Is the Work Ethic Dead?

If so, maybe that wouldn’t be a bad thing.

time-card.jpgIn the past, more/harder work was associated – somewhat accurately – with greater productivity. And there is no doubt that hard work brings rewards and results…to some degree. But should we any longer exalt the “work ethic”?

What’s the point of our work? Is it not results? Is it not getting something done? Is there any nobility in doing something in 20 hours of hard work, if one hour of a more creative approach accomplishes the same goal? Should we be measured by hours and effort, or by accomplishing the desired result?

What about replacing the work ethic mentality with something more results-focused: the Accomplishment Ethic?

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A Plug for Branding

Gavin Heaton has recently blogged (here and here) about the limits of the term/concept “engagement” when talking about brands and their customers.

He got me thinking. Like all branding/marketing types, I wrestle with words – how do you express that magical connection between brand and customer? Are words even adequate?

plug.gifWhat came to my mind was an image. A very common one. Bear with me a bit here, since this is a half-formed ramble based on an imperfect analogy!

If I’m a brand owner, what I want is for my customers to be “plugged in.” Call it being Connected to the Brand (not an original phrase, but it will do).

My brand is shaped for a specific type of customer. And my goal is to find that customer – or allow that customer to find the brand – and get connected. If I’m a 110V 3-prong brand outlet, I’m looking a customer that matches – there are other “outlets” for other customer types.

If there’s no “juice,” of course, there will be no enduring brand connection. But my brand provides something to the customer – in some way, it energizes the customer and helps him reach his potential. I want to provide a steady current of benefits to her – need fulfillment, pleasure, ego stroking, whatever – so that it becomes unthinkable to disconnect.

Many of life’s “toys” and necessities need a periodic, or steady, flow of something to make them go. I’ve reached true “engagement” when customers feel that they must “plug in” – they must have that special latte; they must have the latest iPod to show off; they must read Seth Godin and quote him if they are to be considered a serious marketing blogger (hmmm….this even descends down to our feed readers).

When people plug into our brands, and our brands plug into people, everybody wins. We get to show off our brands through our benefits which others display, or talk about – and maybe they ask for brand extension cords (OK, maybe this analogy is going to get stretched too far…).

What does your customer look like? Why should they plug into you? Is your brand outlet customer-ready, with a well-matched flow of benefits and energy that will power them up?

And, what other analogies can we use to portray the “end game” of branding – enduring customer connection?

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“Customer-Focused Selling”

Last week, I was sitting in a conference workshop where the theme was a customer-focused selling program.

Now I’m all for customer focus in every aspect of business – from product design to branding to marketing to customer support and service. But something was sticking in my craw as I sat through this session (which had to do with a customer-focused selling methodology in the pharmaceutical industry).

Here’s what it boils down to: is this “customer-focused” approach an end in itself? Or is it just a means to an end?

Let me explain. A pharmaceutical sales representative succeeds by promoting the usage (hopefully, by promoting the properly defined usage) of his/her company’s products. Fair enough. But how is success actually MEASURED? Is it customer satisfaction?

Actually, a few of the key tangible measures of success by which a sales rep is held accountable are the following:

    1. Increased prescription business
    2. Number of calls made per day
    3. Promotional actions correctly taken (samples delivered, dinner meetings set up, etc., etc.)

These are company-centric, quota-centric, performance-centric measures. And, in fact, these more tangible, objective activities and outcomes are more easily measured than something such as customer satisfaction.

I’m not saying that any of these are unimportant, or shouldn’t be tracked. What makes me uncomfortable is that the real goal ends up being what is measured. Teachers “teach to the test.” And reps perform to the yardstick to which they are accountable.customer-focus.jpg

All of which makes a “customer-focused” selling program seem like a means to an end, not an end in itself. There is the whiff of hypocrisy that seems to hover over the whole thing; an undercurrent of manipulation. Are companies rolling out these programs because of a core belief in being customer-centered? Or because they “work” better toward the real end, which is better numbers?

Is it a core commitment? Or just another technique?

I should conclude this post by saying that I have been in sales – in one form or another – for 20+ years. The times when I have been most uncomfortable as a salesman are when I’ve seriously questioned, in my own heart and conscience, whether what I was offering was really the best choice for the customer. Does slathering a “customer-focused” technique over that cognitive dissonance make one a better salesperson? Or just another peddlar, trying to make a buck any way possible?

