Tag Archives: branding

Marketing tip #1 – Keep em hanging. The art of a great story.

It’s the basic foundation that all marketing is build upon. Understanding that a great story is the best vehicle to command attention and drive message awareness. If that’s the case, why do so many marketing professionals fail miserably at story telling? In a nutshell, they’re too eager to get to the punch line, the happy ending or in our world what we like to call the “big payoff.” In other words, they are too busy selling and not focused on telling a proper story.

Telling a story is easy. Telling a great story that leaves the audience captivated is a craft that takes time, dedication and pure talent to master. All great stories contain certain elements that draw the reader in. Think of the great characters in literature – Steinbeck’s Tom Joad, Abby’s Hayduke or Nichols’ Joe Mondragon. These characters are filled with complex traits, each facing internal struggles, self doubt, heartache, joy, uncertainty, defeat and success. What makes these characters come alive is that they are portrayed as humans. They aren’t perfect, they don’t live in a perfect world and sometimes things don’t go their way. The audience emotionally connects with these things, they’ve been there, they’ve felt that way and have experienced these same emotions and struggles. When presented with this type of a story they want to stick with it and invest their time into finding out what happens in the end. Your audience is willing to make it to the “big payoff” but they want to earn it. They deserve something with substance, not a sales pitch.

So, the next time you’re working out concepts for that new campaign, keep the story in mind. Here are a few elements that any story must contain to be captivating: Tension, drama, emotion, connection, anxiety, self-doubt, internal struggle, conflict, joy, defeat and success. How you incorporate these things into your work is the difference between telling a good story and a great story.

And sometimes…the best stories told are the ones that can convey all of these things without saying a single word. That’s a brand that has confidence in who it is.

Now get out there and start telling great stories.


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Marketing tip #2 – think simple and be amazing

Wanna blow your customers minds? Here’s the most overlooked but simplest marketing tactic you can do to beat your competition…Have a real person answer the phone when it rings. It’s that simple. Have someone pick up the phone and say, “Hello, thanks for calling ABC company, it’s a great day. My name is (insert actual name here). How can I be of service to you?”

I just tried to secret shop a competitor and was stuck in a vortex of voice mail hell and after 3+ minutes of pushing numbers then listening to prompts and pushing more numbers I was rewarded by being disconnected without ever talking to a live person. I sat there thinking “What if I was a real customer looking for real information?” Then I smiled to myself and thought, “This is great, these people have no concept of Customer Service 101!”

If you think your business is too big to add this personal touch, I would challenge you to come up with a solution to make it happen.

Give it a try and thank me later.


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Marketing Tip #9 – Employees are also people

Branding and messaging to employees is just as critical, if not more so, than what you put into the public sector. Employees are your biggest brand ambassadors, so are you treating them like one?

Here’s an example: An organization sends out a communication via postal mail to it’s employees. The individuals did not allow themselves the time to wait a week to get proper business papers ordered so that the employees would receive a nice, crisp and properly branded piece in the mail from the organization they work for. Instead, what the employees received was a mishmash of mixed envelopes, letter head and a poorly written letter. Basically putting time before brand and message.

It makes one wonder how the employees must have felt when they got a communication from their employer that basically looked like it had been put together by a group of third-grade students but yet see that their branding to outside consumers is very sharp and thought provoking. It’s rather disrespectful to the intelligence of the employee. This happens every day in thousands of organizations.

Employees are your biggest brand ambassadors. Think about it, they have chosen to come to your business five days a week, spend an average of 8 to 10 hours per day focused on selling, promoting, using and living amongst your product and or service. Every one of their friends, families and neighbors knows what they do for a living, where they go everyday. When they meet someone new, one of the first questions asked is, “Where do you work?” or “What do you do for a living?”

Well…here’s two possible responses:

An employee that knows and understands the brand, culture and message:
“I work at ABC company. We specialize in providing an exceptional multidimensional experience for our customers that are fortunate enough to use our product line. You should check it out. Yeah, we rock.”


An employee that has no concept of the brand, culture and message:
“I work at ABC company but to be honest, it sucks and I’m looking for another job. Will you keep your ears open for me if you hear of anything? Hey, where’s the beer? I thought there was going to be beer here?”

Don’t think your employees don’t notice when you’re not treating or talking to them the same as your consumers (that’s a triple negative hat-trick by the way). They know it and the way they act towards your customers while at work and out in the real world after work dictates how entrenched they are in your culture, brand and message.

