Tag Archives: positioning and messaging

Clara Pellar’s Posthumous Advice to Obama

A few weeks ago NPR did a weekend edition story on how Americans don’t fall for hype during a crisis.  The story highlighted that a President’s approval ratings can be greatly impacted by actual behavior – what exactly is being done to solve the crisis at hand NOT the message being spun by the handlers.  In particular, it delved into Obama’s approval ratings as he deals with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the NY Times Square terrorism plot.

This is NOT aburger-bunsFP new concept nor is it one solely owned by politicians.  It’s what evidence-based marketing is all about.  No one can argue the importance of a concrete, well-thoughtout positioning statement and subsequent messages to your key audience, but if your constituents can’t find the beef you’re dead in the water.

You have to support the ‘spin’ or the messaging through substantiated actions.  No huge fluffy bun is going to hide a bad/ineffective product, service or behavior that falls short of its promise.  We want – no, we demand that claims (by companies, politicians, public figures) be supported by actions that we can measure.

Way back when – 1984 to be exact-, Wendy’s did just that with their iconic “Where’s the Beef” commercial.  They validated their ‘spin’ by letting us know that their one beef patty was bigger than McDonald’s and Burger King’s.  Measureable?  Tangible?  Absolutely.  Did any of us actually measure it?  Probably not.  But we BELIEVED it and got a fun message to proliferate to boot.

Don’t under-estimate the importance of the marriage between message and proof. If something exists but no one knows about it, does it matter? Or, can you just get by on telling people what you want them to believe? Each side of that equation is critical to the outcome.

Clara Pellar, the elderly actress who famously uttered the gutteral roar “Where’s the Beef?”, has been gone a long time…. and not to pick on Obama – (because the article includes the likes of Bush and Carter as examples of the behavior-does-not-equal-the-message equation)…, but I think her ‘prescient-twitter-ready’ line is an invaluable and timeless reminder to us all.

Always a fanatical data collector – sometimes to the chagrin of others – I am a big believer in evidence.  What’s worse is that I expect consistency as well.  Ever in the pursuit of holding my MarketingSmack to those same standards – hoping my effort is graded on a curve.

A Universal Truth

This week’s posting is not for the wussy and may actually piss some off. Can you use the words ‘piss’ and ‘off’ in a professional blog? Some may think I’ve crossed a line in human decency – in the “some things are better left unsaid, even if we might think it” category.

Last night I attended the launch party for IHeart Charity. IHeart Charity provides a smart phone application that allows users to “Tap-n-Give” to a number of pre-selected charities. The application is currently only available on the IPhone/Apple platform.

Four charities are currently hosted and each had their opportunity to speak. The first three had reasonable causes – animals, Haiti, green energy – with solid positioning and sound reasons to encourage donations. I listened – relatively unmoved.

Then Dianenecklace
Moore took the stage. Diane is tall, strikingly beautiful, with closely shorn hair (a tribute to her daughter not the 80’s edgy singer Sinead) and a peaceful presence. While I ‘care’ about a smattering of other topics in the world, I felt a resonant, heart-wrenching connection to Diane’s organization, Striving for More. Founded by Diane after her daughter’s death from cancer at the age of eight, the charity’s sole purpose is to ensure that no family endures childhood cancer alone. What parent cannot relate to that?

I think we can all agree that there aren’t many ultimate truths – that we each, as individuals, connect to or with different messages – hence one of marketing’s challenges, right? Understanding different audiences and digging deep to create a Disruptive Conversation™ – that which will rise above the din of the white noise and move the potential consumer to take action is no easy feat. Ms. Moore has her Disruptive Conversation™  nailed – it is authentic, personal, compelling and it rings out above so many other messages because it speaks to us as a universal truth. The natural order has been disrupted and we fundamentally don’t understand how that can happen and want desperately to make it stop. Or, with the help of Striving for More, at least survive it.

