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July/Aug 2012 Branding Issue


In This Issue: Olympic Gold - GE Grows Its Global Brand as London 2012 Olympics Sponsor

Corporate Branding FAQ: Yes, There Is More to It Than You Think

What Can Olympic Teams Teach Business Leaders?

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Welcome to this issue Snapshot. Content with convenience.

It’s our calling card and our commitment to you.

We’re here to serve and to help you become more successful. One way we do that is by making it EASY to consume and share the latest, greatest content covering what’s new and what’s working to grow your business using integrated marketing and communications. That’s why we’re offering the latest issue of .BIZ Builder Magazine in manageable bites. Whether you’re a reader, partner, contributor or even advertiser, we think you’ll find our issue preview “Snapshot” to be a quick and engaging way to consume and share the content we bring together for the thousands of members of our growing community In this edition, we explore two timely billion-dollar topics—both of which are widely misunderstood: The Olympics & Branding. Exclusive features range from an interview with GE’s Olympic Sponsor President Peter Foss and an article by UTA’s Laurence Vincent revealing Hollywood’s branding secrets, to a list of Top brands on Twitter and a “How-to Branding Guide” for business. Enjoy! And share!!

.BIZ Builder Vol. I, Issue 2 JULY/AUGUST 2012 Published by: Editor-In-Chief Brian Pittman Chief Creative Officer / Designer Todd Fabacher Publisher Fay Shapiro Chief Strategist Bruce Merchant

Contributors .BIZ Channel Partners • Critical Now: From Critical Mention • Social Video: From Latergy • Digital Visibility: From Zog Digital • PR ROI: From PRIME Research .BIZ Bloggers • IR Therefore I Am - Gene Marbach • Social Media Zone & The Pulse - Vicki

Flaugher .BIZ Blog Contributors

• Marco Bertini, London Business School • Mark de Rond • Christina Houghton, Siegel+Gale • Michele Adelson, The Phelps Group • Laurence Vincent, UTA • Joey Sargent, BrandSprout • Donetta Allen: Hunter PR

• Mark Brock, Wray Ward

Brian Pittman, LLC 222 East 34th Street Suite 1201 New York, NY 10016 View our Media & Sales Kit

Click here to learn more about branding issues that matter to you.


TableContents of Olympic Infographic: The Evolution of Olympic Coverage in Print, TV and Social Media {4 - 5}

Olympic Gold: GE Grows Its Global Brand as London 2012 Summer Olympics Sponsor {6 - 11}

U.S. Olympic Hall of Shame: Hard Charging Olympic


Athletes Who Have Faced Charges {12 - 14}

London’s Burning: Controversy Heats Up Over Protecting the Olympic Brand {16 - 18}

What Olympic Teams Teach Business: The Truth about High Performance Organizations {20 - 23}

Olympic Fashion Flubs: Lessons from Ralph Lauren, Roots and Stella McCartney {24 - 26}

How to Be a Winner: P&G’s Winning Sponsorship of the 2012 Olympic Games {28 - 31}


What Hollywood Teaches Business: How to Find Your Brand Story {33 - 37}

Social Media Cocktails? Aligning Your Brand with Relevant or Popular Conversations {38 - 40}

Busted! Five Brand-Busting Myths Exposed {42 - 44} Brand Engineering: The Science Behind the Art {46 - 49} Brand Ambassadors Needed: How to Build a Brand Through Social Media {50 - 52}


Olympic Buzz: McDonald’s Demonstrates Owned-Media Prowess on Eve of Olympics {54 - 55}

What’s Your Brand EQ? A Questionnaire {56 - 58} Branding FAQ: What You Must Know {60 - 62} Funny Business: Buzzwords That Hurt Brands {64 - 65} Twitter Winners: Most Engaged Brands Online {67 - 72} BONUS BRANDING GUIDE: How to Work with a Branding Agency (and More) {71 - 82}

Olympic Gold GE Grows Its Global Brand as London 2012 Olympics Sponsor Brian Pittman’s exclusive interview with GE Olympic Sponsorship President Peter Foss

“Any company must carefully align sponsorship opportunities with its corporate values—and recognize it’s all about growth at the end of the day,” says Peter N. Foss, President, Olympic Sponsorship and Corporate Sales at GE. “If you can’t find a link to driving company profits—don’t do it!” warns Foss, who in addition to coordinating GE’s global Olympic Sponsorship also manages the company’s Sales Force Effectiveness program. “In our case, GE’s values are all about integrity and so are those of the Olympics,” he explains. What’s more, the company has driven hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure projects and sales abroad through its Olympic

partnerships, while helping to reinvent GE as a truly global brand. “Before the Beijing Olympics,” Foss illustrates, “the Chinese thought GE was GM and that we were in the car business.” Not only has GE’s brand awareness in China skyrocketed since the Beijing Olympics in 2008, but GE has also ramped up its Olympic sponsorship initiatives—and the London Summer Olympic Games are no exception. Here, Foss shares key metrics underscoring GE’s Olympic sponsorship ROI, what he’s most looking forward to in the London Games and his quick tips for businesses seeking greater visibility via marketing sponsorships of any size or type: 6

In terms of return on investment, GE’s general awareness prior to the Olympic Games was less than 10%. After the Games, it was 50%.

Why did GE decide to sponsor the Games? GE’s partnership with the Olympic Games aligns with our global growth strategy by opening doors to new sales and marketing opportunities in all of the host countries. GE is uniquely suited to meet the infrastructure needs required to stage the world’s largest sporting event, as well as the healthcare needs to provide quality care to the athletes. Our continued investment in the Olympic Games is part of our commitment to deliver world-class infrastructure and healthcare solutions that leave a sustainable legacy to future generations.   We are proud to be associated with the Olympic Games, as the values of this global, trusted brand match GE’s. Our sponsorship provides funding for athletes that would otherwise not be able to participate in the Olympic Games. We are very proud of that.

big areas of potential growth outside of the U.S.—but we just weren’t known there. The biggest interest was in Beijing, because China was a big market for GE. We were doing close to $5 billion a year there. They thought GE was GM and that we were in the car business. We saw Olympics as a brand that we could saddle up and ride in with. It was a great way to build relationships with key individuals in China as they built up the Olympics and announced they were spending $50 billion on it—double what was normal. Beyond that, other infrastructure projects were more like $200 billion—including transportation, power, water, lighting and all the things we do as a big infrastructure company.

When did GE’s sponsorship begin and what were the goals? We announced our sponsorship in 2003, and it was at same time NBC was bidding for 2010 and 12 broadcast rights. As part of that, we went in as GE to put in a bid to be a TOP (The Olympic Partner) Program Sponsor. This started with the 2006 Olympics in Torino and then in Beijing, Vancouver and London. Those were the four in our first package.

We realized the head of the Olympic organizing committee in China was Liu Qi, and that party secretaries and mayors served on committees, as well. If we built a strong relationship with them, we could demonstrate our capability and ability to be a good partner on infrastructure projects. They were going to start at a given time and we needed to deliver.

The thinking was the company was becoming more global. When I started, 95% of sales were in U.S., but it was probably 60% ten years ago. There were

That gave us a great opportunity. We got to know them and ultimately built great relationships with them. GE’s general awareness there prior to the Olympics 7

In China, we saw a +31% rise in favorability after the Olympic Games. In Canada, we saw a +92% rise in favorability after the Olympic Games.

ground: our revenue team (sales), our PR team, our marketing team, and our hospitality team. How do the Olympic values align with GE’s? From a brand value perspective, we have a code of ethics in the company and the spirit of the letter is that integrity comes first of all. The Olympics values are all about striving for truth, integrity, spirit, team building and sportsmanship. There is nothing there that doesn’t align with our own values. Integrity is number one for us. One strike and you’re out.

was less than 10%. After the games, it was 50%. That was good for us. We also did a lot of advertising in the country, which helped. Next came the announcement that the Summer Olympics were to be held in Rio. That was another great opportunity for us as an infrastructure company to grow into a thriving economy. We are now signed up through 2020. So overall, it has turned into a very nice opportunity to build stronger relationships in areas of the world that are important to us.

How have you leveraged the power of the Olympic rings to enhance GE’s brand? We have Brand Tracker studies that show our brand awareness grew by 1/3 from 2005 to 2010. We also look at things like unaided awareness around specific campaigns. For example, we ran ads and launched initiatives tied to healthcare around the Vancouver games —and awareness of GE as related to healthcare certainly grew.

Can you touch upon what GE provides the Olympics? Our Olympic Green program in Beijing and also in London includes providing more energy efficient sport lighting, electrical infrastructure and more. We also built health clinics for athletes with diagnostic imaging equipment. So, it runs the gamut of all of our product lines. The IOC actually said “GE stands for ‘Generally Everything.’”

We integrated efforts across traditional media, digital and PR to drive results. As a result, we saw significant impact across key brand measures in China (2008) and Canada (2010). Specifically:

We were their first infrastructure sponsor as opposed to consumer companies like Samsung or Visa. Those companies’ interests were a year out from the games being held—but we are there on the ground to help with infrastructure the moment the host city is announced. We immediately put four teams on the 8

In China, we saw a +31% rise in favorability.

In Canada, we saw a +92% rise in favorability.

functioning trauma center and operating room) and more.

What has been the commercial impact of GE’s involvement in the Olympics— any hard metrics? Well, we placed GE technology in all competition and non-competition venues in Beijing, Vancouver and London. GE’s involvement with the Olympics helped us define commercial process to more effectively address large-scale projects. Specifically, we created a centralized team to respond to all Olympic-related infrastructure opportunities and to work across GE’s diverse lines of businesses.

In London, we have:

120 infrastructure Projects

Notable projects include a full range of diagnostic imaging equipment for Polyclinic (hospitals for athletes and Olympic officials), three Jenbacher CHP engines installed in the Olympic Park energy center, 120 EV charging stations installed to support London 2012 electric vehicle fleet, GE lighting technology across a number of the Olympic venues (Olympic Main Stadium, Aquatics, Basketball, Field-Hockey, etc.), and a partnership to re-lamp Tower Bridge with energy efficient LED technology. This resulted in a 45% energy savings over current street lighting applications. Beyond that, legacy projects include GE donating £4.8m of advanced healthcare equipment to Homerton Hospital— including fetal monitors, incubators and magnetic resonance scanners, to Homerton University Hospital in Hackney, East London.

In Beijing, we saw:

400 infrastructure Projects

Notable projects included a wind farm outside of Beijing to provide renewable power for the games, a rain water capture system for “Bird Nest” stadium (main stadium), and a lighting and electrical distribution for multiple stadiums and arenas. In Vancouver, we saw:

120 infrastructure Projects

Also important was that we were able to showcase GE’s contributions to customers from around the world. For example:

Notable projects included a range of diagnostic imaging equipment for two Polyclinics (hospitals for athletes and Olympic officials), CT, MR, X-Ray, Ultrasound, ECG and Healthcare IT, a Mobile Medical Unit (MMU) in Whistler (an 18-wheel trailer that served as full-

• In Beijing, we hosted over 2,500 customers. • In Vancouver, we hosted over 1,000 customers


values—and recognize that it’s all about growth at the end of the day.

• In London, we will host approximately 1,300 customers You also oversee corporate sales— how has the Olympics sponsorship contributed to sales force effectiveness? One way to answer that is to look at our “Decathlon Challenge,” which was an internal program to help drive sales with our team and distributors. It involved a series of training contests tied to sales. Research showed that this program helped drive $190 million in revenue growth in 2007 and 2008).

We looked at Olympic sponsorship as a way to create revenue. But we also learned that it helps with brand building. I don’t understand some sponsorships. We get two to three calls a week for things that don’t fit. I don’t get it. We don’t do it if it’s not a fit. The Olympics were our first global sponsorship—and we’re a 140-year company! So, be careful.

