Rediscovering the Art of Brand Marketing


There are a lot of shiny objects in the world of marketing today. Traditional marketing channels such as television and print media ads are being outshone by the flashier marketing opportunities of the digital age, including big data mining and social media marketing. Many marketing experts happily sound the death knell of traditional marketing: television ads might have worked in the time of the giant television console with its rabbit ears, but this is the age of Hulu and Netflix.

In a new book titled Twitter Is Not a Strategy, Tom Doctoroff, CEO of J. Walter Thompson Asia, begs to differ. Given that global television advertising revenues are forecast to grow from $162 billion in 2012 to more than $200 billion in 2017, according to PriceWaterhouseCoopers, it seems a bit disingenuous, he writes, to say that television advertising is dead. The world is indeed changing, but it’s not a question of the past being replaced by the future.

As Doctoroff explains, traditional marketing was based on top-down positioning. The brands controlled the message and the channel, and customers were passive recipients. The digital age has given the customer more power in the process, which is now more bottom-up than top-down. Many marketing books tout this dichotomy as mutually exclusive; in other words, bottom-up has replaced top-down marketing. For Doctoroff, this is a false dichotomy. Marketing today is both bottom-up and top-down. That is why social media marketing is booming, but so is television ad purchasing.

Successful Marketing Today

The secret to successful marketing today, writes Doctoroff, is to know how to meld the two approaches together. “We must permit consumers to participate with brands without surrendering the ability to manage the message and what people say about their products,” he writes. The goal of marketers is to develop a life-long relationship between the brand and consumers.

To help companies enable customer engagement while managing the message, Doctoroff offers a framework for marketing based on four “interconnected modules.”

The first two modules are conceptual and focus on customer insight, on one hand, and the brand idea, on the other. No matter how much technology evolves, customer insight must remain at the core of marketing, he writes. Doctoroff describes the human truths shared by all and nation- or region-specific cultural truths, and explains how brands succeed when they can resolve the conflicts among and within these two sets of truths. Mont Blanc pens, for example, are very successful in China because, he writes, the luxury brand reconciles two competing cultural truths: “the desire to project accomplishments but also the need to be understated, to obey the rules.”

The brand idea, in Doctoroff’s words, “crystallizes the long-term relationship between consumer and brand that remains consistent yet evolves over time.” The brand idea emerges from the “fusion” between customer insight and a unique brand offer (UBO). The UBO, he writes, is based on product truths –– physical or emotional characteristics that differentiate the product, and brand truths, which build brand equity in the minds of consumers.

The executional modules of Doctoroff’s framework are engagement ideas, the ideas that will spark consumers to become engaged with the brand, and engagement planning, which is focused on bringing the brand into the lives of consumers. Successful engagement ideas connect to the three levels of passion, he writes: the individual-focused “me,” the community-focused “we” and the global-focused “the world.” For engagement planning, Doctoroff offers a step-by-step engagement system based on marketing communication at every step of the buying process: trigger (the unmet need), consideration, comparison, preference (choosing the brand), purchase and experience.

The core message of Twitter Is Not a Strategy is clearly conveyed when Doctoroff quotes Clive Sirkin, Kimberly-Clark’s global Chief Marketing Officer, who says, “We don’t believe in digital marketing. We believe in marketing in a digital world, and there’s a huge difference.” Twitter Is Not a Strategy also benefits from the global perspective that Doctoroff brings to the subject. His expertise in both China and emerging markets will be of immense value to companies looking to expand into these markets. Doctoroff has written a balanced, informed guide to branding in the 21st century.

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Book Review: Low-Hanging Fruit


by Jeremy Eden and Terri Long

Consultants Jeremy Eden and Terri Long define low-hanging fruit as the targets or goals that are easily achievable and do not require a lot of effort. Your business can achieve better results with greater ease by thinking small and reaching for the low-hanging fruit like many of the smartest companies today. Eden and Long share 77 of their most effective techniques for generating real performance improvements drawn from their success working with major companies. In Low-Hanging Fruit, the authors explain why leaders should not agonize over large-scale change efforts and ways to reduce costs. Instead, they show leaders how to go after small solvable problems and uncover the low-hanging fruit.

