Brand Positioning With The Urgency Of Jack Bauer

The program for people who want to take a sledgehammer to inaction.

Sufferers from Marketing Meeting Fatigue can’t always spot the warning signs right away. That’s because MMF sets in after the 15th meeting about the position of the market you feel you can truly own better than anybody. You may have disagreements on your best attributes, your best audience to hear about those attributes and what you want to say when you’re actually in front of them offline or online. You debate over and over about what you believe clients believe about you, which then diverts into unfocused thinking, thanks to the new hipster intern who thinks you should be on Pinterest rather than addressing the real business problem at hand first.

I’ve seen it happen. I’ve experienced it. And it doesn’t have to be this hard or painful.

True, finding a brand’s positioning typically calls for a carefully crafted process over several weeks and meetings to transform insight into a crystal-clear path. Those options come in the form of my Brand Catapults and are a great option for a lot of companies. A deep dive over a 6-8 week period isn’t a big deal for them because they can’t imagine getting to a lot of clarity otherwise on their brand positioning, precise target audience, messaging, media recommendations and more. Whenever possible, I strongly recommend this as an option.

Yet, perhaps your headache in this area isn’t a tingling sensation but a full-on migraine. And that calls for something a lot more fast-acting and maximum strength.

No more meetings.
No more BS.
No more chasing trends because everyone else is.

That brings me to my “selly sell,” as Chris Brogan would call it.

In such unique cases, companies need a plan even sooner, attacking brand strategy with the full urgency of a Jack Bauer and delivering a direction for their brand now. And by now, I mean yesterday. And by yesterday, I mean three months ago.

I get it. And now I’ve developed the answer. It’s called a Sledgehammer Session, supremely aggressive version of our robust process that dives into brand development for your company.

A Session That’s Full Speed Ahead.
In a customized session, my colleagues and I will meet with all the key players of your company to get a total understanding of your specific business goals and targets in relation to your branding, marketing, sales and social media efforts. Besides doing a fair amount of listening, I’ll also ask a variety of questions – some of them tougher than others – about your audience, your competitors, what you feel are your strengths, what you need to do better as a company, your budget and more.

Back In One Week.
In which we’ll return with a brand positioning and strategic recommendations based on what you want to achieve to improve your programs, audience and budget.

Sessions are four hours and you can purchase another block of four hours if needed.

Change doesn’t happen because of luck or some karma in the universe. It comes from taking a Sledgehammer to endless talking about a plan and getting the clarity you need on the right steps of your brand strategy right now.

Schedule your Sledgehammer Session with Caliber today at 773.677.6043 or dan@chicagobrander.com.

Keeping Your Brand Warmer In A Polar Vortex

As temperatures in this part of the country reach epically historic lows and videos depicting Chicago as the ice planet Hoth from Star Wars go up, one of the more common things for a company to do is to keep their customers informed on social media of delivery status or whether or not they’re open for business on a day like today.

Hey, no problem with that. That’s just keeping people in the loop, which is the right thing to do. But I wonder if there’s an opportunity to go further that some could take advantage of to host a captive Q&A session via Google Hangouts or reminding them of some of your more “live” customer service mechanisms in place such as video chat or a dedicated handle for customer service on Twitter. It may be an opportunity to speak to how your team works remotely and seamlessly, even when sudden conditions force you to not be in the same place. Are there tools you use to protect your communication lines internally and ensure data sharing that may, in turn, be of use for your customers to know (me – I’m a Hangouts and Dropbox fan)? In the process, you’re sending a subtle message about your flexibility, culture, technological level, teamwork and – most importantly – being helpful. Not just the fact that you’re open or closed. This doesn’t have to be complicated or require a ton of internal coordination – some updates or images via social media may do the trick.

After all, you’re talking about a portion of your population locally that may be working today but may be more confined to their own home base rather than the office. As they’re hunkering down with their laptop and Internet connection to the outside world because nobody should dare set foot outside otherwise, they may be yearning to connect with some humans a tad more than usual so cabin fever doesn’t set in. It just might be the extra chance for your brand to shine brighter when the forecast calls for a high of -1 degrees.

How are you connecting or collaborating with your team and customers when conditions force you to physically disconnect? Chances are, we can all benefit from ideas to keep our culture and customer service warm.