She shared her story – simple, direct, not a trace of marketing speak – and the audience wept. Ah yes, there were women present but I heard a few of the men complain of blurred vision. Sometimes it’s obvious – right? What is worthwhile? What we can all get behind? When we have the opportunity to be involved with one of those organizations – whether as a client, consumer or supporter – the answer is simple.

So, why am I going to make people angry?

Well, because in the midst of all of this I believe there is a marketing lesson here for those of us who don’t have an obvious ‘universal truth’ to deliver. The closer we can get to one, the higher likelihood we have of altering our audience’s perceptions and behaviors.

Great marketing is when something as banal as athletic wear can speak to us at that ‘universal truth’ level. Nike delivers it: our fundamental fear of failure. Everyone has it – everyone can identify with it.

Always the truth delivered here – at least MY truth: www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

The image above is one of the many ways that Striving for More provides encouragement to children struggling with cancer.  Each time a child endures a procedure they are given a Courage Bead.

The True Weight of Platinum

Yevgeni Plushenko will forever be known as a poor loser, NOT as the incredible silver medalist who landed the ‘quad’ at the Winter Olympics of 2010.  Is that really what he intended?  Did he and those that manage him truly think it through before his hubristic announcement that he was robbed of his ‘Gold’ and that he had won the ‘Platinum’?

When you decide to participate in the Olympics, you, by default, resign yourself to the outcome.  Whether you like it or not – the judges do get to choose. They get to determine what is worthy of a medal, of any substance.  If this is a problem for you, there are more quantitatively measured sports that don’t rely on ‘judgment’ – that are based on quantifiable metrics; time, distance, weight, height, etc… Not so for those more art-related endeavors.

As in figure skating and gymnastics, the world of marketing is also evaluated at times in a more qualitative manner.  Sure, there are times when we can verify the number of click-thrus, registrants for a webinar, or Twitter followers.  Those are the moments that I, as a marketer, relish.  The success or failure of a ‘performance’ so to speak is not based on opinion. 

With that said, there are many times when the triumph of a marketing activity is determined in the same way as some define pornography…. “I’ll know it when I see it.”  When the activity is not directly linked to a generated lead or closed sale, the ‘value’ isn’t always obvious.  Given that each and every one of us sees things differently – through our own view finder and massaged by our own experiences and perception, the hope for the ‘Gold’ can seem elusive.

We in the marketing world can take a lesson from Olympic figure skating. While there is still an ‘art’ component to the sport, the performers know what is expected of them.  They are at least clear as to what has to ‘show up’ during those minutes on the ice to be subjectively critiqued. 

So that we don’t have to invent our own awards of excellence in the face of disappointing the ‘judges’, it is best to set baseline metrics of success even when the results are more akin to how graceful the double Axel is landed.   For instance, the positioning of a brand is no easy feat.  And while there are a number of standard and accepted formats – there is a very large component which relies on whether or not it ‘resonates’ with the eventual owners of that position.  Not to mention how it will be received in the marketplace.  Having a metric in place, “Everyone within the company will describe the brand utilizing the same language, consistently” – is one such example. 

If you are able to establish clearly how your effort will be judged and ‘graded’ ahead of time, you have a better chance of skating circles around other marketers.  And, you’ll be able to take your rightful position on that center podium.

MarketingSmack is constantly in search of the ‘Gold’ and is open to all opinions regarding performance –  www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Go Ask Lisa.

While I want to say I’m above it all, not enticed by the opportunities so abundantly provided to us by entertainers and politicians, I am not.  Today’s blog was inspired from a phone call I had last week with a dear childhood friend while on my way to a networking event.  She was actually delivering a message from her mother “You need to blog about your Lisa Druck story.” 

Who is Lisa Druck and why is she someone I should blog about?

John Edward’s dalliance, Rielle Hunter or Lisa as we fellow elementary school classmates called her, was in my fourth grade class at Pine Crest Preparatory in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  She was super cool, wore make-up and didn’t succumb to the traditional white blouse under the forest green jumper uniform, so we all knew she wore a bra because we could sneak peak it from the side.  I coveted her brand – I wanted to be her.

