Brandtalk - Useful insights, global news, humble opinions

This is my archive

Why Brands Now Lead In Innovation

There’s plenty of innovation going on at research labs all across the globe. In space, in pharmaceuticals, in renewable energy, and countless other fields, people are working day and night to find breakthroughs and discoveries. But it’s brands that are doing the most deliberate innovation right now. Why? Because consumers are demanding it. Ecommerce is booming because people want the convenience of shopping from home. Retail is going all out to create experiences that consumers will find compelling enough to bring them out to the mall. Consumer products are constantly re-inventing themselves to be greener, more sustainable or less damaging to the environment. Financial services are competing to make banking and investing easier, safer, more secure and socially responsible. Sports and entertainment events are aiming to be ever more spectacular. All this is driven by consumer demand. Marketing has always been concerned with meeting customer needs, of course. But today’s world moves at the speed of a mouse click. So competitive brands are forced to follow the rule of A-B-I – Always Be Innovating. Read More


Why Business People Are So Skeptical About Branding

Just a buzzword. A fad. Blue sky. Unmeasurable. Unnecessary. Many, perhaps most, leaders of small- and middle-market businesses are quick to dismiss branding as a waste of resources … or worse. I accept the blame for this state of affairs. Well, maybe not full blame. But I am among the many professionals who write and speak publicly about branding. I’ve been called – and I shudder to utter these words – a branding expert. (I’m always mindful of Harry Truman’s definition of an expert: Someone who can’t ever be wrong because, if he ever is, then he ain’t an expert any more.) But I do write and speak about branding. And so do trademark attorneys, public relations professionals, graphic designers, ad men, inbound marketers, social media marketers, business coaches and countless others. And English being the mutable language it is, we all use the terms brand and branding in slightly different ways. What is a business person to think when even we so-called experts can’t agree on a definition of the thing we’re supposed to be experts on? Read More


How Blockchain Will Alter Branding

Very excited today, to be speaking to Jan Young, blockchain expert and champion. Jan has extensive expertise in digital media and has worked in Strategic Accounts and Product Management. She has an MBA from Columbia Business School, is a certified CSPO (Product Owner) and Scrum Master, and has certifications in Blockchain Business and Solutions Architecture. You can find her Blockchain Tech blog for non-coders on Medium at Blockchain2Go. Jan is a board member of The Rabbit Hole, a woman-powered blockchain community. The Rabbit Hole is conducting Beginner Blockchain Day here in Los Angeles on October 12, and Bitcoin Basics Brunch on Oct 13. She is also a co-founder of Prototopian Tech (website launching soon) which leads creative workshops on emerging technologies. Recently, I was speaking to Jan about the nature of brands, how they’re actually the shared relationship between a marketable asset and its market. We talked about how interactive technology has begun to shift the power in those relationships towards consumers – and away from the traditional gatekeepers of the brand, the owners and managers of marketable assets. You can see the trend in everything from the way consumers can now demand that businesses take a stand on social issues, to the impact of Yelp reviewers, even to how fan fiction influences some entertainment brands. It seemed to me, given its emphasis on decentralization, blockchain has the potential to really accelerate that shift. So, I asked Jan about it. Read More


Your Brand’s Drill and Hole

There’s an old adage that goes, “Nobody buys a drill because they need a drill. People buy a drill because they need a hole.” Similarly, when you ask somebody what they do for a living, they almost always describe their occupation in terms of what it is they sell. They describe their “drill” whether it’s financial advice, patio furniture, fine wines, or some other product. But, when you look at who’s buying these products, you find they have real reasons for buying that have nothing to do with the sellers’ products. All business people are egocentric in this sense (and I mean it in the most positive way). We do what we do because that’s what we will. We go to the beach because we want to go to the beach. We go to the movies because that’s what we want to do. We start a business because we think it would be a good idea. But that egocentric approach to business can also put us at a disadvantage. We’re not seeing our brand from our market’s point of view. So here’s a two-step challenge for business people. First step, describe your business in terms of the “drill” you’re selling. Piece of cake, right? You’re probably doing it every time someone at a party asks you “So, Charlie, what do you do?” Second step, describe your business in terms of the “hole” your clients or customers are buying. For most managers, this will not be so easy. Read More


