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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.

Brand on Life Support

Congress blogThere is a brand, an important brand, that has approval ratings way down in the teens (even lower than cockroaches and traffic jams according to a US World study) … and maybe beyond hope.

Most Americans, sadly agree that the US Congress is floundering. And more so today. Dysfunctional, petty and seemingly incapable of achieving much of anything. There is a reason that ‘drain the swamp’ was a particularly popular campaign message in the recent Presidential election.

Even the victorious party that just swept into power cannot get a new health-care plan agreed … and after supposedly working on it for over seven years. Little hope for tax reform or the other so called campaign promises.

Certainly, ‘Congress’ is not a brand in the conventional sense. Tough to buy off the shelf or from a car dealership. But anytime you ask people for their support and more so their funds then you are judged no differently. Would you rather give your money to your senator or buy a new TV, or more to the point, pay your bills?

But what is most alarming is that young Americans who want careers where they ‘can make a difference in the world’ are not choosing politics. Even political science students, according to studies conducted by Rutgers and Harvard, favored ‘community service’ two-to-one over ‘politics’ as the means to achieve their goals. Similar sentiments were found among high school students also researched.

When smart, young folk are looking at career choices and see that what was once an honorable, admired profession is now more about finger-pointing than policy making, they look to other ways to help the world. Interestingly entrepreneurship, which would in the past be seen as the antithesis of political action, is to many seen as a better way to help.

Some polls do show favorability scores for one’s own elected Congress person, but even that is falling. Many see that when their successful candidate goes off to Washington they are caught up in a broken system where no one seems to be able to move the ball forward.

So what to do?

We all know that money is at play. The cost to compete and win as a Member of Congress is out of reach of many. ‘Influence’ money pops up all over Washington. Privacy is also a problem. Few want to face the brutal scrutiny of the Internet and media if all they end up with is a bad book deal.

Yes, you don’t have to be a Senator or Representative to play ‘inside the beltway’ game, but the smelly bad stuff trickles down hill. It has a way of collecting at all levels and gunking up everyone’s good intentions.

 So again what to do?

To be brutally honest I am not sure. It will obviously have to be a bipartisan coming together of some kind. Some incentive to work across the aisle. And it probably has a lot to do with finding and nurturing a new crop of capable leaders.

This is comprehensive ‘system’ reform, and we all know how long anything tied to the word ‘reform’ can take!

Is there something in our brand bag of tricks? Well, let’s see.

Thinking of Congress as a brand you could begin to offer up a new face, literally.

We will always give smart, young people a chance. Let’s identify and begin publicly rewarding and supporting the new faces of Congress who are making a positive and not just ‘politically driven’ difference. This is not and should not be partisan. This is all about strong, determined Senators, Congress men and women working for real change and not party or special interest favor.

So what about the money, I keep talking about?

Well, those rewarded should be funded by the growing class of wealthy private donors who pledge to give based on demonstrated honest, authentic change and not ideological mania.

Call it the Gabebufzuk Project (for Gates, Bezos, Buffet, and Zuckerberg). The wealthiest Americans will, by law set aside each year ten million dollars for the one person or team in Congress that makes the most difference for the American people and have it ratified by an online, national vote.

Overly simplistic. Pollyannaish maybe but at least it is a public attempt to right an arguably swamp-stuck ship. At this rate, if the perceptions and processes of Congress do not change it will become a brand of even older, more tired folk with less support and consequence. What then?

What say you?

 

 

 

 

 

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How Brands Survive Bricks to Clicks

bricks blog shotThere is nothing sadder, I think than seeing an empty space in a shopping center, once filled by a vibrant, bustling retailer.

E-commerce is no longer a new growth segment. It is now shaping the future of retailing. Aided and abetted of course by savvy consumers who shop the retail options they want, without moving more than their finger.

Yes, we get it. This is not news. And ‘brick’ retailers are already finding ways to marry ‘bricks with clicks’… personalized offers, store pick-up/return, etc.

But now Amazon is reported to be acquiring premier food retailer Whole Foods. Bricks and clicks galore!

 There are all sorts of predictions and scenarios on what this will mean to traditional brick retailers. Especially as it relates to the future of large format retailers? Do we really need to battle our way to and through the local Costco, Target or Wal-Mart? Why can’t we buy online and have them battle their way to us? Uber of everything?

