Friday, April 27, 2012

Power Brand Experience: 6 steps to successful event marketing plans

On the occasion of my 8th year of "BRAND INNOVATION," I'm reflecting back on some of the important concepts that helped shaped my approach.

At an experiential marketing conference I participated in a few years back, Christopher Kappes, executive vice president of sales at Sparks, offered six key characteristics of an effective event plans. 

They are actionable keys to the brand team’s direction and the agency’s execution of the event.

The new imperative of the shifting market, as well as buyer behaviors, changes everything – and requires brand managers who want to thrive in this new world to innovate their Experiential Marketing from the ground up.

Once the art and science of the TV spot or print campaign or outdoor creative held priority. 

Today, investing marketing dollars effectively means not only understanding the new environment and developing an understanding of how to effectively engage the evolving buyer, but also learning how to apply that knowledge through a new vision of how to architect a marketing plan when your highest opportunity prospect is less likely to see your advertisement, has more choices, and has a louder voice than ever before. 

Enabling the customer to ‘look the brand in the eye’ has become the biggest task.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Power Brand Experience: 9 key principles of a well-crafted brand experience

On the occasion of my 8th year of "BRAND INNOVATION," I'm looking back at the key concepts that influenced my perspective on power branding.

According to findings published for the Event Marketing Institute (, these are key principles of a well-crafted brand experience.

  1. Authenticity. This is a critical foundation on which experiences depend.  Just one moment of damaged integrity can create a disconnect from which it is hard to recover, especially in a world so abundant with choices. This means a brand experiences must be true, honest reflections of the brand, the marketplace, and the context in which the customer will need or want them in real life.
  2. Customer-centricity. A necessary condition for authenticity, truly customer-centric experiences are derived from the target audience’s perception of their world and their behavioral habits and preferences, accurately reflecting and heightening their viewpoint in the context of the brand. Such an experience crystallizes and positively reinforces an individual’s sense of certainty and confidence in their decision-making abilities and life choices.
  3. Brand personification. Interactions that amplify brand values by providing a heightened sensory experience of them can impact deeply. These are iconic moments that form indelible and clear impressions of what a brand stands for that resonate with what an audience needs.
  4. Interactivity. Interaction – as direct, relevant and personal as possible – with a brand is most likely to engage the audience. Adults learn best by doing and interaction supports the natural quest for self-expression and self-directed discovery.
  5. Immersion. Enveloping the participants in a live experience has the potential to filter out the distractions that get in the way of the level of focus required for full engagement. In turn, heightened focus provides the opportunity to create the deepest level of understanding. It improves information absorption.
  6. Ego-satisfying stories. Experiences that not only engage but do so in a way in which the participants can see themselves in an unfolding story, and in the process, triumphing over their challenges (whatever they may be) via affiliation with the brand, drive commitment. This requires a deft handling of psychology. The one question we human beings ask ourselves a hundred times a day – the question that spells the difference between success and failure – is “is this for me, or against me? And to what degree?” says Nathaniel Branden. Therefore, our ability to immerse participants in ego-satisfying stories is key. This requires the fundamental skill of storytelling too. Story is the most powerful communication construct for taking people from where they are and bringing them to the point of where you want them to go. Effective stories have a well-defined plot, antagonists and protagonists. Pacing is key, as is tension and myriad other storytelling techniques. And the effective communication of stories requires a multidisciplinary approach that collapses length of term and geography into multisensory representations of authentic applications of the brand offerings and values.
  7. Sustainability. Great brand experiences are large or powerful enough to sustain engagement over time, as opposed to momentary interactions that only skim the surface. This is one of the key differentiators between product sampling and true Experience Marketing. In the former, you might get to sample how a new health food tastes while walking down the aisle of a store. In the latter, you live the experience of the benefits of a life fueled by more healthful choices. Sampling can be a component, but it’s not the totality. Moreover, in today’s world, live experiences can be extended via a variety of Internet mechanisms for enhanced sustainability.
  8. Intimacy. A skillful orchestration of the qualities of customer-centricity, interactivity and ego-satisfying stories must generate an experience of intimacy by which each participant feels that even through the event is attended by many, it speaks personally and powerfully to the individual. This is key in this era of self-authored and co-authored content.
  9. Measurement. Effective experience marketing acknowledges that audiences and markets define brands. Individuals empowered by brands to author their experiences volunteer opinions, critique and participation that allow marketers to mine much deeper and more substantial intelligence that can be used to refine live experiences, which should be done on an ongoing basis during an experience marketing campaign. This same information allows marketers to glean insights that help shape products and services and fully meet/exceed individual needs and expectations.