5 Steps To A Brand Culture That Drives Innovation

These days every business wants to be known as innovative. Every company wants a reputation for outside-the-box creative thinking. Everybody wants to be the disruptor and not among the disrupted. Trouble is, very few businesses ever really attain that status. Most managers have no idea how to inject innovation into their teams. They can’t imagine how they can ask to see more creativity out of their employees. Fortunately, last year, Accenture completed a study that revealed the answer: Equality. They found that when businesses that had a brand culture of inclusiveness and fair treatment of everyone, employees felt more empowered to strive for innovative solutions. Read More


Defining Brand Purpose, Social Purpose and Cause Marketing

There’s so much confusion these days about what’s called the purpose-driven brand. Regular readers of Brandtalk know I’ve complained in the past about how people muddy the waters by assigning different meanings to “brand purpose”. It’s frustrating because many in the business community are already skeptical about branding. Some still think of it as touchy-feely, unmeasurable hogwash. It’s often dismissed as just another buzzword. And part of the reason these misconceptions are so hard to dispel is those of us in the branding community are already confusing people by using different jargon to mean different things. Business people are to be forgiven their skepticism when two different branding “experts” address the same branding problem sounding nothing like each other. We come off as kooks. Now we’re muddying the waters further by each having our own definition of brand purpose. I’d like to propose we, the branding community, attempt to clear this up by standardizing our terminology. I suggest we adopt “brand purpose” to mean the purpose to which a market puts a brand. I propose “social purpose” as the way a brand makes its customers’ lives better. Finally, let’s go with “cause marketing” as the leverage of social issues for commercial purposes. If we could adopt those terms, or some just like them, we’d finally be able to stop talking past each other. And our clients would find clarity. Read More


Change Is The Mother Of Brand Innovation

Q – How do you know when its time to consider making a change to your brand? A – When there’s been a change in your business. In point of fact, that’s not entirely true. There are actually quite a few different symptoms that could possibly indicate a branding problem. Symptoms like flattening sales or high employee turnover, among others. (All of these symptoms will be addressed in a future blog post.) However, when high turnover occurs, most businesses look elsewhere for answers. They almost never consider that a weak brand might be a significant contributing factor to the problem. But a change in the business itself? That is one time when management is likely to think about their brand. Because any significant change at all could have a serious knock-on effect. It could result in a change in company culture, a change in positioning, or some other important change in the way the business relates to its market. Let’s look a little closer at how change can affect your brand. Read More


The Terrifying Challenges of the Luxury brand – redux

Because of the holiday weekend, we're repeating a popular blog post from the past. This one first appeared on December 18, 2017. Please enjoy.So you want to launch a luxury brand. I hope you’re well capitalized. In fact, if we were friends, I’d probably try to talk you out of it. There are so many hurdles, so many barriers to entry above and beyond the not insignificant hard work of starting any business. According to Gian Luigi Longinotti-Buitoni, President and CEO of Ferrari North America, when you’re selling luxury, you’re selling dreams. So, to build the luxury brand, not only do you have to reach your market like any other brand, you have to reach into the dreams of your market and become a fixture there. And that is exceedingly difficult. But when you examine the journeys of successful luxury brands, there is not much of a clear pattern to follow. There is no road map, only landmarks. And the threats are many. Read More


Fitting A Brand Into Its Culture

Not talking about corporate culture here. Not talking about brands being cultured, as in “Lah-di-dah. What a boring art show. I think I’ll have another canapé.”, either. No, I’m talking about the culture at large, which still is localized at different places around the world. American culture is not British culture is not French culture is not Chinese culture. And even those very distinct cultures can break down into smaller sub-segments. But with all those cultures that global brands have to take into consideration, there’s another trend moving in the opposite direction. And that is that all these cultures are blending too. Populations are moving in all directions. Cultures are mixing, influencing one another. There’s a restaurant in Los Angeles that advertises its Vietnamese/Salvadoran cuisine. In the US, we feel that immigration gives us strength. That’s been our history, anyway. But in Europe, cultural integration is a more difficult process. The jury is still out on whether that can be satisfactorily resolved. But what does it all mean for your efforts to run a business and make a living? What does it mean for your brand? Read More


Does Your Brand Repulse New Hires?

The National Center for the Middle Market (NCMM) has done some studies that confirm what everyone reading this will already know. The primary concern of middle market companies in the US today is finding and retaining qualified people to get the work done. It’s a problem, in fact, that’s approaching crisis-level concern. But the NCMM isn’t content with simply restating the obvious. They’ve looked deeper to determine why this is such a chronic problem and what middle market businesses can do about it. They’ve found that most of these companies have neglected to build what they call an “employer brand” and an “employee value proposition”. But is building a completely new brand, specifically designed to appeal to job candidates, really the answer? Read More