Tag Archives: Branding

Give Up Brand Control?

Major League Soccer logoEver feel like your business is spinning out of control? Too busy, not busy enough, competition pressures, government red tape, taxes, employee issues, the list can go on and on. We love the concept of control because it gives us predictability, something we can count on, something to calm our fears. Yet control can be elusive.

Take, for example, your brand. We marketers refer frequently to the importance of trying to control your brand. Obviously, social media has made this effort much more difficult but consider something as simple as your identity (including the logo). We generally recommend that in your strategic marketing plan, you include a style book which dictates exactly how your logo will be portrayed in various kinds of media. The style book governs how and where your logo can appear and specifies the exact color or colors (generally no more than two) that are allowed. It is how you control that branding element. Consider brands like A.T.&T., Coca-Cola, Microsoft, and UPS. No one is allowed to change the presentation of these logos or their colors. Yet…maybe that has all changed.

Major League Soccer (MLS) announced a new identity and branding with the commencement of its 2015 season this spring. Not to be outdone by other sports like Major League Baseball, the NCAA basketball tournament, or the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the launch of the new campaign came replete with a shiny new logo. The logo comprises a shield outlined with blue, a blue diagonal line extending outside the shield, and the top left half with three stars, the letters MLS and seated in a field of red. Whether you like this logo or not is not what is curious. What blows the mind this marketer is that the MLS has allowed each one of the teams to alter the colors of the logo to match their respective uniforms! This even extends to the goalkeepers’ uniforms that are even different colors than the team colors!

Unheard of, I say. Can you imagine the NFL doing this? What about the NBA or Major League Baseball? These organizations don’t care what color your uniforms are, their logo must be presented exactly the same, even if that color clashes with your team colors.

I would say this is revolutionary, especially for a brand as young as the MLS.

So, is giving up control of your brand and logo the wrong thing to do? I would imagine that the MLS has not given up complete control, but stipulates the options each team has in using the league logo. It will be an interesting study to see how this turns out. No one can deny that the MLS is successful, having two new expansion teams this year and showing every sign of drawing larger and larger viewership and fan base.

Yet, it will be interesting to see if this is a trend that will extend to other industries, associations and non-profits.

I would love to know your thoughts.

Being Treated the Right Way

I continue to appreciate the great creative coming from the folks at Ebiquity in their TV ad campaign for Discover Card’s Late Payment Forgiveness. Using the concept of “we treat you like you treat you,” we see various individuals who, like anyone reading this, failed to get a credit card payment off in time to post by the due date. As an alternative to the irritating practice with most credit cards who charge a late fee, raise your APR, and lower your limits, Discover offers forgiveness if you use their “It” card.

What makes this enjoyable to me is the way it’s done, with the customer service person who looks, sounds and talks just like the customer calling in. Here’s an example:


There’s so many messages going on here:

  • First, wouldn’t any one of us prefer talking with a customer service representative who is just like us, who gets us? Duh.
  • Secondly, forgiveness for being a human and making a mistake is always in good taste. We’ve all been on the wrong end of bad customer service.
  • Thirdly, these ads are always good for a laugh.
  • Fourthly, it’s easy to recall these ads and what they’re about – awareness of Discover Card’s new “It” card.
  • Lastly, there is unlimited variations that could be used, keeping the campaign fresh and new for a longer period of time.

As I have said on many occasions, good, solid creative can make the difference in an ad campaign’s success and long-term viability. Good marketing will always win out.

Can you think of other ad campaigns that you’ve enjoyed?

I’d love to hear,


Could Santa Claus Use a Strategic Marketing Plan?

Santa Claus

Let’s take a good look at Santa Claus.  Here’s a guy who has been in business for hundreds of years but when you look at his Business Plan, it sure ain’t pretty!

