Blogging the AMA Leadership Summit

The American Marketing Association is hosting their Leadership Summit in Chicago this weekend (April 25-27). It is for leaders in local chapters of the AMA to learn how to better serve their members and run a better chapter. It is also a great gathering of marketing professionals from across the nation. I am anticipating some great networking and learning opportunities.

As I learn along with members of the Wichita Chapter making the trip, I plan to blog about the goingson.

This gives me an opportunity to talk about the importance of joining professional organizations in your field, marketing or otherwise. There are so many in the marketing field (PRSA, AdFed, etc.) that are great opportunities to meet others and share best proactices. Leraning never stops and professional development should be high on your list of goals for furthing your career.

If you are going to the conference and would like to connect, drop me a line.


Starbucks brews a cup o' joe

You may have heard about the coffee flavor Starbucks introduced last Tuesday by giving it out for free at stores across the nation. Pike Place Roast is supposed to be for those who think that Starbucks coffee tastes too strong, bitter and/or burnt. Another name for these people: Non-Starbucks Drinkers.

Starbucks coffee has a definite taste and to fans of Dunkin Donuts swill. That taste is decidedly more extreme. I would use a terms like bold and full-bodied over bitter and burnt.

What about this new flavor? I have yet to try it, but the best description I have read so far was from James Poniewozik at Time who said, “The result, though, is a cup of coffee that tastes less like a cup of coffee.”

So is Starbucks doing the right thing? Well, I love that they introduced a product by giving it away on a certain day. It makes an event out of the launch and throws exponentially more people into the consumer process at the trial stage. Lesson here: consider giving it away for free if you can.

But, I have always thought that Starbucks was really aimed at coffee snobs (not an affectionate term, but I happen to be one, so I can use it). By attempting to brew a mass audience blend, do they abandon their core audience? Maybe. They must really be feeling the pinch from McDonalds.

Another position Starbucks strives to fill is what they call the “third place,” the other two being work and home. That is a lifestyle position. By this standard, opening up your product line to encompass more consumers could be considered a fit.

In the end, Starbucks comes off a bit desperate to me on this one. Part of the cool factor with them is that they seem to buck the system (“Screw small, medium and large! We’ll do tall, grande and Venti!”). Launching a bland roast doesn’t jive with that.


An Absolute Branding Mistake

Reuters reports that “The distillers of Sweden's Absolut vodka have withdrawn an advertisement run in Mexico that angered many U.S. citizens by idealizing an early 19th century map showing chunks of the United States as Mexican.”

Absolut initially defended that ad by saying that it was intended for the Mexican market.

Someone should tell Absolut about this thing called the Internet. A major brand never really isolates a message to a particular region.

The marketing problem here is that Absolut forgot that they are a GLOBAL brand. The rules are very different on the global scale. Sure, there are cultural differences that need to be accounted for when marketing internationally, but core brand values need to remain consistent. And those core brand values had best not alienate a large portion of your market.

Also, a little situational analysis would have suggested that a message focused on Mexican/American relations might have unintended negative buzz in the U.S. against the backdrop a national debate on immigration policy.

But this is just marketing, right?

Who needs a drink?

A Branding Key: Understanding your strengths

I was recently turned on to book that helps the reader define their strengths. Strengths Finder 2.0 is a book and accompanying online assessment that was developed out of a 40-year Gallup study of human strengths. The reader takes a 30 minute test and is presented with their top 5 strengths, descriptions of the strengths and an action planning guide to build on them. The test is nothing like a traditional IQ test so there is no need to study. It’s simply about preferences.

I point to this book, not because of the tremendous personal value that comes from being able to articulate and understand your strengths, but because of its relevance to branding. When branding a product or an organization, this is essentially where we start. We need to discover our company’s/product’s strengths. Not just what we say they are, but what our existing customers believe them to be. Once we know our strengths (and we would be lucky to have as many as five) we have a branding foundation. These strengths are our brand characteristics that, hopefully, set us apart. Our strengths lead directly to defining our position and creating a brand promise that the company/product will always strive to live up to.

So, are you developing your brand from a foundation of core strengths?

Oh, and in case you are wondering, my top five strengths are:



Greenwashing Activities: Not good for the environment or your brand.

Ad Age points to a new Nielsen Online study that found that misleading consumers is bad
—shocker! The study entitled “Sustainability Through the Eyes and Megaphones of the Blogosphere” finds that misrepresenting the environmental impact of your company, or greenwashing, through advertising and PR is a “fatal corporate strategy.”


Because of social media. Blogs and other social media sites are very quick to sniff out exaggerated “green” claims, sparking discussion and discontent that spreads like a wildfire (sorry for the environmentally unsound simile). For instance, Greenwashingindex.com is a site that rates the authenticity of green advertisements. Think that Dow Chemical spot touting their environmental responsibility is a bit fishy? You can check out its index rating and join in on the discussion.

This research speaks to authenticity. When we market a product, a service or a company, it is imperative that we are honest about our claims. Trying to jump on the PR bandwagon of trends like the green movement is risky business unless you can do so with transparency. Or unless you have a truly sustainable, green product.

How refreshing would it be to hear a large corporation say “I know we haven’t been very friendly to our environment, but we are trying to change. Here is how we are doing it…”