Tag Archives for " Marketing 101 "

4 Class A Offices. Class C Websites.

Moved into a swanky new office building last week. (Great views of Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top, Three Sisters and the Phoenix Inn parking lot.)

BNBranding new office building

The Alexander Drake Building, Downtown Bend, OR

As I was unpacking boxes, lifting heavy furniture and contemplating the feng shui, it occurred to me that office makeovers are much easier than website makeovers.

Professional service firms spend a lot of time and money on their office space. And rightly so. For companies with no tangible product to sell, it’s a crucial component of the brand.

For instance, when it comes to selecting an ad agency, office space always figures into the equation. The workspace is a tangible display of the agency’s creativity and “out-of-the-box” thinking. Or lack thereof.

Clients love doing business with people in cool offices. They want to go somewhere that feels different, better, or more energized than their own office. It’s an escape from their normal, day-to-day reality. Take a tour of Weiden & Kennedy’s Portland headquarters and you’ll see what I mean.

For architects the office is an everyday opportunity to show off their work. It’s exhibit A in the firm portfolio.

For attorneys it’s about showing off their ivy league law degrees and proving, somehow, that they’re worth $350 an hour.

Harry Beckwith, in “What Clients Love,” tells how State Farm Insurance chose a firm to handle a huge payroll and benefits contract. They looked at all the proposals, narrowed the field, sat through presentations and listened to pitches from several very capable companies.

Then they dropped in, unexpectedly. They walked through the offices, said a quick hello to their contacts, and chose the firm that “felt the best” based on that one visit.

The details matter… Location. Colors. Layout. Even the coffee you serve says something about your brand. Is your company percolating along on Folger’s, or is it serving up a hot shot of espresso with a perfect crema on top?

When was the last time you freshened things up around your office? Sometimes a good, old-fashioned spring cleaning is just what your people need to get reenergized… Rearrange the furniture. Paint some walls. Change up the artwork. Shuffle offices around. Freak people out!

And what about your website? Many professional service firms with Class A office space still have old, Class C websites. If so, you need a website makeover. Because these days, your site might be more more important than your space.

Ask yourself this: Is there a disconnect between what people see on your site and what they experience at your office? Be honest. If there is, you should read this post on conversion branding. Then call me.

Many small companies that are genuinely warm and inviting in person maintain websites that are far too chilly and corporate. They’re trying so hard to look big and important they overlook their own brand personality.

And vice-versa. Banks, utilities and public agencies work hard to make themselves sound friendly and personable online, then disappoint everyone when it comes to actual human interaction. The customer service can’t live up to the brand promise.

Ideally, you want to align the look, feel and functionality of your website with the brand personality, culture and operation of your company.

Easier said than done.

You can’t just re-write the copy of the “about us” section and call it good web makeover. You have to go back to an honest assessment of your brand… To your core values and your main messages that always seem to get relegated to internal documents and forgettable, corporate mission statements.

That should be the inspiration for your website redesign, as well as your office revamp. Not the latest advances in widget technology or a new line of Herman Miller office chairs.

It’s the message, stupid!

Getting the message right and communicating it quickly and clearly is the single most important goal for your website makeover. Far more important than impressing people with technology. (Unless you’re in the technology business.)

So before you sign a lease on a new office space or launch a website initiative, go back to your brand book for inspiration.

If you don’t have one, call me.

3 The Olympics — The world’s most powerful brand?

I love the Winter Olympics.

I got hooked as a boy when Franz Klammer made his infamous gold medal run at the Innsbruck Games, and I’ve been watching ever since. I have to admit, I even watch some of the ice skating. (But no Ice Dancing.)

The summer games are fun too, and it’ll be fun to watch the London Games, but they don’t have the thrill-factor of the winter games. A diver doing a twisting three-and-a-half into a pool just isn’t as compelling as a guy on skis doing a triple with five twists.

Gotta land on your feet and ski away when doing a “Hurricane”.

Olympics branding Vancouver Winter GamesThe Vancouver Games delivered everything I expected from the Olympics, and a little bit more. The event started on a very sad note, with the death of Nodar Kumaritashvili, a luge competitor from Georgia. Only one other luge driver has ever died in Olympic competition.

But there have been other unfortunate mishaps over the years. Terrorism in Munich in 1972. The Soviet boycott of the Los Angeles games in 1984. A bomb explosion in Atlanta in 1996.

