The Value Proposition

Why should a consumer buy from you?

Competitive Advantages

What makes you better than your competition?

Choosing A Differentiation Strategy

You chose a target market, now what?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Number 1 2012 Marketing Resolution: Communicate Clearly

In 2012 we want to accomplish many goals:

- Sell millions in product
- Grow our brand awareness exponentially
- Achieve the largest marketing ROI for as little cost as possible
- Get promoted to, or hired as a CMO (I wouldn't mind that)

But before you can do anything above, or anything else, here's what you need to do from the first day of 2012: communicate clearly.

It seems simple, doesn't it?

In reality, communicating clearly involves a little bit of work.  Whether you're writing an email, or putting together a message for marketing, follow these steps, and you will be on your way to communicating more clearly:

1) Slow down.  When we rush, we make mistakes.  We say things that we don't intend.  We mix up our words.  Slowing down gives you the time to...

2) Think.  Think about the message you need to convey.  Ask yourself: Who is it for?  How will it be consumed?  What important information needs to be communicated?  After you slow down, think, answer these questions, and compose your message...

3) Review and edit.  You won't believe how often you will catch a typo here or there.  You may have reversed the order of your words.  You might catch a phrase or two that convey the wrong message, or potentially confuse the consumer of your message.

Using this three step method will help you communicate simple or complex messages more clearly and mistake-free.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Be Purposeful Or Else You Will Be Ignored

On Tuesday, Facebook announced that it would begin adding "Sponsored Story" ads to users' news feeds in January.  This will not happen in mobile apps yet.  This announcement is another step in Facebook's plan to monetize it's business and make it a viable advertising platform. 

If you're an advertiser, this gives you an easier way to get in front of the eyeballs of millions of Facebook users.  If you're Facebook, you just earned yourself some more ad dollars and paid a few more bills.  If you're a Facebook user, you may have another reason to ignore Facebook today.  And that's the caution to throw into the wind:  "Sponsored Stories", if overused, will quickly be ignored, and will have little to no value for any advertiser.  In fact, if Facebook isn't careful, and if you aren't as a media buyer, "Sponsored Stories" could be a huge flop.

Remember that "reach" basically is the number of individuals you want to expose your message to through any type of media scheduled over a given period of time.  For focused groups of audiences, Social Media and other online advertising provide great reach.  However, frequency is where things can go wrong.  When you're visiting a website, such as a news outlet, you expect to see ads.  You're voluntarily allowing yourself to be exposed to them.  Even if advertisements appear, we tolerate them, because we're simply using the website to consume information in an impersonal matter.

Social Media isn't impersonal, it's personal.  Frequency can quickly die off with Social Media, because when ads invade our personal "space" online, we change our usage patterns; quickly visiting a services like Facebook less, or even stopping altogether.  Once that happens, you've lost that consumer, potentially alienating them from your brand (as an advertiser), and possibly losing another revenue generating user. 

That's the slippery slope.  As an advertiser, you need to make sure not to abuse Social Media advertising.  It's users may be more receptive to your messages, but if you over "communicate" to them, too frequently, and without specific value or purpose in your message, they will quickly ignore you.  Once they ignore you, your Brand Awareness measures and credibility may start to decline as well.

Facebook needs to quickly decide how much advertising they really want to force their users to view.  If they continue to add more "ads" to people's feeds, Facebook may quickly lose users, and one of the "pot of golds" of internet advertising may cease to be.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Saying Apple Won The Mobile Flash War Is Misleading

Remember the headlines in November?  Ones like those in this CNET article saying Apple won the mobile Flash war.  Sources at Adobe were quoted as saying that "We will no longer adapt Flash Player for mobile devices to new browser, OS version or device configurations." (source CNET UK).  So Steve Jobs won.  Flash really is unnecessary on mobile devices.  Actually, it is very necessary.

Adobe made the right move, enabling a successful development platform (Actionscript) to exist in an "app" consumer model within the mobile space via Adobe AIR.  Let's remember what Flash is: a development environment for delivering rich, interactive content to users.  This has traditionally been done via the Flash plugin, allowing web browsers to decode and display this content. However desktop and laptop PC's have more CPU horsepower and screen real estate available for processing Flash content and Actionscript code.  Mobile devices, with their smaller screens, and slower processors, are not ideal vehicles for delivering Flash-based content.

