Archive for the ‘Brand’ Category

Advertising and Marketing Communications: Why Bother?

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

Advertising and mar-comm programs are expensive, it’s difficult to even measure their effectiveness, and they sometimes drain time and resources away from ‘more important’ activities of your business.  Businesses often spend huge amounts of time and resources that seem to have no discernible effect on the bottom line.

So, why bother?  Because, of course, when they’re done well, advertising and marketing communications bring real benefit to your business and to your bottom line.

Experts say that the purpose of marketing communications and advertising is to influence the behaviors of key people in ways that benefit your organization – by educating and informing, or by motivating and persuading.

So … Let’s get started earning the most ‘bang’ for your advertising and mar-comm ‘buck’.

The first step is to think through the strategic questions of WHY? and WHAT?

1.  WHY do you want to communicate?  What is the business objective you want your ad or mar-comm piece to accomplish?

Are you introducing your new company or product?  Do you wish to educate the “influencers” whose opinions (about the competitive merits of your product, for example, or about an important safety or regulatory issue) determine your success?  Are you trying to motivate potential customers to try your product or buy more of it?

Make sure that you can clearly articulate a business objective which is important enough to justify the time, money, and effort you’ll invest in the communications program.

2.  WHAT actions do you want your audience to take in response to your message?

 Do you want to create awareness and a favorable image for your new company or product?  Do you want influencers and “thought leaders” to voice more favorable opinions of your business?  Do you want to persuade and motivate customers to click the “buy” button or open their checkbooks right now?

The actions that your target audience takes will determine how richly your mar-comm investment pays off.  Make sure that your communication plan clearly identifies – and clearly focuses on – the specific actions that you wish your audience to take.

The WHY and the WHAT of your proposed advertising or mar-comm program will lead naturally to the key tactical answers you’ll need to build a winning communications campaign:

WHO is the most critical audience for you to reach?

HOW can I most effectively present my message – the content and form which will be most appealing to my target audience?

WHERE are key members of my target audience most likely to see and absorb my message?  What are the optimum communications vehicles?

I’ll address the nuts and bolts of planning an effective mar-comm program in my next MARKETING INTELLIGENCE BLOG post.

For more information about the role of communications in building your brand and creating brand equity, see … “Your Brand is Your Business …

For help in creating a mar-comm plan tailored to your business, please contact Bob Brothers.

“Neiman Marcus or Walmart?”

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

“The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the middle class is basically kaput.”  Those may be political fighting words, but to some companies, they’re the basis of a new business strategy.’s Geoffery James asks “Are You Neiman Marcus or Walmart?” in response to Frito Lay’s announcement of a new business strategy which focuses on the premium end of the snack food marketplace.  In the New York Times, Frito Lay’s president and chief marketing officer recently discussed the company’s new initiative – dedicated premium products made with special ingredients and packaging, and their own distribution and retail network.  At the same time, Frito Lay is ramping up its marketing to what it calls “value” customers, consumers at the lower end of the economic spectrum.

What’s behind this new 1 percent / 99 percent strategy?  Frito Lay’s recognition of the “bifurcation” of wealth that is driving 7% annual growth at the premium end, and 4% growth at the lower end of their marketplace, while the broad middle hardly grows at all.

For a US economy – and its network of global partners – built largely on catering to a huge and thriving North American middle class, Frito Lay’s move raises a red flag.  Although’s James may overstate the case when he claims that the middle class is disappearing, recent economic history provides marketing strategists with plenty of evidence of trends in this direction.

1. The heart and soul of the US economy, for most of its history, has been a solid and growing middle class – consumers, workers, small business owners, professionals, et al – enjoying a comfortable and secure lifestyle, with a generally optimistic view of their future.  This secure, complacent slice of the middle class seems to be shrinking, with a few edging toward the thresholds of wealth, while the many face the fear or actuality of falling into the ranks of the poor.

2. Over recent decades, wealth has been rapidly accumulating in a small but growing segment at the top of the economic spectrum.  At the same time, ‘old money’ noblesse oblige and constraints on conspicuous consumption seem to be falling.

