Category: Brand Management


By , March 28, 2013 11:05 am

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Fashion advertising has always been more visual than verbal, which may play into its favor in the current, highly visCOMual marketing environment. We are seeing a trend in this mega-media environment for marketers to be involved in a heightened sense and use of visual literacy, visual thinking, visual perception and visual communications.

It has been our practice in our teaching and in our marketing and brand consulting to stimulate thinking by refashioning some of the terminology. It is our way of encouraging our own team and other participants to stop, think and apply the concept being presented through a new and different term such as visCOMual.

As in this case with visCOMual, we have noticed the need for more arresting visual communications in our digital, instant messaging world. To emphasize the importance of applying this to our clients’ branding messages, we created our own word for these innovative communications. Stop, think and recognize what is going on around you – what are you noticing about the visual communications you are encountering in your life? Even though the visualization of fashion has long left still-form, “proper” posing, as in the Levi’s ads of the 1950’s (seen here), to keep up with our own human evolution, there is certainly a need for the creation of effective matrices for this newly defined visCOMual process.

2 Levi's 1950's ads

1950’s Levi’s version of visual communications is “proper posing”

The visual literacy process can present fashion modeling with language as unique as the product design. There are advertising/brand managers and catwalk directors who are working on nonverbal languages of their own. Their intent is to grab attention with this new imaging language and visual meaning newly applied to their brands. They may now create a mind’s eye matrix for visCOMual that correlates visually with elements that are: emotional, rational, imaging, associative, symbolic and/or cultural, as in the Levi’s ad of today. The goals are to engage the customer’s seeing eye, the cultural eye that perceives the inner-mind or “my-style” eye, and/or creates a video-eye that records in the must-have, shopping mind.

2 current Levi ads

2013 Levi’s visCOMual – new-world posing and connecting with the Levi’s customer of today…

The positioning of visual communications for designers, brands and retailers is to encourage additional purposes for our ever growing and changing technologies. We are all working to create new areas of communication that can provide: product information—knowledge, self-design aspiration, increased meanings, and unique expression in our new visCOMual languages…

Think VISCOMUAL by Art Winters

Drawing by Art Winters

What strikes your mind’s eye?


Arthur & Peggy Winters co-teach SXB 200 Brand Marketing Communications for Image & Meaning and SXR 050 Intro to Branding: The Art of Customer Bonding.


By , February 28, 2013 9:54 am

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Print Media Commissions are not in Mad Men Visions


drawing by Art Winters

In 2012, Google billed over 20 billion in advertising dollars.  This was more than the total of all U.S. print media.  What a contrast to what magazines and newspapers sold just five years ago!  In 2006, print media sold 60 billion dollars more in advertising than did Google!  How will this change brand marketing?  This isn’t your Mad Men’s day of advertising. (“Mad Men” is AMC’s TV show based on Madison Avenue’s advertising business and people in the early 60’s.)

So what does this mean for brand management performed by many of today’s advertising agencies?  Well, they had better get their act together.  They need to deliver branding power that can compete or at least do co-branding with the Googles, E-Bays, Amazon.coms, and many others, which will keep coming down the Internet superhighway.

The big question is how much of a threat is online advertising?  Is it delivering the ROI experienced through print media advertising?  It’s vital to realize that Google, just 14 years old, is now taking in more ad revenue than print media, which has been here for over 100 years!

However, it must be accounted that Google has a global operation, so this can’t be simply analyzed.  It must also be analytically figured that Google has seen a 15% decrease in ad Cost-Per-Click, CPC (the average fee that advertisers are charged for each clicked on ad) in 2012.  But now, Google’s CPC drop has slowed and perhaps turned the corner in January, as their CPC share increased due to click share on tablet devices. As more people are watching content across a variety of their mobile devices, Google has decided to pull out of its 5-year effort to build its TV Ads product.  Since 2009, they have shut down similar services for print and radio advertising.

Google is concentrating on beating Facebook in the sale of online display ads.  (Online display ads feature the advertiser’s content message on a destination website, usually in a box on the top or side of the page.)  The company is planning to lead web-search ads and online display ads that feature graphics, interactive communications and videos.

Google’s significant increase in display ads that concentrate on brand content is evidence that they have ambitious brand marketing goals.  Now Google is building and developing plans for their advertisers to more efficiently buy across a multitude of sites.

This is not only an important story for the online aspects of our businesses; it is also a good brand invention and reinvention story to watch in real time. 

