Strategic Design | marketing & branding thoughts by Nick Rice

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

2 for the road...

Don't be these guys. It's not good for you nor the people that are trying to help you (internal staff team or outside agency).

courtesy: gapingvoid

technorati tags > marketing, advertising, product, superbowl, commercial, TV

Brainstorming Effectiveness

Interesting post on brainstorming.

Here are a few things to keep in mind during your next group brainstorming session:
  • new ideas, inspiration, and creativity cannot be scheduled
  • and it typically does not fit neatly into everyone's schedule
  • don't spend much time on bad ideas
  • but don't create an environment that is anti-new or crazy thoughts
  • don't use the brainstorming session to spread potential blame/failure
  • hijackers need to be dealt with - everyone should contribute
  • don't waste the group's time if a decision has already been made
  • brainstorming sessions are not the appropriate venue to sell a particular idea
  • office politics are the arch-enemy of fresh ideas
  • lastly, scribes should have great handwriting
technorati tags > brainstorming, idea, creativity, session, whiteboard, meeting, fresh approach, office politics

CMO Top 10 List

In light of the previous post discussing CMO short tenures. From CMO magazine...

10. Defining the essence of the brand is something a CMO can't delegate.
Our opening speaker, Charlotte Beers, former under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, spoke eloquently about the importance of brand and the CMO's role in nurturing it.

9. In uncertain times, people look for touchstones of trust. But trust cannot be bought; it must be earned. Dean Barrett, senior VP of global marketing for McDonald's, offered that McNugget in the context of the company's efforts to redefine its global brand.

8. The "CEO's CMO" has three primary traits: Know the value chain; be a disruptive innovator; and speak the CEO's language. Carter Cast, president of Wal-Mart's online business, explained that these qualities help set the great CMOs apart from the simply good ones.

7. The CMO also must be conversant in the language of IT. This call to action came from a speaker who oversees both marketing and IT: Tom O'Toole, Global Hyatt's senior VP of strategy and systems. As the distinctions between the two functions become increasingly arbitrary, O'Toole reasoned, it's critical that the CMO understand basic technology concepts.

6. But don't let technology drive your marketing programs. Both O'Toole and a panel that discussed emerging technology cautioned attendees that CMOs must use technology as an enabler, not as a solution to an ill-defined problem.

5. Do things before the bureaucracy inside your company kills them. Steve Hayden, the vice chairman of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, provided this bit of agency wisdom during a case study with Silvia Lagnado, Dove's global brand director, on the Dove "Real Beauty" campaign. There was plenty of early resistance inside Unilever about the initiative, but the proponents pushed on, and the campaign was a rousing success.

4. Focus inside the box. To build a robust marketing organization, CMOs must invest in internal functions such as marketing operations and performance measurement, according to Rich Vancil, vice president of IDC's CMO Advisory Research service. Vancil was referring specifically to high-tech companies, but his message applies across all sectors.

3. Everything communicates—and everyone contributes to the success of a brand. Everyone in a company needs to be immersed in the brand message you're trying to convey. The need to believe in brand message so they can convey it naturally and effectively.

2. Innovation is a creative process that must involve all business units to be successful. Diane Gulyas, DuPont's chief marketing and sales officer, spoke in her closing keynote on the role that marketing and other functions play in this B2B giant's steady stream of innovation. Such creativity, she added, requires structure.

1. It's not what you say, it's what your customers hear. Beers set the tone for the conference with this comment during her opening keynote. A simple message, but one that CMOs often forget.

technorati tags > CMO, Top 10, marketing, VP, executive, business, branding

It's not about you....

Great post from Simon Sinek.

It's all too common for businesses to focus on their products or services instead of their customers. Here is a sample from Simon:

"Apple's iPod marketing serves as a good example. Apple states simply, "10,000 songs in your pocket." The message is all about the consumer's life or lifestyle. It's a very different message than "20 gigabyte mp3 player" which is a description of the product. Even if 20 GB is a good thing or 30 GB or 40GB, who cares if a consumer can't easily relate to and integrate it into their lives."

Most manufacturers focus on the wrong thing - your feature versus the consumer benefits or wants. You can include the technical features; just don't lead with them. Find those eight words, the hook, that resonate with your audience. The words that make them stop and pay attention. Talk about them, not about you.

Better B2B selling

Thought I'd pass on a solid report from McKinsey. It's from 2005, but it's still valuable content - like most of their material.

