Tag Archives: Branding

Consumer’s Message to the Brand: “Tell Me a Story”



Consumer’s Message to the Brand:  “Tell Me a Story…”

Artwork by Dr. Arthur Winters

“Speak to my heart and mind.”

A successful strategy for many brands is to tell a story. The brand itself, and its “brandizers,” must be a storyteller; much in the same way that one writes a feature story for a magazine.  For example, a store should become a medium for telling its story and a retail medium should become a virtual store in which the consumer wants to shop or be a part. Think of the Burberry brand as it has evolved through its long history.

A brand story can begin with and should incorporate the history and mission of the brand, sometimes stated, sometimes implied through imaging.  No matter how old or new a brand, its history and origin is important to building its following.  Think of Levi Strauss or Rag and Bone…

Today’s story development requires that the customer be communicated with utilizing new brand communications.  Brand management has to create content that shows they understand what their target audience values.  Brand communication has to focus on providing the ideal in customer experience, going beyond the customer’s expectations.  Especially since the customer doesn’t have to go to the “bricks and mortar” store to get the shopping experience.  The opportunity to get the brand’s product and service story can be realized in the home or on the road.  The story must be told through a well executed, surround mix of messages and media choices.

The brand’s story should be able to convince a customer of its love for her or him, and the messages must be interactive no matter what the medium.  The brand, store and product, should study their targets’ state of mind, based on their lifestyles and lifestages, as well as their heart based on aspiration and desire.  A brand’s story must be more than its attributes… it must tell as much of what the brand can do, as what the customer can do with it.  Check out the website for www.Lovemarks.com to interact with today’s brand stories and vote on your favorites.

Burberry brights today

Levi Strauss History

Rag and Bone “The 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.

Predicting the Future with Certitude

Wall St @ Fashion Ave

Predicting the Future With Certitude

In one’s personal or business life, it is frequently prudent and necessary to forecast future outcomes.
On an individual or family level, retirement planning would be a good example. In the business world, it is the planning process with its multi-year strategic plans, annual budgets and periodic forecasts that most typically calls on our “mastery of prognostication” (an oxymoron if ever there were one!).

If there is one thing that humans have consistently proven their ineptitude at, it is predicting the future (e.g., what percentage of mortgages are now underwater due to expectations of continuing home price increases? Has the end of the world been rescheduled again? and so on…) But we keep on trying. In business, we have no choice. Stakeholders want to know, need to know, the future, so they in turn can plan.

Now I don’t suggest, just because all budgets, forecasts and projections end up wrong, which they inevitably do, that they shouldn’t be undertaken. I do, however, suggest that the all-too-common process of attempting to come up with “the” number and conveying that number (budgeted revenues, or profits, for example) to stakeholders with certitude is yet another sure way to malign the word and with it, the planning process.

Instead, I offer the following for your consideration and feedback. Forward-looking estimates are not “single-point” exercises. There is no correct figure for what sales might be two years hence. Having sales managers and planners or controllers at odds over what the “right” figure to use in a projection is a highly counter-productive exercise. Intelligent projections of future outcomes result from (1) identifying all the key (limit these!) drivers and assumptions impacting such outcome; (2) projecting an array of outcomes (what-if scenarios) based on variations in the key drivers and assumptions; (3) applying an intelligently guesstimated probability to the various what-if scenarios; (4) projecting a spectrum of outcomes that are driven by the combination’s of stated assumptions and likelihood of their occurrence.

In other words, forecast a range of outcomes based on your strategies, assumptions and estimated probabilities. The good news is that you will have thought through and documented all the key internal and external risks and opportunities, will subsequently be able to analyze where you were off and, most importantly, make timely course corrections.

With respect to stakeholders who, rightfully, want to know “the” number, the communication of the figures is now something along the lines of: “We believe with 80% confidence that we will achieve sales of $x and profits of $y”. Stakeholders will almost undoubtedly challenge as to why the sales projections aren’t higher. You will already have your scenarios at the ready and the sales department’s more optimistic projections (who needs a pessimistic sales team?!) can be communicated, perhaps with the caveat that “while we have developed plans and internal sales goals 15% greater than those in the budget and are striving and incenting our team to achieve those higher numbers, we determined that the likelihood of hitting those goals was 50% – 60% and thus, we used the more conservative figures for purposes of the formal budget”.

This process is far more healthy, necessitates the strategic thinking and consideration of alternatives that all should strive for in a planning process and typically positions the financial team as partners and enablers, rather than adversaries and enforcers, in the development of business plans. Oh, you’ll still be wrong, but this is the “right” way to be wrong!

Lawrence C. DeParis teaches SXN 130: How to Think Like Your CFO


And diversity. No, I’m not talking about school busing.  I’m talking about your marketing mix … or lack thereof ….

So many startups and entrepreneurs are trying to do it on the cheap … so they say, “I only need a website” …. Or, “I need to do PR first”.  Wrong.  So here’s some questions to think about in response to your comments:

  • If you are only putting up a website or doing PR, what’s your value proposition?
  • What’s your messaging platform?
  • Have you established a brand?
  • Do you know who your audiences are?
  • Do you have a logo?
  • A name for your company?
  • Are they trademarked?

A PR folder/press kit?

Are you starting to get my point?

No one way of promoting your company is “THE ANSWER”.  In the 90’s the big ad agencies and companies had Branding departments.  Branding was the answer. It’s not. It’s part of the marketing mix.  Then it was PR. Because it’s cheaper than advertising (allegedly).  Also part of the marketing mix.  Now it’s social media.  Also part of the marketing mix.

None of these efforts can produce results if it lives in a vacuum. They must all be part of one integrated marketing plan, no matter how small your company is (even if it’s only you).  And a lot of it can be done at no cost or cheaply … like social media – Linked In, Facebook, Twitter.  And don’t forget keeping your website up to date – it’s your first impression and if it’s old and has out-of-date stuff on it, it’s not good.

So remember, you can create an integrated marketing program for yourself – remember the messaging and branding need to be consistent. And that way you will actually be saving money and getting more impact for the dollars you do spend.

Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing.