8 Ways to Identify an Authentic Brand

  1. An Authentic Brand consistently delivers what it says it will.

Examples: a) McDonald’s delivers fast, inexpensive food in a “fun,”child-centric environment.

b) Gillette’s patented technologies “deliver the best manual shave ever.” Or,  as their slogan claims, “The Best a Man Can Get.”

2.  An Authentic Brand can provide evidence or a measurable
track record that prove it does deliver what it promises.

ExampleToyota builds reliable, well engineered cars according to numerous personal and public* proof sources. (*Such as automotive consumer reports.)

3. An Authentic Brand has the facilities and infrastructures it needs to deliver what it says it will.

Example:FedEx delivers in more ways to more places worldwide.” The facilities and infrastructures that support this include: Fleets of trucks
& drivers, planes & pilots, airport facilities, automated and live customer service.

4. An Authentic Brand has practices and policies that match the brand’s messages.

Example: Sun Chips are made with solar power.” This manufacturing practice supports their brand’s promise to make “A healthier chip for a healthier planet.”

5.  An Authentic Brand initiates or participates in activities (like promotions, donations or sponsorships) that:

  • Support the brand’s claims/messages
  • Match its customers’ needs or values

Examples: a) Home Depot sponsors Habitat for Humanity and numerous other altruistic renovation programs. This validates their slogan, “You can do it. We can help.”

Photo By: Sgt. Hector de Jesus

b) FedEx’s Special Delivery program (6 dedicated vehicles and thousands of FedEx volunteers) have enabled worthy organizations to collect and transport more than:

  • 1.2 million pounds of food
  • 252,000 pieces of clothing
  • 450,000 toys

6. An Authentic Brand creates business alliances that extend its value by fulfilling “related” needs of its customers, which sets up a “win-win”scenario for both allies.

Examples: a) McDonalds & Wal-Mart Together they provide value to price conscious families. More families visit Wal-Mart when it also serves as a dining destination. And families that shop together spend more.

b) Starbucks & Barns & Noble Bookstores Readers enjoy browsing books with a cup of coffee. The longer they browse, the more likely they are to buy.  A high end coffee outlet attracts sophisticated, affluent customers.

7. An Authentic Brand has loyal customers and employees who willingly share their experiences and stories, which reinforce the brand’s claims and messages.

Examples: a) from cosmeticscop.com
“I have suffered from acne since I was 12 yrs old. My sister-in-law is a long time user of your products. She believed in them so much she sells them to friends & family. She set me up on a program using your products and after the first day of I could tell a difference. My skin is now clearer then it has ever been. Thank you so much!” —Debbie

b) from Macys.com (Cuisinart “Brew Central” customer review)
“This coffee maker is so easy to use. It makes such great coffee time and time again. It alerts you when its time to clean too. The digital display is real easy to use. I always use the brew time mode so I get up to fresh coffee every morning.” —CoffeeNuts

8. An Authentic Brand has a “Brand Legend” that supports its messages.

This occurs when a superb degree of consistency has been developed and people can publicly articulate the brand value proposition, whether they have ever personally experienced it or not.

Example a) Rolex is “the standard” for timepieces. This is known by those who own one and those who don’t.

Example b) The Cliff Bar legend tells the story of a man who wanted an energy bar that tasted good AND gave him the performance nutrition he needed for long distance bike rides. He couldn’t find one, so he invented one. “The Legend” is on every Cliff Bar package. Customers relate to it (and share it with others) as they went through the same experience. They applaud Cliff Bar for finally giving them an energy bar that tastes GOOD! Then they tell all their friends…who tell their friends, and so on.

Homer Simpson asks, “What is the Role of Selling?”

“Ok Homer,” I said, “We’ve covered the role of marketing and we’ve covered the role of authentic branding. Now it’s time to talk about the role of selling.”

“Go for it!” Homer urged, “I’m all ears!”

“There are five aspects to the role of selling,”
I explained. “And while the first four won’t come as
a surprise, the last one is sure to be a shocker!”

The Role of Selling Is To:

  1. ENGAGE the brand’s target market
  2. LEARN what they NEED or WANT
  3. MATCH what they NEED or WANT with your brand’s benefits
  4. ACTIVATE their desire to buy NOW to resolve problems
    OR to get what they
    NEED/WANT immediately
  5. FOCUS ON…

I paused and looked at Homer. “What’s the fifth aspect of selling?” I asked. “Uh, to make buyers feel good about buying?” He volunteered. “No,” I responded, “That’s pretty much covered by number three. When they buy something that will help them fix a problem – and it does– they’re going to feel good about buying!”  Right!” Homer nodded.

What if You Buy Something that Doesn’t Give You What You Think it Will?

“But what if they buy something that doesn’t do what they think it will?” He probed.  “What happens then?”  “Homer, you’ve just described a classic case of buyer’s remorse,” I said. “It comes in a few variations.  And when the buyer and seller disregard the fifth aspect of selling, buyers’ remorse is pretty much guaranteed.  Do you want to make another guess at number five, Homer?” I invited.

“Nope,” He said, looking perplexed, “I have absolutely no clue on this one.”

The Fifth Aspect of Selling

“The Fifth Aspect of Selling,” I began, “Is to always think
and assess from the perspectives of “performance” and “outcomes.”  Ask yourself:

– “What  problem will this product or service fix?”

“What tangible improvements will it make in their life?”

Number five is all about gathering and reporting…”
I dropped my voice to a whisper, “Performance Intelligence.”

“Whooo Hoo!” Homer whooped,  “Top secret stuff! Is there a code name for number five, like you have for the other four aspects of selling?” He asked. “I need an easier way to remember this one!” “Sure,” I replied. “An easy way to summarize this is to focus on outcomes.”

5. FOCUS ON OUTCOMES to gather and report “Performance Intelligence”

Homer still looked unclear, so I went on. “To maintain accurate insights into a target markets’ needs, desires, challenges and issues, the front line sales people MUST constantly check and recheck their existing assumptions.”