Adobe, FINALLY, recognized this.

So Adobe took a step back, surveyed the situation, and realized what they have: a viable, established development platform.  This development platform not only delivers games and entertainment, but it enables advertisers to create dynamic ads and apps, allowing them to connect with consumers in new ways that traditional advertising does not allow.

That's why the mobile play is so important.  Traditional advertising methods don't work in a mobile environment.  In February of this year, Comscore reported smartphone usage was up 60% year over year (Business Insider).  If you want to get your costumer's attention, it's no longer via a television or a regular PC screen.  In order to win mind share, you have to get consumers in their pockets, so that they will open up their pocketbooks.

Flash/Actionsctipt development via Adobe AIR packaging makes sense. It allows Adobe to continue to sell software.  It allows Adobe to stay relevant with developers. It allows Adobe to be a key player in the mobile advertising realm.  It just makes sense.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

It's about the content, not the algorithm

SEO. Search Engine Optimization.  For the past few years, no other term (other than Social Media) has owned the mindshare of marketers and business owners when it comes to the web.  It's almost a foregone assumption: if I build a website, I must perform SEO.  If I own a website, I must perform SEO.

The next big assumption is that performing SEO means either hiring an expensive "SEO Company", or getting a "SEO For Dummies" book and doing it yourself.  What exactly are you doing when you are "SEO'ing"?  Altering "alt" tags, meta data, headers, tagging images, keyword selection,'s almost as mind-boggling as trying to guess how many letters there are in a can of alphabet soup.  Why are we putting ourselves through this insanity?  It's because we desparately want to be at the top of Google's listings.  We want to meet, beat, and even fool Google's algorithm at it's own game. 

It's time to stop the insanity.  Sure, having as much of your content indexable as possible is worthwhile.  Sure, you want to have good keyword selection and contextual page titles.  But lets get one thing clear.  No matter the algorithm, if you don't have relevant content, and others don't think you're content is relevant, Google isn't going to care either.

Google cares the most about relevant content.  If your content is actually about what you claim your website or webpage is addressing, then your content is relevant, or contextual.  If you title your page "Dogs", but you present information about cats, then it is not relevant.  Google and it's genius engineers have figured out how to "crawl" your website, examine your content, and rate it's relevancy.  It grades everything on your page that it can search, or "index.

Not only must your content be relevant, but it must be updated frequently.  Google will index your site on a set schedule once it "finds" you for the first time.  How often you update your content, or create new content, will determine how often Google "decides" to visit your site.  If you create a site, and never update it, then Google will eventually "decide" to visit your site more infrequently, and as a result, it will lower you in relevant search results.  But if you continually update your site, and continue to create relevant content, Google will raise you in it's search results.  Old and stale = forgotten and unimportant.  Fresh and exciting = relevant and important.

Even if you write relevant content, and keep it fresh, unless others also think it is relevant, then Google will not raise you up the search ranking results.  How do others make you relevant?  Link backs.  The more people, in contextual situations, link back to you, then your content is relevant.  What is a contextual situation?  Link farms are NOT contextual situations.  In fact, Google has clamped down on this practice; recently altering its algorithms to remove link farms from the equation.  So many people were "playing" the system with link farms and dummy websites that Google re-worked it's code to severely discount the influence of link farms and dummy websites.

What Google did was increase the relevancy of a website, with content relevant to yours, linking back to you.  For example, a blog post talking about dog sweaters, mentioning your comments about them, and linking back to your site, is relevant.  A series of forum posts on a public community forum site about dog sweaters, with links back to you in those posts, are relevant.  A series of social media posts on Facebook or Twitter, mentioning content about dog sweaters and linking back to your site, are relevant.

Google cares about content that others care about, and if they care about you, then Google cares about you.  So go ahead and optimize those page headers.  Make your site's content match your keywords.  Make as much of your website able to be indexed as possible.  But if your content isn't relevant, and if others don't care about your content, then Google won't either.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Another Ad Network = More Fragmentation

On Wednesday Yahoo released it's "Living Ad", interactive video ad format for advertisers.  This new ad format works within an ad network, that is centered around Yahoo's Livestand publication app.  Livestand, along with it's ad network, enters an already saturated ad "market" occupied by the likes of Flipboard, Zite, AOL's Editions, and Pulse.  Yahoo is pushing advertisting packages to buyers, some of which are said to run upwards of $500,000.

