Friday, August 31, 2007

Targeting ads at web user habits

I’ve written many times in this blog about the concept of whispering in the right ear rather than shouting across a room. The fact of the matter is that the more specifically you identify your audience, the more you can focus your communication to resonate with that audience.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that web user habits are one of the latest tools companies are using to place ads. By knowing what sites potential customers are likely to visit, companies can make much more efficient advertising placement decisions.

But that is only part of the potential.

By applying one of our tools called Persona®, a company can put a face to their customers. They can drill down to the nuts and bolts of the customer. But beyond that, Persona® seeks to take that information and focus the entire branding effort.

We gather stories, quotes, and anecdotes from customers that pertain to their environment and behaviors. Then, we can uncover their attitudes, brand usage habits, and goals. When a persona is given a name, a photo, and some individualized details, then the heretofore hypothetical constructs easily spring to life. Not only can it hasten the innovation process, a persona can also help align goals, improve decision-making, and focus a team's overall communication.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Viral marketing, word-of-mouth, or brand evangelism… different names, same concept

Ever wondered if WOM is worth it? WOM proponents have data to back that up:
• People tell an average of three other people about products they like and 11 about those they don’t like
• Nearly 100% of the 10-18 age group say they sway the opinions of their friends regarding clothing and music purchases
• 80% say they influence their parents’ decision regarding food and electronics purchases

We have a nine-step process focused exclusively on WOM called the Evangelist Effect®. It creates a powerful, reliable, and measurable marketing channel and enhances the credibility of your brand (because the message is coming from an already trusted source).

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What is the value of the red cross symbol? And what will it cost?

What’s the real story behind the Johnson & Johnson lawsuit of trademark infringement filed against the American Red Cross?

As with anything that seems so cut and dry, I chose to dig a little deeper. In the courts of public opinion, it seems like the Red Cross is winning the battle. J&J is coming across as a bully. The entire situation is being painted as a greedy corporation going after an innocent non-profit organization that has nothing but good intentions at heart.

The bottom line still goes back to trademark ownership. The symbol of the red cross was a trademark of J&J’s since before the official charter of the American Red Cross. Despite that, the two companies have shared the symbol for over 100 years.

In 2004, the ARC started licensing the red cross to companies producing disaster relief products, some of which were in direct competition to products J&J makes.

I can only imagine that discussions have been under way since then regarding the outcome of this little debacle. In fact, J&J has continued to make charitable contributions to the ARC, so while the relationship was certainly strained, it had not completely fallen apart.

It seems, based on the facts I can glean, that the legal results will see J&J victorious. But what will the cost be to the public images of both companies? Will J&J be seen as a greedy mega-corporation, vilified for its desire to put the bottom line before humanitarian causes? Or will the ARC gain the reputation of being welshers – a company that will not hesitate to throw away a century-old arrangement to make a little money for its cause?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

How do you BRAND what you do for a living?

I recently enjoyed a column entitled “Rich Man, Boor Man” by Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal. It’s about the strange phenomenon that occurs today when you ask someone the simple question, “So, what do you do?”

She points out a shift in the meaning of job titles and descriptions. In fact, she notes, if your job has a one-word title or if it is easy to describe what you do, chances are you are not among the rich. However, if someone tells you what they do and you have no idea what they are talking about, that person is likely a member of the “new rich”.

I agree that the days of the one-word job titles or professions are gone. We must be descriptive enough to give context, yet creative enough to overcome any semblance of the same old day-to-day tasks.

Here’s a challenge for you readers of this blog: break from an inherent security of your “job.” Instead, imagine what you could do to add more value and creativity to what you offer. Then, send me a great title and an amazingly rich job description.

So, what do you do?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Welcome to the

The experts at Future Now Inc. are putting up some great screencasts with some suggestions on improving websites.

Plenty for everyone to learn!

(Thanks to The Branding Blog for referring them.)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Evangelist Effect® tip of the day

Here's actual data on the power of gratitude:

Restaurant servers average an 11% larger tip when they write “Thank you” on the bill.

Have you thanked your client or customer today with a personal, hand-written note?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Who is your “Big C” Customer?

Coca-Cola is making a bold marketing shift under the leadership of new marketing chief, Joseph Tripodi. The shift makes sense and holds real potential.

It’s based on the hypothesis that the most important customer for Coca-Cola is not the individual consumer. Instead it’s the big retail outlets. Additionally, the large store is a more targeted place to reach the heaviest users, as most beverage decisions are made in store and on the spot.

