There was a time not long ago when the average job tenure of a CMO (chief marketing officer) was 18 months or so.  That kind of churn was mainly associated with the coming of age of digital marketing. And big data, social media and the underperforming economy. The good CMOs job hop. The bad ones were summarily replaced.

In biz/dev for What’s The Idea? I sometime cruise the job boards looking for companies in search of new senior marketing blood – which often poses an opportunity for brand work. As a matter of course I read a lot of job boards and job specs. One word that has become a pet peeve of mine is “passion.” It’s meaningless.  And gets in the way of a real job spec. We have a local election in town and a newspaper endorsement said this about three candidates. See if you can tell which candidate has the least to offer:

“I’ve been impressed with Kim’s dedication to improving transit, Dee’s passion and Rich’s policy analysis.”

If you need to put the word passion into a job spec, the job must have a history of being held by dolts.  Or it is a sorry-ass, boring product or service.

Passion is better seen not heard.

Peace.

 

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NYC painter Jean-Michel Basquiat once told a friend as they walked home from a gallery one night “I’ll learn to draw later, first I want to get famous.”  Sounds awfully backwards, unless you were a child of the 70-80s in NYC where punk rock and musicians were inventing a new scene.   Lots of people had established personal brands through dress, hang-outs, hair and behavior while working on their art. For instance, on any given night if you saw a black Schwinn with a leather jacket chained to it in front of a rock club (in the winter), I was inside. (Lines for the coat check at 3-4 in the morning were way too long.)   

While these artists-in-waiting fiddled with guitars, paint or prose during the day, between shifts as a waiters or bike messengers, they were focused brand builders. They had a vision, a sense of the time and an organizing principle.

Think if them as startups. I’ve helped build startup brands before and they all tend to over-hang the market — meaning offer promise before availability. And if you think of it, most small companies without brand strategies are startups. Even if fairly established. They are businesses, not brands. No brand plans in place to establish behavioral identity.

It’s always better to be aware of brand while building your art or your business.  It focuses you.   

Peace.

 

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The Great Harvest Bread Company is in year 2 of a really smart sampling promotion called the “National Bread Challenge.” Bring an unopened loaf of processed supermarket bread to one of Great Harvest’s 200 stores nationally and they’ll replace it with one of their loaves, which began taking shape at 2:30 A.M. that morning – kneaded by hand from freshly milled grains. Sound like a heavy loaf? Sound dry? Sound crunchy? Not even close. This bread redefines bread. It’s wonderful.

Great Harvest is betting consumer taste buds will help them grow market share. They are trying to recondition the market to pay more for better bread. Healthier bread. Every marketer needs a mark or a villain and this time the villain is processed white bread. Bread with no nutritional value, despite what Wonder Bread will tell you.

(Disclaimer: Great Harvest president Eric Keshin is a friend.)

Trial, getting people to try your product for the first time, is a time-tested marketing tactic. In this case, it’s an expensive one.  Giving away free loaves from November 10-12, 2017 is a high stakes effort. Were the bread average in taste and quality, it would be a silly move. It’s not. Find yourself a processed loaf and trade it in. Let those taste senses fire off some new synapses. Fresh is the new fresh.

Peace.      

 

 

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As someone who watches brands and markets I love inflection points. Consumer inflection points are most obvious in the retail landscape. One result of the financial crisis and bail out of Detroit was a reduction in car dealerships. Were you to drive down any long commercial highway 20 years ago and compare it to today you will see brand new banks on the sites once reserved for shiny new cars.  And as we legislate more fuel efficient car standards, those same streets have more eateries where gas stations once stood.

Today in the news, Lord & Taylor in NYC is selling its block long retail space to WeWork. The supply-side driver? eCommernce and Amazon.  For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  WeWork, most know, started out as a low-cost office space solution — one where infrastructure, e.g., phones, cabling, office maintenance, coffee, is taken care of and asses in seats are rented for the day, week, month or year. They are now growing like wild fire. And the price points are increasing, as the amenities and addresses become more plush. The other inflection point driving WeWork growth is what’s happening on the demand-side: the freelance economy.

The work force is changing. The nature of companies is changing.  Google “logged and tagged workforce.” Or write me (Steve@WhatsTheIdea.com).  Those who are ready for the logged and tagged economy shall winners be.

Peace.

 

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Branding at the hands of most practitioners is 85% emotional.  That is to say, names, colors, shapes and taglines associated with a “brand,” are usually dictated by a few decision makers who either feel it or they don’t. Emotion is not unimportant, but often it’s way too important. There needs to be a lot more science in branding. Especially in brand strategy. A brand, i.e., logo, is not a brand strategy. A brand strategy is an organizing principle; one that allows brand managers and stakeholders to make marketing decisions. Marketing decisions that create everlasting value for a product or service.

While the physical brand or mark is what helps people identify a product or service, the brand strategy helps with deeper cognition.  With reasons to consider, like, prefer, buy and recommend. For these qualities we must turn to science. Brand strategy is about tangible evidence of preference. “I liked the ceviche because it was sweet. Because the salmon tasted buttery. Because of the perfect helping of herbs.”  Not because it tasted good.

Look at your brand strategy. Explore the science. Omit the fluff words: Quality, innovative, best, better. Mine the science.

Peace.

