Friday, June 29, 2012

A Review of The Brand Strategy Toolkit

Branding is a big topic. Advice abounds regarding how to build a better brand. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed these days juggling the competing priorities of big data, social media, and employee engagement, get your head on straight with The Brand Strategy Toolkit by Carol Phillips and Judy Hopelain. It’s a great resource to bring focus to your work. This handy primer delivers a step-by-step process for nailing any brand strategy, complete with templates and examples taken from well-respected brands.

Turning insights into action
Right now, big data is a big deal. But it makes a person wonder: how do we translate that ocean of data into meaningful action steps? The authors argue that it’s important to have a clear process in place to turn insights into brand assets. And Ms. Phillips and Ms. Hopelain have made it so easy. Mercifully short at 80 pages, the book is all muscle, no fat. It’s chock full of no-nonsense explanations: “There are four main criteria for evaluating positionings. Two pertain to the customer (resonance, credibility) and two to the company (strategic fit and differentiation).”

Tools and templates that free us to be creative in the right ways
The best brandmakers are creative, as well as strategic. But squandering precious creative juices on designing a planning process is foolish. Thankfully, the tools that accompany The Brand Strategy Toolkit provide an invaluable framework for launching or rethinking your brand. For example, the Brand Assessment Framework and the Brand Equity Pyramid are must haves for any marketer’s toolbox.

Read the full article at MENG Blend: For the Marketing Essentialist, a Review of The Brand Strategy Toolkit

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Oreo Comes Out of the Pantry and Celebrates Pride Week

I confess. I sometimes break my diet with a cold glass of milk and a short stack of Oreo cookies. That’s why I took notice when Oreo chose to celebrate Pride Week with this colorful rainbow cookie. Grabs you, doesn’t it?

Within hours of posting it on the brand's Facebook page, the image went viral. The conversation has been vigorous. Many “likes” and a few vitriolic Internet trolls doing some gay-bashing.

The Pride cookie, which has multiple layers of colorful creme, is part of the brand's 100-year anniversary print campaign, "The History Print", which recreated historical events using Oreo cookies and their best complement, a cold glass of milk.

Tolerance is timely. The Oreo campaign reflects that. How symbolic it is when an iconic All-American brand welcomes a cultural change. Americans see themselves as fair-minded people. But the recent polarization of viewpoints on gay couples has left many centrists wondering, “What’s the big deal?”

That’s the sweet spot for any risk-taking campaign. Keep the edges crisp and unburden the middle.

Much like the cookie.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Creative Uses of Social Media in Educational Leadership

Guest Post by Roslyn Tam
Almost three quarters of students with access to the internet made use of a social networking site in 2010, and those numbers have only been on the rise. These same students are some of the many million users of Twitter and YouTube. With hours and hours spent on these sites, educators are missing the boat on a worthwhile tool for connecting with students. True, social networks can be major time wasters. They can also be helpful, though, when used in the right ways, especially if those charged with the creation of education policy are ready to think outside of the box. Rather than fight the social media trend, some educators are using social networks to improve learning, and to facilitate better communication outside of the classroom.

More than half of teachers, librarians, and other educators use social media for career enrichment through training or blogging, but many are hesitant to bring these tools directly into their lessons. Their reasons are usually sound: many worry that endorsing or encouraging social networking during school hours may prove distracting or, worse, an opportunity for cyber bullying. However, some schools are getting over the fear, and are cautiously making strides to leverage the maximum benefit from networking sites.

New Jersey’s New Milford High School, for instance, issues updates to its students through its Twitter feed and Facebook pages, and encourages the dissemination of everything from homework assignments to sports game highlights online. The connection between parents to what’s going on in their kids’ lives is a valuable tool in this equation, and helps to keep everyone updated on academic and student life.

Eric Sheninger, New Milford’s principal, is one of the program’s biggest advocates. “I stress the fact that this phenomenon is not going away and is a major component in the lives of today’s society,” he said of his school’s embrace of social networking technology. In addition to robustly using networking sites at New Milford, Sheninger has also developed a program to help other schools do the same. Scheninger encourages schools to use development, opportunity, and collaboration to create situations that will lead to a give and take of thoughts and ideas between those being served. This can help to ensure that as many people as possible are having their needs met.

Even some colleges are jumping on the proverbial wagon. At Indiana State University, professors are using Twitter to help students find more successful internships. The network creates a web of support for students to easily access tips from both professors and potential mentors. Many other schools have dedicated Facebook pages for classes, sports teams, and study groups, where professors as well as students interact and ask questions. Schools frequently also offer pages and information streams to connect parents, alumni, and others interested in keeping up with campus happenings.

Social media is an effective tool for teachers because it provides yet another way of effectively reaching students. When needed, it can also be a tremendous way of involving parents in the learning process, too. The communication fostered by easy, asynchronous check-ins gives working parents the opportunity to be involved in their children’s academic lives. Furthermore, by cashing in on a platform students are already using, social media is more likely to be successfully adopted--and students are generally quite excited to participate.