What’s your advice to other businesses regarding picking big events or even smaller community events to sponsor? I think when you consider a sponsorship, you have say, “What is my strategy for growth and how does this help me?” Any decision should be based on how such an opportunity helps your company grow revenues. If you can’t find a clear linkage—then don’t do it!

I don’t understand things like putting your name on a stadium. What does that do for you? If you are Citibank naming a baseball field, maybe that helps because you’re reaching consumers. But if we put our name on a stadium, they wont’ be buying a jet engine tomorrow. The consumer piece at GE is less than four percent of our business-and it’s all about light bulbs and appliances. It’s small, so we wouldn’t pursue a sponsorship like that.

For us, we could measure things like: 1. Revenue (we were selling goods that helped build venues), 2. brand awareness, and 3. client and prospect relationships. All of those fit into our strategic objectives.

Where are you getting the most online and media buzz as related to GE’s sponsorship of the Olympics? A few weeks ago, we launched a “Healthy Share” Facebook application as part of our movement to integrate health in a consumer way. This is part of our “Healthy Imagination” program. The focus is fitness and using the games to inspire people to improve their health based on athletes’ experiences. As part of this program, we developed

If you are a consumer company like Coke, it’s different. You get involved with it just for the exposure and brand building. They are 80% non-U.S. in terms of global revenues. And their last three CEOs were all international. Again, you must align with your company 10

challenges people can take to be like the athletes. For example, soccer player Alex Morgan provided a program where you can stretch and do things he does in his training. This program has been generating a lot of media buzz. We did the activation at Rockefeller Center, where Olympic swimmer Summer Sanders hosted a class to take her challenge.

measures body composition to see which side has more muscle development. He had that done earlier in the fall. How is golf like business? I have played golf since I was eight years old. I am a big proponent of golf and believe in getting youth involved in it. It’s a lifelong sport and teaches great core values. It builds character and emphasizes integrity and honesty. Golf is a game where there are a lot of judgment calls you have to make. Nobody is standing there telling you what to do and how to do it every step of the game. Being a student of the rules of golf helps you in business and life, I think. What you learn about sportsmanship, honesty and judgment carries through your life.

What are you most looking forward to during the Summer Olympics in London? The Summer Olympics offer so much to see and do. I try not to miss swimming, for starters. It has become so exciting, from seeing Mark Spitz to now, Phelps … They are extraordinary. That will be the hottest ticket in town. I enjoy that. Watching Usain Bolt run is also always cool. Track and field is never boring. Beach volleyball is fun, like a party. And it will be held at a neat place, in the horse parade area. I will even go watch table tennis one day.

Final parting words about the value of GE’s Olympic sponsorship? The biggest pieces I take away from this are that we were a “stodgy old industrial company” that never sponsored anything. We looked at it as way to create revenue—but learned it helps brand building. Also important are the legacy gifts we leave in Olympic cities. Those things make me feel the best about our Olympics involvement. We are proud of not only being a great company, but also a good one.

What are your thoughts about golf being back in the Olympics, starting with Rio? I’m very excited about that—golf is important to me. I’m not good enough to compete. I play on weekends. I live in Charlotte and there is good golf here. I play on Saturday and Sunday mornings whenever I can.

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Brian Pittman is a partner at, where he focuses on editorial and content while helping to build the community.

We are a marketing partner of the PGA tour and our player just won the U.S. Open (Webb Simpson). He’s involved in an extension of our health initiatives. He was scanned by our DEXA machine that 11


Gold Winner Tonya Harding, Conspiracy and Domestic Violence (2x Wiener)

World-class brands often want to be bigger, stronger, faster. They always want to be better. For better and worse and occasionally for best and worst, the two frequently get together to do business. Before, during and immediately after major sporting events—none more major than the Olympic Games—these whirlwind partnerships between winning brands and medal winners are formed in the face of fierce competition due to the mutual drive to succeed. Unfortunately, they are often fueled and fail by the mutual need for speed. The sponsoring spokespeople dash for the cash while their golden glow still attracts clients, kudos and cameras.

Silver Winner Kobe Bryant, Sexual Assault Charles Barkley, Aggravated Battery

By Larry Thomas, President, Latergy

Hard Charging Athletes Who Have Faced Hard Charges


Bronze Winner Marion Jones, Dope Jennifer Capriati, Dopey Michael Phelps. Doper

Every now and then, the athletes “foul out”—leaving the brand to serve the penalty for guilt by association. Here are a few US Olympians who looked like winners crossing the finish line (or hitting the jump shot), but who lost their way (at least temporarily) when the crowds dispersed. You can expect the volume of falls from grace to rise along with the popularity of online video and social media. Even IF a seemingly disproportionate amount of pampered athletes subscribe to the “It’s not wrong if you don't get caught" theory, more will be caught—on camera—and their reputation and earning potential will drop like a puck at center ice. Whether via strip search or stripped medal, brands that align themselves with athletes gone bad can no longer sever ties, apologize, pull commercials, hire a new spokesperson and wait for “it” to go away. In the socially fueled, videocentric, long-tail-wagging world we live in …


If Phelps acquires gold and stirs national pride again this summer, he’ll be back. Nothing generates gold like a good comeback story.

...content never sleeps. And even if it occasionally falls off pace, it never fades away. Even if you pull the video from TV and all things digital, the visual association of your brand with a golden boy or girl in handcuffs lives on via online video clips of sporting events, talk shows and conversations. Old news is old news until someone Googles it.

agony of defeat. The association between a brand and an athlete has long made marketers ecstatic and nervous at the same time. We know that the euphoria from a quick spike in brand recognition and market share can end quickly with one failed drug test, one violent episode or one corny flake of a kid with a fondness for water (pipes).

In due time, a fine product and swift action will help the public forgive and forget both the brand and the athlete. Kellogg’s knows that, so they quickly disqualified the smoked fish in hot water and went back to the serial cereal business. Unfortunately for the snap, crackle and pop family, the relationship hasn’t crossed the finish line yet.

It may not end it forever. If Mr. Phelps acquires gold and stirs national pride again this summer, he’ll be back. After all, nothing generates gold like a good comeback story. When Michael dives back into the swimming and business pools this summer, he will be going for more than just gold (or is that just more gold?). The moral of the story: Be wary of whom you run (shoot and swim) with, because branding is a marathon—not a sprint. And, the players are in the public eye and mind long after the race is over.

  Watch Video on YouTube

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Larry Thomas is president of Latergy, a video services boutique that provides multimedia content strategy, production, distribution and measurement services.

Whether driven by quarterly results or one quarter of a second, participants in both worlds compete fiercely for fame and fortune. The breakneck speed and the thrill of victory occasionally lead to hasty decisions and, ultimately, the


London's Burning:

Controversy Heats Up Over Protecting the Olympic Brand By Marco Bertini, Assistant Professor of Marketing, London Business School

The Olympic Games in London are officially kicking off, providing us the opportunity to witness the world’s most prestigious sporting event. As Olympic athletes descend upon London, local businesses are finding ways to capitalize on the moment.

Licensing rights refer to the use of Olympics logos and trademarks on items ranging from stamps and coins to tshirts and stuffed animals. This year in London, Adidas emerged as a Tier One Partner, allowing the sportswear company to receive marketing and licensing rights in addition to other perks (game officials, volunteers and staff will all be donned in Adidas sportswear). Other tier-one partners for this year include BMW, BP, British Airways, BT, EDF, Lloyds TSB.

But there’s been debate around some companies many say are overstepping their bounds, using the Olympic symbols without permission. For instance, Bloomberg BusinessWeek interviewed Dennis Spurr, a butcher in Dorset who depicted the Olympic rings as sausage links and was confronted by officials from the Olympics. And The Daily Mail reported that London’s cake stores are being told not to use any Olympic logos on cakes due to copyright.

But once the sponsorships and licensing rights are in place, it’s important to examine the flow of revenue. Where Does the Money Go? The revenue from the principle sources is allocated to: The International Olympic Committee (IOC), National Olympic Committees, International Federations and Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (OCOG).

London is one of the premier cities in the world. It has its own recognizable appeal and brand. Thus, it would make sense that others would try to capitalise on it. So what’s the big deal and is it really all that harmful for local companies to use the Olympic logos in a creative way?

In the case of the Sydney Olympics, the major beneficiary was the host city OCOG, which used the funds to stage the Games. Historically, 50 to 60 percent of the revenue from broadcast rights and international sponsorships, plus 100 percent of the revenue from ticketing, domestic sponsorship and licensing rights, went to the OCOG.

To fully understand this issue, let’s first look at the economics of the Olympic Games and points of profitability. How Does It Work? By almost any measure, the Olympics are big business. For instance, the 2000 Sydney Games generated $2 billion in revenue from five sources: broadcast rights, international sponsorship, ticketing, domestic sponsorship and licensing rights.

Of the remaining revenue, the IOC kept a portion to cover its administrative and operational costs and allocated the rest to the 205 National Olympic Committees of the IOC’s member nations and to the


International Federations of the sports of the Olympic Games.

This is a brand name the IOC wants to make sure grows in stature. But this is complicated in that the brand is “borrowed” to host cities. That is, the IOC “owns” the brand in a sense, but the host is the one who manages it in the running of the event.

Who is Responsible to Monitor and Control Logo Use? Of the five sources of revenue, the IOC – a non-profit organization based in Lausanne, Switzerland – is responsible for negotiating and managing the broadcast rights and international sponsorships, while the host city’s OCOG is in charge of ticketing, domestic sponsorship and domestic licensing.

I can understand that local London businesses feel some sense of shared ownership. After all, the Games are held in their town and they paid their share for the construction of the infrastructure. But irrespective of this feeling, the fact remains that the Organising Committee has final ownership of the brand. The store owners will likely still benefit from the increased traffic in London from July through August. But those running the event have the obligation to make sure (a) their name is represented accurately and positively, and (b) that the rights of those corporations that have paid good money to be formally associated with the Games are respected and upheld.

According to a report in The Guardian, London already has a range of legal protections in place, but the IOC since the Sydney Games in 2000 requires an additional layer of legal sanction. In fact, there are laws in place that are meant to prevent non-sponsors and non-licensed businesses from employing images or wording that might suggest too close a link with the Games.

So as you marvel at the Olympics this year, you might also think about all of the strategy that is behind the scenes. And while many might become frustrated with the IOC’s strict regulation, you can’t deny that they’ve kept the Olympic brand shining – year after year.

The Danger of Non-Licensed Businesses Using the Olympics Logo The Olympics are no different than any other business. Most companies spend good money on building their brands. While few would question the right of these businesses to protect this asset, the same has to be the case for the Games.

View on CommPRO Marco Bertini is a professor of marketing at London Business School. He focuses on consumer/managerial decision-making, and the behavioral aspects of pricing & promotions. 18

What Can Olympic Teams Teach Business Leaders?

By Mark de Rond, Ph.D., Author, “There Is an I in Team: What Elite Athletes and Coaches Really Know About High Performance”

Over the next few weeks, the world’s brawniest athletes will lock horns in pursuit of sport’s biggest prize: an Olympic title. The world’s number one Taekwondo star, Aaron Cook, won’t be one of them. Controversially, he was passed over in favor of world number 59, Lutalo Muhammed, in only the latest of a series of high-profile selection disputes in the Great Britain camp.

crews of four are forced to race each other. After the first race, two rowers, one from each crew, swap places. The race re-starts, with the goal of isolating the effect of a single rower on a crew in a real boat on actual water. The process continues until coaches have sufficient data on each oarsman’s ability, and the relative speed of different combinations of rowers. This “seat racing” should deliver an objective ranking of the best boat movers.

To avoid just such confrontations, selection decisions are typically based on the most objective grounds possible: having athletes compete against each other for a place on the team. A good example of this is rowing, where two

While peerless on paper, seat racing is not always straightforward in practice. Occasionally A beats B who beats C who in turn beats A, which leaves 20

coaches with more questions than answers. Sometimes, oarsmen and coaches choose to downplay objective results as they push for inclusion of an athlete who, by virtue of his social skills is considered able to raise performance levels overall for the crew. After all, it is the combination that matters.