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The Value(?) of “Bad” Brands

We talk a lot about good branding. But some individuals and groups deliberately set out to create a “bad” brand. They position themselves in the market as occupying the “bad” end of the spectrum of human behavior.

Why? Because “bad” gets attention.

Little children learn this rapidly. Bad behavior, at the very least, gets attention. And certain individuals maintain this brand identity as they grow up.

Paris Hilton is a “bad” girl. She cultivates it, with her pictures and videos and tantrums. And Brand Paris gets a ton of attention for it, as did Anna Nicole Smith and other “bad” girls before them.

Tort lawyers have managed to acquire a brand identity as sharks and greedy opportunists, and they get attention by suing for outrageous amounts and keeping large percentages of the haul. The lawyer/judge who sued for $54 million over a lost pair of pants is only the latest in a string of never-ending examples of “bad” behaviors by this brand.

John McEnroe was a very good tennis player. But why did he get so much ink? He was a “bad” boy on the court. Brand McEnroe was yelling, pouting, and losing control – as well as good shotmaking. He differentiated himself – and gained market attention – not by being wholesome, or nice, or fitting in with those that respected the “rules.” People came to see him because he was a bad boy.

wreck.jpgWe all decry the slowdown on the highway as an accident is passed. But we find it hard to resist the urge to slow down and look ourselves. Because there is something in us that is drawn to looking at disaster. And, seeing “bad” behavior and the disasters that ensue, we find ourselves clucking our tongues at outrageousness, and condemning bad-ness (while somewhere deep inside, feeling just a twinge of envy, and longing to be a bit “bad” ourselves).

“Bad” brands know this. And they get outsized attention. Because “bad” sells itself. It seems to be the cheap and easy way to gain notoriety, though it usually ends up with the same results experienced by the reckless and daring driver – a wreck on the side of the road. “Bad” brands try to shortcut their way to fame, sometimes succeeding dramatically – but generally, leaving a lot of wreckage in their wake.

What are some of the “bad” corporate and personal brands that you have seen?

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Customer-centric??

I saw this billboard in town and it made me laugh – in a “you’ve got to be kidding me” sort-of way. In fact, I couldn’t get it out of my mind until I took a photo and blog-blasted them.

These folks (I have mercifully cropped out the company responsible) are highlighting their customer service. Which, in my book, means being customer-centric. It’s not about you, the company, right? It’s about me.

And so what is most prominent on this banner of brag-dom? Is it the customer? Noooo…it’s OURSELVES!

Geeeez. Glad you think so highly of yourselves. I’ll go elsewhere…where someone is more centered on me.

Actually, that reminds me. Here’s a real customer-service story. The only billboard for these “service so good” folks will be this blog:

Last week, I was driving to an evening networking meeting which was an hour away. Halfway there, I heard this very loud rumbling sound nearby, as I got off the highway onto a crowded feeder route. Aha, thinks I, there must be a Harley around here, about to pass me. However, a quick glance around indicates that no loud motorcycles are in sight – curious, thinks I, putting my foot back down on the gas pedal and suddenly realizing that the awful sound was emanating from – my car!

Grim. I pull off and realize that I have a very sick vehicle on my hands, and that the evening meeting will surely go on without me. I manage to limp the car to a gas station and call my wife to come and get me there – it wasn’t going any further. This station has no car repair capabilities, but a gas attendant very kindly tells me about a station down the road a few miles that does. That station, in turn, tells me that they cannot take it then (it’s 5:00 pm), but give me a phone number for a towing service, and tell me that they’ll slot me in tomorrow.

The towing service people were super-friendly and ready to help – sure, they’ll come and tow the car in the morning. Then the gas station attendant PERSONALLY takes my key, assures me that he comes in to work at 6:30 am (plenty of margin for the tow truck), and allows me to leave my stricken car locked up there overnight.

I’m in the hands of strangers, 30 miles from home. I’ve handed my car key to a complete stranger. It’s uncomfortable. And this is New Jersey, remember.

However, the car gets to the garage the next morning without incident. I’m in touch that day, back and forth with the service guy at the garage, and they fix what turned out to be damage from a blown spark plug. The charges were surprisingly reasonable. And all for someone they might not see again, who broke down on the side of the road among strangers.

So, Surjit at Pluckemin Exxon – you give me hope that there are decent people everywhere. George’s Towing – you have one nice person helping distressed people over the phone! And Mike Pine at Martinsville Auto – you rock! Here’s YOUR billboard – one that I will remember fondly, unlike the braggarts shown above!

