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The creation of fast acting, upwardly accelerating, new world finding brands. The brand strategy that forces every ounce of growth out of the brand and then some more and right away. This is Rocket Branding.

The America Party Brand?

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Are the two preeminent political parties losing enough relevance that now a new party could actually emerge?

Unlikely is this cycle but what about the next?

History is full of new brands emerging out of the growing irrelevance of the incumbents … Fed Ex, Lexus/Kia/Hyundai, Home Depot, Visio, Starbucks and, of course, Apple (over IBM and Dell), to name a few.

 When leading brands, even icons, lose relevance the stage is set for a new one to rocket.

Is this possible in this political arena?

The ‘voter’ market is certainly not happy with their parties.

Voters have overwhelmingly lost confidence in either party ‘regulars’ to solve economic or national security problems. Words like ‘Washington’ and ‘Establishment Politician’ have about as much brand cache now as ‘Wall Street’ and ‘Fund Managers’. Accordingly, the newer so-called millennial voters appear less politically engaged with the parties. Getting a job, paying off loans is the daily reality and petty, mud-slinging politicians with their party cronies and self interests are just not on their radar.

It’s easy to see why the political outsiders, Trump, and Sanders have energized voters. They speak to a simplified, less corrupt and more action-orientated view of government. A view, which again is not entirely aligned with the party planks. This has attracted new interest and record voter turn out. Voters are not stupid, and if they realize that the party delegates and super delegates can easily subvert their votes, then their anger and frustration with their party will only intensify.

On the larger scale, our culture is also changing in subtle ways that will challenge the traditional party foundations and relevance going forward.

New voters are often less religious and to a degree less nationalistic. Global connectivity and the increasingly mixed races are creating much more sensitivity towards the world at large and a deep ‘dislike of the ‘isms’ … racism, classism, extremism, elitism and anything that smells of subversism.

And relevance is a problem for both parties.

The Republican Party has been lost for a decade. The Tea Party set the table for Mitt Romney to win the 2012 Election but he didn’t. Now he and his establishment conservatives are spearheading an anti-Trump movement and splitting the party. Whether Trump represents a compelling new Republican voice or voters are just regaling against the seemingly ineffectual ‘establishment’ Republicans, is an interesting debate. Either way, it’s a hard to see how the Republican Party can stop their relevance from continuing to erode across the broad spectrum of voters.

The Democrats aren’t in much better shape. President Obama offered a positive, unifying leadership, which many believe has, after two terms, achieved little beyond his attempts at legacy building. Of their two candidates for President, one is a proud socialist and probably unelectable and the other with FBI investigations and single digit honesty ratings is in many ways the poster child for what angers many about today’s politicians.

Further, it’s, at least, clear to me that as both parties have become such adversaries any opportunities for compromise and moderate outcomes are zero. The extremes seem to be the norm. But how many voters are not hard-liners? Many Republicans I speak to are fiscally conservative and defense-concerned but socially moderate even quite liberal on some topics. Likewise, many Democrats are strong on equality and progressive issues but are also becoming increasingly worried about the fiscal, national security fears and yes big government debt concerns.

Is it possible for a new party, say The America Party, to emerge from the ashes of the incumbents and represent the best of both … not the worst of both?

 Yes, I know parties like the Libertarians have made some impact but they have not succeeded to the main stage to date. Mostly I believe because they stand as a contrast to the others with fairly narrow platforms. And there is always a well of independents who just maybe waiting for The America Party.

If The America Party brand can represent a new and positive voice that appeals to the best of both parties, then why not? No one wants to fight against something. Always better to fight for something. Let us fight for America and without all the infighting, pettiness and old machine corruption and, of course, the ‘isms’.

 Yes, I know more parties create more problems. Look at Europe. And yes a one party system won’t work but we are just talking here, and maybe The America Party could be a remake or evolution of either party. ‘New and Improved’ so to speak.

Overly simplistic you say? Well maybe but in history the biggest ideas have typically come from the simplest of notions.

Whatever the solution, this writer believes that if these parties do not look up and out a bit, their brand will remain as irrelevant and uninspiring as they certainly have become today.