Also, teams are characterized by paradox: They mobilize tensions that pull members in contrary directions. The most obvious are cooperation and competition, where individuals continue to compete for resources, reputation and career prospects with others, even as effectiveness hinges on coordinating with them. The temptation is often to downplay – or disallow – competitive tensions for the sake of harmony. The assumption is familiar: The better people get along, the better they will perform.

The lesson to business: Teams in sports and business benefit from variety. It matters greatly to have differences in talent and in personality, and even in pay within teams. It is only by combining individual differences that one creates a genuinely effective team.

But studies show that harmony is more likely the consequence of, not condition for, performance. Few things bond more strongly than a shared accomplishment.

What else can we learn about business teams from sports? Following are three lessons based on my extensive fieldwork with teams over the past 15 years, and recent results from the experimental labs of Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, Chicago and Cambridge:

What to do: The best way to build a team is to set them a work-related challenge and give them something to feel good about collectively. In addition, don’t try to weed out rivalry in the interest of harmony. This is only likely to drive it underground. As a result, people will continue to compete by belittling the efforts of those around them.

1. High performance teams are not easy places to be. We glamorize teams, but life on the inside often feels “slightly off-balance” for much of the time. It is important not to confuse what things “feel” like with what they really are like, given there are two natural causes for this:

2. The best team is often not made up of the best individuals. What this means is that we may sometimes sacrifice competence for likability. As alluded to in the seat racing example, it occasionally makes sense to compromise on technical skill if what one gets in return improves the overall performance of the team. As a recent study points out, if people are actively disliked, their technical competence is

First, the individuals you work with are good, but the qualities that make them so can make them difficult to tolerate as team members; overconfidence can be alienating, restlessness exhausting, intelligence intimidating.


often irrelevant to team selection. Unless they can be put to work on their own, others are unlikely to seek them out for advice or to share information.

Studies of hospital teams are replete with examples, often with grave consequences. In one study, a team of researchers phoned 22 nursing stations, pretending to be a hospital physician and asking for 20mg of a new drug to be given to a patient. They were keen to find out how many nurses would administer the drug that had not been approved for use there, that was twice the recommended dose, and that had been ordered by physician unknown to the nurse. In 21 cases, researchers had to intervene and stop the nurse from overdosing the patient. In this case, nurses self-censor by deferring to authority.

What to do: Focus on finding the right combination of individual high performers – not only in terms of skills but also personalities. There is evidence that levels individual performance are strongly influenced by social context (or who else is in the team). You wouldn’t want a team of lovable fools, but it can pay dividends to select a socially gifted individual over one more competent to allow the team to handle disagreement more effectively and raise their overall level of performance. Finding the right combination may rely on objective performance data. Despite the availability of such “analytics,” it is unlikely the optimum combo is found by using numbers alone. Characteristics such as how people react under pressure, how they respond to failure and how they behave when not being watched are important but unlikely to be captured by numbers alone.

In my experience, the Abilene Paradox is alive and well, and teams the worse for it. I wish people would spend as much money and effort making their organizations psychologically safe as they do on getting people to work in teams. I suspect that if one gets the former right, the latter will come naturally. People are pack animals – their desire to work together only stymied by their fear of being “found out.”

3. Problems in teams can arise not because there is conflict—but because there isn’t any.

What to do: Ask yourself: How safe is my team psychologically? How likely is it that team members self-censor for fear of being considered negative, incapable, needy, unsupportive or unintelligent, and how do you know? Many teams suffer from lack of safety. As a team leader, might you be the problem? Would it be worthwhile bringing in an external facilitator to find out?

Known as the “Abilene Paradox,” team members self-censor for fear of being seen as negative or subversive, as looking silly or incompetent, or for fear of destroying any existing team spirit.


and worry about.

Further, might it be useful to implement a “donkey question” rule, where everyone is expected to ask at least one “donkey question” a week, or the kind of question to which the answer probably should have been obvious, just to make sure all bases are covered and all assumptions smoked out.

As we watch the world’s finest, there is one final lesson to be had: Sports teams have clarity of purpose missing in most organizations. Individuals know why what they do is important, what’s expected of them and when, and how what they do matters to the rest of the team. To get this right in our own teams may well be our most difficult, yet also most rewarding, challenge.

Remember that when team members provide explanations of why things are the way they are, these explanations are far more useful in clarifying what matters than what happened. People use facts selectively. Their explanations for team performance can differ strongly. These variations are useful because they can help shed light on the things they care

View on CommPRO Mark de Rond, Ph.D., is a Fellow of Darwin College at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School. He has consulted execs at IBM, KPMG, Shell and others.

Champions of


Integrated Marketing Communications

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Olympic Fashion Catapults Brands to International Success - or Sinks Them: Business Branding Lessons from Ralph Lauren, Roots and Stella McCartney By Christina French Houghton, Associate Strategist, Siegel+Gale

I bet that Stella McCartney Olympic pajama suit isn't flame proof and would go oooosh if you got the flame near it!!


Hideous. Just strengthens the case for Scottish Independence! Britain is neither great nor united.

One of the most widely televised events in the world, the Olympic Games, provides unprecedented visibility for athletes from Argentina to Zimbabwe. These performers promise to create moments of great national pride—or, embarrassment—on a global scale.

provider of Team USA’s Olympic gear. For Lauren—whose clothing is already regularly emblazoned with the American flag—this project is a natural (and immensely successful) task. The bold red, white and blue color palette leverages American pride, which is synonymous with Ralph Lauren. As a result its brand visibility and sales soar.

In this environment, presentation is paramount. Enter the crème de la crème of couture. Every two years, top fashion houses are tasked with creating their country’s national uniform. And just like the athletes who wear them, these uniforms are scrutinized through the lens of national pride and achievement. In the best of cases, designing an Olympic uniform can create a unique opportunity for a brand whose core design principles are already aligned

Roots, a Canadian apparel company, has a similar history of success. Like Ralph Lauren’s ties to American culture, Roots’ rustic aesthetic, replete with emblems of canoes and iconic Canadian wildlife, fits perfectly within a Canadian self-image of being in touch with the natural environment. Though it took two years for the brand’s owners to secure the contract to clothe the Canadian Olympic team, the effort paid off. Roots’ distinctive jackets, first created for the 1998 Winter Olympics in Japan, drew widespread attention and praise. This

with the essential tenets of a national character. Take Ralph Lauren, for example, a brand that has long been the


... the GB flag is RED white and blue, NOT blue, grey and blue ...


global visibility—prompting the likes of President Bill Clinton, Prince Charles and actor Robin Williams to don Roots gear—helped catapult the brand to international success.

designing for an Olympic team one must channel the pride of her nation and allow the small, creative flourishes to live within a national rubric of success. In other words, do not “interpret” your country’s beloved national flag in such a way that prioritizes aesthetics over national symbolism.

Yet, this charge can also present significant hurdles. Stella McCartney recently unveiled her designs for the British Olympic team. Even though her brand is beloved in the UK and abroad, British citizens reacted to her work with outrage. The Independent hailed McCartney’s designs as arguably the “worst kit in history” and Facebook fans berated McCartney in a public forum. With the ease of information-sharing enabled by social media and the Internet, news of the brand’s perceived failure has been broadcast far and wide.

Regarding her recently unveiled Olympic kit, McCartney said she wanted to take the iconic image of the Union Jack and “dismantle” it to “make it more fashionable.” Unfortunately, this approach led to her embarrassment. With Ralph Lauren designing for Team USA and Prada for the Italian Sailing Team, many top brands appreciate the international visibility the Olympic platform delivers. As long as these designers find an alignment between their brand essence and the esprit du corps of the nation for which they are designing—as their most important priority—the relationship between high fashion and the Olympic Games can be brilliant indeed.

The different reception that these brands have received begs the question: What risks do designers run when they engage in this kind of international challenge? Why have Brits reacted with such ire to Stella McCartney’s designs?

The lesson is clear, national pride should not be underestimated. When branding national icons, proceed with care.

To find an answer, one could look to the heart of the criticism, which stems from McCartney’s creative interpretation of the Union Flag. I would argue that this reproach brings to light a sort of unspoken rule: namely, that winning a bid to design Olympic gear does not give fashion houses artistic license to push creativity to its limits and present fresh, unexpected designs. Rather, when

View on CommPRO Christina French Houghton is an associate strategist at Siegel+Gale, where she solves branding problems for some of the most interesting companies worldwide. 26

Branding Champion

P&G’s Winning Sponsorship of the 2012 Olympic Games By Michelle Adelson, Chief Brand Officer, The Phelps Group Corporations invest millions of marketing dollars in sponsorships in an effort to impact awareness and brand perception. A prime example is how brands hope to win glory and consumer affinity with the Olympic Games. However, to drive maximum return for such sponsorships, companies must connect their brand to the sponsorship in a relevant and meaningful way. So how exactly do you do that?

rolled out through TV, spread virally by consumers, reinforced at point-ofpurchase in retail and in the end, realized through corporate social responsibility. The result is a truly aligned campaign that is consistent, recurrent at each touch point and most importantly, credibly ties into P&G’s brand DNA.

Proctor and Gamble’s sponsorship of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games highlights the best practices of integrating a brand with a sponsorship partner.

Consistent Messaging P&G began with a consistent message that ties to the overarching brand and aligns with each of its product groups while emotionally connecting to the core audience of moms (or “mums,” as they say in London). From there, an integrated campaign was developed and

The campaign story includes 28 athletes from Team USA and breathes new life into the company’s longstanding position that has transcended generations to support moms for the past 175 years. The creative platform reinforces P&G’s banner philosophy as a Proud Sponsor 28

of Moms and expands it to include not only the mothers of Olympic athletes, but those around the world and in the future. “Thank You, Mom” acknowledges the critical contribution of the mothers of athletes and celebrates their enduring efforts to raise young Olympians. The campaign is a continuation of one P&G first launched for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games, with plans to run through 2020. Since it was first unveiled, P&G’s sponsorship has evolved to a larger involvement with more athletes, deeper alignment with its brand promise and further assimilation into its portfolio products.

or being mothers themselves, the “Thank You, Mom” message traverses the product brands while connecting at the corporate level.

The Olympics are seamlessly woven into the message. P&G Beauty’s line of products including Secret® and Cover Girl® use messaging that reinforces power and confidence, common themes that resonate with women and athletes. The range continues with Duracell’s® commitment to powering devices and powering athletes through messages of motivation that will display in the Olympic stadium. P&G illuminates components of its sponsorship in a natural progression across its brands in a way that doesn’t feels forced, while staying true to each product’s offering.

Brand Alignment

Looking at the brand platform, the recognizable identity that mirrors an Olympic medal is prevalent and consistent across all consumer touch points, providing an evocative iconic representation that allows consumers to connect with a now familiar symbol. Drilling deeper into the product lines, the message prevails as the overarching brand communication. Since many of P&G’s multi-product consumers share a common admiration as having mothers 29

The “mom” story has both a unique and emotional angle and P&G invites consumers to explore each brand’s Olympic story as it comes to life. Through a dedicated section on its website, consumers can understand how products help moms in their everyday lives. This connection links to retail where the P&G-Olympics partnership is center stage in store aisles. P&G showcases the sponsorship through impressive activations including dramatic displays, in-store demonstrations and more than 600 Olympic-themed products on shelves that provide strong visibility for P&G.

Social Media Engagement

Speaking of emotive, P&G launched the foundational component of its sponsorship, “Thank You, Mom,” around Mother’s Day with a two-minute film called “Best Job” that was shared online and via YouTube. The film profiles mothers in different countries helping their children along their collective journeys to reach the pinnacle of health, talent and athleticism at the Olympic Games while engaging in practices that require P&G products, such as washing the dishes and doing laundry. “Best Job” was repurposed into formats appropriate for television spots and viral sharing and has been viewed by almost 13 million consumers around the world.

