Marketing disease

I see a lot of pharmaceutical marketing. Sometimes, it ain’t a pretty sight. This video is a great take-off on the tendency of pharma marketers to define (create?) new diseases to cure…

Motivational Deficiency Disorder. Lots of folks have it! You could almost believe this is the real deal!

Hat tip: Peter Rost

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 

Woodruff on the Colbert Report!

Comedy Central came calling – and who could refuse?

Not Woodruff – no matter how much pressure, it was a treat to be interviewed by Stephen Colbert!

For Judy Woodruff, that is.

Oh, well…maybe next time.

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.

Impactivities: Sarah Brightman

(Impactivities are non-work-related things that I enjoy…maybe you will too!)

I first discovered Sarah Brightman while wandering in a music store in Denver one evening. I heard this astounding voice flowing out of the overhead speakers, asked a twenty-something clerk who in the world THAT was! Had never heard of Sarah Brightman, and was not familiar with a fusion of rock and operatic singing. Nonetheless, I was captivated. Of her works, I like Eden, Harem, and Time to Say Goodbye best of all. If you like to hear amazing female vocals, give Sarah a listen (on one song, she holds a single note for – I counted – 33 seconds!)

Note: this endorsement of Sarah’s music is not an endorsement of her manner of dress, which is somewhat…how shall we say…less than modest.

Top Ten Tips for Corporate Naming

Good stuff from FortyMedia.

Marketing Wisdom Report

From the folks over at Marketing Sherpa, the brand-spanking new 2007 version of their Wisdom Report – 110 stories and nuggets from Sherpa readers. Free download here.

10 Lessons Learned starting a business

After almost 20 years of “career” jobs (and, of course, other “get by” jobs before that), I finally ventured out on my own in the middle of 2006. I’d thought about such a move for many years, but did not feel ready – until late 2005, when it dawned on me that the ONLY way I was ever going to have a tailor-made opportunity to harness my strengths and run in my desires was to…well, tailor-make it myself. No-one else was going to do it for me – an employer’s agenda will always trump my ideals.

So, what are the lessons I’ve learned thus far? Here are 10:

1. Have a clear, yet flexible vision. Know what it is you are pursuing, make sure that you can articulate it to others…but be aware that the market may, as you start to promote what you’re doing, point you in some different directions. These variations on your dream may, in fact, be the most lucrative course. My initial business model – providing high-level consultative sales expertise for my provider network, while also providing fee-based consulting service for my client base – is meeting clear market needs. But I’ve already seen a couple of new, complementary avenues open up that are variations on the theme. I like to plan and anticipate and map out EVERYthing – these months have convinced me that I am not, in fact, in charge of the universe, and sometimes a new direction comes from left field – or at least from shortstop! Be ready to evolve.

2. Act. This lesson flows from 1. above. If you have 80% of your offering/message/direction mapped out, grab it by the horns and get out there. The other 20% probably won’t show up until you’re rubbing shoulders with your target market, and starting to make noise. It is more important to show your face than to have everything in place. Once I knew I was going into business for myself, I drew up a list of everything that I figured had to be done, and just did it. Yes, I had to reprint my business cards a few months into it once my message was refined (and once I decided to add a landline and not just live off my cell #), but by then I’d already gotten the ball rolling. Cards are cheap. Delay is expensive.

3. Network. A lot. Believe that your professional colleagues want to see you succeed, and don’t hesitate to ask them to help. I send out a regular stream of e-mails and cards, and make lots of phone calls to those who will provide support and referrals – the most valuable business development resource of all. If you haven’t built up goodwill over the years, and don’t have a real or virtual Rolodex of cheerleaders, you’re probably sunk as far as succeeding in your own (or any) business. On the dark days – when nothing seems to be happening – I take comfort in the fact that I can rehearse the names and faces of many people who are actively wanting to see me succeed.

4. Help others. Give of what you have – your time, your knowledge, your connections. When you help others with their needs, they will go to extraordinary lengths to help you. I’ve been able to help people make connections with others (including potential employers) and find needed resources with no financial return expected – but I fully expect that this commitment to help my clients and partners and other colleagues will not be in vain. For some of my partners, I’ve “given away” my business and marketing expertise to help them refine their approach – and I know that, in return, there is tremendous loyalty built up over time.

5. Take full advantage of cheap and free communications. One of my first acts was to launch a blog (using WordPress), and write articles of interest (granted, not everyone is a writer – I thoroughly enjoy working with words). Then, very inexpensively, I began a weekly e-newsletter using Constant Contact (the “Friday Collection”) which goes out to my target audience with news, resources, and links – and, with continual repetition of my business identity. I invested the grand sum of $50.00 to have a “caricature” made of my face, which now appears on the newsletter and on all my e-mails. Each of these initiatives has been a tremendous success, with very little invested except time and creativity. Free press releases, announcements in trade magazines, posts on other blogs – the methods for gaining exposure are legion, and increasingly, free.