The idea here is two-fold and has implications for other branding challenges, too.

1) Target the “Big C” Customer - the one who can best help move from where you are to where you want to be.
2) Consider not just the right customer, but also the right channel.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Pepsi Generation has lost its father

The man who created the biggest BRAND ASSOCIATION of a generation died last week. Alan Pottasch leaves behind a legacy of creative advertising innovations.

He coined the phrase “The Pepsi Generation,” and helped sustain it for decades.

Pottasch saw the value in associating a particular lifestyle with the Pepsi product in 1963, and that association has remained a driving force in Pepsi advertising ever since. This model has also been assumed in beer advertising, car advertising, and numerous other categories.

It represents one of the best cases of how people want to be a part of a group, and how a product can define a group’s identity.

So let’s raise a glass of ice-cold Pepsi - the taste of a generation that remembers Alan Pottasch’s mark on the branding world.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Memories of a distant past - and a promising future

In 1981, as a young up-and-coming copywriter in the ad world, I remember wanting desperately to be a part of Pat Fallon’s new firm. It was the hottest thing in advertising at the time, and I wanted to be with them in Minneapolis.

I recall vividly showing up in the lobby of Fallon, McElligott, and Rice - without an appointment - with my humble portfolio and big creative dreams. I didn’t get a job there, but held on to the dreams as I landed elsewhere.

So, as I read the article in the August 2 issue of the Wall Street Journal about Fallon Worldwide getting new management help from the parent company, I thought about all the stories between the lines (see “Publicis Plots Turnaround Plan for Fallon”, by Aaron O. Patrick). In 1981, this agency was on the cutting edge. But over the years, they lost their fire.

Imagine 25 years from now, the young-at-heart admen and women recalling the time when they first interviewed with Stinson Brand Innovation. I long to sustain to the hunger, drive, and passion of the brand consultancy that never forgot where it came from.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Why Istanbul?

Some of you may have noticed that we are really ramping up our alliance between Stinson Brand Innovation and Rekmar, a health care agency and brand design firm located in Istanbul.

I’ve been asked by clients and others, “Why Istanbul? Why Turkey?”

The reasons are numerous, and I assure you this was no random decision. In short, the answer is growth. Along with Brazil, India, and China, Turkey is a nation of intense political and business development that is placing it among the world’s top growth markets.

Here are some relevant notes regarding Turkey’s economic development over the past few years:
• Novartis recently named Turkey as one of the four countries that would
account for 50% of its pharmaceutical revenue growth over the next five years
(WSJ, 8/8/07)
• As of 2004, Turkey was among the fastest growing economies in the OECD
(Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development). At the same time,
the inflation rate declined sharply. (OECD Economic Survey - Turkey 2004)
• “Average real GNP growth over the past three years has been close to 8% - it
was just short of 10% last year.” (Speech by Anne O. Krueger, First Deputy
Managing Director International Monetary Fund, May 5, 2005)

With the possibility of Turkey joining the EU some time in the next decade, the potential of our relationship with Rekmar and with the Turkish market is tremendous.

I’ll share more about Rekmar in a future posting.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Flying the crowded skies

Been flying this summer? I have. Like the millions of other travelers out there, I’ve noticed the crowded airports and wondered, “Is this the worst it has been?” So I pulled the following data from a late July edition of the Wall Street Journal:

• In June 2007, 20,301 flights were canceled in the US. This is more than
double the number in June 2006
• Among the 40 largest airlines, more than 30% of flights scheduled to land in
the US were late
• Load factors are running at 80-85% this summer (that is the percentage of
filled seats on a flight)
• The 40 largest airlines flew 14% more flights in June 2007 as compared to
June 2006
• Flight delays in July 2006 averaged almost 60 minutes
• Almost 10% of flights January - June 2007 were more than 45 minutes late

So you would think complaints must be the highest ever, right? Actually not. Complaints about air travel problems and delays are actually down. Are expectations about air travel so low that customers don’t think their comments will even make a difference? And are efforts such as Delta’s Experience Change ( program too little too late?

It gets worse when you consider these sentiments expressed in the article:
• “A great management in that business will not necessarily get a great
result,” said Warren Buffett.
• Airlines ranked below the IRS in customer satisfaction, according to a
University of Michigan survey

What could turn this industry around? And could anything make the situation so bad that people actually stop flying?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Wal-Mart trying for a fresh start on their emotional connection

A good strategy is only good as long as it works. So I applaud Wal-Mart for their attempt to change their plan to stay on top.

