Marketing Consultant & Fractional CMO

Articles

I’ve been writing about marketing, branding, design, and business for nearly two decades, so there’s a lot here, and you can see that I’ve been preaching the same fundamental concepts since the very beginning.

Marketing Fundamentals 2: Target Audience

Marketing Fundamentals 2: Target Audience

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwd2zDI5QvY We're talking about the three layers of marketing, and how you want to start at the bottom by helping your target audience solve a real problem with your unique product. Then, you want to design your customer experience...

Marketing Fundamentals 1: Overview

Marketing Fundamentals 1: Overview

https://youtu.be/xpiC3c1WD7Y Entrepreneurs start out with a lot of misconceptions about how business really works, and that's understandable because nobody really ever teaches them. Marketing, in particular, is one of the least understood concepts by business owners....

This is Marketing in the Real World

This is Marketing in the Real World

I’m trying to teach businesses how marketing works in the real world. I've been involved in some kind of marketing at pretty much every point for the last quarter of a century—which kind of makes me contemplate my own mortality, but whatever. For about half that time,...

Using Content Marketing in a B2B Setting

Using Content Marketing in a B2B Setting

Content marketing is a way of marketing that focuses on creating and sharing valuable content with your audience. The goal is to educate and engage your audience, so they'll want to buy your products or services. It can be used in a number of ways, but for B2B...

Don’t Let Your Marketing Get Lost in the Numbers

Don’t Let Your Marketing Get Lost in the Numbers

Measuring marketing isn’t easy, and there are plenty of challenges you’ll face when attempting to measure the effectiveness of marketing strategies and tactics. Some of the biggest challenges include:The difficulty of isolating the impact of marketing efforts:...

What’s the Difference Between Sales and Marketing?

What’s the Difference Between Sales and Marketing?

There are a few reasons people can get confused about the difference between sales and marketing. One is that the words "sales" and "marketing" are often used interchangeably, and many people may not fully understand the distinct roles and responsibilities of each....

When Does Skim Pricing Make Sense?

When Does Skim Pricing Make Sense?

Skim pricing is a pricing strategy in which a company sets a high initial price for a product or service, and then gradually lowers the price over time. This strategy is often used when introducing a new product or when there is a high level of demand for a product or...

Marketing Truths No One Will Admit

Marketing Truths No One Will Admit

In a recent thread on /r/marketing, the question was asked, "What is something no one in marketing will admit, but is definitely true?" While some of the answers in the thread were obviously snarky or pessimistic, there were also several answers that held a lot of...

The Product Design Pyramid

The Product Design Pyramid

If you make it to the top, you'll have one of the best and most delightful products in your market The product design and user experience design industries are full of vague phrases like "delightful experiences" without a lot of specifics about how to get there. Many...

Smart People Always Want to Mess This Up

Smart People Always Want to Mess This Up

Several weeks ago, my company released a new product: a tool that helps small service businesses with client follow-up. We did it very quietly, late one night after most of the department had gone home. A few of the product leaders made the decision, flipped the...

You Know Your Core Values—Now What?

You Know Your Core Values—Now What?

So you’ve identified your core values and everyone’s excited about them. Now what?The powerful experience of identifying a company’s core values is too often followed by the unforgivable act of forgetting about them. People frankly just don’t know what to do with core...

Every Document is an Experience

Every Document is an Experience

One simple but helpful step is to stop thinking about your company’s operational documents as merely transactional tools.Every document your company produces is an opportunity to emphasize and clarify what your company is all about. Spec sheets, release notes,...

What Ancient Greece Taught Us About Innovation

What Ancient Greece Taught Us About Innovation

It’s a little disturbing to realize how much of what we do is simply imitation. If you start analyzing your business objectively, you’ll probably come to the (somewhat depressing) realizing that a lot of it is simply rehashed ideas and behaviors adopted from your...

Five Pillars of Social Media Marketing

Five Pillars of Social Media Marketing

It's easy to get whipped up into the hype of social media marketing. Maybe you're just getting started with a new brand account, or maybe you've just been put in charge of all the company's existing followers. Either way, here are some basic principles that'll help...

Why I Left the Agency World to Go Product-Side

Why I Left the Agency World to Go Product-Side

There are basically three ways to be a designer: FreelanceAgencyIn-houseEach of those three worlds has its own unique complexities and challenges, and it can take some experience moving between them before you find where you belong.I’ve been on the agency side of the...

What’s Your Company’s Internal Compass?

What’s Your Company’s Internal Compass?

