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Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

When was the last time you talked about a sandwich shop that served toasted sandwiches? Or featured artisan breads? Or delivered freaky fast?

What'sYourMission

Those might make good advertising stories, but not particularly compelling stories to share with friends.

I share my sandwich shop’s story. It’s about a mission to feed each and every person who walks through its doors with dignity regardless of the customer’s means.  I tell of Panera Bread’s community cafes where payment is optional and amount is discretionary.

How do they make money? What a cool company? How does that work? My friends get engaged in this story.

I like the food at Panera, but there are plenty of other good restaurants, choices. I would consider Panera to be a commodity if it weren’t for its mission. Instead, it’s where I go.

It’s the same for employees.  Without a mission that engages them—that gives them a story they’re proud to share with friends—the company they work for is just a commodity until the next better job comes along. Those who feel part of a company’s mission are less likely to leave.

Find your mission, separate from profit, and you’ll attract a fan base that will elevate your company from just a commodity to a brand.

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Last year about this time I announced that 2011 was to be my year to dive into social media.

Here’s my grade for the year: Incomplete.

In retrospect, it’s no big surprise. Even getting from toe-in-the-water to knee-deep took a significant effort. The deeper I got, the more I began to grasp the depths of what I didn’t know. And then there’s the matter of constant change in the social media world—you learn one thing and four new things pop up.

I count as my accomplishments for 2011:

  • Launched my blog in earnest
  • Increased use of Facebook and LinkedIn, including connecting my blog posts to these sites
  • Opened a Twitter account and have a few followers, though I don’t tweet nearly enough to enough people, nor interact with people who I follow
  • Have a YouTube channel and have posted a few videos
  • Started a Google + page but have only a very small circle (Hello Elliot, Anabel and Bernie Sanders)
  • Played around with MerchantCircle
  • Just began to explore Pinterest
  • Joined 20 or so LinkedIn or Yahoo groups and have contributed to the conversation in many of them
  • Received countless e-letters devoted to social media and attended several on-line presentations on the subject

I still have a lot to learn and do better. I will have to commit to SEO tactics for raising my profile. I need to grow and better integrate my social media efforts with each other and with other marketing tactics to make a bigger impact. I must create (useful) content even more regularly.

I need to do all of this, without spending so much time, money and other resources that I have little left for doing the work that’s suppose to come from the effort.

But bottom line in my social media journey is that I need to be more social. That’s my challenge.

That ought to help me get waist deep and almost ready to swim.

Who’s with me?

Thanks to http://webdesignledger.com for the free social media icons.

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I’m about to purchase a pair of basketball shoes. At my age, basketball is a combination of exercise and mental health therapy, with no hope of ever dunking the ball or even developing a nasty crossover dribble (note to those who guard me: I rarely go to my left).

So why should I care what basketball shoes I buy? Perhaps I’ll buy the most comfortable shoe I can find. Or the most durable. Or the cheapest. Or even the coolest looking ones. But no. The first thing I look for is the Nike Swoosh. Why? Because, like all of us, when I shop I take with me the part of my brain that processes emotion. It’s not that I don’t have the rational part of the brain with me, too. It’s just that the emotional part makes the decision, often unconsciously, and the rational part justifies the decision I make.

Ergo, I look for the Nike Swoosh, and then rationally choose the coolest, most comfortable Nike basketball shoe at my price point.

Where did my emotional connection with Nike come from? Certainly design plays a big part of it, though some of the Nike basketball shoes I’ve purchased have been pretty garish. It’s because Nike has connected with me on an emotional level higher than a maker of basketball shoes.

Three levels of needs: A strategy for earning brand loyalty

In my last post, about deepening employee engagement, I offered three levels of needs: articulated, un-articulated and unknown, un-articulated needs.

Let’s apply those need levels to my shoe purchase:

  1. Articulated Need: It would be great if I had a comfortable, durable and stylish basketball shoe at the price I want to pay.
  2. Un-articulated Need: Why would that be great? Because I would look and feel good when I’m on the basketball court.
  3. Unknown Un-articulated Need: Why would that be great? Because I would feel more confident, which would help me maximize my athletic potential.

My un-articulated need, then, is for a coach to help me maximize my basketball abilities. Enter the Nike theme line: “Just do it.” Sounds like a coach to me. Enter all the iconic Nike commercials designed to inspire us to higher performance. Looks like a coach to me. Enter the iPod+ shoe—a shoe with a training tape built right in. Acts like a coach to me.

This is obviously not a rational connection I have with Nike. It’s an emotional one—the kind that can withstand a rational sales message from a different label claiming a more comfortable, durable, fashionable basketball shoe. That label won’t be my coach.

What brands do you love?

Try the same laddering exercise with a brand you love. Ask yourself when you buy this product, what are you hoping for? It would be great if what? Why would that be great? And why would that be great?

