Skip to main content

Beware The “Yes-Man” Who Is Ruining Your Brand

If branding were a course of study, it would most closely resemble psychoanalytic sociology, a fancy term for the scientific study of irrational-seeming group behavior.

You would never know this from reading about “marketing” or “branding.”

The material I’ve seen in this field (keeping in mind that there is a difference between the two, but we’ll put them together for now) generally presumes a “rational actor.” Meaning, that people are generally logical and are conscious of why they do what they do.

The epitome of traditional marketing thinking is the reduction of research to surveys (quantitative) and focus groups (qualitative). Both of these tools, while they have their place, are grossly overused, even though they are ultimately ineffective. If I could TELL you what I wanted from peanut butter I wouldn’t be lured by the name “Skippy.” Skippy sounds like a kid with a baseball cap on. Why would I buy peanut butter from this person? Or how about Jif? That’s not a name I would choose for a food, ever.

You may be objecting to this thesis. You’re thinking about buzzwords like “neuromarketing” and “social media.” You read the article in Fast Company about the thirtysomethings taking courses with a Swedish company to adapt to the new and digital future of marketing, where”creative genius” is out and coding skills are “in.”

Unfortunately, as good as technology will get – and it is going to get better and better – nothing can save us from good old fashioned THINKING. Great marketers don’t lean on survey results that ask “Do you like this?” or “What were the themes that emerged about that?” They know that cognitive distortion and groupthink are such strong counter-factors that marketing research must be taken with a huge grain of salt.

Great marketers have an attitude more like Albert Einstein, who famously said, “If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called research, would it?”

Unfortunately however, it takes courage to insert even a little bit of insight, intuition, innovative thinking and intentional creativity into the marketing process. Because so much money is at stake. And as you rise up the career ladder, so is your reputation as a marketing leader. It’s one thing to be at the bottom and blab about your great ideas. It’s another to be holding the reins of a Pepsi or Mercedes-Benz or Google.

And even if you muster up the courage to be bold, you face a hidden obstacle. That is the plethora of people willing to serve as “yes-men” (or “-women”) to your ideas. These days it’s no longer enough to be great on your own. Especially as you get promoted, you must surround yourself with people who will feel free to speak their minds. Better yet, supplement them with online feedback tools that give you an inkling of when people feel like you’re being an idiot.

To me, branding is an incredibly fascinating science precisely because you’re trying to get a handle on the rational and logical principles that underlie what seems like irrational behavior. It’s a lifelong journey, and I wish you all good luck along the way.

Happy 2011!

Popular posts from this blog

What is the difference between brand equity and brand parity?

Brand equity is a financial calculation. It is the difference between a commodity product or service and a branded one. For example if you sell a plain orange for $.50 but a Sunkist orange for $.75 and the Sunkist orange has brand equity you can calculate it at $.25 per orange.

Brand parity exists when two different brands have a relatively equal value. The reason we call it "parity" is that the basis of their value may be different. For example, one brand may be seen as higher in quality, while the other is perceived as fashionable.

________________
All opinions my own. Originally posted to Quora. Public domain photo by hbieser via Pixabay.

What is the difference between "brand positioning," "brand mantra," and "brand tagline?"

Brand positioning statement: This is a 1–2 sentence description of what makes the brand different from its competitors (or different in its space), and compelling. Typically the positioning combines elements of the conceptual (e.g., “innovative design,” something that would be in your imagination) with the literal and physical (e.g., “the outside of the car is made of the thinnest, strongest metal on earth”). The audience for this statement is internal. It’s intended to get everybody on the same page before going out with any communication products.Brand mantra: This is a very short phrase that is used predominantly by people inside the organization, but also by those outside it, in order to understand the “essence” or the “soul” of the brand and to sell it to employees. An example would be Google’s “Don’t be evil.” You wouldn’t really see it in an ad, but you might see it mentioned or discussed in an article about the company intended to represent it to investors, influencers, etc.Br…

Nitro Cold Brew and the Oncoming Crash of Starbucks

A long time ago (January 7, 2008), the Wall Street Journal ran an article about McDonald's competing against Starbucks.
At the time the issue was that the former planned to pit its own deluxe coffees head to head with the latter.
At the time I wrote that while Starbucks could be confident in its brand-loyal consumers, the company, my personal favorite brand of all time,  "...needs to see this as a major warning signal. As I have said before, it is time to reinvent the brand — now.  "Starbucks should consider killing its own brand and resurrecting it as something even better — the ultimate, uncopyable 'third space' that is suited for the way we live now.  "There is no growth left for Starbucks as it stands anymore — it has saturated the market. It is time to do something daring, different, and better — astounding and delighting the millions (billions?) of dedicated Starbucks fans out there who are rooting for the brand to survive and succeed." Today as …