Tag Archives: Branding

Branding Lessons From This Is Us

This Is Us, the drama/comedy on NBC is the breakout hit of this television season.  The show centers on the fictional Pearson story and jumps back and forth from the time that Jack and Rebecca Pearson were raising three children in the late 1970s to present day following the three now grown up children.  NBC has such faith in the show that it renewed the show for not one but, two more seasons.  Brands when developing their brand story can learn from This Is Us on how to develop a strong and compelling brand story that resonates with consumers.

  1. Stand out from the competition. The whole concept of This Is Us is unlike anything else on television.  The concept of jumping back and forth in time with the same family was an unique concept that viewers found compelling and original.  In a television landscape that is filled with procedural dramas, sitcoms, and cop shows, This Is Us stands apart.  The show is not dark and sinister nor does it tap into any of the polarization and politics that fills the news.  It is a feel-good show even if it does cover some of life’s tougher moments.  Brands when developing their story need to follow this concept and let their story be unique and compelling that will appeal to their target audience.
  2. Have compelling spokespersons. Part of the popularity of the show is the appeal of two characters who are spokespersons for the theme of the show.  One is the Pearson patriarch, Jack.  He is the father that everyone wishes they had and communicates in a simple, effective, yet fun manner.  The other is the recurring character of Dr. Nathan Katowsky, popularly known in the show as Dr. K, the replacement doctor who delivers the Pearsons’ children.  In every appearance the character gives a quote that resonates with viewers and is tweeted and retweeted over and over again.  Like Jack, Dr. K is seen as original and compelling.  Brands need to make sure that the person they have telling their story is compelling and one that audiences will relate to when hearing the person speak.
  3. Keep it simple. This Is Us tackles birth, marriage, child raising, death, illness, family conflict, and much more but it does so in a simple and easy to understand way that the message and enjoyment are not lost.  Brands need to remember this when crafting their story message.
  4. This Is Us creates an emotional connection and reaction from its viewing audience.  People report coming to tears when they learned that Jack Pearson, the father, is dead in present day.  Others swoon with the romance of the Toby character courting grown up, Kate Pearson.  Brands need an emotional connection with their audiences as well.  Consumers are not just buying the brand but the brand story and that is why the emotional connection and shared values must be present in the story.

Brands in developing their brand story and communicating with consumers should study This Is Us as it teaches news lessons weekly in communications strategies.  And if your current story or strategy isn’t working, it can offer a lesson on how to correct it, for as Dr. K says, “There’s no lemon so sour that you can’t make something resembling lemonade.”

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A Tale of Two Brands

One week after Donald Trump’s stunning win in the presidential election, the debate is still going on, as to how he was able to pull off his stunning election victory. One reason that is being overlooked and should be studied by business communicators and CEOs is that Trump regardless of if you love him or hate him was consistent with his brand identity.  In every election since Franklin Roosevelt’s re-election in 1936, the candidate who came across as being more authentic with his brand identity won the election.  This election was no exception.

A brand needs to tell a story.  That story needs to be consistent and reflect the brands values and beliefs.  It is what consumers and voters buy into and will allow a brand to develop a loyalty that will allow it to survive in hard times and flourish in good times.

Donald Trump over the years has built a brand identity based upon being brash, abrasive, in your face, decisive, and one who never backs down.  This identity has been built upon countless interviews, books, product lines, and of course Celebrity Apprentice.  It is why Americans felt that they knew him, the moment he announced his candidacy, while other candidates like Scott Walker, John Kasich, and even Ted Cruz were struggling to introduce themselves to the American public.  This familiarity with the Trump brand is why he was able to survive incidents that would have taken down another candidate (insulting John McCain, the Megyn Kelly episode, the Access Hollywood tape).  Millions of voters just saw these events as Trump being Trump and were neither shocked nor angered.  They saw it as Trump being consistent with his brand.

Contrast this with Hillary Clinton.  Voters were never sure what her brand identity was.  She introduced more new Hillarys during the campaign, then Richard Nixon had new Nixons in his entire career.  First she was the mother and grandmother breaking the glass ceiling.  Next she was the most experienced candidate to ever seek the White House.  After that, she was the progressive Hillary in the mode of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.  This shifted over time to the consensus candidate who would unite America.  Yet at the end voters were uncertain if she was any of these brands.

But it just isn’t in politics that we see this.  Recall the Duck Dynasty scandal several years ago when Phil Robertson made homophobic and racist remarks.  He and Duck Dynasty survived and continue to flourish because he was seen as being consistent with the brand.  Yet Paula Deen who was seen for years as a nice grandmotherly person saw her brand crumble when it was revealed she had used the ‘n’ word.  This went against her whole brand identity and she has yet to this day to recover.

The lesson that Trump and others serve is that by being consistent with a brand identity forged over the year will allow a brand to weather the worse of scandals and allow for even greater success.  Having no brand identity or going against an established brand identity is a recipe for disaster.

