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Archive for January, 2007

The Color of Vanilla

January 31st, 2007 by Chief Nut

Part 4 of a series on “Defining Online Branding“, by Mihaela Lica, talks about “Color Psychology”.  This is powerful stuff and Mihaela makes some very good points about the impact of color.  HOWEVER, if you read this article as a layman and are seriously in the process of reconsidering the development of your brand, you’re likely going to:

  • Create a light colored background
  • Settle for an airy layout
  • Use a primarily blue logo (not too dark) … Unless you’re in the hospitality or food industry where you’d go with green
  • Avoid oranges and reds altogether

This strategy would lead to a complete lack of differentiation.  The choice of colors in the development of brand is as wide and varied as the companies themselves and the people running them.  IN FACT, I would be so bold as to say that creatively breaking the mold is more powerful than any strategy that dilutes impact or the strength of a powerful emotional connection.

So, how would I modify these suggestions?  Instead of

Green, in its various shades, is perfect
for the hospitality industry, food industry (especially for BIO
products) cosmetic (if we consider Yves Rocher and Garnier) and ecology.”

I’d say something like;

Cool hues of green can be used effectively to support calming emotional connections such as health, innocence, simplicity, a lack of chaos and for companies wanting to create a feeling of strong customer service.  As the green becomes more saturated, it would increase in energy and would lend itself to more energetic emotional connections such as vigor, youthfulness, playful activity and for companies wanting to emphasize the service delivery experience … not so much soothing customer service.

Notice the complete lack of mentioning any particular industry!  It is not only possible for a company to go WILDLY astray (from the norm in their industry) in the development of corporate brand, I would suggest that it’s the only way to clearly differentiate yourself from the pack.  It would be perfectly sound for a hospitality company to create an energetic, orangy-red color palette in development of a brand that connects with a “you’ll have fun when you work with us” emotion.

Mihaela soundly informs us that “color is probably one of the most powerful psychological tools” we have.  I suggest using it to steer your brand toward a powerful emotional connection, but don’t knee-jerk ANY brand element just because that’s the norm in your industry!

Need an example? 
Did you ever hear of Aflac before the duck?  Who would have ever suggested portraying a conservative insurance service in such a wacky, playful manner.  The talking duck works because it’s not the norm.

What about red, green and purple computers?  Apple was bold enough to create them when the norm for every other computer manufacturer on the planet was grey and black.  BRAVO Apple!

Last example … Creating our own heavily textured, black background, with unique torn-paper navigation is probably the best brand move we’ve ever made … emphasizing bold, creative “trickster-like” emotional connections.  We get more comments about it (some hate it … most love it) than any of the hundreds of sites we’ve created in 15 years.  I truly believe that with a vanilla design, we would not have experienced the 500%+ increase in revenues that we saw this past year! 

NO MORE VANILLA!  Gimme the pistachio, rocky-road, double fudge with ALL the fixin’s!!!

The “Brand” of an Eagle Scout

January 28th, 2007 by Chief Nut

I was discussing a legal issue with my attorney a few days ago and made the comment that “I just want to ‘do the right thing’” and “would like it if other people had the same standard.” His reply was a real wake up call … he asked, with extreme sarcasm, “would you like a merit badge?” At first I was offended but then it dawned on me that all he meant was the real world is FULL of people who don’t “do the right thing” and to expect otherwise is somewhat naive (sadly).

Take this one discussion and compare it to the values I’m trying to instill in both my boys (12 and 14 years old) AS WELL AS my employees who present my company to the world on a daily basis. It is INDEED a difficult task to always “do the right thing” in business … but without that standard, what happens to the value of your brand?

Jim Collins writes about the “The Value of an Eagle Scout” and comments about the virtues and high standards taught to young boys in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Only a VERY small percent ever achieve the highest rank of Eagle Scout (1-4%) — a significant achievement representing years of dedication, committment, community service, learning and pride. Ask anyone familiar with the BSA and they’ll tell you that the brand of the Eagle Scout is indeed one of distinction. Both my boys are involved in the Scouts (I’m the local Committee Chairman) and I will indeed encourage them to try and acheive this highest rank.

Question:
Is your corporate brand worthy of being considered the equivalent of an Eagle Scout?

You’re NOT an Island!

January 28th, 2007 by Chief Nut

There are subtle differences in how people take in and process business information. Some people hoard it like it’s a priceless stash of gold. Some people reflect it back to the rest of the world (a la blogging). But, there are a special few who recognize that sharing specific information with specific people effectively sets up a powerful system of relationship building.

Here’s the idea:
If you’re already a serious business person (I’ll assume you are if you’re reading this), then it’s also likely that you spend quite a bit of time staying on top of your game; researching, learning, studying your craft, thinking about new and innovative ways to improve your processes, products & services, etc. etc. In all this time, do you also think about who else might benefit from having that information … including your competitors? If not, make that shift.

