Wednesday, May 4, 2022

FREE Marketing for Startups Webinar


FREE Marketing for Startups Webinar on Wednesday, May 18 from 11:30 am to 1 pm ET. Sponsored by RIT's Venture Creations Incubator and Nextcorps. 

Thursday, April 14, 2022

90 Trends Shaping Our World

Sometimes it’s useful for marketers to understand trends that may affect their businesses. Here are some of the current trends that I am monitoring:

  1. 5G technology
  2. The Internet of Things
  3. Mobile Internet
  4. Cloud technology and distributed infrastructure 
  5. Democratization of technology
  6. The world becomes hyperconnected
  7. Move toward all media consumed through the Internet
  8. Seamless language translation, making the world even smaller
  9. Exploration of more direct human-computer interfaces (HCI)
  10. Electrification
  11. Electric vehicles (EVs)
  12. Autonomous vehicles
  13. Drones
  14. Battery technology
  15. Microgrids
  16. Grid-connected renewable energy systems
  17. All forms of clean tech
  18. Software defined vehicles (SDVs)
  19. AI & machine learning
  20. Autonomic systems
  21. Generative AI
  22. Big data analytics
  23. Edge computing
  24. Quantum computing
  25. Nanoparticles
  26. Next generation materials including honeycomb lattice
  27. Photonics
  28. Virtual and augmented reality
  29. Advanced robotics
  30. 3-D printing 
  31. Process automation and hyper-automation
  32. Explosion of smart devices
  33. Genomics/genetic engineering
  34. Health care data analytics
  35. Personal medical devices
  36. Telehealth and mobile medicine
  37. Hyper-personalized medicines
  38. Social determinants of health (SDOH) receive greater attention
  39. Mental health becomes a larger priority
  40. Unbundling of health care
  41. Web 3.0
  42. Blockchain (distributed ledger) technology
  43. Cryptocurrency
  44. Non-fungible tokens (NFTs)
  45. A cashless society
  46. Privacy and cybersecurity
  47. Biometric technology (face, voice, eye, hand and signature security)
  48. Deglobalization
  49. Redesign of supply chains
  50. Increased self-service
  51. Recurring revenue streams
  52. Distributed enterprises and remote employees
  53. Increased flexible work 
  54. Continued growth in the gig economy
  55. Huge need for retraining for new economy jobs
  56. Minimum living wages as an alternative to job loss
  57. Increased time sharing of all things
  58. Extreme personal profiling
  59. Hyper-targeting and hyper-geofencing 
  60. On-demand personalized customer experiences
  61. Move from retail stores to Internet distribution centers and home delivery
  62. Move toward unique and boutique in retail
  63. Increasing use of personal digital assistants
  64. Cameras, cameras everywhere
  65. Struggle for personal privacy
  66. Increasing popularity of veganism and vegetarianism
  67. Increased focus on personal health
  68. Decrease in romantic relationships
  69. Increasing acceptance of sexual freedom 
  70. Decrease in organized religion, increase in personal spirituality
  71. Continued decreasing trust in traditional institutions, especially government
  72. Shift from a patriarchal society to a matriarchal society
  73. More focus on the home
  74. Increasing self-care and compassion toward others
  75. Increasing importance of pets as family
  76. Increased frequency and severity of natural disasters due to climate change
  77. More eco-friendly lifestyles
  78. The private sector steps up its support of social and environmental issues
  79. Distributed localized agriculture through hydroponics and aeroponics
  80. Increased “fake news” and disinformation
  81. Increased sophistication of deep fakes
  82. Increased botnet activity
  83. More censorship, less free speech
  84. Increased public awareness of and pressure to address economic inequality
  85. Less capitalism, more socialism
  86. Continued urbanization
  87. Continued population shifts to less expensive states
  88. Less abundance thinking, more scarcity thinking
  89. The blurring of war and crime with the emergence of terrorism
  90. Rethinking of the criminal justice system

If you aren’t familiar with some of these, I would recommend that you search on and read about those that most interest you. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Brands and the Digital World


