.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;} Making Sense: e-Digest of Brand Thinking

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Wish I had written that...

You have to love a book whose first line reads: "Let's face it: Business today is drowning in bullshit."

For Father's Day, my son gave me a copy of Why business people speak like idiots by Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardway and John Warshawsky. It's an insightful and humorous handbook for avoiding the inane corporate-speak and jargon that American Business is so hopelessly mired in. The real-world examples are hilarious. That is, until you realize that you, too, have at one time or another penned such bull-laden phrases as "actionable business insight" and "customer-centric communication."

Visit Bullfighter.com and you'll find two neat tools for cutting the bull out of business communications. One of the tools is the Mystery Matador, which analyzes and grades copy, then sends the score anonymously to the email address you supply. Great for keeping your boss on his or her toes.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Changing the way you look at change

Change in the marketplace is inevitable. In my June 13th post, I wrote about the change "search" is bringing to business-to-business advertising. Business should be ready for change, I stated (like you didn't know that already). Of course, being ready for change works best when you recognize what is changing. For some companies that's difficult to do. Take AccuWeather, for instance. They used to be the number one weather service in the nation. That is, until the Weather Channel left them in the dust. "For two decades now," writes Paul Keegan in the May 2005 issue of Business 2.0, "the Weather Channel has proven that weather is a media business, where distribution and marketing matter far more than being right." His article, "Stormy Weather," is well worth reading. It's a textbook example of how change often goes unnoticed, or worse, gets completely ignored.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The war of the beds (and the chairs...and the showerheads)

Sorry for the lateness of this post. I was out traveling last week.

This is basically a follow-up to my post on Tuesday, May 03, 2005 entitled "Sensory Branding -- What's That Smell?" It was inspired by the book Brand Sense by Martin Lindstrom. In it, he makes the case for "smashing" your brand and rebuilding it to engage your audience on all five sensory levels. Where that idea is really catching on, I think, is in the hospitality industry. It seems like they're putting their money on the sense of touch (comfort).

Sheraton has introduced exclusive beds and bedclothes, and Holiday Inn Express has shower heads that not only feel good, they'll make you smarter. Now, Radisson jumps in and raises the stakes with the Sleep Number Bed. And last week I stayed at the Millennium Hotel in Minneapolis. They had their own version of premium bedding (though not as plush or distinctive as Sheraton's). Even so, they managed to raise the touch thing to the next level. Every room had a sleek birch-finished desk with a Knoll SoHo chair. I looked them up, and those chairs go for around $400 a pop.

Where do we go from here? Look for other business travel hotels to add things like an Aeron office chair, a Grohe showerhead or even a memory foam mattress. Some forward-thinking marketing executive might even resurrect the vibrating "Magic Fingers" bed. I haven't seen one of those in years.

Monday, June 13, 2005

The search is on...

ADWEEK.com reports Google is targeting business-to-business advertisers, extolling the advantages of search. To add firepower to their pitch, Google commissioned a survey from Millward Brown showing how technology professionals use search to buy.

According to ADWEEK, Millward Brown questioned 900 technology professionals through an online poll. Three significant findings came out of that:

Search was used 30 percent more frequently than trade periodicals in the research phase of the buying cycle.

Search was 21 percent more frequently used than the b-to-b press in the consideration phase and 62 percent more in the final purchase phase.

Search plays a key role in corporate purchases, even if most of those transactions eventually occur offline.

So, what does that tell us? Be ready for change. Twenty-six years ago, I was marketing director at a specialty chemical company. Their business model was to promote sales of maintenance chemicals (at outrageously high prices) to buyers who were 1) spending someone else's money, and 2) gaining personally from the transaction. It was a great idea while it lasted. But the company was too slow in realizing that their marketplace was changing. The ascent of centralized purchasing took the power away from the maintenance staff and gave it to the purchasing agent, whose job it was to save the company money. So the chemical company (and many others like it) slowly went out of business.

Today, it's search. Are we ready?

Monday, June 06, 2005

A tag line is a terrible thing to waste.

I bank with BB&T, which happens to be the 9th largest financial holding company in the U.S. Most people don't know that. That included me until I looked them up for this post. Anyway, last week they sent me a flyer for their financial services. Down at the bottom was a bold line: "At BB&T Investment Services, you can tell we want your business."

I could see where they were going with that line -- service that stands out above and beyond the call of duty and all of that. But somehow, the line came across as soft, hokey and a little desperate.

It got me thinking, though. I wondered if all bank tag lines were as wimpy as BB&T's. So I looked up some of the big banks. I found out that not every bank uses a tag line, a fact that surprised me. But here are some of the taglines I did find:

Chase: Your choice. Your Chase.

Bank of America: Higher Standards

J.P. Morgan: World-class. Worldwide.

Bankers Trust: It's our name...and our promise.

Washington Mutual: We're really not like other banks

U.S. Bank: Other banks promise great service, U.S. Bank guarantees it.

Lloyds TSB
-- it's your money, make the most of it.

HSBC -- The world's local bank

I think the problem I have with the BB&T line is that it overstates the obvious. Every bank wants my business, not just BB&T. Likewise, every bank promises exceptional service in one way or another, not just BB&T. For me, there's nothing compelling here.

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