9 points you must consider when developing a marketing strategy

Remember needing to carry a dime or a quarter to make a phone call if you were out? How about just knowing people from your neighborhood?

What about having to wait until Saturday mornings to watch cartoons? Or NBC’s “Must See TV”?

Remember having to go to the library, rifling through shelves of books, after having searched through the card catalogue in order to do research for your class projects?

Well, teenagers today don’t.

Cannon - "Triple Revolution"

© Lincolnadams | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images


The Triple Revolution, as Barry Wellman of the University of Toronto explains, is the merging of Mobile, Social Networks, and Internet, changing everyone’s lives (especially the lives of marketers!)

The mobile revolution is about continuous presence, with time and space no longer being as important as before. Mazda reminds us that Martin Cooper invented the mobile phone in 1973, leading the way for us to be physically untethered to landlines but forever connecting us to the world, 24/7.

Just 10 years ago, Facebook first hit the scene. It wasn’t the first in the social network revolution, but it’s become the biggest. Today, essentially 1 in 7 people on the planet are on this social network (check out Digital Marketing Ramblings for interesting Facebook stats). That means your “neighborhood” has gotten considerably larger. We’ve moved from social groups to social networks.

25 years ago this year, Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, putting nearly all of the possible information you could possibly want, at our fingertips (remember World Book Encyclopedias?). The Internet has proliferated and essentially become more personalized for each person (think Google search, targeted ads).

When you put these three revolutions together, it means that for us marketers we have to live in the now, look to what’s coming in the future, and stop reminiscing about the past (except when hanging out w/ fellow Gen X’rs).

Here are 9 points you must consider to make your marketing efforts thrive in the midst of the “Triple Revolution”:  

  1. IT’S SO NOISY!!! The beauty of technology and its reach today is that everyone can be a publisher (and it seems like everyone is trying). For marketers though it means that your competition to be heard has grown exponentially. You need to figure out how what you have to say is going to cut through the clutter, be heard, and be acted upon. It’s not about screaming louder; it’s about saying something relevant.
  2. Listen to the chatter: The flip side of having to compete with everyone to get heard is that social media in particular gives marketers the opportunity to listen to what current and prospective customers have to say. This is a goldmine of information! But, you have to know how to take advantage of it and turn that data into actionable insights. So, listen carefully to take informed actions.
  3. Word travels fast: Today, one tweet can catch fire in a matter of minutes, even seconds. Ellen DeGenere’s Oscar Tweet was retweeted 2.4 million times in a 12-hour period. The good news: if you delight people, there’s a chance that word will spread. But, if your brand ticks someone off, there’s a very good chance that word will also spread, fast, and very, very far. Real-time marketing is awesome and powerful, but you always need to think before you act.
  4. Tomorrow is too late: People want what they want when they want it. That might be at 2PM or 2AM. If you aren’t there to help them satisfy their need, someone else will. Your prospective customers will simply Google what they need and find someone else who can provide it. And if they have a better experience there, you may have lost them for good. Think about your customers’ needs and organize your business around them.
  5. Communicate like you’re on sodium pentothal: No, I’m not advocating using drugs. Sodium pentothal is truth serum – the stuff of spy movies, that when taken forces people to tell the truth. What I am advocating is to be truthful, to be real, to inject a humanness to your communications efforts. People today expect it. If you are hiding something, it will come out and you will look terrible.
  6. Your customer is a person: I’m a huge believer in segmenting your audience. But, all too often we forget that inside these segments are actually human beings; ones with names, interests, fears, hobbies. Technology today allows us to personalize our messages. Do it. But don’t be creepy.
  7. It’s about mobility: Not only is it a 24/7 world, but maybe more importantly, we are now no longer at the mercy of wires to be connected. We have phones, phablets, tablets, laptops, smartwatches, Google glasses. Craft content with the user’s context in mind. The medium and message are connected.
  8. What’s private is now public: People now reveal their private thoughts and feelings to the public via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. In the public realm, people can share where they are through Foursquare, thus publicizing to the world where they are. At the same time, Snowden has brought front and center the issue of privacy and governments going too far. Brands need to be careful with the information they gather and use (look back at point #5).
  9. Communications has been democratized: Now that anyone can publish content, and share it, it means that the most compelling and relevant stuff can come from anyone and anywhere. That content can come from a global brand based in NY or a teenager in Buenos Aires. Brands no longer hold all of the communication or content cards. You need to know when to speak, when to listen, and where to find the influencers who can make your point even better than your brand might be able to.

