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Super Bowl LI was flush with historic milestones. It was the first overtime game. It was the first time a team won after being ten points behind. It was the first time a quarterback won five Super Bowls.

Both the Patriots and Falcons left it all on the field. They took gambles and risks, but so did several brands.

Typically, the Monday morning quarterbacks/critics are talking about what Super Bowl television commercials ranked the highest and which one tanked. Instead, many are talking about the brands that took a risk by going political.

Airbnb, 84 Lumber, Budweiser, Coco-Cola, Kia Motors, Audi and even the NFL all took huge risks. Will their strategies earn them gold rings or cause more handwringing?
As consumers, many of us just wanted to watch the game. Others want and like their brands to stand for something. However, the country is heavily divided on the topics these brands tackled. And based on a sampling of comments on social media, the reviews and feelings are extremely mixed.

Only time will tell if the reward will outweigh the risk. Did they score with a majority of consumers or cause them to push back and boycott these brands?

In 1970, astronauts John Swigert, Jr. and James Lovell along with Fred Haise Jr. made up the crew of Apollo 13. During their moon flight, they reported a problem back to Houston. Forever ingrained in American folklore, the actual phase uttered by astronaut Jack Swigert was “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.”

Apollo 13 B

The crew of the Apollo 13 moon flight reported a major technical fault in the electrical system of one of the Service Module’s oxygen tanks. It was a genuine report of a life-threatening fault. Since then, this misquoted statement is often used humorously to report any kind of problem.

But, what if that wasn’t the case? What if the PC police told us that we couldn’t use “problem” because it was a negative term? That if they told us the appropriate phase is “Houston, we have a challenge.”

Just imagine the dire concern, sense of urgency and need for rapid response, after hearing astronaut Swigert exclaim, “Houston we’ve had a challenge here.”

It really isn’t that farfetched or hard to imagine. Many businesses and organizations have instituted a ban of negative statements and terms. In their marketing plans, the word “problem” has been replaced by the word “challenge.”

In their advertising, you can’t use “can’t” and other “not” words, or sell the solution by expressing or illustrating the problem first. Any and all negative statements must be flopped and presented in positive and friendlier terms. Often meaning the real meaning and power is lost. And while it’s not a life and death situation like Apollo 13, it can mean the difference between someone reacting and responding to your ad message and doing business with your competitor.

It definitely makes the competitive space harder to navigate and control. And makes it harder for us to successfully launch and guide brands and deliver the payload – share of mind and share of wallet.

So it’s fair to say, “Houston, we have a problem!”

You may have heard the quote…John Wanamaker famously and humorously stated, “Half my advertising is wasted, I don’t know which half.” This quote is over a century old, but still resonates today.

Ask any CFO or accountant and they will tell you that marketing is an expense. It’s one of those line items that can be easily cut when times are tough and sales are slow.

Ask any CEO or business owner and they will tell you that marketing is an investment. It’s the last thing to cut in tough times

So who is right? It’s an age-old debate that in the digital age is becoming much easier to discern.

If you sell products online, you can measure and monetize your digital marketing effort with sales. “Click, order and ship” makes tracking dollars-spent to dollars-made any easy calculation. Few bean counters will argue that point. Package the promotion of any product or service with discounts offers or online support and the direct revenue typically increases by severalfold.

Under these scenarios, a performance-based contract with your agency is a wise investment. Setting performance benchmarks and establishing incentives for sales revenue is a recipe for success. Most marketing professionals live for this opportunity to show their stuff and prove their worth to you, your business and especially, to your CFO.

The same can be said for direct marketing that gives customers a direct response path like a special offer, coupon or loyalty card. That way the process for tracking and measuring performance and ROI is baked in the souffle.


However, trying to apply the same contractual approach across all your marketing efforts is where the souffle falls flat.

When you move beyond direct response advertising, the marketing and sales channels are more complex, less manageable and harder to track revenue performance. Too many cooks in the kitchen…sales coverage and response time, closing skills, product quality, customer satisfaction and pricing complicate the meal and ultimately, the entire deal.

Who gets credit for new revenue is less clear. Tracking it back to a single mailer, radio spot, native ad, online video or display ad is less valid. So unless you want to give your agency control of all four P’s, (product, place, promotion, price), then you can’t give all the credit or all the blame for your revenue performance to one source.

Here is where…CTR, organic search rankings, leads, lead quality, online engagements and impressions become the end game for your agency. Business owners and marketing managers should hold their agencies to these key performance benchmarks and indicators. These metrics are known to have an impact your market awareness, brand value and ultimately, to revenue performance.

No company and no brand can afford to be altruistic without producing return on investment.

So if you’re not tracking and holding your agency accountable to clear objectives and metrics, then John Wanamaker is right and your CFO will continue to win this argument.


Founded in 1933, the Pittsburgh Steelers are the oldest teams in the AFC and one of the most successful franchises in the NFL. The Steelers have won the Super Bowl six out of their eight appearances. The Steelers first Super Bowl appearance and victory was against the Minnesota Vikings in 1975. Over the last 46 years, three coaches have guided this storied franchise – Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin.

Three head coaches in the last 46 years! This level of trust and loyalty is rare!

In the last 15 years, another storied NFL franchise the Oakland Raiders had the league’s most head coaches with eight. During this stretch, the Raiders made it into the playoffs only three times.

Is that a result of poor management or a society consumed with instant gratification?

Whatever the reason, the Steelers have bucked the trend to cash in their chips when the cards were down. Or, chase after the hot and trendy coaching candidate climbing with coaching ranks.

How many organizations and marketing directors follow the Steelers’ successful business model? How many recognize and protect the value and equity invested in these partnerships? How many are quick to pull the plug and opt for chasing the latest hot ad shop, PR firm or interactive company?

The stats aren’t that surprising. More follow the Raiders than the Steelers approach. After all, staying the course isn’t always an easy choice or popular decision. Especially, when there is something “shiny” or “bigger and better” to chase after.

In business and life in general, long-term performance too often loses to short-term moves – unless you’re a Pittsburgh Steeler’s coach or fan.

The digital landscape is shifting. The use of ad-blocking software has risen 48 percent within a year so brands have begun to move resources to social media, native advertising and influencer campaigns. We are rethinking the role of digital display ads and their place in the purchase process.


Still, the larger challenge remains. How do we find authentic ways to fit brands into one-to-one messaging platforms without annoying your audiences? The explosive growth of messaging platforms continues to accelerate a warp speed and is expected to expand from 2.5 billion to 3.6 billion global users by 2018 – 25 percent greater than the audience for social media. While one-to-one messaging soars, Facebook has noted that its users are posting less and less ­– in fact, only 20 percent of millennials use broadcast social networks to post photos and videos at all.

