Sunday, October 30, 2011

Brands Do Nothing

You often hear "brands have the power to change society" or "brands make life more meaningful" or "brands connect with consumer passions" or "brands are now more interactive with consumers".

But...that's crazy talk.

Brands are something, but they do nothing.

A brand is simply a collection of slogans, color schemes, logos, trademarks, identity demarcations, and emotional appeals to a targeted audience. A brand is what is applied to a product, or line of products, in hopes of attracting more attention, enhancing mental positioning, and increasing customer loyalty.

The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a "Name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers. A brand may identify one item, a family of items, or all items of that seller. If used for the firm as a whole, the preferred term is trade name."

The brand provides no benefits to the customer. It's the product that solves a problem, meets a need. confers bragging rights (inflate the ego and impress peers), or enhances a lifestyle. The branding is just the whistles and bells that are added to the message about the product.

The Coca Cola brand does not help the customer. The Coca Cola brand helps Coca Cola generate interest in theoretically thirsty consumers. It's the actual Coca Cola product that quenches thirst, not the brand.

When an agency or consultant says they "do branding" for a company, it basically just means they integrate all the company's marketing efforts for consistency and relevance to the target audience.

As I've stated many times, the real "branding" of a product is what occurs when the value of the product is "burned" into the consciousness and memory of a customer when they use the product to solve a problem, meet a need, confer bragging rights (inflate the ego and impress peers), or enhance a lifestyle.

My definition is reinforced by this Wikipedia entry:

"The word branding began simply as a way to tell one person's cattle from another by means of a hot iron stamp. The word brand has continued to evolve to encompass identity — it affects the personality of a product, company or service. It is defined by a perception, good or bad, that your customers or prospects have about you.

...People engaged in branding seek to develop or align the expectations behind the brand experience, creating the impression that a brand associated with a product or service has certain qualities or characteristics that make it special or unique."

But a brand is just an aura surrounding a product and it may not be realistic, true, or genuine. It may be deceptive, contrived, or gimmicky.

A product has no intrinsic "personality". All it can do is appeal to and try to fit in with the personality and milieu of the customer who incorporates the product into their life.

There is no "sad soda pop" targeted to depressed people, for example. But the branding of a soda pop may try to make it look as though successful people who are happy and having fun tend to prefer Soda Pop X, and don't you want to join them? Then buy Soda Pop X.

Nobody wants to experience or interact with a brand. They want to identify with a product that symbolizes or represents certain qualities the customer wishes to have transferred to him, or that he really does have. The brand simply attempts to communicate those desirable qualities of the product, and that's all.

A brand does not sponsor a charity event. The company does. A brand does not engage in activism. The employees do. A brand does not engage in interactions with people on social media. The marketing department or intern or PR staff or product spokesperson or media consultant does.

Enough with all this silly talk. No more attributing magical powers to the abstract entity known as the brand.

If product sales are declining, or you want to reach new markets, don't work exclusively on the brand. Get to know what the customer needs, expectations, and interests are, modify or position the product as the solution, and then tweak the branding efforts.

But the connection must be made between the product reality and the customer reality.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Microsoft Windows 7 epic share COMMERCIAL

This is Windows 7 commercial from Microsoft, called "Epic Share",  is one of my favorite TV commercials of all time.


(1) It's short, yet packs a lot of information and product benefit into a tiny amount of time.

(2) I love and make techno music.

(3) It shows a family together having fun in the home.

(4) It tells a compact, concise story that communicates value to people.

(5) It shows how easy it is to perform a desired function (videotaping a dad dancing silly to a techno song, transferring the video to a PC, and watching on social media, in a private share (selected friends, not total public) mode, it just seconds after dad's performance).

(6) It promotes safe use of social media.

(7) It doesn't rely on sex or violence to sell a product.

I searched YouTube for this specific TV commercial. First I searched "Microsoft Windows 7 Commercial" but I got page after page of fan videos and parody videos that were home-made and not official Microsoft commercials.

When I searched YouTube for just "Microsoft Windows 7", I saw a lot of tech pundit videos and various tutorials. Not what I wanted.

So I decided to search YouTube with "Microsoft channel" as the key phrase, then found and went to the official Microsoft channel. There, at the top of the list. was the commercial for which I was looking.

I'm so happy to see Microsoft providing embed code so fans of Microsoft, or fans of this particular commercial, can post it on their own blogs, thus giving Microsoft free promotion.

Why is embed code vital for making videos go viral, making them become super popular, and getting your message, art, or expertise to a wider audience? Because you can promote your video yourself to a certain extent, but you amplify and magnify the promotion by tapping into passionate fans, when you make video embed code available.

I am a big advocate of this practice of enabling fans to embed TV commercials -- and I cannot understand why any corporation would not put their TV commercial videos both on their own website and on YouTube.

See my article "Making TV Commercials Go Viral via Embed Code".

Thanks to anonymous comment posters for tracking down the music of the 2nd song used in this video, as follows:

Falcon is a producer. Honor Roll Music is a production house.

"The Born" was created by Falcon for Honor Roll Music and licensed to Microsoft for use in the Microsoft Epic Share commercial.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Brands are For Cow Hides, Use Social Media to Humanize

A brand is a symbol of a ranch that is burned into the hide of cattle to identify that cattle as legally belonging to that ranch. Once a cow has been branded, it is a crime for some other ranch to capture that cow, add it to their herd, and claim it as their own.

People are not cattle. Consumers aren't looking to have a company's mark burned painfully into their skin.

There is a "brand" of sorts that is burned into the customer: how well the product achieves the goal of satisfying the customer's need. When the customer uses the product to fulfill the purpose for which it was purchased, to solve a problem or enhance a lifestyle, the result is "burned" like a brand into the mind, the consciousness of that customer.

Companies have to stop thinking of themselves as "brands", as something they burn into the skin of consumers as a mark. They are not a "brand", a frenzied mess of symbolic gestures and catchy slogans, dreamed up in ad agency conference rooms.

A company is a collection of people who have produced a product that (hopefully) meets the needs of other people. As such, as concerned individuals, they then interact with those people who potentially could benefit from their expertise and from their product.

That's how a company, or company spokesperson, must behave in social media. Not pushing product, product, product. Not flooding the online community with sales messages, discount coupons, and aggressive hype. Not dropping marketing bombs then zooming away.

Nobody joins social media to receive relentless commercial messages. People seek companionship, friendly conversations, and sometimes they need answers to questions or solutions to specific problems.

Assign someone to handle your social media. Someone who's on fire for what your product can do for those who need it. Someone who understands marketing and sales, but also understands psychology and social media interactions.

Use social media to socialize. Use social media to present a warm, sharing and caring, genuinely human face.

People think of corporations as cold, aloof, arrogant, and uncaring. Provide superior customer service, help people choose which model of your product is most suited for their budget and needs.

Give them insight into the general area of life your product exists within. Share your expertise, even if a particular insight is not immediately followed by a sales message. Position your company in the minds of consumers as the thought leader, the company with good answers and value and solutions.

Nobody wants to interact with a "brand".

Nobody seeks a deeper relationship with a "brand".

People have problems, interests, needs, and questions.

Address those issues, and your "branding" will take a new turn and be a humanized, altruistic success -- with sales growth as a natural and well-deserved consequence.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Lensing and Shuttering photo blog

I have a new blog wherein I showcase my photographic skills. It's called Lensing and Shuttering.

I'm displaying the images in extra large size, to increase their impact.

My photos are aesthetically pleasing, avant garde, Peoria historic, funny, and almost never posed or predictable. If you enjoy images that are well composed, brilliant in color, and a joy to behold, check out my new photo blog.