Brian Creath

Archive for the ‘Advertising’ Category

Cohesion is a Brand Agency.

In Advertising, Brand, Brand Relevance, Brand Strategy, Business strategy, Communications, Copywriting, Corporate Marketing, Creative, Marketing, Reputation Marketing on July 31, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Are price and availability more important than quality and affinity? Is loyalty, of any kind, just too much to expect? Is ‘big thinking’ simply not needed in an era of ‘big data’? If you believe the marketing hype that many are selling these days, the answer to these questions is ‘yes.’

Yes, technology is inexorably tied to our marketing future and our marketing present. But unless you’ve downloaded an automatic decision-making app, it’s still up to you, the human being, to say yes, (or no) to a given purchase. To like, or dislike a certain company, product or service. To believe, or not believe in the way an organization, political party or religion goes about its business.

The irony is that while technology and futurism dominate the marketing headlines, people still make the decisions. Based on logic. Based on emotion. Based on what they believe.

It is because humans make decisions that we believe in brands. More critical to you, we know how to build brands. Grow them. Manage them.

Because brands – true brands – are the secret key to marketing value. New customers. Higher margins. Successful businesses. And today, fewer and fewer agencies understand their value. Or their power.

Today, you can’t sit rigidly on marketing strategies that worked long ago – any more than you can constantly keep jumping to the next great marketing technology that may, or may not be successful. Brands help guide marketing direction and marketing work. What you should say, and to whom you should say it. Regardless of the technology. Regardless of the medium.

Because in marketing, nothing is so powerful as knowing who (and what) you really are – and what you can possibly be. This is power of a true brand. And we, are a true brand agency.

Cohesion.

The Marketing Shift: Rise of the Direction Company

In Advertising, Brand, Brand Strategy, Marketing, marketing strategy, Positioning on March 21, 2013 at 12:48 pm

StrategicDirection

Every day, more and more companies heed the prevailing notion that to successfully manage their own brands and marketing conversations with customers, they must build internal staff to do so. And to a great extent, they are right. Gone are the days when advertising agencies owned the media planning and media buying initiative. And as companies work hard to understand and react to the specific needs of customers and consumers, it makes sense that they build internal resources to manage these day-to-day conversations.

Are The Scales Tipping Too Far?

A decrease in traditional advertising, an increase in social media usage, new access to specific customer information and a continued stagnant economy, have all contributed to create a seminal marketing shift. Many companies, in a rush to meet customer desires and demands in an ‘always-on’ environment, have created marketing platforms of ‘give them what they want, regardless of what and who, we are.’ Of course, agencies have always been guilty of this and have contributed to the problem. Unfortuanately, the marketing efforts of many companies (and agencies, on the whole) are simply becoming crowdsourcing liasons.

The Balance of Marketing Power.

While technology and especially social media have given customers and consumers a new distribution tool to voice opinion, smart marketing and brands have always been about listening and adjusting. But these efforts also carried a directional point of view that while firm, was flexible to the marketplace.

Where Is The Point of View?

If every company simply crowdsources its brands and marketing efforts, one thing is certain: Everything will begin to look, feel and sound the same. Because people all want pretty much the same things. Good prices. Good products and services. Fair treatment. Honest businesses. But with no overarching point of view, there can be little differentiation. And in marketing, the brand and effort with a relevant difference tends to succeed. Here’s how this all works better: A company, brand and or marketing effort, begins with a point of view. A direction born of mission, vision, culture, positioning and a number of other elements. It’s then packaged into a strategy and direction that leaves some room for input by customers. (If that point of view is missing or weak, it needs to be developed.)

Enter The Direction Company.

What is needed today is not the agency of the past, nor a refurbished version. Not a company that simply builds and contracts services to mirror the perceived tactical needs of clients, but one that focuses on the front-end strategy needs of companies, and can work inside and alongside internal marketing staffs to create real value. What is needed is objective, third-party expertise in the strategy and early creative direction efforts of brand, marketing and communications development. What is needed, is something we call ‘The Direction Company.’

