Washing my Hands of the Brand

I’m not picky about “personal care” items. However, there is one brand of hand soap that has broken through the commodity of clutter; one brand that actually makes me look forward to washing my hands.

Bath and Body Works antibacterial soaps.


First of all, they look great. The packaging design is modern and nifty, and the soaps themselves typically have some color variations that add texture and interest.

Secondly, they smell great. We’ve tried several varieties, and they have all been interesting (my favorite: cucumber melon). After I wash my hands, I smell them – because the scent is wonderful.

Do I care about the antibacterial part, or about vitamins E and B5? No, not really. I just enjoy the sensory experience of the soap – far more than any other soap I’ve used.

At #101, We Try Harder

Here is Millward Brown’s 2007 Top 100 Brands Ranking report (free .pdf download). Not surprisingly, Google has rocketed to the top.

My secret mole within the organization said that we were just bumped out by a whisker. Oh, well, there’s always next year!

Introducing: The New Marketing Blogger Portal!

You’re a blogger and a professional. Your voice is “out there” somewhere in the blogosphere – how are people going to find out about you?

We’re making a start, with the brand new Marketing Blogger Portal!

This portal is a collection of feeds from many of the top bloggers in the realms of branding, advertising, design, copywriting, and other forms of marketing.

This is a “version 1″ – the site will be progressively improved and expanded. Your suggestions are welcome (see the About tab)!

Feel free to link to the site and promote it to others…

“I’d like some Moskowitz, please!”

For years, I heard the ads on the NYC radio airwaves. “We don’t arrange loans, we make loans! We write the checks.” It was the M.L. Moskowitz company, pitching their services.

Suddenly, a few years back, I began to hear the same pitches but under a new name. Equity Now. Somebody at this company “gets it.”

If I’m in the market for a home equity loan, I’m not looking for a Moskowitz. I’m looking for a loan against my equity. Now. Many companies make the mistake of branding their organization with the name(s) of the founder(s). Big mistake. It’s not about you. It’s about me, the customer.

They took the company name, and, by re-branding, aimed it properly – at the felt need of the audience. With a more-than-implied promise – NOW.

Since I’m compulsive about these things, I listened carefully to make sure that I had, indeed, witnessed a smart branding move. Sure enough, at the end of the radio blurb – “Equity Now is an M.L. Moskowitz company.”

Have I ever called them? No. Am I likely to? Not that I can anticipate. But did they get my attention with that little branding twist? Sure enough. And now they have yours also.

Coffee and Donut Shops: spicing up a boring drive

It was a long and rainy drive to Boston last week. The scenery, of course, was ever-changing – the back of an 18-wheeler, the rooster-tail from an SUV, orange detour cones – but despite all that, staying alert and engaged was a challenge. What to do to help make the trip less of a snooze?

How about coffee? Specifically, comparing the coffees of the various donut shops as I snaked my way northward.

First stop: Krispy Kreme. One of their few stores in the area northeast is off I-95 in Milford, CT. Pulling up, I was happy to see the “Hot Now” sign lit up (hot donuts were being made!) – but then, was quickly dismayed to discover that they no longer – as of a few days before – hand out free samples of those delectable rings of sweetness to customers! Hey, that was the main reason my family and I have stopped there all these times on trips to Connecticut! One great branding idea destroyed, probably by some cost-cutter in HQ. Nonetheless, I do like their coffee pretty well – esp. the bold roast. I’d give KK a ranking of 2nd place among my stops this day.

Then, of course, there is Dunkin’ Donuts. For those in the northeast, and especially New England, I should say the ubiquitous DD. Their coffee has always been consistently decent, and today was no exception. Some years ago, they did a limited trial of a DD Dark Roast, and I used to Go Out Of My Way (one of my ultimate measures of brand attachment!) to get that brew. Alas, for reasons that have never been clear to me, they shelved it. The DD cup, on this day, ranked third.

And in first place? Well, we had dinner with some friends who moved down from Canada recently, and they recommended Tim Horton’s. Now Tim Horton’s donut shops are big in Canada, but only recently have they begun invading the U.S., starting (I assume) in New England. Having stored that tidbit in memory, when I saw a Horton’s sign off the highway, I pulled in for my first TH coffee experience. And, I’d have to say that it nudged out the Krispy Kreme brew by a few grounds.

