Creativity on a Shoestring Budget

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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”

Six terribly boring ways to make your brand sizzle.

Simple brand strategies often neglected by even the most earnest marketers.

Screen Shot 2018-11-28 at 8.16.58 PMCo-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.”

Consumer brand choices – perceptions rule over logic

We are ruled by our emotions first, and then we build justifications for our response.

iphone-410311Let’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”

Reputation alert – does your brand kill polar bears?

Marketers cannot assume that true costs will not be seen or considered in the purchasing decision.

maldives-5939710_1920What 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?”

Adding F-A-B to your brand – translating features to advantages to benefits

Take time to find out what people really find fascinating (hint: it isn’t you).

sheep-2372148_1920Brands 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”

The branding zone: where business strategy meets operational reality

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Does your brand deliver what it promises? To make that happen, both strategy and operations must be on the same page.

Strong brands aren’t just the result of a brilliant brand strategy or excellent execution. In fact, the best brands are companies who have figured out the ideal mix of both. To illustrate the importance of that concept, I have often used this simple chart: The Branding Zone Model for Living Your Brand.

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My favorite branding clients have been companies that “bend sheet metal for a living.” In other words, they are industrial enterprises such as Dresser Inc., or technology equipment suppliers such as ThermoQuest. Their executive teams are sharp professionals, but most began their careers as engineers or chemists, not business managers.

Continue reading “The branding zone: where business strategy meets operational reality”

The Pony Sheet – how to develop your brand and ride it

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“With that much horse manure,” she exclaimed, “there must be a pony in here somewhere.”

Here’s a useful tool for how to develop a brand, leading your team through the brand discovery process. I’m including it here with relatively little explanation, as most of it is Branding 101 stuff. It isn’t brain surgery, but it takes skill and diligence to pull together a successful brand strategy in actual practice.

The name Pony Sheet came from the old story about the young girl whose parents took her out to the barn on her birthday and announced, “We have a big birthday surprise for you.” Opening the door, she spied a huge pile of horse manure in the middle of the floor, a rather disappointing sight. Yet being a young optimist (most children are), the lass clapped her hands with joy. “With that much horse manure,” she exclaimed, “there must be a pony in here somewhere.”

In discussing what is a brand with executives, I use the pony story to illustrate the long, often frustrating process of digging through mounds of information and piles of attributes that everyone thinks must be included in the brand. At some point, it seems much like digging through a mound of horse manure, but with diligent effort, I can promise that eventually, we will discover the pony.

Continue reading “The Pony Sheet – how to develop your brand and ride it”