Monday, November 6, 2017

AMAPS Luncheon on Branding Demonstrates How Brands Must Evolve to Maintain Relevance.

If you missed the AMA Puget Sound October luncheon, you missed a thoughtful look at how branding has changed and must continue to change in today’s digital age.  You also missed a chance to learn how two major NW brands, Alaska Air and Ben Bridge Jewelers, are updating their respective brands to position themselves for future growth.

The presentation began with a thought-provoking general review of how branding needs have changed as new digital tools have changed how potential users gain and process information.

Kass Sells, President of WE Communications, reviewed the results of a major global study among over 3,000 consumers in each of six different countries, on the new realities brands face in today’s business environment.  The conclusion of the Brands In Motions study is that all brands are in motion relative to the geography that they operate in, the industry they are a part of, and the stakeholders critical to their success.  This is a result of many things, including the disruption and dislocation within a brand’s environment, as explained by this quote below.
Disruption is what happens when someone does something clever that makes your company look obsolete.

Dislocation is when the whole environment is being altered so quickly that everyone starts to feel like they can’t keep up.”

- Craig Mundie, Former Chief Research and Strategy Officer at Microsoft
What this means for your brand is that disruption & dislocation plus changing consumer expectations have created a new environment where consumers want it all and your brand story must focus on the entire media ecosystem if your brand is to build and maintain a relevant position in your potential customers mind.
After this initial general review on branding, Jessica Leonard from Alaska Air offered details on how that iconic brand had responded to a major new addition – Virgin Air, and how their  advertising addressed the potential disconnect between two brands with existing brand images that were very different from each other.  She then shared how Alaska Air was approaching this new branding environment with some thoughts on the future goals and strategies for positioning the brand. 
Jessica talked about the need to provide their audience with something beyond service.  Alaska Air terms this new approach as hospitality that is personal, enjoyable and generous + a personality that reflects a West Coast vibe that is thoughtful, vibrant and unconventional.  The goal is for Alaska Air is to always “Be Remarkable” in everything they do for their customers.

Then, Marc Bridge from Ben Bridge Jewelers shared how this 100+-year old brand was updating its marketing and advertising approach, through a review of the competitive environment and the need to stand out in a “sea of sameness”. 
Marc talked about how the goal of their marketing was to transcend the perception of jewelry as an occasional, special moment experience, and the true value of jewelry is revealed over time as it becomes part of someone’s lifestyle and life.  Their new advertising campaign, For Life, addresses this belief as well as positions Ben Bridge Jewelers to be your   ”Jeweler For Life”.

This thoughtful, and thought-providing, luncheon presentation was capped off by a lively Q and A session  among the presenters.  All of the presenter’s charts can be found on the AMA Puget Sound website , and we encourage you to take a look to see how this knowledge can impact and improve your own branding programs.

-        Don Morgan

Don Morgan is Head Rainmaker at Raindance Consulting, and a past president of AMA Puget Sound.  He can be reached at

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Five ways to gain insights, not just information, to shape your marketing program?

When addressing the issue of customer insight, many marketers have felt that the answer lies in one direction - Big Data.  There is no question that data is important, but it's what you do with the data that really matters in marketing.

Several years ago, I was taught a simple graphic: relating to how data impacts insight:

Information (leads to) knowledge (leads to) understanding (leads to) insights

In this equation, information (or data) must be combined and processed with other knowledge and understanding before it can become an insight.  That is where the biggest challenge (and misunderstanding) is in relation to Big Data.

Big Data is just a starting point, not the total answer.
Data by itself only gives you information.  It’s up to you to translate that data into knowledge and insights.  Data describes what happened when, where, and how and who’s involved.  

The fallacy of Big Data is that more information (data) doesn’t mean you can automatically gain more insight about your business.  In fact, more data can make it more difficult to sort and sift the relevant information to truly shape business insights.

There are many different directions that can yield business insights, but if we focus on how to gain better consumer insights, here are some thoughts.
1.   The best customer insights begin with a deep understanding of how the business works, from inside out.  The secret to building a strong client relationship is to live their business. During my career, I have been on sales calls with a client’s field salesmen, and checked at least 1,000 stores to study distribution and shelf placement, ridden a Sunbeam bread truck at 3 a.m., worked out in a sweat room at Procter and Gamble to test Secret Deodorant, toured a NAPA brake plant and interviewed NAPA store managers and countermen, conducted blind surveys at mattress stores for Simmons Beautyrest, toured a Slim Jim slaughter house, and baked Papa John’s pizzas with the founder when he discovered his store manager was sick and went home.