However, diminishing returns are showing that using Snapchat as an organic social channel isn’t cost-effective. Nor should we think of it as the next Facebook or Instagram. We need to think of it as new TV. Think appointment-watching, awareness and buying eyeballs ­– not growing communities, editorial calendars and real-time marketing. Think of it as a newfangled TV spot, not regularly scheduled organic snaps to grow your audience.

The digital video space has become more complicated and has to be rethought. You can’t just post your brand’s video to YouTube and syndicate it across other social networks. Your video needs to be optimized for every platform it’s posted on. That is, if you want to bolster its chances of success. Post it on YouTube, but then it needs to be reshaped as a Facebook video, a Twitter video, an Instagram video and potentially a Vine or Tumblr video. That’s for starters. Video needs to be tailored for each platform, optimized for the audience and cultural norms of each. And with live-streaming gaining even more momentum, pushing out that branded content continues to get exponentially more difficult.

Tellys Final

Two of the TV commercials that we produced for the Franciscan St. Francis Health Cancer Center were selected as winners in the 37th Annual Telly Awards.

Competing against over 13,000 entries from all 50 states and numerous other countries, our commercials titled “Cancer Research” and “Cancer Surgery” earned Bronze Telly Awards.

The Telly Awards was founded in 1979 and is the premier award honoring outstanding local, regional, and cable TV commercials and programs, the finest video and film productions, and online commercials, video and films. Winners represent the best work of the most respected advertising agencies, production companies, television stations, cable operators, and corporate video departments.

“The Telly Awards has a mission to honor the very best in film and video,” said Linda Day, Executive Director of the Telly Awards. “Lunar Strategies accomplishment illustrates their creativity, skill, and dedication to their craft and serves as a testament to great film and video production.”

Besides thanking our moms (and dads), we would like to thank Franciscan St. Francis Health – especially Larry Meade and the Cancer Center physicians, nurses and staff for all their time, passion and support. And two really good guys, David Yosha and David Weyls at Magnet Films, for being key collaborators in the production of these award-winning commercials.

In 2015, Franciscan St. Francis Health not only expanded its physical footprint, but we led the efforts to greatly expand its digital footprint. For seven service lines and two of their hospital campuses, our digital advertising programs outperformed industry benchmarks.

By optimizing our secondary metrics, our digital media placements and creative work surpassed the industry benchmarks and our goals for Click-Thru Rate (CTR) and Cost-Per-Click (CPC). We achieved double and in many cases triple the CTR for display ads, mobile ads, native ads, pre-roll videos, Facebook video ads, and Pandora display and audio ads.


But our ultimate metric and objective is to maximize ROI. By including special call-to-actions and aligning them with operations, we know that our campaign for Women Services delivered even more. It generated over 5-times more in potential revenue than the media dollars invested.

Have you and your team ever spent weeks working on a solution that is enthusiastically embraced by your client, but after a few weeks in their halls it becomes watered down or totally unrecognizable?

I’m sure you have. It’s a safe bet that it happens daily somewhere in the world. But why is that?

It’s pretty simple, really. We answer to our client contact. But they don’t have the final decision. Often, they answer to supervisors, management and/or internal clients. Can you say committees? The whole thing quickly becomes an exercise in group decision making.

So looking to take the path of least resistance and appease as many as possible, consensus building becomes the name of the game.

This is where things can go awry, and your thinking and great work can get lost.

In today’s work environment, enthusiasm for even market-changing or award-winning ideas can fade rapidly. So if your client isn’t 100 percent invested, then how hard do you think they will defend it? If they weren’t engaged in the development process, then how likely are they to fight for it? If you didn’t collaborate with them so “Devil’s Advocate” questions can be quickly dispatched and discarded, then how prepared are they to keep pushing it?

The same can be said for presenting ideas in-house to your colleagues and boss.

Instead of leaving it to consensus building and compromise, strive to create champions or advocates for your ideas. Bring everyone into the process, early and often, so they have ownership. Use collaboration so they own it like you do.

The phrase Own It in magazine letters on a cork notice board

In our business, like many others, there is no avoiding the approval chain and hallway polling so you need to make it easier for solutions to be validated and celebrated. If not, you’re leaving the door open for people who need to leave their mark on it. Not necessarily to make it better, but because they see and sense a lack of conviction and commitment to it.

In an election year, we see how waffling hurts politicians, but it’s equally damaging with office politics. It’s our job to not only own it, but to keep the mojo strong for others so mud doesn’t get tossed on the work.

ob services

In one year, market share for neonatal services at one hospital dropped by 13.8% because several OB physicians elected to change their hospital affiliations. This story is nothing new in the healthcare industry, but it demonstrates how marketing can play a significant role to regain market share caused by an operational issue.
In just two years, the hospital regained 8.1% in market share. And the trend line continues to point up.
How was this accomplished? A small investment was made in marketing to support outreach activities in the community along with a digital marketing and direct marketing campaign.
By executing unique, fun and direct ways to engage moms and mothers-to-be, we were able to deliver big smiles to their faces which translated into delivering more babies, and ultimately, delivering bigger smiles to the faces of the new OB doctors, nurses and hospital administrators.

Over the last few decades, the entertainment industry has been on the leading edge and acceptance of our diverse population and culture in the United States. The sports and music industries were among the firsts to break the color barrier for African Americans and Latin Americans. And sexual preference found support and advocates in the arts – from music to movies, stage to television.

As corporate America signed on, “diversity” became mandatory criteria for the advertising industry.  No longer is it acceptable to only feature European Americans. After all, our country is made up of American Indians, European Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, Latin Americans and Pacific Americans for the most part.

But since humans aren’t bound by simple demographic classifications, taboos got put to the test. Interracial dating and marriage were bridged by showing a European American male with an African American female. But not until recently has the taboo been totally busted by having an African American male with a European American female. Of which, Cheerios became one of the brave American brands to spark public backlash.

But long before all this gnashing of teeth and the toxic tweets to General Mills, one clothing company saw race and these taboos as a cause worthy of discussion and debate so the “United Colors of Benetton” campaign was born. It too had its share of detractors.

Blazing the trail is not a job for the faint of heart.

Today, companies are asking their advertising agencies to realistically represent our great “melting pot” and to help them reach out to underserved minorities. Yet, diversity doesn’t stop at race alone. Religion, physical capabilities and sexual preference are other factors one needs to factor into your campaign strategies and execution.

But at what risk and what reward?

