Showing posts from September, 2007

Giuliani’s brand problem

Presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani has a brand problem: he is perceived as being mean. “Rudy Giuliani’s temperament is well known in New York. He’s quick to anger, an egomaniac, very stubborn, throws tantrums and is generally, well, mean. Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter: ‘His ridiculously thin skin and mile-wide mean streak were not allegations made by whiners and political opponents. They were traits widely known to his supporters.’” ( now, what’s saving him is the collective memory of Giuliani on 9/11: ashen through the streets of New York City, uttering brave and reassuring words.But there is a darker underside to the candidate: “Many probably now regret their decision (to elect Giuliani) after seeing Giuliani's mean-spirited assaults on the poor and on freedoms guaranteed by the bill of rights during his term in office.” (

Brand metrics -– when to bother and why

I have been thinking about brand metrics for awhile now, as numbers help to demonstrate the value of a brand to the organization, but in my experience are seldom actually used. A couple of questions arise around the concept of brand metrics:
What is most important to measure?Do people use brand metrics?What happens if you don’t measure?Are the advanced brand measurement techniques you read about really worthwhile or just a lot of gobbledygook designed to make someone look smart?Let’s take these one at a time. 1. What is most important to measure? According to Prophet Brand Strategy, it is only important to measure things that help you make strategic business decisions. ( So for example, a certain retailer wanted to upgrade their image from low-end to high-end so that they could sell more high-margin goods. Therefore, they instituted a measure called “basket composition,” basically measuring wh…

Social Marketing is a Scam

The book Social Marketing: Why Should the Devil Have All The Best Tunes? by Gerard Hastings is all about the notion that traditional marketing concepts can and should be applied to promoting socially desirable behavior. This is called “social marketing.” The book has a laundry list of case studies on everything from cancer prevention to safe driving to junk food advertising, racism, suicide, obesity, diabetes and more.

My question is, why do we need the term “social marketing” at all? Marketing is marketing, whether you’re selling soap or reduced fat consumption.

The author writes that “social marketing is not just valuable—it is a matter of life and death.” (p. 4) Well, social marketing may be powerful. But in the end it’s just the same thing as marketing itself. This word “social” makes it sound like something different, but it’s not.

If you ask me, I think someone developed the term “social marketing” as just another way to sell books. But what’s really offensive about it is that the …

Branding -- always a team effort

Branding should never be a solo exercise, for the following reasons: It requires the commitment of all parties in order to work—not only the parties involved in the branding process, but also those involved in delivering the brand—the frontline employee.It requires a deep understanding of the competitive position of the organization—and obtaining that knowledge should ideally result from intensive research and discussion with both internal and external stakeholders.It is extraordinarily rare that one person has the breadth of vision and depth of operational knowledge required to truly instill the brand.At the same time, someone has to champion the brand and drive it throughout the organization. That is why the best operational structure for a brand is the chief branding officer (solo artist) + the brand council (team). The chief branding officer is:“responsible for creating and strengthing brand names, and drawing real and measurable value out of them. This often involves not just pro…

Parent brand and baby brand, part 2 -- finding the right balance

Recently I posited ( that “every organization is at war with its parent brand, if there is one. This is because, unless it is extraordinarily strategic-minded, the parent tends to have a sort of identity conflict and to want to take credit for the achievements of the child brand, or at the very least is conflicted about setting the child brand free to mark its achievements on its own.” The implication is that it is always legitimate for the child brand to establish its own identity. However, this is not always the case. There is at least one instance when a baby brand should stay close to the fold of a parent brand: When the unity of the parent brand is at stake. That is, if the baby brand’s having its own identity will threaten the parent brand’s unity, there is a problem. One solution to this dilemma is to fold the baby brand back into the parent brand (renaming it, at least partially). The…

Branding is war – confront the enemy (hint: it's not always who you think)

Because the pace of branding is slow compared to that of marketing, you might think that branding is a leisurely activity. Nothing can be further from the truth. Branding is an urgent, strategic activity driven by the fact that every organization faces three enemies:
ItselfIts parent organization, if there is oneIts competitors Let me explain. First, every organization is at war with itself. Ask two people and you will get at least three different opinions about what the identity of the company is or should be relative to competitors, what the tagline is, what the name is, and what the strategy should be (well, sometimes; not everybody cares about this.) This is particularly true if the organization is divided into separate lines of business, as most companies are: then you can expect fairly consistent disagreement along party lines. So when you brand, you take sides in a battle that has a fairly lengthy history and can be expected to go on for a while.
Second, every organization is at …

