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The Main Things Consumers Expect From Brands

Reposted from my answer at Quora.
I think if you as the brand owner make a promise, particularly a functional promise, you have to keep it to the maximum extent possible. For example if you sell a premium chocolate chip cookie, the ingredients should be top quality, not just the packaging and the advertising.

At the same time, the consumer expects that you will act with basic adherence to a value code. You can't go so far to deliver on the promise that you break your values. So for example, you should source the ingredients for the cookies from companies that (to the best of your knowledge) don't abuse their workers.

You can't deliver only the values, because then you have no brand.

And you can't deliver values and brand absent profit. So you have to find a sustainable way to make money too, or the business will go under.
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By Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own. This is a personal account unrelated to and not sponsored by the author&…

On The Connection Between Customer Loyalty & Brand Equity

Reposted from my answer at Quora.
Customer loyalty = they buy from you when they could buy from someone else (e.g. cheaper or more conveniently)Brand equity = the value attached to your nameBrand equity = creates brand loyaltyHow you grow it = deliver the feeling of superior experience every time (may not be a true difference between products)
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By Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own. This is a personal account unrelated to and not sponsored by the author's employer or any other entity. The author shares this content for reuse under the Creative Commons 3.0 License. For more information: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us/. Public domain photo by Paelmer PhotoArts via Pixabay.

Why You Shouldn't Name Your Business After Yourself

This question was originally posed on Quora. Here's my response:

I tend to think that a separate name is better. The business name indicates a focus on the consumer. A business named after yourself seems narcissistic, unless the consumer is specifically buying because of your name is behind it.

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By Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own. This is a personal account unrelated to and not sponsored by the author's employer or any other entity. The author shares this content for reuse under the Creative Commons 3.0 License. For more information: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us/. Public Domain photo by JanBaby via Pixabay.

8 Ways To Stop Opinion "Influencers" In Their Tracks

Be on the lookout for telltale signs that you aren't getting the truth.

The following tips are extracted from the brilliant article by Caitlin Johnstone, "How To Spot A Media Psy-Op." (January 17, 2017).
Slogans are repeated across news outlets (the same word or phrase is to describe a topic in such a way that you form a particular opinion or bias)Words or phrases are slipped into a sentence where they ordinarily don't belong - purpose is to deliver a subconscious message (this is called a non-sequitur and it is a form of neuro-linguistic programming)Two separate ideas or topics are jammed together to make you associate them ("forced association") - e.g. 9/11 and Iraq War - so you'll support invading IraqAn entire mainstream media outlet seems "owned" by opinion manipulatorsOpinions are being expressed online that seem unnatural, because someone has been paid to go there and pretend to express support naturally In her article, Johnstone recomm…

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.

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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…

Should I Add My Beer-Focused Instagram Account To My LinkedIn profile?

This is my response to a question originally posed on Quora.

The answer, like lawyers tend to say, is: “It depends.”

Not knowing what you do for a living, let’s assume that your LinkedIn profile is typical, meaning that it reflects the image of a corporate professional.

Would your boss, or a prospective employer, think badly of you for promoting your passion for beer?

Traditional product branding says that you should focus on your unique selling proposition fairly single-mindedly. Your goal is to create a space in the customer’s mind dedicated to your brand so that when they want to purchase something like it, they shortcut all alternatives and go straight to you.

So from a product branding point of view, putting a personal beer account on your professional profile is distracting. It tells an employer that you’re not totally focused on the encyclopedic and ever-evolving knowledge, skills and abilities required to do your valuable type of job.

However, people are not products, and appl…

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 …

Use a RACI Chart to Normalize Communication Management

They say that every organization has to deal with people, processes and technology in order to get its work done.

I find that getting people to agree on a single course of action is frequently very hard.

It is easier to make changes when you're "forced to" by the introduction of a new technology.

The problem with that is, it's a drastic solution and people adopt systems at widely varying rates of both interest and proficiency.

If they can't or won't understand the system, they will work around it, or find another one altogether.

Process changes are a potential middle ground. People may tend to disagree ideologically, but they generally have a rational attitude when it comes to being more efficient.

For that reason a proven and useful project management tool called the RACI chart is helpful when it comes to managing communication.

Here's how it works:

1. Develop a list of major activities associated with communication. Typically these include, at a minimu…

Can Federal Communication Be Saved?

