Brian Creath

Posts Tagged ‘Brand Strategy’

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.



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


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.

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


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.

‘Tis The Season. (For strategic planning.)

In Brand, Brand Strategy, Business strategy, Corporate Marketing, Marketing, Messaging, Positioning, Strategy on November 25, 2009 at 11:27 am

As this difficult economic year winds to a close, many companies will tell you they are happy to have simply survived. But as CEO strategist Dr. Rick Johnson writes in a recent article, “…now is not the time to dig deeper into the bunker. Now is the time to start thinking about revisiting your vision.”

In, “It’s Time to Revisit Strategy,” Johnson talks about the critical need for strategic planning: “A strategic plan is not a business plan and it is not the same as your annual budget with departmental objectives. However, these vehicles become a part of the tactical support for meeting strategic objectives once the strategic plan has been approved and implemented. To be successful in this century requires a heightened sense of awareness about what is going on both inside and outside of the business.”

But many organizations don’t readily see the value of strategic planning when change is rapid and profits are lean. Says Johnson, “Executive teams become so immersed in the day-to-day activities of running the business during a recession that strategic thinking with respect to long term planning is often not a priority. However, effective leaders recognize the value of strategic thinking backed up by a strategic plan.”

At Cohesion, we’ve watched as companies have come to view strategic planning as either “outdated” or something they will “get around to later.” But as Johnson points out, the need is more urgent — and more organic: “Strategic planning is a disciplined effort to support fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide what an organization is, what it does and why it does it, with a focus on where it wants to go and how it is going to get there.”

As Cohesion shifts its model from ‘agency’ to ‘messaging company,’ more and more companies are seeking our strategic planning services. As part of an overall approach, Cohesion helps organizations develop insightful and practical strategic foundation in three phases:

  1. Strategic Direction: Refine current business, brand and marketing strategy (based on the timing of your fiscal year), and lay the groundwork for next year’s plan.
  2. Positioning/Messaging Direction: Refine the various brand, service and product positioning and messaging needs for your organization.
  3. Tactical Direction: Based on your organization’s needs, develop specific messaging and tactical templates for internal execution — or turnkey development for you.

Should your organization update its strategic plan? From a positioning and messaging standpoint, are you living and driving your core purpose? Are you working toward every business and brand goal you’ve planned? If not, perhaps you could use a little help getting there?

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

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

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


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

–Fortune 1000 CMO, September, 2009.

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

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

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

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

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

“A Messaging Plan? (Do we even have a message?)”

In Brand, Brand Strategy, Business strategy, Communications, Marketing, Messaging, Sales, Sales Messaging on August 18, 2009 at 2:27 pm

tin.cansAs businesses emerge from their long, dark marketing sleep, it’s important to recognize that things really have changed. From environment to attitude, the marketing factors impacting business have shifted. And whether you believe these are short-term changes, or changes that will last forever, one thing is certain: Your business message cannot be the same as it was before.

Recently, we were called into an organization to develop a messaging plan. Sitting with the company’s marketing staff, it became obvious that they wanted us to concentrate on the mechanics of distributing the message, and not the message itself. “Our message is still right,” said one of the marketing folks, after we questioned whether the economic events of the last year had shifted the relevance of their message.

As our conversation continued, the head of sales was called in to our meeting. Told that marketing was interested in developing a new messaging plan, his only response was, “A messaging plan? Do we even have a message?”

Sales, arguably the most critical messaging audience, didn’t believe the company had a consistent message.

As you plan for our new economy, strategic and tactical marketing planning are critical. But as you plan, don’t forget to evolve your message. (By the way, if your organization is ready to develop stronger and more relevant messaging, 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 Economy Is Ready To Grow. (Is your brand?)

In Brand, Brand Relevance, Brand Strategy, Business strategy, Corporate Marketing, Marketing, Messaging, Positioning on May 5, 2009 at 4:26 pm


By most accounts, including the recent address to Congress by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and a report by Charles Schwab’s chief investment strategist, the economy is about to start growing. By any measure, that’s good news for business, and even better news for the business of marketing. But before we dust off old marketing plans and begin to assess current budgets, let’s take away some learning from the recession.

As attention turns to marketing again, companies first need to admit that the business world has changed. Dramatically. And with it, the landscape that every brand now faces. In our new reality, brands cannot simply shout hollow promises; they must provide real value. Value, that can withstand the test of customer discussion and feedback. Social media has forever changed the ‘contract’ that companies have with their customers. Customers that don’t like your product, service or brand now have a forum through which they can instantly tell you — and others.

Today’s brand must hold true value, defined on the basis of long-term human benefit, rather than short-term shareholder value. Value, that an organization can honestly deliver on every front — from marketing and sales, through customer service and behavior, to management objectives and actions.

It’s easy to see that the tactical world of marketing has changed. From the death of the newspaper industry to the rise of social media, the communication paradigm is in transition. But before you address this obvious media shift, I implore you to study the relevance of your brand. Before you throw an old, inside-out promise into a new, outside-in world, your brand and its messaging will need a few tweaks. Some brands, more than others. Please, before you spend a nickel on execution, re-stage your efforts based on this strategic reality. Your customers, and your shareholders (in the long run), will thank you.

Is your company ready? Are your brands? Is your message? (By the way, if you need a bit of strategic assistance, 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.