A notable example belongs to Pampers® and its limited edition Team USA printed diapers and wipes. The atretail experience engages consumers and sparks an enduring kinship to the connected brands. The company has partnered with its top retailers to execute the installations through to the end of the Games and P&G has placed close to one million displays nationwide, the largest retail campaign in its history. 30

P&G further empowers consumers to share in the sentiment and thank their moms with a Facebook app that has been used to honor more than 30,000 moms and counting. There is also a charitable component where the company commits to helping moms raise the next generation of athletes through the creation of its P&G/Team USA Youth Sports Fund. Consumers are invited to support through social engagement, donations and participation in brand programs from products such as Pampers®, Tide® and Gillette®.

• Develop a brand, messaging and communications strategy that aligns core values: Connect your corporate values with the values of your sponsorship partner. • Relate to your audience and connect emotionally: Sponsorships should be treated as general campaigns with creative platforms that resonate with your core audience to ensure your partnerships matter to them.

Through its sponsorship of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, P&G has been faithful to its brand promise of supporting the work and promoting respect of mothers everywhere. That’s because it:

cohesively connects to target audiences,

aligns its products,

and integrates the Olympic message with authenticity and eloquence.

• Be consistent and integrate: For maximum impact, integrate one core message across all your consumer touch points to allow your message to break through and be memorable. Explore multiple channels from retail, online, social, public and community relations.

View on CommPRO

The seamless implementation inspires the audience to root for moms and for the awe-inspiring Olympiads we’ll watch. We feel that much more connected with P&G’s brands for the goodwill and making our lives that much easier.

Michelle Adelson is Chief Brand Officer at Santa Monica-based integrated marketing communications agency The Phelps Group

Tips for Leveraging Your Sponsorship: 31


Teaches Business How to Find Your Brand Story

By Laurence Vincent, Director of The Brand Studio, UTA, Author, “Brand Real” and “Legendary Brands”

remember watching the second World Trade Center tower fall on the television newscasts of 9/11. Nearly everyone raised a hand. Yet, Dr. Fraser pointed out that our memory never happened. People will tell you they can remember where they were standing and what they were doing when that terrifying footage appeared on their televisions moments after the first tower fell. The fact of the matter is that footage of the second tower falling wasn’t broadcast on any television network for nearly 24 hours.

I am cursed with a career-limiting visual impairment. It’s called eye rolling. Lately, this malady has embarrassed me whenever someone tells me they help brands tell stories. When the phrase “we’re in the brand storytelling business” rolls off their tongue, my eyes roll away to the corner of the room. Curiously, I do believe that brands tell stories. I just think most people who talk about brand storytelling don’t know what it means. The simple fact is that story is how consumers connect brands to their lives. If your eyes are rolling right now, let me explain.

The mental magic that compels us to layer familiar personality traits onto a total stranger or remember things that didn’t happen in our personal history is the same machinery that empowers brands to tell stories. A brand tells a story by providing an archetype of a character we feel we know, and providing experiential cues that push our narrative minds to complete the story.

Our brain is a strikingly effective computing device that works hard to help us understand our world by artificially closing gaps in our knowledge. When information is missing, it makes a best guess. The guesses create linear order that allows us to follow the story. Expert witness Dr. Scott Fraser illustrated this phenomenon in a 2012 TEDxUSC speech when he asked how many people in the audience could

There are nearly always three stories cued by a brand:

Brand Story 1: The Origin Story

The first story cued by a brand is a pseudo-historical story of the brand 33

itself. This is the story of record—the origin of the brand, it’s recent behavior (i.e., new product introductions or newsworthy events) and its reputation. Mention Hewlett-Packard in Silicon Valley and tech nerds will play back the origin story of inventors in a garage. They will recount the controversies of the brand’s recent history. The story of record is backward looking, and it’s not always accurate—but it’s a story, and it often resonates with audiences because of our fondness for nostalgia.

about the brand they inevitably construct a story that borrows from the larger narrative genre of chocolate. They speak of indulgence, decadence, sweets, passions and romance. Godiva has positioned itself to tell the story of its competitive field. But the category story can also be used as a fulcrum. Sometimes, a brand deliberately plays against the conventions of its category. For example, Virgin America rarely tells the conventional story of airline travel. It instead frames its story in the vernacular of club culture. Every cue leads you to recall the story of a sexy disco. You are greeted with house music, mood lighting, premium amenities and sexy flight crews. Each cue sets expectations based on a story in another category— which constructs a differentiated story for the Virgin America brand.

Action item: Ask yourself if someone were to tell the history of your brand, what would it be and who are the pivotal characters and plot points? What feelings does it evoke?

Action item: Ask yourself if your customers engaged in a conversation with others about your brand category, what genre of stories would they tell? What role would your brand play in the narrative, if it appears at all?

Brand Story 2: The Category Story The second story is the story of the brand’s category. For example, it’s hard to think about Godiva without thinking about chocolate. This strong association with the story of the category has allowed Godiva to extend into adjacent categories such as spirits. Despite its poetic references to the naked lady on the horse, when you talk to consumers 34

they embody deep-rooted beliefs and foundational values.

Brand Story 3: The Consumer Story

Some years ago, I interviewed a woman who described her loyalty to a fashion brand. She said the clothes made her feel she was getting closer to the person she wants to be, using words like “successful,” “sophisticated” and “smart.” She had connected with the brand when she was in college, but couldn’t afford to buy it often. As she progressed in her career, she made a habit of occasionally splurging to buy clothes from this label. The act of purchasing, wearing and saving up for the next cycle (or paying off the last cycle) were all part of her story. The brand was an extension of her identity, and it was a symbol of the person she aspired to be.

The third story is the story of the consumer. Many psychologists use narrative therapy to re-script a patient’s life. It works because each of us live in what author Neal Gabler refers to as The Life Movie. Our life story is unfolding every minute—some of us have multiple life stories. These include our own history, but they also include our possible self—the person we hope to be. Most of us think of the future when we think of our self-concept, and a majority of us envision a positive outcome. We aspire to be someone and that aspiration is wrapped up in a fictional story that we hope to make very real. To keep that story from fleeting, we seek cues from life that we’re on our way. Not surprisingly, brands are often involved.

Action item: Ask yourself if you were to psychoanalyze your best customer, how would your brand factor into their life story?

When a woman slips into a pair of Christian Louboutin heels, she has cued up a story about herself. The same can be said of the scientist who insists upon using Molecular Probes in his groundbreaking research. The brands are linked to a part of a personal identity —a story about who that person is and what they value. Those brands sometimes cue a story that we might consider to be rather shallow and socially conspicuous, but just as often

Brand Story 4: The Community Story There’s a fourth story that’s becoming much more relevant. In 2004, James Twitchell wrote a humorous and 35

insightful piece for the Journal of Consumer Research entitled “An English Teacher Looks at Branding.”

Action item: Ask yourself if there is a community around your brand? If so, what’s the story that connects that community? How does the community contribute and share the story?

Twitchell opens with a story from his college teaching experience, and his horror at how students linked their knowledge of brands to missing lines from nineteenth century poetry. He surmised that “brand stories have become modern sagas,” a collective understanding rooted in a story that “picks up and discards subplots and characters as it is being continually reformed for new audiences.”

problems of such a culture (clearly, it is wasteful and intellectually shallow for starters), but it may prove to be more fair and democratic that what has come before.”

Just a few years after this piece was published, social media exploded and the never-ending brand epic found a new channel in which to morph and connect with audiences who, in turn, evolve the narrative yet again.

Why It Matters: Show, Don’t Tell Last year, McCann Worldgroup released “The Truth About Youth,” a fascinating study of more than 7,000 young people around the world. This new generation of consumers value community, justice, and authenticity above all else. They crave “brands of substance” that are wrapped in a meaningful story. Most important, they want their brands to be credible. If they aren’t, 90% of those surveyed said they would make a point of telling friends about “unjust” behavior from a brand.

Brand narratives are an epidemic cultural currency—a shorthand that represents attitudes, beliefs and values of communities of people. Twitchell notes that, “The ability to enter these communities depends not on lucky birth, skin color, religious affiliation, or a host of other attributes usually installed at birth but a desire to consume both objects and their fictions.” He closes with a warning and a ray of hope: “I have glossed over the obvious

This finding alone takes me back to my 36

eye-rolling disorder and leads me to the most important lesson of brand storytelling: Brands are natural storytelling devices, and brand managers can bring the brand story to life by serving up cues that tease the story out in the consumer’s head. However, the story must always be one of truth, not fiction. Suggest a story that’s pure fiction in order to mislead consumers, and I guarantee your success will be short-lived. Some brands may extend their storytelling prowess into motion pictures, television and immersive online experiences. These can be brilliant channels for the brand’s story to take center stage. But even these stories must be based on a foundation of credibility. It has to connect with what the consumer values and what the brand actually stands for. A brand exists to set an expectation. It gains value when experiences with the brand meet or exceed this expectation. The degree to which any brand can become a rock star storyteller will vary, but the story roots of every brand are endowed from the moment of creation and brought to life through actions, not showmanship.

best advice that has been doled out to storytellers everywhere for centuries: Show, don’t tell. View on CommPRO Larry Vincent heads The Brand Studio at United Talent Agency. He is author of “Brand Real.” See his presentation titled “On the Subject of Brand Narrative” here.

Ultimately, the best way to make that story known is to follow the oldest and 37

Social Media Optimization: The Cocktail Party Analogy Aligning Your Brand with Relevant or Popular Conversations By Jeff Herzog, CEO & Founder, ZOG Digital TM

decide that social media really “isn’t for us” or that it's not the right time to allocate more budget to social media.

Social media is evolving and Social Media Optimization (SMO) is becoming a new business requirement. This process to improve the effectiveness and visibility of online content ensures your brand is visible when prospects are interested in your product or service.

When in Doubt, Take a Cue from a Cocktail Party

By optimizing for technical and strategic components for networks, content, images and video, brands see increased traffic referrals from social networks, higher engagement and are able to obtain valuable consumer data in the process. A large part of SMO is aligning your brand with relevant or popular conversations online; essentially, the goal is to be the conversational hit of the proverbial cocktail party.

Success in social media is similar to succeeding at a cocktail party. If you sit around yammering about yourself, anyone unfortunate enough to enter your sphere of influence will make a polite exit. However, if you look nice, listen intently to others and then steer the conversation to what others are interested in, you’ll likely be a hit. The logic behind social media optimization is very similar to the latter.

Where Do Brands Go Wrong?

In social, a brand’s audience is interested in discussing themselves and topics of interest to them. Most consumers aren't interested in company changes that do not directly affect them.

Today, most brands suffer from what we call the “me syndrome”—devoting much of their online content to talking about the intricacies of their own business. The more time brands spend doing this, the easier it is to lose perspective on the content that will be successful. When this happens, brands fall into the “me syndrome” trap. They often come across as flat on social media platforms, then

It’s Not About “Me, Me, Me” A big part of SMO is understanding who your customer is, and then aligning your brand 38

conversation in such a way that it adds value to what they care about. Shifting your outreach approach to a more consumer-centric perspective is the first foundational step to begin to credibly speak in the social environment. This allows your message to be heard and embraced.

—gas prices—and recommended that we create content around that topic. To accomplish this goal, we created content in the form of a widget, which was designed so that it could spread organically. This widget allowed consumers to see the least expensive gas prices in their area. The content is designed for an individual in a brand’s prospect demographic to derive value from it, and perhaps even share it or forward it to a friend. This aligns the brand to say, “We know you’re concerned about gas prices, we are listening to you, and want to help ease the burden on your pocketbook, by creating content you may find useful.”

