six months of stuff for your brain to chew on

Now that summer is officially here, I wanted to take a look back at the past 6 months and see what kinds of conversations had been sparked by brand-as-business bites. bites logoThe following are the top posts from each month in terms of number of re-tweets, comments, or emails they generated – I’ve also included some of the commentary.  I’d definitely like to hear more, so please take a look and then add your voice to the conversation by clicking on the “comments” link below.


Brand impact in 2010 – I started off the year with a post of three key areas that I predicted brands would have an immediate and significant impact – M&As, social media and networking, and workforce engagement.  Apparently this last point resonated with quite a few folks – including:

Jacco DeBruin:  Great points and couldn’t agree more. Especially the “workforce engagement” is often undervalued but essential since it is all about delivering and exceeding (high) expectations in this transparent era. Happy new year!

Ray Hartjen:  Interesting thought on workforce engagement, and really important for companies and employees to fully understand and embrace. After all, the brand is really nothing more than a reflection of the people of an organization, both past and present. Good post, DLY.


The post, in csr, nike just does it, praised Nike for its Corporate Responsibility Report FY07-09.  My read of the extensive report led me to believe Nike is giving CSR more than lip service.

Mark Anderson agreed:  As a prior VP/GM of NIKE Swim and NIKE Inneractives (intimates – Brandy Chastaine – world cup), I can tell you that NIKE practices what they preach and they were on the sustainability bandwagon way before it was the popular thing to do!  They did it a long time ago because it was the right thing to do – not because it would make them look like a participant to their consumers.  NIKE doesn’t just promote sustainability issues – they invest in it – considering it their responsibility and they employees are inspired by the commitment that they witness day in and day out.

Jonathan Salem Baskin didn’t:… I still don’t buy it (it’s still marketing hype). The reality of its business model is 1. Producing products in Third World factories is cheaper than doing so in factories closer to the markets it serves…If Nike cared about doing the right thing it would make gym shoes in Maine (or something), but that would never happen. 2. Shipping products around the world, which is probably one of the most environmentally wasteful/damaging activities any company can do… 3. No number of partnerships with special interest or single-issue pressure groups erases the simple fact that doing the right thing is about business practice, not how Nike chooses to narrate it….

And Tom Asacker left the cryptic comment:  Reality is the name we give to our disappointments.


Having completed an extensive retail audit for one of my clients, I wrote a post to share my thoughts on six best practices in retail.   I wrote about great retailers like Wegmans and The Container Store which have distinctive brand personalities, offer 2.0 cross-channel shopping experiences, and reflect strong organizational culture and values.  It got bounced around the Twittersphere a bit, thanks in part to John Moore.

It prompted Marc Rullo to ask:  While the retailer, any retailer is a brand destination unto itself, how does the assorted brands within that retailer (brand destination) fair?…Once upon a time a retailer was defined by the brands they assorted and the expertise they provided to support those brands to the end user.  Then the value of retailers brand (differentiation) and their house brand became much more paramount based on volume and obvious margin opportunities compared to historically established recognized brands with less direct margin opportunities.   These are elements of the bundle of attributes as well…..

Janet Morgenstern Passani commented:  Enjoyed your retailer post. IKEA’s out-of-box campaigns inspire consumers to be bold w/ their purchases. http://bit.ly/9Klpi1


Marketing myopia was a post I wrote after reading an op-ed written by Larry Light, marketing guru and former McDonald’s CMO.  Larry had argued that marketing “needs to assert its rightful role making it the central force of brand-business management.” I questioned if the issue is whether marketers should try to increase the marketing function in the organization — or whether they should try to increase the marketing capability of the entire organization.

Craig Hoffman wrote a couple of thoughtful responses – excerpts:  I’m a firm believer in making the marketing pervasive in an organization!  It only helps spread the message and reinforce the benefits of buying a product if everyone who comes in contact with the company gets a similar feeling… its up to management to keep the focus in the right place.  I think management has a role to create a belief for all employees about their company that makes them want to “sell” their company from all angles…I think companies who get this right will be more successful at generating and sustaining revenues with stronger margins, allowing for greater possible profits to retain!  Companies that “live their brand” come to mind – Google, Apple, Gore, Lululemon all come to mind as examples.

Ric Brockmeier added:  Well thought argument Denise. It’s critical for companies 2 see that they must be marketing driven not just have a mkt dept

Pierre Loic-Assayag offered a different perspective:  Marketers see the future of their contribution being jeopardized, squeezed between Executive Management slashing budgets and customers much more vocal and opinionated about “owning” the brands they care about.  As a recovering marketer, my sense is that the marketing function probably has a very bright future but it needs to be fundamentally redefined. Successful marketers won’t be defining the brand they represent but rather make themselves an indispensable resource to fans and brand advocates who will be the ones shaping the brand and probably products/services.  Twitter, Harley Davidson, Trader Joe’s are some very interesting examples of fans taking over brands and very skillful marketers trading control for greater brand equity.  Food for thought…


In May, Rich Thomaselli from Advertising Age called me for some comments for an article he was writing, “If Consumer Is Your Agency, It’s Time for a Review.” The piece turned out to be a great analysis of how the use of John Q. Public to develop ads has “jumped the shark” (as Rich refers to it).   It sparked a lot of commentary on AdAge’s site:

Richard Todd Aguayo wrote:  Give a million people a shot at making a hole in one, you’ll surely have a winner. That doesn’t mean you bet on that winner to win the Masters.  Professionals are called such for a reason.

Carl Hartman agreed:  Crowd sourcing is the same as Craig’s List or any of the sites that cater to freelancers. It is bottom feeders looking for a great deal, without regard to the quality of the message. Crowd sourcing is like using a shot gun to shoot down a jet flying at 30,000 feet. – Rarely, you’ll hit something. Usually a bird or one of Dick Cheney’s friends – but it won’t be the real target.  Everyone wants it cheap. The cheapest way is always the most expensive. — It is not about cost, it is about value.

Brian McMath dissented:  …Will UGC ever reach the ultra-polished, slick-as-hairgrease production quality that today’s average 30-second TV spot exhibits? Of course not. But why should it? That’s not what it’s for. Contrary to what the author thinks, these people are not out to replace you. UGC is just one more way to get people to engage with a brand, to open up that all-important dialogue with the consumer…

I wrote the consumers as creatives post to explain some of my thoughts further and to pass along the comments which ended up on the editing room floor.


Reposition? just do it was a post contrasting two big and juicy brand repositioning projects I’m working on.  I predicted one is going to be successful and the other, not, or at least less so, and explained why.  Essentially it comes down to whether or not the company leadership will decide that taking on such the risk of a significant repositioning is the right thing to do, and if they’re going to do it, to decide to “do it anyway” and to “do it well.”

Mark Gallagher commented:  As always, you make a great point. Fear of change is often the single biggest obstacle preventing companies from reaching their goals. However, what impresses me most about your post is your honesty. Not many consultants would preemptively state that their client was likely to fail. Usually that sort of talk is reserved as an excuse for why the new direction didn’t work, AKA “the client failed to properly implement the strategy.”  Your honesty is as refreshing as your insights.

Thanks for making it a great first half of 2010!

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