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Showing posts from November, 2012

Internal Communications: You Get What You Pay For

A colleague of mine once said that Internal Communications is the "neglected stepchild" of the communications profession and over the years it is easy to figure out why.

There is absolutely no glory in it.

Internal Communications isn't glitzy. It's not about press, or social media, or trade shows. You don't get interviewed on TV. It's not multimedia.

It's about talking to your people. Sort of like - here we go - keeping the family together!

And we know how much fun Thanksgiving Dinner is when you've got all those old dynamics swirling around.

I did not even know there was such a thing as Internal Communications until I came to work for The Brand Consultancy, where they did something called "Internal Branding."

Basically, this was training the employees to operate in accordance with the mission/vision/values espoused by the brand.

Early on I realized that training did not work. Because people are not morons (largely), they are thinking adults and th…

Solve The Problem: Symptom vs. Cause

The other day someone told me that they didn't care much about the outcome of the election because "nothing changes anyway." The only thing that bothered them though was the "policy of killing babies."

OK, the abortion debate. I wasn't going to ruin a good conversation by responding the way I wanted to: "You must be out of your mind."

Because factually speaking an abortion is not killing a baby but rather preventing a fetus from becoming one.

Also when one considers that globally women are far from free to control their reproductive lives (let's work on child slavery/"marriage" shall we?), and the poor life prospects of unwanted children, it seems sort of farcical to insist in fetal rights vs. all other human considerations.

I agree that abortion is a problem. But if you want to solve it look to the causes (rape, incest, peer pressure, poverty, absent parent, etc.), rather than focusing exclusively on the symptom (unwanted pregnancy).

At…

Women and Men Do Shop Differently: 5 Observations

The other day my daughter said to me, "Feminism is just fine, but men and women are not the same." She is an aspiring neuropsychologist and given any social situation, where I see the group dynamics she sees a brain chemical. 
From a sociological perspective there are a lot of reasons why gender differences exist and a lot of uses to which groups put them. From a marketing (or outreach) perspective what matters are the patterns. Here are a few that I see:
1) Expressed vs. Implied: Marketing to men has to be tangible - auditory, visual, kinetic (hear it, see it, move it) versus to women merely a suggestion is enough and even preferable. Another way of putting this is that women are engaged with the story around a product while men are engaged with the idea that the product itself approaches perfection.
2) Status: Men buy things to compete with other men and they think of it as "acquiring," so there is a certain level of permanency. Women will buy virtually anything if …

Listerine and the Business of Shame

Image via Kilmer House, a blog dedicated to the story of Johnson & Johnson and its employees. Frederick Barnett Kilmer, for whom the blog is named, was J&J's first scientific director. The blog is written by J&J corporate communications. This is a great example of corporate branding best practice.

Marketing, as an industry, trades on shame. Subsistence happens on one level, admittedly not cheap but not nearly as expensive as the stuff you are routinely offered to buy. Or the stuff you don't need, but that marketers invent, convincing you along the way that you must have it ("creating a market.")

It is a paradox that shame is universal, and yet we universally seem to have trouble talking about it. Maybe that's because of the nature of shame. It's designed to keep people in line - nothing more and nothing less.

Shame is a spiritual theme. In the Garden of Eden, the Biblical story goes, Adam and Eve felt shame when they sinned against G-d. There was nob…

10 Rules of Marketing To Low-Context Cultures

Yesterday I wrote about reaching customers from high-context cultures, where meaning is transmitted implicitly. But what if your audience is low-context? What does that mean, anyway? Basically: High-context means they have a strong shared understanding in terms of values and the meaning behind communication. Examples include culturally homogeneous immigrant groups and also specialized work groups who speak in terms nobody else understands.Low-context means they have less shared understanding and diverse identities and need to have things articulated clearly in ways that span cultures. A prime example is the United States of America as a mass audience, as the identities of its citizens varies dramatically from place to place.When you are marketing to a low-context culture:
1) Emphasize one primary language. The global language of business is still English.
2) Put diverse-looking people in your marketing copy. It's about appealing to a broad base and showing how anyone can fit in.
3) Foc…

7 Rules of Marketing To High-Context Cultures

Over the past few weeks I've had the opportunity to observe Russian, Korean, Hasidic Jewish, Muslim, and Hispanic consumers in their natural habitats (e.g. going about regular life).

Speaking very broadly, one thing all of these groups have in common is that they are high-context. Meaning, they have a broad base of shared understanding. It doesn't take a lot of communicating for them to transmit meaning to one another.

Marketing to high-context cultures can be challenging if you don't understand the culture, or if you're used to a communication environment where things are spelled out very clearly.

Here are 7 things I've observed that may prove helpful no matter what audience you're dealing with:

1) Communicate in their native language. The native language is not only a technicality of words and their meaning. Culture is imbued in it. For example, some languages can be gender-neutral and others cannot. Beliefs about gender and gender roles are imbued in language. W…

Tips on Winning (and Keeping) the Business - Mobile Apps

This question was posed on Quora: "What should agencies care about regarding mobile apps for brands - winning awards or getting downloads?" 