It appears we’re entering a period when companies aren’t afraid to openly engage the LGBT community. While estimated as a small percentage of the total population of our country, gay rights but primarily gay marriage has become the taboo topic of our times. Advertisers such as Expedia, Campbell’s Soup, Wells Fargo, Allstate and American Express have jumped feet first into the fray. Factored into their business calculations are a percentage of lost customers and members along with an acceptable level negative public discourse. And if you read any of the social media posts, you’ll see that to be the case. But time will tell if their efforts and actions will garner new supporters and customers, and become mainstream or place them on the year-end list of brands we might not see in the near future.


Is your company or brand engaged in this trend? Have you bought up the topic with your management executives, marketing team and external communication partners?  Where do you stand? Should you take a stand? Or should you avoid or resist the trend because it runs counter to your beliefs and values, especially if you’re a faith-based organization?

If the topic hasn’t been an item on your meeting agendas, it might be time to add it so you can establish guidelines on how or if it will part of demonstrating customer diversity in 2016 and beyond. But one word of caution, look beyond your doors and market to see what other companies are doing. And be sure to discuss and debate if there is a risk of oversaturation and causing a “net” negative effect, instead of making a positive contribution to the cause and your business.

In tough economic times when sales and revenue are trending down, changing your logo or the design of your retail space must be the magic bullet. Right? After all, someone recently convinced Olive Garden and Red Lobster to invest in this marketing strategy.  Now, we’ll have to wait and see if the hungry masses buy it. I just hope they did their research and don’t have a product and/or pricing issue.

In the highly competitive food service industry even McDonald s is having a tough time. Tastes are changing. But don’t expect them to fork out big bucks for a new logo any time soon. Another new concept store? Maybe. New advertising campaign and social media content? Definitely!

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a hundred times. Advertising is a young person’s game. Is it because they are cheaper to employ? Are willing and capable to work all night to meet the clients’ deadlines? Or is it because they simply don’t know any better? After all, their life experiences are limited. If I was a client looking to hire an advertising agency, I would argue that it’s the latter and look for a firm with a seasoned team for my account. Why? It’s pretty elementary. Why would I want to pay to educate my account team on my business and their business as well? You see, while a group of green, fresh faced advertising people may be full of energy and enthusiasm, they don’t know what they don’t know. I’d much rather be sitting across the table from seasoned ad professionals who have experience to pull from, who have seen what works and what doesn’t, who know best practices and who recognize that I need measureable results to build my brand instead of awards to build their portfolios and careers. And I know from experience that an inexperienced team will take more billable hours to research and create effective solutions. And require more senior staff members to challenge and coalesce the recommendations that get presented to me. Time and thinking I’m sure the agency will try to have me pay for — not.

Risk and reward. Trial and error. Success and failure. Coloring outside the lines. How many of us would say we work in a culture more like one found at a startup or a standard institution? Is free thinking and experimentation encouraged and rewarded or discouraged and dismissed? With any luck and some good design sense, this movie project will get people thinking and talking about these questions and others. 

Being an Indianapolis marketing firm engaged in healthcare marketing, financial marketing, agriculture advertising and marketing nonprofit organizations, creativity and design with purpose drives our thinking.

We need to always challenge ourselves and our thinking. Are we setting trends or following them? Are we creating something original and significant or being asked to copy what others have done before us? Are we solving the real problem or checking tasks off a list?

View Trailer

Banking customers in the U.S. prefer localized, personalized services to be at the center of their relationship with their financial services institutions, according to a new international study by BT and Avaya. The study found that despite the growing use of phone and Internet banking in recent years, 66 percent of U.S.-based customers sees their local branch as the most vital link with their bank – second only to ATM machines.

The results indicate to financial services institutions developing multichannel customer service strategies that U.S. customers want the same personalized service that local branches deliver, regardless of whether the interaction is taking place in person, on the phone, using the Internet or a mobile device.

Looking at the next generation of Internet banking for U.S. consumers:

  • 32 percent would like to use Web chat when browsing financial Websites.
  • 24 percent would be happy to use click-to-call.
  • 14 percent would like to use video chat.

Looking at the adoption of Mobile banking by U.S. consumers:

  • More than 27 percent of respondents are already trying some form of it.
  • 34 percent are eager to make mobile payments.

However, the call center remains the preferred first stop for resolving a complaint or issue. The study also found that 55 percent of U.S. consumers have a strong relationship with their bank and of the four countries surveyed, more of the U.S. consumers said good service improves loyalty.

  • 77 percent for the United States
  • 71 percent for the United Kingdom
  • 66 percent for Spain
  • 58 percent for Germany

As an Indianapolis advertising agency with an Indiana community bank as a long-time client, we aren’t shocked or surprised by these findings. We see it in action at Ameriana Bank. Stop into an Ameriana Banking Center and experience personalized service for yourself. See how they approach localized support through their Giving Walls, Community Rooms and photo tributes to the communities they serve. You’ll also discover and enjoy free fresh coffee, Wi-Fi, and a convenient coin exchange machine as well as mobile banking and a new online FinanceWorks™ tool to help you track and manage how you spend your money.

Read more about this international research study: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/04/17/4420186/local-touch-should-be-key-to-us.html#storylink=cpy

Learn more about Ameriana Bank: https://www.ameriana.com/home/home or https://www.facebook.com/amerianabank

Working for consulting firms and an Indianapolis advertising agency or two, I’ve been fortunate to interact directly with decision makers on the client side. I have been able to hear their vision and understand their philosophies and strategies – firsthand. Taking time to learn about their sacred cows and pet peeves, and being able to challenge their thinking so we could craft and implement their brand, and deliver communications that cost-effectively achieved or exceeded their marketing objectives.

Recently this has been less of the norm. Decision makers are becoming less available and approachable. Being understaffed and overworked appears to be the root cause. Decision makers have to spend more time working in the business, leaving less time for them to work on the business. This leaves all the rich context and invaluable feedback to be filtered through channels and co-workers. Or worst, input and decisions are delegated to and through committees.

Efficiency is the quick and easy justification for these transactional relationships. However, this isn’t actually true. In reality, it causes delays, cost overruns and frustration on both the client side and the agency side due to the lack of information and interaction.

The flow of ideas and thinking is diminished. Sparks of inspiration and fluidity of marketing challenges are lost, as are significant details expressed by the decision maker and by the agency. Collaboration and communications are not only disrupted, but too often key points are misinterpreted or completely brushed aside by the intermediaries. Or, all too commonly misunderstood or misread through email.

It would be great if we could roll back the clock and slow down long enough to enjoy a glazed donut or two. Do you remember when a box of donuts was a staple at meetings? So much could be learned and shared during these sugar-laden sessions. Of course, healthy eating has caused these donut discussions to be replaced by bagels. And more recently, the bagel became the casualty of low-carb diets.

