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Showing posts from January, 2008

Leaders apologizing and branding

Financial Week has an article (January 28) about apologizing and members of the C-suite.

"Mattel’s Robert Eckert apologized for lead-tainted toys; JetBlue’s David Neeleman for letting passengers rot on the runway; and Apple’s Steve Jobs for uneven iPhone pricing."

Why are business leaders apologizing so much?

The article answers that "Branding 101 taught us all that a brand is more than a product name or a company logo and that loyalty can’t be bought with an ad. Brand loyalty is a gift from customers to companies that consistently earn their trust and demonstrate credibility over time. It can also be taken away at any time."

What this means is that consumers are ever-ready to withdraw their trust from brand leaders and take it elsewhere. It is upon brand leaders, therefore, to consistently demonstrate that they are worthy of brand trust.

The article tells leaders to be always mindful of whether their communication is good for the brand. Not only that, leaders should op…

Employer branding and Generation Y (well, all generations)

The Caymanian Compass features an article about employer branding and Generation Y.

The article notes that a 2004 study by Deloitte Consulting LLP and the Institute of the Future found six basic workplace values that this generation holds. These are:

1. More loyal to the same company than Gen Xers
2. "Craves a sense of purpose and meaning"
3. "Desire access to mentors"
4. "Want to work in a tech-savvy environment"
5. "Open social networks...are important to them"
6. "Work-life balance"

How does this translate into branding?

Deloitte uses the “Develop–Deploy–Connect” model:

1. Develop people by offering "real-life learning opportunities"
2. "Deploy key individuals by working with them to identify...deep rooted skills, interest, and knowledge, and then use that information to help find the best fit"
3. "Connect them by providing the tools and guidance they need to...build networks"

The article cautions that "your em…

Switching agencies and branding

A new article in Adweek (January 14, 2008) reports that in a survey of chief marketing officers, “nearly half of marketers plan to fire at least one of their agencies and change direction,” according to the Chief Marketing Officer Council’s second annual forecast.A total of 825 chief marketing officers were surveyed. They are turning “away from traditional advertising and public relations and toward ‘customer-facing’ and lead generation programs such as event marketing and e-mail.”Nearly half of respondents, 45 percent, said they were going to change agencies in 2008. They plan to fire their Web design and development firms, direct marketing agencies, general ad agencies, and PR firms.The article quotes Dave Murray, executive vice president of the CMO Council, who said that Web “is the top priority in terms of brand, customer engagement, insight.” And chief marketing officers are sick of “a lack of innovation,” “no value-added thinking,” and “poor creative.”Not that they’re spending l…

Branding and the upcoming U.S. presidential election

The News & Observer (January 8, 2008) recently published a negative article about branding in the political arena, “Choosy voters choose to go beyond branding.” It’s about the “fusion of ‘branding’ and politics that characterizes not only the way candidates and consultants pitch campaigns to the public, but also the way many of us now see public life.” The author calls this fusion “branditics.”The author argues that “branditics” reduces the complexity of politics to simplistic messages, and says “Brands work better in grocery stores than in the White House.”The writer understands branding well: It is indeed “the process of taking something on a shelf or in an office park and transforming it into an emotional experience that pulls us in, makes us believe, inspires us to buy. A strong brand captures, compresses and conveys an organization's values, the promise of its products and the guarantee of a consistent customer experience.”However, he does not believe that potential pres…

Country branding – an instructive article on Brand Kenya

Nairobi’s Business Daily (8 January 2008) carried an excellent opinion piece on what Kenya needs to do to build a country brand, especially in the face of the current instability. “Whereas we had reached a point where Kenya was seen as a case study in political tranquility and economic stability, we are now being showcased in the international media as a war-torn economic time bomb,” writes the author, the CEO of Interbrand Sampson East Africa. “One solution to counter this is to create a strong country brand.”According to the writer, a country brand offers the following key benefits, and I strongly agree:Improves a nation’s image in general (obviously)Aligns citizen’s way of thinking about the country “and speeds up healing and reconciliation”… “builds up patriotism and pride.”Positions a nation “way above its peers”…offers a “competitive edge” as countries “compete…for tourism, inward investment and export sales.” (Maybe this is three separate benefits?) Specifi…

Why U.S. federal government agencies don’t brand themselves

In an article titled “Treasury's £2.4m on ‘image’,”U.K.’s The Sun newspaper states that England’s “Treasury chiefs have blown £2.4million in a year on image makeovers. The cash was spent on logos, branding and marketing staff to promote the work of the department and its agencies.” The article notes that the “biggest spender was the shambolic HM Revenue and Customs, notorious for losing the bank details of 25 million people. It lavished £390,000 on seven brand management staff plus £750,000 on a marketing team last year. Chancellor Alistair Darling blew another £130,000 on ‘branding manuals’ for his departments.”The article goes on in this vein, eventually quoting Tory spokesman Philip Hammond, who said: “It beggars belief that departments that are supposed to be responsible for the public purse are lavishing millions on self-promotion.”This kind of story, in a nutshell, could be a key reason why U.S. federal government agencies don’t brand themselves. They could be concerned that…