6. Be an expert. You have to have some area of expertise for people to pay attention to your signals, over the level of background noise. Be sure that what you do, or offer, is narrow and specialized enough that you are not an also-ran. And demonstrate the trappings of expertise by writing articles, doing book and conference reviews, and interviewing thought-leaders – all tactics I’ve employed on this blog and my “other” Impactiviti blog.

7. Take great care in establishing your brand identity. Your logo, tagline, and message to the market are your best foot forward – unless people can quickly grasp who you are and what you do, and have something memorable to hang it all on, you’ll have trouble maintaining traction. It goes without saying – so I’ll say it – that you’ll need to research available names according to URLs available on the internet, and also look into trademarks. It took me many weeks to settle on “Impactiviti”, a completely “clean” word, which I could absolutely own. Be sure that you have a talented graphic designer help you create the logo – there are even on-line services for this now, which will help develop a logo for a fixed price.

8. Join. Be part of professional organizations, go to local meetings, volunteer your time. Be involved, and help get your clients involved. Consider professional networking platforms, such as LinkedIn. Starting a new business can be lonely – help stave off the danger of isolation-induced discouragement by getting side-by-side with others.

9. Target your best opportunities for initial business. It’s probably not the “world at large.” More likely, it is clients you already know and have worked with. While you want to get your message out to the broader marketplace, your first business is probably going to come from those with whom you have a track record. My wiring has always been to try to reach everyone – it’s a discipline for me to focus on a handful of my closest colleagues. But, of course, it is the people I’ve already cultivated over time that are most open to hear from me, both clients, and others who can provide referrals.

10. Don’t be afraid to be plain, transparent, and open. People respect authenticity. No, you cannot do everything – if someone asks you about something that is “to the side” of your sweet spot, as tempting as it might be to grasp at any business, simply admit that it’s not in your repertoire but see if you can find another resource. Ask people for help – I often have run ideas past a handful of my partners and clients, before they go “out” to the public, for input and critique – and have found great responsiveness as I allow them a transparent look into my thought processes.

11. And now, a bonus entry – be fully prepared to fail. Now, by this I don’t mean give in to pessimism, or be guilty of bad planning. It just may be that your business idea simply won’t fly – and that won’t be the end of the world. Count the cost up front, run a “worst-case scenario” exercise, and launch the business without desperation – there is a serenity that comes from having already considered the “what if” possibilities. I am quite convinced that other doors will open if this one closes, and it is easier to be patient when you’ve planned for the possibility (likelihood!) that revenue may not come as quickly as you’d like. The greater failure would be not trying – and many entrepreneurs did not hit the target the first time out.

UPDATE: here’s a lively and helpful on-line video presentation by Guy Kawasaki (former evangelist for Apple, now a writer on entrepreneurship) on starting up a business. Recommended!

The One Thing Needed

It was a slow-starting morning, so I gave myself an assignment as I began to head for the shower. The task: if you could write up ONE thing that is most crucial to succeeding in any endeavor, what would it be?

Before the water was turned on, the word had already surfaced. And it wasn’t one that I’ve seen mentioned often.

We hear about vision. Passion. Expertise. Connections. Out-of-the-box creativity. Goal-setting. Persistence. All very important ingredients to success, no doubt.

But none are as central as…and, in fact, all will take their marching orders from…Conviction.

By conviction I am not talking about a prison record. What I mean is a deep persuasion that something is right, and must be done.

Above all things, an entrepreneur is convinced that his/her idea, and course of action, must be pursued. This conviction drives decision, promotes action, accepts risk, overcomes doubt, and draws others into the endeavor.

Conviction develops over time, through both positive and negative experiences, through seeing the successes and failings of others. Eventually, it seeps into your soul and you become persuaded that you MUST _________ (fill in the blank).

The best marketing will draw its inspiration from conviction – that the company, or product, or service, is the best. That it must be known. This is the wellspring of true (not manufactured) word-of-mouth marketing – the conviction has now spread, and is spreading, to the audience.

This is not only true in business. A parent is, above all things, an entrepreneur – taking a little life and shaping and molding it into a full-fledged adult member of society. This requires conviction – that the greatest impact we have may well be through others, that the next generation is more important than my immediate gratification, that the hard (and often unglamorous) work of building now will bear fruit in years to come.

Conviction, of course, can be a double-edged sword. Some tyrannical people manage to convince themselves that they are right…and seek to destroy others in the process of carrying out their ruinous beliefs. Some can even inspire others, through the power of conviction, to take leave of their senses and drink Kool-Aid in a forsaken jungle. But far more (who do not make the 6:00 news) build businesses, create charities, donate organs, mentor young people, and care for the sick – because it is right. Because they must.

