Brian Creath

Archive for the ‘Communications’ 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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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

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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.

Would Short-Format Video Be A Better Way To Explain That?

In Communications, Internal communications, Marketing, Messaging, Positioning, Sales Messaging, Social Media, Strategy, Video on September 13, 2012 at 11:00 pm

Look around your company. If yours is like most large and mid-sized organizations, the people inside (and possibly you) are still using a number of outdated and inefficient ways to communicate key points and issues. In critical areas such as HR, customer service, training, operations, manufacturing, sales, marketing and management and more, the problem is rampant.

Boring presentation materials. Still photography on websites and intranets. Printed sales pieces that no one reads. Tools, which often require tremendous skill on the part of the person delivering the information, or unlimited patience on the part of the person receiving it. Tools that are not only inefficient, but expensive.

They’re also at odds with a growing demand for quick, bite-sized information. Let’s face it: your employees and customers aren’t clamoring for the next PowerPoint presentation. Nor are they giddy about the flow of static images you’re currently spending money on to house on your website or intranet.

Today, the average American (employee and customer alike) watches 23 hours of online video every month. A number that is growing at a tremendous pace. Savvy companies are not only recognizing this fact, they’re building plans and developing video assets that capitalize on it. The reason is simple: Production costs have dropped, production quality has increased, and the cost of distribution is nominal.

“Today, there simply is no better way for an organization to communicate on a consistent, volume basis than with quality, short-format videos.”

But one problem remains: the landscape of current video development and management resources. Certainly, we don’t lack for traditional video production companies. Vendors that will gladly take your money based on the expensive premise of, “sure, we can do that for you.” At the other end of the spectrum, we all know friends, relatives and peers who can operate a video camera and cobble together something that passes for a video.

What has been lacking is a resource focused solely on developing and managing the right video format for today’s online viewing audiences. Lacking, until now.

Enter Big Shot. A firm born of the combined expertise of a nationally recognized brand and marketing consultancy (Cohesion) and a 25-year-old production entity, squarely dedicated to the development of engaging, 2-3 minute videos built for online viewing that tell a distinct and unique story. The video stories we most often develop are best told by the people who know them best: sales people, customers, executives, and more. We intentionally strive for a ‘look and feel’ that is more similar to a national cable TV show than it is a stilted (and obviously scripted) traditional video or broadcast spot.

Big Shot’s short video format takes into account a story’s relevance to customers, and balances the length of time needed to tell a complete story and the attention span of the viewer. It is a format perfect for the myriad of business stories that can be found (and need to be told) in HR, customer service, training, operations, manufacturing, sales, marketing and management.

Most companies we work with see video as more than a single project (though Big Shot’s relationship with a client often begins that way). Most of our corporate clients see video as a tool that can be managed as an asset over time. For these clients, the process becomes one of building initial brand and general foundation video(s) and then developing and managing specific messages and issues into individual video properties, over time.

The most efficient communications effort delivers “the right message, to the right person, at the right moment in time.” Short-format video–one that articulates a quality story and is developed in a familiar, quality production–is the only tool that allows you to do this in an engaging and affordable manner.

For more information, please contact Brian Creath at Big Shot Agency at 314-276-5383, or at bcreath@bigshotagency.com.

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.

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

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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.

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.

Business is Changing. (How relevant is yours?)

In Brand, Communications, Corporate Marketing, Marketing, Messaging, Positioning, Strategy on February 1, 2012 at 3:21 am

It’s the question on the minds of nearly every C-suite executive we talk with: Is our business (brand) as relevant as it should be?

It’s been our experience that most organizations are actually quite good at making and/or sourcing marketing materials. It’s when the challenge is developing and articulating comprehensive strategy that many companies struggle. The reality is that far too many companies lack a consistent and successful method for designing and maintaining positions for their brands, products and services.

Companies that have developed successful positions, tend to have one thing in common: Before the first tactical thought begins, these companies concentrate their marketing focus on structure, strategy and messaging. Not coincidentally, these three (3) critical elements are the focus of our business, as well.

If you’d like to help your organization broaden the practices of brand strategy, positioning and messaging beyond marketing — and into comprehensive, organization-wide internal and external efforts, 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 develop more relevant and differentiated positions, here.

People Don’t Read Anymore. (Except for you, right now.)

In Brand, Brand Strategy, Business strategy, Communications, Marketing, Messaging, Uncategorized on February 1, 2011 at 4:30 pm

The Idea.

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It has been a standard marketing axiom for the past two decades: People just don’t read anymore. Originally, this thinking was attached to the printed word, as in “people don’t read books, or newspapers anymore.” In recent years, however, it has become a more general indictment — one which has been used to justify everything from how much copy should be used in marketing materials to how much funding should go to education.

During his keynote speech at the Macworld 2008 Expo, Steve Jobs, discussing Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader said, “the fact is that people don’t read anymore.” He noted: “Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year.”

Yes, research proves we spend less time with the printed page. Books and newspapers, especially. But here is where the generalization rings false: Many people (perhaps you) are actually reading MORE than before…

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Is Everyone Delivering the Right Story, Right Now?

In Brand, Communications, Corporate Marketing, Internal communications, Messaging on September 16, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Every day, your company’s reputation and its sales potential are influenced not only by the conversations taking place in controlled sales and marketing environments, but by the complex network of seemingly small discussions that take place over coffee and cocktails, at football and soccer games, and yes, on Facebook and Twitter.

Some organizations cringe at this thought and deem it too big a problem to tackle; others, simply deny its importance and influence. Others still, push it off as something that the right media or technology can fix.

Let me be clear: this is not a Media or a Social Media issue. It’s a knowing-what-to-say issue. (Social Media, as fascinating as it might be, is only a distribution tool.) We’re not suggesting that you can (or should) control every conversation that takes place about your company. But the company that doesn’t try to guide these conversations in the right direction is truly missing an opportunity.

Building and managing the right story for a given brand, sales effort or critical issue reduces mid- and long-term marketing expenses. It increases internal understanding and loyalty. And perhaps best of all, it greases the skids for a more productive sales effort.

At Cohesion, we focus on helping clients build and manage a clear, concise and compelling story—whether that story is for a single sales/marketing issue, or a much larger internal/external challenge. We’re not an ad agency or traditional marketing firm, but a specialized brand and marketing consultancy. While I’m working on my next post, I hope you’ll read about how we can help you find and develop the right story, at: http://cohesionagency.com, or, just email Brian Creath, Managing Principal.