Archives for posts with tag: branding

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A good life lesson. A more important lesson for brands. Sure, the copy will annoy some and they will never look at this perfume. But some will love the copy and never use another perfume. You can’t please everyone. Don’t even try.

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When I grew up, my favorite brand was Coca-Cola. I also loved McDonald’s and any cereal brand. The unhealthier sweeter, the better. Over time, I learned that Coke was nothing more than sugared water and McDonald’s peddled really crappy food by sourcing through really terrible methods. Well, and cereal was nothing more than sugar in milk. My love for these brands turned into cynicism. They still created great advertising but it’s hard to enjoy any commercial or online game when you have these videos of tortured chicken in your head.

Branding used to involve big budgets, flashy advertising, a lot of good looking people and promises that were never kept.

This branding era is about to end.

We are about to experience a branding renaissance

Branding doesn’t happen in brainstorming sessions, on TV screens or through false, beautiful worlds anymore.

Branding today entails:

– Focusing more on stakeholder value, less on shareholder value

– Social Currency is more important than immediate profitability

– Innovation more important than messages

– Customer experience is almost everything

– Delivering constant customer value is everything.

Advertising noise will continue to be part of branding. Over time, that noise will just lead to tone deafness and the return will be minimal. Companies that are doing it right will succeed over time. The others will fade away.

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Neophile: A neophile can be defined as a personality type characterized by a strong affinity for novelty.

Neophiles have the following characteristics:

  • The ability to adapt rapidly to extreme change
  • A distaste or downright loathing of tradition, repetition, and routine
  • A tendency to become bored quickly with old things
  • A desire, bordering on obsession in some cases, to experience novelty

Psychologists have tracked neophiles over time. This is what Psychology Today had to say about them:

“Looking under the hood of the person high in novelty-seeking, it seems that dopamine, the pleasure neurotransmitter, seems to be involved.  According to research conducted by Zalid et al (2009), high dopamine activity in a specific part of the midbrain is higher in individuals high in novelty-seeking, even after controlling for age and gender. An orientation toward reward could help account for the relationship between the desire to seek out new experiences and a tendency to develop addictive behaviors.

Some forms of novelty-seeking may, on the plus side, may be related to creativity. According to Marvin Zuckerman, people who seek pleasure from new experiences are also likely to be more creative. The ability to have big ideas seems to require a certain degree of enjoyment of expanding your mental horizons into new territory.

Novelty-seeking, then, is a mixed bag in terms of its ability to get you through life. To get the most benefit from novelty-seeking, it’s important to keep the balance in mind between sameness and change. New may be better than old, but not at the cost to your mental health.”

Advertising was always a meeting point for neophiles. We had to find new ideas, new insights, new ways of connecting with people.

The emergence of new platforms, new channels and new bright shiny objects has moved the industry to pathological extremes of neophilia. I’ve met with a client recently that planned on delivering their messages through 28 channels. They had enough budget to disseminate their message to the point where it is spread so thin, they are ensured to make no impact.

Brands should not create confusion. Their communication planning should deliver a cogent vision and definition of their values. Only then customers will contribute to the brand, rather than spreading confusion. When Social Media gives the customer the possibility to mass-publish any thought or personal opinion, a comprehensive and well-defined definition of a brand is more important than ever.

Agencies should be in the business of building brands.

The agency neophiles are diluting  brands.

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It’s all about Big Data, right? Targeting, gathering information, using that data to deliver relevant messages, correct? Not so fast says Millward Brown, conducting an analysis of winning case studies from the IPA Effectiveness, Effies and Cannes Lions awards.

“This analysis serves as celebration of creativity. Advertising which is enjoyed, found involving, and stimulates the emotions in a way that other advertising doesn’t, should be encouraged and rewarded. But that doesn’t mean advertisers should pursue creativity at the expense of all else.

It has long been known that advertising needs to be underpinned by an appropriate strategy. This analysis adds another factor: branding. It is all very well for an ad to leave vibrant memories, but do these memoires link to your brand uniquely?

