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Showing posts from November, 2011

Herman Cain: Good Brand, Wrong Business

If Newt Gingrich is going to win the nomination, and possibly the election, it is because he is the right brand in the right place at the right time. He is experienced, knowledgeable, politically savvy, positive, business-oriented, and most of all he really seems to want the job. Plus he's already gotten us used to his skeletons. The country is looking for answers. And they see in him a confident old hand with substantive new ideas that can actually work. Herman Cain on the other hand is very uncomfortable in his current chosen field, politics. He likes people, clearly (perhaps a bit too much!) but he doesn't know the subject matter. And he isn't skilled at working the issues, the Washington scene, the media. I find myself wondering why Cain hasn't dropped out yet. It's not just the allegations from the (lost count) women who have emerged. It's the fact that he just seems so uncomfortable with any serious question whatsoever. Cain has said that he's stud…

Gender-Based Branding: 5 Hypotheses

The other day it occurred to me that while marketers routinely differentiate between men and women as target audiences, brand strategies don't often make this distinction.In this context "marketing" = meeting customer needs in the broadest sense, while "branding" = creating the impression of superior value. Here are some loose hypotheses I'm tossing around:1. Visual vs. imagination - men need to see what they are buying (inspect dimensions, etc.) women prefer to embellish it in their heads
(Related hypothesis could be called "explicit vs. storytelling": men prefer to be told directly and concisely what the product is and does vs. women like to learn about it in the context of a story, by inference, etc. - like product placement or infomercial) 2. Specialized vs. lifestyle - men prefer a brand that claims to do one thing well; women like an umbrella brand that brightens everything it touches (Dr. Oz vs. Oprah) 3. Functional vs. emotional - men are…

Occupy Wall Street, Branding Battleground

Originally OWS was an anti-consumerist movement (see "The Branding of the Occupy Movement" in today's New York Times, 11/28/11; hat tip to whoever posted it on LinkedIn.) It was "launched" on July 13, 2011 when the staff at Adbuster magazine, headed by editor Kalle Lasn, launched a dual branding and social media "attack" as represented by:
* Twitter hashtag: #OCCUPYWALLSTREET
* Icon: Ballerina dancing on a bullUnions and liberal groups have been visible promoters of the movement; a recent headline in The Hill (11/12/11), "Labor unions, Occupy Wall Street plan ‘day of action’" exemplifies its initial ideological tilt.The New York Times exemplified the “capitalists are evil” spirit yesterday (11/27/11), with a cover story casting billionaire Ronald S. Lauder as someone who can’t actually succeed at working for a living, so he is content to be a semi-productive philanthropist, art lover and sometime ambassador who is an expert in milking legitima…

Personal Demon --> Personal Brand

I did not understand Lady Gaga at all until I saw her HBO concert special. Onstage she talked – a lot. And I could see that growing up, she felt like a freak. That gender and sexuality were big issues for her. And that she lived, dreamed, ate and breathed the wish for stardom.Now she is a star – we pay her to be a freak for money – because she encourages the rest of us to let our own “freak flag fly.”Watching her onstage I thought the following: Lady Gaga is “freaking” brilliant. She can sing. Dance. Play piano. Change costumes in five seconds. Has no shame or inhibitions. Remembers her entire stage show. Can run through the whole routine breathlessly.Plus Lady Gaga knows how to capture the audience, engage them, bring them in. The concert was in New York and I think she yelled “New York” just about every five seconds. She gave a shout-out to Liza Minnelli and Marisa Tomei in the audience, and to the Tisch School at NYU (the performing arts school).This was not an anonymous endeavor –…

Branding as a tool to reinvent government

One of the things I have never understood about "nation-branding" is its use for tourism. It seems to me one of those cancerous outgrowths of thinking of branding in a very limited, superficial, advertising-campaign-like way with a very short-term return on investment if there is one at all. In fact, this kind of activity isn't branding. It is really marketing, supported by advertising. Here's the difference: * Marketing is always focused on what the customer wants. This is classic Peter Drucker: "You get paid for creating a customer, which is marketing." Marketers think in the short-term: Campaigns are for right now and they are best measured in sales. * Branding is always focused on keeping a promise. If you're doing your job right you will draw some customers in and turn other prospects off completely. Marketing and branding are both tactics and they're appropriate at different places and ties. But when it comes to something as weighty as nation-bran…