I remember distinctly that for our big fourth grade book report assignment, Lisa read and discussed with poise and a sophisticated flair “Go Ask Alice” – a far cry from my “Harriet the Spy”. Her report clearly showcased a ‘naughty’ book that fascinated me, so I requested that my mom find, check-out and bring me a copy of it from the high school library, since any efforts to locate it in my lower school library were futile.

My mom, to whom English is a second language, dutifully sought out the book and upon check-out was questioned by her counterpart librarian as to who was going to read the book.  Needless to say, I never got my pudgy, fourth-grader paws on it.  It didn’t stop there.

“You MAY NOT be friends with Lisa Druck” – even in a heavy Spanish-laden accent, the message was crystal clear.

Can a nine year old develop a personal brand or did circumstances create it for her?  Did Lisa turn Rielle just continue to show up in the way that aligned with how she was perceived?

Everyone and every company has a brand; in some cases – and I bet it happens more often than not – that brand isn’t strategically constructed and managed.  The problem is that brands are enduring; even the bad ones.  Take Microsoft for instance; they’re well known for being stodgy and not innovative.  I doubt they like that.  I know they try hard to get us to believe something else.  Is that possible?  Can you re-invent a brand? 

With enough money, talent and perseverance you can.  Look at Target’s rise from K-Mart-type discount store status in the late 90’s and Chrysler’s recent logo re-fresh and “My Name is Ram” campaign to re-introduce the brand to truck lovers. But, it takes money and diligence.

And, while for some name changes – either company or personal – are attempted often in the hopes of brand resurrection, all bets are off if you don’t strategically develop and consistently maintain it.

MarketingSmack by any other name is still Jack’s blog: www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Sticks and Stones…….

Two weeks ago either bravery or some unidentified ingredient in my eggnog let me throw caution to the wind and I actually took a definitive ‘personal’ stance in my weekly MarketingSmack blog.  I don’t typically write about public figures nor do I usually disclose such personal criticism of others. Given I believe the majority of my readers are close friends that share similar beliefs, I thought it safe – a couple of more sips of that eggnog and I posted these thoughts on a few discussion groups in LinkedIn.

Hornets’ nest.

The first email notification of: “New comment on “Can You Camouflage a Tiger? – I am insulted that Tiger thinks it is ok to ask for privacy….” brought an instant sense of exhilaration.  I had written something worthy of discussion – something timely and relevant.  I clicked on ‘go to full discussion’ believing I would see adulation, sycophancy – my eyes devouring the wisdom and insight from fellow LinkedIn Group members – the likes of: LinkingRaleighNC, RTPconnect and Triangle Networking Group.

Ouch.

Dozens of people began to add comments; at first directed at me – most of them not in agreement, to put it mildly and then; at each other.  What I found interesting here is that I KNOW that it is critical to the world of branding – both company/product/service and individual – to take a stance; have an opinion; define clearly who you are and who you are not and confidently broadcast it to your audience with polite relentlessness.  I was somewhat surprised when upon reading the first “I don’t agree with Jack” comment – my initial reaction was defensive somewhat akin to the way a Junior high school student feels when discovering he’s the one with bad breath via a Slam Book.

On the one hand – people were talking about me….on the other hand – people weren’t seeing it my way…… What I learned from this experience is that there is a key component to the branding process that I have been leaving out. 

Bravery.

I spend a great deal of time helping companies and individuals brand themselves.  Countless hours spent on key executive interviews, customer focus groups, competitor reviews, market research etc… Helping them to create a unique position and message that states who and what they are – but in that same instant it states who and what they are NOT.  You have to be brave to take a stance – a stance that you know will resonate with some (and you hope that the some is large enough for you to be successful) but in this day of transparency you’ll hear from those that DON’T too.

Suffice it to say that as the conversations over my Tiger Woods’ blog continued over the last two weeks I watched the score board fluctuate ala basketball style….Jack 0  Nay Sayers 2……. Jack 4 Nay Sayers 2….. And so on and so on.  Not sure how the final tally looked and what I realize is that it doesn’t matter – I won.  I took a position, made it public, generated a healthy debate and made my personal/professional brand that much clearer.

