The Ideal Brand Professional

Years ago I consulted to an extremely successful specialty printer. I was engaged to assist in international expansion. In a lighter moment, over some libations, the CEO shared a personal observation and irritation. “Why does everyone want to go into marketing?” he brusquely asked. Before I could answer he continued on stating there were great careers to be had in production, distribution and new product development.

My response was marketing appears to many as ‘sexy’. It has the reputation as the fun aspect of business. It encompasses advertising with its alluring mystique and Don Draper cool factor. Marketing gets the high profile assignments. At least this is what people tend to think and it is what I subscribed to for a time.

I soon learned that marketing has very unsexy aspects. I personally loathe tradeshows. They do not get you much but you get punished if you do not show up. I Architects Working on a Projectcontinue to question the value of traditional public relations. Who reads press releases except other P.R. professionals and old school media? Maintaining databases seems very uncool but it is critical. Writing and defending copy is a daily event. The company holiday card takes six months to complete and is completely frustrating. Not all marketing is sexy, at least at face value.

Read more

Brand Invasion

The force that was the British Invasion had never been experienced before nor has there been anything like it since. It has been examined for its musical influence which was considerable. Supporting the talents of these bands was marketing. There is much to learn from how these bands deliberately and accidentally built their brands. So line up for this magical marketing tour. You can download the paper (SC_BrandInvasion) or read it below.

Brand Invasion

Marketing Lessons from the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Kinks, and the Animals

In 1965, The Rolling Stones released (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. According to Keith Richards he started the song on March 6th of that year which happens to be the day I was born. The band was on tour in America at the time. “I’d woken up in the middle of the night, thought of the riff, and put it straight down on a cassette. In the morning, I still thought it sounded pretty good. I played it to Mick and said, ‘The words that go with this are: ‘I can’t get no satisfaction.’ That was RS1just a working title. … I never thought it was anything like commercial enough to be a single.”

The song attracted attention for its implied, risqué content but I always enjoyed the knocks it made against the media, advertising, consumer culture, and materialism. In the lyrics, the radio broadcasts “more and more about some useless information” while the television advertisements tease with personal improvement and brand status: “how white my shirts can be – but he can’t be a man ’cause he doesn’t smoke the same cigarettes as me.”

With great irony this stand against materialism launched the Rolling Stones and grew their collective bank account. Along with the Beatles, the Who, the Kinks, and the Animals, they produced timeless songs that continue to attract and keep fans. Make no mistake, these bands are brands and music is their product. If you think they did what they did solely for artistic or altruistic reasons you would be wrong.

Read more

Applying Business Concepts for the Greater Good

There is an amazing global organization that we are proud to profile and support. Enactus, an international nonprofit, operates from post-secondary campuses around the world. It is “a community of student, academic and business leaders committed to using the power of entrepreneurial action to transform lives and shape a better, more sustainable world.”

They are funded by donations and corporate sponsors. The sponsors include Walmart, KPMG, enactushqlogoUnilever, The Coca-Cola Company, Evergreen Investments, ABInBev, Barclays Capital, Campbell’s, Kraft, Microsoft, Tim Hortons, 3M, Henkell, Nielsen, The Home Depot, Genworth Capital, HP, Kroger, PwC, Tesco and many, many more.

Two years ago Jeff Swystun was one of the keynote speakers at AccelerateOttawa, the premier startup event in Canada’s capital, Ottawa, “the Silicon Valley of the north”. The other keynote was Toby Lutke, CEO of Shopify. Toby’s amazing business recently went public and is experiencing a surging stock price.

Read more

The Missing Element of Branding

The belief that people are loyal to brands is coming under increasing fire. I have been privileged to witness and contribute to brand loyalty’s fascinating evolution. Now a new study and article in Harvard Business Review from Christof Binder and Dominique M. Hanssens, Why Strong Customer Relationships Trump Powerful Brands, gives the topic fresh context and sets up intriguing questions as to where branding’s value and investment is heading.

Historically, branding has been deployed with the same intent as advertising. That is, create awareness, prompt trial, and encourage adoption. For the last twenty years or so branding has largely been used as Tom Peters identified, “as a sorting device.” The overriding goal of branding in this period was to make a company, product or service stand out. “Top-of-mind” was thought to lead to a disproportionate “share of wallet”.