The gist of it is not resigning yourself to price cuts when your customers demand more. The more you collaborate on solving their true problems, the less price is an issue.

Your product/service may only be one puzzle piece to solving their real business issue. Go the extra step, help your customer solve the entire problem and you'll see real success. This doesn't mean that you need to know all of the answers; just honestly try to help them find the appropriate solutions that are complimentary to your offering (assuming that your offering is the right solution as well).

Negotiation is part of any sales/buying process but you do not want to be known as the low price option. Price is rarely a true barrier to purchase - unless they truly do not have the money, then I would contend that your targeting was off.

It's hard to grow profitably if you're not collaborating w/ your customers.

technorati tags > strategic, selling, b2b, mckinsey, commodity, price, services, pricing, value

Integrated Marketing picking up steam... again

David Armano talks about the iMedia Integrated Marketing How To Guide on the struggles of aligning multiple marketing projects across multiple channels. The key take away is that while it's difficult to maintain consistency, the companies that do will benefit from a unified message that is easily understood by consumers no matter how or where they decide to listen.

Your audience is too busy to expect a huge ROI from a one touch campaign. And they're too busy to put together the pieces from disparate multi-touch campaigns themselves. They really don't care about your products or services until you convince them that you can make their life/business issues go away.

You really have to push your unique value prop out across a lot of different marketing vehicles (consistently of course) so that it's easily digested by your audience when they're ready. It's a waste of time & money to put all of your marketing/branding eggs in one basket.

Email marketing best practices

A little more technical than my typical post, but this is a great article on proper coding for email marketing.

Email is still a valuable marketing tool. Is it abused? Sure, but if you send information that your audience truly values, you'll be in great shape. It's a great way to keep prospects warm and current customers in the loop. Not to mention it's one of the few marketing tools that prospects & customers can forward to their colleagues and friends without you having to do anything. Referrals are the true test of your value to them.

Short Lived CMOs

Tom Peters has a great little post on the longevity of CMOs. More than 50% of the CMOs surveyed by Advertising Age have been in the job for less than a year.

Here's a quote from AdAge, "the job of CMO has become one of highest-stressed, shortest-tenured in American industry."

Here are some of the comments from Tom's blog:
  • Great CMOs are like big bursts of ideas, energy, etc. especially when they first join their new team. The burnout or departure (23.2 months) comes as a result of the following:
    #1-Not a good hire to begin with:
    *Not qualified
    *Not psyched about the brand
    *Qualified, but at odds w/ that corp.'s philosphy

    #2-Bad Company
    *CEO doesn't 'get' branding and isn't willing to hire someone who does...and let them do their job
    *Will hire an underqualified CMO...ultimately resulting in the burnout of said CMO
    *Great brand but bad philosophy on taking care of employees first, then clients (see Starbuck's, West Paces Hotels and other companies that care about their employees first) which causes the CMO (as well as plenty of other employees) to depart and find a better organization

  • My theory. These are highly creative people who innovate quickly. Large organizations typically don't do well with rapid change.

  • My hunch is most CMOs are good at dealing with traditional media such as TV and newspaper, which are basically declining and not any longer effective. With the new media like social media and blogging, the traditional CMOs probably need to change thier minds sets 180 degrees.
My two cents; most good CMOs are change agents. They tire quickly in maintenance mode. Unfortunately, ~2 years is not long enough to ensure that his/her changes will be effective (you need at least four to see significant repeatable consumer/organization change). And that's good and bad. Good for the individual because they leave for a better paying gig before they can truly be measured; bad for the employees and shareholders because if successful it may be a flash in the pan without the right team to keep up the forward momentum and bad because the business has invested a lot of time and money in someone that has put them further behind. This is why a lot of CEOs do not respect career marketers or invest in discipline of marketing.

Choosing the right agency/design firm

The good folks at the Small Agency Diary have a new post on choosing the wrong client. I thought I'd flip it around and talk a little about choosing the right agency/design firm.

You flip open the latest issue of AdAge or the Yellow pages and see a list of agencies so long your eyes cross. Some you may have heard of but most you have not. Some look like legal firms (partner + partner + partner + partner & assoc) and some look a little funny (watermelon toad, autonomy, or similar). All of their websites look similar (client list, portfolio, why we're different - which doesn't look that different after all). How do you pick?

