Friday, August 31, 2007
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Two years after Katrina, the FEMA brand is still tainted (as is the brand of the White House and the entire federal government) by the relief efforts that took place after the hurricane. The question is, why? If you look at the White House factsheet (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/08/20070829-1.html) on Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, you see that the government has spent many billions of dollars to assist hurricane victims and strengthen infrastructure against floods, and President Bush and his wife personally visited the area, reinforcing their commitment to help in the recovery.
Yet as recently as yesterday (8/29), on the Oprah Winfrey show, CNN's Anderson Cooper talked about the inadequacy of government efforts to help people in the area, and a story was told of a family suffering continual illness as a result of living in a FEMA trailer.
Clearly there is a disconnect between the efforts being made by the federal government and the experiences and perceptions of the affected citizens of the area. I am not an expert on the situation in New Orleans, but Cooper gave a clue as to what one of the key problems might be: communication by the government to affected individuals. People don't understand where to go for help, said Cooper; the government has left people to figure it out on their own. I didn't watch the whole show (probably like many people, I got just a few bits and pieces), but my impression is that a better communication plan by the government, and FEMA in particular, might help enormously in routing people to the services they need, and in turn improve impressions of the public regarding what the government is doing to help.
This is a good example of how simply throwing money at a problem does not necessarily help. Because separately from relief funding, what is called for is a coordinated brand campaign demonstrating what has been done, what the remaining needs are, and what the plan is for closing the gap. (Yes, that will cost money too.) It's not just a communication plan, but a brand communication plan, because it affects the entire image of the White House, the federal government, and FEMA. Not only that, but there should be some sort of listening mechanism, if there isn't one already, instituted by the government to pay heed to what affected citizens have to say about their experiences obtaining relief. At a minimum, every call and email should be acknowledged; optimally, incoming cases would be managed from beginning to end to make sure that every last citizen is being taken care of.
Brand is a promise made and delivered. More can be done to communicate to citizens how the promises associated with Katrina are being handled effectively—and what is being done to improve things where they're not.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Does this kind of payment system make branding sense? On the one hand, notes the article, "the marketing buzz such a scheme generates can help a business stand out from the pack." On the other, I think, having a no-price payment system, with a unique selling proposition that involves feeding the poor, makes the whole thing seem like a soup kitchen. That is not an appealing image.
The success of this kind of business depends on finding the right kind of customer, as the article notes, "one who understands the concept and, therefore, contributes appropriately." Apparently there are those kind of customers out there in states like Washington, Utah, and Colorado. But I'm not at all sure that the model extends to urban metropolitan centers like New York, which is where One World Cafe founder Denise Cerreta plans to open a pay-what-you-want cafe. You never know--but it seems unlikely to me that the model will gain mainstream traction.
The answer is, it depends. Certainly it fills a need for both Schrager and Marriott. As the article notes, the partnership will instantly put Schrager "in his rightful place as a major player in the lifestyle market segment and in the longer term will position him to build a mass customer base for his innovations, a la Apple, Nike, and Sony." As for Marriott, though it "has $12 billion in annual sales worldwide...the company is notably absent in the boutique segment."
But does the partnership fill a need for the hotel-going customer? This, I think, depends on how well the plan is executed. As the article notes, Schrager is "obsessive about details" that can seem quirky, like leaving the lights dim or putting "stylish" notepads in each room, while Marriott is more "mainstream" and cost-conscious--the lights will likely be brighter for safety reasons and the notepads may be too expensive.
How will they collaborate? Which brand will have the larger share of voice, if you will? And which customer will they serve--the potential Marriott customer looking for a boutique-like experience or the boutique customer looking for a more Marriott-like experience? My guess is that it's the former--which means that Marriott will need to let Schrager's voice be heard loudly and clearly in order to have an impact.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Here are some other similarities - drawing from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion) as the source; my thoughts in bullets.
"Religion is a set of common beliefs and practices generally held by a group of people....Religion also encompasses ancestral or cultural traditions, writings, history, and mythology, as well as personal faith and mystic experience."
- Strong brands prescribe a set of values and practices (use of the product or service)
- Strong brands have traditions and myths associated with them
"In the frame of...European religious thought, religions present a common quality, the "hallmark of patriarchal religious thought": the division of the world in two comprehensive domains, one sacred, the other profane."