Every time the games suffer a set-back, the Olympic brand bounces back stronger than ever. The brand is perched on such a high pedestal around the world, it’s almost bullet proof.

Here’s an example: In 1995, the IOC awarded Salt Lake City the Winter Games for 2002. As it turned out, the decision was fixed. IOC members had taken millions of dollars in bribe money. As a result, the top leaders of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee resigned. Ten members of the IOC were expelled and 10 more were sanctioned.

But the Olympics rose above the fray. By the time the Salt Lake Games commenced, the scandal was all but forgotten. Organizers actually raised the price of corporate sponsorships 30 percent.

In the last 10 years the pricetag for an Olympic sponsorship has risen dramatically. NBC paid $5.7 Billion for television rights through 2012. Visa paid $65 million dollars just for the privilege of associating their brand with the Olympic rings for four years.

No other sporting event commands that kind of attention in the corporate marketing world. You could argue it’s the most desirable brand affiliation on earth.

Why? Because the Olympic brand represents something that goes way beyond athletic competition. It’s the intangible “spirit of the games” that makes it riveting for the audience, and desirable to the corporate world.

Every Olympic Games is filled with real-life stories of triumph and tragedy. Every night for two weeks there are new characters, new story lines, new scenic backdrops, new drama. It’s heroes and underdogs, great feats of strength and stamina juxtaposed with delicate dance moves and tears of joy.

As the San Jose Mercury News put it, “it’s the ultimate reality show.” And we eat it up. It’s human nature. It’s a two-week event, every other year, that has all the components of great brands.

If you’re trying to build a brand of any kind, keep these things in mind, every day:

• The Olympics are authentic and unscripted.

At the Olympics you find ordinary people pursuing their favorite sports, not for the million-dollar endorsement deals but for the pure sense of personal accomplishment. Especially in the winter games. (Even in Canada there can’t be much money in curling.)

The authenticity is obvious in the post-run interviews… The athletes are articulate, less rehearsed and obviously passionate about their sport, and about the Olympics. You don’t get those canned, banal responses like you do in the NFL.

And when it comes to PR damage control, the IOC has handled things pretty well. When Olympic officials went on TV to face questions about the luge incident, the tears were genuinely heartwrenching. No spin whatsoever.

Toyota could learn a thing or two.

Winter olympics in Vancouver Whistler Canada• The Olympics are dramatically different.

Most notably, the Olympics are less commercial than other mega-events like the Superbowl or the soccer World Cup.

There’s no on-field branding allowed in the Olympics. You’ll never see a giant VISA banner hung behind the medals stand or along the boards in the figure skating arena. And the athletes aren’t plastered with logos, ala-Nascar.

At The Games, the Olympic brand always takes precedent over any other type of branding, personal or corporate. So even when you have NHL and NBA stars competing, it’s not about them. It’s about The Games.

The competitors even take an oath. They swear to uphold the tenets of the Olympic Charter and willingly pee in a cup after every event. They are required to put their own, personal gains aside for two weeks and compete “in the spirit of friendship and fair play.”

It may seem a little cheesy, a little old fashioned, but that’s a central element of the Olympic brand.

• The Olympics have remained relevant for more than 100 years.

The characters change, individual events evolve, but at The Olympics, the themes remain consistent.

There’s something uniquely compelling about obscure sports that you’ve never tried, and that you only see during the Olympics…

Ski as fast as you can — uphill — then stop and shoot, without missing.

For people who never ski, it’s hard to relate to ski racing of any kind. Same can be said for the skating events… The general public has no concept of the difficulty and physical demands of a 4-minute program. It looks too easy.

And even though most people can’t relate, they still watch. The Vancouver Olympics drew massive television audiences, even beating out American Idol in the Neilson ratings. Almost 35 million Americans tuned in to the last part of the gold medal hockey game. And in Canada, 80% of the population watched at least part of that game.

And hockey wasn’t the only big draw. Overall ratings in the U.S. were up 25 percent over the 2006 games in Torino. This year, snowboarding, skier-cross and short track speed skating helped bring in record audiences among the 12 to 24 year-old demographic. Just as I was enthralled with Franz Klammer, a whole new generation will be inspired by Shawn White and Apollo Anton Ohno.

• The brand is way more than a mark.

