Sort Out Your Brand and Good Business will Follow

the-louvre-pyramidI recently came across an article in the Harvard Business Review that implores the effects of companies stressing about revenue and growth while putting branding and differentiation on the back burner. While I think the author’s claim —that this lack of prioritization is what caused “52% of the Fortune 500 to be acquired, merged, go bankrupt, or fall off the list since 2000″— is a bit overrated, I think his point in general is very valid.

Ray Wang, CEO at Constellation Research and the author of the HBR article, argues that, just like human needs were hierarchized by Maslow, business needs follow the same pattern. According to Maslow, one cannot achieve the top of the hierarchy (i.e. ego and self-actualization) without establishing a good base (i.e. physiological needs like food, water, etc…). The business’ hierarchy of needs, according to Wang, starts with a strong base of regulatory compliance, moving up to operational efficiency, revenue growth, strategic differentiation, and finally on top of the pyramid, brand.

Companies nowadays rely on a strong base of regulatory compliance, with achieving a strong brand at the top of the pyramid.

Companies nowadays rely on a strong base of regulatory compliance, with achieving a strong brand at the top of the pyramid.

By prioritizing quarterly performance benchmarks, business owners and decision makers are ignoring, twisting,  and/or tweaking their business’ internal bible, their brand positioning and differentiating strategy. While this rarely puts frontline employees in any trouble, it jeopardizes the overall well-being of the company.

Wang’s solution? Flip the pyramid upside down. By putting less resources into the bottom of the pyramid, companies free up both time and money to focus more on high-value branding exercises with huge business growth potential. Wang suggests automating regulatory compliance and relying on technology for better operational efficiency, both changes leading into better sales and better consumer information.

Flipping the pyramid upside down puts branding efforts on top and allocates minimal resources to operational efficiency and regulatory compliance.

Flipping the pyramid upside down puts branding efforts on top and allocates minimal resources to operational efficiency and regulatory compliance.

In a previous post, I defined the outward-facing brand as “a perception that exists in the minds of your constituents about your relevance and promise of value.  Your brand is the sum total of the impressions formed through exposure to your touch points.” Internally, your brand should be the organization’s steering wheel that leads it onto greener pastures.

Moral of the story? Sort out your brand and good business will follow..


Is it time to leverage Emojis for your brand? Learning from the Clorox mistake

Emojis recently made a splash in international media with Apple’s introduction of a racially diverse pool of emojis to choose from. Even more recently, SwiftKey, a software company that designs keyboards for iOS and Android phones, conducted a study that I thought had more comic value that anything. The study compared emoji usage across different cultures, countries, and languages.


Canadians love their poop emoji, eh?

The question then becomes, when are brands going to leverage such an information-rich communication medium and put it to good use? It goes without saying that whatever Clorox did was definitely not what I have in mind when referring to emoji usage in advertising.


Clorox had a “bleach blonde” twitter moment when they tweeted about the new racially diverse emojis. Their surprisingly thoughtless and quite racist tweet read: “New emojis are alright but where’s the bleach”

Definitely one of Clorox’s wishfully bleachable moments, but there is still hope for emojis. Marketers definitely have a lot to work with.

Just this past January, inmoji stirred the clear waters of interactive marketing. Named by Adweek as “one of five Adtech companies to watch at CES”, the company offers brands the opportunity to communicate interactively using emojis. According to the startup’s website,

“inmoji enables brands to connect with billions of consumers in new and meaningful ways by organically integrating their content into messaging conversations. Inmoji deepens brand loyalty and captures critical insights into consumer behavior and trends”

Now, SwiftKey, imagine if your study was about the effectiveness of clickable interactive emojis and not about which hand gesture emoji Britons preferred.

And now, for comic relief and for our Canadian friends, here are a few different ways you can use the poop emoji. Enjoy!

Branding and April Fools’

April Fools’ has become the new trick, pun intended, up companies’ sleeves. Although people are still not talking about the companies’ pranks as much as they do about their Superbowl ads, social media sites are starting to get full of people sharing the prank of their favorite brand.

This makes April 1st yet another day on the calendar to watch out for a massive outbreak of creative branding messages. Companies are running out of innovative ways to connect with their customer base, and this is where the impossible and unbelievable come into play.

So without further ado, here is a list of my 5 favorite pranks this year:

5. The House of Cards fake script

Netflix's joke got some serious engagement on the show's Facebook page

Netflix’s joke got some serious engagement on the show’s Facebook page

4. Vegemite’s iDrink 2.1

A Vegemite flavored energy drink? NO THANKS!

A Vegemite flavored energy drink? NO THANKS!

3. Youtube’s viral trends

2. Domino’s snackaging

Domino's Pizza in the UK thought outside the box for this April Fools' trick

Domino’s Pizza in the UK thought outside the box for this April Fools’ trick

1. And of course, Google tops the list with the Gmail shelfie, Emoji translation, Google Naps, and the Pokemon challenge on Google Maps.