  • First of all is his location. There’s no way he could be a “destination based” business, who in the world is going to want to travel to the frigid North Pole.
  • Next, he’s obviously not too concerned about profits, since he gives everything away!  How he’s able to do this and sustain his business I’ll never know.
  • He’s quite overweight, which means he’s probably paying a fortune in health insurance, especially to cover all of those workers.  When you look at his rosy cheeks, you just wonder whether he’s a heart attack waiting to happen.
  • I’m not sure how he’s been able to avoid the unionization of his elves.
  • He has been offering the same products and services since his inception.  Most business plans require some modifications and adjustments to account for changes in customer demand.
  • You wonder whether he has updated anything from a technological standpoint, since he is still cruising around in a sleigh drawn by reindeer.  Has he not heard of the internal combustion engine?
  • He still keeps his database of “naughty” and “nice” children in a large book.  Does he have something against computers?
  • Talk about stress!  He waits to deliver all of his products during one twenty-four hour period.  Most businesses try to level out the peaks and valleys.

Since it’s obvious that his Business Plan leaves a lot to be desired, perhaps we can help him with a Strategic Marketing Plan that will take some of the pressure off and insure that his business continues to grow.

A.  We have to begin with the GOALS of the plan.

  • Since Santa Claus holds the market leader position, first and foremost, we want him to retain that leadership position and remain “top of mind.”  This will probably entail specific tactical actions to counter any competitive threats that may come.
  • Another goal would be to maintain the current level of demand as measured through the number of requests coming via email and snail mail.  This should include the website where an accurate measurement of conversions and requests would be possible.
  • Third, since we want to ensure long-term growth, a continued strategy of reinforcing market awareness will be necessary.  This could be measured through comparison to population growth.  Market image and perceptions could be evaluated based on target market survey results.

B.  Next we shall examine DEMOGRAPHIC and MARKET TRENDS.

  • The target market continues to be children ages 2 through about 12 and who have been good for the last twelve months.  However, we cannot ignore the parents of this target market as they will be strong influencers and can help to drive demand.
  • Since we have seen a decrease in the population size of the target market, it will be necessary to examine markets outside the traditional service areas.
  • As we move into new market areas, we may experience a shift in the kinds of products demanded, focusing more on staples like clothing, shoes, food and basics instead of electronics and toys.
  • The “viral” nature of communications by the target market through social networks can be expected to continue.

C.  No Strategic Marketing Plan is complete without a S.W.O.T. ANALYSIS

  • Strengths
    • Santa Claus was first to the market
    • There is a high level of market awareness
    • He holds the leadership position and significant market share
    • Santa has the manufacturing capacity and a strong work force
    • He has a solid track record of reliability and quality
  • Weaknesses
    • Santa is technologically behind the times
    • He probably lacks the capital for an extensive marketing push
    • We cannot be sure of his succession plan should something happen to him
  • Opportunities
    • New markets could open much larger demand
    • His concept of giving could spread to those outside the target market
  • Threats
    • We must assume a strong competitive threat as “copy cat” Santa Clauses attempt to steal market share
    • There is the potential that the target market could stop believing

With this plan in place, we can now start to chart the Media Calendar and Marketing Spend which we believe will drive the results that will help Santa Claus achieve his short and long-term goals.  It will be necessary to periodically measure results and make adjustments to ensure success……………..

I have had a lot of fun with this post and I hope you have had fun reading it.

My sincere wish during this season and year-round is that since we all live together on this tiny planet, that we find a way to Have peace on earth and goodwill to all mankind.” Let’s all do our part to make this a reality.

All my best,

David Soxman

Can You Say, “I’m Sorry” Too Much?

I know I’m going to show my age here, but in 1970, Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw starred in the movie “Love Story” and there was the line where Ali’s character said, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”  At the time, this line took on a life of its own being adopted, reused, rehashed and thrown around as if it were something sacred.  But as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to consider it one of the most ridiculous lines I’ve ever heard.  The simple reason that we are human and therefore by nature certain to make mistakes, means it’s absolutely critical that we own up to our mistakes by admitting we were wrong and apologizing, especially to the ones that we love.

