One Word Brands. The Key to Donald Trump’s Success.

Posted on May 21st, 2016

One Word Brands. The Key to Donald Trump’s Success.

Of the estimated $2 billion dollars in free media Donald Trump has received during the 2016 presidential campaign, lots of it has been dedicated to explaining his surprisingly successful rise as the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee.

Some pundits acknowledge Trump’s mastery of today’s most influential media. As the argument goes, FDR mastered radio, JFK mastered TV, Obama mastered the Internet, and Trump is demonstrating his timely mastery of social media and reality television.

Some analysts talk about Trump’s appeal to an angry, mostly male, mostly middle class white voter who feels betrayed by both the current administration and the traditional Republican power structure. But even beyond that group, a majority of voters in both parties believe the country has been ineffectual in its response to the danger of terrorism and may be open to Trump’s message.

Finally, some authorities attribute Trump’s success to a unique time in American history where temperament and experience have been undermined by the desire for a show of strength unburdened by the complexity of facts or habit.

Regardless of what you think of Donald Trump the candidate, all of these points make logical sense. But I think there’s one more simple fact that doesn’t get any press – Trump’s mastery of one word brands.

One of the most important rules of political marketing is to always define yourself before others define you. After all, in the same way that nature abhors a vacuum, politics do too. Candidate Barack Obama demonstrated this when he successfully defined himself with two simple words – “hope” and “change.” But shortly after being elected, the visionary became a functionary and Obama failed to clearly define his plan for health care. And as we’ve since learned, while Obamacare is the law of the land, its passing required significant compromise and the program is still being attacked and argued by a party that defined the platform with catchy phrases including “Pulling the plug on grandma,” and “Death panels.”

Understanding that, it’s easy to look back and see how Donald Trump ID’d each of his Republican candidates with compellingly negative one word brands. Despite the exclamation point in his logo, Jeb Bush was tagged “Low energy Jeb.” Diminutive Marco Rubio was nicknamed with the patronizing moniker “Little Marco.” Ted Cruz became “Lyin’ Ted.” And regardless of whether you want to admit it or not, you knew each one of these labels long before I listed them.

Winning the presumptive nominee slot hasn’t changed Trump’s strategy one bit. Instead he’s been working hard to establish his one word brand name for his most-likely rival – the woman he calls “Crooked Hillary.”

But don’t rush to give Trump credit for coming up with this approach of one word brands, this tactic has been used many times before. Throughout history most American presidents have had one or two word brand descriptors: Dwight Eisenhower – war hero. John Kennedy – Camelot. Lyndon Johnson – Southern Democrat. Richard Nixon – Tricky Dicky. Gerald Ford – Klutz. Jimmy Carter – Peanut Farmer. Ronald Reagan – Cowboy. And so on.

one word brandsWhether or not the one word brands were accurate portrayals didn’t seem to matter, by the way. “Klutzy” Gerald Ford was actually an accomplished athlete who was voted most valuable player by his University of Michigan football team. Ford lettered three years in a row and played in the college all-star game. He even turned down offers to play in the NFL for both the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers. But SNL comedian Chevy Chase consistently depicted Ford tripping over himself and the nickname stuck. Similarly, Al Gore never actually said he invented the Internet just like Sarah Palin never said she could “see Russia from my house.”

Keep your eye on the election proceedings to see how Trump uses his time-proven technique to attack his Democratic opponent. And also watch to see if the Clinton campaign not only defines their candidate’s brand before Trump’s name can stick but also uses the same tactic against Trump himself. After all, what’s good for the gander should be good for the goose, too.

And maybe you should take another second or two and figure out what your one word brand is before someone else slaps you with a definition that you’re not so happy with.

Brand Positioning. Positioning Brands.

Posted on May 17th, 2016

Brand Positioning. Positioning Brands.

Have you seen someone wearing a down jacket made by The North Face lately? Perhaps you noticed – and wondered –why their logo was not embroidered in the usual spot over the left front breast pocket. Instead The North Face logo is emblazoned on the back of the jacket, directly over the wearer’s right rear scapula.

Why do they do that?

