Branding In The New Norm

New NormSociety is changing. In some cases at tectonic levels. Brand marketers beware.

Tradition is no longer the norm, and the ‘new norm’ is still working itself out.

 Just a cursory squint at the world shows this.

 Look at two historical ‘normal predictors -human relationships and business.

We now live in an increasingly global context. Thanks in part to the Internet. The traditional norm would have us protecting cultures, borders and wealth. The new norm wants us sharing and equalizing without discrimination or cultural preference.

Deep lines are drawn today between entrenched folks on either side of this bucket of issues. Whereas this is true on the surface and in the media, many homegrown views may be softening, especially as populations continue to become more ethnically and culturally mixed. Adherence to traditions and values temper with each mixed marriage, migrating family and every new political and religious chapter.

The new norm is happening.

Take me for example. I am an Australian with Viking and British colonial roots, married to a Greek-born American with a long, proud, Hellenic heritage. Our Amercian-born children have a healthy dose of all these cultures. They will carry mixed values forward to undoubtedly more rich mixtures. 100% anything is no longer the norm, and black and white issues are more in the realm of earth tones in this new racially, hyper-sensitive, earth-loving, everyone-shares world.

And speaking of changing population mix. The poorer classes are having children while the middle and upper socio-economic couples are more likely to be having pets or alternative life partners. With each new year, decade and generation these factors will dictate everything from the food we eat to the brands we buy, the people we see and the work we do. It already has. Did you know that Mahummed, in one form or another, is one of the most popular names for new baby boys in the UK today?

What actors or ‘actor persons’ do you portray in your mainstream TV commercials? Probably not all white? Or all black, or brown or yellow? Right?

Screen Shot 2017-08-21 at 3.14.17 PMTake the test. Watch 15 mainstream commercials tonight and tell me what the ethnicity of the main actors are? I see a lot of standard continental-like faces with semblances of African, Hispanic and Asian features. The universal being, so to speak.

Political leadership as well is now anything but traditional and may never be again (#twitter) and unfortunately, the ‘religion’ that is getting the most attention and new members all over the world, is hell bent on murdering innocents.

And lastly on the point of the new norm for human relationships. Look how we communicate today. It is evident the monumental changes digital is having on the universe, but even beyond that, it is quite amazing to me how limited traditional free speech has become. A mere slight inference or private utterance of any of the letter words (‘n,’ ‘H,’ ‘q’) can get you fired, threatened and publicly ridiculed beyond redemption. You now have to watch your ‘ps and ‘qs literally.

So to business. Several prominent CEO’s just pulled out of Trump’s business committees on the basis of his supposed, racially insensitive comments.

CEO’s now have to have a clear and public opinion about highly charged social issues. Most American Fortune ‘bigs’ derive business worldwide. They no longer compete purely on a US basis either for revenues or talent. And, if in the past, the C-level could hide behind Annual Reports and ‘corporate spokespeople’ they are now being called upon to ariculate their company’s global ‘purpose’ and ‘shared values.’

Business can no longer hide from the new norm.

It’s a slippery slope when a brand gets it wrong. Pepsi’s widely lambasted attempt at ‘unity and peace’ in its Kendal Kardashian commercial certainly exemplifies that.

Mainstream brands could once hide from serious social issues in their consumer marketing. Corporate philanthropic activities sufficed. Not anymore. If brands do not understand how to navigate through these far-reaching and rapidly evolving new norms, then they can quickly lose relevance to new generations.

Oh and here’s a clincher. Your company name is now a brand. Whether it is the name on what you sell or not, it will be a factor in purchase and buy decisions. And no, B2B companies are not exempt from this.

Claims like Made in America and Proud Sponsor of the US Olympics etc. are examples of company/brand messages that straddle product benefit and quarzi social comment. But are they enough in this highly charged environment?

So do branders pick a side on any of the big ‘ism’ issues (like racism, elitism, terrorism, materialism, populism and so on) or just stay the heck away from these and concentrate on selling the advantages of their products and services?

Or could they win hearts and minds by owning one of the softer ‘new norm’ issues like peace, unity, literacy and of course whales?

