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73 posts categorized "Branding Strategy"

May 30, 2011

Great Brands Inspire Customers

The Wall Street Journal recently ran a profile on Restoration Hardware and its reemergence as a great brand. Much of the article centered around the design and management style of Gary Friedman, Restoration Hardware ceo and chairman.

“Great brands don’t chase customers, customers chase great brands.” - Gary Friedman

The above quote was pulled from Gary explaining how Restoration Hardware, during the recession, resisted playing the low-price value game and instead, doubled-down its efforts to improve the company’s identity and uniqueness. Gary went on to say, “In bad economic times, quality becomes even more important, uniqueness becomes even more important—people need to be inspired to buy something.

Gary’s right.

Just like people need to be inspired to talk about brands... people also need to be inspired to buy something from brands.

What are you doing to inspire customers to buy something?

March 31, 2011

Solving Starbucks Problems | March 2007

The Brand Autopsy Archive Project
1,400 posts since December of 2003. That’s a lot of HMOs (hot marketing opinions) served up on the Brand Autopsy blog. For this week, we’re going to revisit five vintage posts from the Brand Autopsy Archives. Enjoy...

BACKSTORY | April 1, 2011
Howard Schultz is doing a full throttle media junket tour promoting his book on how Starbucks rediscovered its soul, reinvigorated its financial footing, and reengineered its growth engine. The book is titled ONWARD and this has me looking backward to when Paul Williams and I offered Starbucks some tough love on how to solve its growing problems.

In a ping-pong series of posts in March of 2007, Paul and I, both former Starbucks marketers, were responding to Howard Schultz’s leaked internal memo where he admitted that Starbucks has “… had to make a series of decisions that, in retrospect, have lead to the watering down of the Starbucks experience, and, some might call the commoditization of our [Starbucks] brand.”

With the publication of ONWARD, this five-part (with 10 posts) series has been given new relevance. Re-read, or read for the first time, the laundry list of strategies and tactics Paul and I believe Starbucks could’ve implemented to become the company Howard’s book says it has transformed into being.


We began by addressing the LOSS OF COFFEE THEATRE issue:
Paul analyzed the switchover from the La Marzocco espresso machine to the Verisimo automatic machine and offered up tactical ideas Starbucks can use to course-correct itself back to espresso authenticity. I riffed off Paul’s post and added the idea Starbucks needs to give permission to store partners to showcase their flair and personality while on the bar in order bring some of the coffee theatre back.
Next on our list was the LOSS OF COFFEE AROMA issue:
I explain in detail how “operational efficiencies” (not Flavorlock packaging) have led to Starbucks stores no longer smelling of coffee. I offer the quick-fix solution of finding ways to grind coffee in-store again. Paul disagrees with my exoneration of Flavorlock packaging and he smartly offers up the idea of implementing an “Aroma First” rule. This “Aroma First” rule would have Starbucks making in-store decisions based upon how any proposed activity would impact the aroma of coffee inside a Starbucks.
We also addressed the LOSS OF STORE SOUL issue:
Paul breaks down what it means to be a Mom & Pop shop and gives specific ideas on how Starbucks store design should stop being all things to all people at all its stores. I offer up thoughts on how Starbucks should give more control to its stores to run store-specific marketing programs and post store-specific marketing signage.
We touched upon the LOSS OF MERCHANDISE focus:
I explain how Bearista Bears and Finger Puppets sell very well, but it a great cost to the brand. As a solution, I propose Starbucks ask itself two questions to ensure its merchandise focus: (#1) Does the product link directly to coffee? If yes, sell it. If no, don’t. (#2) Does the quality of this product match the high-quality of Starbucks coffee. If yes, sell it. If no, don’t. Paul adds-on and modifies my two questions by asking if the merchandise links directly to either the preparation, consumption, and/or enjoyment of coffee. He closes his thoughts by expressing just because Starbucks can sell music, DVDs, and plush toys doesn’t mean they should.
We close by addressing the LOSS OF IDENTITY issue:
Paul likens Starbucks returning to its core to restoring antique furniture to its core, original finish. He also brilliantly points out Starbucks needs LESS INNOVATION and MORE EXPLORATION. Starbucks didn’t invent coffee, it explored the world of coffee and brought interesting flavors to its customers. Paul says Starbucks should concern itself with digging deeper into the world of coffee and uncover exotic coffee concoctions and share them. I take the IDENTITY conversation in a different direction and explain how Starbucks needs to standup to the bullies working on Wall Street by pruning all of its unhealthy growth in order to rejuvenate its soul and refertilize its reason for existing.

November 02, 2010

Advertising and Word of Mouth

As part of my project work with The Keller Fay Group, I'm digging into their archive of research findings and providing insights, which marketers can use to better tap into the power of word of mouth.

Keller Fay recently released new data showing the virtues of advertising on Television, in Magazines, and Online to spark word of mouth conversations. The data shows how TV, Print, and the Internet all work differently when it comes to sparking word of mouth conversations about brands, products, and services.

The following presentations explaining the virtues of advertising to trigger word of mouth first appeared on the Keller Fay WOM MATTERS blog. If you're interested in learning more about how advertising can spark word of mouth, read and watch below.

While overall television viewership is down, that doesn't, by any means, diminish the impact television advertising has on sparking word of mouth conversations.

Advertising in print magazines will help a brand reach consumers who are more inclined to be talkative influencers, those folks who actively and passionately keep up with what's new and interesting in the world and share it within their large social circle of friends.

Online media triggers about 15% of all brand-related word of mouth conversations. That's a higher percentage than print media, radio, and billboard. Only television is a bigger trigger of word of mouth, but not by much.

July 15, 2010

TOUGH LOVE | The Recipe for a Strong Brand

One of the more interesting scenes in the TOUGH LOVE screenplay is when Vivian Kane, Denny Williams, and John Coffey spend an afternoon talking with Galaxy Coffee customers and employees.

For Vivian, the company cheerleader who thinks Galaxy can do wrong, hearing first-hand opinions of disillusioned customers and front-line employees changed how she views Galaxy Coffee.

While enjoying beers and conversation at the Tophill Pub, Vivian and Denny start talking about the practice of branding. Vivian’s approach to building a brand is unique and steeped deep in the Galaxy Coffee culture.

Being strategies_pg77


July 13, 2010

TOUGH LOVE | No Business is Perfect

Vivian Kane is a principal character in the TOUGH LOVE screenplay. She has worked in the Galaxy Coffee marketing department for over a decade and the Galaxy Coffee company culture runs through her veins. She’s a company cheerleader all the way.

There’s a scene in TOUGH LOVE where Vivian chides a former employee, Denny Williams, for criticizing the actions of Galaxy Coffee. Denny responds back that no business is perfect and the reason he is giving the company “tough love” is because he still loves the company.

The idea of “no business is perfect” is a theme we’ve discussed before on the Brand Autopsy blog. It’s also discussed in the Marketer’s Notes section at the end of the TOUGH LOVE screenplay. Here’s a snippet from the business lessons section of the script:

#13 | Marketer's Notes -- "No business is perfect."

Let’s face it, no business is perfect. NONE. Business is a game of progress, not perfection. No business will be perfect. It's an impossibly unattainable goal. But while that goal is unattainable, the most endearing and enduring businesses seem to always aspire to reach perfection. They always make progressive steps to improve their business and how their business connects with people. Sure, they will stumble along the way. But the true measure of a company is how it recovers and forges ahead making progress along the way to overcome its mistakes.

source: Business Lesson #13 from TOUGH LOVE

July 12, 2010

You know you have a great marketing idea when...

In SAVE THE CAT! STRIKES BACK, Blake Snyder, accomplished screenwriter, shares “seven warnings signs” a writer has a great idea for a screenplay. It’s a good list and with a little massaging, Blake’s list also works for marketers. Here's my twist on Blake's list:

You know you have a great marketing idea when...

#1. You love talking about the idea with anyone, anywhere.

#2. You have no fear someone will steal your idea.

#3. You feel giddy knowing others view you as a smart marketer.

#4. You know the more you work on the idea, the better it gets.

#5. You poke at potential flaws in the idea, knowing it’s an opportunity to make the idea stronger.

#6. You have researched the idea and know no one has done it like you plan to do it.

#7. You know the idea is tactically doable and strategically reliable.

June 28, 2010

Pathetic Starbucks Promo Poster

In my TOUGH LOVE ebook, it’s not hard to figure out that “Galaxy Coffee” is Starbucks Coffee. So when the screenplay depicts the drive, drama, and decline of Galaxy, it’s really business commentary on the goings-on with Starbucks.

