Thursday, September 27, 2012

Branding 101: What sets your Brand Apart?

Brand is one of those things many people (including engineers AND marketers) misunderstand.  Some think it is a color, a logo, a label, a trademark, a phrase or some combination.  It is not.  Brand is exactly this: what those who have heard of your product/company 'think' your product/company is about.  That's it.

Where in the mind of your target audience does your company/product sit?
Which 'mental filing cabinet' do they put you in?
Can you influence it?

These questions have led to the development of most modern branding theory.  The answers may surprise you.

Learning where in the mind of your target audience your product lives is easy: just ask.  Ask your customers.  Ask them how you compare to competitors.  Ask them what they think. can help.

The answers should let you see what kinds of filing cabinets exist (usually arranged in the minds of users by "Price", "Value", and "Quality").  But can you get into a "New/Empty" filing cabinet?  Can you be the "most/best" of something, so your file comes up first in the mind?


You can influence where in the mind your product lives.  To do this you must first really understand your product & your competitors products.  WHAT SETS YOUR BRAND APART?  What are you really special at?  Nothing?  Going to be hard to file you in a cabinet.  (no room for 'not best at much' category).

Figure it out or make it so.  Be the "most or best" at something.  Unequivocally.

Now how to brand it that way?   Exude your most-ness.  Your messaging should refer it.  Your graphics should bleed it.  You should get your customers give testimonials claiming it.  You should get reviews saying it.  You must emphasize at all times, you are the 'most/best/only' X.

Build that brand on top of your key distinguishing attribute.  Then stick to it.

Got a new version of the same product that is even more "mostness" of the same key benefit?  Fine.  Keep the same brand name.

Got a new product with different feature mix?  Fine.  Build a new brand! DO NOT extend your old brand.  Don't even keep the company name unless you have to (see P&G, Kraft, etc.).  The new brand should exude it's new uniqeness and key attribute.  (not attributes mind you).

Debate welcome below in comments.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Engineers Need to learn Diplomacy

Diplomacy is not just a great game from the 1950s, its also a vital skill, that so many engineers (myself included) lack proficiency in.    Sure we know what it means, we may even have the "theory", but we suck at it.  We engineers are too "black and white".  Diplomacy is not about black and white/right or wrong.  It's about understanding and mutual benefit.  My recent read of How to Win Friends and Influence People has led me to start thinking hard about how I communicate with people.  Read on for some situations that may apply to you!

Here are some situations where Engineers have the wrong idea & how to correct them:

  1. "You are wrong, and I am right."
    • Wrong!  (hehe, see I'm an engineer).  You can't put the real world into right and wrong.  There are shades of gray.  
    • A better approach: "I'm sure there is much to your statement that is correct.  However, I have a slightly different understanding.  Lets discuss till we can at least see each others viewpoint."
  2. "This is a negotiation, I will try to get what I want."
    • Wrong!  A negotiation should be a mutual discussion to find where both parties can find benefit (1+1 = 3).
    • A better approach: "I would like to tell you what areas we really need, and where we can be flexible   If you can do the same, perhaps we can find some win-win agreement, or just move on otherwise"
  3. "This is a sale, I will try to sell the other person, by convincing them this is the best for them."
    • Wrong! A Sale situation should be about "qualifying" the person, and truly helping them determine if the sale is right for them.  (they have to decide, you can only ask questions and point out benefits that are relevant to their situation).
    • A better approach: "We are a X company, and we help people with Y.  Do you have any problems with Y or would you like your Y to be better?  Maybe I can be helpful, but if not, no worries."
  4. "This is a rule, do not break it."
    • Wrong!  Rules are for science & children.  Being flexible to the situation and listening to peoples concerns is the diplomatic way.
    • A better approach: "I'd like to understand what happened better to see if this rule is still applicable, or if there is some situation where it is broken."
  5.   "Why should I bother helping this person, when they are clearly incompetent?"
    • Wrong!  This one is hardest for me.  But diplomatic way would be to learn more about the incompetence to be able to prevent the problem in the future or create a learning system that fixes the incompetency.
    • A better approach: "I'd like to discuss the problem further and understand how you get here so I can prevent it from happening in the future."

Can anyone recommend a good book on Diplomacy?

I think I can use a good refresher as well!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Got Marketing Questions? I'll answer them here!

I know a lot of my blog readers already are marketers... but I would welcome questions from you or anyone.  Feel free to be specific with your situation/example.  If I've ever encountered a problem like yours (likely) I will answer it with an example from my past.  Are you an engineer-type?  My answers will be logical (hopefully), and use an engineering problem-solving methodology.   So, ask away.  Comment below, or message me... I'd love to learn more about your specific marketing challenges.  And remember, Marketing INCLUDES product design and development... so those questions are welcome too!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Father Forgets

I just started reading "How to win Friends and Influence People", a book with an unfortunate title.. as it is not at all about "hucksterism" or "cheap ways to make friends" (unlike another book I am reading, "Never Eat Alone".. more on that later).
Instead it is about character and psychology...  and it contains the readers digest version of Father Forgives by W. Livingston Larned.

PLEASE READ THIS if you haven't.  It's very good.