Thinking Blogger…I Think

thinkingblogger1.jpgMy blogging friend Becky Carroll over at Customers Rock! has been kind enough designate me as a “thinking blogger” award winner – that is, one of the bloggers that makes her think. And I really appreciate the mention, because Becky has the same effect on me!

This meme was launched by Ilker Yoldas to highlight blogs that are truly “meaty” with great content. He started the Thinking Blogs Award to help publicize great blogs.

Now part of this meme is that I’m supposed to name 5 bloggers who make me think! Problem is, I think all the bloggers that I regularly read have already been designated for this award! Which means one of three things:

- I need to get out more and read a wider selection of blogs

- I read the best blogs on the planet already

- I got picked last (like grammar school kickball games) after all the A-listers were already named! Waaahhh – I’m just going to take my blog and go home!

Let’s be generous and assume #2….

Thanks, Becky!

(And now Mario Vellandi has done the same, with words far too kind…but thanks for the encouragement! Makes me want to keep writing! Great new design on Mario’s blog, by the way…check it out!)

Latest Small Business Branding Post

I recently had a post published on the Small Business Branding blog, my 10th post on that site thus far.

It is on the theme of Branding at a Trade Show – a theme fresh on my mind, having just returned from a conference with an exhibit hall last week.

All of my posts on the SBB site can be accessed here.

Brand Paul Potts

Like many around the world, I have been taken up by the wonderful, unfolding saga of Paul Potts, unassuming mobile phone salesman who suddenly burst on the scene like a supernova of singing ability on Britain’s Got Talent.

If you haven’t seen the sequence of videos from this stirring event, here they are, in order:

First Audition:

Semi-final Performance:

Final Performance:

Winner Announced, and Encore:

Why has Paul Potts captured the imagination of so many? And, what makes up the core of Brand Paul?

It’s the story. There are many good tenors in the world. But here’s a Joe Nobody, with crooked teeth, unimpressive bearing, and a humble heart. He’s been bullied growing up, lacks confidence, seems to be going nowhere…but hidden under all of that is a wonderful talent. It’s irresistible. You have to be utterly heartless not to be rooting for a guy like this.

paul_potts.jpgNormally, a somewhat overweight, nondescript fellow with a shy smile and a clear discomfort in the spotlight would not be chosen as a brand icon. But it’s that very thing – the humble packaging – that makes Brand Paul compelling. Some strapping Italian lothario belting out operatic notes on-stage – so what? But Nobody/Everyman Paul? – hey, maybe there’s hope for all the rest of us!

I hope he remains Paul Potts, Everyman, and chooses to spend his days inspiring others. Lord knows there are millions beaten down by the (literal and figurative) bullies of life, and we need the Paul Pottses of the world to remind us that it’s worth taking the risk to bring forth whatever gifts we have, naysayers be damned. Go Paul!

(now, a quick marketing exercise, for you brand experts in the audience – what tagline would you affix to Brand Paul to sum up who he is, as he is “marketed” to the world?)

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Live! From Hollywood!

Hollywood, Florida, that is…

OK, I really have no intention of “live-blogging” the annual Society of Pharmaceutical and Biotech Trainers conference. But I woke up incredibly early this morning, mind instantly buzzing, and there was no way to get back to sleep. Plus, I decided to allow the hotel to rip me off for at least one day of high-speed internet access (for the price of this hotel, you’d think they could throw in web access – but they hit up their customers for $14/day minimum if you want to get on the web. Note to Westin: maximum revenue extraction is a negative customer experience approach….).

diplomat-w-fl.jpgAnyway, other than the nickel-and-diming, the Westin Diplomat Hotel is quite striking. The lobby area, and (I’m very sensitive to this) the exhibit area both have an open and “airy” feel. Definitely one of the nicest exhibit hall layouts I’ve seen in a long time – high ceiling, light color, and no protruding posts/pillars to break up the traffic flow. Last night was the opening reception, which seemed lightly attended – because this hotel is right on the beach, and has some fabulous pools, the anecdotal evidence so far is that a lot of people brought their families.

As an aside, from a branding perspective, the Westin permeates the hotel with a “signature scent” – I feel that including olfactory elements in branding is very effective, and I’m glad to see it increasingly being utilized. Their “White Tea” scent is very pleasant.