Thanksgiving & the importance of ritual in brand-building

Of all the books written about branding one of my favorites is Primal Branding by Patrick Hanlon of Thinktopia. In this book Hanlon lays out the principles of great branding essentially along the lines of religion.  Among the principles that Hanlon lays out is one I think gets overlooked a lot - ritual. Jeannie Chan at the Curious Marketeer explains it thus: "Rituals are the meaningful repeated points of contact between you and your guest, customer, client, or target market." Certainly that is one aspect of ritual - the way the brand developer shapes your experience consistently. But there is another aspect to ritual as well. As a brand-builder you are trying to create a destination for the customer that is an essential part of their lives. The fact that they keep coming to you, and not your competitor, is what guarantees you a steady stream of income and the opportunity to build and expand your presence in the market. So what you want is to have the customer's patronage of…

Jimmy Fallon's Fake Apology & 10 Do's and Don'ts Re: Twitter

As a guest on Jimmy Fallon's late-night show, Presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann was greeted by a song that essentially called her a b****. It was shockingly rude and not funny. Fallon reportedly has tweeted an "apology." That seems cowardly to me.If you want to call someone a bad name, do it to their face; don't hide behind your band. And when you're called out on bad behavior like this, apologize personally, either over the phone or in person.  So please don't do that and these 5 other things on Twitter:
1. Tell us where you are, what you're eating, etc. 2. Write in Morse code 3. Promote companies who blindly ask everyone to send Tweets promoting their services 4. Over-Tweet (more than 4-5 in a 24-hour period) 5. Share links that look like they might be spam - word the Tweet so that we know you haven't been hacked On the other side of the coin, please do use Twitter to: 1. Share news 2. Tell about a blog you've written or a project you're invol…

Precisely **Because** of Its "Muddled Message," OWS = Valuable Brand

According to USA Today, 56% of Americans “neither support or oppose” OWS because “they still don’t know enough about its goals.”Technically, as a brand OWS should fail. It’s got a negative, messy, incoherent message; it’s socially engineered; and its “ambassadors” violate some basic American values, not to mention the law.Yet OWS is valuable and destined to make a difference anyway. Because it’s got all four of the requirements for success: 1) awareness 2) esteem (among a very specific target audience) 3) differentiation and 4) relevance (methodology: Young & Rubicam’s Brand Asset Valuator).Esteem and relevance are where OWS go off the charts for Generation Y: This is their Woodstock. Remember: This is the generation told that they deserved everything, if only they worked hard enough and followed the rules. That believed in “hope” and “change.” And that now finds itself royally cheated out of everything they worked for. Generation Y isn’t being drafted into war. But they are furio…

Why your boss doesn't like your personal brand

You have a blog, a Twitter account, you're active on LinkedIn and
you've even presented a case study at a conference or two. Maybe your resume looks better but is all this extra work impressing your boss? According to personal branding specialist Dan Schawbel, the answer is
no. In "The Perils of Self-Promotion" (Forbes 11/15/11) he warns
excessive Twitterers and the build-your-brand bloggerati about the
risk of "alienating your boss with your overzealous self-promotion." Paradoxically, too much personal branding can actually screw up your job! In the article, Schawbel and other experts offer 3 good basic tips to
help eager career-builders avoid this fate: 1. Build your brand on your own time, but make sure to keep your boss informed
(Schawbel) 2. The 80/20 rule still rules: Spend most of your time on your job
and work relationships, and only after that, your brand
(Steve Cannon, VP marketing, Mercedes-Benz USA) 3. A similar rule regarding personal br…

The Hidden Similarity Between Occupy Wall Street and The Tea Party - And What It Reveals About The Way Forward

