Sunday, December 20, 2020

The Importance of Color in Brand Identity

Choice of color is more important than you may think for brands and their identities. I have created an online course that covers color in great detail including the associations and emotional responses to a wide variety of colors including in different cultures.

Other topics covered in the course include:

  • The most and least popular colors by gender
  • The most and least popular colors for cars
  • Colors that increase quality perceptions
  • Colors that are preferred by upscale consumers
  • Colors that increase perceptions of "trust"
  • Colors that are calming
  • Colors that increase mental and physical performance
  • Color combinations that are the most visible on paper, online and on outdoor signs

This course will also give you the opportunity to compare and contrast logos and their color choices in 42 different product and service categories.

To take the course, click HERE.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Developing the Brand Plan


I have created a course that will teach you how to create a strategic and actionable brand plan. It includes a brand plan template, and possible brand objectives, strategies, and tactics. It is organized by the five drivers of customer brand insistence - awareness, relevant differentiation, value, accessibility, and emotional connection. It includes a SWOT analysis and addresses the seven "p"s of marketing - product, packaging, place, price, promotion, people & processes. It also covers how brand plans relate to business plans, marketing plans, communications plans, and media plans.

As a bonus, I have included presentations on 10 common brand problems and the 22 most important things I believe you should know about marketing.

This course is particularly helpful for people who have been asked to create a brand plan for the first time.

To learn more about the course or to take the course, click HERE.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Affluence & Frequency of Purchase

This may seem intuitively obvious, but one way to gauge a household's level of wealth is by determining its frequency of purchase of various products and services. While some less affluent households may be deceptive due to debt spending, and while other more affluent households may be deceptive due to frugality or a focus on sustainability and the environment, this is generally an accurate gauge of wealth. Here are some examples:

  • How often are homes bought and sold?
  • How often are renovations completed for the house? How often has the kitchen been remodeled? How often has the master bathroom been remodeled? How often have rooms been redecorated? How often have furniture, carpets or lamps been replaced? Constantly? Every few years? Once or twice? Or never?
  • Have additions been built on to the house? How often?
  • How often are the grounds re-landscaped? 
  • How often is a new outbuilding constructed on the grounds?
  • How often is a new car purchased? Every year? Every couple of years? Only when the car has been run to the ground? Or never?
  • How often is a new boat purchased? 
  • How often are new computers purchased? Every year? When a new model is introduced? Every few years? Or only when the old computer no longer works?
  • How often are new smartphones purchased? Every year? Every couple of years? Or only when the old ones no longer work?
  • How often is a housecleaner used? Daily? Weekly? Bi-weekly? Monthly? Quarterly? Or never?
  • How often are gardeners or ground crews used? Full-time? Occasionally? Only when needed? Or never? 
  • Is unused food thrown out or is it used for leftovers?
  • What is the frequency of purchase of artwork? Does artwork need to be rotated? If so, how often is it rotated?
  • How often are vacations taken? Several times a year? Once or twice a year? Or never?
  • How often is air travel used? Fifty or more times a year? At least twenty times a year? Several times a year? Or less often?
  • How often are plays, concerts, operas or dance performances attended? Several times a week? Weekly? Monthly? Or less often?
  • How often does the household eat out at restaurants? Seven nights a week? Four to six nights a week? Three nights a week? Once or twice a week? Or less often?
  • How often is a dress or pair of shoes worn? Once, for a single occasion or event? A couple times but only for one season and while still in fashion? A few times, but never with the same people? For years? Or until they are worn out?
  • How often is the massage therapist visited? How often is the beauty parlor visited? How often is a manicurist visited? 
  • How often is a personal trainer used? Daily? Weekly? Monthly? Less often? Or never?
  • How often are fresh flowers purchased for the house? Daily? Weekly? Only for special occasions? Or never?
  • How often does one shop? Multiple times a day? Daily? A few times a week? Weekly? Or less often?
  • How often does the FedEx, UPS or Amazon Prime truck deliver goods to the house? Multiple times a day? Once a day? Several times a week? Or less often?
  • Related to this, what is the volume of trash or recycling that is picked up from the house each week?
  • How often are items that are no longer wanted donated to charity?
At a superficial level, household spending may seem similar across social-economic groups, but when one investigates purchase frequency, one may note significant differences due to significant differences in financial capacity. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Out-of-the-Box Marketing Techniques

I recently created a new online course on out-of-the-box marketing techniques.  It highlights many ways in which marketers can be creative in achieving their goals. 

