while the US middle class stagnates
        • Increased tribalism in the US
        • Global climate change and its consequences - increased catastrophic weather events, pandemics, environmental hazards, damage to cities and infrastructure and creation of refugees leading to national security risks
        • Increasing anxiety throughout the world
        • Increased feelings of alienation among those who cannot keep up with societal and technology changes
        • People connecting through tech (social media, smart phones, online communication platforms)
        • Organized religion continues to decline while personal spirituality increases
        • The role of women becomes more dominant in society, including in leadership roles (causing a backlash from men who feel threatened)
        • Aging population, including increased aging at home
        • Fewer and fewer people are employed by large organizations, while the gig economy continues to grow (putting pressure on how health care is paid for)
        • There is a continued decline in materialism and consumerism. People have been moving from purchasing products to purchasing services and experiences for decades. A more recent trend is toward simplifying one's life, especially as the average age in the US increases. 
        • There is continued movement from capitalism to socialism
        • Cohabitation among unmarried partners continues to increase
        • Legalization of marijuana, popularity of CBD
        • Emergence of "fake news" - What is real? What is truth? The sophistication with which fake photographs and videos can be created is increasing. This will increase tribalism as different tribes will have completely different perceptions of the facts and reality itself. 
        Technology trends:
        • AI in customer service, especially in telephone and online support
        • Digital assistents (e.g. Siri, Google Now, Cortana, Facebook M, Blackberry Assistant, Briana, Hound, Amazon Echo [Alexa])
        • Computer vision (including facial recognition)
        • Autonomous driving, ultimately leading to decreased job prospects for truckers, taxicab drivers and even Uber/Lyft drivers
        • Continued automation of an increasing number of jobs, including in the white collar sectors (e. g. medical internists and contract lawyers)
        • 3-D printing (this has applications across a wide variety of industries and even makes it easier to make things at home)
        • 5G data networks
        • Cloud computing
        • Blockchain technology (can aid in sharing money and other commodities with others, proving identity and ownership of assets, run a decentralized marketplace, vote, manage healthcare records, trade cryptocurrencies, etc.)
        • Business use of personal data including all of the marketing and ethical implications of this
        • Data analytics, leading to personalized and predictive products and services (including in the medical sector)
        • Data risk, leading to more jobs in this area
        • Extended reality (virtual environments, human-machine interactions)
        • Telemedicine, mobile medicine and self-diagnostics using wearable technology
        • Continued dominance of tech companies whose online platforms benefit from economies of scale and network effects (leading to more super rich entrepreneurs)
        • Decreased ability to remain private online and even off-line (due to security cameras, smart phone tracking, automobile tracking, facial recognition, etc.)
        Trends emerging from COVID-19:
        • Increased use of online communications (e.g. Zoom, GoTo, Join.Me, ClickMeeting and Cisco WebEx)
        • Increased delivery of services and experiences online (e.g. online concerts, theater, fitness routines, etc.)
        • This will speed up the growth of home delivery services of everything
        • More people will work from home, leading to the downsizing of company offices
        • Increased need for a comprehensive national health care policy that works for everyone, including the reemergence of the "single payer" option
        • May lead to a desire for less consumerism and more balanced, simplified lives
        • Will push people toward online commerce, speeding up the death of struggling retail brands and shopping malls - shopping malls will need to reinvent themselves
        • Loss of jobs/income and decrease 401K and IRA asset values may either reduce household budgets and spending or delay retirements and extend working years
        • Urbanization has been a long term population trend. People have been moving out of smaller towns and rural areas where there are fewer jobs. They were moving into urban areas. New York City, Boston, Seattle and other major cities were the most popular destinations. Then those metropolitan areas became too expensive so people began moving to less expensive medium-sized cities. COVID-19 has created a mass exodus from major population centers back to suburbs, towns and rural areas. Will this trend continue or is it a temporary trend?
        These are a couple of other blog posts I have written on trends:
        Brad VanAuken's Brand Aid book has sold more than 25,000 copies, been translated into several languages and is used by business schools throughout the world to teach brand management and marketing. If you haven't read it yet, get your copy here.

