Turn Me On

Grscreen-shot-2016-12-16-at-4-11-43-pmeat brands are about storytelling and brand voice success comes when you mitigate the turned-off reaction.

Apple has responsibility to innovate

screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-9-17-04-amJoined CNBCs Power Lunch for Apple’s annual conference. I didn’t think it was that “big”. We discussed why Apple has an obligation to innovate and needs the next big thing to stay relevant. Why, because it’s Apple. That’s their brand. They have a responsibly to be that and to do that. So this raises the question is Apple still sexy, where’s the wow and is the right man at the helm? Steve Jobs was a genius who had a very strong vision while Tim Cook is an operations man and I think at the moment it’s a little unclear.” Here’s the segment: http://snip.ly/srif6

Starbucks CEO clarifies racial dialogue initiative

Okay, time to wake up. What does Schultz need to do to keep the initiative alive. Here’s my perspective with CCTV Anchor Michelle Makori on March 25th, 2015.


Do People Give a S**t about Brands?

Is brands’ importance dwindling? Are consumers thinking about your brand? Are organizations that sweat to differentiate MomBaby_logosthemselves in cluttered markets wasting their money? Brands are supposed to have the power to provoke, instigate, incite and inspire, enlighten and stimulate, agitate, stir up and encourage, urge and edify the consumer and are often worth much more than a company’s physical assets. Today brand equity accounts for 30% of the S&Ps value, but pundits have been fomenting about the irrelevance of brands and their role since the digital revolution started.

Ubiquity of computers and smart devices in an age of “perfect information” challenges the role of brands and how they’re built. Do brands make it easier for customers to cut through the bombardment that drowns us every day? Research reveals that receive more than 3,000 commercial images a day; our subconscious absorbs more than 150 images and roughly 30 reach our conscious mind. Therefore, practice has it that if you differentiate your brand you dramatically accelerate the potential for your brand to reach the conscious mind of the consumer.

The ability for customers to research reviews on websites, chat with people through social media and review websites like Trip Advisor before they buy products has dramatically reshaped the customer journey. According to a newcall to action book by Simonson and Rosen these trends simply make brands not as valuable as they used to be because the consumer has become more informed and rational in their decision making process and need brands less, especially as word-of-mouth is the No. 1 purchase decision-maker.

The old purchase funnel is dead. Consumers still want a clear brand promise and offerings they value. What has changed is when, at what touch points, they are most open to influence, and how you can interact with them at those points. In the past, marketing that put the lion’s share of resources into building brand awareness and then opening wallets at the point of purchase worked pretty well. But touch points have changed in both number and nature, requiring a major adjustment to realign marketers’ strategy and budgets with where consumers are actually spending their time. To best serve today’s consumers, companies need to enhance their Internet presence and encourage word of mouth with more consumer feedback before and after a purchase especially as many products marketed to men are bought by women and vice versa.

Perhaps still the best definition of the word brand, from a 1998 copy of Webster’s dictionary, was “to mark with a red hot poker” and in many ways it’s still spot on because brands need to be red hot in this Darwinian new world of social media and empowered consumers who now can prolifically communicate with each other and form the all powerful court of public opinion. Recent research by McKinsey & Co has shown that consumers do not systematically hone down their choices, but take a more recursive and less reductive approach.

Today the consumer goes through a rigorous consideration phase followed by evaluation of the brands chosen and the selection/decision to buy. After purchase the customer enjoys the service, advocates the brand to their peers, bonds with the brand and swoops round to purchase. If not bonded the process starts over and moves back into consideration. This has huge implications for the delivery of brand marketing especially as consumers today take all the brands they have under consideration right to the point of purchase so a brand being a short cut to a consumers purchase is a lot harder to accomplish.

If you don’t like change you’ll like irrelevance even less. The dawn of “social sharing” is transforming the economics of marketing and the Internet has upended how consumers engage with brands making obsolete many of the brand’s traditional strategies and structures.The Internet has upended how consumers engage with brands. It’s transforming the economics of marketing and making obsolete many of the brand’s traditional strategies and structures. For marketers, the old way of marketing their business is unsustainable. The purpose of brands has changed. Brands will succeed mainly by inspiring customer loyalty, but prior to loyalty being built, brands need to both aid brand recognition in the market and influence what customers associate with the brand such as speed, reliance and status.