Branding is not a luxury—it’s a necessity

I continue to be amazed at the sentiment that branding is a kind of luxury to be undertaken when there is time. There is no time. Don’t people understand that in order for marketing to have credibility—forget credibility, to be listened to at all—it has to be backed up by a brand?There is this big fat rush to get to market…but without the product or service being properly branded, it’s a waste of time. Nobody is listening.Ideally you would brand first, then market whatever it is you’re selling. In the real world, you often have to market without branding. Consider yourself lucky if you get to brand and market at the same time.What is the difference between marketing and branding? See my post at Basically branding is the slow, strategic process of establishing an identity for your product or service whereas marketing is spreading the idea rapidly about what you have to sell. Also see http://fin…

Moving the brand forward initially – also known as "thriving on chaos"

The key to branding the organization is to be able to do a number of things simultaneously. It’s not going to work in a, b, c order. You can expect a bit of chaos. For one thing, you will work on the brand SIMULTANEOUSLY with other marketing and awareness campaigns. The whole world is not going to stop and wait for you to come up with a name and a tagline. Things are dynamic. Deal with it.For another thing, you have to start lining up your “ducks in a row.” Meaning, you have to get the strategy together. Do you have a brand touchpoint analysis done yet? In other words, do you know all the places where employees, customers and other stakeholders encounter the brand? Time to write it down and prioritize: which are the most important encounters, the ones that have to be controlled most seriously? You also need to do a situation analysis: what is the history of the brand, what is the rationale for branding today, what are all the risks and challenges associated with branding and how are y…

Two missions, one tagline

Ideally companies are driven by a single mission, to be expressed in a single tagline. But life is not always ideal and a situation may come about where you have multiple missions, each one begging to be expressed. What do you do? Essentially there are four choices. You can:Choose one of the missions and elevate it to “most important status,” expressing only that in your taglineChoose two or even three of the missions and express them all in the taglineGo higher-level than all of the missions and express a visionNone of the above—just say something memorableStrategy #3 seems to be the most popular if you look at the “top 10” taglines described at (quoted below; my interpretation after the dashes)“1. Got milk? (1993) California Milk Processor Board – very direct and product oriented; no vision here2. Don’t leave home without it. (1975) American Express – vision-oriented; the idea of being “indispensable” 3. Just do it. (1988) Nike – vision-…

Some radical brand advice for Hillary Clinton

Ten years ago, in my “sociology phase,” I wrote a book, Women and Soap Opera: A Cultural Feminist Perspective (Greenwood Press, 1997), which argued that soap operas are empowering for women because they allow women to express high emotionality, something that is taboo in a masculine-oriented society. (Implicit in the argument was the notion that society is still predominantly tilted in favor of men.) This is the perspective of cultural feminism: that women can become empowered by enjoying traditionally female ways of expressing themselves, and by taking on traditionally feminine roles and responsibilities. In my view, Hillary Clinton is running for president of the United States on precisely the opposite assumption: that women can become empowered by erasing the difference between themselves and men, by participating fully in masculine society, and by rejecting any kind of role definition that is masculine or feminine. In fact, if I had to think of a “brand symbol” for Hillary, it wou…

Brand touchpoint analysis--how to get it done

Everybody knows that a brand is only as good as its communications with internal and external stakeholders. If you only communicate the brand in some places, but not in others, you are creating an inconsistent image and the brand message will not take hold. The question is, how do you get the organization to look at all the ways it communicates (both to employees and the outside world) and come up with a true inventory?

I suggest that this is where the brand council comes in. Headed up by subject matter experts from every line of business and back-office function, the council should meet and together brainstorm all the typical places where the brand is showcased. It is likely that the council will find out that there are numerous touchpoints that need to be controlled, starting with the marketing/PR departments, continuing with customer service, and ending with...who knows?

If you haven't conducted a brand inventory yet, now is a good time to start.