        And here is a great new book about retail trends by an expert on the subject, friend and former HBS classmate, Steve Dennis. Remarkable Retail: How to Win & Keep Customers in the Age of Digital Disruption

        Monday, May 11, 2020

        Brands, Ethics and Authenticity

        I have written a lot about how brands can tap into deep attitudes, values, hopes, fears and other emotions to sell their products and services. Compared to selling attributes, features or functional benefits, this works extraordinarily well. Having said that, far too many brands have as their foundations these deep emotional promises, promises that are hollow because the brands' products and services don't actually deliver what is promised except in the mind. I have come to realize how unethical this is. Yes, it is very powerful to sell dreams, but what if the dreams are false dreams?

        I will use one example to drive this point home - Marlboro. Marlboro has a 40% share of the tobacco market, far more than twice the share of the next brand, Newport. It has been an extraordinarily successful brand. What does Marlboro sell? Rugged freedom. Independence. Self-sufficiency. Adventure. The Wild West. The simpler times of a black and white world where right is right and wrong is wrong. What does it deliver? Addiction to a substance that causes cancer and death. Does this aid in real freedom? Yes, one is free to be as self destructive as he or she wants to be in a free society, but is this the type of freedom the brand purchaser is really seeking?

        As marketers, if we have consciences, we must check our urges to create "knock it out of the park" marketing campaigns if those campaigns deliver on powerful but hollow claims, especially if our brands' products are harmful to one's health or society as a whole. We must be better than that. It may be more difficult to develop equally compelling campaigns that are ethical and authentic, but ultimately, we will have not harmed anyone. That will help us sleep better at night. And it will help make the world a better, not worse, place.

        Here are some related blog posts:

        Wednesday, May 6, 2020

        Discover Your Truth, Live Your Truth - Personal Branding

        You are invited to a comprehensive series of workshops on personal assessment and life management including: 
        * Discovering personal patterns of motivation and enervation
        * Thinking deeply about what you believe
        * Better understanding your personal style and your strengths and weaknesses
        * Creating a personal credo
        * Crafting a personal elevator speech
        * Drafting a life plan
        * Creating an authentic brand for yourself

        The first introductory session was held on Thursday, May 14 from 12 noon until 1 PM Eastern Time.

        Here is a link to that session on SlideShare: Discover Your Truth, Live Your Truth

        Here is the registration link for the next six webinar sessions: Full Workshop Registration

        Monday, April 13, 2020

        Virtual Brand Positioning Workshop

        You may know that BrandForward has conducted more than 150 successful brand positioning workshops for some of the top brands in the world. These workshops were designed to achieve leadership team consensus around emotionally compelling unique value propositions for those brands. Today, in the COVID-19 environment, it is more important than ever to craft a brand that is unique and that has strong emotional appeal. That is why we have modified our process to conduct virtual brand positioning workshops.

        We can begin with the same brand audits, customer research and brand equity measurement. We will also inform the workshop by stakeholder input gathered by a simple pre-workshop survey. The only difference is that the workshop itself will be conducted virtually via online conferencing technology.

        In the workshop, we will define the primary, secondary and tertiary target markets with great precision. After that, we will define the brand's essence and craft its promise. We will also identify the brand's archetype and its personality. This will lead to a brand positioning statement that includes the brand's unique value proposition. And the workshop participants will have a chance to review research findings, argue assumptions, debate approaches and tweak the exact wording.

        All of this will lead to a brand position that is unique and highly compelling to its target customers.

        The best part is that this can be accomplished not in months but in days or a few weeks at most.

        "Thanks again for the excellent session you facilitated on Tuesday. I continue to get positive feedback from all who were present. I met with our president today, and he reiterated what a great job he thought you did and how the day exceeded his expectations. Your clear commitment to the Conservancy's mission was very much appreciated by the group, and your experience in brand building and skill in facilitating made a long day in a windowless meeting room actually fun!"

        Angie Sosdian

        Director, Marketing Strategy Project
        The Nature Conservancy

        "Brad’s book, Brand Aid, inspired me to change the way our division approached brand strategy. Brad’s unique talent for storytelling draws readers, as well as work-shop participants, deeply into the ideation process with fantastic results. I was very fortunate to have Brad facilitate a series of global workshops to further refine our brand strategy. He helped us define and align on a differentiated approach that quickly vaulted our global brand to the top of the market."

