Brian Creath

Posts Tagged ‘Messaging’

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.


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.

“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:, or, just email Brian Creath, Managing Principal.

Marketing is Losing Its (Perceived) Value.

In Brand, Communications, Corporate Marketing, Marketing, Messaging, Strategy on April 22, 2010 at 11:47 am

The devaluation of marketing certainly hasn’t happened overnight. It is a generational trend. And the more pervasive technology becomes in the marketing world, the faster marketing (especially marketing strategy) is losing its perceived value.

In our experience over the past three decades, we have seen five (5) factors emerge as major contributors to this decline:

  1. The growing separation of business and marketing strategy and the inevitable question that follows: What value are we getting from marketing? This question starts with the board of directors and CEO, filtering down from executive management to those in charge of the marketing function.
  2. The devaluation of marketing strategy: a generational problem that continues to confuse tactics for strategy.
  3. The devolution of traditional marketing management, as strategic thinkers continue to be replaced by tactical ‘do-ers.’
  4. The accelerating speed of technology, converging with audience fragmentation and splintering communication distribution outlets.
  5. The divergence of internal disciplines, such as sales, marketing, operations and the executive suite. As these silos strengthen, so too does insular thinking. There’s no better example of this growing ‘disconnect’ than the separation of business and marketing strategy—to the point where marketing no longer truly fulfills its original intent.

It’s why we built Cohesion in the first place: to reestablish the value and purpose of marketing, based in the reality of today’s ever-changing business climate. And, to help organizations more effectively and consistently deliver relevance to their stakeholders.

(By the way, if your organization is ready to reestablish the value of its marketing, or if you’re simply looking for stronger brand and communications 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 successfully align structure, strategy and messaging to consistently deliver more relevance to stakeholders, 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.

“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 (Not-So) Hidden Cost Of Saying The Wrong Thing.

In Advertising, Brand, Brand Strategy, Communications, Corporate Marketing, Marketing, Messaging, Positioning, Strategy on July 16, 2009 at 3:31 pm


As we study new ways to save money and grow business efficiency, one area has gone largely untouched: Communication. Interesting, because it’s one of the biggest issues facing business today.

An SIS International Research study discovered that 70% of small- to mid-size businesses claim that ineffective communication is their primary problem. Communication issues are not just annoying; they are also costly. A business with 100 employees spends an average downtime of 17 hours a week clarifying communication. This translates to an annual cost of $528,443.

As businesses get larger, so do the communications problems.

Most C-level managers readily admit that their organizations do a poor job of communicating. But while many admit the problem, few have focused on its answer. For most companies, communication is a major liability.

A typical organization pays the average employee $9,000 a year to read, write and answer email. Mid-sized corporations spend $2.5 million on internal meetings every year with little or nothing to show for it. A recent University of Maryland study states that poor communication in U.S. hospitals costs $12 billion a year, which represents more than half of an average hospital’s margin. Many other industries pay a similar price.

Add to this the inefficiencies in brand communications, marketing direction and sales efforts, and many companies simply throw up their hands. “Companies live in denial,” a CMO recently told me. “Because without a strategic path to change messaging and behavior, everyone is convinced that communication is too big and too soft a problem to wrestle.”

Not only is the problem complex, it’s fragmented. While many companies do a good job of project and/or vertical communications efforts, very few address the issue in a holistic way. Said my CMO friend, “The sad thing is, with the right approach you can make tremendous strides. Problem is, most managers don’t know how and where to start – or how to keep the process alive.”

(By the way, if your organization is ready to tackle the communications problem, or if you’re simply looking for stronger brand and communications 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.

And Now, The Brand Renaissance.

In Advertising, Brand, Marketing, Messaging, Positioning on May 27, 2009 at 2:07 pm

monarch-butterfly_800x600Those who have called a death to brands have severely underestimated their potential. In fact, as I suggested in an earlier post, brands – true brands – may be the answer to many of our current marketing ills.

In a recent post, entitled, Branding: The Next Generation, Martin Lindstrom of Branding Strategy Insider, says this: “There’s every indication that branding will move…into an even more sophisticated realm — reflecting a brave new world where the consumer desperately needs something to believe in — and where brands very well might provide the answer. I call this realm the HSP — the Holistic Selling Proposition.” Lindstrom’s HSP (Holistic Selling Proposition), follows an evolution that began with Rosser Reeves‘ original USP (Unique Selling Proposition). “Each holistic brand has its own identity, one that is expressed in its every message, shape, symbol, ritual, and tradition — just as sports teams and religion do today.”

True brands — those that can establish honest, credible rapport with customers — will thrive in our new marketing world. And while Lindstrom’s vision of ‘brand nirvana’ for some brands (think Harley-Davidson), is certainly accurate, there is also a place for those brands that simply have a relevant and differentiated premise, act on purpose and keep their promises. These brands listen to customer wants and needs and consistently incorporate comments and feedback back into their evolution and growth.

Not because they have to; but because they want to. Brands that work to become a conduit between company and customer, rather than a top-down contrivance of management, will win in our new marketing world. Those that do not will continue to function as an over-dressed product or service, but not a brand.

The days of so-called ‘branding’ (slapping a contrived name, a cool logo and a generic tagline on a product or service) are over. But the dawn of true brands — born of mutual respect, need and conversation between organizations and audiences — well, those days have just begun.

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.