Category Archives: Communication

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.

Do You Understand Your Target Market?

957450_33460069One of the first questions I ask any client that I begin work with is, “who do you think is your target market?” There are many times where this question has never been asked and therefore I’m met with a blank stare. If the answer comes back as “everyone,” then I know we have some work to do. You may have the most amazing product ever invented in humankind but I’m sorry, it’s not for everyone.

It’s always best to start with a definition, no matter how simple we may think a concept is. A target market is a group of customers towards which a business has decided to aim its marketing efforts and ultimately its products and or services.

A target market can be defined by a set of characteristics that the entire group has in common. These characteristics give insight into how we might expect the target market to behave under different circumstances or in reaction to different marketing messages.

I recommend starting with your very best customer, because that’s who we want to find more of. Think in terms of what customer you absolutely love working with? How would you define them? Who are they? Are they male or female? How educated are they? What age are they? How did they learn of your product or service? Do they live in a certain area? How was the buying process? If applicable, have they been a repeat buyer? The more specific you can be here, the better.

Given that you want to clone this kind of customer and find many more just like them, let’s explore more about what was behind their purchase. Ask the question: Why did you buy from my company? I actually like to ask this question in person, through a survey.

On a very fundamental level, people make a decision to purchase something in an effort to increase pleasure or reduce pain. However, the answers you receive to the question above, why did they buy from you, will fall into one of two categories. Either the rational behind their decision was due to the attributes (or features) of your product or service, or your product or service was in sync with their emotional motivation for buying.

Examples of Product Attributes:

  • Price – Your price was competitive or in line with perceived value
  • Quality – Your product or service meets minimum quality requirements
  • Features – Your product has the features that I require
  • Service – You have the capabilities to provide service after the sale
  • Past History – There is a track record of positive experiences from others
  • Popularity/Sexiness – Your product has that “thing”

Examples of Emotional Motivators

  • Trust – I have faith that your product or service will perform as marketed
  • Communication – The sales person answered my questions and explained things to my satisfaction
  • Relationships – Over a period of time I feel I know the human side of your company. I like working with you
  • Fear – I don’t want to make a mistake that will cost me money or my job
  • Confidence – This decision feels right
  • Impatience – I don’t really want to wait any longer or shop more
  • Need – I am strongly compelled to move forward with this purchase
  • Desire for acceptance – I want to be like the people that own this product

As you collect the answers to your survey, you can use these product attributes and emotional motivators to define the kind of marketing message that you communicate. If these resonated with your current best customers, then they will likely resonate with potential best customers.

Happy hunting and I would love to hear your comments.


DIY YouTube Videos May Not Be The Right Choice

You’re the kind of person that prefers to talk to people face to face. You have more success when people can actually see you in person.  Your storytelling improves so much more when your listener can look in your eyes. Video is the perfect fit for you to tell your stories and YouTube makes that so much easier.  Of course, being the “roll up your sleeves” kind of person you decide, heck, I can do my own videos and post them myself.

Well, here’s a list of reasons why you may want to reconsider doing your own YouTube videos. Certainly there is an argument to having something out there that looks way too polished and therefore not honest, but it’s worth at least considering the alternative of having someone help you with your videos.

  1. Your “brand” is what people perceive you to be. When an individual is looking at you to provide them a product or service, TRUST can be a huge factor in that decision process. A professionally produced video shows you to be a professional at what you do. People want to know they are dealing with a company that won’t cut corners on the products or services they provide. A DIY video adds an unnecessary risk that a potential customer may get the wrong idea.
  2. People absorb information in different ways. I like to augment what is being said and shown on video with written text. These graphics can help cement your message and help some people with their recall. Some folks will respond to the written text coupled with hearing you say it. Do you know enough about editing video to be able to seamlessly incorporate text and graphics into your videos?
  3. Editing video can take time. Will you have the time to learn and execute something you do not do on a regular basis?
  4. Having someone to “direct” you can bring out the best in you and how you tell your story. During the DIY recording, you may not notice certain things that you do or expressions on your face that can send potentially negative messages. Maybe it’s the way you roll your eyes, or the way you look up to remember what you wanted to say. It’s been said that when people look up, they may not be telling the truth. These subtle nuances can get magnified under the camera’s eye.
  5. Do you have an impartial ear that can tell you whether your message is pertinent, interesting, understandable and worth coming back to see more?
  6. Were you aware that anything longer than about 2.5 minutes, unless it is really attention getting, will not be viewed? The idea is to get people to come back. If they perceive that “oh, the last video I watched was so long,” then not only will they not come back, but they won’t share your video with their acquaintances.