3. It’s true that “the poor are always with us” … and these days, more and more people in the US are at least feeling and spending as if they were poor.

This is the fodder for endless political argument, but, quite apart from your political philosophy, there’s plenty for business and marketing strategists to ponder:

> If your success has been built on mass marketing to a large, complacent, and thriving middle class, it’s likely that your customer base will be feeling less prosperous and secure.  Winning strategies will allow them to continue their middle class consumption patterns while, at the same time, rewarding their virtuous urge for frugality .

> Individually, the lower end of the economic spectrum may not have much money, but collectively, they have a lot to spend .  Walmart and other discounters show how to provide low cost goods in a mass market, low frills setting, but the marketplace seems ripe for upgrades in the shopping experience and for innovations in affordable entertainment and leisure sectors.

> More rich people, spending more of their wealth, especially on big-ticket, luxury products and services, offer a seductive and potentially lucrative target.  Just be prepared to provide a continuing stream of the newest bells-and-whistles and customized personal service to a fickle and demanding clientele, shielded from you by layers of intermediaries.

Assuring Your New Venture’s Success

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

Most corporate new business development teams, most inventors, and most start-up entrepreneurs – whether they’re building the newest medical device, 3-D imaging software, or a neighborhood cupcake and cookie business – are stretched just too thin.  Under-resourced, under staffed and under-funded, the typical new venture is forced to prioritize and sacrifice.

Perfecting your product design and development and attending to the financing are vital – but just getting them right isn’t nearly enough to assure the success of your new venture.

Here are 8 often neglected areas that every new venture should be addressing – from your individual small business start-up to corporate new business teams – to assure that the customers will be there, $$$ in hand, when you open for business:

1. Early, Early, EARLY in the life of your new venture, map out the landscape of potential customers, and figure out who will be the most attractive segments of customers for your new business to target.  Who is most frustrated with the status quo?   Who has the $$$ – and the enthusiasm – to buy a new product or service like yours?  Where are you likely to find them?  And even more important, where are they mostly likely to go – on the street or on the internet – to discover a product like yours?

2. Understand what your potential customers love – and what frustrates them – about products or services like yours.  Then, build your offering to provide a solution to the things they hate about the status quo and to emphasize the things they like.  Don’t waste your time and resources on things customers don’t care about (no matter how exciting or ‘sexy’ they seem to you).

3. Test your concept, early and often, and adapt you offering to what you learn.  Ideas that seem obvious on paper or in your discussions around the company coffee pot are often far less than obvious to outsiders – to your potential customers, investors, suppliers, or distribution partners.  Entrepreneurs sometimes fear that competitors will ‘steal’ their ideas or derail their new venture.  Perhaps that happens, but for most start-ups, the much bigger danger is sinking all your hard work and $$$ into a venture that customers just don’t care about.

4.  Your new business will not be operating in a vacuum.  You’ll be relying upon a host of people and tools outside your organization to help connect your creation to the rest of the world – suppliers, existing computer systems or software platforms to link in to, distribution channel partners, formal and informal publicity and promotional voices …. Understand which external tools and partners will be critical to your success – especially the linkages between you and your potential customers – and begin building those relationships long before you launch.

5.  Nothing jump-starts a new venture better than an early success, so focus, Focus, FOCUS! That dazzling set of opportunities that you envision is seductive, but the temptation to pursue them all is an invitation to doing none of them well enough.  Pick a particular offering, a customer segment, and channel to market that is an especially good fit with what you do well.  Then, invest all your effort in making it work.  The credibility, confidence, publicity, and knowledge – not to mention cash flow – that comes from your first success will make it that much easier to pick off the next and the next and the next opportunity.

6.  Remove the hurdles that make it inconvenient for your customers to do business with you. Look at your business through the eyes of a customer:  Is it easy to find and get into your store – on the street or on the internet?  Does your website and your storefront signage clearly and succinctly explain your business?  How can potential buyers learn more about you, your product, your business?  Once potential customers have come through your physical or electronic door, is it easy for them to make their selection and purchase?  Do you offer a convenient assortment of payment options and customer-conscious quality assurance, return and refund policies?

