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Posted by on Feb 10, 2015 | 0 comments

3 Little Words for Branding Success

3 Little Words for Branding Success

  I recently interviewed Bob Domenz, CEO of Avenue, a B2B brand strategy and activation firm, as part Branding Magazine’s Branding Roundtable on Rebranding. One of the questions was “What are the most common causes of failure in rebranding?” The first three causes he proffered certainly rang true: First, “not having the direct involvement of the CEO and leadership; Second, not deeply involving the customer and customer insights in the process. [and]   Third, approaching the rebranding initiative as just a logo and advertising change.” But it was the fourth that grabbed my attention, both for its economy of phrasing and its simple truth: “Fourth – and most important – is getting your ‘Be.Do.Say.’ out of order. In other words, not aligning your market promise with the actions of the company and your ability to deliver.” Yes that will sink you. Conversely, getting your “Be.Do. Say” in the right order can also make you rise above the competition. In a branding world that loves to beat buzzwords like “authentic” into...

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Posted by on Dec 29, 2014 | 0 comments

7 Hot Branding Issues, 23 Experts: Branding Roundtable 2014

7 Hot Branding Issues, 23 Experts: Branding Roundtable 2014

  Earlier this year I launched The Branding Roundtable for Branding Magazine, to provide an industry forum for deeper discussion of key topics. Each of the seven issues to date, featuring from three to 16 branding experts from around the world, has produced a fascinating trove of insights from the hundreds of years of combined professional experience represented. Here are just a few highlights (and I encourage you to read each Roundtable in its entirety): Brand Co-Creation: Branding Roundtable No. 1 Scott Davis, Chief Growth Officer, Prophet [Co-creation means] engaging and partnering with all of the stakeholders, internally and externally, that will ultimately either have to bring the brand promise to life or will get to experience the brand’s promise firsthand. Brands developed in a vacuum are generally dead upon arrival as there is often lack of alignment, buy in, understanding and engagement across those that are critical to the brand’s success. Jorge Aguilar, Executive Director of Brand Strategy, Landor Co-creation, in its broadest sense, is a must for...

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Posted by on Dec 15, 2014 | 0 comments

6 Keys to Building  an Effective Content Shock Absorber

6 Keys to Building an Effective Content Shock Absorber

It’s been almost a year since Mark Schaefer shook up the content marketing world with his “Content Shock” post, which, he said, sought to “demonstrate in simple economic terms why content marketing — the hottest marketing trend around — may not be a sustainable strategy for many businesses.”  His is a basic supply and demand argument:  too much content for too few eyeballs with too little time, compounded by too great an expense for no-longer-free content creation (never really was free) and distribution (used to be sort of free, socially). Now, I’m not here to argue his argument’s merits, or jump on the sometimes defensive-sounding anti-shock bandwagons.  I’d simply like to observe my own content consumption conundrum, and see if it doesn’t ring true with yours: I only have two eyeballs and ears, way too little time and two kids to feed out of an ever-changing marketing career, requiring that, like it or not, I need to keep consuming good, informative, helpful content to maintain my currency (in every...

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Posted by on Nov 18, 2014 | 0 comments

5 Reasons Brand Strategists Should Start Out as Copywriters

5 Reasons Brand Strategists Should Start Out as Copywriters

In a faster, more integrated marketing world, a brand strategist needs to take on many roles, marshal multiple talents and be able to bridge the difficult divide between a concrete strategic foundation and the inevitably amorphous (read: human) communication required to bring any brand fully to life.   Unfortunately, even as brand strategists expand their skill sets beyond the traditional realm of insights development, one talent seems to remain underrepresented in brand strategy resumes:  conceptual copywriting.  Allow me (the copywriter-creative-director-turned-brand-strategist) to make a case for why branding firms should recruit and develop strategists out of the creative ranks. Your strategy is the big idea: it takes idea people to develop it. I remember my first big branding project when I worked at BBDO New York:  helping reposition a then-stagnant, diffuse General Electric. Now, BBDO is an ad agency, and in those days turned its nose up at “below the line” projects such as brand identity work and the like – but it grabbed the branding reins when it came to...

