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Nobody Has Time For Your Nonsense

I’ve heard a lot of excuses for bad communication in my life. (Branding, communication, public relations, marketing….call it what you want, it all comes down to the same thing.)
The bottom line is this. If you’re paying another human being, or a group of human beings, to make words and pictures and moving digital things on your behalf — to make you look good — then it does not behoove you to dismiss the expertise of those very people. 
Because the people out there, you know, the great unwashed masses, they don’t care about your excuses or why you couldn’t get past yourself to do the right thing.
And when it comes to communication, that thing is always to express the totality of the organization. 

The good, the bad, and the ugly, from the fun and fluffy ribbon-cuttings to the boring, incomprehensible financial disclosures.
So if you are saying any of the following things to your communicators, either expressly or implicitly, you might want to reconsider the utility to your organizatio…

Nothing Is Exempt

When you represent an organization, you represent everything: You cannot pick and choose. 
To better understand this, see below: 1. Every organization is a brand. 2. Every brand communicates overtly and covertly. 3. Customers pick up on all forms of communication. 4. Customers form perceptions based primarily on the stuff you DON'T OR WON'T SAY. 5. Knowing this, it is vital to empower your communicators to represent you in all aspects - responding to public concerns that you did not know about, did not anticipate, do not like, and that frankly may even seem insane. __________

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/.

Why Didn't They Say Anything?

I decided a long time ago not to feel anything.

Because feeling meant pain.

It meant that I would get my heart ripped out of me.

For a long time, I guess, my strategy worked.

As my mom used to say, when she was angry at me -

"You are cold as ice."

But her words, sharp and incisive, went past me. Life was challenging for me, it was hard to deal with other people and we had a lot of drama at home.

I simply could not risk going there.

All of that is water under the bridge now, thank God.

To the point where now, I easily cry.

I cry at TV commercials!

What made it safe for me to feel again?

The gift of people, experiences and material support that He has placed in my path.

But along the way I've learned that most people bear their suffering in total and complete silence.

Unlike babies, who cry, they stoically bear the burden.

Until one day it's a heart attack, or cancer, or even death by train.

Often they simply walk out the door with nothing but the clothes on their back.

And when it …

Successful Product? Don't Forget To Give It A Brand

FOXBusiness calls it "The $500,000,000 Trend Spinning the Toy Industry Upside Down."

I call it a boring and pointless waste of time.

Either way I'm betting you can't name a single brand in the category.

As a trend watcher, here are three products I believe will go mainstream by 2020. (Of course, the extent to which this happens will depend on the laws, regulations and policies surrounding implementation):
Marijuana - for medicinal or recreational purposes Sex robots - as a substitute for human companionship and as a therapeutic aid for trauma victims, those with phobias, etc. Bitcoin - as a replacement for paper currency, gold or silver  As a marketer I'm not here to debate the worthiness of these products or to suggest I know anything about their functionality. I don't.

But I can smell a trend like a hound dog. And in that capacity I point out to you three markets with immediate appeal to wide swaths of the population, which are in my opinion at the tipping…

The Jewish Perspective on Deceptive Advertising

From the Talmud:
Deceptive Quality/Advertising Puffery: Misleading one's customers into thinking that the quality of the item they purchased is much better than it really is would be geneivat da'at. This case is similar to the Talmudic case (Babylonian Talmud, Chullin 94a) involving selling shoes made from the hide of a dead animal and misrepresenting them as coming from the hide of a slaughtered animal. Deceptive advertising would be one way of dishonestly raising customers' expectations regarding the quality of products. Selling products with misleading nutritional information, e.g., selling nutrition supplements as weight-loss, wrinkle-elimination, or memory-improvement aids when there is no evidence that they have any such beneficial effect, would also fall under the prohibition of geneivat da'at. Read more at: http://www.jlaw.com/Articles/geneivatdaat.html
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By Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own. This is a personal account u…

Perfectly Imperfect (Guest Post)

This post was written by Chana Rivka Herbsman, a high school student and my niece. It is an excellent analysis in its own right. But I asked her to let me publish it for another reason: She is a primary target for cosmetics marketing, reflecting on the messages she's getting about this product. Very often, marketers cater to our unconscious mind; we can fight back against destructive, exploitive messages by really thinking about what it is they're telling us. And I agree with her conclusion: Makeup can be a really positive thing, as long as you don't fall for the message that you must be perfect, or strive to be perfect, in order to somehow be acceptable - DB

Concealer. Cover up. Cover Girl. There seems to be a running theme here. The unifying purpose of makeup is the ability to hide blemishes and feel, even for a short period of time, flawless.  That feeling of perfection is what bonds women of all ages throughout the country. 

The downside is the perpetuation of the decep…

Lipstick on a Pig = Waste of Time

Recently a debate arose over the fundamental meaning of branding.

The context was a call for volunteers to help with the user interface of "The Good Country," a project aimed at making the world more inhabitable for all.

Conceptually, the idea goes, we all get to "vote" on the elections taking place in other countries. Given the opportunity to offer our two cents, we will take the time to actually learn about those countries, form educated opinions, and become more aware of how one nation's actions affect the others. (See the TED Talk.)