If you’re reading this as a dominant consumer packaged good (CPG) brand like Coca-Cola, or as a famous celebrity like Lady Gaga, then chances are you're probably not going to need SMO to increase and engage your fan base, because your fans are likely already brand fanatics. But if you’re like the other 98% of brands in the space, working to be heard, or are a “lower involvement” company, then chances are you are looking to increase these success metrics. As a Facebook user, how often do you “like” (and also want others to know you’ve liked) your utility company or your favorite brand of dish soap?

The more value a brand can add and show they’re listening, the more likely a consumer will want to do business with that brand. Conversations begin relationships—and relationships grow business. Cocktail Talk There are several other simple ways to align your brand with popular online conversations. They require the ability to sift through libraries of social data to better understand the online behaviors and preferences of your demographic. Again, this is like a cocktail party: While all participants have a central connector, there will always be many sub-groups or conversations at each party.

Build Simple Tools to Allow Consumers to Interact with Topics of Interest  We were tasked to align an auto insurance client with popular content topics to increase their popularity in social media. To do this, we identified a trending theme

This knowledge allows brands to leverage content in two ways: 39

• •

identifying conversations that are a natural fit for your brand; and identifying ways to insert your brand into popular or timely conversations.

sharing, in line with popular conversations, and still created to be relevant for the brand. Companies that utilize these themes, even those in “lowinvolvement industries,” will be able to see vast increases in keyword ranking, social post engagement, qualified traffic, and social impressions.

In the case of identifying conversations that are a natural fit for your brand, it’s likely that a cable company, for example, will want to talk about new shows, season premiers, and newly released movies or programming available “on demand.” These topics are both relevant, as well as a logical way for a “lower involvement” brand to insert themselves into conversational topics.

The beauty of the SMO cocktail party strategy, when done correctly, is that brands can be the hit of the party, making new friends (qualified potential customers), and establishing themselves in new circles (to gain additional visibility).

When looking to leverage popular or timely conversations, a brand must have the ability to act quickly to capitalize on these opportunities. Examples of this are: •

producing content around trending online topics or news (on social platforms or news outlets); or producing trendy content, including photo and video memes. These topics, trends and memes might not be central to your core content themes, but they do allow you to insert your brand into popular conversations, that in-turn increase your exposure to new audiences and send traffic to your brand by driving additional visibility.

View on CommPRO Jeffrey Herzog is CEO of ZOG Digital TM, a search & social marketing technology company in Scottsdale, AZ.

Quantify the Results These content themes are created in such a way that makes them ripe for 40

5Myths Exposed Brand-Busting By Joellyn “Joey” Sargent, Principal, BrandSprout LLC


required to find the intersection where a brand comes to life.

With business moving at an everaccelerating pace, branding is both a hot topic and a moving target. In spite of the buzz, not all “conventional wisdom” is accurate. Let’s debunk some major myths about branding to clear the way for a more focused and fruitful approach to branding your business:

Myth 2: Branding Is Expensive Looking at the huge brand advertising investments of companies like Coca Cola, Visa and Ford, I can understand why many think branding is expensive. The truth is, it doesn’t take millions to build a brand. Even the largest brands started small. Unrelenting dedication to branding helped them grow. Their big budgets are a result of successful branding, not a catalyst for it.

Myth 1: A Brand Is a Promise While a brand promise—the essence of what a company offers its customers—is an important element of brand strategy, the idea that a brand is a promise falls short. Promises get broken, forgotten and sometimes are made without any intention of being kept. That’s hardly the kind of relationship you want with your customers.

The real price of a strong brand is not monetary. It’s a commitment to invest more than

Instead, a brand is an intersection. It’s the point where brand promise meets customer permission, where perception meets reality. The nexus depends as much on your customer’s willingness to buy into your brand message as it does on your carefully crafted brand vision. A brand does not become great on its own. Stakeholders all need to accept the brand promise. Dialog and agreement is



Companies that create strong brands focus time and energy on:

understanding what makes your brand unique, what customers expect, what value you offer and how it’s delivered.

• Understanding customers and markets

Design follows strategy, communicating brand attributes and messages that have been established through a thorough process of evaluation and discovery. A cohesive brand image helps express a company’s positioning, establishing a framework for aspirational themes associated with its value proposition.

• Delivering brand value in every interaction

• Consistently reinforcing brand messages

• Embodying the brand in all aspects of the business

How you interact with customers and employees, the products you offer and how you deliver services are critical strategic decisions. Integrate these elements into your business and you will establish a firm foundation for your brand before you spend a dime on advertising.

Myth 4: Rebranding Fixes Everything I’ve been involved in a lot of rebranding projects over the years, and it’s interesting to see the reasons companies cite for making a change. Often, rebranding is seen as a quick fix for larger business issues. It’s not.

Myth 3: A Logo Is a Brand

Rebranding signals change within a business, but it doesn’t create change.

As the most visible element of a brand platform, a logo represents but it is not the brand. Logos and brand identity are important because imagery can invoke an immediate visceral response, creating a strong connection with customers. While a consistent and appealing “look and feel” can cement brand awareness, logo design is only a piece of the branding process.

Organizational evolution must always come first or the rebranding effort will fail for lack of substance. The time to rebrand is when your organization has adopted fresh ways of thinking. Changes such as an updated business model, entering new markets and dramatically improved product offerings are fundamental shifts that logically lead to a brand makeover.

Before you start designing logos, sites, packaging, ads or point of sale displays, remember these things are all just ways of illustrating what your brand stands for. Creating a brand image first requires

Resist the temptation to rebrand because sales are down or competition is heating up. Rebrand when your response to these challenges requires you to show the market that your


company has changed and your brand is evolving in a positive way.

In response, companies must connect with customers, listening and responding in new ways. Successful branding cultivates relationships built on influence and authenticity, using brand advocates for social proof and responding to issues that might have been ignored in the past.

Myth 5: We Control Our Brand The days when businesses controlled their brands are over. Organizations used to unilaterally define their brand messages and dictating where those messages appeared. Customers shared brand experiences, but companies essentially controlled the message.

The social voice can be powerful, making brands accountable for unpopular policies and poor decisions. At the same time, passion for small brands can turn into a groundswell of support, catapulting new businesses to the forefront of their industries.

Technology—and social media—turned the tables, giving power to the people and making brands more dynamic than ever before. Customers can be vocal advocates or detractors of a brand, manipulating messages and shaping brand perceptions on their own.

In this environment, companies must accept that the era of control has evolved into a tide of influence. Mold customer perceptions by carefully shaping brand messages and actively managing things you can control, such as how your company interacts with customers and the way in which you respond to problems. Your brand has a life of its own. It will grow and change over time as the market shows you what resonates with customers and what does not. Embrace this feedback, using these signals to continually improve the essence of your brand. View on CommPRO Joellyn Sargent is principal of BrandSprout LLC, a consulting firm that turns daunting business challenges into success stories. 44

Brand How to Master the Science Beneath the Art

By Mark Weiner, CEO, PRIME Research

A common misconception is that branding is a purely creative endeavor based on clever phrasing, brilliant visuals and edgy disruptive execution. While creativity certainly plays an important part, successful branding is as much science as art; and the required science—which can be called “brand engineering”—actually enhances the creative process by focusing resources on those branding opportunities with the highest potential. Brand engineering is a systematic, target audience–based process of developing brand, issue, or corporate positioning based on research. Here’s how to get started:

Brand Engineering: Questions You Must Answer The science of branding requires a systematic process by which brand marketers augment the creative process. The optimal branding strategy-development process must enable the marketer to reach the following decisions:


Engineering • • •

• • • • •

Who is the most profitable target audience? What motivates the target to act? How well does our brand proposition match the target audience’s priorities and reality in terms of credibility, relevance, sustainability and you’re your own profitability? How well does our competition or opposition perform against the same criteria? Does the brand strategy align with the objectives of the organization? Is our branding consistent across all channels? Does the brand resonate as strongly among internal audiences as well as it does in the marketplace? Do we understand our audience, our brand and our competitive environment well enough to bring our brand alive in communications, logo and creative?

The Branding Engineering Process The answers to these questions, the subsequent brand decisions and the eventual performance evaluation are most reliably and successfully achieved through a brand engineering research process consisting of five stages, the first of which drives the rest: 1. The initial step in brand engineering uses qualitative research. This research

comes in the form of a focus group to generate a multitude of propositional attributes and benefits—branding opportunities—including future options as well as current approaches. Once the list is developed, the group decides on which possibilities are the most likely to succeed, selecting twenty-five or so to test through quantitative research.

2. The second step is the survey stage. This stage is one in which the twenty-

five attributes and benefits of the brand are scientifically tested using a survey to interview no fewer than three hundred but no more than one-thousand respondents.


3. The third step is a formal analysis designed to explore the three or four

major drivers revealed during the second step. This is done to uncover the derivation and intensity of the prospect’s needs, and to get a clear picture of the competitive environment. 4. The fourth step in the brand strategy development process is to conduct

a content analysis of traditional, digital and social media originating in those media with the highest penetration among the target audience. The purpose is to determine the extent to which the three or four winning brand attributes are delivered by your company and your competitors. Smart brand planners give the highest priority to those attributes that are important to the target audience, viewed as favorable aspects of the sponsoring company, and are not associated favorably with competitors. 5. The fifth step is evaluation to drive incremental learning and

continual improvement. Similar to Steps 1-4 in miniature, evaluation should be continuous and consistent to ensure that past decisions remain effective in the constantly evolving marketplace. Periodic pulsechecks provide useful input for tactical execution to ensure that investments made in branding continue to yield positive results over time, versus competitors and in light of best-practice.

Attributes important to the profitable customer


Credible attributes for your brand 48

Attributes not associated with competitors

Once research uncovers your brand landscape, invest your tactical resources on those activities that deliver the best return on investment.

Branding Myths While people speak of “branding,” its definition, application and understanding are not universal. In such an environment, there is a danger for conventional wisdom to take hold without question. Avoid the following traps when you approach brand investment decisions: •

It’s better to be approximately right than absolutely wrong: The resources for even the biggest companies are limited, but smaller organizations are more severely capped in their branding efforts. This reality may suggest that one dispense with brand engineering altogether but even a limited approach is better than nothing. •Beware of overly simplistic brand measures: A recent wave of

distilled market assessment led markets to believe that one can quantify brand performance with a single question. While the answer may provide a simple pulse-check, it cannot tell the market what can and should be done as a result which is, after all, what everyone needs to know.

•Don’t skip steps: Focus groups can be helpful and inexpensive

but, at the end of the day, they represent only the opinions of a dozen or so strangers. The focus group is a way to test hypotheses, explore brand possibilities and to learn about how the consumer thinks about your product, service or brand. Follow the focus group with quantitative research to ensure reliable and projectable intelligence to avoid risk and optimize returns. •

“Branding” doesn’t equal “Advertising:” The truth is that branding weaves itself throughout the entire organization, not just across the traditional marketing mix— including advertising, price-promotions, social and digital, in-store and trade promotions, and public relations—but spanning accounting, shipping, and every dimension which touches the customer either directly and indirectly.

Given the importance and disproportionate amount of resources devoted to marketing and branding in light of an extraordinarily disruptive period in marketing history, branding serves as both a sword and a shield…it pays to get it right. View on CommPRO Mark Weiner is the CEO of PRIME Research, a global communications research and consulting firm based in New York City He is the author “A Contrarian’s Guide to Marketing and Communication,” published by John Wiley & Sons. He can be reached at


Brand Ambassadors Needed!

How to Build a Brand Through Social Media By Donetta Allen, Social & Digital Media Practice Leader, Hunter Public Relations


Consumers are showing they are willing to engage with the products, companies and brands that influence their day-today purchasing decisions. A survey by Lab42 found that more than 30 percent of Twitter users follow 1-5 brands on the platform, but just 10 percent don’t follow any brands. Another survey by HubSpot showed that of Facebook users who follow brands, more than 50 percent follow between 2-5 brands, with another 20 percent following between 5 to 10.