7.  Get to know, understand and appreciate your customers.  Organize your business so that it’s a positive, rewarding and hassle-free experience every time a potential customer touches your business – beginning with their first phone call, email, or their first step inside your digital or brick-and-mortar store.  Reach out to your customers – and especially to those who decided not to buy from you – to learn what you’re doing right and what you could do better.

Share your success.  You deserve to be amply rewarded for your creativity, hard work, and persistence that transformed your idea into a business success.  Don’t, however, forget the ones whose help was vital to getting you there.  It’s the right thing to do – and it’s darned good business.  The more closely that your partners’ success is linked to yours, the harder your employees, your suppliers and your distribution partners will work to preserve and expand your success.

Remember – Your business exists in a complicated marketplace, where customers have lots of distractions and plenty of alternatives for spending their attention and their $$$.  What you think about your business is ultimately a lot less important than what your customers, distribution partners and suppliers think, and their experiences with you.

The Five Things You Must Know about Branding

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

BOB BROTHERS provides business insight, intelligence, and creative marketing strategies to entrepreneurs, business owners and corporate marketing leaders, at

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Your “brand” is the sum of everything that people think, feel, believe and ‘know’ about you, your product and your company

Your logos, trademarks and advertising slogans symbolize the performance, quality and service you promise to deliver

Successful brands can earn Million$ or Billion$ for their owners

Communicate … Then deliver what you promise

You are unique – Your brand building strategy should be, too 

“Branding” is a concept, a strategy, an exercise dear to the hearts of business owners and marketing leaders.  Unfortunately, “brand” and “branding” are subjects as likely to sow confusion and wasted resources as they are to drive business and marketing excellence. 

The foundation of successful branding – whether you’re a start-up entrepreneur, a lone professional or a corporate marketing leader – is a solid business strategy, solidly executed:

– An offering that promises to satisfy the needs and expectations of your customers

– Execution that consistently delivers the values and experiences you promise 

Here are 5 things that every start-up entrepreneur, every corporate marketing manager, and every business owner should know about building your brand and the value it represents.

1.  Your Reputation is Your Brand

Close your eyes (It’s OK, you’re working!) and think about a familiar brand – Apple or Mercedes Benz, for example.  You’ll surely have some clear and distinct images – of the sort of person who is likely to own one, what owning one would be like for you, what to expect of the product and the company that stands behind it.  

Those images, and the reputations they represent, are Mercedes’ and Apple’s true brand, much more than the familiarity of their 3-point star or once-bitten fruit.  To build a valuable brand, you must:

– Clearly and consistently communicate your promise to deliver products, performance and service that bring value and satisfaction to your customers

– Build and nurture your reputation for delivering all that you promise

Your brand’s hard earned reputation – and the value it represents – can be easily tarnished through misuse or neglect.  Consistency, diligence and attention – year in and year out – are key ingredients in every successful brand.

2.  Symbolism:  Logos, Names and Tag Lines

Your brand – all that customer know, believe and feel about you – is a tremendous asset.  But how can you constantly remind customers of the value you bring to them, and to assure that you remain visible in a noisy and crowded marketplace?

Logos, trademarks and product names are the symbols of your brand, shorthand ways of calling up all the images and feelings that you have created in your customers’ minds. 

– Create easily recognized branding symbols – logos, trademarks, advertising tag lines and such – that are memorable and consistent with the image you wish to convey.    

– Use those symbols widely and consistently, in ways that reinforce the value of your products bring and that emphasize the image you wish to project.     

3.  Successful Branding Puts $$$ in the Bank

LYCRA brand elastane fibers (originally DuPont’s, now owned by Invista) dominate large segments of the apparel marketplace – swim and athletic wear, lingerie, women’s fashions.  Despite technical performance that is often surpassed by competing textile fibers, LYCRA has enjoyed huge market share, pricing and new product introduction advantages, simply because of the magic surrounding the LYCRA name.