People do care about brands, just not as many as we’d like to think and brand value is rising. The presiding confluence of economics, culture, and history intertwine creating consumer’s who desire a reciprocal relationship and new thresholds that bring to the fore new brand leaders with a more progressive outlook. The timing is ideal for brands to seize this opportunity to take on decisive role, establishing an even stronger position in society and taking consumer’s experience with the brand deeper into the core strategy of the business – not just a pure sales play.

What it takes is a “fans first” philosophy that guides the brands overall engagement strategy. This represents a move away from push advertising toward a model of listening and engaging where appropriate. So the challenge to a brand strategy that desires to be everywhere customers are, and in the social space, is how to achieve it in a non-big brand way. What we search for in brands is not so far from what we search for in friends: brands are personalities and the more CMOs care about their brand’s role in society, share benefits with their community and really listen and engage their customers to compete to get what they want fewer CMOs will get fired less and they’ll get more bang for buck from their brand marketing dollars.


Fearless Crusaders…

images-11What was once the privilege of the few has become prolific and demonstrably influential by all. Brands used to be about control, a short cut to decision-making and the means to stand out in the crowd. Now we have saturated markets and research that reveals the consumer buying process has changed dramatically where consumers now take all the brands in their consideration set to the point of purchase, i.e., no real short cut nor stand out yet the process of brand building has changed little.

Once brand became a verb and not just a noun, an entire industry leaped up around it “applying ingenuity to the disingenuous” according to Lucas Conley. Now we live in an age where businesses need to look beyond the aesthetics of a brand or the efficacy of a service where consumer engagement and loyalty factor far more than benefits and features because consumers now expect to interact with or even influence brands. Thus many clients and Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 9.13.42 AMpundits are firing salvos saying traditional branding is fast becoming ineffective, irrelevant and impotent complimenting Amazon CEO, Jim Bezos’s definition as, “A brand is what people say about you when you leave the room”.

Brands should benefit society as a whole, not just protect tenured brands from competition. Mutual client suspicions and holding company interests underlie the growing debate of brands added value role. Now a revolution is needed thanks to three forces: rising costs due to market saturation and the explosion of channels, big changes in consumer buying behavior and disruptive technology. To capture this opportunity requires a new approach to brand building that delivers the consumer earlier and deeper into the brand building process, not just the ole who we are, what we do and why we do it approach.

Rarely have need and opportunity so neatly come together. The business goal of any brand is to create more users, new users and/or new uses by continually innovating to add value to customer’s lives. Plus brands help consumers compete to get what they want. Today brand owners should attempt a new approach by being interested in the consumer not just interesting to the consumer. This is not palliative it’s the solution. To do so brand owners need to distill their brands into a core idea/promise, the emotional attributes concerning their values and personality, the functional needs of the brand, social attributes surrounding the environment and the brand’s context in society. These combined will enable product and service innovation that helps brand owners realize ambitions, build legacies, violate convention and shatter norms.

With the 21st Century on fast forward, never has there been a more important time to innovate and drive productivity growth in the face of rampant change with new faster global competition. Entire new industries and many existing ones have transformed to become creators of valuable ideas and experiences. Increasingly, businesses are organizing themselves to maximize the generation of new and better ideas, creating the infrastructure, education systems, and innovative organization that will solve problems, create value, and change the world. As former IBM CEO Lou Gerstner said of business transformation. “It requires focus, leadership, and commitment” to create an authentic community of motivated thinkers and doers that can open new channels for the business, industry and society.

In brands’ defense, they do have the capacity for reinvention because branding is not a body of doctrine but an activity. True originality in brands, as in life, comes from turmoil and the constant search for new insights, ideas and true innovation. Brand owners need to be messianic on their vision and martial in their command because it’s not about who you are underneath, but what you do that defines you. Reinventing an established institution to be fearless crusaders will not be easy and like all revolutions the one that needs to take place with brands will have many victims, but the process will benefit many more businesses and people than it hurts.

