Most organizations tell their brand story like this: “Once upon a time there was a company and it did everything right. The end.”

That is not interesting, but every company continues to tell it again and again. Thank goodness our movies and books are not told by marketing directors or CEOs. I’m a big fan of Donald Miller and his book, “Building a Story Brand.” I’ve not attended one of his seminars, but I’ve read his book and listened to his podcast enough to declare myself an evangelist of his thinking. 20180421_104543

His premise is based on the fact that the company or organization is not the hero of the story. You are the guide who helps the hero (the customer) overcome external, internal and philosophical antagonists. That is underselling his teachings, but you’re getting a 1-minute marketer look.

Here’s a nice example of following the story brand idea to tell a simple story on a banner. Starbucks utilizes storytelling in all its branding, but this one really surprised me. Who is the hero? You, because you get a new drink. Who is the antagonist? The company’s 43-year stubborn thinking, believing there was only one kind of espresso. And now, here is a new choice. You win. Blonde Espresso. Everything is right with the world.

A much better story than, “Now introducing Blonde Espresso.” As humans, we love and need the story to connect with the brand. What’s your story?


Are you seeing more and more self-service checkouts? From Wal-Mart to McDonald’s, self checking is growing at an accelerated rate. McDonald’s says they are giving customers more “control over their orders.”20180429_114504

You may think the shift is to reduce employees, but there is a more important reason. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review by Gretchen Gavett, companies are finding when customers use self-service apps and kiosks, they spend more money. Taco Bell says that their new digital app finds people are spending 20% more than orders taken by a human.

Some studies believe that the self-service option removes the social friction at the checkout—people not able to pronounce item names or if the person feels they appear unsophisticated in front of store clerks they will avoid the situation. There is also the problem of negative judgment on eating habits at restaurants that a kiosk eliminates. Not surprising, people who order from kiosks tend to order higher caloric options.

The best news for companies is that kiosks, unlike humans, never forget to up-sell. That is a huge advantage to the bottom line. The problem is that it becomes increasingly hard to establish relationships and show how your organization adds value.

It didn’t seem that hard for me to order at a kiosk at the McDonald’s in Galena, Illinois, but my connection with the organization was also reduced—yet my Egg McMuffin was just as tasty.20180429_114447.jpg

The other thing I noticed at my McDonald’s stop was how important video is now to the experience. The order wall was full of movement and video, the kiosk had video and there were TVs in the dining area. Video all around.

People love to be the person who predicts the demise of something. You see this especially played out on CNBC as anchors and experts are predicting market crashes and shifts in behavior. I suppose that if everyone does that, someone will be right at some point.  A piece of research by eMarketer surprised me because the common prediction of the death of malls may be a bit premature. 2165f193-1281-479b-8799-d045792fe2e7

eMarketer  posted something I didn’t believe I would read, “the changing face of the American mall points to consumers’ shifting priorities and tastes. But while malls may be taking on a different kind of identity, there’s at least one consumer segment that still favors that traditional shopping experience: millennial women.”

Nearly 20% of Millennial women only do their research and shopping in-store; another 43% do research online but buy in-store. How we research, shop and buy is changing in significant ways, but don’t blame every store closing on Millennial shopping habits.

Much has been guessed about Millennials, from their work ethic to their phone use, yet research continues to show surprising insights into this dynamic and very large demographic. Sure, Millennials are different from Baby Boomers, and that is a good thing. But they also have a lot of traditional orientations that need to be nurtured and carefully messaged, not ignored.

When developing content, go green—evergreen that is. Content is all the rage, but how do organizations best promote themselves in this age of short attention spans and trending topics? The best way is to prepare content that is evergreen and optimized for search.

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Always-ready content is search engine optimized (SEO) content that is always ready for a search of a particular word, phrase, idea or concept. It is evergreen, or content that is continually relevant and stays “fresh” for readers and viewers for many years. This allows you to continue to add more and more content so eventually you cover every possible search-word or phrase possibility that is pertinent to your organization.

