Brian Creath

Archive for the ‘Brand Relevance’ 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.

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Beyond Survival: Brand As Competitive Edge In Today’s Business Environment

In Brand, Brand Relevance, Brand Strategy, Business strategy, Corporate Marketing, Internal communications, Marketing, marketing strategy, Positioning on February 26, 2013 at 11:45 am

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Investing in a strong brand is one of the single most important efforts that an enterprise can undertake to ensure continued relevance and growth in a rapidly changing market. Unfortunately, many companies have become so concentrated on developing efforts that promote ‘the next sale,’ that they have neglected investing in the foundation of their brand direction.

Without a brand umbrella to help rationalize margins, instill customer loyalty, bolster employee morale and drive awareness, every sale becomes a little more difficult and disproportionately more expensive.

To download the entire whitepaper, simply click here.

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

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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.

 

 

A Novel Idea: Say Something Worth Saying

In Brand, Brand Relevance, Brand Strategy, Communications, Corporate Marketing, Marketing, Sales, Sales Messaging, Strategy on March 14, 2012 at 9:46 pm

In ways even he could not have imagined, Marshall McLuan‘s 1960’s theory has come to pass: The Medium is the Message.

Proof is all around: People mindlessly flip through hundreds of cable channels, watching, well…nothing really…simply because they have the technology. Others, adorned with head and ear attachments, oblivious to fellow shoppers and commuters, converse about trivial matters, simply because, yes…they can. Smart phones at the ready, people of all ages text millions of introspective messages such as: where u at? (Hopefully, swerving to miss the car in front of them.)

Because we can, we do. We have been empowered by the technology afforded us, and dammit, we’re going to use it. Whether we need to or not.

Of course, the appetite for new technology will only increase. But while the explosion of communication mediums has certainly democratized control of ‘the message’ (more people have the ability to say more things to more people than ever before), it’s had a severely negative impact on the quality of the message itself.

Is it really necessary to ‘Tweet‘ about what one has had for breakfast?

Here’s the point: The biggest, real opportunity for marketers today is not about embracing the next technology, but about better using the ones we have. And to do this properly, we have to look beyond the medium, and look to the intrinsic power of the message. The age-old, technology-agnostic craft of saying something worth saying. Something of value. Something of meaning.

God knows, you’ll stand out.

Woody Allen once said, ‘80% of success is just showing up.’ From a communications standpoint, we’ve certainly embraced this, haven’t we? We’re connected. We’ve got gadgets and toys that would frighten Alexander Graham Bell and Mr. Watson. In the time it took to read this post, you’ve already received 10 emails, three texts and 25 Tweets.

Problem is, how many of them are really worth reading? For the astute marketer, the answer is clear: Say something really worth saying. Relevance, my fellow marketer, will get you everywhere.

While I’m working on my next post, I hope you’ll read about how Cohesion helps organizations build stronger brands and marketing efforts, here.

Quick, What’s Your Message?

In Advertising, Brand, Brand Relevance, Brand Strategy, Business Development, Business strategy, Communications, Marketing, Messaging, Positioning on March 3, 2012 at 12:29 pm

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“We’re hoping the economy turns around sometime this year so we can work on crafting our message,” an anonymous VP of marketing said to me last week. That’s funny. The reason I contacted this company in the first place was because the lead salesperson (a good friend) told me what he — and the rest of the sales staff — need right now is, “the right story; the right message to tell clients and prospects.”

Marketing has been quick to respond to trimming fat from budgets. But in many cases, these same cuts are now beginning to tear into the meat and bone of an organization’s core message — of its brand and reputation. My salesperson friend says that in lieu of a defined message, he and his staff have been left to create their own. “I think it will be hard to unwind some of the ‘survival mode’ sales tactics we’ve developed by the seat of our pants during the past few months,” he says. “We really need to find and stick with a core message we can all live with — right now.”

We’ve run into this situation numerous time since the start of the recession: Well-intentioned companies that needed to cut marketing budgets, cut them across the board, rather than prioritizing. Strategic planning and core messaging needs vital to the existence of the company were often cut to save a few short-term tactics that management hoped would produce short-term sales. The result: Brands have been driven backwards, and short-term sales haven’t been all that great.

By the way, what’s your message? Has it been left to wither during the past few months? Is it consistent and cohesive at every management, marketing and sales level of your organization? Does it need to be re-crafted to fit a new and changing direction? Regardless of the money you intend to spend on marketing — now and into the future — you will still need the right message. In fact, the fewer dollars you spend, the better and more consistent your message needs to be.

Coincidentally, if you’re looking for a firm that can help you craft and platform that message, I do 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.

How to Never Get Ahead in Marketing. (Or) Always Let Tactics Drive Your Strategy.