Here are the highlights - in no particular order...
  1. Obviously you have to have some type of immediate connection w/ their account team. If you do not like them, there's no way you're going to be happy doing business with them.

  2. Check out their work, but don't get too caught up in it. Any agency worth their salt puts a lot of thought into new ideas for a particular client & project. You're looking for a consistent new-thought-generation process. You may or may not like their work for other clients, but that really doesn't matter if the work was effective at meeting the goal for that particular client. The agency should be able to generate work that suits your organization, customers, and business objectives.

  3. Talk about budget early and often. Talk about how the agency will scope out the level of effort required to meet your goals. Doesn't matter whether you're buying months of international TV spots with a lot of high-end digital effects or just a local newspaper ad - talk about how they come up with their bid.

  4. Most importantly, you probably have an idea of what you're looking for. TELL THEM! Don't expect their account or creative team to be mind readers. I know you're looking for new ideas and a fresh perspective, but tell them what you're thinking. The last thing you want is for them go off on some tangent that you know the President will hate. If you are one of the very few people that really doesn't have any idea what you're looking for; then you have to be open to their suggestions when they come back. It's a waste of your time & money to have something in mind and not discuss it. A test of their creativity is how well they function within boundaries - budget, timeframe, brand guidelines, etc... They are working from your direction, be sure to give it.

  5. And for pete's sake, write everything up! Whether it's your creative brief or theirs, make sure that both parties are working towards the same goal. You need to have detailed information on deliverables, scope, timeframes, and budget - and agree to all of it before work is started. I know you're busy. I know this project has to be finished on time. But trust me, if it's not written down and agreed upon, it will become a point of contention. Projects tend to show signs of success or failure within the initial 13% of the project. You have to have everything lined up before you begin. Otherwise you put a lot at risk - including your next promotion if not your career.

What's the point of Marketing Communications?

To keep your name in front of your target audience? Yes, but that's really about long-term branding not revenue or ROI.

To support the effort of your sales team? Sure, that's important but they typically are just looking for another excuse to call the customer. A new white paper, brochure, or sales tool is a great reason to reach out.

How about differentiating yourself from your competition? Interesting, but Marketing Communication (marcom) is simply the vehicle for talking about your true differentiations like consumer benefits, unique business model, industry leading features, etc...

I believe it's really about changing behavior.

It's easy to make money off of run-rate business - typically you don't have to work very hard to keep it flowing. The real challenge is getting a brand new customer to buy. Becoming a preference in his or her eyes - now that's a big deal (a long term, strategic, profitable big deal).

Marcom is the art & science of combining your value to the audience, your unique elements, and a reason to act NOW. I believe that a "call to action" is a critial component of any marketing communications effort. It could be as simple as a unique URL to visit to or some type of bundled promotion, but you need something to keep a new customer moving towards a purchase.

Marketing communications is about creating a bread trail for your audience to follow. Get them hooked, keeping feeding them value, and they will buy.

ANA/Booz Allen Hamilton Marketing Study part II

Here is how the study breaks down the different types of marketing departments:

1 | Marketing Masters (38% of respondents)
2 | Senior Counselors (17%)
3 | Service Providers (15%)
4 | Brand Builders (12%)
5 | Best Practice Advisors (9%)
6 | Growth Champions (9%)

1 | Marketing Masters “… enjoy the authority to coordinate with other major business functions. They do not, however, make strategic decisions and seldom lead new-business development.”

2 | Senior Counselors assist in guiding “… the CEO on marketing strategy and also serve as primary advisors on marketing strategy for individual businesses.” Rarely will these marketers lead product innovation initiatives, but they are responsible for leading major advertising and/or promotional campaigns.

3 | Service Providers are the coordinators of “… advertising, promotion and public relations at the request of the company’s brand and product teams.”

4 | Brand Builders provide “… marketing services like communications strategy, creative output and campaign execution of key brands, but their leadership role and decision rights on strategy and investment are all but negligible.”

5 | Best Practice Advisors work directly with “… individual business units to maximize marketing effectiveness and efficiency” by gathering and disseminating best practices within the company as it relates to advertising, promotion, and public relations.

6 | Growth Champions lead their company’s efforts in product innovation and in new business development. They also are heavily involved in decisions pertaining to new-market penetration and strategic investments. (btw, this is only category that truly drives revenue and profitablity - nothing says promotion and job security like top line growth!)