Homer moved forward to the edge of the couch. “Are you telling me that a target market’s needs – and all that other stuff – change over time?” He asked. “I sure am!” I confirmed.

“Just think, Homer, your needs as a father of three are quite different from your needs as a newly married man.” “That’s true!” He confirmed, looking thoughtful.  “And your needs as a newly married man were quite different from your needs as a bachelor. Right?”  “Oh yeah!” Homer admitted, smiling at the thought of his long past days as a bachelor. “I was quite the catch!” He crowed. “I’m sure you were, Homer!” I smiled.

The Performance Intelligence Cycle

“What do they do with all of this “Performance Intelligence” they gather?” He inquired. “Good question” I replied, and went on to clarify.

“Performance Intelligence is gathered by the people doing the front-line selling, then communicated back to the brand managers. The brand managers then work with the brand strategists to apply this new information to refine the brand’s messages so that they continue to be on-point, relevant and appealing to the brand’s target market.”

Time Changes All Needs

“Well, that makes sense!” Homer concluded.  “And that explains why my cable company keeps sending me different offers for bundles of channels.  What I watch HAS changed over time,” He observed. “I have added channels that Marge and Bart and Lisa like too. And I’ve unsubscribed from the ones we don’t like anymore.”

“That’s a great example, Homer.” I applauded. “Can you think of any more?”

How Homer’s Pizza Preferences Evolved Over Time

“Hmmmm.” Homer was silent for a moment.  Then he got excited and said, “Yes! I just thought of one.” “Great!” I  encouraged. “It’s pizza!” He announced.  “When I was a kid, I loved frozen pizza!” “D’you mean the old fashioned kind that you bought at the supermarket that kind of tasted like the cardboard you heated it up on?” I clarified.  “Yup – that’s it!” Homer nodded. “Well, when I started working full time, I stopped buying those and got hooked on delivery pizza.” “Why the change?” I asked.  “Well, at the end of a long day at work, I didn’t want to shop. I just wanted to eat! And with delivery, I could eat AND watch TV.” Homer grinned.

“And do you still prefer that sort of pizza?” I asked. “Sometimes,” Homer admitted, “But I like a lot of different pizzas now.  Plus we go out to Marge’s favorite pizzeria.  We take the kids to Pizza Hut. And we order from a bunch of different pizza delivery places, ‘cuz everyone has their favorites.” He added. “Do you alternate so everyone gets their favorite now and then?” I inquired.

“That’s right,” Homer said, “Oh, and there’s one other thing.” “What’s that?” I asked. “Well, there’s been a change in the pizza toppings I order as well. And the crust thickness.” He said. “I used to like the spicy toppings, but these days, they don’t like me so much.” I nodded sympathetically and said, “That tends to happen as we get older.” “And way back when, there was only one type of pizza crust.” Homer continued. “I remember!” I recalled. “Sometimes I order thin crusts, for a change. So yeah, my pizza needs and preferences have changed a LOT over the years.”

Applied  Performance Intelligence

“That’s a great story that I think everyone can relate to, Homer.” I said. “Now, think back in time and imagine that a really GREAT salesman from the very first pizza delivery company asked you a few questions – with every delivery – about why you ordered certain types of pizzas.  Then his company used what you told  him to add many of the pizzas you said you liked to their delivery menu. Would you have stuck with just that one pizza delivery company?”

“Wow!” Homers eyes opened wide. “As long as their pizzas tasted good, I would.”

I expanded my point. “And what if – when you bought pizza – they also offered you:

  • Related Free Gifts, like sodas, movie tickets, or DVD rentals?
  • Discount Coupons, to save you money on each order?
  • VIP Points that you could use to get every tenth order for free?
  • Referral Rewards for telling your friends about them?
  • Promotional Items, like pizza cutters or special pizza plates?

“Would that sort of attention make you stick with one company?”

“Definitely!” Homer asserted with a broad smile. “Great – so now you’re clear on the role of selling.  Are you ready for a quiz?”

“I am,” he beamed, “And while you’re at it, I think I’ve got everything figured out.  So go ahead and quiz me on the role of marketing as well.  I bet I’ll get an A+ again, just like I did on the Authentic Branding Quiz!

Homer Simpson asks, “What are the Best Marketing Mediums for Authentic Brands?” Part 2

In answering Homer Simpson’s question “What are the Best Marketing Mediums for Authentic Brands?” I told Homer that many ad agencies and marketing firms push their clients to use the marketing mediums that they prefer instead of recommending the marketing medium (or combinations of mediums) that meet their clients goals of driving sales or attracting new customers.

“Marketing firms and ad agencies do this because using THEIR preferred mediums allows them to engage in  “Vanity Marketing.” I explained. “Which means they use their clients’ budgets to:

  1. Do more of the work they enjoy most, which…
  2. Keeps their “crew” busy, so they are never “unavailable,” and…
  3. Generates numerous entries for the various awards they aspire to win, which…
  4. Attract the clients who let them do more of… (Go back to #1 and repeat)”

Homer asked the obvious question. “How do authentic brands escape the vicious circle of “Vanity Marketing”?”

“The only way to avoid getting trapped,” I said firmly, “Is to develop a detailed target market profile and to be very clear on the mediums your target market DO and DON’T respond to.”

“Uh oh – I hear another conversation coming on!” Homer winked.  “You’re right!” I agreed.  “I’ll give you the short answer now but the long answer on detailed Target Market Profiles really warrants an entire conversation of its own.”

“Excellent!” said Homer, “So, what’s the short answer?”

“A Target Market’s preferred marketing mediums are determined by their:
1. needs  2. values and 3. preferences.
I began.

“And how do we know what those are?” asked Homer. “That’s what we’ll cover off in the conversation dedicated solely to Target Markets,” I replied.  “For now, I’m going to use the venerable company, Reader’s Digest, to illustrate my point,” I continued.

“Readers Digest’s Target Market prefers direct mail over any other marketing medium.” I began.

“Why?” Asked Homer. “Don’t they like TV?” “They do,” I assured him, “But direct mail sells far more magazines and books for Reader’s Digest than a 30 or even a 60 second television commercial.”

