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Every business needs a promotion, something to jump start revenue when things are slow. My go-to promotion for the last few years has been a “Free Day of Planning.”   I offer up my services for one day, free of charge.  Try before you buy.

I had an opportunity to do some strategy work on Heineken Light during one of these free days. In ideation, I came up with a very cool “idea” for activation; it was on target, on culture and had mad finesse.

Since moving to Asheville, I’ve been thinking anew about promotions. While the free day of planning tended to target agencies, the new promo will target marketers. I’m thinking of calling the new promo  the “Climb Around,” a reference to climbing all over the product from my B2B days. A 2-dayer, the Climb Around will have me on-premise observing various business practices; understanding the 4 Ps (product, price, promotion and place), while observing organizational structure, management and culture.  

What will make the Climb Around unique will be my quietude. With only 2 days, the time will be best spent watching and listening — much as if undertaken by a cultural anthropologist. Field workers only observe — they never should they insinuate themselves into the cultural tableau. It changes the dynamic.

Using my stock pot/boil down metaphor, the output of the Climb Around will be only three observations. Three for free.

Any Beta testers out there?



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Brand journalists aren’t for every company. Certainly most small companies can’t afford them. The first brand journalist I ran into worked for JWT, a forward thinking ad agency. He worked on Microsoft and helped the brand do some really smart things in the B2B space. But he worked for the agency. When I moved client side to an educational technology company, I was lucky enough to have a chairman with enough vision to see the value of a brand journalist. We hired a photographer/videographer who was also a wonderful visual storyteller. His ability to make people feel things was amazing and powerful.

Thomas Simonetti was his name and he came to us with a newspaper background. The company we worked for, Teq, had a great brand strategy and I helped Thomas understand it: the claim and the proof planks. The plan was Thomas’s story guide. His mission: Go forth, research, compile and communicate stories that convince consumers that are what we say we are. We do what we say we do. We live how we say we live.

A traditional journalist has no agenda. That’s what makes them good. Brand journalists have an agenda. And that’s what make brands great. And rich. And successful. Peace.


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I recently had a big argument with a company in transition. They were known for one thing, with 75% of revenue tied to that thing. Problem was, their future was tied to the other 25%.  I was told “Get the old thing off the home page. Fill it with the new thing.” That was the easy part.  The hard part was I was instructed to “Create different doors for different kinds of customers.”  I argued “For a company in transition, without a lot of awareness and mindshare, the home page needs to deliver the brand strategy.”  Home pages that don’t convey brand strategy are often montages of pictures, products and navigation. They lack a POV. A heart.  Home pages are the one place in the online world where marketers have complete control of their brands. They can control the story, the claim and the proof.  The 3 door approach would have evicerated the strategy.

Why do so many company make brochures out of the home page real estate? Brochure tables of contents, really.  Homepages are more and more important in marketing today and they are the least attended to.

For new or unknown companies the home page must communicate the Is-Does. For mature brands, it must move customers emotionally and rationally closer to a sale. Not closer to another page. Templates suck at this. Plants and trees that stay the same are either plastic, hibernating or dead. Your home page should be none of these. Peace.

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Open source in the software game is a fascinating phenomenon.  Organizations open up their code to outsiders whom they hope will improve it while at the same time enlisting a community of loyal users.  It all started in response to Microsoft’s closed, monopolistic approach to business. Many programmers became so anti-Microsoft that they grouped together and created open source products, beginning with the Linux operating system.

Today an outgrowth of this is corporations employing user-generated-content networks to keep in close touch with consumers — allowing them to help mold product spec.  And it’s working.  This provides an ongoing, low-cost consumer research loop.

But where are the business-to-business and industrial manufacturers in all of this?  When, if ever, will they open up their engineering code to others in the hope of product improvement?   Isn’t it counter to everything they’ve learned in business school and on the street?  Yup, but that will change.

B2B companies will begin to open up to the engineering departments of their customers using online tools and the results will be surprising.   

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