Ten percent more US citizens died of drug overdoses last year than did the year before.  Drug manufacturers in the opioid and Fentanyl businesses are making money. I’m planning on swimming in the Maggie Fischer Cross Bay Swim next summer.  It’s 5.25 miles and starts at slack tide — just before incoming tide. Were a leaf sitting on the water that time, the Great South Bay would do a bit of the heavy lifting, perhaps cutting off a half mile or so or effort. (I hope.)

Trends and momentum are good things; especially in the science of marketing.  It’s hard to start a trend, ask most no-name or startup products. People aren’t Googling for trends that haven’t yet happened.  That’s why advertising is still important; it can help to create trends.

Reversing trends is even harder.  Young mothers in America are buying diapers in record numbers. Getting them to potty train earlier, for instance, is swimming against the tide.  

All marketers need to know where they are on the trend-ometer and plan accordingly.

Brand planners need to be trendsetters and trend stoppers.

Peace.  

 

 

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Marketing is about crowd building. Have you ever walked in a city, seen a long line of people and wondered what they are waiting for? Or seen 20 people on the street staring into a store window at a TV?  Crowds have a gravitational pull. When searching YouTube for an unfamiliar music artist, do you watch the video with 256,000 views or 2,600 views? Which food truck line to you get on, the long one or the short one?

The key marketing and branding question is “How do you build a crowd?” How do you surround yourself with appeal and activity that feeds interest – that beckons?

Start with focus. Don’t try to be too much.  When you do something, do it well. And do it differently. Be the exception not a rule.  Be clear in your value. Be easy to understand. Be easy to share. And always compel.  Most people like crowds. We are gregarious by nature.

Make sure your marketing and branding move customers closer to a crowd.

Peace.

 

 

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The New York Times reported today that the top social media platforms are either flat or declining in users.  For the first time in its young life Snap is down daily active users — 3 million this quarter compared to same qtr. last year.

This news causes bosses to call marketing brainstorm sessions about adding users.  Often these meeting feel tactical and not strategic. Were I in one of these brainstorming meetings, I’d suggest the platform encourage current users to add additional accounts.  

I’ve long supported the notion that each social platform has a different reason for being, with discrete lines between them. Facebook is for friends and friendship. LinkedIn for work. Instagram for the pictorial, artistic self. And Twitter for the individual, real-time persona. Your personality writ large. If social platforms get users to dig a little deeper into themselves, and expressions of themselves, they might find individuals will open additional accounts, e.g. Steve Poppe archeologist, Steve Poppe punk rock musings. The bosses might say, “Those aren’t new user.” And the bosses would be right.  But these multiple accounts would be adding incremental interest to the platform and fuel greater overall interest and, more importantly, time on site. And isn’t that a strategy requirement?

Peace.

 

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I’m not much of a cook but I’m certainly a student. What’s The Idea? uses a number of cooking metaphors in its daily operation. Many of the tenets of good cooking are also valuable in brand strategy. One such tenet is “Don’t use too many ingredients.”  The more ingredients used, the more likely the main component of the dish becomes obscured.

My uncle Carl taught me the best baked clams are the ones with the least amount of flavor enhancers. See the clam. The same for chicken parmesan. No sauce, just a brilliant tomato slice or two atop the golden brown cutlet.

Brand strategy development is about evaluating customer care-abouts and brand good-ats and selecting only the top three — the three with the most flavor (or most complementary flavors).  Most importantly, these three brand planks must support the brand claim, or, following the metaphor, the main protein.

Brand strategy is best served with one claim and three proof planks. It’s not over-complicated. It’s easy on the senses. And the consumer palate is very understanding.

Leave Michelin stars for the true chefs. Complexity in brand strategy rarely works.

Peace.

 

 

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Starbucks idea to deliver coffee (in China) is a bad one. I’m no economist but adding overhead to the business by way of delivery personnel, equipment, insurance (ish), and degradation of product (e.g., cold coffee) is a lose-lose.  But more importantly, if you make the coffee and tea more available during different dayparts in an “always-on” fashion, you dilute the special coffee reboot moments for which Starbucks is famous.

A mid-afternoon coffee run during a particularly in extremis day at work is a wonderful treat. Starbucks can and should be a daily morning occurrence but overdoing it can make it less of a delight. This was the problem with high-flying Krispy Kreme Donuts. On or about the time the stock went public, Krispy Kreme turned on the water hose and made the donuts too available. Expanding retail distribution with little brand experience forethought. You could fill up your gas tank and get a dozen. They oversaturated the market and our sweet tooth for the special treat lost its allure.

Good marketers always should leave customer wanting a little more.

Starbucks needs to slow its roll.

Peace.