And more to the point (as it always is) why do we, consumers, have to pay for that large space (as we always will). Give us what we want in an affordable, convenient way, and we’ll take it every time. And that probably means that we won’t be paying for the real estate taxes, utilities, and wages that the local, debt-ridden municipalities will seek from your ‘big box’ facilities.

 What does this all mean to traditional brand retailers?

 So you are a brand that has spent years, if not decades, building its reputation and support through the shopping experience.

You may be like a local hardware store that thrived for years near me with its jam-packed shelves and friendly staff. Customers walked in with some piece from a broken old faucet and walked out with the right part and emboldened with the knowledge of how to fix it. You survived a Home Depot opening near by and a move to a bigger space. But you couldn’t compete on price and still pay the costs to keep your doors open. You are now a large empty space in a strip mall.

What do you need to do to survive this rather miserable scenario?

Hey, brighten up. You own the one thing that no new brand or new online store can ever have. You have been successful in brick and mortar shopping for a long time. Chances are you have built a familiar and trusted brand relationship with your local community. There is absolutely no reason why your brand reputation will not transfer to the digital world and be even more successful.

It is really as simple as understanding your brand story.

 Take that hardware store above. I cannot get anywhere near the same help or solutions from Home Depot or any website as I once did from that store. Even if I had somehow I wouldn’t feel as confident or supported.

So set up a ‘knowledge’ site with video integration where I can connect, show you my broken faucet. You’ll help. If I need a part you’ll deliver it from a supply warehouse (maybe have a local charity deliver and be part of your Millennial’s ‘cause related, purpose-driven community’) or you’ll send a plumber with a new faucet, etc. Whatever. The idea is that you transfer your knowledge brand story to an online retail opportunity. Site costs are still a lot cheaper than the mounting store costs.

Knowledge is the new ‘secret sauce’ in digital retailing. It is also the great equalizer. With more and changing options for every shopping item in the world, knowledge is invaluable, profitable and competitively sustainable.

 Yes, I know there is a ‘depends’ comment here. How can you replicate the smell of fresh bakery online or new car leather or ogle a paper thin TV or try on the new fashion, etc.? All good issues but also creatively solvable with technology and understanding your brand message.

We believe that with rare exception ‘brick’ retail brands can survive and indeed thrive in the new digital age. It’s all about brand story, not bricks.

 We at Rocket Branding love this stuff. Call us, and we’ll help find your online brand story and profitable future.

 

 

 

 

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Hope or Fear. Where Brands Thrive or Die.

Screen Shot 2017-06-08 at 2.45.22 PMWall Street believes ‘greed’ and ‘fear’ drive financial markets. These two emotional states have also driven brand growth for decades. But something is changing, and one could argue that ‘greed’ is now best stated as ‘hope’, at least for branding purposes. Disregard this change at your peril.

Let’s break it down.

‘Fear’ is easy to understand. Consider brands for insurance, medicine, and security. Not the kind of products we think of first thing in the morning, or at all, if we can help it. We buy them when we fear the consequences of not doing so.

Insurance brands like Geico, Progressive, and Aflac, try to break through this lethargy with entertaining characters – lizards, ducks (and of course the omnipresent Flo) with ‘no-fuss-less-money’ approaches. They try to overcome disinterest without the heavy hand of fear. Then there is Allstate’s Mayhem campaign that hits you over the head with it. Literally.

Drug and medical brands also depend on the ‘fear and consequence’ mindset. Let’s not delve into irritable bowel syndrome and such, but you see how playing on fear works to drive these brands.

‘Greed’ on the other hand is all about the things we want. A whole lot more engaging. Luxury, shiny, creamy, gooey, exotic travel, exquisite perfumes. The list goes on. Stuff that excites, pleasures and feeds our self-indulgences and social image.

Qantas Airlines enjoys one of the best safety records in the world but rarely promotes it. Comfort, service, and destination are all better selling points than the scary safety notions. Car brands are notorious purveyors of greed. Sleek, sexy, fast. Volvo played the family safety card. Even though successful over the years, it has been difficult for them to also sell the performance and image of that owners seek.

