Archive for the ‘Branding’ Category

GEICO has a gecko. Aflac has a duck. Progressive has Flo. Smokey Bear, Old Spice man, the Most Interesting Man in the World (Dos Equis beer), roaming garden gnome (Travelocity), free credit report band, the list goes on and on.  And every college sports team has a mascot.20150227_204229_resized 20150224_224959_resized

Mascots make companies and organizations easy to relate to. The character provides a personality for people to get to know. Likeable mascots have the power to help brands transcend the common ground and become a humanized, living brand. Kids love mascots, but adults do as well. Mascots make your brand memorable in the sea of sameness you see across the marketing horizon.

Mascots are undergoing a reawakening in the digital age because audiences are overwhelmingly responding to their lifelike qualities and approachable demeanor. Mascots also allow you to do things that no logo will allow.

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When we do in-depth questioning research, one question that stumps people again and again is this: “What is your organization’s brand promise?”

Man with a Notepaper with Brand Concept

Research by Gallup indicates that “the more consumers can accurately verbalize the principal characteristics of the brand promise…the greater the share of their business they give those brands.” As part of Gallup’s research, people were asked, “How would you describe what Brand X represents, and what makes it different from its competitors?”

That is a powerful question. Imagine asking your employees that question. Imagine asking your organization’s board of directors. Imagine asking your contributors that question. Gallup asked the question and compared the responses to a list of core identity elements. The alignment from the people questioned to the list of core identity elements determined the rankings.

Gallup came away with an important recommendation: Make sure “your workforce is aligned with and empowered to deliver the core elements of your brand identity.” It’s important to ask your employees if they know your promise and, even more importantly, do they believe in your brand promise? No alignment with employees probably means your stakeholders are not aligned as well.

You’ve heard people talk about brand awareness. But it is not awareness you need to be successful, it is alignment.

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Signs must communicate quickly and efficiently. Imagine if all your communications had to communicate visually all the time. A sign of the times is that new media is changing how we write, design and think about communications. No Dog Poop

You might say that new media is not changing us for the better.  Regardless, we are all changing. The biggest change that I see is the tendency for smaller blocks of copy. Texting is changing and shortening our spelling: “idrc” or “idk.” Twitter only allows you 140 characters of copy. People will only spend a few minutes on a website and then they are gone.

However our scanning, 24-hour Twitter, smartphone, herky-jerky, Facebook lifestyles are really changing in ways we can never anticipate. What I do know is that new media is changing our patience with copy. Our copy blocks need to get shorter — and in my opinion, harder to write. So take a look at that long mission statement, that long letter, that verbose brochure, that 50-slide PowerPoint: New media is giving us Media Attention Deficit Disorder.  20150116_182448_resized (2)


  • Cut down copy.
  • Bullet when you can.
  • Use short little lines.
  • One thought per paragraph.
  • Bold or highlight key words.
  • Underline what I need to know.

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Some small marketers break through the clutter with dramatic effect because they realize one small but critical function of marketing. The marketing toolbox needs to include the hammer of memorability, to drive the message deep into the mind.20160204_145733

One store has found its hammer: There is a bridal store on a county road in overtly rural Iowa called Hope’s Bridal Boutique. Its claim to fame is that it is located in a barn. And not just any barn—a pink barn. In fact, all the farm buildings are pink, allowing you to differentiate this bridal shop from the others, and helping you find it as you’re driving Iowa’s county roads.

It is true the product has to deliver once you’re in the barn, but if you can’t remember anything about the bridal shop, you’ll never get there. The next step is to make sure that all the keywords capture memorability, such as “pink barn bridal shop” or just “pink barn.” It’s great to be remembered, but you also need to be found—in the virtual world and physical world.

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You’ve seen football teams do black-out nights in their stadiums, but Target took a plaid-out approach for the 2015 holiday shopping season.20151121_100818

Reports of how the plaid push ended have not yet been released, but just looking through the stores, there is very little plaid left, which is a good sign. What I did find were a few Coke bottle leftovers of the more than 50 plaid articles that were developed by acclaimed New York designer Adam Lippes.

This effort gave Target a tremendous visual lift from all other marketers and provided some real differentiation in the store and in their marketing material.

We can all learn from Target how using a visual theme can work to increase our brand’s interest and differentiation to paint a new picture of your messaging.


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The Iowa Caucus is tonight. Many will be glad to see it go. I’ll be glad to have all the Iowa jokes end. It’s tough here in the winter, but that is a good first test of who our nation’s best and brightest should be. I talked with people on the phone trying to convince them to caucus, but many are just not interested. No matter your party, this is where your vote really counts and you can be involved at a very grassroots level.

Here’s what I’ve learned about marketing from being involved with the caucus process:

Politics is a Local Effort

Sure there is some national press and advertising that has an impact on the politics, however, people seem to be more moved by someone earnestly asking them for support. Discussions at the front porch sway people to get involved and attend, as well as swing them from indecision to supporting one candidate.

Nothing Beats Solid Planning and Organization

You may be able to fake it some of the time, but organization and strong planning always win the day. I’ve also learned that great organization leads to great decision-making and high-performance–especially when it is tense. When all the details are taken care of, you can really focus on what is important.

Advertising Works, Door Knocking is Better

Advertising does pull its load when it comes to branding a candidate. Advertising is great air cover and does help with awareness and decision-making. However, door knocking leads to signed commit cards and volunteers. You cannot sell while only worrying about the marketing materials. The door knockers close the deal even in the sub-zero cold. Both work together for maximum impact. Alone, neither is 100 percent effective.

Consistent Messaging Matters Most

In a campaign there is a lot of noise, especially at the grassroots level. The team with the simplest and most consistent message wins on the phones and at the door.

Be part of the process. There are a lot of people who complain about political issues, but fewer who actually get involved. Attend a caucus or a primary and see if you don’t feel more patriotic and more in touch with democracy—plus it is free and you’ll see a lot of marketing happening right before your eyes.

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In this long-tail, inbox-cluttered smartphone world, it is nice to see how some marketers are using alternative media to stand up and stand out from all the competition. 20151214_121758

Jimmy Johns has found its brand position: it is simple and memorable. But it is also a lot of fun. Even the in-store branding supports the feel and vibe of this amazing brand.

This is a shot from a Jimmy Johns bathroom. It left me laughing and reinforced why I like their product–it’s more than a sandwich. JJ does not compete with Subway on price or calorie counts. They have not copied any other sandwich shop. They carved a brand out of a unique difference (or selling proposition) that seems to fit the people they hire, the food and the store: right down to the bathroom floor. Freaky, Fast and Fun. Now pass me one of those chocolate chip cookies.

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