Several things will happen:
… You’ll be developing a relationship built on mutual respect and comradery
… You’ll be seen as a synergist instead of one jockeying for competitive position
… You’ll find that the idea is reciprocated ten fold!

Take it up a notch: Give people specific ideas of the kinds of information you’d like to receive. I commonly tell people to send me URLs and images of the “top 1%” or the “bottom 1%” of website designs and logos they encounter. Let me tell you, I’ve had some doooozies sent my way because of this one simple request. This request is simple enough that anyone can do it, and it’s an idea that may cross their mind A LOT.

Similarly, Tim Sanders talks about how Mike Rawlings, CEO of Pizza Hut, will give up a lunch hour to call two of his customers just to find out their view of his company and services AND to ask them about their “life situation”. This is a VERY inspirational story and worthy of watching the video. The point is that Mike gets the importance of relationship building and then takes it to a whole new level.

Tim describes in the post preceeding the one cited above how he uses frequent travel hours (flights, cab rides, hotel lobbies, etc.) to connect with total strangers. Tim, indeed, has The Likeability Factor.

Team Kool-Aid?

January 27th, 2007 by Chief Nut

The name “Marlboro” won’t be seen in Fomula 1 racing this year. At least not the name. The Ferrari F1 team, however, will still use the other strong visual elements of the Marlboro brand. The Philip Morris company (owners of the Marlboro brand) will continue this policy into the future unless there are attempts to legislate against such “subliminal branding.”

OK … here comes a heated riff!

This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever and demonstrates that government legislative bodies have NO CLUE how brands work. Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. Cigarette smoking and kids don’t mix and we should ALL teach our children about the dangers of that bad habit. That’s not my point. The legislators’ idea, presumably, is that if people don’t see the name (e.g. kids), they won’t be swayed by exposure to the other core brand elements. And, more specifically, it’s a stand on morally high ground to protect our children from the evils of cigarette smoking.

I suggest that the removal of the Marlboro name may actually enhance the strength of the brand, not weaken it. Specifically, the removal of the name is not “subliminal” in ANY WAY. Is it coincidental that you no longer see the Target name in TV advertising? Let’s not forget the obvious removal of the Nike name on the outside of their retail outlets. In each of these cases, the strength of the brand equity built over time is not only strong enough to remove one of the key elements, the process of removing the name from the presentation may actually reinforce the recognition and make the viewer feel “smart.”

In this light, OF COURSE the folks at Marlboro are willing to take this tact. My bet is that they’re sitting around their offices snickering at the Washington bureaucrats for forcing them to do something that they were going to do anyway. They get to be seen as the compliant, dutiful, concerned company all while following a sound brand strategy.

This, of course, holds true until they’re forced to stop ALL advertising. In this case, Altria (the parent company of Philip Morris and Marlboro) would need to effectively swap out Marlboro with one of their other brands. Maybe have the Kool-Aid pitcher guy prancing around the pit stop giving the drivers high fives as they screach to a halt. OOHHH YEAAAHHHH!

Ah-Ha!

January 24th, 2007 by Chief Nut

It’s a quarter to one IN THE A.M. and I just got home from work. Do I relish having to get up in just a few hours to head on back to the grind? Nope. So WHY in the HECK am I up blogging at this early hour?!?! Let me explain…

I just completed a marathon session of audio recording with Content Strategist Allen Voivod of Epiphanies, Inc. We’re co-authoring a series of products to assist business owners in a number of aspects of their marketing. Cooooool. What’s amazing to me … in this exact moment … is how inspired and UN-tired I am right now. Creating a new and exciting product is totally energizing!

This is what Allen and his business partner (and lovely wife) teach to all of their clients. How to create “bold insight and joy-filled action” in your business! They call it “A-Ha-ing” yourself.

If this is how a business owner can feel after a 17 hour day, then COUNT ME IN EVERY DAY. Well, not for the 17 hour part. You know what I mean! Have you A-Ha’d yourself lately??

Big Game Time Shifting

January 21st, 2007 by Chief Nut

Taking back large portions of your life by recording long television programs (called time shifting) is a great idea. Tim Sanders gives us his strategy for using Tivo to record football games so he catches up to the real-time event somewhere in the fourth quarter. This way he sees the entire game, catches the exciting ending at the same time as everyone else and completely skips all of the commercials.

There’s only one problem with that plan. What if you’re like me and you LIKE to watch the commercials? OK, maybe not ALL of them … and certainly not the same ones over and over and over and over (like during football games). But, I do like to check in on advertising strategies, rate the creativity, score the impact of the message, judge the editing … generally keep tabs on the world of advertising. Watching TV commercials, for me, is like fishing. It’s A LOT of boring mediocrity punctuated with just a few choice ads that make it all worth while. Believe me, I DO understand that I’m a little freaky in this regard (and if you just made a mental crack about the word “little”, you can contact my wife to join the club … she’s the president!) Sigh.

