Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Elements of Business and Marketing Strategy

The terms "business strategy" and "marketing strategy" are used a lot, which begs the question, "What are the components of these strategies?" Here are some of the strategic questions that businesses should be asking.


  • What is our mission?
  • What is our vision?
  • What are our values?
  • Who will we serve?
  • What is the most advantageous business model for us?
  • What will our sources of revenues be?
  • What products and services will we offer?
  • How will we source and deliver these products and services - manufacturing, strategic partnerships, licensing agreements, M&A, etc.?


  • What should the organization structure look like?
  • How should we distribute power throughout the organization?
  • Where in the organization will planning occur?
  • What will our decision making processes be?
  • What types of positions and individuals are required to support the organization's goals?
  • Where should ideation and innovation reside in the organization?


  • What are our financial goals?
  • What are our revenue, profitability and growth targets?
  • How will we manage our growth?
  • How will we manage our cash flow?
  • What will our sources of financing be?


  • Again, who is our target customer?
  • For what will our brand stand? What are its values?
  • What types of benefits will our brand deliver to its customers?
  • What is our brand's unique value proposition?
  • What is our brand's promise?
  • What is our brand's archetype and personality?
  • What identity will we give our brand? What is its name and what are the other elements of its identity system?
  • What is our brand's story?
  • What sort of customer experience do we want to create?


  • What are our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats vis-a-vis our competition?
  • How broad will our product range be?
  • What functions and features should our products have?
  • What is the optimal pricing strategy?
  • How bundled or unbundled will our products and services be?
  • What will our distribution strategy be?
  • How will we present our products and services to our customers?
  • What mix of marketing tactics shall we use?
  • What are the dimensions of each tactic - advertising, promotion, publicity, event marketing, sponsorships, CRM, Internet, mobile, etc.?


  • What are our key messages?
  • How will we communicate those messages?


  • What media vehicles will we use to communicate our messages?
  • How much should we spend on each vehicle and in what pattern over time?


  • What is our sales model? Direct, tele-sales, retail focused teams, major accounts management, consultative sales, organized by line of business or geography, independent sales reps, outsourced sales, etc.?
  • How will we configure our compensation packages for our salespeople? What percent of compensation is incentive-based? What behaviors do we want to drive?

While there is some overlap between the questions, they roughly fall into these strategy "buckets." And there is a rough hierarchy of strategies too. For instance, business strategies should be determined first, while marketing communication and media strategies are generally the last to be determined. And each "tactic" has its own supporting strategies. For instance, the Internet tactic might have its own strategies including website design, search engine optimization, email marketing, blogging, content management and social media marketing.

I hope this helps you as you think about business and marketing strategies.

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Exploding Use of Drones in Marketing

According to Gartner, the drone market grew 36% to 2.2 million in unit sales and $4.5 billion in revenues worldwide in 2016. But according to the Consumer Technology Association, 2.4 million personal drones were sold in the US alone in 2016, more than double the 1.1 million sold in 2015. Regardless of the exact numbers, the drone industry is one of the fastest growing industries, especially since the FAA granted exemptions to hundreds of companies to operate drones in 2015.

The market is very broad. and other companies (including Google and DHL) are exploring product delivery via drone. Roofing companies use drones to inspect roofs. Farmers use drones to inspect their crops. Realtors have found drones to be very useful in selling houses and land. Videographers are using drones to create more compelling video content. And there are even more inventive uses. YO!Sushi has experimented with drones to serve food to their customers. And, as one might imagine, there are many military applications for drones. The recreational, commercial and military uses are myriad and still expanding.

I bought a personal drone earlier this year. In the short time that I have owned it, I have used it in the following ways. I have taken aerial videos of my Adirondack mountain property, weaving them into a promotional video to rent my Adirondack home. I have taken videos of a local yacht club and its regattas to create a marketing video for that club. In the process of making that video, the club officers asked me to take aerial still photos of the waterfront area to help them optimize waterfront and dry dock space in 2018. I was even asked by a friend to help her locate her friend’s horse that ran away during a local Steeplechase event.

The top two distribution channels for drones are dedicated drone dealers or distributors and directly from the manufacturers. and hobby stores are #3 and #4. Best Buy and other big box stores are a distant #5 for drone sales.

One can segment the market into three levels – smaller drones/toys, larger personal drones and professional drones. Drones can also be classified by ranges – 0 to 299 meters, 300 to 999 meters and 1,000+ meters. I bought a drone in the 1,000+ meter range. The best brands in that range are Yuneec Typhoon and DJIPhantom (the industry leader).  Other top drone brands are Parrot, Holy Stone, UDI and 3D Robotics. GoPro has entered the drone market too given the importance of high quality photography to the product category. Many other brands are flooding the market, which is still in its infancy.

For the most part, the product names are interesting and consumer focused – Typhoon, Phantom, Parrot, Force1, Blade, Raptor, GoPro Karma, Quanum Nova, AirDog, etc. While other names fall in the category of somewhat boring and techy.

