read your veggies

After many late nights of eating ramen noodles, rolling my eyes at a publisher’s style guides, and general frustration with the book retail system while publishing Brand Zeitgeist, I swore I would never write another book.

I have written another book. And to borrow the line from Monty Python, it’s something completely different. It’s not about marketing. It’s not about business. It’s not about media.

It’s about vegetable gardening.

Back up. How did we get here?

I’ve been aware for a few years of the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program at Amazon. Even though it’s platform exclusive, it’s an egalitarian idea that puts content creators closer to book consumers in the same disruptive fashion we’ve seen in things like music and media publishing. It eliminates many of the frustrations and problems with traditional, self, or POD publishing.

I had a few ideas of short e-books for marketing topics I wanted to publish in the Amazon program. Before putting a massive amount of work into those projects, I wanted a guinea pig project to learn more about the program firsthand and just for fun.

I also needed to step away from writing about marketing for a bit. As I’ve said before, I’ve exhausted my commentary on traditional marketing and there‘s too much being said about digital.

I had written a column for a local alt-monthly newspaper for a few months about vegetable gardening. I used those columns as a nucleus and wrote an e-book around them.

Kentucky Dirt - A practical guide to vegetable gardeningThat short e-book (about 6500 words) is now available on Amazon as “Kentucky Dirt: A practical guide to vegetable gardening”. The book takes you through a year in the garden with tips and common sense advice on how to grow a garden and why the effort is worth it.

It’s written in a very laid-back first-person style. It’s like Lewis Grizzard, P. Allen Smith, and Justin Wilson got together and wrote something. Kentucky Dirt offers an eclectic mix of folksy humor, recipes, and stories.

It is available exclusively through the Amazon Kindle platform. The download is priced at 99 cents. The book has also been accepted into the Amazon KDP Select program which means, among other things, that Amazon Prime members can borrow the book for free from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

So won’t you buy a copy? It’s only 99 cents!

kentucky kicks a**

One of the very first blog posts I published in 2005 was a repurposing of an op-ed article I wrote for the Courier-Journal about the failure of the Unbridled Spirit “rebranding” of Kentucky. I’ve used that story many many times since then. It’s featured prominently in Brand Zeitgeist. I use it in my marketing keynotes when I speak about branding. Because I’m from the Bluegrass State, it’s one of my favorite ways to talk about misconceptions on brand strategy.

branding keynote speechAfter seven years of lackluster response to Unbridled Spirit, someone decided to do something about it. A group calling themselves Kentucky for Kentucky has taken the task of reimagining the branding of the state commonwealth.

They’ve replaced “Unbridled Spirit” with “Kentucky kicks a**” (no asterisks) complete with a YouTube video that’s gone viral and related merchandise.

Their campaign, which is only a few weeks old, has already outpaced the real campaign run by the Kentucky Department of Tourism in Facebook likes, video views, etc. It made a big jump when it picked up national exposure in the USA Today this week.

Many have faulted the state tourism department spokesman for their response, but I can see the point of the tourism bureaucrats trying to distance themselves from this homegrown branding effort because of the vulgarity of it. It plays well with certain demos, but will turn off others which is a death knell for tourism.

While I’ve gone on record against vulgarity, I do like the fact that this campaign does something right. It has emotion. It has personality. Instead of trying to cram a corporate brand message down someone’s throat, it takes the brand equity that is there and translates it into something people want to share and experience. State leaders should take a lesson of how to properly translate a brand message into something people want to share.

(btw. KY does kick a**.)

municipal branding comes home

In many posts in the early years of this blog, I was (and still am) an ardent opponent of the idea of municipal branding. Municipal branding is the crazed idea that is sold by branding consultants to government leaders that just slapping a logo and a tagline on a location somehow makes it different.

This phenomenon has now raised its ugly head in my backyard as an area of downtown Bowling Green is now supposedly known as the milquetoast brand of “City Center“.

(The name somehow reminds me of Delta City in Robocop.  I’m also fairly sure the City Center folks in Las Vegas may have some legal questions for the downtown BG folks.)

If I may be so bold to quote myself from Brand Zeitgeist

…While visual and tactile representations like logos and colors are important, the real significance of a brand is not something that can been seen or touched.

At its most basic, a brand is a relationship between something and an individual. A brand is a promise that past performance will be an indicator of future results. A brand is shaped by a customer’s positive and negative interactions with the brand. You might see a brand as something only related to a company or other structured organization. However, anything can be a brand: a product, a service, an experience, a person.

Your brand is your most powerful asset, but it’s also an asset that you don’t really own. Branding is not developed from the top down. It’s developed from the bottom up. The consumer, not the company, dictates what the brand image is for any product. The frustrating reality of branding is that while you can provide the tools and platforms of a brand strategy, the brand actually exists only in the minds of the public, the same as the zeitgeist….

I totally concur that visual representations of a brand like logos, taglines, etc are important. They provide visual shorthand for what the brand means. But the real key to building a memorable brand is to provide positive customer experiences and build on the brand equity that is already there (downtown Bowling Green has existed since 1798).

I stand my my mantra: “Marketing is best built-in, not slapped on

Kentucky Fried Derby

The Run for the Roses will now be the Run for the Tacos.

The Kentucky Derby has announced that Yum! Brands (which owns Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC, Long John Silvers, and A&W Restaurants) will be a naming sponsor of the race. The race will now be referred to as “The Kentucky Derby, presented by Yum! Brands”.

Yum (I refuse to use the exclamation point anymore) Brands is based in Louisville which explains some of the rationale on their part…but why would the most famous horse race in the world and the oldest annual sporting event in the US want to dilute the power of their superbrand? (Between you and me, it’s probably money.)

If it were closer to April 1, I would have said it was a repeat of the April Fools’ joke about Taco Bell saying they had bought the naming rights to the Liberty Bell and they were changing the name to the Taco Liberty Bell. But this is no joke. Tradition is big for the Derby and there will be a fuss.

My prediction? I have 2.
1) Derby purists wearing gawdy hats and drinking mint juleps in Millionaire’s Row won’t like it.
2) Drunken infielders will get a Nachos Bellgrande to cure the Munchies.

tags::

Brand it

One of the local Chambers of Commerce is having a press conference this week to “unveil” their new brand for economic development efforts.

That’s interesting.

I’m having a press conference next week to unveil my new personality and what people think about me. Starting next week, I would like to be referred to as Foster.

The two are the same concept. People get the terms “brand” and “logo” confused. A lot.

The personality analogy is a little incomplete, but gets the idea across. Your brand is what people expect from you. You influence it by the way you act and talk…the ideas you share. You define the parameters of what people expect from you. But in the end, people will establish their own perception of you. In a corporate sense, this is called your “BRAND”.

A logo is akin to the human face. When people I know see me, they recognize me by my physical characteristics. “Hey, it’s Chris. (or next week…”Hey, it’s Foster”) From that recognition, their mind pulls up what they think about me (my personality/brand characteristics)

If I had a facelift or cosmetic surgery (I changed my logo), it would not greatly affect what people thought of me.

And yet, companies do this all the time. A new logo will not change “your brand”. Changing what you do changes your brand…slowly. You’re defining your brand if you have a brand strategy or not. People are making judgements on the brand with every interaction they have with your business.

I’m sure the inspiration for this “brand” move from the local Chamber came from the “branding of Kentucky” movement. Kentucky and Oregon are the only two states that have brand strategies (all 50 actually have brands, by the way). I wrote an article for one of the state’s newspapers about Kentucky’s misplaced branding efforts back in January. I have a copy of that article on the blog. You can read it here.

tags:: , , ,