Brand positioningOne of the things we’ve talked about here is the importance of brands expressing their authentic truth. Usually that’s done through design and positioning, with those disciplines being used to communicate what the brand is about and why it matters to its audiences. Great examples of authentic brand truths we’ve discussed include Bill O’Reilly, Volvo, Prince, and more. All of these brands position themselves to initiate and develop an interactive relationship with their consumers.

But just like Freud apocryphally said, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” sometimes brand positioning is just positioning the brand.

Apple is probably one of the best practitioners of effective brand positioning and they do a lot of things to make you know their products are designed specifically with you in mind. For example, the sleep indicator light on Apple’s MacBook laptops blink between 12-20 times per minute, the same rate as the average adult’s respiratory rate. Having your laptop breathe right along with you is so important to Apple that they patented the idea in 2002.

Brand Positioning Macbook LogoBecause Apple’s brand positioning is so intimately personal, the company even positioned their logos upside down on their early laptops. That is, when the laptop was closed the logo on the cover was positioned to appear upright to the user but when the laptop was opened, the logo would appear upside down to anyone facing the user.

According to former Apple employee Joe Moreno, “Steve (Jobs) wanted to make sure that when a user sat down in front of their Mac the Apple logo was facing towards them, he didn’t care how an onlooker saw it.”

This caused a lot of problems for Hollywood and movie producers who would regularly affix logo stickers to Apple laptops so the logo would read correctly. But eventually the marketers at Apple were able to convince the powers that be that it was more important to the user that people walking into a Starbucks knew they were using an Apple than it was for the logo to be oriented to the user and the logo was flipped over.

After all, brands tell the world who their users are. Just like the gold crosses or silver Stars of David dangling from chains around our necks, the company logos on our shirts, shoes, and shiny objects become the badges of identification that signal the world how we want to be perceived.

As recently as 5/17/16 Forbes Magazine estimated Ralph Lauren’s wealth at $5.5 Billion. My guess is he’s worth more than most everyone who reads this blog. Yet somewhere in your closet there’s probably a shirt or belt or tie with Lauren’s logo on it. And you paid for it. That means you paid your own hard-earned money to advertise billionaire Ralph Lauren’s company for him. If billboard companies followed your lead and paid the companies they promoted they’d be out of business pretty quickly. And please spare me the argument that you don’t wear anything with Ralph Lauren’s logo on it. Because even if that’s actually true, Forbes says Phil Knight is worth $24.7 billion and I’ll bet you’ve got some Nike sneakers or athletic wear in your closet somewhere.

When brand positioning aligns with you (or what you aspire to be) then identification with that brand’s positioning becomes a big part of what you buy.

So why does The North Face embroider their logos on the backs of their jackets? Because even though the majority of The North Face’s products are probably worn in cities, the company positions itself as the brand of real skiers and hikers, both of whom spend a lot of time in lines (waiting for ski lifts or walking single file on trails) looking at the backs of the person in front of them. Not only are the backs of their jackets a good place for The North Face to have their logos seen but also an excellent way for The North Face to position themselves as authentic. Because while brand positioning is important, the positioning of the brand can be important, too.

After all, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.


How To Create A Name For Your Business

Posted on May 9th, 2016

How To Create A Name.

Create a name CreamscicleWhen I was a kid I worked in one of my parents’ restaurants. We sold pizza and hotdogs and sodas and soft serve ice cream. On the weekends at the busier stores we were go go go from open to close, handing food across the counter and grabbing bills and change to toss in the cash register.

One of our big sellers was a frozen dessert concoction made with orange juice and sugar and water. Besides looking and tasting great it had a great name: O-Joy. The name told you not only what was in the product (OJ) but just how much fun you’d have eating it. People even enjoyed ordering an O-Joy because of the great name.

One day we were playing around with the O-Joy and mixed one with vanilla ice cream. By sheer serendipity we created a delicious frosty treat that tasted just like an orange Creamsicle. It tasted so good, in fact, that we started selling them to our customers before we’d even made the orange and white blend an official menu item. Everyone loved them.