One of the hardest questions we ask in our discovery workshops is also one of the simplest and most fundamental: “Why does your company exist?”You’d think most CEOs would have a ready (and passionate) response to that question, but most don’t. When asked that...

After Money, then What?

After Money, then What?

At larger companies, the phrase “maximize shareholder value” has become a trite summary of what they believe is their core purpose. At smaller companies, it’s usually translated into plain English: “Make the owners a bunch of money.”If you dig deeper, the actual...

Purpose-Driven Companies Make More Money

Purpose-Driven Companies Make More Money

“A real purpose can’t just be words on paper. It has to get under the skin of every member of your organization…. If you get it right, people will feel great about what they’re doing, clear about their goals, and excited to get to work every morning.”— Roy SpenceWhen...

The Power of the Purpose-Driven Company

The Power of the Purpose-Driven Company

Picture this: You’re standing in the middle of a beautiful meadow on a sunny day. In the middle of this meadow is a large, heavy rock. Your assignment is to move that rock. So, you tie a rope around it, and you start pulling to the north. It’s heavy, but you’re...

Clear Purpose, Clear Decisions

Clear Purpose, Clear Decisions

“Strategy without purpose is like kicking the ball to the goal post without knowing where the goal post is.” (Charles Prabakar) Business is a non-stop barrage of difficult decisions. Should we engage in this partnership? Should we take on this client? Should we accept...

What’s Your Business Really All About?

What’s Your Business Really All About?

“From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. From the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.” (Roy Spence) Figuring out your company’s purpose is no easy task. There’s no formula for it. It’s subtle, and it takes a while to reveal it, identify it, and...

Are Wireframe Diagrams Obsolete?

Are Wireframe Diagrams Obsolete?

I’ve been in the web industry long enough to have gone through a lot of major shifts, and we’re in another one of them right now. We’ve reached the end of the wireframe era. For those not familiar with the concept, a wireframe is a structural diagram of a digital page...

What is Design Thinking?

What is Design Thinking?

There’s a common thread between companies like Tesla, Airbnb, Uber, SpaceX, Spotify, Square, Netflix and others that have successfully overturned decades of convention and built business empires around solutions that rendered their competitors almost instantly...

The 5 Key Customer Motivators

The 5 Key Customer Motivators

Far too many experiences are designed around the assumption that people want to be engaging with them. It’s an easy mistake to make. If you’re designing, say, an ecommerce site, it would be natural to assume your customers have an internal drive to find a product they...

The 50 Most Popular Brand Colors

The 50 Most Popular Brand Colors

While working on a branding project a few weeks ago, I happened to wonder what colors were most frequently used in brand identities. I started poking around online, feeling sure someone had already done this research and neatly organized the results. However, I wasn’t...

Product Design as Haiku

Product Design as Haiku

You probably already know roughly what haiku is — a Japanese form of poetry that roughly follows a pattern of 5-7-5 syllables (or, more technically, morae) — but you might not be aware of some of the more subtle constraints of this exceptionally restrained style of...

Project Management? Try Expectations Management

Project Management? Try Expectations Management

You take your car into the mechanic. They’ve told you it’ll take about an hour to fix, so you sit in the waiting room half-watching Fox News and flipping through an old issue of Car and Driver until they finish.Half an hour passes.Forty-five minutes.An hour.An hour...

The Hamburger Menu Doesn’t Work

The Hamburger Menu Doesn’t Work

This is a hamburger menu: It’s called a “hamburger” because it it looks roughly like a bun-meat-bun sandwich. (Others have insisted that it looks much more like a triple hot-dog, but they’ve thus far been unsuccessful in winning the public’s hearts and minds.) The...

Why Business Owners Fear Customer Research

Why Business Owners Fear Customer Research

Customer research is fundamental to the design process. It’s been well established that relying on assumptions alone leads us to make biased decisions that often fail to reflect the reality of the customer’s needs and wants, leading to poor results (including reduced...

The Experience IS the Product

The Experience IS the Product

Inexperienced marketers tend to fall back on a benefit-focused approach, believing they’ll win customers by listing their virtues (better products, better customer service, technical improvements, etc.)Unfortunately, most practical benefits don’t address the issues...

Why is Mobile-First Design Failing?

Why is Mobile-First Design Failing?

There’s definitely some logic to the underlying philosophy of the “mobile first” approach to design, but there are also some hidden problems that cause even experienced designers to make some fundamental user experience mistakes. Doing it wrong serves only to reverse...

