Friday, November 17, 2017

Five Thanksgiving #BrandTips

How is your brand celebrating Thanksgiving? Do you have a brand strategy to thank your customers, clients, guests, or other stakeholders? Does Thanksgiving even fall on your brand marketing calendar? If you care about your customers and other stakeholders – and you should during the holiday season – here are five Thanksgiving Brand Tips.

[1] Send email thanks to customers, clients, guests, and other stakeholders
When was the last time you sent strategic email communications to your customers and other stakeholders? If your brand is like many others, it was last week, yesterday, or today. Your email strategy probably includes a distribution calendar of regularly-scheduled emails. But when was the last time you sent an email that simply said, “Thank you?” If you cannot remember the last time, then it’s definitely time to send this type of email.

[2] Offer holiday discounts
No matter what industry your brand lives in, it would be easy to offer a themed holiday discount. A turkey-themed discount or a pumpkin-themed discount might appeal to your customers. Or, perhaps, your brand might offer a discount that lasts for the months of November and December. Be creative, be memorable, and put yourself in your customers’ shoes.

[3] Launch a new product
While people shop and travel during the November and December holiday season, if your product is widely-used, a new product may become big news. Apple often launches its new products in September, but consider the buzz if new iPhones were launched the week before Thanksgiving. If they were, new iPhones would be the “must-have” gifts for the holidays. (Often, they are despite the September launch.) Customers look to their favorite brands to make their lives easier, and especially during the holidays, they would welcome new and easy.

[4] Promote a co-branded partnership
If your brand establishes a partnership during the year, promote it during the holiday season to thank the partner for its collaboration. You can include a combined logo or both brand logos and both brand mission statements in your marketing communications, such as, emails, annual reports, newsletters, etc. In addition, testimonials from both brands’ Presidents speaking about the partnership could also be included.

[5] Offer a BOGO
Are you familiar with the concept of BOGO, or buy-one-get-one? Especially for the holiday season, you could offer a special product or service for free or discounted if something specific is purchased. For example, if you’re a make-up brand and a lipstick is purchased, you could offer a free lip gloss in a matching color. If you’re a hotel brand and three nights are reserved, you could throw in a free dinner of a certain value at your high-end restaurant. And lastly, if you’re a law firm brand and a client is charged for ten hours of legal service, you could throw in two hours of free service.

So, are you now convinced that Thanksgiving offers many opportunities to simultaneously build brand equity while thanking your many stakeholders? Chime in and share your brand’s Thanksgiving plans.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Does Your Brand Show Gratitude?

Did you watch the 2017 World Series? It was the 113th World Series and the best-of-seven playoff between the National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers and the American League champion Houston Astros. Even if you weren’t a Dodgers or Astros fan, you had to get caught up in the excitement! There were many firsts and new records set, and a team won the World Series for the first time in its history. 

But, for brand marketing professionals, the most significant aspect of the 2017 World Series happened after the last at-bat and the winning team’s parade.

Did you see the full-page ad that appeared in the Houston Chronicle on November 5, 2017, following the Astros’ victory? The Los Angeles Dodgers ended their amazing 2017 season with a full-page ad featuring their congratulations to the Houston Astros. Even though the World Series came down to one game, all players demonstrated good sportsmanship on the field.

The Dodgers ad posed the question, does your brand show gratitude? If yes, what action or actions do you take to thank your customers and fans? Do you offer discounts, coupons, VIP shopping days, strategic partnerships, or something else? Consider how Amazon shows gratitude to its Amazon Prime subscribers with its Amazon Prime shopping days. And what about this, does your brand thank its competitors? Has your brand ever placed an ad to thank your biggest competitor?

An ad can be a very powerful marketing tool, because it can be remembered for years. I vividly recall one of my favorite ads for Apple featuring Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog and the “Think Different” tagline. View the ad here on Instagram:

Will Astros fans remember this full-page ad if the two teams meet again in next year’s Fall Classic? Perhaps, the Dodgers marketing department had that goal in mind.


