Marketing

    Deathstalker Advertising

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    One of the brand planks of the North Shore-LIJ Health System was “leading edge treatments and technology.” Unfortunately, this is a plank most every hospital in the country uses when developing advertising.  It was only when paired with North Shore’s two other planks, that the true brand story emerged.

    One of North Shore’s competitors in New York is NewYork-Presbyterian. Today, NY-Pres broke a “leading edge treatments and technology” ad that beats most hands down.  If you don’t ask your doctor about NY-Pres after reading this ad, you are not paying attention. The campaign idea, by the way, is “Amazing things are happening here.”

    The Deathstalker Scorpion’s venon contains chlorotoxin, which some crazy health geek found attaches itself to “specific brain cancer cells.” The docs and researcher at NY-Pres are trying to find ways to make chlorotoxin deliver radioactive atoms to cancer cells in the brain.  Wow! That’s some serious.

    I’m not sure if Munn Rabot is still doing this advertising work, but it sure feels like them. It’s excellent storytelling and excellent work.

    Okay, you are sick and have to pick a hospital. Any come to mind?

    Wu hoo…activism.

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    My last post addressed how low cost manufacturing in countries like China and India are going to make inexpensive cars available to millions of new drivers, the result of which will be a new environmental crisis. Another crisis occurring in China today is pollution. One man — Wu Lihong — is in jail in China because he decided to bring attention to the fouling of Lake Tai, a huge body of water which supports millions of people. One man in a county of 1.3B, through his activism, has captured the attention of the world. Did he know, as he rode his bicycle around the lake collecting water samples and photographing midnight effluent run-ff from chemical plants that he would become the spokesperson for China’s pollution problems? Doubtful. He just saw a wrong and wanted to make a difference. For more information on Wu Luhong, please click through to the link below or search for his story on October 14, 2007 at www.nytimes.com
     
     
     
    Activism will be critical to solving all environmental problems and, so each of us needs to make a stand. Whether is means refusing small bags at the store when you can easily carry your purchase by hand, or not taking 30 napkins from the deli, or writing marketers who continue to send pounds and pounds of paper catalogs to us in the mail each year. Or how about not using air-conditioning in our cars when opening the window will do.  
     
    We need to be a little more protective of the environment. We need to become a little more indignant with those who are the problem. We all need to be a lot more like Wu Lihong. 

    Storytelling. Two flavors.

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    I took a part time job a couple of years ago doing something I’ve never done before. Sales. Belly-to-belly sales, to be more specific. Quite a departure getting paid to look the consuming public in the eye and pitch.  

    “Story” had always been an important part of my marketing life but in this new position, after product knowledge, it became a very close second in terms of my sales effectiveness.

    There are two basic kind of stories a salesperson can tell: product-based stories focusing of features, functions and outcomes and entertaining stories tangential to the product. Everyone needs the first to move the merch, but for me the entertaining, humanizing stories were the difference maker. They kept me on my toes and helped engage consumers.

    The last two days I was working side-by-side at a trade show with our territory’s best sales person. He is brilliant with customers, performing straight from the sale manual and beyond. At his best he’s jovial, informative, a locomotive of product fact. His stories are all about product. I, on the other hand, used personal stories to pepper my sales. Some self-deprecating, some shared interest, some environmental – the whole gamut.

    Turns out, mixing in some entertainment with sales haymakers was a winning combination. Not everyone is an entertainer. I’m no Sebastian Maniscalco.   As Jimmy Breslin taught us, the best way to tell the news is to get out of the building. In sales, the best way to sell product is to get out of the building…and the product is the building.      

    Peace.                     

     

     

    Why Brand Strategy?

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    The brandstrategy framework used at What’s The Idea? is not an impenetrable membrane.  That is to say, it is not a wall that keeps out creative ideas and marketing executions. Sure, there may be some brand policing by brand manager, but brand strategy is not meant to create “the land of no.”  Think of brand strategy as a springboard for creative ideas. A place to start.

    The What’s The Idea? framework comprises one claim and three proof planks.  A claim is a statement of value to a consumer; something they want. The stronger the want or need, the better the claim. As for the proof planks, they are exactly that. Proofs of claim. Proof planks are the foundation of brand stories. They create muscle memory for consumers as to why the claim is true.

    The claim and proof array open the doors to creative thought, it doesn’t  close it. This is not untamed creative thought or “creative for creative’s sake,” but ideation based upon an organized selling strategy that builds brands.

    Brand strategy organizes the creative mind.

    Peace.       

     

     

    Things we remember.

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    We remember beauty.

    We remember new.

     We remember rich.

     We remember melody.

    We remember funny.  

    We remember nature.

     We remember poetry.

     We remember pain.

     We remember educators.

     We remember warmth.

     We remember charity.

     We remember happy.

     We remember love.

     We remember triumph.

     These are the things we remember.

     These are the things consumers remember.

     (I post this brand planner’s prayer once a year…as a reminder.)

    And.

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    The word “and” has killed more brand strategies than an online community college marketing course. Here’s a company mission that foretells brand strategy problems:

    Our priority is school safety and accountability; our goal is to be the standard for integrated school safety and operations systems.