A Hit On Spam

January 20th, 2007 by Chief Nut

Hoooorah!  Finally a jury conviction of a phisher under the CAN-SPAM Act established four years ago (yes, it’s been that long).  Depending on the outcome of the June 11th sentencing of Jeffrey Goodin, maybe the legal system will been seen, for the first time, as having some teeth.  Mr. Goodin may be facing up to 101 years in prison!  Although we’re still a long way off from stemming the flood of spam, at least it’s a step in the right direction.

No Spinning Please

January 19th, 2007 by Chief Nut

I’ve heard marketers talk about how they’re going to “spin” a campaign. There’s a problem with that line of thinking. It’s short-term and ineffective. Spinning a campaign is NOT likely going to change a company’s brand in any significant way. Here’s Laura Reis’ riff on a recent WalMart attempt at doing just that. A brand, you see, (using Michael Eisner’s words) is “enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures.”

branding dog sledIt’s like a pack of wild dogs pulling a sled. If they’re all going in different directions, you’ll get nowhere fast … and adding another dog (with a strong spin) won’t change things. If you get all the dogs pointing in the wrong direction, again, adding another dog won’t likely change the situation. The only way to steer brand is to put in the time, energy and PLANNING to get the dogs to run in the direction you want. The problem with both brands and dogs is they’re both kinda fickle and unpredictable.

Exercise Your Brain

January 17th, 2007 by Chief Nut

In our freebie marketing report Go Nuts in 2007 we talk about taking your brand and marketing to a whole new level (assuming you want your business to do better in 2007 than it did in 2006). A more fundamental question crossed my mind this past weekend while waiting for a plane at LaGuardia. The question is not “do you WANT to do better in 2007?” … more to the point, it’s “are you mentally READY to do better in 2007?” Some business owners want to do better simply to make more money (nothing wrong with that), however, this is without consideration to what state of mind will best allow them to get there.

Here’s what happened at the airport: We were delayed due to weather and were stranded for over four hours. My friend pulled out a Soduko puzzle to while away the time. I commented that I had tried them and didn’t really find them enjoyable. He insisted that I try another one but gave me a difficult one. I was immediately stumped and had to be walked through some of the more advanced logic. OK, I got hooked. With extra time, we started talking about these types of mental exercises and had a lengthy discussion of how they change your overall outlook AND mental health.

Shankar Vedantam writes in the Washington Post that a new study conducted by JAMA, again, supports the long standing knowledge that exercising your brain decreases the likelihood that you’ll suffer from brain capacity decline such as Alzheimers. Good news, indeed!

In an unrelated blog post, Seth Godin made a casual observation of the behavior of several people and made the comment that “Adults are the new kids“. In one case, he observed a fifty year old man doing card tricks for a store clerk. My suspicion is that this gentleman has a much more youthful outlook on life, has a lower stress level and will live longer than the average CEO.

The point? To be at the top of your business game, be sure to exercise. Not just your body, but your mind AND your attitude! PICK A CARD!

I’m Sorry, Did You Say Something?

January 14th, 2007 by Chief Nut

branding eye tracking studyAdvertising Lab points us to a press release from London based BunnyFoot … a renowned eye-tracking analysis firm. Apparently, they’re able to demonstrate that advertisements placed inside video games don’t perform as well as expected. In the first example photo, it’s conclusive that teenage boys prefer to look at Lara Croft’s butt rather than ad placements. DUH!

Don’t get me wrong, I think that there’s HUGE value in this type of study. I would even go so far as to say I’d be interested in purchasing the Tobii Eyetracking System to perform this type of analysis in-house. That being said, however, I think it should also be noted that good decision making doesn’t need to be this complex.

It’s ALL about focus.
Consider your target audience’s focus on their needs … even superficial needs. When they’re at work, they need to write emails and create reports and make widgets. They don’t need to look at banner ads in an email message or on a web page. When they need to watch a television show (this is one of those superficial ones), they don’t need to hear an Australian guy pitch a car wax. When they do need to buy a car wax, they’re focused on that ONE specific task and need little else, in that moment.

Viral marketing, permission marketing, social networking, blogging, forums, etc. are all exploding right now. Why? Because these, for the most part, aren’t interuptive advertising. The consumer is allowed to focus on a buying decision in a way that gives them more control. The product or service isn’t unexpectedly thrown in their face. These new non-intrusive venues are focused not on the product itself as much as they focus on the consumer … and their needs.

Am I suggesting that companies abandon all advertising? Heck no. Just dont’ expect the same return on investment as some of these other, less “traditional” strategies. More to the point; regardless of the medium you choose for your advertising, focus the message on consumer need and emotion, NOT on your product or service.