How To Bust A Category…


Four foundations to accomplish stand-out in a category:Innovation and Evaluation



There Are No More Big One’s…The Sea Has Turned Red

“There’s no more big ones” quipped my 3yr old as she scooped an empty spoon from the ice cream cup. The same is true drilling your network for new business: the sea has turned red, time to forage afresh. Here are some sure ways to kick start.

urban geometries 6 - way out!
6 – ways out!

6 Ways To Encourage Your Office To Tap Growth Fast

New growth is achieved by being different and heroic, but with big corporations hording their cash and banks refusing to loan small businesses much needed finance, the US has more than a fiscal cliff on its hands – it has growth crisis that threatens to stifle the very core of America’s economy: small business owners.

Within any entrepreneur’s purview all manner of initiatives and schemes exist to boost business growth. Sadly most can’t through lack of time and resources. The vital ingredient to pursuing opportunity without regard to resources currently held lies in creating affordable actions and simple communications that generate new business opportunities with warm contacts. To help beat the bushes there are eight practical initiatives you can apply to drum up your staff’s involvement, rapidly creating a simple program of actions that can kick-start a river flow of opportunities.

Value creation is determined by how tightly your business is run and the quality of your customer relationships – retaining 5% of your customers can add 25% to the bottom line. Satisfied clients and suppliers are a great place to start by simply asking who in their company/market you might be able to help. This is an effective way for your client servicing teams to engage their clients and vendors to generate opportunities, whether it’s inviting the client to discuss this with your CEO through to the power of proactive proposal writing by the team that provides the most immediate impact.

How did you feel the last time you received a genuine hand written note? Send notes to a handful of influential people either at a client’s business or a prospect you know. It’s amazing how effective it can be to trigger “why should I care?” from the client. Yes, it’s laborious and your handwriting better be in reasonable shape, but the approach works, especially if you make sure the note is promising lots for them, not you!

Business often suffers when you’re unaware of your brand’s standing because your client quite literally doesn’t believe that you can do what you say you can do. Therefore, more often than not, we need to give to get for an opportunity to meet with a prospect. To demonstrate your diverse grasp of the category consider emailing an article or some recent research from a related field that shares an invaluable perspective on the client’s business (including clients you haven’t talked to in years) with an outline of the actionable insights you wish to share that will benefit the client in multiple.

POV (TV series)

Don’t be frightened by Possibility, She makes a great mistress. Write a provocative byline with a strong POV and send it to the editor of a magazine, paper or blog your customers and competitors read. You might get lucky and its published or at least they’re open to hearing more about you. If all fails you now have a strong POV to present, tout in a sales letter, host on your web site and use as part of an office wide social media outreach campaign for the company.

It’s not actually who you know, as the saying goes, it’s how you use who you know. Encourage the office to identify 25+ people – commercially important to your business – invite them to an informal group discussion (8-16 attendees) on a hot topic at a salubrious location for breakfast or after work. Aside shared insights, the goal is to make an appointment with each attendee post event, and approach those who did not attend using the outputs from the discussion as a lever for opening a conversation.

Consider having the team send a thank you gift (as simple as a good book) to a few people who referred you or gave a reference for you. It might have been some time back, but the act of recognition is rarely refused and showing appreciation inevitably leads to a follow up opportunity where new ideas you have prepared can be discussed. Remember, nine times out of ten, people will answer back when spoken to.

People are a brand’s greatest asset and to lead a team you first need to be in the team; when a business shares a deep and broad connection with its employees, they go above and beyond what’s expected of them. When employees are excited and focused, servicing customers who are satisfied, the business runs well. These initiatives are simple to accomplish and if engaged with enthusiasm they will entice the office to be involved to pool their knowledge and get them vested in the success of the business. The difficult part is follow-through.

