Our series Lessons from Startup Culture focuses on the ways in which startups have changed the business landscape through the necessity of innovation and outside-the-box thinking. While many larger companies face different challenges, there is still a lot to be learned by examining how small businesses navigate product design, branding, and marketing on a limited (often nearly non-existent) budget.
In this installment, we’ll explore the marketing strategies that pioneering startups have developed in response to emerging social media landscapes and out of a need to build name recognition and introduce new products to their target markets. Continue Reading
In our contentious political and social climate, most brands choose to play it safe and advertise their products without engaging with any issues that may alienate a portion of their consumer base. Not so with Gillette, which recently released an online ad titled We Believe: The Best a Man Can Get that courts controversy by invoking the #MeToo movement, toxic masculinity, and bullying (among other hot-button issues). The ad, which provoked a firestorm of competing editorials and news coverage, has placed Gillette at the center of an ongoing debate about social messaging from brands.
A lot has been published about the ad’s message and the public’s response. What I’d like to examine is the risk vs. the reward of socially-engaged brand content and how brands are creating a new playbook for effective social messaging. Continue Reading
Richard Edelman, a leading expert in public relations and marketing, recently gave a speech at the University of Notre Dame addressing the crisis in consumer trust. His firm, Edelman, is a long-standing chronicler of consumer trust in institutions including business and government (we’ve covered past Edelman Trust Barometer results on our blog). In 2017, their global survey found that “trust is in crisis around the world” with trust in media and government reaching record lows since before the Great Recession of 2008.
The results for 2018 offer little hope for rebounding from the previous year. The most recent Trust Barometer “reveals a world of seemingly stagnant distrust” as “people’s trust in business, government, NGOs and media remained largely unchanged from 2017.” What the survey does offer, alongside Edelman’s recent remarks, is a potential way forward for those companies seeking to re-earn and re-establish the goodwill of their consumer base. Continue Reading
The Nebraska Tourism Commission recently unveiled a surprising new slogan: “Honestly, It’s Not for Everyone.” Unsurprisingly, it has garnered considerable national press for making this bold move. Conventional tourism campaigns rely on extolling the positives of a given location; European slogans include Germany’s “Simply Inspiring” and Norway’s “Powered by Nature,” while in the United States we have Utah’s “Life Elevated” and West Virginia’s “Wild and Wonderful.”
Nebraska’s new slogan takes a different approach, acknowledging that the state doesn’t get attention as a leisure destination or even a significant natural beauty. By turning conventional wisdom on its head, the Nebraska Tourism Commission is attracting attention of a different kind and ultimately achieving its goal. Continue Reading
The concept of hermeneutics – introduced to me by the remarkably intelligent Rodger Nishioka – is that we all have various “lenses” through which we interpret the world around us. These may be immutable characteristics such as age and race, or changeable ones such as level of education, location, or job status. The unique way we each process information is related to the combination of lenses through which we receive it.
We recently explored the potential behind a hermeneutics-inspired approach to consumer segmentation in marketing and advertising. These lenses of interpretation are a kind of inverse of the typical approach to consumer segmentation – separating people into various demographic groups (from the outside in) and targeting them with messages that are calculated to resonate. The hermeneutic approach suggests an internal lens, allowing us to attempt to see through a consumer’s eyes by understanding the factors that influence their perception.
How might this concept help us create brands that attract a wide audience and inspire ongoing relationships? Continue Reading
My wife and I are big fans of Rev. Rodger Nishioka, an astonishingly bright man. We love his insightful and perceptive approach to examining the big issues of our day. The opening sentences of Rodger’s recent note have been on my mind since I first read it. He wrote:
Hermeneutics. It means “interpretation.” I like to think of hermeneutics as a set of lenses through which each person views the world. Hermeneutics, or how we interpret the world, shape everything. The truth is each of us have multiple hermeneutics. We view the world through a complex combination of lenses. Some of my lenses are male, fourth-generation American of Japanese ancestry, single, mid-westerner (that is the newest one and I am still growing into it) and educated (some might say over-educated?!)
Our Design Mindset series has attempted to define some of the many abstractions around “good” design – what is it, and how can it be quantified and consistently achieved? It’s easy to understand the importance of design in creating new products, both to stand out in an increasingly crowded market and to develop a user experience that resonates with consumers. It’s more difficult to implement design in other aspects of business, but the rewards are significant for those that do.
In an article published by McKinsey & Company, designer John Maeda remembers a client who had a realization about the importance of design, saying “Oh, so design isn’t about this pixels thing. It’s about systems thinking… it isn’t just about the appearance.” Good design values aesthetics, but perhaps even more so it values the integrity and functionality of systems. Let’s explore how successful companies bridge the gap between product design and systems thinking. Continue Reading
In the world of high-profile brands, there are many success stories that we return to again and again. Steve Jobs and the creation of the Apple brand – Tesla’s Elon Musk – Richard Branson and his serial entrepreneurial success – Jeff Bezos and Amazon. Other brands don’t get as much attention. This bias is so ingrained that we sometimes overlook brands that might have a lot to teach us.
I originally hesitated to write about Zumba, the global fitness brand that continues to explode in popularity despite a lack of attention from the business community. But to dismiss the brand is to fail to notice how deeply and brilliantly it has tapped into evolving trends in the fitness (and music) world and how innovative its founders’ approach to growing their brand truly is. What makes Zumba work and what can its success teach us about building our own brands? Continue Reading
One enduringly successful brand, the outdoor lifestyle-focused REI (which is celebrating 80 years this year), has taken the concept of brand action to new heights in recent years. Their OptOutside movement boldly reshapes the status quo among retailers and provides a powerful model for brands that want to turn their brand image into a signifier of something greater. Continue Reading
As part of our ongoing exploration of authentic branding and how brand makers create and sustain value, we recently discussed Bain & Company’s Elements of Value. This pyramid of attributes provides a fascinating and powerful framework for discussing and determining exactly what a brand is promising its audience. By identifying the values that a brand or product seeks to fulfill, we can clarify the promise it is making to the consumers who purchase its products.
The greatest opportunity for a succinct declaration of a brand’s promise is its tagline – the short slogan that (usually accompanying a logo) provides a verbal “hook” in the brand’s marketing and advertising. Famous taglines (like Nike’s “Just Do It” or Allstate’s “You’re In Good Hands”) can become cultural touchstones that cement a brand’s identity in the minds of consumers. They also speak to the value proposition – the “promise” – the brand is making to its audience. Continue Reading