        Michael Saso
        Group Manager, U.S. Coronary Product Marketing
        Abbott Vascular

        "Brad is a master facilitator. He facilitated three different brand strategy workshops for us. He was able to achieve agreement between co-CEOs from different cultures with divergent points of view. I would highly recommend him to help you achieve consensus on your business and brand strategy."

        André Bernheim

        "Brad expertly led our organization in its rebranding efforts. This started with brand equity research and proceeded through an adroitly facilitated brand positioning workshop and then cogent presentations to key stakeholder groups. His group facilitation skills are exemplary. Our museum is deeply grateful to Brad for his outstanding work in helping us clarify our brand identity and how we will succeed in the marketplace, both locally and more broadly.”

        Bruce Barnes, Ph.D.
        Ron and Donna Fielding Director
        George Eastman Museum

        For more information, contact Brad VanAuken at

        Wednesday, April 1, 2020

        Brand Building During COVID-19

        What can brands do when people are stuck in their houses and not able to eat out, shop at local shopping centers, go to concerts or do anything else that is not connected to "sheltering in place" and home delivery? And what can brands do when people are laid off, have lost some or all of their income and are watching their retirement nest eggs diminish rapidly as the stock market crashes?

        Some industries are more likely to thrive in this environment. Consider Zoom, Purell, Clorox and But most will struggle, especially as people try to cut back on nonessential household expenses.

        Here is what brands can do. Innovate. Restaurants are offering take-out services, sometimes with items that were never featured on their menus. Universities, of necessity, are delivering their courses online. Medical doctors are delivering some of their services via telemedicine. Orchestras are delivering online concerts. Public art galleries are posting virtual galleries online. A friend of mine who loves to cook has started a soup brand and delivery service.

        Arts organizations and other not-for-profit organizations are doing what I would recommend that all brands do - offering free content, advice and interactive online experiences to maintain ongoing relationships and to create goodwill with their members and patrons. As a member of Writers & Books board, I have been asked to read and record some of my favorite poems and passages from literature to be delivered to our members for their edification and pleasure. Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has created, a website for sharing at-home family activities. The website is open to all families whether they are involved in BSA or not.

        Some organizations' free YouTube videos have gone viral. Have you seen or listened to any of these in your Facebook feed? South African Roedean School's rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah?" Berklee College of Music Students' rendition of "Love Sweet Love?" Or virtual tours of these art galleries - National Gallery in London, Guggenheim Museum in New York, National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, Musée d' Orsay in Paris or the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam?

        Now is the time to edify, entertain and engage your customers and potential customers online in the comfort of their homes. They are bored. They are anxious. They are scared. They are feeling claustrophobic. They have cabin fever. Help them out. Stay in frequent contact. Keep your brand top of mind.  Build a greater emotional connection with your customers. Show them what you can do. Show them the best that you offer. Be real. Be empathetic. Give them a reason to feel tremendous gratitude toward your brand.

        Now is not the time to go dark. Now is the time to engage with social media, email, webinars, YouTube videos and the like.

        Tuesday, March 24, 2020

        Marketing's Revolving Door

        You may have experienced marketing's revolving door as a marketer, as an HR professional or as a business manager. The median tenure of a chief marketing officer is 27.5 months but some organizations are replacing marketing people at all levels as frequently as annually. Obviously, this is not ideal.

        One could surmise that one or more of the following might be the problem:

        • The quality of candidates in the marketing pool
        • Flawed candidate screening and selection, including hiring for the wrong skill sets
        • The increasing complexity of the marketing role, especially the CMO role
        • The rapidly changing nature of the marketing role, especially with the emergence of big data, marketing automation and digital marketing
        • The increasing dominance of small businesses in the job market. They are less able to pay top dollar for top marketing talent. They are also less able to pay for ongoing training. And some marketing departments are so lean that there is only one person in the department, leaving no room for on-the-job learning from more experienced marketers. 
        • The continued inability to measure the ROI of many marketing activities
        • Inadequate marketing budgets
        • The organization's culture is sales, operations or finance-driven and does not value marketing as a function
        • The wrong organization design or structure
        There may be other problems too. If the company has inferior products, services, business model or value proposition, skilled marketing can only go so far in driving increased revenues. 