The Power of Designer & Developer Collaboration

The Power of Designer & Developer Collaboration

There are few forces as formidable as designers and developers working together. When they’re working effectively, they hardly need anyone else. Entire companies have sprung up around strong designer+developer teams, and these collaborative teams have built many of...

Run Your Business Like an Astronaut

Run Your Business Like an Astronaut

When I think of the people who were the most influential role models in shaping my approach to business and life, I keep coming back to astronauts. I don’t know where I’d be if it weren’t for astronauts. You see, I’m an emotional guy. I cry easily at movies. My blood...

Software Design Mistakes that Just Won’t Die

Software Design Mistakes that Just Won’t Die

Good design is good business. I spend pretty much all day obsessing about how to improve user experiences. I've observed a number of recurring software design problems over the years, and I thought I'd share a handful of them here for your consideration. Problem #1:...

How Cognitive Bias Skews Design Reviews

How Cognitive Bias Skews Design Reviews

Knowing when you’re tricking yourself helps you make better design decisions (This article was co-authored with Jessica Schultz) Being human means we’re not always logical. Our brains have developed certain ways of thinking that help us understand and simplify the...

Getting Past “Pretty”

Getting Past “Pretty”

You can’t solve your problems with a fresh coat of paint Let’s say a company comes to our firm interested in hiring us. We’ll call them SynergyCo. They make about $100 million/year in revenue selling a niche software product. They’ve had their market cornered in the...

Business Software Doesn’t Have to Hurt

Business Software Doesn’t Have to Hurt

I’ve worked on a lot of enterprise software projects over the years, and one of the common patterns I’ve observed is a surprisingly high tolerance for poor user experience.If you’ve ever worked in a cubicle farm, you’re probably all too familiar with the baffling HR...

What I Look for in Designers

What I Look for in Designers

I recently spoke to the seniors in Arizona State University’s Visual Communication Design department, and was asked the same question I’m asked almost every time I’m speaking to design students: “What do you look for when hiring designers?” (I should mention that I...

Marketing is Food, Not Medicine

Marketing is Food, Not Medicine

Coca-Cola may already be one of the most recognized brands in the world, but they nevertheless spend billions of dollars every year on their marketing efforts. (And you can bet they’re not doing it on a whim. They know exactly what those dollars will bring them in...

Being Best Beats Being First

Being Best Beats Being First

Sometimes being "first to market" means you're doing all the hard work for someone else. Maybe it's time to slow down and reconsider. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout is undeniably a classic text and should be read by anyone in this...

Simplify Your Logo to Amplify Your Logo

Simplify Your Logo to Amplify Your Logo

It's tempting to jam your corporate identity full of bells and whistles, but the strongest identities are still the simplest ones. When designing a logo, it's easy to go overboard. There are so many great elements you can work with (colors, textures, patterns, shapes,...

What We’ve Learned about Agile Design

What We’ve Learned about Agile Design

The birth of Agile In February of 2001, seventeen software developers with an interest in lightweight development methods gathered at a resort in the Rocky Mountains in Utah. As they talked, they discovered some recurring themes and ideas, which they eventually...

The World’s Best Project Management System

The World’s Best Project Management System

In our line of work, effective project management is absolutely essential. At any given time we have 15-20 projects going on, all with dozens (if not hundreds) of individual tasks involved. We’ve tried countless project management applications, trying to find one that...

What Makes Videos Go Viral

What Makes Videos Go Viral

The basic elements of highly successful online videos are really just fundamental principles of human interaction, and you can apply to nearly any form of communication (especially marketing). While there's no way to guarantee that anything will "go viral," studying...

Understanding the Humans Behind the Demographics

Understanding the Humans Behind the Demographics

When people talk about their company’s target audience, you typically hear things like “individuals between the ages of 13 and 25 who enjoy playing video games and have a mobile phone,” or “active consumers between the ages of 25 and 45 who like to hike and rock...

Let Them Smell What You’re All About

Let Them Smell What You’re All About

Are profits and productivity hiding right under your nose? Here's how to take advantage of scent marketing.Regardless of your work environment, it's usually obvious that its appearance (lighting, paint colors, etc.) and sound (background music, noise, etc.) can have...

Logos Are Getting Simpler

Logos Are Getting Simpler

When designing a logo, it’s easy to go overboard. There are so many great elements you can work with (colors, textures, patterns, shapes, borders, typography, gradients, icons, etc.) that it’s tempting to include a little bit of everything to get your point across. In...