To read more about the 2017 World Series, check out this link on Wikipedia:

Image Credit: Houston Chronicle

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Branding with an Ampersand

In case you missed it, September 8 was National Ampersand Day. An ampersand is that recognizable symbol that stands in for the word “and.” If your calendar did not include National Ampersand Day, this post can serve as your belated celebration as well as a reminder to add the date to your 2018 marketing calendar.

When creating a memorable business or nonprofit name, there are many considerations and influences, but if you want to join two names or words, what can you do? An ampersand is the solution.

According to Wikipedia, “The ampersand is a logogram representing the word AND (a conjunction). It originated as a ligature of the letters ET, Latin for AND…In written language, a logogram is a written character that represents a word or phrase.”

But where did the ampersand come from? According to, "The symbol “&” was actually part of the English alphabet. In the early 1800s, school children reciting their ABCs concluded the alphabet with the &. It would have been confusing to say “X, Y, Z, and.” Rather, the students said, “and per se and.” “Per se” means “by itself,” so the students were essentially saying, “X, Y, Z, and by itself and.” Over time, “and per se and” was slurred together into the word we use today: ampersand.” (By the way, if you’re wondering, when a word is formed from an incorrect pronunciation, it’s called a mondegreen.)

How many brands featuring ampersands immediately come to mind?

•    A&E (television station)
•    A&M Records
•    A&W Root Beer
•    Arm & Hammer
•    AT&T
•    Bang & Olufsen (Danish furniture)
•    Barnes & Noble
•    Bed Bath & Beyond
•    Ben & Jerry’s
•    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
•    Black & Decker
•    Boys & Girls Clubs of America
•    Dolce & Gabbana
•    H&M
•    H&R Block
•    Johnson & Johnson
•    M&M’S
•    Marks & Spencer
•    Ogilvy & Mather (advertising agency)
•    P&G (Procter & Gamble)
•    Tiffany & Co.
•    Victoria & Albert Museum
•    Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (movie/book)

Did you realize that there were so many?

“Each of these [brands] has a unique approach to the ampersand they use. Some use the same font as the brand name (logotype), while others use a completely different font for the ampersand. The style for these all depends on the emphasis the brand wants to create with the ampersand. Using an ampersand can provide added benefits, aside from aesthetics. If a brand name is slightly long, using an ampersand will help shorten the length of the logotype. This means you don’t sacrifice legibility for size, especially for web and digital media," explains Nicte Cuevas, Principal of Nicte Creative Design (Twitter: @NicteCreativDSN).

While there are countless ways for a brand to stand out, don’t forget the ampersand. It’s so much more than a space saver. In fact, it just may get your brand noticed.

Final Note: It seems as if there has been an abundance of ampersands in the restaurant industry. Check out:

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Is Your Brand Promoting the Eclipse?

It's extremely rare for me to blog about the same food group, let alone the same food, two posts in a row, however, the upcoming eclipse on August 21, 2017, warrants a second post about doughnuts.

According to Wikipedia, "An eclipse is an astronomical event that occurs when an astronomical object is temporarily obscured, either by passing into the shadow of another body or by having another body pass between it and the viewer...An eclipse is the result of either an occultation (completely hidden) or a transit (partially hidden)...The term eclipse is most often used to describe either a solar eclipse, when the Moon's shadow crosses the Earth's surface, or a lunar eclipse, when the Moon moves into the Earth's shadow."

According to NASA, "Experiencing a total solar eclipse where you live happens about once in 375 years. So, unless modern medicine advances considerably in the next few years, you might not make it to the next one. The last time anyone in the United States witnessed a total solar eclipse was almost 40 years ago, on February 26, 1979. It's been even longer - 99 years - since a total solar eclipse crossed the country from the Pacific to the Atlantic. The total eclipse on June 8, 1918, passed from Washington to Florida."

The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses” or hand-held solar viewers. Learn all you need to know from NASA at

So, with all the buzz about the eclipse, how can brands capitalize on the buzz and also join in the fun? One brand in particular has hit a home run with its marketing campaign to promote the eclipse. For the first time, Krispy Kreme’s Original Glazed Doughnuts will be "eclipsed by a mouth-watering chocolate glaze" to coincide with the solar eclipse on Monday, August 21, at participating United States shops. Doughnut fans can get an early taste on Saturday and Sunday, August 19-20.