The success that comes with that magic isn’t free.  DuPont, and now Invista, have invested heavily in building and maintaining the LYCRA brand – advertising, support for innovative fashion designers and marketers, R&D in sports science and performance, leadership in market and technology innovation.

The visibility and respect that result from successful branding creates real, tangible value – in market share points and opportunities for premium pricing, by opening the doors to new markets, and by reducing the costs and the risks of introducing new products.

– Monetize your success: You’ve invested in your brand’s growing recognition and reputation.  Now use that power (wisely and judiciously) to strengthen and extend your business   

4.  In the Beginning – Communicate

Your first brand building task is communication – to establish your visibility, credibility and recognition in a noisy, crowded marketplace, and to stimulate customers to actually ‘try and buy’ your new product.

Understand your Audience:  Which people are most likely to buy your product?  What product and service characteristics would most appeal to them?  Where are they most likely to learn about products like yours? 

Tailor the content and the look-and-feel of your message to the needs, expectations and sensibilities of your target audience.  What information (and what emotional appeals) will motivate them to buy?  What must they know to find you and complete their purchase?  How does your message reinforce the brand image you wish to project?

Select the mix of communications vehicles (website and SEO, TV ads, face-to-face promotion, social media, etc) most likely to capture the ‘eyeballs’ of the people you need to influence      

5.  Build a Branding Strategy That’s Right for YOU

The right brand building strategy for you depends on creatively assessing the unique nature of your business vision, your product, and the customers you aim to serve.

Who do you want your company to be?  Low price leader or luxury brand?  Mass market or artistic and avant garde?  Technology leader or plain vanilla?

Design you products and your actions to deliver the performance and experiences your customers value and expect

Tailor your communications to suit your intended audience and to project the image you aspire to

Manage your performances to faithfully and consistently deliver the products, service and experience that your brand promises.   

Successful branding is an investment in hard work, consistent attention, and patience, but the pay-off can add Million$ or Billion$ to the value of your company.

VI. Monetizing Your Successful Brand

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Part VI of an extended exploration of nature and value of “Branding” and practical discussion of how to create, strengthen and extract greater value from your ‘Brand’

The foundation of successful branding – whether you’re a start-up entrepreneur or leader of a corporate marketing department – is a solid business strategy, solidly executed:

– An offering that promises to satisfy the needs and expectations of your customers

– An organization that consistently delivers the values and experiences you promise 

Creating a successful brand requires investing ample time, $$$ and effort in building and maintaining the excellence of your business.

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While communication is the first priority of start-up and new product branding, the brand-building imperatives of established companies are more varied:

1.  To nurture, strengthen and protect the reputation you’ve already earned

2.  To use your good name and reputation to deepen relationships with customers you already have

3.  To open doors to new markets and to successfully launch new products.

In this part of the product life cycle, four tools are key to strengthening your brand and expanding its influence and value-creating power:

Foresight:  Anticipating, and developing innovations to answer your customers’ evolving needs and changes in the marketplace. 

Execution:  Consistent, trouble-free performance that is focused on keeping a step ahead of your customers’ evolving needs and preferences

Communication:  Messaging which explains and reinforces the value and satisfaction that your products deliver, and the benefits that your company brings to the large community.

Diligence:  Protecting your brand from decision within your company that would dilute or neglect the reputation your have earned, and from outsiders who would misuse your products and good name.     

You’ve invested in building the value of your brand and the reputation that stands behind it.  They’re your guarantee to deliver what customers have come to value and expect.  You’ve earned that trust, now here are ways to monetize your brand equity:

– By charging a premium price – National brands of canned tuna are almost always more expensive, for an essentially identical product

– Through greater market share – Coke and Pepsi dominate the grocer’s soft drink shelf, although there are plenty of other fizzy cola brands 

– Through easier access to new customers and new markets – New consumer electronics?  Sony and Apple have a big head start over any new competitor.