 

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This morning’s news included a piece on Conde Nast shuttering 3 big magazine properties. The company lost in excess of $120M last year keeping print properties churning. Magazines have been under web attack for over a decade. Magazines aren’t in the readership business, they’re in the entertainment and enlightenment business. As audio and video production became more common, entertainment and enlightenment moved to the web, albeit watered down.

Conde Nast will get it right.  It just needed this kick in the ass. Content experts are content experts. Content poseurs are content poseurs.

The death of radio was predicted and it still reaches 93% of US adults weekly. The end of network TV was also predicted…nope.  

Sorry publishers like Conde Nast, Time Inc. and Meredith have bloody noses. But for now at least, the holding company approach has become a little zaftig.

Peace.

 

 

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Product First.

I was doing a little web research on a company yesterday and started looking for signs of a brand strategy on the “About” page. Atop the About page sat this quote.

“Customers are the most important people in any business.”

Many would find it hard to disagree with the statement. When writing market plans I spend a lot of time “following the money.” (If you are interested in such things write me for a copy of my 24 Questions. Steve at WhatsTheIdea dot com.) And money comes from customers.

BUT, a big but…I don’t agree customers are the most important people; product developers earn that mantel. It is the product, you see, that excites customers into action. Sure, product developers need to study customer tastes and proclivities. Sure, they must have a sense of consumer attachments to competitive offering. But when push came to shove, it was the people at Levi’s who designed the copper rivets, the soda formulator who put the Coca in the Cola, and the algorithm jockey who indexed web information that created Google.  Those were the most important people.

Customer are the bees, but sans flowers there ain’t a lot of buzz.

Peace.   

 

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Choices.

As a kid in the business I read a great book on business to business advertising. It gave an example of what a purchasing agent is up against when buying an expensive piece of industrial equipment. The agent puts together a side-by-side chart of all the specs and benefit statements for the two final vendors under consideration.  More often than not, commerce being what it is, it’s a draw. The book suggested, absent a clear winner, the logical mind takes over. The personal logical mind, that is. In order to make a decision with so many variables, the purchaser decides which of the variables is most important. Which of the 20-30 variables is the one upon a which the decision will be made.

I was reading about Harvard’s selection process yesterday and it’s pretty complicated.  SAT scores, other testing scores, GPA, ethnicity, alumni parents, future ability to donate, interview performance essay, geo-social background are all evaluated. Not unlike the chart from the book. Choices.

Brand strategy development is not dissimilar. We look at a multitude of “care-abouts” and “good-ats” and decide how to best organize the selling principle. Brand strategy helps marketers make the tough choices. It helps brands make the right choices.

Peace.

 

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I wrote yesterday about how beer taps should be used as brand instruments to build fealty, affinity and loyalty.  There was a time when the beer brand was more important than the brewer. As evidenced by my post yesterday, it seems the brewer portfolio has become more important than the individual beer brand – especially in this craft brewing led market.

Anheuser-Busch/InBev, MillerCoors and the other beer holding companies are sharpening their investments by buying craft brewers.  It seems variety is the spice of the balance sheet these days. When I look at a craft brewer, as both a drinker and brander, I ask about the flagship beer.  The one that sets the tone for the brewer.  Typically that’s the label with the highest gross sales. For BluePoint Brewing is it’s Toasted Lager. For Highland Brewing, Gaelic Ale. For Goose Island, it’s namesake Goose IPA. There has to be an alpha brand. And I start from there.

Smart brewery marketers want consumers to order a “Toasted Lager,” “Gaelic Ale” or “Goose IPA.”  They don’t want them to order the mother ship.  As craft brewers get more sophisticated, they will hire brand managers for each label. And then it’s on.

Peace.

 

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I had a discussion with an Asheville, NC brewer last year who was in the process of doing a brand redesign with a branding shop based in Texas. They did a lovely job, by the way. The topic of taps came up — taps being the long ceramic bar-top devices used to pour beer.

Having poured a little beer at the Bluepoint Brewery taproom back in the day, I recognized up close how tap designs can be a cool branding “thing.”  Bluepoint, I was told, used a California-based tap manufacturer and paid a handsome price per piece. Each tap had a unique grab, including mermaids, monks, Rastafarians, lighthouses, buoys, etc.  All distinct and memorable.  When I shared this with the Asheville brewer, who perhaps had been bitten a little too hard by the branding bug, she suggested the lack of brand continuity was a weakness.  

Out for a quaff last Friday at the Mellow Mushroom, a local joint with over 100 beers on tap, I noticed about 5 or 6 of the local brewer’s beer taps. All had the same logo, all had the same block letter typeface for the beer name, all sporting a different color for package differentiation. Very corporate. Very easy to read. Beer personality: Zero.

Blue Point got it right. Each beer is a brand. Each should be celebrated as such at the local watering hole. Peace.

 

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