“The solar eclipse is a rare occasion providing a total sensory experience for viewers across the continental United States. Chocolate will have the same effect as we introduce a first-time chocolate glazing of our iconic Original Glazed Doughnut. The Chocolate Glazed Doughnut is a delicious way to experience the solar eclipse – no matter where you are – and we can’t wait for fans to try it. Be one of the first to try the tastiest eclipse in history. Find a Krispy Kreme shop near you by going to,” announced Jackie Woodward, Chief Marketing Officer of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.

Headquartered in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and founded in 1937, Krispy Kreme doughnuts can be found in approximately 12,000 grocery, convenience, and mass merchant stores in the United States. The company has more than 1,300 retail shops in 31 countries.

Finally, if you've become a fan of eclipses after reading this post, here are some dates to add to your calendar:

  • The next total solar eclipse in the United States will be on April 4, 2024. 
  • The next eclipse similar to the one on August 21, 2017, that moves from coast to coast, will be on August 12, 2045.
If you have questions about all the eclipse lingo you've heard in the news, check out NASA's glossary of eclipse terms at:

On Monday, after the eclipse, guess where I'm going? The nearby Krispy Kreme store, of course. I cannot wait to celebrate the event with the limited edition Krispy Kreme Chocolate Glazed Doughnut! How about you?

Image Credit: Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Branding Less Than Donuts

In today's competitive coffeehouse race for customers, Dunkin' Donuts is making some significant branding changes. According to industry experts, Dunkin' Donuts has a name that doesn't jive with calorie-conscious consumers. With donuts in the name, they wonder, how can it compete with Starbucks, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Peet's Coffee, and more?

When a variety of factors indicate a need for drastic change, the time has come for a new marketing strategy. This is exactly what this Massachusetts-based chain founded in 1950, is in the process of unveiling. Visit one particular Dunkin' Donuts in Pasadena, California, and you'll see a new sign: Dunkin’. Coffee and more.

According to the company's announcement:
"The branding experiment in Pasadena marks the start of a trial period during which the company will gauge customer response and evaluate whether to take the new name nationwide. There are more than 11,300 Dunkin’ Donuts stores worldwide. Most, about 8,500, are spread across 41 states. The 3,200 international locations span 36 countries."

If you were curious, industry leader Starbucks operates in 70 countries with more than 24,000 total stores.

The company announcement continued:
“While we remain the number one retailer of donuts in the country, as part of our efforts to reinforce that Dunkin’ Donuts is a beverage-led brand and coffee leader, we will be testing signage in a few locations that refer to the brand simply as “Dunkin’. The name change shouldn’t come as a big surprise to customers. We've been referring to ourselves simply as Dunkin’ in our advertising for more than a decade, ever since we introduced our ‘America Runs on Dunkin’ ’ campaign. We'll introduce new storefront signage at an unspecific number of additional restaurants later this year [but] It will be late 2018 before any final branding decisions are made."

So what do you think? 

Has Dunkin' Donuts made a good decision to drop the word "Donuts" from its name? What about its brand equity, brand experience, and brand story? The brand has a relationship with its customers and fans, and its name is part of the overall brand experience. Will "Dunkin'. Coffee and more." create the same brand experience? Only time will tell - donuts certainly won't.

Image Credit: Dunkin' Donuts.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Three Essential Books for Your Summer Reading List

Every summer, we plan extra hours for all sorts of activities. From beach excursions to museum visits to outdoor hikes, the summer is the time to catch up on all the adventures that don’t happen during the rest of the year. In addition to all the fun outdoor adventures, another activity on our summer “to do lists” is reading. Some of us even build a stack of “must-read books” all year-long with the intent to read them during our summer vacations. While you may have some non-fiction or novels on your reading list, I highly recommend that you add these three business books, more specifically these three marketing and leadership books, published this year to your summer reading list.

MORE IS MORE by Blake Morgan
The buzz in today’s competitive and social economy centers on the brand experience, which relies heavily on the customer experience. Businesses stand out by providing the most positive and most memorable customer experience. But how do you accomplish this? There is no secret sauce, and every industry has differences, whether big or small. According to Morgan, there is a customer experience crisis underway, and most brands have no idea how to move their brand from mediocre to extraordinary.