I'm grateful for the many clients and colleagues who have help create great brand experiences over the years.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

More than 200 entries exhibited at "Downtown Digital Arts Festival"

Last evening, I had the pleasure of attending the Downtown Digital Arts Festival, presented by Columbus State Community College.

The exhibit brought together student photographers, designers, and artists, for an event designed to educate, inspire, and entertain.

Here’s a description from the Interactive Media section:
  the work “embraces the advances in technology that provide new and exciting frontiers for artistic exploration, expression and communication. Images, both moving and static, text and audio can be brought together within a computer to provide an experience that is essentially different from any other media type. The quality that distinguishes 'digital' publishing from traditional linear forms is 'interactivity'. Program content need no longer be constrained by a fixed, preordained outcome. An audience can now be an active participant in a program in ways that determine and alter the course of events. “

The Interactive Media worked in the exhibit demonstrated practical applications that access and present dynamic written, audio, and visual information. The interactivity was applied across a varied range of mediums including:
  • educational and self-paced learning projects on a CD
  • displays and information kiosks
  • web sites
  • computer games and simulations
  • interactive art
  • DVD development
You can download a catalog of all the work at

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Power Brand Experience: create greater value for product research with earlier brand innovation

On the occasion of my 8th year of "BRAND INNOVATION," I'm reflecting back on the convergence of advancements both in science and technology, and in the science of branding.

Over these years, we’ve seen medical breakthroughs in biotech research, as well as more sophisticated marketing discipline. It is because of this convergence that we now stress the value to research companies of branding earlier in the developmental cycle.

Earlier branding of science and technology products accomplishes two important financial objectives:  one, it can significantly move the product adoption curve to the left, which means a measurable acceleration of pre-launch awareness and launch sales uptake; and two, it can create greater value for future potential transactions, including co-promotion rights, licensing royalties, or even acquisition.

In a six-month series of interviews in 2004, I documented five BALANCING factors faced by executives of research-based companies.

  1. Because so many discoveries are being made by small and start-up firms, they face the daunting scale of a blockbuster launch. This is true even in traditional “specialty” markets that now have billion-dollar potential.

  1. When it comes to managing investor expectations, the discovery company is often pressured to grow or build its brands alone. On the other hand, if a larger company licenses or acquires a product, stock analysts expect to see rapid indicators of highly likely returns.

  1. Timing the shift of resources from product R&D to brand marketing can be quite difficult. The typical research company CEO has spent years seeking capital resources to fund development, but knows a product launch will require a new level of human resources — particularly for a sales and marketing organization that researchers have less experience in building.

  1. Most independent research companies find themselves walking an autonomy tightrope. There is an intense desire for self-reliance by product inventors, but the involvement of new funders or licensors inevitably leads to some shared control.

  1. Perhaps the most surprising is that many discovery company executives still think a breakthrough can literally “sell itself.” They usually imagine unquestionable trial results in every phase of commercialization, an indisputable ability to publish in the best-reviewed journals, and an incontestable groundswell of support leading to an almost universal change in behaviors.

There has been even more evidence in the years since — and too many examples of disappointment when the old approach fails to achieve success. It is now commonly believed among the most successful brand marketers that “blockbusters are made.”

It is within this environment of convergence that I began offering product managers at science and technology companies a process called BRAND INNOVATION.

I called it Brand Innovation in order to connect to the scientific product innovation that drives the company’s efforts. And we demonstrate how to extend the innovation into brand positioning, packaging, put-ups, user programs, public relations, and more.