Five, multi-colored, interlocking rings. That’s the official mark of the games that dates back to 1920. As the Olympic Charter states, the rings “represent the union of the five continents and the meeting of athletes from throughout the world at the Olympic Games.”

But the Olympic brand is much richer and more meaningful than that.

You’ll often hear brand managers and consultants talking about “core brand values” and the underlying meaning of great brands. When you watch the Olympics, and get sucked into the storylines, you can see what they mean.

2 Branding in a skeptical world — Two Trends For 2012

Magazine editors and TV journalists love year-end lists. And when it’s the end of a decade, there’s even more interest in rehashing the top 10 things in every category from celebrity scandals to the most trusted brands.

I prefer to look forward, and I suspect many of you are with me on that. So here are two — not ten — branding trends that will help you, right now.

• The crisis of confidence and the consumer’s ultra-sensitive, internal BS meter.

The last two years have not been good for consumer confidence. The banking collapse. Bernie Madoff. AIG bonuses. The automotive bailout. Tiger’s “transgressions.” No wonder people are more jaded than ever.

Consumers are singing a collective tune, and the refrain goes like this: “don’t bullshit me!” (It’s country western.) They’re more savvy than you think. They’re armed with information, and if they catch you trying to pull a fast one, they’ll blast their song to the entire world.

Negative word-of-mouth has never spread so fast, or so far.

Customer reviews on sites such as Yelp, Angies’ List, Amazon, and Citysearch have become so popular, the press is calling this the “reputation economy.”

The big brands are spending millions to monitor and manage the online dialog, but control is squarely in the hands of the consumer. They now have the power to preempt a major branding effort with a few bad reviews, blog posts or YouTube videos. (Remember Micheal Phelps?)

Entire industries have been buried in bad will. Take, for instance, the mortgage business…

If you’re trying to manage a brand in that turbulent mess, your single most important task right now is rebuilding credibility and regaining the confidence of your constituents.

And it’s not going to happen overnight.

Here’s the good news: When it suddenly crashed, that big wave you were riding wiped out more than half of your competitors. Darwinian capitalism at its best. The bad news is, all those failures tarnished your image too. As a survivor, you have to dig yourself out of a hole filled with bad press, misperceptions and tainted experiences.

It can be done if you focus on making the entire experience better than it ever was. During the boom, no one cared about service. It was just a race to see who could close the most deals. So the bar is very, very low.

Hurdle it by being honest with yourself and with your prospects.

Slow down. You’re in a service business, so focus on building a better process that will deliver an experience that far surpasses their expectations.

Do that, and you’ll have an authentic story to tell. Do that, and you can get past the skepticism and come out of this better than ever.

• The experience is everything.

Branding isn’t just about products and marketing messages. It’s about the real life experiences people have around the product. Directly and indirectly.

So the easiest way to generate authentic, positive word-of-mouth is to provide an experience that far exceeds that of your competitors.

Think of everyone who went to the movies in the last week or two. How hard would it be for Regal Cinemas to make the experience dramatically better for us during the busiest time of year?

Not hard at all.

Imagine if we didn’t have to wait in a long line, out in the freezing cold. Of if we did have to wait, imagine if someone was serving little cups of hot chocolate. That would warm us up to the Regal Brand.

Imagine if we didn’t have to wait in yet another serpentine line for the same old Skittles. Or what if they offered a Christmas special on popcorn and soda that didn’t cost as much as the movie.

Talk about a better experience. Talk about Tweetable differentiation… “No lines at the Regal Cinemas on 5th.”

We would drive out of their way for that. We would tell our friends and post positive reviews. And most of all, we’d remember that experience the next time. Given a choice — same movie, two different theaters — we’d opt for the theater that triggers some little reminder of a positive experience.

That’s great branding.

Here’s another example: Over the holidays I heard a couple raving about their experience with a Lexus dealer. They actually argue over who “gets” to take the car in for repairs. No kidding.

For that particular couple, the experience in the service department of the local dealer means more than more than the driving experience. More than all the luxury features. And way more than any commercial message the company could air.

It’s ironic when you think about what Lexus stands for: Dependable Luxury. Their cars seldom need work, so you wouldn’t think the company would put much emphasis on the repair experience. But they have.

Maybe they saw the market research that pegged “service after the sale” as the biggest problem for other luxury brands. Or maybe they just figured there was so much room for improvement, they couldn’t go wrong.

