Branding according to Marx

Branding is important, but it’s often made too mysterious.  People talk about building a brand as if you can’t have one without a consultant, many lengthy meetings, and sacrificing a pigeon or two.

When working with clients on branding I like to cite the philosopher Marx – not Karl, Groucho.  A true showman, he literally died coining a smart retort.   He was roused in his hospital bed by a nurse with a thermometer.  When she explained “I’m trying to see if you have a temperature,” Groucho gasped: “Don’t be silly.  Everybody has a temperature.”  Then he lapsed into his final coma leaving us with a final bit of wisdom.

Do you have a brand?  Don’t be silly – everybody has a brand.  Your brand is what people think when they hear your name, see your logo, interact with your company or your products.  It may not be a good brand, it may not be what the CEO or the VP Marketing think it is, it may be negative or just plain fuzzy, but it is a brand.  Your first step in building or improving or strengthening your brand must be to find out what people already think it is.

Which makes branding part of direct marketing.  But then, everything is.

Mike Baum – Sophia Consulting LLC

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What’s more important than the web?

A major technological revolution in the 1980s changed marketing forever, transforming “direct marketing” (DM) into mainstream practice instead of a fringe occupied only by specialty catalogs and ads in the backs of magazines.  No, the technology wasn’t the web.  It was the relational database.

The power of direct marketing is only partly that you can aim your message at certain people, or certain kinds of people.  Far more important is how DM empowers you to keep track of responses, characteristics, and behavior.  Relational databases give us the ability to manage all those data and discover associations and connections that help refine our messages and even our products.

The biggest DM success story in the last decade of the 20th century wasn’t a cataloger or a dot-com – it was a supermarket chain.  Tesco climbed from a distant also-ran in the U.K. grocery market to a dominant first place, and a powerful force on the Continent as well, in less than 10 years by using loyalty cards to learn more about their best customers.  Crunching huge amounts of data using the relatively crude computer techniques of the time, they discovered things that let them hone offers to serve customers better and generate added sales.  For instance, British families with newborn babies buy more disposable diapers – and more beer.  Why?  Doesn’t matter – it’s a fact, and Tesco flourished by offering coupons for diapers and beer together.

If you’re using the web, or email marketing, or social networking, or whatever shiny new technology comes along next – but not building a good customer (and prospect) database, testing, and learning from the results – you’re not really in the 21st century.  You’re back in the late 19th with John Wanamaker, who famously said: “I know that half of my advertising is wasted.  But I don’t know which half.”

Mike Baum – Sophia Consulting LLC

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Starting out

In my 40 years, direct marketing has gone from niche to mainstream. If you’re not into direct marketing – you really are, you just haven’t realized it yet.

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