Homer looked puzzled, so I carried on with my explanation, “You see, the Reader’s Digest Target Market is made up of older people.  Many of them are retired.  And the Reader’s Digest mailers include lots of elements to read which their recipients find interesting and entertaining.  This Target Market also responds very well to the “gift-with-purchase” sales strategy.  Reader’s Digest knows that!  So when one of their prospects makes a  purchase – they give them something else at no extra cost. Often, that’s all it takes to clinch the sale!”

“What sort of stuff do they give away?” Asked Homer, looking intrigued.  “Well,” I began, “The gifts vary quite a lot.  I’ve seen them give away alarm clocks, pens, cutlery…” I began to count out a list. “Cutlery!” Exclaimed Homer. “Wow! I guess they want you to eat their words!”  He collapsed back on the couch and laughed loudly – fully enjoying his joke.

“Anything else?” Asked Homer when he had recovered. “Yes, this Target Market loves the Readers Digest Contests.” I said. “They can win cars and cash prizes…  Plus, some of the contests offer prizes for childrens’ writing, art and photography, so they can get their grandchildren involved too.”

“I can see why they’d like that part.” Homer said,  “But to me those contests seem like a big waste of time.”  “That’s totally understandable!” I responded.  “You’re a lot younger than
the Readers Digest Target Market, Homer.  And you have lots of other things to focus your attention on… You have a job, a wife and three children at home. You also have a car, so it’s easy for you to get around. And you have a group of friends whom you like to hang out with.”
Homer nodded. “That’s true!”

“Think ahead,” I challenged him. “Let’s say you are retired, and a widower. Your children have moved out and are leading busy lives. They have children of their own.”

“Bart and Lisa with kids? Whoah!” said Homer, shaking his head. “No! No! No! No! No!”

“Yes!” I continued, laughing at his horrified expression, “It’s all good Homer. Bart and Lisa will be adults by then – and you’ll be a grandfather!” Homer relaxed. “That’s ok then,” he smiled, imagining himself with his future grand-babies.  I went on.  “Let’s say you have health issues that make it difficult for you to get out of the house. ”

“Uh, let’s NOT say that, but OK,” said Homer “I get your drift…”  “And,” I went on, “A thick Readers Digest mailer is delivered to your mailbox.  It contains many pages of easy to read, interesting information.  It also offers you:

  • Stickers to peel off one page and stick on another
  • A chance to win a car
  • A chance to win a big cash prize
  • A book that condenses four bestsellers into one
  • Free gifts that you get to keep, even if you return the book
  • A 30 day no-hassle return policy on the book
  • No up front payment – you pay when you’ve “reviewed” the book and decided to keep it.

“Wow,” said Homer, smiling slowly, “I guess if  I was old and housebound, getting a package like that would make me feel like Santa had just stopped by!” “That’s it,” I said. “You’ve got it!”

“So d’you think Readers Digest knows their target market’s preferences and needs? Oh – and how to reach them?” I followed through with Homer,  “Wow, do they ever!” He replied, obviously impressed. “I can see why mailers work better for them than a television commercial would.  They’d get less than a minute on TV. And going though the mailer takes, what? An hour?” He asked. “It could,” I admitted, “Especially for someone who isn’t moving too fast or processing very quickly.”

“So do ALL marketing and ad agencies push their clients to do ONLY the work  they enjoy? Do they all party on their client’s nickel and compete with each other to win awards?” Homer asked, frowning. “Not ALL of them Homer.  No.” I replied thoughtfully. “There are a few that, like MIBOSO Authentic Branding, deliver real value to their clients.”

“How can I pick out the good marketing firms and agencies?” Homer asked. “Or tell them apart from the, er, “Vanity Marketers”?”

“It’s really pretty easy, Homer,” I replied, “You start by looking at the tangible results they have delivered for their clients. And then you validate the facts they provide with the clients themselves.”

“Hmmm,” Homer appeared unconvinced that this would be an easy process. “Can you give me a check list or some specific questions I can use?” He asked.  “I’m not so sure I’d be able to tell if they’re giving me the straight goods or “pitching me”.” Homer made a good point, “Because from what you’ve told me, I have to think that they’re pretty good at getting what they want.”

“Of course,” I said, “I’d be happy to do that! Look for that check list in an upcoming post!”

“Will do” said Homer happily, “I’m not gonna let those “Vanity Marketers” use my money to make themselves look good!” He chuckled and rubbed his hands together. “No siree, Bob!”

“Now that we’ve exposed the hidden biases of ad agencies and marketing firms, are you ready to move on to the role of selling?” I asked.

Homer nodded, then grinned, “Pitch me!” He said.

Homer Simpson asks, “What are the Best Marketing Mediums for Authentic Brands?” Part 1

Which Marketing Channels are Your Target Market Tuned In To?

Homer asked me, “How do you know what your target market is tuning in to?” 

That’s the million dollar question.” I replied. “And it’s a question that all too often does NOT get asked.  When it IS asked, it tends not to get answered very well.”

“Why not?” I could see that Homer’s curiosity was aroused.

“It doesn’t get answered well because it involves numerous agendas as well as multiple conflicting interests, most of which are not disclosed.” I summed up the issues. “And when it IS asked, it doesn’t get answered because marketing firms and ad agencies develop preferences for certain mediums. And when they do that, they tend to recommend only the mediums they LIKE using, over the mediums that their clients’ NEED to use to reach their target markets.”

“Huh?” Homer was looking very confused. “That makes no sense!”

Numerous Agendas and Conflicting Interests Collide

“Actually, it’s quite simple.” I explained. “When a marketing firm or an ad agency gets hooked on a specific medium (let’s say it’s  producing TV commercials) they assemble a crew of subcontractors who specialize in various aspects of TV commercial production. You know all about this Homer,  there’s cameramen, camera assistants, casting agents, actors, make-up artists, wardrobe stylists, video editors, set designers, props people, sound production studios, catering services…”

“Ah yes, the on-set food,” Homer cut in, looking blissful as he revisited his memories of caterer’s food tables.