There’s a scene in TOUGH LOVE where the Galaxy CEO, David Pearl, criticizes his executive team for all their shortsighted and “off-brand” marketing ideas to kick-start sales. In his badgering, David implores the executives to “never communicate like a fast food company.”

If David Pearl were the CEO of Starbucks Coffee and not of the fictitious Galaxy Coffee, this pathetic Starbucks promo poster would rankle him.


This promo poster for mini donuts has no soul ... no emotion ... no style ... no creativity. And, it has no business being inside a Starbucks.

A soulless generic poster fits inside a run down gas station or perhaps a mom and pop Gyro shop, but not inside a Starbucks. That's my TOUGH LOVE for today.

May 17, 2010

What is a Talkable Brand?

This is an interesting presentation from WOMMA. (Yes, I do work with them.)

It's a collection of word of mouth marketers and their different views on what makes a brand talkable. Smart stuff. Enjoy...

May 01, 2010

Speaking to Students at Tec de Monterrey

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking to students in the Master in Innovation and Technological Entrepreneurship department of Tecnológico de Monterrey (Mexico).

Students enrolled in this one-year intensive program are given the knowledge, the guidance, and the motivation to start their own business. It’s a very interesting program with ambitious goals that extend beyond creating new businesses to changing the innovation culture in Mexico.

In my talk with the students, I shared some “Espresso Shots of Business Wisdom” and passed along some “Tribal Knowledge” from my marketing experiences at both Starbucks Market and Whole Foods Market.

Check out the Tec de Monterrey blog for a nice summary.


November 22, 2009

WOMMA Conference: Recap Presentation

*** Note, my WOM Enthusiast hat is on with this post. ***

When you return from a conference chock-full of insights, it’s difficult to share everything you learned. Sure, you can transcribe your notes but your notes are bound to have some holes. You can also pull insights from summaries other attendees have posted on their blogs.

Or ... you whittle through the thousands of tweets from attendees to carve out a more complete list of insights. That’s the path I’ve chosen to take after returning from WOMMA’s Creating Talkable Brands conference.

Over 470 attendees shared 3,600+ tweets (.pdf download) with the #WOMMA hashtag during the three-day conference. I’ve whittled down the 3,600+ tweets to a more digestible collection of 165 tweets and compiled them into this SlideShare presentation. Enjoy.

May 20, 2009

Video Recap: MySpace or Facebook? Or Both?

On May 13 & 14, WOMMA held its Word-of-Mouth Marketing University conference. Below is a video recap of a presentation from the conference.


The world’s two largest social networks, MySpace and Facebook, attract over 130-million users monthly. Thus the question has changed from IF you should use MySpace or Facebook to reach your customers to HOW. How can attention, affinity, and action happen best on each site? How do marketing messages spread differently between the two? How best to monitor and measure a brand’s performance on each site?

Those questions and more were answered by Heidi Browning from MySpace and Chris Pan from Facebook during the kick-off keynote to Day 2 of WOMM-U.

For smart recaps, I recommend reading posts from Josh Hallet, John Bell, and Ian Sohn. The moderator of the panel, David Berkowitz, also posted a good summary of the session.

I plopped my rinky-dink camera atop the banquet table in the dimly lit ballroom and captured much of the session on video. Because this session was so informative, written summaries fail to cover all the content. So, you should watch it for yourself and jot down your key takeaways.

In this segment you’ll learn about audience/demo profiles for MySpace and Facebook (0:00 to 2:45). Plus, you’ll hear Heidi and Chris share best practices from brands including Vitamin Water to Papa Johns Pizza to Starbucks to Cheetos to Aflac (2:46 to 9:35).

Both Heidi and Chris talk about the importance of creating engagement and community with users when designing marketing activities on MySpace and Facebook. Lots of great information in this segment.

Measurement matters to marketers. In this segment, you’ll learn how MySpace uses the momentum effect to evaluate success of a marketing activity. Facebook uses measurements of engagement to determine success/failure. Deep stuff. Watch, listen, and learn.

NOTE: crossposted on the ALL THINGS WOM blog

May 19, 2009

Recap: YouTube presentation

NOTE: crossposted on the ALL THINGS WOM blog

On May 13 & 14, WOMMA held its Word-of-Mouth Marketing University conference. Below is a recap of a presentation from the conference.

Maximizing Online Video for Marketing Success

Presenter said:

Jeben Berg, creative director of Cross Platforms Solutions at YouTube & Google, threw out some startling stats about YouTube during his presentation ... it’s 81-million unique monthly visitors makes YouTube one of the most trafficked websites in the world ... each minute, another new 15-minutes of video is uploaded to YouTube.

Obviously, YouTube is a media and marketing channel to be reckoned with and smart companies are finding ways to integrate YouTube into their marketing mix. Jeben explained there is “no single formula" for online video success. There are, however, lots of best practice tips on how to improve the effectiveness of online videos.

First, focus on great ideas rather than production values. Companies like BlendTec and its “Will it Blend” series begin with a singular idea — such as, will an iPhone blend? — to create simple yet interesting videos. According to Jeben, following the BlendTec approach of “high concept with low fidelity” is a recipe for creating compelling online video.

Second, think quantity more than quality. Jeben explained brands that post lots of videos gain the most viewers and receive the most must-see recommendations from friends.

Third, make the most out of your Title, Description, and Tags. Don’t get too cute with your video title names. Use key words and commonly searched terms in the Description of your videos. And, spend extra time making sure you Tag your videos with the most appropriate terms. Something simple as a good title, robust description, and relevant tags will help online videos get better visibility through search engines.

Jeben jokingly talked about how many CEOs of big brands have called YouTube requesting certain videos be taken down. As long as a copyright isn’t infringed upon, YouTube leaves such videos alone.

Audience tweeted:
@VirginiaMiracle was impressed with the short case study on how the rock band, Weezer, analyzed the stats behind their videos, “weezer used their YouTube stats to determine that no one in the state of Oklahoma cares about weezer.” By knowing how few viewers there were from Oklahoma, Weezer decided not to make a tour stop in the state.

In response to Jeben talking about the recent Domino’s video incident, @spikejones tweeted, “CEO of Domino’s called called YouTube and tried to play the ‘pull down the video b/c I pump so much $$ into Google card.’ It didn’t work.

Jeben continued the Domino’s story about the company’s video response. @TravelPRPro responded, “Money Talks. Advertising does have influence. Domino’s response to employee hoax got prime placement on YouTube bc they advertise.

WOMMA says:
Viral videos can give a company lots of attention. However, predicting what goes viral is nearly impossible. If you approach making a video with the intent of it going viral, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Instead, use Jeben’s advice of focusing on a quality idea more than on quality video production. It’s interesting ideas that get people interested and when interest is achieved, online word-of-mouth is primed to spread.

May 05, 2009

Brands We Would Miss


If you've enjoyed the "Would You Miss" series on Brand Autopsy, then you'll enjoy Denise's BRANDS WE WOULD MISS series.

Denise is riffing off the 24/7 Wall Street article highlighting 12 brands they've singled out as being on the endangered species list.

Yesterday Denise made the case for why Budget rent-a-car deserves to exist. Today, she pleads for Saturn to survive. I wonder what endangered brand Denise will talk about tomorrow...

April 20, 2009

The Designful Company

... from the Post2Post tour highlighting THE DESIGNFUL COMPANY


Consider THE DESIGNFUL COMPANY from Marty Neumeier as a manifesto on building a company based upon the pillars of vision, culture, and innovation.

His earlier books, THE BRAND GAP and ZAG, were also manifestos. THE BRAND GAP discussed the importance of marketers and creatives working together within a company to bridge the gap between logic (marketing) and magic (design). ZAG expressed, in irrefutable fashion, how to best develop and apply differentiation strategies. Both books are brilliant.

And, THE DESIGNFUL COMPANY is also brilliant.

Neumeier makes a compelling case for “DESIGN” being more about performance than style. Being a designer, according to Neumeier, isn’t limited to being an artist, architect, composer, etc. Not at all. Anyone, and that means everyone, who tries to improve a given situation is a designer. Whenever you work through any creative process, you are doing design. Dig?

To give you some flavor for THE DESIGNFUL COMPANY, I designed a three-minute video ditty sharing smart tid-bits from the book. Enjoy…

RSS Readers ... click here to view the video.