A creative innovation model that leverages the science of branding

This BRAND INNOVATION model has been developed using a thorough review of academic journals, trade publications, and branding books. It also draws from the conclusions of market research conducted in more than 36 U.S. and global launch programs. Moreover, it capitalizes on my experience with about 100 different medical, science, and technology brands developed and/or supported by my consultancy.

The model has been shown to be effective in both large multinational corporations and in small biotech start-ups.

The first step in the complete innovation process is called “C.H.E.M.®” — a verbal and visual nomenclature created to communicate a product’s performance and promise. It represents an expression of the product’s strategic direction and a blueprint for brand building (graphic above).

In this creative innovation model, a manager can reach the goal of captivating customers in ways that go beyond traditional “interruptive assumptions” of advertising. By applying the tool, brand marketers can truly create brand CHEMistry with customers.

Consider these areas of application for Brand Innovation

In my experience, there are a number of potential areas of brand construction during the early phases of research and development. These include creating the branded names, copy, graphics, and symbols for the product’s:

• Molecule/generic
• Methodology of research
• Manufacturing process
• Mechanism of action
• Medicinal class or category
• Mode of delivery
• Market segment
• Medical promise

How to begin now increasing the value of your research

For the research company executive interested in exploring this approach, begin now to add branding experts to your circle of advisors.

Invite science and technology brand consultancies to present to your management team and board early in the developmental cycle. You may also find that companies with whom you’re already collaborating (such as material suppliers, industrial designers, and testing organizations) have brand resources they could share with you.

Finally, if you are planning a co-marketing arrangement, assess the partner company’s Brand Innovation experience, key evaluation criteria beyond market experience and sales force size.

In conclusion, the convergence of technology and branding advancement creates an atmosphere well suited for increasing value of product research through earlier branding. Brand Innovation is an approach than can significantly move the product adoption curve to the left and can create greater value for future potential transactions.


Monday, April 23, 2012

1 touchpoint at a time: building a Power Brand Experience like Glacéau vitaminwater

On the occasion of my 8th year of "BRAND INNOVATION," I'm looking back at the key concepts that influenced my perspective on power branding.

The Glacéau story is a tale of how a small beverage start-up literally invented an entire new category – “enhanced water” – and then mixed an interesting marketing cocktail that helped vitaminwater became a powerhouse brand… seemingly overnight.

Driving it all was Rohan Oza, Senior VP, and his Glacéau marketing team, the quarterbacks of a unique marketing mix connecting a growing brand portfolio with millions of consumers through a number of experiential channels, including the groundbreaking “try-it” campaign, all of which are helping to cement vitaminwater and now smartwater as the hottest brands around. 

I had a chance to meet Rohan at an experiential summit conference in Chicago.

His road to success had been truly unique, and here are the insights which can be learned from Glacéau.

To become the all-day brand – morning, noon, and night –  Glacéau created a “Fifth Degree Wheel” to illustrate the touchpoints on which it would focus brand experiences.

With this wheel, the team studied the industry and researched what iconic brands have made it through the years and why. They built a foundational belief that their brand could be as big as those other big, well-known brands. 

In general, they focused on what people want and created customer loyalty by having a brand personality with a purpose.

Specifically, Oza and his team developed a recipe for successful brand experiences with three key ingredients:
  • Product – Grassroots vehicles of promotion focused on product trial
  • Partners – Attract the right partners, even engaging the high-profile celebrity endorsers in revenue sharing contracts
  • People - Hire passionate people in every discipline and passionate agency teams who will reflect the brand

To see a sampling of the vitaminwater brand campaign, go to

Building brands one touchpoint at a time: Applications for other power brands

I have a philosophy in planning groups, events, and media that you should somehow, somewhere, dominate something. So you can begin at almost any touchpoint to make an impact with a more meaningful, more relevant brand experience than your competition.

I created this template to list some of the touchpoints you have in interacting with your most important customers – then capture what’s working well at that point and what could make the experience extraordinary.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Inspiring creative spaces: Frank Lloyd Wright home, studio, and school at Taliesin West

Jenny & I recently enjoyed in-depth, intimate tour of Taliesin West – the studio, home, and school of Frank Lloyd Wright located outside of Phoenix.