“True low-hanging fruit is within your reach. Harvesting low-hanging fruit produces bigger results with much less risk than those big projects on which companies rely, like strategic transformations and enterprise-wide systems! Individual pieces of low-hanging fruit come in all sizes — from those worth millions of dollars to those worth just a few thousand dollars. Collectively, it is your growth engine,” write Eden and Long. Of the 77 techniques outlined by Eden and Long, the first few help leaders and managers find ways to see problems easily, for example “Ask “Why?” Five Times to See the Real Problem.” This point illustrates the importance of asking “Why?” which will help you gain progress toward finding the right problem to solve.

If you think you don’t have the resources to be faster, better and more profitable, think again. Low-Hanging Fruit will help managers and leaders to boost productivity in their organizations by identifying and solving hidden problems.

How to Build Habit-Forming Products


When was the last time you checked your smartphone? If you’re like most people, almost certainly within the last hour. What about your Twitter? Or your Facebook page?

The fact is that smartphone manufacturers, Twitter and Facebook have all created products that are, in the words of consultant and entrepreneur Nir Eyal, “habit-forming.” As Eyal explains in a new book, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, a habit is in fact a shortcut for the brain. A habit is an automatic, almost unconscious reaction by the brain to a trigger.

Habit-forming products are an obvious boon to business. Consumers automatically use the product on their own, again and again, without any prompting from ads or marketing. Of course, not all industries need habit-forming products. The sale of life insurance, for example, requires salespeople, advertising and word of mouth. There is no habit for the consumer to acquire.

But for many companies, success depends on developing such habit-forming products. For those companies, Nir Eyal offers a four-step circular framework, which he calls the “Hook Model,” to ensure that consumers keep returning to their products, over and over again.

The Hook Model

The first phase of the hook model is the trigger. This is the spark to the entire process. Triggers can either be external or internal. External triggers might be an email, website link or even an app icon.

External triggers propel consumers through the loop of the model in the hope that eventually consumers will no longer need prompting from external triggers; instead, the prompting comes from internal triggers — triggers that come from within the consumer. Internal triggers are formed slowly, taking weeks or even months of frequent usage. Eventually, however, the consumer automatically turns to the product whenever a particular emotion or need arises.

The second phase of the model is the action that the consumer takes as a result of the trigger. Building on the behavioral work of Stanford University professor B.J. Fogg, Eyal explains that consumers take action when there is both motivation and ability. External triggers will seek to spark motivation — an ad will seek to give a reason for the consumer to use the product — but it is internal motivation that in the end proves most powerful. Motivation without ability is useless, however, which is why companies work hard to make the use of the product as effortless as possible.

Variable reward is the third phase of the Hook Model. In traditional terms, consumers take action because they want a problem solved. The key word in Eyal’s definition, however, is “variable.” The consumer expects something as a result of the action, but exactly what that reward might be varies, and this is what keeps the consumer returning again and again to the product or service.

The last phase of the Hook Model is investment. In this phase, the consumer will put something — time, effort, social capital, money — that encourages the consumer to continue with the Hook cycle. Research has shown that the more consumers invest time and effort into a product (or service), the more they value that product. An additional motivation to return to the product is “stored value.” The more songs you download to iTunes, the more likely you are to return to iTunes to listen to them.

Pinterest, the online bulletin board, exemplifies the four stages of the Hook Model. The external trigger that sparks the consumer’s engagement might be a recommendation from a friend or reading about the application in books (or book reviews). The consumer takes action by registering on the site. The variable rewards include seeing what others have posted, reviewing what one has posted (after the first cycle), and the comments and likes to those posts. The consumer now makes a further investment by posting new images or commenting, liking or sharing (repinning) other posts. “Each pin, repin, like or comment gives Pinterest tacit permission to contact the user with a notification when someone else contributes to the thread, triggering the desire to visit the site again to learn more,” the authors write.

Filled with examples and anchored by the Hook Model, Hooked is a hands-on guide for companies seeking to emulate the amazing success of Pinterest, Twitter and others and build their own habit-forming products.

