Tag Archives: building brand awarenes

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

Do You Know Why Your Customers Buy From You?

Neon On Sale sign

I was really just going in the store to find an electric can opener.  It seemed to me that this very large, warehouse megastore was the best place to go and probably where I would get the best price.  I had really just intended to pop in, make my purchase and leave, it would only take about fifteen minutes.  As I walked down the isles looking from left to right, my attention was drawn to a sign.  It was not a sign that was overly colorful or large, I just caught its image out of the corner of my eye.  This product now had my full focus and best of all, as the sign informed me, it was on sale.  For a 25% price reduction, I could own an electric stapler.  What a great deal!  Even though my most practical, logical mind told me, “David, you don’t need this,” I still picked it up and put it in the cart.  I was sold.

Now tell the truth, you’ve been there too.  They call it impulse buying, and retail stores tailor their product locations and merchandizing just to hook us into impulse buying.  It is an extremely successful marketing strategy.

But what are the real reasons I bought that electric stapler?

Economists say that we purchase a product or service for two reasons: to increase pleasure or to decrease pain.  But it really is a great deal more complicated than that and psychiatrists would even go so far as to say that there are messages going on in our subconscious that can at times override our logical thinking resulting in an action we didn’t anticipate and may not be able to fully explain.

This is why it gets tricky from a marketing perspective.  How in the world do you create a marketing message that will resonate and create a reason to take action and purchase your product or service when your customer doesn’t even know the reason they are making that purchase?

There is not a simple answer here.  The most significant action you can take is to actually ask your customer why they purchased from you.  This may not be realistic, feasible, or may be simply too expensive to undertake, so you also need to apply a little psychology and a smattering of common sense.  Most importantly, actually commit to writing down the reasons people buy from you.

These reasons fall into two categories.

First is the actual attributes of your product or service.  It is best to be as specific as you can but here would be some more general examples:

  • Your product or service has the best price or value
  • Your product or service is the most technologically advanced or is proprietary so that no other competitor can match it
  • Your product or service is perceived as having the best quality
  • Your product or service meets a specific niche need
  • Your product or service has a track record of high performance
  • Your product or service makes an activity easier or more efficient to do

The second reason would be emotional motivators or the feelings that generate the action to purchase.  Here again are very general examples:

  • There is an emotion they are dealing with that the purchase will resolve such as fear, anger, regret, joy, sorrow, anxiety, or concern
  • Your product or service makes them feel better about themselves
  • Your product or service matches a cause or belief they are passionate about
  • Your product or service fulfills the need to compete with others
  • Your product or service provides instant gratification

By being very specific about the product attributes and emotional motivators behind why your customers buy from you, you can then begin to tie your marketing message and communications back to these and have a better chance of getting their attention.

Best of luck and if you find you could use some help with this, drop us a note.

David, the new owner of an electric stapler.

The CMO Outsource

Do You Mean It When You Ask?

Windup robot

My wife and I were talking the other evening about an interesting customer service idiosyncrasy we’ve both noticed at our local grocery store.  When we are finished shopping and we go to checkout, regardless of which cashier is helping us, they universally begin with the question, “Did you find everything you were looking for?”   Happens every time without fail.  It’s a great thought, however we have realized that these employees are simply reciting a question they were ordered to ask.  There is no genuine feeling behind it, it’s simply something they’ve been told to do, much as a computer that has been programmed to auto-respond.

We’ve even had some fun with this.  After the question and contrary I believe to most responses, I answer, “No.”  At least half the time, the cashier proceeds as if nothing had happened.  The other times I get this incredulous look and the witty riposte of , “What, oh, well, uh, I, don’t, uh, well, uh, hmmm.”  (Does not compute!)

I truly believe that the intent behind this effort is to provide excellent customer service, to show the caring side of the grocery store, and to make me feel welcomed.  Unfortunately, when it is not a genuine concern, and in this case it is apparent, then it fails in its intention.

Do you have customer service contact employees that are just going through the motions, that are just reciting lines out of a manual like an automaton?  Is the culture of your company such that this type of behavior is rewarded?  If so then your company’s brand is also reflecting this lack of authenticity, a lack of genuine caring for your customer.  It may take time, but it will affect your ability to grow and achieve your sales goals.

In Seth Godin’s book Linchpin-Are You Indispensable? he speaks of company cultures that encourage and reward behavior that simulates an assembly line, where employees are expected to do exactly as the manual dictates and not to have any original thought.  The problem, as he states, is that once this behavior is engrained, it is difficult to break away from.  Just as employees who act as robots are inexpensive and easy to replace, so your customers will also find other sources for what you do or sell.

So, do you mean it when you ask?

I would love to know your thoughts.


The CMO Outsource