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Posted by on Nov 10, 2014 | 0 comments

3  Ways to Keep Emotional Branding Honest

3 Ways to Keep Emotional Branding Honest

  Research Suggests Your Most Creative Thinkers May Be Delivering Less-than-True Emotion (or Anything Else) Two “current” trends in branding and advertising – emotional branding and storytelling – are hot , at least in part, because they are supposed to help marketers make more honest, human connections with an increasingly skeptical and self-empowered consumer audience. But an older TV spot makes me wonder just how emotionally honest the current marketing environment is (not to mention “Just how new is this whole emotional branding thing, really)? And new research takes it a step further – how emotionally honest can we be? The “older” (2007) TV spot is VW’s “Driving at Night”  commercial for its Golf model  – just recently brought to mind by a tweet from the mega-award-winning creative director Vinny Warren (who by no means endorses my viewpoint here… I’m just dropping names).  The copywriter is none other than Dylan Thomas, who’s been creatively hijacked, as poetic lines from his play /radio drama “Under Milk Wood”  serve as all but...

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Posted by on Oct 20, 2014 | 0 comments

Portfolio or Manifesto: What Should a Brand Strategist & Writer Show?

Portfolio or Manifesto: What Should a Brand Strategist & Writer Show?

    In this necessarily hybrid, hyphenated, integrated marketing world, it’s hard to know what a copywriter-creative-director-cum-brand-strategist-and-storyteller should show as a portfolio.  Of course, the marketing world still likes a visualized vita, and yet this one should be more than just show with no tell.  It should reflect a more strategic, less gratuitous, approach to the ultimate creative expression of a brand strategy – and also a more creative take on developing a brand platform. Fortunately, that combination is exactly what I bring: Creativity for the formulation of brand basics and An acute strategic understanding  for the creative expression of brands My downloadable PDF portfolio attempts to encapsulate that crossover of talents (note: it includes a resume at the end).  In addition, you’ll find samples of my work throughout this website/ blog, offered up Youtility-style as content first, and self-promotion second: My brand positioning process “The 3-Step Brand Positioning Process & Workshop” an e-Book tailoring the process for small- to medium-size companies My Branding Magazine articles (where I am a Contributing...

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Posted by on Sep 8, 2014 | 0 comments

Brand Strategy: Arrogance Trumps All?

Brand Strategy: Arrogance Trumps All?

  I’ve spent a good deal of time lately with my head in the loftier realms of brand strategy – brand co-creation, purpose-driven branding, that sort of thing, you know – but I have to admit that for every indication good branding might ultimately equal branding for the larger good I run into two negating examples.   Allow me to share my favorite two offenders: The Trump Towers in Chicago and The Restoration Hardware Catalog. Can We Just Comb Over the Sign? Donald Trump – the American tycoon everyone loves to hate, bad hair and all – created quite a stir, and a few more enemies, by installing a huge, lighted sign on his Chicago condo skyscraper.  He was attacked by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, and lampooned (yet again) by The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart….  but how does this affect his brand? Is he (as the brand, both corporate and personal) strengthened or weakened by in-your-face arrogance?  I doubt that a purely corporate brand – at least a publicly traded...

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Posted by on Aug 7, 2014 | 0 comments

4 Experts Answer 10 Questions About Purpose-Driven Branding

4 Experts Answer 10 Questions About Purpose-Driven Branding

  Purpose-driven branding – much like the sometimes conflated arenas of Corporate Social Responsibility, sustainable brands, cause-related marketing and so on – can, to the hard-bitten business person with numbers to hit this quarter, take on the image of (how shall I say this?) philosophical fluff, the stuff of style over bankable substance. To get to the real heart of the matter, I convened four international branding experts for the second edition of The Branding Roundtable and asked them: How do you define purpose? Is purpose primarily a corporate or brand-level concern? Do you invent or discover brand purpose? What are the essential elements of a purpose-driven brand? What are the primary benefits of focusing on purpose in branding? What are the main challenges in creating purpose-driven brands? Is purpose-centered business a truly global strategy? Does purpose equally motivate all demographic groups? Will current low-levels of employee engagement undercut the push to purpose?  Are there risks in purpose-driven branding? I encourage you to read the entire eBook (yes, we...

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Posted by on Jun 27, 2014 | 0 comments

3-Step Branding Process and Workshop

3-Step Branding Process and Workshop

    What are the key steps in an effective branding process? How do you convince your management to invest in branding? What is a branding workshop, and how do you run one? As a freelance brand strategist, I get asked questions like these quite frequently.  While I’ve offered a variety of answers in some of my most consistently popular posts, I thought it was about time that I put together a detailed overview, in more convenient form, for sharing.  The result?  A new eBook on the nuts-and-bolts of the branding process, yours to download with my compliments. This easy-to-read, 17-page branding guide draws on my years of experience helping create brand strategies and communications for companies of all sizes, from small-to-medium sized organizations to Fortune 500 marketers (typically for their small-to-medium sized brand initiatives).  It covers: How to lay the organizational groundwork for an effective branding process What the 3 key steps of effective branding are: Discover, Define and Develop How to run your own branding workshop (or...

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