So, I’ll continue to tell my kids about life with TV commercials, about NBC’s “Must See TV” and how if you missed the show, you missed the show and you had to wait until they ran it again. But in my day-to-day as a marketer, I know that I need to look at how these revolutions are evolving and what they have in store for people and those of us trying to market to them.

Have any other points you think are key to managing through these “revolutions”? Let me know.


Got a great marketing idea? Have someone else pitch it.

Light Bulb (FM)

Have you ever gone to your boss with what you think is a creative marketing idea that solves a problem, only to have s/he shrug it off?

Or, have had an epiphany for an enhancement to your marketing strategy that you know will drive results, only to have your boss pick it apart?

Worse yet, have you ever heard someone from outside your organization present to your boss a similar idea of yours, only to have your boss love it?

Well, you’re not alone. And there’s a reason why.

Apparently, “where the idea comes from appears to influence whether people think it’s creative” explains Shankar Vedantam, a science correspondent for NPR.

In the NPR story “Why We Miss Creative Ideas That Are Right Under Our Noses,” Vedantam refers to a research study where two groups of volunteers hear about a new shoe that uses nano technology to reduce blisters. One group is told that the idea for the technology was developed far away. The other group is told that the idea was developed near by.

The result: both groups reacted differently to the idea.

“We found that when we told people the idea was generated far away, they rated the idea as significantly more creative than when the idea was generated nearby,” explains University of San Diego researcher Jennifer Mueller.

It seems that when we think about things that are “far away,” we are in a different mindset, a bit more accepting of “creative ideas.” On the other hand, when we’re mired in the day-to-day, and we think about ideas that come from “the inside,” we’re more likely to poke holes in the idea, looking at it from a very pragmatic perspective. Managers tend to be risk averse.

This helps us understand why a consultant who swoops in from another city can present the same creative marketing idea you had, and get traction from your boss.

So rather than get frustrated about your marketing ideas not striking a chord with your boss; find or create your allies who can do the pitching for you. Or, at least find people who are outside of your boss’ immediate day-to-day and have them sow the seeds of your genius idea with her/him. Using “external” influences may be the best approach to getting your ideas in front of your boss and accepted.

What do you think? Can you relate?

31 definitions of “brand”

Photo by Evan Leeson

The definition of “brand” is easy to find on the Web. The issue however is that the definition of brand can be quite different depending on whom you ask.

Ask a few structural engineers what a bridge is and it’s likely that they’ll all say something very similar to Wikipedia’s definition: “a structure carrying a road, path, railroad, or canal across a river, ravine, road, railroad, or other obstacle.”

The same isn’t true in business when you ask a person to define the term “brand.”

Blogger and marketer, Heidi Cohen, pulled together over a dozen different definitions for “brand” alone in 2011, not to mention many other definitions of the term “branding.”

The question is why? Why can’t we agree on one common definition?

My sense is that it’s because at its root, a brand has to do with an emotional connection between a human being and another entity – a connection based on experience and some level of trust and expectation.

I tend to find that emotions are hard to define.

So, here is a collection of 31 different definitions of the term brand from business people, academia and organizations. I’ve collected them from various sources including: Heidi Cohen’s 2011 blog post (definitions 1-13); author of “Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits,Debbie Millman (definitions 14-20); and my own collection (definitions 21-30). Check out the links to learn more about the people/organizations behind the definitions.