The three hours of the reception went so quickly that I was astounded when they announced that the hall was closing at 8:00 pm. It’s like an annual homecoming – so many familiar folks from both the vendor and the client side, and it was a real joy to talk to friends and colleagues from the pharma industry whom I’ve come to know over the years. Really looking forward to the sessions, which start this morning. I’ll try to do one more blog post tonight or tomorrow morning.

Mrs. StickyFigure will be enjoying poolside quiet, with good books, a very welcome break from the endless demands of caring for and schooling our tribe, while I will be living on adrenaline and caffeine for the next few days. Friday will bring the inevitable post-conference emotional and physical crash!

Coming up next week – more coffee posts. Mrs. StickyFigure got me some mail-order coffees from Boca Java for Father’s Day, and I’ll review them. Couldn’t resist bringing one bag down here with us, and the first tasting was quite promising indeed!

Where’s StickyFigure?

spbt.jpgI (probably) won’t be posting for much of this week, spending time doing face-to-face networking at the annual SPBT meeting in Hollywood, Florida. At a hotel right on the beach. With my bride gathering some rays while I do the conference thing.

Somebody’s got to do it!

Coffee – What’s the Storyville?

The BrandingWire team recently did a collaborative posting on branding for coffee shops. I put a focus on mail-order/web-based growth strategies.

Some of us provided links to coffee suppliers we felt embodied effective strategies and tactics; there were some interesting approaches at these sites. And one of them – Storyville – sold me. I put in an order.

s-ville-mug.jpgWhy? Well, I’m a sucker for good web design, and these people have a fabulous site. I’m also inclined to do business with companies that brand themselves well; Storyville presents a great image and message. But that isn’t enough – they also made an introductory offer that was very difficult to resist. And I didn’t resist (by the way, they highlight the introductory offer right on the landing page – great site design).

The descriptions of their beans, roasting, freshness, etc. got me “sold” on the desire level – I WANTED to try their superior product. The simplicity of choices was appealing – just Prologue (caffeinated) and Epilogue (Decaf). Nice naming strategy.

Like Gevalia, they offer a trial period of a few shipments at a reasonable price, plus a bonus (in Storyville’s case, a couple of nice, branded mugs). Then you can cancel at any time if you don’t want to continue the shipments.

So, how has the customer experience been thus far? In a word, outstanding.

First of all, the ordering process was simple and straightforward. I got a confirmation e-mail for my order. Good start.

cimg0728.jpgSecondly, the 2 packages arrived very quickly (shipping from Seattle to NJ). And I was VERY impressed with the packaging – see the accompanying photo. The 2 mugs were perfectly packed and very nice; the packet of beans was very attractive; there was also a neat little packet with a DVD and a marketing/instruction booklet. And a cover letter. Very nice boxes and print materials. Great marketing design approach.

Thirdly, the coffee smells and tastes wonderful. As one would expect.

Now, am I going to be inclined to become an ongoing customer? Regretfully, probably not – at $8.49-$9.49 per 1/2 pound bag, I just have a hard time justifying the cost/value ratio. But will Storyville benefit from my customer experience? Since I am a blogger now writing about them – probably so!

(The DVD, by the way, is pretty funny. Part of Storyville’s spiel is the conspiracy of “Big Coffee” to get people to drink coffee made from non-fresh, over-roasted beans. It’s a good marketing twist.)

Differentiate or Die

20070614111737.jpgOne of the most difficult places to rise above the “noise” level, and make a memorable impact, is on the conference exhibit hall. These places are a virtual Babel of company pitches, images, marketing materials, and all-too-brief interactions, typically with prospects who are rushing on to the next thing. How do you make your “signal” stand out from the noise?

I’m a veteran of over 20 years of selling and marketing, and have attended countless trade shows, both as a vendor and an attendee. Most of what I’ve seen and heard over the years is just a blur. And, next week is another one.

Since a number of my business partners will be in the exhibit hall as vendors at this conference, I thought I’d prepare a simple 4-question worksheet to help them maximize their impact on the exhibit floor. Then, this morning I realized that with a few minor tweaks, it could be used universally. Why not make it available on the blog?

Answer and apply these 4 simple questions, and you stand a chance of differentiating yourself. Not only on the exhibit floor, however; in reality, this worksheet is widely applicable for any selling situation.

So, here you go. Let me know in the Comments if you find it helpful!