Nearly 4 years ago, we produced a series of informational videos on specific maladies for Water’s Edge Dermatology in South Florida. One of the videos was on Tinea Versicolor. There was no boosting for this video, it’s audience of viewers built organically over time as people searched for the video tags and found the information they were seeking. And it keeps selling 24 hours a day, 7 days a week when people are in the market for the information.

Videos like this need strong titles, meta data and search terms. They also need to be constructed in such a way so that the look and music is timeless, as well. Today, the video has received nearly 56,000 views. If just 1% of the people viewing called Water’s Edge and booked an appointment the results would be (Source for average patient revenue is Eric Schweiger, MD, Schweiger Dermatology Group):

  • 560 patients
  • nearly $130 average per patient revenue
  • $73,000 in total revenue

Now that is evergreen.


NAB Convention #3: Google changes its logo every day. Is there brand confusion? Is there brand erosion? Is it branding? Are we thinking too strictly about logos conforming to a style guide and not enough about how people consume our logos?  Deep questions to consider over coffee. Starbucks in Las Vegas convention center

I believe we’ve all become too uptight when it comes to logos. It is a nice rule that we all need to follow certain guidelines, but when opportunities arise to enlighten and excite our brand, we need to seize the day, like Google does.

I saw one of these moments at the NAB convention. The Starbucks, an incredibly restrictive brander when it comes to their logo and look, bastardized their logo in the convention area. It caused me to take a second look. And it made me smile. And it caused me to take a photo.

Now that is a logo with pulling power. Not because it was consistent, but because it wasn’t consistent with the brand. It was consistent to the environment. It was zagging when everyone is zigging.  I love Starbucks. Do I love them less because of a logo change or do I love them more now?  I’ll finish my latte and let you know.

NAB Blog #2: The next couple of weeks I’m going to blog about my observations and experiences at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas.

When income from traditional media falters, it’s time to look for alternative forms of revenue.  This outlet is a strong extension of the National Geographic Society. The photos are even better than in the magazine.  This is an exquisite extension of their brand that really works. The photography is incredible (and suitable for framing). The following paragraph explains how this fits and fulfills their mission.

“National Geographic | Fine Art Galleries presents fine art photography through exclusive limited editions embodying the rich heritage of the National Geographic Society and National Geographic magazine. National Geographic | Fine Art Galleries furthers the mission of the National Geographic Society; ‘we believe in the power of science, exploration and storytelling to change the world.'”

Some are finding how to survive and thrive in this new economy. Others are closing their doors for good. So when the disruptors come, be ready to embrace and innovate around change.



The next couple of weeks I’m going to blog about my observations and experiences at the National Association of Broadcasters Convention in Las Vegas. I’m going to start with my flight and the concept called the false-consensus effect.

The false-consensus effect happens when our biases tend to overestimate the extent to which an opinion, belief, preference, value or habits are expressed as typical of all others.  You might recognize it when someone says, “Everyone _______________ (blanks).”  It’s similar to the Curse of Knowledge.

For me, the false-consensus effect also happens when a marketing category sees others in their space advertising or marketing and wants to copy the idea or placement without knowing if the idea is viable.  It’s why all car dealer ads look the same—they just copy each other. I still can’t find one person who knows what MSRP means in car ads.

It also happens when one category dominates a medium. As I was preparing for my flight, I noticed that nearly 15 colleges were advertising in the airport. Many had their ads right next to each other. No “message separation” as we call it in the business.

If you were a college administrator you might think, “look at all these other colleges advertising here, I better have my marketing department advertise here.” Maybe the ads work. Maybe they don’t. However, as I looked all around on that Friday morning, I didn’t see one teenager walking around. The opposite of the false consensus is the Zig-Zag effect– When everyone is zigging, it might be time to zag.