Crowdsourcing Your Brand: The Math Doesn’t Work

Crowdsourcing Your Brand: The Math Doesn’t Work

As much as our work at Forty is about “touchy-feely” stuff (psychology, emotion, metaphor, experiences, etc.), I’m still a numbers guy at heart. That’s why I get so frustrated every time I hear someone recommending crowdsourced design services like 99designs. The...

“It’s All About You” Doesn’t Work

“It’s All About You” Doesn’t Work

We’re naturally attracted to people and brands that stand for something, and we’re suspicious of those that try to mold themselves around our preferences. Imagine this. You’re on a blind date. You: “So, where do you want to go?” Date: “Wherever you want to go.” You:...

The Incredible Power of Metaphors in Marketing

The Incredible Power of Metaphors in Marketing

Once you’ve sorted out your company’s roots (purpose, values, style, etc.), you’ll find yourself faced with the challenge of trying to hold all that information in your head when making a decision. One of the best tools for dealing with this situation is a metaphor: a...

Two Powerful Examples of Cultural Marketing Metaphors

Two Powerful Examples of Cultural Marketing Metaphors

A cultural metaphor is strong because it references cultural icons shared by a brand’s consumers. Of the three types of brand metaphors, this one has the most potential to slide into “themeiness." But when it’s executed well, it can also be the most useful as a source...

Tap into Primal Customer Emotions with Brand Archetypes

Tap into Primal Customer Emotions with Brand Archetypes

Archetypes are based on the idea of universal, reoccurring characters or personifications that represent something fundamental about the ways we identify ourselves and relate to the world around us. A few years ago, we began the process of gathering raw archetypes...

The Battle Between Market Research and Gut Instinct

The Battle Between Market Research and Gut Instinct

One of the great dilemmas in marketing is whether to trust your instincts over what the research is showing you. Both the agency (“we know how people think”) and the client (“we know our clients”) have important insights that might not show up clearly in the research,...

Is Business 2.0 Fundamentally Feminine?

Is Business 2.0 Fundamentally Feminine?

Business is historically a male-dominated endeavor, so it’s no surprise that the stereotype about what it takes to succeed in business involves traditionally masculine characteristics: aggression, tactical thinking, bravado, ruthlessness, objectivity, ego, pride,...

Nobody Knows Anything About Branding

Nobody Knows Anything About Branding

Screenwriter William Goldman once wrote of the movie industry that “Nobody knows anything. Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out, it’s a guess…nobody, nobody–not now, not ever–knows the least...

Preserving your SEO Juice While Overhauling Your Website

Preserving your SEO Juice While Overhauling Your Website

The biggest mistake people make with website redesigns is thinking that it’s just a website redesign. They see the new site, everything seems to work, and they call it done. Meanwhile, their SEO juice is leaking all over the floor. Their rankings are going...

3 Essential Elements of a Rock-Solid Brand

3 Essential Elements of a Rock-Solid Brand

Over the years, we’ve found that there are three foundational elements to almost any brand: purpose, values, and style. BRAND PURPOSE Research cited in Built to Last (by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras) indicates that purpose-driven companies can outperform the...

Getting Back to Reality

Getting Back to Reality

We now live in a world where almost everything is abstracted and over-processed to the point of barely being real. Take hamburgers, for example. What once referred to a thick, juicy slab of minced beef flavored with regional spices now typically refers to a thin,...

Special K and Wheaties: A Lesson in Positioning

Special K and Wheaties: A Lesson in Positioning

Cereal is great. You throw some milk on it, and you’ve got a tasty and relatively nutritious breakfast. Theoretically, cereals–at least the basic, unadorned ones–should be relatively universal. There’s not much about them that predisposes them to any particular...

Is Your Company’s Power Structure Killing Your Culture?

Is Your Company’s Power Structure Killing Your Culture?

Geert Hofstede’s research into national cultures from the 1960s onward has identified five primary dimensions of culture: Individualism, Masculinity, Uncertainty Avoidance, Long-Term Orientation, and Power Distance. This research has proven useful in a variety of...

ROI is What Actually Happens

ROI is What Actually Happens

Executives tend to be short-term thinkers. Their career has grown through easy-quantifiable successes, and they’re constantly pressured — by other short-term thinking executives — to base their actions around short-term metrics. It’s all about what happened last...

What Happens After Your Revolution

What Happens After Your Revolution

Revolution is easy when you don’t have anything to lose. You say the things everyone’s afraid to say, kick in some doors, fire your guns into the air, depose some tyrannical leaders, and declare your way to be the new way of doing things. When you’re a startup, it’s...

