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90 days, and counting

Monday, August 25th, 2014

HEUER-STOP-WATCH-STH810As of today, we have precisely 90 business days left until 2015. In addition to fall being “back to school” season, it’s also “getting back to business” time as we begin the sprint to year-end and the promise of the new year ahead.

Bear Bryant famously said, “It’s not the will to win that matters. . . everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.”

It’s difficult to understand any company being satisfied with the status quo of their business. By now, many of us have learned that this isn’t exactly the age for complacency. The climate is volatile and shifting rapidly; every business market is disruptive and unpredictable. Things change and new opportunities — and challenges — arise. For the marketing industry, it’s the globalization of labor, but also the digital revolution, which has created thousands of new micro channels through which we build brands.

As confusing as it is, this is definitely not the time to wait it out on the sideline, or feel content with traditional practices. If anything, there’s an urgent need to assess the organizational plan, tighten or sharpen all messaging, and better define the most appropriate channels.

At our offices, we are in meeting several times each week to better understand the behaviors of buyers in those markets where our clients work, as well as the ones where we work. We ask, “What changes to value are driving their emerging needs, and how to be positioned more effectively to serve those needs?” It’s about practical, tangible business results more than it ever has been.

On the client side, it can be a daring, brave gesture for any leader in any organization to raise their hand and suggest that the brand can be challenged, that the modus operandi of marketing operations can be better. The inaction, however, is definitely the greater evil.

What actions can you take now to prepare to take your organization further, grow your business, and seize emerging opportunities in the market? How can you improve the performance of your brand and communications? What would empower you to compete more effectively than you have in previous years?

You can make 2015 as successful as you wish. All it takes is a commitment to make smart decisions, work hard, and build your brand with clear and compelling messaging that conveys your value proposition.

IridiumGroup can help your organization define the obstacles, set goals, develop your strategy, and create a strategic marketing and communications plan that will lead to a successful platform for your brand. Together, we can develop the tactical tools to engage and activate new business opportunities to enable positive change for your organization.

Some of our most successful clients have taken those steps; others are working to position themselves to capture emerging opportunities. There’s no time like the present for you to get started. Visit our website to learn more, or contact me to discuss how we can collaborate on your behalf – and make the most of the 90 days ahead.

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What’s So Social About Social Media?

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Columbus, Ohio – February 1995. Another consultant and I were touring the offices of the now defunct CompuServe, an early forerunner of AOL and other online communities. As we sat in cubicles and peered over the shoulders of staff giving us demos of the online capabilities, someone observed that members could spend their whole lives online — to which an astute editor retorted, “or their non-lives.”

There’s a great Op-Ed in The Times today titled, “Love People, Not Pleasure.”

Arthur C. Brooks writes, “Today, each of us can build a personal little fan base, thanks to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and the like. We can broadcast the details of our lives to friends and strangers in an astonishingly efficient way. That’s good for staying in touch with friends, but it also puts a minor form of fame-seeking within each person’s reach. And several studies show that it can make us unhappy.”

“It makes sense. What do you post to Facebook? Pictures of yourself yelling at your kids, or having a hard time at work? No, you post smiling photos of a hiking trip with friends. You build a fake life — or at least an incomplete one — and share it. Furthermore, you consume almost exclusively the fake lives of your social media “friends.” Unless you are extraordinarily self-aware, how could it not make you feel worse to spend part of your time pretending to be happier than you are, and the other part of your time seeing how much happier others seem to be than you?”

Love People, Not Pleasure

The article is an adept and compelling view of the current world we live in, one which is rife with images of luxury and success, all broadcast and transmitted over a million channels of marketing. From aspirations of fame (reality television) to social media (Facebook), to the pursuit of money or any other dalliances that we can all be prone to chase, Brooks shares a complete and well-reasoned argument for a more spiritual life.

In his words, “It is the worldly snake oil peddled by the culture makers from Hollywood to Madison Avenue. But you know in your heart that it is morally disordered and a likely road to misery.”