Now that wouldn't be such a bad idea would it?

A napping map.. Now that wouldn’t be such a bad idea would it?


Go Home, Starbucks, You’re Drunk..

Starbucks may be a morning staple for many urbanites grabbing their morning joe before flocking to their nine-to-fives, but how successful will Starbucks be in becoming the new, hot destination for happy hour?

Starbucks is testing a new menu offering customers appetizers and a limited selection of beers and wines.

Starbucks is testing a new menu offering customers appetizers and a limited selection of beers and wines.

Recently, Starbucks has been testing its brand new “Evening Menu,” consisting of small appetizer-style menu items as well as a selection of beers and wines. Test areas are currently limited to larger cities, including Los Angeles, Seattle, and Chicago.

For a company that is so entrenched in the caffeine business (I personally think the name Starbucks Coffee says enough), how easy is it going to be to make such a significant jump to a business that has very little to do with the one they are currently in? I personally think there is so much sneakerization the company can do before starting to confuse its customer base and risk losing brand equity.

“Sneakerization (SNEEK.ur.eye.zay.shun) n. A growth strategy a company may use to expand its product offerings from a single product to a broader category. The name stems from Nike’s success in expanding from running shoes (or sneakers) to a much wider array of sports apparel.”

The company’s rationale is pretty simple and straightforward, they want to boost evening traffic. However, here’s a few questions Starbucks should ask before making this bold move:

  • How are they going to incorporate the new store experience into the existing company image that is almost synonymous with coffee?
  • How is this move going to affect their core customer base, those who still want to enjoy a latte and a quiet conversation and do not care for the inevitable rowdy atmosphere that will accompany the new menu?
  • Is the move worth it or is it going to dilute the equity that the brand has been building for a few decades now?

Who knows, this new and innovative idea may work just well for Starbucks. All I’m saying is that I for one won’t be too psyched the next time I’m finishing up a project at a Starbucks, right next to the guy chugging his fifth beer or the ladies enjoying their third bottle of wine on their ladies night out.


Is It Time To Bid TV Advertising Farewell?

How much attention are we really giving TV advertisers?

How much attention are we really giving TV advertisers?

Long gone are the days when people focused their attention to one thing they were watching or listening to. I seriously cannot remember the last time I was watching something on TV without having my phone, laptop, or iPad open. As you are reading this post, my bet is you are probably doing something else on some other screen. Am I right or am I right?

According to this article, 2014 will mark the year where mobile video content will overtake TV in the UK. The question for marketers then becomes, how and where do we capture the attention of our audience? If people are moving from one screen to another once the commercial break hits, is TV advertising money well spent?

The way I see it, marketers should find ways to follow people across screens. Surprisingly enough, this multi-tasking madness is not all bad news for marketers. Research conducted by the Interactive Advertising Bureau indicates that the more screens we’re on, the more likely we are to respond to a marketing message. “Four-screeners”, smart talk for people on TV, smart phones, laptops, and tablets, are the most likely to react to a marketing prompt (a vote about a show, a tweet about a product, etc…)

Thus, my two cents for advertisers is: if people zone out once commercials hit, follow them to their other screens. GEICO, we all know 15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance. Now tell me why I should visit your website or Facebook page.

And The Oscar For Product Placement Goes To…


Last Sunday’s Academy Awards, hosted by the amazing Ellen DeGeneres, was chock-full o’celebrities. The awards ceremony also had some unplanned guests; the Samsung phone that Ellen used for her infamous selfie and the pizza delivery guy.

The biggest difference between those two surprise appearances is that people are talking about Samsung, but not about Big Mama’s and Papa’s Pizzeria. I mean, yes, the guy got a $1000 tip, but Twitter did not break because of his pizza delivery.

Edgar Martirosyan delivering a few pizzas to Ellen during last Sunday's Academy Awards.

Edgar Martirosyan delivering a few pizzas to Ellen during last Sunday’s Academy Awards.

Twitter actually broke down because of Ellen’s dare to make this selfie the most retweeted image of all time. People were not oblivious to how Ellen (or Bradley Cooper for that matter) took that picture. Ammiel Kamon, Executive Vice President of products and marketing for Kontera, a prominent social media data tracker, said “Samsung’s unique product placement, woven into the moment, front and center, without seeming ham-handed, generated the type of positive buzz that is rarely seen and is actually hard to buy. Kudos to Ellen for pulling it off.” Come to think about it, that phone was literally front and center of the impromptu selfie.


In a statement about this ingenious and allegedly unplanned product placement, Samsung said that the stunt was “a great surprise for everyone, she captured something that nobody expected.”

So, kudos to you Samsung whether you knew about this whole stunt or not. It actually worked. And kudos to you Ellen, for setting a goal and achieving it, oh and breaking down twitter while you were at it.