February 02, 2009

re: Wasted Brand Potential

Denise Lee Yohn has started a thought-provoking series about brands not living up to their potential. She kicked-off the series by pointing the finger at GNC (General Nutrition Centers) for not living up to its potential as a brand. About GNC, Denise writes …

“The shopping experience is unmemorable, the little advertising and promotion they do is generic, and other than a private label product line that offers common products at a discount, their product assortment lacks uniqueness.” [READ MORE]

Jonathan Salem Baskin guest-posted on Denise’s blog and called out Facebook for not living up to its potential as a brand.

Denise asked me to guest-post and I single out DAIRY QUEEN as a brand that could be doing more. My opinions on Dairy Queen’s brand relevance were heavily influenced by your comments in this can’t miss “Would You Miss” post.

To read my take on Dairy Queen, click on the image below. (Or click here.)

("Click me," said the jpeg.)

November 06, 2008

Great Advice for All of Us


SOURCE: The Cocktail Party Rule (Hugh MacLeod)

October 28, 2008

Better Billboard. Fresher

In July, I ranted about how there isn’t a faster way to commoditizing a brand than using unemotional and uncreative language. The example I used was Starbucks and this billboard:


I wasn’t knocking the billboard tactic as OOH advertising can be used effectively. I was knocking the fast food mentality of the copy used in the billboard.

Communicating a new and improved position is totally of the fast food mindset. And, to feel the need to say BETTER COFFEE is off-putting to me. (Shouldn't the Starbucks cup automatically convey Better Coffee? After all, the "Better Coffee" angle should be the culmination of everything Starbucks has strived to communicate to customers since its inception.)

The other week I noticed a new Starbucks billboard execution going eastbound to the Austin airport. It’s being used as a directional guide to support a just-opened Starbucks location nearby.


Kudos. The language/tone isn’t unemotional and uncreative. It’s (somewhat) interesting and functional. In other words … Better Billboard. Fresher. A marked improvement.

August 27, 2008

This One Time at Brand Camp…

As part of the Post2Post Book Tour, we’re pimping Tom Fishburne’s newest collection of cartoons illustrating the funny side of business life in the trenches of brand management.


BRAND CAMP is basically Dilbert for Marketers. With Dilbert, Scott Adams focuses on finding humor in every department of a big business. On the other hand, Tom, with super-strong CPG marketing chops, focuses his humor on every day happenings within a company’s marketing department. Nothing marketing-related is out-of-bounds for Tom’s sharp and sometimes painful wit…

He mocks the belief of Brand Loyalty (image)...

He makes light of Psychographic Profiling...

He pokes fun at Buzz Marketing...

He ridicules Consensus Decision-Making...

He shows the derailment in developing Brand Promises...

He shoots straight about Concept Testing...

He lampoons Co-Branded Partnerships...

He redefines the meaning of earning Street Cred

He shares what really happens when we Take it Offline

He explains why too many marketers spoil the Attribute Soup

He sounds the alarm for Brainstorming Sessions


Tom says his dedication to churning out one Brand Camp cartoon a week has made him a better marketer.

Now, I can’t say reading THIS ONE TIME AT BRAND CAMP will make you a better marketer. However, I am confident doing so will make you a smarter marketer. Why? Because you will find yourself questioning the many long-held branding practices and marketing philosophies you’ve been trained to accept.

Get on the Brand Camp bandwagon by reading his blog. You can also subscribe to his weekly emailed cartoons. Or, BUY THE BOOK. (Heck, buy 10 books and pass'em around your marketing department.) Oh yeah … Tom also licenses the use of his cartoons, read here for details.

Learn more about Tom, his marketing career, and his unique perspective on all things marketing-related by following his Post2Post book tour junket ...
>> Fresh Peel | Aug. 25
>> Church of the Customer | Aug. 26
>> Dan Roam | Aug. 28
>> Seth Godin | Aug. 29

August 22, 2008

Resuscitating Comatose Brands

Kudos to Karlene Lukovitz for her autopsy-esque article on reviving left-for-dead brands. Click here or below to read the interesting article...


July 16, 2008

Better Coffee. Faster. ** NEVER **

I’m not as unsettled about Starbucks selling smoothies as I am about Starbucks approving this billboard:

LOCATION: Northbound & Southbound on I-35 (near Temple, TX)

Sadly, this is another decision the company has made which has “… lead to the watering down of the Starbucks experience, and, what some might call the commoditization of our brand." [SOURCE]

As marketers, we know there is not a faster, better, or cheaper route to commoditizing a brand than using unemotional language like: Faster … Better … Cheaper.

Back in the day, Starbucks marketers were coached to: (1) NEVER communicate like a fast food company; (2) NEVER convey a new and improved mindset; and (3) NEVER allow a tactic to take priority over the company’s heritage and personality.

Today is a different day. However, if Starbucks is to truly transform itself back to what in once was … it needs to also transform the language it uses.

June 30, 2008

Obsessive Branding Disorder


Lucas Conley’s OBSESSIVE BRANDING DISORDER book is receiving some nice media attention. And for good reason … it’s well-written and provocative.

Conley’s book began as a Fast Company essay from Oct. 2005. He’s since beefed up the premise and added in lots of relevant and unique case study examples.

For the cynical marketing crowd, which includes me, this book will be right in your wheelhouse as it delves deep into the superficial side of the arts and sciences of modern branding.

To give you a taste of Conley’s take, below is my trademark pending WHAT ? — SO WHAT? — WHAT NOW? summary of OBSESSIVE BRANDING DISORDER. (Just kiddin' on the trademark-pending quip. Tom Ehrenfeld is the rightful owner of this idea.)

“Branding is corrupting our culture by heralding emotion over reason, surface over core substance, and packaging over experience.” (p. 197)

“More than marketing, advertising, or positioning, branding is an all-in-one ideology—a facile reduction malleable enough to govern all facets of modern business.” (p. 5)

“By abandoning the trusty, dusty principles of business—innovative products, good service, solid management—for the idealism of branding, companies reveal the true escapist appeal of their new religion.” (p. 10)

“Successful, enduring brands are either truly innovative and outstanding or a great value. They have never needed much advertising. They don’t have to reinvigorate their employees with brand-morale building or rely shamelessly on empty company taglines. Their products fulfill the legitimate purpose of the brand.” (p. 64)

“But the effect of … [obsessive] branding has been a steady erosion in the public’s trust.” (p. 110)

“The world is cheapened when everyone sees it with a marketer’s eye. We lose trust for each other and grow skeptical of one another as we try to determine what we’re being sold. We become more isolated and more self-conscious, more prone to rely on brands for status and to ally ourselves with other brand loyalists for company.” (p. 199)

“To combat this obsessive branding disorder, we must acknowledge that we will always have brands—they are an inevitable medium for communication and commerce.” (p. 201)

“But if we acknowledge that we must rely on brands to some degree, and if we keep our focus on the products rather than the promotions, we can begin to extricate ourselves from a world of brand churches, tribes, and religion.” (p. 202)

“Run a good business and your brand will follow.” (from Lucas’ Oct. 2005 Fast Company essay)

June 08, 2008

Advertising Age recommends NOT ADVERTISING

Yep, you read that header right — Advertising Age recommends NOT ADVERTISING. A recent editorial in Ad Age shared HMOs (hot marketing opinions) about JetBlue’s current advertising campaign. The gist is this …

“JetBlue is missing the point with its recent ad push. What it needs is to get back to what made it a media and consumer darling: customer service and good internal and external communication.”

“… convincing more people to fly doesn't seem like a smart move for an airline that has trouble handling the passengers it already has. It won't fool new passengers, and it will only upset current passengers. JetBlue achieved its success by being unlike the other airlines. Its good name spread -- via word-of-mouth and smart marketing -- because great customer service gave it a compelling story to tell.”

“Priority No. 1 should be getting back to a place where consumers want to share good stories. Take the money being wasted on that campaign and plow it into customer service.”

Let’s take this a step further. BEFORE any company spends gobs of money on an advertising campaign, it should first spend money on improving the performance of a product/service and on ratcheting up the customer experience. ‘Nuff said! Errrahh!

June 03, 2008

Up the Ladder OR Down the Ladder?

[I'm on a visual kick these days.]

Let your marketing mind wrestle with David Armano's nifty depiction of the ladder up to Brand Heaven and the ladder down to Brand Hell. Good Stuff!


April 25, 2008

Gravitate to the Physics of Marketing


David Bowman riffs smartly on how some brands have gravitational pull while others don't ... all reasoned in the context of Newton's Law of Gravity.

Good stuff ... READ MORE.