 

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A couple of years ago a smallish branding shop contacted me about helping creating a strategy for a division of a top 5 consulting company.  The master brand is known to all and likely has a brand strategy (maybe not) but the division we were helping offered a very complicated, layered value proposition in health and security.  Read security as in homeland security, not home and property protection.

The ultimate deliverable was a long form brochure, changes to the division website content and some presentation pages explaining in somewhat lay terns, what the group did and did so well.

I read all their decks, interviewed a number of consultants from around the world, performed the due diligence one does when sanity checking the Kool-Aid drinkers, and came up with a tight idea and organizing principle – a division brand strategy.

But then came the hard part. Consulting the consultants. Getting them to organize their “product, experience and messaging” around a claim and 3 proof planks (a division brand strategy).  Consultants are great at giving advice, but are they any good at taking it?  

Momma never said this job would be easy!  She was right.

Peace.                                                                  

 

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Mitch McConnell recently accused President Donald Trump of “excessive expectations” with regard to the speed at which democracy moves.  As a brand planner I kind of like excessive expectations.  The right brand strategy can snowball into many more business accomplishments than most marketing directors would ever agree to.  I like to load up on business objectives when thinking about brand strategy.   

I once explained to the head of marketing at a huge health care system that the brand strategy would increase nurse retention. And reduce the cost of physician hiring. A demure man, he was near apoplectic. “Get the shredder.”

Don’t misunderstand, I am not suggesting a broad and diffuse brand strategy that attempts to accomplish too much – a.k.a. The Fruit Cocktail Effect. (Google it.) Brand strategy needs to be tight: One claim, three proof planks.  But the more excessive the expectations during the planning stages, the more likely the finished product will deliver.

Powerful bespoke brand strategy starts with high expectation.

Peace.

 

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If I say Las Vegas shooting you know what I mean. If I type “Las Vegas sh..” into Google, it auto defaults. In 5 years if I say Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino are you likely to think of the same carnage? Hopefully not.

The words “nine one one” have a very different meaning than the words “nine eleven.” Words high-jacked by violent human and natural disasters affectively become brands. Disaster brands. There aren’t going to be a lot of babies named “Sandy,” for instance, on the south shore of Long Island for a long while. Columbine, Pulse Nightclub, the list goes on.

Disasters are happening more and more in our society. And how they are propagated and recorded in history are mostly determined by the media. If the media overuses Mandalay Bay as shorthand for the Las Vegas massacre, it will completely ruin that brand. As of now, it’s still a tossup whether Mandalay Bay can last as a brand.

Media people tend to favor location-based naming. Yet even that can put a blight on a community, read “Amityville, Horror.” Sandy Hook has etched it name into our collective minds…and the school was torn down. Newtown, CT the location of the school is slowly healing as a disaster brand. 

I don’t know the answer. I just want to suggest a more sensitive approach to creating names for these violent disasters.  

Any thoughts?

Peace.

 

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The two fundamental components of strategic marketing are the brand plan and the marketing plan.  Most companies have a marketing plan. They also have brands. Not always to they have both. 

The marketing plan is viewed through a lens of “making money,” as it should be. Each tactic, event or channel strategy is gauged by how it contributes to topline sales and profit. The brand plan, on the other hand, is about creating value in the minds of the seller and buyer. It sets places in the minds of consumers differentiating the product and creating preference. It also creates a roadmap for brand managers and company stakeholders to deliver and create even greater value. Guideposts if you will. 

In all my years doing brand strategy I’ve never included a loci around profit or revenue. The proof array supporting a brand claim results from prioritizing care-abouts and good-ats. While profit is always the goal of the marketing plan, it is never the subject of the brand plan. This Yin and Yang, this republican and democrat balance is what make brands unique and powerful.

If every plank in a brand strategy was about profit and sales, every brand would be the same.

Profits are the motive of the marketing plan. Logical and emotional reasoning are the motives of the brand. Peace.   

 

 

 

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Gender in Branding.

The Boy Scouts of America are getting ready to allow girls as members. Bravo. Or should say Brava?  Legislating inclusion is very American.  If girls want to join the Boy Scouts and their parents agree, go for it. Jealousy, bullying, sexual harassment and other injustices are going to happen regardless of age, dominion or organization.  It’s up to peers, adults, parents and law to adjudicate. And maybe by allowing this inclusion we’ll get a step closer to removing these behaviors.

But let’s drop the politics for just a minute and ask “What’s the best way forward for the Boy Scouts of America brand?”  The easy answer would be to go to “Scouts of America.” But that might subvert the Girls Scouts.  

If we look at the mission of BSA, which by the way is not on the website that I could find, the word “boy” isn’t that important. In an article I read to today, a proponent of letting girls in said “leadership” is what BSA is all about. And leadership certainly plays no gender favorites.

If girls want to be in the organization. Let them. If they decide in a few years they want a new name for the org, let them propose it. I’m okay with changing brand names for the right reasons. Strategy change is a right reason. Product change is a right reason. But I’m also a fan of brand equity. Hard won brand values, acquired over time, shouldn’t be tossed away so a marketing director or brand agency can make a mark, or a few dollars.  For me, this “product change” change is not as important as the “character and values” non-change. 

My gut says Boy Scouts of America is right for right now.

Gender peace.

 

 

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