February 20, 2010#

“Why Johnny Can’t Brand” to be published in Asia as “The 8 Week Brand Secret”

We want to thank Sterling Publishers in India for the honor of entering the Indian/Asian market– the biggest business book market in the world. The Asian edition will be titled:  The 8 Week Brand Secret: How to discover the Big Idea. Expect it out this spring.

February 20, 2010#

“Why Johnny Can’t Brand” makes list of ‘Top 7 books for Copywriters’ on Amazon.com

It’s quite a day for a couple of itinerant brand gurus to get their book on a list on Amazon.com with the likes of the Brand Titans, David Ogilvy, Claude Hopkins and Victor Schwab. But thanks to Diane Durante and her excellent blog, we did.  Diane is a copywriting expert and teacher www.versaquill.com who appreciated the “How-To” quality of our book Why Johnny Can’t Brand: Rediscovering the lost art of the Big Idea. And there’s more Why Johnny Can’t Brand news…

February 18, 2010#

Mr. Godin: Don’t be so cavalier about those little cliches…

Seth Godin just wrote a post on ‘cliches’ which gets him into Micro-Script territory–our territory. See “How to Use Cliches” at http://sethgodin.typepad.com. True, many of what we call cliches are so tired, they don’t mean much any more and for a writer, they can just be lazy speech. The empty language ones that is. Like “Artsy-fartsy” and “it’s an ace in the hole.”

But clichés represent some of the most effective Micro-scripts of all time. A great many clichés are just a Micro-script invented somewhere in history that was so popular and true that it became a platitude. Anything can be a cliche, not just words. Like a famous historic site. The leaning Tower of Pisa. It’s a travel cliche. But the reason it became one is that it is so incredible, everybody had to see it and tell others about it. Go see it if you think I’m wrong.

I say, a writer should be so great as to create phrases that are so succinct, memorable and repeatable, that they become clichés. Fact is, millions of people including you and me only know them because they’re brilliant. A lot were invented by wise men like Ben Franklin, Bill Shakespeare and the writers of the Bible. The good ones are often verbalized Rules of Thumb, a.k.a. mental heuristics to cope with everyday living. Parents teach them to us to install conventional wisdom. I taught them to my little kids because I want them to remember instantly: Where there’s smoke there’s fire. Live and let live. No pain, no gain. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And how about this little cliche: Do unto others as you’d have others do to you. As one of the great Talmudic scholars said: “That’s the entire Bible in one sentence. All the rest is commentary.”

Pretty good one, huh. I’d like to be able to write cliches like that.

January 31, 2010#

Starbucks Again Seeks Its ‘Dominant Identity for Challenger Brands’

We keep reading that Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is seeking new ways to get his minions back to the basics that made them great entrepreneurs once upon a time–before Starbucks got so big and mainstream, that it became ‘the man.’ It’s not news that Starbucks has had its share of business and brand setbacks in the past few years. And it can no longer be entirely blamed on the bad economy that’s forced the closings of a few stores. Starbucks should have been realizing that a brand essentially built by performance and thus Word of Mouth, not big advertising, would be dismantled by Word of Mouth if they ever started doing things like making Lattes by machine (ohmygawd, like Dunkin Donuts). Which they started doing. Still for $4 bucks a pop.

So now three years after we made a speech at Starbucks world headquarters based on our book Why Johnny Can’t Brand–essentially to tell them “now that you’ve built one of the modern era’s legendary brands, the hard part is staying there. Look to the truly great brands that have lasted for 70 or 80 years– you need to at least understand what they did to stay on top for so long.”

What we wanted to tell them is what Howard Schultz is telling them: You need to get your hungry entrepreneur’s spirit back. You’ve got to think and act like a challenger again– wanting to change the game, make a big difference with the fewest resources, damn the torpedoes. Change the world, change the game.

At David ID we’ve always defined our mission as finding Dominant Identity for Challenger Brands. We’ve always reminded our clients, even the ones that are global corporations–that the greatest, longest lasting brands never stop seeing themselves as challengers do.

We’re glad Mr. Schultz is finally listening.

January 31, 2010#

Is This The Silo-Buster Between Marketing and Sales?

The cynical old ad agency joke goes– “what’s the difference between sales and marketing people? Marketing people know they’re lying.”

There’s always been a disconnect at best and a battle at worst between sales and marketing in business organizations. And the inevitable result has been silos, frustratration, distrust and at the end of it all–serious loss of effectiveness. Marketers’ brilliant minds create positioning, strategy and value propositions which somehow fail to be transmitted to sales people in the field. Sales people go around spraying and praying, missing Marketing’s vital message.

We’re finding that the simple exercise of crafting your messages into Micro-Scripts using the creativity  to concentrate your entire selling message into a sentence or less that any person can easily repeat–not only forces you to stay focused on a crystal clear strategy, it becomes a magic bridge that keeps marketing and sales connected like never before.

You’ll find it’s automatic, once you start aiming beyond the strategy statement to the Micro-Script that’s going to make it go viral in your marketplace because now anyone can talk about it. When you understand that in any strategy exercise, your real end game is an actual vivid set of words that can verbalize it into a Word of Mouth exchange across the backyard fence; when you realize that if you can’t make it that simple and compelling, then your strategy’s not simple and compelling enough yet–you’ll be developing marketing that infuses the sales force along with your customer base. And just as important, the sales force will be coming back to you with more astute insights for your marketing.

