Posts Tagged ‘branding’

Why Advertising Has A Brand Problem

I am convinced of it—advertising has a brand problem.

Discussion after discussion, meeting after meeting, experience after experience, it keeps coming back to me: advertising is losing the war.

With big agencies, and big accounts, and big budgets, the word ‘advertising’ is still okay. But in small to mid-sized business, saying ‘advertising’ in conversation makes you sound like you’re completely out of touch with today.

The CEOs, managing partners, and presidents of today’s businesses and organizations don’t like advertising. It’s been drilled into their heads that it doesn’t work, or at least a big part of it doesn’t. That can be argued, but that’s for another blog post.

What can’t be argued (well) is that our terms have changed. Today’s executive is much more interested in ‘marketing’. Now the classic definition puts advertising as one activity under the marketing umbrella, but that’s beside the point. That’s not how corporate America is using the term.

Marketing is now loosely defined as everything to promote your product or service EXCEPT advertising. It’s about social media, personal selling, networking, PR, sales promotion, trade promotion, events, and ‘engagement’. It’s not about advertising.

The C-suite has been misguided, I will give you that. In the push for ‘accountability’ in marketing and advertising expenditures, traditional advertising has been pushed aside by the Internet for its incredible measurements and metrics. With the web, we know who is visiting our sites and opening our emails. When know when the did it, for how long, and where they clicked. And if a purchase action occurred, we can point our finger right to the action and know how, where and why.

Tradition advertising doesn’t offer those luxuries. It’s much harder to track—not impossible, but harder. CEOs want numbers…or better put, CFOs are pushing CEOs to want numbers.

Here’s the catch: just because its harder to measure doesn’t mean it isn’t working.

To add to the challenges of advertising accountability, we now have to worry about the perception of the whole concept.

Since the economic downturn of 2008, my students at Pepperdine University have learned that it is far easier to get ‘marketing’ jobs than ‘advertising’ jobs. And that, my friends, is a classic brand problem.

Advertising and branding luminaries Stuart and Bob Sanders years ago drilled into my head that branding problems are not always (or even often) from real circumstances. They are from perceptions. And the good news is those perceptions can be altered.

So I challenge you marketing folk to watch your use of the terms of this profession, and measure the results on the faces of your clients. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself talking more about ‘integrated marketing’ efforts, and less about ‘advertising campaigns.’


5 Marketing Bloggers You Might Like

So, I’m a marketing and branding junkie. Here’s a list of five smart thinkers in the marketing world that don’t get as much press as the rock star marketers, but should.

Andy Sernovitz’s “Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That”
Unusually useful information for smart marketers

The Viral Garden
Mack Collier’s blog “blurring the line between company and customer”
Everything social media

Ben McConnell’s “Church of the Customer
Noted customer loyalty author

Mike Sansone’s “ConverStations”
Great site aggregator with tons of links and helpful tips

John Moore’s “Brand Autopsy”
Smart guy from Starbucks and Whole Foods marketing fame


How Southwest Would Reform Healthcare

Let’s throw politics aside, at least for a minute. I think the problem with Heathcare Reform is in its branding. 9N863UN79SNR They have a classic brand problem.

The problem is how politicians have branded the issue. What Democrats want is healthcare reform. What Republicans want is, well, not the Democrats plan. They want something that costs a lot less.

What about the people? Let’s call them the “customers” for this exercise. I find they don’t care half as much about “reform” as they do about “cost.” Customers want lower healthcare costs, and they want it now. Most Americans would take that any way they could. Consumers can’t wrap their brains around today’s healthcare system, let alone figuring out a new one that, quite frankly, no one can figure out. And that won’t start for 1-3 years. Consumers want what they want now!

A good brand benefits study would have shown this.

Politicians should take a lesson from Nike, Coca Cola, and Apple. Better yet, let’s take a lesson from Southwest Airlines. Politicians need to know it’s not about them—it’s about the customers. They also need to learn the difference between “wants” and “needs”. Wants trump needs 9 out of 10 times, because wants are based on emotion, not logic. If you can marketing to both needs and wants, it’s a guaranteed winner.

Southwest did the research on short hop travel. They found that passengers needed low fares. They wanted lots of flights. And in the grand scheme of things, passengers didn’t want to pay for luxuries like assigned seats, meals, movies, and fancy flight attendant uniforms.

So what about Americans as customers of healthcare? They want to be healthy. They want a safety net. They need affordable rates. They don’t want or need anything that confuses them more.

Here’s proof. I was recently in a discussion where people were comparing experiences with hospital stays—appendicitis, heart attacks, respiratory ailments. The people in the discussion were professionals…doctors, lawyers, and MBAs. Each and every person had a recent experience with a hospital. Each of us got a copy of a bill for thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. And not one of us understood anything about the bills. How does a 24 hour stay in a hospital cost $100,000? How will I ever pay for it? How does the hospital write down 85% of the cost? How does anyone figure any of this out?

Customers can’t figure it out. They don’t get it it. They just want to get better. They also don’t want to go into debt to stay healthy. They  just care that they pay lower premiums and a low deductible.

Think of it like Southwest. Figure out what people will pay for, and what they won’t. Strip out the fluff. Appeal to their wants, and needs (not your own), and they’ll line up behind you.