If we consider our customers to be important to us, and I would think that since they pay us money for what we do, they are, then shouldn’t we wish to please them by admitting that we made a mistake?

This is why it certainly caused me to think twice after reading an article by Neil Berman, writing for Email Insider who wrote about “Our Love Affair with Apology Emails.” In his post, Neil talks about receiving “heaps” of apology emails over seemingly trivial offenses, and that perhaps the companies sending them were either afraid of being “outed” by their customers on the social networks, or it was some false sense of self-importance almost egotism, to assume that the mistake was significant and made a difference.

I believe there is a real danger in what Neil is proposing.  Yes, I believe that if you say you are sorry constantly it becomes disingenuous or hallow, kind of like the boy who cried wolf too much.

Where I believe Neil is straying into a tricky area is by implying that we marketers know so much about our target audience as to be able to determine what is or isn’t important to them.  He cites the example of receiving a birthday coupon when it was not the correct day and receiving an apology, oh “how offensive,” but Neil, that is your opinion.  Does something have to be offensive or as grave as releasing financial or sensitive information to warrant an apology?  Where do you draw the line as to whether something was offensive?  Aren’t you taking a very real risk of the dreaded “unsubscribe” when we marketers are always striving to build our lists of suitable email candidates?

Now, Neil might say that if this person is so sensitive that they unsubscribe at the slightest provocation they are probably someone we want to glean from our list, and in many respects he would be correct.  But again I say that to make the assumption whether a mistake was or was not important to an individual is fraught with problems.  Why take the chance, when a well worded apology could make all the difference in the world to that individual.

I don’t mean to bash on Neil’s article too much.  He has 5 very good guidelines to follow for every apology email.

I’m sure there are multitudes of opinions on this, so I imagine the debate will go on.

If you struggle with the right kinds of messages in your emails and need help, drop us a line, we’d love to help.


Your outsourced Chief Marketing Officer

Local Pride Can Influence Purchasing

Local farmer's market produce

It’s very vogue right now, buying produce that has been locally grown.  Nutritionists say that we should definitely eat locally grown and produced food, something to do with the bees and the effects of their pollination on the fruits and vegetables that grow from their efforts.  In Europe, it is customary to only prepare foods that are in season and in fact when my wife was living there and wanted to prepare a meal using squash, her hosts looked at her incredulously and said, “Squash is not in season now.”

As a country, we have grown accustomed to eating whatever we wish whenever we wish, regardless of where it came from.  Those days may be numbered, as the amount of energy required to ship produce all over the globe may make this practice untenable as the price of that energy goes up.

I can’t say that it hasn’t been this way in the past, depending on events, but we are seeing a definite trend in this country to purchase products that are “made in America.”  According to Jack Loechner, writing for The Center for Media Research, in his article “Made in The USA Influences Buyers,” a recent Harris Poll survey suggests that a sense of national pride is manifesting itself in how people part with their money.  As a percentage of all US Adults, 61% indicated that they would be more likely to buy a product with the label “Made In America.”  And if you look regionally, here in the Midwest, that percentage jumps to 67%.  Age is also a determining factor, however there is no doubt that we Americans like products made and produced right here at home.

I believe this same trend exists on a local basis.  Small local farmers are beginning to see real success in marketing their produce at farmers’ markets.  People want to do business with someone from their town as a way of supporting the local economy.  I recently attended a gathering of bright innovators who were demonstrating their technological creativity to a large group of people.  I found the pride I had in Kansas City grow as I saw with my own eyes these very bright people showing the results of their labors.  I wanted to find a way to do business with these burgeoning entrepreneurs.

The takeaway here is this: if your geographic area is local, be sure you are emphasizing where you come from.  Make it a part of your marketing communications so your target market will know.  Being a “hometown” company could very well give you the edge you need over your competitors.

I would love to know your thoughts.  Drop me an email.  Thanks.


The CMO Outsource