Create a nameA few weeks later, our genius marketing guy (not me thank you, remember I was a high school kid at the time) asked to create a name for our new dessert. A few weeks later he delivered the marketing materials for the new frozen orange juice and vanilla ice cream product with its new name: Son of O-Joy. His menu boards were designed to look like classic old horror movie posters complete with lurid typefaces, cheesy dramatic images, and lurid colors. The placards were clever and looked great. We hung them up with as much joy and excitement as we had eating the new dessert.

But nobody ordered our new treat.

Every so often, a regular customer would come in and ask for something like, “that vanilla ice cream with the frozen orange thing.” Or they’d just point at the poster and grunt. Even though we had hired a great talent to create a name, nobody would order a Son of O-Joy.

Eventually we gave up on the marketing campaign and renamed our delicious dessert Sno-Joy. After we put up the new poster – a simple line drawing with the product’s name and the price – Sno-Joys sold like proverbial hotcakes.

Today we have a client who’s creating a new national retail concept. He’s got a great idea, a fantastic location, and a highly-efficient vertical manufacturing and distribution system. Thanks to our work he’s also got gorgeous packaging and stunning promotional materials. The only problem is his company can’t create a name.

The first name he brought us was untrademarkable. We couldn’t buy the URL for the second. And each name he’s suggested since is either hard to spell, hard to pronounce, or just plain old embarrassing to pronounce. Unfortunately, he doesn’t want to pay us to create a name.

Great products demand great names. Some of the ones we’ve created recently include an app for the private aviation industry (the Uber for private jets) called Personifly, a 1,000-foot landmark observation tower called Skyrise Miami, a restaurant chain that specializes in salads and vegetarian fare called Saladarity, a faith-based medical advocacy program called Advinity, and an outdoor park and concert facility called SoundScape.

Like Google and Airbnb, our new names all sound a bit odd to the ear the first time you encounter them but quickly tell you what the product offers and why it matters to you – either through the actual meaning of the words themselves or thanks to repeated usage of both the product and the name.

But perhaps more importantly, none of the names produce a roadblock to purchase like Son of O-Joy did. Powerful, evocative, and simple naming solutions is a lesson I learned long ago that is even more relevant in today’s world of Internet connections and short attention span consumers.

How do you create a name? Very carefully.

Did I Do the Right Thing?

Posted on May 3rd, 2016

Did I Do the Right Thing?

Do The Right ThingLast week I posted a blog entitled, Prince – The Brand. The article summarized Prince’s career and then talked about his brand developed across the 40+ years Prince was in the music business. My simple point was that even though Prince was an international superstar who sold over 100 million albums, played 27 instruments, won seven Grammys, and also won a Golden Globe and an Academy Award and had been inducted into the the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, you could describe his brand with one word – funk.

Then I asked you to think about what your one-word brand would be.

I got a lot of responses, both on and off the blog. Brand Architect David Hawes was nice enough to end his comments with, “…you inspire me to consider new ideas.”

Brian Walter thought that summarizing “your brand in one word” was a challenge and asked me what my one word would be.

Simone Foote sent thanks for “…provoking me to give it some major thought.”

@MsJeanna tweeted, “Can you boil your brand into a single word? #Prince could. So can @BruceTurkel…”

And best-selling author @BobBurg tweeted, “…what’s YOUR one-word brand?”

I was pleased with the responses and happy that not only had I made my point but had motivated some of you to think about how you could learn and benefit from the fantastic things Prince had accomplished.

But one of my readers was not pleased with what I had written. Geoffrey Batrouney, executive vice president of New York’s Estee Marketing Group wrote, “How extraordinarily tacky and in bad taste.”

Geoffrey didn’t explain further but it’s not hard to figure that he felt I was exploiting Prince’s untimely passing and using the event to draw attention to my blog. Cleary Geoffrey thought that I did not do the right thing.


But the truth is Geoffrey was not entirely wrong.

Because the mantra of my blog, my business, and my life is to be useful, enjoyable, and valuable, I’m always looking for ways to add value to the communities in which I participate. Because of that, one of my goals is for this blog to reach as many readers as possible. When I pick my subjects I do think about what’s going on in the news, what people are talking about, and what I can do to make my posts a productive part of those conversations.