As a writer for the Federal government for more than a dozen years, I observe that we used to be very well-respected. Our authority derived from three things:
Dedication to public serviceCommand of the English languageCollaboration with technical experts, for accuracy The past decade saw the gradual erosion of government writers' credibility, due to the rise of, among other things:
Pervasive social mediaIncreasingly sophisticated but easy to use digital communication toolsGlobal awareness of and commitment to human rightsThe rise of independent journalismExistence of and retaliation against whistleblowers Today, what remains of that credibility has arguably been shattered by:
WikileaksAwareness of "fake news"Revelations about the Deep State and its infiltration of the mediaPaid trollsPaid citizen "uprisings" and demonstrations Essentially, we have entered a world where suspicion is the rule and not an exception. Government content is part of that. It doesn't m…

A Civil Way To Dissent With Political Appointees

As the topic has come up recently, a few practical ideas have emerged. I don't take credit for these ideas; mostly they're common sense and I'm just sharing. They're grouped into a handful of categories for ease of reference:

1. Designated intermediary

An office whose job it is to share employee dissent messages at a high levelAn ombudsperson – “complaint central”Technology - create a neutral space where concerns can be shared by anyone (for example, a Sharepoint-based “issue tracker”)
2. Written communication, readily available, brief and high-level

What does your office do? Why is that important? Who are your key partners?What are the key laws, regulations, policies, principles and standard operating procedures that govern your functioning?    What are the ethical considerations that may occur during the normal course of business, and how do you handle those?
3. Training orientations, offered at regular intervals (e.g. a “lunch and learn”)

Walk through the organizational …

Reform, Not Resistance Is Needed To Restore The CIA's Reputation

The CIA statement on Wikileaks' recent document dump is less than optimal --  defensive and arrogant. For such an intellectually sophisticated organization, their communication strategy needs work.
Let's take it apart:

The first thing they say is that they won't comment on whether the documents are real.  "We have no comment on the authenticity of purported intelligence documents released by Wikileaks or on the status of any investigation into the source of the documents." What they should say is that they're not allowed to comment. Saying that you "won't" do something implies choice, power and discretion. Saying you "can't" demonstrates that you are following the rule of law. 
Why does this matter? Because politicized, lawless behavior by elements of the CIA is at the root of the problem here.
The statement goes on to defend CIA's right to develop extremely sophisticated technology. "CIA’s mission is to aggressively collect for…

How Project Management Affects Your Brand

Agile or waterfall or MS Project or Excel, or even a plain old Sharpie used to scrawl out notes on a random set of Post-Its, you somehow have to manage your work. And most of what we do in our daily lives, if we are in a professional setting, involves a series of projects.

Project management = boring. I know you're telling yourself that, and you think that, and other people tell you that too. My evidence is that, number one, the words themselves sound totally boring. "I am a certified project manager" just does not have anywhere near the "wow" appeal of something like, "I am the chief marketing officer at YazDeboo" (whatever YazDeboo is, they must make something cool) or "I am a rocket scientist at NASA."

Now I totally get that. But if you're doing project management right it is not boring at all because the art and the science of it is to juggle a lot of different mini-initiatives aimed at specific outcomes at once, while ultimately aimi…

When To Talk And When To Shut Up

I've been following the "Pizzagate" (a.k.a. "Pedogate") scandal since it broke late last year. Of all the public crises I've seen over the years, this is easily the most sickening. If anything positive can be said it is that many people have defied a whole range of threats in order to keep investigating it, and to tell others about what has been found.  An outgrowth of the citizen investigation is infighting between some of its researchers and others. Part of the conflict no doubt has to do with paid "shills" infiltrating research forums and intentionally creating contention. But part of it is also the natural course of events when different people seek to serve as spokespeople for a cause. I don't want to get into the weeds of this particular case, but rather it seems important to extract a few key nuggets from its unfolding. And there are only a few, but they are important.  First, if you have taken on a very serious issue that threatens the re…

Pizzagate In 32 Tweets

613 and Human Trafficking

Introduction: Isaiah 61:3 - God Will Replace Joy For Misery“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness: that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.”