Some people will tell you that it doesn’t matter, that the quality of the video can be bad and you can still get you’re point across. I guess it would depend on what product or service you sell. If it’s a commodity, then that’s probably true. If on the other hand, you need to make sure you come across as someone that knows what they’re doing, maybe DIY is not a good choice.

What do you think?


“Everything is On Its Way to Somewhere”

John Travolta says this in the 1996 movie “Phenomenon” when he realizes he has a very short time to live but is not afraid of what the future will bring.

This got me thinking about some of the amazing changes I have seen in my very short time on this planet. I was watching the 1988 movie “Big” with Tom Hanks. At one point, he is working on a computer, putting together a new product launch and marketing plan. He pulls out a 5.25 inch floppy disk and inserts it into the computer, providing the computer with the necessary program to execute the file he is working on. Wow, that seems so long ago, when computers didn’t have a means of permanently storing programs on a hard drive, no point and click, no color displays!

I love predictions about what the future may bring. Maybe that’s why I was always a “Star Trek” fan, because that show was all about predicting what future technology would be like.

We are moving so quickly into the future. Mobile devices, and for that matter, all devices we use daily, will have more capabilities than we can imagine.

Aaron Goldman, writing for “Search Insider” predicts what our world could look like in his article 2022: A Search Odyssey” as he quotes from Peter Morville’s concept of Ambient Findability. Here is an excerpt from that article.

“…as Morville surmises, it won’t be long before RFID allows ‘products, possessions, pets, and people [to be] all rendered into findable objects.’

Consider what happens when objects are not only findable but can communicate with each other…

…As an example, he cites a scenario in which the phone ringing alerts the stereo to lower the volume so that a man can take a call from his sister about their mom’s recent health issues. The man’s Web ‘agent’ (i.e. Siri) then looks up a treatment, identifies a local specialist, cross-references the doctor’s ratings and acceptable insurance plans, and books an appointment.”

Isn’t it fun to imagine that world, where so many interconnections our brains process now, almost without us thinking about it, will be handled for us. This will leave us free to focus energies on that next step, because, everything is on its way to somewhere.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Live by the Data or Die by the Data


I know that there are hardly enough hours in the day to take care of your customers and run the business, let alone, study and correlate all the customer-centric information which is now available at your fingertips. But, it’s never been more important than now. As Mr. Dave Frankland, an analyst with Forrester espoused, 2010 and beyond is the “age of the customer.” Customers are in more control than ever, and they are wielding that power by responding to companies that understand them and their needs.


Natalie Zmuda, with Ad Age talks about the obsession with “understanding, delighting, connecting with, and serving customers,” as the only real differentiator that many companies have. I would add to that, the intelligence to predict behavior as well.


Never in history have business owners had such a vast amount of information available to them about their customers’ behavior, which can be a strong predictor of a “potential” customer’s behavior.


Facebook can tell you how many people in your area have expressed interest in what you do based upon specific terms? Google has reams of information available on what people are searching for. There are software companies that have created social media dashboards that provide the ability to see what conversations are taking place about you, whether you “follow” them or not. And just as important, there are your own sales statistics that you keep.


It is not only important to track sales, but also to be able to know the source of the sales lead. Those lead sources should be broken down sufficiently to understand what action the interested party initially took to become a lead. What products were purchased from what lead sources? As an example, if you only track that a sale of product A came from the Internet, what you don’t know is what action was taken. Did the lead fill out a “contact me” form or did they pick up the phone and call you? Did they ask a question through Facebook or were they referred by one of their LinkedIn contacts? Did they click on a QR code that you had on a print advertisement or did they come to you from your YouTube video?


Being able to tie sales back to a very specific lead source allows you to calculate which kind of lead results in the highest likelihood of a sale. Where should you spend precious sales resources to get the highest return? Where should marketing dollars go to stimulate these high value leads? What kind of message is successful in generating quality leads? Would extending that message to other sources for leads generate the same kind of quality lead there? Would it be better to focus on those products that generate the highest margins?


So, your business can prosper by paying attention to the data that’s available or not, it’s up to you. And, if you need some help with this, let us know.


All my best in your “data mining”