From time to time, humor and a welltimed social media response can also turn critics into fans, which will in turn help build a brand. Recently, Smart Car smartly responded to this critical remark on Twitter: “Saw a bird had crapped on a Smart Car. Totaled it.” Smart Car took that comment, did some calculations and responded with an infographic about how much bird crap it would actually take to total a Smart Car. This response, as covered here, cleverly reminded consumers about the Smart Car’s Tridion Safety Cell, a key safety feature for the automobile.

Clearly, social media is an increasingly important part of building a brand. It offers an opportunity for brands to participate in conversations about their services that consumers previously had only among themselves. When choosing to build a brand through social media, you’ll need to embrace the idea that you are entering an on-going dialogue, not a monologue, with your consumers.

When introducing a new brand in 2012, it would be irresponsible to not include social media in the launch plan, as consumers expect to find your brand in multiple places. For more established brands, consider pairing the launch of a social media program with a new ad campaign or public relations program. When you decide to embark on a social media program to help build your brand, whether internally or with the assistance of an agency, consider these steps to establish a social media presence:

It also lets you further build a personality for the brand that has been established through advertising or years of service. Known for your customer service? Utilize that when building your social media plans to connect with your customers. Brands like Comcast and JetBlue have found consumer relations success in social media as they troubleshoot consumer problems through Twitter.

1. Listen

The first step is to listen to your most active consumers. Spend the time to search for your brand on various social media platforms and see what these brand ambassadors are already saying about you. “Conversations among members of your marketplace happen whether you like it or not,” says expert Seth Godin. “Good marketing

Brands who embrace social media also know that ongoing communication with their core fans can turn a fan into an ambassador. These fans elect to interact with your brand, which means that paying attention to their comments, their likes and dislikes is critical. 51

encourages the right sort of conversations.” The takeaway is to find these existing conversations and then to enhance and contribute to them as you build your brand through social media.

Think visually and gather photos, videos and other suitable content for the platform. Also, identify upcoming holidays that would be brandappropriate to mention, as these provide an opportunity for brands to participate in general conversation or make a statement. The recent Oreo Pride cookie is a prime example. And finally, consider a few key things that consumers are looking for from brands, such as deals, contests and product information, and build some of these into your plans.

2. Choose a Platform

This initial listening phase will help you determine which platforms you should utilize to help build your brand through social media. While it can be tempting to start with a Facebook page since it’s the largest platform, there really is no “one size fits all” program for brands. If you’re finding that people are constantly posting pictures about your product, then a visual strategy focusing on Pinterest and Instagram might be right for your brand. If people often recommend your brand while shopping, perhaps Twitter or FourSquare are the right places for your brand. You might find that one platform is enough for your consumers, but many find that two or three platforms are helpful for creating a strong branded social media presence.

4. Share the News Once you’ve established a presence and created a content plan, you need to let your consumer base know that you are now on social media! Tell everyone you know and ask them to help spread the news. Add social media buttons to your website. Send out a notice to your existing e-mail distribution list and consider a limited media buy on the platform to help drive awareness during launch. You’re on your way to building an engaged community that will help build your brand for the future!

3. Create a Content Plan

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While actually setting up a presence on social media sites is relatively easy, you should put some serious thought and planning into the strategy behind the content that you will be sharing on the platform. Determine the tone of voice (fun, playful, serious?), style of speaking (eloquent, txt spk, punny?) you intend to use and the visual strategy (photos, graphics?).

Donetta Allen is a partner and social/digital media practice leader at Hunter Public Relations, a New York City-based marcom firm that partners with many of the nation’s most iconic brands.

As you outline your brand content, consider the story your brand will tell. 52

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Olympic Buzz McDonald's Demonstrates Owned-Media Prowess on Eve of London Olympics By Dave Armon, President, Critical Mention

McDonald’s will score Olympic-size buzz in mainstream media and on social networks as an official sponsor of the 2012 Summer Games. The juxtaposition of the world’s largest McDonald’s restaurant next to athletes with zero body fat could make for some interesting Tweets. But if a recent owned-media success from McDonald’s Canada is any indication, the brand is well prepared for the challenge.

hell does my Quarter Pounder with Cheese look better in the ads than it does at the restaurant?” Within three short weeks, more than 6 million people knew the answer. For those who have not clicked on the Play button, you missed hearing a food stylist explain how pickles must be moved so they are not hidden under sesame seed buns, and that syringes are employed to make mustard and ketchup drip down a seared beef patty in just the right way to get mouths watering.

In late June, Hope Bagozzi, marketing director for McDonald’s Canada, uploaded a video to YouTube that answered a question that had been submitted by a Twitter user: “Why the

It’s no secret that mega consumer brands like McDonald’s draw plenty of 54

criticism. Social media has given everyone a megaphone, so it’s brilliant that Bagozzi and her team seized the opportunity to transform the doubt of a potentially cranky customer into credibility for the brand. Companies like Howcast and eHow have built successful web businesses around answering common questions through video, with some of the webisodes generating thousands of views. Kudos to McDonald’s for figuring out that a journalist-style video produced by a brand can be entertaining and shared among friends and foes alike—especially when the crowd suggests the topics that are tackled.

Critical Mention’s Syndicaster  platform is used by a third of all U.S. network television affiliates and 200+ newspapers to aggregate video from professional reporters in the field and citizen journalists. Only the newsroom has the authority to review, edit, title, tag and publish the content, so we think this brand-safe approach to video curation will work well with companies and PR firms.   You’ll be hearing more in coming weeks and months about how we’re rolling Syndicaster out so more enterprises can start acting like media companies. We look forward to seeing what crowd-sourced media tricks McDonald’s has ready to roll at London’s Olympic Park.

We think brands of all varieties—from not-for-profits and small businesses to the biggest global B2B companies and government agencies—will start asking their employees, customers, online social communities and other constituencies to contribute video.

View on CommPRO David Armon is the president of Critical Mention, and a selfdescribed “media exec embracing disruptive technology and the social web.” Follow him on Twitter: @daveyarmon.

Click to View Video


What’s Your Brand EQ?


An Engagement Quotient Questionnaire for Business

By Sam Ford and Emily Yellin, Peppercom Strategic Communications

Brand: a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.*

Most businesses are built on interacting and connecting with their customers. But even the most audience-centric brands can become disconnected from the audiences they seek to engage— often because customers have been reduced to mere data points on a spread sheet.

Brand engagement: a term loosely used to describe the process of forming an attachment (emotional and rational) between a person and a brand.**

That’s bad news. It’s often the root cause behind failed marketing campaigns, communications initiatives that produce low engagement, and brands that just fall flat. Ultimately, brands with low brand engagement quotients (EQs) lose customer loyalty, and eventually, market share.

Brand Engagement Quotient: a subjective, non-scientific guideline of a company or client’s brand engagement levels based on a self-report questionnaire (see next page) *Source: **Source: 56

Test Your Brand: The EQ Questionnaire

among marketing, communications, sales, customer service, and other front-facing parts of the company to make sure all are in sync with the entire experience your audiences have with your company?

Here is our checklist of questions to help you diagnose how well you are keeping your fingers on the pulse of your audiences:

➡ Does the question, “What serves our audiences best?” regularly factor into your calculations of ROI?

➡ Do you regularly go beyond talking about audience data or segmentation profiles, and actually observe and talk in person with the people you are seeking to engage?

What’s Your Brand EQ?

➡ Do you rely on anything more than results from surveys and focus groups, and data from other company-controlled situations, to monitor how your customers feel and what they say about your company?

So how did you do? Here’s a quick answer key to help you gauge whether your brand’s engagement quotient is up to speed:

➡ Do you shop for and use your own products or services on a regular basis?

All Yeses — Congratulations! You are your customer. Your company is so customer-centric that you could probably teach us all a thing or two. Keep it up.

➡ Do your online monitoring efforts consist of anything beyond tracking mentions of your company and its products and services?

1 or 2 No's — You're on your way to being customer-centric, but redouble your efforts and pay attention to the places where you could improve.

➡ Is everyone in your company talking daily in your meetings about what your audiences might think, or how they might feel, and factoring that into every business decision?

3 or more No's — You might have the best intentions, and lots of good reasons why you can't become more customer-centric now. But your customers are going to bail if you don't change course soon.

➡ Do you have regular internal conversations and collaborations


Tips: How to Boost Your Brand EQ


This is not just a one-time activity. Only if you consistently consider every communication and business decision from your audience’s perspective, will you be better able to engage them.

If you didn’t score all yeses, don’t worry. Here are three steps to start the simple but concerted effort needed to address that:

✓Listen and

Make sure everyone at your company becomes an advocate for your key audiences, and communicates that attitude to them. Then, watch the ROI of all this effort grow, as your customers become not only more loyal but also your strongest advocates in the marketplace.

Collaborate Pay attention to conversations that you don’t control or prompt. Become a regular part of the online and offline communities that your audiences join. Foster two-way communication, not just one-way marketing pushes. Engage and be pro-active about their needs, not just reactive to their complaints.

View on CommPRO Sam Ford is Digital Strategy director at Peppercom Strategic Communications and author of “Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture.”

✓Go Native

Don’t only go out in the field with your sales team, sit in your call center, or query people about what they think about your latest campaign. Get out of your company’s bubble, and spend real time in the places your key audiences inhabit. What is everyday life like for them? What do they care about, beyond your company? And how do the products, policies and messages that you see from the company’s perspective look and feel to your target audiences?

Emily Yellin is a former NYT contributor and author of “Your Call Is (Not That) Important to Us.” She partners with Peppercom on Audience Experience.


By Mark Brock, Director of Public Relations, Wray Ward

Corporate Branding FAQ Yes, There Is More to It Than You Think 60

Unfortunately, many companies— regardless of size—don’t see corporate branding as complicated. Their thinking seems to be, “Develop a logo, standard PMS colors, brand standards manual, and a statement of vision, mission and values … and voila—you have a brand.”

the alignment, or lack thereof, of these elements is a true measure of effectiveness with corporate branding.

Q. How are vision, perception and culture defined and why is alignment important?

As important as these elements are to brands, this is not the stuff from which strong corporate brands emerge. This FAQ sets the record straight and arms businesses with a better understanding of what branding is—and how to go about building a great brand:

Vision is a statement from executive management of an organization’s essence at the highest level; it is both aspirational and attainable. Perception is how the organization is viewed by its key stakeholders—primarily, its customers. And finally, culture is the actual day-today environment of a company as experienced by employees. Only when you align vision, perception and culture do you achieve a strong corporate brand. Misalignment of these factors causes confusion in the marketplace and a weak or negative brand image.

Q. What is the stuff that great brands are made of? A team of researchers from Harvard examined this question in a study published several years ago. They examined a large number of global companies to determine how great brands are achieved. Two conclusions emerged from the study: Companies with strong brands perform better than others, and effective branding is the result of the alignment of three factors – vision, perception and culture.

Q. Why is alignment so difficult? Again, the visual elements around a brand – logo, colors, brand standards manual – are relatively easy. You provide good input to a creative team, they develop options and you select the one that wins the beauty contest. For an executive team to articulate a vision and then assure that perceptions by the marketplace and culture within the organization all align requires a level of introspection that can be extremely difficult. Most difficult of all is when an organization determines that vision,

Q. What did this study conclude about vision, perception and culture? The conclusion of the study was twofold – that these three elements (vision, perception and culture) are critically important to a corporate brand and that 61

perception and culture are not aligned. The issue then becomes how does the organization formulate and implement specific business plans to address these discrepancies.

they have been held. The best way to assess these capabilities is through case histories. Past work, particularly in the strategic area, will help you determine whether you have the right partner.

Q. Can organizations take themselves through a branding process?

Q. What else is important in an agency partner? If an agency has the intellectual goods and case histories to back it up, then it’s a matter of chemistry and pricing. Chemistry is essential because the right agency will serve as the lead facilitator, encouraging input from all levels of the company and from the marketplace.

