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Archive for March 2013

If You’re Not Your Own Worst Enemy, Who Will Be?

If You're Not Your Own Worst Enemy, Who Will Be?

15875809_sOne of the most dangerous things you can do in business is to fall in love with yourself.  You sit behind your desk and pat yourself on the back.  You’re just so smart.  You know it all.  Isn’t it true that no one else really understands the business as well as you do.  Isn’t it true that your competitors just copy everything you do?   Isn’t it insane how ignorant your customers are?   Ahhhh!  You are the font of knowledge… the queen of all that is good… the all-seeing and all-knowing.  HA!

Right about now is when the sky opens up and the supreme order of life showers rolling gales of laughter upon your kingdom.  The harsh reality is that you are not your business.  Your business cannot sustain itself without a network of employees, partners, customers, and competitors.  It’s your relationship to this network that truly differentiates your business potential. Do you respect them?  Are you willing and able to learn from them?  Are you able to read between the lines and develop insights into the market?  Are you create enough to weave new solutions from your learning?

Once you start thinking you are the infallible genius who predetermines the success of your company, your industry and your customers you open the door to a slippery slope.  But, here’s the harsh reality.  The next great idea will not spring forth from inside a walled off mind.  The seeds of that next great idea are likely to come from your customers or employees.  Or perhaps it’ll come from a competitor or a completely different business.  Maybe it’ll come from that movie you saw over the week-end or a trek through a local park.  The most genius thing you can do is to open your thinking to the world.

Don’t think that you know it all.

Don’t believe that you are the best at what you do.

Don’t think that you’re the only one who can do what you do.

Don’t believe your own press releases.

DO keep an open mind.

Branding? We Don’t Need No Stinking Branding!

Branding? We Don't Need No Stinking Branding!


What is a brand?

Here’s a hint.  Don’t check Wikipedia.  Their definition (and many others) is wrong!

Wikipedia: “Brand is the name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”  However, they go on to include the following in their definition – “name, logo, tagline, graphics, shapes, colors, sounds, scents, tastes, movement, and customer relationship management.”


We don’t know what a brand is…but we can’t afford it!

I hear it all the time.  “We’re a small company.  We don’t have money to brand our products.  We don’t do branding.  We don’t need it. “  Too late folks.  If you’re in business and interact with anyone in the real or virtual world, you are branding.  You may not be doing it intentionally and you might not be doing it well…. But, you’re branding.  In fact, I’ve seen people who are developing great brands without even knowing it.


A few years back, I was working with a multi-billion dollar multi-national.  Markets were changing faster than we were and, although the company was involved in a broad range of products, they were largely known for only one.  A conclave of key executives met to develop a new strategic plan.  I was new to the organization but surprised that branding wasn’t part of the plan.  I raised the issue and was quickly shot down with “we really don’t have the money for big ad budgets”.  Heads were shaking with the smirk of “she doesn’t get it”.  In spite of explanations that I was talking about branding and not advertising, I was unable to change the group’s thinking.  I must admit I was pretty shocked that this highly regarded organization didn’t get branding.


Brands live everywhere

On Day 3 of the meeting, I made my last impassioned plea.  When countered with the “we don’t have money for big ad budgets”, I responded.  “Brands exist without advertising.  When Sam the Salesman meets with the buyer of Mongo Mart and spends an hour explaining the new fru-fru technology … that’s branding.  When Rita the Receptionist gives an astoundingly warm welcome to each person who crosses the threshold of our corporate offices… that’s branding.  When Carlos the Customer Service Rep helps someone figure out what’s wrong with their product…. that’s branding.  And, when Cheryl in Collections screams at a customer who’s past due … that’s branding.   Our brand exists at every touch point in the company.  Brands do not just live in logos, brochures and advertising.  Brands live in people.  The way we interact with the world defines our brand more deeply and more honestly than any advertising will.”  I took a deep breath and sat down.  I turned around to sit down and heard the applause of 150 executives who, only days ago, thought I was crazy.  Life was good.  We refocused the corporate brand from the inside out and then embarked on one of our most successful advertising and branding campaigns.

Brand is evoked by the things you do, the way you behave and how those actions are perceived.  Although you can create symbols and messages that communicate what you believe to be your brand, you need to be true to who you really are.  Advertising, PR and social marketing can communicate a brand.  They can’t change the reality of your brand.


Brand is the world’s reaction to the perceived truth of your company.

It is created and re-created every day by everyone affiliated with your organization.  It evolves with the intention communication of advertising, PR, social marketing and even product development.  It is ever changing.  Nevertheless, in this world of transparency, your brand cannot live as a figment of someone’s imagination.  Branding done right can help shape your future in a consistent, persistent way that ads, tweets, press releases, logos, videos and Facebook pages cannot.


“If you ever have the good fortune to create a great advertising campaign, you will soon see another agency steal it. This is irritating, but don’t let it worry you; nobody has ever built a brand by imitating somebody else’s advertising.”
David Ogilvy

Gut Decisions Drive Innovation

Gut Decisions Drive Innovation


I worked in the camera business when all cameras used film. And then the change began. A handful of digital camera prototypes were showcased under glass at trade shows to demonstrate the ‘new era’ of photography. Although tech lovers were intrigued, market research clearly demonstrated that the general market didn’t think much about this new concept and wouldn’t consider buying a digital camera. And so, our corporate headquarters decided it would be too risky to bring a digital camera to market … and that we’d sit this one out. Most of our competitors did as well.

Fortunately there were a couple of passionate visionaries at the company who trusted their gut. They courageously put the wheels in motion and, soon we were one of the first manufacturers to offer a digital camera for sale. That vision eventually resulted in a billion dollar global business that has maintained its innovative edge for the past 15 years. If we had played it safe and let the numbers guide our every action we would never have gained our position as a market thought leader.

And as I look back, I realize that Mr. Jobs didn’t focus on research or big data. The focus was imagining a customer experience that was bigger and better than the experience they imagined for themselves.

A recent McKinsey study outlines four criteria for good gut decisions – familiarity, feedback, emotional memory and personal interest. McKinsey goes on to explain that most decisions are, in fact, swayed by emotion. It influences the options we analyze, our framing of situations and the rationalization of final decisions.

In this way, gut decisions infiltrate even the most metric-driven, process-rationalized decision making. Now, I’m not bashing metrics… I love numbers. I revel in the slicing, dicing and reading between the lines of meaningful market data and anecdotal information. But,often a solid, well-founded gut decision is the start of something big.

Marketers should live and breathe their products, their markets and their customers. Vision and passion, combined with deep market knowledge and the courage of your gut, is the stuff that feeds those big, juicy, innovative ideas.

What Are People Saying?

We hired Susan to work on one small project, but ended up retaining her to help us create a new strategic plan.   And when our Marketing Director had to take some leave, Susan took the lead on our projects.  It’s definitely helped to push our small business forward and is a partnership we hope to continue.  Thanks


How We Can Help You.

We are marketing consultants based on Long Island, NY. Over the past 20 years, we've built fierce market leaders in a broad range of businesses - from tiny start-ups to global Fortune 500 companies.  Our experience spans multiple industries from consumer electronics to financial services and from food services to photo.  We're looking forward to talking to you to see how we can help take your business to the next level.