- Strong brands divide the world up into the sacred (those who use the brand) and the profane (those who don't)
"Religion is also often described as a 'way of life.'"
- The brands that people are loyal to often describe their way of life
"'Religion' is sometimes used interchangeably with 'faith' or 'belief system,' but is more socially defined than that of personal convictions."
- Brands are used by individuals but their meaning is defined socially.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Some people believe that it is the opposite - the consumers assign the brand its meaning first and then the brand manager facilitates that co-creation between the customer and the brand. ("Classic marketing.") That may indeed happen.
But 9 times out of 10, when you are dealing with a strong brand, you are dealing with a brand where the owner had a vision for what it would mean and then imparted that vision to the outside world. Target, Starbucks, Nike, Microsoft, Oprah - all of these and more are examples of "classic branding."
It is true that "classic marketing" appears to be on the rise with Internet brands like YouTube and Google -- where the customer's input shapes the presentation of the brand nearly completely.
However, brands that endure impart an idea to the public and then keep the public engaged with the brand over time - it is not easy to create a substitute for them. That is what branding is all about - establishing a strong, distinctive meaning that customers can then work into their lives as an enduring symbol of something that matters to them.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
The implication, at the extreme, is that marketers should stop trying to tell consumers what the brand is about and instead offer up a blank canvas that consumers can paint their own meanings on. But frankly, this approach just does not work for me. The marketplace is extremely crowded these days, and it is simply stupid to tell people that they should leave their products undefined and let the marketplace do that work. No, marketers have a responsibility to establish a meaning for the brand in advance of presenting it to the consumer. The consumer may appropriate the brand in different ways, may reshape and refine and rework its ultimate meaning, but the essence of the brand is, or should always be, in the hands of the marketer.
This is not to say that there can't be a happy accident, where the marketer has defined the brand one way and the market soars it to popularity along another track entirely. As Wipperfurth demonstrates in Brand Hijack, that can happen. But most of the time, it is the marketers' responsibility to study the marketplace, understand the target audience, and go forward with a brand proposition that speaks to them. Otherwise how can the brand even go to market?
Friday, August 24, 2007
Two examples from Creating Customer Evangelists by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba:
1. Build-A-Bear Workshop--Maxine Clark, founder: "Having a heart is more than a company strategy, it's a way of doing business. It extends to how people are treated in every aspect of the business. It is what excellent companies know is the core to success: treating vendors like partners, treating customers like guests, treating employees like friends and family." (p. 163)
2. Southwest Airlines--Colleen Barrett, president: "The Golden Rule is pretty important here." (p. 178) Barrett "despises empty walls, so nearly every square foot of company walls features framed pictures of employees in action at work, pictures of their kids and families, pictures in their high school cheerleading uniforms. Like a proud mama, the company even frames its employees' artwork and hangs it on the wall....Barrett chairs a committee of employees from every area of the company. Known as the Culture Committeee, its purpose is to build on the company's effervescent personality throughout the employee ranks. The results allow Southwest to retain a familial atmosphere amidst rapid growth."
Thursday, August 23, 2007
2. Know your subject matter: Say what you want about her, but Hillary knows her stuff. When you are promoting your brand, be a subject matter expert. Speak knowledgeably about whatever it is you're selling. Image alone is not enough.
3. Look the part: Again, say what you want about her, but Hillary looks like a president. Her hairstyle, her clothing, her demeanor, all bespeak presidentiality. When you aspire to promote a brand, it is critical that your look match the brand image.
4. Play to the center: Although I agree with the premise of Purple Cow by Seth Godin, that only remarkable products and services stand a chance of survival, I also see the merits of toning down one's distinctiveness to be acceptable to a mass market. Hillary has intelligently moderated her image so that she appears to be centrist rather than aggressively left-leaning. And I believe that has won her additional support.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
One of the points the article made was that some people get neurotic about checking things off their list. For example, if they've done everything on their list, they will add a couple of things just so they can feel like there is something left to accomplish.
So checklists can be useful, but they can also be used in neurotic ways.
This brings me to the use of checklists in professional communications.