Branding has nothing to do with repeating the brand name and showing packs; it has everything to do with making the brand the centre of, and the reason for, the creative idea. The Marlboro Cowboy, the Hovis delivery boy freewheeling down a hill to the strains of Dvorak’s “New World Symphony”, the Andrex puppy and the Clio-driving Nicole and Papa, are all excellent examples of well-branded advertising.

There are many ways to brand an ad but, ultimately, it relies on creativity to integrate the brand, or an established branding cue, into the ad in an engaging way. This analysis suggests that advertising should also stimulate emotions; but there is no single emotion which works better.”

An important 180 by a company that brought you the “Awareness index”, a key metric that assumes that achieves its effect primarily by impacting memory – awareness and recall. Come to find out, emotion is pretty much everything.

As a professional that worked on the creative, media, accounting and planning side, I can assure you that creative work is not everything. You need to have a solid planning foundation, providing a platform to develop brilliant creative. And you need to have advanced communications and media planning to get your message heard, activate the audience and get the most of your owned platforms and earn media.

Problem is, the digital marketing industry has been in the grip of technologist, data nerds and spread sheets. They own digital marketing. That needs to change. Or we will continue to live in a world of tiny boxes being overlooked by customers. Guess works masqued as metrics.

Advertising was always about emotions. How come we forget about that?

Time to remember.

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Brands are empty containers of meaning. Companies and marketing departments have a meaning they want the customer to  believe, and customers develop meaning through interactions, both good and bad, with the brand.

This kid has a clear view of brands she has interacted with. She has a totally different meaning than the one intended to brands with which she has little experience. The brand is empty of meaning until we fill it.

A brand is meaningless until both the company and its customers create meaning through a relationship or experience with each other. Important to note: meaning is created by both the brand AND the customers. Understanding how your followers view you is critical to developing a successful and beloved brand.

You won’t be able to understand your customer by conducting focus groups, online surveys or social mentions. You need to talk to your customers. Which means getting out of your office and meeting customers in their environment. Experiencing how they engage with the product. Self-awareness is one of the most difficult aspects of branding.

It shouldn’t be about approval. It should be about learning.

Mark writes about this video he posted on Vimeo:

“On an unseasonably warm November night in Manhattan on our way to get ice cream, we stumbled upon what appeared to be a vintage shop, brightly lit display window and all. As we began to walk in, a man sitting out front warned us that we were welcome to explore, but nothing inside was for sale. Our interests piqued, we began to browse through the collections the man out front had built throughout his life. This is a story of a man and his home.”

An apartment as a social object. He created an environment that connects him with the world because people want to talk with him about it. As I wrote in my blog post ‘Social Objects are the future of participatory media’:

What are social objects?

Social objects are the reason why people socialize. We’re social animals but we need to find a common ground to communicate with each other. That common ground is the social objects.

Let’s say you’re at a party, you are shy and feel completely lost. You are not going to approach a stranger with “I really love Wilco’s new album and I’m reading Jonathan Franzen’s latest book. So fascinating.” The other person will call 911 and hope you’ll end up in a mental institution. In the good old smoking days, your first conversation revolved around the brand of cigarettes both of you are smoking. (Remember the days when you sat in a smoky bar, your social object “cigarette box with logo” right in front of you communicating to the world some part of your personality?) Now, we are focusing on phones, apps, drinks or tattoos. Some social object that connects me with you.

Come to find out that social objects are not only the future of advertising. They are also the future of human connection and interaction.


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We wait to win the lottery. The screenplay that will make you a Hollywood star. The blog post that will lead to a book deal and speaking engagement. The woman of your dreams. The dream job. The end of the world.

We tend to waste a lot of time waiting.

Companies wait for the new product to turn everything around. The new marketing campaign will change everything.

It doesn’t work that way anymore.

Brands succeed one person at a time. You make one person happy, they will tell others. Rinse and repeat. If you disappoint your customers, they will leave one at a time. Drip, drip, drip.