Citi’s “Let’s get it done”—a pale imitation of the Royal Bank of Scotland’s “Make it happen” campaign*

I know I’m coming late to the party, but the new (May 2007) Citi brand campaign stinks; to me, “Let’s get it done” is a shameless copy of the Royal Bank of Scotland’s “Make it Happen” brand campaign (at the very least in message, if not in execution). Why did Citi drop the “Live richly” theme, developed by Fallon, which was doing so well? (Even if it was a bit controversial -- or because of the controversy -- see reports that “Starting in January, Citi brought research from its rebranding effort to meetings with representatives from Fallon and Publicis, with the goal of creating a campaign that would be suitable for retail and credit card customers, major advertisers, and investment banking clients.” ( does that mean? What research? The bank wasn’t happy with the results that its “Live richly” campaign was driving? It couldn't stand being high-level, high-conce…

Branding: Balancing the right and left brain

Yesterday I talked about creativity and branding, referencing the book Juicing the Orange (2006), by Fallon Worldwide cofounders Pat Fallon and Fred Senn. I made the point that you need to be creative before you brand, then repetitious afterward. Today I want to talk about creativity and branding again, but from a different angle: How you need to balance the creative and analytical sides of the brain in order to arrive at a truly good brand campaign.

There are numerous examples of research informing creativity in Juicing the Orange. Here are a few:Citi: Fallon held focus groups (which yielded little) on the role of banks in consumers’ lives…then figured out that the focus groups should focus on the role of money in people’s lives. From there the agency discovered a group they call “balance seekers,” people who see money as “a means, and little more”. The research they conducted led to a whole campaign about the importance of living life without chasing the almighty dollar. The “live ri…

How branding both stifles creativity and sets it free

There are some people who think that branding has a dampening effect on creative self-expression. They are right! However, that is a good thing. Having too much freedom of expression is bad for the brand, because you end up expressing too many visuals and messages for any one of them to catch hold with the marketplace.

Imagine how boring it is to say the same thing 7 times. Now imagine saying the same thing 70 times, 70,000, or even 70 million. Naturally it stifles your creativity…but the more you say the same thing the more people will remember it. I once heard that in corporate communication, you have to repeat a message something like 7 times before it sticks in people’s heads. (See for example, “Studies show that the average consumer needs to hear or see your message about seven times before he or she will buy from you.”)

On the other hand, the act of branding itself can be very creative. There is a 2006 book called Juicing the Orange, by Pat Fa…

Greedy fashion designers destroy their own brands

The Washington Post (September 10) has a front-page article in the Style section, “Proving Their Worth,” about designers—like Badgley Mischka and Vera Wang—who undercut their own brands by selling lower-priced lines of their own clothing. “The signature collections form these designers sell for 10 to 30 times as much as what they delivered to the Gap,” writes the Post about Rodarte designers Thakoon Panichgul, Doo-Ri Chung and Laure and Kate Mulleavy, “So why spend the extra money?”

Why, indeed. “There have always been those who cast a skeptical eye on the expensive and esoteric merchandise peddled on designer runways, but now the designers themselves are forcing the question,” notes the paper.

Designers who sell lower-priced versions of their own lines aren’t smart. They’re stupid and short-term greedy. Branding, in fashion, is about creating the illusion of premier status, and part of the illusion involves the extraction of enormous amounts of money from consumers’ wallets. When desig…

Why are people still confused about “what is a brand?”

Branding has been around for over two centuries (, yet when I type "what is a brand" into Google I get these comments like people still are confused by what a brand is. Colin Bates: "What is a brand? Too often even marketing professionals don't have an answer, and too many have their 'own' answer. Which makes life very confusing!" ( MacInnis: "If you were to look at what people have written about branding, chances are you'd be confused about many things, not the least of which is the term "brand." What is a brand, anyway? What does it mean? How is it different from "brand image" or other terms?"( think I understand what is so confusing about branding. It's that there are "simple brands," like trademarked names for packaged goods, a…

Brand Theory vs. Brand Practice

There are two ways to go about building a brand: I call them brand theory vs. brand practice.TheorySometimes you might read brand books and articles and get grand ideas about how you are going to build your brand. You might proceed as I have advocated in this article: ("It starts with brand assessment, that is, finding out how your key stakeholders see you versus how you see yourself… Next comes brand strategy. Based on research inside and outside the agency, you articulate the vision, core values, common culture, positioning and other key attributes… Third are brand communication guidelines: How do you want your graphics, Web site, press materials, recruitment documents and other materials to look? The goal is to arrive at a consistent identity that allows for some variation to keep things interesting. You want to reinforce the vision, mission, values and culture in all you say and do. Fourth is a brand launch. You'll ne…

