best of 2010

This is my 463rd post at the end of 6 years of blogging. In the last week of each year that I have blogged, I have done a list of top / favorite posts from the past year. You can peruse previous years here: [2009] [2008] [2007] [2006] [2005]

And here’s 2010:

  • In terms of raw numbers of traffic / SM buzz / etc, I like it when it makes sense was clearly the biggest post of the year. Considering it has the words ‘bra’, ‘breasts’, and ‘facebook’ sprinkled throughout, I’m not surprised (that’s a SEO tip for ya). But it does have marketing merits as I make the point that you can’t make lightning strike twice by astroturfing a mediocre replacement of a previously successful grassroots viral meme.
  • Another highly trafficked post (and my personal favorite post of the year) was the part of marketing that marketing people forget. It’s my basic philosophy that the majority of your brand is not built through marketing, but built through mundane daily customer experiences.
  • You need to rethink numbers because marketing is no longer just about measuring eyeballs. It’s about measuring engagement.
  • Marketing is changing. If you haven’t already, you really need to learn how to use social media.
  • I’m one of the few marketing bloggers who stuck with Dave until the end of the “United Breaks Guitars” trilogy.
  • And then there was the over-riding theme of my 2010: My thanks to everyone who either bought a copy and/or helped promote my book, Brand Zeitgeist. The zenith of the book’s promotion was the Amazon Blitz on March 23rd when you helped Brand Zeitgeist become one of the most popular marketing books on Amazon.

I truly appreciate you reading what I write here. As I begin Year 7 of blogging, my goal is to do a better job of producing regular content. Make sure you don’t miss any of it by subscribing to the RSS feed here or following me on Twitter or Facebook.

the jolly old brand

I had been thinking about writing a Christmas post, but couldn’t come up with an idea. Then I realized I’d already written the post; it was just ensconced in a book. What follows is an excerpt (pages 53-56) from Chapter 7 (Brands are Driven by the Message) of my 2010 book, Brand Zeitgeist where I used Santa Claus as a “case study” on using media and marketing to maintain brand consistency over the (very) long term…

***************

Page 55 of Brand ZeitgeistBrands are a long-term proposition. Just a few ads or a couple of PR mentions won’t have much effect over the short term. When you step back to look at brands that have used media and advertising over the long term, the power of a brand zeitgeist can clearly been seen.

The modern day image that most people have of Santa Claus, with the plump belly, red coat, and white beard has largely been shaped by media and advertising. For centuries, Santa Claus was portrayed as everything from a gnarled elf to a tall gaunt woodsman.

One of the first major steps to creating a unified Santa brand in the mind of the zeitgeist occurred with Clement Clark Moore’s 1822 poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (commonly called “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”). Moore’s poem was published annually in numerous newspapers and periodicals and helped define the basic physical characteristics of Santa in the public’s mind:

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes — how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

In the latter part of the 19th century, cartoonist Thomas Nast built on the foundation of Moore’s poem. He depicted Santa Claus as a plump man in a red suit and further cemented other aspects of the Santa brand in the zeitgeist with things such as a North Pole residency in his drawings for Harper’s Weekly magazine.

The modern day image of Santa was firmly established starting in 1931 when Coca-Cola commissioned illustrator Haddon Sundblomto develop advertising images using Santa Claus. Sundblom further built on established canon by Moore and Nast and drew Santa as a warm and friendly human character. The Coca-Cola Santa was placed heavily in the company’s annual Christmas ads in national magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal, National Geographic, The New Yorker and others.

Santa Claus is a brand that reaches almost every section of the zeitgeist. Stop almost anyone on the street and they could recite a checklist of all of Santa’s characteristics that have been established in the zeitgeist. If Santa is portrayed in the “wrong way,” consumers will reject it — i.e. skinny in a blue suit. He’s the ultimate example of a successful brand zeitgeist because everyone is on the same page as to what the brand represents.

However, there’s no way you can replicate his success with your brand. For one thing, the media atmosphere is much different today. The entire populace isn’t focused on a few big magazines and three television networks. You don’t have Coca-Cola’s media budget. You don’t have two centuries to wait for your brand strategy to kick in. Finally, let’s face it, you’re not Santa Claus.