Drone prices can range from $20 for a cheap toy drone to thousands of dollars for professional drones. Top personal drones can run from $500 to $2,000 including accessories.

Drone features that matter include range, battery life, camera quality, portability, obstacle avoidance and a myriad of intelligent flying modes. Technical support and repair services are also important as drones occasionally encounter accidents.

Accessory sales are a big part of the drone industry. Product/accessory bundling is a competitive advantage for some brands. I bought the YuneecTyphoon Q500 4K Quadcopter because it came with its own aluminum carrying case and a complete set of accessories (including an extra battery and propellers) at a value price of $799 on and $899 at hobby stores.

Because of its emergence as an interesting new category, the drone industry is receiving a lot of free publicity and online and offline buzz. Many publications have created lists of top drone brands and most of the brands can be compared and purchased on Several of the top brands have Facebook pages including owner group pages.

DroneCast and Hoovy are dedicated to helping companies use drones creatively in advertising and publicity events. Coca-Cola’s Happiness from the Skies advertising campaign featured drones. Drones were also featured as the villains in The Drones, a TV spot produced by Audi to launch its Audi 6 model in 2015. The Flower Council of Holland used a red drone named Cupidrone to drop red roses on people in Verona, Italy. Watch the YouTube video here. Captain Dave’s Whale Watching & Dolphin Safari created a drone shot video to promote its safaris. This amazing video has been viewed more than 14.5 million times on YouTube. 

The Skye Aero project builds 10-foot helium-filled balloons with small propellers attached. These serve as flying drone billboards. Drobotron also creates flying drone billboards. But theirs can feature motion graphics and even videos.

In 2013, Paramount Pictures promoted its Star Trek Into Darkness film by flying a group of drones over the Thames in London. One of my favorite South Park episodes, The Magic Bush, makes fun of the drone industry. And YouTube is increasingly populated by drone videos. Watch a fleet of 500 Intel drones create a spectacular light show.

Singapore-based Near has tested drones to collect publicly available Wi-Fi signals to help it profile audiences. Imagine the marketing intelligence that could be gathered by merging this information with Internet- and mobile-based data and then applying big data analytics.

In summary, so far, the drone market is intersecting with brand management and marketing in the following ways:
  • It enables much more compelling video content
  • It can serve as a new advertising medium
  • Because of its novelty, it can play a featured role (as an actor of sorts) in ads
  • It can be used to gather marketplace intelligence that can be used for customer targeting
  • It is an emerging product delivery technology, which can provide distribution advantages

 The rapidly growing drone industry is ripe for successful new business approaches and out-of-the box branding strategies. This is a market to watch as it grows and matures.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Big Data and Customer Targeting

Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media and networking websites coupled with smartphone GPS, AI and big data analytics allows the marketer to target customers in a way that was never possible before. 

Not only can the marketer target based on demographics, psychographics and physical location but also on intangibles such as highly correlated behaviors, purchases, web searches, affiliations, etc. 

So first, through factor analysis, cluster analysis and other big data analytics, you need to discover what correlates most closely with the purchase of your brand. Once you have discovered this, then you need to find ways to target people with those attributes. This allows for hyper-efficient targeting that makes old fashioned media planning seem quaint. 

Sometimes it is as easy as using the Facebook platform to run a highly targeted ad. At other times, you have to be creative about how to reach people with certain attributes.  

The beauty of this approach is that you can send very specific messages to each target group or segment. Each message will focus on the angle that will most appeal to people in that group or segment. 

Microtargeting is a related concept. it is the use by political parties and election campaigns of direct marketing datamining techniques that involve predictive market segmentation (aka cluster analysis). It is used by United States Republican and Democratic political parties and candidates to track individual voters and identify potential supporters. The term "microtargeting" was coined in 2002 by political consultant Alexander P. Gage.

When you combine prospect location with targeted messages on mobile phones you are entering the realm of geo-fencing and geo-targeting. Because I know A and B about you and because I know that correlates with an interest in my product and brand and because I know you are in a physical location proximate to where my brand is available for purchase, I will send you a highly personalized alert using the most compelling message for you indicating that I will give you an incentive to purchase my brand now. For an example of this, click here.

While brands need to be managed at a global level, increasingly they need to be marketed at an individual level. With today's tools, that is becoming more and more possible. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Give the Gift of Brand Aid!

'I am a huge fan of Brand Aid #2 and have been using it in my keystone graduate class called IMC 463 Brand Communications Decisions. I feel your book is one of the most practical and valuable books ever written about brands. I love the checklists and remind the students that your book is my graduation gift to them because it is a resource they will find useful every day they are developing, managing or increasing the value of brands.'

John Greening, Associate Professor at Northwestern University in Evanston IL heading up the Brand Management specialization in the Graduate Medill Integrated Marketing Communications Program

‘VanAuken has distilled his enormous practical knowledge about the theory and practice of brand management into this smart…volume. The book is packed with information and good ideas – so many, in fact, that it is virtually an encyclopedia of brand management does and don’ts’

Publishers Weekly

‘Of all the books I’ve read on marketing and branding, this one is the shining star! I’ll also go out on a limb and assert that it’s one of the best books I’ve seen published by AMACOM.’