Loyalty has always been inferred in branding. If one was delivering a brand that matched the value, beliefs and practices of certain consumers it was believed those people would be loyal to the brand. This gave way to the term ‘brand evangelists’ which has been overused and never properly defined (or delineated from word-of-mouth). Through this period, practitioners like myself largely subscribed to Philip Kotler’s four types of loyal consumers:

Hard-core Loyals: those who buy the same brand consistently

Split Loyals: those loyal to two or three brands

Shifting Loyals: those who move from one brand to another

Switchers: those with no loyalty

There has been great debate on the erosion of brand loyalty. It has already produced a new term that I find entertaining, “consumer promiscuity”. At first, this promiscuity was driven 1ad9e82f-213a-40d3-8731-7f063269550d-mediumby consumers interested in finding a better price or deal elsewhere. Now this brand philandering takes place any time consumers believe their complex wants and needs are not being met. This relates to another new marketing term (we marketers love to name things) and that is, “chameleon consumers”. These consumers defy traditional segmentation (on a side note…most marketers today are terrible at segmentation). Chameleons are hard to read and hard to please making it difficult for brands to hold onto them.

Read more

Top-Drawer Business Books 2014

Welcome to the 7th edition of Top-Drawer Business Books. The listing’s tongue-in-cheek title describes books that are top-of-mind, notable, relevant, well written, practical, thought-provoking, and innovative. In short, books that are excellent and should be kept within easy reach for repeated reference.

The Top-Drawer list has always been less than traditional (or duplicative). Too many of the other best business book lists are narrow in definition and focus. As Robert Weider said, “Anyone can look for fashion in a boutique or history in a museum. The creative person looks for history in a hardware store and fashion in an airport.” That is why this list includes books not categorized as “business”.

There are no shortcuts or magic panaceas in business. We have to do the work even when reading, as John Locke stated, “Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.” This list is built on that premise. We avoid books promising four-hour work weeks because they are fables, how-to books that are vacuous and dangerous, and the content of so-called inspirational works that are trite, ineffectual and soon tossed out when met with the blunt adversities found in actual commerce.

Life is too short to drink cheap scotch and to read books that are not ‘Top-Drawer’. This year just 9 made our list appearing in no particular order. Enjoy!

Business Strategy: Managing Uncertainty, Opportunity, and Enterprise by J.C. Spender

00287aIt is difficult to find a book that splendidly marries theory and practical application. Spender’s attempt falls a bit short and leans more towards theory but that is just fine as long as the reader can apply it to their own situation. The author challenges us to embrace uncertainties and create systems and processes to leverage them. This is how innovation truly comes about. As a bonus, Spender showcases the leading strategy tools employed by consultants and academics.

The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson

Isaacson’s last effort was a biography of Steve Jobs. His latest is a meaty and deeply satisfying 560 page history. It takes us back to Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine to Alan Turing and the codebreakers of Bletchley Park and to Tim Berners-Lee and the birth of the World Wide Web. Throughout he reveals the talents that allowed inventors and entrepreneurs to disrupt technology and society. Isaacson explores why some succeed and some fail. There is an engaging thread throughout the historical narrative that is highly relevant to today. Read more

Social Media’s Inaccurate Stereotype?

Let me start with a confession. I am on Facebook. I know, not much of a startling revelation. It is a confession only because so many in my peer group pride themselves on not being on Facebook. Regardless of your opinion of the social network, one must acknowledge their success. As of the third quarter of 2014, Facebook reported 1.35 billion monthly active users. According to Emarketer, this global Facebook population is 53% female and 47% male.

In my Facebook newsfeed it has long seemed that my female friends post more, more often. This led to some highly nonscientific research. Out of my 381 friends (the average Facebook user has 350) just over one hundred of them are female. A rough count of recent postings revealed that my smaller number of female friends were responsible for over 70% of the content in my newsfeed. A quick review of real research normalized and supported my elementary findings.

Rapleaf studied the habits of 13.2 million people on social media. While figures indicate both sexes are using social media in huge numbers, the findings showed that women far outpace men in actual activity. BrianSolis.com and Google Ad when-you-dont-go-on-facebook-for-a-weekPlanner have reported similar findings. Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, says women on Facebook have 8% more friends and participate in 62% of the sharing. Women upload more photos, create more status updates, and provide more information about themselves.

Forbes reports that women now average 11 updates a week on Facebook while men provide 5 (this seems awfully low based on what I witness in my newsfeed). A study conducted by The University of Boulder showed that women posted on Facebook 98 times compared to men who posted 32 times (for the period studied). As imbalanced as all this may appear, it is more equitable than Pinterest where over 80% of the users are female and account for 94% of all activity. Women tweet more frequently too as they make up 62% of active users on Twitter. Read more

The Real Impact of Netflix

In order to read this and have a true cathartic and life-changing experience, you must first be honest by answering these three questions:

Did you watch all seasons of Breaking Bad in less than two weeks?

