Are you well positioned? Four questions to ask yourself.

Why should a business or Brand care about its positioning?  Positioning is the way you want your customers to think about you.  This does not just happen, you have to tell them how you want them to think of you through your communications and your actions.  Clear Brand Positioning is not just marketing- it’s about the business.
1.Does your positioning take into account the most important trend that has impacted your business/industry in the last 3 years?  The world changes fast so you need to make sure you are relevant.
2.Who is your most dangerous competitor and why?
3.Who is your average customer and what is the hierarchy of needs?
4.How are you differentiating yourself from your competitors (and why should your customers care)?
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Why won’t McDonald’s run this commercial here?

I love this “slice of life” commercial that McDonald’s ran last year in France.

It is a sweet, yet real portrayal of the struggles of a young gay man and his father.  It says that the McDonald’s’ brand doesn’t care what your sexual orientation is.  This ad can obviously been seen as controversial by some, but I think it is a great brand message to send to customer and non-customers.  It shows that the McDonald’s brand is open and welcoming to all customers. 

Now forget the fact that the food stinks because that is another issue.

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What planet are you from?

I recently had a conversation with a long-time, well established business owner who was thinking about using my branding and marketing services and it went something like this.

Allison: “While you do have a website, it is does not do a very good job of explaining your capabilities or clearly differentiating your business from your competitors.  Also it is very outdated and is in need of a more contemporary look and feel with stronger branding”.  

Business Owner: “I can’t spend any time or money on that right now.  And no one is going to find me that way anyway”.

Huh!?  I was floored and almost did not know what to say.  I explained what SEO is and why it is important to show up close to the top of the page in organic searches. I continued to talk about the role that on-line search plays in B2B and B2C marketing.  It is the way that people do business. We search, then we search some more, then we buy or we talk to some friends or colleague, and then maybe we buy.   I felt like I was talking to a wall. 

It made me think about a lot of things, but mostly about the need to spend money to make money.  Many of the business that I work with are hesitant to spend any real money on marketing their business.  Many of them understand that they need to do it, but are not willing to spend the money or they want to try to do everything themselves.  Bad idea!  Bottom line is that if you do not invest in your business, there will be no business to invest in.

Needless to say the business owner never hired me to help them.  Good luck!

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Are you listening?

Recently I used Facebook to provide both positive and negative real-time feedback to big Brands such as Honda and Panera, and have not heard a peep from them. 

I took the time to “like” their brand and provide them with some feedback, so why can’t they take the time to respond to me?   I just don’t get it. 

If you are going to set up a presence on social media, then you need to take the time to mine the data to help build your brand.  Responding to customer feedback is an easy way to retain a loyal customer or save one who is not happy.  It tells me that these brands are only interested in using social media for a selfish, one way conversation and this is not the way to win and to build a brand.  

Simple acknowledgement goes a long way!

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Netflix: Was this your plan all along?

I am both amazed and outraged that Netflix is raising their prices from $9.99 per month for unlimited DVDs and streaming to $15.98 per month if you want both.  If you only want DVDs or only to stream, you can pay $7.99 for one service.  This would not be a huge deal, except you cannot get all of the movies and TV shows with the streaming option.

It seems like maybe this was their strategy from the beginning- put all of the other DVD rental companies practically out of business, gain incredible market share, create loyal users, and then when you are the best option, raise your prices by 60%.  It all makes sense but seems like it does not fit with whom the Netflix brand is and what they have stood for.  They have always touted themselves as existing to make their customer’s live easier and to provide them with a viable alternative to the high priced video stores.

As a Netflix customer, I will likely cancel my account and find another alternative because I do not agree with the approach that they have taken.  As a Marketer, I think that while they strayed away from what their brand stands for, they are taking a bold business move to ensure their long term survival.

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Marketing can bring them in, but operations will bring them back

I had a poor coffee experience at Panera Bread the other day and it reminded me of the important role that operations must play in building strong brands and creating loyal customers. 

I ordered an iced coffee at Panera and I was handed a plastic cup with ice and told to go the self-serve station and pour hot coffee over the ice.  What!? 

Having worked in marketing for Dunkin’ Donuts for a long time, I know that it not the way that you make good iced coffee.

Marketing can create the most amazing, most enticing, most interesting product and promotional campaign that attempts to build loyalty and increase the traffic in a retail location, but if the product and/or service does not meet one’s expectations, it is a waste of money. 

Great marketing can get a new customer in the door the first time, but the experience will bring them back again.  If you are relying on your marketing alone to build your business and create loyal customers, then pick up the phone and call your operations counterpart, or better yet, walk over to their desk, because you will not succeed without them.

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Kia- what are you thinking?

Who is Kia going after?  Who is their target market?  Do they really think that this approach is hitting the mark? 