If you understand where your brand competes in the ‘greed and fear’ contexts, you will know how to position, message and market it.

But as mentioned at the beginning, for the first time in maybe five decades, this I believe is changing and quite profoundly so.

Fear is still fear but greed is in many ways is much less in vogue. At one time it was quite aspirational to be wealthy and successful. Big car, big home, big career. You were to be congratulated, envied and even admired.

No so much today. Perspectives have changed. The rich are still rich and even richer. But the poor populations, the environment, and nature are all at higher risks and the stigma of power mongering and corruption among ‘elites’ the world over is now at a flash point. New terms like ‘clean the swamp’, ‘populist view’ and ‘purpose-driven’ marketing are emblematic of this.

I remember at one time being on the team to sell the new American Express Green Card campaign, ‘Membership has its privileges globally. It was very successful in the North America but not so internationally. To many cultures, only the ruling classes enjoyed privileges. I believe that North America has caught up with this now and again the idea of greed or excess so to speak is no longer PC.

So what do we do? Clearly, consumers still want their luxuries and pleasures and will buy brands in this context. But be careful.

If your brand is supported by those over 50, I’d say be as hedonistic as you want. But if your consumer base is under 40 and Millennial then I would rethink your Greed platform.

Folks under 40 have a greater sensitivity to the notion of greed partly because of the basic inequality or injustice issues, but also importantly because of uncertainty of the future and more so their future. Clearly fear has crept into greed. Some of this is real of course in terms of the health and safety of the world, but some of it is also from the daily flood of negative news. Between the 24/7 broadcast news and social digital media, we not only get all the negative world headlines (bad news sells) but we get on the spot, real time videos with the more scandalous zooming around the Internet at warp speed. So we not only hear the official news but also the supposedly ‘real’ backstory often from someones’ cell phone.

We hear and see way too much of the bad stuff, and it plays major havoc with our sensitivities and sense of well-being.

So here is my simple answer.

Let’s rethink ‘greed’ as ‘hope’ and if our brand needs to live in the ‘I want more’ space (formerly known as ‘greed’) be very careful how we moderate our message and present our brand. It’s not just about being better but being human. It’s not about isolated individuals but social fun and engagement. More authenticity. Less BS.

Bottom line. If you are building a brand in a ‘fear’ context, go at it full blast but if you favor the ‘greed’ context then at least think long a hard about moving into a ‘hope’ context where humanity and authenticity thrive.

We love this stuff at Rocket Branding.

What say you?

 

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Brand Bashing … The New Norm?

Screen Shot 2017-02-25 at 10.33.56 AMSaw this on Facebook, apparently reposted from TV celeb, Anthony Bourdain.

Asking myself have we moved into a new era of public ridicule? Is extreme disrespect a new norm?

Could anyone imagine a similar President Obama doll zooming around the Internet in his first month in office?

Yes, we all understand free speech and free markets. As distasteful as this is someone has the right to make, sell and promote this doll. (And here I am of course, unfortunately, furthering the image’s exposure). Every day there are similarly low posts all over the Internet.

“Hey did you see the one about Putin leading Trump around like a dog?”

So here is my question.

Regardless of your politics is this good for America?

Is it Ok to so personally and publicly attack the President of the United States in this manner? Are we now going to show our disagreement with someone’s view or preference by personally debasing them?

Certainly, Trump was the ‘against-all-odds’ nominee and his ‘plain speaking – call for change’ posture has been a lightning rod for the opposition’s wrath, but why does it have to be so childish and ugly?

This kind of thing has happens from time-to-time, but cooler heads usually prevail, and the discourse returns to a higher level. Not now. It appears that many of the loudest voices out there in Hollywood and the media are on such a tear against Trump and his policies that nothing is too crass or mean-spirited. And it doesn’t look like it is going to let up anytime soon.

And more to the point, many who oppose Trump and who would normally keep that on higher ground are relishing these barrages and pushing for more gutter sniping. SNL used to be funny now it’s just a Trump trashing show. CNN used to be balanced news now it’s a constant drumbeat on everything Trump bad, every day.

So is this extreme brand bashing going to become a normal tactic for politics? And if so, will it transfer to how we brand builders take on competitors? Wouldn’t be the first time. Regretfully it’s the outrageous, witless stuff that seems to fuel the social, digital marketing world in which we compete.

