February 2012.

My apologies to Tom Hank’s hard-headed and testosterone-flush character Jimmy Dugan from the film, A League of Their Own. But a curve on his memorable movie line delivers a strong pitch for all us peanut vendors selling branding services.

Why is this line and movie scene so memorable? Keeping with the whole baseball analogy, a brand strategist would chalk it up to velocity – emotional velocity to be more accurate.

The emotional velocity from this scene would easily register 98 mph on the radar gun. It was superbly delivered without excessive production value or smothered in stats like so much advertising trying to sell with flash or facts. While one could argue that those approaches have been effective marketing communication strategy for some companies, they require major media dollars to drill the message into consumer’s heads. And, in an era with cable programming and digital recording, interactive media, social media and mobile marketing strategies, even these approaches may no longer have the culminate effect to get the job done.

Human emotion is what makes messages memorable and a brand relevant to customers, even more so today. Producing tears of joy from a perfectly delivered comedic routine or crocodile tears from a gut wrenching story well told, is the real game. Finding the most relevant emotional connection between your brand and your customers is what creates brand value and preference. Bringing it to life and hurling it across the plate on game day and every day is what matters. It’s how brand strategists help companies to grab market share. It’s a big part of strategic brand management and what gives products and services sustainable and defensible positions over their competition.

Without emotional velocity, without making an impression on your customer’s heart as well as their head, it’s likely your message will be one of a million throwaway lines at the movies. It won’t be remembered at all. Point of views and threaded messages that are interesting, engaging, relevant, likeable and unexpected – these are the communications upon which a successful brand management is built. So why not make them cry or laugh if it’s true to your brand and will keep your best customers coming back for more.


The Disney Effect

For most brand strategists, Disney is one of a handful of companies touted for their strategic brand management. The Disney brand is a thing of beauty and magic. Looking for the same kind of charm, many companies want each and every customer interaction and communication to be cast with a smile. Call it the “Disney Effect.”

Executives are painting everything with the same brush and trying to script happy endings. Forget the use of negatives. Words such as wouldn’t or don’t and messaging outside popular conceptions or political correctness are being banned in this new homogeneous marketing communications strategy. Forget an alternative path for differentiation. Forget effective and successful marketing campaigns that might be off-center and make marketers nervous. Forget taking a hard or controversial position. Forget getting customers attention. Be safe. Stay neutral. Keep everyone happy.

Someone once said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Someone may also say that’s short sided because it sidelines creativity as a company’s most powerful marketing weapon. Not something the creator of the imagineers, wicked witches, poison apples and a grumpy dwarf would ever want to hear or see. Wouldn’t Walt want us to open up our minds and celebrate the yen and yang of human life, much like he did? Embrace the good, bad and indifferent. Create brand messaging and campaigns that reflect real life and resonate with customers without doing any harm to the company’s or product’s brand reputation and brand equity. For example, take a hard look at the memorable “Mayhem” campaign for Allstate.

Go ahead and sprinkle a little negative prose in your direct mail campaigns and with your social media marketing campaign or in your broadcast campaigns. It might deliver some surprisingly positive results.

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

This Sunday is the biggest event in professional sports. As much as the WWE, UFC, NHL, MLB NBA and X-Games try, they fall so short of the marketing power and brand equity of the NFL and the Super Bowl.

Even with an off-season filled with labor and contract disputes between the players and owners, and a sea of negative press, the fan appeal and loyalty has not wavered or shown any level of decline. If anything, it has expanded. And this Sunday, Indianapolis finds itself at the center of the big show.

Nap Town is wide awake and showing all the past Super Bowl cities how it is done. The Super Bowl Village along Georgia Street feels like an Olympic Village, except filled with fans and bands instead of amateur athletes from around the world. The Fire & Ice stations are tremendous and really heighten the visitor experience. The sheer number of activities and events during the week leading up to the game has been unbelievable. Kudos to the organizers.

For 26 years, I’ve called Indy home and I’ve never been more proud of the city than I am this week. Our city’s brand is at an all-time high. Now let’s see how city officials and their agency of record leverage this global spotlight and major lift in publicity by expanding our presence and positive brand perception through digital marketing strategies, grassroots marketing and social media market campaigns as well as across traditional broadcast media and public relations channels.

Once the game is over and the NFL packs up the show, it will be a new day for Indianapolis. I want to see how we address the Sundays that follow. How will we approach this marketing opportunity? Will we rest on this overwhelming success and fall back on old approaches or push forward with more strategic brand management?

Time will tell, but I’m betting on the city and the Giants.