Nothing in the world takes the place of persistence and determination. Build momentum by creating a low cost competitive initiative that is team based using all of these actions to rapidly promote the business. If you have the benefit of a new business professional representing your company the task becomes a lot easier to orchestrate, especially the art of following up. While being fully prepared for delays the key is to have fun with the program by coordinating it enthusiastically versus efficiently, and with regular office alerts on progress, impact will be felt within weeks. Let’s grow.

Missing Customers Lately? Try Going Back To Basics

It seems that a great confusion has arisen in the process of brands doing their branding these days. Allow me to sort this out. A brand, in itself, is not marketing—a brand is who you are. And marketing, in itself, is a means to an end; marketing and innovation exist to draw customers. Unfortunately, these distinctions seem to have blurred, or even switched places, in the minds of many companies. In their relentless drive to maximize shareholder value, many brands have left the customer out.Im certainly not the first one whos noticed this confusion. Jack (“Neutron Jack”) Welch of GE has pointed out that “shareholder value is a result, not a strategy. Your main constituencies are your employees, products and customers.” Welchs observation holds true regardless of whether the brand is business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C); in the end, its all about business-to-people (B2P, if youll indulge me). And so, these days, as we reap the grim harvest of imprudent lending amidst insider dealing, bankruptcy, accusations, claims and counterclaims—we can see that the misconduct of big brand names has changed the perceived value exchange of B2B brands. In the process, it has transformed the meaning and context of trust.

Look no further than the banking industry if you want an example. Historically, banks focused on acquiring, growing and


protecting their clients’ assets, and by lending money and making profit out of the assets under management. But, long about 2000, the value relationship between banks and clients abruptly changed. It switched to banks trading their own products at the expense of their clients. Seemingly overnight, the base of the compensation model shifted to how much money you could make by the volume of products sold, not the number of clients under management. The outcome, of course, is something we all know. As for B2C, the excitement has just begun given that Prop 37 will be raising the debate in CA this November on genetically modified food labeling (GMO).

Trust is a crucial ingredient of all brands and their reputations—but that contract of trust has been shattered. Stocks do not have a memory-recall button, but investors and customers do. That’s why fewer than half of all Americans have a favorable opinion of business today. Compounding the brand fatigue that has besmirched many B2B brands is the belief that customer-centricity can be achieved by companies entering B2C’s Temple of Mammon and bedecking themselves with happy logos, comforting language and stock photos of smiling people, all to lift them from their somnolence as staid corporations and market them as genuine, complete, crystalline and pure. (The irony, of course, is that many B2B brands are anything but sweet, friendly and pure.)my life's logos v.2

The financial breakdown has not only eroded consumer trust, but it’s also shifted where consumers place it. Our notion of trust has moved from trust in “the company” as such to trust in the people who run the company. Today, as brands refer to market share, profit share, revenue share, etc., theyre overlooking that what theyre truly competing for is share of trust. To succeed in this era of mistrust and cynicism, B2B brands will have to make several adjustments. First, they must identify who they truly are and why they are in business. This will provide a picture of their future, their organizational style and the direction they need to take. As Jim Collins writes, “All good-to-great companies began the process of finding a path to greatness by confronting the brutal facts of their current reality.”

The second priority is to understand that if customers dont believe in you, theyre not going to come. So, what messages are you delivering that they can believe in? Third, there is a brands culture. According to research by Bain & Co., the average company loses more than half its customers every four years. The two determinates of value creation in business are how tight the ship is run and the closeness of the relationship with the customer. Dont forget that it costs five times more to acquire a new customer than to hold onto the one you already have. Retaining your customers can be achieved only by developing a culture that espouses shared responsibility, shared benefits and shared values.

That last one is critical. Understand that people and businesses live their lives in the future not the present. Whilst many B2B brands have attempted to shift from being functionally oriented to emotionally oriented brands, the real leap is in being values centric brands. It is no longer enough for B2B brands to define themselves in terms of what they are; they must make a commitment—environmentally and socially—about who they want to be.