In order to reach more and more readers, I’ve studied and learned a lot about Search Engine Management and Search Engine Optimization (SEM and SEO) and I look for ways to make my posts more attractive to Google and the other search engines and aggregators. I’ve learned that using the right key words and phrases at the right time is an important way to get as much distribution as possible while making my blog as findable as possible too.

Finally, because I want you to take the time to read what I write and actually think about my points and maybe even apply them to your brands and businesses, it makes sense for me to write about the things in which my readers are interested. Paying attention to the larger zeitgeist and being part of the greater conversation is an important way to do this. It’s why television news programs, newspapers, magazines, and online sites work so hard to uncover scoops and stay obsessive about constantly being up-to-date.

Because of this, Prince’s death is not the first time current events have been the subject of my blog. If you’ve been reading for a while you might remember posts about Caitlyn Jenner, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bill O’Reilly, Brian Williams, and more. Each was written to use up-to-the-minute examples to demonstrate valuable branding techniques that you can put to work for you. And, as we’ve seen, each was written specifically to generate as much online activity as possible.

PrinceSo was my post “extraordinarily tacky and in bad taste”? Did I not do the right thing? I’ve reread the article enough times to feel comfortable that my words were only respectful. But of course that’s not Geoffrey’s point. I believe what bothered him is that my blog jumped on the Prince bandwagon and exploited the artist’s death to attract as many eyeballs as possible. And to that I can only respond that I am guilty as charged.

But my question remains. Did I do the right thing? What do you think? Please click on the “comment” link below and let me know.

Prince – The Brand

Posted on April 25th, 2016

Prince passed away last week and the whole world mourned. Even my mom called to ask what I thought of Prince and his music.

PrinceOf course everyone was surprised by Prince’s untimely death. He didn’t appear to be a troubled soul like Kurt Cobain. He hadn’t been battling cancer like David Bowie. He wasn’t diabetic like BB King. He wasn’t 94-years old like Pete Seeger.

Still, regardless of the cause of his death, one has to wonder why so many people were aware of Prince’s passing. Of course it’s easy to write it off to his talent and his fame but I think it’s something else. I think we all care because we all understand Prince’s brand.

Prince Rogers Nelson’s second album, his eponymous release, went platinum in 1979 and established Prince’s superstar status. Over his nearly 40-year career he sold more than 100 million records. Plus, he won seven Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe, an Academy Award, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In 2004 Prince appeared on stage with Tom Petty, Stevie Winwood, Dhani Harrison, Jeff Lynne, and others to honor the late George Harrison’s induction into that same hall of fame. When he was later asked how it felt to be the best guitar player in the world, legend has it Eric Clapton apocryphally replied, “I don’t know, ask Prince.”

Besides his jaw-dropping guitar chops, Prince played piano and 25 other instruments. He wrote, arranged, and produced all his music. He sang, danced, acted in movies and on TV, and even wrote hits for other performers. Those songs include Jungle Love for The Time, The Glamorous Life for Sheila E, I Feel for You for Chaka Khan, Manic Monday for The Bangles, Nothing Compares 2 U for Sinead O’Connor, Sugar Walls for Sheena Easton, and Kiss for both The Art of Noise and Tom Jones.

Yet despite all this, Prince had a singular brand that can be summed up in one word:


Or, as he sang on his Love Symbol Album in 1992, “My name is Prince and I am funky.”

If you think about Prince, and what you love about him, I’m pretty sure the word “funk” or “funky” would come up for you, too.

What’s amazing is that this single word is all it takes to describe a guy who plays 27 instruments, has written hits (funky and not) for more successful artists than you can name, has won virtually every major award for performance (there is no Tony… yet), and was ranked number 27 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

All this, and yet Prince’s brand tells you exactly what’s in it for you with one word – funk.

Volvo stands for safety. Apple stands for cool. UNICEF stands for kids. Nordstrom stands for service. Wal-Mart stands for low prices. Google stands for innovation. Amazon stands for convenience. Now think about your brand.

If all of these companies can pare their extremely complicated businesses down to such simple and emotional descriptors, what is your word?

His name is Prince and he is funky.

What are you?

Brand Building – Communicate as profitably as possible.

