The Brand Battlefield
The Trump administration banned immigration from seven predominately Muslim countries.
Two days later Starbucks’ chairman and chief executive officer, Howard Schultz, marched onto the brand battlefield and promised the company will hire 10,000 refugees over five years across 75 countries.
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick rolled onto the brand battlefield stating Trump’s order would, “affect thousands of drivers who use Uber and come from the listed countries, many of whom take long breaks to go back home to see their extended family… That means they will not be able to earn a living and support their families—and of course they will be separated from their loved ones during that time.”
Immigration rights activists thought this implied Uber would breakup planned driver strikes. In response they launched their #DeleteUber movement onto the brand battlefield. #DeleteUber is a much stronger call to action than #BoycottUber (or Starbucks) by the way. Because once you delete the Uber app it’s harder to take the action to restore it and use the service again.
Quickly seizing on the issue, Lyft hit the brand battlefield too. The second most popular ride-sharing pledged to donate $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union to fight Trump’s executive order.
Political posturing has become so prevalent that even beauty queens have been drawn into the fray. As Melissa Francis and I discussed on After The Bell, the 2017 Miss Universe winner, Iris Mittenaere, was asked about open borders. Her answer? “The country should have the right to open or close their borders. Having open borders allows us to travel more through the world, and to find out more about what’s out there in the world.” Granted, Mittenaere took no side and made no salient points but her comments were still seen as shots fired onto the brand battlefield.
Of course such non-committal answers are only good or bad depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. Mostly they accomplish nothing, so you don’t get any bang for your buck by straddling the fence firmly. But you can still get in trouble. And to quote Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, “You never want to let a serious crisis go to waste.”
In today’s newly polarized reality it’s safe to assume that anything you say will offend somebody. Therefore, it’s probably better to take a stand based on the specific outcome – and the specific audience – you are pursuing. For example, the Starbucks CEO’s comment upset @SimplyRedeemable enough to post a couple of anti- Starbucks’ rants on my Twitter feed. Still, her last post said, “I can’t afford Starbucks.” Clearly Schultz isn’t going to worry about losing that customer.
Big thinker Brian Walter says there’s “simply no political safe harbor for big business anymore.” For decades, they could pursue their political interests mostly under cover. They rarely had to pick sides and risk alienating customers. But the 2016 election, combined with the transparency of online communication, has eliminated that option. Now businesses are caught in the same political divisions that are wreaking havoc among friends and family on social media and across dinner tables. Businesses will be criticized and pilloried for taking a stand or for NOT taking a stand. Inaction will be interpreted as condoning whatever decisions the companies try to ignore.
Before you think big business is the victim here, it’s important to understand that there is much more going on. Big business is also shifting in how it plays politics. In the past their move was to donate to the campaigns and candidates the companies and CEO’s supported. Of course, they donated mostly to politicians who pursued their narrow area of interest. They also supported PACs and groups that promoted the same thing.
Old school company values consisted of spineless platitudes framed and hung on the conference room wall. Today a company will act on its core values. Because the new play is participation. Big businesses are harnessing the publicity power that comes from activism and social media. Rather than avoiding the fray they will become part of the fray.
This makes some shareholders and customers uncomfortable because they can no longer say they share values. Instead, they’ll spend their money with companies who think like they do.
Don’t support Trump? Do some research and chances are you won’t buy beer from Yuengling, ketchup from Heinz, clothes from L.L. Bean, or anything from Amway.
Support Trump? If you check their political contributions or comments you probably won’t do business with Ben & Jerry’s, PepsiCo or Costco.
Yesterday it was the Culture Wars. Today it’s the Value Wars. And as businesses become combatants, we consumers will march onto the brand battlefield with our pocketbooks swinging.
We’ll talk about:
I promise our time together will be useful, enjoyable, and valuable. And I’ll be delighted to sign your complimentary copy of All About Them there too. To find out more and to register to attend, click HERE.
What you can expect: A group of 30-40 business owners and professionals who are hungry and passionate about growing their business and looking forward to networking with you.
