Like many people, I’m a little leery of voluntarily placing a listening device in my home. I don’t care if it has a cute name like Siri or Alexa or even if it looks like Alicia Vikander. I don’t want it around eavesdropping on me. Earlier this year, we got a prelude to the kinds of damage these devices can do. A Portland, Oregon family reported that their in-home Alexa recorded family conversations and sent them, without any sort of authorization, to an apparently random name in their contact list. The recipient was one of the husband’s employees, in Seattle, who immediately warned the family and recommended they unplug poor Alexa. (Funny how sad it is when this happens. Remember Hal singing “Daisy, D-a-i-s-y … “ in 2001: A Space Odyssey?) When learning of this techno-error, I immediately affected a smug, told-you-so attitude. One more battle won in the war to stave off The Singularity. But as I pondered it a little more, I sensed a nagging kernel of doubt in my self-congratulation. And, before long, I realized I had completely misunderstood this Alexa. I was looking at it in an absolutely incorrect way.
When people are given the job of marketing something, there’s a natural rush to “tell the story”. Advertisers gonna advertise. The CEO is under pressure to get results and the CMO is determined to deliver those results. It’s a full-court press! Fill every channel with content! Leave no stone unturned! Make sure we’re top of mind in the buyers’ decision-making process! But remember. Branding is supposed to be a love affair between a market and the thing that needs to be marketed. If you’re so eager to start the love affair that you do all the talking on the first date, well you’re unlikely to get a second date. Marketing, at it’s most effective, is a conversation between the brand asset and the brand user. Always has been. But in today’s interactive world, there’s no excuse whatsoever if you’re not letting your client/customer get a word in edgewise.
Comic-Con 2018 ended last week. It’s an annual, orgiastic celebration of a certain sliver of pop culture, the kind that originates from comic books or other forms of serial storytelling. Fans reveal their truly scary fanaticism by engaging in cosplay, crafting elaborate costumes for themselves so as to “become” their favorite fictitious character. Then they scurry about, eagerly searching for collectibles or attending panel discussions or getting selfies with movie stars. It’s easy to dismiss these people as nerds with too much time on their hands. But one thing you have to give them – they’re creative. When fans of a popular franchise – say Star Wars or Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings – get tired of waiting for the next installment, they sometimes take matters into their own hands. They write stories of their own and publish them online. They draw their own comic books. They even film their own adventures of characters they’d like to see more of, like Boba Fett or Tom Bombadil. Of course, these franchises have their corporate overlords who employ squadrons of attorneys to squash anyone who dares violate copyright laws. But it’s a weird dynamic when you’re sending your brand police after your own best customers. And here’s the thing: As more and more non-entertainment brands attain cult-like status, they’ll start running into the same issues. How to prepare?
In a prior post (November 14, 2017) we talked about imagining a market as if it was a boy band. Let’s take the Beatles, which was the boy band from my youth. There was John, the artistic one; Paul the cute one; George, the spiritual one; and, finally, Ringo, the lovable, goofy one. Imagine your top three competitors – plus you. Describe each of the four companies with a single adjective. This is a difficult but worthwhile exercise because it really gets you thinking about the positioning of each company; it provides a clue to how the market perceives these brands. Take your time. Really dig down and think seriously about how these entities are viewed. Come up with that one word that authentically describes each one of them. OK, finished? Now, what if it turns out you’re the lovable, goofy one – and not one of the cool kids? What if that’s the authentic you but it’s not what you set out to build?
Most of the mergers and acquisitions professionals I’ve met have told me, when business owners want to sell their companies, they usually want to sell them – right now! After decades of work, nose to the grindstone, they suddenly decide it’s time to retire. Almost with no warning, they’re suddenly eager to relax, spend time with the grandkids, and enjoy the fruits of their labor. That haste is certainly understandable. But it’s also unfortunate because, as any exit coach will tell you, the time to start planning the sale of a business is four to five years in advance. To maximize sale price, a business has to be in condition to sell. You don’t want too much debt. The books have to be scrubbed clean. Employee benefit packages have to be in place. Redundancy has to be built into the staffing. There are many, many factors to be considered and they all interact with one another. It’s complicated and it takes time to get everything perfect. And then there’s the one thing that even most M&A professionals fail to consider – brand value.
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Best Branding Reads
Week of August 13, 2018
Innovating Brand Loyalty Programs
Customize your loyalty program to your brand’s promise.
Open Branding: Mozilla, Once More, Crowdsources Its Evolving Brand
I vote for System One. Especially bullish on its lead logo.
Live Events Are the Next Big Thing in Branding
It feels liberating to get off the screens for an hour or two.
Synching The Customer Journey With Brand Value
Brand exploration is all about learning to see your business from your customer’s point of view.
New Logo and Identity for Tumblr
Seems like not much of a change at first. But then you see the applications and realize its quite comprehensive.
I drew the logos for each NBA team in sriracha on my tortillas
Of course you did. Somebody had to.
10 Marketing, Web Design & Branding Statistics To Help You Prioritize Business Growth Initiatives
Some eye-opening information here. Worth checking out the infographic, at the very least.