As many of you know, I've been seeing the number 613 repeatedly for more than two years now, since approximately December 2014. Today, after many months of soul-searching and much time spent researching the problem of human trafficking, I believe I understand what God is trying to tell me with this number. Essentially, it is a promise and a warning.
There are 613 commandments in the Torah. When we bind ourselves to them, and do our best to keep them, God saves us. When we abandon the Torah, and God's teaching, then we see (God forbid) the reverse happening in the world.The number 316, the obverse, is associated with the rebellion against God: When we rebel, God…

A Listening Session With Federal Communicators

On February 15, 2017 the Federal Communicators Network (FCN) Professional Standards Working Group held a discussion of issues related to federal communication standards. These notes are public domain; what follows is an edited version that highlights key issues.
The Importance of Standards
Cost Savings: When asked if agencies had a lot of independent efforts underway without clear standards and lack of coordination, many hands were raised – “money goes one way and efficiency goes another way” Quality: The issue is quality of our work. If you're going to do a communication plan, the ideal one has these components. Budgets not expected to go up. Many have contractors, but no standards. What Standards Are & Are Not
Standards are not just nice things Standards are not “thou shalts” Standards are common starting points to tell you where you are starting from, and then you fill in the blanks What Happens Without Standards (2016 FCN Survey)
Vast majority don't have anything consisten…

The Antithesis Of "Spin Doctors"

The fact that government communications is ripe for abuse has undoubtedly contributed to trust levels in government that are at their lowest ever. While it is true that political corruption is chiefly responsible for public disillusionment (e.g. "Vietnam: The Loss Of American Innocence?") it is also true that outsized spending on federal public relations contracts, as well as propagandistic agency communications play a role. Though the Government Accountability Office has long recognized that appropriately used communication is one of the government's top five internal controls, the way in which federal communications has been abused is not just wrong, but has also turned its dedicated practitioners into a public joke.

At this time, fortunately, there are a number of efforts underway to remedy this situation. In the U.S. military, the nature and scope of the public affairs function has been codified. In the U.K., civil service communicators now have clear guidance as well…

5 Ways Government Branding Is Harder

Brand architecture: This is the discipline of assembling names and logos into a coherent framework. In the private sector it's easier because your end game is basically profit. (The challenge there is to balance long-term investment in reputation with short-term gains in revenue.) In government it is extraordinarily difficult to pursue any sort of brand architecture strategy without involving many stakeholders with competing interests, and without invoking many levels of law, regulation, policy, and so on. Without a clear identity strategy that puts you in a context of related identities, the communication you provide is far less likely to be impactful. Brand leadership: In the private sector it is generally more or less clear who is responsible for the development and the articulation of the brand. In government, the lines are frequently muddied as most initiatives are cooperative in nature. Brand metrics: The private sector has relatively reliable formulas with which to measure …

Open Letter to a Broken Website

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am writing to inform you that I hate your website.

Maybe you think that nobody actually uses websites nowadays -- what with Facebook and all -- but I use yours, and it totally sucks.

Why do I feel strongly enough to write you a letter?

Well, for the one thing, I had a problem with my bill the other day. And I had to navigate my way through approximately 50,000 pages of content just to submit you an email.

(If you count the multi-factor security page that total would be 50,001.)

Believe me I tried not to bother you. I did. I went to the Community Forum-slash-Knowledgebase to see if there were some answers there.

But nope, nada, nothing.

I tried to use your Chat function but it seems the Chat hours are only 9-4.

It said that you have telephone-based customer service too. But you know how telephone customer service is, right? Usually totally frustrating.

In case you wanted to know what I thought of the "Splash Page" on Page One of your website: Love it!

Really, I do…

"Building Bridges" Between Civil Servants & The Incoming Trump Administration

IntroductionThe following are my notes on "Building Trust with New Leadership," an event cosponsored by the Partnership for Public Service and the Federal Communicators Network that focused on helping civil servants work effectively with the new Administration. The event is availabl free for viewing on Vimeo
As always, in attending such events and sharing information and opinions on social media, I am independent, meaning that I do not represent my agency or the federal government as a whole. These notes are public domain and may be freely reproduced and distributed.  PresenterExecutive Coach Michelle Woodward
Theme 1: TeamworkBased On "The Five Behaviors Of A Cohesive Team" [TM] by Wiley Workplace Solutions & Patrick LencioniResults: "If you can do trust-based conflict, then we can get to commitment to the same goal. Then we can hold each other accountable without people being attacked. Once you have all that, that's when you get to results."Disag…