We Compare All Brand Experiences to Just a Few Brands

Have you noticed the same handful of businesses lead every brand ranking, are mentioned repeatedly at conferences, and are consistently referenced in books and articles? One cannot escape testimonials to Apple, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Harley-Davidson, and Disney. It is if there are only a handful of successful brands on the planet.

Now it seems consumers believe that to be true. Wunderman and Penn Schoen Berland surveyed 2,000 people aged 18 to 65 in the US and the UK, and the findings were consistent across generations, geography and gender. Here is an amazing finding: 87% of US and 85% of UK consumers compare all brand experiences to those they consider the best, such as Netflix, Amazon and Starbucks.

That means when we pick up our dry cleaning, rent a bicycle, or buy a shirt we are judging the experience as compared to ordering a venti cappuccino from Starbucks or streaming Better Call Saul.

After working with tons of brands and consulting to agencies who work with an exponential number of brands I am confident I know what consumers truly want from brands. They demand a solution. A solution that makes their lives easier and more enjoyable. Netflix, Amazon and Starbucks do that.

All that other brand stuff involving authenticity, consistency, and transparency are in the next consideration set. Those considerations are important for sure but when you boil it down consumers consume. Sure, some vote with their wallets if a brand does bad or badly but we buy to satisfy our very selfish needs and wants.

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Creativity: The Rituals and Routines

Recently my stepdaughter shared an article called Rise and Shine: The Daily Routines of History’s Most Creative Minds. She is entering the creative and competitive world of acting and writing in film and television. In sharing she could not help but note that I am well practiced in the routines of coffee, long walks, and inebriation (aren’t I the greatest influence?).

All family kidding aside, I struggle with the discipline and creativity required by writing. Writing is so much of what I do now. Branding and marketing requires conveying relevant and different ideas so I have always honed this talent. Now I am writing fiction and screenplays, as well as, ghostwriting for others. I like to think I am getting better at the craft but that does not mean it gets any easier.

Oliver Burkman’s article is a review of Mason Currey’s book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. In it Currey notes that Joyce Carol Oats worked the morning, took a big break and cranked up again in the evening. Anthony Trollope set the goal of 250-words per quarter-hour. Meanwhile, Friedrich Schiller could only write in the presence of the smell of rotting apples (for me it’s fermenting grapes).

I like background noise and always have. Since studying in high school and university, the tunes or television have been on. As I type this blog on my computer, one earbud is in place hooked to my tablet where Better Call Saul is in rotation.

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What’s New in Storytelling

“Humans are pattern-seeking story-telling animals, and we are quite adept at telling stories about patterns, whether they exist or not.” So says Michael Shermer. Storytelling in marketing is constantly debated. Yet, the fact remains a banner ad, a 30-second television ad, a poster all tell stories. If they don’t the consumer makes up their own.

Here is a roundup of current thinking on the art and science of storytelling…

How Barbie is evolving its storytelling for the digital age

The Drum covers interviews Mattel’s chief content officer Catherine Balsam-Schwaber, to find out how the toymaker is evolving its approach to storytelling. We are living in a Barbie world.

How Equinox, Coca-Cola, American Express and Marcus use data for storytelling

This is topic worthy of further examination. Stories are only going to get more dynamic. Static tales may become a thing of the past. Brands need to recognize that.

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Inspired Slope-side Design

Architects Peter Pichler and Pavol Mikolaycha have vision. They took a piece of land at 2,000m in the Italian Alps and decided to do something different. The Obereggen Mountain Hut appears to grow out of the hill.

Set next to the Oberholz cable station, the hut is a modern take on the classic Stube. Those structures dot mountain ranges in Europe and get the name from the living room or parlour … the heated part of a traditional farmhouse.

The Obereggen Mountain Hut is houses a restaurant and is split into three main sections. Each window on the end faces a different mountain. The building is entirely wood. Spruce was used for the structure and interior, larch for the facade, and oak for the furniture. A sunken design ensures ensures fabulous views. We applaud the ingenuity and year round utility.