Indeed the company, product or service you brand can dictate this. Soap makers can proffer a safer, cleaner environment. And do. Coffee makers can support indigenous farm sharing, and environmental packaging and pet product producers have no end of abused puppies to love. And, well, of course, P&G’s Dawn sure cleans oil-spill, drenched ducks.

I wonder, however, if this is going to be enough for the new norm, particularly for big mainstream players. Focused new upstarts risk far less by taking on the hard issues. Yes, Ford and GM can attempt to cater to earth-friendly fuels but here is Tesla, by all accounts a new big player in the alternate fuel auto industry.

So what to do?

  1. Hire ahead. Not Behind. Take a leaf out of Clayton Christensen’s book, Innovator’s Dilemma. Just as he recommended not relying on your current people to innovate the next new products, don’t rely on your traditionalists to build your company’s role or at least position it in the ‘new norm’ world.
  2. Play Long Ball. There is no quick fix here. Plan for the long-term with the same amount of careful rigor as you would with financial and ops planning.
  3. Listen and Learn. Don’t rely on the media to inform on the new norm. They quite frankly do not have a clue what is going on today. Many have still not internalized that a new POTUS was voted in. This, mostly because they are looking at everything through traditional lenses. Big mistake. Go to the source … the people. And listen. They may not give you the answers, but they can certainly help you frame the questions.

No, this is not going away, and it isn’t finished. The new norm is here and evolving. Strap in and enjoy the ride.

What say you?

 

 

 

 

 

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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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It’s Caddyshack Time.

caddy-shotIs Trump Al Czervik, the bawdy, politically incorrect businessman that takes on Judge Smails and his elite, country club establishment? Or at least he might hope so.

Before the barrage of sexual misconduct stories, you could say that the presidential race was still within the confines of the grimy politics of the House of Cards series. Now it,s full-out pop tabloid warfare. Policies forgotten, the media is having their best time ever with Bill Clinton’s dalliances, Hillary’s endless e-mail gaffes and of course Trump’s ‘p**sy grabbing, locker room banter.’ Why even the Kardashians are envious.

Can the Trump brand channel Rodney Dangerfield’s lovable, ‘I get no respect,’ ‘for-the-little-people’ character and save the day? Or is the brand beyond even the perennial box office draw of the underdog champion?

Do enough American female voters look beyond Trump’s foibles or are the endless polls and pundits right in predicting Hillary’s inevitable victory with a few weeks to go?

I guess we’ll find out, but in time left, brand experts what would you do to ensure victory for either brand?

Some thoughts:

Hillary’s brand is shaky but OK. Her ‘career politician’ label is still a double-edged sword. Supports her experience but turns off the growing numbers who feel ‘Washington’ has failed them. If all the pollsters are right then it’s her’s to lose at this stage. So probably best to stay the course. Push policy and ‘Presidential tone’ and keep goading Trump. Yes, it’s possible that more damaging emails will surface. It would have to be pretty bad to change the game. She has already been exposed for probable lies, possible Clinton Foundation issues and her unfortunate views of voters … deplorable etc. But it is probably all ‘baked in’ at this stage. And as long as she stands up in public, her health issues if any will not be a factor.

Now to Donald. Well, as mentioned earlier, a tough path to victory. Again if you believe the experts, Trump’s poor numbers among women will be hard to reverse especially with the prospect of the first female POTUS let alone more ‘sexual predator’ stories. This on top of reports that his ground game is no match for the Democratic Machine in the supposed ‘swing’ States.

But we are brand experts and love a challenge, right?

This may well be impossible, but Trump should try to take the spotlight off him and put it back on the American voter. Like Al for the little people, not for him.

His supporters are reportedly still with him. If he spends the time left fighting his accusers, then he will do little to woo new voters … women or ‘undedicededs.’ His ground and media support are not favorable. He needs to muster all his media genius and focus on one message. It’s not about me. It has never been about me. It is about YOU and WINNING. The bigger the Government. The bigger the loss for YOU. Let US fix the problems and get us back to jobs, peace, and prosperity. If you believe that the likes of Hillary, Obama, Pelosi and so on will lead us out of the mess, we are in, then vote for them. If you want change. If you want to be able to support your family and have some control over your life then vote for my party and together we’ll make American Great Again. Vote For us, for our children and the world.