Thankfully — and I’d like to think there is a reason for this, Iridium doesn’t work in consumer marketing or advertising. We’re strictly corporate, focused on business services and institutional finance. This Op-Ed by Arthur Brooks reminds me of why we would be so poorly suited to that branding culture.

*     *     *

A few weeks ago, I was negligent in sharing another gem by David Carr, an article on just how truly effective — or ineffective — those ubiquitous enewsletters are.  We all rely on them and at IridiumGroup, we can confirm that all client organizations are pursuing original content as an important marketing technique to differentiate themselves and position as a leader in their respective categories of business. It’s an interesting article that champions a technology (and medium) that I was surprised to learn is now 40 years old.

For Email Newsletters, a Death Greatly Exaggerated

Amazon Unveils E-Book Subscription Service, With Some Notable Absences

 

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Branding America

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

made-america-logoThere’s been a lot published about the U.S. trade agreements lately, about the growing deficit in U.S. trade with other countries. President Obama realized a setback in Tokyo with the Trans-Pacific Partnership when Japan failed to commit to opening its markets in rice, beef, pork and poultry.

At the same time, McKinsey Global Institute (the think tank within McKinsey Consulting) just published a report that the view of global trade changes that we all have — cheap manufacturing in Asian countries landing on store shelves at Walmart, at the expense of more manufacturing jobs in the U.S. — is not exactly correct. According to Susan Lund, an author of the report, that image is less and less relevant with each passing year.  “In fact, the growing and larger share of global trade right now is about knowledge-intensive goods and services,” said Lund.

Growth in Global Trade Is in Ideas, Not Stuff

The report apparently details the full range of “global flows” which reflect interconnections of any type around the world. This means that it looks not only at the trade in goods and services, but also the flow of currency among countries, as well as information being shared through digital channels.

According to The New York Times, “What it shows is a world in which the fastest-growing forms of interconnection are not the ones that fit a lot of those preconceptions.”

In a recent opinion piece authored by the editors at The Times, the Obama administration and the U.S. should learn lessons from the North American Free Trade Agreement and use that knowledge to forge better agreements in the future.

This Time, Get Global Trade Right

Our country has lost about 5 million manufacturing jobs over the last 20 years, even as we all embrace the benefits of outsourced jobs through less expensive products. As we move more deeply into a truly globalized economy, it’s clear that we are truly ambivalent about the process and results. We lose jobs, and wages are much lower now as we work to compete with labor in other countries. But we also understand that we can reap tremendous benefits, especially if the U.S. is able to equitably manage the ratio of imports to exports, opening up new markets for goods, services — and yes, ideas and information — created here.

It has me thinking: How would my industry make a significant contribution to the epic, Goliath-proportioned challenge of trade for our country? It seems apparent that the U.S. is not at all well liked in some countries, and for reasons that require no research. A history of imperialism, military aggression, and a strong sense of nationalism has created a deeply entrenched image problem that no American company or industry could possibly weather.

★★★ We can talk all we want about putting America back to work, but no one will see much change until we manage to build a desire for what we make here. It’s a global economy, and our goods are not getting the best store placement.

It starts with creating a desire to want American things. What are the opportunities to correct global perceptions of the U.S.? Also, what can we build on, as we aim to package brands for products created in the U.S.? One can easily imagine a consortium of leading advertising, branding, and marketing companies playing a role to define and solve the problem. Like any large scale branding initiative, the methodology is the same: Baseline performance. Architect a global scale of research that would inform and guide the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to U.S. brands. Execute and implement a system of solutions. To rally a strong sense of support, I would even create an internal label and communications to share the goal of the work, the importance of its success, the critical need for everyone to pitch in, back our nation as one collective interest, determined to make our own goods, services, and information all desirable in other economies.

How does all this get paid for? Simple. The U.S. Federal government is one source, of course. The other is an incentivized program for funding through industry associations who represent these trades. The American public and U.S. based businesses would also respond in an unprecedented way, given the opportunity.