I’m not bragging. It’s something I just felt I needed to do to understand as much as I could about the brand, the category, the competition, and the environment in which my clients did business.  And it led to a lot of insights and ultimate branding strategies like "The Do-Not-Disturb Mattress", "We Keep America Running", "Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman", and "Better Ingredients. Better Pizza", to name a few.

2.   Qualitative research is always a good place to start.  Focus groups seem to come in and out of favor as a marketing tool, but, despite their limitations, they are invaluable for getting up close and personal to customers and prospects.  They can identify and expand existing problem areas, as well as gain a handle on product strengths for your brand as well as your competitor's brand.
3.  Focus your efforts to segment and prioritize your brand's positioning strategy.  As the number of brands and the channels for customer contact increase, segmentation is more important than ever in helping marketers focus their efforts on current and future opportunities for growth.  No brand can be all things to all people, so it is critical for marketing executives to understand and segment customer groups in order to invest in the area(s) with the highest potential for growth.

4.   Map the consumer decision journey and identify the key touch points that influence brand choices.  The traditional concept of a marketing funnel has evolved into a continuous evaluation of available options up to and even after the purchase decision has been made and completed.  The ready availability of customer reviews and peer input has blown the evaluation side of the funnel to smithereens.  Importantly, today’s consumer needs to be constantly reassured that they made a good decision, and the concept of brand loyalty has been almost totally discarded in many business categories.

5.   Keep a close watch on your competition . . .  and learn from them.  Keeping up with changes in competitive strategy and monitoring new category entries is more important than ever.  You can learn new benefits and strategic selling points, and sometimes you learn what you cannot do.  It is important to remember that competitive advantage often starts with simply outmaneuvering your competition.

Of course, these are just starting points for identifying and using insights to drive key business decisions. In the final analysis, the winners will be the creative marketers that are not afraid to explore new ideas and channels. 

Insights are still driven by identifying and evaluating options, and having the courage to look ahead, not behind.

-        Don Morgan
Don Morgan is Blog Editor and a past-president of PSAMA,  He is Head Rainmaker at Raindance Consulting, a brand strategy and content marketing company.  He can be reached at

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

My Take on Building A Better Content Marketing Strategy

Building a content marketing strategy can be a lot like building a house of cards.  You start with a goal and, hopefully, a plan.  Then, each card must be carefully positioned and placed for a house to stand up for the long term. 

If you don’t pay attention to every aspect of the process, your “house” will fall.

To avoid that unfortunate situation, most content marketers will agree that a great content marketing strategy contains these key elements:

1.  Define your goals – Why are you creating content and what value(s) are you looking to gain from it?
2.  Identify and understand your audience – Who are you creating this content for and how will they benefit from reading and applying the content?
3.  Find relevant stories to tell – What specific and valuable topics will you build your content around?  
4.  Manage the process – How will you structure and manage your content marketing program?  Who in your organization will concept and develop content, and how will it be delivered by channel?
5.  Measure and adapt your approach – How will you gauge and optimize your effectiveness and value to the organization?

All of these elements are critical, but in my experience the most important one is #2 – Identify and understand your audience.  And that may be harder to do than you think. 

Oh sure, you can define your audience, but do you truly understand them? 
Here are a few of the key questions to ask if you want to create the best possible content marketing program.
How does your audience perceive the current market environment? Do they know who you are and what your brand/company stand for?

What are your customer’s goals?  If you don’t truly understand what your customer is trying to accomplish, you won’t know if your company can help them to accomplish them.

What are the key needs your audience has, and how do the prioritize them?  While you may think you understand their goals and needs, you must look at each customer from their perspective, not from your own.  As an example, for some companies speed of delivery may overshadow quality or price, while others are not willing to compromise on any of these elements.

How does your target audience feel about your company? Do they recognize any unique values that your company has that are important to them?

How does your target feel about your competitors?  What strengths do they see for your chief competitors, and what do you need to do to win them over?

Most importantly, what does your audience need to know about your company to choose you over a competitor?  This is the most difficult aspect of this entire process, but understanding this is key to providing content that is relevant to your audience. 

Never forget that the best content is written for your audience, 
not for your brand or company.

Much of understanding your audience can be derived from your sales force and other contact points, a well as secondary resources. But sometimes you may need some primary research to go directly to your audience to ask them some of those key questions.   

Whichever path you choose, you must find that “big idea” that can mean the difference between a good content program and a great one.

It may be easy to identify who your audience is, but, in many ways, truly understanding them is much, much harder.  And if you don’t understand each of your customers attitudes, needs and goals, you will never create or provide the optimal content strategy.

- Don Morgan

Don Morgan is past-president of Puget Sound chapter of American Marketing Association, and principal of Raindance Consulting, a brand and content consulting company in Seattle.  He can be reached at