“When these crews collaborate frequently, they work long hours together, they resolve challenges together, they eat together and they enjoy each others company” I explained,
In short they build strong bonds.”

“Yes, there are a lot of people involved in  TV production,” Homer agreed.
“And at times, it does feel like an extended family!”

“So when that’s what you’re used to doing, ” I  continued, “And when that’s what you like to do, you tend to see every project through a one-size-fits-all lens. Or in this case, through a TV lens.”

“Do you mean that these agencies recommend TV as the marketing medium for everyone?” Homer asked.  “Yes! A client might actually need to use another medium to reach their target market and an agency would sell them a TV commercial instead because that’s what they like to produce!” I asserted.  Homer looked shocked. “That’s dumb!” He exclaimed. “It takes a very
special talent to be a TV star!”

What The Agency Wants Versus What Their Clients Need

“It happens every  day, Homer,” I confirmed sadly.  “And there’s a hidden agenda that provides even more incentive for them to stay stuck in their rut.” I added. “What’s that?” Homer inquired.  “The inter-industry creative awards and honors that ad agencies and marketing firms compete with each other to win.”

The Pursuit of Industry Awards

“Are those like intermural  awards?” Homer queried.  “Yes, exactly!” I agreed. “In intermural sports,  high school and college teams compete against their peers. Ad agencies and marketing firms compete against each other in the same way, “ I said, then added the kicker, “They become obsessed with winning these awards because clients tend to choose the firms that have a long list of awards over those that don’t.”

“Isn’t that the smart thing to do?” Said Homer. “It makes sense to me.”

“On the surface it appears to make sense – yes!  But when you look at who sets up, sponsors, competes for and judges these competitions, it’s very much an “insider game.” I clarified.  “Hmmm,” Homer frowned.
“So the best entries don’t win?”

“What I mean, Homer, is that “best” is a highly subjective measure-
ment.” I explained. “The entries are not assessed based on the target market’s reaction.  So the people the ads are intended to impact don’t get a vote. Nor are they measured on tangible results, like proving that Duff’s beer sales increased 20% over a specific period of time as a result of the commercial produced by Agency “X.”

So how ARE these awards judged?asked Homer.

“Typically, they’re judged based on the preferences and opinions of the industry professionals who are invited to judge them.” I said. “Some of them will like gritty black and white cinematography.  Others prefer product beauty shots, or animation, or busty models, or quirky humor.”

“Oh my!” said Homer in wonder, “So there IS no criteria – it’s just a matter of individual opinion and taste?”   “Yes,” I agreed, “In another conversation on this topic I noted…”

Once opinion has infiltrated … you begin to present your beliefs or judgments as facts.
In truth, they are not based on provable facts, hard evidence or logic.

“And unfortunately, clients who need a specific approach to achieve their marketing goals, such as a print campaign, or a billboard, get “sold” on using the medium that their agency prefers, because…

Using Preferred Mediums Allows Marketing Firms and Ad Agencies to:

1.  Do more of the work they enjoy most, which…

2.  Keeps their “crew” busy, so they are never “unavailable,” and…

3. Generates numerous entries for the various awards they aspire to win, which…

4.  Attract the clients who let them do more of… (Go back to #1 and repeat)”

“That sounds like a vicious circle,” observed Homer. “How do you get around that?”

“The answer to that, my friend” I chuckled, “Is SO obvious that you’re goung to give me a great big “D’Oh!” when I tell you.  Let’s talk about how authentic brands can avoid the vicious circle of Vanity Marketing.”

Homer Simpson Accesses Top Marketing Secrets for Authentic Branding

What is the Role of Marketing?

“What exactly is the role of marketing?” Homer asked. “And why do you keep avoiding my question? Is it some sort of “secret” that I need special clearance to get access to?” he persisted.

“Do I need special protection, like a radiation suit or something? I have one at the plant you know!” Homer chuckles. “Or is it like one of those James Bond secret weapons that looks like an umbrella and turns into an Uzi?”

Homer rolls around on the couch, laughing so hard I expected him to topple off at any second. Fortunately, he did not!

“No.” I countered, The marketing secrets themselves are NOT what you need to be protected from! As an Authentic Brand,
you have the right to access them.

It’s the marketing world’s scum that don’t.  These low life characters pretend to be supporting your brand’s success, but instead, they take your budget, do what they want with it and give you a mere 25 or 30 seconds of pointless, easily forgotten entertainment in exchange.

These are the villains that these marketing secrets will arm you to fight
and defeat.”

“That sounds exciting,” said Homer, “And just a little bit scary…”  “It is scary!” I affirmed. “but it’s better to be forewarned and armed than to be yet another victim.” Homer frowned. “I’m no one’s victim!” He declared loudly, puffing out his chest. “Good!” I responded. “That’s the spirit! Now let’s begin!”

The Role of Marketing is to Deliver…

“Homer, I want you to think of marketing as a massive courier service. Imagine that  it
has fleets of planes, trains, trucks, boats, mopeds and bicycles. Imagine that it also has an expansive  collection of specialty vehicles; rickshaws, canoes, skidoos, swamp boats and
more. Oh, and add in a few caravans of camels and teams of sled dogs for use in extreme weather conditions.

“So if marketing is like a courier service, what is it delivering?” Homer asked. “Great question!” I applauded. “The role of marketing is to deliver the brand’s messages, claims and promises to the brand’s target market via one or more of the vehicles that are known  to be able to reach that target market.

“What happens when they do that?” Homer asked.

There Are Two Objectives:

  1. To raise awareness of the brand with the people most likely to value it.
  2. To predispose those prospective customers to buy the brand, by building
    a relationship with them and letting them know which of their problems
    the brand can fix, and how they’ll find it useful.

“I don’t remember hearing about too many marketing messages being delivered by dog-sled,” said Homer, dubiously. “Maybe not,” I agreed, “But if you were up in Alaska or the Yukon, working at a diamond mine and living in a compound, how would you find out about new brands that could fix your problems or make your life easier?”

How Do YOU Learn About the Brands that Can Make Your Life Easier?