Our good friends Jorge & Mayte Gastelum, and son Julian joined us on this exclusive experience.

We also had the opportunity to talk with some Frank Lloyd Wright associates.  Because Mayte is an architect, this tour was especially inspiring.

We visited the living quarters and the dramatic Taliesin West living room (called the “Garden Room” by Wright).  The living room was the social gathering place for Wright and the many famous guests he entertained. As we entered through the typically Wrightian low-ceilinged, stone-walled space, it opened to a 56-feet long by 34-feet wide room, linked to the garden and bedroom wing on the east by expansive windows. We sat in Wright-designed furniture and experienced firsthand the feeling of being a guest in Wright’s famous home.

I really liked seeing Wright’s private office – connected by dramatic terraces, gardens, and walkways overlooking the rugged Sonoran Desert and Valley.  The knowledgeable guides explained how the site relates to the natural desert and provide a general overview of Wright’s basic theories of design, history of the site and activities of Taliesin Fellowship community life.

A highlight of this tour was a stop in the colorful Taliesin Fellowship dining room where we were treated to mid-morning “tea.”

Here are some more photos from our visit.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Inspiring creative spaces: McConnell Arts Center

Since moving to Columbus, I've enjoyed several inspiring visits to the McConnell Arts Center.

The MAC is a contemporary, multidisciplinary facility presenting and promoting the performing, visual and digital arts.  The center offers a series of performances, exhibitions and classes, and cultural opportunities.

The 20,000 sq. foot building is an historic cultural facility transformed from the Worthington High School, built in 1916. It certainly promotes the legacy of the Worthington Arts Council to advocate, create, and nurture arts programming.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Inspiring creative spaces: Boise Art Museum

Another creative inspiration space for me is the Boise Art Museum.

BAM is embracing its 75th anniversary as an opportunity to enhance and ensure a rewarding experience for all visitors through exhibitions, collections, interpretive strategies, educational programming, a welcoming environment, and a commitment to being a vital part of the educational and cultural life of the community. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Inspiring creative spaces: Farragut's on Clark St. in Chicago

It may not rank up with the great museums of the world, but Farragut's helped inspired some creative connections one Saturday night.

Free pool table.

I learned a lot about my kids that evening.

Apart from the sign outside, Farragut's might be the last bar on Clark to knuckle under to the adverse affects of advanced-stage yuppie-itis. Two dollars won't get you a matchbook at most North side bars, but it'll get you a whole drink at Farragut's (well, as long as you order a $2 drink). Free pool, Beer Nuts and at most three varieties of those 25-cent bags of snicky snacks.

Read the reviews on Yelp*

Monday, April 16, 2012

Inspiring creative spaces: Fieldwork Chicago O'Hare

I recently conducted some research with Fieldwork at their O'Hare location.  

Wow, what a creative space.

Congratulations to Kate Albert, president of the office, for designing and furnishing such a great offices, rooms, and working areas.  It must be terrific for clients, participants, and staff.  And thanks, Crystal Martinez for inviting me in.

Take a virtual tour of the Fieldwork Chicago O'Hare facilities at

Friday, April 13, 2012

Inspiring creative spaces: Seat 2A on United Airlines

The last time I checked, I've accumulated enough miles on United Airlines to circle the earth more than 36 times. (And that's just one airline.)

But I have had some wonderful views and a few good glasses of wine in the front of the plane.

Here's a sampling from my photo library.

Columbus Airport

Approaching Philadelphia
Over Lake Michigan on approach to Chicago
Landing in Columbus in evening
On runway in Raleigh Durham
Leaving Boise in early morning
Italian countryside, with ocean view, approaching Rome

Landing on a rainy night in Berlin
Above the clouds over Germany
Over Colorado approaching Denver

Snow-capped foothills, landing in Boise

Business Class on Asiana Airlines

Asiana Airlines in Seoul

Landing in Hainan, China

Taking off from Hainan, China

suburb of Shanghai, China

Sunrise over Lake Michigan, Chicago