Gain vs. Kentucky Fried Chicken: Smart Scents vs. Nonsense

The good: The Wall Street Journal (September 4; for subscribers only) reports that Gain has risen to #2 in the laundry detergent market by positioning its brand as "a heavily fragrant detergent." Wisely, Procter & Gamble didn't go after the mass market (for whom strong-smelling laundry detergent isn't necessarily appealing) but rather targeted "the scent-loving consumer segment." As the Journal reports, it was an out of the ordinary move for P&G to focus on a niche rather than the mass market, but they've succeeded. And P&G is knocking the socks off Unilever (literally); Unilever is selling its U.S. laundry business. Already, Colgate-Palmolive has abandoned that market due to P&G's strength. So score 1 for P&G!

The bad: Consumerist ( aptly reports…

Oprah's brand -- will it make a difference for Obama?

The Washington Post reports ( that Oprah Winfrey, who has endorsed Barack Obama for president, "is in discussions with his advisers about playing a broader role in the campaign -- possibly as a surrogate on the stump or an outspoken advocate -- or simply bringing her branding magic to benefit his White House bid." Oprah this weekend will host a presidential fundraiser for Obama.

The question is, will Oprah's brand create a halo effect for Obama? As the Post notes, she has a huge constituency: 8.4 million viewers daily of her TV show, 2.3 million unique viewers of her Web site each month, 2 million magazine readers each month, etc.

Initially the Post is skeptical, noting that "historically, there's little evidence that celebrity endorsements have done much to draw voters to political candidates." However, the political analysts interviewed for the article felt that Oprah's…

Blockbuster is going to mop the floor with Netflix

It is war between Netflix and Blockbuster. As the September 4 New York Times reports (, in an attempt to stanch the flow of customers who are leaving the service, Netflix has implemented an all-telephone customer service system, with no email option, because of the belief that customers prefer human contact to impersonal computer-based interaction. It's an iffy bet. According to the Times, Netflix has started losing market share to Blockbuster ever since the latter introduced its Total Access program, which lets people return online rentals to stores and get an in-store movie in exchange. Netflix added 480,000 new subscribers in the first quarter of 2007 vs. 780,000 for Blockbuster. By the second quarter, Netflix lost 55,000 customers while Blockbuster added 525,000. How long do you think Netflix is going to retain its approximately 3 million customer lead over Blockbuster in the online DVD-order…

Teen fashion brands - all the same?

Aeropostale, American Eagle, it just me or do they all sound and look the same? (I know, there are more, but still -- teenage styles all seem very similar, at least in the U.S. The only exception I can think of is Hot Topic.) Brands are supposed to provide choice to the consumer, but it seems like teenagers have a very limited set of choices to work from. An observation.

A dying woman's obsession with eBay

"On September 17, 2003, in a chaotic intensive-care ward, just before being medically induced into a coma, my mother summoned all of her energy and whatever oxygen she could to make one request: 'Take care of my eBay.'''

So begins a story in the Wall Street Journal (Sept. 1-2, 2007) about a dying woman's request -- that her daughters safeguard her reputation on eBay by paying the bills for auctions "she might win while lying unconscious," so that she would not get "negative feedback from sellers that would tarnish her superstar status."

This somewhat bizarre story highlights a number of things about branding.
First, though it may be hard to believe, a dying woman's thoughts were consumed by her own brand--how others on the eBay community might perceive her. This is how ingrained branding is in some (many?) people's lives.Second, top brands tend to connect people into communities. In particular, eBay has constructed a virtual community …

Advice for Starbucks - after the leaked memo

I recently read the leaked Howard Schultz memo (, in which the chairman of Starbucks states:

"Over the past ten years, in order to achieve the growth, development, and scale necessary to go from less than 1,000 stores to 13,000 stores and beyond, we have had to make a series of decisions that, in retrospect, have lead to the watering down of the Starbucks experience, and, what some might call the commoditization of our brand."

The memo goes on to talk about such things as the move toward automatic espresso machines, which, although they "solved a major problem in terms of speed of service and efficiency," also took away "much of the romance and theatre" involved in watching the barista create the coffee drink by hand. It also talks about the decision to move to flavor-locked packaging, which removed the smell of coffee from the stores -- "perhaps the most powerful non-verbal signal we …