Today, the healthier action would be to reinstate the brain dump and brainstorming meetings with your agency. Level-setting sessions are vital to making sure your agency is on the same page and delivering the creativity and measured marketing you demand. Otherwise, you may be unfairly feeling and saying that your agency doesn’t “get it.” Instead, call them in to share some donuts and deep discussions about your brand and your marketing. You might just thank me.

With all due respect to Euro RSCG, what are you thinking? Even as a parody, the new Woolite “Torturer” commercial is a stretch. You must have conceived the idea and pitched it to the Woolite brand manager in some Amsterdam cafes. 

Yeah, we get it. You’re cool. Rob Zombie and his macabre style scream to women. We all know women are the biggest fans of slasher movies. It’s the new chick flick.

This all reminds me when Fallon used sophomoric boy humor to encourage women to shop at Simon Malls. Like this commercial, I was left shaking my head and asking what the hell!

“Some detergents torture your clothes. Save them with Woolite. Long live your wardrobe.”

The premise. The footage. The editing. The supers. The sound track. The creative team must be running the asylum. This commercial is so off target and off brand. The real fear and pain hits you during the transition to the product hero. It is so hard to stomach and so foreign that it feels like you created another Frankenstein. Complete with incompatible parts digitally mastered from unsuspecting donors.   

How many brand managers, brand consultants or even Indianapolis brand strategists would have put a axe through this idea? I suspect I’m not alone.

View Woolite “Torturer” TV Spot

Be the brand.

I’ve recently read some postings lamenting that brands used to be built by memorable TV moments. Back when life revolved around your favorite TV series, three network channels and brand campaigns dominated the timeslots. Before microwaves, digital recorders, cable and the Internet changed our viewing habits and behaviors.

According to national and Indianapolis brand strategists as well as some market research gurus, gone are the days of sitting down for a family meal before gathering around the TV for the evening. Now, our lives are fuller and busier. We are on the run and eat out more, record our favorite shows and watch them at our leisure while fast-forwarding through the commercials.

We can even watch our favorite TV series or program by ourselves on our smartphone or tablet – anytime and anywhere. And the Internet gives us news, information and entertainment at our convenience.

So where does this leave branding?

Same place, same brand channel. If you want to build brand value and preference, you still need to invest in relationships with your customers. You need to find ways to help customers relate to your brand.

And yes, it still takes time. It takes aligning customer touch points to build brands moments – in person, on the phone and online to create lasting customer relationships.

For the most part, you couldn’t rely totally on TV branding campaigns anyway because if people didn’t have the same experience with the product or service then the advertising was useless. Likewise, you can build the most incredible brand experience on the Web, but if people don’t come to it then it is useless.

The brand connection is different on the Web. It’s more than having a quality Web design, Facebook or Twitter page. People are interested in a series of interactions, created by questions and answers. We see something. We discuss it. We try to find out more information, from mostly independent advice. The combination of searching online and seeing banner ads works together with the aim to create what is called “conversation with the brand.”

We learn by repetition and experience. And people who engage with your online ad or video, seek it out online and share it with friends are actively interacting with your brand and investing real emotional involvement.

The beauty of online branding is when it drives offline conversions. The more your digital marketing seeks to be compelling and emotional, and make customers feel something for the brand over just tracking each click through, the more success you will experience.

But remember, like TV advertising, digital marketing is only one channel and one touch point. You and your employees have to represent the brand attributes and be the brand.

Move over NASCAR, here comes the NBA. In an attempt to generate more revenue, the NBA is pondering the idea of placing product and company logos on the jerseys of every player from the 30 teams. European basketball teams have worn ads on their jerseys for years, as does the WNBA.

The transition could create approximately $31.18 million in revenue in TV exposure alone. The NBA Board of Governors will meet this month to discuss the possibility of adding advertising to the jerseys.

Surprising, it was reported that the idea has been met with support from players and coaches. Not surprising, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said it’s an idea whose time has come. Cuban said, ‘If someone wants to give us $10 million, I’ll make it happen.’

If it happens, it will be interesting to see what advertisers elect to associate their brands with the NBA’s brand. As an Indianapolis advertising agency, I wonder if any local companies will get a spot on the Pacers’ jerseys or will this new channel be dominated by national brands and corporate sponsors.

Besides consumer goods, organizations engaged in healthcare marketing and financial marketing solutions might want to give it some careful consideration. That is, depending on the proposed expense and projected positive exposure.

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/03/27/3840484/nba-considers-selling-advertising.html#storylink=cpy

As an Indianapolis advertising agency, we are constantly challenging ourselves and our clients to be better communicators. Whether that means honing value propositions and brand positions, crafting key messaging or message platforms, testing different language and call-to-actions in direct mail and digital marketing, writing plans, briefs and emails, expressing ideas and point-of-views, or providing tighter strategic and creative direction.

Many times the way we communicate to each other gets convoluted and complicated. Like most customers, clients and prospects, we don’t want to get caught up in a dissertation or documentary. What we want and what we have time for is the skinny.

As specialists in communications, the skinny is one of our most powerful tools. It allows us to use the fewest number of words to get to the point. The skinny is a string of words, spoken or written, that offers the essence of what we need to know without extraneous information or content. No digression. No running around the barn. No diving into rabbit holes.

But be careful not to confuse skinny with thin. When information and direction is thin, more communication is required to clarify and confirm what we’re dealing with before we can move forward.

Much like quality Web design, if the content is thin so is its value. The skinny is the sweet spot. It is the perfect place between random thoughts and a brain dump, or between bread crumbs and a water hose.

Perfecting the art of communication requires the ability to express the skinny, mentoring colleagues on how to deliver the skinny and deploying the skinny in all forms of communications – interpersonal, internal and external communication via digital and mobile marketing, social media, advertising, Webinars or email newsletters.

As a communications professional, never be shy about asking colleagues and associates to give you the skinny. If executed correctly, it increases response and reduces frustration as well as saves time and money.

The bridge to nowhere

In this presidential election year, the negative political advertising continues to be pathetic yet surprising prophetic.

Take the ‘bridge to nowhere!’; This one example has become the ‘poster child’ for spending money without a benefit or return. How many CEOs and CFOs in organizations and enterprises in Indianapolis and Indiana find their CMOs, marketing directors, brand consultants, advertising agencies, PR firms or web design companies guilty of doing the same? Building bridges to nowhere with their marketing dollars. You might be surprised.

Arguable, that’s why many executives view marketing as an expense, instead of an investment. If you can’t show a direct correlation between marketing, sales and revenue, why should they believe any different.

