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Marketers For Charity

?Branding Bag? Brand Watch Marketers For Charity

Brands, Reality & The Remarkable Chimera

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“Remarkable is necessary to market today, because unremarkable products don’t get talked about, they just fade away.” – Seth Godin

The chimera is indeed a remarkable beast, with the head of a lion, body of a goat, and a serpent’s tail.  It’s also a myth that has faded away.  But that’s not what I’m referring to in the title.  What I mean is that “remarkable” is a chimera.  The popular notion that today’s brands must be Blue Ocean, purple cow, over the top, pulse-quickening magic to have a chance at engaging the attention and loyalty of the finicky and skeptical masses is the biggest chimera going.  And for the very simple reason that it doesn’t match reality. Don’t take my word for it.  Sit down and make a list of the products you own, the establishments you frequent, the TV shows you watch, the sales professionals you work with, the books you’ve read, where you buy your gas, drop off your dry cleaning, grab a sandwich, work out, etc., etc., etc.  Now, next to each “brand”, write down the last time that you can remember raving about it to your family and friends.  Done already?  Right, and that’s because “remarkable” brands are a very, very small portion of your marketplace choices.   

The Chosen Few
Apple, Amazon, Starbucks, Cirque de Soleil, Harley, Virgin, Build-a Bear, Jet Blue, and Google are all special brands that were fortunate enough to have entered the zeitgeist and are, therefore, continuously remarked about in business books, on blogs, during keynote speeches, and in the popular press.  And all of that earned and social media have contributed much to their marketplace achievements; increasing awareness and sales while helping to lower marketing costs.  So make no mistake: Being remarkable is a very smart business goal.  However, being unremarkable is not a path to obscurity, and it’s certainly not the curse of brand death.

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?Branding Bag? Marketers For Charity

Of Retailers And Sustainability

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Retailers and marketers are in the front lines of the long journey to Sustainability. No one connects with the world like we do. No one has so many touchpoints with consumers. No one has more responsibility for making a difference.

In the store people choose, and in the store we find out what really matters to them; here reputations are won and lost; here experiences captivate or don’t; here ideas soar – or crash.

From everything I’ve heard, one conclusion is absolutely clear: Being Responsible about Sustainability is today’s table-stakes. If you can’t bring Responsibility to the game – don’t bother to pull up a chair.

Being Responsible is not enough. We’ll win this one by becoming Inspirational. People are 80% emotion, 20% reason. “Reason leads to conclusions. Emotion leads to action.” We need fewer words, fewer conclusions and more action. We’ll have to attract the heart as well as the head so people want to make the choices that make a difference. This is the most important challenge of our time. The role of business is to make the world a better place for everyone.

Today the idea that business has a key role in our sustainable future is embraced everywhere. But we are all just beginning to learn what sustainability means. The desire for sustainability has to be part of our dream of a better world. About doing the right thing.    

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?Branding Bag? Marketers For Charity

Customer Service Is Dead

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Back in the day, when customer service was king, I worked after school pumping gas and handing out collectable tumblers at my father’s service station. That’s what they called it back then: a service station, not a gas station.  The consistent delivery of fast and friendly service was a significant source of differentiation and, in many cases, a customer’s compelling reason to choose.  It is strikingly different today. Customers not only pump their own gas (except in New Jersey and Oregon, where the law prohibits it), they also scan and bag their groceries, configure their computers, manage their stock portfolios, and check themselves in at the airport.  On the chance occasion a customer needs assistance, more often than not it’s to have a question answered or a product exchanged.

If you take a few minutes to Google the phrase “customer service is dead” and read the horror stories listed in the search results, you’ll eventually come to believe that customer service is a quaint thing of the past.  Is it? Is customer service, as we lovingly remember it, really dead?  Is it, like the modern-day kings of constitutional monarchies, a mere symbol of a bygone era?  I think so. I can remember, as part of my aforementioned job, routinely checking customers’ oil levels.  And I was never questioned when I advised them, frequently, that they were down a quart.  When was the last time you had to add a quart of oil to your car between oil changes?  I also remember squeegeeing windows and attending to tumbler requests, never once barked at to “hurry up!” Today, the fastest of fast food isn’t fast enough.

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?Branding Bag? Marketers For Charity Opinion

The Death Of Supremacy

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A few weeks ago, about 40 Christian evangelical leaders met in Salt Lake City to discuss a branding dilemma.They believe it’s in the best interest of brand USA to nominate a social conservative to lead their Republican Party into the upcoming elections. The problem is that they’ve given up on authentically principled conservatives, like Mike Huckabee and Sam Brownback, because they’re too far behind in the polls. To have any chance of beating the amoral Democrats, they’ll have to support a morally deficient front runner, like the thrice-married, pro-choice, gay-friendly Giuliani.

It appears that evangelicals are confused, and not simply about how to vote. They’re stuck in the age of supremacy, believing that behavior is best influenced through a patriarchal approach. They see the Government as the father, which must create and enforce policy that will ultimately shape the conduct of its children. They hope to grow a strong, socially conservative brand America from the top-down, through edict and control. It reminds me of the antediluvian thinking of many of today’s business leaders: brand growth through controlled rhetoric.

Behavior as Communication

In his 1971 book Silent Messages, Dr. Albert Mehrabian revealed the importance of the verbal, vocal and visual elements on communications believability. The verbal cues – what was actually being said – were dominant only seven percent of the time, the vocal 38 percent of the time, and the visual cues were the primary carrier of trust and believability, a whopping 55 percent of the time. Communications experts subsequently grabbed those insights and played up the fact that human beings are primarily visual creatures. And that’s true. But it totally misses the good doctor’s point.

What Mehrabian’s research really tells us is that people are persuaded primarily by behavior.

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Advertising Marketers For Charity

Has Advertising Killed Itself?

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"Video killed the radio star." Maybe that’s true, I’m not really sure. I am pretty sure, however, that advertising killed itself — or, at the very least, took the wind out of its own sails.

Advertising used to work, and work well. What do I mean by "work?" I mean that once upon a time, when products and services of obvious differentiated quality and value were popping up like weeds in a field, consumers were predisposed to believe advertising claims, both overt and subtle ones. Since belief leads to action, sales of those advertised goods increased as well.

An Old Lesson from a Dutch Philosopher
Heinz’s relish was, in the mind of the consumer, a perceivable improvement over generic relish. Sensory evidence — a full jar, no grit to chew, consistent texture and taste — proved it out. The same was true for many other modern wonders of the American age of mass production: the radio, telephone, automobile, television, instant cake mix, washing machine, dishwasher, air conditioner, etc. They were special products that, in fact, improved people’s lives.

During those heady marketing times, consumers were predisposed — based on past experience (a.k.a. memory) — to endorse and thereby become behaviorally susceptible to advertising’s representational content. Times were indeed very good for advertising, as well they should have been. Then something happened.

Before I tell you what happened, let’s go back 325 years.

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