In any case, by completely reinventing the repair experience, Lexus turned a potential problem area into a branding opportunity. And according to the 2009 J.D. Powers study, it’s working. Lexus, once again, received the highest customer satisfaction ratings of any automotive brand.

So this year, find ways to improve the experience people have with your brand. Even if they’re not your customers.

And don’t just focus on your best product or service. Look at the weakest part of your operation, and see if you can turn it into a positive customer touch point, like Lexus did.

Go beyond your core competencies and see if there’s something you can do to make things easier, better, faster for your customers.

Lexus is in the business of building cars, not automotive repair shops. But they recognized the connection, and the opportunity. They built repair shops that are as good as the cars they make.

In branding terms, they aligned the repair experience with the Lexus brand.

How well does your service and your operation line up with your brand? This is the year to find out.

4 The 4 P's of Internet Marketing. Plus one B.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of businesses are started with nothing more than a whim and a prayer and website. Most will fail. Some will muddle through, doing nothing particularly amazing, beyond staying afloat. But a few will rise to meteoric success and become iconic brands. (Think Zappos)

What’s the difference? Why do some e-biz start-ups succeed while so many others come and go faster than a bad Chinese restaurant?

Often it’s for the same reason that traditional, brick and mortar businesses fail: They ignore the most basic tenets of internet marketing and brand management.

Many people in the on-line world seem to think you should abandon everything you learned in Marketing 101. Apparently, the rules no longer apply.

Nonsense. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel just because there’s a new kind of superhighway. You just have to take a little different route.

Take, for example, the 4Ps of marketing: Product, Price, Place & Promotion. It’s an old- school notion that’s just as applicable today as it was in the heyday of Madison Avenue. However, there’s at least one new P you should seriously consider.

The original 4 Ps

But first, let’s look at the originals that make up the marketing mix:

1. Product
There’s an old saying in advertising circles… “nothing kills a crummy product faster than great advertising.” In 2012, it’ll happen in hyper time.
Blogs, tweets, and consumer generated reviews will quickly doom products that don’t deliver as promised. So the first P is more important than it’s ever been.

Thirty years ago, if you had pockets deep enough for a sustained mass media campaign and a good creative team, you could you could go to market with a mediocre, me-too product.

Not anymore. These days your product or service has to be among the best in class Because people expect more. They’re looking for something compelling — and genuinely different — that’s built right in to your core product or service.

Seth Godin talks about a Purple Cow or a “Free prize inside.”

Tom Peters talks about the pursuit of WOW!

Whatever. The fact is, Product still is, and always will be, the single most important aspect of marketing. Doesn’t matter if your business is providing the latest, greatest mobile web technology, or an old-fashioned widget, the Product comes first and all the other P’s fall in line from there.

Price.

I’m no expert on pricing, but I know this: Smart pricing strategies are more important than ever. Here are just a few of the reasons:

First, there’s the economy. Consumers are being forced to pinch pennies and embrace the new frugality.

2. The internet enables us to make more intelligent purchases than we did 15 years ago. We’re doing more research and minimizing “bad”purchases. We’re still willing to pay a little more for premium brands, but we’re not going to get gouged.

3. In the world of e-Business you can’t just apply the old “cost-plus” pricing model. It’s way more complicated than that. Even though internet-based businesses tend to have high margins you have to work really hard to develop sustainable revenue streams. In order to build a loyal following and, ultimately, generate revenues, many companies can’t charge anything.

4. It’s harder than ever to compete on price. Unless you’re the size of Amazon or Wal Mart, forget about it! There’s always someone waiting to undercut your price. You might be the low price leader in your little town, but now people are searching the world for a measly little discount.

So you have to go back to the first P. You have to devise a product or service that’s worth more than your competitor’s.

Apple has adamantly stuck to their premium pricing strategy. It keeps them honest. They know they have to keep launching products that are superior in design and function. They understand price elasticity and the value of their brand. And no economic downturn should ever change that.

Place.
The traditional third “P” refers to distribution channels and the placement of your product in stores. Basically, where and how you sell your product.
This is still one of the most fundamental elements of any solid business plan. Look at Costco… They said, we’re a wholesaler, but we’re going to open our warehouses to the public.

That’s a big idea. A purple cow.