This Week’s Buzz: Do Google Hangouts Influence Search, Amazon Knows What You’re Thinking and the Future of Sears

This week, Erik Hultman and I talk about the influence of Google Hangout in search results, why you shouldn’t believe everything you read about the impending death of Facebook, how Amazon is trying to get even smarter in anticipating what you want and what the Sears closing of its flagship State Street store means for the brand’s future.

What are your thoughts on some of these issues? Love to hear them.

What Doctors Can Learn From Designers: Tales From The Cusp

“If we as health care providers do not think like designers,
we will fail in our mission to serve our patients.”

   -Dr. Joyce Lee

In attending Chicago’s recent Cusp Conference, I came across a host of innovative guest speakers who are changing business models through better design. One of them I thoroughly enjoyed hearing was Dr. Joyce Lee, who is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Michigan Medical School and an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

Dr. Lee’s design inspiration evolved from a very personal issue: Both of her children have allergies, one of them at a very severe, life-threatening level. If her 6-year-old were exposed to certain foods, he might go into shock and have difficulty breathing.

Think about if this was your child and you had to instruct their daycare teacher how to save your child’s life without you being there. A terrifying thought for any parent, really – especially since the Allergy Action Plan chart that Dr. Lee could’ve potentially provided was a maze of confusion.

Bad Design: An Allergy Action Plan That’s Impossible To Understand

AllergyActionPlan

“Here, Mr./Mrs. Teacher – in addition to all your other responsibilities, I need you to save my child’s life in seconds. But first, read this complex chart of conditions in order to know what to do.”

It’s no wonder that between 1994 and 2007, there were over 15,000 unintentional injections in the U.S. with EpiPens. Even trained nurses, paramedics and physicians were inadvertently self-injecting.

That’s bad design.

Knowing that the above option wasn’t realistic nor could she expect to teach her 6-year-old to administer an EpiPen (medical device used to inject epinephrine in the event of a severe allergic reaction) to himself to save his own life, Dr. Lee knew there had to be a better way out of necessity that was more user-friendly.

During her sabbatical, Dr. Lee studied data visualization and figured out how to think like a designer. She started to blog about design and its intersection with health care. She wondered how the very model of health care could get a redesign. 

And that’s when something simple became better design.

Dr. Lee scripted a YouTube video – but the real star was her child, who illustrated and narrated the video.

B'sMovie

Come on. Who can possibly ignore a cute 6-year-old’s drawing as he or she explains it? 

Very few people. Which is exactly the point.

Dr. Lee posted it on her blog and sent the link to her child’s teacher.

The teacher thought the idea was brilliant and shared it with hundreds of other people within days. Those people sent it to more people (undoubtedly some of them parents of severely allergic children in a similar predicament). Before long, Dr. Lee’s little instructional video starring her son had gone viral.

While at a conference, a colleague of Dr. Lee’s spoke of how her video brought the action plan to life. You can find the result yourself at: www.IHaveFoodAllergies.Tumblr.com

A follow-up video was also made in this format, such as one relating to handling sensitive food ingredients.

Think about this for a moment. A video series by a 6-year-old is better design than a complex chart of circumstances and actions that was probably created by a council of physicians.

Suddenly the phrase, “Explain it to me like I’m a 6-year-old” has even more relevance than we thought.

The lesson here for brand marketers is that there are countless times when we can outthink ourselves out of good design. We don’t think like the person who actually has to use our product or service as much as we should. We don’t think about the way they make decisions. We go by what we think sounds best instead of envisioning their lives and the way they absorb information. Which is why we get lousy ads full of specifications and marketing jargon instead of simplicity and English.

Instead of just getting to that next logical step in the thought process, we spew every possible piece of information at them in a first impression, overwhelm them and turn them off because they don’t have an eternity to spend with us.

Taking a look at the example of Dr. Lee’s son, how well do you think that approach would’ve worked out?

So take a fresh look at the processes and language you’re creating around your brand with this in mind. Is that good design? Or bad design?

To see more of Dr. Lee’s presentation and learn about another terrific medical innovation that comes from “good design” called the Auvi-Q, click here:

Carnival Barking and Rapid Fire Posting Chaos: Improving Online Communities From Within

There’s a Facebook community I was recently excited to join, led by one of of the people in our industry I truly respect.

Within two weeks, I found I had to leave it.

It wasn’t largely the group leader’s fault. It was the people who killed it from within. Why? The entire mission of the group was to be a helpful forum, where people could learn from one another. Admirable enough, right? I could go with that. There are always good things to learn from one another.