Of course, on my way home I saw the welcome sight of a Starbucks sign, and that cup easily topped the others. What can I say? – I like strong, dark coffee. But I still haven’t found the equal of my all-time favorite, Mill Mountain Blend. Why can’t these folks expand from central VA to north Jersey??

Three E-mail Marketing Services to look at

I have a weekly e-newsletter that goes out to my pharmaceutical clientele, and for that, I use Constant Contact. Why? Because I saw their logo at the bottom of other newsletters that I received over the years, and when it was time to start my business, they were a familiar name. And, I’ve had no disappointments – it’s been easy to use, without glitches.

I have also heard good things about ExactTarget, and I’m sure they’re worthy of consideration as well.

If I were starting from scratch, however, I’d certainly take a look at Emma. Why? I love the “attitude” on their website. And then there is this testimonial. And, they’re in Nashville, next to my old stomping grounds at Vanderbilt. Some people shy away from the human element in their web presentation, but these folks revel in it, and for certain types of services, I think that is quite appropriate.

Coming Up with Names

Every once in a while, the conceit creeps in that you’ve seen all the branding/marketing sites out there. Nope. Here’s a very thoughtful site on corporate naming, called The Name Inspector. Written by a linguist with solid experience in naming, this relatively new site has some great content.

Hat tip: Guy Kawasaki

Treating workers like adults? What a concept!

From the San Jose Mercury News:


When it comes to vacation, Netflix has a simple policy: take as much as you’d like. Just make sure your work is done.

Employees at the online movie retailer often leave for three, four, even five weeks at a time and never clock in or out. Vacation limits and face-time requirements, says Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings, are “a relic of the industrial age.”

“The worst thing is for a manager to come in and tell me: `Let’s give Susie a huge raise because she’s always in the office.’ What do I care? I want managers to come to me and say: `Let’s give a really big raise to Sally because she’s getting a lot done’ – not because she’s chained to her desk.”

Across America, executives are searching for ways to keep experienced Baby Boomers at their companies and attract younger workers, many of whom are used to controlling which songs they listen to and where they get their news.

Netflix’s time off rules – or lack thereof – are part of a broad culture of employee autonomy instilled in the company when Hastings founded it a decade ago. The executives trust staffers to make their own decisions on everything – from whether to bring their dog to the office to how much of their salary they want in cash and how much in stock options. Workers are treated, as Chief Talent Officer Patty McCord likes to say, as adults.

“We want our employees to have great freedom – freedom to be brilliant or freedom to make mistakes,” Hastings said.

That might sound like executive blather, but to hear employees tell it, on the way to almost $1 billion in sales last year, Netflix has made good on its promises to workers…(read the whole article).


Best Buy has implemented a similar structure. I hope this “virus” spreads. Actually measuring by results, instead of punch cards…I can hardly think of a better way to attract and keep the best people, and get optimal output!

No Wimpy Wines, part deux

After my recent post on Ravenswood Winery’s marketing approach, I exchanged a few messages with Becky Carroll, who recently wrote up her (very positive) experience with Ravenswood on her blog, Customers Rock!

A not-so-regular marketing campaign

The Wall Street Journal’s Marketing section this morning has a very interesting article about P&G’s new marketing approach for Metamucil, the fiber supplement typically marketed for “regularity.”

Now, they want to tap into the endless well of vanity/health/beauty dollars by re-positioning it as a product whereby you can “Beautify Your Inside.”

From the article:

Nowhere do the ads mention “regularity” or “constipation,” as the old ones did. Instead, a voiceover coos that Metamucil does more than “cleanse your body,” and explains it is useful in reducing cholesterol and fighting heart disease. “Just add Metamucil to your already diva-conscious diet, and your insides will be haute, haute, haute,” say the print ads that will start this spring, featuring a young, slim model with the caption, “Drop-dead gorgeous guts.”

“When you feel healthy on the inside, it really does affect how you project yourself on the outside, and how you really look,” says David Corr, executive creative director for Publicis Groupe, the agency that created the Metamucil ads. “Sure you want to put on a nice dress, but why wouldn’t you want to tone your insides, too?”

I have three things to say about this morning’s marketing read:

1. P&G’s approach is brilliant. I predict that it will succeed. People will grasp at anything to try to feel both beautiful and healthy, so why not some intestinal mascara?