Implement Improvements With These Summaries

Leaders and managers constantly search to make improvements within their organizations. However, the strategies or processes to implement these improvements are not always well defined. Learn how to improve the performance of your business by reaching for the low-hanging fruit, building resilience into your strategy, and cultivate a better workplace environment with these two new Soundview book summaries and featured book review.


by Jeremy Eden and Terri Long

Low-Hanging Fruit by Jeremy Eden and Terri Long

To boost productivity and profits, most companies either accept the way things are or think big by spending time and money trying to make things better. However, the smartest companies get better results with greater ease and at a fraction of the cost by thinking small and reaching for the low-hanging fruit. In Low-Hanging Fruit, Jeremy Eden and Terri Long present 77 of their most effective techniques for generating performance improvements drawn from their success working with major companies.


by Jeffrey Sampler

Bringing Strategy Back by Jeffrey Sampler

In an ever-changing world, conventional strategic planning processes no longer seem to work. However, instead of giving up on strategy, we should embrace it. In Bringing Strategy Back, strategy expert Jeffrey Sampler introduces four “strategic shock absorbers” that enable leaders to build resilient organizations that can withstand even the most unexpected global turbulence. When the future is uncertain, organizations will be prepared and proactive with this new framework.


by Ron Friedman

The Best Place to Work by Ron Friedman

We’ve all heard of people having terrible experiences at work within a low performing, unorganized organization. But how do entrepreneurs and executives turn their organizations into extraordinary atmospheres that promote effective processes? In The Best Place to Work, psychologist Ron Friedman uses research on motivation, creativity, behavioral economics, neuroscience, and management to reveal what really makes us successful at work. He explains how to effectively diffuse a workplace argument, elevate your thinking, and reach smarter decisions.

What Goes Wrong In Groupthink?

Two heads are better than one, according to the old saying. So why are groups with lots of “heads” known for making bad decisions? Why does “groupthink” immediately connote ineffectiveness and mistakes?

These questions are answered in a fascinating new book called Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to Make Groups Smarter, written by Cass R. Sunstein, a former White House official, and Reid Hastie, an academic specialized in the psychology of decision making. Building on their combined experiences and research, Sunstein and Hastie dissect what goes wrong in group decision-making, then offer clear-cut solutions to overcome these problems.

Group decision-making involves discussions among members of a group, each with their own skills, experience, ideas and information. Unfortunately, as the authors explain, there are two types of influences on group members — informational signals and social pressures — which skew the deliberations. Informational signals cause people to keep information to themselves when it contradicts information from others, especially leaders. Social pressures cause people to keep information to themselves to avoid punishment, for example, the disapproval of leaders who are contradicted.

These influences lead to four problems, the authors write: Instead of correcting the errors of their members, groups actually amplify those errors (e.g., the leader’s mistaken conclusion is validated by the group); cascade effects take over when the group follows whomever spoke first or loudest; groups become more polarized, that is, more extreme in their sentiments, as the internal discussions reinforce their predisposed thoughts; and groups focus on shared information (what most people know) instead of unshared information — the information known only by a few individuals.

Having laid out the core problems, the authors offer solutions. They begin with a list of methods aimed at counteracting the four core problems, such as

Leaders have to keep quiet and convince group members that they sincerely want to hear all ideas.

Group success (not individual success) should be rewarded. Group members must understand that if the group is right, everyone benefits; this will encourage them to ensure that they find the right answer rather than pushing their own ideas.

Group members should be assigned specific roles (for example, one person is the medical expert, another the legal expert), thus ensuring that everyone contributes.

Either individuals or assigned teams (known as red teams) should be tasked with acting as devil’s advocates.

Groups also fail, the authors write, because they don’t distinguish between the “sloppy” early rounds of deliberations, in which all ideas must be allowed on the table, and the final rounds of deliberations, in which groups must be tight and analytical as they seek the precise solution. Successful groups will deliberately separate the two processes.

In another approach, the authors demonstrate that the wisdom of crowds (making decisions based on the average or majority of large crowds of people) will often lead to the right answer if a majority of crowd members know their material. Decision-makers often prefer to rely on one single expert, but “chasing the expert” significantly reduces the probability of getting the decision right.

Wiser is a quick, engaging and thoughtful read that compellingly argues that, with a few simple steps and open-minded leadership, group deliberations can, indeed, lead to wiser decisions.