Well, to make a long story short, it was overrun by people who self-promoted themselves. All. The. Time. The number of people who genuinely were asking for help were outnumbered by the fools trying to stand out from the crowd by talking about themselves to no end. They’d sell first, second and third. Helpfulness wasn’t even on their agenda.

Let’s meet these people. Everyone, tell me a little bit about yourselves – after all, it’s what you do best – and how you screw up well-intended online communities like the one I just left.

The Carnival Barker
“Well, my mode of operation is that I’m going to come into your group and do N-O-T-H-I-N-G but promote my own group. That’s right. I actually have the cojones to say, “Hey everybody in this group. Let me tell you about my other group and you should follow this link to go there right now! Come one, come all!” 100% of what spills out of my mouth is related to my own promotion and I don’t give a crap about anyone else’s group.”

Dan Gershenson: Interesting. I noticed you have an upcoming event. Would you like to plug that? Never mind. You already do. It’s your reason for being. Let’s meet our next person.

The Rapid Fire Poster
“Look at me. I can post 5-10 times in a row on LinkedIn. That means I’m a guru. I must be smart. Hire me. See? I post a lot at once. There’s my picture many times. So I’m an Influencer. Did I mention I’m in the top 1% of LinkedIn users for connecting to everyone with a pulse? What’s a brand strategy?”

DG: Funny, I was wondering if something was malfunctioning with my LinkedIn account and that my only connection was you. Then I realized you’re hogging up the whole damn stream. By the way, do you blink between posts or is it that you don’t understand how to use Buffer properly? Because there are actually settings that enable you to do posts at other times of day. Just saying.

Who’s next? Sir? I’m over here. Are you aware there are other people than yourself? Can you hear me?

The Content Snooze Button
“I post about my own company in the news all the time, like the fact that our company is having a cocktail hour and that it’s Jan in Accounting’s birthday. I’m not talking about the compelling stuff that probably goes on around here, like a case study that makes for an interesting story people might want to read or an entrepreneurial idea that benefitted our culture that others may want to consider adopting for theirs. No, I’m talking about all sell, all the time. I never comment on anything. I don’t even “Like” anything. Because that’s what it’s about in being social – talking about, well, me. The less relevant to their world or captivating whatsoever, the better. 

DG: Hey, I don’t know if you’re interested, but I have this article you might like to read about…

ENG: Why, is it about someone’s birthday in the office?

DG: No, but…

ENG: Don’t care.

DG: OK then. Moving along to our next person. I just connected to this gentleman and while we haven’t met personally, I just received a direct message from him. Let’s hear from him.

The Templatizer
“Hi you. How are you? Follow me. We do blah blah blah blah blah. I’m looking forward to knowing you and all that you do. Here’s my link.”

DG: I feel so close to you already.

Look fellas. Let’s take a time out. You’re flat out wrecking the nature and goodwill of online groups. It’s beyond the point of the fact that you don’t get it in your inward looking nature. Thanks to you, let’s call it what it is for the effect that your presence does to a Group:

A series of display ads. Not a community. 

We can change this by commenting more. Sharing more of other people’s content of value. Just “Liking” more to show we appreciate thoughts other than our own. Just a little bit from each of us would help. Asking a question such as, “Hi, I just helped a client finish a book and am now in need of a publisher to help publish it either traditionally or on Amazon. Does anyone in this group have someone they can recommend?” (side note: I really do need this!). Even our quality of our shares should be better – don’t just post a link on your industry and call it a day – tell me why I should care and why you think it’s an important development so you can your own added thought.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not telling you to stop promoting items such as upcoming events your company is holding. My point is that the balance and quality I see from some people absolutely stinks and needs to changed immediately so that a good online community doesn’t turn into a self-promotional posting dump. That doesn’t show authority, collaboration or an openness to network with others.

Think about the best communities in our own physical world – they come from getting to know your neighbor, letting them borrow your rake, asking for help and inviting them over for a barbeque. They become more than just a name and face. They become friends you can speak highly of to others.

They become, you know, a relationship.

Let’s have more variety beyond the 1-way promotions that are completely devoid of story. I’ll bet you may surprise yourself and even find it to be far more fulfilling.

One final note: If you’re the host/moderator of such a community, it’s your responsibility to regularly monitor and step in if these behaviors above aren’t changed after a warning from you. Don’t let some bad apples spoil it for the rest.