Cohesion: A Brand & Marketing Direction Company

You guessed it: Cohesion is a direction company. Because today, that’s what we have found is needed most in the marketing departments and efforts we touch. It’s also  the way we modeled our business from the start and the exclusive work we’ve been doing since 1999. To learn how we can add value to your efforts, contact Brian Creath, Managing Principal, at 314-276-5383, or at: bcreath@cohesioncompany.com.

Is That A Marketing Strategy and Plan, Or a List of Marketing Projects?

In Advertising, Brand, Brand Strategy, Marketing, marketing strategy, Small Business, Strategy on February 22, 2013 at 12:52 pm

confused-face

It’s a disturbing trend: Economic uncertainty has left many companies (small and large) with the belief that they can no longer forecast their marketing efforts and therefore, don’t need a marketing plan (of any sort). Perhaps even worse, many of these companies rationalize their behavior with the idea that marketing planning is somehow outdated or unnecessary, at all. Many of the latter point to technology as the ‘new marketing’ which, to their way of thinking, allows for precise targeting and decision analysis, that apparently, no longer requires humans to develop an umbrella strategy to hold all this together.

As is usually the case, the answer isn’t black and white. Yes, the business world is changing at a dizzying pace. And yes, technology has given businesses the incredible ability to more precisely understand, target and analyze marketing and sales information. However, too often today, this ability has become a crutch that gives organizations the rationale to dismiss the power of real marketing (and other) strategy.

And so, marketing strategy gives way to some form of ‘just keep doing what we’re doing.’ And marketing planning, sadly, becomes nothing more than a calendar and list of projects.

What doesn’t work (and never really has) is the rigid marketing plan of old. The plan that neither allowed for change, nor built in ways to leverage change’s inevitable existence.

What does work (and always has) is the marketing plan that outlines and harnesses a well-articulated strategy and position and then outlines efforts in three (3) important areas: 1) Priorities, 2) Tests, and 3) Contingencies. At Cohesion, we also utilize a messaging platform tool that works as the foundation to planning and tactical execution.

If you believe that ‘good-old fashioned’ marketing strategy and planning are dead, you may be right. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that strategy and planning are obsolete. Brand new methods, born from today’s environment and backed by years of understanding are very much alive and well. At least here, they are.

Perhaps you should embrace it before your competitors do?

To learn more about Cohesion and our unique approach to marketing planing and strategy, contact Brian Creath at bcreath@cohesioncompany.com, or at 314-276-5383.

“We Could Really Use A Video.” (Or) I Dare You To Find A Better Way To Tell A Story.

In Advertising, Brand, Business Development, Business strategy, Internal communications on February 19, 2013 at 2:34 am

Last year, we launched Big Shot which, in addition to being a full-service marketing and advertising firm, has a primary focus on providing businesses with short-format (2-3 minute) videos, for online marketing, sales, communications, training and recruiting. Since then, organizations have found a variety of different ways to integrate our video ‘product’ into their plans:

  • Single-location franchisees of larger retail brands are using short-format videos to differentiate their local franchises. We are working with three (3) separate owners to develop branded videos that blend the story of their unique benefits and features with their overall corporate story and brand.
  • Large, sales-driven companies are using short-format video to showcase dramatic sales stories. Two (2) separate organizations are developing an ongoing series of key customer stories — told by the customers and sales people who were actually involved — to demonstrate how their products benefit customers. These are being developed both to gain new customers and to train new sales people.
  • Large and mid-sized not-for-profit organizations are building short-format video ‘libraries’ as a way to describe and showcase benefits to staff, members and prospective members.
  • Multi-Location organizations with hourly employees are using short-format video to strengthen communications, training and operations standards. One major service organization is developing a series of training videos that will be distributed online to employees in its many regional operations facilities.

The applications for Big Shot’s short-format videos are endless. Using high-quality production and story development, viewers describe the exciting look and feel of Big Shot videos as something closer to a ‘national TV show’ than traditional advertising, or lengthy and boring business video.

Perhaps your company could tell a better story with Big Shot? We’d enjoy exploring possibilities with you. To learn more, contact Brian Creath, president of Big Shot at 314-276-5383, or at bcreath@bigshotagency.com.

To learn more about our sister brand and marketing strategy firm, Cohesion, visit http://cohesioncompany.com.

