If Nothing Else, Start With Respect

(Reading Time: 2 minutes)

“Manipulating the masses into buying stuff they don’t need!  That’s what I do!  That’s marketing!”

That’s an actual quote I once heard from a marketing director.  This was during an inventing session, the goal of which was to create new products that would make his customers (in other words, people) happier.

I’ve also been in a conference room when an executive flat-out called his customers (also people) “stupid.”

Continue reading “If Nothing Else, Start With Respect”

If It Doesn’t Solve Your Problems, It’s Weak Strategy

Theranos Elizabeth Holmes
(Reading Time: 4 minutes)

Let’s begin with a simple truth:

Every business has problems.

Those problems may be internal or external (often both).  They may be created by others or self-inflicted.  They may be present-day certainties or future possibilities.

But there’s no business anywhere that is blissfully free of challenges, obstacles, changes… problems.

Continue reading “If It Doesn’t Solve Your Problems, It’s Weak Strategy”

The Birth of White Mystery Airheads (and What It Taught Me)

Airheads White Mystery package
(Reading Time: 7 minutes)

It was early 1993.  I was less than a year out of college, and the Assistant Brand Manager of Airheads candy.  (A title that no doubt made my parents very proud.)

After the successful launch of Blue Raspberry Airheads in August 1992, we were searching for the next new flavor to add to our lineup.

We took all the standard steps – reviewing category sales data, reading trade magazines, meeting with flavor suppliers, etc.

And taking the standard steps, unsurprisingly, resulted in a list of the usual suspects.

Continue reading “The Birth of White Mystery Airheads (and What It Taught Me)”

The 2019 Super Bowl Ads: Who Unleveled the Playing Field?

Doritos Super Bowl Chance the Rapper Backstreet Boys

(Reading Time: 6 minutes)By now, we’re at the point where we know what to expect from the Super Bowl ads.

Before the game, you could have jotted down a list of what you thought you would see, based on history.  That list probably would have included:

  • Celebrities galore!
  • Animals (especially dogs) at their most undeniably adorable
  • People or animals doing silly dances
  • Inspiring Statements of High-Minded Purpose
  • The unusual, the surreal, the flat-out bizarre (with or without reason)
  • Production values to rival a summer blockbuster film

You can make this kind of list for almost any category.  Sometimes, it’s comically easy to do.  And the more “tried, true and expected” the items on that list, the more ripe that category is for some rule-breaking.

So who broke the rules with this year’s Super Bowl ads? Continue reading “The 2019 Super Bowl Ads: Who Unleveled the Playing Field?”

Let’s Cut the Millennial Crap

Millennials Technology

(Reading Time: 2 minutes)Well, it happened again.

Earlier this week, in a seemingly unrelated conversation, a stranger found a chance to take a swipe at Millennials, and went for it!  According to this person, Millennials not only “don’t take direction well,” they often “don’t even want to show up to work at all.”

Huh.  I’m a crusty old Gen-Xer myself.  But I’ve worked with, and even hired, a number of Millennials.  And I don’t have any proof that their work ethic or character is any worse than that of (say) my college graduating class. Continue reading “Let’s Cut the Millennial Crap”

Is Southwest Airlines Still a Great Brand?

Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 Engine

(Reading Time: 5 minutes)The last few weeks have been bad for Southwest Airlines.

So bad, in fact, that it’s fair to ask: Is Southwest still a great brand?  Let’s discuss the cases for and against.

The Case For: Southwest IS a Great Brand

There was a time, not so long ago, when I would use Southwest in my keynotes and seminars as a clear example of a great brand.

I would start by asking the audience to join me as I painted a picture of Major Airline Advertising.  This was easy to do, since Major Airline Advertising is both familiar and largely interchangeable.  It might go something like this: Continue reading “Is Southwest Airlines Still a Great Brand?”

The Best Brands Use Feedback Loops Both Ways

Feedback Loops Matthew Fenton Chicago Brand Strategy

(Reading Time: 2 minutes)Regular readers of this blog know that I’m an advocate of feedback loops.

There are dozens of ways that you can (and should) use feedback loops to better understand your consumers.  These include advisory panels, ethnography, surveys and so on.

But too often, we brand leaders forget that we’re an active part of these feedback loops.  We need to send signals as well as receive them.  And we can build stronger bonds by signaling the right things to the people we serve. Continue reading “The Best Brands Use Feedback Loops Both Ways”

Six Important Questions for This Year’s Super Bowl Advertisers

M&Ms Super Bowl Advertisers

(Reading Time: 7 minutes)Quick show of hands: Do you have a marketing budget of five million dollars?

And if you did, how would you feel about spending it in 30 seconds?  Because that’s exactly what last night’s Super Bowl advertisers did.  Repeatedly.

That’s nearly $167,000 per second – more than most Americans earn in an entire year.

So I trust you’ll forgive me if I approach the Super Bowl ads, and the surrounding fanfare, with a healthy degree of scrutiny.  I’m a brand guy – always have been – but I also know this:  If it doesn’t sell, it’s bad branding.

And, based on history, most of last night’s ads did not sell. Continue reading “Six Important Questions for This Year’s Super Bowl Advertisers”