We must hold our organization accountable and use words that enlighten both brand opportunities and challenges.
Communicators are often in the right spot, with the right skills, and the right information to transform average organizations into great brands. To do so, we must be prepared and willing to step into that role rather than merely acting as a “wordsmith” for the executive team.
I emphasized this point recently to a class of honors students taught by business communications lecturer, Christina Moore, at Texas State University. I began by asking these future business leaders,
“How many of you anticipate having to tell your future boss that she misunderstands the motivations and concerns of your company’s customers, employees, or the marketplace?”
To the students’ credit, most of them raised their hand, but I saw questioning hesitation on many faces around the room. After all, such honesty could be career poison in many organizations. Continue reading “How business communicators become brand heroes” →
What is the brand strength hidden in your perceived weakness?
Does your company want to be branded as the market giant? Before you answer, consider the success of organizations that have sold themselves as giant killers instead. Most companies are not the dominant feeder in their category; for them, being a niche competitor can be very rewarding both in profitability and consumer loyalty.
One of the most well-recounted examples of this principle is the Avis “We Try Harder” campaign launched in 1962. Trailing Hertz, the top rental car company in the nation, Avis promised that as the underdog, they would provide better service with a try-harder attitude. The campaign, created by Doyle Dane Bernbach, is considered a classic example of embracing your perceived faults and making them brand strengths. Continue reading “Embracing Your Underdog Brand Identity” →
Powerful ideas are amazingly flexible.
I enjoyed many years in the advertising business as a creative director. Creativity is much talked about today in the broader world outside of advertising, thanks to the popularity of design thinking, which transfers many of the tools and thought processes originating in the advertising and design fields into the disciplines of business strategy, technology innovation, and process improvement, among many others.
Creative thinking in any discipline does not happen in a vacuum, and one of the more common ingredients in the mix is a limited budget, often combined with its twin dread, limited time.
Years ago, the late Dallas illustrator, author, and book collector George Toomer coined a phrase that stuck with me. He said, “Beware of clients who operate on a shoestring because it is usually your shoestring.”
Many in the advertising, marketing, and PR fields struggle to establish the credibility and recognition necessary to be compensated at a level commensurate with other professional services. Design thinkers in other fields may be similarly starved by shortsighted organizations. Continue reading “Creativity on a Shoestring Budget” →
“An organization bound by love is far more powerful than one bound by fear.”
My years of experience crafting brand strategies for both large corporations and small firms have convinced me of one principle above all others: brands are built from the inside out. The best brand strategies in the world will not succeed if there is not a culture – driven from the top – of creativity, authenticity, and humanity. Great cultures perform miracles, for both shareholders and customers.
As proof in point, I offer Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines, who is justifiably credited with fostering one of the most emotionally intelligent and resilient companies in the airline industry. Sifting through my files many years ago in my office at the McCombs School of Business, I found the text of Kelleher’s commencement address delivered to the school’s BBA graduates in 2004, entitled “Fourteen Ways to Be a Leader.”
I quickly realized I had discovered a golden treasure of brand wisdom, and to my astonishment, I couldn’t find it published anywhere online. I contacted Kelleher (retired as CEO of Southwest at that point) and asked if the school could publish the notes as a ten-year commemoration in 2014. He graciously gave permission, with one requested change to point number four, which he had reconsidered since delivering the address.
Kelleher passed away this week. I’m pleased to publish his remarks one more time, in memory of a brand genius and a truly remarkable entrepreneur and business builder. Continue reading “How Kelleher Built the Southwest Brand from the Inside Out” →
Simple brand strategies often neglected by even the most earnest marketers.
Co-written by David Wenger and Dave Shaw in 2003. Still relevant today.
There are a thousand theories for how to strengthen your brand, and most of them have worked at one time for some company, or they wouldn’t have found their way into someone’s book on brand building.
But how much of what you read in the marketing press is really applicable to your industry, particularly if you are a technology or manufacturing company? Can the lessons learned from Starbucks brew success in the oil and gas equipment business, for example? The answer is both yes and no.
Over the years we’ve consulted with dozens of companies, such as JSR Micro, KLA-Tencor and Samsung Austin Semiconductor, that operate well beyond the “fun zone” of brand marketing. Our approach is based on integrated marketing—the principle that “everything communicates.” Continue reading “Six terribly boring ways to make your brand sizzle.” →
“We have a mission statement posted in the lobby, but who knows what our vision is now.”
Ernest Auerbach knows his way around the corporate world, including the carnage that often follows after a merger. As a corporate general manager with a global portfolio of senior positions from Xerox and CIGNA to New York Life and AIG, he has seen the ugly when, in his vivid words, “mergers trumpeted as made in heaven end up in hell.”
He warns that mergers sometimes fail because the hard work isn’t done after the announcement confetti is swept up and everyone files back to their office (or collects their severance check).
“Some mergers work well, but it takes good strategic work at the front end and excellent post-merger work afterward,” Auerbach says. Continue reading “What happens to your brand after a merger?” →
We are ruled by our emotions first, and then we build justifications for our response.
Let’s consider a popular consumer brand choice you’ve likely thought about. Is the iPhone or the Android better for you? At the time this was written there were more than 97 million results on Google for that question, with lots of data points to consider. Which platform has the most advanced multitasking capacity? Which has better applications? You likely have a list of logical reasons in your head why one or the other is the best choice.
You may be disappointed to know two researchers at The University of Texas at Austin suspect those rational reasons may have little to do with your decision. Continue reading “Consumer brand choices – perceptions rule over logic” →
Marketers cannot assume that true costs will not be seen or considered in the purchasing decision.
What is the true cost of your company’s product? Behind the simple economic analysis of materials, labor, marketing, and distribution lurks the more complicated question of your brand’s social and environmental impact. Does your brand kill polar bears, and if so how does that fact impact your reputation?
Stephanie Jue, a business, government and society lecturer at McCombs School of Business, says cost economics is just the starting point for determining the societal impact of your product. Continue reading “Reputation alert – does your brand kill polar bears?” →
An exciting, explosive athlete is appreciated precisely because he or she is able to perform amazing feats within the bounds of the game rules.
If you work for an organization that controls its brand expression through graphic identity guidelines, how do you know when it is time to vary from those guidelines or to change them outright? What is the life cycle of a design template, a logo, a font family or a color palette?
Every designer or brand manager has run up against that question, and the answer isn’t a simple one, but having spent many years in the branding business let me share three arguments for why graphic identity guidelines should have long lifespans. Continue reading “In defense of graphic identity guidelines, fonts, and creativity” →
Take time to find out what people really find fascinating (hint: it isn’t you).
Brands are often perceived in human-like terms. You would think most brand communicators would realize this, but it is surprising how often sales organizations exhibit the worst instincts of human behavior as they search for sales messages with consumer appeal. Continue reading “Adding F-A-B to your brand – translating features to advantages to benefits” →