Where has Google been and where is it going – stay tuned… the next generation of Mad Men is in the digital works….

Arthur & Peggy Winters co-teach SXB 200 Brand Marketing Communications for Image & Meaning and SXR 050 Intro to Branding: The Art of Customer Bonding.

Brand MarkETing… No More Brand Marking!

By , January 31, 2013 12:06 pm

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Brand MarkETing

Are we seeing Trans-Planetary Brand MarkETing in our digitized mobile economy? Drawing by Arthur Winters

So what is the difference between brand marking and markETing?

In the past, branding was initially a way of marking or identifying a brand as in marking a rancher’s cattle with a branding iron. As time went on, logos were developed to mark and establish an identity for companies, products and services. More recently in our digitized world, brand managers must bring an ET — Extra-Terrestrial or more likely, an Essential Technology element to their branding. Bringing a more advanced brand marking to their brand markETing.

In the past few years, many customers have felt more of a divide between what they want and what brands offer. Brands that have a vision of what the customer really wants make the most of what their customers value and enjoy. In addition, the customer is increasingly aware of their involvement in product development in their role as “prosumer.”  We see an increase in the desire for personalization from and customization of products, services and experiences.

To satisfy their new brand expectations, customers are moving rapidly to shopping with online retailers. Retailer brands will have to explore more UC, Unified Communications, that include retail pop-up stores and departments similar to and kiosks for brand offers similar to UC strategies will be created that involve real voice (as opposed to electronic menus) responses to customers’ demands for personal attention and customization.

Strong brands that fulfilled customer expectations in the past may diminish, as many consumers are no longer loyal to brands they perceive as category leaders. As always, Brand Managers have to create strategies that convert consumers into customers. The hard work is now in creating an innovative presentation of relevant and much desired brand attributes for the most effective brand positioning. Some brands are creating differences that are being told through their brand story. A compelling brand story and the brand’s history can be delivered to better sell the brand’s positioning assets, differences, and superiority.

So we find content and technology merging in new ways. Consumers may now depend on apps that provide applications to personally bring to mind brand differences and values. These can be inspired by knowledge of their singular profiles and their current desires. And right up there in ET brand positioning is the brand manager’s awareness of their customers who are not really engaged. Previous paradigms for customer-engagement may no longer be effective and customer experiences, CX, that are no longer current in today’s retail marketing, will need to adjust and innovate like never before!

Next, brands will rely more and more on VOC (Voice of customer), innovative interactions with customers and encourage buying recommended by their friends via social media. Successful brands will acquire more knowledge about operations involved in a consumer-run world. As we have mentioned previously, PDA’s/mobiles employed by consumers will dramatically increase. Consumers will be scanning their own screens to connect with a brand, and perhaps, influence their buying. A brand will need to unify all of its messaging and specifically its advertising that is designed for the mobile customer. This may include new screen-oriented techniques for these new retail venues. Google made over $20 billion in ad revenues this year, more than all U.S. print media combined!

We suggest the oft-quoted phrase: “The Future is NOW” — might apply.
What do you think?

Arthur & Peggy Winters co-teach SXB 200 Brand Marketing Communications for Image & Meaning and SXR 050 Intro to Branding: The Art of Customer Bonding.


By , December 27, 2012 6:09 pm

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RETAILORS might remember, as we have often suggested, to make their brand management an ongoing process of reinventing customer experiences and providing more personalized mobile engagements. For retailors, their creative strategies must now be based on their target customers’ own positioning of their most relevant attributes, differences and behaviors. Customers’ self-brand perceptions rely on their omni-present sources of contact, information and cultural sharing. The concept of “everywhereness” is a current zeitgeist in the mobile world, as exhibited in the Tracfone Everywhereness commercials.

Retail innovations by leading retailers mandate that all their strategic planning is a brand retailoring that evolves from their study of the current evolution of our species, technologically. Quickly gone is the concept of the physical “retail store” as a shopping destination or necessity. Struggling to remain relevant is the mission, “should you choose to accept it.” We hope it will not be a “Mission Impossible.”

Drawing by Art Winters

There is no doubt that mobile is now a bio-digital part of the customer, aka 21st Century Human. For example, living within all the “everywhereness,” retailors must consider that there is a stronger customer’s need for individuality, as exhibited through an interest in fashion tailor-mades or bespoke products – from clothing and accessories to automobiles. Mobile customers are quickly adopting and increasing their mobile “self-styling” options. Changing their shopping behavior more readily than those who are store-only shoppers. Retailors are building their “everywhereness” opportunities to attract more customers with new personalized mobile apps and interactive options.