“I don’t know,” said Homer, “Infomercials?” “Perhaps,” I allowed, “But I think that it’s more likely that the people in such places would be an excellent target market for direct marketing.  So I would think they get quite a supply of targeted mailings delivered by skidoo or plane
– and possibly even by dog-sled when it is too cold for planes to fly.”

“The people at the diamond mines could also shop with the Internet,” said Homer “I hear that thing is still around.” I laughed, “Yes, it’s still around, and of course they could learn about new brands on-line, but it would be like searching for a needle in a haystack, as opposed to receiving specific messages that address the issues that matter to them.

And of course, once the brand’s marketing messages persuade someone to make a purchase, whatever they buy would have to be delivered in some physical way. Because we still haven’t figured out how to “transport” goods through the ether. The kinds of “mediums” that can reach through time and space are not the ones we’re talking about.” I smiled, entertained by my play on words.

Homer jumped right in and hummed a few bars from the Twilight Zone theme. “That’s right ” I said, “We’re getting close to living what was once science fiction, but we still have a few unconquered frontiers to explore.”

What are Marketing Mediums?

“Marketing mediums is a fancy term for marketing channels,” I went on to explain. “Marketing channels, or marketing mediums, include  radio, television, newspapers, magazines, billboards, websites, and direct mail.”

“Ha ha – channels – like TV!” Homer laughed. “That’s easy to remember.”
I smiled and asked. “So how do you know which channel to use? How do you know which channels your target market is tuning in to?”

Which Channels are Your Audience Tuning In To?

“ Well Homer,” I replied, “That’s the million dollar question. You’ve nailed it.  And it’s a question that all too often doesn’t get asked. And when it IS asked, it tends not to get answered very well.”

“Why?” asked Homer,  “It seems like a simple question.”
“It’s not difficult to answer,
” I replied, “But because it involves numerous agendas and conflicting interests, it takes some time to explain. Let’s take a break now, then come back to it,” I suggested.

Homer’s stomach rumbled loudly.  “There’s a box of donuts  and some sodas on that table. “ I said, pointing. “Take a couple of minutes to put some sugar into your system, because what I have to say next about those marketing villains will make your head spin!”

Homer Simpson Aces Authentic Branding Test

In our last chat, Homer asked me, “How do I know WHEN to sell, market or brand?”

And while we spent some time discussing the Role of Authentic Branding,
we didn’t have get around to covering the roles of  marketing or sales.

Yesterday, Homer dropped by to finish that conversation. “Hey Homer!”
I greeted him. “It’s good to see you again!” Homer smiled and flopped down onto my sofa.

“Now before we start on this conversation,” I began, “Tell me what you remember from our conversation last week when discussed the role of Authentic Branding.”

“It’s too early for a test!” Homer protested. “It’s only 10 am!”

“Is there a better time?” I asked.

“Nah, it’s always too early for a test. OK…I’ll do it now.”

Homer looked thoughtful.  Then he held up his hand and began to count off points on his fingers.

“The role of an Authentic Brand … firstly, is to communicates clearly what it is and what it is one of.”

“Right on Homer,” I encouraged, “Can you give me an example of that?”

he replied. “Duff’s is beer and beer is an alcoholic beverage.”
He paused and then added, with a reflective smile. “A most excellent alcoholic beverage!”

“Anything else?” I probed.

“Yes, an Authentic Brand has something special about it that makes people choose it over other brands.” He hesitated and then went on to ask. “Would that special thing about the Fox Television brand be that it broadcasts The Simpson’s?”

“That would certainly contribute to what makes Fox unique, special and different from other broadcast networks.” I agreed.  “Good example, Homer!”

“Point three,” Homer continued, folding back his third finger, “An Authentic Brand appeals to the people who want and need it.” He hesitated, “Or is it that the Authentic Brand gives them something they want or need?”

“It’s a bit of both, Homer.” I answered. “For example, The Simpson’s target market faces the same challenges that you, your family and friends do.  So watching The Simpson’s characters work through these challenges gives your target market the benefits of:
1. normalizing their challenges (they see they’re not alone in their struggles)
and laughing at them,
both of which minimize them.”

Homer scrunched up his face. “That made my brain hurt!” He objected.
“Can you say that in a way that’s less painful?”

“Of course,” I replied, sympathetically. “Watching your show makes your target market feel better.” “Phew!” Said Homer, taking his head out of his hands. “That made me feel better – now I can think again.”

“Are there any other roles that an Authentic Brand fulfills?” I asked.

“Yes. OK. On to point 4.” Homer folded his thumb in on top of the three fingers he had already counted down. “All I have to do is keep being me, and that keeps my brand authentic.”

“Right again!” I confirmed. “An Authentic Brand is believable and credible.”

“Last one!” Homer said smiling happily, then he shook his fist at me. “What’s wrong?” I asked, confused by his conflicting gestures. “Nothing!” Homer grinned cheekily, “It’s just that I’m all out of fingers and thumbs so I’m counting point 5 with my fist!” We laughed as he shook his fist again, to emphasize his intent, then went on to say…

“Point 5 is that an Authentic Brand is consistent. So as long as I keep being me, and my writers don’t get any dumb ideas about making me do dumb things,” Homer shot me a narrow eyed look, clearly recalling our conversation about him running off to Montreal with another man.
“As long as I stay consistent, I’ll stay on-brand!”

“That’s right!” I agreed and went on to add, “I’m very impressed!
You really got a lot out of our last conversation!”

He smiled and shot me a quick grin. “I guess it takes an Authentic Brand to know one! Ha Ha!”

We both chuckled for a minute, then Homer sketched some rapid forward circles in the air with his hand… “So let’s get on with the show, Ms Authentic Branding Guru…What’s the role of marketing?”

Homer Simpson asks, “How do I Know When to Use Authentic Branding Versus Marketing or Selling?

“Ok,” said Homer last time we spoke, “You’ve made your point about branding, selling and marketing being different. I get it.

How do I know WHEN to sell, market or brand?”