February 05, 2008

Howard Schultz Must Blog

As we know, Howard Schultz has returned as CEO at Starbucks.  He’s committed to fixing the “unintended consequences” caused by growing its store footprint at a rapid pace.  Such unintended consequences have included losing the company’s identity and the dilution of the unique customer experience Starbucks once delivered.  Howard has also pledged to refocus the company on growing its relationships with customers.

Writing in the Huffington Post, Jesse Kornbluth raises a valid point,

“It's interesting that Schultz professes to love Starbucks customers but has no apparent interest in hearing from us. How's that, Howard? You're going to thrill us without getting our input? Do you really think focus groups, consumer research and executive offsites will tell you what you need to know? What, exactly, do you think the Starbucks website is for?”

Jesse is onto something when he writes, “Schultz professes to love Starbucks customers but has no apparent interest in hearing from us.”

As evidence by their lack of participation, we know Starbucks, as a company, has refused to blog and refuses to participate in online conversations.  The Starbucks Gossip blog is all the proof the company needs to know that people want Starbucks to join the online conversation.  Yet, the company refuses to have a conversation with its customers (and employees) online.

Clearly, Starbucks was ahead of the curve with tapping into satisfying the consumer need of a Third Place—a place besides home and work where people could form community.  But consumers have evolved from needing a Third Place to needing a Third Space.  This Third Space includes social media spaces like blogs, vlogs, podcasts, Twitter, and many more. These are spaces where meaningful online communities are forming.

Now that the company recognizes it needs to improve its relationships with customers to improve the health of its business, maybe Starbucks will consider blogging.

Better yet, given Howard Schultz’s pledge to growing the company's relationships with customers, he should blog.  He should give us, the 50+ million Starbucks customers who visit his stores weekly, updates on how his company is making the necessarily changes to follow his vision for reclaiming the Starbucks luster. 

Howard recently told Wall Street analysts that, since returning as CEO, he has received thousands of emails from customers and employees who share his enthusiasm for reigniting the emotional attachment people have with the Starbucks brand.  With a blog, just imagine how many more messages Howard would receive from adoring customers and employees who want to see the company succeed.

Howard has always talked about growing his company to get bigger by acting smaller.  And a blog, or some other social media avenue, is the perfect tool to help big companies get smaller in customer’s eyes.  Other CEO blogs like Jonathan Schwartz’s blog and Bob Lutz’s blog have helped to make Sun Microsystems and General Motors, both goliath companies, get smaller in the eyes of customers.  And thanks to encouraging its employees to blog, companies like Microsoft look less pervasive and less evil in the eyes of customers. 

Can you imagine the conversations that would occur if Howard Schultz used the Starbucks website to regularly share updates on how his company is bringing back the old Starbucks juju?  I’m sure many of the Starbucks faithful would be thrilled to read impassioned updates from Howard.  I'm also sure Howard would receive pointed feedback (and yes, un-pointed feedback too) on activities the company should stop doing, start doing, and/or continue doing.

Unfortunately, the Starbucks corporate culture doesn’t sync with social media.  My experience of working deep inside the company tells me Starbucks is extremely careful in how they are portrayed in the traditional media.  They want to be in control of the conversation in the media as much as possible.  Since Starbucks is cautious about how traditional media portrays the company, then no way will Starbucks be comfortable playing in the non-traditional untamed waters of social media.  Do I think this is right?  Absolutely not!

Starbucks helped to popularize the “New Marketing” ethos of spending marketing dollars on making better customer experiences and not on making extravagant advertising campaigns.  In essence, Starbucks baked marketing inside its business.  It didn’t have to advertise because everything about the in-store Starbucks experience was the advertising.

Starbucks still operates under this “New Marketing” ethos but the game has evolved dramatically.  A “NOW MARKETING” movement has emerged and Starbucks hasn’t kept up.  This “NOW MARKETING” ethos is the realization of the prophetic Cluetrain Manifesto where the Internet has changed how customers expect to interact with businesses.  As the Cluetrain writers explain:

"A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies."

In growing its business, Starbucks has always operated under the guidance of “Be everywhere its customers expect them to be.”  This is the rationale for why the company began serving its coffee on United Airlines, expanding Internationally, operating licensed concept locations in airports, selling cold bottled coffee in convenience stores, selling whole bean coffee in grocery stores, etc.

Customers today have a new expectation. 

Customers now expect Starbucks, and other businesses, to engage in conversations with them wherever and whenever.  Be it in the Third Place or the Third Space, customers want to interact with businesses they love.  By being active in the Third Space online, companies show their love for customers by being open to having a conversation with them. 

If Howard Schultz really loves his 50+million weekly customers, he would show it by evolving his company’s culture to adopt the “NOW MARKETING” movement.  If Howard Schultz really loves Starbucks customers, he must blog.  He must carry on a conversation with us.

UPDATE:  This blog post has been simmering within me for a few weeks.  After hitting the publish button, I ventured over to the site and hidden in the bottom right-hand corner is a "Howard Schultz Partner Update" link.  This particular update is titled. "What I Know to Be True."  Interesting.  Seems like Howard is using the company website to share his impassioned updates with customers and employees.

Also posted are are transcripts of voicemails to stores regarding the work ahead of the company. 

Of course, it would be better if Starbucks were to open up the conversation, allow comments from readers, and commit to making this an on-going feature.  That way, Starbucks would be embracing the "NOW MARKETING" movement we have come to expect from businesses we adore.

February 01, 2008

The Makings of a Strong Brand

Brand-building is an exercise we businesspeople get excited about. I’m very much devoted to helping businesses build their brand. But in doing so, I focus less on implementing "Branding Strategies" for businesses and instead, focus more on amplifying Being Strategies of businesses.

I truly believe that you cannot create a brand before you create a business—the process is simultaneous. As you build your business, you create your brand. Your brand never makes your business possible. It’s your business that makes your brand possible.

When I talk with businesses wanting to improve their branding, I ask them three questions:

a | How do you make a profit?
b | How do you make employees happy?
c | How do you make customers happy?

I ask these questions because a funny thing happens when a company (a) makes money, (b) makes employees happy, and (c) makes customers happy … it makes a strong brand. Being Strategies for a company find avenues to making a profit, enchanting employees, and pleasing customers. The result being, a strong brand.

Is it simple? Yeah, I think so.

Name a company that (a) fails to make money, (b) fails to make employees happy, and (c) fails to make customers happy … yet, is recognized as an endearing and enduring brand.

Comments are open, so go ahead and debunk this assertion.

January 04, 2008

Kwik-E-Mart equaled Kwik-E-Sales


The Simpsons movie tie-in with 7-11 got lots of digital ink last summer. Marketers, like Jake McKee, raved about it and shared photos galore. Evangelists created a blog about it. Even Advertising Age critic Bob Garfield cooed about it.

No doubt ... 3 out of 4 marketers would agree this movie promotion was a creative success. What about a sales success? After all, sales is the true measure of a marketing campaign.

According to the Wall Street Journal
, the promotion was a sales success.

"The 7-Eleven chain ... saw major sales lifts at the 11 U.S. stores that were converted for the month of the promotion. The company says total merchandise sales doubled; fresh bakery sales increased sevenfold and customer count went up almost 50%.

Moreover, 7-Eleven says the promotion garnered about $7 million in free publicity. The 7-Eleven Web site on July 11 received 10,420,730 hits. The site typically gets an average of about 400,000 hits a day."

December 17, 2007

Dilbert's Marketing Wisdom


In STICK TO DRAWING COMICS MONKEY BRAIN, Dilbert creator, Scott Adams, shared the above sharp and snappy business advice on how to predict success. He continues by saying, "The only thing that predicts success is passion, even if only 10 percent of the consumers have it."

When the Dilbert comic strip first started in late 80s, Adams remembers most people didn't love it. However, about 10 percent of its readers did love it and many of them clipped-out the comic from the newspaper and shared it with their friends. These people were passionate about the humorous look at dysfunctional office life portrayed in Dilbert. They decorated their cubicles with Dilbert cartoons. Some even put together homemade books of Dilbert cartoons long before the first Dilbert book was sold. They loved Dilbert.

Scott Adams didn't worry about trying to make the Dilbert cartoon successful by making the indifferent reader passionate about Dilbert. Instead, he relied on Dilbert succeeding by fueling the passions of those most passionate about all things Dilbert.

A greater predictor of successful product introductions is to gain a passionate and loyal customer base, no matter how small in numbers they are.

