Brian Creath

Posts Tagged ‘Advertising’

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

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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.

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.

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.

Marketing Gurus Are Giving The Really Good Ones A Bad Name.

In Advertising, Brand, Brand Strategy, Corporate Marketing, Marketing, Positioning, Strategy on January 21, 2012 at 2:53 pm

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Have you noticed an increase in the number of marketing gurus? Geniuses, too. Perhaps you’ve also noticed that these labels are often self-proclaimed, or bestowed by a book publisher or publicity firm. Funny. The smartest people I’ve ever met in marketing never considered themselves gurus, or geniuses. Then again, they were too busy successfully practicing the craft of marketing with real businesses to consider such fodder.

Practicing? Yes, the business of marketing is a practice. Tempered by the fires of time and experience. Integral to a commercial enterprise. The business of being a guru, is about…well, I’m not really sure what it’s about.

As this post is written, Google returns 751,000,000 results for “marketing” books. Some are seminal. Some are important. The majority are not. But increasingly, our culture embraces any kind of celebrity–warranted by deed, or not. And the realm of marketing is no stranger to this trend. Unfortunately, as more people seek ‘guru’ status and vie for attention, the points of view they espouse have become increasingly obscure, and in many cases, simply wrong.

A business writer once referred to me as a strategy guru. Back then I laughed. Today, I denounce my title.

As the adage goes, “those who can’t, teach.” Apparently, they also write books. And give seminars. And speak at conferences. Problem is, building real brands and real businesses is a bit more challenging than delivering a PowerPoint to 30 people at the Dayton Ramada Inn.

Nope, for my money (and I hope yours), give me the practitioner. The one who folds trends and new points of view into a long history of marketing perspective. The one who can think and do. The really good one, not the guru.

(By the way, if you need strong marketing practitioners for your business and brands, 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.