Here is my response:

I. Winning the business
Clients want apps that 

1) Look cool 

2) Are better than the app they saw that made them decide to get an app 

3) Are EZ to use 

4) Load fast 

5) Drive brand awareness. 

Awards = irrelevant as are # of downloads (this happens after they pay). 

II. Winning and keeping clients, general advice
1) Be easy to work with

2) Talk in simple terms not techy 

3) Provide a few tables/pie charts showing how competitors have benefited from a similar app. Nobody wants to be behind the curve.

III. Keeping the business
Show results. 

With an app, the best way to show results is to offer some useful capability for free, that also relates to the brand message. This is marketing, sales and branding all at the same time.

Apps like these get people to download and use. To build awareness of the app, integrate on sites and perhaps …

Branding As A Tool For Cultural Understanding

Today for the first time I actually read the Hamas charter, which you can find pretty easily online. It struck me that the writing was clear and logically consistent with their anti-Israel rhetoric and violence.

It struck me that most people have probably not actually read the document. If they did they would see that peace agreements are not in keeping with their brand.

A mistake we make when we think about things is to get our biases mixed up with our brains.

Personally I am Jewish, somewhat secular and embrace the Western "live and let live" worldview: "Who am I to judge?" "It's all good." All of these factors introduce bias.

At the same time I have enough cognitive independence to know that if an organization issues a brand promise and then lives up to it, they probably mean what they say.

The Western secular mind does not easily comprehend a culture so different as Hamas. But you can if you use the language of branding.

Their vision is a greater Pale…

Aligning The Big 5: Knowledge Mgmt., PR, Corp. Comm., Internal Marketing & The Visual Brand

Think of the modern economy as a funnel.
Services sits at the very top and captures nearly everyone. No matter what you actually do, you get employed and stay employed based on the quality of your relationships with others.Knowledge represents fewer people, but captures many.  If you are a technical or subject matter expert of any kind you fit into this category. Manufacturing includes still fewer and captures some. These are people who actually produce goods for the rest of us.Now think of where you sit in relationship to this funnel:
Frontline workers deal directly with the public and can fall into any of the categories above.Support personnel support the frontline and make sure they are equipped to get the job done.This article is for support personnel in the communications field. We're not doing a good enough job of taking care of the frontline - and that includes the public. Because a key challenge faced by frontline workers today (internal customers), as well as the public con…

Packaging, Packaging, Packaging: 7 Tips

Recently I did a micro-experiment in marketing for work. Basically I'm helping with a charity drive and to that end ran a small "mystery gift" event. I took dollar-store gifts, wrapped them, put a bow on them and "sold" them for a contribution of the donor's choice. The following observed behaviors taught me a great deal about the importance of packaging:

1) First brand, then color: When people did not know what was inside the box, they looked at the box itself. They picked wrapping paper with Snoopy on it versus other brightly colored papers. The black wrapping paper iwth a design was the leaset popular.

2) Shaking the package: I hadn't seen this one before but at least three people actually picked the various packages up and shook them to determine what could be inside. (Two of them were right.)

3) Irregular shape: People tended to pick up the odd, irregularly shaped packages versus the simple, symmetrical ones.

4) Relationship marketing: Sales picked up …

The #1 Stupid Thing Organizations Do To Mess Up Their Brand - via Mark Morris, The Brand Consultancy

I asked for comments on this article in Fast Company at my group Brand Masters. My former boss Mark Morris, Founder and Senior Strategist at The Brand Consultancy, said the following. It's very well said and I appreciate that he provided me with permission to share it publicly:
"The most common thing organizations do to mess up their brands is not knowing what their brand is. It lives somewhere out there with their customers but everyone internal to the organization makes up their own version of what it stands for, what promise it makes and how that promise is kept. Great organizations bring their customers voice into every decision they make. We say "they have breakfast with their customers." A ongoing dialogue in every channel available and practical. In essence, they speak in the voice of their customer."

They Are Laughing At Us. That's Bad.

Screenshot from Kindergarten Cop viaThe Kazan Times
Everybody has moments in life when things feel totally out of control. And that makes us feel upset. We like to have our lives in order. It's odd because if you look back over your life, isn't "out of control" actually the norm? And unexpected disasters could have been expected? When things go smoothly it's probably then that we should be shocked. The Yiddish saying "Man plans, G-d laughs" pretty much sums it up. It's starting to feel a bit like that right now. We've got a hotly contested election and a bitter, angry, frustrated public. Sequestration looms. Beltway is in gridlock. And scandal. But all of this is not the worst thing. If you've been around D.C. for any length of time you've seen it all before, and then some. The worst thing - what concerns me as a government communicator - is that the public seems to be laughing at us.  I don't have any data to prove this. But if you watch the…

5 Ways The Broadwell-Petraeus Scandal Will Almost Certainly Be Monetized & The 3 Themes That Drive Them (Updated)

I posted some brief thoughts yesterday (they're included again today) but wanted to reflect a bit further in sharing this. Because it's always difficult when you write about topics that have to do with very serious, sensitive and complex matters, including unresolved matters affecting our national security and an ongoing investigation (none of which this is about - sorry folks, it's just marketing).

