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”

Want What Nike Has? You Gotta Earn It.

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At a recent branding seminar, I asked attendees what they hoped to achieve with their branding efforts. One guy exclaimed, “I want what Nike has – instant name recognition!” Around the room, many heads nodded in agreement.

Over the years, I’ve asked clients, prospects and colleagues that question hundreds of times, and a fair percentage of replies are along those lines. Maybe it’s Starbucks or Target instead of Nike; maybe they want their brand to be a “badge” or have “a logo everyone knows.”

So why do so few brands achieve those results? Because most brands don’t earn them. They want the quick fix. They want to play it safe. Or they want something for nothing. Continue reading “Want What Nike Has? You Gotta Earn It.”

Sam vs. Bud

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The question came up during a friendly game of poker. At the table were several local businessmen who had heard me speak of brand storytelling, and one asked:

“So what’s the difference between a great brand and a brand with a great story?”

As I glanced around the table, I found some help in answering. This was a BYOB poker game. To my left, I saw a Budweiser; to my right, a Samuel Adams. Continue reading “Sam vs. Bud”

Dyson Gets It Right

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How might we use a vacuum cleaner to suck up a quick lesson about branding? Consider the case of the Dyson vacuum cleaner – and how it changed my life forever.

The basics of the Dyson story are these: An Englishman named James Dyson became so frustrated with the poor performance and lousy suction of his personal vacuum cleaner that he set out to design a better solution. That’s how great new products usually start out – with a target audience, occasion or problem. With Dyson, it was the problem. Continue reading “Dyson Gets It Right”

Of Consistency and Clown Doctors

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Imagine you’ve made an appointment with your family doctor to discuss the shooting pangs in your chest and the fact that your left arm is going numb five or six times a day.

You’re waiting in an examination room in one of those flattering gowns. Suddenly, your doctor pops in wearing in a polka-dotted clown suit, a conical cap and a red rubber nose, laughing maniacally as he hoses you down with his seltzer bottle. Continue reading “Of Consistency and Clown Doctors”