        If you are a staffing professional, hiring manager or company executive and if you have been unhappy with your marketing hires, I would encourage you to assess and rectify root causes for this problem before you hire your next marketing professional. 

        Revolving doors are costly to organizations and their employees. Please try to understand why your marketing personnel choices are not working out before you hire your next marketer.

        Thursday, March 5, 2020

        Need-Based Marketing

        When you stop to think about it, isn't all marketing need-based marketing, especially if you include desires under the umbrella of needs? After all, desires are psychological needs, whether what a person desires is ultimately good for him or her or not. So what do people need?

        • More time
        • More money
        • More respect
        • More self-respect
        • More attention
        • More social status
        • More intellectual stimulation
        • More laughs
        • More affection
        • More intimacy
        • More comfort
        • More passion
        • More pleasant surprises
        • More pampering
        • More sex
        • More beauty
        • More safety
        • Less anxiety
        • Less fear
        • Less chaos
        • Less uncertainty
        • Sometimes less drama
        • Sometimes more drama
        • Sometimes more excitement
        • Sometimes less excitement
        • More cravings
        • Fewer cravings
        • More peace of mind
        • Better health
        • Better fitness
        • Better body image
        • Richer sensory experience

        And the list could go on and on. Here are some other blog posts that I have written regarding marketing and human needs:

        When you are designing products and product features, when you are positioning a brand, when you are communicating a brand's unique value proposition and when you are crafting marketing messaging you must keep in mind what needs and desires your products and brands are primarily addressing. If you do not understand this and can not communicate this, you are less than a fully competent marketer. 

        For further reading on this topic, purchase Brand Aid here.

        Friday, February 21, 2020

        Cost-Effective Marketing

        Marketing departments are seldom given enough money to accomplish what they feel they should accomplish on behalf of their brands. And marketing budgets are some of the first to be cut when organizational belt-tightening is required. So what is a marketing professional to do?

        Here are some of the approaches I recommend to market brands on the cheap:

        • Strong media relations, especially with the most trusted industry publications
        • Generating publicity
        • Including well thought-through publicity stunts
        • Doing something outrageous or unexpected, something that will create a buzz
        • Holding contests
        • Creating a board of advisors
        • Creating new product preview events for your best customers and top prospects
        • Offering webinars on topics related to your brand's expertise
        • Authoring a blog
        • Writing a book
        • White papers to establish thought leadership
        • Speaking at meetings, conferences and trade shows
        • Establishing a customer referral program
        • Interacting with customers and potential customers on social media sites
        • Conducting surveys to identify prospects and build awareness for your brand
        • Creating customer clubs and meetups
        • Email newsletters with viral components
        • Automated, personalized email campaigns
        • Podcasts
        • YouTube channel
        • Influencer marketing
        • Supporting industry analysts
        • Building strong relationships with the industry's most trusted consultants
        • Business partner referrals
        • Strategic partnerships
        • Co-marketing with other non-competing brands
        • Using other people's money
        • Using LinkedIn to identify leads
        • Always suggesting that people share your content with others and providing them an easy way to do so
        • Including providing ways for people to share your content on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and other popular websites
        • Always including strong branding, links and contact information on email signatures

        Answers to the Luxury Brand's blog post quiz on Wednesday, February 12: 

        1 - 3 (Opus)
        2 - 4 (Phineas Auden)
        3 - 2 (Briggs & Stratton M550)
        4 - 3 (Janus CRX 507)
        5 - 3 (Oliver Silas)
        6 - 4 (Jasper Dashiells)
        7 - 4 (Errazuriz Chardonnay Max Reserva Aconcagua Costa)
        8 - 1 (Seraphina)
        9 - 1 (Samuel Hutchins)
        10 - 2 (Ascona)
        11 - 1 (McPearson Z500)
        12 - 2 (Spellman)
        13 - 3 (Xanadu)
        14 - 1 (Yacht Club de Cuomo)
        15 - 3 (Basel International)
        16 - 1 (The Crypt)
        17 - 3 (Delatour)
        18 - 3 (Lake Bord)

        Brand Aid: A Quick Reference Guide to Solving Your Branding Problems and Strengthening Your Market Position sold here.