– By launching new products, more quickly and with lower risk

IV. Brand Building for Start-Ups

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Part IV of an extended exploration of nature and value of “Branding” and practical discussion of how to create, strengthen and extract greater value from your ‘Brand’

The foundation of successful branding – whether you’re a start-up entrepreneur or leader of a corporate marketing department – is a solid business strategy, solidly executed:

– An offering that promises to satisfy the needs and expectations of your customers

– An organization that consistently delivers the values and experiences you promise 

While branding plays an important role in business strategy, no fancy logo or advertising campaign can overcome the drag of a poorly conceived product, poorly presented. 

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As a start-up, your hands are probably more than full juggling all the details of getting your business up and running.  Fortunately, getting those details right is the first step in building your successful brand.  There are 3 fundamental elements:  Defining your identity, communicating the performance and values you promise to deliver, and execution that fulfills your promise.

Define Your Identity

Your start-up’s first brand building requirement is to clearly define your identify – the character of the company you aspire to be and the nature of the markets you intend to serve.  For example:

– Want to be known as the luxury brand (and earn the right to charge luxury prices)?  Then everything you do – from the way your phone is answered, to your employees’ demeanor and dress, to the appearance of your store, website, signage and advertising, to the way you pay your suppliers – should whisper elegance and respectability.

– If you elect to be a bargain-basement supplier, your customers may tolerate bare-bones facilities and less than attentive staffing, but the bargain hunting customers who flock to you today can just as easily fly off to the new-discounter-in-town tomorrow.

-Aiming to serve mass-market tastes and sensibilities?  Better not plan to switch gears and become the next hot spot for the artistic and avant garde.

Pretty elementary stuff, I know, but a lack of clarity and focus around your identity and the purpose of your business – and the dilution of effort that results – is the Achilles’ Heel of too many start-ups.

Communicate Your Promise

As a start-up, your first imperative is to quickly establish your visibility, credibility and recognition in a noisy, crowded marketplace.  Communications is the start-up’s key branding task, and your goal:

Shape all your formal and informal communications to create a memorable image of the attractiveness of your product and company, and an enthusiasm within your potential customers to spend their $$$ with you.

                The array of communications vehicles available to you is both seductive and confusing:  internet presence and SEO, e-mail and social media, print and TV advertising, seminars and customer meetings, or host of other vehicles for getting your message before the public.  It’s tempting to jump in – and spend tons of money – before you have a well planned communications strategy.  Build yours around fact-based, objective answers to these priorities:

1.  The Audience:  Which groups of people are most likely to buy your product?  Why would a product like yours appeal to them?  Where are they most likely to learn about products like yours?  Who else might influence their decision to buy from you?

2.  The Content of Your Message:  What information (and what emotional appeals) would motivate people in your targeted market segments to try your products?  What do they need to know to find you and complete their purchase?

3.  The ‘Look-and-Feel’ of Your Message:  What will appeal to the sensibilities of the people you need to influence?  How can you create the proper image of your company and product?

4.  The Communications Media:  What mix of communications vehicles is most likely to capture the ‘eyeballs’ of the people you need to influence

Armed with this sort of insight, you’re in position to create a communication strategy that uniquely suits your company, your product and the markets your aim to serve, providing: 

1.  Education:   “Yes, I see what your product will do for me.”

                                “That’s something that would be really valuable to me.”

                                “Now I know where to get one.”

2.  Recognition:  “I remember hearing about your product.”

3.  Motivation:    “Oh, yes!  I want to go get one now.”

If your communications can elicit answers like these, you’re well on the way to success.       

                “More details, more specifics” you ask?  Well, I wish I could, but your business, your product, your customers, and the market environment you’re in are like no others.  A big part of the success of your branding effort will be your creativity and skill in crafting a message uniquely suited to your situation and goals.  Here are some thought-starters to point you down productive communications pathways …

An animated, slapstick TV commercial may be a fine way to sell beer to an audience of couch potato athletes, but it’s not likely to appeal to the well-healed retiree looking for discrete wealth management advice.