  1. The American Marketing Association defines a brand as “A name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”
  2. “A brand is the essence of one’s own unique story. This is as true for personal branding as it is for business branding. The key, though, is reaching down and pulling out the authentic, unique ‘you’. Otherwise, your brand will just be a facade. The power of a strong logo in brand identity is that a simple visual can instantaneously communicate a brand and what it is about. Some large brands are able to do this by symbol only, without words, that is the Holy Grail that brands dream about. This seems to represent the very essence of communication at its most primitive roots. Few can pull it off. Logos are vitally important, but are just one component of what creates a strong brand. Logos should support the broader brand strategy that supports an even bigger brand story.” Paul Biedermann, Creative Director at re:DESIGN
  3. “A brand is a reason to choose.” Cheryl Burgess, CEO and CMO of Blue Focus Marketing
  4. “Brands are shorthand marketing messages that create emotional bonds with consumers. Brands are composed of intangible elements related to its specific promise, personality, and positioning and tangible components having identifiable representation including logos, graphics, colors and sounds. A brand creates perceived value for consumers through its personality in a way that makes it stand out from other similar products. Its story is intricately intertwined with the public’s perception and consistently provides consumers with a secure sense that they know what they’re paying for. In a world where every individual is also a media entity, your consumers own your brand (as it always was).”  Heidi Cohen, President Riverside Marketing Strategies
  5. “In today’s social, customer-controlled world, marketers may be spending their money to build a brand. But they don’t own it. In their influential book, Groundswell, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff state “your brand is whatever your customers say it is…” As a marketer, this means that, while a brand is the emotional relationship between the consumer and the product, you must engage with consumers and build positive brand associations. The deeper the relationship, the more brand equity exists.” Neil Feinstein, President of Zezo Digital
  6. “Brand is the sum total of how someone perceives a particular organization. Branding is about shaping that perception.” Ashley Friedlein, CEO of Econsultancy
  7. “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.” Seth Godin, Author of Linchpin
  8. “Brand is the image people have of your company or product. It’s who people think you are. Or quoting Ze Frank, it’s the “emotional aftertaste” that comes after an experience (even a second-hand one) with a product, service or company.  (Also, it’s the mark left after a red-hot iron is applied to a steer’s hindquarters.)” Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs
  9. “A brand is a name, term, sign, symbol, or design or a combination of them, intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of the competitor.” Phillip Kotler, International Marketing Professor at Northwestern University
  10. “That old “a brand is a promise” saw holds true, but only partially true.” Rebecca Lieb, digital advertising and media analyst at the Altimeter Group
  11. A brand is “The intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it’s advertised.” David Ogilvy, advertising executive
  12. “A brand is a singular idea or concept that you own inside the mind of a prospect.” Al Ries author and brand consultant  
  13. “A brand is essentially a container for a customer’s complete experience with the product or company.” Sergio Zyman, author and marketing executive
  14. “Branding is a profound manifestation of the human condition. It is about belonging: belonging to a tribe, to a religion, to a family. Branding demonstrates that sense of belonging. It has this function for both the people who are part of the same group and also for the people who don’t belong.” Wally Olins, Chairman of Saffron Brand Consultants
  15. “Branding is a process of meaning manufacture that begins with the biggest, boldest gestures of the corporation and works its way down to the tiniest gestures.” Grant McCracken, anthropologist, blogger and author   