“Instead of being intimidated and shying away from the abundance of new channels and digital platforms, brands need to act quickly and figure out meaningful strategies that can help them meet potential customers at these new touch points...Contrary to popular belief, the customer experience boils down to far more than just sales and customer service…Customer experience is an attitude embraced within the company; it’s a company-wide approach to building an operation that has the customer at its center.”

Here are eight pieces of advice from Morgan:
[1] Hire someone to own the customer experience. Some businesses use the title “Chief Customer Officer,” others use “Chief Engagement Officer,” and others use “Chief Branding Officer.” But no matter what title you use, this individual will represent your customer at the highest level of your organization.
[2] Involve your entire organization. Create and maintain a customer-centric culture. One example is the Walt Disney Company, where all employees or cast members attend Disney University to learn about the culture, corporate lingo, and more.
[3] Meet and serve customers in their preferred channels. If your customers post lots of photos on Instagram, you should have a large and growing presence on Instagram. If your customers post comments or ask questions on Twitter, you should have a large presence on Twitter. Don’t spend time on social platforms simply to say you’re there.
[4] Don’t ignore mobile technology. How does your brand leverage mobile technology to improve your customers’ lives? The answer will determine your mobile strategy.
[5] Offer a strong employee experience. Do your employees have authority to fix problems, or do they pass off the customer from one employee to another with no end in sight?
[6] Be a good corporate citizen. Participate in local, regional, or international philanthropy and involve your employees. Some businesses are known for offering employee philanthropy or volunteer days whereby the businesses close for the day and employees volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, a literacy program, or others.
[7] Embrace change. One example is the evolution of retail. If you only sell in a physical store, your brand may soon disappear. But if you’ve developed a digital presence and strategy, your brand has a better chance of surviving.
[8] Ask this question: What role do customers play in your business? This question should be at the core of all your key discussions.

This book is a revised and updated version of a previously-released book from 2010. The concept behind the book was that “there is a type of leader called Multipliers, who saw, used, and grew the intelligence of others, while other leaders called Diminishers, shut down the smarts of those around them.” There is probably a bit of this concept playing out in every business in America today, and the result is a waste of intellectual capital. This waste of intellectual capital can be viewed in terms of productivity, intellectual growth, and overall manpower hours. The bottom line is that employees suffer because they don’t work to their full potential, leaders suffer because they don’t empower their employees or inspire them, and businesses suffer because they only witness a percentage of work product by their employees – not 100%.

“Some leaders seem to drain intelligence and capability out of the people around them. Their focus on their own intelligence and their resolve to be the smartest person in the room had a diminishing effect on everyone else. For them to look smart, everyone else had to look dumb…In countless settings, these leaders were idea killers and energy destroyers.”

“Other leaders used their intelligence as a tool rather than a weapon. They applied their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capability of people around them. People got smarter and better in their presence. Ideas grew, challenges were surmounted, hard problems were solved.  When these leaders walked into a room, lightbulbs started switching on over people’s heads…These leaders seemed to make everyone around them better and more capable. These leaders weren’t just intelligent themselves – they were intelligence Multipliers. Perhaps these leaders understood that the person sitting at the apex of the intelligence hierarchy is the genius maker, not the genius.”

Wiseman explained the five disciplines of Multipliers:
[1] The Talent Magnet: Attracts talented people and uses them at their highest point of contribution.
[2] The Liberator: Creates an intense environment that requires people’s best thinking and work.
[3] The Challenger: Defines an opportunity that causes people to stretch.
[4] The Debate Maker: Drives sound decisions through rigorous debate.
[5] The Investor: Gives other people ownership for results and invests in their success.

If you know or work for someone who is a Diminisher, you can make a difference in the workplace by sharing the disciplines of Multipliers.

Who has inspired you? This is the question that author Kristi Hedges used as an icebreaker when making a keynote or presentation. Responses included first bosses, colleagues, parents, friends, teachers, politicians, members of the clergy, and more. Every time, though, it had the same result despite the fact that may people were in attendance because they had to be: excitement and passion.

