. The Transom .

Monday, March 10, 2008

Brand equity - a business insurance policy

Potential clients and people outside the industry ask me all the time, is there really anything to what I say about the value of brand equity or is it just marketing speak?  Consider this recent news that involves Tiger Woods, arguably the hottest brand on the planet.  

Tiger is part of a national promotion from Buick that has the prize of a 9-hole round of golf at Torrey Pines with Woods as your caddie.  That's right, the greatest golfer the world has ever seen, the man who commands more than $100 million a year in endorsement deals, one of the only people on the planet who is recognized by nearly everyone in any nation, will huff your bag around for 9 holes.  Some would ask, why in the world would he lower himself to this position of servitude?  Why would he devalue his brand by going from star athlete to Sherpa Woods?  

Because the equity in his brand turns this potential negative into a positive that adds more equity to the brand.  Now consider a lower equity player pulling the same stunt.  Let's pick on Jay Williamson, an exceptionally nice man, fellow St. Louisan, and nearly moderately average professional golfer.  If you're saying, who's Jay Williamson, you're not alone, but check out pgatour.com.  He's a real guy.  

So let's say Jay pulls this stunt and Buick makes the same promotion, offering to have Williamson on your bag.  First of all, the promotion would read, "PGA TOUR veteran Jay Williamson" or "PGA Tour professional Jay Williamson" will carry your bag... etc etc.  There would be that disclaimer of having to tell people a) who is he, and b) why they should care.  In Woods' case, everyone already knows that a) he's a PGA Tour player, and b) they would give their left arm to meet him.  

Additionally, reactions to Williamson on the promotion would likely be greeted with thoughts of, "Gee, he must be hard off to lower himself to this stunt," or "someone is desperate for publicity."  Not so in Woods' case.  His brand is so money that he could offer to mow your yard and people would pay thousands to see it.  

So does brand equity work as well for law firms, or manufacturing companies, or retail stores as well as it does for Tiger Woods?  You bet it does.  Work on building your brand equity today to save, and make, time and money tomorrow.  

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The difference between what companies say and what they want

This probably falls under the 'repeating the obvious' category, but I feel it's worth bringing up.  We have recently been involved with several new business pitches, from very large opportunities to fairly modest.  In almost every instance, what we are told the client-to-be is looking for is in fact not at all what they really want.  This can cause many problems, most obviously hiring a firm that will do what they were told, but not what is needed.  It also wastes an incredible amount of time on both the agency and client side.  When the client is putting together an RFP, it's usually written in marketing-speak.  That is, the client wants this or that from a marketing perspective.  They want to see examples of good creative, they want an understanding of our understanding of strategy, they want to see past media results, etc etc.  

What I see very few, if any, clients doing is really checking references.  Sure, they all ask for three references, but I've yet to run across more than one company that has actually called any of our references.  Not that past performance is a huge indicator of future results, but working relationships and the personal nature of our business would suggest a need for a few questions to people that worked with us previously.  

Additionally, very few clients focus on business results.  Sure, they want to see them, but it isn't usually a part of the discovery process.  They are more excited about what kind of success we've had with which media outlet.  What they should be concerned about is whether or not we made an impact on our clients' business.  The rest is just dressing.  Either we helped a company grow or we didn't.  Sometimes helping a company grow can mean keeping it from shrinking, but that's another topic altogether.  

So this is a call to all potential clients out there asking you to please look at what's really important instead of what's easy to glitz on a PowerPoint presentation.  Everyone has fancy show and tell.  Not every firm has measurable results.  If you're just getting stacks of clips or anecdotal responses to program effectiveness, you're wasting a lot of time and money.  

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Breaking news that really isn't

It isn't often that I pick on Edelman. I mean, its a huge company that wins a lot of business and generally does good work. But as with many large businesses, such pressures can lead to questionable decisions and morally wrong actions. Edelman has suffered its fair share of each.

Edelman just released some news informing the world that it has merged three of its digital lines of business into one new unit, Edelman Digital. That's not real exciting news. What's interesting is this new LOB's revolutionary new mission to provide 'authentic communication.' Lets pause for thought....

So Edelman, the world's largest independent PR firm, has just realized the key to the game is actual honest to God authentic communication and not just a bunch of bullshit spin. Let's pause for thought...


I'm happy to see one of my competitors finally understands what we've been preaching for more than five decades. No doubt Edelman will have enormous clout and resources with the new digital division and be able to wow and impress clients with its digital wizardry. But what a cool thing to actually use it for authentic communication! Why didn't we think of that? Oh wait... we did.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Social media hides hidden talent

I had the privilege to speak at an American Marketing Association student conference last week on the topic of social media and its impact on business.  Seeing as I would be presenting to 135 current college students, I anticipated some interesting questions about various social media applications and tools, perhaps several that I wasn't familiar with.  To my surprise, the majority of students were not only not currently taking advantage of social media, but were largely unaware of it.  As an example, I asked for a show of hands of who had never heard of Second Life.  At least 90% of the hands went up.  How many had their own blog?  About two.  How many read blogs actively?  About two.  How many watch videos on YouTube?  Nearly everyone.  How many post videos on YouTube?  About four.  How many utilize RSS feeds?  Hardly anyone.

And then the kicker...  how many actively use Facebook/MySpace? Everyone.    Initially I was shocked and thought that these are the very people who are best equipped to use and understand this technology.  I mean, our business uses nearly all of it and we're hardly cutting edge.  I told them before I left that I felt they were, as an age group, at a disadvantage.  Because of their age, when they enter the workforce there is a certain level of expectation that they understand this stuff or are familiar with it.  Most older people think it's nothing but stuff for the 18-30 crowd.  

After some more thought, it  occurred to me that perhaps these students don't know what they know well.  As an example, hardly any hands went up for active users of blogs, podcasts, and RSS.  But when you consider that Facebook is largely a grouping of all of these functions, these students are very adept users at technology they don't know the name for.  In Facebook, you have a blog option, or even can use the Wall function, get updates on all your friends automatically anytime they change their profile, status, add pics, etc, and can easily post and share photos and video.  This is in itself using blog, podcast and RSS technology, just under a brand-friendly name.

Maybe it would help these kids to understand they know more than they give themselves credit for.