(Or click here to listen to it on youtube:

(text borrowed from here:

Father Forgets

by W. Livingston Larned

Listen, son; I am saying this as you lie asleep, one little paw crumpled under your cheek and the blond curls stickily wet on your damp forehead. I have stolen into your room alone. Just a few minutes ago, as I sat reading my paper in the library, a stifling wave of remorse swept over me. Guiltily I came to your bedside.
There are things I was thinking, son: I had been cross to you. I scolded you as you were dressing for school because you gave your face merely a dab with a twoel. I took you to task for not cleaning your shoes. I called out angrily when you threw some of your things on the floor.

At breakfast I found fault, too. You spilled things. You gulped down your food. You put your elbows on the table. You spread butter too thick on your bread. And as you started off to play and I made for my train, you turned and waved a hand and called, "Goodbye, Daddy!" and I frowned, and said in reply, "Hold your shoulders back!"

Then it began all over again in the late afternoon. As I came Up the road, I spied you, down on your knees, playing marbles. There were holes in your stockings. I humiliated you before you boyfriends by marching you ahead of me to the house. Stockings were expensive - and if you had to buy them you would be more careful! Imagine that, son, form a father!

Do you remember, later, when I was reading in the library, how you came in timidly, with a sort of hurt look in your eyes? When I glanced up over my paper, impatient at the interruption, you hesitated at the door. "What is it you want?" I snapped.

You said nothing, but ran across in one tempestuous plunge, and threw your arms around my neck and kissed me, and your small arms tightened with an affection that God had set blooming in your heart and which even neglect could not wither. And then you were gone, pattering up the stairs.
Well, son, it was shortly afterwards that my paper slipped from my hands and a terrible sickening fear came over me. What has habit been doing to me? The habit of finding fault, of reprimanding - this was my reward to your for being a boy. It was not that I did not love you; it was that I expected too muchof youth. I was measuring you by the yardstick of my own years.

And there was so much that was good and fine and true in yourcharacter. The little heart of you was as big as the dawn itself overthe wide hills. This was shown by your spontaneous impulse to rush in and kiss me good night. Nothing else matters tonight, son. I have come to your bedside in the darkness, and I have knelt there, ashamed!

It is a feeble atonement; I know you would not understand these things if I told them to you during your waking hours. But tomorrow I will be a real daddy! I will chum with you, and suffer when you suffer, and laugh when you alugh. I will bite my tongue when impatient words come. I will keep saying as if it were a ritual: "He is nothing buy a boy - a little boy!"

I am afraid I have visualized you as a man. Yet as I see you now, son, crumpled and weary in your cot, I see that you are still a baby. Yesterday you were in your mother's arms, your head on her shoulder. I have asked too much, too much.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Manufacturer Coupons

If you are a marketer, and you sell products at retail, you might have wondered: "how do I make a manufacturer coupon that works for any retailer?"  The answer is quite complex, but I've figured it out.. and here are my instructions/thoughts:

1. Get a GS-1 barcode.  You'll have to have an approved GS-1 Prefix (ID) number.

2. Your products should have a GS-1 barcode on them.  Start grouping your products with the 3-digit group id.  (Products around the same brand or price can be grouped for example).

3. Your coupons will use that same GS-1 Prefix.

4. Find a Coupon Design shop... (here is my favorite:  Small company, but great service!).  Got a big budget or making a LOT of coupons?  Go to:  (expensive but good in volume).

5. Build a coupon!  (use their wizard, as understanding the GS1 codes is not easy!).

6. Get (or borrow) some legal text for the front of your coupon... (example: look at any other MFG coupon, and 'borrow' the legal verbs from it).

7. Test the coupon!  (be sure to put your street address where the coupon can be redeemed).

8. IF you don't want to handle processing coupons yourself, get a "clearing house" to do it for you... this is the best one for small companies: 

9. Good to go!

It really is that easy to do MFG coupons.  You might get some flack from your retailers, so giving them a heads-up is a good idea.  But in general, coupons can be a great thing to reward or motivate your loyal customers or get some new people to try your products.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Is Zynga Marketing Dumb?

The short answer is yes.  The longer answer is yes... but it's complicated!  A good friend of mine recently blogged that he thinks Zynga Marketing is failing because they don't adjust pricing in a failing game.  I disagree with this statement, although he is on to something (but the problem is bigger).  Pricing is extremely complicated in social games and is based on strategy: so changing pricing at the whims of players is bad.  That said, there is a problem at Zynga with their marketing, and I'll tell you what it is.

I've been in Social Network marketing since 2008, running my own business Karmaback, and recently joined venture form Creeris Ventures where I have been (and still am) consulting by running Marketing at Night Owl Games (Dungeon Overlord is the free game I run).  Anyways, in my experience in social games, the key to marketing is: 1.) know your target customer. and then 2.) MEASURE everything.

So what is Zynga doing wrong?  I'm not sure, I don't have their data... but I think I know what is going on.  They are doing a classic mistake with branding: "Line Extensions".  So many executives think that "we can leverage the brand we built by doing a new kind of thing with the brand."  This is flawed thinking.  Re-using the brand to target the same customers with almost the same thing is usually fine and good.. but using the brand for a NEW product/game/service/model/target customer is bound to fail.  Colgate frozen dinners anyone?

With Zynga, their problem is not making a Pay-to-Play game and sticking to it... their problem is trying to extend the Zynga brand into pay-to-play.  The need to create a new company/brand that caters to "hardcore" gamers or gamers that are willing to pay more to play more type... Then the new brand can focus on games like that.

So, Zynga, get a clue.  Stick Zynga in your brand closet and keep it for "Ville" type games.  You need to build a NEW brand if you want to make different kinds of games for new markets and players.

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