“Speaking from my point of view, as the author and developer of MIBOSO’s Authentic Personal Branding and Authentic (Business) Branding Processes, let’s address the roles of each activity – Authentic Branding, marketing and selling – individually.” I suggested. “Once we’ve done that, we’ll explore how they all work together.”

The Role of Authentic Branding

An Authentic Brand defines specifically what the brand “is”
and what category it fits into, or what it is “one of.”

“Homer, your brand is, “a cartoon character” that fits into the “animated television sitcom” category. That’s what it is “one of.”

“Sure,” said Homer, “You don’t have to be very smart to figure that out!” He looked at me quizzically. “The role of branding gets a lot less obvious as we dig deeper.” I explained.  “Stay with me!” Homer rolled his eyes, then nodded and settled back in his chair.

An Authentic Brand has a USP, or a unique selling proposition.
A USP makes a brand
unique, special, and different enough to cause it to be chosen over other brands that are similar.

“Like choosing “Duff over Duffenbrau?” Homer asks?  “A USP is more than a matter of price.” I laugh. “But price could be a contributing factor to a USP.”

Homer sits up a little straighter. “What’s My USP? Do I have one? Do I?” He entreats. “Of course you do Homer, your USP is what makes your audience choose to watch your show when they could be watching other animated television sitcoms – like “Family Guy.” I reply.  “Who would want to watch them when they could watch a nice normal family like mine?” Homer asked, puzzled.

I smiled and continued, “Typically, a brand’s USP is rooted in its values. I said  in an earlier conversation that “The secret to your success, Homer, is in your Brand Values. Your brand values make you the character that millions love and love to laugh at.””

“Hey, they’re laughing WITH me!” Homer interrupts, “Not  AT me!”  “You’re half right on that one – they ARE laughing with you Homer” I agreed.  He smiled and sat back again.

“So here’s what I said earlier about the appeal of your brand, Homer – and don’t worry – your audience really does love you!”

“His consistent bumbling ineptitude, his long list of relativelyhttp://attractandsell.com/branding/2009/04/02/strategic-branding-homer-simpson/harmless human vices and his  “heart of gold” make Homer’s Brand very human and, at the same time, highly entertaining.”

Homer is touched, “Geez – that’s nice! You got any Kleenex? I feel an un-manly moment coming on.” “You asked for a Kleenex when you meant you wanted a tissue.” I noted. “Kleenex is a brand that’s so well known that it’s used to describe what it’s “one of.” I handed him a tissue and continued.

An Authentic Brand is intentionally positioned to appeal to the identified target market that wants and/or needs the value and benefits the brand delivers.

“Homer, your show parodies the typical trials and tribulations of a middle class American family. By lampooning middle class America, your writers set you up to entertain you Target Market.”

“D’you mean that the people who watch my show are just like me?” Homer asked, astonished. “Yes,” I said, “They’re middle class Americans who are facing the same challenges you do. Watching your show allows them to laugh at their problems – because they’re your problems.”

“Hey, laughing at someone with problems isn’t very nice,” said Homer  sternly.  “Relax Homer, it’s not personal!” I assured him. ”Watching the antics that you, Marge, Bart, Maggie and Lisa get into lightens their load. You make your audience feel like things aren’t so bad for them after all – as what the Simpson’s have to deal with is far worse.”

“So we have it worse than anyone else?” Homer moans. “Waugh! What did I do to deserve this?” “It’s OK” I reassure him.  “It’s just scripting!  Talk to your writers if you want to change your luck.”

“Yeah, right” Homer mutters.  “They don’t listen to me.” Never have. Never will. Talk about dumb luck!”

“You’ll like this next point much better” I said, and managed to distract him.

An Authentic Brand’s messages are believable. Its claims and promises are measurable and verifiable.  In other words, the way an Authentic Brand presents itself is highly credible.

“How does that point apply to my brand?” Homer asks, happy to be the subject of the discussion once more.

“Well, when you’ve had a tough day at work, you’ll head to Mo’s and down a couple of Duffs, right?”
I ask him. “Yep!” Homer confirms.  “And if it was a really tough day, I’ll rant about how much I hate my job, my boss, and whatever else is annoying me.”

“Exactly!” I agree, “And because your audience would do the same thing if they had a “bad day,” your “brand’s behavior” is accepted as genuine and real. You are an authentic representation of a working class American male.” Homer beams with pride.  “I’m a role model” he says, “A Model! Where’s the runway – I want to strut my stuff!”

“Hold on just a minute Homer” I put out my hand, “We have one last point to cover and then you can go.”

An Authentic Brand is consistent – and predictable.

“Homer, your audience  knows what you like, what you believe and what you dislike.” I stated. “What, am I? See through?” He asked. “Well, not see through, but pretty transparent,” I laugh.  “Your audience knows what you eat, where you live and where you work. Your fashion choices are also very consistent – even to the point of being occasionally outrageous.”

“What’s outrageous about what I wear?” Homer snorted. 
“Do I need to bring up the dress?”
I asked, raising an eyebrow.  “Er, no…let’s leave my muumuu out of this.” Homer muttered.  “Because you CAN wear one, on occasion if you want.” I said. “As long as you stay “on brand” you will continue to be loved
by your audience.”
“Phew!” Homer breathed a deep sigh of relief.

“If, however, you took that theme too far” I continued, “If you were to leave Marge, abandon your job and your family, and run off to Canada to marry your boyfriend – that would be very “off-brand for you.”

“What boyfriend?!?!” Homer is shocked.

“If you did something like that,” I continued, “Your audience would likely denounce you. And after their initial interest in the drama of your new relationship subsides, (and it doesn’t turn out to be a nightmare that you wake up from eventually) your audience would stop watching The Simpson’s show altogether.”

“They would abandon me?  But why???” Homer moaned. “It’s simple” I explained. “They wouldn’t want to watch you prancing around in your underwear (or worse!) in the house that you and your new husband own in the suburbs of Montreal. They wouldn’t be drawn to that script as it’s not behavior they relate to.”  “Me neither.” said Homer!