Even though you may be selling your product strictly over the internet, Place is still an important consideration. In fact, you could argue that the internet, as a distribution channel, has actually added complexity to the decision…

Will you sell on Amazon? Start an affiliate program and let other web merchants sell your products? Will you warehouse some products, or drop-ship everything? Sell directly to consumers? Thanks to the internet, there are all sorts of possibilities.

Promotion.
Historically, the fourth P hinged mostly on mass media advertising. Sure, there were other elements such as sales, telemarketing, PR and sales promotions, but advertising was the heart of it. And many businesspeople equated advertising with marketing.

These days, a lot of people seem to think SEO is synonymous with marketing.
But SEO is just another marketing tactic… Just another way to spread the word about your product or service. There are dozens of others you should consider.

Once again, the internet complicates matters… Where there used to be just four choices — TV, radio, print or outdoor — you now have blogging, You Tube, Facebook, Twitter and a hundred other online options to throw into the mix.

And don’t forget packaging, which has always been lumped into this category. If you’re doing business exclusively online, your website is, essentially, the packaging.

But here’s the good news about the 4th P: The internet offers advertisers what they’ve always wanted: definitive, trackable ROI on every ad placement.

So that’s a brief on the traditional 4P’s of the marketing mix. Think you can afford to ignore any of them? What about the new one I mentioned?
The biggest complaint against the original 4 P’s was this: They’re designed around what the company wants, rather than what the consumer really needs. Too inwardly focused.

So here’s a new P for your consideration: Perspective. The consumer’s perspective, to be precise.

Companies that thrive today are the ones that embrace the perspective of the consumer. Not the 1960’s idea of the consumer as one, massive heard of lemmings. We’re talking about individuals. Real people. Mom and Pop.
How do you do that?

It’s market research in its most basic, fundamental form. It’s what Tom Peters calls “strategic listening,” and he contends it’s the most important job of any C-level exec or business owner.

Strategic listening requires that you set aside your existing perspective and listen without prejudice. You can do it in person with your front-line employees. On the phone. In focus groups. In on-line chats. On Twitter or Facebook. Doesn’t matter.

The point is, you’ll come away with a new perspective about the genuine wants and needs of your potential customers. And that’s what weaves all the other Ps together.

You may have to change your product or revise your service. You might have to rethink your pricing structure, shift your promotional strategy or adopt an entirely new business model, but it’ll be worth it.

Because then you’ll have a business built on a foundation of solid marketing fundamentals… five P’s and one capital B: Branding.
It’s all Branding.

Need help getting that new perspective you need for the new year? Call me. 541-815-0075. You can also follow the Brand Insight Blog on Twitter: Brandsight.

110

The difference between marketing strategy and tactics.

I’m appalled. A successful marketing guy asked me a question recently — a real no-brainer — which led me to believe he didn’t know the difference between marketing strategy and tactics.

How can that be? He’s held several high-paying marketing positions. He’s college educated in Marketing 101. And 301, for that matter. He’s gotta know this stuff.

So I started doing some research online and I’ve found the problem: The internet!

There’s more misinformation than information out there. More nonsense than common sense. Even some of the biggest gurus in the industry have posted conflicting information on the subject of marketing strategy. difference between marketing strategy and tactics

I ran across one article that listed “search engines” as a marketing strategy and that “long-term strategies such as giving away freebies will continue to pay off years down the road.” No wonder the guy’s confused.

This isn’t just a matter of semantics, it’s negligence. Advice like that would never get past the editors of a trade publication for worm farmers, much less a brand-name business magazine. But you can find it on-line!

In any case, the easiest way to clarify the difference between marketing strategy and tactics is to go to the source. I’m sorry if the war analogy doesn’t appeal to you, but that’s where these terms came from, some 3,000 years ago.

Here’s how it breaks down: Goals first. Then strategy. Then tactics.

Goal: Win the war.

Strategy: “Divide and conquer.”

Tactics:

CIA spies gather intelligence.

Navy Seals knock out enemy communications.

Paratroopers secure the airports.

Armored Divisions race in and divide the opposing army’s forces.

Drone attacks take out the enemy leadership.

An overwhelming force of infantry invade.

Hand-to-hand combat.

A marketing strategy is an idea… A conceptualization of how the goal could be achieved. Like “Divide and Conquer.” Another possible war strategy would be “Nuke ‘Em.” (They call them Strategic Nuclear Weapons because they pretty much eliminate the need for any further battlefield tactics.)