Keeping Your Brand Relevant With The Media

Today’s media world is 24/7, and reporters are hungry for breaking trends and stimulating story ideas. Pressure is high for brand communicators to create a steady stream of captivating stories.

A major challenge is that not all news is the breaking kind — and sometimes there’s a drought of fresh information altogether. What’s a brand to do?

Here are the tips to get the coverage you need:

  • Don’t depend on someone to hand you newsworthy information; find it. Identify trends that have press buzzing, and figure out how your brand can add an interesting perspective to the conversation.
  • Media coverage is cyclic. Flip through a lifestyle magazine in January and you’ll find some version of a “New Year’s Resolutions”, “Healthy Diet Tips” stories. April’s issue? “Springtime”. You can bank on the consistency of seasonal reporting and devise new hooks to sell existing content that will keep your brand relevant.
  • Give reporters a complete story idea with multiple points. Even consider referencing a competitor if it’ll strengthen your case (strategically, of course). Journalists don’t have time to take your news and find the missing pieces to make it a trend worth sharing. You have to do the work for them and reap the benefits.

Donald Trump’s Communications Strategy – Is the End Near?

Businessman and Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump continues to dominate the media as he has since announcing for president. His latest firestorm is his proposal to ban Muslims seeking to enter the United States. Trump made his proposal as the focus of the campaign has shifted to terrorism following the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California. Trump’s proposal has created a firestorm with fellow candidates, House Speaker Paul Ryan, former Vice President Dick Cheney, foreign leaders, and the White House all condemning it. Pundits are predicting this latest from Trump will spell his demise. Yet despite this, Trump is not backing down and all campaign coverage is about him drowning out his opponents. So far voters are still backing him and in many ways he seems to have a better understanding of what is motivating voters than experienced politicians.

So how should Trump proceed from a communications point on this proposal?

  1. Ignore his critics and stand by his proposal. His proposal is audacious, outrageous, decisive, unrepentant, and brash all in one. It also falls in line with what the Trump brand is all about and why so many voters have bought into it.
  2. Continue in his interviews and the upcoming debates to point out that his plan is no more extreme than Franklin Delano Roosevelt interning Japanese-Americans during World War II. But go beyond that and point out that we are engaged in a real war with radical Islam and during previous times of war that American leaders have gone to extreme – Lincoln suspending habeas corpus during the Civil War and Woodrow Wilson jailing war critics and deporting radicals during World War I.
  3. Point out that the job of the President is to save lives and if his action saves one American life and thwarts one terror attack the price is worth it.
  4. Point out that his proposal is for the duration of the war against ISIS and then will expire.
  5. Point out that the Obama Administration has failed not only to destroy but even contain ISIS.
  6. Emphasize that we are war and war is not pretty or politically correct.
  7. State that he is who he is, he isn’t politically correct but a decisive leader and this is what this nation needs.
  8. Challenge his critics to show a plan that would be foolproof to prevent terrorists from entering the nation.

Donald Trump has billed his candidacy on the fact that he isn’t politically correct but is a strong leader in a time that America needs just that. With his master showmanship, he has caught the attention of voters by appealing to them on the issues that matter most to them in language that they understand. He has shown that he knows the most important rule of communications – know your audience, a fact the other candidates have failed to grasped. If he communicates his latest proposal convincingly, not only will he be poised to win the Republican nomination but perhaps the White House as well.

The Republican Party’s Trump Messaging Strategy – What’s Next?

Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump has set off yet again another media firestorm. The Republican frontrunner has called for all Muslims seeking to enter the United States to be barred from doing so. This came as the focus of the presidential campaign has turned to terrorism after the terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California and what many see as the Obama Administration’s ineffectual response to the war on terror. Polls show anti-Muslim sentiment on the rise in the United States as a result of the attacks. Trump’s Republican rivals many condemned his proposal as have other leading Republicans such as former Vice President Cheney. Florida Congressman David Jolly, a candidate for the United States Senate has called for Trump to withdraw from the presidential race because of his stand. Pundits believe that this stunt will cost both Trump and the Republican Party.

So what should the Republican message be in response to Donald Trump?

  1. Condemn him and his antics once and for all as having no place within the Republican Party. They have become a distraction from serious issues facing the nation.
  2. Refuse to let him participate in the debates. One of the sources of Trump’s success is his access to free media especially the debates.
  3. Have House Speaker Paul Ryan address the nation on the Republican position on the war against terror.
    1. Ryan should point out we are not at war against Muslims but radical Islam in the form of ISIS. In doing so, he should point out how during the Cold War, every President from Truman to Reagan made the point that it was the Soviet system of government not the Russian people that were opposed too. In World War II, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Dwight Eisenhower made it clear that it was the Axis leadership not the peoples of Japan, Germany, and Italy.
    2. That discriminating against any religion or ethnicity is wrong and goes against not only the values of America but that upon which the Party of Abraham Lincoln was founded.
    3. Explain that this is a war and there will be civilian casualties. It can’t be fought by words but by strong actions and define how Republicans if elected will differ from both Donald Trump and President Obama in prosecuting and winning the war.
    4. Arrange for Republican leaders and figures from the Reagan and the two Bush Administrations along with Tea Party leaders to address the Trump issue and state that his words are an insult to the memory of Ronald Reagan and if Reagan was alive today he would denounce Trump.
    5. Dare Donald Trump to run as an independent if he wants too but let him and the American people know there is no room for him in the Republican Party.
    6. Use humor to belittle him not his followers.

