Category Archives for "Daily Posts"

2 Branding in a skeptical world — Two Trends For 2012

Magazine editors and TV journalists love year-end lists. And when it’s the end of a decade, there’s even more interest in rehashing the top 10 things in every category from celebrity scandals to the most trusted brands.

I prefer to look forward, and I suspect many of you are with me on that. So here are two — not ten — branding trends that will help you, right now.

• The crisis of confidence and the consumer’s ultra-sensitive, internal BS meter.

The last two years have not been good for consumer confidence. The banking collapse. Bernie Madoff. AIG bonuses. The automotive bailout. Tiger’s “transgressions.” No wonder people are more jaded than ever.

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3 Brand differentiation. Is your message too generic?

Golf is one of those categories where brand differentiation is difficult. Clubheads are as big as they’re going to get, and every brand promises the same thing… Longer, straighter drives. High technology. And distance above all else.

This headline from a Cobra Driver ad sums it up: “Scientifically engineered for insanely long, straight drives.”

Sounds insanely generic to me. Why pay $50,000 to convey a message that applies to the entire category? You could literally insert the photo of any driver and no one would know the difference. Seems like a high price to pay for invisibility.

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1 Three ways to hone-in on a better homepage.

By John Furgurson

These days there are a lot of nice brands that exist only on the internet. They don’t have a presence in the local mall. They don’t advertise in mainstream media. And they don’t have a rock star CEO who gets a lot of press. Most of those companies have just one way to connect with potential customers. One Chance Only to convey their brand message and entice people to do business. It’s the homepage of their website. The homepage is the modern-day business card, storefront window display and company brochure all wrapped up in one. But for some reason, many people have adopted a real estate analogy to help explain homepage planning and design. Like a developer working within a tight urban growth boundary, they believe every square inch is “valuable real estate.” Not to be wasted. So they cram as much as they possibly can into that little 800×600 screen. To them, white space is just as useless as a vacant lot. I’d like to offer a more constructive analogy. imagesThink of your homepage as the cover of a magazine… That magazine is sitting on the newsstand, next to a dozen others on the same topic. Somehow, it has to stand out. The cover alone needs to entice people to skip over the competition and take a look. In a nutshell, the magazine cover has to sell magazines. The same can be said for your website homepage. So let’s look at the techniques that magazines use to move product off the newsstand shelves. Each of these is directly applicable to good homepage design. Choose one delicious visual. Photo editors spend weeks getting just the right photo for their next magazine cover. They look for images that tell a story and convey genuine human emotion. They sweat the details because they know that good eye candy pays off at the newsstand. Seems like most webmasters use whatever they can find on Google images. Or they do the E-bay thing, and snap a quick photo of their product with a cell phone. How many homepages have you seen with a stock photo of a smiling, happy telephone operator, standing by? It’s ridiculous. Here’s a homepage that’s worth studying: Long before the internet, Patagonia established strict guidelines for their catalog photos. They must be real photos of “Patagoniacs” using the products, pursing their passion or living the life. Thankfully, those same high standards now apply to the Patagonia website. One glance and you know what that company’s all about. It’s a clean, compelling reflection of the brand. Narrow the strategic focus. Magazine editors know their readers, and they choose a cover article that will be relevant and compelling to a large portion of their audience. Not all, but most. Then the art director designs the cover around that article. One idea. One main visual element, with just a couple of teasers regarding other content. On the other hand, most homepages have all sorts of products and links and windows and flash and specials and banner ads and photos and videos and nav options. Unfortunately, all that clutter causes confusion and muddies your brand message. You only have a few seconds to answer a prospect’s most pressing question… “will this website give me what I need.” “Does it have the content/tools/products I’m looking for?” Trying to sort through a hodgepodge of elements and endless choices doesn’t help answer that. In fact, consumer behavior research shows that when faced with too many choices, people often just disengage. Limit the number of choices on your home page, and you’ll have better click-through rates. Besides, people don’t judge your entire operation by the homepage, but the DO judge your website from that. So you better make a good first impression. Tease. Tease. Tease. The objective of the homepage isn’t to make the sale, it’s to open the door and lure them in. It should entice people to click in and poke around, just as a good cover entices people to thumb through a magazine. The art of the tease is about leading people deeper and deeper into your site, until they find just what they’re looking for. You want to build in a sense of discovery and drama, revealing a little more at each level. Far too many websites just lay it all out, right there on the homepage. Wham bam thank you ma’am. Here’s another way to look at it… Imagine you’re a tenant in the world’s largest mall of the future. Your front window display is the equivalent of your homepage. You don’t show everything you’ve got in store, you choose a few really tasty items, and tease them like Victoria’s Secret. You want shoppers to stop in their tracks, admire your presentation, and then walk in the door. That’s all. But back to the original analogy… It’s ironic that many successful magazines have had a hard time making the transition to the web. They have the content. They have the design sense and the writing staff. But something’s getting lost in translation. They seem to be letting the technology dictate their product. They aren’t employing their own rules of cover design to their homepages. So don’t do as the magazines do on line. Do as they do on the newsstand.