Here’s the takeaway:
Go up to five of your employees individually and ask them what is the sole purpose of the company and why does the company exist (answering “to make money” or “to make a product” doesn’t count). If you get five different answers, you have work to do internally. Basically, every employee should be able to tell you the same thing when you ask them this question. It’s called a “brand mantra,” something that is a mind-set and not written in an employee manual. The employees at Nike, Starbucks, Patagonia, Disney, the Ritz Carlton and every other major brand in the world gets it. If you’re getting different answers then you need to turn your branding, messaging and marketing efforts inward. Don’t spend a dime selling the dream on the street if you’re delivering a nightmare on the inside.

Want your brand to shine? It starts with shinny happy employees that are 100% committed and treated like they are the most important part of the brand. Get busy homies. You’ve got work to do!


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Marketing Tip #7 – best practice means settling for 2nd place

There is a saying in the competitive world that I absolutely love. It goes something like this: “Second place just means you’re the first loser.” I love that, it just make me smile and reminds me every day that second place is not where I want to be.

I like to translate this same thought into the business world, especially when I hear people mention two words that make my skin crawl. Those two words are “best practice.” Just physically saying those two words makes me suddenly feel claustrophobic and short of breath.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it: “Best practice is used to describe the process of developing and following a standard way of doing things that multiple organizations can use.”

Now, for some aspects of a business, utilizing best practice makes sense. It’s a way to track and emulate results driven and proven processes that can ultimately help an organization survive. However, those of us who live, breathe, eat, sleep and earn a living in the creative world know that “best practice” will find no quarter in our compound.

Too many times I’ve seen the results of campaigns that have been based on what is considered best practice. They all look the same and there’s absolutely nothing that sets it apart from all the other messages cluttering our daily lives. Basically, there’s nothing groundbreaking about them. Nothing unexpected.

The thing that I find interesting about best practice is that at some point in time, some radical thought was introduced into an organization and that idea was given the ability to come to fruition. That radical idea was so successful that it soon became known as best practice for other organizations to emulate.  My point being, at one time, everything that is now considered a best practice was a radically different thought that had never been done before.

Volkswagen is a great example of an organization that doesn’t use best practice in their marketing. Heck, I’d be surprised if they use the concept of best practice in much of their everyday business and that’s why they are such an amazing enterprise. Here’s one of my favorite VW ads as an example of presenting a brand in a very fresh and interesting way.


Volkswagen may not win the Indy 500 but they’re in first place in the brand race.

Here’s the takeaway – VW breaks all the rules of best practice with this piece. There’s no voiceover, no pitch person, no fancy graphics and most importantly – you hardly even see a Volkswagen car. What the piece does convey is that Volkswagen is the purveyor of an exciting, fun and carefree life. How do you become this type of person? The first step is driving a Volkswagen. There’s no way the implementation of a best practice campaign strategy would get them to this point. They broke the rules and broke new ground. That’s where I want to be. How about you?


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Marketing tip #8 – Why sell hot sauce when you can sell HOT SAUCE?

If you want to stand out in your industry, don’t look, act, talk, walk, quack or bark like anyone else in your industry. The best way to stand apart from your counterparts/competition is to be completely different. Sounds easy right? Then why do so many fail?

When beginning the process of research, development and design (RD&D) of a product, many make the mistake of looking at their counterparts in the same industry to see what they are doing, what they look like, how they position their message. Well, guess what happens when they get done with their RD&D and launch their new product? It’s no different than any other product in their industry. There’s nothing that sets it apart from all the rest.

If you have a product or packaging in development, look at other industries to see what they are doing for packaging, graphic design, POP displays, messaging, warranties, market channel distribution etc. Work to understand the overall vibe of the industry and how you can incorporate these new ideas into your own products. Make sure your RD&D team understands that the expectation is to NOT be like anyone else in your competing market. Challenge them to look outside and create something fresh and new that’s never been seen. They’ll appreciate the challenge.

Here are some of the industries/niche interests I like to follow for fresh ideas:
Photography and video
Vintage outdoor sports, motorsports and luxury goods
Outdoor and athletic wear

Do you sell hot sauce or do you sell HOT SAUCE? Both accomplish the same goal, but look how the delivery of the Chop Shop Hot Sauce (below) blows anything else in the marketplace out of the water with packaging and design. This is a perfect example of setting yourself apart from all the others in your industry by incorporating fresh design and non-traditional packaging.

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