Dec
10

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I stumbled upon this presentation from Stanley Hainsworth, former VP global creative at Starbucks and now Founder and CCO of Tether, a creative agency based in Seattle WA.

I don’t know the specific reason why it was created, but it’s actually a good template for thinking about how to create or re-energize a brand. Though it starts out by saying that “our visual identity is contained within a simple bean”, it really does get to the heart of the Starbucks brand idea.

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Track through the presentation and you’ll be prompted to consider your:

– creation story
– narrative
– rituals
– relationships
– brand experience
– value proposition
– values
– products
– communication
– icons
– sensory cues

…all the things that add up to creating a cohesive brand expression.

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…and a uniquely branded experience.

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Dec
01

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We always travel to Florida to spend Thanksgiving with my in-laws. Who I adore by the way:)

And just like you can’t take the boy out of the man, you can’t take the passion and curiosity about brand out of a brand guy. I love cataloguing my brand experiences over this holiday. It’s a pretty stressful time and it’s crowded everywhere, so I like to see how brands hold up under pressure.

So, here’s my list of my most memorable brand experiences, including those whose experiences deliver on their promises (who I will name), and those that don’t (who I won’t name, as it is the holiday season).

Do Deliver

1. Amazon: Their customer service is tops, as you’d expect from an organization that strives to be the most customer-centric company on the planet. We had to return two items over the course of the week, and as always, immediate refund, no questions asked. And love that you can speak to someone live or via chat at the hit of a button.

2. JCrew: We went for the style, purchased a great suit for our son who needed it right away for a special occasion (at a wonderful holiday discount), and left delighted as they offered to tailor and have it back to him in two days (on Black Friday).

3. Raceway Gasoline: Who proclaim “Are You Tired of Overpaying for Gasoline.” I stopped by twice with my father in-law over the course of five days. It was later in the evening, and I really wanted a cup of coffee. After filling up the car, I went for my coffee. On both occasions, the gentleman behind the counter said “don’t worry about.” A small gesture, maybe. But I’m now a Raceway fan!

Don’t Deliver

1. The discount airline that boasts cheap tickets, cheap flights, cheap travel. But to now charge for the plastic cup of water on the flight. Well, that’s a bit too cheap.

2. The national coffee chain (not Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts) whose “express service” at Ft. Lauderdale airport doesn’t have any milk for coffee, but only those little creamers.

3. The airport (which happens to be in Newark NJ) that still charges for public WIFI access.

4. The yogurt shop in Del Ray Beach that refused to give a customer more sprinkles after they fumbled with the cup while removing it from the counter, claiming “it wasn’t our fault.”

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Nov
21

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When it comes to benevolence and building brand trust, there’s an important difference (for today’s customers who are looking beyond traditional brand benefits) between brands that just write the check vs. those that authentically demonstrate their commitment.

Personal care brand Philosophy is doing both. It’s making mental health its marketing cornerstone through its Hope & Grace initiative, and helping in its own way, to actively support and help solve the problem.

You can read the Ad Age article announcing the initiative here.

Efforts include:

• Making an open-ended commitment of donating 1% of all U.S. sales to mental health, which Philosophy believes fits with its heritage of its optimistic messaging. This dovetails, as of 2015, with the relaunch of the brand’s flagship product, Hope in a Jar, as Hope Renewed.

• Making the mental-health initiative a cornerstone of all brand marketing for years to come. Philosophy is also creating unbranded TV public-service announcements for the effort, and may take to TV with branded efforts as well, says Coty Skincare CMO Jill Scalamandre.

• Ultimately, expanding overseas, and hoping to raise more than $10 million for mental health over the next five years alone.

• Parent company Coty joining with the non-profit New Venture Fund to oversee the program, screen applications and award grants averaging $25,000 to community organizations. Ms. Scalamandre expects the process – both the applications and awards – to help build social-media awareness of the program, too.

But why mental health? Ms. Scalamandre said the beauty industry has focused mainly on breast and ovarian cancer and that mental health has a stigma she believes has kept marketers away. “Our role at Philosophy is to break the stigma, to be advocates and not be ashamed.” She also wanted to go beyond other cause programs dedicated to a single product, month or time of year. As we looked at our core consumer, the mental-health space just came out as a natural place for Philosophy to be and own.”

One in four women suffer some form of mental health problem, she said, “a spectrum of anything from depression and anxiety to a traumatic life event that triggers acute depression, to bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.”

Here’s the video introducing the Hope & Grace initiative.

The better a brand brings its societal purpose to life through its everyday operations, the more successful both business and social impact will be (Edelman Purpose study). As such, this program is a win-win as it strengthens Philosophy consumers, company and brand.

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Nov
17

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As a longstanding Bloomingdales “Loyalist” (enrolled in their loyalty program), I thought I was being recognized for my years of brand dedication, not to mention financial commitment. It was also my card of choice for everyday purchases. So wasn’t this program designed to reward my tenure as a brand devotee as well as my contributions to building the value of the Bloomingdales brand?

Wasn’t this relationship a two-way street.  I promoted “Loyalist”, referred friends and family, frequented events, engaged socially, and participated in online promotions. I was even on a first name basis with several sales associates. And for my years of loyalty, I was rewarded with key benefits – one of which was unlimited complimentary gift-wrap. Now this may not sound important, but to me it provided much needed relief from this dreaded chore. Always time starved, this extra was meaningful to me.

I soon learned that ‘brand loyalty’ was one sided. After a visit to ‘my’ store to buy some early holiday gifts, my wonderful sales associate offered to wrap my gifts – free of charge of course – ready for pick-up. Pressed for time yet again, Bloomies pulled through. However, my bubble was soon burst after I learned from a call to customer service, “as one of their most valued customers”, that I no longer qualified for ‘top of the list’ (their term, not mine) loyalist status.

