Caveat emptor, or in this case let the voter beware.

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

In 2006, the Arizona voters approved a tax on tobacco to provide funding for early childhood health and development, as well as parenting programs for Arizona families.  This initiative is called First Things First. 

It’s now 2010 and the legislature has put Proposition 302 on the ballot to terminate this voter approved program and services to sweep existing and future funds into the state’s general fund. According to the Arizona Republic, the Legislature claims the money is needed to help balance the state budget. “If approved, Prop 302 would send $345 million to the general fund to help draw down the current $825 million deficit. The money would not have to be spent on the types of health and welfare programs that First Things First supports; however, the ongoing collections from the tobacco tax would be directed into child health and social-service programs that the Legislature would oversee.”

What does this ad support, when a yes vote on Prop 302, dismantles the early childhood initiative First Things First?

Clearly, a “Yes” vote for Proposition 302 will dismantle First Things First and eliminate funding for early childhood health and development programs. Which makes the following campaign slogan very misleading. Rather deceptive, don’t you think?

The slogan is so similar to the initiative First Things First even supporters of the original initiative are confused, not to mention that sweeping $345 million into the general fund hardly supports early childhood health and development.


As the elections approach voters should beware of deceptive messaging practices.
Get informed, get out to vote.

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How to launch a new brand. First rally your supporters.

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Let’s just say that your spouse comes home one afternoon with some news. That day he quit his job in order to embark on a new path.  The next day he is leaving on an educational sabbatical to eat, pray, love and become a new person. This might take you a bit off-guard, not to mention the kids and the grandparents. Wouldn’t it have made a bit more sense if there had been some pre-planning and discussion?

The inspiration to re-evaluate a company’s position in the market or to launch a new product comes from deep within that company, but the process to create a new brand identity should involve staff on many levels. A brand is the rally cry of an organization, so start by rallying the most trusted ambassadors. 

A few months back, I had the pleasure to hear Alan Mulally speak about his efforts to renew Ford with the rally cry “One Ford…One Team…One Plan.”  He said, when he first arrived in the parking lot, he thought he might be at the wrong place. There was not a Ford in sight. Well, he has developed his ambassadors and after a few years, the parking lot represents the company and Ford is on a roll. 

What are the critical success factors for launching a new brand identity? Inspiration from within the company; support of trusted ambassadors inside and outside the company; a relevant product or service offering; great design – product, packaging, communications, and delivery; and communication that engages the consumer.

A big public launch is marvelous, but make sure the people close to the idea are in on the secret first.

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What is Marketing?

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

I had a client ask me that question the other day and it got me thinking that there are probably a lot of people in business that really do not understand the depth of marketing.  This particular client described marketing as an occasional ad and his sponsorship presence. Hmmm. . . of course marketing includes advertising and sponsorships, but what about. . .
. . . the customer service department?
. . . the billing department?
. . . the purchase experience off and online?
. . . the product design?
. . . packaging?
. . . product delivery?
. . . the web site?
. . . the facebook page?
. . . the product performance?
. . . the twitter account?
. . . communications after the sale?
. . . the competition?
. . . what people are saying off and online?
. . . how the company treats its employees?
. . . the company’s personality?
. . . the physical office or store?

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Break out of your bubble

Friday, August 20th, 2010

Ever wonder why the Renaissance, was well… a renaissance? 

I think two things shaped this era. The first being financial support of painters, sculptors, scientists, poets, philosophers and architects by powerful families like the Medici.  Leonardo da Vinci lived the last three years of his life at Chateau Clois Luce in Amboise, France at the invitation of King Francis I.  Leonardo lived in an elegant and inspiring environment without worry of expense. The King found great value in supporting his pure genius. The King also liked the perk of using a secret passageway from his castle to visit Leonardo as he found great inspiration just listening to him talk and share ideas.LdV logo_blason

The second was the collaboration between artists, philosophers and scientists, a sort of intellectual cross-pollination, of the time.  Fascinated by the ideals of ancient Greece, Cosimo Medici had the works of Plato translated and formed the Platonic Academy of Florence. This informal group engaged in lively philosophic discussions and influenced the creativity of the age.

Today, we work in our industries, our bubbles, and within our cultures with little cross-pollination. It is important to know your business, but it is also important to understand the ideas and trends across the diversity of cultures and industries.

One great resource for this kind of collaboration is TED. Not a person, but a conference started in 1984, which annually attracts the elite in technology, entertainment and academia.  According to a recent article in Fast Company, the founder Richard Saul Wurman said, “I just wanted to throw the world’s best dinner party.”  The real story though is what TED has become. Today it’s an online academy of thought provoking ideas. It’s place where anyone can participate in the sharing of ideas by watching and absorbing one or many of over 700 presentations.

Break out of your bubble. Start watching. Start sharing. Start supporting.

Start a new renaissance.

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Off the grid.

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Today is my first day back on the grid after being unplugged for most of July. The experience is like getting a massage to work out the kinks and toxins, only better. A massage only lasts 90 minutes and the benefits, at best, a day or so.

Our digital world lets us always be connected, but all that information all the time can be paralyzing. Leave it behind, lose the stress of connection and simplify as a way to cleanse the mind and spirit. Suddenly you can stop to smell the roses. Take time to ponder a challenge. Revel in the real connections between people, places and cultures.

Maybe the world is smaller, but it is not homogeneous. It is immense in its diversity and character; misfortune and opportunity. If it is your job to innovate, it should also be your job to be a student of the world. Get off the grid and mingle. You might discover a parade of Vespas and convertibles, sporting the Spanish flag, wildly celebrating the World Cup win by Spain, in France. Really.

