Brian Creath

Posts Tagged ‘Communications’

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.

“We Could Really Use A Video.” (Or) I Dare You To Find A Better Way To Tell A Story.

In Advertising, Brand, Business Development, Business strategy, Internal communications on February 19, 2013 at 2:34 am

Last year, we launched Big Shot which, in addition to being a full-service marketing and advertising firm, has a primary focus on providing businesses with short-format (2-3 minute) videos, for online marketing, sales, communications, training and recruiting. Since then, organizations have found a variety of different ways to integrate our video ‘product’ into their plans:

  • Single-location franchisees of larger retail brands are using short-format videos to differentiate their local franchises. We are working with three (3) separate owners to develop branded videos that blend the story of their unique benefits and features with their overall corporate story and brand.
  • Large, sales-driven companies are using short-format video to showcase dramatic sales stories. Two (2) separate organizations are developing an ongoing series of key customer stories — told by the customers and sales people who were actually involved — to demonstrate how their products benefit customers. These are being developed both to gain new customers and to train new sales people.
  • Large and mid-sized not-for-profit organizations are building short-format video ‘libraries’ as a way to describe and showcase benefits to staff, members and prospective members.
  • Multi-Location organizations with hourly employees are using short-format video to strengthen communications, training and operations standards. One major service organization is developing a series of training videos that will be distributed online to employees in its many regional operations facilities.

The applications for Big Shot’s short-format videos are endless. Using high-quality production and story development, viewers describe the exciting look and feel of Big Shot videos as something closer to a ‘national TV show’ than traditional advertising, or lengthy and boring business video.

Perhaps your company could tell a better story with Big Shot? We’d enjoy exploring possibilities with you. To learn more, contact Brian Creath, president of Big Shot at 314-276-5383, or at bcreath@bigshotagency.com.

To learn more about our sister brand and marketing strategy firm, Cohesion, visit http://cohesioncompany.com.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

How to Never Get Ahead in Marketing. (Or) Always Let Tactics Drive Your Strategy.

In Brand, Brand Relevance, Brand Strategy, Business strategy, Corporate Marketing, Marketing, Strategy on February 20, 2012 at 4:28 pm

“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory.”
-Sun Tzu

[Please Note: This post is not intended as a strategy vs. tactics treatise, but rather, as a discussion starter to point out the real lack of (and real need for) strategic thinking in today’s marketing efforts.]

For some, marketing has always been viewed through a tactical lens. You know the type: the person who mistakes a logo for a brand, or a website for a marketing program. And make no mistake, tactics are critical and necessary to every marketing effort. But because they are tangible, many have confused their necessity with being the ONLY focus of marketing. Sadly, strategy — the thinking that directs a tactic — is increasingly being overlooked, or completely neglected.

Imagine if buildings were built without blueprints — if wars were fought without plans. Lewis Carroll said, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”

Social media (and the bold, consumer voice that has arisen from its power) have many marketers now convinced that they cannot guide a brand, or their marketing efforts, but instead, must simply monitor the experiences of customers. And to successfully monitor and react to these experiences, these marketers have focused their resources on the tactics that will enable these efforts. Many times, regardless of what carefully planned core missions, or operations models say they can, or should do.

Should a company listen to its customers and steer accordingly? Of course. Should it simply become what a customer desires, with no strategic input regarding what it can, or should be? Of course, not. This one-sided view is as bad (and wrong) as the one-sided ‘company push’ advertising strategies that customers are rebelling against in the first place.

Strategy is (or should be) the thing that links the internal wants and desires of a company (brand) to the wants and needs of external audiences (partners, suppliers and customers). Developed properly, it’s a flexible bridge that anchors a few core principles and then allows that business and people change — sometimes quickly, sometimes over time. Tactics, are the tools developed from this strategic platform and guided by its direction. Important and critical, but tools, nontheless.

If you don’t have this strategy in place, you run the risk of never differentiating, never knowing what to do next, and yes, never truly getting ahead.

(By the way, if your organization is looking for stronger business, brand and marketing strategy, 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, here.