Two Kinds of Companies

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It’s happening, and it’s happening right now. At this very moment.

It’s happening in board rooms, in grocery stores, online and a million other places: Companies are either getting better at making customers happy, or they’re getting worse. None stay the same.

Somewhere, there’s a VP of finance who convinces her CEO to reduce staff in the customer service center to hit the annual budget. Both execs are aware that doing so is good for their stock options, at least in the short term.

Somewhere else, there’s a CEO who recognizes just how critical his customer service department is. He knows that, in many cases, that department provides the only human point of contact between the company and its customers. So he hires carefully, trains thoroughly, rewards properly and defines jobs intelligently. Continue reading “Two Kinds of Companies”

“Brand Cincinnati – How Would You Define It?”

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Up for a challenge? Read on.

A few months ago, I was honored to have been asked to join the Livable Communities team of Agenda 360. Agenda 360, as you may know, is a rather bold initiative, with the mission of “transforming Cincinnati USA, by the year 2020, into a leading metropolitan region for talent, jobs and economic opportunity for all who call our region home.”

The work of Agenda 360 will be merged with initiatives already underway in Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana, in order to create a cohesive agenda and action plan for the entire Tri-State. (You can find out more at Cincinnati360.com.) Continue reading ““Brand Cincinnati – How Would You Define It?””

The Brand Experience Map

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In my last post, I took to task a local chain of fitness centers for announcing a “re-branding” but delivering only a “name change.” Because your brand is everything you do, I argued, you can’t truly re-brand by simply slapping on some paint and putting up a new sign – or redesigning your logo, website or whatever.

If you want to re-brand, you have to change the experience you provide. That’s because your experience creates perceptions in the minds of your customers. Those perceptions, in turn, define your brand. Continue reading “The Brand Experience Map”

When Re-Branding Isn’t

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It was recently reported that the local franchisee of an international fitness center chain would discontinue that franchising agreement.  The reason?  So it could launch and operate health clubs under a new name.

The CEO of this new operation told a local publication, “This is simply a re-branding and signage change.”

By my view, he’s half right. The signs have been changed, certainly, and the walls have been painted. Re-named? Yes, that, too. Re-branded? Not quite. And the distinction is an important one. Continue reading “When Re-Branding Isn’t”

What Were They Thinking?

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The world is crawling with bad branding practices. They lurch stupidly across the countryside, inciting consumer cynicism, bombarding the citizenry with meaningless messages, wasting scarce dollars and even scarcer time.

For the most part, these misguided marketing moves are created and perpetuated by people paid handsomely for what they do. But what were they thinking? What was on the minds behind such products as Oil-Free Oil of Olay, Low-Salt Mr. Salty Pretzels and Rust-Oleum for Wood?

Here are a few examples of bad branding practices that I find nettling: Continue reading “What Were They Thinking?”

The CEO Doesn’t Get It!

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A reader recently called to talk about a problem with her CEO. For reasons that are about to become abundantly clear, this reader will remain nameless.

She told me that she and her work group have great energy to develop a branding program for their company. They want to bring the company “out of the dark ages” of a production/sales mentality, into a new day.

But the CEO isn’t having it. He doesn’t think branding applies to his company and doesn’t see it as a priority. How, the reader asked, could she convince him otherwise? Continue reading “The CEO Doesn’t Get It!”

300-page Branding Statements?! A Plea for Simplicity.

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A colleague relayed the following story about a conversation with the chief marketing officer of an international retail chain. This CMO was grousing about having paid a big-name agency $500,000 for a branding statement.

But it wasn’t the price that bothered him – it was the fact that the statement was 300 pages long (not a typo), and he doubted whether anyone, himself included, would read it. He went on to say that what he had read was far too open to interpretation to suit him. Continue reading “300-page Branding Statements?! A Plea for Simplicity.”

Want Results? Get Objective.

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It was 1995 when the phone rang at Van Melle USA, manufacturer of Airheads and Mentos candies. A reporter from a major advertising industry publication was calling Liam Killeen, Van Melle’s vice president of marketing.

The reason?  To inform him that a panel of big-agency creative directors had just voted the Mentos ads the worst of the year. So, the reporter asked, did Liam have any plans to kill the campaign?

“Yes, we absolutely do,” said Liam.

The reporter began to make some noises about what a smart decision that was, but Liam interrupted him. Continue reading “Want Results? Get Objective.”

Bigger or Better?

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Does size matter? If you ask me, I’ll tell you that “better” beats “bigger.” The brand is the thing.

In the pages of the Cincinnati Business Courier some weeks back, Lee Robinson of Robinson Realtors had this to say when asked what it was like being “the small guy” in the local real estate market:

“The smart consumers get it. They realize that the largest restaurant in the world, McDonald’s, isn’t the best. A similar analogy can be drawn to our high-quality real estate firm that is small by design.”

Small By Design?

Did he say “small by design”? As marketers, we’re often caught up in the “bigger” game, as if bigger is the ideal state of being. The message heard too often is “grow or die.” We have it drummed into our heads that sales have to increase vs. last month, last quarter, last year. Share has to grow. Profits have to go up, marching ever upward, or heads will roll. Continue reading “Bigger or Better?”

Agencies, Get the Clients You Deserve

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An earlier post, “Clients, Get the Agency You Deserve,” was a guide for clients looking to get the best possible work from their agencies. This time, I surveyed friends and colleagues on the client side, asking them to tell me about the best agency relationships they’ve had.

So agencies, marketing vendors and suppliers of all stripes, listen up – here’s what clients want. Continue reading “Agencies, Get the Clients You Deserve”