Brian Creath

Archive for the ‘Marketing’ 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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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.

Why Every Company Needs Outside Marketing Perspective.

In Brand, Brand Strategy, Business strategy, Market research, Marketing, Strategy on February 27, 2013 at 7:40 pm

Something funny happened on the way to the future: As organizations have cut back on budgets and taken many marketing services ‘inside,’ many have also become extremely insulated…often, seeing things solely through the lens of an office window.

It’s one thing to take creative services in-house. It’s quite another to look internally for truly innovative brand and marketing strategy. Because more often than not, the time, the broad view and the development expertise, just don’t exist on the inside. This is not to knock some very good internal marketing people. Simply to point out that everyone has a different set of skills and training. (As as many extremely talented marketing managers will tell you.)

Yes, many of the companies we talk with are struggling with marketing perspective. Mostly, how to find it and how to use it.

Certainly, what a company ‘needs‘ is not the same as what it ‘can‘ or ‘should‘ do. That’s where outside perspective has its primary value. And no where is this more true than in marketing. And especially, in the development of brand and marketing strategy.

Without outside marketing perspective, strategy simply becomes a wish list and marketing execution a never-ending series of ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ by committee: an environment in which, success has a difficult time surviving.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am in the business of providing marketing perspective. Developed and sold through the context of strategy and messaging, but perspective, nonetheless. It’s through marketing perspective that value and relevance can be created. That new insights and the experience of having done something before, can co-exist. That internal vision and external realities, can successfully come together.

Is this a sales message? Of course we’d like to provide our perspective to help your organization develop successful marketing strategy. But more than a sales message for us, it’s a sales message for the importance of buying outside perspective. Outside (sometimes referred to as ‘third-party) perspective is a critical tool in building strategy. But obviously, outside perspective cannot be found or brought ‘in-house.’ (Then it wouldn’t be outside, anymore…would it?)

(If you’re not buying marketing perspective from our firm, please do buy it from somebody.)

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

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

Picture 16

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.

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.

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.

 

 

Innovation. Validation. Craft. (What Marketing Organizations Lack Most.)

In Brand, Brand Strategy, Corporate Marketing, Market research, Marketing, marketing strategy, Messaging, Positioning on February 4, 2013 at 3:48 pm

14519817-3d-businessman-is-holding-on-air-a-red-puzzle-piece

Most marketing organizations have learned to live much ‘closer to the sale’ than in years past. Lean and efficient, today’s marketing department can ‘make’ more marketing tools than ever before. But in this ‘resizing’ of marketing departments, three very important things have been sacrificed.

In our work, we find the three (3) following elements most lacking from today’s marketing organization:

1. Innovation
Especially in the areas of research, strategy and messaging development. It’s very difficult for organizations to house the quality and expertise to make this work practical and cost-efficient on an ongoing basis.

2. Validation
Often, a third-party is needed to validate marketing assumptions and to package and assemble initial ideas. An expert, outside point-of-view helps provide credibility.

3. Craft
Not necessarily for day-to-day marketing communications work, but more specifically for initial strategic and creative work. The spark that bridges innovation to work that can be developed into ‘first-round’ and ‘template’ creative.

Coincidentally, our brand and marketing strategy firm, Cohesion, is focused on providing the three elements listed above to marketing organizations throughout the country. To learn how Cohesion can benefit your brand, marketing and communications effort, email Brian Creath at bcreath@cohesioncompany.com, or call him at 314-276-5383.

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.

“That’s a Lot to Pay for Your Thinking.” (or) What is Marketing Strategy, Really?

In Brand, Brand Strategy, Business strategy, Marketing, marketing strategy, Positioning, Sales, Small Business, Strategy, Uncategorized on November 30, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Strategic.Thinking

Earlier this year, I met with a prospective client of a large, regional organization, who seemed eager to re-energize his company’s corporate brand. “We really need to develop a new platform for all of our positioning and messaging,” he said. “Internally and externally, we’re confused. We need to define our direction and make a big, bold statement about who we are, and why people should care.”

Great, I thought. Here’s company that not only recognizes its brand/marketing problem, but has a relatively clear understanding of what it needs.

I proceeded to take this person through our approach and some examples of successful work we had done in similar situations. We parted our meeting with the understanding that I would deliver a proposed approach and estimate in the following few days.

Fast forward three days. My prospect, now with our proposed approach in hand, has called to discuss its contents. “You know, I listened to you explain your process, but now that I see it in writing, that’s a lot of work and a lot to pay just for you to come up with some thinking.”

[Silent pause.]

“I was kind of hoping you’d just give me a cost for coming up with a few taglines, or something.”

“Those few taglines that you want require the upfront work I have outlined,” said I. “Additionally, you need quite a bit more than a few taglines. You need a positioning and messaging platform and system that ground all of your communications efforts. On top of that, you don’t have (and desperately need) a clear marketing strategy and direction.”

“We do have a strategy,” said my prospect. “We want to increase sales by 10% next year.” (I’m not kidding.)

To which I kindly responded, “That is an objective — one against which a strategy can be built. How are you going to achieve it,” I asked. “I guess we’ll need to talk about that internally,” he said. “Right now, I just need some taglines.”

* * *

Strategy is the thinking that answers and explains ‘how’ something will be accomplished — how a goal or objective will be achieved.

Insightful marketing strategy — based upon clear business and marketing objectives, marketing research (however limited) and conclusions born from an experienced process — is the single most lacking component of marketing today. (It also happens to be the core business of my firm.) What passes for strategy today, is often shameful and ineffective. More often still, strategy is non-existent.

But there is a silver lining. Because so few companies build and follow strong marketing strategies, the company that does can make a tremendous impact. Immediately, and into the future.

If you’re interested in learning more about how we develop and successfully implement brand and marketing strategy, please contact me (Brian Creath, president of Cohesion), at 314-276-5383, or at bcreath@cohesioncompany.com.

It’s 2013: What’s Your Marketing Strategy?

In Brand, Brand Strategy, Business strategy, Corporate Marketing, Marketing, Strategy on October 30, 2012 at 2:48 pm

As the year begins, Cohesion (our nationally recognized brand and marketing consultancy) has been engaged by several organizations to develop Strategic Brand, Marketing and Communications Planning Guides. These efforts include a short strategic assessment of existing issues, audiences, strategies and tools, and a detailed list of recommended strategic efforts that management and the marketing and/or communications function should consider.

These short plans work for organizations both small and large, and can be developed in about a one-week time-frame. For a fixed price that every company can afford, Cohesion can quickly and efficiently give you a strategic tool that will help start and guide your strategic marketing efforts for 2013. We’ll frame the ‘why’s’ and ‘how’s’ around roughly 10 key strategies, so that you can drive new success in the coming year.

Cohesion is also being engaged by a number of clients to ‘package and explain’ new businesses, new services, new products and more. And of course, if you need more traditional brand, marketing, advertising or communications development, we can help.

Our services put an expert ‘third party’ on the business of your business, without the hassle of a long-term engagement or a cost you can’t afford. Start the year on the right note. Contact Brian Creath at bcreath@cohesioncompany.com, or at 314-276-5383, to learn more, today.