This isn't an absolute predictor as the abandoned product graveyard is littered with products that failed despite attracting a small, passionate customer base. However, if your product only attracts indifferent customers and fails to attract passionate customers ... chances are, that product will not succeed.

December 11, 2007

... on Authenticity

Finn McKenty blogs smartly at Lightheavyweight.  (It's a worthy read blog.)  He also assists with The Greener Grass project, which is about connecting people with ideas designed to have a positive impact. 

Recently, Finn asked me a few questions about the of role "authenticity" in branding.  You can read the short interview here ... a snippet follows.

Greener Grass: Can authenticity be created? If so, how can companies build a culture that values authenticity, transparency and honesty?

John Moore"This belief that authenticity can be created is what gets companies in trouble. Authenticity comes from evolution, not from creation. No magic pill exists and no big bang will cause a company to become authentic. The honor of being authentic is earned only over time and through consistent, deliberate actions. Same goes for building a corporate culture. A company that respects its employees and treats its employees like family will be rewarded with being viewed by insiders and outsiders as an authentic company."

*** READ MORE ***

December 05, 2007

Alex Frankel | Undercover Marketer #3


If you are just joining us, this is the third (and final) post in a series where we are digging deep into Alex Frankel’s PUNCHING IN: The Unauthorized Adventures of a Front-Line Employee.   (You can play catch-up by reading the FIRST POST and the SECOND POST.)

Since PUNCHING IN reads more like a cultural studies book than a business book, some of us might struggle to apply Frankel’s observations in a business setting.  Mark Lasswell, deputy books editor at the Wall Street Journal, sure did struggle to find business-applications from PUNCHING INIn his review of Frankel’s book, Lasswell writes, “Mr. Frankel's observations are, of course, essentially meaningless: A few days or weeks spent in a low-level job might result in lots of impressions, but such forays simply cannot produce much informed analysis.”

While Lasswell found Frankel’s observations "meaningless," I found them anything but meaningless. I found lots of lessons business geeks like us can implement in order to better connect with employees, who in turn, will better connect with customers.  Below are five such lessons…

“UPS used that tagline [What can Brown do for you?] in everything from recruitment advertising to prime-time TV ads, reaching both internal and external audiences.  By extolling the importance of the organization to the world at large, UPS gave its employees a rallying cry, a connection to the brand, another reason to want to be part of UPS.” (PUNCHING IN, p. 12)

Business Lesson #1
A great advertising campaign can inspire employees far more than an internal memo ever could.  Frankel illustrates this with how the UPS branding campaign has impacted the employee culture at the company.  I also know from experience when front-line employees see or hear an ad campaign from the company they work for, they feel a sense of pride along with a motivation adrenaline rush.  And for an upstart company, when front-line employees see they are advertising, they feel more secure about the company they have chosen to work for.

“There was no doubt in my mind that the [UPS] uniforms we wore had a galvanizing effect on the workers. I felt a slight, almost magnetic tug when I walked by a coworker similarly dressed, even if we had never met.” (p. 27)

Business Lesson # 2
Don’t under estimate the power of a killer uniform.  Many times the uniform of front-line employees is an afterthought for businesses.  Shouldn’t be.  A uniform has the potential to jazz-up the spirits of employees or deflate them.  Don’t go the cheap route with uniforms for front-line employees … go the chic route.  Make them look good so employees can feel good when they put on their workday uniform.

“Part of what interested me about the companies that relied on front-line employees was the methods they used to decide whom to hire.” (p. 52)

“The Container Store fills its ranks with just the kind of people who would, without prodding, buy what the store sells because they love the stuff.” (p. 76)

“Interviewing and hiring at Gap was quite easy … never during Gap’s interview was my passion for Gap products evaluated.  I wasn’t convinced that this was necessary for employment, because Gap needed to hire scores of workers with the approach of the holiday season.” (p. 120)

Business Lesson #3
Don’t hire people for the ‘right now.’  Hire the right people now.  In the annual Fortune “100 Best Companies to Work For” rankings, the Container Store is a top-ten mainstay.  There’s a reason for that which goes beyond the fact they pay front-line employees very well.  The Container Store self-selects its employees.  Frankel talks about how they want to “hire only die-hard customers” to become Container Store employees.  Despite trying, Frankel wasn’t hired at the Container Store.  He failed to impress the hiring managers at the Container Store because it was obvious he lacked a passion for organizing stuff.

Gap is struggling these days from a financial perspective and a brand relevance perspective.  Hiring “anybodies” and not impassioned people certainly plays a role in Gap’s continued struggles.

Most businesses today are satisfied with hire anybody to work the front-lines.  Big mistake.  Major lost opportunity.  In lots of businesses, it’s the front-line employee that has the most contact with customers.  Yet, not enough businesses pay attention to this.  All throughout PUNCHING IN we learn the best practices and worst practices companies are following in hiring for its front-line positions.

“Forget changing the store design adding new cuts of jeans—employees like Moses were Gap’s only hope of Salvation.” (p. 135)

Business Lesson #4
Evangelical employees can perform miracles. While Frankel has few positive things to say about his work experience as the Gap, he was able to spend time with a Moses, a Gap front-line employee fanatic.  Moses is a believer in all things Gap and he brought that belief with him every time he talked with a customer and a fellow employee. 

Gap is trying lots of things to turn the company around.  They’ve tried adding a new business unit, Forth & Towne.  (It failed.)  They’ve tweaked the merchandise assortment.  (Hasn’t worked.)  And they’ve tested a new store design.  (Never made it out of test phase.) 

As Frankel says, maybe Gap should spend more of its time and money designing a better interview process than trying to design new concepts, trendier clothes, and better store layouts.   That way, the company would have more front-line employees like Moses who could, working together under the unified belief that Gap Rocks!, turn the company around from both a financial performance and brand relevance perspective.

“To attract employees, you need something to offer them, and that certain something goes under the different names of a brand, a calling, a corporate culture.” (p. 204)

“Many front-line jobs are ones that job applicants choose by matching themselves up with the company’s culture, and those companies that promote their self-selection process are often able to better serve customers. (p. 204)

“Big Jim at UPS, Moses at Gap, Zoe and L.J. at Enterprise, Erika at Starbucks, and Leon and Marco at Apple.  These were the believers who dominated their retail or service environment and had the most to teach a new recruit like me.” (p. 202)

The Business Lesson #5
Every business needs a few “Culture Key-per” employees.  These are employees that totally believe in the company and are evangelists for the company on-the-job and off-the-job.  These are the employees that, to Alex’s point, can have the greatest influence on welcoming, teaching, and inspiring new employees. 

What’s with the odd “Culture Key-per” moniker?  Back in the day at Starbucks, there were a few store managers that took it upon themselves to be the protector and promoter of the Starbucks culture.  To identify themselves as keepers of the company culture, they wore a necklace with a symbolic key.  They were the company’s “Culture Key-pers.”  Any company would be fortunate to have such dedicated and inspired employees.

read PART ONE  |  read PART TWO

December 04, 2007

Alex Frankel | Undercover Marketer #2


We continue our conversation with Alex Frankel, marketer and author of PUNCHING IN: The Unauthorized Adventures of a Front-Line Employee.  (If you’re just joining us, read PART ONE here.)

johnmoore (jm):  One of the more interesting observations you make from your front-line worker experience is about company uniforms.  When talking about the iconic brown UPS uniform you write how the uniform had a “galvanizing effect on the workers” and that the UPS uniform was an “indicator of a special bond with the group.”  You continue by saying, “More than once on the job, I ran into delivery people from FedEx and Airborne, and I was immediately struck by how unimpressive their uniforms were and what those companies were losing in terms of image.”  Talk about the role a uniform plays in how it impacts a front-line employee’s demeanor and performance. 

Alex Frankel (AF):  Uniforms and dress codes are prevalent on the frontlines of commerce and can make the employees feel differently depending on what specific rules he or she must follow.

UPS is a great example of a uniform that I think works well. UPS drivers can rest assured that customers and members of the public think highly of them when they are in uniform. And they also have some latitude to be different than their colleagues. One driver might wear shorts, another pants. There are choices of jackets, vests, sweaters--and this allows people to express at least some individuality.

The UPS uniform also harks back to the old days, when customer service was more common. I interviewed one former UPS driver who delivered for years in the World Trade Center. He had never delivered in New York City, outside of those office towers. After 9/11 he was transferred to a new post delivering outside. He found it amazing to witness the attachment perfect strangers had for him based on his uniform.

On the flipside, strict dress codes can make employees feel alienated from their workplace. At Gap, for example, we were told to wear no jeans that had signature stitching of competitors. I for one had to leave my Levi's at home and it felt constricting to have to suddenly conform.