The project's founder, Simon Anholt -- well-known for the concept of "nation branding" a.k.a. "place branding" -- does not view this effort as "branding."
I’d like to explain that the Good Country and its two first projects (the Good Country Index and the Global Vote) actually have little or nothing to do with place 'branding.' That term seems to stick to everything I do, even though I…

5 Steps to Understanding Market Segmentation

Find out who your customers are. Don’t rely only on quantitative data. Get out there and mystery shop. Find out who is buying your products and services, and why.Break up your customers into segments. Don’t focus on superficial single factors like age and gender. Rather, try to find a consumer insight for each of your key groups. For example, full-time caregivers take their toddlers to Panera so they can get a quick, wholesome meal, let the kids run around and take a bit of a break.When you believe you have arrived at your key customer segments (keep the number of segments down, let’s say 5 at most), start optimizing your offering for each one. For instance, Panera might want to set up a child-safe area near the eating booths; offer table-side service for caregivers watching the children play; and offer add-on specials for take-home dinners.Test out how well your efforts are going by developing a tester group for each demographic and checking in with them regularly. Also keep tabs on …

What A $7.50 Cup Of Wine Means To You

$7.50 for single serve wine in a cup? 
Absolutely. 
I saw Zipz on Shark Tank and knew it would be a huge hit. Kevin O'Leary who is the toughest (and in my view sharpest) Shark, invested. 
Watch for the single serve market to continue to explode. Some analysis here. __________

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. Photo by Dr. Blumenthal.

Charging As A Female Social Ritual

Steal this idea:
A powerful, palm-sized solar-powered device, with 4 USB connectors. 
Colored brightly.
Manufactured in the USA for $5 or less, sold for $39.99. 
Winner. __________  By Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own. Photo by Dr. Blumenthal.

The True Meaning Of Starbucks

The rabbi walks into Starbucks and says, "$5.50 for a coffee? I can make that at home for 50 cents."

The barista answers, "You're not paying for the coffee. You're paying for the ambiance, the people-watching, and the free wifi."

Says the rabbi, "Now I understand the laws of blessings. We aren't saying it for the food. We're saying it out of gratitude for the feeling of having our hunger satiated."

- adapted from a synagogue talk by Rabbi Schneur Kaplan, Downtown Jewish Center Chabad, Ft. Lauderdale FL __________
By Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own.

5 Reasons Why "Branding Is Everything" In Business

Just to be clear, branding means "image-building," and the image should be backed by a real quality advantage if it's going to work long-term.
Here are the 5 reasons why branding is crucial to the success of your business: It makes people trust you versus competitors who are unknown, even if they are cheaper.It makes people prefer you to competitors and resist their attempts to woo you.It makes people willing to pay more for what you sell (brand equity).It gives you a cushion to recover from mistakes.It enables you to change with the times because your name is associated with a concept not just a specific product or service. __________

Originally posted to Quora 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. Public domain photo via Pixabay.

Fork In The Road: Rebrand or Token Merge?

It depends on the reason you’re rebranding.

If it’s because the company has done something seriously wrong, then “cleaning house” and changing the name makes sense. You want to show that you did the hard work necessary, on your own.

If it’s to help the company evolve towards changing tastes (for example a brand strategy firm that wishes to also offer logo design), a merge with a relatively unknown company also makes sense. You want to show that you’re bringing the power of two highly qualified companies to the table.

These are just two examples; there are obviously many more possibilities.__________

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/. Originally posted to Quora. Public domain image via Pixabay.

Handout & Notes from Yesterday's Branding 101 Talk

Start Here This is the event we're talking about. Also see the conference agenda.

You can watch the video of the talk. (Or, for fun, this is me having stage fright.)
Notes Here are some key takeaways from the discussion:
Brands matter because they lend equity to your organization. Equity is the difference between your positive image and the image of an organization that isn't doing anything special to enhance customers' perceptions of it.Most branding is actually just ordinary common sense. The point is to be both conscious of your brand, and reflective.You are branding yourself and your organization at all times, whether you mean to or not. You are a brand, your organization is a brand, and so on. (Highly recommended: "The Brand Called You.")Life isn't fair and neither are people. They judge you based on how you look and the vibe they get from you. The vast majority of communication is nonverball, and people make snap judgments.Factors outside your control a…

Watch: Dannielle Blumenthal, "Branding 101" (1 Hour Presentation)

Today, May 1, 2017, I gave a basic talk on branding at the NASPO Eastern Regional Conference  (paid; all opinions my own). They let me videotape the session. You can replay it from Periscope.

__________

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.

3 Ways To Build A Good Customer-Brand Relationship

Building a good customer-brand relationship is astonishingly simple. It’s doing the work consistently over time that can be a challenge.
Keep your promise: Deliver quality products and services, on time and just as requested.Be responsive: You probably spend a lot of time and money getting your name out there, but are you ready when people express interest? When they have a problem with what you’ve sold? Delays, poor communication and failing to solve the problem really irritate people and can eliminate business you’ve worked extremely hard to get.Set limits: Many people think that customer service means you have to give people everything they want. Not true. You can tell people “I will be able to do this much, for this amount” and they will be fine with that. Problems arise mainly when you overpromise (or are unclear about the promise) and underdeliver. __________

Originally posted to Quora by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own. This is a personal acco…

How To Respond Effectively To A Brand Crisis: 3 Recent Lessons from Pepsi, United Airlines and Sean Spicer

Recently we've seen a few well-known brands stumble, and try to recover: Pepsi, with its commercial featuring Kendall Jenner; United Airlines, with its flat-footed treatment of a passenger removed from a flight due to overbooking; and the Trump Administration (Sean Spicer), with his fumbling/ignorant references to the Holocaust.

These are some of the most sophisticated people, and organizations in the world. So what can we learn from their mistakes? Briefly, here are 3 timeless lessons for others who may encounter a brand crisis -- meaning, a crisis that stretches beyond one incident to affect one's entire reputation:

Be Prepared: It is natural to avoid difficult discussions. Most of us superstitiously fear that if we plan for something bad to happen, then it will happen. I don't know if these brands were prepared in advance for a brand crisis, but to me it looked like they were caught off-guard. Unfortunately you just never know what can happen; the first step in respondi…

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…