Back-to-school is upon us, and the retail giant has taken this as an opportunity to unleash its new brand of advertising. This new campaign can be best described using one of our tools -- A2U®.

Awareness is making sure you keep clear what you want your audience to know. And it’s well ingrained that Wal-Mart fits the lifestyle of their customers – the lowest prices, always.

But Attitude is all about keeping clear what you want your audience to feel. In the case of Wal-Mart’s new campaign, they want to now make more of an emotional connection with the audience in the form of testimonial-style actor-customers.

Usage is about changing behavior. And this is where Wal-Mart makes the biggest leap, by trying to gain more affluent customers by linking themselves to big-name brands. Wal-Mart has always sold big-name brands, but this is the first time they are using those brands to attract customers.

Branding and communication go hand in hand. Wal-Mart has what is proven to be a very profitable plan - the products you want at the right price. So, now they need to communicate that they can put the brands and feelings where their smiley-face is.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A coffee innovation not coming from Starbucks.

Indeed, all of the innovation in the coffee world is not coming from the big green mermaid. In a world where coffee is king and being on the go is queen, Cuppy’s Coffee has made a stand to maintain the royal relationship.

Offering gourmet coffee with an emphasis on drive-thru is their thing. Their goal is to offer coffee and espresso based beverages to drive thru customers in less than 60 seconds! And they are differentiating themselves from their chief competition in other ways as well. Most notably, their stores are all franchise owned.

Both Cuppy’s and Starbucks emphasize the user experience. Yet each has a unique take on what their users want and expect. Cuppy’s, the underdog, has setup their own experience to be in direct competition with what they consider to be the weak link in Starbucks’ armor – their speed.

Well, if I can’t get a latte in under a minute, I’m not really living in America, am I?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I’m lovin’ the branding

A recent paper by Dr. Thomas Robinson of the Stanford University School of Medicine has shown that children say food tasted better when it came out of a McDonald’s wrapper when compared to the same food in an unbranded wrapper.

It is no shock that McDonald’s, an American icon of fast food, is recognizable to kids. But this study shows the power of branded packaging: I’m lovin’ it.

Read for yourself here…

And here…

Monday, August 13, 2007

Nothing says fitness like a dumbbell

The dumbbell shape is probably the most iconic non-verbal representation of fitness out there. So when trying to sell vitamin-enhanced, flavored water in a saturated marketplace, Pumped Fitness water used that symbol in the design of its bottle.

By doing so, this water gains an immediate ASSOCIATION with the concept of fitness. Not only that, but the bottle has a unique look and stands out against the size and shape of the competition’s.

This comes back to the basic category of content versus packaging. Vitamin-enhanced, flavored water is all over the place, and one is like the other. So the consumers are going to look at two things: the brand and the shape.

They are going to try to recognize a brand they are familiar with. Even if the brand they know is not known for being connected to fitness waters, they are more likely to trust someone they know.

But the thing that is more likely to catch their eye is the packaging. The shape of the bottle has become the new catchy packaging for all waters, not just the fitness-related waters.

Check out Hat Trick Beverage's homepage here.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Introducing the Stinson Bloggies

We all like to know where we stand. More importantly, we want to know how other people rate things. So with that thought, I’m introducing the Stinson Bloggies. Periodically, I will go through and rate things using the following (not so scientific) scale:

► Represents a good idea (Play)

►► Represents a great idea, a real innovation (Fast Forward)

◄◄ Represents a bad idea, something that moves things in the wrong direction (Rewind)

First up, I’m rating the top ten Brand Innovator blogs of July. Here goes…

July 6 Tea packaging innovation ►►
July 9 The bank of Wal-Mart ►►
July 10 iPhone marketing ►►
July 11 In flight travel comfort ►
July 12 Dial targeted soap products ►
July 13 Marketing energy drinks to kids ◄◄
July16 Keeping up with technology ◄◄
July 18 Promoting music through videogames ►►
July 26 Wired DIY cover ►►
July 31 Matchbox cars ►►

That’s my take. What do you think? Leave a comment.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

7 location innovations across the globe…

To get folks thinking about innovation from a different perspective, I thought I would share the official selections for the new Seven Wonders of the World. These sites represent some pretty awe inspiring places:

Great Wall


Taj Mahal

Machu Picchu

Christ Redeemer


Chichen Itza

Read more about the New Seven Wonders at And post your thoughts on other wondrous and innovative places in the world.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Junk food that is good for you… now that’s innovation!

Can my co-workers with Diet Coke habits get their fix and get some extra vitamins too? I guess that’s the idea behind Diet Coke Plus, fortified with vitamins.