Roslyn Tam is a recent graduate of the University of Washington's political science department, who, from the first day she stepped foot on campus, has taken a sincere and passionate interest in United States education policy. Ms. Tam, an individual preparing for graduate study in educational leadership, believes education to be one of if not the most important determinants of a nation's future economic success and seeks to contribute to its continued success through a career in educational leadership and policy.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Facebook Reveals What Makes a City "Social"

This fascinating snapshot of urban hotspots around the world reveals a pattern. The sites most snapped, shared and tweeted had 3 common traits:

1. Visually distinctive--e.g. Trevi Fountain. I took a snap there myself this spring amidst scores of others all doing the same thing--snapping shots on smart phones and sharing. There is no doubt we are becoming a visual culture worldwide.

2. Culturally rich. There is a sense of past. It's simple to grasp in a thumbnail. This comes from investment made in cultural infrastructure long ago that resonates today among visitors.

3. Spirit of adventure. Top ranking cities have that "wish you were here" aspirational quality.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Impact of the Internet on Life

It's hard to imagine life before the Internet. This handy infographic tells the story in numbers.

What's staggering is not the scope or even the frequency of use. It's the inherent understanding that the technology supports life as we live it. We expect to use it every day. Like electricity and water.

Is that reality is changing who we are...and who we are becoming, as a society?

World without Internet

Monday, June 18, 2012

Millennials Go Mobile to Make Meaningful Connections

Photo by LucasAS
Summer time is social time. It’s a season plush with travel and entertainment activity. We’re busy tracking the tremors of this year’s summer season as a window into where things are headed with Gen Y.

People who observe young people engrossed in their gadgets wonder if technology is making Millennials less social. Our recent monitoring of social media insights tells a different story. Time spent with friends and family continues be a cherished value among young people.

Key insights: Mobile shopping behaviors remain rooted in lifestyle occasions, that involve live experiences with other people. Travel is a purchase trigger.

Jottings from our field notes:
Texting is ubiquitous for getting around. Twitter is now the electronic post-it note for expressing quick points of view and linking people to ideas and places. Foursquare use is waning. Longer form expressions like email are considered a formality for transactions needing a digital “paper trail”, such as reservations.

Travel with friends and family is a powerful trigger for buying clothes, tickets and food. While on the road, smartphones are widely used as navigational tools on the path to purchase. Mobile makes Millennials competent travelers—helping them find attractions, music venues and eateries.

Mobile commerce is still an emerging behavior for cultural consumers of all ages. They tell us in interviews that the convenience and immediacy of buying commodities such as books and music is important to who they are, not just how they spend their time and money. If they find themselves in a conversation about an unfamiliar book, for instance, they’ll obtain it instantly and glance through it to be able to participate.

We continue to track mobile commerce because it’s evolutionary. We dig that, always. So far, smartphones aren’t replacing human connections between people. The technology is facilitating, not replacing.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Anxiety Brands Are Losing Their Edge

I've been following the candidates in the media. I'm listening for "anxiety" messaging. Not hearing it. During the last Presidential election, there was plenty of anxiety being shared on the stump. I've noticed the usual amount of stridency. After all, it's a pivotal election year. But where there's smoke there's not fire. Neither candidate is firing up the flame thrower and fueling deeper discontent among the populace.

Recent outputs from a customer roundtable that I observed revealed people's deeply felt uncertainty. Americans seem shell-shocked. Declining opportunities, debt and general uncertainty have left folks profoundly unsettled. Consumers are hanging back. Was A. G. Lafley was right to declare our situation beyond a recession and dub it a, "major reset?" Time will tell.

The lesson is this: anxiety brands are losing their edge. 

It's summer. Consumers want to relax and rest in the simple pleasures of picnics and watermelon. Want to market something? Don't worry, be happy.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

PCMA in San Antonio

I'm in San Antonio this week giving two talks at the Professional Convention Management Association. It's hot here. Not just the weather, which is a steamy 105 degrees in the shade, but the topics and speakers have all been carefully chosen to help PCMA members learn new things.

I continue to delight in this trend toward deeper knowledge transfer at meetings and conferences. Time is precious. People need to grow intellectually as much as they need to network. Leave it to PCMA to act on a member trend. I'm enjoying being a part of it.

My talks:
How to Launch (practically) Anything in a Digital Culture
How to Position, Package and Pitch Your Big Idea

I'll be sharing my slides with newsletter subscribers. Sign up and's completely FREE!

Friday, June 8, 2012

What Conquering My Fear of New Technology Taught Me About Life

Photo by Janet Mills
I’ve been blogging for 8 years. Professionally, I tout the Internet as a visual medium. Yet, rarely do I include my own photos in my posts. Instead, I use Creative Commons images or seek permissions. What’s up with that? Truth be told, mastering photography terrified me. Not the technology, mind you. But the time investment to hike the technology learning curve. The idea of cashing in what slivers of free time I have in exchange for agonizing late night sessions in Photoshop left me cold.