So, what can you do to close that loop?

Accountability and transparency is good place to start. Oh great, more political promises and sound bites! Only don’t just talk about it, put two tangible steps in place.

1. Build measurement into your plans.

Whether you are working on a marketing plan, a campaign or a one-off tactic, like an e-newsletter or direct mail letter, make sure you have a written objective that is measurable and quantifiable, in term of dollars and sense, not anecdotal feel good metrics. Resist the easy road and settle on awareness, coverage, Web traffic or lead generation. Do whatever you can to track a lion share of your marketing initiatives back to revenue, or donations if you’re marketing non profit organizations.

2. Build measurement into your reports.

Don’t just report on what you did, but what it did for you. Too many reports or executive summaries only document the ‘what’ and completely miss the ‘why.’ Look at each report as a mini case study. Write them so anyone who reads the information would be able to easily craft and publish a compelling case study in the Harvard Business Review. That way you’ll know if these investments delivered a dividend and so will the CEO. This makes it much easier to ask for a budget increase and a raise next year.

3. Build a results-driven culture.

If done correctly, demanding this level of reporting and measured marketing will become ingrained – in your work habits and the organization’s culture. Over time, the barriers to tracking and gathering this data from other departments and functions will be greatly diminished. At that point, you will be able to use this intelligence to better track results, test performance and trend the data more effectively and in shorter timeframes.

Otherwise planning and strategy will continue to be short changed and ‘bridges to nowhere’; will continue to consume valuable financial resources and, in most cases, finite assets. Bottom line, this 3-step program makes for a smarter use of money and resources. Now, if we could only get our Federal Government on the same program.

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.

If we took a poll of senior management and marketing executives, how do you think they would answer?

Do you think they are so command and control oriented that a majority of them would say order takers? Or, do you sense that more of them are blue sky thinkers, visionaries and strategists who want to surround themselves with critical thinkers. Individuals, who not only implement their direction, but work shoulder to shoulder with them vetting and molding it.

Assisting organization with strategic branding and other marketing communication challenges, I’ve collaborated with and worked for CEOs, COOs, CMOs and other senior leadership team members who fall in both camps. Although, I doubt some would admit it or maybe even recognize that they are surrounded by order takers or task managers. Too often corporate culture, job security and income are mitigating circumstances to why employees are ‘yes men or women’ and why third-party providers fill this role only. The other reason is simply skill set.

From what I’ve witnessed across many industries, the best executives give their employees and associates the same leeway afforded most paid outside consultants. They encourage and value everyone’s thinking.

Many times, these are the same executives who seek branding services for like-minded professionals who also understand the value and challenges associated with strategic brand management. People who know it’s much more the brand identity design of a logo, a tagline or a quality Web design. People, like them, who know the organization biggest asset is the people who work for it, especially the ones who don’t take every one of the executive’s comments as the final word on the matter, aren’t afraid to ask why or what if, can see the big picture and always have the best interests of the company and/or brand in mind.

Whether you are developing value propositions and key message points for direct mail solutions, emailing marketing programs or social media marketing campaigns, keep this single tip in mind.

1. Outside in

Too often organizations get so enamored with new technology, historical milestones or industry recognition that they don’t ask themselves if their customers care. They try to make their customers care by promoting and touting it in every ad, Web banner, Facebook post and television spot.

Instead of looking at the subject matter from an ‘inside out’ perspective, try looking at it from your customers’ perspective or ‘outside in.’ Figure out how to translate it so it’s of value and benefit to your customers or the audiences you’re attempting to influence or persuade. That’s how you’ll get their attention, get them to care and get them to act.

Simple enough, right?

You can find great examples of successful ‘outside in’ communications in every market. In consumer-to-consumer and business-to-business communications. In the marketing of healthcare services. In financial marketing solutions. In foodservice and agriculture advertising.

Now, consider auditing your marketing communications. How do you think it will perform?

If you find your communications are too company-centric, then it’s time to get everyone thinking in terms of being customer-centric. That’s when ‘outside in’ communications becomes part of your culture and the day-to-day execution of your brand strategy…and with the right internal brand champions, operations will follow suit and start addressing customer touch points from the ‘outside in’; as well.

It’s the first of the year and Americans are being bombarded with messages about losing weight and getting in shape. It happens every year. And right in the middle of this fitness craze comes the Girl Scouts with their cookies. It happens every year.

Thin mints. Samoas. Tagalongs. Are you kidding me! The Girl Scouts are killing me. Besides the fact that these cookies are sabotaging my efforts to drop some pounds, why do they continue to market them at this time of the year? I know it is tradition, but is it smart marketing.

Want to buy some cookies! Parents will be bringing the order forms through the office. Bright-eyed little girls will be accosting us outside the local Wal-Mart. And let’s not forget the few brave ones that still come to your door.

You can even go online and enter your ZIP code to find the council nearest you because these cookies are sold by girls from individual Girl Scout councils…not through some Web marketing strategy or a series of direct mail campaigns.

This is good-old grassroots marketing….feet on the streets to put cookies in our bellies. It’s a common solution for marketing non profit organizations like the Girl Scouts of the USA.

And since cookies and milk are such good friends I’m sure the National Dairy Council must love this time of year. Milk consumption has to see a spike as our willpower wanes and waistlines expand.

That said, pour me a glass but please rethink your go-to-market strategy and move cookie sales to the fall when most of us in the northern states are bulking up for the winter months. Not when we are trying to shed our winter weight. But don’t take my word. Do a market research study. Qualitative research like the Dairy Council conducted to create the “Got Milk” campaign which improved sales after 15 years with no growth. If you’re the quantitative type, I’m sure surveymonkey.com would welcome the opportunity, especially if you throw in some Do-si-dos.

If you haven’t heard the 2012 Super Bowl is being playing in Indianapolis. February 5th is the big day. With only a few weeks to go, our city is all a buzz with excitement and final preparation.

As a football fan, this is an opportunity of a lifetime. It’s a chance to experience some of the activities during the week leading up to the big game. Who plays in it is of little consequence since the Colts are focused on the number one pick in the NFL draft. However, having our streets and bars filled with Patriots’ fans might be a little hard to stomach.

As a brand strategist and from a pure marketing perspective, the planning and ongoing promotions have been solid. An exceptional fan experience (i.e. visitor experience) appears to be everyone’s number one objective. Volunteers are being trained to be brand ambassadors for the big event and for our city. Hopefully, the stories posted on indianapolissuperbowl.com will bear witness to these efforts.