Did you ever tell your significant other that you were working or working out when really you ate a bag of chips and watched The Expendables or The Devil Wears Prada (and you hid the empty bag at the bottom of the garbage)?

Did you ever watch ahead of your partner in the series Nashville or Veronica Mars but then pretended it was all new when you watched it together?

It has only been seven years since Netflix began to alter society. Now they have over 50 million subscribers in over 40 countries. Netflix and other streaming services have broken traditional business models, democratized content, and empowered consumers. It has also changed our watching habits.

93 minutes: average time watched by a Netflix subscriber per day

1 billion: number of hours per month all subscribers watch Netflix

61%: percentage of subscribers who admit to binge watching

80%: television shows account for largest percentage of all watching

88%: percentage of subscribers who watch three or more episodes of a TV show in a single day

If you answered yes to any or all of the questions at the start of this article, you are not alone. Netflix’s influence and impact is amazing and has been well covered. Sociologists have explored the sense of entitlement that results when we getnetflix-movies-expiring-jan-2014 what we want when we want it. The business press has trumpeted the bundle business model that underlines Netflix’s success.

Addiction specialists have explored binge watching relating it to drinking and taking drugs, “It’s like you’re punch drunk, and saying ‘come on feed me another one,” says Greg Dillon, professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College. Netflix has made binging easy now. Television shows play automatically one after another. I know of several people who have watched all of Orange is the New Black in one day.

This leads to the two impacts no one has yet talked about. First up is normalization. These new (seemingly excessive) watching habits were not bragged about just a short time ago. Personally, I never came clean to anyone that I watched all seasons of Community, The Unit and Family Guy while traveling for business. Or that I have watched the movies The Rock, Predators, and Olympus Has Fallen way more than once. Read more

You are Invited to a Meeting on the Effectiveness of Meetings

A client of mine, a Chief Marketing Officer at a consumer products company, recently shared an astonishing figure. His month of November was booked with over 120 hours of meetings by October 20th. He flashed me his Outlook calendar for the month and it was filled with bright lines and boxes. This should not be surprising given 11 million formal meetings take place each day in the United States. That is more than four billion a year according to a University of Arizona study.

Weirdly, stupidly, and hopefully not irreversibly, meetings are now synonymous with real work. So many meetings are now held that employees complain they get their work done after business hours and also lie and block their calendars to avoid the mass of invitations.

“Meetings are the most universal — and universally despised — part of business life.” Fast Company Magazine

Read more

The Sanctity of the Bookstore

We have a soft spot for bookstore marketing and advertising. Perhaps because they are becoming an endangered species. Here are two campaigns from Barnes & Noble. The first one, which we prefer, leverages the fact that one can get lost in a book. The second attempts to address the sanctity and benefits of the physical bookstore but is less resonant.

Read more

Brand as Religion

Years ago a study was released proving that children recognized brand logos more so than symbols of century-old religions. The McDonalds’ Golden Arches was called out more readily than the Christian cross. This made for great fodder in the press at the time with many pundits decrying the shameful state of civilization but the dismay was short-lived.

Religion of all stripes and types are horribly outspent from a media perspective by big brands and, in the case of fast food, the fervent will visit a Burger King or KFC much more often than the occasional Sunday service. Churches, 234-ronald-mcdonalds-waisynagogues and mosques have been outnumbered for decades.

Branding has always been about belonging to a club. Brands provide a vessel of perceived shared values and a homogeneity that our tribal natures desire. To put this in context I often joke about the skateboarder and snowboarder tribes asking ‘Why do they all dress the same?’ The sarcastic but accurate answer is, ‘To be different’.

In the past few years I have been exposed to the Ironman phenomena. These grueling contests see participants swim 2.4-miles (3.86 km), bike 112-miles (180.25 km) and run a 26.2-mile marathon (42.2 km). Mont Tremblant, Quebec, where I make my home, has begun hosting Ironman events making a name for itself as a mecca for triathletes (note my deliberate use of “mecca”). The area has now held several Ironmen including the North American Championship in 2014.

My wife and I have volunteered to help out several times serving as security, banquet server, and bike course monitors. We have also been happy to cheer on the sweaty competitors before we retire to our deck for a triathlon of cocktails. In all seriousness, our catbird seat has allowed for some interesting observations about Ironman or what I term an “event and achievement brand”.

Read more