On the one hand, these checklists can be a powerful tool for getting things done, especially in organizations that are relatively undisciplined about project management, or that experience frequent misunderstandings about timelines and deadlines. Having a list that everyone can refer to reduces conflict in two ways. First, it keeps people focused on an external, objective task, rather than on each other (what she said or he said, who is supposed to do what, why they will or won't do what they're supposed to do, etc.). Second, it reduces misunderstandings by clearly documenting roles, responsibilities, and timelines.
On the other hand, checklists can actually lead to the organization avoiding communication. Because the communication team can easily set up a checklist that makes it look like communication has happened, when in fact nothing of any significance has taken place. (Remember, the message must be received and understood, if not acted upon, in order to be worthy of the term "communication.")
Here is an example of what I'm talking about:
Checklist for Project X Communication Initiative
__Send e-mail to all managers today
__Hold all-employee webcast next week
__Follow up with telephone recording of webcast a day later
__Post summary to intranet in two weeks
__Place article in employee newsletter next month
Let's say you accomplish all of these tasks, but people still don't know what is going on. How is that possible, you say? Well, in this fictitious example:
- Most of the managers deleted the email without reading it.
- Half the employees didn't watch the webcast, and the other half didn't understand what the CEO was trying to say.
- Nobody ever goes to the intranet except when they are forced to visit a specific link for benefits information or something like that.
- Most people read the humorous parts of the employee newsletter and disregard the rest.
So you need more than just a checklist to make the communication happen.
What can you do?
I'd say, keep the checklist, but add four tasks to it:
- Concept testing: Run the communication past a few people before you send it to everyone.
- Refinement: Based on early feedback, edit the content of the message, or the style in which it is delivered.
- Measurement: Find out 1) how many people received the message 2) how they understood the message and 3) whether they intend to act on it in the way you want.
- Feedback sharing: Make the results of your measurement public. This demonstrates your confidence, builds your credibility, and motivates you to improve your performance.
Are you scared by the idea of really measuring the effectiveness of your communication, let alone making the results public? Of course you are! Traditional business writing (and speaking) is absolutely boring, not to mention difficult to understand. This is no secret to anyone, but the situation continues because communication senders stubbornly insist on ignoring how their messages are received.
As long as communicators fail to measure how their words are received, and pretend that checklists are a good-enough substitute, the people on the receiving end of their words will continue to ignore, misinterpret, and poke fun at the mix of buzzwords, clichés, and jargon that pass for the transmission of actual meaning from one human being to another.
Monday, August 20, 2007
- The parks were crowded beyond belief and we waited a minimum of an hour to an hour and a half for every ride. In general, as well, the rides were very short given the wait time to get on them. This is a far cry from the imaginary world of the brochure and Disney video that ran in the hotel, which prepares you for an action-packed day. If we managed a few rides in a day, that was a victory.
- Customer service staff (greeters) were in short supply and they did not greet us with any kind of Disney "signature" hello. Though helpful when we could find them, there was nothing that set them apart especially as Disney employees. They also didn't seem to have a standard Disney uniform, which was surprising.
- Animal Kingdom seemed dirty and the directional signs were incomprehensible. Moreover, there were few actual animals to be seen (we did see a tiger, an anteater and some bats). Other than the roller coaster ride, the rafting ride, and the jungle safari (which we didn't even attempt because we were told the wait time was too long) there was nothing to do that was of any interest to us. And although I paced around nauseously (from the roller coaster ride) looking for some regular food to eat, there seemed to be nothing for sale besides ice cream and sugar drinks (like I said, we couldn't navigate so if there was other food we couldn't find it.)
- Epcot was by far the best park in Disney, but was also a shameless advertisement for a number of other companies that sponsored various presentations there including IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Nestle. (I have to admit that the Soarin' ride, in which you seem to ride above the earth, was worth the incredibly long wait.) I was a little offended at the extent of corporate sponsorship of what should have been a "pure" Disney experience.
- MGM was good in terms of having good stunt shows to see, but was also crowded and impossible to navigate.
- At Magic Kingdom, which was flooded with literally a crush of people, we waited 1.5 hours for Splash Mountain then got thrown off the ride because it was broken. The railroad ride was also broken and the haunted mansion was closed, and the monorail that got us to the main part of the park got stuck in midstream. The worst part of it was when we tried to leave but were blocked by a Disney parade from getting through. They literally will not let you pass when the parade is in session.