Which type do you work for? More importantly, what are you actively doing to move your department up the food chain by increasing the role you play in business development and NPD?

Measuring impact of design on business

A couple of recent posts on measurement caught my attention (DMI event) and (UK DesignCouncil study).

It seems that companies that put an emphasis on design are elevating above commodity status. That makes sense. I know a lot of talk has gone into iPods. But for years now there have been smaller, cheaper, and arguably better MP3 players on the market; but Apple is by far the 800lb gorilla in the marketplace.

Design is about more than the look & feel or colors of a product. It's a purposeful thought process that goes into making every aspect of the user experience better. It's VW understanding that silicon-dampened grab handles are nicer than the ones that just slap back against the headliner. It's Rally's understanding that two drive-throughs are better than one. It's Nike. It's the Aeron mesh chair. It's Starbucks versus Seattle's Best. It's Target versus K-Mart.

Companies that integrate design thinking are more profitable because it usually costs the same to manufacture a designed widget versus a not. Customers want to love their purchases. Good design does that. It starts conversations. It creates profit - and that is infinitely measurable.

Top 10 stock photo clichés

From forty media...

1. The Handshake of Synergy: You’ve made the sale and closed the deal. They can’t back out now—you shook on it!

2. The Flirty Customer Service Gal: Operators are standing by to take your call…and your heart.

See the rest...

So please, stay away from these worn out clichés. First off, no one looks like these people. How do you expect your audience to identify with you when you only use 25 year old supermodels in your advertising? Your customers are sick of it. It just shows how little you understand your customers.

Not that you have to spend mega-bucks on a custom photo-shoot; just put a little more thought and consideration into creating your marketing materials. As humans, we're trained to only notice things that are different - things that stand out. If you put this level of effort into creating your collateral, you disrespect your customers and automatically lump yourself with every other business that thinks of marketing as an afterthought. Those businesses tend to focus more on their own products and services than how those products benefit their customers. No one cares about your product. People only care about meeting their needs and desires.

CMO's Increasingly Take a Leadership Role

New ANA/Booz Allen Hamilton Study talks about companies that elevate the status and strategic nature of their marketing teams are 20% more likely to experience superior revenue growth and profitability.

The world-class marketing teams stopped being relegated to tradeshows and direct mail campaigns a while back. If you want a say in the future of your company; leverage the direct access to customers and products you're given. Leverage your in-depth knowledge of your product/services, the competition, and your customer's preferences & attitudes. That insight should be the foundation of your strat plan.

Brand-driven companies know that marketing is at the crux of future innovation. Engineering for engineering sake isn't going to give you explosive growth.

Creative Process Explained

I thought this was a great explanation of the creative process. Most clients tend to want to dig right into design; but I like how this graphic shows that good design results from a lot of hard work and thought up front. I also like the importance of calling out "concept/prototype". This is a critical step that I've seen agencies skip. You can save a lot of headache (read billable time) and effort by getting your prototypes approved before beginning the design phase. Clients will appreciate the fact that you are seeking directional approval before spending a lot of time.

Moral of the story: as a team (client & agency) determine why you're doing this project, why now, what the audience will respond to, gain clarity of direction, test, then AND ONLY THEN move into the design phase of the project.


From metacool...

"The only real enemy of design is indifference."
- Matt Kahn

It takes roughly the same amount of effort to great good design as it does bad design. With the exception of a few corporations, most are surprisingly indifferent about the design of their product and/or collateral. The prevailing thought is that it's the job of the industrial design group or the marketing dept to figure out.

To be honest, I'm not sure why more executives do not appreciate good design in business. These same people understand the basics of fashion and typically know a great looking shoe or tie compared to a not-so-great looking one.

I think the creative community has built this reputation of secrecy around the creative process that needs to be abolished. On the whole, most people bring good ideas to the table - doesn't matter their education, their title, or their background. Obviously these things factor in; but it's naive to think that good ideas only come from creatives. Working together is the key. Bring the creatives and executives together to solve the business issue. Don't just throw it over the fence.

Good design can make a difference. There are thousands of examples (Target, Apple, Starbucks, Sony, Audi, Dyson); the list goes on and on. As more and more markets commoditize, design has the power to elevate. It is a major factor in the overall brand experience. Customers can tell the difference and as more customers take greater control over their viewing and purchasing habits, indifferent businesses will feel it in the P&L.

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