Casey Flanagan

Brand Strategy 101: The Value of Risk and Change

[This is part of a continuing series called Brand Strategy 101101 “revolutionary ways” to build a strong brand.]

It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.

It sounds like something that a baron of the social media industry would say. And, that’s not far off. A few weeks ago, Mark Zuckerberg spoke at Stanford and said that he felt many businesses act too slowly and are scared to take risks. He went on to say that in such a fast-paced world, the biggest risk is not to take any risk and ultimately watching technology and the industry pass you by.

But that original quote came from W. Edwards Deming. Who passed away in 1993 –years before this most recent technology tide swept us away again. His words are, however, perhaps more prescient today than ever. And the fact that business leaders still feel a need to pontificate on it is a powerful reminder of the times in which we live.

Last week, I wrote about The New Normal for Business. And that constant change around a brand may actually discourage a brand to change. This month’s Fast Company has an interesting collection of perspectives on Risk.

My bottom line: The old way of doing things is only safe until it’s sorry.

Interested in more stuff I find interesting? Follow me @casey_flanagan on Twitter.

Casey Flanagan

Brand Strategy 101: Get Local.

[This is part of a continuing series called Brand Strategy 101101 “revolutionary ways” to build a strong brand.]

There is an old adage, “I hate congress, but I love my congressman.” All politics is, indeed, local.

But congress represents only one instance of this phenomenon. Brands are affected, too.

Case in point, according to a Thomson Reuters HealthView survey, 58% of adults say if their preferred hospital received a below-average rating for clinical quality, they would change hospitals. But only 24% of consumers say they would change physicians if their preferred physician received a below-average rating for clinical quality. That’s twice as many people willing to make a move from their hospital as their doctor.

From Congress to Healthcare, everything is local.

So whether you are congress, a healthcare organization or any other player in any other industry — insurance, financial planning, B2B — get local. Build relationships. Make it easy for your consumers to have a meaningful, tangible experience. Doing so encourages your consumer to love you, even if they don’t love everything about your world.

Interested in more stuff I find interesting? Follow me @casey_flanagan on Twitter.

Casey Flanagan

Brand Strategy 101: Don’t Budget. Invest.

[This is part of a continuing series called Brand Strategy 101 – 101 “revolutionary ways” to build a strong brand.]

This is not a post on metrics or measurement. A good deal of ink is – rightfully – spent daily on the importance of each. Instead, this is a post on attitude and approach.

Plenty of attention is paid to the result of the process (metrics). Not enough is paid to the input (approach).

Let’s start with this: We all have budgets we’re managing. Budgets suggest a finite amount of money, outlaid as a series measured expenditures. But the marketing term isn’t Return on Budget. It’s Return on Investment. Investments suggest smart expenditures made with the expectation of a result or return.

Why do we manage budgets? Why don’t we act like investment managers?

How many times have you left a meeting feeling like you have outlaid one in a series of measured expenditures? (“How much is this going to cost?”) Like you are leaving with less than you walked in with? (“We only have $X left this fiscal year.”)

We need to rethink how we think about all of this.

Marketing expenditures should be empowering. As long as your brand provides a value, marketing is the first step towards providing more of it. The Television Bureau of Canada even proved investing in broccoli can provide a return. Broccoli: The Ultimate Tough Sell.

So figure out what value you provide. Then invest in that value accordingly. Make it grow.

Interested in more stuff I find interesting? Follow me @casey_flanagan on Twitter.

Casey Flanagan

Brand Strategy 101: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

[This is part of a continuing series called Brand Strategy 101 – 101 “revolutionary ways” to build a strong brand.]

Earlier this year, Newsweek ran a story detailing “America’s Dying Cities.” The Top Ten Dying Cities – as defined by an arbitrary set of variables. Americans love Top Ten lists. Let’s be honest, I love Top Ten lists. But in this, the Age of The Permanent Record, it’s this kind of list can have potentially devastating effects – intended or not. Let’s say you get a job offer in said city or are simply looking to schedule a summer road trip. If you were to Google a city on the list, there is a very real chance that one of your top returns will be about it dying. Words matter.