2. The WSJ did a great job of tantalizing to the article by putting an enticing picture up on the masthead, with a lead-in to the article entitled, “Why P&G sees Beauty in a Laxative.” Great blurb – somebody there has been digesting the book Made to Stick.

3. This whole thing about inner beauty via fiber intake is a crock, of course. It also leads to some imaginatively funny alternative taglines, most of which I cannot write in this blog.

Well, I’d better stop here – time to shower, shave, down some castor oil, and face the world!

Giving Citi some credit

It’s easy to pick on the foibles of various companies when they do something wrong. But it’s always nice to point out when a company does something right.

I recently got a Citibank credit card. I had a minor issue to clear up, so I called the toll-free number shown on the card. From there, FOUR things went right:

1. Almost immediately on the automated phone system, the option was given to reach a human being. Having just yesterday been through touch-tone purgatory with my ISP, this was a refreshing change.

2. A person picked up right away. On a Saturday morning. Nice.

3. As I explained the situation, she instantly understood the issue and said she’d take care of it. No fuss, no muss. Nice job, Yvonne.

4. Then, when I mentioned one slight anomaly on the website when I logged in, she said she’d have the web person take care of it right away.

How to build customer appreciation and loyalty? Here’s a good 4-part starting point!

Chuck talks

Great billboard put up by Charles Schwab, as we approach tax season. Very simple, very effective:


What else needs to be said?! Punchy and compelling message, with 8 letters. Fabulous.

No Wimpy Wines!

It’s hard to distinguish yourself as a winery. Apart from the wine elite who closely follow ratings and tastings and such, how you stand out among the masses who view a bewildering array of wine bottles on the shelf? How many people just give up and buy a red with an interesting label, because it was…a red with an interesting label?

Now, I buy a variety of different wines, and I do read ratings. If I had an unlimited budget, I fear how extravagant this habit could become (not that I would mind dealing with the temptation, don’t you know!). But I admit to a soft spot in my heart for Ravenswood Winery. Not only because they make some really nice reds (especially Zinfandels), but because they actually hit on a great branding approach.

Ravenswood’s tagline is No Wimpy Wines! Simple, memorable, and a bit sassy. While the elitist might consider this approach just a tad plebian, for the vast majority of wine buyers who are looking for a good quality, hearty wine, this is great branding. It makes Ravenswood stand out, and the phrases taps into something “aspirational” – after all, who wants ANYthing wimpy? Finally, it passes the T-shirt test (yes, I have one with the crossed-out Wimpy Wines on the back – it regularly accompanies me to the gym, silently promoting heart-healthy Ravenswood reds while I do my cardiovascular workout!)

Of course, it helps that the wine is good. And, since my brother-in-law lives not far from Ravenswood’s Sonoma vineyard, I had a chance to visit a while back, and their winery experience is memorable and enjoyable. By the way, they have one of the biggest, tastiest BBQ sauces you’ll ever want to try (Ragin’ Raven) – if you can manage to find it.

Does that mean that I ignore the lots of other wine choices available? Hardly. But it does mean that Ravenswood has accomplished what good marketing and branding is supposed to achieve – loyalty. Repeat business. Positive buzz. And a willingness to promote them, simply because they do it right.

Impactiviti scale:


Impactiviti provides strategic consulting services to increase brand impact.

Managing a P.R. disaster

JetBlue hit some serious turbulence with its recent stranded passenger fiasco. But the company that created so much good will and word-of-mouth success learned the best two words to use when you’ve stumbled – I’m sorry.

Something Seth Godin also rightly emphasizes. See post here. And, in a related but broader theme, taking responsibility isn’t a bad practice either.

Delighting customers

This blog isn’t really about customer service. But I can’t resist linking to this post, since it comes from a company that clearly believes in operating with a “customer first” set of principles. I especially enjoyed #3, about Lands End.

Also, the author has a great sense of humor, witnessed by this self-description at the end of the post (italics mine):

About the Author: I’m your host, Joel Spolsky, a software developer in New York City. Since 2000, I’ve been writing about software development, management, business, and the Internet on this site. For my day job, I run Fog Creek Software, makers of FogBugz – the smart bug tracking software with the stupid name, and Fog Creek Copilot – the easiest way to provide remote tech support over the Internet, with nothing to install or configure.

