Category 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.

Can Bad Public Relations Help Your Brand?

Wow, pretty provocative statement huh? How in the world can bad press help your brand?

There have been plenty of examples of public relations gone bad lately. It’s like watching a train wreck with Charlie Sheen. Your best common sense tells you that this guy is really sick, but it’s hard not to be mesmerized by a person so successfully driving their brand into the ground in flames. Now I’m sure many would say that Charlie Sheen didn’t really have a positive image anyway, so this isn’t the crash you could say is significant.

Charlie is not the only bad P.R. going on. With the announcement by the NFL Team owners that they were instituting a player “lockout,” the “good ol’ boys billion club” made it very clear that their fans were not going to get in the way of them padding their pockets with even more hoards of gold. It’s interesting that only one team in the NFL, the champion Green Bay Packers, have to disclose any financial information whatsoever, since they are the only publicly owned team. We don’t really know how much money the owners are making, but they have surpassed most all definitions of the word “greed.”

How is it that any entity could possibly consider bad public relations to be in their best interest? I think in Charlie Sheen’s case, the fact that the guy secured over 2 million Twitter followers in record time says something to the power of negative press. He’s now in a position to have his say and to have an audience to say it to. It’s hard to argue with gaining that much social media equity so quickly.

In the case of the NFL Team owners, what a great way to gauge the intensity of fan enthusiasm for professional football. If there is a huge uprising in negative content, searches or newsreels, the team owners have hard evidence that they have a product with strong market loyalty and passion.

In fact, as Laurie Sullivan says in her article Complaints Via Search Can Be A Good Thing, “There’s always going to be bad feedback. The real question is how good a job is the brand doing at making themselves accessible.” This kind of criticism from customers can give your Customer Service folks the ability to really engage with them, to deepen the relationship, to show you are a company that cares, and you want to hear it all, the good, the bad and the ugly. After all, bad things are going to happen, mistakes will be made, it’s just how you handle it that can make all the difference in the world.

I’d love to know your thoughts.


Your CMO Outsource


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

How to Get More Value Out of Your Marketing Message

Town cryer proclaiming his message

We had an interesting experience the other day.  It was a beautiful late Summer day in the midwest, really one of those spectacularly blue sky, low humidity, light breeze kind of days that is the main reason we live in this part of the country.  We were doing one of our favorite things, visiting a local art fair.  As we walked around, saying to ourselves over and over again that we were not going to spend money no matter what, we came upon an artist who works with glass and sure enough, got pulled in.  His work was really unique and quite beautiful.  We saw a vase that we both instantly fell for and asked what the price was.  Perhaps we gave a look of disappointment or disbelief, I don’t know, but just as soon as he quoted a price, he offered to discount it.  Frankly, neither of us thought his price was too high because the vase was beautiful and we loved it.  It was certainly more than we wanted to spend but it was absolutely a fair price for this unique piece.  What was also curious, this artist was selling his glass work.  We had to wait while he completed another transaction, so we couldn’t justify his diminishing the value of his work based on a lack of sales.  He must have struggled with this.

This led me to think about how challenging it is to place a value on any marketing effort we make.  It’s funny how there are these two little people influencing us, one sitting on each shoulder and whispering in our ear, but the two voices are the opposite of each other.  One of those little people is stoking our fears, that whatever message we put out there, it won’t resonate with our target market because the economy is just too bad.  The other is saying, oh, this is so brilliant people will love us and we’ll be flooded with leads dying to buy our products or hire our services.  Fear versus hubris, right.

You know that the reality is really somewhere in between, I don’t have to tell you that.  But it is difficult to place a value on the message you put out there.  At best, you want that message to prompt some action, ideally a conversation, that allows you to engage and form a trust-based relationship that will likely culminate in a purchase.  The more “conversations” you are having, the higher value you can place on that message.

If you follow these guidelines for every marketing message you do, I believe it should help improve that message’s value:  (taken from Roman Hiebing, Jr. and Scott Cooper in “The Successful Marketing Plan”)

  1. Who: Who are you talking to?
    1. Discuss the target market’s fears, joys, how they purchase and how by buying from you it answers these.
  2. Point:  What is your point?
    1. The point has to be an insightful way to communicate your message always writing in the voice or style of the target market without industry jargon
  3. Word:  What is the one key word in the point?
    1. Only one word, one idea.  Is it Experience?  Is it Value?  Is it Respect?
  4. Care:  Why should I care?
    1. It has to pass two tests, What’s in if for Me? and So What? This has to be brief and it must be the reasons that come from your target market
  5. Believe:  Why should I believe you?
    1. You are making a promise.  I expect that you can accomplish the minimum requirements however, what unexpected promise do you bring? Is it believable? You should include four reasons.
  6. Feel:  How should I feel?
    1. What emotion should be felt after seeing or reading your communication?
  7. Do:  What am I supposed to do?
    1. This is the Call-to-Action.  It should be very specific and intuitive.  This is also how you measure the communication in terms of its effectiveness, relevance and pay-back.

The bottom line:  Above and beyond anything else, your message and its value can only be determined by what it does to your bottom line.  Does it cause the fundamental behavior we’re all looking for, the decision to buy!

I’d love to hear your comments

Just a note, for any of you that were curious, yes, we did buy that beautiful vase.


The CMO Outsource

Be Transparent In Your Advertising and Promotion

I had recently been doing research for a client and found an organic Google listing on the Search Engine Results page from, it was the third listing.  Specifically I was looking for industry information on the heating and air conditioning business and was enticed by what I read “Plumbing and HVAC Industry Report.”  Knowing that Amazon was a trusted source I clicked.

When I got to the page to order this, I found it was a downloadable PDF and there was the cover page for me to view.  This looked like exactly what I wanted and I placed my order.

After the PDF downloaded, I opened the document, and on the cover page was some new information that hadn’t appeared previously on the order page.  It said, “Plumbing and HVAC Industry Report, Industry Breakdown: 1997 to 2001”

What?  How old is this information?  For anyone of you doing any kind of marketing research, you know that information that is nine or more years old is basically worthless.    I had just spent $24.95 for information that was so ancient, it should have been free.

I did the natural thing, I immediately tried to contact Amazon to inform them that this was not what I wanted and not to charge my card.  What I was amazed about was that there really is no customer service to speak of. simply has a “Help” webpage of commonly asked questions.  Since this was a download, apparently I was unable to cancel the order.

My next step was to contact my credit card company to dispute the charge.  After investigating, they wrote and said that “no error was found” in the disputed transaction with Amazon Digital Services and that “the disputed transaction has been credited to your account and absorbed as a loss by the bank.”

Well, I’m not out any money but why in the world should my bank absorb this loss?  This was Amazon’s lack of advertising honesty.

My question is this: If I received this kind of service and lack of transparency in the small transaction I experienced with Amazon, why would I take a chance in buying a “Kindle?”  Frankly, Amazon needs all the help it can get competing with Apple’s IPad.

So, when you promote products or advertise services, whether online or in a store, be sure to be transparent and tell the whole truth.  Otherwise you can end up reading blogs like this that have a tendency to spread very quickly and the old brand takes a big hit.

Have you had any experiences like this?  Let me know.



The CMO Outsource