Tag Archives: brand

No One Cares About Your Origin Story Unless You’re Batman

Far be it from me to tell a vampire squid how to run its business, but I consider it my professional responsibility to pass this story along as a lesson to others:

Goldman Sachs, which has been rolling out its first foray into banking for the little guy, is going back to its history to name its big new push: an online lender for the masses.

After much internal discussion, the Wall Street firm has decided to call the retail banking operation Marcus — the first name of the company’s founder, Marcus Goldman. (emphasis mine; New York Times, 18 August 2016)

Sorry, Marcus the brand, but precisely none of your prospects will appreciate the link between your name and Marcus the founder’s.  People care about superhero origin stories, but not most brands’ origin stories.


Note: not an accurate depiction of Crime Alley

[Disclosure: I let a headhunter submit my resume to Goldman a few months ago when they were looking for a crew to develop and market Marcus because I MEAN COME ON, back the money truck up, it’s Goldman.  They declined to interview me.]

I don’t mean to single out Goldman Sachs.  In the past few years, we’ve seen ads illustrating Bacardi’s role in the Cuban Revolution, Michael Dell’s dorm room and Dr. Stanley Pearle’s first optician shop.  I doubt any one of them did a damn thing for the brand.

Look, some brands have a fascinating–and relevant–history.  There’s a cult around the Steves of Apple.  Jack Daniel’s historicity–even if it’s not entirely told–gives it a distinct brand presence that helps make an American whiskey that isn’t bourbon the most popular one in the world.  However, most people DO NOT CARE where things came from.

For perspective, two things:

  1. After the invasion of Iraq, most Americans thought Saddam Hussein had something to do with the 9/11 attacks.
  2. Volkswagen still sells the Beetle.

It’s Not a Car Show: It’s Speed Dating for Brands

Once again, I accompanied my research assistants to the New York International Auto Show (#NYAIS) with an eye on evaluating the event as marketing.  Although I didn’t see any new exhibits that made me think differently about any given brand, I did recognize a hidden value of the show: speed dating for brands.

NYIAS Retro: Read My Posts from last year’s show

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

With over one million visitors, all of whom seem to want to slide behind the wheel of the same Corvette that you do, NYIAS has no room for subtlety.  In my personal case, my research assistants made sure that I had even less time to decide whether to visit a booth.


My research assistants couldn’t even agree on which booth to knock over first

As a result, I started to see the similarities between the show and speed dating (as least as I’ve seen it in the movies; I last dated in the Cretaceous Era).

  • The room has a lot of potential matches who start to look alike after awhile
  • Everyone is trying his or her darndest
  • You always suspect there’s someone better for you…somewhere

So, let me point out the brands that would have merited a second date, at least with me (disclosure: I have not been on a second date since 2001, so YMMV) and why I liked them.

Ford Cars: My Kids Liked Her

The closest thing I saw to a home run was (mixed metaphor alert): Ford’s partnership with the New York City Football Club of Major League Soccer. Continue reading

What if We Started With Metrics?

You don’t have to like glam/prog rock to appreciate Brian Eno.  In addition to such classics as “Music for Airports” (which is exactly what it sounds like) and “Baby’s On Fire” (which I hope to God isn’t what it sounds like), Eno created a wonderful tool for getting your head unstuck: Oblique Strategies.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.04.11 PM

Screengrab from http://stoney.sb.org/eno/oblique.html

Eno, also a prolific music producer, created a deck of cards with suggestions like the one above to help him out when he encountered dead ends in his work.  He instructed users to draw a card when they felt stuck and follow the directions as they wished to interpret them.  I’ve used them too many times to count to help me solve nagging client problems.

So I created my own Oblique Strategies card:

What if we started with metrics?

As in, what if we started a new marketing project not by asking about business objectives nor by asking about marketing objectives and instead by asking “what can we measure?”

Maybe it’s the 70s synthesizer music talking, but it helped me develop a framework I’d like to run by you all.

Continue reading

Preview: New eBooks on market research

Good news, true believers!  This week, I have not one, but two new ebooks for you!  I’ve decided to share my experience in developing, executing and interpreting both primary and secondary market research.

Now, here’s the bad news.  The ebooks are, well, full of it.

BS1     BS2

(special thanks to Jamie Leo, human extraordinaire, for the illustration)

Great marketing always begins with great audience insight.  Unfortunately, people don’t always say exactly what they mean.  Nor do research reports and published articles that you find online always mean what you think.  To separate the good information from the bad, every good marketer also needs to have a good BS detector, and I’ll help you fine-tune yours.

For the next two weeks, I’ll share the juiciest bits from my ebooks to give you a peek inside.  Please share and enjoy.

Here’s an excerpt from the primary research ebook (part 1) on one of the reasons respondents don’t always tell the whole truth in focus groups and surveys:

We fail to tell the truth to spare others’ feelings

If you’ve ever watched focus groups, you’ve heard the moderator say at the beginning that he or she doesn’t work for the company under discussion.  This preamble allows respondents to bad-mouth the company without making them feel like they’re costing someone a job.   Continue reading

What if it were Red Friday Instead? (Humor)

With the recent commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, I got to thinking, “what if the Commies had won?”  Already, American brands stand in for America herself as a protest target.  Witness recent Russian harassment of McDonald’s restaurants in response to Western sanctions related to Russia’s flagrant interference in Ukraine.  Imagine what they would have done if they had gotten ahold of our mighty consumer apparatus wholesale.

So, here are some ideas of what brands would dot the American landscape if Communism had prevailed:

  • Stal-mart
  • Dacha Depot
  • MiGDonald’s

Continue reading

Data: Your Scariest Corporate Asset

Thanks in part to McKinsey’s coining of the term “Big Data” last summer, company data have never had more visibility than they do now.  At the same time, they have never faced more scrutiny.  Most of this scrutiny takes the form of concerns about privacy, the consumer-facing threat of data.  However, the larger data discussion has not–so far–broached the aspect that makes them the scariest assets a company has.

Once the near-exclusive domain of direct marketers, data has become the secret weapon du jour in-store, online and just about everywhere else.  The New York Times reported in February on how Target developed data models so sensitive that it could tell whether a customer had become pregnant before she told anyone.  Brands such as Virgin America and Axe have used Klout to evaluate customers.

So what makes data so scary?  Intangibility. Continue reading