Doors open for BIG Lunch at 11:00 am at the Tower Club in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Lunch is served at 11:30 and I’ll be talking about building your brand from 12:00 to 1:00 pm. Everybody gets a complimentary copy of my newest book. We’ll end right on time so you can get back to your day.
If you’d like to sign up to attend, or just want to learn more, please click HERE.
Gwyneth Paltrow, Green Eggs, and Vaginas.
Back in January 2015, the actress recommended that her readers squat over a steaming pot of hot water infused with herbs and aromatic plants such as mugwort. According to Gwynie, the process was a thousand-year old Korean medical technique. Doing it will both “cleanse your uterus” and “balance female hormone levels.” Paltrow wrote: “If I find a benefit to it and it’s getting a lot of page views, it’s a win-win.”
But then Women’s Health magazine investigated the $50 process and discovered there are potential damaging side effects (imagine!). These include negatives like a disruption of the natural flora of the vagina. And of course it’s not hard to imagine how V-steaming can cause nasty burns if not carefully administered.
Now the Oscar-nominated actress is back with her latest risqué vajayjay play. Believe it or not, Paltrow wants women to insert a solid jade egg about the size of a golf ball into their vaginas and hold it there all day or night.
On her site Paltrow describes the eggs as, “the strictly guarded secret” ancient Chinese concubines used to please their Emperors. According to Gwynie, the eggs will “increase vaginal muscle tone, hormonal balance, and feminine energy in general,” as well as enhance the users’ orgasms.
But according to The Washington Post, Dr. Jen Gunter, an OB/GYN for Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco, called the idea “the biggest load of garbage” she’s read on Goop since vaginal steaming and worse than saying wearing bras is linked to cancer.
Even with Dr. Gunter’s warnings, the $66 dollar eggs are completely sold out.
Here’s the truth:
P.T. Barnum said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
Gwyneth Paltrow said, “The first time I tried v-steaming, I was like, ‘This is insane.’ I enjoy trying things. I don’t necessarily endorse all of them, but I like to try them and write about them. It makes for really good content.”
That makes sense only if you define “good content” as what attracts readers and what sells product as opposed to what’s actually true. Perhaps Paltrow is simply using what top presidential aide Kellyanne Conway calls, “alternative facts.” What is unquestionable is that Gwynie has taken her rightful spot on a long list of people who have proven the business benefits of following Barnum’s advice.
Facebook has more than one billion users on its roster. This makes Facebook one of the most important advertising opportunities available today.
Thanks to the enormous profit potential, Facebook has gotten very good (and aggressive) about suggesting you boost your posts.
Boosting posts on Facebook can quickly become a money waster. Your fans’ friends may not be interested in buying your product or service. If so, you’re paying good money to show your ad to the wrong audience.
Adding insult to injury, targeting the wrong audience can hurt you more than help you. Users who are not interested in seeing your content can:
Whichever route they choose, it will negatively affect your Facebook account. It can kill your organic reach and make your future ads more expensive. In other words, fewer people will be seeing your free posts. And worse, Facebook will charge you more for the posts you do pay for!
There are much better and more powerful ways to target your ideal Facebook audience.
For example, my friend and author Bob Burg has 21,730 fans on his Facebook page. If Bob reaches an audience similar to mine, I could target his fans from my page. And if there are others who’ve written books similar to mine and whose audiences are like mine, I can target their fans as well.
This can have two very significant effects:
By the way, these techniques work equally well on other social media sites. For example, after I write my posts my assistant picks LinkedIn users who would be interested in them. Then he posts the articles in the user groups where the interested parties spend time. Thanks to judicious placement, in less than 20 months my LinkedIn followers have increased from 5,000 to almost 70,000. This has created many interesting opportunities for me and my business.
With a little work – and a clear strategy – it can work for you, too.
The Experience Economy
We live in a consumer society. Companies produce products and incent consumers to purchase. Media and marketing professionals build programs to create desire for those products, giving consumers more and more reasons to buy. And mass culture is created around building additional desire and compelling consumers to purchase.
But what happens when consumers have more than they need? And what happens when technology makes products irrelevant and unnecessary?
The answer to the first question is easy. When people have too much, marketers simply convince them they need even more.