Hedges thought more about the issue and wondered why this level of excitement was missing from many workplaces. “If we want to have inspired companies, then we need inspirational leaders. And that involves being the kind of leader who communicates in a way that creates the conditions for inspiration in others. It’s about making the right connection and letting the inspiration take off from there.”

Hedges offered the following settings for offering inspiration:
[1] One-to-one meetings.
[2] Group meetings: team meetings, status meetings, leadership meetings, and brainstorming meetings.
[3] Presentations.
[4] Networking.
[5] Difficult conversations.

Lastly, “People remember not what you said, but how you made them feel. If you can engage people in real, meaningful conversations that inspire them to think and do more, you’ll be making strong connections that endure…Capture conversations that would otherwise slip by, and use them to give a positive bounce. Make them zing, Inspire because you can. Inspiration can happen anytime, and anywhere, started by you. Be the spark.”

What business book would you recommend reading this summer? Please chime in and share.

Connect and follow these great authors on Twitter:
Blake Morgan: @BlakeMichelleM
Liz Wiseman: @LizWiseman
Kristi Hedges: @KristiHedges

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Five Tips to Create Your Brand Style Guide

What’s one of the most important documents that your company has? While you might think it’s the list of passwords to gain access to your customer database, and that’s certainly important, a brand style guide is critical. In today’s competitive and social economy, a consistent and positive brand experience leads to future business and new customers. Therefore, a brand style guide is essential for the future success of your business.

This post provides five tips to create a brand style guide. A note, this document is a living, breathing document, so it will evolve over time – just as your business evolves. But if you don’t have one, don’t delay, create a brand style guide immediately.

[1] Showcase Your Brand Voice

Is your brand playful or serious? Do you have industry-specific jargon that’s easy to understand, or do you need to provide definitions? It may be easier to explain your brand’s voice by sharing examples with sample sentences. Another way to explain your brand’s voice may be by way of comparisons. Here’s an example from MailChimp: “We’re fun but not silly, expert but not bossy, confident but not cocky.”

[2] Showcase Your Brand Visuals

Is your brand associated with a specific color or colors? Think UPS and brown. Is your brand associated with a specific font? Think Coca-Cola’s swirl. If yes, know the Pantone or PMS colors as well as the CMYK and RGB versions. Also include “Don’t Use” examples with your logo and tagline.

[3] Showcase Consistency

Your brand is not just one logo, one tagline, and one or more colors. Think of how the Apple brand has evolved from the iPod to the iPhone to the iPad. When your main brand evolves and co-brands are created, consistency with the main brand provides credibility. Consumers, users, and stakeholders have developed a bond with your brand, and as a result, you want them to also develop a bond with your other brands. The best way to make this happen is to provide brand consistency. Apple did this by including the “i” in its brand naming structure.

[4] Include Your Legal Team

Ask your legal team to review the style guide. This will accomplish two important goals. First, the legal team will be involved in the process so that if any brand or trademark infringements happen, the legal team will be aware of the document you’ve created. And second, the legal team can share its trademark law expertise and possibly add something to the style guide that was missed by the marketing, design, PR, and/or personnel teams.

[5] Share Your Guide Company-Wide

Once the brand style guide has been completed, don’t toss it into a drawer in the personnel department leader’s office and forget about it. Include it as part of your onboarding process and hold quarterly brand training sessions. Feature it as a PDF on your website in the online press room and feature highlights in a blog post or blog posts on your company’s blog. Apply the guidelines to all other company marketing applications including letterhead and envelopes, business cards, email signatures, PowerPoint presentation templates, meeting agendas, flyers, and more. Use the logo or an approved tweaked version on all social platforms. Make sure that your employees know that they are encouraged to associate themselves with your company/brand when they post in social media but that they must clearly note their online posts as their own (for example, in their Twitter profiles).

And lastly, it is a good idea to provide an introduction to your brand style guide. Here is a sample introduction:

"These guidelines are provided to help carry our brand message to the community. Along with the brandmark, typography, color palette and other visual elements, directions are included to help manage the visual communication materials. This guide should be used as a reference when working with outside vendors and also with internal departments to ensure that everyone is using the (include your company name here) logo and other brand tools in a consistent manner."

What else have you included in your brand style guide? Please chime in and share.