Apple doesn’t just sell me an elegant, easy to use computer. It doesn’t just make me more productive. It’s my creative co-conspirator, always innovating ways in which I can express my creativity. Therefore, I am an emotionally connected Apple evangelist.

Next time you go shopping, note brands to which you’re most loyal. How have they connected to the emotional part of your brain? I’d love to hear your answers.

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What do you do for a living?

That’s the question a marketing friend of mine asks when he explains his approach to storytelling. Most of us would reply with a job title. I’m an account executive. I’m an insurance broker. I’m a teacher. Painter. Social worker. Nurse.

He would reply, “I help businesses make more money—that’s what I do for a living. So every morning, I wake up excited to discover some new story that will help a client make more money, because I know when I help clients grow, it means a new person might be hired, and that person might have a family, and he or she might be able to send a child to college or take a wonderful vacation. And who wouldn’t want to be part of making that happen? I help businesses make more money by helping them find their story…” By this time, you’re hooked on Greg Noack’s personal story and the story of his company, Fountainhead Communications (fountainheadcommunications.com). And Greg has many wonderful stories about how his company has helped clients find their stories and make more money.

I write about Greg’s story for three reasons:

  1. A lot of people talk about the importance of story in branding, but few people, or brands for that matter, really know how to tell a good one.
  2. Telling a good story is a surefire way to spark an emotional connection with your audiences. And that’s how you gain loyalty and develop long-term relationships.
  3. Everyone has a good story to tell.

What’s your gift?

I often ask my clients about gift, as in what gift do you give to those who you expect to sell or influence? A gift is on a higher plane than a benefit, because everyone expects a benefit. The gift is something unexpected and meaningful.

For example, I may call myself a strategic planning facilitator, an innovation trainer, a brand strategist or a creative director, and you will have your ideas about what benefit I might offer and whether it’s worth it to you. My guess is you’ll frame the benefit in terms of activities or deliverables, like an effective plan or insightful strategy or an engaging ad campaign or a dynamic training program. But that’s not my gift. That’s my job. My gift is helping you connect to your creativity to do great and satisfying things. Most of my clients aren’t expecting that connection to their creativity and are delighted, and a bit surprised, by it. This is the source of my stories: how, as a Creative Director, I came to study creativity…how I was transformed by what I learned…how others have reported back to me their individual and their organization’s transformation after practicing some of the processes, tools and cultural drivers of creativity that I share with them. This unsolicited feedback is their affirming gift back to me.

Greg is also the person who introduced me to the quote, “Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions,” by Oliver Wendell Holmes. Greg’s approach to story has stretched my mind—his gift to me.

So, while it’s not my birthday, I’d love the gift of hearing your story.

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Recently, we were invited to present our branding capabilities to a team of marketing/branding executives at a prospective client. Even before we got through introductions, it was easy to see how little they understood—not just about their brand—but what it takes to even be a brand.

To be completely fair in this tale, we were invited to present our capabilities at the request of someone who was leaving the organization’s marketing department. We had no opportunity for direct communications with this group before the meeting other than to hear that they wanted a capabilities presentation. As such, the branding services we were “selling” might not have been a good match with the services they wanted to buy.

The Meeting

After keeping us waiting for 20 minutes, we began the meeting with introductions. Each member of our team provided a brief and enthusiastic description of his or her background; they merely told us their names. After further deliberate probing we were able to coax from each of them their job titles and how long they had been with the organization. Nothing else. This early sign of non-engagement was reinforced when the top executive furtively checked her phone for emails throughout the presentation.

We presented our perspective as strategic partners on brand strategy and our approach to establishing and maintaining a consistent look, voice and actions of a brand; they were interested in our ability as vendors to follow graphic standards and work on tight budgets. Fair enough. This is why it would have been helpful if they were available to give us some input before our meeting.

And that sets up my point.

Previously in this blog, I’ve talked about the disconnect many organizations have between their Mission, Vision, Values and Purpose, and their Brand. Check out the values of this organization:

Integrity, Compassion, Accountability, Respect, Excellence

Note how the first letters of each value spells out I CARE. Well this executive team acted like it couldn’t care less about our meeting.

So the question is, if the organization/brand has values of compassion and respect, does that just apply to its customers? Shouldn’t it also apply to employees, strategic partners and even potential vendors? Think about the person who is exceedingly compassionate and respectful to people with whom s/he does business, but treats the waiter like dirt: is that person authentically compassionate and respectful? And if you don’t hold yourself accountable for living the organization’s values, where is the integrity in that? Or the excellence?