Without being notified, my spending over the course of this year at Bloomies was not enough to maintain my premier card and benefits. So Bloomies loyalty to me only really amounted to me spending enough money each year – despite my many YEARS of brand loyalty (and my first year of spending under this threshold).  And I learned about my ‘demotion’ in status through a random call on an unrelated inquiry. I felt let down. Used. Like I’d been dumped.

So what can brand marketers learn from this experience?

1. You know how hard it is to build brand loyalty, let alone advocacy. You fight this fight every day. So don’t destroy it through one short-sighted action, or inaction for that matter. We’re your most precious assets and some of us, like me, are (were) your biggest brand advocates.

2. Brand loyalty should be recognized beyond simple spending levels. There are many other dimensions that constitute value to an organization (like our advocacy and engagement), and these should be factored into the loyalty equation.

3. Brands talk about the importance of building relationships. On being on a path with customers of increasing co-involvement and value-building – with the end goal of true engagement. We refer to this as Customer Engagement Trajectory. But this needs to be a two-way street.

A note to healthcare marketers. It seems healthcare practices and providers can take a page out of the retailing ‘brand loyalty’ handbook (the good parts) and start to think of customers (and patients) as brand ambassadors with the power to advocate for your brand. Further, why not establish a recognition and reward program to let your patients know that you genuinely appreciate their business, their referrals, their family’s devotion…and more.

With today’s growing use of CRM (customer relationship management) in healthcare, the foundation is there to learn more about your customers, personalize what you offer them, and recognize them for their continued contribution to your organization in the form of ongoing and continued business. But remember, loyalty – and true engagement (with a stronger correlation to ROI, revenue and profitability) is a two way street!

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Nov
13

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It’s easy to answer why. In a nutshell, because parallax provides more of an immersive and engaging brand experience for prospective healthcare customers – who are increasingly digital health care customers. Which means winning the battle for attention and share requires winning the battle to engage them more fully online.

Parallax has made quite a digital impact since becoming the hot web design trend in 2011. From Sony to Spotify, big brands have made the jump to Parallax scrolling-focused websites as a way to break out from the more traditional website mold.

In fact, here are 50 great examples of parallax websites.

What makes Parallax stand out?

It starts with its signature scrolling feature, which provides a faux 3D effect when filtering through a website – allowing the site’s background to move a little bit slower than the foreground of the site. In the process delivering it’s 3D effect as you scroll down the page and turning sites into more of an engaging brand experience, beyond just that of a functional, informational hub.

Why should someone, specifically in the healthcare marketing field, look to Parallax to imagine or re-imagine their website? Here are five reasons why.

1. Enhanced Presentation & Engagement

The Parallax design feature delivers the potential to showcase images, content, products and services in a bright, engagingly vivid way that makes visitors take immediate notice. Due to these technical advancements, Parallax lets users interact with a site without relying heavily on Flash or video, allowing for a completely engrossing experience.

2. Showcasing 3D Visuals

Parallax websites allow users to experience visuals in a completely new way. Instead of static, flat images, Parallax sites have the potential to deliver 3D visuals that are controlled by the user’s scrolling. Utilizing this feature effectively will allow for a site (especially within the more conservative healthcare arena) to stand out from the competition.

3. Demonstrate a Story through an Avatar

So often in healthcare there is a narrative showcasing the benefit of a service or treatment. So detailing that story is key. Parallax can be utilized in a creative way to do just that. By creating an avatar that takes visitors through a typical patient journey, Parallax can be used to enhance the storyline.

4. Showcase A Timeline

So many healthcare organizations have great histories (backstories) and accomplishments.  Showcasing that timeline in a creative and immersive way can add depth, difference and trust – and just might help break the ties versus other providers.

5. Leave Them Wanting More

Have you ever read a book so good that you keep reading until the wee hours of the morning? We’ve all been there, you’re about to put the book down…and then something hooks you at the end of the chapter. Something so interesting you had to keep going. That’s true engagement. A strategy that can also be utilized on a Parallax website.

All content is about telling a story. The difference with Parallax scrolling is that it allows the designer to eke out that story, enticing the user to the point where they have to continue to learn more. By engaging with the user as they first enter, to the point where they need to continue the story, the reader becomes further engrossed in the site. As each scroll down the website is a new page, this feature quickly begins to parallel an engaging book that can’t be put down.

Conclusion

Parallax scrolling can be used in a multitude of digital ways to reach out and interact with the user. Whether that is as a passive guide, or a motivated narrator with Parallax, a website is a way for users to immerse themselves in your story (and hopefully theirs) in a way they couldn’t before.

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Nov
10

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If you use words like quality, trust and compassionate care to describe your brand promise or positioning – stop advertising, stop marketing, stop communicating. 

Because without a distinctive and compelling brand foundation, your messaging is just noise, your experiences are merely one-off interactions and you’re not giving prospects (or fellow employees) anything to emotionally connect to.

Before you say another word, consider the answers to these five questions:
1. who are you?
2. why do you matter?
3. what makes you different?
4. what do you stand for?
5. why should people never stop believing in you?


It’s tough to cut through in the best of times. Let alone when everything around you – like your category, competitors and empowered customers – is changing. For your sake and for the sake of your organization, make sure that you’re giving people something to connect to and believe in. Beyond your accomplishments, quality, technology and compassionate care.

Make sure that you’re inspiring and supporting them in what they care about most – their desire to live better, healthier and happier lives.

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