The answer to the second question is more nuanced. Because while the steady wave of new technology does make many of the things we own obsolete, we continue our purchase pattern by replacing the outmoded with newly relevant devices.
The authors suggest that companies today must create memorable events for their customers. By doing so the memory of enjoying the product becomes the product itself. Gilmore and Pine further argue that as more and more products become commoditized, manufacturers must continue to evolve their wares to differentiate them.
But wait. As you move across the authors’ evolutionary ladder what disappears is the tangible product itself. Although this might not seem to be a problem at first, imagine what it does to conspicuous consumption. If one of the main reasons consumers buy more and more expensive products is to keep up with the Joneses, what happens when their money is not spent on a statusy car to show off in the driveway but an around-the-world trip or meal at an uber-exclusive restaurant?
Who’s going to see the experience if no one is present to share it?
Before continuing, let me make it clear that I am not a conspiracy theorist. I don’t believe people have much Machiavellian prescience. I don’t believe groups of people working sub-rosa can accomplish the things many conspiracy theories suggest they can. And I don’t believe any great group of people can keep a secret for a few days or weeks, let alone years.
That being said, Social Media in general – and Facebook in particular – is the great experience economy enabler. After all, the one way to transform personal experiences into status symbols is a democratized media that allows each of us to broadcast our activities to the world. This explains not only why the travel industry has embraced social media as its killer app, but why we are all so excited about projecting our lives and activities to the more than one billion people on Facebook and 100 million on Instagram.
Forgive and forget. I just read this post from my parenting guru, David Altshuler, and I thought it was meaningful and important enough to share with you. Next week we’ll get back to the subject of building brand value and making it All About Them, this week TurkelTalks is all about relationships.
A twenty-five dollar gift certificate, a $2.95 card that reads, “Welcome to the family,” and a 47-cent stamp can undo a year of misunderstanding. Total expenditure: $29.42. Not a bad price to pay for an adult child.
I know folks who routinely pay $29.42 for bad Chinese take-out food. Bad Chinese food is less likely to give you grandchildren never mind look at old family photographs with you. And you have never heard bad Chinese take-out food tell the story about how we got lost on that hike during the thunderstorm.
Fast forward 20 years and not even a $50 gift certificate and a card that reads, “I wish I had sent you this note welcoming you to the family two decades ago” will bring back the lost years. And I don’t even want to think about how expensive a stamp might be in 2037. You could spend $2942.00 but the adult child will be off the market.
I know your son has done more than his share to damage your relationship:
I understand you find these actions unconscionable and unforgivable.
But let’s face it: you haven’t exactly been blameless either. When he called to enthusiastically share news of a new job you said, “But you have no experience in that field; that will never work” rather than “Good for you, you’re going to be great.”
Whatever you think about his being gay, whatever your opinion about his marrying someone of another faith, whatever your belief about purple hair, he’s still your son. Whereas you can always try a different Chinese take-out place, you only get a certain number of children.
There are always a dozen reasons to end a relationship: a $25,000,000 business deal, a $25 lunch check; a perceived insult, a real insult; a large difference of opinion, a small disagreement. There’s only one reason to stay the course and maintain a relationship with your difficult progeny: having a connection to your kid, even a problematic one, is better than not.
And it could be that no matter how thin you make the pancake, they always have two sides. Is it possible that the offense has as much to do with you as with the person who has offended you? Yes, your son is gay or married someone of whom you disapprove or went to the wrong medical school or has the wrong color hair. But isn’t it YOUR issue with same sex marriage that has caused the kerfuffle?
You don’t HAVE to go back to a crummy restaurant, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a relationship with your kid? I’m not saying that you must forgive and forget; I’m just suggesting that SOMEBODY is going to be picking out your nursing home. Wouldn’t you rather you had sent that person a “We welcome you and your spouse to the family” card rather than cutting them out of your life?
Because there is still so much more for you to share with your kids – even when they’re older. The first time your son rode his two-wheel bike without training wheels won’t come again. But what about listening to Simon and Garfunkel’s Silent Night with the newscaster talking about Martin Luther King’s march on Selma in the background? Who’s going to share that brilliance with him if you don’t?
Forgive and forget? Thank you, David.
Do You Know What You Want To Do?