Conviction does not guarantee success. But a lack of it almost guarantees failure. Over the years, I’ve come to a number of juncture points where I’ve had to make bold – sometimes disruptive and costly – decisions. In each case, it was conviction that ruled the day. When you believe that a thing is right – when you are compelled to move forward no matter the cost – then you stand the best chance of success.

UPDATE: A couple of readers mentioned the importance of perseverance (or persistence). Here is how I’d distinguish conviction and perseverance:

Conviction leads you to take a course.  It feeds into…

Persistence, which drives you to stay the course.

UPDATE 2: just saw the movie The Pursuit of Happyness last night with Mrs. Impactress. Not only is this a wonderfully made and moving picture, but it is a tremendous illustration of the power of conviction. The main character (played by Will Smith) overcomes all obstacles in his drive to better things for his family. Highly recommended!

Spicing up the mundane

Color bubble wrap – why’d it take so long?

Take the obvious and undistinguished, and find a harmless and no-cost way to spice it up.

This would be a real hoot – fill the bubbles with scented air. Then, when people pop it (you DO pop bubble wrap – admit it!), they get a bonus sensory experience (beats scratch-and-sniff!).

(hat tip: book of joe)

Brand promiscuity and brand trust

Some interesting thoughts from Marian Salzman, as reported in the Hartford Courant.

I’ve always despised mindless attachment to a brand, simply for the sake of borrowed prestige. So maybe this is progressive evolution at work…

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:


Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Blue-ribbon panels

Heard a news report this morning – yet another government “blue-ribbon panel” giving its recommendations.

Question: why aren’t there ever any orange-ribbon panels? Or brown-ribbon committees? I know, I know – blue-ribbon creates the impression in our minds (justified or not!), of high quality, stellar qualifications, select expertise, authority, etc. I guess if I was elected to serve on such a panel, I wouldn’t want the branding of a “mauve-ribbon” group.

Just asking…

Wall Street Journal re-design

Yesterday, the WSJ implemented their latest major re-design. They changed a lot of things – a new custom-made typeface (nice), new sections and layout, new graphics, etc.

However, one of the biggest changes is that they “narrowed” the size of the paper, as others have recently done. It is now 5 columns across, so actual page size is smaller, and therefore the content per page is less.

And this leads me to my main first impression of the new format – it just doesn’t “feel” right. Call me petty, but one thing that really bothered me was that I was turning the pages too fast for a Wall Street Journal – I’d glance at any given 2-page spread, often see little of interest, and quickly (as if it was a copy of USA Today) be moving on to the next page. The proportion of ad space vs. news/analysis per page spread seemed out of whack. My experience with the WSJ over the years is that you go through slowly and deliberately, because there is a lot of substance per page.

OK, maybe I’ll get used to it, and it’s just a passing reaction to something new. I’m a fairly conservative person (one reason I read the WSJ, after all!) and don’t always immediately react positively to change. And I do appreciate the efforts the paper makes to modernize and improve. But it is remarkable to me that the most powerful impression about this new format, for me, was “feel” of the pages – size, and speed of turning. It’s interesting, how many contextual attachments we can develop around a product/brand, and what impact a change can have…

The T-shirt test

On a number of occasions in my writing, I’ve referenced how a brand has “got” me when I will gladly display the logo on a hat, t-shirt, mug, etc.

Seth Godin apparently uses the same metric.

It’s really pretty simple. I’ve either proud of my connection to your company and what it offers, or not. The T-shirt is my vote. What higher compliment could a company seek?

Branding and marketing sites I like (plus bonus links)

There is a link-building exercise currently circulating around the blogosphere, in which bloggers list other valuable blogs that might not otherwise get the exposure they deserve (and others “pay it forward” by including and expanding the list on their blog).

Glad to participate. Here are some of my favorites (some of which I discovered through this “z-list” approach):

The Origin of Brands

Seth’s Blog

Brand Autopsy

Brand Noise

Coudal Partners

All About Branding

Whisper Brand

Dave Young’s Branding Blog

Diva Marketing

Guy Kawasaki

Daily Brad

Brand Sizzle

Shotgun Marketing

Two Hat Marketing

Digital Grit

Duct Tape Marketing

Creating Passionate Users

Brand Mantra

The Branding Blog


Branding Strategy Insider

The Ad Feed

Rather than just copy down the entire z-list as it is currently circulating, I decided to “cull” and focus more narrowly on branding sites..

Now, just for the fun of it, some other sites I refer to regularly for insight, news, fun, ideas, etc.:

Book of Joe




Found on the Web


Look at This

Name Development

Advertising for Peanuts

Things magazine

Debbie Weil

Marketing Sherpa

Tricks and Trinkets Newsletter

Media 2.0

Finally, on this blog (Brand Impactiviti), my favorite posts from 2006:

What do you mean? (a hopefully useful attempt at defining “branding”)

Another DOA slogan (Seattle)

A good necessary evil (Amica Insurance)


How to waste 100,000 billboards (UPS)

Here’s to a prosperous 2007!