According to Yahoo, Livestand features a magazine-style layout.  It will launch with some content from third-party publications.  Those publishers will share their ad revenue with Yahoo.  The details of these revenue sharing arrangements are not yet known. These publishers can also re-sell ad packages on the plarform.  I can only deduce that Yahoo get's a cut of that revenue as well. Diane McGarvey at Scientific American, which is offering some content on the Livestand, states Yahoo will keep about 70 percent of revenue on ads sold to appear inline with Scientific American content.
Living Ad, along with Livestand, is one of many initiatives to attempting to make Yahoo a relevant player in mobile advertising.  Mobile advertising is projected to net around $1 billion this year in the U.S. and up to $1.2 billion in 2012, according to eMarketer. Yahoo is positioning itself to receive as large a portion of this pie of revenue as possible.

The mobile ad space is already over-saturated.  Frankly, none of the ad formats and networks bring anything new to the table.  Nothing currently compells a consumer to do anything after viewing these ads compared with any other form of advertising medium.  We don't need another ad network.  We don't need another "method" to get an ad to a consumer.  What we need is a new type of ad, a new way to interact with a product, that might actually compel a consumer to buy.

Advertisers, and content networks, need to bring new ideas to the table.  The internet and mobile phone networks bring whole new possibilities to advertising via interactive ads.  An interactive ad would allow a consumer to configure products, explore them, walk around them, try a focused "demo" of it.  After they have played with it, or configured it to their hearts content, they could be connected with a vendor to purchase that product within a few clicks.  This gives the consumer a quick way to satisfy their emotional desire to buy the product.

However, most online ads don't do anything other than present a picture, an animation, a call to action phrase, and link to a normal website.  There's no point to showing a traditional ad online or on a smart phone if there's nothing new about it's experience.  None.

Yahoo's Living Ad is trying to do this.  However, most advertisers don't seem to know how to create an ad "experience" that really compels consumer interest.  We need to stop telling

If advertisting is going to survive, and make money, the "ad" as we know it needs to evolve along with the technology available to deliver it.  With the growing popularity of mobile devices that are connected to mobile data networks, there is a new opportunity to truly try something new.  Who is going to lead the way?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Where's The Beef?

I was born in 1980.  I remember lots of things from my childhood.  I remember GI Joe, the Transformers, Mask, the Challenger disaster, Christmas at my grandmother's, and a basic, loud phrase coming from an elderly woman on television: "Where's the beef?"

In 1984, a spot entitled "Fluffy Bun" appeared featuring actress Clara Peller, asking the question, "Where's the beef" upon receiving a massive hamburger bun containing a paltry piece of "beef."  Wendy's used this iconic phrase to poke fun and embarrass competitors such as McDonald's and Burger King, bringing to light the tiny, sliver patties being put into fast food burgers at the time.

Fast forward over twenty years.  The phrase has become part of our American culture, but the origins, and the meaning, have slowly faded away.  Over time, with Wendy's leading the charge, the major fast food restaurants have been offering more items with more natural ingredients.   Now they are upping the ante again, releasing a new line of value hamburgers that aims to one-up category leaders based on quantity and quality of the beef in the sandwich.  In order to do this, Wendy's resurrected "Where's the beef?"  It's a spot-on approach.

In order to bridge the gap between a generation of consumers from the 1980's and the 21st century, Wendy's used today's current retro fashion trends, placing "Modern Family" actor Reid Ewing in a 1980's styled "Where's the beef sandwich" walking down the sidewalks of urban settings.  Along the way, people familiar with "Where's the beef?" give him the proverbial "thumbs up".  The main character doesn't understand the recognition he receives, until he comes up to a sign at a local Wendy's.  Then it all makes sense.  Cut to juicy shot of large hamburger, product sold.

Frankly I think this is brilliant.  We could have seen Clara again.  We could have seen the big bun, small patty.  Instead, what we see is a brilliantly simple connection between two generations.  There's no hard sell, not silly gimmick, just a recognition of pop culture history, and a delicious looking hamburger.