McDonald's goes after Starbucks, Starbucks freaks out

Today’s Wall Street Journal (January 7, 2008) reports that McDonald’s is looking Starbucks square in the eye and going after its core customer.“Starting this year, the company's nearly 14,000 U.S. locations will install coffee bars with ‘baristas’ serving cappuccinos, lattes, mochas and the Frappe, similar to Starbucks' ice-blended Frappuccino.”Greedy McDonald’s forecasts $1 billion in annual sales from the program.The move is a good sign and a bad sign for Starbucks. It’s a good sign in that it recognizes just how mainstream “upscale coffee” has become—it validates Starbucks’ position as a key purveyor of that type of drink.It’s bad for Starbucks for the very same reason—it shows how commoditized the Starbucks experience is—the very thing that Starbucks chairman (now CEO) Howard Schultz warned about in his famous leaked memo of February 2007. It is sort of shocking that things have gotten to this point. Starbucks was supposed to be the polar opposite of a commodity purveyor o…

Customer service, social media, and branding--why brand makers should never, never give up trying

In an article for Brandweek, blogger Shel Holtz talks about the proliferation of “social media” (online participatory sites), including social networking sites and blogs. He cites a study showing that “22% of U.S. consumers are using social networking sites, a 5% increase in just one year.” What’s more, “19% use blogs, a 13% spike. And use of these channels has doubled among people over 55.”What this means, says Holtz, is that consumers are more often “experiencing your brand in places where you have no control. What’s more, they’re making purchase decisions based on those experiences.” It’s true: people are going online to learn about brands from bloggers, people who leave testimonials on e-commerce websites, friends, and family. Interestingly, they are NOT learning much about brands from company-sponsored websites. So the situation, for brands, is pretty dire: let’s not even talk about co-creation! We’re approaching a situation of customer-creation.

Holtz pairs this with the fact tha…

Sneak preview: new John Wiley book on branding

In a week, I will be interviewed for a book on aligning the internal and the external brand. The book, which is as yet untitled, is being published by John Wiley. The author of the book is Dr. Claudia Fisher, founder, Lemontree Brand Strategy. With Claudia's permission, reprinted below is the text of the interview and my early written responses to the questions.
1. Aligning internal and external brand activities is supposedly common sense. However, if one observes brand reality out there, this does not appear to be so.Do you think this is a topic of importance/ relevance/ interest? Yes, it is critical. If the internal and the external brand are not aligned the result is a fragmented brand and that is not sustainable in the marketplace. Why do you think alignment is so challenging? Because organizational leaders often do not receive upward feedback, they do not understand that employees are every bit as much stakeholders as external customers. They don…

Word of mouth marketing and "cheeseheads"

First, an item from Brandweek’s December 31 edition: word-of-mouth marketing is “projected to hit $1.3 billion this year, up almost 33% from $981 million in 2006,” and “spending is expected to triple by 2011.” This is due to “the explosion of communications on the Internet” and “the acceptance of WOM as a separate discipline beyond ads and public relations.”This makes sense to me. In an era where the consumer is taking increasing control over marketing, it pays to spend money to facilitate WOM. What the article doesn’t explain, though, is what all this money is being spent on if word of mouth is mostly done for free, by consumers leaving feedback on e-commerce sites, social networking sites, and blogs. True, there is a mention of a company that “leverages relationships with artists in underground New York scenes to build buzz.” But that’s just an isolated case. I would like to know more about how companies are paying to generate WOM. Speaking of WOM, Wisconsin is generating some buzz …

In defense of brands

The Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald yesterday ran an article, “Twelve steps to a brand-free life,” by an individual who a short time ago beat his obsession with consumer labels and shopping. The author had been an avid fan of brands like Adidas and Apple, “to the point that I could not contemplate buying products made by their rivals.” He relied on brands “to increase my confidence at meetings (BlackBerry) or my status at the bar (Ralph Lauren).” He used to “escape the office to shop.”This person, on deciding to “destroy my previously branded life,” set up “a public bonfire in central London, fuelled by my possessions. Twenty years of designer shopping went up in smoke.” The author says that “I have struggled to live my life brand-free ever since.” However, this is difficult because brands and their messages are everywhere.The author states that “The message behind every brand is we will feel better for consuming more” but “consumer culture has transformed our lives for the worse. W…