Posted on April 18th, 2016

Brand Building

The keynote speech to the realtors’ association went very well. We reviewed brand building from the 50,000-foot view and covered the seven critical points to building a compelling brand. Near the end of my talk I invited the audience to continue with me at a workshop session where we’d get more practical. If the keynote explained the Why’s and the How’s of brand building, the workshop would cover the What’s.

The session started with a quick brand building pyramid exercise during which I asked the audience to think about their brands’ Points of Difference and their Points of Distinction. I even asked for a few volunteers to share their insight with the audience.

Brand BuildingOne beautiful woman on the far side of the room — let’s call her Diane (because, that’s her name) — seemed to be having a little trouble figuring out what was special about her company. But after a little thought her face lit up.

“I know!” she said excitedly “We’re special because we…” she paused, not entirely sure if her answer was going to be correct. “We’re special because we communicate.”

I encouraged her to continue. “Please explain what you mean.”

“Well we don’t just list properties or find properties for our clients. Instead we really talk about the deal and the opportunities. We make sure the client gets to really explore their feelings, look at the transaction from every possible angle, and spend lots of time expressing their hopes and dreams, their expectations and aspirations, even their successes and disappointments with properties they may have bought or sold before.”

“All your clients are women, aren’t they?” I asked.

Diane thought for a moment. “Yes, I suppose they are,” she finally responded. “How did you know?”

“Just a hunch.” I said meekly.

Now I know what you’re thinking, and NO, I was not trying to be funny. It’s just that when Diane went into such profound depth about the amount of communication she has with her clients about their feelings I knew that she had to spend most of her time talking to women.

WIFE: “I think it’s time we had a talk.”

HUSBAND: “Why? We had a talk last year.”

So what’s the important takeaway for you and your brand building here? Quite simply that whether she thought about it or not, Diane knows who her customer is and what they want. She has created an All About Them business (and brand) that carefully and specifically meets her customers’ deepest desires. Diane communicates with her clients precisely because Diane’s clients want to communicate and be communicated with.

Now before you point out that by doing this Diane does not cater to a vast swath of the consuming public, please understand that no successful business can be all things to all people. Instead, the best businesses figure out whom they’re doing business with and how to best please those very people.

Porsche doesn’t try to sell cars to drivers whose number one concern is fuel efficiency any more than Bacardi tries to sell rum to teetotalers. Bob Burg, author of the best-seller The Go Giver, doesn’t try to sell books to people who are not interested in evolving any more than David Altshuler, author of Raising Healthy Kids in an Unhealthy World, tries to sell books to people who are not interested in being better parents.

Of course you could simply do your brand building based on what you like and see if anyone responds. But that’s like throwing a dart and then painting the target around it. Occasionally you may hit the mark but most often you’ll be wildly unsuccessful.

The key to brand building, then — which Diane intuitively understood — is to make sure your brand is All About Them. That is, make sure your brand communicates most directly and empathetically with the people you want to do business with.

Brand Building Methods.

Posted on April 11th, 2016

Brand Building Methods.

I Got Fooled is a great blues song by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee about a man who offers to clean a beautiful neighbor’s house in return for intimate favors.

You know that she promised me

When the work was through,

That I could have my way

And do anything I wanted to.

Unfortunately for our hopeful protagonist, things don’t work out quite the way he expects. As he reveals in the chorus:

But I got fooled buddy,

Yeah, I got fooled.

Don’t you know I got fooled?

She was jivin’ me all the time.

The song sets a good tone for this post because I got fooled too.

More times that I can remember, I’ve posted this quote – a philosophy of business, really – as an example of how to build a brand.

People Don’t Buy What You Do.

They Buy Who You Are.

Not only have I written about this idea extensively, I’ve also talked about it to my audiences and even built a TEDx presentation around it.

But having spent time working with our clients and incorporating this idea I realize I got fooled as well. I realize there’s a subtle shift that today’s brand building methods demand.

Brand Building MethodsIf the only tool you have is a hammer, then every solution looks like a nail. And if your area of practice is branding and advertising then every goal used to look like a sale. But as I’ve learned, the rigid concept of selling leading to buying belongs to an earlier era, replete with controlled distribution, limited inventory, and centrally protected information.