When I went to college I wanted to study art and design. But after a lot of thought I decided I’d be better off getting a business degree. It wasn’t until Introduction to Accounting with professor Doug Snowball that I discovered just how wrong I was.
A few weeks of accounting passed without incident. I was mostly lost and mostly bored but I kept attending Accounting 101 because of both professor Snowball’s funny top ten lists and because a big part of his class grade was based on mandatory attendance. I might not have had any idea what amortization meant, but I was certainly capable of showing up on time.
But this day was different. After attendance, professor Snowball posed this question to the class: “Tell me,” he asked with his Australian accent, “is a client deposit an asset or a liability?”
My hand shot up. For once I knew the answer to one of Snowball’s questions!
Professor Snowball looked confused as he examined my raised hand. Because I had never opened my mouth he had no idea who I was.
“Yes, Mr…” Snowball paused while he scanned his seating chart looking for my name. “…Mr. Turkle?” (people who don’t know me pronounce my name “Turkle” instead of “Tur-Kell.) “YOU know the answer?”
“Yes sir” I responded excitedly.
“Okay Mr. Turkle. Please tell us. Is a client deposit an asset or a liability?”
“It’s an asset!” I said, proud as punch.
Professor Snowball looked crestfallen. “I’m sorry Mr. Turkle, a client deposit is a liability.”
“No it’s not sir. It’s an asset.”
“I’m sorry to disappoint you, Mr. Turkle, but a client deposit is a liability. It belongs on the right side of the balance sheet. When you receive a deposit, you owe either products or services against it. I assure you a deposit is a liability.”
“With all due respect sir,” I answered, “if I have YOUR money then it is an asset. I believe most small businesses would pronounce that working capital. And my name’s pronounced Tur-Kéll – not Turkle – by the way.”
With that professor Snowball burst out laughing.
A couple of weeks later my dad came to Gainesville on a business trip and took me out to dinner. We were chatting about this and that when my dad asked how I liked the University of Florida.
I liked it fine, I told him. I was in a band, rooming with friends. There was lots to do and lots of cute girls and I was glad I was there.
My dad shook his head. That wasn’t what he meant. He wanted to know about my studies. Did I enjoy studying business?
“Actually,” I told him “I hate it. I don’t understand accounting at all, I can barely stay awake in my finance class, and I’m sure business ethics is an oxymoron.”
Then I told him the Snowball story.
“What do you want to study?” my dad asked.
“Art and design.”
“Then why are you studying business?”
“Because I don’t want to be a starving artist. I figured that business was the responsible thing to study. I figured if I get a business degree I can always get a job.”
Thanks to my dad’s good advice, I applied to the UF Design School. There was a bit of a sacrifice involved because the design school required different mandatory classes that I hadn’t taken and those mandatory classes added a few more semesters to my college career. But once I started taking classes in type design, printmaking, drawing, and graphic design I loved what I was doing and the people I was doing it with.
Why am I telling you this? Because my fondest hope for you in the new year is that you are either doing what you love or will make a new year’s resolution to figure out how to do so. I’m sure Professor Snowball — and my father — would both agree with that course of action.
All you need to decide is what you want to do.
Years and years ago I came up with a brilliant idea for attracting new business. In my daily scouring of newspapers, magazines, and other media (thankfully this was before the Internet) I’d look for advertising that I thought was poorly done. I’d rip the offending page out of the newspaper or magazine and slap a bright orange sticker on its face. The sticker said, “You would get better results with a better ad.”
Then I’d shove the marked-up ad in an envelope and send it to the CEO or CMO for whom I thought I could do better work. I’d include a note introducing myself and my agency and telling them what I could do for them.
Shockingly, I didn’t get any responses. And at first I didn’t understand why.
After all, I had taken the time to look at their advertising materials and even offered to help them out. It couldn’t be a matter of money because I hadn’t told them what I would charge for my services. So why weren’t they calling and taking me up on my generous offer?
What I’ve learned through hindsight, maturity, and the experience of getting knocked flat on my ass one time too many is that people don’t like being told they’re idiots.
And that was exactly what I was doing.
