Brian Creath

Posts Tagged ‘Positioning’

The One, Big Idea That Can Drive Marketing Success.

In Advertising, Brand, Brand Strategy, Business strategy, Corporate Marketing, Positioning, Sales, Strategy on February 16, 2013 at 7:32 pm

Caution.Big.Idea

“Capital isn’t that important in business. Experience isn’t that important.
You can get both of these things. What is important is ideas.”

                                                              – Harvey S. Firestone

It is the irony of our times. I watch in amazement as business owners and managers honor the achievements of a Steve Jobs with rockstar status, yet in their own businesses, refuse to accept or practice the kind of thinking that allowed those achievements to take place. In marketing, the problem is rampant.

During our economic slump, many companies have come to think that big marketing ideas are only for those with big budgets. That somehow you cannot have one without the other and therefore, that big ideas are not practical for their business. (Interestingly, my experience is that reverse is often true: The bigger the idea, the less money you need to promote and market it.)

Yes, small thinking is all the rage today. With companies spending more time and effort on making their marketing efficient and economical than they do on making their message bold and different. It’s why so many marketing efforts sound the same. With messages that blend in with competitors, rather than stand apart from them.

If small thinking is what you’re looking for, please move along. You can find plenty of of people and firms that can help you think small. Chances are, you already have.

But if you’re looking to make a difference — to own a marketing position and a message that can drive your business and actually help you spend LESS on marketing than your competitors — then do, by all means, read on.

“Lack of money is no obstacle. Lack of ideas is an obstacle.”

                                                              – Ken Hakuta

The essence of the big marketing thought is simple: When you marry the perfect marketing strategy with the perfect creative expression people will, more often than not, buy more of what you’re selling.

Of course, most marketing firms aren’t focused on that task. Some don’t even recognize its importance. That’s where I come in.

And where you, the savvy, business person, can win.

Clients pay me to find and articulate that one, singular idea that can drive a marketing effort for years. Call it brand, call it positioning, call it strategy or creative direction. Regardless of its label, this unique strategy+creative marriage is what smart businesses really want — and desperately need.

But it takes a generalist — not a specialist — to hold the worldview needed to develop this work. And a unique combination of skill and experience to express that strategy in a succinct and interesting way: an expression that, if crafted properly, is both poignant and true. One that can boldly stand out…relevant to customers, employees, investors and more.

I’ve had the good fortune to both successfully position more than 100 businesses, brands, products and services and be the creative director and writer on nearly as many award-winning creative campaigns. It’s where these paths meet that riches are found. Where marketing inertia is created that can last for years.

Where hardened marketing disbelievers in sales, operations and finance turn to you and say, “I had no idea this is what marketing could do.”

Could your business use the one, big marketing idea that can drive its success? If so, I know just where you can find it.

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That Fortune-Filled Moment When Strong Strategy Meets Great Creative.

In Advertising, Brand, Brand Relevance, Brand Strategy, Business strategy, Creative, Marketing, marketing strategy, Positioning, Sales, Strategy on February 13, 2013 at 1:46 pm

treasure chest

It’s the one reason the business of marketing and advertising still holds my interest after nearly 30 years and (especially if you’re a purchaser of marketing and advertising services) the reason it should hold yours: When you marry the perfect marketing strategy with the perfect creative expression people will, more often than not, buy more of what you’re selling.

That’s really what clients pay me to do: Find and articulate that one, singular idea that can drive a marketing effort for years. Oh sure, that simplicity can get a bit lost in processes, research, positioning, strategy and a whole lot more, but in the end, this unique strategy+creative marriage is what businesses really want — and desperately need. Because it’s almost impossible to find this inside a company. And sadly, it’s becoming just as difficult on the outside. Today, most marketing firms make their living as ‘specialists,’ working in the vacuums of their vertical world(s).

It takes a generalist to hold the worldview needed to develop ‘grand’ strategy. And a unique combination of skill and experience to express that strategy in a succinct and interesting way: an expression that, if crafted properly, is both poignant and true.

Over the years, I’ve found that most clients believe the development of strong strategy and the expression of great creative are mutually exclusive. That the process to develop strategy must be boring, exhaustive and tedious. That the ability to develop great creative can only come from bizarre, ungrounded minds. My experience has shown this to be the most superficial understanding of both. If you follow a boring, exhaustive and tedious process for strategy, that’s probably the kind of strategy you will develop. Accordingly, an untethered mind will tend to develop, well, bizarre, ungrounded creative.

I’ve had the good fortune to successfully position more than 100 businesses, brands, products and services. I’ve also had the good fortune of being the creative director and writer on dozens of award-winning creative campaigns. It’s where these paths meet that riches are found. Where marketing inertia is created that can last for years.

Where hardened sales, operations and financial disbelievers in marketing turn to you and say, “I had no idea this is what marketing could do.”

Could your business use a better marriage of marketing strategy and creative expression? If so, I know just where you can find it.

 

 

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

14519817-3d-businessman-is-holding-on-air-a-red-puzzle-piece

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.

“That’s a Lot to Pay for Your Thinking.” (or) What is Marketing Strategy, Really?