Micro-Scripts are turning out to be a focuser of everything they touch in the communications process. They force your message to get on track and stay there like few other tools we’ve ever found.

December 2, 2009#

Brand positioning or value proposition?

Earlier this year we presented a webinar on value propositions and  in many of the questions and  commentary that followed,  the brand  positioning and the value proposition were treated as though they were interchangable or were completly unrelated elements. So, I thought it might be valuable to discuss this further.

Brand positioning and value propositions share many similar characteristics, like differentiation, simplicity, relevance and importance.  They are part of a continuum but serve different purposes. The positioning is the core from which everything else emanates. When done right, it helps guide a host of activites from marketing communication to new product development for a long time.  It is the single-minded idea that a brand must continually strive to achieve and perfect. Value propositions are much more focused on the immediate transaction opportunity- they clearly state the value a customer can expect to get today, they can be changed as circumstances evolve, they can be created for  specific segments of the market, and they often include specific financial benefits, such as savings, ROI, faster results, etc. 

The brand positioning should inspire and guide the value propositions. Ideally, the value proposition would make the positioning more specific and tangable for a clearly defined group of customers. In our engagements we take participants through a series of exercises designed to connect the brand positioning to well defined market opportunities through clear, well supported  statements of value.

September 4, 2009#

Thank You Canada

In 1882, Peter MeGuire, an American labor leader, headed north to witness a Canadian labor festival.  It was this visit that inspired the creation of our Labor Day.  

What does this have to do with branding?


Just want to wish all our readers an enjoyable, restful, sun-filled and labor-free long weekend.

September 3, 2009#

Is Southwest Heading South?

Just last year, Southwest Airlines ran a campaign proudly pronouncing that they had “no hidden fees,” clearly taking a jab at the other airlines.    Just another indication of Southwest’s unique, unconventional and customer focused business approach. Consumers loved it.

Well, it appears that’s all about to change.  As was reported in the Wall Street Journal this morning, while they may not be hidden, Southwest is adding all kinds of extra fees that are starting to make them look an awful like those other airlines they like to point their finger at.

Here’s the problem.  Southwest isn’t supposed to look and act like other airlines. That’s why they got into the business. That’s why people fly them.   They’re supposed to really and truly care about their customers, to treat them with respect, a rare notion at 35,000 feet these days.  What people especially like about Southwest is that they treat everyone equally.  Right?  Isn’t that an essential part of the Southwest Way?

Apparently, not anymore.  For $10 extra you can now buy your way past others and go straight to the head of the boarding line.

Granted, not a big deal in the overall scheme of things.  And it’s easy to appreciate Southwest’s need to generate additional profit; particularly in light of its recession induced revenue declines in the first half of the year.  

But if Southwest isn’t careful, it’ll end up forgetting who it is, one extra fee at a time. It’ll forget what makes it special and why so many customers are passionately loyal  (which has nothing to do with rewards programs);  just like Saturn seemed to lose sight of itself, along with Starbucks more recently (although Howard Schultz is now attempting to return it back to its roots).  

This is the challenge of all small companies that grow to be large companies: Remaining true to the core customer values that made you great in the first place.   Not easy, but doable. 

September 1, 2009#


Wow! There’s a powerful violently graphic new PSA in the UK that dramatizes the dangers of texting and driving.   

The film will be shown to students in the UK in the Fall. In the meantime, it’s received over 4,000,000 views on You Tube around the world.

We think this is powerful messaging, and will serve to raise emotional awareness of the dangers of texting and driving. Of course, much more will need to be done to change behaviors, such as laws prohibiting texting while driving and texting blocking technology.

In the meantime, though, there is something else that might help. Giving people the language to talk about it–what we call Micro-Scripts–that will allow them to tell friends and family not to text and drive—and let others pass it on too.

Just as with anti-drunk driving campaigns, people really started to change their behaviors when others began asking them, “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk” or “Who’s the designated driver?” Nothing beats peer pressure for the way we behave.

And nothing beats Micro-Scripts—short phrases written with dramatic language that people not only remember, the want to repeat.

July 23, 2009#

Packaging Redesign Run Amok

More and more companies are turning to package redesigns to help bolster sagging sales.

A few high profile examples:

  • Late last year, Pepsi launched new generic-looking packaging for its Tropicana brand, replacing its timeless iconic image of a straw sticking into an orange.
  • Gatorade recently changed its name to “G” and shrunk its signature lightening bolt image.

There’s nothing wrong with these, except one thing.

They forgot that the consumer owns their brand as much as they do. 

We all know by now that Tropicana was forced to abandon its new packaging because of consumer revolt. 

Though on a less extreme scale,  Gatorade has also met with consumer resistance to its name and design change.  The ads for Gatorade ask “What’s G?”  Surprise.  Few people really know, or care.   Many want their brand back. 

I’m picking on these two brands because if you have a big, iconic brand, which enjoys many loyal customers, evolution in packaging design should come in moderate steps, not giant leaps.   Critically important is that your customer should still recognize their brand after the redesign.   If you want to update the look of your brand, making it appear hipper or cooler or friendlier or more contemporary, there are many ways to do this visually without wholesale changes that walk away from the visual equities that are integral parts of the brand in customers minds.

A good recent example of how to do it right is Cheer.