The most powerful messages are sometimes the simplest ones.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Blogging Effectively

Sage Lewis at the SageRock Digital Marketing Blog wrote that people don't blog as much as they use other social media because, "I think it’s because they see blogging as a big thing." Translation: Blogging is hard.  Blogging is not "hard".  People don't blog, because they are unsure what to do with it.  They don't know how to use it effectively.

Like any use of media, blogging starts with a plan.  Planning helps you set goals, build discipline, and write with purpose.

Goals help you have a purpose.  Without goals, you're blog, or any other type of marketing, is ineffective.  Goals help you focus.  All of your posts should lead towards one common goal, one common claim or idea.  For example, what if you created the most comfortable seat cushion in the world?  What if your goal was to sell one million by the end of the year?  Then all of your posts should be focused on convincing someone of the virtues of properly padded buttocks...which can be achieved with your amazing seat cushion.  Your posts could feature customer stories, or the results of studies about padded versus un-padded seats.  Each post focuses on one reason that someone should buy your seat cushion, which helps you reach one million unit sales.

Regular blogging also helps you develop the discipline you need to reach your goals.  Without discipline, it's impossible to reach a long term goal. Jim Whittaker said, "You can never conquer the mountain.  You can only conquer yourself."  The mountain is the sales goal.  Climbing the mountain means defeating the army of doubt, laziness, and busyness.  Doubt tells you that you will never sell enough of your product, and that no one will read your blog.  Laziness prevents you from spending the time to plan what you are going to write, when you are going to write it, writing it, and editing it.  Busyness lets you make excuses, allowing life's events to constantly get in the way of your online marketing plan.  

Setting goals and practicing discipline with your blogging frees you up to write with a purpose.  If you're not writing with a purpose, your blog becomes a set of random, rambling posts. Start by creating a list of all of the things you want to say that relate to your main goal.  Next, create a short outline for each item on your list.  Spend time each week developing and writing about each item on your list.  Eventually it will become easy, and you will develop a weekly writing routine.  Another benefit to this weekly writing plan is that it will build up content on your blog over time.  That content can be indexed by search engines such as Google.  Eventually you will have a large mass of indexed, searchable content.  Google also grades your blog higher if you're posting relevant content more frequently.  A stale, rarely updated blog will almost never appear on Google search results.  If you're also participating in online forums and other online communities, make sure you are linking back to your blog in your signature.  This helps build a "web" of links going back to your blog, and over time it can improve your search rankings, since Google gives your site a higher ranking when others link to you.

Create a plan, set a goal, practice discipline, and write with a purpose.  You just might find that the skills you develop writing a blog will end up permeating other parts of your life as well.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Is the 30 second spot relevant?

No one watches commercials anymore, right?  In the age of the DVR, we zip right past them.  Commercials are old school, they are relics of ages past.  It's all about the web, social media and gorilla marketing via YouTube, right?

Is there any point to a 30 second commercial on broadcast television?  Absolutely!  Not only are they relevant, but they are the best way to build brand equity through brand awareness.

In order to build Brand Awareness, you need to get the attention of your audience.  No other human sense gets our attention better than visual stimuli.  The phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words" is still very true.  Commercial advertising used to be all about the "sell".  Get a spokesperson, list off your product's features, and tell everyone to buy it.  There was no better way to sell a car or a frozen dinner in the 1960's and 70's than to list off your features and tell a viewer to go and buy it.  It doesn't work the same today.

Today you have to get someone's attention.  You have to pique their interest.  You have to create buzz.  You have to make the emotional sell.  Saying your car is "Imported from Detroit", or "You're In Good Hands With Allstate" speaks louder than telling everyone your insurance has lower monthly premiums.  Connecting with an older audience, while featuring someone from a new generation in a simple t-shirt does wonders when you want to get everyone to ask, "Where's the Beef?".  One commercial, one visual, can spark a flood of conversation that spreads from the office water cooler to the status updates of Facebook. 