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Simply Complex

Congratulations to our colleague, Rick Nason, on the publication of his new book, It’s Not Complicated. Thanks so much for the generous acknowledgment and for the quote in the book. We had fun reviewing it on Amazon…

Rick provides “a new way to think about business problems and issues”. This is explained throughout as understanding the difference between complicated and complex and embracing that difference. The complicated “can be separated and dealt with in a systematic and logical way” while the complex cannot be separated out…”there are no rules, algorithms”. The difference is profound but we have muddled the two words together even using them interchangeably.

The complicated can be codified with predictable and reproducible outcomes so success is well defined and often pre-ordained. Too many businesses and managers have become hooked on this construct because “Things that are complicated are well defined. They allow us to feel intelligent when we master them; they allow us to feel necessary; and perhaps most importantly, they allow us to feel that we are in control.” We crave order, love the predictability of patterns, and get a rush from solving the complicated. That is much easier than addressing the complex with its nonlinear nature, randomness, loss of control, and richly interconnected and interdependent holistic make-up.

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Big Brands Go Analog With Merchandise

In this time of all things digital it is fun to see big brands going “analog”. Promotional merchandise or merch or schwag is hot right now. And I love that it is. Perhaps I am dating myself but promotions were always a fun part of the marketing mix for me.

KCF loves to print the Colonel’s likeness on shirts and pillows while self-desprecating about fried chicken in general. The brand has been taken to ‘quirky territory’ by its agencies. It may be time for KFC management to exert a little more control.

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Why Are So Many Brands Named for a Fruit?

There are definite trends in brand naming. Some become faddish and others earn iconic status. Think of the advertising industry. While at DDB we would joke about changing the name to Tartan Elephant or Lollipop Attack. This was to sarcastically compete with Big Spaceship, 72 and Sunny, and Blammo, and others.

Now you have dropped vowels businesses like Tumblr, Flickr, and Grindr. Twitter began as Twtter but then thought better. Then there is the -ify movement that includes Adify, Crowdify, Mobify, Navify, Optify, Shopify, Spotify, Storify, Topify, and Soapboxify.

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Marketing Lessons from British Bands

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. What has not been covered is the role marketing played.

There is much to learn from how these bands deliberately and accidentally built their brands. So join us for this magical marketing tour.

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 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 are wrong.

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Hiring the Right CMO

It has been called the most dangerous title in business and many pundits have suggested it does not work and should be banished. No role in the last fifteen years has been scrutinized and debated more than the Chief Marketing Officer. Businesses have struggled with the title and role since it was first coined not too long ago.

I remember working in Price Waterhouse’s Marketing and Customer Management practice when I first saw it referenced in the mid 1990’s. I think I danced a nerdy marketing jig. My excitement was shared by marketing practitioners who long thought our services were poorly understood, inaccurately recognized, and under valued.

The hope was this executive position would set the record straight and have uber impact within a business. What happened and continues to take place are huge assumptions and unrealistic expectations placed on the CMO that almost always result in disappointment. Of course, I have seen situations and models work but I have witnessed many more fail.

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The Slow Decay of Substantive Content

William Henry wrote In Defense of Elitism in 1994. Though the title may come across as pompous the book is actually a rallying cry for curiosity, exploration, and discovery for all. Henry was the Pulitzer Prize-winning culture critic for Time magazine. The book was slammed by critics as a very thinly veiled stab at egalitarianism. In fact, it was an attack on the dumbing down of society. More specifically, it identified the strange path America was on and goes a long way to explaining where it finds itself today.

One passage points out, “Today, even critical books about ideas are expected to be prescriptive, to conclude with simple, step-by-step solutions to whatever crisis they discuss. Reading itself is becoming a way out of thinking.”

Henry was accurate but may have miscalculated how quickly and, to what extent, this has taken hold in society. One only has to see the headlines in once-respected newspapers and magazines or take in the astonishing range of poorly written blogs or view scrolling tweets of perpetuating nonsense to conclude that we are losing the ability to search for, develop, and discover knowledge. This morning I was greeted with the following headlines from various sources “7 Things You Need to Know About …”, “13 Do’s and Don’ts of …”, “The 9 Most Common …”, “Top 10 Tips for …”, “5 Ways to …”.

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