Starbucks had a pretty loose policy—black/white/khaki and your green apron--though the hygiene restrictions (such as no visible tattoos) seemed too harsh.

jm: You tried to get hired on at The Container Store, but didn’t.  What happened?

AF:  That was one of the more interesting episodes of my project. I was immediately impressed when I applied at The Container Store because the application featured short answers instead of multiple choice questions. There was even an open-ended question that asked us to share anything we felt worth sharing.

I was invited in for a group interview, which was held right in the middle of a store. The ten of us assembled participated in what amounted to an audition, including an exercise in which we each picked a product from the store and held forth about what we thought about it. It was quite clear from that exercise alone just who had the necessary passion for the job. For my part, I did not shine. It was great to see a creative interview process firsthand, even if I didn't make it to the next level.

jm:  From your experience, what’s the most effective way interview process that results in hiring the best, most well-suited to task employees?  Conversely, what’s the least effective way you experienced?

AF:  That experience at The Container Store won, hands down, as the best way to interview applicants and isolate the most passionate prospects. The application was human and real and allowed people to express themselves and the interview process sorted the passionate applicants from those less committed to the cause. Very few companies ask much about an applicant's interest in their product or service, though they should.

The least effective interview was also a group interview I went to at Gap. The exercises we did there had very little to do with the Gap; questions like "share with the group your favorite dessert." I dumbed down my own presentation and had an easy time landing a job.

read PART ONE  |  read PART THREE

December 03, 2007

Alex Frankel | Undercover Marketer


Alex Frankel is a curious marketer and writer—a dangerous, but fitting, combination.   He became curious to “know whether the strong corporate cultures that companies bragged about were really as great as advertised.”  But instead of quenching his curiosity by researching this topic from the outside-looking-in, Alex went the inside-looking-out route as a front-line employee to tell this story.

In order to tell this story from the front-line employee perspective, Alex went undercover as a UPS package-delivering employee, Enterprise Rent-a-Car insurance up-selling associate, clothes-folding Gap employee, Latte-slinging Starbucks Barista, and Apple platform-converting sales evangelist.  You can read all about his brand adventures while in the trenches in PUNCHING IN: The Unauthorized Adventures of a Front-Line Employee

We’re gonna take a three-part deep dive into Alex’s book and share insights on how the right corporate culture, expressed in the right ways, can take “anybodies” off the street and transform them into “somebodies” willingly obedient to live for the brand they work for.

Alex and I traded emails and the following is a snippet of our exchange.

johnmoore (jm):  Alex, what surprised you the most about your time as an undercover front-line employee?

Alex Frankel (AF):  I went in convinced that each of the jobs I would be doing would be soulless and the people I’d be working with would be somehow plastic, but I was wrong.  Some of the corporations I worked for don’t get it when it comes to creating an appropriate and vibrant place to work, but by and large the people I met were not robotic at all.  At every company I worked, there was always a person on staff that believed in out given enterprise and that was surprising to see.

jm:  A theme that runs thick in your book is the importance of creating a corporate culture that employees can believe in.  As a front-line employee, you write that you believed in the UPS corporate culture, but found the corporate culture at Starbucks inauthentic and forced.  You described the Starbucks approach to instilling its corporate values as “heavy-handed culture-building.”  Explain why you believed in UPS but were cynical about Starbucks.

AF:  A lot of why I believed in UPS but not so much in Starbucks had to do with me, not the companies, but this is something I did not understand at the outset of the project.

Essentially, the best of the frontline corporate cultures match the people who are hired. I am someone much more hardwired to be a good fit at UPS than at Starbucks. This is largely because I am more at home in jobs where I have a bit more autonomy from hour to hour and I like to be active, as opposed to standing behind a counter.

I found my work rhythm faster at UPS than I did at Starbucks though I must admit that my colleagues at Starbucks who were masters at making drinks on the bar were definitely in the groove.

Also, I found the mode of culture building much more fluid and bottom-up at UPS. At Starbucks I immediately encountered many documents (such as one titled The Green Apron Book) that codified the culture in a top-down manner; at UPS I felt I was learning quickly about the culture from my fellow employees not "headquarters."

{Backstory note:  The Green Apron Book (photo) that Frankel refers to is a pocket-sized booklet that has codified the Starbucks customer service culture.  Inside the booklet, Starbucks shares five core values it wants front-line employees to embody:  Be Welcoming; Be Genuine; Be Considerate; Be Knowledgeable; Be Involved.  This booklet is relatively new to Starbucks, having been introduced only a few years ago.  Learn more here, here, and here.}

jm:  What would you say is needed most for a business to establish a great corporate culture?

AF:  If you can attract customers to work for your company who arrive as fans of the company before they even start work, you are in good shape.  The Apple Store is lucky enough to have a huge group of Apple fans from whom to choose its workers, as is The Container Store. 

If you don’t have a fan base, the next best thing is to match a corporate culture as close as you can to the type of people who will end up working at your company or stores.  Enterprise Rent-A-Car is filled with hard charging achiever types and training is catered to that group specifically.

jm:   You have a lot of hot opinions about Enterprise Rent-A-Car in PUNCHING IN, especially as it relates to the training, or more appropriate, the indoctrination of new employees. What did you find most effective and most egregious about the Enterprise new employee orientation/training process?

AF:  Enterprise was the one frontline workplace in which I worked where the new hires were sent away for a week of intense off-site training. (My group of 12 lived at a hotel and took classes by day.) This was really effective and a great way to teach us everything in a condensed, focused manner. We learned about the history of the company, the ways of operating, the corporate mission, and got a good dose of indoctrination into the culture.

At the same time, because of this intense weeklong orientation, I became a cynic pretty early on. We were told over and over that this was not just an hourly job, but a career path we were commencing. I knew that for some there would be great upward mobility, but that for most of the new folks the job would be not much greater than an hourly gig and a demanding one at that. (FYI, new hires are expected to work 60 or so hours each week, getting paid hourly and overtime, but not a salary.)

read PART TWO  |  read PART THREE

November 25, 2007

Dissecting the 2008 Presidential Logos

In 2004, the New York Times dissected the Bush/Cheney and Kerry/Edwards presidential logos.

With the 2008 Presidential Race heating up, the New York Times has dissected the campaign logos of the front-running candidates. Click the image below for a sampling of the dissection. If the image does not show-up big and clear enough on your screen, consider opening up this PDF file. Or, go directly to the source at the NY Times.


Yeah, I know ... this is hard to read on the screen. This PDF version is bigger and easier to read. And the NY Times has a slide show of the entire Ward Sutton illustration.

September 25, 2007

Branding Definition Table

Brandon Fritz, of Kolbrener, has compiled a list of major branding terms in a super-creative "Periodic Table." Click below ...


September 10, 2007

Conducting a Marketing Physical to Ensure Brand Health

NOTE: The post is meant more for attendees of the In-HOWse Designer Conference (Austin, TX).
On Monday, I delivered a presentation titled, Conducting a Marketing Physical To Ensure Brand Health.

The following is the presentation description that appeared in the Conference materials ...

It's time to give your business a marketing physical. This may sound strange, but it's just like going to your own doctor and getting a physical for yourself. The doc takes your vital signs, asks probing questions, and conducts a few key exams. You learn what may be affecting your health, and then you adjust your day-to-day life based on the results in an effort to ward off serious illnesses.

Why not do the same for your brand or business?

John Moore shows you how to conduct your marketing physical to diagnose and treat common marketing ailments like anemic sales, poor brand complexion and marketing obesity.

To view the slides, simply click the forward button below:

RSS Readers ... click here to view the presentation.

September 05, 2007

Natural Evolution of Products

Tom Fishburne gets it. His marketing-minded comics are piercingly poignant. Especially this one:


August 23, 2007

Pricing Tells a Story

Storytelling in marketing is nothing new. In All Marketers are Liars (Seth Godin), we learned that all marketers tell stories and the best marketers tell stories customers believe. Seth goes on to explain that stories are shortcuts to understanding what a product/service is all about.

While reading the August issue of Inc. Magazine, I ran across the line you read in subject header: PRICING TELLS A STORY. Per Sjofors, managing partner at Atenga, is credited with saying that chewy line. He's right ... every price has a story.

There’s a story behind why Air Jordans are so expensive. By buying a pair of Air Jordans, a middle-aged rec-gym b-ball player can Be Like Mike. There is also a story behind the ultra-inexpensive Starbury shoe. The Starbury shoe story tells us we do not need to get caught up in all the hype and dole out a fortune for a pair of basketball sneakers.