Big.Shot.Short.Format

The One, Big Idea That Can Drive Marketing Success.

In Advertising, Brand, Brand Strategy, Business strategy, Corporate Marketing, Positioning, Sales, Strategy on February 16, 2013 at 7:32 pm

Caution.Big.Idea

“Capital isn’t that important in business. Experience isn’t that important.
You can get both of these things. What is important is ideas.”

                                                              – Harvey S. Firestone

It is the irony of our times. I watch in amazement as business owners and managers honor the achievements of a Steve Jobs with rockstar status, yet in their own businesses, refuse to accept or practice the kind of thinking that allowed those achievements to take place. In marketing, the problem is rampant.

During our economic slump, many companies have come to think that big marketing ideas are only for those with big budgets. That somehow you cannot have one without the other and therefore, that big ideas are not practical for their business. (Interestingly, my experience is that reverse is often true: The bigger the idea, the less money you need to promote and market it.)

Yes, small thinking is all the rage today. With companies spending more time and effort on making their marketing efficient and economical than they do on making their message bold and different. It’s why so many marketing efforts sound the same. With messages that blend in with competitors, rather than stand apart from them.

If small thinking is what you’re looking for, please move along. You can find plenty of of people and firms that can help you think small. Chances are, you already have.

But if you’re looking to make a difference — to own a marketing position and a message that can drive your business and actually help you spend LESS on marketing than your competitors — then do, by all means, read on.

“Lack of money is no obstacle. Lack of ideas is an obstacle.”

                                                              – Ken Hakuta

The essence of the big marketing thought is simple: When you marry the perfect marketing strategy with the perfect creative expression people will, more often than not, buy more of what you’re selling.

Of course, most marketing firms aren’t focused on that task. Some don’t even recognize its importance. That’s where I come in.

And where you, the savvy, business person, can win.

Clients pay me to find and articulate that one, singular idea that can drive a marketing effort for years. Call it brand, call it positioning, call it strategy or creative direction. Regardless of its label, this unique strategy+creative marriage is what smart businesses really want — and desperately need.

But it takes a generalist — not a specialist — to hold the worldview needed to develop this work. And a unique combination of skill and experience to express that strategy in a succinct and interesting way: an expression that, if crafted properly, is both poignant and true. One that can boldly stand out…relevant to customers, employees, investors and more.

I’ve had the good fortune to both successfully position more than 100 businesses, brands, products and services and be the creative director and writer on nearly as many award-winning creative campaigns. It’s where these paths meet that riches are found. Where marketing inertia is created that can last for years.

Where hardened marketing disbelievers in sales, operations and finance turn to you and say, “I had no idea this is what marketing could do.”

Could your business use the one, big marketing idea that can drive its success? If so, I know just where you can find it.

That Fortune-Filled Moment When Strong Strategy Meets Great Creative.

In Advertising, Brand, Brand Relevance, Brand Strategy, Business strategy, Creative, Marketing, marketing strategy, Positioning, Sales, Strategy on February 13, 2013 at 1:46 pm

treasure chest

It’s the one reason the business of marketing and advertising still holds my interest after nearly 30 years and (especially if you’re a purchaser of marketing and advertising services) the reason it should hold yours: When you marry the perfect marketing strategy with the perfect creative expression people will, more often than not, buy more of what you’re selling.

That’s really what clients pay me to do: Find and articulate that one, singular idea that can drive a marketing effort for years. Oh sure, that simplicity can get a bit lost in processes, research, positioning, strategy and a whole lot more, but in the end, this unique strategy+creative marriage is what businesses really want — and desperately need. Because it’s almost impossible to find this inside a company. And sadly, it’s becoming just as difficult on the outside. Today, most marketing firms make their living as ‘specialists,’ working in the vacuums of their vertical world(s).

It takes a generalist to hold the worldview needed to develop ‘grand’ strategy. And a unique combination of skill and experience to express that strategy in a succinct and interesting way: an expression that, if crafted properly, is both poignant and true.