What say you brand wizards?


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Brand America. Bruised or Beaten?

Amercan Flag Map

 

America’s status at home and abroad is not at all clear. Is the America of the last century gone? The ‘global powerhouse’ done? The ‘American Dream’ over? Or just in a state of flux?

Dreary questions for sure. And yes we go through this every election cycle, but a lot of the mud flung on the walls by the PROTUS hopefuls is sticking. There are real concerns about America’s future across every demographic.

It’s absolutely astounding to me, that after a decade’s movement to moderate our culture (you know ‘everyone gets a prize’, ‘we need to sit with our enemies’, ‘share the wealth’, etc., etc.), the two earliest surging candidates, Sanders and Trump, are anything but moderate. Arguably they represent extremes on either side, and voters are turning out in record numbers to support them.

No question, anger at the seemingly dysfunctional government is driving this, and this isn’t new. Obama and the Democrats took over eight years ago with a kinder, happier mandate. Just two years later the Republican’s stormed back and won the senate as the ‘tea partiers’ pushed for dramatic change. Alas, not much happened to favor either agenda. The frustration grew.

Furthermore, today we have a world in deep doo doo. Global economies struggling, dire political and religious unrest, environmental decline, traditional cultures and ethnicities losing ground. And, closer to home, of course, adult children still at home. The list goes on. No matter your concern about the world and your life, it is a rather grim picture going forward.

So here’s the question or, at least, a question. What is the American ‘brand’ in all of this?

I see two factors – America’s role in the world and, the strongly philosophically, divided populace at home.

It’s possible that the first rules the second.

The world play is critical. The world has become a single marketplace where physical borders are less apparent. American Corporations aren’t necessarily American anymore but global entities with offices, plants and people working across time, space and currencies every second of the day. We may be upset with US companies moving facilities and jobs overseas but that’s how they have learned to compete in this highly leveraged and regulated world. And no one likes to talk about China’s influence on the global economy and our ridiculously high national debt.

No matter what your concerns, be they financial and personal security or cultural values, we need to look at the world to understand our future.

And on the personal level, the digital generations are now global. We communicate and share anywhere, anytime worldwide with a simple click or a touch. Our younger cultures are increasingly globally centric, connected and in many cases nationally ambivalent.

What the ‘baby boomers’ see as lost values the millennial sees as just the new norm.

Why even third world terrorist organizations recruit and terrorize anywhere they want via the World Wide Web.

The world is morphing into cultures beyond countries, and if America does not understand and succeed at the world level, it will not win on the home front…regardless of political doctrine.

So what happens to the Brand America? Can it remain the powerful symbol of a land and it’s people or does it have to change? Are we fierce, gun-toting, freedom fighters guarding our borders with our lives or are we open -minded individuals with a ‘cork -floating-on-the-ocean’ mentality? Or both?

As a traditionalist, I would rather not change but as a realist I believe we should deeply examine this question and find the right answer … and rather quickly.

One answer is to look into the emotional needs of the people. Americans of both parties are showing an angry reaction to their government and leaders.

Anger is not a good emotion to base a brand on. It usually does not last long. But what is behind anger can be useful. I believe in this case it is fear. People are worried about every aspect of their future and with arguably good cause. There is no good news or simple answers anywhere and leadership has been lacking.

So what do we do with this?

I would suggest that in a changing world with a deep fear of continuing to survive, the American Brand has to stand for two things to regain its power status in the world and continue to be the iconic, symbolic inspiration for its people.

The ‘brand’ has to be both TOUGH and FAIR.

 ‘Tough’ to compete and win on the world stage and ‘fair’ to optimize opportunity for all. It is extremely important that the world knows where we stand on key commercial or personal endeavors. We desperately need to take a hard line where we need to, but we’ll only gain respect and support, both domestically as well as abroad, if we are fair.

It’s quite simple. America has little trouble in the ‘tough’ department, but it does need to have precise positions and build its defenses to back them up.