“But it would attract a whole new Target Market.” I suggested.  He looked worried  “I hope you haven’t given my writers any dumb ideas…!” He shud-dered visibly. “And I take back what I said earlier about strutting my stuff – no runways for me!  No siree bob!”

In our next chat, Homer and I will look at the role of Marketing, and after that, at the role of Selling.  Right now he needs some time to recover from the “Homer’s Married to a Man in Montreal” episode.

Homer Simpson asks, “What’s More Important, Branding, Marketing or Sales?”

In one of our recent discussions, Homer Simpson raised a good question. “You’re the Authentic Branding Guru.” He said, “So tell me, what’s more important, branding, sales or marketing?”

This is an interesting question. Not because it’s new. (It’s not. It’s so old it’s positively crusty!) What makes it interesting is the floundering debate that inevitably ensues when it’s asked. (Especially when it’s answered with “opinions” as opposed to behavioral substance.)

“What do you think, Homer?” I probed, hoping he’d serve up some of his own brand of off the wall and reliably entertaining perspectives.

“Well, I think marketing is most important.” Homer said. He went on to explain, “TV commercials are marketing and if there weren’t any TV commercials, I wouldn’t get sold on stuff.”

“What about brands?” I asked.  Homer thought for a moment.  (Ok, he thought for several very long moments.)  “Brands are, uh,  like, already there – that’s what the marketing reminds me to buy,” he finally stated.

“Do commercials make you buy things you don’t already want or need?” I asked. “Things like luxury cars or fancy computers?” Homer shook his head. “Nope!”

“Do commercials make you buy brands you don’t already buy?” I inquired.

“Nope!” Homer was emphatic. “They remind me to buy beer though. Heck, they even remind me that I want a beer, like, NOW!  Or some donuts, or pizza…” His face softens and his eyes loose focus as he contemplates his favorite food groups.

“So commercials remind you to buy the things you already know you want?” I recapped, jolting him out of his junk-food-fantasy-trance.

“Yep – that’s why marketing is most important.” Homer agreed, nodding vigorously. “I am so smart!” He crowed.

“Hang on there Homer,” I said,  “Your logic is a little wobbly on this one.”

  1. First – marketing is not better than sales… It’s a whole different activity
  2. Second – all brands don’t already exist. New brands are created all the time!
  3. And third – branding, selling and marketing are not interchangeable activities. Each one has a distinct definition, purpose and role.  However, they CAN work together very effectively.

“How do they do that?” Asked Homer, looking confused.

I began my answer by suggesting that we first define each activity.

Defining Branding, Marketing and Selling

  • What is a Brand?

A brand is – a kind or variety of something distinguished by some distinctive characteristic.
Duff is the brand of beer that Homer drinks regularly because he likes its taste.

  • What is Branding?

Branding is –  to label or mark as unique, to build an emotional connection, to create a memorable impression.
The experience of satisfying his craving for pancakes is branded into Homer’s memory. Oh yes!

  • What is Marketing?

Marketing is – the communication of the brand’s benefits to the consumers who will buy it.
The Simpson’s marketing strategy includes television commercials, and on-line promotions as well as unique store displays and tags for licensed products.

  • What is Selling?

Selling is – persuading or inducing (someone) to buy something, causing (someone) to accept (something); to convince; to win acceptance, approval, or adoption.
The salesman sold Homer on the more expensive car that had the safety features he wanted.

“Ok,” said Homer “You’ve made your point about branding, selling and marketing being different activities. I get it. So how do I know when to sell, market or brand?”

“Good question, Homer,” I replied. “Let’s address the roles of branding, marketing and selling
in our next conversation.”

That’s fine by me” said Homer, heading for the door. “All right brain, you’re done for the day.  Whoo-Hoo! Mo’s – here I come! Can’t get enough of that wonderful Duff!”

What’s In It For Me? That’s the Question Your Marketing Messages Must Answer

I participated in a discussion today that focused on the prevalence of “spin” in
the messages put out by the media, as well the messages put out by business marketers.

My responses continued a theme that I began in my Branding Q & A with Homer Simpson:

“A pet peeve of mine is the presentation of “incomplete
generalizations” and “platitudes” as  “facts” or “benefits.”

I  suggested there are (at least) two ways to view marketing “spin:”

1. As false information that’s “imposed” on us (by the media, big businesses, the government, etc. )

2. As the consequence of our own failure to question what we’re told
(Like our friend Homer, most of us would rather “tell” our views than “ask” the questions that get others to clarify what they tell us.

“Are we experiencing some sort of acceptance epidemic?” Homer asks me.  Then he put me on the hot seat. “How often do YOU ask questions?”

“About 99.5% of the time,” I reply.  “And in the .5% of the time that I assume I understand what the person I’m speaking with means, I’m often wrong and regret NOT asking them for clarification.”

People usually mean what they say, but they rarely say what they mean.” ~ PG

Before my branding clients begin working with me, they think their platitudes and incomplete generalizations are “benefit statements.”
But they’re not…

For example:
PLATITUDE: “Company X is a leading change management firm”
(Unproven and ego based)

I asked Homer what this tells him.  He said, “Um… It  sounds good but, well, it tells me…

  • That they do something with change – but I don’t know exactly what that is…
  • They do something with leading – but I don’t know exactly what that is…
  • They do something with management – but I don’t know exactly what that is… and I don’t CARE because I don’t LIKE management!”

I tell Homer that as my clients progress through MIBOSO’s benefit building process, (which is made up of – he guessed it – lots and lots of questions!) the true benefits they provide to their clients begin to emerge.  When we build their brand benefit statements, the messages we create are always :

  • Factual
  • Provable or measurable
  • Backed by solid evidence

For example:
BENEFIT: “Company X  leverages change to deliver measurable growth for companies in the financial service sector.”(Specific and evidence based)

“Ok Homer, what does this tell you?” I ask.  “This one’s easier,” Homer says, visibly relaxing. “It tells me that… uh – what’s leverage?”  I refer to Dictionary.com which defines leverage as:

“the use of a small initial investment, credit, or borrowed funds to gain a very high return in relation to one’s investment, to control a much larger investment, or to reduce one’s own liability for any loss.”