Much of the hard work has to be done by the organization itself. If an organization is not willing to do the work required and is reluctant to face up to its weaknesses, then it should probably just pick a new logo and issue a brand standards manual. If an organization is willing to go deeper, then assistance from the right outside partner can be quite valuable. The key is finding the right partner.

They will encourage the free flow of ideas, but must also be confident when helping you face reality and put a stake in the ground on a brand position. In terms of pricing, look for an agency that will spend the time upfront to assess your situation, including all available research. Each situation is different, and a cost proposal should be based on an understanding of your situation and the work at hand. Beware of packaged, onesize-fits- all approaches.

Q. How do you define “right partner� for a branding process? First, find a partner that has the intellectual capacity to understand the nuances of a corporate brand. You will want a partner with strong creative graphics capabilities, but it;s equally if not more important to find a partner that will be a strong advocate for deeper analysis, including the potential for market and internal research. Look for an agency that is not afraid to question false assumptions about your organization, no matter where those assumptions originate and how long

View on CommPRO Mark Brock is director of PR for Wray Ward, a Charlotte-based marketing firm where he communicates corporate brands.


Funny Business 24 Buzzwords and Phrases That Give Finance Brands a Bad Name Every business has its own jargon, idioms and expressions. Some industries—hightech is a good example—even leverage jargon as a brand-building exercise. But s o m e t i m e s , j a rg o n c a n backfire—as it did recently when a Saturday Night Life skit showed what 4GLTE, 3G, HTC and all those smart phone acronyms sound like to the uninitiated. The world of finance is no exception. Ever wonder about some of the things bankers, venture capitalists and the purveyors of private equity say? Well, wonder no more. Herewith is a reference guide for a number of expressions you’re likely to hear—and a translation for each: View on CommPRO


By Gene Marbach is Group VP at Makovsky & Co., and chief blogger on IR Therefore I Am. He has nearly 30 years of experience in investor relations, corporate communications, and journalism.

When they say… Business plan Assumptions Projections Niche market

They mean… Glossy book containing lies More lies in support of main lies Numerical lies Too small for anyone else to care about First mover advantage See above On plan We lost money Ahead of plan We lost less money Slightly below plan Just about over Angel investors Rich friends and family members we put the arm on Mezzanine finance The penultimate group of suckers IPO The ultimate group of suckers Entrepreneur Person suffering from tunnel vision Limited downside We’ve about hit bottom Exit strategy We’ve identified suckers to off load this venture on Long selling cycle We haven’t found a market yet R&D phase Product doesn’t work yet Volume sensitive High fixed costs Commercialization phase We actually have a product Acquisition strategy Nothing we have works, let’s buy something Major opportunity We need money fast Strategic buyer The greater fool theory at work Professional The previous guys were idiots management Strategic advisor Someone who leaves when the money runs out Game changer For what game?


GlobalADSource kKNOWMORE


ads spanning 5 media and 57 countries

PRINT 8,590,271 VIDEO 2,202,359 INTERNET 1,146,262 OUTDOOR 779,313 AUDIO 732,414

By Vicki Flaugher, Social Media Zone (e.g., Tweetgrader, etc.), we dug deeper for a sampling of companies across industries ranging from sports and retail, to media and more. We were happy to find more than a few B2B leaders in the mix. We then reviewed these picks by Twitter engagement and an assortment of metrics, including online sentiment, using the Sysomos MAP (Media Analysis Platform). Finally, we threw in a few surprises. No matter the industry, they are all worldclass winners! !

Who doesn’t love Twitter? It’s the perfect vehicle for harnessing your online brand ambassadors. That’s why the top brands truly engaging on the #1 micro-blogging site are so innovative, imaginative, and seriously customer centric. What we found in researching leading brands by Twitter engagement was impressive—and we believe the best practices exhibited by our top picks will impress you, too. Rather than just pull a list of leading brands by number of Twitter followers from existing tools 67

1. Cisco Systems

B2B Twitterer of 2010 Returns The numbers may not seem atmospheric, but 131k+ is nothing to turn your nose up at —especially for a B2B brand. What we like most about @CiscoSystems is that it’s completely connected and engaging across all possible social media channels. The company has multiple Twitter accounts, uses a conversational voice, and can work a mean hashtag conversation. As a communication and network devices company, Cisco interacts on all levels. It replies instantly to comments, uploads videos, and always retweets. Making it to Mashable’s Top Brand list doesn’t hurt its place in the spotlight, either. Cisco is a B2B winner, and we need more of those!

2. NBA Taking It to the “Net” @NBA now ranks #21 on Tweetgrader’s Top 100 Most Powerful Brands on Twitter, placing it above even The Wall Street Journal. Over five million followers and an impressive volume of retweets, thank you’s, and answering of questions makes this a highly engaged Twitter handle. What’s more, it is on 29k+ group lists, created by Twitter users who want to stay in touch with their favorite brands and peeps. The league is certainly also scoring big on Facebook. We saw almost 14 million fans on its page and tons of pictures, videos, mentions of charitable activities and requests for engagement. Instead of going dark during after last year’s lockout and this summer’s offseason, the NBA is doing a full court social media press—and we like that spirit. 68

3. Mashable

Representing the Geeks Let’s face it: 3 million followers, a #8 listing on Tweetgrader and a totally integrated social media presence are tough to beat. Mashable is also rocking the Google+ scene and its Facebook page is overrun with fans. We saw over 943k on one account, with several additional accounts falling under the same brand umbrella. Mashable unfortunately doesn’t engage that much on its stream, which can come across more like a news ticker tape. But streaming news links and a massive library of 100% sharable information makes up for it and proves that “Sharing is caring!”

4. E! Online

Taking the Oscar in Tinseltown Tweets E! Online enjoys 4.6 million followers and is #10 on Tweetgrader’s list. We like the entertainment media group for its humorous banter. It shares personality-fueled comments and keeps us updated on the latest fashionistas with a fresh, cheeky approach. It’s a style junkie’s RSS feed that just keeps giving. If it’s happening, rest assured that E! Online is tweeting, posting and commenting about it. We give it points for being so well connected. Other stats bear mentioning, too: E! Online enjoys an 88% female audience, a high 33% of which is over 30. For captivating an oft-neglected audience online, @EOnline takes the Oscar.


5. Breaking News

Worldwide Mobile Connection @Breakingnews features instant news updates from all over the world, and is pretty enticing. The fact that it enables users to grab live updates via social feeds and AP sources on their mobile devices is even more awesome. At #6 on Tweetgrader’s list, with over 4.3 million fans, this site is marrying mobile with social in a way that epitomizes what engagement is all about. Most traditional news sites tend to focus on presenting volumes of content and less on one-on-one engagement. We like the brand’s use of high-powered retweets to share the spotlight. Add in a decent following of 185k on Facebook and a global focus, and we’ve got a winner!

6. Whole Foods Market

Organic and Connected

We’re fans of landing pages. When you click Whole Foods Market’s Tweetgrader listing (at #19, with 2.7 million followers), you are taken to its Twitter social media landing page. Every Whole Foods Twitter account is there for your engaging pleasure! We think it’s impressive that Whole Foods actively engages with customers, too. Sure, its peeps tweet out “fresh now” specials. But they also discuss micro-niche foodie concepts with a mad passion. Best of all, they enthusiastically respond to people talking about, around, and to the brand. Whole Foods Market walks its talk about being “real and fresh”—both in its store aisles and on Twitter!


7. Etsy

Crafty Community Fun Before you dismiss this massive, largely female, community of homemade crafters and artisans as niche, realize that @Etsy ranks #31 on Tweetgrader’s list with 1.6+ million followers. And, according to its Twitter reach and engagement numbers, it also gets shared by dedicated retweeting grassroots fans. Nearly all of Etsy’s tweets are direct responses to fans and followers! The sense of an online, homey gathering place for crafters to sell their wares and goods is a big part of what works on the site and via its Twitter handle. It’s definitely more than a crafting corner. It’s a model for bringing together buyers and sellers online!

8. Ustream

Video Power to the People Social media has turned traditional media on its ear. You may not like the run-n-gun style of some people’s live-streaming video work, but millions of social media users are fans. Exhibit A: @Ustream. You can’t get more engaged than your entire content funnel consisting of live, crowdsourced material, can you? With 1.5 million followers and the #32 position on Tweetgrader’s Top Brands list, Ustream is just getting started. Its Twitter feed announces live shows to engage followers, and constantly retweets live updates from Twitter followers about being citizen journalists and moviemakers. We love the grit, the live action, and the digital-savvy evident here.


9. Lennar Homebuilder for the Twitterverse We peeked at NetProspex’s 4th annual Social Business list for an overview of the companies with the highest number of employees plugged into social media tools like Twitter and LinkedIn. That’s where we found @Lennar, a surprising gem of social media engagement. You wouldn’t really expect a homebuilder to have 100k Twitter followers. Nor would you expect it to rank #2 on the NetProspex list —but there they are at the top. A leading Fortune 500 company, Lennar is engaging on all cylinders.

10. Solazyme Engagement with a Sense of Mission A Twitter following of 10k is respectable for a niche manufacturer—especially when you consider that many B2B manufacturers aren’t even on social media. Add in the fact that the majority of Solazyme online followers are digitally connected males under 30 expressing a 94% positive sentiment rating about the brand, and it becomes clear that @Solazyme is an innovative contender. Solazyme turns plant sugars into renewable oil and is the #2 manufacturer on the Inc. 500, with $38 million in revenues.



Working with Branding Agencies:

Three Guides to Help You Target the Right Firm Finding the right branding agency can be like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack. Worse, if you pick the wrong one, you’re sure to get pricked with more than just a pricey tab for a muddled corporate image. That’s because winning brand strategies don’t come cheap—and failed once can cost you even more in a ruined corporate reputation. So how can you take the frustration and pain out of the process? For the answers, we went straight to the source and asked three agencies that specialize in branding for their advice geared toward helping SMBs and big corporations alike find the RIGHT branding agency—and get the most for their branding budget. Following is our compilation of their best tips and counsel.


Planning for Success: Five Steps for Finding a Great Branding Agency

By Natalie Perkins, President, Clean Design, Inc.

aspects, from your tagline to your staff to your physical space. For example, the brand for Apple is so much more than a silhouette of an apple with a bite taken out.

When considering branding or rebranding for your company, whether it is for a product, service or part or all of your organization, you first must recognize that the process is much more than just designing a logo, as some people assume.

There are lots of great design firms out there, but only a true branding agency can help you sort out your brand. To find a great branding agency:

A logo is simply the visual representation of your brand. A brand exists in the mind of the target and encompasses all 74

Great branding agencies start their creative process only after they thoroughly research their clients. Any firm that meets with you and cranks out a logo immediately afterwards is failing to do its job effectively.

1. Ask about their strategic process. A lot of research and intelligence gathering happens before an agency can start its creative process. This input is key in building a foundation for any excellent branding. Three buckets of information must be filled:

2. Discuss branding stories. Most clients go through a rebranding process once or twice in their entire careers. A branding agency does it all day, every day. Experienced branding agencies have a breadth of branding experience across a myriad of categories. Get them to tell you stories about how they have handled situations like yours. Inquire about the strategy. Don’t just fall in love with great looking logos – have them talk about the brand behind the identity.

• Target: Who are your current

customers? Why did they select you? Are they the right customers for the future? Your agency should propose research to talk with your current clients and prospective clients to gain a deeper understanding. • Competition: Who are your primary and secondary competitors? What is their brand positioning? Your agency should do a competitive positioning matrix and a design and messaging audit to help you stand out. For example, working with a recent client, we uncovered that four of six competitors were using an almost identical shade of blue. Naturally, we recommended using red. • Your brand: Your agency should talk with key stakeholders to get their insight on where the brand is today and their vision for the future. We conduct one-on-one in-depth interview with folks who play a vital role in the success of the brand. Stakeholders can include marketing and sales staff, corporate leadership, board members and influencers who have a realistic view of the brand today and in the future.

