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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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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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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ROCKET BRANDING NEW TECHNOLOGY

New TEch Blog PM copyBranding is the most undervalued ROI asset for a new technology based product or service.

Yet with a little creativity and strategic rigor, branding is one of the easiest, cheapest and quickest assets to build.

Snausages (a new doubly extruded pet treat) was created over a slice of pizza, Celebrex (a new cox-2 inhibitor) on a napkin over lunch. The new, Old Spice (advanced deodorancy) from a couple of focus groups.

Branding is the short hand surrogate for the technology. Would you rather put sucralose or Splenda in your coffee? Would you rather send a ‘fax’ or a facsimile transmission? Do you ride a Harley or a motorbike?

Branding is also an opportunity to create new category language. Celebrex was the first new ‘smart’ drug. ‘Social collaboration’ was the new space for content management and intranet software. Being the first or best of a new space is a great positioning for a new technology. It tends to bring in the media, which loves to name and anoint new categories …4X4, SUV, laptop, cross trainer, designer drugs and so on.

A well-positioned and designed brand identity (name, logo, tag, message) will accelerate acceptance and, importantly promote advocacy (and buzz) among key customers, consumers and their influencers.

New technology has created revenues and market share for centuries with examples in every category … medicine, food, transport, fabric etc. and now with the digital age new technology applications are producing new products and behaviors at an unprecedented rate.

So why do so many new tech brands fail to gain traction and deliver their early revenue and ROI goals?.

Three reasons.

1. The ‘What it is vs. What it does’ syndrome. New technology creators are brilliant. New features and functions can be world changing. Unfortunately most of the world is too busy and occupied to notice. The trap is in believing that all you have to do is tout the features …the what it is and people will flock to it.

The truth is that most people don’t care as much about what it is as what it does for them. Does it it make their lives, easier, healthier, happier? And even further does it provide an emotional or psychic reward? And even further what does it allow me to give up?

2. Creative Fear. One of the great ironies I come across is how creative, technology innovators, can be and yet how uncreative they think they are in branding. Scientists, engineers, inventors, invariably feel that they are not equipped to create brands. No so. In fact in my experience some of the most creative branding exercises have been conducted with exactly that group.

I hate to break the myth but branding is simple logic and common sense…typically two of the key strengths of creators.

3. Asking the wrong questions

Here’s the magic. Take notes. This is a product of 35+ years of building successful brands and particularly technology fueled brands. It is called Rocket Branding℠.

It’s all about growth, focus and simplicity.

Understanding what the role of the branding is in building company growth, focusing on the target that will contribute most and quickest to the growth path and if it isn’t simple no one cares.

Answer these 5 questions and you will be on your way to branding nirvana.

1. What revenue are we looking for over the next 3-5 years?

2. What target consumer or customer is going to be our most important revenue generator?

3. What does our new technology enable them to do better or more of?

4. How are they going to feel in using our technology?

5. What words, thought, ideas best describe or symbolize that experience?

Start here and go for it. You’ll be surprised how creative you can be.

For more on this thinking and cases read my book Rocket Branding,buy at www.rocketbranding.com, visit www.tbpllc.com and contact us if you’d like some help.

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A GROIN ANOMALY

A recent odd travel experience highlighted for me how difficult it can be to launch fast growing brands today.

I was retained by airport TSA agents who informed me that the x-ray had detected a “groin anomaly’ and I needed to go to a secure room.

Suffice to say that after a thorough investigation and, a herculean effort on my part not to make a slew of jokes, they let me on my way.

Now I was more than happy to immediately “drop trou” and show them that their fears were quite unfounded but no, I had to go through an extended pat down and questioning. They had their roles and I had to have mine.

So what does this have to do with branding today?

Well two things.

1. Caution

We now live in very cautious world.  What we say or do in public is open to massive amounts of scrutiny and judgment and, in many situations we have to be very careful about how we behave, act or react. The same goes for a brand that competes in any arena where caution is now common. E.g. food, ingredients, health, financial, travel, children and so on.

2. Watching

With the Internet, cameras, drones you are being watched, recorded and classified. So is your brand.

No, this isn’t about ‘big brother’ or sinister plots and it is in no way suggesting that brands should not be spontaneous, flippant or even irreverent, if that is what the brand strategy calls for.

This is just a reminder to carefully assess the mindset of your core customer or consumer and the way life is causing them to make decisions relative to your brand.

And especially be very careful with competitive positioning focuses on Trust or Freedom.

‘Trust’ can easily be broken if there is a ‘gotcha’ moment or inconsistency from one brand connection to another.

‘Freedom’ is an incredible promise as an anti dote to caution and concern but this had better be legitimate or it can become an albatross around the brand’s neck…. any one for sea cruise on a sick ship…just ask luxury cruise ship how freedom on the high seas is working for them?

What say you?

Let us help you work through this. Visit www.rocketbranding.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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