“Well…”  Homer continues, “Now I know what leverage is,  the benefit statement tells me that Company X..

  • Leverages change to generate growth – in other words, they have a way of taking advantage of the change mechanics to create a much bigger result.
  • Has a way of tracking and measuring the growth they drive for their clients.
  • Specialize in working with  financial services firms.

That’s a whole lot more than I learned from the  Platitude!”  Homer grins.
I think he feels a smart attack coming on, so I continue to question him…

“Why is a benefit so much more appealing than a platitude?”

Homer signals to me that I should answer this one, as he has a mouthful of pizza. So I do. “A benefit is much more appealing than a platitude because:

  1. It tells the prospective customer what results they can expect
  2. The results the benefit identifies are KNOWN to be desired by the prospect
  3. It gives prospects the specifics they need to ask deeper questions, such as:
    – how do you measure your client’s results?
    – what sorts of  results have you delivered for companies like mine?
    – how did you come to specialize in financial services firms?
    – how do you leverage change?

And all of these questions provide wonderful opportunities for the benefit provider to prove their expertise by providing answers – and in turn, to ask deeper questions of the prospect in order to provide the most relevant answers.”

“Will this Eliminate Marketing Spin?” Homer asks. “No.”  I continue, “What I’ve said won’t resolve the problem caused by our failure to question.  “They” will continue to churn out “spin.”

But “they” can’t MAKE us accept it!   So I suggest we reject it.

Let’s start a “questioning epidemic” and see if we can shift “what’s being put out there” (by businesses, the government and the media) into a more factual, provable, evidence-based zone.”

“What you said!” Homer agrees, and looks longingly at the last remaining piece of pizza.  “It’s yours,” I smile, “you’ve earned it!”

Strategic Branding Lessons from Homer Simpson

Since Homer Simpson IS a Brand, it’s only logical that he should know a thing or two about Strategic Branding.

Heck, Homer lives with floating TM and © marks!

These marks show up everywhere that Homer does – on mugs,
t-shirts, ball caps and MUCH more. And if they don’t – they should!

[Because Homer is protected by international trademark and copyright laws, if his marks are missing, it’s an indication that someone is unlawfully using his brand – and that’s really not a good idea.  In fact, it’s best to ask the owners of the marks if you can use their marked property.   I just did.  And I can’t.  So you won’t see any images of Homer on my blog site.]

Why not? Well, Homer himself is not the sort of character to get bent out of shape by being “infringed.”  He’d likely support your “freedom of action” and say something like,

“Oh, yeah, what are they gonna do? Release the dogs? Or the bees? Or the dogs with bees in their mouth and when they bark, they shoot bees at you?”

(However, the attorneys at Fox Broadcasting – who are NOT comedic character brands – will no doubt take a different perspective.)

So that means Homer is both a Brand AND a Mark!

But wait, there’s more…

Homer has a Brand Voice as well!

Just type “homer says” into Google and you’ll have access to about 400,000 returns that take you to pages and pages of quotes in an array of different languages.

This is “Homere-ese” – the strongest possible rendition of a Brand Voice.  And Homer-ese is supported by numerous Homer-isms that his audience loves to quote.  Homer certainly has all his bases loaded in terms of his Brand Voice!

Homer even has a Slogan.

And it might just be the shortest one in existence!

Which means it’s a good one as the less words a Slogan requires, the more revered it is in the Branding World.

Homer’s Slogan is one contracted word. “D’Oh!” Three letters and two punctuation marks.

And D’Oh! says it all.

Homer must have set some sort of slogan brevity record.
Are there Guinness World Records for “least” like there are for “most?”

When you hear or see “D’oh!” Homer in all of his glory shows up instantly in your head. And that’s exactly what a Slogan is meant to do – “Evoke the Essence of the Brand.”

Homer has a unique set of Brand Colors.

Homer’s brand colors are yellow, tan, black, white and blue.

  • Day-glow yellow skin  Is that thanks to the Nuclear Plant? Everyone in Springfield positively glows!
  • Tan beard
  • White shirt
  • Blue pants
  • Black drawing lines/shoes

Homer’s Brand Symbols

Homer’s personal profile is very distinctive.

Just as Bob Hope’s “ski slope nose” became iconic of his Brand, Homer’s protrusive mouth, large balding head (with 2 hair comb-over!) and big belly make him a symbol in his own right.

Symbols consistently associated with Homer include:

  • other show characters
  • a TV
  • a TV remote control
  • a couch
  • a beer can
  • donuts and other “junk” food

Homer speaks in specific Brand Fonts

The distinctive “handwritten” font used for “The Simpsons” logo is complemented by a chunky sans serif font used in capital letters only, as well as the handwritten styling of text captured in speech bubbles when Homer’s character is static.

So there are many ways that Homer can show up, in writing, without going “off brand.” And given his inconsistent performance record, as a husband, father and employee – for Homer – that fits!

Now, many of us think of Homer as “not the sharpest tool in the shed.”

But he just MIGHT be a secret MENSA.  Ridiculous?  Perhaps not…

Did you know that Homer is a Global Brand?

  1. He speaks in 8 languages!
  2. He has friends all over the world!

If I asked you if you think Homer is “worldly, you’d likely say, “Nope!”

And if you just did, (say, “Nope!”) type “homer world traveler” into Google – and get ready for the shock of your life!

Ah – that Homer’s got us fooled alright! He is NOT the simple character we all thought we knew. What dimensions Homer’s Brand has! Is that the secret to his appeal?

Because appeal he has! Homer’s Target Market is HUGE!

In addition to having a following in every English speaking country, he’s also popular in China, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Poland, Sweden and the Ukraine.

What attracts all of these folks to a fictional safety inspector from Springfield?

The secret to Homer’s success is his Brand Values.

Homer’s brand values create a character that millions love and love to laugh at.

His consistent bumbling ineptitude, his long list of relatively harmless human vices and his  “heart of gold” make Homer’s brand very human and, at the same time, highly entertaining.