Over the years, I’ve found that most clients believe the development of strong strategy and the expression of great creative are mutually exclusive. That the process to develop strategy must be boring, exhaustive and tedious. That the ability to develop great creative can only come from bizarre, ungrounded minds. My experience has shown this to be the most superficial understanding of both. If you follow a boring, exhaustive and tedious process for strategy, that’s probably the kind of strategy you will develop. Accordingly, an untethered mind will tend to develop, well, bizarre, ungrounded creative.

I’ve had the good fortune to successfully position more than 100 businesses, brands, products and services. I’ve also had the good fortune of being the creative director and writer on dozens of award-winning creative campaigns. It’s where these paths meet that riches are found. Where marketing inertia is created that can last for years.

Where hardened sales, operations and financial disbelievers in marketing turn to you and say, “I had no idea this is what marketing could do.”

Could your business use a better marriage of marketing strategy and creative expression? If so, I know just where you can find it.

 

 

Finally. A Marketing & Advertising Firm Built For The Needs of Today’s Smaller Businesses.

In Advertising, Brand, Marketing, Small Business, Social Media on January 31, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Big.Shot.Lightbulb(If you’re part of a larger company, you’ll want to pass the note below along to a friend who owns, or works for a small, or mid-sized business. I also invite you to visit Cohesion, our brand and marketing consultancy that works primarily with Fortune 1000 companies. If you own, or work for a small or mid-sized business, PLEASE READ ON…)

During the past several years, smaller and mid-sized businesses have learned to live without a lot: As revenues have fallen, staffs have been cut. Expenses have been slashed. And arguably, marketing has taken the biggest toll of all.

The hard fact is that today, many businesses simply function without a true marketing director, strategy or plan. More and more, we see owners and managers simply purchasing one-off marketing services when they feel they must, or when the need for sales becomes critical. Often, without the expertise to make the best decision possible.

And when those efforts inevitably prove less than successful, marketing is blamed. But then again, marketing is never successful without a solid strategy and someone to manage and execute that strategy…

The Partner Built For You.

ENTER BIG SHOT AGENCY: Half Marketing Director; Half Agency. Thinkers and ‘do’ers’ that will work with you…and for you…to successfully develop a marketing effort that not only builds short-term sales, but more importantly, builds long-term business.

And if you’re thinking that you just can’t afford something like this, think again. The entire reason we developed this model is so that you CAN AFFORD our expertise. Value priced and reasonably structured, Big Shot Agency is built for your business.

Your growth, is our growth.

Send me an overview of Big Shot Agency.

“Send Me A Big Shot Agency Overview.”

If your smaller business (or the business of someone you know) could use stronger marketing direction and management without the expense of added staff, or increased budgets, simply email us here to receive an overview of Big Shot’s approach.

To learn more about Big Shot Agency, call Brian Creath at: 314-276-5383, or email him at: bcreath@bigshotagency.com.

Franchisees & Marketing Co-op Members: You Need Short-Format, Online Video

In Advertising, Brand, Communications, Marketing, Messaging, Video on October 23, 2012 at 3:53 pm

One of the more difficult marketing and advertising tasks for a local franchisee – or a single member of a larger marketing co-op – is:  “How can I delicately position our difference, while simultaneously ‘selling’ the greater corporate/organizational brand message?”

The answer has always been to develop an ‘architecture’ of brand messaging that supports a strong, overall brand position at the ‘top’ of the architecture, and still allows for subsidiary and ‘localized’ brand, marketing and promotional messaging at grassroots levels. (If you need assistance with this type of strategy and messaging work, Cohesion can help.)

What has changed, however, is the opportunity that short-format (2-3 minute) online, marketing video represents. Done properly, and crafted to meet the guidelines of a corporate brand, short-format brand and marketing videos can help individual franchisees sell their own, unique qualities — helping them differentiate on a local basis.

At Big Shot, we’ve developed an affordable, quality video product that works well for franchisees and co-op members. Whether you’re one of many businesses, or, in charge of developing/offering co-op marketing tools for your members, Big Shot videos can be of tremendous impact. For more information on Big Shot, visit our Facebook page, or call Brian Creath at 314-276-5383, to set a short meeting by phone, or in-person.

Convert Outdated Communications Efforts To Video.