The current mind-set misguidedly encases itself in the moment; it forgets the prosperity of the past and, worse, ignores our ability to shape the future. John Maynard Keynes identified sinking confidence and pessimism as causal to sustaining and deepening economic recessions. The psychology of investors and ordinary consumers is in many respects more critical than what might be described as “objective economic conditions.”

The time is now for influential companies to gather and take on the responsibility of advancing the common good as an antidote to the debilitating fear that will assuredly delay economic recovery. Finance might be the brains of corporations, but brands are the heart.

Irreverent Names: Big Ass Fans – a POV

Nice wrap by Steve Rifkin, brand adviser and naming expert. In my mind, with the market in a moribund state and accusations traditional marketing is dead, naming becomes even more central to the stand out proposition:

Big Ass Fans is a new national advertiser. They sell the world’s most efficient ceiling fans, in diameters from 5 to 24 feet. The company started life as the High Volume Low Speed Fan Company, before adopting an irreverent new moniker. (The company claims it changed names after repeatedly hearing customers say, “Man, that’s a big-ass fan.”)

Christian Dior went against the grain of romantic, flowery perfume names with its Poison brand.

A Louisiana pharmacist concocted a soothing diaper rash balm that worked so well, local athletes started using it. He called it Butt Paste. Now you can buy it at Wal-Mart.

Redneck Bank, based in Mustang, Oklahoma, is the online banking division of Bank of the Wichitas. (As the first line of their website says, “Yep, we’re a real bank.”)

When you pick an irreverent, outlandish name for your brand, is it a desperate way to call attention to yourself? A clever way to differentiate yourself? A tactic only for a fringe brand?  Or something else?

We went to our panel of experts for their points of view, and they cautioned that this approach is by no means for everyone.

  • JACK TROUT, renowned marketing strategist, best-selling author and founder of a consulting firm with partner offices in 25 countries:

    “We are indeed in an era of crazy names that people are using as a way to attract attention. The reason is that in category after category, more and more names are born as categories divide. (It’s the Immutable Law of Division.) Successful brands such as Google, Smucker’s and Roach Motel have encouraged others to get a little crazy as a way to be more memorable. But beware, your product has to have a good story behind it, not just an attention-getting name. (With Roach Motel, the roaches check in but they don’t check out.)”

  • FRASER SEITEL, public relations expert, consultant, frequent TV talking head and co-author of Rethinking Reputation:

    “Edgy product names are neither for the squeamish nor the solidly entrenched. The reputation of a well-known company is too dear to risk with a name that evokes controversy. But for a little guerrilla marketer mixing it up with the big boys and little to lose, bring it on.”

  • ERIN McKEAN, lexicographer, founder and CEO of the online dictionary Wordnik, formerly the principal editor of The New Oxford American Dictionary:

    “Irreverent names only work if they are authentic, and have a real origin story. Otherwise they can seem out-of-touch and desperate (like Poochie, the cartoon dog ‘with an attitude,’ from the episode of The Simpsons where the producers of ‘Itchy and Scratchy”’ decide the show needs an ‘update’). I think it’s harder for a big multinational to come up with an irreverent name — they work best for mom & pop or small operators who can show a direct involvement with the story of the name.”

  • DEAN CRUTCHFIELD, independent branding guru, former executive for global brand consultancies within WPP and Omnicom, and Forbes.com columnist:

    “In our era of reality TV, there’s plenty of bandwidth for evocative brand name strategies, especially if it literally speaks to a company’s central premise. The best names communicate who, what, why or an attitude. They’re a cornerstone of a brand — so any which way, but stand out! As long as it’s sustainable.”

  • CAROL MOOG, PhD in psychology, and president of Creative Focus, an advertising consulting firm:

    “These are the times for the so-called irreverent product name. Consider the criterion for going viral: being as wild and crazy as humanly possible. Consider the benefit of going viral: priceless. Consider the power of going viral: unstoppable. Nobody wants to admit that they’re not able to handle the in-your-face brand that is willing/wishing to go viral. (Nobody wants to admit to being that old.) Go ahead. Start with and never forget to engage and convey a sense of humor. Then create the best story to rationalize the most outrageous name for your most excellent product. And by all means — by all means — infect your consumers with an unquenchable thirst for your irreverent brand.”