A marketing tactic is an action you take to execute the strategy.

But let’s get off the battlefield and look at a successful brand. In business, great strategies are built on BIG ideas. And BIG ideas usually stem from some little nugget of consumer insight.

imagesBack in the 70’s, executives at Church & Dwight Inc. noticed that sales of their popular Arm & Hammer baking soda were slipping. The loyal moms and grandmas who had been buying the same baking soda all their lives weren’t baking as much as they used to.

Business Goal: Turn the tide and increase Baking Soda sales.

Strategy: Devise new reasons for their current customers to pick up that yellow box at the supermarket and use more baking soda. Specifically, sell Arm & Hammer as a deodorizer for the fridge. That’s a big, strategic idea that led Arm & Hammer in a completely different direction. They’re now marketing a whole line of environmentally friendly cleaning products. Every current Arm & Hammer product, from toothpaste to cat litter, originated with that strategy of finding new ways to use baking soda. And in the process, an old-fashioned brand has managed to stay relevant.

bakingsodafridgeTactics: TV advertising. Magazine ads. Digital advertising. Search engine marketing. Content marketing. Infomercials. Retail promotions. Website dedicated to all the various uses of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda. All the traditional marketing tactics were employed.

All good marketing strategies share some common components:

• Thorough understanding of the brand’s status and story. Arm & Hammer has a strong heritage that dates back to the 1860’s. That yellow box with the red Arm & Hammer logo is instantly recognizable, and stands for much more than just generic sodium bicarbonate.

• A realistic assessment of the product’s strengths & weaknesses. Market research proved what Arm & Hammer executives suspected… that people don’t bake as much as they used to. But it also showed that people use their baking soda for all kinds of things besides baking. That was the insight that drove the strategy.

• A clear picture of the competition. Arm & Hammer has always been the undisputed market leader in the category. However, when they decided to introduce toothpaste and laundry detergent, the competition became fierce. Arm & Hammer’s long-standing leadership position in one vertical market gave them a fighting chance against Procter & Gamble.

• Intimate knowledge of the consumer and the market. The shift away from the traditional American homemaker directly affected baking soda sales. Church & Dwight kept up with the trends, and even led the charge on environmental issues.

• A grasp of the big-picture business implications. Good strategies reach way beyond the marketing department. When you have a big idea, execution of the strategy will inevitably involve operations, R&D, HR, finance and every other business discipline.

A great strategy does not depend on brilliant tactics for success. If the idea is strong enough, you can get by with mediocre tactical execution. However, even the best tactics can’t compensate for a lousy strategy.

Some people confuse marketing strategy with goals. They are not synonymous. Here are a few examples of “marketing strategies” from seemingly credible on-line sources:

“Create awareness.” “Overcome objections.” “Boost consumer confidence.” “Refresh the brand.” “Turnkey a multiplatform communications program.” That’s just marketing industry jargon!

These are NOT strategies, they’re goals. (And not even very good goals.) Remember, it’s not a strategy unless there’s an idea behind it.

Any number of strategies can be used to achieve a business goal. In fact, it often takes more than one strategy to achieve a lofty goal, and each strategy involves its own unique tactical plan. Unfortunately, a lot of marketing managers simply throw together a list of the tactics they’ve always used, and call it a strategy.

unnamedSometimes you can build a hell of a strategy around a simple, tactical idea. Like Dominoes did with their 30-minute delivery guarantee. If you’re still wondering about the difference between marketing strategy and tactics, try the “what-if” test. Someone said, “Hey, what if we guaranteed 30-minute delivery?” and a strategy was born. Dominoes couldn’t compete on product quality, but they could compete on speedy delivery. After that, their entire operation revolved around the promise of 30-minute delivery. That’s strategy.

“What if we came up with a bunch of new uses for baking soda?” That’s a strategy.

On the other hand, “What if we do search engines?” doesn’t make sense. Must be a tactic. “What if we increase market share?” There’s no idea in that, so it must be a goal.

What if we could screen all web content for factual errors and eliminate some of this confusion? Wouldn’t that be nice.

For more on the basics of marketing and branding, try this post.

6 From Cola Wars to Computer Wars – Microsoft misses again.

Back in the 70’s and 80’s the most talked-about battle of the brands was between Coke & Pepsi. The Cola war was a popular topic of college marketing classes, sit coms and even Saturday Night Live.