I paid attention to this particular list only because Grand Rapids, MI – a city I like very much and don’t believe is dying – appeared on it. I like the city even more now. Because instead of letting someone else’s words speak for them, Grand Rapids acted.

You’ve probably seen the resulting 9:49 minute lip-dub by now. If you haven’t, it’s worth a look. Not just to see how alive the city really is, but to see a great example of how a brand can act to overcome potentially undeserved “words.”

The video has been viewed over 3 million times on YouTube. And the video – not the “America’s Dying Cities” list – appears on the first page of results for a Google search for Grand Rapids.

The lesson? Find ways to go beyond saying who you are. Show it.

Interested in more stuff I find interesting? Follow me @casey_flanagan on Twitter.

Casey Flanagan

Brand Strategy 101: Don’t Convince. Connect.

[This is part of a continuing series called Brand Strategy 101 – 101 “revolutionary ways” to build a strong brand.]

The numbers continue to stagger. We are consuming more media than ever before. Our attention spans are shrinking – as far back as 2002, the BBC said our attentions span had shrunk to the same size as a that of a goldfish. And we have more control of our media than ever before – the Always On world has shifted to one that is Always On Demand.

Connecting to consumers is hard. But convincing them without connecting is impossible. Yet some brands continue to try to convince first, connect later. It’s the old “Hey, Look At Me” model.

I think Jon Stewart captured the state of our current culture best when he said, “Americans live their lives just a little bit late for something they have to do.” Think of your own life. Your mind may already be / is probably drifting to your next thing.

A brand can create a message that consists of something (a) it wants you to know or (b) you want to know. Which will you pay attention to? Which brand will you connect to?

It’s a simple – but revolutionary – idea.

Interested in more stuff I find interesting? Follow me @casey_flanagan on Twitter.

Casey Flanagan

A Brand Strategy 101

I love RevolutionaryAct.com. It’s a self-described “Manifesto For Living In A Mixed Up World.” Besides the general content of the site, what I love is its approach.

It doesn’t say being healthy is easy. Even though it kind of is, isn’t it? We all know what to do. Even the U.S. Government was able to boil it down to: Eat less. Move more. If the U.S. Government can say something simply, it’s simple.

Instead, the website takes a different approach. It offers 101 “revolutionary ways” to be healthy. The 101 are simple, actionable and thought-provoking. So is their approach: Being healthy isn’t easy, it’s revolutionary. I can get behind that.

Marketers, take note. It seems more and more that we’re in need of a “Manifesto For Branding In A Mixed Up World.” Building a strong brand isn’t easy. It’s revolutionary.

These days, sticking to the fundamental truths we hold to be self-evident *can* seem downright revolutionary. But we need to more than ever. Because brands are in trouble.

In the aptly titled “The Trouble With Brands,” John Gerzema writes that brands are losing trust at an alarming rate. In 1997, 52% of brands were voted trustworthy. By 2008, that number had dropped to 22%, more than halving the number of trusted brands in just over a decade.

I think more than anything it’s because many brands have lost track of the fundamentals. They’ve forgotten their 101. They treat consumers as stupid. Or selfish. Or lazy. Or, God forbid, all three. Dave Meslin makes a compelling case for an Antidote To Apathy in his TedX talk. His premise? Consumers aren’t stupid or selfish or lazy. We live in a world that actively discourages engagement. Brands shouldn’t think the worst about people. They should set them up to succeed.

So I’m working on a Brand Strategy 101. 101 “revolutionary ways” to build a strong brand. Number one: Tell the truth. Number two: Make it easy. Only 99 more to go…

Interested in more stuff I find interesting? Follow me @casey_flanagan on Twitter.