Disney stole Ted Turner’s “Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way” line. Here’s my POV broadcast on Nightly Business Report

Disney (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Was it bird, was it a plane, was it a government body, no, last week’s super hero was Disney’s CEO, Bob Igor, stealing Ted Turner’s line, “Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way” with the announcement that the Disney network will slim down access to brands deemed unhealthy and become the world’s brand champion for healthy kids – along with a “Mickey Mark” that endorses appropriate products.

What more could an investor and a mum share in common than Disney (NYSE:DIS), a game changing brand we all trust, with channels free of unhealthy product advertising, garnishing world applause, increased ratings and a Mickey Mark that provides mum the short-cut to decide if a product is a good choice for her children whether on 4-screens or down the aisle.

Disney’s ability to focus on efficiencies that can create and capture demand make any competition irrelevant from being able to usurp Disney’s lead due to its arsenal of assets for ‘healthy kids’ brand endorsement deals. Creating a new revenue stream for Disney and a new business model by taking an ethical stance whilst being a boon for business – and not just Disney’s – in the $2.5 Trillion combined media and CPG categories.

By cracking the world’s toughest brief: making it easy for mum, Disney has unleashed a game changer, taking a page right out of the book, Blue Ocean Strategy (by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne). Disney has set its sights on creating a giant footprint in a fiercely contested health category. Mum neither knows what to give her children or what to allow them to innocently watch; she is confused by the endless cacophony of messages and icons embedded in a frivolous sea of promotions on screen and down the aisles filled with their gleaming category cues.

Image representing The Walt Disney Company as ...
Image via CrunchBase

Disney’s Big Idea is made more brilliant by the limited impact on their return on capital employed (ROCE) as the bulk of the new investment effort will no doubt be shared with brand partners and from marketing and licensing deals. Alongside the ‘Mickey Mark’ strategy that will eventually offer up its advertisers, the inevitable foray down the grocery aisle with their own Disney portfolios and licensing with those brands Disney endorses as ‘healthy’.

In an industry that thrives on exciting customers with new products, innovation
is key and Disney’s treasure chest represents a gargantuan brand and licensing opportunity for targeted health & wellness programs. Many pundits currently eye greater value in splitting up CPG companies like P&G and PepsiCo. As for media, finding growth past the election and the Olympics is foreseen as tough and networks are in flux. Just last week during Dish Network’s announcement of its new ad-skipping device, CEO, Charlie Ergon, was vocal about the need for better advertising strategies from the networks whilst warning that Internet video threatens the pay-tv ecosystem.

Let’s face it if you don’t like change, you’ll enjoy irrelevance even less. The last time a business reinvented more than one industry simultaneously was Apple – and they had a big idea also. The ‘shock and awe’ of this audacious move by Disney has mammoth implications for all media players, especially Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, who will have to lead a path or follow suit – Disney has ‘the con’ as they say in the movies.

Growth begets growth and major brand and media owners are going to be forced to be good at what they do and take an holistic view of the customer and create new methods of engagement and seamless experience that can give customers what they want with the products and services they offer. So after a week or two of navel gazing, they need to look to Disney’s initiative and aim to create either new products for licensing, bundled portfolios of existing ‘good for you’ products for Disney endorsement strategies or review what they have in their portfolio that could be modified to satisfy the stringent criteria of Disney (NYSE:DIS): acting as an industry seal of approval.

In risk there is opportunity and Disney has masterfully leapfrogged an entire category to become the voice of health and wellness for kids around the world. By simply staying on brand, this win-win business strategy alone reinvents Disney’s franchise as it broadens its ‘Masterbrand’ role beyond the boundaries of entertainment, products and hospitality services. There will be a progression and it might be sluggish, but done well, it’s hugely likely that publicity and demand will create a successful pull through strategy. Ultimately this is a ‘show me’ industry that survives by exciting customers with new products. Now the magic’s started, it’s show time folks.

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