“No Coke. Pepsi!” John Belushi once said.

Today the battlefield has shifted from soft drinks to software. From free-spirited young people who’d “like to teach the world to sing” to nerds all over the world claiming “I’m a PC.”

It’s the war between Microsoft and Apple. A war that should never have been fought.

Every since 1984, when Steve Jobs launched the Macintosh with one of the most famous superbowl commercials of all time, the folks up in Redmond have been paranoid about Apple. So paranoid, in fact, they’ve ignored one of the most basic tenets of marketing…

Never respond to an attack by a smaller competitor.

This is marketing 101 folks. If you control 90% of the market, like Microsoft does, don’t give a puny little competitor like Apple the time of day. Don’t get suckered into a fight, and don’t design an ad campaign that directly mimics the competitor’s campaign.

I don’t think there’s ever been a more overt, tit-for-tat advertising war. (If you can think of one, please, send a comment.)

Apple started it all with the help of TBWA/Chiat Day’s brilliantly simple “I’m a Mac” campaign. Those spots work on so many different levels, if the Microsoft execs were smart, they wouldn’t touch the subject with a ten-foot pole. Just let it go, and come up with something memorable of your own. You’re the market leader, remember!

But nope. They played right into the enemy’s hands and produced a knock-off version of the Apple spots. They hired an actor who looks like the guy in the Apple spots, and gave him this opening line: “Hello, I’m a PC, and I’ve been made into a stereotype.”

All that did was shine the spotlight back on Jobs & company. Microsoft’s copy cat spots gave the Apple campaign a whole new life. Every time one ran, the audience was reminded of the original Apple spots. Not only that, the media coverage of the marketing battle gave Apple free airtime, effectively extending the smaller competitor’s media budget.

I’m not sure if Apple was purposely trying to get a rise out of Microsoft, but they sure did. And every time Microsoft responds in kind, they dig themselves a deeper hole.

This week Microsoft launched yet another Apple war ad. They send out “real people” to shop for the best laptop they can find for under $700. A cute, wholesome-looking actress pretends to visit an Apple store and says “I guess I’m just not cool enough for a Mac.”

It’s the best spot ever produced for Microsoft. Very honest and authentic feeling. Unfortunately, it’s based on a no-win strategy. The Microsoft ad actually reinforces Apple’s position in the marketplace… Apple has always been a premium brand that’s not for everyone. That’s not news. So why does Microsoft continue to run ads that help cement that message?

In the Laptop Hunter spot they’re basically admitting that a Mac is what everyone aspires to. If you can’t afford one you settle for a second-best PC. The spot flat-out encourages people to compare Windows-based laptops to Apple laptops, and the more that happens, the more market share Apple will steal.

Fox News did a nine-minute segment about the spot the other day, and Apple’s laughing all the way to the bank.

Sure, there is some low-hanging fruit right now in low-end laptops. But that’s just a short-term message that hinges more on the economic climate than any genuine brand strategy. Not the type of message a #1 player should even consider. Tit for tat works for Apple. Not for Microsoft. The market leader should lead, not follow in its advertising. Besides, you can’t take pot shots at the underdog, it just doesn’t look good.

The fact is, Microsoft’s never had a decent ad campaign before landing at Crispin Porter. On the other hand, Apple has a long history of groundbreaking advertising, from “Think Different” to the iconic iPod spots and now “I’m a PC.”

Apple inspires great advertising because it makes great products. Microsoft… not so much.

I’m particularly amused by the Apple spots that directly pick on the dreadful, Vista Operating System and Microsoft’s response to the problem. As long as Microsoft keeps responding to this type of advertising, and escalating the war, Apple can’t lose.

See ’em here:

http://www.apple.com/getamac/ads/

1 Getting to the Point in PowerPoint Presentations

Every year at the Mac Expo, Steve Jobs used to unveil some fantastic new, game-changing technology from Apple. His presentations were always outstanding, both for the content and for entertainment value.

macbook_air_introFor instance, when he introduced the MacBook air back in 2009, he didn’t just talk about the specs of the new product, he demonstrated its thinness by pulling their tiny new laptop out of a 9×12 manilla envelope.

It wasn’t just passion and natural charisma that made Jobs an effective communicator. It was his ability to convey ideas in simple, concise ways. He used honest demonstrations. Stories. Theater. And yes, some Hollywood special effects. Not Powerpoint.