In Advertising, Brand, Business strategy, Communications, Corporate Marketing, Internal communications, Sales, Sales Messaging, Video on October 1, 2012 at 5:36 pm

stock-footage-shallow-dof-of-a-telegraph-sending-morse-code

Let’s face it: If yours is like most larger organizations, there’s a good chance you’ve put a number of communications tools on auto pilot during the last few years. From newsletters to case studies, from sales materials to recruiting efforts, we continue to watch companies waste precious resources on communications tools that are not only outdated — they’re expensive, boring and frankly, customers and employees aren’t using (or reading) them.

Enter Big Shot Agency: a firm dedicated to the development and management of short-format (2-3 minute) videos for businesses large and small. Read more here: Big Shot Develops Video Stories Platform.

Starting with a simple audit of your current management, marketing and communications objectives and tools, Big Shot (in conjunction with our sister brand & marketing consultancy, Cohesion) can develop a plan and approach to migrate and evolve outdated communications efforts and tools to online video, over time. Tools that people will enjoy…and better yet, understand and use.

Ready to modernize your communications approach? Contact Brian Creath at Big Shot at 314-276-5383, today.

Marketing Services: Should You Build or Buy?

In Advertising, Brand, Brand Strategy, Communications, Corporate Marketing, Market research, Marketing, Strategy on March 8, 2012 at 1:10 am

decision1

While I was courting the business of a Fortune 500 company last year, the company’s CMO turned to me and said, “You know, I can hire people to do everything but think.”

The company’s marketing staff – good, smart people, all – had become institutionalized. They were having a difficult time thinking outside of their own politics, and an even tougher time translating positioning and real benefits to those outside their own walls.

Thankfully, after the CMO overturned a longstanding policy of not hiring outside strategists, we were hired.

This illustrates a debate companies have been having for years: Should your company build marketing services internally or outsource them? Today, as the economy forces companies to more carefully scrutinize budgets, more and more companies have made the decision to take marketing matters into their own hands.

That’s certainly a logical option. Especially for those efforts that directly tie to the day-to-day operational and financial workings of the business. But there is another issue. Value. Does what you buy (internally or externally) provide you with the best possible chance for marketing success?

Twenty-five years of careful study have proved one point: With very few exceptions, when a solid marketing department supplements its efforts with a quality outside firm providing strong counsel, strategy and creative, the results will be more successful than that of an internal marketing department working alone. (And yes, I have been on both sides of the table.)

There are a number of reasons this truth holds. Among them:

  1. Objectivity – an outside firm can ‘speak the truth’ easier than someone on the inside, often solving problems that others may not see
  2. Talent – pure strategists and pure creatives are more often found on the outside of corporations
  3. Focus – because outside firms usually work in a specific role, the work is often more focused than that of a marketing department wearing many hats
  4. Perspective – outside firms work with other clients; they tend to have a broader world view and can utilize the experience of similar situations and efforts
  5. Collaboration – in situations where an internal department demands and champions great strategy and creative, and an outside firm develops and produces it, marketing success will follow (if not, you’ve got the wrong firm – but that’s another post…).

Perhaps the better question today is not “to build or buy,” but rather: Given your budget, how can you structure your marketing functions to give you the best possible opportunity for success?

Unlike any other time in the last 50 years, today’s economic environment offers companies a chance to wipe the marketing slate clean and start over. To customize functions and efforts based on real opportunity and need, vs. what has been done in the past. For most companies, the right answer isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition; but rather, a blended approach: of quality and affordability, of strategy and execution, of internal staff and external resources.

To those looking for a firm, find one that can provide continuity between strategy and execution. This will allow internal staff to partner with the firm at all levels, utilizing services as budget and need allow. This continuity will also provide insurance that the firm won’t build efforts in a vacuum — that each will be cohesively and consistently tied. Today, it’s more important than ever that you find a firm that will work with you at a business level, and not just a tactical or creative level. If you can, work with principals to ensure you will be working with the same people tomorrow.

(By the way, if you’re looking for a firm, I know a good one.)

While I’m working on my next post, I hope you’ll read about how Cohesion helps organizations build stronger messaging to increase consistency, lower cost and drive growth, here.