But is this just eating junk food with great packaging? Or is there some value to fortifying this stuff with vitamins, brain boosters, and energy enhancers?

By adding a Quality Offering to the brand, by putting a desired-but-not-so-good-thing together with an important-but-not-getting-enough-of-thing, the manufacturer can make consumers feel better about their consumption.

Imagine -- having your cake and pretending you didn’t eat it, too.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Look at me! I’m on Myspace

Everyone is doing it, and Myspace has become more than just a social network.

Now it is as much a media vehicle as it is a place for virtual friends to share photos and comments. Actors, bands, cities, television shows, and entire ad campaigns are creating Myspace profiles in order to make connections with the 20-30 crowd.

But with MySpace, it is very hard to be specific. There is potential to find a home and even make “friends” with your consumer base. Yet the chance someone else is going to use the same user name as you is very high, and this is a problem because of the less than specific search engine within MySpace. You have a high probability of getting lost in the crowd.

It takes a lot to stand out on a site like this, and unless you can leverage our MySpace into some creative buzz, it is a difficult tool to make worth your while.

An interesting use of MySpace, however, is as a portal to other websites. Take a look at the got milk? campaign’s creative and interactive site: The Supreme One (which leads elsewhere, of course)

What do you think about MySpace marketing? Good idea? Bad idea? What are the possibilities of this new tool? Leave a comment to lend your opinion to the debate.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Welcome to the home of the world’s largest soap box

Blogs, podcasts, and social networks sites such as Facebook and MySpace are all considered new media. One of the key differences between new media and old media is who’s writing the copy. But as with any medium, surely there is a way to make it work for your company.

I have been considering the marketing possibilities of new media for some time now.

When using one of our tools, the Evangelist Effect®, new media ties right in. The idea is to create brand evangelists, who will then go out and through word-of-mouth, endorse your product, company, or idea. New media just happens to act as a really great soap box.

Blogs as a democratic vehicle for change.
Podcasts as a way for amateur DJs to spin their own perspectives.
Online social networks to bring like-minded people into a virtual community.
The possibilities of new media are many and varied.

Check out Paul Gillin’s book about the influential power of blogs called The New Influencers. And drop me a line to tell me about the most influential blog you read.

And to see one creative use of new media, see a GlaxoSmithKline unbranded, sponsored video here.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Lexus crowd now outsourcing even its parallel parking

I really like the visual design of the headline. Simple and intelligent.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Like the iconic cowboy of Marlboro fame, cigarette advertising is a dying breed

For the first time since 1955, not a single Marlboro ad ran in consumer publications last year. And as Crain’s Chicago Business recently reported, U.S. advertising in general for tobacco companies has dropped off significantly since its peak in 1985.

It’s not tremendously difficult to see what is happening to tobacco sales in America, and instead of trying to swim upstream, tobacco companies are putting their dollar where they are most effective, namely into direct marketing and in-store promotions. But the big opportunities are abroad, where tobacco use is growing.

Like our Persona® model, the Marlboro Man captured the attitudes, behaviors, and goals of the consumers of the product. In 1955, connecting this face with the Marlboro name was marketing brilliance.

As for the cowboy that is symbolized in this ad campaign, modern times have changed the landscape of the work. But tobacco companies have proven to be resilient and savvy, and have changed along with the landscape. The sun may be setting on American tobacco dominance, but it is rising elsewhere in the world.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Medical sites you don’t need an MD to read

Even though Michael Moore’s new documentary Sicko is quite dramatic, you don’t have to see the movie to know our country is in a bit of a health care crisis. What frustrates me is that we have amassed such an amazing body of medical knowledge that often goes unused.

So, the ultimate information distributor, the Internet, has attempted to catch up to disseminate some of this knowledge. But like taking an overdose of medicine, this overdose of wrong information often makes the situation worse. There is so much data, that sites try to give their users what they want, but did not ask for.

Time for a new breed of site.

As reported by Jeanette Borzo in The Wall Street Journal, the new sites approach the issue by getting back to basics. Through intelligent search tools, these sites give the customer exactly what they ask for - information. It is a great example of seeking innovation in simplicity. In her article, Ms. Borzo reviews six sites:

In some ways, this new medial website model is also a good example of our A2U® tool. It combines awareness (what does the site want their customers to be aware of), attitude (how do they want their customers to feel about that information) and usage (how is the information going to be used). All of this in a way that equals a communication of the medical knowledge that is needed - and most of all, can be applied for good health.