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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.

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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TRUMP! PRESIDENT??

TrumpSix years ago I predicted Obama would win over Romney, largely because he was a ‘brand’ and Romney was not.

Tonight, Donald Trump takes on 16 co-hopefuls for the GOP nomination on a Fox televised debate. Great theatre. Trump, a non-Washington candidate, is ahead in the polls so he will be center-stage, surrounded by a sea of typical, dark suited, red tied politicians, who will look and sound pretty much the same. No one looks or sounds like Trump.

Now I am not smart enough to predict that he will be the next POTUS, but I can say that he is for now the lead GOP and unless someone creates a news worthy, sound byte, moment like Reagans ‘there you go again’ to Carter and/or, of course, Trump does not get trumped on some issue, then the Trump ‘rocket’ will keep shooting up.

This, of course, has very little to do with substance and, like it or not, this is the new way.

Our digitized world is based on shock headlines and stunning images. Fresh, new relevant brands get media attention and win quickly.

Obama was such a brand. His name was unique and gained awareness quickly. His story was simple and relevant … first African American, educated, articulate with a promise of ‘better’.

Romney was not such a brand. He looked and sounded like the typical Washington politician and his story was not clear. Even his name had little brand cache.

Trump knows all this.

The political pundits have been salivating over the chance to pick apart Trump’s policies, but quite frankly he is way too media savvy to let them.

Trump is a media brand. Say the word Trump and just about everyone can see a picture of him and the picture isn’t bad for the times. This tough, independent, successful businessman wears a suit and leads. His name is on buildings. He has been the ‘boss’ star of his own popular TV show. He owns beauty contests and knows how to ‘play the stage’. My guess is that his aided awareness is over 80% in the US. He has been in the mass public eye probably more often than all other candidates combined.

Interestingly his unique brand persona is actually now working for him. Brand awareness is one thing but if an audience can feel a little pain for a candidate and relate to see his or her humanity then the brand relationship grows fast. Trump’s weird hair and bruff, straight-talk style, have not stopped him so far and now if nothing else it keeps the cameras on him and people curious.

And at the end of the day, a simple brand story survives. For the less politically engaged voters, the Trump brand can easily be seen as a regular guy taking on Washington and winning, as opposed to ‘more-of-the-same failed’ politicians. The political insiders and pundits, who marvel at polls and seeing a continually growing Trump candidacy, will change their sage comments from negative to positive real fast.

Now my intent here is not to support or even predict the winner. I am just commenting on how in this world of politics a candidate’s brand, or lack there of, is the new X factor in predicting success.

And if I was in the Hillary Clinton camp right now I would be quite concerned about her brand persona. No question she has brand awareness but what is her story other than her e-mail issues etc.? How is she relating…first female President? Maybe?

What do you think? Let’s kick it around. In a few hours we can sit back and enjoy the spectacle.

We are brand growth experts and love to help do so. Look us up at www.rocketbranding.com and lets chat.

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Branding Greece … Philotimo Under Fire

IMG_1578 copyA month in Greece has, not only afforded me a front row view of their ‘Crisis’, but also a rare opportunity to witness a unique culture cope with some of the toughest financial and indeed social decisions in modern times.

A financial crisis, to be sure, but also a classic Greek drama, played out on the world stage, as cultures and passions collide and a very proud race has a hard look at their future.

More than once I was asked, as a brand professional, what effect all this may have on the perceptions of Greece, as it relates to tourism. Without growing revenues from tourism, it’s very difficult to see how the Greek economy can ever rebound.

Being a visitor with perceptions from the news, it ‘s easy to conclude that this Crisis was not good for the Greek ‘brand’. Typically, economic instability and political unrest will scare tourists away and, more importantly, deter the tourism industry from references and investments.

Moreover, as you consume the news, it’s also easy to build a world-view of Greece as a crazy place where their newly elected government is scolding their EU partners and threatening the ‘Grexit’. This, after receiving some $300 billion bail out funds from them and demanding more, with even less austerity. Greece, with high public spending, lives beyond its means and now wants to continue that way with more funding from others.

Yes, the Hellenes, like no other race in history, will fight to preserve their way of life (generous pensions et al), but as most pundits agree they will have no other choice but to comply. This week’s referendum will certainly be telling.

However, after four weeks of getting to know the Greek people, I have quite another view on the Greek brand and what I believe they should do with it. In fact, I believe that the Crisis is a perfect context to rocket it.

Greeks love to talk and debate. Every day, often late into the night, I had the chance to hear the different views of simple villagers, urban professionals, students and, of course, taxi drivers.

Two things stood out for me.

Firstly, how calm and basically sanguine they were about the Crisis. Confronted with even more taxes, cuts and unemployment, one way or another, they believe that things will work out. Until this week, without the headlines, you may not even know there was a major crisis. They have preserved their lifestyle for centuries, against all odds and will confidently continue to do so.

Of course, this could be different as today’s deadline hits. But for now there is still positive optimism.

The second and certainly most profound thing I learnt is summed up in the Greek word philotimo. I will not attempt to translate it for you. The best scholars in the world have tried and failed. I will tell you that every Greek understands it instantly. It is a philosophy that suggests how to represent your self and conduct your life and it has within it all the right human qualities — honor, courage, respect, dignity, doing the right thing and more.

And, even though most understand that their bargaining power at the EU table might be weak, they have entrusted their new Government with philotimo (to do the right thing by them) and believe that the EU and the rest of the world will, in time, see that a Greece, the way it is, should remain that way.

Yes, Greeks will agree that their financial systems are broken, and that they are woefully lax on paying taxes and forcing their leaders to be accountable. But they are never going to be like a Germany or any other managed society. At this stage, they want a way to still have the means and freedom to nurture their families and homes without being judged by the commercial standards of others.

They would much rather grow their own fresh food and serve it to you at their restaurant than run a McDonald’s. They would much rather have their families nearby than moved overseas for work. They would much rather have their beautiful beaches, islands and mountains controlled by locals than faceless corporations or greedy oligarchs.

Yes, this may appear selfish but in an increasingly homogenized world, where chemicals and sugar are our main food ingredients and substance is losing to hype, there is a wonderful, refreshing authenticity to Greece, the people and their philotimo.

The world needs this haven. And if that means giving them a little financial slack to preserve it, then so be it. These people and their philotimo, to me, should be the heart of the Greek brand. The beautiful islands and beaches will always certainly attract travellers but it is the people, their passion and love of life that makes the experience remarkable and memorable.

Travellers the world over should come to share in and enjoy this genuine, refreshing Greek experience with its real lifestyle, natural vistas, history, people and passion.

An authentic experience in an increasingly unauthentic world.

Oh and while you are about it, make sure you stop by the road side café at the Isthmus of Corinth … the best, most juicy souvlakia anywhere. Opa!

PS. There is a terrific video on Philotimo …well worth seeing, www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXPJNDVfBgU

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