In Brand, Brand Strategy, Business strategy, Marketing, marketing strategy, Positioning, Sales, Small Business, Strategy, Uncategorized on November 30, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Strategic.Thinking

Earlier this year, I met with a prospective client of a large, regional organization, who seemed eager to re-energize his company’s corporate brand. “We really need to develop a new platform for all of our positioning and messaging,” he said. “Internally and externally, we’re confused. We need to define our direction and make a big, bold statement about who we are, and why people should care.”

Great, I thought. Here’s company that not only recognizes its brand/marketing problem, but has a relatively clear understanding of what it needs.

I proceeded to take this person through our approach and some examples of successful work we had done in similar situations. We parted our meeting with the understanding that I would deliver a proposed approach and estimate in the following few days.

Fast forward three days. My prospect, now with our proposed approach in hand, has called to discuss its contents. “You know, I listened to you explain your process, but now that I see it in writing, that’s a lot of work and a lot to pay just for you to come up with some thinking.”

[Silent pause.]

“I was kind of hoping you’d just give me a cost for coming up with a few taglines, or something.”

“Those few taglines that you want require the upfront work I have outlined,” said I. “Additionally, you need quite a bit more than a few taglines. You need a positioning and messaging platform and system that ground all of your communications efforts. On top of that, you don’t have (and desperately need) a clear marketing strategy and direction.”

“We do have a strategy,” said my prospect. “We want to increase sales by 10% next year.” (I’m not kidding.)

To which I kindly responded, “That is an objective — one against which a strategy can be built. How are you going to achieve it,” I asked. “I guess we’ll need to talk about that internally,” he said. “Right now, I just need some taglines.”

* * *

Strategy is the thinking that answers and explains ‘how’ something will be accomplished — how a goal or objective will be achieved.

Insightful marketing strategy — based upon clear business and marketing objectives, marketing research (however limited) and conclusions born from an experienced process — is the single most lacking component of marketing today. (It also happens to be the core business of my firm.) What passes for strategy today, is often shameful and ineffective. More often still, strategy is non-existent.

But there is a silver lining. Because so few companies build and follow strong marketing strategies, the company that does can make a tremendous impact. Immediately, and into the future.

If you’re interested in learning more about how we develop and successfully implement brand and marketing strategy, please contact me (Brian Creath, president of Cohesion), at 314-276-5383, or at bcreath@cohesioncompany.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

question-mark-crop-760563

“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.

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.

Truth In Marketing. (Will anyone buy it?)

In Advertising, Brand, Business strategy, Communications, Corporate Marketing, Marketing, Uncategorized on April 16, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Pawn.Shop

We are experiencing a seminal turning point in the history of marketing: the power shift from company to consumer.

Until very recently, communications have been a one-way street, an imbalance that favored organizations. They have held all the power, reinforcing their decisions based on research conducted in artificial environments outside of true human experience. But no more. Today, social media is tilting power toward buyers for the first time in history, shifting the imbalance in the opposite direction. Now, customers have an instantaneous platform for telling the world how they feel and in what they believe.

In CMO Thought Leaders: The Rise of the Strategic Marketer, John Hayes, CMO at American Express stated, “In the 20th century, we did monologue marketing. We did most–if not all–the talking. And we expected the consumer to listen. Now, in the 21st century, we’ve moved to a dialogue. Consumers want to be heard. In fact, they will not tolerate not being heard.”

Which means that in the future, companies that tell the truth–where words mirror action–will succeed more often than those that don’t. Customers won’t buy anything less.

But there’s a problem. A problem so dark and secret that few would dare acknowledge its existence: Marketing isn’t very good at telling the truth. Never has been. Good at stretching it, yes. But telling it verbatim…hmmm, let me talk to legal.

Because business has been ‘talking at’ customers for so long, many a bad habit has crept in. With few, if any, checks and balances from customers, marketing has run amok with claims, promises and overstated benefits. With all the advancement made in the field of marketing, far too much of the underlying assumption is still founded in, “there’s a sucker born every minute.”

But to succeed, the craft must change. Marketing is no longer about driving a top-down message at customers. Today, marketing is about managing an active and ongoing conversation with customers–promising, yes, but delivering on that promise every time. And, working with customers to determine what that promise should be in the first place.

Perhaps Lincoln said it best: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” (By the way, if you need help finding the real truth about your business and brands, I know a firm with an approach 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

microphone

“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.

‘The Idea’ Awarded Top Medical Blog Distinction

In Brand, Brand Strategy, Communications, Corporate Marketing, Healthcare, Marketing, Positioning, Strategy on October 27, 2009 at 1:46 pm



Dr.approved

In a recent poll conducted by NewDoctor (a Medical Professional Database of more than 100,000 monthly users), The Idea was voted “an excellent source of information.” It’s great to know that marketing (and other) professionals in the healthcare category are interested in our point of view on brand and communications strategy.

According to an email from NewDoctor.com, the site has awarded The Idea with a Top Medical Blogs award distinction.

Thanks to everyone for your continued interest in The Idea. While I’m working on my next post, I hope you’ll browse our 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.