Why Branding Is The Next Essential Startup Competency

Old writing, but still timely:

Why Branding Is the Next Essential Startup Competency

Love this quote:

In Silicon Valley, we tend to believe that better products win markets. It’s atypical to overhear a conversation at Blue Bottle Coffee or at YCombinator about brand building – brand attributes, values, positioning. Instead, our exchanges focus more on technology and more recently, design.

But over the next several years, marketing, branding and positioning, all under-appreciated disciplines in the valley will become markedly more important. As barriers to entry continue to fall driven by cloud technologies, competition among startups will increase and the startups that reach their target customer bases with the best messaging, building the most effective brands, will win.



Ken Burns On Streaming Video

Along with 9 million other people, I’ve been watching “The Roosevelts” on PBS. The insight into the motivations and experiences of two of great American leaders is fantastic. So is Ken Burns’ perspective on streaming video:

One of the ways we abolish the cacophony of noise and the information deluge is to binge watch, which is how streaming video is allowing us to control our content. When I met television critics this year, none of them complained that “The Roosevelts” is 14 hours. At every juncture of my professional life critics have said no one will watch long historical documentaries, but now they realize that people are starved for 14 hours of content, whether it’s “Orange is the New Black” or “House of Cards.” The same laws of storytelling apply—if it’s a good story, it’s a good story. Mine just have to be based on fact. I can’t make it up.

Millions of channels, loads of screens, lots of conversations, and we’re still starving for content that brings us together. Check out the rest of the interview:

Ken Burns on “The Roosevelts” and American Leadership

via Harvard Business Review



Too Many Marketing Teams Are Stuck In The Past

An important conversation taking place over at Harvard Business Review:

Digital marketing teams are centralized yet isolated from the broader organization. Marketing groups are splintered into communications, consumer marketing, brand marketing, and digital marketing units with no common thread in strategy and execution.

However, I’m not sure I this is the only solution:

To be a successful digital marketing organization, your team needs to be organized by functional expertise rather than by brand, project or platform in order to deliver coherent, integrated campaigns across all consumer touchpoints.

The above is true if you believe marketing’s purpose in an organization is operational. It’s not true if you believe marketing’s purpose in an organization is to discover new opportunities, enter new markets, inspire customers to change their behavior, and build emotional relationships to brands. That’s what traditional marketers think they are doing. It’s a set of skills in which digital marketers have to play catch up.

Still, it’s a great conversation. I do believe marketing is stuck in the past. But the failure to modernize itself isn’t about organizational development. It’s about failure to recognize that the audience, society, and the economy has moved on. Digital marketers needs to find a way to express that in ways that aren’t so functional and limiting.

Read more here: Too Many Marketing Teams Are Stuck in the Past

via @hbr @himeilee

The Software Gets In The Way

Readers of this blog will note my love for technology, and also my respect for the human mind, both its intellectual and emotional capabilities. I’m very happy to let machines take care of things that don’t need attention, but I find that sometimes software gets in the way of striking up conversations, exploring mutual interests, sharing new ideas, and making new connections. Software also can’t take a good picture, nor can it predict my taste in music, but that’s a subject for a whole other blog posting.

In this posting, I thought I’d share some interesting observations I’ve made over the past two weeks. With the summer behind us, I’ve decided to shift my focus to the next chapter of my career. After mastering the interview process of a so-called leader in the marketing technology space, I decided to take a more grassroots approach towards lead generation, or in plain speak, job searching. The hypothesis is that I’d find a better match for my skills and interests, as well as a better group of colleagues, if I simply put down the fancy tools and “went analog” for a little bit.

Using email, a phone, and a simple offer to buy coffee, I reached out to 50 people between September 3rd and September 12th. The response has astounded me:

48 introductory conversations
17 meetings scheduled
8 confirmed
5 already occurred
4 to be planned
3 new contacts created
1 new opportunity to explore

By most marketing measures, especially in digital channels, these numbers are great. Converting 48 calls into 17 meetings is better than a 33% response rate! You never get that with social media. I can interpret that a number of ways:

1. My timing was solid. Never contact someone on Monday seems to be working.
2. I wrote a good note. Short-form copy absent of buzzwords and self-promotion.
3. I made a compelling offer. Free coffee.

Actually, that wasn’t the offer, that was the incentive. The offer was for conversation about something that interests each and every one of us: how people are navigating the landscape in the advertising and marketing space. I’m genuinely interested. And others are genuinely interested in talking about it. But the mobile phones and social media we all love get in the way of constructive conversation. And the self-promotion on events and newsfeed doesn’t provide answers. Which may be why an offer to step out of the office and chat has worked so well: the software has gotten in the way.

So, what to do with this insight? A couple of things:

1. Broaden the campaign. More introductions. More conversations.

2. Simplify the ask. I don’t mean coffee. That’s easy. I mean how people can help me do what I want next.

3. Stay in touch. Not through broadcast messages on social feeds, but through personalized communication and informal conversations. In spite of all the buzz about career matchmaking and online job boards, that’s not where opportunities really lie. In other words, “go analog.”

One last piece of career advice: don’t leave yours to the machines. 🙂


Please Invent This

Funny little piece.

When I took classes at the CIA, chefs emphasized that technique was far more important than tools.

Same thing at ICP. The technique you demonstrate with a camera body or a lens is far more important than the equipment or the development process.

So, then, why would respective chefs suggest that dream gadgets would make them better chefs?

Self-promotion, me thinks. It’s a shame, if you think about it. Take the focus off the foods, the flavors, and the dining experience, and puts it on the equipment and the kitchen. Is that really the ticket to a better meal and happier guests?

Please Invent This: Chefs And Food Writers On Kitchen Tools They Wish They Had

via Fast Company Design


When More Is More Is Too Much

Good insight here into the role of brands when consumers have too much of a good thing:

In fast food for example, consumers fed up with feeling they might have to discipline themselves about portion control, are now asking brands to do it for them – and recalibrating offerings in the process. Super-sizing is out. Miniaturizing is in. Small meals, small drinks, small treats … great for the brands, because proportionately consumers are paying more per mouthful for the privilege of having less mouthfuls. And great for the consumers because they feel they’re doing something that’s good for them.

The very clear message: if your brand is competing in a “more is more” scenario, sometimes the wisest thing you can do is make the case for less, not by pointing out why people should abstain, but rather by developing an offering that still feels desirable and yet also seems more responsible.

Brand Strategy And Brand Habits

via Branding Strategy Insider