- The Disney theme park cards (the cards you use to gain entry to the park) didn't work and had to be reprinted. Further, the cards were keyed to each individual user by fingerprint but had no space to write our name on them - causing confusion each time we entered the park.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
In the book Creating Customer Evangelists, authors Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba note that people are loyal to people not to brands, and that top companies create a sense of family both internally and externally. (Examples are Southwest Airlines and Build a Bear.) The first part of
that statement is debatable, but what is clear is that by alienating its dealers from the family they once had, Deere is creating the risk that they will go elsewhere for business opportunities for themselves.
Smart brands create and encourage the perception that employees, customers, and other key stakeholders are all part of one big, happy, warm family. The high performance team aspect of that family relationship cannot be forgotten, but it is subordinate to the family relationship.
Do you think that brands can operate as families and high performance teams at the same time?
Saturday, August 18, 2007
What a waste of a good brand.
The company owns the "sturdy" image, a critical niche in the luggage (and handbag) space. Yet the CEO wants to be more like Burberry or Coach and has hired British designer Alexander McQueen to make suitcases that can compete with these brands.
The designs pictured in the Journal are terrible--who is going to buy a suitcase shaped like a ribcage and what does that communicate about the brand, anyway--and the Samsonite name is still being used, so all the brand associations that go along with Samsonite still exist.
In my view -- to take a lesson from Seth Godin's book Purple Cow -- Samsonite should stick to its knitting and build even more remarkable sturdy luggage and handbags than it ever has. If they want higher margins, the company can brand its suitcases a la the Panasonic Toughbook and charge a price premium for their ultra-durability.
This is not to say that a brand cannot make itself over into a new image. Look at what former monopolist IBM did by embracing open source brand Linux. But even then, the old image still sticks -- IBM will always be "Big Blue." The difference is that IBM updated its image to adapt to the context of technology services today, and as a result looks jazzier and more nimble -- a needed change.
Samsonite has a goldmine in its "sturdy" image. Wanting to be something you're not -- to go from middle market to upper-class brand -- seems like mere CEO vanity. What do you think?
Friday, August 17, 2007
The other day I said that personal branding is unhealthy. It can be. But on the other hand, it is often a business necessity. Here are some tips on how to do it right (without doing too much damage to your psyche). The key is to shape your personal brand around who you really are - so that you do not have to go through self-manipulative machinations as you go through the day.
1. Search your soul and spell it out. In essence, a brand is "personality in a bottle." Personality, in turn, is simply how you behave when confronted with the world. So ask yourself: "How do I act, in general?" and then write down as many personality characteristics as you can think of. (Be honest: Seemingly negative traits brand you as well as positive ones. Just ask American Idol judge Simon.) Then, list all the brands you love, the ones you are absolutely drawn to: clothes, cars, coffee, celebrities, and so on. This stuff is not for the world to see, but for you to use in defining what it is about your personality that is different and therefore valuable. You will draw on it later on as you determine what kind of words sound like you, which colors reflect your personality, and so on.
2. Narrow down who your customer is. Private industry or government? The boss or a frontline staffer? Entrepreneurs or corporate staffers? Baby boomers or Gen Xers? Americans or Europeans? End users or vendors that sell to them? It can be annoying to do this, but remember: It's a crowded playing field. You need to narrow your audience to be effective.
3. Make sure you have a unique selling proposition. This is one sentence that states the value you deliver to your customers. It is the business proposition through which you deliver your brand. Just like CNN ("the most trusted name in news"), say it at every opportunity.
4. Get your blog going. Register your blog name - it is YOUR NAME (you are the brand) - and start submitting it to the search engines – Google, etc. Once it's up there you will be motivated to get the design and content going.
5. Choose your color. Own red, blue, orange, yellow, purple, green, whatever. This is the color you are going to use in all your marketing materials. You may not have the money to develop a logo, but your choice of color is free.
6. Join an association that matters to your audience and help organize an event for the local chapter.
7. Find a conference to attend. It doesn't have to be the most expensive gathering in the world, but it should focus on your specialty area and focus on an audience that is likely to buy your services.
8. Arrange for a small speaking engagement. Your local university is a good place to start: They always need guest lecturers.