Today television presents a great ROI, not just because you can reach millions of eyes at one time, but also because you can use it to drive people to more direct brand interaction and messaging.  The venerable commercial used to be a one-way experience.  The viewer watched it, and you hoped that the message would soak in.  You hoped they would go to a store and interact with your product.  Today a viewer can have instant interaction with your brand via the internet and mobile devices.

Today a commercial that doesn't just create interest, but moves someone to interact with you is essential to a successful campaign.  Want to find out more?  Go to our website.  Want to get great deals?  Visit Facebook or GROUPON to get 20% off your first purchase.  Visit YouTube for more clues and win your very own car.  You couldn't do this 20 or even 10 years ago.  Now you can.

No other medium allows you to reach as large an audience at once as television.  However, Jerry Shereshewsky, a New York City ad agency veteran and CEO of, asserts that if you want to get narrower than a general demographic, you're out of luck.  With today's audience diversification and deep pool of niche channels, this isn't the case. TV is now a target rich environment, and it allows you the opportunity to tailor your message for any specific demographic.  Even better, that demographic is a willing listener.  You don't want to watch Food Network or G4 because you have to, you watch it because you want to, because you're interested in that hobby or vocation.  Viewers of these niche channels are already willing to buy items to suit their interests, and if your product fits these interests, they are willing to listen to you.

Getting attention, creating interest, and encouraging brand interaction are all possible today through the focused use of the 30 second spot. What used to be a multi-million dollar shot in the dark is now a viable, successful option for building brand equity through brand awareness and brand engagement.  Consumers are willing to watch commercials...are you giving them a reason to watch yours?

Wendy's Brings Back "Where's the Beef" - Chicago Tribune
Which Ad Strategy Works For You? - Entrepreneur Online

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Facebook helps advertisers engage their customers

I'm taking a break from my review of basic marketing fundamentals to discuss something key from the recent Facebook F8 event.

On September 23rd, Michael Lazerow published an article on Adage commenting on Facebook's Ad product evolution.  In his post, Michael comments on three key items:
  • Facebook now helps you build better connections
  • Facebook can be used to let your customers tell your product's story
  • Facebook can help you unlock the value of people
I want to comment more on these ideas.

First, the whole "point" for a business using Facebook is to connect with their customer.  Seems like a no-brainer, right?  Maybe ... but what many businesses assume is that once someone "Likes" their business, they are instantly connected, and their "Likes" will pay attention to whatever they post, even if they post nothing.  "Like" DOES NOT equate to "connecting".  Mr. Lazerow is correct when he says, "It's about what you offer them and it's clear that the company's (Facebook) focus has shifted from growth to engagement" (reference to Facebook added).

Facebook isn't about announcing another product.  It isn't about beating your chest.  It's about posting CONTENT that is relevant to your customer.  It's about GIVING them something that matters. If you sell cameras, post tutorials about photography techniques.  Give them tutorials focused on teaching them to use your product.  Post a 50% off coupon for Facebook members for camera accessories.  GIVE them something that is VALUABLE to them.  Remember when we were talking about Brand Equity in my last post?  Facebook is a great place to build brand awareness and brand equity.

Use your customers to build your brand equity.  Have them tell your product's story.  Have them show and tell others about how they have used your product.  Their voice (positive and negative) carries more clout and emotional credibility than yours ever will.  Continuing on the camera example, inviting users to post their photos from vacations with your camera allows them to share their emotional connection with your product.  Awarding prizes for the best photo taken with your camera helps to strengthen the customer's "bond" with your product and brand.  The "community" built, and the quality of photos submitted (hopefully) will build better brand equity than you could do yourself through traditional advertising via any medium.

Advertising doesn't always "reveal" the fact that your customers have value.  They don't just give you money.  They are a very real voice in the marketplace.  Make them a voice for you.  Facebook (and potentially Google+ in the future) allows you to connect and unlock their value in a way that we never had before social networking existed.  It's time for you to take advantage of it and truly engage with your customer to build your brand equity.

Credit: Adage

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Is Anyone Aware?

One of the items I mentioned last week was Brand Awareness.  What is Brand Awareness?  It is the measure of a consumer's knowledge of your very existence.  The "aggregate" level is the proportion of consumers that "know" your brand.  Why is this "level" even important?  It's important, because the creation of brand awareness is the PRIMARY goal of advertising, and it influences the behavior of the buyers of your product.  However, remember that all of your measurements of brand awareness are, at best, approximations.  They are not exact. The more measures used, the more complete your understanding of brand awareness will be.