Hat tip: Seth Godin

How not to write a press release

I saw this company news release/overview in the most recent edition of PharmaVoice (a publication which I like, by the way), and almost gagged. Clearly, this was written in Modern Geek, and the wording used is solely intended to confuse, obfuscate, and impress with indecipherable buzzwords.

I’m not impressed. And no matter how many times I read this missive, I’ll never understand what in the world Blue Spoon Consulting is trying to offer here.

Here, if you can navigate through it while retaining synaptic sanity, is the wording:


Blue Spoon Consulting has released a marketing ecosystem-based solution for pharmaceutical sales effectiveness. The new design links the context, content, and process of the virtual and physical domains of pharmaceutical sales into a dynamic business system with a dense configuration of activities and knowledge.

Available for download through the Blue Spoon Consulting website, the ecosystem platform for pharmaceutical sales tightens the fit between sampling management, longitudinal prescribing data, publication planning, publicity, salesforce automation, patient advocacy groups, on-demand and service-oriented software, medical science liaisons, health information technology, care management initiatives, outcomes studies, and branded content flows around a customer.

Linking the output and feedback from these previously unrelated or underused elements into a new pattern of organization offers a new scenario for value creation. The center of gravity resides in a living business system that absorbs complexity and one that competitors are unable to replicate. Its economic value is based on measuring increasing returns over time.

Delivery and acquisition of marketing communications and information technology services are judged on their positional value within the ecosystem and their ability to conduct and contribute to system performance. “High degrees of contextual change in the external environment — information becoming liquid, existing everywhere in real time, a whole world of specialized assets and knowledge that make possible any operational vision — is opening a new arena for creativity and strategic logic,” says John G. Singer, principal at Blue Spoon Consulting.


Un-believable. “Positional value within the ecosystem” “information becoming liquid” “The center of gravity resides in a living business system that absorbs complexity” “dense configuration of activities and knowledge”  Only one person in the world can even remotely hope to understand this “ecosystem-based solution”, and that is John G. Singer himself. Maybe this system has value after all, but the value proposition, if it exists, will need to be translated from Geek to English!

Samuel Adams – a glass above?

When I saw this, I didn’t know whether to laugh, admire the brilliance – or whip out a credit card and buy.

Can’t do the latter yet, it’s not available until March.

I guess I’ll give them full credit for trying to advance the image of craft beer by creating special highbrow glassware – if you’re going to try to make beer more like wine, why not imitate the vessels of consumption?

Just please don’t cork the bottles.

For many years I have enjoyed and recommended Sam Adams – they are creative, high-quality, and their beers are almost universally great. Sam on draft is particularly wonderful. Coincidentally, just this morning I picked up a new offering – a six-pack called “Longshot,” featuring 3 different beers crafted by homebrewers who entered a contest to create their own brews good enough to be packaged as a Sam Adams special offering. Haven’t tried them yet, but the guy in charge at the liquor store couldn’t say enough good things about the Ale. What a great way for Sam Adams to create further “engagement” with its audience – these guys know how to make new marketing rules! (update – the Ale was fabulous! – I love dark, strong brews and this one had a rich caramel-y flavor. Good stuff!)

Impactiviti scale:


Impactiviti provides strategic consulting services to increase brand impact.

A Winning Enterprise

Quietly, steadily, they’ve ascended to the #1 spot among car rental companies in North America. They’re privately-held, profitable, and they develop people.

It’s not a secret why – Enterprise is founded on solid principles.

Here is what they believe and practice regarding customer service (also here). I have a profound respect for companies such as Enterprise that have well-thought-out principles, and a pro-active approach to selective hiring and great training.

I’ve rented from Enterprise on an irregular basis (not as much need for rental cars right now), and ALWAYS found it to be a pleasant experience. These folks walk the talk. They treat their employees as their future leaders, and deliberately and consciously build bench strength from the ground up. If I was an employer looking for a pool of talent for new hires, I think I’d walk in front of an Enterprise outlet with a sandwich board.

Hat tip: John Moore, BrandAutopsy

How not to succeed in a call to action

I was working out on an elliptical machine a few days back, and saw an ad the defied comprehension. DirecTV was advertising for new employees – they showed clips of lots of happy DirectTVites in their various roles, and then had a call for action to go to their website to apply for jobs.