Instead of being helpful I was being presumptuous. Instead of being insightful I was being irritating. Instead of being enlightening I was being insulting. And instead of giving my prospects a real reason to contact me and do business with me I was giving them every reason to stay as far away from me as they could.
How many people who are concerned about their weight enjoy shopping in the “portly,” or “husky” department? How many people like asking for a seatbelt extender on an airplane? How many people who are concerned about their age enjoy requesting the senior discount?
How about asking the price of the special on the menu? Why do restaurant owners think it’s okay to post sumptuous specials without a price and then make us shyly ask the waiter how much it costs (or worse yet, simply not order it)?
Who wants to buy a computer from a knowledgeable IT salesperson who makes it clear we don’t know what we’re buying? Who wants to buy a car from a salesperson who asks if we “…need to check with our spouse first?”
What middle-aged person just getting back into a fitness regime wants to walk into a hard body gym? What father wants to be asked by his child’s preschool teacher if he’s “babysitting today?”
What voters like being told they’re racist, misogynistic, uneducated, deplorable, elitist, close-minded, dishonest, lazy, immoral, unengaged or crooked?
No, few consumers like to be told they’re stupid, over the hill, overweight, clueless, unwelcome, cheap, or uninformed, even if they are. Nobody likes being called an idiot. Instead people want to be treated with respect, compassion, interest, concern, politeness, and graciousness.
Yes, there are nightclubs that fill their tables by making people wait behind the velvet line hoping to get in. And yes, there are upscale boutiques that sell outrageous amounts of clothing at outrageous prices simply by looking down on their customers (Pretty Woman, anyone?) but the Internet is making that reality rarer and rarer. Because in a world where almost anything is instantly available and anyone can comment on anything anytime, consumers have more choices than ever.
And when they have all this choice, you can be sure they’re not going to frequent businesses that make them feel badly about being there. Or worse, make them feel badly about themselves. And you can be damn sure they’re not going to call the ad agency that suggests they’re idiots.
All About Them is not only the title of my new book, it’s also the three-word mantra that can transform your business in the new world we all find ourselves. By making sure that you’re always looking for ways to not talk about yourself and your company but to talk about how you make your consumers’ lives better, you can change the relationship you have with them. And that simple shift will generate increased inquiries, increased sales, and increased loyalty.
All About Them is not just a book title. It’s a way of life.
To understand the need for change, let’s review the history of the advertising industry.
The business was started in the 1800’s when the publisher of a farm journal realized tractor manufacturers, seed companies, and the like couldn’t get reach all the farmers themselves but they could reach them by placing ads in his publication. So, he spread the word, became an “agent”, and the first “agency” was born.
For the next hundred years the business didn’t change much. Agencies represented newspapers which were not too much different from farm journals. In the 1920s agencies started representing radio stations. The technology might have seen change — aural instead of visual — but the concept was the same.
In the 1950s, agencies added television. Now they were selling a medium that consumers saw and heard, but it was still the same concept. And, of course, billboards, magazines, and direct mail were added. But the business did not change substantially until the 1990s when — BOOM!! — the Internet became important. What the Internet did — and what nobody realized in the early 1990s — was that it democratized media. Thanks to Internet access almost everybody had the opportunity to reach consumers. And online vehicles (like this blog for example) could reach huge groups of people without ever paying a penny to a magazine, newspaper or
Of course, the reason for marketing hasn’t needed to change despite all the new technologies. If you don’t actively sell things, people aren’t going to buy them. Because if you already run your business well and constantly improve everything you can improve, then one of the few places to build real value in your company is to build your brand. Done properly, branding can become the least expensive way to generate more revenue and make your business more valuable.
Advertising agencies continue to run their businesses the same way their predecessors did more than one hundred years ago.
It’s like the newspaper business. The problem with the newspaper business is they have the word paper in their name. And so most newspapers thought they had to print their information on paper. And they’ve paid the price in diminished circulation in the wake of emerging TV and Internet news sources.
But if newspapers realized that what people want to buy is news, not paper, they would change their business model to brand and sell what they do so well and what people want to buy.
But companies — like people — don’t like to change. And worse, they don’t like to be told to change. Do you? What is it you’re not doing — or not changing — even though you see the writing on the wall?