Brand awareness is measured "simply" by showing a consumer the "brand and asking whether or not they knew of it beforehand.  Many textbooks have conceptualized brand awareness simply as the knowledge that the brand is a member of a particular product category, such as fast-food.  However, common practice says there is more than one recognition and recall measure, all of which test the brand name's association to a product category cue.

However, "knowledge" doesn't give us much data to do anything with.  So, we use three common metrics that can be measured:
  • Brand Recall - Either the brand name or both the brand name and category name are presented to survey participants.
  • Brand Recognition - The product category name is given to participants, and are then asked to recall as many brands as possible that are members of the category.
  • Top of Mind Awareness - Brand Recognition, but more specifically only the first brand recalled is recorded (called "spontaneous brand recall" by some).
These measurements can be used for creating an understanding of Brand Equity.  Brand Equity is the positive effect of the brand on the difference between the prices that the consumer is willing to pay compared to the perceived value of the benefit received by your product.  The more value, the more a consumer will pay for your product.  Brand Equity is built by brand awareness activities such as advertising, PR, and promotion.  Simply put, the more Brand Equity, the more you might be able to charge for your product.  Higher prices can lead to higher profits.  You're in the business to make money right?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Brand Assessment

Last week I discussed the details of Brand Architecture.  Before I talk about further evaluating a Brand Architecture, I wanted to explore the Brand Assessment.  The data gained from researching and evaluating your brand in an assessment is a key requirement before considering any future change in your Brand Architecture.  If you don't know anything about your brand in the marketplace, you cannot make any intelligent decisions about it's direction in the future.

There are two key parts to a Brand Assessment: the Brand Essence and the Brand Communication.  

When reviewing your Brand Essence it is important to determine:
  • Awareness: Are you known in the marketplace?
  • Favorability: How do people feel about you?
  • Function: What benefits do you provide your customers?
  • Key Driver: What prompts consumers to engage with you?
  • Support: What "backs up" your key function in the marketplace?
  • Differentiation: What distinguishes you in the marketplace from everyone else?
  • Personality: What compelling attributes define you?
  • Quality: What is the quality of your brand in the marketplace?
When reviewing your Brand Communication, you should review:
  • Messaging: What messages are the most compelling to your current and potential customers?
  • Name: How effective is your current name in the marketplace?
  • Logo: How effective is your current logo in the marketplace?
The amount of detailed, reliable data you can collect on each of these areas will help you determine the direction your brand should go in the future.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Brand Architecture

Last time I presented a short definition, and some questions for consideration, regarding performing a Brand Audit.  Now, we're going to start to look at different aspects of a brand audit.  First, we're going to review Brand Architecture.

Brand Architecture defines how subordinate brands relate to the parent brand, and to one another.   Structures range on a scale from:
  1. House of Brands
  2. Endorsed Brands
  3. Umbrella Brands
  4. The Branded House
Let's look at each one in a bit more detail.

House of Brands
All brands within a House of Brands have no apparent obvious link to the parent brand.  An example of this would be the family of P & G products.  Tide, Crest, Cascade, and Bounty are all subordinate brands to P & G.  However, they are marketed on their own merits, with their own separate marketing budgets and campaigns.  A House of Brands approach is useful in situations where the parent company has no real brand equity on it's own merit, but it's products, such as Tide, do.

Endorsed Brand
In this setup, the parent brand endorses distinct, branded offerings in a variety of segments and/or categories.  A couple of examples would include Courtyard by Marriott, or Polo by Ralph Lauren.  The intention is to add credibility by leveraging the brand equity of the parent brand.

Umbrella Brand
An umbrella brand (also known as Family Branding) shares its identity with the parent brand.  Examples would be Sony Playstation, Buick LeSabre, and Gillette Sensor.  There can be economies of scope associated in this situation, because multiple products can be efficiently promoted within a single campaign. It also helps facilitate new product introductions by providing a name that is familiar with the target consumer.  However Umbrella Branding can create a greater burden on the parent brand to maintain consistent quality throughout all product lines. If there are quality issues with one product in the family, it can impact the reputation of the others.