OK, so far so good. Then the announcer, voicing over an array of screen shots, was explaining the 4-step series of menus on the website in order to find the spot where you apply! HELLLLOOOO! You’re running this 60-second ad, and then walking through a series of very particular mouse clicks to show people how to act?? Are you kidding me – someone is supposed to REMEMBER all that?

If you’re going to drive people to a website through some kind of promotional campaign, put a link directly on the home page! “We-re hiring! – did you see our ad on TV? Apply HERE!”

Perhaps the company should be renamed InDirectTV!

AT&T – the circular evolution of the brand

Stephen Colbert explains the convoluted evolution of AT&T to….AT&T. Hysterical.

(Nuts! YouTube had to remove this video…)

Starbucks and market spend

Couldn’t have said it better myself. So I won’t. The chart speaks volumes.

The power of true customer service and loyalty…Starbucks has built its brand without enriching media outlets!

Hat tip: Brand Autopsy 

Kleenex: Let it out


Now this is a challenge. Take something as simple and commodity-level as a tissue (granted, Kleenex has managed to so “brand” themselves that for most of us a “tissue” IS a “kleenex”) and create a moving advertising campaign.

The Let it Out campaign is just that.

I was looking at the videos of the ads on this site when Mrs. Impactress came in, mentioned that she saw one on TV, and was mesmerized by it.

What is so brilliant? Simple – stories. Personal stories touching the emotions. This is taking the power of social media and turning it into an ad.

The non-descript balding guy – great touch. He remains peripheral, so all the focus is on the people telling their stories – and, of course, coming to tears and using a Kleenex to dry their eyes.

Some ads have stopping power, while others just add to the background noise. This one demands attention and engagement.


Impactiviti scale:


Impactiviti provides strategic consulting services to increase brand impact.

Dr. Pepper’s 23 flavors

In an attempt to distinguish itself from the many other cola-ish products out there, Dr. Pepper has recently put the spotlight on the notion that it has “23 flavors” within the mysterious murky depths of its unique liquid.

Uhhh….sure. Actually, for all these years, I thought it just had one flavor – tasted like Dr. Pepper. And, frankly, of all the cola variations out there, Dr. Pepper is my favorite. Although I rarely drink soda anyway, so I’m not in danger of being their biggest booster or detractor!

I will admit, however, that I think this campaign is effective, despite my cynicism. When you’re in a semi-commodity market, you have to find some way to distinguish yourself, and this concept introduces something that isn’t so easy to attach to a mere soft drink – mystery. Just what are those “23 flavors”? Which of them am I actually tasting at any given moment? How did they come up with this very special formula?

It’s just marketing nonsense, snorts Rational Self. Much ado about nothing, says Rational Self. But Branding Voice says, nice job. Not so easy to take an “old” product in a crowded market, and find a way to stand out.

To celebrate, I think I’ll pour myself another cup of…coffee.

Impactiviti scale:


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Packaging H2O

Now, be honest – if you were around and semi-conscious 25 years ago – could you have foreseen the market for selling the most abundant substance on our planet? But now, it’s no longer good enough to have a story about some semi-exotic remote spring – no, water is a fashion statement.

Take a fascinating look at the packaging of H2O at the Aqua Store. Many new ways to separate you from your dollars, for the sake of stylish water containers. Although I despise the whole idea, nonetheless, some of these implementations are pretty cool-looking – if I had my choice, I guess I’d just as soon sip (sorry – perform re-hydration therapy) from the Voss or the Qvarzia bottles.

Bottles like this, with sensuous curves, are a great draw when there’s really nothing to distinguish the contents. Water is water, no matter how much mystique these folks try to wrap around it.

This Sofia rose wine is another great example. Someone gave us a bottle of this…the wine was not memorable, but I did not want to part with the bottle! Effective branding involves all the senses – especially when the product itself is not particularly distinguished.

Light one up

Bristol Myers Squibb has come up with a very interesting and effective HIV awareness/fund-raising site.

Actually, BMS is donating the funds – you “light” a virtual candle on the site, and they donate a dollar. Clicking on other candles brings up personal stories about HIV.

On my pharma training blog (impactivi.com), I’ve mentioned the need for more companies to show a positive face in light of all the negativity about Big Pharma. This is a good step in that direction.

From a web design perspective, it’s relatively easy to just throw up information on a site – and sometimes, that’s about how appealing it is! This more creative method weaves stories and corporate good will with user interaction, and a memorable metaphor, to leave a positive impression. Nicely done.


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