One at a time is not as cool as the big bang. But it’s the way the world works now.

Social platforms are “one at a time tools”.

You show up every day. You tweet. You blog. You give to the world. Over time, you build a body of work, leading to trust.

Many marketers want to use these tools for breakthrough efforts. Let’s get a million followers and then convert them into a sale. They don’t understand that you have to build trust, one at a time, to earn the right to make a sale. You need to build that trust over time, tweet by tweet, post by post, interaction by interaction, one person at a time. Trying to build trust right before you want to make the sale is a foolish undertaking.

Build a foundation of trust now before you really need it.

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Thank you, Dr. Seuss.

Think about:

Make the board happy.

Make the shareholders happy.

Make the R&D department happy.

Make the customers happy.

Make the employees happy.

Make the sales department happy.

Make the marketing department happy.

Make the focus groups happy.

Make the stakeholders happy.

Make the audience happy.

Make your career happy.

Everybody wants to be happy. Everybody has a different definition of happiness.

If your business is about keeping many different audiences happy, how can a brand have a meaningful and touching point of view?

Happiness used to be a by-product for many brands. Now, it has become the main goal. Is that why most marketing has become ineffective and so bland?

Most brands are like toddlers: If you don’t give them guidance, they’ll just end up eating candy all day. Just to be miserable at the end of the day.

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When trainers catch an elephant, they will take a strong chain and tie the elephant’s leg to a long steel pole which they drive deep into the ground. For a while, the elephant will pull and fight but they they stop because they learn that they can’t get away. Over time, the pole becomes smaller and smaller because the elephant doesn’t pull as hard. The chain becomes a rope, the pole becomes a stake, and soon they stop fighting altogether. With a fully trained elephant, a trainer will simply tie a rope to its leg and toss it to the ground, or attach it to a very small stake, and the elephant won’t even try to get away.

The elephants’ belief that they are helpless becomes so strong that it becomes even stronger than innate instinct for survival. In 1967 at a circus in Mannheim, Germany, 6 elephants died as the result of a tent fire. They were all tied to very small stakes hammered into the ground…stakes they could have easily pulled themselves free from.

What is your ball & chain?

Nobody is without their own ball & chain.

They limit you. They make you believe you’re a terrible athlete, a horrible singer, just a middle manager, not an executive, a follower not a leader. Our education system doesn’t help (Why grades in 1st grade?), our whole system of rewards and punishment is not helpful either. (Why are good grades in math more rewarded than a good performance  in dancing?)

Brands have their own ball & chain.

Amazon could have just stuck with the vision of being the world’s largest book store. Instead, they revolutionized book reading.

Zappos could have been happy becoming a profitable online shoe store. Instead, they revolutionized customer service.

Dreaming and the courage to do so, is actually tremendously important for us as individuals and companies, but also for our society. Just think what our world would look like if, for example, Einstein, explorers like Columbus, and the Brothers Wright had been “realistic” and hadn’t had the courage to dream and to pursue their dream…. It is not unlikely that we’d still be sitting in the dark at night, and that we wouldn’t be flying in metal tubes over oceans to other continents and countries at over 30,000 feet.

We have an obligation to dream.

More importantly, we have an obligation to get rid off the ball & chain.

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“When we are narcissistic, we are not on solid ground (earth) or thinking clearly (air) or cought up in passion (fire).  Somehow if we follow the myth, we are dreamlike, fluid, not clearly formed, more immersed in a stream of fantasy than secure in a firm identity.” – Thomas Moore

Mediocre brands love to talk about themselves. Just like the dull dinner companion or date that can only talk about him or herself. It’s hard to escape a dinner date, it’s easy to escape mediocre brands. I just tune them out, throw their stuff in the garbage, don’t even see them.

Great brands talk about what they believe in. What they are passionate about. What they love. They take a stand and tell you what they’re standing against. Sharing with the world what your really believe in is inspiring. Sharing a passion with the world makes people want to connect with a brand. It’s so much easier to connect with people when you share your real identity with the world.

What is your brand passionate about?