  16. “A brand is something you have an unexplained, emotional connection to. A brand gives you a sense of familiarity.” Phil Duncan, P&G’s Global Design Officer
  17. “Branding is an experience, and advertising is a temptation.” Bruce Duckworth, Principal at Turner Duckworth
  18. “A brand is an entity that engenders an emotional connection with a consumer.” Stanley Hainsworth, Founder and CCO at Tether
  19. “A brand is a product with a compelling story—a brand offers “quintessential qualities” for which the consumer believes there is absolutely no substitute. Brands are totems. They tell us stories about our place in culture—about where we are and where we’ve been. They also help us figure out where we’re going.” Cheryl Swanson, Founder of Toniq
  20. “A brand is not necessarily visual. It’s a promise of an experience.” Sean Adams, partner at AdamsMorioka
  21. “From the sender’s point of view and from the receiver’s point of view. I don’t want to make it overly complicated, but from the perspective of P&G or Dell or any other company, a brand might be a promise: a promise of what awaits the customer if they buy that particular product, service, or experience. From the receiver’s point of view, I think a brand is a promise.” Dan Pink, cultural critic and author
  22. “A brand is a set of associations that a person (or group of people) makes with a company, product, service, individual or organisation. These associations may be intentional – that is, they may be actively promoted via marketing and corporate identity, for example – or they may be outside the company’s control.” Design Council, UK based organization that champions great design
  23. “Your brand is what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your brand name.” Jerry McLaughlin, co-founder and CEO of Branders.com
  24. A brand is the “effect of what an organization does, rather than the cause.” Robert Jones, Head of New Thinking at Wolff Olins
  25. “A brand is like a person…Take a piece of paper and write down the answers to these questions. First, how many people do you see in a day? Second, how many do you remember? Third, how many would you like to see again? Fourth, how many become your friend? You encounter a huge number of them every day, but you keep very few of them in your mind. Actually, you only remember the ones you love. In other words, great brands are like friends.” Luc Speisser, Managing Director at Landor
  26. “A brand is the emotional connection people make with an organization. A brand comprises many elements, both tangible and intangible, and is based on everything an organization says and does: its values and beliefs; the experiences it offers; and the messages it communicates, to name a few.” Case Western Reserve University
  27. “A brand is a promise. Think of some top brands and you immediately know what they promise. The creation of a brand and creating a visual entity and a value system around it provides a reservoir of meaning for consumers to tap into.” Hans Hulsbosch, executive creative director of Hulsbosch Communication by Design 
  28. “A brand is a relationship. An incarnational, evolving and emotional relationship that exists uniquely between an audience and an organization… A living, breathing thing that is beautifully imperfect, fallible and unfinished.” Jeremiah Gardner, author
  29. A brand is that indelible mark left on a person’s psyche after s/he has had a direct or indirect experience with an organization, service product, place, person, or idea; that mental and emotional association drives a persons’ interests in engaging further or not. Favio Martinez, marketing and branding at the IDB
  30. “A promise that a firm makes to deliver functional and / or emotional and / or symbolic benefits to consumers; it is a promise that  consumers rely upon and one which the firm needs to  keep.” Sanal Mazvancheryl, Assistant Professor of Marketing at American University
  31. “A brand is a relationship with a set of expectations according to the reputation and promises made. A strong brand strengthens the link with the customer and helps build differentiation, preference and consideration, which are key indicators of future business performance and growth.” Adolfo Gaffoglio, Managing Director at Advise Research and Expert Advisors