A recent article even illustrated how U.S. hotel brands are being faked, or emulated in order to win customers in Asia. Hotels like the Haiyatt in China have nothing to do with the Hyatt brand, but the marketing is successful as customers are drawn to the impression of that kind of luxury. The Peninsula Hotel in Yangcheng has nothing to do with the Peninsula brand in the U.S., but also enjoys similar success.

Welcome to the Haiyatt. In China, It’s Not the Hotel It Sounds Like.

How can we best capitalize on the equity of our current image? Is there a mandated, common national label that could accompany every U.S. product and service abroad? Are there other “change-image” campaigns that could build interest in our goods? What ideas would the world’s best advertising minds generate, in order to change the fixed image of our country and its people? Unlike the impressions that many people have of advertising, not all of it is fake or finessed in some way. There are indeed successful campaigns that change a perception — opportunities to enlighten us, educate us, about the benefits of a particular product or idea.

The politicians and academics can and should look at policy and international agreements. As for me, I would welcome the challenge, even at a pro bono level, to contribute to the problem through enacting change of large-scale bias, empowering our country through affecting global impressions of our national brand. U.S products and services are indeed viable on the world stage. One idea can be a powerful thing, and the right endeavor would seem to transform a world of opinion, which is always an inspirational thing.

Obama Suffers Setbacks in Japan and the Mideast

 

 

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Redefining the Corporate Video

Monday, March 24th, 2014

I love watching companies innovate. It wasn’t long ago, a few short years really, when we were all amazed to see the power of the web whenever someone uploaded a cute video of a kitten, or the global, breathtaking speed of a Facebook post that went viral in seconds. The spectacle with PR exec Justine Sacco at IAC comes to mind — she had no more tweeted and boarded her plane when the tweet went viral; reporters were waiting in South Africa to get comments as she landed. From its humble grassroots in consumer expression to the Boardrooms of major multinationals, viral content has grown up.

Advertisers are just beginning to imagine and redefine the opportunities available to them through viral digital marketing, specifically in video format. In fact, many of the top companies are studying Twitter trending in order to develop a better understanding of what works.

It was to be expected. The opportunities are clearly there and the cost-to-benefit is a no-brainer when marketers weigh the cost of purchasing traditional media space. Corporate video reminds me of all those dated hallmark cards that seem so stale and dusty in my local stationery stores; it’s a market that is ripe and just begging to be reinvented. I predict that branded content in video — the really good, smart kind with sophisticated production values — will be making its way onto social venues in the coming months and years, a wise way to get customers engaged that is infinitely more effective than broadcast and print, or those ubiquitous, digital tombstone ads.

Advertisers Use Social Media to Promote Brands in Real Time

From Virgin Atlantic, the good folks who always seem to set a new standard and lead the way for the rest of us, we have a customer/passenger video that presents us with something we could never fathom: An in-flight safety video that is actually entertaining.

Amazingly Good Branding Lessons From Virgin America’s New Dance Video (Yes, Dance)

It’s not only the choreography and performances that are impressive.  Virgin also made it interactive. When passengers (and everyone watching who isn’t on a plane) sees the video, there’s a box asking if you would like to participate in the making of the next video. Virgin committed to creating four videos per year and saw the chance to make this a fun exercise for anyone wishing to play a part. In doing so, they have engaged a far larger audience of customers than anyone could have imagined with an in-flight safety video. Some might argue, that reach is broader than a traditional 30 second spot which would have far more fleeting, less memorable, and more expensive. The in-flight series has a much longer shelf-life and can be repurposed for years across infinite channels.

Audition contests for performing arts? Inclusivity? Videos with exceptional entertainment value that also engages everyone in their brand, and gets customers to learn about safety? It’s not just a best-in-field execution — it’s innovation, a smart application of a new medium that should have marketing executives everywhere working to emulate the experience.

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Posted in Advertising, Brand Identity, Brand Image, Business, Customer Experience, Design, Marketing, Media, Technology | No Comments »

 
DWAYNE FLINCHUM
Founder & President,
IridiumGroup Inc.

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