Brian Creath

Archive for the ‘Messaging’ Category

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

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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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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“Your messaging is really bad and everyone is afraid to tell you.”

In Advertising, Brand, Brand Strategy, Marketing, Messaging, Positioning, Strategy on October 12, 2010 at 5:05 pm

It happened a little less than a year ago, when we were engaged by a mid-sized company to help them build a new position for their entire (and very complex) business. Hired under the label of a ‘re-branding’ effort, Cohesion went to work: first to understand the issues and situation and then to develop a new positioning.

As we interviewed employees and partners, we began to uncover an interesting theme: the people that knew this company well had a relatively clear (and common) understanding of what it was and what it could be. The problem: absolutely no one had ever taken the time to develop a way to articulate that understanding. In other words, no one knew how to talk about this company and its products — they had no way to tell its story. Worse yet, senior management didn’t believe they had a messaging problem – they wanted to believe it was solely a positioning problem.

Our solution: 1) Quickly solve the positioning issue, which was little more (in this instance) than stripping a really sound idea of the poor messaging that surrounded it, and then, 2) Address the more complex issue of delivering a detailed messaging platform disguised as a positioning effort.

The result: A re-branding effort that really wasn’t one at all, but rather, was a complex (yet concise) architecture of how every internal and external audience should be addressed, through the myriad of situations and issues this company faces. A tool and approach that this company now uses successfully on a day-to-day basis.

This is the work of Cohesion. If we can do it for them, just imagine what we can do for you.

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.