The brave world of MarketingSmack can be found on: www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Karma–Paying it Forward

Maybe it’s because I am trying to have a beach vacation at the same time as I try to work, but this week’s blog feels more like a Jimmy Buffet song than a business advice.

About six to eight months ago I got a call from a longtime client turned colleague-friend who had left her VP of Marketing job in corporate America and was pursuing a consulting opportunity.  She requested our proprietary positioning process – the Summit Strategy Springboard TM.  While we’re pretty protective of our processes, I emailed her a sample immediately – no questions asked.

Fast forward.

A month ago I began conversations with a company in the Library IS world called Serials Solutions.  As the relationship unfolded it quickly became apparent who I was courting—the same company my friend Marianne was consulting with. I called Marianne and asked if I would be stepping on her toes. She assured me that our offerings were synergistic.  It didn’t stop there.  She then proceeded to be an advocate for Summit and instrumental in winning the business.  The best part?  We get to work with someone whom we respect and enjoy.

I am always amazed at the synchronicity in life.  I knew when she requested my help that it meant that she was pursuing an opportunity that Summit is exceptionally qualified to perform.  It didn’t matter.

Paying it forward is not a short-term strategy, and if you looked at the link in this sentence, not just a quaint concept.  Consistently thinking of helping others first without an ‘angle’ really does pay off.  The thing is – and it’s a little paradoxical – you really need to buy into the concept that you don’t expect anything in return.  Believing deep in your gut that giving the help is what’s important is what yields the reward.  The new client on the roster? That’s the cherry on top. And with Serials Solutions, it gets even cooler. Our strategy there is to help academic libraries make their collections—and their facilities—more relevant to the patron base. That’s a long way of saying we get to help more dedicated helpers of people help even more people. Knowledge is power…

Know anyone who needs encouragement?  Pay it forward by reminding them that some good deeds are rewarded – just when you least expect it.

Get your karma SMACK! Try some Marketingsmack today at www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com.

Or, visit us at: www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Know Your Limits

This past week I read one of 13 of my required books for my upcoming TaeKwonDo black belt test. I purposefully chose the shortest one with the biggest type to give myself a quick, albeit false sense, of accomplishment.

Zen in the Martial Arts. I know, it may sound boring to most of you, but this innocuous little book is chock-full of pearls of wisdom. Wisdom applied to how one should be on ‘the mat’, as we martial artists like to say…but, also, and more importantly, how to be on the mat of business and life.

While several of these Zen principles hit home to me personally, in my training as well as my role as a mother and yes, as a professional, the one that seems almost counterintuitive, Know Your Limits, struck me.

The premise is that in order to learn and grow, as a person or as an organization, you must be ready to accept your limitations. “You must accept the fact that you are capable in some directions and limited in others, and you must develop your capabilities.” We all call this ‘playing to your strengths’.

But how do you do this? How do you figure out the best way to communicate and market your company to your constituents?

Here are Summit Strategy Partners’ top five tips to begin this quest. It is not all-inclusive and you if want a more detailed, tailored answer we’re happy to help (the shameless plug part).

  1. Who are you? If you haven’t visited your positioning and messaging in over a year, do so now.
  2. Trust an outside expert to guide you through the process. This leaves you to do what you do best—run your business—and it keeps emotion out of it.
  3. Get your executive team to rally behind the effort. If they don’t appreciate and champion the project, it is doomed to fail.
  4. Study your competition. Knowing their limits and how they are positioned will help you in developing your Disruptive ConversationTM.
  5. Ask your customers and partners tough questions. Find out what it is you’re not doing well. This is the key to getting better. (But engage an outside expert to ask those questions. Your customers and partners will find it hard to tell you directly.)

Tell us how it works out for you. Add to our list. Tell us your yen for zen. And, of course, have a heapin’ helpin’ of Marketingsmack! at www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com. Or, visit us at: www.summitstrategypartners.com

Jack