In a column posted at Forbes yesterday, Adam Hartung compares the relative importance of the Tea Party with Occupy Wall Street: * The Tea Party is more organized than OWS, and has a clearer message. * OWS draws a more diverse and less extreme crowd than the Tea Party and its members are growing. He concludes that OWS is more important than the Tea Party: it "looks like a trend, even if we don't know exactly what that trend represents." One thing he can say: "The OWS people are genuinely angry. They cannot comprehend why America cannot seem to create more jobs, or provide affordable health care for its citizenry, or even deal effectively with wave after wave of property value declines and foreclosures while those at the top of the economic pyramid seem to keep doing better every year."On the surface the two movements differ because of who they blame for their problems: Tea Partiers say it's "Big Government"; OWS call out "the 1%," which is a…

15 Branding Trends We Will Trace to Penn State

Possibly 30+ years of pedophilia, carried out by a trusted football coach named Jerry Sandusky, who set up a charity to lure his victims. The coach enabled and protected by Penn State's church of football, with the Pope-like figure of Joe Paterno at the helm. Eight victims so far and more are coming forward. Now at Syracuse University, associate head basketball coach Bernie Fine (pedophiles know all religions and no religion) has been placed on leave after two alleged victims have stepped forward. The police have opened an investigation regarding allegations of sexual abuse by him spanning from the 1970s to the 1990s.Back to Penn State. The image of a helpless ten-year-old boy being raped by a powerful and trusted community figure, observed but not protected by a 30-year-old man who could have intervened but inexplicably failed to physically intervene, is so horrifying that there literally are no adequate words. At CNN, Bill Bennett says it's the "worst scandal in the hi…

Social media in government: problem or opportunity?

It was only after his "nervous breakdown" in 1897 that the German sociologist Max Weber wrote one of the greatest social studies of all time: The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Weber had been felled by the "irrationalities" of his own mind and so he compensated by finding and celebrating the growth of orderliness in the modern world. As Elizabeth Kolbert puts it: "With “The Protestant Ethic,” Weber seems to have discovered his calling: the study of rationality....In Weber’s view, modern Western society is the product of increasingly rational forms of organization. Its institutions are governed by “systematic” rules and “impersonal” procedures, rather than by custom or religious obligation, and this sets it apart from virtually all other world cultures." 
If there were a status called "sainthood" in the government today, Max Weber would probably occupy it. It was Weber who defined and elucidated bureaucracy, which - despite the fact…

10 Tips for Handling a Hostile Audience

This morning C-Span’s Book TV featured an Oct. 27 talk by Gilad Sharon, son of the former Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon. The former was in Boston at Suffolk University to talk about authoring his father's biography, Sharon: The Life of a Leader.Following the lecture, Sharon participated in a Q&A with a mostly hostile audience. It was not surprising; the Middle East is a polarizing topic and Sharon is equally a polarizing figure. Despite this, and despite his personal stake in portraying his father well, Sharon handled the questions impressively. His handling of the situation left me with some important communication lessons about a key topic - because on-camera or not, all of us have to deal with hostile questions at one time or another:Be an expert in the subject matter, not just “well-prepared.” Sharon effortlessly reached back into decades of history to respond to every question fully, putting them into historical context.Lesson learned: If you don’t know what you’re…

Marketers: That Phoniness Will Cost You

This season on "Desperate Housewives," Susan is wracked with guilt because she helped her friends commit a crime. She tries to run away from the guilt by taking an art class and trying to win the teacher's approval there - except that the teacher is more than she bargained for. He won't let her simply get an "A" in the class and go home. Instead he sees her talent, and pushes her to cut through her own b.s. and paint the truth she is hiding inside. The great thing about popular culture is that it helps us to see and confront serious issues that are often too upsetting to deal with in reality. Because just like Susan, a lot of us go around in a kind of hiding. We compensate for the inability to speak freely, to tell the truth as we see it, by trying to win the approval of others. Except that the satisfaction from this approval is necessarily superficial and meaningless - because it isn't really what we're looking for. The praise, the promotions, the m…