(Image credit: James Duncan Davidson)

Growing Coffee – a BrandingWire Challenge

This is a fictitious case study. The BrandingWire collaborative, a group of 12 branding bloggers, are all commenting together on this challenge (see the other posts at BrandingWire.com). Even if the case is fictitious, I’d be surprised if one or more coffee companies don’t glean some insight from it!

The BrandingWire team has been approached by a small coffee company in mid-America. They have a few retail stores, have been in business for 8 years, and are moderately successful – reasonably profitable, no debt – operations are funded out of steady cash flow. They roast their own beans on-site (and boy, does it smell wonderful!), their retail sites are wide-open, relaxed, and kind-of country-funky. There is very strong local attachment to the company, but little recognition outside of the geographical area (it’s a family operation but the owner is committed to doing whatever it takes to create a thriving business). Their brand name is OK but certainly not anything special. They have a lame tagline (Great coffee at great prices!) and no distinctive identity pieces. The logo looks like it came out of a branding bargain bin.

They want to grow, though they’re not entirely sure what is the most profitable path…more retail? Franchising? Mail-order? Corporate coffee service? Something new and unique? They have plenty of capacity to crank out more coffee beans, and can easily add more without undue financial strain if growth really takes off.

They sense the growing competition. Starbucks, of course. McDonald’s is upscaling their coffee. Caribou Coffee is going to move in 30 minutes away. Dunkin’ Donuts may be heading in their direction. How do they distinguish themselves?

That’s the challenge for each member of the BrandingWire posse. Here are some of the ideas I’d bring to the table.

1. Most profitable potential growth with least capital risk – undoubtedly, building up mail-order sales. There is only so much profitable growth to be realized by opening more retail outlets, and it is very capital intensive. I’d go after a broader audience, along the lines of the approach of Gevalia and other suppliers.

2. Creating an approach as a “virtual supplier” provides the opportunity to create a whole new identity. I’d trade on the story of the current stores and identity, but I’d launch a new, catchy name (CoffeeWire. GetRoasted. JavaDirect. RoastedJolt…lots of possibilities) that is universal and memorable.

3. As the heart of the brand identity, there has to be both a story, and a unique differentiator. I’d advise spinning the brand story as the small-town coffee roaster that has satisfied its faithful (rabid) clientele, and now wants to bring “best coffee practices” to a wider audience (e.g., Mill Mountain Coffee in Virginia). As a differentiator, you can work the bean angle (“our mountain-grown beans are from the finest estates in northeastern Guatemala, hand-picked by nephews of Juan Valdez”), but I think that is overdone and not easy for an end-user to relate to. I’d go for the roasting process approach, which, if well-described, can be almost irresistible – who doesn’t want to try coffee that has undergone some super-secret roasting process that produces superior results? Kobrick’s Coffee Company effectively takes this approach on their website.

4. Speaking of differentiators, one of the areas that seems to me under-developed is creative packaging. Bags – whether foil or paper – of beans or grounds all seem pretty much the same. Now I’m no consumer packaging guy, so I’m not sure what ideas are best – but what about a cube or a bag that is clear? With some measurement units along the side, to make it easier to figure out how much to put in the filter for a full pot? Coffee is very powerful for the olfactory sense; why not go after the visual as well? I’m sure there have to be other creative ideas. How about something so simple as a coffee tip/factoid put in little prize package in each bag (and 1 in every 50 is a coupon for a free 1/2 pound of an exotic variety)?

5. Next, I’d look at the whole area of personalization. I can envision a couple of “sliders” in the section where you order YOUR special coffee – one slide to choose roasting (light to dark), the other to choose grind (coarse to fine, or just whole beans). For an extra charge, you can even create a personalized blend of beans, for those willing to make a year commitment of monthly shipments with a credit card. At this point, the coffee is no longer a commodity – the company becomes a unique supplier, helping the customer craft a unique identity with his “own” coffee.

6. Now, how to get traction in the marketplace…first of all, an attractive website with e-commerce capability is a must. Colorado’s Steaming Bean Coffee Co. is a good example. Beside the general navigational ease of the site, the two elements I like best are the little Cart: status link in the upper right, and the personal touch from the CEO (“Please notify me…”) in the left column. Then, I’d go after influential bloggers; find a large number of bloggers inside and outside the coffee blogging arena, and send a complimentary 1/2 pound bag. Ask for their input, either privately or publicly (on their blogs). Bloggers like coffee (by and large), and have an outsized influence. Growing a mail-order market will require cultivating recommendations by thought-leaders.

