Can you Fake Authenticity in Branding?

A great read from Fast Company magazine:


In an increasingly shiny, fabricated world of spun messages and concocted experiences–where nearly everything we encounter is created for consumption–elevating a brand above the fray requires an uncommon mix of creativity and discipline. And nowhere do you see the challenge more starkly illustrated than in the quest for authenticity. “Authenticity is the benchmark against which all brands are now judged,” notes John Grant in The New Marketing Manifesto. Or as Seth Godin quips in Permission Marketing: “If you can fake authenticity, the rest will take care of itself.”

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…

It’s a Pleasure

Throughout my short but enjoyable blogging “career,” I’ve made a number of comments and recommendations about good wine, coffee, beer, music, reading, etc.

Instead of having that “After Hours” stuff scattered all over various blogs, I’ve decided to collect my reviews and commentary on a dedicated blog, called It’s a Pleasure. This will also include (weekly) recipes that I try out, as I try to re-awaken some long-dormant kitchen creativity.


Collaborating on a Book

Along with a great group of other bloggers, I’ll be contributing a chapter to an upcoming e-book.

Back story here, with an explanation of how this project has developed in rapid-time!

Here are the names and blog links (mostly) for all contributors.

Gavin Heaton
Drew McLellan
Valeria Maltoni
Emily Reed
Katie Chatfield
Greg Verdino
Mack Collier
Lewis Green
Ann Handley
Mike Sansone
Paul McEnany
Roger von Oech
Anna Farmery
David Armano
Bob Glaza
Mark Goren
Matt Dickman
Scott Monty
Richard Huntington
Cam Beck
David Reich
Mindblob (Luc)
Sean Howard
Tim Jackson
Patrick Schaber
Roberta Rosenberg
Uwe Hook
Tony D. Clark
Todd Andrlik
Toby Bloomberg
Steve Woodruff
Steve Bannister
Steve Roesler
Stanley Johnson
Spike Jones
Nathan Snell
Simon Payn
Ryan Rasmussen
Ron Shevlin
Roger Anderson
Bob Hruzek
Rishi Desai
Phil Gerbyshak
Peter Corbett
Pete Deutschman
Nick Rice
Nick Wright
Mitch Joel
Michael Morton
Mark Earls
Mark Blair
Mario Vellandi
Lori Magno
Kristin Gorski
Krishna De
Kris Hoet
Kofl Annan
Kimberly Dawn Wells
Karl Long
Julie Fleischer
Jordan Behan
John La Grou
Joe Raasch
Jim Kukral
Jessica Hagy
Janet Green
Jamey Shiels
Dr. Graham Hill
Gia Facchini
Geert Desager
Gaurav Mishra
Gary Schoeniger
Gareth Kay
Faris Yakob
Emily Clasper
Ed Cotton
Dustin Jacobsen
Tom Clifford
David Pollinchock
David Koopmans
David Brazeal
David Berkowitz
Carolyn Manning
Craig Wilson
Cord Silverstein
Connie Reece
Colin McKay
Chris Newlan
Chris Corrigan
Cedric Giorgi
Brian Reich
Becky Carroll
Arun Rajagopal
Andy Nulman
Amy Jussel
AJ James
Kim Klaver
Sandy Renshaw
Susan Bird
Ryan Barrett
Troy Worman

This is a great idea and a wonderful display of just how easily the “fences have come down” through web-based collaboration (my article is entitled, “The Lowered Fence of Collaboration”). I’ve had fruitful interaction with a number of people on this list, though not having met any of them face-to-face (yet!). Can’t wait to see the final result!

Brand DNA – instant recognition

Seth Godin has an insightful post on how quickly certain things (such as the first notes of a song) can register on us, and bring up the “brand” represented.

Off the top of my head, I think this type of imparted Brand DNA comes from at least 3 things:

– Repetition

– Consistency

– Strong (hopefully, positive!) association

Recently, one of my sons, who is taking drum lessons, was given a CD to learn from, by a rock group from the 70’s. I vaguely recalled the name of the group but couldn’t “place” the song names in my head. However, moments after the CD started to spin, I had the whole song flooding back from memory. Repetition, don’t you know, from years ago.

I remember, over a decade ago now, when I used to fly more regularly into Chicago, that there was (and still is) a Starbucks located at the entrance to O’Hare’s Terminal E/F. Coming into that city, my nose would be attuned to this positive association, and it was always there. Plus, they had one at McCormick Center, where I’d be each year for a trade show in November – and I’d unfailingly walk however long it was in that gargantuan place to get my morning Starbucks. Those experiences helped embed the Starbucks DNA into my system.

Now, if I could just get a piece of Seth’s DNA and graft it into my makeup!

Customers Rot!

Becky Carroll has a very enjoyable blog entitled Customers Rock!, in which she holds forth the perspective that we really should treat our customers as incredibly valuable.

But some people/companies still seem to hold to a Customers Rot! attitude.

Recently, we’ve been seeking to get some plumbing work done. A sink replaced, a couple faucets, a few other smaller things (full disclosure: I’d classify myself as only “half-handy,” and better at outdoor work than indoor stuff!) So we made a call, first of all to a very nice plumber who quickly helped us with a belly-up water heater a couple months back. He’d come to us recommended by a friend. Surely he’d want to maintain a customer relationship!

No response. No return call, even after a couple of messages.

We tried with another referred name.

Same result.

Another. Finally, a call back – this fellow does these type of small jobs “on the side,” but apparently he is more willing to gain a customer doing evening work, than others for whom it is a day job.

Now, I understand if the other fellows were too busy – particularly since our work on this occasion was pretty small scale. But too busy to return a call, and simply explain that you don’t have the time right now – and maybe provide a recommendation? Too busy to value a customer – and what that customer may say (positive or negative) to others who ask their opinion? Too busy for common courtesy?

Another example of a Customers Rot! attitude – not neglect, but downright hostility – came to the surface this week when I was speaking with another consultant. She started a role with a software/services company, and mentioned that on the very first day, an employee put a customer on hold and started letting loose a stream of demeaning and negative comments about this client (probably one of their largest sources of revenue). Displaying, right in front of this person just starting out, why that particular company was not going to be worthy of a long-term engagement. She quickly moved on.

A company’s brand goes far deeper than a logo and a tagline. It is profoundly shaped by attitudes. The employees embody the brand, for better or for worse (here’s a positive example). One of the best “branding” moves a company can make is hiring people who truly seek to serve, and who do not stew in negativity! If you end up with “hostiles,” don’t be surprised when you get the business equivalent of red cards!