In Brand, Brand Relevance, Brand Strategy, Business strategy, Corporate Marketing, Marketing, Strategy on February 20, 2012 at 4:28 pm

“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory.”
-Sun Tzu

[Please Note: This post is not intended as a strategy vs. tactics treatise, but rather, as a discussion starter to point out the real lack of (and real need for) strategic thinking in today’s marketing efforts.]

For some, marketing has always been viewed through a tactical lens. You know the type: the person who mistakes a logo for a brand, or a website for a marketing program. And make no mistake, tactics are critical and necessary to every marketing effort. But because they are tangible, many have confused their necessity with being the ONLY focus of marketing. Sadly, strategy — the thinking that directs a tactic — is increasingly being overlooked, or completely neglected.

Imagine if buildings were built without blueprints — if wars were fought without plans. Lewis Carroll said, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”

Social media (and the bold, consumer voice that has arisen from its power) have many marketers now convinced that they cannot guide a brand, or their marketing efforts, but instead, must simply monitor the experiences of customers. And to successfully monitor and react to these experiences, these marketers have focused their resources on the tactics that will enable these efforts. Many times, regardless of what carefully planned core missions, or operations models say they can, or should do.

Should a company listen to its customers and steer accordingly? Of course. Should it simply become what a customer desires, with no strategic input regarding what it can, or should be? Of course, not. This one-sided view is as bad (and wrong) as the one-sided ‘company push’ advertising strategies that customers are rebelling against in the first place.

Strategy is (or should be) the thing that links the internal wants and desires of a company (brand) to the wants and needs of external audiences (partners, suppliers and customers). Developed properly, it’s a flexible bridge that anchors a few core principles and then allows that business and people change — sometimes quickly, sometimes over time. Tactics, are the tools developed from this strategic platform and guided by its direction. Important and critical, but tools, nontheless.

If you don’t have this strategy in place, you run the risk of never differentiating, never knowing what to do next, and yes, never truly getting ahead.

(By the way, if your organization is looking for stronger business, brand and marketing strategy, I know a firm that can help.)

While I’m working on my next post, I hope you’ll read about how Cohesion helps organizations, here.

The Numbers Don’t Lie. (They can’t tell the whole truth, either.)

In Brand, Brand Relevance, Brand Strategy, Business Development, Business strategy, Corporate Marketing, Marketing, Messaging, Positioning, Reputation Marketing, Sales, Strategy on February 13, 2012 at 9:48 pm

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In a 2009 Ad Age article titled, “Metric Madness: The Answer to Mathematical Failure Seems to Be More Math,” (registration required) brand and marketing veteran Al Ries says, “If you run a company by numbers alone, you’ll run it into the ground. You might be successful in the short term, but never in the long term, as the financial crisis demonstrates.”

Ries is concerned that the marketing community appears to be “drifting from the right to the left — from a right-brain approach to a left-brain approach.” He cites a prominent U.S. marketing executive who has held top marketing jobs at Procter & Gamble and other companies, as recently saying: “At its core, marketing is 70% math.”

Is measurement inherently bad for marketing? Of course not. It’s when measurement becomes a replacement for insight and experience that the problem begins. And today, more and more, that’s exactly what’s happening.

This is a deeper argument than one of science vs. art. Or even of logic vs. emotion. No, this is about the erosion of marketing wisdom. The enlightened integration of the right-brain and the left-brain. (Most humans I know are equipped with both.)

In an article published in this month’s Inc., leading corporate consultant, Charles Jacobs discusses how brain structure can impact business management: “Objective decision making is a myth. When the area of the brain responsible for logical thinking is activated, it also receives input from the area responsible for emotion. Without input from your feelings, you can’t think long term. You don’t learn from past experience; you can’t empathize. The more complex the problem, the more of the brain should come into play.”

Marketing wisdom accepts that an illogical thought can succeed. That counter-intuitive strategies can work. That some ideas cannot really be tested.

Marketing wisdom is not a replacement for measurement or analysis, but rather the totality of instinct, experience and observation, tempered by logic and data. You cannot google wisdom – it takes time and must be learned. Perhaps that’s why it’s no longer in style.

Marketing is still a business run by humans, for humans. To the dismay of marketing science, so is measurement. Which means, necessarily, that ‘the numbers’ are still open to interpretation, manipulation and sometimes, fraud. (Just ask Bernie Madoff’s accountant.)

Measurement for measurement’s sake is every bit as wasteful as creative for creative’s sake. Just because we can, does not necessarily mean that we should. I know of no company that ever measured its way out of an inferior marketing effort.

As we look to economic recovery, it’s critical to remember: Metrics are not the overarching context through which marketing decisions should be made. Wisdom is. It’s the thing most lacking in marketing today. And, the most valuable, too.

(By the way, if you’re in the market for a bit of wisdom, I know a firm that can help.)