So, is there a definition that speaks to you the most? Is there another one you’d like to add to the list? Let me know!

photo credit: Evan Leeson; http://www.flickr.com/photos/ecstaticist/

Hit these 7 notes to craft your brand’s slogan

Hit these 7 notes to craft your brand's slogan

Like many of the most memorable songs, brands have their own hooks, or slogans.

Wikipedia describes a hook as “a short riff, passage, or phrase that is used in popular music to make a song appealing and to ‘catch the ear of the listener’”. They are phrases that are simple to understand and remember. They often paint a picture that helps illustrate in a person’s mind what the song is about.

Slogans do the same for brands as hooks do for songs.

Thoughtful slogans not only catch the ear of the prospective customer but also capture the essence of a brand. They are a call to arms that signal to people why the brand exists, and why people should be a part of the brand community.

So what should you consider when creating your brand slogan? Hit these 7 notes:

  1. Base it on research: You need to know the people you are trying to reach and keep. And the only way you can know them is to listen and talk to them. Check out what they are doing online; how they are interacting with your content; how they are engaging with your competition. You need to make sure you understand the need you are satisfying for them and how you are uniquely able to do so. Doing so will help you hit the right note when developing your slogan.
  2. Use it as a bridge to your community: Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” anthem seamlessly connects him with his audience; all chanting “Born in the USA! Born in the USA!” Similarly, your slogan should be as much about your community as it is about you. Not only does it need to capture your brand’s essence, but it also needs to serve as that verbal link that brings you and your community together.
  3. Avoid jargon: Forget the marketing and brand jargon. Take a page from country music and be straightforward with your slogan. Use your community’s language. Think about how they talk about the problem that you have a solution for. Use that language to inspire the way you present who you are.
  4. Think of the long term: In “Hot N Cold” Katy Perry sings “You change your mind like a girl changes clothes” (yes, my wife made fun of me for knowing lyrics to this song). You need to think of a slogan that will stand the test of time (new competition, new products/services, economic shifts). Think of the relationship you are forging with your target community. The more frequently you change your slogan, the more likely they are to not know what you stand for. Make sure your slogan has staying power.
  5. Keep it short: A slogan doesn’t have to say everything you do or list every product/service you offer – that’s what marketing, storytelling and customer service are about. Your slogan needs to be that verbal cue quickly that let’s the people you are after, and those who are already under your brand tent, the essence of what you’ll do for them.
  6. Consider global/multicultural reach: If your brand aims to reach across borders and/or cultures you have a more daunting task in crafting a slogan that works well in different languages. You need to consider the words, double meanings, symbolism and overall impact that your phrase can have in the native languages of the communities you are reaching. Strict translation may likely miss the mark so you’ll need to find the best way to adapt it – Test it first. (Check out this amazing version of “Stairway to Heaven” by the Mexican duo of Rodrigo y Gabriela).
  7. A slogan is not the end-all-be-all: A slogan is meant to capture the essence of your brand. A great slogan for a brand that doesn’t deliver on its promise to its community is useless. Your community’s experience with the brand is what brings the slogan to life and makes it ring true.

It’s not an easy endeavor at all, but if you hit on these 7 notes, you’ll be well on your way to crafting a slogan that will be at the top of your community’s chart.

Let me know if you have any other points that should be added!

Need some inspiration? Communications strategist Sarosh Waiz has a list of 40 of the best slogans of modern brands.

The Marketer v. Fragmentum Chronicles: Battle for integration and focus (part 1)


Batman has the Joker.

Superman has Lex Luthor.

The X-Men have The Brotherhood.

The Marketer has Fragmentum.

Yes, Fragmentum. The evil villain who’s sole purpose in life is to disorient Marketer’s ability to develop and execute holistic approaches by throwing more and more channels to reach audiences.

Born of technology and innovation, Fragmentum entered the scene decades ago. While at first a friend of Marketer, providing him with new channels to reach Marketer’s target audiences (broadcast TV, radio, newspaper, magazine, direct mail), Fragmentum started going overboard. Fragmentum’s modus operandi became “more is better.”

The villain’s power has more recently been seen disorienting Marketer and pulling him away from using targeted channels, and closer to disintegration – using more and more channels just because they exist. Marketer faces fragmentation of the channel landscape.

For the last decade Fragmentum has tossed dozens upon dozens of shiny new digital channels in front of Marketer, tempting him to try them all: Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn, Instagram, blogs, microblogs, apps, QR codes, Google+, YouTube, Vimeo, digital billboards, email, cable TV, Orkut.

The temptation for Marketer is huge.

Despite knowing how important it is to utilize his finite resources (time, money, people) in a strategic way and focusing on high value channels, Marketer sometimes gets caught jumping into new channels without thinking through his strategy. He is drawn to the new channels without thinking through how all of the channels work together to achieve the ultimate goal of connecting with his audiences.

In some cases, Marketer doesn’t even know why he’s using a particular digital too/channel, or how it works with the others to reach a goal. He’s blindsided by Fragmentum; attracted by the novelty and the buzz of new channels. 

Could this spell defeat for Marketer, as he is spread too thin? Will he be unable to figure out what channels work best together to meet his goals.

Marketer most go back to his roots. He is trained in the art and science of identifying the optimal channels to reach his target, and then creating an integrated approach. He must make informed decisions to battle against “more is better.”

So what will Marketer do to regain focus and integrate the optimal channels?

Find out in part 2 of the Marketer v. Fragmentum Chronicles.