Branded House
All product lines in a Branded House share the parent brand name, and as such, each product offering is identified in much more generic ways.  Examples of this are the Red Cross, GE Capital and GE Appliance.  All product lines are truly subservient to the parent brand, and rely solely on the parent brand's equity.

When evaluating your brand architecture, there are many things to consider.  Merriam Associates published a fairly comprehensive list in 2009 that covers this well:
  • Audience Diversity
  • Brand Elasticity
  • Product and/or Service Offerings
  • Competitive Context
  • Brand Equities
  • Geographic Needs
  • Organizational Structures
  • Ownership
  • Sources of Growth
  • Purchase Criteria
  • Brand Performance
  • Brand Role
  • Channels
  • Company Specific Issues
I will cover each of these items in more detail in the future.  However for the purpose of this post, keep in mind that you will need to take many of these items into account when deciding your ultimate brand architecture.

Strategic Consideration list credit: Merriam Associates

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Brand Audit

Have you ever audited your brand?  Audit?  Isn't that for taxes?  Yes it is.  And it can be unpleasant.  However, audits often weed out the things that need to change in your finances.  Brand audits can show you what may need to change in your branding.

Any good branding audit should:

- Identify branding elements that are out of alignment
- Explain why those elements are out of alignment
- Suggest how to bring them into alignment

Two key elements to proper alignments are clearly defined brand architectures, and properly integrated brand identities

In the next few weeks, we will look at brand architecture and brand identities.  Until my next post, sit back, and consider the following questions:

1) Is my brand clearly defined?
2) Is my brand clearly understood in the marketplace?
3) Is my brand achieving the goals it it supposed to be?
4) Does my perception of my brand image match my customer's perception of my brand?
5) Am I willing to take a hard look at what may need to change? 

Going through a brand audit helps you understand the answers to questions 1-4.  Question 5 is simply there to humble yourself to begin this process.

Saturday, August 27, 2011



Aren't these terms just labels meant to edify the decision a CMO or Director of Marketing has made where to make their media buys or marketing plans?  One goes the "proven" path, another goes down the "modern" road.

Last time I checked, we don't hire Chief Traditional Marketing Officers or Director of Non-Traditional Marketing-er's.... (pardon my poor grammar and spelling here).  At least we shouldn't.

A CMO or Director of Marketing is in charge of steering a company's MARKETING efforts.  The goal of this marketing is to find your customer, communicate your message, and convince them to give you their money.  Sometimes the most effective messaging medium is a 30 second spot on broadcast television networks.  Sometimes it's a 3 minute video on YouTube that is meant to go viral and attract consumers to a Facebook campaign.  Regardless of the medium, it's all marketing.  And it's only worth doing if it is reaching your customers and convincing them to buy.

Stop labeling your marketing ... and just market.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Are you doing anything NEW??

Jonathan Salem Baskin published an article on AdAge today that raises a fundamental "Selling 101 question": What are you doing that is NEW?

It's easy to get stuck in a rut.  Everyone creates commercials.  Banner ads...been there done that.  Facebook page?  That so...last month.  Twitter bomb?  Does anyone care anymore? get the idea.

Mr. Baskin takes a look at the retail segment during the Back To School season.  There are less consumers actually entering stores this year compared to last year.  Traditional advertising (even "creative" ads) aren't motivating customers, as evidenced by Gap's recent 2nd quarter results.  Mr. Baskin asserts that the retail segment isn't doing anything NEW to get the attention of cost conscience, value oriented, highly savvy consumers.

So let's ask the question: Are you doing anything NEW to get the attention of your existing or potential customers?  Anyone can offer a coupon...what are you doing that is unique with coupons?  Tried cause-marketing?  Frequent buyer campaigns?  Here's a better question: what aren't your competitors doing? 

Take a pen and pad out tonight.  Open up your word processor.  Pull out your iPad.  Tonight is the night.  Spend a half hour and think of some new ways to get your customer's attention.  Then do them.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Message Overload

John Jantsch, founder of Duct Tape Marketing, recently posted on American Express's OPEN Forum an article on marketing confusion.  He asserts that it's impossible to sell to anyone if you over-complicate your message.  It's a back-to-basics commentary on much of today's marketing, and I have to agree.