Further, with this as an opening, he needs to get personal so that voters can see themselves in what he is saying. Something like. Today you pay X% of your income in Government costs. That was Y% before Obama and Hillary took over. Vote for her and bigger govt. and you will pay 2X% in four years, and your children will each have $X million dollars in debt on their head every day. If you make less than $50K with the current regime, you are more likely to be closer to the poverty line than in no other time in history. Quality education and health services will be out of your reach, and shared housing and living will become your new norm. Yes, dark picture but it is America’s reality unless we do something about it.

Now I have no idea if any of this is possible or even true, but quite frankly the Hillary brand will prevail unless the Trump brand can go back to their original premise and make it real. Just like Al in Caddyshack if Trump can be the peoples’ force against the ‘establishment’ then his message may resonate with voters as they go into the booth. Hey, it might coalesce his party and even bring in a few Bernie Sanders voters who are still skeptical of a Hillary Government? Win-win for all.

What say you?

We love this stuff at Rocketbranding.com. Let us know what you think.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BREXIT … A Stand for Sovereignty

Brexit BlogI was in Athens, this time last year, and witnessed ‘Grexit,’ the Greek’s agonizing vote to leave the European Union. They voted to stay in the EU.

And, last week, I was in London, in the midst of Brexit, UK’s similar battle. They voted to leave the EU.

Different outcomes but largely driven by the same basic issue … protecting sovereignty i.e. not having others dictate their future and culture. The Greek’s poor economy trumped their ability to rid themselves of EU rule but the Brits are financially able to stand-alone. They can regain independence from EU leadership and more pointedly control the open in-flow of unskilled migrants. They lower the wages, soak up the social benefits, fuel the fear of terrorism, and in time, change the culture.

These are emotionally charged decisions and run deep and wide across the populations. It would be somewhat akin to a California or Texas deciding to become independent of the US. It strikes at the heart of the livelihoods and security of each individual. Over the next year we’ll watch the same story play out for many other European countries who will also be assessing their sovereignty and independence in light of a possible ‘exit’ from the EU.

So what is really happening here and, importantly as ‘master branders’ what should we take from all this?

Well actually it is fairly simple.

As generations march forward things change and some times that change is quite pivotal. In each case, Grexit and Brexit, the older generations voted overwhelming for ‘exit’. They wanted to keep their cultures and traditions and resented deeply the changes they saw around them with foreign migrants taking over their neighborhoods, jobs and social benefits, terrorism etc.

The younger generations (under 35) certainly understand the loss of tradition but they are in a completely different place. They voted to stay. They are underemployed. They want jobs and see the opportunity to freely travel throughout the larger European market as an enormous benefit. This is certainly the case with Greece with very high unemployment for under 30’s but also in the UK where again the chance to easily work in other countries is tremendously beneficial.

The younger generations are also very different in some very important ways. They are more globally oriented and connected. They are less trusting of politicians, moderately ‘sovereignty-centric’ and generally much more sensitive to the overall global condition … environment, resources, hope for everyone. Yes, they do understand and respect tradition but “it’s really tough when you are still living at home”. “And it would be really great if they could find a better way to live on earth”.

This is not just European. Younger voters, the world-over is similar. In the US they jumped on the Sander’s ‘share the wealth’ and the Trump ‘anti-establishment’ platforms in droves in the current election season. These aren’t ‘stay the traditional course’ and rigid sovereignty sentiments.

All this I believe triggers quite a sea change.

We really need to take a pause and have a serious look at the next 5-10 years or so and see what this all means to these new generations of consumers, leaders and influencers. Brands that do not do this are at great peril of falling way off the radar of this new group. A mere whiff of personal irrelevance will be whisked away with a click, swipe or touch. Brands that get it will thrive big time. Brands that don’t will die quickly. And the sad thing is that they may not know it until it is too late.

We at Rocket Branding have a grand global view and understand how this relates to each individual across the age and need spectrums. Let us help you plot the future of your brand. www.rocketbranding.com. 312 316 5290.

 

 

 

 

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The America Party Brand?

Americ

 

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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