Here are some of the effects of the digital world on brands:


  • A brand’s online presence can improve brand awareness.
  • A brand’s website is critical to the perception of that brand because most people investigate a brand by going to its website.
  • Blogs can create thought leadership and emotional connection for a brand. But consistent new content over time is required to activate these effects.
  • If a picture is worth a thousand words, then videos are worth ten thousand words. Consider creating a YouTube channel for your brand.
  • For thought leadership, consider podcasts too.
  • SEO is still important.
  • A third (older) to a half (younger) of people investigate brands through social media before they purchase. 
  • Advertising in social media makes it easier for people to become aware of and try new brands, including brands that could not break though in the analog world because of lack of marketing funds. This, to some degree, levels the playing field for smaller brands.
  • More and more product offerings are delivered through social media feeds.
  • Low follows, likes, views and shares can reflect negatively on a brand.
  • If you are just starting with your brand’s online presence, use Facebook and Instagram first. 
  • Consumer targeting is significantly improved through Facebook and Google ads. Data analytics can result in highly targeted or even tailored product offerings to individuals.
  • Brands would do well to set up pages on Facebook and Instagram as a way to interact with customers.
  • The Internet provides many forums for people to provide feedback on brands, including negative feedback. It would behoove brand advocates to monitor as many of those forums as possible and respond as appropriate. It is important to respond as quickly as possible.
  • Online forums can increase consumer engagement with brands.
  • The Internet leads to greater brand transparency, but skilled marketing can also make a brand seem bigger or more popular than it actually is.
  • Marketing automation can generate quality leads.
  • Marketing automation makes it easier for people to respond to offers without prior awareness of the brands behind the offers.
  • One needs to be extremely careful about how the marketing automation is set up or it can backfire on the brand. This is very similar to how automated telephonic customer service can backfire on the brand. 
  • Geofencing can encourage immediate purchase when a consumer is near a retail outlet. 
  • Geofence in the places that your target customers are at the times when they are there. Think this through carefully 
  • Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, Venmo, PayPal and Amazon’s 1-Click Ordering make it easier for people to purchase things online with fewer clicks.
  • The online presence of brands makes price comparison much easier, which can drive down prices or at least direct the consumer to the cheapest source of the brand.
  • Online clothing brand sales are still tricky. Several approaches have been implemented to help with sizing and visualizing the clothes when worn but there still are issues with tactile qualities of the fabric, quality of the construction and fit. This may lead to more returns for online purchased clothing brands than store purchased clothing brands.
  • The younger the consumer, the more everything is transacted on the smart phone. All brand interactions must be optimized for mobile. 
  • To some degree, the digital world has made people more savvy and cynical about brands, mostly due to increased transparency.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

21 Stories for Scouting


I have always been a fan of proactive publicity. In 2011, my local Boy Scout council decided to enlist the services of Over the Edge Global ( to create a fundraising event in which people donated $1,000 each to rappel down the side of a 21-story building. I was on the committee that helped pull this together. It was a novel idea at the time and no one had tried it before, especially as a big well-publicized event, in downtown Rochester.


We created a PR plan that enlisted the support of local news anchors and talk show hosts on television and radio. We invited those people to rappel down the building the day before the actual public event. And we set it up as a competition in which those local celebrities competed against each other for who could raise the most money. 


Not only did we get people to pay $1,000 apiece to rappel down the side of the building. We had people raising far more than that from friends, family and co-workers to sponsor their rappelling. One guy, “Little Joe” Aiello, who was in his eighties, alone raised tens of thousands of dollars of sponsorships each year for his rappel down the side of buildings, which he did several years in a row until he was 93. But there were also event sponsors. The event itself was covered by almost every local media outlet. And even better – the media people couldn’t stop talking about the event days before it occurred and weeks after it occurred. Our local Boy Scout council received over a half a million dollars in free publicity the first year alone. 


And the best part is the event tied into a real Scouting activity that reinforced “fun” and “adventure,” two key components of the Scout program.