Keep It Simple Stupid (or K.I.S.S.) comes to my mind here.  John is completely right.  It is always best to have a single, focused message.  Don't pile on the features and adjectives.  Focus your message into one single, strong, best-case selling effort.  You only get one real shot to implant a positive perception into the mind of the consumer.  It's better to be simple and focused, than over-informative, confusing, and ultimately ... pushy.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dropping Consumer Confidence Equals More Marketing

Today's news that the Index of Consumer Sentiment dropped to it's third worst level since measuring began in 1952 led many to predictions of doom and gloom.  Granted, an uncertain economy, high unemployment, and an emotionally influenced stock market is bound to make any consumer timid to let go of any of their hard earned dollars.  However, it's during times like these that companies should be spending an greater amount of their dollars on focused marketing.
Last week I commented on frequency.  Specifically that focused, consistent, disciplined marketing leads to effective frequency.  Frequency is even more important when consumers are spending less.  Why?  Even if a consumer isn't spending their dollars now, you want to be the one they give their dollars to when they do buy.  

Increase your marketing now.  Get the message out now.  Convince the consumer that your product and brand is the one they need when they do choose to spend their dollars.  Make sure you have the leading position in their brains now.  If you do, you will reap the rewards when consumers are more willing to spend money later, and you will be the one making announcements of increased sales and profits before anyone else.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"Post Frequenly" ... and OFTEN on Facebook

Recently, Hussein Fazal posted a piece on AdAge, presenting six, logical, fundamental steps to effective marketing through Facebook.  His third point, "Post Frequently", caught my attention.  The reason is a basic practice of effective advertising: frequency.

Let's review the basic concept behind frequency: effective frequency (note the word effective) is the number of times a person must be exposed to a message before a response (such as buying) is made and before exposure to the marketing has become wasteful economically.  There have been numerous studies on this.  Many of them have a different conclusion.  However, most seem to agree that 5-7 impressions is a bare minimum. (I'm sure some of you disagree, but work with me here)

For any medium to be used effectively, frequency must be practiced.  However, the problem is many businesses still don't give proper weight to online media in general.  They don't believe (until someone presents them with proper statistics and decent research) that marketing online CAN give you a good ROI.  The other problem is many individuals (even ad agencies and skilled consultants) tend to jump into blogging and social media with gusto, but never keep up the discipline (frequency) necessary to see an effective blogging or social media effort through.  

Here's my point:  it's easy for someone to post once a week, and then 3 times the next, and then 2 times the next...but to keep posting every week, with purpose, with a plan, takes effort.  Don't just post often, plan often.  Put together a long term plan that meets your specific goals.  This plan should cover at least a few months, if not an entire calendar year (or two if you know what your product development cycle will be).  It takes time to form a relationship with your customers, no matter what medium you are using to market to them.  Use that time to give them reasons to come back to you, buy from you, and tell others about you.  Change your content often.  Change your marketplace ads often.  Change your incentives often.

In other what you are going to do, often.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Tag Heuer Drops Tiger Woods

Today, Tag Heuer announced the end of it's relationship with Tiger Woods.  According to Bloomberg News, the watch maker had limited it's use of Tiger Woods in it's advertising since the now infamous November 2009 car accident that led to a series of life changes for the golfer.  Seeing this announcement today reminds me that people are brands too, and they need to be nurtured and protected like any other brand.

Remember, branding is a holistic approach to a company’s position, image, and activities, based on its values. What many of today's prominent figures seem to forget, is that the same holds true for the individual as well.  You are a brand.  No really, you are.  Your brand affects everything about you.  For example, consider:
  • How people interact with you
  • Potential job opportunities
  • Friendships and potential life-long mates
  • Business transactions
Ask yourself:
  • How do people perceive you? 
  • What image do you project?
  • What are your values?  Do people associate you with those values?
  • Do your daily activities properly represent the image you want to project?
Take one of your closest friends out to lunch or dinner, and talk to them about these questions.  Be willing to listen to their criticism.  Take their words to heart.  Take the brand of "you" seriously.  It will affect your future.

Source: Bloomberg News