Dove, Bud and the Quest for Real Brand Values

(Reading Time: 4 minutes)Budweiser debuted one of this year’s most-discussed Super Bowl ads. Called “Brewed the Hard Way,” it’s still running. I saw it twice on CBS yesterday.

In this spot, Bud declares, in screen-filling block text, that it’s “proudly a macro beer.”

“It’s not brewed to be fussed over,” the text announces, as a bearded, bespectacled hipster inhales deeply from a tulip glass filled with a stout-like brew. “It’s brewed for a crisp smooth finish.”

“It’s brewed for drinking, not dissecting,” it continues. We see more hipsters, this time sampling a beer flight.

“Let them sip their pumpkin peach ale,” it proclaims. “We’ll be brewing us some golden suds.”

Why the broadside against craft brews and those who drink them? Continue reading “Dove, Bud and the Quest for Real Brand Values”

Selling the C-Suite: The “Four Knows”

(Reading Time: 4 minutes)In a prior post, Why You Can’t Sell to the C-Suite, I shared my experience of being a sales target during my recent tenure as a CMO.

The quick summary: I received over twenty-five unsolicited contacts per week – over one thousand in a year. Of these, about 98% didn’t work. Today, I want to discuss the approaches that did work.

Selling the C Suite Winning LosingI need to first make clear, in boldface: I am not a sales expert. My intent here is to offer some perspective from “the other side of the desk,” based on my own experience and that of other executives with whom I’ve discussed this topic. I expect that readers will have additional insights to share, and I invite you to do so in a comment below.

Let’s start by reviewing, as we apparently must, the table-stakes: Continue reading “Selling the C-Suite: The “Four Knows””

“Would You Rather Have a Better Brand or Better Product?”: A Response to Al Ries

Better Brand or Better Product Al Ries

(Reading Time: 3 minutes)Recently, marketing guru Al Ries published a piece in Advertising Age, with his thesis right there in the title:

“Having a Better Brand Is Better Than Having a Better Product”

Here are a few excerpts from Mr. Ries’ piece:

There are no facts. Everything in life is “perceptions.” There are no superior products. There are only superior perceptions in consumers’ minds.

What else do we know about perceptions? They are very difficult to change. Once a person holds a strong perception about a specific brand, it’s extremely difficult to change that perception. Continue reading ““Would You Rather Have a Better Brand or Better Product?”: A Response to Al Ries”

Setting Brand Objectives: Not Just What, But Why

(Reading Time: 2 minutes)When you’re setting brand objectives, you of course have to clearly identify what the objective is.  But it’s even more important to identify the WHY – why it’s important to achieve.

A client once told me that her objective for a new brand strategy was to make her business seem “edgier.” When asked why, she told us that she was concerned that her legacy consumer was aging.  So she thought an “edgier” presentation would help her attract younger consumers.


For over two decades, her brand had delivered prestige, polish and refinement.  It was truly a best-in-class service experience with the awards and accolades to show for it.

Through the course of the brand strategy project, I was able to convince her that “edginess” was inauthentic.  And it would undermine years of brand equity.

A better approach to attract new consumers? Adopt new targeting methods and messaging. It worked.

Why Are You Chasing Market Share?

Continue reading “Setting Brand Objectives: Not Just What, But Why”

Developing a Brand Tagline: Five Tips for Success

Brand Tagline Five Tips for Success

(Reading Time: 6 minutes)There’s a lot of advice out there regarding the development of a brand tagline, and some of it is crap.  (Example: “It needs to be short and memorable.” Wow, it sounds so easy when a professional explains it.)

In this post, my goal is to give you a set of considerations – some contrary to “conventional wisdom” – that will help you decide how to best proceed with the development of your brand tagline.

The first two tips deal with the “before” phase – what to consider before you move ahead with the development of a tagline:

Continue reading “Developing a Brand Tagline: Five Tips for Success”

Advice to Young Marketers

(Reading Time: 3 minutes)I haven’t always been a consultant. In my client-side career, I’ve held positions ranging from Brand Assistant to VP-Marketing. And in 14 years of consulting, I’ve worked with marketing teams of just about every size, shape and industry you can name. I regularly meet with young marketers, many of whom ask for advice as they start out on their career path. The following are some thoughts that I’ve shared (with absolutely no claim that I got them right myself):

Stop worrying about your “personal brand.” Do consistently excellent work, be of good character, and be emotionally mature. You’ll become known as a trustworthy achiever, and your “brand” will take care of itself. Let’s talk a bit more about a few of these ideas…

Continue reading “Advice to Young Marketers”

What I’ve Learned About Branding

What I've Learned About Branding

(Reading Time: 4 minutes)Each month in Esquire magazine, there’s a feature called What I’ve Learned.  Celebrities or thought leaders (a top economist, for instance) are interviewed, and their words are presented as a string of short phrases.  There’s wisdom in surprising sources, and it’s always the first thing I turn to when my issue arrives.

I’ve created my own list of “What I’ve Learned About Branding” in my 20+ years as a positioning and strategy consultant, brand manager, CMO and agency partner.  I share it here in hopes that it might be useful to you:

Continue reading “What I’ve Learned About Branding”

Who Really Builds the Brand?

(Reading Time: 2 minutes)Within your company, who really builds the brand?  Which department is responsible for brand-building?

Trick question!  The answer is “All of them.”  Everyone plays a part in delivering on the brand positioning and bringing the brand to life.

Let’s use a hypothetical consumer packaged goods company as an example of “who does what” (the parallels to your own company should be easy to see):

Continue reading “Who Really Builds the Brand?”