The following section contains a few of the things we have learned in over 30 years in the marketing communications/advertising business. Yes, this section is a bit long. But if you get one new idea, one new thought, one new point of view, it will be worth the two to three minutes it will take to read it through.
Building and growing a brand.
Brands are built by adding value perceptions. Perceptions are built by understanding nuances and consistent message elements. The ultimate value of a brand is the market capitalization the public puts on it beyond just what it is worth in pure dollars and cents. Generics have very little extra added value. Branding adds a multiple and is worth searching for, savoring and fostering. Everything is a brand, every company, every product, every service, even people and countries are brands. This company’s definition of a brand and probably yours too: a brand is the entire set of perceptions that customers or prospects have about their total view of a product, service or company. A new brand builds strength based on relevant differentiation. A brand grows becoming more relevant to a larger audience hopefully without losing differentiation.
Positioning a brand.
What is the brand essence. What is the essence or feeling to be evoked by everything you say and do. It is all the thoughts and emotions which are the sum of all the interactions with our brand through communications and all contacts. What we do and say about your brand and or service. This is the articulation of the basic strategy or promise we are striving to make. Everything we do and say will help us achieve the customers’ perception of the brand essence. Who we are as a brand or service. Who are we? Where do we compete, what guides our development, our direction and growth? How do people relate to the brand or service. Not just in the beginning. Overtime we judge the value by repeat business. How does the brand add value to the lives of users. Then finally, we will measure commitment based on the customer’s depth of involvement with the brand or service. Our goal would be to make usage easy to enter and use but difficult to leave. We want to be a place of trust and pride and value. To do that we need to be technically competent, offer helpful reliable help and information and be seen as offering value. This will lead to trust and depth of involvement.
While you are going about the business of business from the top or the chairman’s office, quality-objective-outside advice can help. An objective outside observer orconsultant can add ideas beyond the numbers or beyond the ideas that can come from inside. If one or two or three ideas from the outside affect market perception, they can affect market equity or eventually even market capitalization.
“Your name or company logo goes here.”
The name of your business, product or service is key. Your name goes everywhere. It will be on your business cards, your office front door, your stationery be it paper or electronic, your advertising. It will be on your all-important product and your web site which is, in essence, your other front door.
One seamless voice (also called attitude or brand personality).
Brands or services should offer one seamless voice . Everything should be in harmony. This means simply that everything that the public hears or see or comes in contact with, in regard to this product, be in the same genre. Many clients today even prepare voice documents. Apple Computer, IBM, Sony, Disney, American Express, American Airlines, Nike, all have their own individual and carefully crafted and nurtured voices. Sometimes the term brand personality is used and that is actually also very close to voice. Your voice has to be massaged, carried out, propagated, propelled. One seamless voice often requires a guardian or caretaker to protect and preserve this voice. It means that literally everything from the signage on the door, banners on the web, offline advertising, business cards to the all-important web site, all has to have the same look and feel and consistency.
Multiple pathways (paid media).
Pathways are becoming so targeted and so sophisticated. Because marketing and advertising in the past were primarily concerned with acquisition, life was simpler even if not complete. Today the marketer worries about acquisition but also loyalty (holding best customers) and what is termed winback because there is so much spinning, churning, flipping between comparable brands and services. This requires a much more involved look at and study of multiple pathways and hybrid marketing. And when possible, we try to use the tactics of marketing with a memory.TM
Earned Media (the best media is free).
The best media is free. In politics, they don’t use or refer to the term public relations. Instead they choose to use the term that we use which is “earned media”. In politics, the feeling is that if you have news it will be picked up. You earn the right to inches of free space or seconds of free airtime media. You earn it by having news of substance that matters.
Institutionalized Word of Mouth, or Viral Marketing
When a buzz is created it travels quickly among best audiences. IWM affects decisions more than even advertising especially if the prospects or targets agree that there is great-perceived value. There is more conviction when a message is seen as good advice versus just a commercial message. IWM can be a key element in creating buzz and getting audience and then sales.
When a name and a visual work together as an icon this helps burn its way into the mind. There are many methods and techniques that can foster this most important marketing concept. Bill Bradley used the stars and stripe graphic as a strong memory icon. A few other examples, not all ours, are: the Marlboro Man, the Jolly Green Giant, the Nike logo, “I’m stuck on Band-Aid cause Band-Aid’s stuck on me”.
A definite paradigm shift has been going on in America and around the world. Many, if not most of the important new companies starting up or existing companies are being re-engineered. They are looking at philosophically switching from being product oriented to service oriented. This topic alone is worth discussion and brainstorming within in your small senior management group. The new service company is focused toward the realization that the most precious commodity we all have today is “our time”.
You tell the truth.
We collect and study hundreds and hundreds of annual reports from a wide range of businesses because we believe they are about as close to the business truth as you can get. The chairman or CEO signs the annual report so this should be the truth of the company.
We tell the truth.
Truth matters. You can trust us. We don’t lie, exaggerate, manipulate. We tell the truth even when it hurts. We learned this important trait from working for Young & Rubicam for 26 years. Our company is media agnostic. We get paid by the hour or project either in fees or equity and do not work on a media commission or mark-up. We’re honest and direct.
Many of our clients remunerate us in stock as well as fees. It makes a statement about our belief in the work for these companies. We have a real vested interest in your ultimate growth and success.
Our current client mix is small and high level. See client section for specifics. We have done consulting, repositioning, branding and advertising work for priceline.com, for a Paul Allen financed smart toy company in Silicon Valley, Bill Bradley for President, lawyers, architects, medical institutions, the founders of several online companies and also several public companies. Many of these are ongoing assignments.
The company never sleeps – endless energy. When a company is new and small like ours, we have to work harder – to get the work done quickly, correctly and with great vigor and spirit. The wireless Blackberries are never in the off position.
Independence is important. We are very particular about the clients we agree to serve. This also goes for the level of involvement at the company. We tend to accept clients where we work with senior management. We don’t say this to be arrogant in any way but only to reflect our experience and self-confidence. To quote the late marketing great Jay Chiat: “we are more concerned with great work than great meetings.”
Finally, as your management team rightfully concentrates on “the numbers” of the business, we have the mental freedom to dream, to have visions, to help you push for new ideas.