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Your Audience of One

Your Audience of One

Know your audience. In Western culture, this instruction starts with Aristotle, mainly. Living in a time when public speaking decided the fate of nations, he figured out that the most logical argument didn’t always win. More often, the winning argument came from the person who knew the audience best, and played on its ideas and emotions most persuasively. Fast forward 23 centuries or so, and it’s still true. Whenever we start a project for a client, the first question is, “Who’s in the audience?” For most projects, the answer is simple. It’s employees, or customers, or investors. Once we...
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Moving From Business-centric Outputs to People-focused Outcomes

Moving From Business-centric Outputs to People-focused Outcomes

Outcomes are the benefit your customers receive from your stuff. This starts with truly understanding your customers’ needs—their challenges, issues, constraints, priorities—by walking in their shoes and in their neighborhoods, businesses, and cultures. See what’s inconvenient, taking a lot of time, money, and/or effort. Your customers are too busy to plan, shop for, and cook healthy meals. What if you made a healthy, reasonably priced, fast-cooking meal so a family could eat better? Create a solution that your customers can sustain, and you enable life-changing outcomes, big and...
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Here Is How I See Our Culture – David Ogilvy

Here Is How I See Our Culture – David Ogilvy

I worked for Ogilvy and Mather for nine years. At the beginning of my time there, it was still a privately-held company – though within a few years of my tenure, it was absorbed (and changed forever) by WPP. I came across this piece written by David Ogilvy (whom I had the pleasure of meeting once), about the culture of Ogilvy back in the day. I think all leaders should use it as a culture check-list for their companies. From The Unpublished David Ogilvy. Here is how I see our culture. A NICE PLACE TO WORK Some of our people spend their entire working lives in our agency. We do our damnedest...
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Interview Your People

Interview Your People

It’s the corporate dance that never ends. Management sees the need for change – in strategy, values, brand or execution. The change will succeed only if employees embrace it. Management struggles to engage and inspire employees with the change, which takes longer and costs more than anyone wanted. Repeat. Human nature plays a role in the dance, by making people leery of anything that pulls them out of their comfort zone. This goes double when people have been through the dance before and seen it bungled. Yet for some reason, management and their consultants seem bent on ignoring human nature...
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When Your Brand Needs Foci, Not Focus

When Your Brand Needs Foci, Not Focus

Brand strategies strive for focus. As such, most brand strategies are customer-centric. And while there may be a certain logic to that (after all, where would your brand be without customers?), customer-centric brand approaches can backfire. To illustrate this point, think of any brand that has a positive, upbeat “brand campaign” and either me-too products, miserable employees, or horrible customer service. By embracing a broader, more holistic view of your brand, you start to see how your brand’s success relies on numerous interdependent factors. The quest, in my opinion,...
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“We Don’t See Things as They Are, We See Them as We are.” – Anaïs Nin

“We Don’t See Things as They Are, We See Them as We are.” – Anaïs Nin

Sage advice for brands that are failing to reach their targets. How well is your brand connecting with the people who are important to your brand, both inside and out? Is your brand working out from itself, or out from the needs, interests, values and aspirations of people? Bringing empathy to your brand approach changes everything. Seeing things from another perspective opens up new opportunities. Putting people first leads them to putting your brand first. Photo Credit...
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How Clear Is Your Business Vision to the People on the Ground?

How Clear Is Your Business Vision to the People on the Ground?

In the hallowed halls of the C-Suite, your business vision seems clear. But down on the street, in the halls, in the meeting rooms, in the labs, in the factories, in the warehouses, at the desks, and around the water cooler, your vision is hard to see. What else would explain why your organization is failing to keep up with the competition, why customers are going elsewhere, why it is getting harder and harder to hire good people, and why investors are starting to fidget? What can you do to make your vision crystal clear – and actionable? It could be that your “C-Suite ready”...
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From USP’s to Shared Beliefs: The Next Stage of Branding