But you can learn branding lessons from Santa on how to use media and messaging to establish your brand in the zeitgeist. Firstly, Santa has stayed true to a set of core brand assets and never drastically rebranded to keep up with trends and fads. During his busy season, he is everywhere. He’s at the mall, in parades, on TV, in magazine ads, and in your house. The brand image is inescapable. The image is consistent, clear, and repeated to the point of that the brand image of Santa Claus has been seared into mind’s eye of the public.

The Santa Claus brand was spread in the zeitgeist over the long term by using traditional media and word-of-mouth. While it might be impossible to build a similar juggernaut brand using those same methods, there’s now a new variable in the brand messaging and media equation. Until recently, Santa didn’t have to deal with the Internet.

***************

And that was an oh-so-clever segue into the “messaging in the digital zeitgeist” section of the chapter. If you’re interesting in reading the rest of the book, you can find Brand Zeitgeist on Amazon. Or you can become a fan of Brand Zeitgeist on Facebook.

influential brand advocates

Lots of talk on Twitter lately about the connection between brand advocates and brand influencers. (by the way, you may know brand advocacy better by the term “word-of-mouth”)

During these discussions, I tweeted:

Advocacy depends on what you do. Influence depends on how others react to what you do

In other words, there are many people who love your brand. They’re your advocates. They’re on your side. But many of those people only have small offline or online networks to spread recommendations to other potential markets.

But interspersed in your group of brand advocates are a few influencers. At cocktail parties, other people ask them about the latest big thing or they could even be the local newspaper’s movie/restaurant/etc critic. They might have a massive Twitter following, thousands of YouTube subscribers, lots of Facebook friends, or be connected in some other online network.

When it comes to earned impressions, choosing to invest in those influential brand advocates is essential to success. Your hope (and plan) should be that your advocates ARE influencers.

But for many, the challenge is to find the influencer needle in the advocate haystack. The answer is simple; provide tools and knowledge to all your advocates. The influencers will know what to do with it.

Isn’t that an unfocused waste of resources on the unwashed masses of your “uninfluencial” advocates?

It doesn’t hurt to help them spread your word either. Just as you wouldn’t turn down a press mention in a low circulated / low rated traditional media placement, you shouldn’t dismiss the long tail power of lots of “uninfluential” recomendations.

And while some of the networks are new, these are really not new concepts. Malcolm Gladwell discussed how ideas spread in The Tipping Point and I even discussed how well designed products and services have a natural zeitgeist quality in Brand Zeitgeist.

But for marketers, here’s the tough truth about advocates / influencers: This is not something that can be solved with just marketing. Having a great product / service and delivering positive customer service is what creates brand advocates. The new role of marketing is to provide the infuencers the narrative to spread the word about those great things.

the new principles of Advertising

Do you know someone who needs a better understanding of the “new” world of media, advertising, and PR? From 24-Jan to 13-May, I’ve been asked to teach an online course on the Principles of Advertising for Western Kentucky University.

Officially, the JOUR341 class at Western is “a survey course in the fundamental principles and practices of advertising including study of the techniques of creating advertisements, functions of advertising agencies, budgets, media selection, research and other topics”.

And we’ll do all that; but with an emphasis on the next generation of media and marketing including social, mobile, and more. We’ll also discuss traditional media’s place in a digital world and how traditional media and methods can be adapted to a new media mindset.

For a synopsis of the mindset of this class, take a look at this Nov-2010 Fast Company article: www.fastcompany.com/magazine/151/mayhem-on-madison-avenue It will be one of the first reading assignments.

My class is one of three courses offered by the WKU School of Journalism and Broadcasting though a new initiative called Ad+PR Online. (press release) As it’s an online course, it’s built to be a convenient way for professionals or businesspeople to get current on their media and marketing skills without missing work. Class participants will build on the work experience they have and further their knowledge in an area that is not only applicable, but also essential for business success in today’s recovering economy.

Sound good? You can find more info at www.wkufusion.com or by emailing cliff.shaluta AT wku dot edu. You can also search for CRN 21814 or JOUR-341-700 in the WKU TopNet scheduling system (spring 2011)

I’m still working on the syllabus, but I’ll post here when I get it worked out.