PowerPoint is the antithesis Apple and the enemy of innovation.

Some time ago I attend a two-day branding conference down in Austin, Texas. The keynote speaker was a notable pro who speaks and teaches professionally all across the country. He had an assistant with him, as well as tech support from the conference facility.

Three hours into it and he was still fumbling around with his Powerpoint Presentation… Lights on. Lights off. Sound’s way too loud. Sound’s not on. Sound’s out of sync. Slides are out of order. Video won’t play. How many times do we have to look at this guy’s desktop? What a disaster.

But to be fair, even if the computer had behaved itself his presentation would have fallen flat. Because his ideas were totally scattered. His slides were loaded with text that he read verbatim. And his speech wasn’t really a speech at all. It was more of a walk-through of the slides. He would have been better off just speaking.

Thank God, I’m not a middle manager in a big corporation where I’d have to endure daily doses of that crap. Powerpoint, as it’s commonly employed, is a terrible form of communication.

In “The Perfect Pitch,” Jon Steele says, “most presenters start with the slides, and then treat what they are going to say simply as an exercise in linkage. The unfortunate consequence of this is that the presenter is reduced to a supporting role. To all presenters, I say this: YOU are the presentation.”

That’s easy to say if you’re as big as Steve Jobs. But you don’t have to be famous to put on a gripping and persuasive presentation. You just have to change the process and forget about Powerpoint until you’re three-quarters of the way through.

Instead, think of yourself as a storyteller — in the old-fashioned, verbal tradition of story telling. Stories are way more compelling than slides. And no matter how boring the topic may seem, there’s always a story buried in there somewhere.

So tell the story. Write it down. Flesh it out and practice it before you ever open Powerpoint. Then use the software to create visual support for your main verbal points. Not the other way around! You’ll be amazed how focused your message becomes.

The first rule of communicating is to eliminate confusion. Make things clear! When you throw a bunch of data up on a slide, you’re not making things more clear, you’re just adding confusion.

AED1345115281_463_work_work_head_image_eepv1aBack in the day, before PowerPoint was ever conceived, you had to send out for slides. And they were expensive!

So you were forced to think long and hard about the content of each and every one. You had to plan the flow of the presentation. You had to know what the most important points were. And you were forced to boil it down until there was nothing left but the absolutely most powerful, relevant points for the slides. Then you’d cover the rest of the stuff in your speech.

Powerpoint makes it too easy to add slides and overwhelm people with charts and graphs. The technological tool has become a crutch that hobbles great communication. Got an idea? Just jump right into PowerPoint and start creating slides.

Another unfortunate side effect of PowerPoint is lousy, truncated writing. People think they have to limit their words to fit the slides. And what they. End up with. Is choppy. Confusing. Information. That doesn’t. Flow. Or Communicate. Much of anything.

221.stripIf you write the script first and then use PowerPoint slides as visual aids to drive home the main points, you won’t have that problem. You’ll be speaking from a coherent, human, story-based script, not reading random bullet points right off the slides.

I suspect that much of the problem stems from the fear of public speaking. And that’s understandable. People with that fear like to hide behind the PowerPoint slides. They can become almost invisible. But that’s not how you’re going to make a sale, further your career or build a successful business. You have to suck it up, and put yourself out there.

Truth is, if you want to improve your presentations you’re going to have to get comfortable with public speaking. Join Toastmasters. Watch some YouTube videos and watch how the pros do it. Find a good mentor… Salespeople are usually the best at it, so if there’s someone really good at your company offer to be an audience as they practice. Watch, listen, and learn. And forget about mastering all the technical bells and whistles of PowerPoint. That will just distract you from the main objective.

So here’s the final word: If you want people to remember your words, translate them into a picture. Put the picture up on the screen, then speak the words. Don’t put the written words up there, just to be repeated from your trembling lips. It’s redundant. It’s boring. And it’s unimaginative.

Steve Jobs didn’t put the words “thinest laptop on the market” up on the screen. He showed us the product. He demonstrated how thin it was while he talked about the details.

Another option is to hire someone like myself to write and produce the presentation for you and coach you through the delivery. Do that a couple times, and you’ll either catch on, or you’ll decide that it’s just best left to professionals.

Either way, you’ll end up with an effective, engaging presentation, even if you’re not introducing the latest, greatest invention from Apple.

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