Depending on your situation, ask them to share branding examples for other clients in similar situations. Is your desire to rebrand driven by a merger? A new competitive threat? A decline in sales? A sense that your brand has become stale? Share your story with them, and request that they relate an example from their own experience of how they have solved a similar challenge. 3. Be sure what you want is what they do. Know the deliverables of what you want before you get into the engagement. A logo redesign alone will require changes to your business cards, signage, website, email signatures, promotional items, social media sites, trade show booths, advertisements, and 75

much more. A good branding agency will be able to help you determine what will be impacted by a rebranding and how best to coordinate a synchronized brand launch.

industry category matters little if they prefer casual conversations while you want formal presentations. Talk to the agency about what standards drive how they work. If your company has a different perspective, your working relationship likely will be more stressful than it has to be. Find an agency that shares your values and style for best results.

In order to avoid confusion and be successful, your brand transition must happen quickly so that the audience does not receive a mixed message from you. Old and new logos in the market at the same time look sloppy.

When an agency meets all these criteria for you, what should be a reasonable expectation of what it will cost you in terms of time and money to roll out your new branding? This depends on the scale of the branding needed. Branding should be customized to each client’s needs, and there is no set of industry standards. The process can take as little as 12 weeks and cost as little as $25,000, with projects going up from there.

4. Look for brand architecture expertise. Rarely do brands live alone these days. Sub-brands, line-extensions, parent brands, sister brands, umbrella brands and all other members of the brand family will be affected by the branding engagement. Get your prospective agency to talk about their experience in dealing with brand architecture.

Talking about branding is sexy, but it can be difficult to achieve. Know what to expect realistically and understand how it will impact every aspect of your promotional and marketing efforts. This information alone may determine when it is best for you to embark on a positive branding campaign.

It is an interconnected world, and branding agencies know how to assess and organize all members of the brand family. This roadmap provides the framework for how all the brands come together and their relationships to each other. An experienced branding agency knows how to put the brand architecture together.

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5. Review its culture.

Natalie Perkins is president of Clean Design, Inc., a branding and design agency that creates competitive advantages for brands.

A bad personality fit between you and the agency will cause a disastrous branding outcome, no matter how talented the latter are. The fact that they have experience working in your 76

Picking a Winner: Eight Traits to Look for in a Branding Agency By Christine Olivas, Associate director of Client Services, Off Madison Ave. In today’s fast-paced and highly interactive marketing ecosystem, brand strategy has gained a reputation as a superfluous—even outdated—exercise, especially for smaller and mid-size organizations. With marketing budgets not as large as they used to be and an increased emphasis on measurable results, these organizations can thumb their noses at investing in an exercise that seems hypothetical—or, at best, not as central to their core key performance indicators. And with companies more conscious than ever of a need to create and sustain relationships with their end customers, a process that is largely focused on building internal consensus can appear esoteric. With all these forces at work, it seems that branding has gotten a bad rap. However, it’s precisely because the market is so crowded that differentiation through brand work is so crucial. With consumers being exposed to thousands of marketing messages a day and every organization rushing to have a “presence” on online marketing channels, it’s more difficult than ever to stand out from the crowd. A clearly articulated brand that both 77

encompasses what makes your organization different or unique and serves as a commitment to provide value to everyone who interacts with your organization is the key to creating longterm growth and viability.

make the brand and its communications stronger and, ultimately, more genuine. II. A time-tested, comprehensive process that leverages exploration with and evaluation of both internal and external stakeholders. By reviewing all existing research, determining any gaps, perform any missing research (often including internal stakeholder interviews) and consolidating and analyzing all of this data, the agency will gain key qualitative and quantitative insights that form the foundation of brand positioning.

In this sense, brand strategy is not a stand-alone set of words or visuals; it is a marriage of your business plan and marketing positioning that will translate to greater return-on-investment. In fact, with each brand interaction, a layer of sustainable and distinct emotional and functional value is communicated, and the relationship between the consumer and the brand grows in a much more meaningful and concrete way. And while negative messages about your brand can easily surface—and spread—via new media, so too can the positive sentiments that your target audiences have as a result of consistent and meaningful interactions with your brand.

III. The ability to truly tailor brand positioning and creative to reflect the uniqueness of each organization. Even though it’s not evident at first, a lot of agencies take a cookie-cutter approach to creating the fundamental assets after a branding exercise instead of truly pushing to develop words, colors, layouts and that express the fundamental essence of a brand—and fuel distinctive, memorable communications and brand interactions.

Knowing then that branding has become much more than just an isolated “brand promise” or creative concept, choosing the right branding agency is crucial. Any agency responsible for helping to differentiate you in the marketplace and create consistent engagement with your audiences must have:

IV. A focus on the internal communications aspect of brandwork, with a process that has been successful in garnering internal adoption of the brand. Ultimately, the organizations that bring the most value to their customers are the ones that “live the brand” in every aspect of their dayto-day operations and whose customers are brand evangelists. While organizations need to share in the accountability for the adoption of brand positioning, the right agency can play a

I. The (passionate) belief that the brand isn’t just what you say it is; it’s what your customers say it is. The days of pushing out a one-way message are gone, and great branding agencies know to harness – and leverage – user preferences, behavior and sentiment to 78

huge role by following a collaborative process that treats internal stakeholder viewpoints as crucial and providing concrete, actionable strategy for rolling out the brandwork—and keeping it alive going forward.

VII. The willingness to hold you accountable. While we tend to only think of agencies as professionals we hire to serve our needs, the best branding agencies will truly understand your organization—and push you to honestly and comprehensively articulate who you are and what makes you different. Once they’ve done that, they should continue to push you to consistently and genuinely articulate that story to your employees, your customers and the people who are hearing about you for the first time.

V. The view that “marketing is a threelegged stool”—and ability to apply that concept to brandwork. Without an understanding of how customer service and operations both impact the ability to deliver on marketing promises, an agency runs the risk of making promises that your organization cannot keep or that sharply conflict with certain realities your customers or employees face when interacting with your business or industry.

VIII. Last but not least, it’s crucial for a brand agency to be able to provide compelling examples of start-to-finish work that helped organizations across industries create meaningful experiences for their target audiences. Being able to see a brand promise or a brand launch campaign in isolation can help demonstrate competency, but case studies from clients who saw high degrees of internal adoption, fostered loyalty and differentiated in the marketplace because of brandwork that was both comprehensive in its development and strategic in its implementation will produce a much higher degree of confidence that the agency in question can help you articulate your brand.

VI. Expertise in—and/or a deep understanding—of cross-channel implementation. Today, many organizations, particularly larger ones, have both a brand agency and an implementation agency. The idea is that the brand agency drives overall strategy for differentiation in the marketplace, usually including creative concepts and campaign strategy, and that the implementation agency “translates” this overarching brand across channels. This presents an obvious challenge in a world that has become increasingly interactive: If the brandwork is not done in consideration of the way target audiences consumer information—and with digital best practices in mind—it will not be relevant or drive return-oninvestment, and it may actually cause lack of brand cohesion.

View on CommPRO Christine Olivas leads client services and account planning efforts for Off Madison Ave, an integrated marketing and public relations agency. 79

Getting Your Money’s Worth:

Do’s and Don’ts of Hiring a Brand Agency By Rodger Roeser, Owner, The Eisen Agency

1) Do you have a budget set aside for the work?

Hiring a “branding” firm can be tricky, because so many firms claim to offer “branding.” From large multinational organizations to the local copy shop in the strip mall, they all offer branding development services. I’ve seen printers offer branding, advertising agencies, and yes, even those pesky PR firms claim to offer branding. If you’re in the market for a branding company, read this so you can ask better questions, ensure the firms you are looking at are properly vetted and you find the right one for you.

2) What type of branding do you need? If you’re serious about hiring a branding firm, do your homework, but don’t window shop if you’re not genuinely ready to get started. Have a timeline in mind of when you expect to hire, and the timeframe to complete the necessary work.

Before even embarking on this journey, a couple real simple questions to ask your team—again, don’t waste these firm’s time, they already have clients to serve and have work to do:


Understand that almost all branding firms have their own unique methodologies and programs, so they are not all the same, but the outcomes often are. It’s not critical to get into the details, but rather understand the end product you expect to receive. “How” they go about making their magic is far less important that the outcome.

your fancy, or what may be similar to your type of business. DON’T generalize. Remember, compare apples to apples in work product—just because a firm did the branding for Budweiser doesn’t mean you have the king of beer’s budget. According to the most recent study I found, the average cost to develop a brand for a business or product ranged from a low of $30K to as high as several hundred thousand dollars, and obviously for that investment, be certain you’re getting more than a pretty new logo.

And yes, it does cost money, so before asking a branding firm to understand your business, be certain you understand a bit about theirs, so you can ask the right questions and get the right firm. A few simple do’s and don’ts to ensure you get your money’s worth:

DON’T expect to speak with current or past clients. And, while you certainly “can” ask for references, be mindful, brand development is highly sensitive and in many cases, highly confidential, so don’t be surprised if you won’t be speaking to any of the agency’s clientele. Sadly, I have seen clients get a logo “refresh,” the work equivalent of adding another touch of color, and spending tens of thousands of dollars to do so— simply because the client lacked clarity of exactly what and most importantly why they wanted to brand. Don’t invest your money that way; the greatest logo in the world still doesn’t sell the shoe— it’s the brand behind the shoe.

What NOT to Do DON’T ask to see the firm’s work product. That’s a pretty dumb request and shows you’re either not serious or you haven’t done your homework. Instead you can simply go online and review some firm’s work product before you meet face to face so you have a general understanding of the type of branding they provide. See what catches


gives you a specific offering that you can “own,” so that may be shared and understood with your target publics.

What You MUST Do DO ask specifically what type of branding and brand development the agency specializes in. My firm, for example, specializes in brand development and the creation of brand conversations for professional services companies. While we “could” provide branding for a consumer packaged good, there are better firms for that.

DO ask the firm how the branding can help your business. A good agency will explain how having everyone on the same page can make a serious positive impact to an organization or product. Understand costs clearly up front, and exactly what you’ll be receiving for your investment. Often times, testing and validation of brand concepts is not included in the agency price, but is rather an add on with an outside firm. So, ask who will likely be doing the concept testing and if refinements are necessary, what would the additional work look like.

DO have a clear understanding of what “branding is” and convey that understanding to the potential agency. Branding can be many things. It’s critical that when selecting a branding firm, that you have a clear understanding of exactly what you need. If by “branding” you mean, “Make me a logo and design some letterhead,” then I’m here to tell you that’s not branding, and you don’t need a big branding firm. You need Kinko’s. Spend $99 online, not $99k with a big branding firm. Branding is the whole of who, what and why your business or product “is,” it is its very “essence” and it’s critical that your firm can capture that and develop key RTBs (Reason’s to Believe) based on specific concepts showing the benefits of the business or product, and wrap an entire theme and conversation around that.

Finally, DO give clear direction as to what you’re seeking to accomplish. When hiring a branding firm, you’re trying to clearly define your business, which will then affect virtually every aspect of your business, what you wear, how your deal with customers, even your décor. I truly believe that almost every branding firm is very good at what they do, they have outstanding amounts of research and data and experience that allow them to provide quality work that can be tested and validated. Hire one that fits with you, give clear direction and then, watch the magic happen.

If the logo is blue, why is it blue? What does that mean. What archetype is your brand, and what specifically does it stand for and try to emote and convey? A good branding firm will be able to find the “freeze dried essence” of your brand and what truly makes you unique and

View on CommPRO Rodger Roeser is the owner and founder of Cincinnatibased public relations and marketing firm, The Eisen Agency. 82

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