The real breakthrough is in the ‘fair’ department. On the one level ‘lies, cronyism, lobbies, special interests’ all need to go. On another so do overreaching regulations and ‘PC’, controlling dictates like ‘the rich are bad’ and ‘everyone gets a prize’ and only certain ‘lives matter’. We all matter equally and can thrive equally if the game is fair.

If a new leader emerges who can execute on toughness and fairness and the American populace can see this happening, then I believe that Brand America for the next 50 years will shine through.

 What say you?

We love talking brands. Let us work with yours. www.rocketbranding.com.

 

 

 

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What Can Business Learn from Microbiomes?

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Actually quite a lot.

If you haven’t heard, microbiomes are the ‘communes’ of life, so to speak, and quite possibly the source of the next big breakthroughs in health and agriculture.

Microbiomes are all the organisms that co-habit a living organism.

Our human cells are only a small fraction of us. There are also some 100 trillion microbial cells … good bacteria, and the like, that live within us and keep us healthy. Same with plants and animals. Without these symbiotic, interdependent relationships we would not exist.

As scientists are now delving into collective genomes, they are understanding that the old way of just focusing only on the ‘host’ cells misses the enormous importance of the whole microbiome entity.

Business is arguably the same. We traditionally think of our company as a separate, independent organism that lives within itself and only interacts with the world through sales and marketing.

What if we learnt from science and created our company’s microbiome? What if we sat down and truly defined each of the entities in our entire business eco system and then built interdependencies with each so that we all thrive and survive together?

What the heck am I talking about?

A simple example. Let’s play with ‘advocacy’.

We all know in today’s digitally connected world that the more people advocating your company and brands the better. Right? Personal referrals are king.

Yes, we already have tactics to motivate and even incentivize advocacy and, yes, from time to time this works, but what if we actually make it our master strategy?

What if we deliberately set out to make it a priority in our relationships with every organism or entity that lives within our company’s microbiome? This would include employees, neighbors, customers, consumers, partners, affiliates and communities.

In each case, we can develop an ‘interdependency’, whereby it is in the best interests of all to vigorously advocate for each other. In fact, we could get to the stage where we only hire or, work with entities, that actually have our advocacy linked to their ongoing success.

Tons of ways to do this but if every entity in our microbiome is offered a different deal for advocacy (employee bonus, cost or price incentives for others?), then even in small ways we are working as one.

Heady stuff granted but one heck of a philosophical approach to building a company’s future. Right?

We love this stuff and are always looking for creative, innovative and sustainable ways to grow companies and their brands. Come play with us. And we’ll help you work out the best way to grow your company.

We are Rocket Branding and honored to serve. www.rocketbranding.com, 312 951 5178

Thank you.

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Can You Hear the Rainbow?

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 4.41.25 PMKaty asked this innocent question as she tugged at my sleeve and stretched her little eight year-old, bubbly self to show me the pretty rainbow outside the plane’s window.

Her mother hovered in the seat behind. I offered to change places but no, she said it was good that Katy (with a ‘y’) could spend some time with strangers.

OK I guess. But this stranger was hard at work drafting a three-year brand strategy for a client – the result of a two-day work session.

Katy persisted and for a lovable time this little person and I tried to work out what sound does orange make? Is blue a bubbling water sound or the gurgle when Katy finishes that last gulp of lemonade, (which is yellow of course) and what sound does red make … no clue! And what sound does the whole rainbow make?

She finally fell asleep and I went back to banging away on my laptop.

But an idea popped into my head. Little Katy, that sweet little mind, may well have just nailed why some growth strategies succeed and others fail.

Most companies build long-term growth strategies at one time or another. So why do some get traction and drive the company and others just sit on a shelf collecting dust?

We know that without properly defining the future growth goal, it is unlikely that there will be a powerful focus to the plan. At best it will be uninspiring and at worst miss a huge opportunity to set the company up with a lucrative competitive advantage for years to come.

But is this enough?

Katy would have us do one more thing. Have the courage to ask big, simple maybe even nonsensical questions.

Too often we get trapped into asking the same questions of a brand or a category, and yes, we end up with the same answers.