Enter Catherine Karnow. She shoots for National Geographic and other travel magazines. Her proposal was simple. Italy, 10 days of dawn-to-dusk shoots, plus intensive editing sessions, would transform me from a rank novice into a crack photog.

I’ve worked with Catherine before. Some of her photos helped LitLamp win awards for client publications. But it wasn’t my trust in her promise that made me take the leap. It was my own disgust at having lost my will to grow. My pride had formed a callus that wouldn’t let me take on tough challenges.

I was nervous, not to mention humble, when I showed up in Umbria the first day of the workshop. Having taken bum advice from a local camera store, I showed up with the wrong equipment. It felt worse than being underdressed at a fancy party. I gratefully accepted the loan of a powerhouse camera and tackled a series of shoots that left me hungry for more: night shots, panning, action shots, food and architectural shots, and soulful portraits. Days flew. The work was all consuming, leaving me no time to second guess or think about the client projects waiting back home. I concentrated only on learning.

My focus paid off. I emerged with a terrific set of shots and a new set of skills. Best of all, it renewed my courage. I recently hosted a coffee klatch for brandmakers who are marketing-minded geeks, both upstarts and silverbacks, eager to swap insights on branding in a digital culture. I’ve embarked on new research about what digital culture is doing to consumers' sense of identity. I taught myself how to change the oil on my lawn mower. I agreed to give hybrid session workshops (live and virtual), meaning I’ll have to master a whole new presentation style.

Next year, I plan to join Catherine in Vietnam. It may as well be the moon. Which reminds me of this quote about rewards inherent in risking what’s difficult:
“We choose to go to the moon and other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.”

John F. Kennedy

Thursday, June 7, 2012

On My Nightstand: The Four Steps to the Epiphany

The next big thing in marketing will not be a new social media tool. It'll be a new kind of talent: the marketing-minded engineer. That "epiphany" descended upon me via Andrew Chen. His blog post about VPs of Growth Hacking led me to pick up The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win by Steve Blank. An entrepreneur, business strategist, and retired marketing executive in Silicon Valley, Blank has 32 years experience hacking out ways to make things that people will love and want to share. The book offers useful insights from a seasoned marketing-minded geek--in other words, the original VP of Growth Hacking.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Meaningful Marketing: Most Effective U.S. Advertisers List Includes a Library

No surprise, P & G topped the list of most effective U.S. Advertisers. Big surprise, Troy Public Library, located just outside of Detroit, came in at No. 5. Jennifer Rooney, a marketing columnist at Forbes, gave the library’s campaign a full briefing: “[It] was an unexpected and particularly interesting case; in an effort to make clear the viability of libraries, it used very limited marketing dollars to promote a book-burning drive." She quotes Matt Seiler, CEO of IPG Mediabrands and Effie Worldwide chairman of the board: "They used deprivation to go viral. In a really compelling way, they said, this thing’s going away. That got people up in arms.”

The Troy Library campaign, financed on a shoestring, is proof positive of something we drive home to our clients every day. Be bold! Or, as David Ogilvy would say, "Don’t bunt."

People talk about the brave new world of social brand building. It’s been my observation that the rise of social media rendered some brandmakers more skittish than bold. Perhaps it’s the lack of boundaries in the digital culture that keeps people playing it safe.

It's well known that the digital age is overwhelmed by messages. People can barely think straight. Rather than making some dry civic appeal for the library’s existence, librarians delivered a gut punch. Book burning is iconic—it’s cultural shorthand for the end of liberty. The very thought of a pile of books set aflame is a searing threat to a value our culture still finds meaningful--intellectual freedom. That's what made the campaign click.

Congratulations to all the winners. But our special kudos go to the brave librarians at the Troy Public Library for doing what few learning brands dare to venture: bold messaging delivered passionately and without apology.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Art and Science Make a New Baby: Ten Billion - An Innovative Lecture

One of the hallmarks of a renaissance is the rise in collaborations between artists and scientists. These creative partnerships often spark entirely new genres.

This summer, scientist Stephen Emmott and theatrical director Katie Mitchell will hit the London theatre scene with Ten Billion: An Exploration of the Future of Life on Earth, a theatrically produced scientific lecture. The curtain rises July 12 at London’s Royal Court Theatre. The talk illuminates what’s being lost in translation in our discussion of the environment.

Emmott is the head of Computational Science at Microsoft Research Cambridge—in addition to being a professor of Computational Science at the University of Oxford. He predicts the future of the climate and the future of life on Earth. 

Katie Mitchell is an officer of the Order of the British Empire, but also a veteran director of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

It’s been a heavy year of foreign travel for me. But I’d thrill to cross the pond to see this event. Not only because of what I suspect will be important content, but because it’s more evidence to witness the rise of the renaissance.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Top Infographic for Spring: Rich Snippets

There were lots of terrific infographics out this spring. My favorites depict consumer behavior and attitudes that drive interactions.

This one really got me thinking:
Click the image to see the full infographic at SEOmoz