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.

The Business of Complexity: How to Leverage Change.

In Advertising, Brand, Brand Relevance, Marketing, Messaging, Positioning, Strategy on November 4, 2011 at 1:11 pm

After more than a decade of consulting to some of the country’s largest organizations, Cohesion’s approach has been refined to accommodate and leverage the most difficult positioning and messaging obstacle of all: Complexity. The kind of complexity that often comes from acquisition, multiple businesses and brands, shifting categories, and more.

Cohesion uses research to build stronger positioning and in the end, to create more efficient and cohesivemessaging. To build broad, strategic communication platforms that can be utilized by an entire organization, not just marketing and sales.

“For our organization, Cohesion developed a core strategy, and then developed specific positioning and messaging that helped us optimize the value of the whole rather than only the value of the individual pieces/divisions/brands, etc.,” says Rob Shively, former president of SM&P Utility Resources, Inc.

Many times, Change is the trigger that forces an organization to address complexity. Said one Cohesion client in the life sciences business, “After 10 acquisitions and faced with a category that was changing on an almost daily basis, marketing just didn’t know what to say anymore.”

Here, Cohesion developed a positioning strategy that was flexible enough to evolve over time. Additionally, we created a Corporate Brand Platform inclusive of all positioning and messaging for this multinational company.

If your organization faces complexity, Cohesion can help build a more simplified path to differentiation and relevance. A path that can immediately begin saving you money and time; a path that can insure everyone understands where you are headed. To learn more about how Cohesion can support your efforts, contact Brian Creath at 636-530-3670, or email him, here.

The World Has Changed. (Are you telling the right story?)

In Brand, Brand Relevance, Brand Strategy, Business strategy, Communications, Marketing, Sales, Sales Messaging on October 29, 2009 at 12:47 pm

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“We need to rethink our message. What we’re saying doesn’t make sense anymore.”

–Fortune 1000 CMO, September, 2009.

This chief marketing officer isn’t alone. In the past 60 days, our firm has interviewed dozens of C-level executives and other marketing/sales professionals who agree. As they plan now for 2010, they’re including a (new) line item in their marketing strategies and budgets: messaging. Because for them, what worked in the past has little if any relevance today (much less tomorrow). According to McKinsey, “For the immediate future, business leaders will have to master the disciplines of uncertainty. (Managers) must drop the pretense that they can predict the future.”

An article in the October 19, 2009 issue of Entrepreneur, asks the question: “Is your brand story doing justice to your business?” Author Mary van de Wiel (Van), spells out a number of points, including: “Think about how you want your audience to react to your story. What’s the outcome–the object lesson here? What kind of conclusion do you want them to reach?”

Building the right story means developing a foundation of messaging that is flexible, adaptable and nimble to take best advantage of emerging opportunities, while mitigating unforeseen obstacles. As the business world continues to shift beneath your feet, a message platform (and the story that guides it) can be the roadmap for remaining relevant to every stakeholder in every situation.

As we all look to a more positive 2010, every company needs to question its relevance, its value — and yes, its story. So, do you have the right one? (If not, I know a firm that can help.)

While I’m working on my next post, I hope you’ll browse the archives. I also hope you’ll visit Cohesion to find out how we help organizations build stronger messaging to increase consistency, lower cost and drive growth.

(Re)Discovering Relevant Value. (Part 2 in a series.)

In Advertising, Brand, Brand Relevance, Brand Strategy, Corporate Marketing, Marketing, Positioning, Strategy on September 30, 2009 at 9:42 am

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Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest consumer products company, has just announced a stunning new business strategy to jump-start growth. It begins in a startling, almost counterintuitive way — with company values and sense of purpose. Invoke the heart and care about human needs, the strategy seems to say, and the money will follow.” –HarvardBusiness.org, Sept. 2009

As the world economy emerges from recession, the corporate community is seeking new strategies to compete more effectively. Among them is a groundswell to (re)consider corporate values as a vital business tool that – when identified, articulated and communicated properly – can enhance economic value. To be sure, organizations aren’t examining their values solely out of a sense of altruism, community stewardship or to ‘feel good’ about themselves. Rather, this trend is emerging as a critical business strategy focused on boosting the bottom line.

In the second part of Cohesion‘s white paper series titled, ‘The Fall of Incrementalism,’ we discuss the resurgence of corporate values as a catalyst for simulating relevant value – the reason why customers buy. We examine how the practice of incrementalism can be a barrier to such forward thinking, unless harnessed properly. When executed in the framework of a broader strategy, incremental moves can be a positive force for change. When they are not, the results can range from disappointing to disastrous.

To read the full white paper: The Fall of Incrementalism (Rediscovering Relevant Value), please click here. To read the first part in this series, please click here.

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.