Most marketing and branding departments own their responsibility to manage the brand look and message to “customers.” But how many think to own the responsibility of acting the brand values to all stakeholders—internal and external? Even vendors? I once heard that it takes 10 positive comments to counter one negative comment. Imagine how many negative comments are generated in the community when a vendor is treated poorly? (Note: The purpose of this post is not to call out a particular organization; rather, to use the experience as a learning moment for me and my readers. I do, however, admit to feeling differently about this organization and its leadership than I did before the meeting.)

So, after all my ranting, what is the true cost of behaving badly in a meeting? Is it a marketing and branding team’s responsibility to set the example for how a brand should act? Or is this too much to ask, and is it enough to just manage the brand’s look and message?

What do you think?

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As one who has spent a career in the business of being creative, I’ve always been both puzzled and amused by the challenge of estimating fees based on the hours I will spend developing breakthrough, innovative ideas for clients. The question is essentially, How long does it take to be creative? Well, I could get an inspiration in a moment, or it could take a month! That’s the way it is with creativity—you never know when the ah-ha moment will hit.

No less of a creative authority than Albert Einstein, said, How do I work? I grope.

I can’t pretend to be able to unlock the secret to knowing how long it takes to be creative; however, it’s worth a discussion to explore what we can do to grease the skids for that creative moment.

Louis Pasteur once famously remarked, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”

Here are some ways I prepare to be creative:

  1. I start by erasing my assumptions. Or at least I question them. In fact, I might even pretend I’m from a foreign land and I’m viewing the issue or opportunity for the first time without any preconceived opinions or ideas.
  2. I’m deliberately curious. I force myself to think of at least 5 questions, whose answers might affect my new thinking on the particular issue/opportunity I’m addressing. I continue to ask why, like a five-year-old might, until I get to the root of my answer.
  3. I pay attention to my emotions. Inspiration may be fueled by knowledge, but it’s lit by emotion. As I gather information, I’m checking my feelings. If a piece of information or an idea makes me laugh, anxious, impassioned or confused, I look for the creative power within it.
  4. I sleep on it. I like to fall sleep thinking about a specific issue or opportunity with the hopes that my subconscious mind will bubble up some creative ideas that will come to me the next day.
  5. I work it out when I’m working out. I also use physical exercise as a prime time to prime my mind for creativity.
  6. I observe. If there is a place to go that is relevant to the issue or opportunity I’m exploring—say a retail space where a customer shops for a particular product, or the environment where a customer might use that product—I’ll observe what’s happening. What’s easy or hard? Where is the joy or frustration? What’s happening and why?

As I write this post, I understand that preparing to be creative is a deeply personal ritual. We all have our own styles. We also have tools we use to get us started—I’ve shared some of mine.

How do you prepare your mind to be favored by the chance of uncovering a transformational idea? How long does it take you to be creative?

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One of my favorite Peanuts cartoons shows Charlie Brown and Linus leaning against a fence. Linus asks Charlie Brown a theological question: When you go to heaven are you graded on a percentage or a curve? Charlie, without hesitation replies, “On a curve, naturally.”  When Linus asks, how he can be so sure, Charlie responds, “I’m always sure about things that are a matter of opinion.”

That exchange provokes thought on many levels, not the least of which is the topic I’d like to explore today: Balancing Advocacy (communicating one’s perspective) with Inquiry (asking questions and listening to others).

Of course, Linus was the deep thinker in the neighborhood. As an Inquirer, he got there by asking questions…seeking the truth. Charlie Brown, the Advocate, was often the buffoon; outsmarted by his dog; as manager, never a winning baseball game; and, always falling for Lucy’s fake sincerity when she pulled the football away just when Charlie was about to kick it.

Inquiry seems to have the edge in this comic strip.

Now let’s look in the corporate world. Here, it’s often those who have the greatest conviction in their set of assumptions who win. Advocacy rules over inquiry because at the end of the day, decisions must be made and action taken based on available information. Analysis paralysis does not move a company forward.

So where is the balance to be found? Where’s the line between think and over-think? And where is the time to do either? How can the Advocates be sure they hear from the Inquirers—and not just get their way because others are insecure or afraid of being wrong? Or because they fear uncovering a different, less pleasant truth? Or, perhaps because they’re apathetic?

A Playing Field for Advocacy and Inquiry

Innovation is one arena where Advocacy and Inquiry must play well together. In order to be innovative, one has to question everything. All assumptions are suspect, everything must be seen through fresh eyes. Wild ideas, experimentation and mistakes are catalysts for breakthrough solutions. But in the end, innovation requires change. Someone has to sell the new idea—be its Advocate—to those who might still be in Inquiry mode. And even more importantly, to those in the Off mode.

I love this quote by Fredrich Jacobi, who says, “We must try harder to understand than to explain.” A great endorsement for the clarifiers among us.

On the other hand, Teddy Roosevelt once said, “In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

The Inquirer in me will continue to search for the balance. The Advocate in me tells me to get back to work.

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