There’s a story that goes along with the price for dining at PF Chang’s. You revel in the experience of enjoying family, friends, food, and attentive service from the PF Changs waitstaff. But there is also the story of paying for an equally-tasty and less expensive meal at Pei Wei. The pricing story Pei Wei tells us is about delivering great Asian-inspired food without the pretense of a full-service restaurant like its sibling, PF Chang's.

There’s a story behind Wendy’s 99-cent Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger. Might not be an interesting story, but a story nonetheless. The Quadruple Bypass Burger from the Heart Attack Grill has an interesting story to go along with its higher price. We’re talking a hamburger experience of eating 8,000 calories and if you and your arteries can survive the gluttony, you’ll be wheelchaired out to your car by a nurse-attired Heart Attack Grill employee.

Pricing is one of the shortest shortcuts a company can take in telling a story about its products. So ... what story is your pricing telling customers?

August 15, 2007

The Real Web 2.0 Bubble

By way of Brian Oberkirch, we learn of the real Web 2.0 bubble. We're not talking about the Web 2.0 bubble economy but rather, the bubbling-over of Bubble Quote logos. (Oh my!)

Trevor Elliot arranged the following chart of Web 2.0 Bubble Logos and added some smart commentary...

"As a catch-all symbol, the speech bubble is tough to resist. It contains what everyone wants to say about the 'new' web: user-generated, communication, collaboration, commenting, social media, community, self-published, my voice, our voice, rating, ranking, sharing and the rest.

But, it’s over. The day has come to pronounce from far and wide – 'Attention all startups, it’s a bad idea to hang your ID hat on a speech bubble. Just don’t.'" [MORE]


August 13, 2007

I hate to agree, but I do.

From Tom Fishburne ...

"Marketers tend to write brand positioning statements as if the brand was the single most important thing in the consumer's life."

The marketer in me really hates to agree, but I do.

August 04, 2007

The BusinessMakers Radio Show

Many of you probabkly know Erica O'Grady, i-everything savant. But, you might not know that she does side work for The BusinessMakers Show airing on 950-AM KPRC in Houston, TX. (She's their on-the-road reporter filing interviews with business makers.)

Back in May, Erica caught up with me at the Webvisions Conference (Portland, OR) and recorded this interview. We talked about the business and the branding of Starbucks Coffee & Whole Foods Market,

For highlights of our conversation ... GO HERE TO LISTEN.

July 01, 2007

The Financial Impact of a Strong Brand Reputation

According to Communications Consulting Worldwide (CCW), if Wal-Mart were to have the brand reputation of Target, then its stock price would increase 4.9% and its market capitalization would increase by $9.7 billion. CCW also estimates that if drugstore chain CVS had the reputation of its chief rival, Walgreens, then CVS’s stock would increase by 6.9% and would add $3.9 billion to its market cap.


It’s no secret that a strong brand reputation has a halo effect within the consumer marketplace and financial marketplace. What’s new is the ability to more precisely measure a brand’s reputation in order to predict how changes in brand’s reputation will impact the company’s stock price.

In this MUST-READ BusinessWeek article, we learn that CCW has constructed a model which is able to link the positive/negative attributes of a brand’s reputation to the rise/fall of its stock price.

Southwest Airlines is a client of CCW and the brand reputation of Southwest is very strong. However, CCW estimates Southwest could improve its stock price 3.5% resulting in increasing its financial market value by $300 million by tweaking its consumer messaging. To accomplish this, Southwest would need to downplay its low fares messaging and instead, highlight its far-reaching routes and frequent schedules. Southwest has followed CCW’s direction and although airline stocks have fallen 15%+ in 2007, Southwest’s stock is only down 5.0%.

Having a predictive model to determine the stock price impact of marketing messages can only help marketers at Fortune 1000 companies to better design and better sell-in their programs.

If you are interested in learning more about how brand management is reputation management, read THE 18 IMMUTABLE LAWS OF CORPORATE MANAGEMENT by Ronald Alsop. It’s a worthy read from way back. You can also read this excellent summary of Alsop’s book.

To further entice you to read the Business Week article, take a look at this graphic. It is sure to intrigue the marketer in you.


May 30, 2007

Fascinating Wal-Mart Brand Analysis


Today’s NY Times shares fascinating insights into the Wal-Mart brand from a leaked brand analysis report. (Access the article from the site or from here.)

The report was conducted by Wal-Mart’s then agency-of-record, GSD&M, and according to the NY Times, this report, "... offers a rare glimpse of the concerns that are buffeting Wal-Mart’s retailing empire, from its flagging corporate reputation to the ‘near catastrophic’ economic pressures faced by its working class consumers.

For example, this report shares insights that Wal-Mart shoppers know other retailers offer smarter choices in a variety of revenue-important product categories. The report outlines the following …


Smart and illuminating fodder for all us marketers. I was surprised to find a copy of this GSD&M prepared Positioning Report for Wal-Mart (pdf) available on the NY Times website. Go upload and get the download on branding insights into the world’s largest retailer.

Expect to read more from me in the days to come after I've had a chance to fully digest this Wal-Mart Positioning Report. And if you have thoughts ... chime in with comments.

May 21, 2007

Ad Agency Hires Ad Agency

According to Ad Age, Campbell-Mithun, a Minneapolis-based advertising agency that’s been around since the 1930s, recently hired another ad agency to solve its branding/positioning issues. (Yep, you read that right. Read on for more.)

Unable to define or articulate why Campbell-Mithun is indispensable and how they go about helping improve the branding/marketing efforts of their clients, Campell-Mithun hired Cue, a Minneapolis-based ad agency, to solve for these communication issues.

The end result was the creation of a branding ethos for Campbell-Mithun. This branding ethos consists of seven tenets derived from quotes spoken by Ray Mithun, the agency’s founder. Murals were created and posted inside the Campbell-Mithun offices with the artwork depicting these seven tenets. Plus, these seven tenets are also featured in Cambell-Mithun’s capabilities marketing materials.

I applaud Campbell-Mithun for having the courage to admit they lack the capabilities to define and design branding work for themselves. But that admission could (and should) scare off current and potential clients. Would you want to trust your company’s branding efforts to an ad agency that can’t solve its own branding issues?

May 10, 2007

Subway Pizza. Yum or Dumb?

Photos from "Slice" off

In 2005, Subway began using speed ovens to toast sandwiches. In June of 2007, Subway is set to use those speed ovens to flash-bake deep dish personal pizzas in 13,000 U.S. locations. Stores will use pre-baked pizzas and customers will be able to top their pizza with any of Subway’s sandwich ingredients.

I know what you are thinking … what’s a sandwich shop doing baking personal pizzas? You are also thinking … doesn’t Subway position itself as healthy fast food? Lots of questions.

But Subway has been answering these questions by field testing the personal pizza concept in select markets. It must have passed store-level operational feasibility tests and sales tests for Subway to roll-out pizzas nationwide. According to Brandweek, one of the NYC test stores sells about 25 personal pizzas a day.


I’m not sold on Subway doing pizzas—smacks of being all things to all people to me. But I’m not opposed to Subway doing pizzas.

It would feel less like a desperate and unfocused marketing ploy if they used their fresh-baked breads instead of using pizza dough. (Think Stouffer’s French Bread Pizza.) Subway could remain truer to its core sandwich roots if it used its bread to bake pizzas. Not sure about the myriad operational and product implications though. On paper, this sounds like a smarter idea than to use pizza dough.

Reckon we’ll have to see if Subway doing deep dish style pizza is yum or dumb. (My money is on “dumb.”)

April 24, 2007

No Recipe for Originality

UPDATED | Bill Breen's Fast Company article is now posted.
Bill Breen authored a provocative piece on Brands & Authenticity in the May issue of Fast Company. (It’s a must-read for every marketer but right now its available only in print, not online.) In the piece, Breen asks and offers credible answers for the following questions:

• What does it take for a brand to be authentic?
• How does a brand stay authentic even as it teeters on ubiquity?
• Can a brand truly be authentic when it tries hard to be authentic?
• Can a brand be viewed as cool while still maintaining its authenticity?

Early on in the article Breen shares some smart marketing fodder...

“Both the promise and the peril of ‘getting real’ are, indeed, very real. ‘Authentic’ is derived from the Greek authentikos, which means ‘original.’ And unfortunately, there’s no recipe for originality. Each brand must build its own primary source code for the authentic.”