5 steps to building a brand people want

"In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action." Michael Angelo

Michael Angelo’s “David” – photo by D H Wright

Michael Angelo once said: “In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.

Many entrepreneurs have a similar vision. They see the opportunity where others don’t. Like a sculptor, they are willing to chip away obstacles to bring their idea to life.

Here are 5 steps to turning that brand vision into a brand that people want:

  • Know what you are making – Just like Michael Angelo knew what to chip away at in order to reveal the sculpture, you need to know what you are building and why. Go beyond features and benefits and get to the heart of what your brand stands for. Simon Sinek’s TED presentation does an excellent job of explaining why you’ll want to start with answering the question “why.”
  • Know who you’re making it for – Sculptures aren’t for everyone. And that’s okay. Just like an artist recognizes that s/he doesnt have to be all things to all people, so should you. Once you’ve decided why your brand exists, identify the people you want your brand to connect with. Look at their demographics, psychographics and culturegraphics. Identify the size of your potential market and uncover actionable insights about what makes them tick. Doing so will help you craft the messages you need to deliver to cut through the clutter.
  • Use the right tools – Be it sculpting, woodworking, branding or marketing, there are always more tools and communications channels than you likely need to get the job done. Figure out what channels make the most sense to reach your audience. Then coordinate the use of those channels – email, social media networking sites, direct mail, etc.  Like the authors of “Marketing in the Round” explain, sync all messaging, strategies, and tactics and optimize every medium and platform to deliver the right targeted messages in an integrated manner.
  • Converse – Like great art, building a brand is about creating a conversation between the brand and a community. Using media channels to simply disseminate information is only one-way. Use your brand to elicit discussion about what matters to your audience. Create shareable content, respond to questions, provoke discussion, and listen.
  • Find out if they like it and what they like about it – The only way we’ll know if we’re delivering something that the people we care about actually want is if we observe and ask. Identify your key performance indicators for your business and for your communications efforts. Set benchmarks and then actively engage in the analytics. Google evangelist Avinash Kaushik suggests 4 social media metrics that will get you thinking about what you need to measure, and why.

There’s only one Michael Angelo. But then again, there’s also only one you. Use these steps to bring your vision to life and build a brand that people want.

If you have any other suggestions, please chime in!

Mix listening with action to create marketing magic!

We hear about it all the time; brands need to listen.

Why? Because people are talking. They may be talking TO YOU, ABOUT YOU or ABOUT SOMETHING YOU BOTH CARE ABOUT. If you spend too much time talking rather than listening, you will lose opportunities to create magic; the type of magic that endears someone to your brand.

My wife went to a small high school in Bethlehem, PA – Moravian Academy. And like many high schools today, the school uses social media to connect with alums and keep them up to date with the school community. A few days ago, my wife commented on a post on the school’s Facebook page that the smell of Moravian beeswax candles always remind her of Vespers at school. 

For the uninformed like me, I learned that Vespers is a Moravian Christmas tradition. The community gets together at the chapel during the Christmas season to sing holiday music. And, in everyone’s hand is a beeswax candle “dressed” with a special red paper trim for the traditional Christmas Vespers held in Central Moravian Church.

Yesterday, a small thin package arrived at our home addressed to my wife. It was from the director of alumni relations at her high school. Inside were two beeswax candles dressed in red with a little note. Magic!

Vespers Candles

The alumni relations director had not only taken the time to follow the conversation on Facebook (something all of us should do for our brands), but went the extra mile and took action. She could have easily just easily responded to my wife’s comment on the page. But instead, she picked up a pen, wrote a note and sent my wife a piece of her school experience – the beeswax candles. And the result…Magic!

Not only did the gesture strike a chord with my wife, but now I’m writing about Moravian Academy and will be sharing the experience with others. And it will go beyond the good words that we have for the school; we’re now committed to giving back to her alma mater. Not a bad return on investment for the school.

So kudos to the alumni director!

Let’s all find ways to do a little more actively listening and try to find those opportunities where we can take action and strengthen the relationships between our brand and its communities.