7. Finally, after all of the previous steps are in place, I’d go for a public campaign. A David vs. Goliath “we dare to take on the big guys” promotion. Have a PR consultant or group take the best coffee you make, package it in plain bags along with (say) 4 other well-known coffee brands (Starbucks, Peets, Caribou, Dunkin’ Donuts, etc.) and line up some companies – say, 10 software companies – that are willing to serve as judges. The java-drinkers get a free coffeemaker and five unmarked bags of coffee, numbered for survey ratings. They blind-rate the different brews and see who comes out on top. The entire process gets blogged, Twittered, mapped, etc. It has the element of risk, of suspense, of daring – could be a great PR stunt if done right. Especially if David comes out on top!

JavaDirect. It’s your coffee.

Those are some of my ideas. Why not hop into the comments and toss in some of yours?

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(Image credit: Flickr)

———–

Get more high-voltage ideas at BrandingWire.com. The members of this collaborative are:

    Olivier Blanchard
    Becky Carroll
    Derrick Daye
    Kevin Dugan
    Lewis Green
    Ann Handley
    Gavin Heaton
    Martin Jelsema
    Valeria Maltoni
    Drew McLellan
    Patrick Schaber
    Steve Woodruff

London’s Olympic Throw-up

Yet another example of branding efforts going off the rails. Here is the expensively designed logo for the 2012 Olympics in London, followed by the ridiculous commentary justifying its existence:

london_new_pink.gif

“This is the vision at the very heart of our brand,” said London 2012 organising committee chairman Seb Coe. [Wwwwhat??] “It will define the venues we build and the Games we hold and act as a reminder of our promise to use the Olympic spirit to inspire everyone and reach out to young people around the world. It is an invitation to take part and be involved.” [Huh??]

The new design, which cost £400,000, has received a mixed response, but Lord Coe was adamant it put across the image and message that he wanted the London Games to deliver to the world. “It’s not a logo, it’s a brand that will take us forward for the next five years,” he told BBC Five Live. “It won’t be to be everybody’s taste immediately but it’s a brand that we genuinely believe can be a hard working brand which builds on pretty much everything we said in Singapore about reaching out and engaging young people, which is where our challenge is over the next five years.” [sorry to break the news to you, but this piece of ugliness is not the brand. It is a brand mark. Although I cannot imagine a healthy brand emerging from it].

Prime Minister Tony Blair said: “We want London 2012 not just to be about elite sporting success. When people see the new brand, we want them to be inspired to make a positive change in their life.” [funny, that was the first thing that came to my mind when I saw this jigsaw jumble of folly!]

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said: “This is a truly innovative brand logo that graphically captures the essence of the London 2012 Olympic Games – namely to inspire young people around the world through sport and the Olympic values. Each edition of the Olympic Games brings its own flavour and touch to what is now well over a century of modern Olympic history; the brand launched today by London 2012 is, I believe, an early indication of the dynamism, modernity and inclusiveness with which London 2012 will leave its Olympic mark.”

Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell said: “This is an iconic brand that sums up what London 2012 is all about – an inclusive, welcoming and diverse Games that involves the whole country. It takes our values to the world beyond our shores, acting both as an invitation and an inspiration. This is not just a marketing logo, but a symbol that will become familiar, instantly recognisable and associated with our Games in so many ways during the next five years.” [yes, indeed, as soon as I spotted it, I saw values...inclusiveness...and the essence of the Games. Really. I did!]

Give me a break. The only thing I can say about this mark is that it is a symbol of the insanity that can prevail when agencies vomit out comic-book ideas and organizers try to justify the hundreds of thousands of dollars they just spent wiping up the mess off the floor by calling it perfume.

Full article here.

(update: it appears that Seth Godin agrees – I think we posted on this simultaneously!)

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BrandingWire – A New Power Plant Coming On-line!

bw_logo_no_tag-med.gifAlong with 11 others, I have an exciting announcement for this morning’s post! We’ve been working on something behind the scenes, and now it’s time to take the wraps off!

Next Monday will be the official launch of BrandingWire, which will provide a monthly jolt of powerful branding creativity to the marketing community. Read on to learn more…

What is BrandingWire? It’s a collaboration of high-profile branding and marketing pundits, who are banding together to tackle branding challenges and topics on a regular basis. We’ll take on one theme per month, and apply our combined creative energy to showcase how great branding gets done. We want to put forth Branding That Works!