I guess, or at least I hope, that this style of brand marketing will not prevail and that we will all return to that place where we can disagree on ideas but agree on respectful and dignified behavior.

The world is always watching and judging. Right now they see this stuff and again regardless of their politics America just looks stupid and small.

I strongly recommend that brand builders do not ‘go gutter,’ not only because it brings your brand down, but it also weakens quality perceptions over time.

Remember the age-old truth. People don’t want to know what the other won’t do for them until they know what you will. A lesson well-learned by Hillary Clinton’s Campaign and apparently is still being learned by her rabid, party supporters who are just hell bent on bashing away.

What say you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The ’30 Rule’ Rules

Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 4.44.53 PM30% support you and will, no matter what. 30% won’t and probably never will.

It’s the 30% in the middle that needs convincing. The other 10% never seem to matter.

In almost half a century of building branded businesses, I find this rule to be such a great tool. I don’t even know where it came from. Heck, perhaps I made it up.

There is no better example than in politics. And now we may even be seeing a whole new wrinkle in the ‘30 Rule’ with the new Trump White House. Barely two weeks into his Presidency and already it is clear that the word ‘support’ in this definition is inadequate.

Clearly, some 30% do strongly support what President Trump is trying to do. He is doing what he said he would do over the last 18 months. However, there is the other 30% who do not support him at all, indeed they seem to openly hate him at some level. The 30 in the middle clearly have a bit of both. Enough of the ‘middle’ voted for him to win but my guess is that many are just waiting to see what happens before they confirm more support or not.

Interestingly, I see similar phenomena in the upcoming Super Bowl. Typically fans will fall into the three buckets with varying degrees of fanaticism for or against their team, and yes there is passion, but again there seems to be an unusually high amount of angst among the 30% non-supporters especially for the favorite, New England Patriots. Seems you either like them or hate them a lot.

Apparently, the stronger and more dominant those are perceived to be, the more intensely the detractors dectract these days?

I saw the same in the UK last year with Brexit. Those for it were relatively quiet and were able to rally a greater percentage of the middle bucket than the opposition. The opposition though was much more angry and vitriolic … and remains vigilantly so.

So what does all this mean to brand ed businesses and rocketing them?

Two things.

Firstly, go ahead apply the ‘30 rule’ to your brand market. Yes, I know the specific percentages may change somewhat from brand to brand but think about the principle. You have a brand-building budget. What is the best way to apply it to encourage rocket growth?

A little bit for everyone – lovers, haters, middlers? Costly.
Go after non-supporters who are tending more towards haters today? Good luck with that.

Go after lovers? Hmm, don’t you already have them and especially now as the more the haters hate, the lovers support. Possible waste of money.

What then?

Well, how about identifying the potential lovers in the middle and pushing them further into your bucket? That is turning them from supporters to advocates? Thereby expanding the love bucket and hopefully, in doing so, increase brand purchases and frequency. And also importantly provide a bigger antidote to the negativity from the hater camp.

This leads to the second thought.

Beware your brand detractors.

In this new digital world, haters are more vocal and gather as ‘victims-in-arms.’ They can and will mount noisy and emotional campaigns to the middle folk. This can be nasty, personal and disrupting. Trump’s case again.

Of course the term ‘haters’ maybe a tad strong for those negative to your brand. They may just be ambivalent which could be a worse problem. The point remains the same, however. Unless you see the dire need to somehow offset the negative bucket, then we would suggest you aggressively focus on your brand lovers and particularly potential lovers in the middle.

Regarding Trump brand? Well, it is quite simple. His Presidency’s promises are his brand promises. He was elected on those promises and his expected ability to fulfill them. At this stage, if he succeeds in doing what he says he would do, especially with jobs and security, then all is good. If not then his non-supporters will become even more emboldened to hate just that much more.

I do have a final word for him though, and this gets to the heart of his America First position. He has certainly painted the picture of a need to ‘strengthen America again’ but in deference to the globalists, rather than stop there we suggest that he start making the point that a stronger America means a stronger world. Strength starts at home and spreads. If the US is weak then the world is weaker.

What say you?

We at Rocket Branding love this stuff.

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