Carnival Barker: Can we talk about the breakfast my group is having next Tuesday now?

DG: You’ve got to be kidding me.

Is Facebook Polluting Itself From Within?

By now, if you’re on Facebook enough each day, you’ve probably noticed the persistent presence of some people who think you should know about them. They aren’t your friends and they aren’t Fans of your business page.

No, instead these special un-invented guests to your Facebook News Feed belong to a category of what’s called Suggested Posts. And if they’re any indication of how Facebook “knows” you, its brain isn’t looking so smart.

In any given week, I get posts polluting my Facebook stream pertaining to lowering my bills (with a picture of the ugliest senior citizen you have ever seen), annoying Multi-Level-Marketers, political figures I would never support and more. You’ve undoubtedly run into them too.

Sometimes we want to help our social media channels get to know us better, but we have to be convinced that the networks we choose really “get us” within a very short period of time. If Pandora can help us discover better new music based on our preferences or Amazon can find us better book recommendations, the bar of every channel’s “brain” is going to be raised in terms of speed and accuracy. We’re only going to demand more.

But here’s the thing. I don’t want to help Facebook know me. It’s not even a privacy thing as much as my believing Facebook can’t make better recommendations than they currently do without a lot of work – and it shouldn’t need to come from me.

After all, I have “Liked” 267 things online that Facebook could monitor and learn from as is. It would not take a rocket scientist to understand many of my major passions in life: Branding, the Chicago Bears, Mexican food, craft beer, Apple and more. This isn’t guesswork. Anybody can see it.

If it’s truly a suggestion based on my preferences, the fact that these suggestions are, more often than not, just plain awful doesn’t give me a great deal of confidence. And call me lazy but do we need much more than a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” voting mechanism? Do I need to choose from about 6-7 different reasons to tell Facebook why I didn’t like the suggestion?

I think Facebook underestimated one thing about these Sponsored Pages – they’re a prisoner of their own genius in that people have a fascination with checking their stream multiple times per day – anything that interrupts that action, even temporarily, causes a reaction between mild annoyance and downright anger. Especially when it’s something intended to blend in and clearly doesn’t. Therefore, while they might’ve thought “friends of friends” equals instant results for an advertiser, the fact that 5 of your friends might’ve liked that page actually still gets trounced by the fact that it’s still your stream and you want control over what you see.

Natural human behavior beats functionality of technology. Oh wait – a Big Datahead just told me that the Math Men of data were defeating the Mad Men of advertising. Oops. Just maybe not in this case, then.

Facebook Ads a better way to go?

If you want to run a true ad for your business, then run an ad. I don’t know how to say it any plainer than that. Don’t make it a wolf in sheep’s clothing by making it look like a post that belongs in a news stream. Run an ad and don’t apologize for that. If there’s room for it, tell them what you want them to do.

Not everybody has had glowing reviews of Facebook Ads but I’ve actually been very happy with the results for clients thus far. When appropriate, it can work very quickly for generating an audience in a matter of weeks.

Know what I really like about them? I know they’re ads. I know where they are and what they’re trying to do. They’re not masquerading as posts. So I know they’re not trying to barge into my Facebook conversations like an obnoxious drunk guy at a dinner party.

Are we trying to get someone to like a single post or build relationships for the long haul? I assume the latter. So why not put more energy into getting them to Like our brand by clearly defining ourselves or a compelling call to action/offer in ad form – and then having them feel rewarded for that Like with ongoing messaging they want and have asked for?

We have to remember we’re still living in an opt-in world that doesn’t merely pertain to eNewsletters. It’s not just about e-mail sign-ups or RSS feeds. It’s about respecting the circle of friends that person has constructed. It’s something your brand needs to earn.

That takes work. That takes smart content. That takes a manner of writing in a way that tells the person, “It’s like I wrote this with just you in mind.”

These latest avenues from Facebook are shortcuts. It’s all too easy to pay to get into the party. But if the organizers realize they didn’t invite you, your brand will be tossed out quick. Instead, show you know the room or act like you do. What does the audience enjoy reading about, what are their current challenges, what do they love to share with others and if they comment, what are they saying? No matter what mechanism you use, Facebook or otherwise, laser focused targeting of your audience has never been more crucial for placement and messaging.

Still think just talking about yourself works?

Sorry. That’s an idea I just can’t sponsor.