Today, the Internet (and the access we all have to it) distributes information that is both free and accessible. Today we can buy things based on price, accessibility, specifications or virtually any other metric that we control. And we can do this with little or no cooperation from yesterday’s retailers. Because Google knows everything and it puts all that information right in our pockets.

This insight explains why I got fooled. Based on what I’ve learned about brand building methods I realize that consumers no longer buy who you are. Today they choose who you are. This simple but profound distinction has altered the whole relationship between the provider of goods and services and their consumers as well as the brand building methods we need to use in order to bridge this gap.

The old school way to build a brand was to work on sales pitches. The better you pitch, the more you sell. But today it’s essential to uncover the essential truths that will help you construct an offer that consumers will be compelled to choose. Because as I’ve talked about so many times before, the key to building a powerful brand is to discover your authentic truth and express it to your audiences by showing them how your brand resonates in their lives.

Miss this simple shift in thinking and you risk getting fooled with your brand building methods, just like I did. If you want to hear how Michael Pickett got fooled, click HERE.

Brand Strategies for Fun and Profit.

Posted on April 4th, 2016

Brand strategies for fun and profit.

Hospitals can learn a lot from restaurants. Even though it’s a silly stretch to point out that the words hospital and hospitality share the same linguistic root, the parallels remain strong. In any service business, especially ones where clients and customers enjoy personal or intimate experiences, managing expectations is a crucial way to build brand value and improve consumer perceptions.

For example, the restaurant business is the only business I know of that can be utterly devastated by a single hair.

Aligning Brand Strategies

You have your favorite restaurant. A place you eat at regularly, the spot you celebrate your family’s milestones. The owner and servers know you, you can always get a table, and your favorite dish is always available, even when it’s not on the menu. In short, your life is more enjoyable because of this place.

Then one night you bite into your favorite dish and wind up having to pull an unexpected hair out of your mouth. I don’t care how much you love this restaurant; chances are you’re not going back.

If you’re completely honest with yourself you’ll admit that you could find at least one errant hair in your own nice clean home (you could certainly find one in mine). But somehow we don’t extend the same luxurious tolerance to the places we go to eat, favorite or otherwise.

It was lessons like these, learned when I worked in my family’s restaurants as a kid, that helped me build brands for hospitals and health care companies years later. When I worked in my folks’ restaurants, one of the terms we tried to strike from our server’s pitch was “How’s everything?” Besides being a meaningless throw away phrase, “How’s everything?” precluded the server from doing any kind of upselling or establishing and reinforcing the quality of the consumer experience we worked so hard to provide.

Instead of that useless phrase, we tried to get our servers to engage their customers with a bit of information about their meal. So when they served fish, for example, they would mention that the restaurant had a contract with the local fishing fleets and that the filet had been cut fresh this very morning. When the server would clear the dish away, they’d ask how the patron enjoyed the fish, reminding them that it was probably the freshest fish they’d ever eaten that they hadn’t caught themselves.

You can imagine the difference. The first question, “How’s everything?” would usually result in an offhanded, “Fine.” The question about the fresh fish would create conversation and compel the customer to actually think about their meal and comment favorably. Plus, it would give the now satisfied customer a little bragging point that they could use later when they were telling their friends about the fresh fish they just enjoyed.

I saw this same technique of aligning brand strategies used in the health care business when Michael Earley, CEO of Metropolitan Health Networks, set out to cut the wait time in his company’s clinics. The first thing Mike did was insist that his patients be called “customers.” After all he reasoned, why wouldn’t we expect people to wait if the word we use to describe them — patients — is a homonym for patience?

The next thing Mike did was change the way his receptionists answered the phones. To speed up service, they said, “Welcome to MetCare. Do you need to see a physician immediately?” Doing this accomplished two things, it let customers know that if they had an emergency they would be taken care of right away. And it telegraphed the company policy clearly — constantly reminding the traffic and logistics departments to make sure they could live up to the promise.

Managing expectations is a great way to build and reinforce brand strategies but it does require a committed effort to make sure that operations live up to promises. In fact, if the products or services do not reinforce the message then setting a high bar will simply highlight flaws. Because pointing out how quickly a patient will be attended to — or how fresh the fish is — only works when you’re aligning brand strategies and the guarantee is actually met, or exceeded, by the reality.

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