This is just one example of the power of proactive publicity. These blog posts list some others:


Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Branding & Pitch Decks


I have found that my experience in crafting brand strategy and positioning has helped me immensely in coaching startups in their pitch deck creation. Startups use pitch decks to raise funds and other support for their nascent businesses. Just like brands, pitch decks need to tell a story. By definition, stories have plots and characters. The characters are the target customers and the plot is how the nascent business will uniquely solve a significant problem that those customers have. The story needs to outline the company’s unique value proposition and the business model that will enable it to deliver on that unique value proposition. The value needs to be defined in terms of customer benefits rather than product functions or features.


The business must demonstrate that it has done due diligence in understanding who its target customers are demographically and psychographically and what their functional and emotional needs are. It needs to show how it will deliver a unique and superior solution in meeting its customer’s needs. This requires a thorough understanding of the competition. Further, the business will want to illustrate what its product is and how it will be used, including how the customer will experience using it. Ultimately, the business will want to share its long-term vision, which is very similar to the vision that would be a part of a mission | vision | values statement. 


Sure, there are some other elements in a pitch deck that are not typically a part of brand strategy or messaging, including an overview of the market, the startup team and its advisors, the potential risks, the finances and why they are pitching to a particular investor. But, whether one is creating a new product concept statement, a brand positioning statement, a brand ‘elevator speech,’ a startup pitch deck or even a grant application, the following components are essential:

·      Detailed customer description,

·      Customer insight including an understanding of their unmet needs or pain points,

·      Unique value proposition,

·      Which includes an articulation of the unique benefits that will be delivered to the customer,

·      And an understanding of the competition,

·      And finally, proof points and “reasons to believe” that you can deliver on your unique value proposition; put another way an indication of how the organization’s business model supports delivery of its unique value proposition.

And, if there is additional space for description, the messaging would benefit from being told in the form of a story with a happy ending.

My experience in new product development, brand positioning and strategy, not-for-profit grant writing and now new venture coaching has allowed me to identify the similarities between these activities. It all boils down to understanding an unmet customer need and developing a solution that uniquely meets that need. Further, it requires proof points that one is capable of uniquely delivering against that need. Finally, this message can be delivered in a more compelling way through storytelling. It’s that simple and it is also that complicated. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

The Essentials of Marketing

I have crafted successful marketing plans, strategies and campaigns for more than 250 brands over the past thirty-eight years. Over those years, I have witnessed enormous changes in how marketing is executed. However, most marketing fundamentals have not changed in decades. Here is my summary of those fundamentals:

  • People are primarily driven by emotions
  • Images are more powerful than words and videos can be more powerful than images
  • But it is also important to paint vivid pictures with your words
  • In copy, generally less is more
  • Product / service quality and consistency matter
  • Outstanding customer service can overcome other flaws
  • Having a unique value proposition is essential 
  • Continuous innovation is a must for extending a brand's lifecycle
  • Maintaining high brand awareness is critical to customer brand insistence
  • Brands that share important values with their customers create the highest loyalty
  • Brands are often used as self-expression badges
  • Price segmentation yields increased revenues and profits
  • One of the most important aspects of marketing is successfully recovering from errors or crises
  • Guerrilla marketing, proactive publicity and publicity stunts can yield the highest ROI
  • PR and media relations are important elements of the marketing mix
  • Identifying and using influencers can be very productive
  • Word-of-mouth and viral marketing can be very powerful
  • "Unexpected" and "outrageous" almost always work in marketing
  • Humor and entertainment are key elements of advertising campaigns 
  • Brands can tap into the human propensity for tribalism
  • Unfortunately, fear still sells
  • Gaining deep customer insight through marketing research is a key marketer's tool
  • Market segmentation is as important as ever
  • For larger organizations, creating the optimal brand architecture is one of the trickier marketing tasks
  • Carefully crafted (and tested) headlines and subject lines can make a huge difference
  • It is possible and hugely advantageous to design and implement the optimal customer experience
  • Most automated customer service systems are disastrous 
  • In the end, it is all about the customer and what motivates him or her