Donald Trump is a showman and also a bully. In some ways he is reminiscent of Joe McCarthy. Attacking him as Republicans have done by treating him as an equal and with seriousness has failed. Rather they should take a page out of their two greatest post-war Presidents – Eisenhower and Reagan. Isolate Trump and use humor at his expense, in doing that and the above mentioned strategy, Trumpamania will disappear and Republicans will be stronger with America at large and it will be their Sister Soulja moment.

Starbucks Red Cup Controversy? A Publicity Score!

Unless a person has been totally hidden from social media or traditional media, they know that Starbucks has unveiled its Christmas season cup. The cup is plain red with the Starbucks logo emblazoned on it. The company kept it simple with the traditional colors of the season in an effort to foster inclusiveness and diversity it claimed. The reaction has been incredible. Many claiming to be leading Christians blasted the company for omitting traditional holiday messages on the cup as in pervious years or missing the reason of the season. In fact the Starbucks holiday cup has been one of the biggest stories on social media and in traditional media. The Starbucks holiday cup has been of the most frequent searches on Google. Starbucks has emerged as a branding winner in this story.

How were they able to make this controversy a winner for the brand?

First they were very measured in their response to critics. Rather than ignore the controversy or go into full crisis mode, they were nuanced. On their website they reiterated their main point of why they were doing the simple red cup. For millions who buy into the Starbucks’ brand story that response just reinforced their belief in the brands. For others, it was a non-story not pitting Starbucks against its critics. And the media could not make a bigger story of the controversy from the company’s response so the story continued to be the new holiday cup and not Starbucks versus its critics.

With the increased noise over the Starbucks’ holiday cup, the Starbucks website saw increased traffic. Starbucks with this increased traffic in mind put its holiday offerings – Christmas blend and other products front and center on the website. What a great way to advertise!

Long term as I mentioned it reinforced the brand identity to its loyal customers. Consumers expect their brands to tell a story and share their values. Starbucks in this holiday cup saga reinforced the social values that so many of its loyal consumers have come to expect from the company.

Finally, Starbucks reaped millions in free publicity. It was a major story in all of the media. Social media is still several days later abuzz with the story. People who know little about Starbucks and its various holiday offerings now do. All achieved at very little cost to the company.

Starbucks has emerged as a major winner with its holiday cup saga. Other brands can learn from it.

Why Businesses Should Include A Public Relations Strategy In Their Plans

Less than one percent of small and medium size businesses have a public relations strategy. The challenge is that many businesses simply do not understand what public relations actually is and what it will do for them in terms of business growth and branding. Many business owners and executives equate public relations component with paid advertising. They do not recognize the difference and value of ongoing media coverage which puts them out as thought leaders in their industry that customers will seek out and which is the best way to enhance a business’ brand.

Small and medium size businesses looking to grow and position themselves as leaders should look to public relations and its value in supporting growth. A modest budget combined with an ongoing program will reap consistent rewards. To educate prospects who are not familiar with public relations, I compare public relations activities to mortgage payments. When you carry a mortgage, you make a monthly payment until you own the home. Public relations activities should build awareness and attract attention over time.  These efforts ultimately enhance a business’s reputation and standing in its market.

One of the biggest things businesses seek to determine is ROI for publicity efforts. Media placements, which include articles, story links and video news coverage, need to be utilized and pushed via social media, sent directly to prospects and integrated into sales packages to reinforce branding and enhance business development. Simply gaining media coverage without reusing it is where many businesses fail.

Many small business owners succumb to “shiny object syndrome.” They hear about new marketing tools, strategies and services, and want them even though they have no idea how these services actually work or if they will work. They gravitate to this while public relations and its tremendous value is not prioritized.

Businesses often fail to see how publicity helps generate interest, support salespeople, enhances SEO, creates high quality social media content and positions experts as leaders.

Finally, businesses need to know that publicity is an insurance policy for protecting their brand and reputation. A crisis situation can happen to any business at and given time. If a business crisis hits the media or online, failure to have the ability to respond or properly react could mean the demise of a business. Having a public relations and crisis communications strategy in place when a crisis hits protects brands, businesses, products and people.

As we head into the fall and many businesses think about their marketing pushes, they should also include public relations in their planning.