9. List yourself as an expert with a wire service such as PR Newswire.
10. Take on pro bono work for a local organization you feel comfortable with. For example, if you have school-age children, you may want to start with their school.
11. Start writing. Begin with short articles, which you will post to your website. They don't have to be scholarly. In fact, it's better if they're not. Keep it practical and include numbers: 5 ways to do XYZ, 3 things to keep in mind, 10 myths vs. facts, etc. Eventually you will put all of your articles, e-posts, and online advice into a meaningful package: your first book.
12. Start e-networking. Find blogs, mailing lists, and websites that allow comments, and get involved in the conversation.
13. Get on the editorial board of a respected industry publication. Start by volunteering to review manuscripts. Work your way up to the board.
14. Collect 3 testimonials and post them to your blog in the helpful links section.
15. Write 5 one-page case studies showing results you have generated and post them to your blog in the helpful links section.
16. Determine your fee structure. When you finally get asked about your fees, this will save you from stammering and stuttering your ill-thought-out response.
17. Create a proposal template or list of products/services. You want to focus on the content of your value to the client, not fuss about the package at the last minute.
18. Put together a list of professional helpers. You will need a decent website developer and a marketing communications consultant. Ask for some references from schools in your area if you're strapped for cash.
19. Write your bio. You will need it for speaking engagements, "about the author" descriptions, and of course your website.
20. Generate an "advice" column that promotes what you do. Of course, you will write the questions and answers, at least at first. Post it to your blog.
OK, now for 5 bonus tips of a more conceptual nature:
21. Be consistent. I define a brand as "a set of consistent processes that define, differentiate, and add value." Basically, you have to set expectations and then meet them. Everything counts: what you say, to how you say it, your clothing, your billing processes, everything.
22. Plan for fame. You lose your personal life. Is that what you want? Think it through. You may have to settle for a lesser level of renown.
23. Weigh the economic risks. If you get in legal trouble, your company could sink. (Martha Stewart, enough said.)
24. Understand that the quality of your product or service has to be impeccable. You can't put lipstick on a pig.
25. NEVER compare yourself to the competition. You need to keep your head clear and be proactive, not reactive.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
How many times have you . . .
- Needed help from another individual or department to resolve an issue, but they put obstacles in your path rather than help you—for no real reason at all?
- Had a pressing matter to discuss at a meeting, but the meeting kept being deflected to other, trivial matters?
- Participated in a "brainstorming" session, only to have your ideas dismissed out-of-hand?
- Been asked for feedback, then had your feedback dismissed when the listener didn't like it?
Why must this be so? Oddly enough, it is simply the nature of the group. The key, psychoanalysts say, is a destructive force called "regression." What that means is that joining the group sends us back in time, to a more primitive mental state, where we are driven by irrational feelings of fear, hatred, and jealousy. So we hoard information, deflect productive conversations, put other people down, and deny any responsibility for things going wrong—and none of this for any good reason that we can think of.
Given that groups are so important these days, it is even more frustrating that they tend to fail. For we live in the age of specialization, when most projects require collaboration by a diverse team of specialists. Even the most basic brand communication plan, for example, can require the input of copywriters, designers, multimedia specialists, web content specialists, change management specialists, human resources representatives, diversity managers, cross-functional representatives, line specialists, and more.
But there is good news: Every group has the potential to confront and overcome this innate tendency. And if the group can manage to do so effectively, it can literally soar, by far, above the sum potential of its individual members.
Assuming that the group is enlightened enough to confront its own destructiveness, what, specifically, can group members do to stop it?
The answer is simple but powerful.
Say what you are thinking or feeling, as directly as possible while still being constructive and appropriate.
Why does authenticity work?
Because secrecy and collusion feed the dysfunctional system. You know what that looks like—everybody getting together and pretending that everything is OK when it's not. Everybody smiling, but underground, the negative energies of the group fester, breed, and grow stronger.
Authenticity is absolutely nothing new. It's a staple of every good movie, even: The main character says what she or he is feeling—tells the group—and their words quickly clear out the cobwebs of secrecy, silence, deception, irrational pain. The group is refreshed; it can go on and live another day. The character is a hero.
Of course, real, positive change takes more than you deciding to be authentic. And the way one person acts may not make much difference. But the fact of the matter is, you can't control what other people do—only what you do. You have the power in you to be authentic, and to encourage others to do the same. The only thing that may stop you—and this is a judgment call on your part—is if the group is just too far down the path of destruction. In that case, you may be punished for taking the risk.