How did BrandingWire come about? After the tremendous collaborative effort to create the Age of Conversation eBook, spearheaded by Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton, it was obvious that there was a lot of great energy around working together, as marketers, on common goals. The thought occurred to me – if we could do this for a one-time project, how about something ongoing? And so the concept leading up to BrandingWire was born.

Who is BrandingWire? The team of marketing experts making up the charter membership of BrandingWire includes:

    Olivier Blanchard
    Becky Carroll
    Derrick Daye
    Kevin Dugan
    Lewis Green
    Ann Handley
    Gavin Heaton
    Martin Jelsema
    Valeria Maltoni
    Drew McLellan
    Patrick Schaber
    Steve Woodruff

As time goes on, we may invite other pundits to join our posse. It’s like herding cats just getting the “dazzling dozen” above on the same page! Just joking – there has been a sweet sense of unity of purpose and mutual deference, even in the midst of spirited discussion and (at times) diverging opinions. Exactly what you’d expect from a great group of collaborators, who are no slouches at their craft!

In fact, our first branding challenge was BrandingWire itself – developing the name, purpose statement, tagline, graphics, site design, workflow process…and we accomplished it all electronically (we never did end up having that conference call, did we?). All of which proves the point – a “virtual community” of creative marketers can, in fact, do branding.

Why BrandingWire? It’s simple – there’s a lot of bad branding out there, and it’s got to stop! Seriously, many of us see – and comment about on our individual blogs – examples of poorly-executed branding (we also commend the good stuff!). But now we want to showcase our talents and creativity by tackling challenges as a group – focusing our beams together – and try to promote better branding practices. Of course, we won’t hide the fact that for many of us, we hope that a spillover from BrandingWire will be new or increased business.

Allow me to dream for a few moments here. The old model of work, which our parents’ generation once knew, is dead. It’s no longer the case that you’re going to set down your roots in one company for decades, and that organization is going to “take care of you” for the long haul. No, the new model will increasingly move toward teams – even virtual teams – drawn together for projects demanding specific skill sets. And as we build our community and learn to work together, I can foresee that someone will call Lewis Green, and he feels confident that he can do 60% of the work – but Valeria Maltoni is the perfect resource for the other 40%. Or Chip Heath finishes one of his stellar talks, and an attendee comes up to him with a business challenge. He quickly concludes that this sounds like a combination of CK and Matt Dickman. And so it goes – the Collaborative Community supports each other, interlinks on projects, watches each others’ backs. Can we evolve to that? Why not?

OK, you had me at “Hello.” Where’s BrandingWire? Well, of course – BrandingWire.com. In the early part of each month, we will post our contributions on our individual blogs, with a “stub” and a link on the main site. Except this month, of course. To see the inaugural posting, you have to make a note to yourself to go to the site on our official launch date, Monday, June 11th. Also, for ease of viewing, there is a Pageflakes BrandingWire portal, where you’ll be able to see the participant blogs all in one view.

And, we welcome your feedback and comments. BrandingWire is designed to be an evolving work-in-progress, and your part of the conversation will help us focus our energies better. Heck – we may even upgrade our own (rather rapidly-developed) branding as the months go by!

Hopefully, this is enough to whet your appetite for the creative voltage that will begin to flow next week. I can’t tell you what the inaugural posting will be about, but perhaps just a hint…
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(Image credit: Flickr)

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There’s Earthly Beauty, and Then There’s…

this.

full image here.

From the ever-delightful Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Brainstorming Wars!

I was scanning through new branding posts this morning, and in my RSS reader, as it turned out, these two new posts came up one after another. Quite a juxtaposition:

Death to Brainstorms!

Brainstorming for the naming process

I’m not getting in the middle of this one! In fact, I’m not even going to call a group meeting to brainstorm the “right” approach (which is part of the fun of working with so many bloggers – we can have some amazingly diverse perspectives!)

When it comes to brainstorming in a virtual environment, I prefer a “pulsed iterative” approach (neologism!). That is, you start with something, put it out to others to comment on/react to/tweak, then put out an improved version or concept. One reason is that for many, it is hard to get creative until dealing with something tangible – some of us can create out of whole cloth, but others prefer to react to an existing “something.” And there can be an efficiency to it – as long as everyone is willing to participate, and there are clear milestones.

What are your thoughts on the value of brainstorming? On the best processes?

(image credit: Flickr)

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