From USP’s to Shared Beliefs: The Next Stage of Branding

Jim Signorelli is the author of “StoryBranding”. I love the way he makes the distinction between the classic marketing idea of “unique selling proposition” and the modern meaningful branding concept, “unique value proposition”. USP’s (a “plot line” in StoryBranding) We often refer to plot lines as brag lines, simply because that is what they do. They express the brand’s “how so?” more than its “what about it?” Plot lines are more a manifestation of the brand’s opinion of itself. As such, they lack the believability...
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Making Meaning Evident vs. Claiming It

Making Meaning Evident vs. Claiming It

An emotive brand can’t simply advertise its way into being meaningful. It has to exude meaning at every opportunity. All too often brands seeking to appear more meaningful rely purely on tactical communications like an ad campaign. We are as likely as anyone to say, “that’s nice” after viewing an emotional commercial or a touching bit of Flash on a webpage. There’s nothing wrong with that, is there? Well, there can be. Sadly, these brands often come off as being superficial. They wear their feelings on their sleeves. And they use advertising to claim to be something...
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How a Master Plan Creates an Employee Alliance

How a Master Plan Creates an Employee Alliance

A Meaningful Workplace is built from the company’s master plan – a strategic platform used exclusively by senior management – that defines the three core elements of ambition (purpose), feelings (values), and behavior (building a culture). This master plan drives all subsequent activities, which include: Macro Plans – how the business itself will be evolved; Group Plans – how groups of employees will be engaged; Solo Plans – how individual employees will be personally engaged. Building something great and enduring Macro Planning puts the business’s structure, policies, and procedures through...
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The Very Things That Drive Behavior That Matters

The Very Things That Drive Behavior That Matters

“If marketers are not generating emotions and feelings, we are not taking advantage of the very things that drive behavior. Branding is more than stimulating an intellectual process of imaginative thought. It is about experiencing those thoughts as emotionally charged feelings that lead to real actions. Feelings are turned into waking thoughts, which then become intentions, and finally, purchase. The goal of every marketing program should be to infuse products with emotions so strong that customers become loyal not just to the brands but to the brand missions, instilling devotion and...
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Brands as Meaning Makers

Brands as Meaning Makers

Tim Lebrecht is a noted brand and marketing thinker. He recently made a presentation at The Economist’s “The Big Rethink” Brand Power conference in London, at which he urged companies to see the role of a meaning maker for people important to the brand. Tim isn’t talking about a total rethink of the company’s mission or purpose, but rather as he says, “everyday small acts that make the lives of stakeholders a little bit more meaningful. I believe that maybe the sum of all these small parts is greater than the whole. So, what are the qualities of a brand that is a...
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Rebrand? A Perfect Time to Adopt a “Purpose Beyond Profit”

Rebrand? A Perfect Time to Adopt a “Purpose Beyond Profit”

A rebrand is a great opportunity to scratch below the surface to discover how your business can truly matter to people. Seize this chance to do more than simply apply a new layer of paint over your business. There are numerous reasons why companies choose to rebrand. It might be due to a merger, acquisition, or divestiture. It may be because of tired sales, a less-than-desirable image, or heated up competition. It might be a change in guard at the CEO level. Whatever the reason your business needs an update, the rebrand process offers a unique opportunity to go beyond a new name, logo, and...
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Bad Blind Graphic Design Date

Bad Blind Graphic Design Date

One of the new constants of modern life is graphic design. It was with us before, in newspapers and magazines, bus billboards, and the whole gamut of corporate communications. Now the web and mobile have splashed graphic design everywhere we look – but we seem to be looking with half-closed eyes. Plenty of people have written (not saying “complained”) about how the web and mobile have degraded language. Blogs, email, and texting have made us all writers, so we’ve stopped making much of a distinction among ourselves in that regard. We’re in a hurry, we don’t have editors and proofreaders, and...
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Who Knew? No one.

Who Knew? No one.

As the media heated up before the Masters golf tournament, a Wall Street Journal piece noted that the PGA Tour is a non-profit organization “that turns over its excess cash to charity.” Last year, this amounted to $130 million, which is big money for any philanthropy. For comparison, total prize money for the 2013 PGA Tour season is $298 million. I re-read the “excess cash” sentence about four times. The sport of rich white men, awash in corporate sponsorships, is giving big chunks of the money to those less fortunate. Who knew? Not me, or any of my friends who are deep into golf. I bet a...
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