Creativity has always been an important part of marketing and the best marketers generally have high creativity quotients. In this highly entertaining course, we will review dozens of creative marketing campaigns including proactive publicity, publicity stunts, flash mobs, unusual media, colossal ads, creative advertising campaigns, creating folklore, viral marketing, stealth marketing, ambush marketing, the poison parasite defense, unique packaging, unique merchandising approaches, theme parks, contests, niche products, creative product concepts, unusual restaurant concepts, and more. Stimulate your own marketing creativity with this course.

To learn more about the course or to take the course, click HERE.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Brand Benefit Cues

Several years ago, I was helping a health care system reposition its brand. After rigorous research, we discovered that their unique presence of a level one trauma center in the rural communities that they served signaled that they were uniquely set up to handle the toughest and most complex medical situations. This together with some other proof points would lead potential patients to believe that they were the best health care system to use to handle any medical problem ultimately leading to the greatest peace of mind. As a logical extension of this, patients should choose this health care system first every time rather than choosing it only for the most difficult medical situations. We tied the most important patient benefits together with their proof points and reasons to believe.

But here was the big 'aha' in our whole repositioning effort. The most important proof point related to the level one trauma center proof point was their two heavily branded Medevac helicopters that were often seen flying around the area. In your efforts to position or reposition a brand don't forget to identify the critical brand benefit cues or triggers that have the greatest potential to reinforce the brand's unique promise.

Here is another blog post I have written on the topic of brand triggers.

Retro Brand Imagery with Sexual Overtones


I was spending time at my Adirondack home last week and stopped by this Lake Placid wine and spirit shop to pick up some wine for the week. That's when I noticed their shop sign. It immediately took me back to vintage ads with sexual overtones that are now unacceptable. The sign depicts a woman with lots of leg showing sitting on a champagne bottle that has just exploded. Maybe this sign was created as an attempt at tongue-in-cheek humor or to be retro but it seems quite obvious in its intent and I was surprised to see it. 

As I was researching the vintage ads with similar sexual overtones, I was also surprised to discover other more modern ads with the same overtones. This Burger King ad ran in the city-state of Singapore in the first half of 2009. I really can't believe that they would run such an ad, but they did. Having come from a corporate background, I began to imagine how many approvals this ad must have gone through before it was released. 

And here is a recent ad from a Premier Estate Wine in Australia. It was ultimately banned by the Advertising Standards Authority for being 'degrading and offensive.'

While sex is a primal human instinct that can motivate at a deeply emotional level, these ads objectify women and are in poor taste. Tobacco and alcoholic beverage companies have been the worst offenders over time, but they are not the only ones. These types of ads used to be fair game for brands in any product category. For instance, this is a lipstick ad. 

I have advised several brands that they can do better than using sex to sell their products. There are many other equally compelling approaches that can be used that don't reinforce sexual fantasies or objectify women. I am still surprised when I see examples of humanity not transcending its most basic instincts to embrace more lofty motivators. I embrace human sexuality, just not so much in advertising these days. 

Here are some other blog posts that identify other human motivators that can be used in advertising:
I didn't intend to be offensive in this blog post, but rather to highlight an advertising approach that I had thought was firmly in our past. 

PS - Here is one other vintage ad from a famous global brand that a reader brought to my attention. 


Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Brand Research


Introducing our online brand research course. This comprehensive introductory course focuses on how to use marketing research to build, manage and grow successful brands and it highlights the most important marketing research issues and considerations. Further, you will learn about more than 40 different qualitative and quantitative research methodologies and techniques and when it is appropriate to use each. Topics include brand positioning research, brand equity research, brand extension research and customer segmentation research.

To learn more or to take the course, click here

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