    First sentence: How can something be your priority when you’ve added something else?  That’s two priorities. Second sentence: They added the word “integrated” to the mix, whatever that means. And for good measure, bringing up the rear is the tag along “operations systems.”  I’ve been to this movie before and it’s not pretty. Not from a branding standpoint.

    I know this company. They do good work in the school security space. Their most in-demand product is smart cards. Cards with chips in them that have multiple applications but student safety is the key care-about.

    If you parse the Is-Does from the statement, they are a security company that offers accountability. Accountability for what? Safety? And they integrate, but with what? And of course, operations systems are important, but what are they?  Is this a hardware, software or services company?

    The positioning reality is — this is an educational smart card company. The other stuff are bells, whistles and features. Oy.

    And. It will get you every time.

    Peace.

     

     

     

     

    Mistrust of Google? Huh?

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    The level of hypocrisy at the House Judiciary Committee’s grilling of Google CEO Sundar Pichai yesterday was amazing. Committee members and staffers probably use Google in their day jobs, 100 times a day.  These men and women, who accept funds from any and every influencer group in the country (both sides of the aisle) have the audacity to ask Mr. Pichai, about selling a little date to fund a free tool the size and scope of Google is preposterous!

    Of course Google will push the boundaries. It would be unAmerican not to. But to bandy about the word of “distrust” and “mistrust” for a digital utility that is trusted more than any other on the planet is ludicrous.  America loves it’s Google. Billions of times a day.

    When embarrassed by the probes concerning public trust does Google publicly threaten to shut down its engine?  No. It listens, answers logically, unemotionally and learns.

    Now, where should I send my donation to your campaign Mr. McCarthy, house majority leader?  As if.

    Peace.

     

    Free Briefs

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    I’ve run a few promotions over the years and the most popular has been the “Free Day of Planning.” 

    Promotions are typically used on new products to promote trial.  I have been in Asheville, NC for a year and a half and have yet to pick up any paying clients, so it’s time to break out the big promotional guns.

    Last night while attending the Asheville Design Salon it came to me that in this market (and most markets) most people don’t wake up saying “Damn, I need a brand strategy.” They need customers, a website, and certainly logos and design work – but an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging, not so much.

    Existentially, what is a brand strategy?  It’s a brief – a piece of paper with a positioning idea, based on customer care-abouts and brand good-ats.  So today I am offering all businesses in Ashville and the surrounding towns a free brief. (I’d insert nomenclature here about limited time offer and first-come-first served, but don’t think it necessary.)

    Caveat: I will not be able to go crazy deep on your brand, but way more than deep enough to open eyes. Deep enough to help prioritize values. And focus. And to an extent, to wrap it all up in a little poetry.

    So have at it Asheville. Write Steve@whatstheidea.com and order up your free brief.  

     

    Health Care Branding Writ Large.

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    Here’s a little naming and branding exercise.  There are three names for pretty much the same topical healthcare idea — all concerning extending healthcare for all Americans. 

    The Affordable Care Act
    Obamacare
    Medicare for All

    Leave a comment as to which is the best sobriquet or brand.

    The Affordable Care Act, was clearly a corporate-type construct.  It is an “act” which means it’s government-approved. It’s “affordable,” in name, so it’s consumer-approved, albeit marketed. And contextually it’s about care.  

    Then there’s Obamacare.  It’s fun, but reverential and politicized.  On one side to the aisle today, it’s demonized…a magnet for associations shared by nattering nabobs of negativity. Lovers of the law mostly like the name. Certainly they like their namesake president.

    Lastly, we have Medicare for all. Nice. Who doesn’t like Medicare?  It’s sing-songy (All for one, one for all). It’s inclusive. And most importantly it’s easy to understand. People know what Medicare is and they know who “all” are.

    People who actually understand what the Affordable Care Act is – an incentivized illness prevention program – see it’s upside and pitfalls, with an emphasis on the former.  But consumers primarily see a name. 

    The power of the Medicare for All brand is so great that the opposition had to come up with a counter name.  And they have done a pretty good job, “Socialized Medicine.” 

    Brand builders are getting smarter in healthcare.  It’s a thing.

    Peace.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Hudson Yards and Brand Strategy.

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    I was reading an amazing piece in today’s New York Times, written by architecture critic Michael Kimmelman.  This is why I subscribe to the NYT. It’s an amazingly constructed criticism of the Hudson Yards project. Nary a mention of state and city tax subsidies, the piece just discusses the beauty (not much) and blight (more than enough) of the project designs. The writer is brutal but fair. No name calling, no Trumpian vilification, but make no mistake he skewers the architecture. Old NY style. This is brilliant reporting and analysis. Bravo New York Times.

    At one point Mr. Kimmelman refers to the project as an “architectural petting zoo.” His reference is to a loose federation of structure shapes and designs. (Does one put the zebras next to the sloths?) He makes a point about Rockefeller Center, the last out-sized project of this kind and how at least for that project there was a lead architectural firm — one firm to oversee the vision.

    This reminds me of brand management. Good brand craft oversees everything brand. Poor brand craft allows for many hands and agendas in the pot. Just as the Hudson Yards is a “doggy’s dinner” of styles and structures, a good brand needs harmony and continuity as it scales.

    Perhaps that’s why the terms brand architecture has stuck for so long.  But as we see from Mr. Kimmelman’s piece, there are architects and there are federations of architects.

    Peace.