But if things are that bad, you may want to think about what you are doing there—and how long it will take before those negative energies go after you.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
1. Some people think they need to make a "big splash" out of a branding initiative. I disagree: Until you're absolutely ready to launch (and that means you have buy-in across the board), making a lot of noise only provokes cynicism and opposition.
2. What should you do while you're keeping quiet? First, gather as much information as you can about the culture, context, and interests of key stakeholders. Second, lobby for support among management opinion leaders and key influencers in the employee community.
3. When you absolutely have to announce the branding initiative, limit the scope of the message to naming the new brand director and explaining the scope of his or her authority. Similarly, do not unveil a new logo or tagline until you've sold it, very thoroughly, internally, and tested it among external stakeholders. If the initiative is successful, you can brag about the results later.
4. Sell branding as a solution to a business need (increased market share, enhanced customer loyalty, higher employee retention rates, etc.) rather than as a solution in and of itself. Long-term, nobody can stand the discipline associated with genuine (as opposed to cosmetic—logo/tagline only) branding unless they can see a tangible benefit.
5. Expect resistance. No matter how well you prove your case from a cost-benefit perspective, the group has to be emotionally ready to change the way it does things.
6. Be prepared: Some projects are called "branding" but really have nothing to do with branding at all. (Other times the opposite is true.) When to make an issue out of these things depends on your unique organizational culture and political climate. Tread carefully.
7. Know that branding removes power from certain people in the organization, who will fight tooth and nail to keep that power. That is why 1) CEOs are the best brand champions 2) brand people have to be people-smart—because branding always divides people before it unifies them.
8. There will always be people who hate the brand. Instead of wasting energy fighting them, invite them to the table to complain. You may or may not learn anything useful, but simply giving them a voice will neutralize some of the negative energy they create.
9. Branding is not an endeavor for "lone geniuses"—you will have to assemble a "coalition of the willing" in order to get it done right.
10. Remember: No trust = no brand. Similarly, no heart = no brand; no leadership = no brand; no sincerity = no brand; and so on. Branding is ultimately a people business, not an arid intellectual program.
11. You may think that there is no hope. You may endure long periods of silence, punctuated by ups and downs. Nevertheless, keep talking about the importance of branding; keep trying to find ways to make it serve a business need. Eventually someone will pick up the thread and run with it. Brand thinking is contagious.
12. Don't be afraid to draw on industry best practices in order to build your brand. At the same time, remember: Real-world branding can't be found in any book. Nobody is going to write a case study about how they actually got their brand to work, because often, the dynamics involved are not a pretty sight.
13. On the one hand, "those who fail to plan, plan to fail." But on the other, it's an unpredictable world. Be strategic about your brand initiative, but be willing and able to change course rapidly if you need to.
14. Start small, and celebrate small successes. Admit your failures publicly, too—preferably on an "our brand in progress" webpage where you invite comments from all interested stakeholders. (Depending on your organization, you may want to limit these stakeholders to employees.)
15. Choose something to measure as an indicator of your success—preferably a metric that is aligned with the business results you are trying to achieve. Then, measure it consistently and report on the results.
16. The two most important internal partners for brand professionals, aside from other marketing/communications/PR people in the organization, are Human Resources and Information Technology. There is no way around it; you will need their support in order to succeed.
17. When you mess up with a brand-related initiative, don't dwell on it. Discuss what went wrong, and then move on.
18. Remember that everything contributes to the brand, but that doesn't mean the brand is everything. Learn to see the brand from the perspective of those who either don't know what branding is, or don't care. Speak to such people accordingly, in business terms—for the more brand jargon you spout, the less seriously they will take you.
19. Read, read, read. Even if you think you know all there is to know about branding, you don't—the field is ever-evolving. You can also gain education and inspiration from myriad sources that have nothing at all to do with branding.
20. Never give up. Branding can be a tough job, but it is ultimately a worthwhile and rewarding one.
Monday, August 13, 2007
What is the optimal relationship between a parent brand and a child brand, a brand that is part of the parent brand yet distinct from it?
There are three choices.