A heavy broadcast media event, it would be interesting to get a look behind the scenes at their Web marketing strategy and social media marketing campaigns. The negative press about traffic and parking downtown is causing many of us locals to think twice about going downtown. And asking downtown businesses to have their employees work at home that week is nuts. Are we going to shut down the state and city government offices too? This PR miscue needs to be addressed, unless it’s part of the overall plan.

No matter, I will not be deterred. I plan on being there. Very soon, a shirt with the 2012 Super Bowl’s brand identity design will be added to my wardrobe.

Have you ever hired, supervised or worked with a employee that was extremely talented, but in the big picture was a poor employee or co-worker? If you have, you should be able to relate and commiserate with this blog topic.

The big question is when these individuals reach the tipping point. When do their negative contributions to the team, department and organization or your brand outweigh all the positive ones. Identifying this point of no return and reacting to it is no small feat. Too often, these employees can damage and force the flight of other good employees, and even clients, before these employees are diagnosed as cancerous.

Like some financial institutions being “too big to fail,” one of the traps is believing that they are too talented to be replaced; so you try to mentor them in the belief you can change their stripes. In three decades of working in the advertising industry, I’ve not seen one of these employees successfully rehabbed and believe me I’ve been patient and crazy enough to try and reshape my share of talented and turbulent employees. And I have the scars to show for it. Another Band-Aid or path of least resistance is to isolate them as much as possible. You may try limiting their authority and interaction with others in the organization or with clients. This too will run its course with little benefit or satisfaction. Cut your losses by cutting these employees from the herd quickly is my best advice. Generally, you will find that group dynamics and teamwork will improve immediately. Employees will thank you. Other employees, who were restrained by the actions of these talented and turbulent employees, will step up and begin to shine. Overall morale and teamwork will soar. And the need for you to referee disputes and put out fires will dissipate which will impact your productivity and give you more time to work on bigger picture matters such as product development, customer acquisition and retention, mergers, or even strategic brand management and new digital marketing strategies for 2012.

Don’t be surprised if some of your clients, customers and channel partners congratulate and thank you for the move. This reaction may give you solace after many sleepless nights wrestling with the concern that the loss of their talent could put an account or some business at risk.

As you look for a replacement or other hires, you might want to put on your brand strategist hat. Run the candidates through the brand persona or profile for the team, department and organization. Then compare it to what you can discern as the candidate’s brand personality. If it’s a match, aligns closely and no red flags fly, then you may get an exceptional talent without any of the baggage.

In a new reality filled with digital marketing strategies and social media guidelines, do people still respond to brands that do more that serve their needs? Do great brands still express a unique point of view? Does this view really drive differentiation, consideration and preference? And are these truly the lead indicators of future business performance which enable companies with strong brands to deliver sustainable organic growth? After all, that’s exactly what business owners, executives and marketers are told and promised.

So what aren’t they buying about strategic branding?

Most executives are willing to invest in brand identity design and maybe a clever tagline to accompany their logo and position the brand in a beneficial way. Some strive to control brand consistency and continuity through extensive guidelines and templates. Others launch, refresh and retool branding campaigns. Some redesign their Web site, get on Facebook or wrapped up tweeting, or become big bloggers. While still others craft and share brand promise statements and new customers service standards with their employees and customers. Or produce and distribute brand coaching tools – from brand architecture charts to fancy “brand books.” And a few are more spatial and moved to create the right brand environment – complete with purchased or commissioned brand art or the latest in digital merchandising.

I’ve even seen brand briefs drafted as strategic brand management and brand coaching tools that were anything but brief and more akin to comprehensive, C-suite oriented marketing and communications plans. Too dense! Too academic! Not ready for employee consumption.

And hence, there’s the real brand truth!

All that branding work is the easy stuff. It’s the low hanging fruit and reason why many “challenger brands” never develop a unique point of view or reach their full market potential.

Great brands understand that a brand is a relationship – with a set of expectations and reputation to uphold and protect.

In a world where homogeneity and standardization dominates and word-of-mouth has been digitized and globalized through social media, great brands have proven that it’s no longer just about positioning, it’s about taking a position. These brands stand for something that people value. They create a different type of customer experience. They have become recognized as “my kind of company, my kind of people” and customers are proud to be associated with them. They work on an emotional level and have formed common bonds with their customer base.

But first and forever, their point of view is woven into the cultural fiber of these companies – not just documented in brand books on the shelf. It’s exuded by frontline employees and at every customer touch point. It has become intuitive, systemic and a point of self-discovery and reinvention. And for that to happen, these companies continue to invest time, training and thinking about how to preserve and expand their brands. Do you have the vision, discipline and fortitude to do the same? If not, then you might want to rethink your brand strategy and the dollars you’re throwing in that direction.

Do you focus your time and energy on “what’s wrong,” instead of on “what s right?”

With thirty years in marketing communications, I’ve been fortunate to interact with people from all kinds of professions, levels of experience, and demographic and socioeconomic backgrounds. As a brand strategist, I’m continually fascinated by people’s behavior, bias and belief systems. However, I’ve noticed a challenging and misguided trend. More and more people are working from a negative perspective. It doesn’t matter if we’re discussing marketing communications strategy, messaging or creative ideas for advertising, direct mail campaigns, email newsletter design, interactive Website design, social media guidelines or whatever.

“I don’t like that.” “I don’t care for that.” “We can’t do or say that.” These are some of the first comments being expressed. Rarely are the participants getting around to saying what they do like. Or what can or should be done. Why is that? Are we so overexposed and desensitized to marketing and advertising that little impresses us anymore? Have we become a society of critics and cynics? Has the nightly news and negative political campaigns transformed us into the land of negative thinkers and pessimists?

I think not. I think it’s simply much easier to poke holes in others’ thinking. It’s easier to find fault, point fingers or play devil’s advocate, than to motivate, inspire and lead. It’s harder for people to recognize and celebrate good ideas and constructively build on them. Especially, when you consider the time demands and pressure most of us are under.

Ironically, the same people, who complain about the number of meetings they attend, are often the same individuals who waste time talking about the things they don’t like, instead of cutting to the chase and pointing out the things they like and feel deserves to be pursued and supported. Don’t get me wrong. I know I’ve learned as much, if not more, from my miscues and missed steps. Two steps backward and three steps forward is the path for many success stories. Unfortunately, positive feedback and constructive criticism during this process appears to be a diminishing skill set in the workforce. Focusing on the winning ideas is a more productive and positive way to work. It’s more uplifting and just plain healthier for the spirit and mental well-being of both the right and left brain thinkers in the room. The same people who are passionate and committed to those ideas. The same ones deeply involved in the project and the overall success of the organization. Certainly as colleagues, who share a common sense of purpose, we would prefer to rally around winning ideas than dance around the conference table torching the other ones.