Like everybody else I'm a subjective human being with emotions invested in the day's news, especially news that touches on topics I am passionate about.

But the job of a marketer is to be objective. When I write here it's not about preaching but rather sharing insights based on real-world examples. This is in fact the difference between an academic science, a discipline, and a subjective exercise in political correctness or religion, neither of which I am here to provide.

But in the meantime I hope nobody is offended if I say what I see, and at this time I see the Paul…

5 Brand Trends To Watch In 2013

The future of branding is as "hyperlocal" as ever, hat tip as always to Marian Salzman. Hyperlocal means that the brand seems rooted in a very particular place and time, and precisely because of that its appeal crosses global boundaries.

One of the main things to understand about hyperlocal global brands is that even talking about them is not politically correct. That's because they are heavily rooted in deeply personal categories like race, culture, nationality, gender, and so on. But that is exactly why they work today - in a politically correct world, they are raw and real.

Oddly however, despite the fact that the brand can offend one often doesn't really understand much of what the story is about. You aren't from that hyperlocal place after all. But that's OK - you do get the basic idea.

What this means overall: Identity is very much top of mind now, both in the sense of "reclaiming" what is old and in the sense of "reinventing" categorie…

iPhone, Therefore I Am

Photo by Rebecca Blumenthal
Have you bought your identity or do you walk around comfortable in your natural skin?

Mostly it's the first case. Judging from money spent on brands over equivalent no-names, branding matters because people define themselves by what they buy.

They do that because they either don't like who they are inside, don't know organically, are denying something or are reinventing themselves. Any way you slice it the purchase becomes a symbol of the sought-after self.

Voting is a kind of purchase. You can think of elections as referenda not on the candidates but on what we imagine them to be. We pick one based on the self we want to align with - the one that boosts our self-esteem.

The theory that voting is an expression of brand preference, mostly, means that elections are marketing contests. Elation or depression at the outcome is the result of your substitute self either rising or falling.

Do most people pore over policy documents and news before they vote? O…

5 Ways To Correct Your Own Misperceptions

Photo by Mayan Brenn via Flickr
Buddhists believe we create our own problems through ignorance. (Also hatred, fear, attachment but that is another blog.)

One thing I see more and more as I get older is that Buddhists are right about a lot if things. Because ignorance takes a lot of forms and it's not just as simple as "not knowing."

Here are 5 things I do to try and help myself be more objective and better informed.

1) Trust my gut, which is quiet (believe it or not) but persistent. Interestingly the more I try to ignore "inconvenient truth" the louder it gets.

2) Force myself to question groupthink. Oh, this is so hard. Nobody wants to be rejected or unpopular.

3) Force my brain open. I am a "J" in Myers-Briggs meaning I like closure. But your brain can close wrong and often does.

4) See people with the "third eye." People, like events and facts, are not always what they seem. A lot depends on your perspective. Your ego can tell you one thing whi…

CFC Volunteers: The Quiet Heroes

The next time someone insults a Fed please direct them to any CFC volunteer. Last week someone at my agency put the doubters to shame. In the space of 1 weekend day she whipped together a feast of baked goods and brought it in. The next day she sold it without asking for a dime - it was pay what you want. Generous customers bought mini-cupcakes, brownies and cookies for a total of more than $500. This person will never take credit and actually feels guilty for not doing more! I am awed by her generosity and humility and for the first time in nearly a decade of Federal service, truly grasp the meaning of CFC. It's about giving back to the community, first and foremost. Culturally though - inside the agency - it's about showing who we are and what we can do when unleashed from the usual bureaucracy. (Of course you have to get Counsel approval of events before holding them.) That's a snippet from our poster for the event up there. Please give this quiet but incredibly productive volunt…

The 5 Nuts & Bolts of Operational Communication

Photo by Mark Evans via Flickr
A long time ago I had a boss who compared branding to the game of dominos. Also to a light switch. At the same time. If you are into branding you know that it soaks into your mind. It's like trying to wash red Kool-Aid out of a white ceramic mug. Impossible. So the boss was talking, and of course you are not going to disagree with your boss, unless they say something totally nuts or offensive. He said: "Branding is like a light switch that goes off in your head. Until you get it, you don't get it."
Yep, yep, yep. Dilbert me. Absolutely. "And then once that light switch goes off, it's like the dominos keep falling. You want everything to be branded, and everything to fall into place."
I did not really see my own rose-tinted glasses until a few months ago, when I changed positions to lead communications for a large, complex, technical and operationally focused division of a government agency. 
Here are 5 things I've learned:
1) C…