* At one extreme, the parent brand can declare that everything the baby does, is part of the parents' own actions and a reflection on her. In that case the baby brand must constantly reflect the parents' name in every communication, declaration, and conversation.
* At the other extreme, the parent brand can grant the child brand independence, and hope that the child decides to thank the parent every once in a while.
* A middle of the road solution is for the parent brand to allow the child to be semi-independent, keeping the parent's name and "living on the same block" but asserting its own identity.
How the decision gets made in the real world has to do with a lot of things--rational considerations, political interests, and so on--but partly it has to do with psychology: how secure the parent brand is in its own identity. The more insecure the parent brand, the more it fears that it is not contributing value, the more it clutches on to the child. On the other hand, the more disorganized the parent brand, the less it clamps the child's identity to itself as part of a cohesive whole and the more it just lets the child brand "do what it wants." The optimal balance, usually is for the parent brand to at some level acknowledge the existence and importance of the child brand, but at the same time to let the child brand have its own identity and operational freedom. (That is, unless the child brand is so radically different from the parent that it would be better to pretend that there is no relationship there; or if the child brand is so dysfunctional that the parent brand needs to care for it totally.)
Sunday, August 12, 2007
"Brand strength promotes strong earnings. BAV® has plotted pillar data against revenue growth, margin, NOPAT (whatever that is -- DB) and economic value added (EVA) in over 400 cases over a ten year period, across 18 economic sectors. From this, BAV® has produced a consistent pattern of results. Differentiation is the margin driver - brands that grow their Differentiation have about a 50% higher operating margin on average than those which allow their Differentiation to decline. Relevance is the key to market penetration. Those brands that grow both their Differentiation and Relevance report the greatest increase in operating earnings."
Well it's a short leap from increased operating earnings to increased stock price -- can anybody say "ka-ching"?
The world's top brands have higher stock prices than nonbrands, but to my knowledge nobody has ever invested in a brand methodology per se -- started a mutual fund based on a brand strength methodology. Creating such a fund would not only prove that brands have a higher value than their generic counterparts (which would be good concrete tangible evidence for the academic), but it would also create an investment vehicle for people who believe strongly in the power of brand.
Well Y&R, what are you waiting for?
Or Interbrand could do it - they have their own financial formula for calculating brand value -- see http://www.interbrand.com/best_brands_2006_FAQ.asp -- and they annually calculate what the top brands are.
I'll stand by and wait for the announcement.
Great branding is storytelling - Why Jeep's new campaign won't work while Apple and Disney will sell forever
Saturday, August 11, 2007
What if you make a brand mistake? Let's say you:
1. Mis-named your company or product or chose a bad logo
What do you do? Do you try to keep implementing the brand mistake--improve on it incrementally--or do you go back to the drawing board and start from scratch?
Take the Purple Cow litmus test. Is what you are doing remarkable and you just need to get the word out better? Or are you selling something mediocre or "just good enough" to start with? If you are truly doing something remarkable with your product or service then you should feel free to experiment with different ways of branding it--and that can mean going back to the drawing board several times. On the other hand, if the problem is with your product or service, then you need to go back and look at what you're selling. Don't even think about the brand, think about the essence of what you are promoting. Make THAT remarkable. The brand will follow naturally...any changes you make after that will just be tinkering.
Either way, you need to fix the mistake, even if it will be costly. It's just a question of how you approach it.
Are you implementing a mistaken brand?
Friday, August 10, 2007
Basically, Goffman looks at human behavior as taking place on a figurative stage, where behavior evidenced in front of other people is "frontstage" and private behavior takes place "backstage." "Frontstage" is where people try to manage the impressions that others have of them; "backstage" is where they relax and don't try to make an impression. People use "masks" to control the impression they provide to their "audience."
Branding takes place in interaction with other people. This begs the question of whether people involved in delivering the brand should always be displaying branded behavior, or whether they can and should take a break when they are in private. For example, let's say a certain brand of fast food represents itself as "fun." Its customer service representatives will generally be expected to convey the concept of fun to the customers--and so the employee should act as though he or she were having fun on the job. The question is, when they step away from the counter, is it in the best interest of the brand to allow the customer service representative to drop the mask and act ordinary?