Watch their latest commercial below
Kia Joyride II

This brand confuses me.  I am not sure what their strategy is or how they plan on competing with the big boys.  Their new Sorrento has new features and better MPG, but that message gets lost in the shuffle. 

I get trying to be a fun brand, but is Kia really a fun brand?  And they are using kid’s characters to try to convey the fun of their brand.  I have kids of the age that like these characters, and I can say that I do NOT like them.  In fact, I can’t wait to “turn them off” so why would this be appealing or fun to me?

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Can you fight seasonality?

Two new product and promotional efforts caught my eye and made me think about the question of fighting seasonality. 

I love the new campaign by Dole.  They are trying to reverse the dip in sales that happens every summer when people opt for other types of fruit vs. bananas.  Dole-BananasSo they are going head to head with that trend and giving people a reason to eat bananas over the summer with new recipes and ideas.  And they are doing it in a way that is very light hearted and fun, which is what their brand is all about. 

And another recent introduction is Dunkin’ Donuts’ new Frozen Hot Chocolate.  They are hoping that all of those winter loving hot chocolate drinkers will keep the spirit alive with this frozen drink.  We drink hot chocolate to get a sweet warm up so do you think people will drink frozen hot chocolate to get a sweet cool down?

Only time will tell if these two brands are able to fight the seasonality.  I do think that they have familiarity on their side.  It is always easier to get someone who already buys your product to buy more often, then to get a new person to give it a try.  So I think they are on the right track.  What do you think? 

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How is your Marketing execution?

Here are 9 things to think about when you are ready to execute your Marketing plan.

Have a plan- sounds simple, but most people don’t actually create the plan that is built on industry, competitive and customer insights.

Define what success looks like and only measure what is important – success is different for everyone and we all try to achieve too much so you need to narrow it down to just a few things.  It may be lead generation, creating brand buzz, increasing customer loyalty, creating a social media presence, speed to market, innovation, increase in sales, etc.  But it can’t be everything so choose wisely.

Create a budget- Be realistic about the human and monetary resources you have.  If thinking 12 ahead is too much, then just think about the next 3 months.  Without a budget to guide you, there is no way to move forward.

Know your audience- Who are you talking to? Customers, Donors, Vendors, Business Partners, etc. Who are they and what are they interested in? What are their demographics (age, gender, occupation, income)? What are their psychographics (hobbies, values, habits)?  Where are they in the media landscape and what resonates with them- TV, Radio, Email, Direct Mail, Social Media? Twitter? Facebook? LinkedIn?  You figure this out by just asking them!

Choose and develop the right tactics- The tactics are the “what” in your plan.  Start by thinking about what you should do first to achieve the best results.  Start small and build tactics one-by-one.   For each tactic you develop, think about how it fits with your overall strategy.  Tactics can be broad to specific- TV, Radio, Print, Events, Social Media, Direct Mail, Sponsorships, Memberships, Networking, etc.  It’s OK to be a “fast follower”, which is borrowing a great idea that already exists and making it better.

Identify ways to track, measure and report- Determine types of metrics you will use: Milestones- Process against a target; Activity- what is being done; Outcomes- what is achieved.  Set a target using qualitative (feedback/opinion) or quantitative (data/statistics).

Communicate internally & externally- Make sure all of your key stakeholders know about the plan and understand how they fit it.  If they play a role in the execution, make sure it is clear and they are held accountable.  Don’t forget to talk to your external stakeholders, such as vendors, Board Members, etc.  Engage your network in helping you be successful.

Get feedback and adjust- How did we do?  What worked?  What didn’t? What would you do differently next time?  Ask customers, employees, vendors, business partners, Board Members, etc.

Debrief and communicate results- Document and share the best practices.  Meet with your key internal team to share the results.  Talk to your peers to see if they have ideas on how to make it even better next time.

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Being first has its advantages

The Mars brand is a bit late to the party in trying to position themselves as a problem solver and not a candy bar.  The Snickers brand grabbed that spot first and did it in a way that no one else has been able to touch.  

Snickers approach was so smart.  They took a regular, ordinary, high fat and sugary candy bar and repositioned it as a meal replacement that can get you through your day.  This was a bold move because it could have flopped.  They took a chance that consumers would believe that a candy bar could actually be something more. 

The interesting point here is that both the Snickers and the Mars brands are owned by the same company.  So it makes sense that they are trying to replicate the success of Snickers with Mars.  This will be tougher the second time around, especially since it looks as though they are going after a younger demographic. 

While the new Mars print ads are interesting and are clearly targeting the younger, active, “extreme sports” generation,  they are not very convincing.  They are leaving a lot up to the consumer to fill in the blanks as to what happened to the surf board and how Mars will help them to “get back on track”, and the same is true for the other ad. 

While I applaud them trying to reposition Mars, it won’t be as easy as the first time around. 

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