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.

SURVEY LINK HERE

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.