Well, yes and no. From a mental health point of view (and the organization should serve its employees mental health where possible), nobody can be expected to portray "fun" for a full 8 hours a day, 7 days a week. So it is normal for people to relax and go "off-brand" when they're not facing the customer.
On the other hand, from a brand point of view, there are other stakeholders in the organization besides customers -- how about other employees? If people do not act "fun" then the fast food business is not a "fun" place to work and that will inevitably be conveyed to the customers at some point.
I would say that the best course of action is to hire people who are inherently "fun" (or whatever the brand type is), so that when they go off-brand they are actually still in brand mode. This is also the best way for the brand to convey authenticity to the customer -- to make it clear that the brand is real, not just a show. Remember, hire for brand and the brand will inevitably be stronger as a result.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
"1. Politics: Individual and group interests
2. Inspirations: Values-based and visionary aspirations
3. Emotions: Affective and reactive feelings
4. Mindsets: Guiding beliefs and assumptions
5. Psychodynamics: Anxiety-based and unconscious defenses" (p. 5)
Obviously, internal branding is an organizational change. It is therefore critical to pay attention to each of the above dynamics when implementing it. Unfortunately, however, most organizational change programs neglect them, instead drawing on reason, or "rational and analytic logics." Marshak notes that "most organizational change initiatives begin...with 'making the (logical) case for change.' If/when that doesn't work, some organizations try to do an even better job of convincing employees of the need to change. When that fails, "venting" sessions occur to address "irrational resistance." If that too doesn't work, the change effort is either "aborted, abbreviated, or forced." (p. 6)
What can be done instead to implement the internal brand so that it is accepted by the workforce? Translating Marshak, I would say that one has to appeal to all five hidden dynamics of change, in addition to making a logical case for why the internal brand is needed. Specifically:
1. Politics: Show people how the brand will empower them. For example, that they can now make decisions based on the brand that they couldn't otherwise be free to make before. (E.g. for a customer service situation, rather than calling one's supervisor in to resolve a situation, one can act based on the values that the brand promotes.)
2. Inspirations: Inspire people to want to be part of something greater than themselves by buying into the brand. (E.g., a brand promise might be to "make people happy" and the employee can make that happen in their work every day.
3. Emotions: Understand and respond appropriately to the typical emotional stages of reaction to organizational change: "denial, anger, bargaining, acceptance, and finally adaptive behavior" (p. 10) (as Marshak points out, similar to the stages of death and dying formulated by Elizabeth Kubler Ross in 1973). (E.g. don't be surprised if in the beginning people ignore the pronouncements about the internal brand, then express anger, etc. ...give them the opportunity to say what they have to say without marginalizing those who need to express anger or cutting the vending sessions short.)
4. Mindsets: Understand and appeal to the "assumptions, beliefs, and premises" (p. 11) that are prevalent in the workforce. Know the culture that you are dealing with. For example, in a hierarchical law enforcement culture, a brand that encourages transparency and two-way communication is going to be a tough sell. You must be able to overcome the ingrained mindsets in order to move the brand forward.
5. Psychodynamics: Realize that the change is going to provoke unconscious anxiety and unresolved feelings in people and that they will defend against that anxiety in various ways. As Marshak points out, they might "engage in 'fight or flight' behavior (by being argumentative or by avoiding the topic)". Or they might "engage in transference and begin to act as if the leader were a parent." Or the leader might act cold when warmth is called for (p. 14). The marketers of the internal brand must be able to identify and skillfully manage unconscious responses when they see them.
Internal branding is a serious organizational change endeavor. We must manage it accordingly if we want it to be successful. This might even mean bringing in an organizational development consultant if needed.
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
The media are all over this study, for multiple reasons:
1. It shows how powerful brands are (!)
2. It shows how vulnerable low-income kids are to TV advertising (it was a study of 63 low-income children ages 3 to 5)
3. It points up the problem of obesity in America and points a finger at fast-food companies for causing it
CNN quotes Dr. Victor Strasburger, an author of an American Academy of Pediatrics policy urging limits on marketing to children:
"Advertisers have tried to do exactly what this study is talking about -- to brand younger and younger children, to instill in them an almost obsessional desire for a particular brand-name product."
The company should instead be taking credit. They are geniuses at making food appealing, and they're serving healthy food these days as well. If people choose to gorge (or to let their kids gorge), that is their problem.