So the next time you’re in a group meeting – looking at ideas of some sort – fight the instinct to focus on the “weak or bad” ones so you can find the good ones by a process of elimination. Everyone in the room will thank you, praise you and climb mountains for you. But, if your corporate culture or “group think” or the alphas in the room won’t let you escape the gravitational pull of this black hole, I recommend sharing the book Zapp, The Lightning of Empowerment by William C. Byham, Ph.D. It’s a good chance to lead by example and offer some substantive and constructive criticism to your colleagues. Make it part of your New Year resolutions, and with any luck, you will help create a positive environment for your marketing efforts as well as your other assignments.

Here we go. It’s 2012. The year the Mayan calendar marks the end of a 5,126-year era…December 21st to be exact. Forget crafting your social media guidelines. What kind of year are we facing? Is it another Y2K or something else?

One school of thought is convinced that it’s the end the world. Dooms day. Book of Revolution fire and brimstone stuff. Armageddon. The total destruction of life as we know it. Then again, there’s another school of thought that believes we are on the doorstep of a new beginning…a period in human history of great transformation and enlightenment. I think most of us would prefer the latter direction.

Yet amidst all this uncertainty, how are you approaching the year? Have you changed your business plans and marketing strategy development? Are you pulling back on your email marketing programs or direct mail campaigns? Maybe your marketing budget is being diverted and invested in alternative strategies such as a fallout bunker or survival gear.

Or, is it business as usual. Are your strategies for the year proceeding as planned? Focused on the economy and going to market with new products or services. Striving to retain your customer base and acquire new customers.

However you and your organization have elected to approach the year, let’s make it a great year! Let’s make it an extremely productive and positive year…one of the best years in the history of our organizations. That’s how we going to approach the year and I have the feeling we won’t be alone.

Here’s to a great year! I hope we all experience much joy and success in 2012 and for many years to come.

My 2012 Resolutions

The tradition of setting New Year resolutions has never been high on my to-do lists. However, due to the possible significance of this year and the need to post more blog content, I’ve decided to give it a shot. After a few seconds of serious thought, I’ve landed on these resolutions:

Blog two to three times a week to improve our firm’s SEO and business development activities.

Incorporate compelling CTAs on our blog page to execute upon our marketing communications strategy to capture qualified leads via the Internet.

Improve our Website’s organic search ranking by building in the right mix of key phases into each blog such strategic brand management, marketing strategy development and measured marketing.

See I’m trying. Unfortunately, the Message Meter programmed into the Compendium Blogware that we use and offer to our clients is telling me to write a paragraph without any key phases in this post. And now that I’ve done that, it’s telling me to increase my score by adding more keywords.

It’s a hard task master, but let’s try adding two more key phases…interactive Website design and direct marketing solutions. Nope, I’m still not there. This resolution stuff might be harder than I thought. Having the right mix of key phases to the word count in a post is tough.

Finally, that did it. The green bar in the Message Meter is happy. It says “good work, your post has a good number of keywords.” Great! Maybe I’ll be able to keep these resolutions after all.

Why not?

Do you see the way things are and ask why? Or, are you someone who sees what things can be and asks why not? Paraphrased from a statement made by JFK, great philosophies and beliefs like this are why the United States put men on the moon.

It’s one of the reasons why our firm is named Lunar Strategies. It’s why we come to work every day so we can put our thinking and energy into financial marketing solutions, healthcare marketing services and agriculture advertising that strives to differentiate our clients from organizations who only ask “why.”

It’s also why we don’t just focus on one area of the business. We pride ourselves on being students of a changing communications field so we can guide our clients with best practices and strategies. As we move into 2012, our field needs people who ask why not. All one has to do is look at the development and application of social media and mobile marketing to understand the need to see what the world can be.

That’s how we see it, apps and all.

Is direct mail dead?

Are the calls of direct mail facing extinction accurate or premature? Obviously email marketing programs, social media and mobile marketing strategies are having an impact. As a result, standard mail delivery has dropped by 20 percent since 2007.

We’re told that direct mail letters have been on a constant decline over the last 5 years. Email is cheaper, faster and generally gets a better response. Just look in your inbox, a number of company holiday cards have been replaced by Holiday eCards. Production and mailing costs has also kept contests or “junk mail” promotions to a minimum. Now you receive them as “spam” emails instead. And the desire to produce and mail beautiful full color catalogs is also declining. Online catalogs provide more information, color options and 360 degree views of products. Monster and other job sites have all but eliminated paper resumes. Mailing cover letters and resumes has been replaced by posting or submitting electronic ones. Yet, newsprint circulars and flyers are still one of the most effective forms of direct marketing and the one that supermarkets and big box retailers still use effectively.

While we find these claims to be plausible, our findings show they are greatly exaggerated. We continue to use and test direct mail with great success. As effective financial marketing solutions, we helped to grow the Sallie Mae Consolidation Division from $1.2 billion to $19.5 billion over a five year period. We tested variables from the verbiage to variable data to formats to the call-to-action/response path. Every quarter we set up test cells and evaluated letters, envelopes, snap-paks, etc. In another service industry, healthcare marketing services, we segmented audiences, crafted targeted messaging and pushed for a strong incentive offer with two recent direct mail campaigns for Franciscan St. Francis Health. We also tested letters verses die-cut mailers and different creative via over-sized postcards. The reported results are exceeding the client’s objectives.

What makes us bristle is when clients or prospects say that “direct mail doesn’t work.” Our immediate questions range from: Was it really the direct mail piece or the mailing list, offer or creative? When testing is not part of the performance metrics, who is to say for sure?

In today’s competitive environment, the decline in standard mail delivery is offering new opportunities to get your direct mail piece opened. From demographics to mailing lists, audience segmentation to relevant messaging, call-to-actions and offers to creative formats, we work with our clients to develop each element as well as the test cells and performance metrics to apply to the direct marketing solutions and future direct marketing strategies. It’s how we prove that direct mail works and how to use it to generate a lift in response rates and revenue.

1. The new solution for digital apps and print is a 3-D logo, but your logo is as flat as the economy.

2. As a new millennial brand identity design, your logo’s orbits or swoops are caught in a time warp and are being pulled into a black hole.

3. The color palette for your logo was a popular design choice for hotel rooms in 1980.

4. The sky is blue and the Earth is mostly water so that’s why a majority of corporate logos must be blue.

5. Your logo is green and has nothing to do with the environment or the eco movement.

6. The logotype is Times Roman.

7. You had no idea that major corporations like AT&T, Apple, McDonalds and Prudential have modified their logos overtime to keep with the times.