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Walk in another’s shoes.

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Today, I was reading a review in The Wall Street Journal of the new book Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, the 36-year old founder and chief executive of Zappos.  As the title indicates,he attributes some of the success of  Zappos on the company’s approach to customer service, or “delivering happiness.”  I’d like to read more.

One of the best things to come out of social media is teaching companies the impact customer service has on a brand.  Social media has made our transactions transparent.  Those companies that embrace social media and customer complaints, as well as compliments, are finding that honesty truly does build brand equity.  Even consumers know that not everything is perfect all of the time.

So take a walk in your customers’ shoes, who knows, after ten years, you might be able to sell your company for $1.2 billion, just like Mr. Hsieh.


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Monkey see, monkey do. How the consumer experience drives brand equity.

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

In the early 1990s, while studying the brain activity of monkeys, neuroscientists discovered specific neurons would fire in a part of the brain’s frontal lobe with specific activities.  What they also found was the same neurons fired in the monkey who was just watching the action.  Mirror neurons let the observer experience at least part of the action taking place. 

More recently in Daniel Goleman’s book Social Intelligence he says our brain is designed to make connections. If someone is angry with us, we have a similar reaction.  If someone smiles at us, we become happier.  “The fact that we can trigger any emotion at all in someone else–or they in us–testifies to the powerful mechanism by which one person’s feelings spread to another.”

Human actions and emotions register in others and in a profound way provide the power to change those that observe.  How companies look, act and communicate with customers, then, has a great effect on their brand equity. An empathetic voice, a smiling face, and confident actions will go a long way in building trust.

This research reminds me how important it is in marketing to paint a picture and tell a story to customers – to make an emotional connection.   And how easy a positive connection could be lost with a negative interaction.

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How to Say “Good Luck” in Japanese?

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Culture has a great influence on how people communicate and process information. The Japanese culture is clearly steeped in tea. So how much of a challenge has it been to sell coffee in this country? In the 1970s Nestlé first asked this question. They hired Dr. Clotaire Rapaille, a market researcher and psychologist to help them determine the answer. What Dr. Rapaille found was that the Japanese had no connection or “imprint” to coffee. Without personal or cultural reference to the product, any attempts by Nestlé to sell to adults would likely fail.

So, Nestlé began by introducing coffee flavors in candy for children, to create an “imprint” so later in life these individuals would have a positive emotional response to the idea of coffee. In 1970, coffee sales in Japan were nearly non-existent; today Japan is the world’s third largest importer of coffee.

KitKat Green Tea2Speaking of culture, candy and Nestlé, the BBC reported the popularity of the KitKat bar among Japanese college students at exam time. Was it the green tea or cherry blossom flavor that boosted sales? Not entirely. It seems that the name KitKat is close to a Japanese expression “kitto katsu”  meaning “I hope you will win” and used by students to wish each other luck before finals. 

KitKat bars not only taste good, but are a good luck charm. What a perfect blend of culture, communication, and candy! Delicious.

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Take a hike, find your creative presence.

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

Where do fresh insights come from?  Why is it that you get your best ideas in the shower or outside the normal work environment?  New or novel stimulus is what scientists say wake up your system. Why? Apparently your brain always looks for shortcuts to process information, or in other words categorizes information into the familiar.  The best way to wake up your imagination then is to find the unfamiliar and challenge the frontal cortex.

When jazz musicians are engaged in improvisation, a large region of this part of the brain involved in monitoring one’s performance is shut down, while a small region involved in organizing self-initiated thoughts and behaviors is highly activated. Researchers believe that this is likely to be a key indicator of a brain that is engaged in highly creative thought.

The same is true when you pretend you are a child.  Psychologists Darya Zabelina and Michael Robinson of North Dakota State University told two groups of undergraduates to “Imagine school is canceled, and you have the entire day to yourself.  What would you do? Where would you go? Who would you see?” The group that was also told to also “Imagine you are 7 years old.” scored much higher on creativity tests.

Phoenix Mountain Preserve Spring 2010

Phoenix Mountain Preserve Spring 2010

According to Gregory Berns, neuroscientist and author of Iconoclast just putting yourself in a new situation can make you see things differently and jump-start your creativity.  So next time you feel stifled, do something you’ve never done before, or simply take a hike. That’s what got me thinking about this post.

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Got a Light?

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Advertising has taken many shapes and forms over the years and is constantly changing due to technology and culture. Who would have imagined when Al Gore “invented” the Internet that the interface would become a platform for advertising and social media?

One unique medium to fall victim to both technology and culture in the 20th century has been the matchbook – wonderful miniaturmatchbooke pieces of advertising, art and memories. They were first commercially produced in the 1890s in the United States. But it wasn’t until the 1940s that they began to reach commercial success as an advertising medium. Matchbooks served as reminders of products, restaurants and destinations for nearly five decades.
Smoking was cool back then, too. Just watch the popular TV show Mad Men for five minutes.

But in 1968 the first anti-smoking campaign ran in the U.S. Within three decades, the number of smokers was reduced by 50%. This was a true cultural shift.  Today, smoking is even banned from restaurants and bars. To make it even more difficult for the little matchbook, technology changed. Disposable lighters flooded the market and the matches became archaic. 

Now an art form for collectors, the matchbook holds a unique place in history. Will Facebook one day stand by its side? You can count on change as the only constant in marketing, and in life.

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