Inevitably, retailers have to consider “showrooming” as a challenge. How should they strategically respond to this use of their physical store as a showroom and the Internet sites as the P.O.S.? Certainly the retailor is actively working to provide targeted CX (Customer Experiences) that offer personalized mobile and in-store service and incentives that would also advance their NPS (Net Promoter Score). Also, brand managers should be creating new, innovative, and more customer interaction options for their ever-changing loyalty programs and tailor-made offerings. The retailor must realize that since mobile technology enables the customer to shop many stores on their own time, from wherever they choose, it is time to get creative and inventive. Work at brand “relate-ability” with self-visualizations of value and helpful relevant touch points for the customer’s tailor-made desires.

Our thought is: “If retailers want to be anywhere, they must now be everywhere.”


Arthur & Peggy Winters co-teach SXB 200 Brand Marketing Communications for Image & Meaning and SXR 050 Intro to Branding: The Art of Customer Bonding.

THE SIGN for DESIGN … Creativity Before Marketing

By , November 29, 2012 8:24 am

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As businesses and consumer groups grapple with the effects of global marketing, we are observing how various fashion designers adjust their marketing strategies to suit this uncertain new world. Some fashion designers are re-thinking creative design as a foundation for marketing. They are concentrating on how to bring a sense of personal involvement in self-styling for the consumer as a fundamental marketing strategy. When the world gets more confusing, either we pull in the reins and go to our strengths — or we go all out and cast a wider net.

Designers are focused less on “The Look,” in their seasonal collections. They are busy researching and creating a line that can satisfy more than one demo/psycho-graphic market. While staying true to their core target audience, they are also reaching beyond that to a broader range of ages and body shapes with a wider selection of fabrics, colors, styles, …. Looking to connect to “What is their world,” the new wave of fashion designer wants to create a brand story that will stimulate or revive consumer emotions and aspirations. More than ever, it is important that a style and the brand have relevance to the consumer.

A good example could be the current repercussions of the world’s poor economies. What kind of choices will be made with this in mind? When so many things look bleak for so many people, how can one’s personal styling make the consumer more optimistic? A designer may think back and design forward to create different styles that reactivate pleasurable emotions. It may be time to extend beyond the security of the “I can wear it anywhere” black dress, exploring the brighter, fun colors, patterns, and styles, offered at more reasonable, affordable prices.

What we are saying here is largely attributed to singular Lanvin designer, Alber Elbaz. Elbaz fashions are being created to resurrect one’s own “golden age,” and also to make one aware of their fashion self-actualization.

An example of “fashion self-actualization” could be one interpretation of “tomboy” style in a woman’s wardrobe. It may be a woman’s answer to not being obviously sexy. The tomboy may want to demonstrate that she has no present desire to arouse a man’s sex drive. It may signal her desire for freedom from flirting, as well as freedom from high heels, classic dresses and full-on makeup. Or it could be a desire to be trendy, yet casually elegant?

Note the following possible interpretations of the “Tomboy” fashion style. Let’s see how you react to the possibilities, as we need to find comfort in our currently uncomfortable world…



Photo on the right is of one of Ann Mashburn’s famous mood boards — by F.E. Castleberry of Unabashedly Prep.

 As we stated above: designers look back to design forward…

tomboy booktomboy define

The mood, the lifestyle, the “fashion self-actualization” of “The Tomboy”

Drawing by Arthur A. Winters

Drawing by Arthur A. Winters

The designer who thinks “What is their world now?” —

is more likely to attract more customers.

Arthur & Peggy Winters co-teach SXB 200 Brand Marketing Communications for Image & Meaning and SXR 050 Intro to Branding: The Art of Customer Bonding.

What is Your Brand Story Strategy?

By , October 25, 2012 11:22 am

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by Peggy and Arthur Winters

We recently came across a quote from John Norman, CCO of The Martin Agency, which struck a familiar cord:

“We used to tell stories through campaigns. Now we build stories.”

As we mentioned in our August 2012 blog post, some companies communicate their Brand Stories better than others.

Telling a story is based more on a one-way communication and Building a story is based more on today’s demand for two-way communications between the brand and the customer and among many of the brand’s customers.

A good example of building a brand story is The Martin Agency’s “GEICO” campaign. How many companies have invested so much in a campaign, with a series of different ads to keep everyone entertained and informed on what the brand story is and does? This strategy is much more than the Gecko avatar, but he is its star no doubt. The campaign continues to live up to The Martin Agency’s philosophy to surprise, delight and break through the clutter with creativity.