8. More and more of your customers and stakeholders are asking, “What is it?”

9. A second cousin on your dad’s side created it.

10. Just look at it, it’s ugly.

All joking aside, when was the last time you took a good hard look at your logo? Over the years, logos can tarnish and struggle against the times and competition. Maybe it’s time you consider investing in a new brand identity design. As a strategic branding firm, we have assisted a variety of organizations with logo designs and logo makeovers. Whether your logo needs to be updated or completely overhauled, our brand strategists will walk you through the process. We start by assessing the need, competitive space and overall value as well as understanding your brand marketing strategy and determining core requirements before any design solutions are ever developed or shared. Or if you prefer, you can order a new logo design online for cheap and make my next “Top 10”; list.

If this is an ongoing question within your organization, then let’s make a quick business case for blogging.

Customers who read blog postings tend to skew toward first-time readers by an 80 percent margin, so there’s a greater chance to secure them as a new lead and convert them into a new customer.

That’s a good reason, but here’s another one. The reason most social media guidelines and digital marketing strategies include blogs as a best practice.

Blogs improve SEO and the click-through rate to your Web site. How? The keywords and key phases crafted into purposely written blogs work with Google’s search algorithm to increase your site’s listing on the organic side of the search engine results page. That’s why our clients blog. Not to build a following, but to build their site’s search listing on the first page. They know that the organic side is prime real estate because the click-through rate is significantly greater than any pay-per-click listing.

So if the Internet is a key part of your marketing communication strategy then blogging is worth the investment.

What if viewers of online videos could grab information about the topic being presented as their interest is triggered…without losing their place in the video or waiting for the video to end and searching for that content. No annoying automated pop-ups or other intrusive technology either. Interaction totally controlled by the viewer which entices them to stick around.

Think of the possibilities! A video posted of a banking specialist sharing smarter ways to handle money. As he or she speaks, giving viewers the ability to see product comparisons, promotional offers, download mobile banking apps, or make an appointment to discuss college or retirement funding…all treaded within the context of the video and a single click away. How’s that for financial marketing solutions to monetize online videos.

What about patient testimonial videos used by most hospitals. The importance and details behind each story could do even more good. Viewers could retrieve facts on the medical condition and stats on their risk, secure information on screening options, new treatments and procedures, schedule an appointment or learn about upcoming health fairs.

How about DIY videos that give the homeowners the option to view product photos and specs, purchase items then and there, download coupons or installation drawings, access downloadable tips or steps, email questions or have an online chat with a company rep and then jump back and finish watching the video.

What about marketing non-profit organizations with compelling and emotive videos that give viewers the ability to open an online donation form at that moment they are moved to do so, get access to reports on the organization or share charts on how the money is used, as well as include additional videos and photo on your mission and cause. Employee training and corporate Intranets could also be changed forever too. These videos could be directly linked to surveys for instant feedback and measurement. Complex subjects like product sales, customer service and strategic brand management could be delivered in one comprehensive and compelling package that supports the seven learning styles as well as allowing for testing, retesting and fun internal contests.

And what if this video technology was a simple add-on platform to your existing video assets? Plus it included analytics that allow you to test, track and retool the content to improve interaction and overall results. It’s not science fiction. It’s real and it’s available today! Visit meboxmedia.com. Tell the group involved in your Web marketing strategy, customer engagement, human resources and corporate training. If they are slow to adopt this video technology, then give Lunar Strategies a call. We’ll show you how to launch these external and internal digital marketing strategies.

When else can you push aside your workload and stop fretting about customers and pending deadlines to muse about stuff you find cool or controversial? After all, you have management’s blessing.

So what topic tickles your fancy today? One of the company’s philanthropic causes, some viral video an associate recently shared with you, a local interest story like your sister’s band gig at the corner pub, or how about conveying your opinion on something topical? After all, you have a point of view to share.

Unfortunately, there’s the rub and relevance. Too many corporate bloggers are be missing the point completely. Content is critical. Not only from a brand reputation and brand marketing strategy perspective, but because blogs are the SEO strategy that targets the organic side of the search engine results page. Blog content is top dog in Google’s search algorithm and a core part of your digital marketing strategies.

And since people who read corporate blogs tend to skew toward first-time visitors by an 80 percent margin, there’s a greater opportunity to secure new leads and convert them into new customers.

That’s why you need to establish social media guidelines, especially around blogging so posts improve your search rankings, generate inquiries and work within strategic brand management plan. Get your associates to blog with a purpose, as do we. For example, this blog contains the right balance of keywords and phrases to improve the SEO for our Web site. Whether you read it or not, or become a follower, posting blogs are helping to get us on page one. And monthly analytics provided by the Compendium blogware allow us and our clients to recalibrate and add new search terms to the mix.

Worldwide market penetration of smartphones is predicted to reach 49.2 percent in 2011. In some audience segments the usage is even higher. More that 15 million American consumers purchased tablet devices in 2010 alone.  So with half the planet and a growing number of US tablet users potentially carrying a QR decoding app everywhere, does it make sense to begin dropping QR codes into your print advertising, direct mail, out-of-home media and sales collateral? We agree with other marketing executives and say “absolutely.” This CTA is worth testing as part of your mobile marketing strategies and Web marketing strategies. That’s why account planners and brand strategists are testing it’s use, measuring it’s effectiveness and refining how best to deploy it.

Besides the obvious and highly coveted measured marketing component, QR codes give your target audience immediate access to information in a text or video format on their mobile device of choice. Right there and right now! We have tested this technology on posters to help educate hospital staff and physicians on the conversion to a single electronic medical records system and to promote a college planning Website via bus signage and to launch a new mobile banking app. We’ve also discussed using QR codes on sales collateral for a b-t-b client and interestingly, in an annual report to link the shareholders letter to an online video featuring the CEO. It goes without saying, but we are not viewing it as a fad. We are seeing it as a way to tap the emerging and evolving mobile marketing phenomenon. What about you? How do you plan to test QR codes as part of your marketing communications strategy?

Why do people focus their time and energy on “what’s wrong,” instead of on “what’s right?”

Over the last twenty-five years, I’ve been fortunate to interact with people from all kinds of professions, levels of experience, and demographic and socioeconomic backgrounds. I’m continually fascinated by people’s behavior, bias and belief systems. 

However, I’ve recently noticed a disturbing trend. In both internal and external group meetings, I’m seeing more and more people working from a negative perspective. It doesn’t matter if we’re discussing sales and marketing strategies, messaging or creative ideas for grassroots programs, non-traditional media, social networking, advertising, direct mail, websites, collateral or whatever.