Strategic Design | marketing & branding thoughts by Nick Rice

Dynamic marketing, branding & design strategies that span the gap between business & creative.

UPS is top American brand w/ CEO's

This paragraph stood out to me:

"Respondents said they ranked UPS highly for being an industry leader, forward-thinking, easy to use, ethical, popular and a growing company. At the end of last year and beginning of this year, DHL carried out a $50 million campaign to promote its customer service. The promotion followed $150 million in ads DHL took out to re-introduce itself to the U.S. market."

Notice that they didn't talk about shipping time, price, or truck color. After $200M+ in advertising, DHL still doesn't make the list.

With CEO's perception is reality. Congrats UPS!

PS. surprise, surprise, look what happens when you're top of mind w/ executives. Funny how that works huh?

Do you video?

According to American Business Media (ABM blog) web video will be the most dominant global medium in a few years.

As a business executive, what are your plans to use web video as a sales/marketing/branding tool? Have you even thought about it? A lot of execs think of YouTube or GoogleVideo as the playground of 16-24 year olds - ala MySpace.

Mobile technology is continuing to revolutionize how we access data and entertainment. Consumers are taking more control of their own content, media, and buying environment everyday. You have to continue to get your message out without relying on the old tried and true techniques like network TV, outdoor, or radio. People skip past commercials with Tivo; they listen to iPods in the cars instead of talk radio; with crowded freeways @ 90MPH the last thing you need to catch your eye is a billboard.

What are you doing to make your message available to increasingly jaded consumers?

What are you doing to make them seek you out? Can they do it on their own schedule?

Or are you continuing to hope that they happen to be on the couch, watching the right channel, paying attention, without the latest Fast Company open and not channel surfing long enough to see your multimillion dollar 30 second spot?

Is it better to hunt with a shotgun or a scalpel?

Leader... Challenger... Differentiator

Image from the hidden persuader...

This really hit home w/ me when I saw it. Simply for the honest truthfulness of it. Market challengers HAVE to be different. That's the only thing that separates them from the 800lb gorilla in the market. It's the only way to grow, to increase your marketshare, to elevate your brand.

What challengers may or may not know is how jealous market leaders are of their creativity & risk-taking culture. Market leaders cannot be too risky; otherwise they risk alienating their core customers that made them what they are today. Market leaders have to stick to their bread & butter. The really scary thought is not who will overthrown them but when. It's bound to happen; a challenger comes out of nowhere with a new way of doing business, a new idea, a new technology, or a new solution to a problem that people didn't know existed.

It's a funny equation. Market challengers want to be #1 - the leadership, the prestige, the profit, the view from the top is pretty good. But if they make it, they can no longer do the innovative things that previously generated explosive market growth. Now they have to play it safe (or at least safer) - and it's hard for the same management team to do that. But that's a topic for another post...

Agency pitch fees. Good or bad?

Do you think clients should pay "pitch fees" for agencies to come in and pitch their ideas?

It's a semi-new issue in the ever-changing environment that advertising/design/PR agencies face today. Historically agencies have not charged for the time staffers put into generating ideas/concepts to win new business. Typically the agency fees were so high after winning the business, they would make up any effort spent pre-contract. But in today's increasingly competitive marketplace, there is not as much profit in advertising and design as there once was. Today's agency is more concerned with doing the right thing for the client than excessively padding their own coffers by using media technologies that only they control.

One side of the argument (client side) says that if an agency is not winning new business then their ideas are weak and they need more experience or practice. Why would a client pay for an idea that they are not happy with or on target.

The other side (agency side) says it takes an enormous effort to brainstorm new ideas and put them into a format that elevates the clients value/brand. Their time is valuable and they wouldn't be in the pitch process if the client hadn't asked (or let) them in.

To make matters worse, clients have stolen brilliant ideas from outside agencies and handed them off to the in-house team for execution - without compensation. Or put a new agency thorough the ringer under the guise of potential business only to keep the incumbent agency honest. That is taking advantage.

The thought process is that if agency pitch fees were a standard procedure, clients would be less likely to drain ideas or abuse advertising/design agencies without compensation. I know from personal experience that agencies will spend an exorbitant amount of time generating concepts to win a new account. My opinion, if those concepts/ideas are not on strategy or completely off base, then it's the fault of the agency. If the concepts/ideas were on target and another agency was selected for some other reason, then depending on the circumstance, the agency should be reimbursed for their time. If the agency was too small (whatever that means), not experienced enough, or couldn't handle the work volume for the client, they should have never been part of the selection process in the first place. That's the clients fault. They should take care of the agency for wasting their time.

The way advertising talks...

Hugh does it again...

Think about it as you plan your next campaign.

Brand ownership

I wanted to pass on some lessons I found on the "Own Your Brand!" blog:

The brand ownership lessons:
  • Brands are not made in a day. Stop asking your ad agency to crank one out for you.
  • However, brands ARE made one day at a time - like reputations. Find your “intentionality gene” and activate it.
  • Brands don’t turn on a dime, but they do in time. What took time to create, will take time to re-create.
The context was the brand perception issues that GM is facing. Most people still think of them as builders of inferior cars. Right or wrong that's the prevailing thought. They have put a lot of thought & money into re-becoming a premier brand worldwide. It is a long process. And it happens one interaction at a time, one new product at a time, and one ad at a time.

You cannot change your brand perception without careful thought and planning (or designing) the experience. Design is about more than fonts and colors; it's a thought process that considers customer needs, your unique elements, the marketplace, your visual equity, and your objectives.

Why Ad Agencies don't advertise

Great post by Simon Sinek

Like a lot of industry folks, I've thought that the mega ad agency model has been declining for a while. There are a ton of blog posts about it. You have to find a company that truly wants to help you grow your business - by whichever medium works best, not by the marketing medium that generates the greatest kickbacks. As an ex-Fortune 500 marketing manager, I saw my company go through ad agency after ad agency. Now granted they were, and are not the best at working w/ agencies. But they still spent multi-millions on ads that generated little to no direct impact on business performance.

The firm I'm with is more focused on delivering the tools you need to meet your goals/objectives. That may come in the form of an interactive sales presentation, online blog, magazine ads, whatever... The point is that the tools we create for our clients make a difference in their day-to-day operations. They are not 30 seconds spots that 99% of the viewing audience ignores, 100% of the non-viewing audience misses, and still makes the executives/employees feel better becuase they're on TV. Some people call us an ad agency, but we're not. Very few corporations in the world need the multi-million dollar branding campaigns. But a lot, if not all, companies need help getting through the day with better tools that the sales & marketing teams can use in the hand-to-hand combat they face every day.

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