Tying in with “You Know the Lyrics,” on a radio station’s website – Always in tune?

Looking at a brand or company, its personality and its projected image is how consumers take that first step to becoming one of the brand’s customers. When the brand weaves a believable, relevant, entertaining or useful story about what it offers, the consumer is ready to connect and build a long-term relationship. The attraction was strong and the brand delivers on its brand promises, a longer relationship will hopefully develop and last over time.

Take for example the new TV and YouTube ads for CHICO’S: vibrant, enthusiastic, romantic dancing, cheeky, stylish for their target customer:  fashion savvy women of 30 years and older, enjoying the joy of fashion, friendship, and life…

Or their sister brand, White House/Black Market, another spirited brand — building their story through an image that offers: “WORK IT, The Other Side of Work Wear.”
Connecting with another TV commercial and YouTube video presenting their dancing spirit with style and a fashion show. They are “dedicated to helping their customers feel that every place they go is more beautiful… simply because they are there.”

Both TV Commercials (YouTube links below) are strategically running during the popular TV show, “Dancing With The Stars.”  A smart alignment of message and audience, wouldn’t you say?

chicos logo


white house black market logo

The challenge for every brand in this fractious, chaotic media world, is to take a fresh look at and deeply know who is their audience. What are their new media habits? How can the brand’s biography, history, and interesting/relevant anecdotes resonate across media formats to this more well-understood audience?

So it may be time to ask: When was the last time you took a fresh look at your audience and your Brand Story? And moreover, have you built a relationship with your customers? Are they looking for you and connecting with the brand?


Arthur & Peggy Winters co-teach SXB 200 Brand Marketing Communications for Image & Meaning and SXR 050 Intro to Branding: The Art of Customer Bonding.


By , September 27, 2012 12:15 pm

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by Peggy and Arthur Winters

Net Promoter Score (NPS) has been defined as a management tool that can be used to investigate the degrees of loyalty in a firm’s customers’ experiences. It serves as an additional tool to traditional customer satisfaction research. The Net Promoter Score is obtained by asking customers a single question on a 0 to 10 rating scale. “How likely is it that you would recommend our company to a friend or colleague?” Based on their responses, customers are categorized into one of three groups: Promoters – extremely likely to recommend (9-10 rating), Passives – likely (7-8 rating), and Detractors – not at all likely (0-6 rating). Subtracting the proportion of detractors from the proportion of promoters and converting it to a percent gives a Net Promoter Score.

Any analysis of NPS reveals that it is being employed as a useful form of market research that can present companies with an understandable way to measure customer satisfaction without getting lost in deep data. It gets companies to think about their customers’ experiences and loyalty from the customers’ point of view. NPS and CX should serve as a matrix or model for how customers see their interactions with a brand / designer / store and/or website and how the brand should work to improve these experiences.

But answers to only one question will not reveal the whole story of WHY a customer might or might not recommend the brand. To improve one’s loyalty NPS, one must look for the root cause. These interactions include individual stages in the customer’s exploration, discovery, purchase, satisfied use and services rendered.

Additional ways to employ NPS as an indicator of customer loyalty could include:

ACE – Actual Customer Experiences and referrals – using point of sale, call center and billing data that signifies exactly what customer interactions have occurred…

SPA – Superior Perception of Attributes that are revealed through customer conversations that inquire how satisfying were their experiences with the good old 4 Ps — Product, Price, Place and Promotion.

APS – Analysis of Promoter Score through further evaluations of customer interactions asking what they did as a result of interactions with the brand (designer, product, store, website, or experience). Specifically: “Have you recommended this brand?” These evaluations are calculated to define customer perceptions, future intentions for purchasing, and importantly, recommendations and referrals.

NPS can be an effective predictor of whether, how, and when a customer might, and actually has recommended the brand to a friend, family or colleague.

Above all, NPS can also be an analysis of Customer Experiences (CX) that serves as a reference for a company’s Internal Branding. NPS can be infused as a metric for evaluating a company’s systems for creating related Customer Experiences (CX).

Drawing by Arthur A. Winters

How would this recommendation affect “STAYSEXY™’s” NPS Net Promoter Score? Drawing by Arthur A. Winters.


Arthur & Peggy Winters co-teach SXB 200 Brand Marketing Communications for Image & Meaning and SXR 050 Intro to Branding: The Art of Customer Bonding.