Silence: A Sexual Predator’s Best Friend

Sexual predators and others who prey on vulnerable people are gamblers. If they feel assured of invincibility, they will victimize; if the victim will talk or they will be found out some other way and punished, they will not.This is why it is critical for not only victims, but also those around them, to investigate and report suspected sexual abuse or harassment as soon as there is reason to believe there is a problem. Of course, a legally mandated reporter must report whenever “financial, physical, sexual or other types of abuse has been observed or is suspected, or when there is evidence of neglect, knowledge of an incident, or an imminent risk of serious harm.”And the community – including the family, social organizations, religious and political institutions, the media, the workplace and the courts - must step up to provide justice and support for victims. Not to mention that harassers must be removed from the populations they seek to harm.“It Was Easy” - Silencing In The Youth Gr…

10 TV commercials I really like

It was TV commercials that first got me into branding, and once in a while it's nice to sit back and appreciate them for what they are - not just a commercial form but also art.
Looking at the list below, they happen to cluster in the financial and automobile categories, not sure why. I notice that funny commercials tend to go to the top of the list, followed by commercials with some funky great character/music, and then commercials with heart.
Also, I'm noticing that great commercials usually build the brand - they are not direct "calls to action." Though one of these stands out for doing both - E-Trade. Their commercials are outstandingly convincing.
(Note - there was one commercial that almost made it onto this list, till I saw that at least some military folks found it exploitive - the Kay Jewelers "Open Heart" commercial featuring Jane Seymour. Sorry Kay.)
If anyone has a favorite commercial to add please do, as I'm always interested to see what other …

Pity The Fools Who Invested In Groupon

In December 2010, shocked that Groupon had rejected a buyout offer from Google, I suggested that they were a commodity and should take the money - either $5 or $6 billion depending on whether you read the Chicago Tribune or the NYT - and run.Yesterday, November 4, 2011, Groupon went public in what is being called "the largest tech IPO since Google went public in 2004," (though to me it's a coupon company not a tech company). At $20 a share the resulting "value" of the company is $12.7 billion.  It is common knowledge on Wall Street that this company is a lot of "hype." As former CNBC financial reporter, now Yahoo! Finance blogger Matt Nesto writes in "Groupon IPO: Shares Debut With A Bang, But Questions Remain:"  "Once the hype of Groupon's trading debut fades, investors will closely evaluate the entire realm of opportunity and risk that lies within the 'daily deals' industry." In the short-term Groupon is succeeding becau…

Followup to: "If information is power, why share information?"

Yesterday's post focused on the seemingly illogical action of sharing information when doing so poses so much risk.
Since obviously I do believe very strongly in information-sharing, just wanted to provide a quick followup. Let's take these one at a time:
1. Status/power/respect - while it's true that people respect authoritative leaders, it's also true that leaders who show a human side tend to gain more support from those they lead. 2. Credibility - there is nobody on this earth who hasn't made a mistake. By owning up to yours up front, rather than trying to hide or paper over them, you show maturity and gain even more credibility among your audience. 3. Security - obviously you have to have a strategic plan about what you do and don't share, but this should not mean walling off the organization entirely. This would be impossible anyway in the Internet age. 4. Social norms - it is becoming not only normative but axiomatic that the organization will share inform…

If information is power, why share information? (on the elusive search for transparency & collaboration)

So this is what I still don't get and I'm hoping maybe others can provide some insight. Maybe I'm just missing the obvious but...
1. If we are operating in an information economy, then information has value akin to financial currency.
Therefore it follows logically that - 
2. You wouldn't give away all your money...so what is the rational reason for sharing information, particularly information of value?
Perhaps you could argue that information-sharing is like a financial investment and:
3. You invest a limited amount of information-sharing for the sake of getting good information back - like putting your money in the stock market so that you earn enough interest to outpace inflation. 
However, there are a few powerful contravening factors in that giving away information can make you lose:
* Status/power/respect - if others are as expert as you, why do you occupy this place in the hierarchy? You may lose your mystique as people understand how you operate. And by making yourse…