Brand Belief

Bestselling books often aren’t. For decades the New York Times (NYT) Best Seller list was the acid test of a good read. But while helping a client with his book project, we explored what it takes to get on that list, and it isn’t pretty. In short, you need to sell about 9,000 copies of a book in a given week. Based on this information, a number of companies slithered out of the marketing muck to arrange “book buy-downs” – buying many books through channels to make a book appear to be popular. An author who wants to forever be known as a NYT bestseller simply pays one of these companies to buy books through minions around the country, then store those books in a warehouse somewhere. Sleazy. Even the NYT has tried (and failed) to flag bulk buys as potential rank rigging, though this misidentifies some legitimate bulk buys … Continue reading

Honesty is one of the better policies

A young immigrant entrepreneur is quoted as having once said “You want to lose all of your customers? Lie to one of them.” Like most axioms, it is a battle hardened truth that the next generation enjoys ignoring, just as the previous generation did (and no, that is not an intentional dig at one of the elder presidential candidates, though this shoe fits snugly). All relationships are built on trust, including the primal relationship of commerce. Where our immigrant entrepreneur zeroed-in on reality is the all-and-everything mechanics of integrity, branding and markets. His conclusion was that if you lied to one customer, he or she would communicate to your others. This 20th century businessman, who landed in America before the First World War, understood buzz marketing, or at very least negative buzz. Give one person a reason to disbelieve you and soon everyone will. When members of an industry routinely … Continue reading

Branding Three-step

Book marketing is one of the oddest, yet normal marketing jobs one can have (and this doesn’t include the rapidly evolving digital, post-book-store world Amazon created and dominates). Selling books is a good case study in the fundamentals of brand marketing. Awareness, belief and validation are all steps in the decision chain buyers have. With books, this plays out in a lot of uncommon ways, though the end goals remain the same. Starting with the author’s platform, the first step is to build awareness.  A great deal of typical PR goes into a publisher backed book, making the entire market aware that the book exists and has an alleged value or differentiation (that there is not a dimes worth of value or differentiation between typical romance novels shows that marketing can overcome reality). Pre-release excerpts from books create awareness, but also set the stage for the next mandatory book/brand market … Continue reading

Belief Branding

belief branding and snake-oil marketing

Belief is branding. The question is what forms belief. I am in the earliest of stages in creating a TED Talk, pondering the realities of what people believe and how they come to believe such. On the lower end of the ways we organize what we hold to be true are the elements of belief, knowledge and facts. Individually, humans know few facts compared to humanity’s abundance of cumulative investigation and testing. Thus most of what we shaved apes use to guide our daily activities are either knowledge (acquaintance/familiarity with facts, truths, or principles) or belief (opinion or conviction). Living life this way is perfectly reasonable since omniscience is a rare commodity in this world (despite what politicians say about themselves). The more one has belief, the less one need depend on facts. Every snake oil salesman elected or otherwise, creates a sense of belief. Medicine show pitchmen made rural … Continue reading

Brand Reversal

“Bacon is health food” will never fly, but “pork, the other white meat” did pretty well. Brands are assigned by the market unless you force the market to think and feel what you want them to. Before 1987, it was common wisdom that eating pigs was bad for the body, and not just from uneducated cooks serving up sides of trichinosis. Bacon was evil and even pork chops were off everybody’s diet, regardless of a lack of religious law. This was bad for pig farmers as an increasingly health-conscious America was jogging with Jim Fix and rediscovering vegetables. Even ranchers were winning as they promoted leaner cuts of meat and mom discovered how to trim the fat we used to grill and swallow. Swine sellers fought back by launching the “Pork, the other white meat” marketing campaign to change the pig’s brand image. Pork prices rose, sales jumped 20%, and … Continue reading

Mixed Messaging

If you want to delay sales and distort your brand, just mix a few messages. This came to light recently when a client needed to recast their brand, desiring their prospects to simultaneously feel relieved and excited. Though not entirely mutually exclusive, they are on opposite ends of the adrenaline spectrum. One might feel excited about the prospect of being relieved, but that is as close as these two concepts come. When a customer encounters you for the first time, they have to believe something about you. Even if they are skeptical, they must have in their hearts some notion about the value they would derive from giving you money. These value propositions, communicated in words, images, colors, videos and other modes can never be complicated (there isn’t enough time or customer patience) and they cannot be contradictory (“we will make you sexy and saintly”). For B2B companies, this is … Continue reading

Vaguely Blunt

Bluntness in outbound marketing can be taken too far

Some marketing messages are delivered like a 2×4 head shot. Others come and go like whispered gibberish. Blunt market messages cannot be mistaken, but lack emotional connections. The more vaporous varieties tend to say nothing, but say it prettily leaving customers delightfully confused. In B2B tech marketing you see attempts at both extremes and failures either way. They bomb because attaching to functional and emotional drivers delivers the best total cognitive attraction possible and short selling either part leads to incomplete customer connections. Where confusion enters the minds of marketers comes from not understanding their target audience. I had a client once who sold IT infrastructure software, yet decided they wanted an “irreverent” brand. The result was their messaging lacked the requisite blunt force trauma of traditional B2B communications aimed at executives making strategic technology decisions. This client’s failure to understand the typical no nonsense CxO led them to induce … Continue reading