“There’s no recipe for originality.” Brilliant take. Love it. Love it almost as much as what offbeat marketing professor Stephen Brown says about how authenticity is unachievable …

“… it is important to appreciate that, for all today’s fixation on the authentic, there is no such thing as authenticity, only varying degrees of inauthenticity.

The traditional Irish bar is assembled from mass produced, cod-Celtic kitsch. The free range chickens are free to range around a fetid factory farm. The classic blue jeans are pre-shrunk, pre-faded, pre-ripped, pre-grimed, and doubtlessly, pre-impregnated with pre-washday adolescent aromas. Authentic authenticity, so to speak, is unattainable. But it can be staged, it can be created, it can be evoked.” [source: FREE GIFT INSIDE!! | Stephen Brown (2003)

Read a little more from Stephen Brown in this vintage Brand Autopsy post.

March 29, 2007

Chilly Sales at Chili’s

According to the Wall Street Journal, Chili’s "… is mired in a sales rut and could post its 12th straight negative same-store-sales period this month.” Ouch. One financial analyst went so far as to describe Chili’s situation as “treacherous.” Double ouch.

Can’t say we should be surprised given the surprising HMOs (hot marketing opinions) y’all shared about Chili’s in my “Would You Care” series.

Comments ranged from Chili’s being forgettable because they are just another generic casual restaurant to folks saying that they visit Chili’s not for their food, but for their convenience. In other words, Chili’s is boring. And boring is the last thing you want your business to be.

Here’s a not-so-boring takeaway quote from pg. 50 of Seth Godin’s book on being remarkable, PURPLE COW

“The lesson is simple—boring always leads to failure. Boring is always the most risky strategy. Smart businesspeople realize this, and they work to minimize (but not eliminate) the risk from the process.”

UPDATE: Did you know Chili's has a MySpace page? They do. And with it, they give away tickets to their 535,000 friends to super-secret concerts. Heck, even their Secret Shows marketing program has its own MySpace page. Does this make Chili's un-boring?

February 21, 2007

No Business is Perfect

Is it unrealistic for us to expect businesses to be perfect? Are we setting ourselves up for disappointment by expecting businesses to flawlessly deliver every single time? As customers, are we expecting perfection when perfection is unattainable? Is that fair of us?

I’m not trying to make excuses for when businesses fail us. But failure happens. No business is perfect. Yet, we seem to expect businesses to be perfect all the time. One poor encounter with a company’s customer service rep sets many of us off into a rage against that business. One misstep by a company spoils everything for many of us. A series of cancelled flights and thousands of stranded customers can trigger a major backlash. (Yep, I’m talking JetBlue here.)

JetBlue messed up BIG-TIME. No doubt about it. They failed their customers in unimaginable ways. We now know JetBlue is far from perfect. But was it realistic for us to expect JetBlue to be perfect?

No business is perfect. NONE. Business is a game of progress, not perfection. No business will be perfect. It's an impossibly unattainable goal. But while that goal is unattainable, the most endearing and enduring businesses seem to always aspire to reach perfection. They always make progressive steps to improve their business and how their business connects with people. Sure, they will stumble along the way. But the true measure of a company is how they recover and forge ahead making progress along the way to overcome their mistakes.

No person is perfect. NO ONE. As people we also mess up BIG-TIME. We constantly make bad decisions that harm others. We disappoint friends. We betray people’s trust. We cannot achieve perfection. Doesn't mean we should give up and not try. The most endearing and enduring people I know make progress every day to improve themselves and their relationships with others. And when people see progress being made, they are willing to forgive mistakes.

Thank goodness people are so forgiving. Otherwise, I wouldn't have any friends. I've pissed off enough people in enough ways to not have friends. Lucky for me, people are forgiving. I still have some friends. Lost some along the way—but the ones I still have are great.

I think JetBlue can recover. I think customers have it in their hearts to forgive them for messing up BIG-TIME. It'll take time though as well as diligent focus from every JetBlue employee to make progress in earning back trust and friendship from customers.

In GOOD TO GREAT, Jim Collins says one factor that determines which companies go from being good to being great is how they deal with adversity. He says that many of the good-to-great companies he studied faced a company-defining crisis. According to Collins, what separates the winners from the losers is how they confronted and responded to the crisis …

“The good-to-great companies faced just as much adversity as the comparison companies, but responded to that adversity differently. They hit the realities of their situation head-on. As a result, they emerged from adversity even stronger."

JetBlue is considered a good airline. How they confront and respond to this crisis will determine if they can ever progress to becoming a great airline. Time will tell if JetBlue can make the good-to-great leap.

January 09, 2007

The Lovemarks Effect

When posting comments about THE LOVEMARKS EFFECT, I promised to also post some worthwhile Money Quotes and worthless Baloney Quotes. Considered posted. Access below …

RSS Readers ... access the Money Quotes here.

RSS Reader ... access the Baloney Quotes here.

January 05, 2007

The Lovemarks Affect

Backstory -- In Sept. 2000, Kevin Roberts, CEO Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide, first presented his Lovemarks concept (known then as Trustmarks) in an article for Fast Company magazine. Four years later, Roberts had evolved Trustmarks into Lovemarks and published a branding book called, LOVEMARKS: the future beyond brands. It was met with skepticism from many marketers who felt the Lovemarks idea was an over-blown retread of old ideas repackaged as snake oil secret sauce for ad agencies. In late 2006, Kevin Roberts published a follow-up book titled, THE LOVEMARKS EFFECT: winning in the consumer revolution.

It seems to me … Lovemarks is having a greater affect than effect with marketers. Meaning, it’s affected our thinking more than it has effected our marketing. Some folks love it while other folks loath it. (Hmm … is someone working on a Loathmarks book?)

Those that loath Lovemarks seem to have difficulty in separating the messenger from the message.

The messenger, Kevin Roberts, does come off as a narcissistic, fanciful word spewing caricature of an advertising executive. Ain’t no doubt about it … he thinks very highly of himself. (And I’m sure he would tell you just that if you asked him.)

But this messenger’s core message is very smart and very relevant to marketers today. At the heart of the Lovemarks message is the idea brands evolve to a higher level when they earn respect and love from customers. Roberts uses a fanciful word, Lovemarks, to describe the state of when a brand evolves to the next level.

According to Roberts, when brands earn respect and love from customers, they can forge loyalty beyond reason. And when that happens, brands transcend from being just a brand … into being a Lovemark.

Dismiss the name Lovemarks all you want as being a creatively clumsy word. But, you’d be challenged to dismiss the notion that all brands are not equal with some brands playing on a different, more emotional level. Apple and Gateway are both brands but clearly, Apple plays on a different, more emotional level than does Gateway. Whole Foods Market plays on a much different, more emotional level than does Kroger. (Right?)

While reading THE LOVEMARKS EFFECT, it became blatantly clear to me that Roberts is desperate to make Lovemarks a Lovemark. And according to this Ad Age interview, the future of Saatchi & Saatchi depends on Lovemarks becoming a Lovemark.

Roberts tells how the Lovemarks concept is now Saatchi & Saatchi’s secret sauce. Its their company’s unique point of view on what the Saatchi & Saatchi brand aspires to become. Its what will hopefully make clients loyal beyond reason to Saatchi & Saatchi’s ideas. Its something Saatchi & Saatchi needs to make the company more endearing so clients will form a heart over head relationship with them.

I reckon Roberts hopes the affect of THE LOVEMARKS EFFECT will positively effect Saatchi & Saatchi’s present day and furture day business.

Look for a future posting on Brand Autopsy sharing Money Quotes as well as a few Baloney Quotes from THE LOVEMARKS EFFECT.

December 26, 2006

Never Forget Consumers Are Smart

I’ve just finished reading THE LOVEMARKS EFFECT from Saatchi & Saatchi ceo, Kevin Roberts. It’s a continuation of his Lovemarks ideology. According to Roberts, when brands earn respect and love from customers, they can forge loyalty beyond reason. And when that happens, brands transcend from being just a brand … into a Lovemark.

THE LOVEMARKS EFFECT still reads like an advertising agency capabilities PowerPoint pitch deck on steroids. But when you strip away the thick advertising agency varnish, you’ll uncover some super-smart marketing thought. (You can sample some of T.L.E. by perusing this PDF.)

On page 93, Roberts talks about the importance of gaining inspiration from allowing customers to mash-up, mix-up, and redesign products. He says we marketers might not always like what we see, but we’ll probably find a germ of idea from which to build upon. Roberts closes with this super-smart marketing thought …

Did you read that David Jones?