Roger E. Herman, Midwest Book Review

'Powerful yet intangible, a brand is the personification of your organization. Learn to build, nurture, and grow a strong brand that inspires people, forges emotional bonds, and moves customers to insist on buying your brand.

This book guides you through the entire branding process, from using social media effectively to linking your brand to human needs.'

Advertising Educational Foundation

Purchase Brand Aid at or Barnes &

Monday, December 4, 2017

Industry Game Changers

Over time, there have been a large number of industry game changers. They completely disrupt an industry and often put even dominant share leaders out of business. As examples:

  • The Ford Model T largely put horse and buggies out of business
  • Computers replaced typewriters
  • Vacation timeshares created a whole new industry, as did timeshares of private jets
  • The Internet made the world a whole lot smaller
  • Digital photography replaced film-based photography
  • Smart phones have far surpassed any functionality Star Trek imagined for its communicator device and have largely replaced land lines
  • Robots are replacing more and more manufacturing jobs
  • Airbnb is disrupting the hotel industry
  • Uber and Lyft are giving taxicab companies a run for their money
  • Zipcar car sharing has changed things as has Zagster bike sharing
  • and other online retailers are making shopping malls obsolete
  • Self-driving cars will play havoc with a number of industries
  • AI and medical diagnostic learning systems are already replacing Internists in remote areas
  • Eventually, people's vitals will be routinely measured and fed back to health care monitoring systems
  • Stem cell research is leading to organ regeneration techniques
  • Photonics may one day replace silicon chips
  • E-learning may one day replace the way colleges and universities deliver their services
  • With energy storage improvements, it may become routine for individual residences to be self-contained regarding their energy usage
  • With energy storage improvements, electric vehicles may just upend gasoline powered vehicles
  • A break-through in hydrogen fuel cells will have a similar impact on the petroleum industry

So, what are some of the disruptors one should consider?
  • Any Internet-enabled business
  • Any business that benefits from network effects
  • Any business that is scalable
  • Anything that can create disintermediation
  • Any business model that allows for the sharing of specific resources
  • Any new source of energy
  • Any receptor that can detect a new bandwidth of energy along the electromagnetic spectrum
  • Any technology that allows for increased storage of energy
  • Any human activity that can be replaced by robots
  • Any expertise that can be replicated by AI and learning systems
  • Any new mobile phone application that can replace something else

And what are some of the critical skills required to create marketplace disruptions?
  • An entrepreneurial mindset
  • Out-of-the-box thinking
  • Risk-taking
  • Software expertise
  • Internet proficiency
  • Systems thinking
  • Design thinking
  • Some minimum proficiency in science and technology
  • Broad exposure to a wide variety of disciplines

Brand Manager's Span of Influence

A brand is experienced at each customer touch point. So, the brand's perceptions are created, reinforced or diminished at each customer touch point. And given that a brand must consistently deliver on its promise wherever it is encountered, this argues for an extremely large span of influence for the brand manager. 

As an example, consider banking. The brand touch points include, but are not limited to, ATMs, the branch locations including drive-through banking, online banking, online customer support and telephone customer support. But it also extends to interactions with loan officers, wealth managers and other specialists. And, of course, there are the typical marketing communication touch points, which may be executed differently for each product and service. 

How then does the brand manager make sure the loan officer or wealth manager is operating "on brand"? What if a particular branch location is performing its own outreach to its customers? Is that outreach "on brand"? Is the design of the ATM experience "on brand"? What if different types of ATM machines are used at different locations? Does this lack of consistency hurt the brand?

While brand managers can influence brand identity accuracy and consistency through brand identity guidelines, digital asset management systems and cross-functional brand identity management councils, it is less easy to influence all customer-facing or customer-impacting processes or systems. Some are impacted by IT professionals and purchasing agents, both of whom are typically far removed from the end consumer. 

This is where influence on organization culture and employee training can help. If brand positioning and strategies are communicated to all employees through new employee and new manager training, it helps. It also helps to establish ongoing employee updates about the brand. And it also helps to build brand metrics into common measures and balanced scorecards. Alignment of personal objectives to brand objectives may be necessary for certain key employees. Organization-wide recognition and reward systems for brand reinforcing behaviors can also help. 

This wide span of influence implies that a brand manager should possess the following qualities to be highly successful:
  • High emotional intelligence
  • Good listening skills
  • Strong verbal and written communication and persuasion skills
  • The ability to subtly influence others
  • Friendly assertiveness
  • A good understanding of other business functions including organization design, finance and general management
  • Systems design thinking

Remember, as a brand manager, you are more than a brand identity expert or a marketing communications specialist. You are the general manager of a brand, requiring you to think and act very broadly - like a general manager.