Who knows, if Southwest was running healthcare, we’d all line up with little cards in our hand. But I bet we’d get treated faster!

Healthcare Reform should die. Not as a concept, but as a name. A smart politician should come out with a new Healthcare Cost Reduction Plan, and people would rally behind it.

Politicians need to stop thinking like politicians, and thinking more like Southwest.

Has Twitter jumped the shark?

September 10, 2009 Leave a comment

I teach advertising and marketing at a prominent university. My students tend to be junior and senior communications students. When it comes to tech, they are savvy.

Hopefully students like my class. That being said, I still think I get the better end of the deal. I think I learn more than my students do. For me, it’s like having a 40 research subjects for a 4-hour focus group each week.

I started this semester with a simple question: Is Twitter lame?

The result? More than 75% of my students said YES!

Their perception is that it’s older adults jumping on a bandwagon. “Why do I need a website to do what Facebook or my cell phone already do?” said one student. “No way I’m using Twitter. My mom uses it!”

When Fonzi jumped the shark, literally, in the now famous episode of Happy Days, it became synonymous with taking something too far. A little known fact is that they did something like 100 more episodes after they jumped the shark, so by no means did it sink the show.

My thoughts? Twitter will not take over the world. It’s not the end all, be all. For some things, it’s use is perfect. For others, not so much.

Here’s my caution: be careful of your blind devotion to it. If it works for you, your business, or your industry, leverage it for all you can. For the rest of you, and probably the vast majority of you, proceed with at least a little caution. Twitter-aholics are not being seen as leaders in all circles. In fact in some, they’re definitely Fonzi’s.

Another Symptom of “CEO Disease” – The “I.T. Hostage”

June 22, 2009 1 comment

The CEO steers the ship. He or she sets the course. It is from the CEO that the brand takes all of its cues. The CEO is the de facto Chief Brand Officer.

As a brand consultant, one of the symptoms of “CEO Disease” that I frequently see comes from the CEO’s own team. It’s when the CEO is taken hostage by his own I.T. department. They make technology a weapon, not a tool. And it’s more common than most CEOs want to admit.

It’s what happens when the CEO has an idea, an inspiration, or an initiative that gets stalled by the I.T. department. “Oh, our system can’t do that,” the CEO is told.  Or maybe its something like, “Sure, we can do that, I’ll just need a couple of new servers, some training and some new staff, but sure, we can do it.”

Bam! Idea dead before it starts.

What’s this have to do with marketing and branding? Marketers live in the world of “can” not “can’t.” We’re asked for strategies. We’re asked for plans. We’re asked for action.     As marketers, I’ve found the two biggest barriers to progress are accounting and I.T. With accounting, I get it. CFOs are paid to protect the financial interests of the company. Sure, we joke that they’re paid to say “no”, but someone has to. With I.T departments, it’s something else altogether.

Time and time again, I see a CEO’s plan or initiative thwarted by an overzealous head of I.T. They claim security issues, manpower, budgets, or technological impossibilities. I was in a meeting with a CEO just the other day when the I.T manager said, “Why would we pay you to rebrand our online presence when we can do it ourselves?” They’re the same breed of manager that thinks a website talking surgery will let you operate on yourself.

“CEO Disease” is the name we give to symptoms such as this which affect the CEO. Fortunately, there are cures. We believe that the CEO needs a vision, but more importantly, needs a team to support, implement, and live that vision. Sure, managers may occassionally need to challenge ideas. It makes the ideas stronger and healthier. But circumventing the CEO is not a part of the description.

How does the CEO spot this? Look for the motivations behind decisions. If they don’t stem from achieving the overall corporate mission, you may have a department head more interested in protecting his or her turf, and not interested in moving your vision forward. Seeking the advice from truly trusted advisors helps. Having a strong bullpen of experts doesn’t hurt, either. As brand consultants, we’re often in the thick of things. Some see that as a bad thing. I see it as a front row seat, one from which I’m often asked to advise from.

Technology needs to be used as a tool, not a weapon.

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More Personal Marketing Secrets.

Brian Hemsworth - Newman Grace Based on the outpouring of interest in the last post on the M-F-T method of networking, I’ll continue the conversation. This is a powerful way to improve your networking and personal marketing skills. It’s a technique we at Newman Grace have developed with our advertising and marketing clients, originally for ads we created.

First off, remember that you will always connect more if you can get the other person to speak more. By connecting on something deeper than a superficial topic, such as M-F-T teaches us, we create engagement. When you’re speaking to someone who is engaged, they remember more, and they like you more (both good for personal marketing).

Don’t come right out and ask what someone fears, but rather ask probing questions. For what matters, try something like, “What’s on your mind today?” For fear, try a question like,  “What’s your/your company’s biggest challenge right now? And for treasure, try not to ask. Listen for clues, instead. Listen for what they’re doing after work or on the weekend.

For those who missed it, M-F-T tells us that when we are networking, online or offline, we should talk about what “M”atters, what the other person “F”ears, and/or what they “T”reasure. These topics allow for deeper conversation, more connection, and the better likelyhood for a relationship that will turn into business or a referral. For a great book that supports our process, check out at

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