Monday, August 29, 2011

Re-Acquisition of Self-destiny

It was a combination of spending a lot of time last week speaking with business leadership combined with having my house broken into where I finally said, “okay its time for a drink.”

It was when I was sipping on that margarita that I was hit by the high-tide wave of change… and not one of those churned by Hurricane Irene.

It’s the Trend Wave posted on the BRANDVenture website that highlights how individuals, businesses, brands, social groups and cultural groups are giving up reliance on others, other organizations and other elements of the market-at-large.

Simply said… they are fed up.

Fed up with an economy, political promises, trade association support and industry leadership guidelines.

Over the course of the last six weeks I have spoken to more than 80 business owners, CEOs and CFOs.

The study was for a bank.

I’m glad that BRANDVenture is not client dependent on banks.

Business leadership literally hates banks. As one CEO put it, “they are evil, but an evil I have sleep with.”

Top management’s business and economic expectations over the next 12-18 months are not positive.

And for my fellow Atlantans, their expectation of Georgia and Atlanta is even lower than Washington and the US.

But here is what is surprising.

They too have reached a level of a re-awakening… they too have been hit by the Trend Wave…they too are finally declaring…


My bank client has already communicated that they want to reach beyond entrepreneurs; they want to expand their reach of mid-size businesses.

As they say, entrepreneurs are too risky.

I remember the book that came out a few years about “unleashing the child within us.”

Regardless of how large the company, the connection level with “the entrepreneurial drive” is the MBA version of unleashing the child within us.

Now I have taught Entrepreneurship at the university level and also have worked with departments of economic development in designing entrepreneur workshops.

The focus of those courses and sessions is how to take the passion of an idea and use that passion, marry it with the market need/desire for the idea and use it to drive the organization and bring-to-market strategy.

The business leadership I spoke with is taking control of their destiny. They are rethinking and reorganizing their business approach. They are re-engineering their service mix and how they process business leads.

However, most importantly, they are refocusing on their customers. They are taking them out to lunch or grabbing a morning coffee with them.

They are asking investing in what drives the customer and what they can do to fuel that drive.

Business leadership is fed up with the automation of banks.

And we are not talking about the ATM or online account management.

And they are smart enough to know that the automation of business relationships doesn’t work in lifting business out of the hole.

The re-acquisition of self-destiny is a Trend Wave because it is something that is impacting a wide scope of our marketplace and society at-large.

Smart marketers, driven by a re-acquisition of self and the entrepreneurial spirit will revive both their brands and the economy at large.

Automated, systematized, mass marketers will fade from the scene.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Good Ole Boys Just Cannot Get Beyond It

I was all ready to write about the economic forecasts for the remainder of 2011; then I came across a news story this morning that I quickly realized was much more fun.

Fun because it exemplifies why a company like BRANDVenture is in business.

I stand proud as an American every day the sunrises. Despite all the turmoil going on in Washington and on Wall Street, I remain sold on what makes up the American brand culture.

I would be willing to put a $100 bet on the table that nearly all of you reading this blog have a story you can recall about a fun time eating a hot dog.

Could have been at an iconic brand experience like a parade, campfire, baseball game or picnic. Could have been back in college days when that’s all you could afford.

Hot dogs transcend income, age and urban-rural American culture.

So what was the news story that warranted a shift from the GDP to the good ole dogs?

Sara Lee Corp and Kraft Foods are suing one another in the US District Court over brand advertising claims of being the “top dog” (that’s the editorial term used by AP in the article).

The war between the brands dates back to 2009 when Kraft’s Oscar Meyer ads claim to be the best tasting franks beating out Sara Lee’s Ball Park brand.

Of course Ball Park immediately launched a counter campaign citing another taste test survey in which they were the better tasting brand.

The article showcases how each company is discrediting the other brand’s methodology like Sara Lee complaining that the Oscar Meyer test served the franks sans the buns on a white paper plate.

Last blog I wrote about the “crash and grab” marketing mentality; the hot dog fight is a great example of the good ole boy mentality of “mine is bigger than yours.”

And the hot dog scenario is only the latest example.

Over the weekend, I saw one of the Verizon coverage spots raise its head again claiming to have more coverage than AT&T.

That good ole boy brawl also made its way to the courts.

Coke and Pepsi are famous for their “taste better” campaigns too. But at least Coke made light of the “taste better” campaigns with Coke Zero taking on Diet Coke.

A few months ago, one of the brands that I work with on a periphery level decided to test out their product against the lead competitor to see which one consumers preferred.

This client had an ongoing panic-attack through much of the three-day one-on-ones because there really wasn’t much of a clear winner.

Outside of Indra Nooyi, Pepsico’s CEO, I would wager another bet that the leadership behind these brands are male.

Males are hell-bent on “strutting their stuff” and claiming superiority.

As my book title I am writing observes… All Men Are Pigs… but, the real issue at heart is that the leadership of these brands fail to hear the consumers screaming out there… “I DON”T CARE ABOUT YOU…TELL ME ABOUT ME!”

The Avis “We Try Harder” campaign might be dated, but at least Avis leadership was smart enough to know that it wasn’t about being #1 or #2 that matters to the business guy (or gal)… it was which car rental brand was dedicated to delivering the best brand experience.

Think about this… Can you imagine where Apple would be today if they elected to all of a sudden take on the “mine is bigger than yours” marketing mentality and change their brand claim to “the largest tech brand in the world.”

Apple not only could do that… but also say that they are now beating out EXXON for the highest valued company in the world.

Steve Jobs does “think different” than the CEOs at Sara Lee and Kraft.

Its truly a shame that neither of those hot dog marketing teams (including their ad agencies) don’t sit back and think about the fun and memorable experiences of eating and marketing their brands around that experience.

Its also too bad that they cannot have fun and passion in doing what they do and perhaps even make us laugh with a set of parody spots about good ole boys touting the “mine is bigger than yours.”

Perhaps as Ad Age noted in its online news release yesterday, “consumers brace for downturn,” that the hot dog boys understand that they actually might have a product opportunity.

(And back in those college days when I had little to spend on meals, I have some fond memories of grilling out the franks!)