WHAT YOU SEE… Visual Content… is WHAT YOU GET

By , August 30, 2012 10:47 am

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Drawing by Arthur Winters

Drawing by Arthur Winters

For today’s fashion marketing, original visual content is vital.  The marketing communications strategy is how to make it effective. We’re still seeing some fashion brands using old-style fashion model poses in their visualizations of their new styles or products. But, we appreciate and recommend fashion brands that are creating better visual stories, which provide customers with answers and suggestions. These brands tell a visual story of what they can do for the customer, not just what items they make that only create awareness by projecting their brand image.

Desk to Dinner ad

Visual Content — yes …

Burberry Sport

Visual — but NO story …

Fashion marketing needs better communications that connect with the customer’s branding of self. Marketers could now look at their products for visual content and the story that generates its facility for self-styling. And in this multi-media, social media world, visualization in all its forms is pre-eminent.


“Power to the She” –self-styling visual and verbal story

A significant brand mark for fashion marketers is to see visual content that covers all aspects of customer/consumer experience. For example, a fashion firm might even introduce their customers to a fly-on-the-wall look at their design team at work. There is no doubt that fashion may be a most visual product that offers ever-flowing fountains of ideas for visual content – and desire, especially with the use of social media and web sites.

Fashion brand positioning can be more inspiring by showing the customer real life style and life-stage happenings instead of static, mannequin-posed model photos with their logo.


Starbucks visualizes it is the customer’s lifestyle…

Those brand managers who have a sense of the visual in communications may be the new Rembrands of fashion marketing!

What’s your story?


Arthur & Peggy Winters co-teach SXB 200 Brand Marketing Communications for Image & Meaning and SXR 050 Intro to Branding: The Art of Customer Bonding.


Let the Seller BEWARE!!!

By , August 4, 2012 9:09 am

A New York Times article about two FIT grads who started a shoe company, sold it, and then wound up in court over several different issues – see link to story below – is, unfortunately, all too common. I’ve warned, as has one of my guest bloggers, to do nothing without having a lawyer review the contract – and after this story, maybe two lawyers, one a business lawyer and the other an intellectual property lawyer. This is such a sad story and, unfortunately, a common occurrence. And I hear it in all industries although fashion seems to be particularly vulnerable.


Image provided by Shutterstock

You need a solid contract. Nothing is perfect, but a good lawyer will point out the most obvious potential problems in a contract and make sure you are protected. Two really important issues are protecting your name and the use of it (trademark, brand, etc.) and making sure that if you have to leave the company, that you are compensated appropriately. Even within these two issues, there are a multitude of options and potential circumstances that must be covered.  Every opportunity/contract should be viewed by you as a pre-nup. What will happen in the worst case scenario? Prepare for it and then hope it doesn’t happen.

I recently turned down a potential money making deal because my lawyer smelled a rip-off. A document was presented to me as a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), however, there was this little irksome clause that said I would not be paid for, nor receive any profits from, work I did.  That clause didn’t even belong in an NDA. When my lawyer adjusted the agreement to amend that statement, the other party killed the deal.

It’s a well repeated adage in fundraising that money does not come cheaply.   This adage applies to all business transactions.


Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing.
She is the author of Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing.

How come no one wants to speak to the customer BEFORE they do marketing?

By , July 28, 2012 10:06 am

Seth Godin, marketing guru, in a recent blog talks about the three circles of marketing radiating outward:

1. The outer circle: Take the information about the product that is given you and promote the hell out of it.
2. The middle circle, which has more much more leverage: Tell a story that resonates with a particular tribe.
3. The third, innermost, circle is the story about the product itself: The product you are selling has the communication built into itself.
He summarizes his insights saying go one circle in, or to the middle circle, if you are having trouble selling/marketing the product.

This is all well and good advice. HOWEVER, even the great Seth Godin leaves out one crucial element – and a lot of people do this. No one thinks to ask what the customer wants. No one gets feedback from the customer BEFORE they market. This is so simple and very few people talk about it much less do it. And if they (you, we) did it, we wouldn’t have to worry about circles – actually that would be the fourth and innermost circle. I don’t know what the aversion is to speaking to your customers directly before you prepare marketing materials. Every time we do this for ourselves or a client, the marketing is so much more targeted and successful. How do I know this? The ROI measurements are exponentially higher than ever before (before the marketing and after previous marketing exercises).

The entire Seth Godin post is below.


Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing.
She is the author of Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing.

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