4 Putting Amazon In Perspective

How could my 79-year-old mother possibly be a poster child for When it comes to technology, she’s utterly hopeless… She’s never written or received an e-mail in her life. She’s never Googled anything, or referred to Wikipedia. And to her, a twitter is something finches do.

And yet here she is, contently reading yet another novel on her Amazon Kindle.

The new Kindle.

The new Kindle.

About a year ago my mom had a “micro stroke” that affected the optical nerve in her right eye. Made it almost impossible to read for any length of time, and typical, 12-point type is almost impossible to decipher. To make matters worse, the little library in her town can’t afford many large print books. So she was stuck.

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2 Super Sales vs. Super Brands.

It’s discount days in the retail world right now. Everywhere you turn there’s a super sale, an inventory reduction, a clearance event or other equally banal form of discount.

Sign of the times, I suppose. Store owners are desperate to get people in the door, even if it causes long-term damage to the brand.

But does discounting really hurt your brand?

That’s a good question… one that often leads to blazing debates between ad agency folks and their clients. The creatives are quick to condemn anything that involves a price point. But the client wants to “move the needle” and “get an immediate ROI” on every advertising dollar. He feels that any sort of “image” advertising is a waste of time. Then there’s the agency Account Executive, trying desperately to bring the two sides together in a sort of middle-east accord that will save the account for another year.

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2 Restaurant Brands — A Recipe For Failure.

In a town the size of Bend, Oregon, three top restaurants closing within weeks of each other is big news. It’s a story that goes way beyond water cooler banter. Beyond the blogosphere. Beyond the business section of the local paper and into the annals of business school curriculum everywhere.

These are lessons worthy of any MBA program in the country.

The obituaries sounded all too familiar for this town, at this time: “Merenda’s demise was hastened by prevailing economic conditions.” “The bottom dropped out of the restaurant business. Everyone’s feeling the pinch.” “The seasonal nature of business in this town makes it very difficult…”

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4 Truth & Transparency — How one ski area is managing customer’s expectations.

By John Furgurson

Ski area managers live and die by the whims of Mother Nature. Already this winter high winds and heavy ice have toppled trees and wrecked havoc at Mt. Bachelor. Flooded roads cut access to Crystal Mountain. A lift tower at Whistler snapped. A landslide took out a lift at Snoqualmie Pass. And some poor guy at Vail found himself hanging upside down and naked from a chairlift.

So how do you keep your customers happy through all the drama and mayhem? How do you handle those days that don’t qualify for the chamber of commerce brochure? As Mt. Bachelor has discovered, it’s a matter of managing expectations by educating skiers about mountain operations and reporting the truth in a timely, credible manner. A significant departure from the industry norm.

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6 The ultimate, feel-good retail experience.

Why Powell’s is one of the sweetest franchise brands in the country.


I never knew a store like this when I was a kid. Even back then, a neighborhood candy store was purely fictitious. More cliché than everyday. So when I wandered into Powell’s Sweet Shoppe for the first time, it really was a first.

Industry consultants call Powell’s Sweets “an involving retail experience that taps into deep-seated emotional connections with long-forgotten childhood brands.”

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9 Marketing lessons from GM — Will a $30 billion bailout buy them some focus?


The top guns of the American auto industry parked their private jets, piled into their big, luxury hybreds, and headed back to Washington last week. The goal: 50 billion dollars in loans, credit and other forms of bailout money. The second installment of what one reporter called, “a long term payment plan in $35 billion installments.”

There’s no doubt GM’s failure would a terrible economic blow. Those jobs would be sorely missed, but would anyone miss the mediocre brands that GM’s been consistently producing for the last 35 years?

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15 Four secret ingredients of all successful brands.

(What you can learn from a healthy bowl of cereal and a two-buck burrito.)

Branding is a popular topic in the business press these days. Unfortunately, case studies about Coca-Cola, Nike and Virgin, make is sound like Branding is a discipline reserved for the Fortune 500 companies and globe-trotting billionaires.

Let me set the record straight on that: It’s entirely possible to build a successful brand without a million-dollar marketing budget or a cadre of high-paid consultants. Many small-business owners do it intuitively. They build a successful business, step by step, and over time a great brand develops.

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