I remember being in a Coca Cola meeting where a research firm was presenting their annual report on drinking behavior. They were highlighting the remarkable growth in water consumption in the US population. The senior Coke representative scoffed at the idea of ever selling water in a can (They were predominantly a can company at that time). So the trend was disregarded. Katy might have asked. Why does it have to be in a can? It took Coke almost a decade after that to sell water in a bottle and, during that time, losing a huge chunk of business to others.

I also remember Bob Shapiro the head of The NutraSweet Company after reviewing proposed brand campaigns he commented on how small they seemed. Being a revolutionary new sweetener was fine but really so what? Yes the campaign would work for the packet sweetener business under the Equal brand, but what about the ingredient business with the NutraSweet brand? Do all the beverage brands that can use aspartame want to promote a new sweetener? Packets are a profitable $200 million+ business but the ingredient business that could be featured in the launch of the new diet soft drink category (Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi etc.) would be in the billions. A simple question that led to the idea of not introducing NutraSweet as a new sweetener but as new taste. Simple question that lead to a positioning campaign of ‘why some things taste better than others’ and a relevant message and logo for Coke and Pepsi, and some 3,000 other food and beverage brands throughout the world, to promote on their front labels.

So if you planning the next three to five years of solid growth don’t be afraid to sit back and ask the big, possibly silly, ‘Katy’ questions. And of course sometimes its good to have an outsider like us facilitate that. We are Rocket Branding and as always, honored to help. www.rocketbranding.com

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THE REPUBLICAN BRAND?

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 10.42.22 AMNow it’s getting interesting. Last week’s GOP debate was different. Are we seeing the Republican ‘brand’ beginning to take shape? How so and so what?

I’ll stick my neck out once again and say that ‘brand’ is the key determinant in political success today. I predicted Obama to win over Romney because he was a ‘brand’ and Romney was not. After the first debate I predicted Trump to remain on top, because he is his brand. And he continues to lead much to the chagrin of many political pundits.

It maybe a little early to tell, but you could also argue that other GOP hopefuls, like Carson, Rubio and Cruz, have started to become brands. Fiorina may also have big branding potential (though I’d advocate a more ‘Carly’ emphasis) while Bush’s brand, even with all the awareness, has not hit the mark as yet.

So why has a brand become so important to politics and how does this relate to Republicans?

Political brands are very simple. Politicians are people. They have names and they stand for something. Their ‘brand’ emerges when you recognize their name and it conjures up an image. If that image is relevant to your beliefs, then advocacy and favorable voting follows.

On the flip side, of course, having a name that few recognize or an image that is irrelevant or worse negative, keeps you off the stage. And, in this day of social media, where ‘gotchas’ and ‘get ‘ems’ travel faster than light, having a strong brand is almost the only defense. This is why two of the strongest brands in the race so far, ‘Hillary’ and ‘Trump,’ have been able to withstand media onslaughts that would have crippled lesser branded entities.

Two things have happened in America over the last two decades. Political Parties have lost their credibility and humanity has snuck in. There was a time when voters pretty much followed the party and, whoever was their Party nominee for President, usually got the support of the faithful. Politics was mostly political and boring.

Things have not been going so well, however, and the constant bickering and little progress in Washington have left the populace with a much-renewed interest in who is actually going to make things better. Neither party seems to have had the answer. So we look for real leadership. The question of who is going to be the President is looming larger than ever … and their brand credibility is going to be a deciding factor.

But from last week’s debate, a new brand may well have shown itself. For the first time the Republicans seemed to be speaking with a ‘party’ voice. Clearly there were many individual assertions of greatness, but the overall GOP message of “less government and smarter policies” was echoed across the lengthy stage of candidates and the chorus of moderator rebuke seems to have shown a unified GOP bravado.

Now, of course this is a long race but it is going to be really interesting to see how each candidate’s ‘brand’ emerges on both sides. And it will certainly help the GOP candidate if the party can for the first time, in a long time, provide a clear and hopeful brand premise that will engage the voters.

We’ll be watching and reporting. What say you?

We are brand growth experts and would love to help you grow yours.
Ian Miller, www.rocketbranding.com

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