Selling a new synthetic lubricant for jet engines demands facts, figures and no-nonsense data, but an ethereal vision of fantasy and hope sells more cosmetics. 

Your grandmother probably won’t learn about new osteoporosis drugs on TWITTER, and it’s not likely that the high school video gamer will see your ad in the local newspaper.

Internet marketing is probably not the most effective way to enroll a high end life insurance prospect, but you can’t afford to rely on 1-on-1 customer visits to promote your fancy cupcakes.

Remember – Effective communications begins with a clear sense of the message you need to convey, molded by your understanding of the needs, preferences and expectations of your intended audience.               

Execute Your Promise

Respect for your brand comes from delivering performance and experiences that satisfy your customers.

Make sure that, from the beginning, your execution is right.  Delivering what you promise is the key to building a strong and valuable brand.

Customers, casual lookers and third party busy-bodies continually balance what they experience against what you promise.  A mis-match between what you promise and what you deliver can quickly become a brand killer. 

– You promise low prices but customers find you’re scooped by the discounter on the corner

– You promise excellent service, but phones and emails go unanswered

– You promise confident professionalism, but show up late for your appointments   

No amount of advertising or fancy logos can overcome the disappointment of a product that doesn’t work, missed delivery dates, unanswered telephone calls, or rude and unresponsive service people.  News of poor products and service spread far and fast, and repairing a bad reputation is no easier for your start-up than it is for a high school outcast.

III. The Value Creating Power of ‘Brand’

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Part III of an extended exploration of nature and value of “Branding” and practical discussion of how to create, strengthen and extract greater value from your ‘Brand’

Successful branding can be hugely valuable, far beyond the mere functioning of the product or service itself.  Think Google and Facebook, Coca Cola, Mercedes Benz, Apple, Nike, Whole Foods, the Rolling Stones ….  

LYCRA brand elastane fibers, a phenomenal money-maker for its inventor, the DuPont Company (and for current owner, Invista) is a great story of branding success.  Even though DuPont didn’t make the LYCRA swimsuit or lingerie, or even the stretchy fabric that the garment is cut from, DuPont’s investment in branding has made LYCRA one of the most respected, well known and valuable names in fashion and functional apparel.   

During its heyday, DuPont’s LYCRA fibers commanded huge market shares –and prices often 50 percent higher than competing spandex fibers – translating into hundreds of millions of dollars of extra profits, year after year, for DuPont.  This, even though the LYCRA fiber was often technically inferior – in the length of its stretchiness, the strength of its snap-back, its resistance to repeated trips through the washing machine and dryer – compared to the competing brands. 

DuPont pursued a decades-long, comprehensive, coordinated strategy to reinforce the mystique and exclusivity of the LYCRA name, including:

   – Targeted advertising and co-promotions

   – Support, encouragement and publicity for innovative fashion designers

   – Support for sports science research, product development and promotion

   – Leadership in end user focused product and technology development

The resulting avalanche of profits, year-in year-out, was DuPont’s reward for years of aggressive investment in building, maintaining and protecting the LYCRA brand.

Other examples of the value added by a company’s or product’s good name and reputation?  Look no further than Facebook, Intel microprocessor chips, or Gucci bags, a Niemann Marcus, GatorAide or your latest i-accessory.   

The extra value represented by this ‘brand equity’ isn’t just a psychic reward for market success.  It has real, money-in-the-bank consequences:

   – Enhanced market share points and growth rates

   – Opportunities to charge premium prices

   – Opening up new markets and reducing the risks of introducing new products

    – Greater market value for your company

And a final, cautionary, note:  “Brand” isn’t necessarily forever.  Neglect and abuse can degrade the value of your brand just as surely as they can wreck the value of your house.  Think Lehmann Bros, Lindsay Lohan, Oldsmobile or Gateway computers. 

 Maintaining the hard earned value of your brand requires continuing attention and investment – in new product development, in perfecting news ways of relating with your customers, in diligent conversation with your marketplace, and in continuing excellence in execution.