The 30-and-30 Rule for Websites

The 30-and-30 Rule for Websites

When designing a website, it’s important to remember that not everyone processes information the same way you do. You might enjoy taking your time and absorbing all the details, while someone else is just trying to get in, get what they need, and get out. When...

Your Spreadsheet Isn’t Telling You the Whole Story

Your Spreadsheet Isn’t Telling You the Whole Story

Human behavior is based on emotion first, logic second As technology has given our industry the ability to measure more things faster than ever, there’s been a steady trend towards having metrics serve as the basis for design and creative work, with the idea that this...

Your Beliefs Are Your Most Important Source of Content

Your Beliefs Are Your Most Important Source of Content

As we’ve been working on our own content strategy for the next six months, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what kinds of things we should be writing about. There are all kinds of options out there, but I increasingly find myself thinking that the most...

The Truth About Truth

The Truth About Truth

Great advertising is exceptional truth-telling. In 1912, Harry McCann and four partners launched the advertising agency that would later become McCann Erickson. Their founding motto was “Truth Well Told,” which beautifully expresses one of the most fundamental (and...

The Häagen-Dazs conundrum

The Häagen-Dazs conundrum

Is the Häagen-Dazs brand fundamentally inauthentic?The name “Häagen-Dazs” doesn’t actually mean anything. It’s not an ancient Danish city or the name of two Swiss ice cream masters or anything of the sort. The name was made up by Jewish-Polish immigrant Reuben Mattus,...

You can’t run a company on fake values

You can’t run a company on fake values

If your values live only on your company's walls, you might as well not even have them You may have heard of a large energy company called Enron. Here’s a fun except from their code of ethics: Respect. We treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves. We do...

Fixed-Fee Billing is the Devil

Fixed-Fee Billing is the Devil

Once upon a time, Forty was totally into fixed-fee billing.  Several months ago we repented of our evil ways (we now bill 100% hourly) and life’s been awesome ever since.  How did we come to this change of heart, and what does it mean for our clients? The Quick...

Can a Marketing Agency be Agile?

Can a Marketing Agency be Agile?

After years of soul searching, experimentation, and dipping our toes in the water, we here at Forty have finally committed to fully adopting the Agile methodology across the board. This is a pretty radical change for a marketing agency.  The Agile methodology was...

How to Design for Every Decision-Maker

How to Design for Every Decision-Maker

When you're designing something, it's easy to fall into the trap of designing it for yourself. If you tend to be an emotional decision-maker, you might focus on feelings and sensations rather than raw data. Conversely, if you're a detail-oriented decision-maker, you...

I Love Marketing, and Here’s Why

I Love Marketing, and Here’s Why

When I was young, I had a really pessimistic view of marketing.  I thought advertising was about emotional blackmail and manipulation, branding was conceptual mumbo-jumbo, design was pointless visual fluff, and public relations was just a way to hide your faults...

Is Web 2.0 Hype Hurting More Than Helping?

Is Web 2.0 Hype Hurting More Than Helping?

Usability guru Jakob Nielsen has criticized web firms for being so quick to jump on the “Web 2.0” bandwagon that they neglect basic elements of good design. He’s absolutely right, and it’s great to see someone with his visibility discussing an issue that’s...

Where Company Names Come From

Where Company Names Come From

Wikipedia’s List of Company Name Etymologies is a fascinating read that gives some insights into how company names are really created. Notice that you don’t see too many origins like “Developed during brainstorming session with $100k naming consultant.” Just goes to...

Brand Identity Insights from…Milwaukee?

Brand Identity Insights from…Milwaukee?

In a recent editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal, author and speaker Richard Thieme made some very insightful comments into the recent efforts by the “Milwaukee 7” to rebrand Milwaukee into something sexier and more desirable than its current...

The 10-Point Attention Mapping Exercise

The 10-Point Attention Mapping Exercise

A customer’s attention: it’s exceedingly difficult to acquire, experts measure it in milliseconds, it vaporizes if mistreated, and it’s worth far more than gold or diamonds. Scared? Don’t be—it’s putty if you know how to handle it. Attention is the most fundamental...

Why Those Terrible Campaign Signs Actually Work

Why Those Terrible Campaign Signs Actually Work

With campaign season in full swing, I’ve had some recent chats with my colleagues about the universally weak and uninspired nature of campaign signs. It seems like political marketing is about nothing more than putting your name on a solid color background (usually...

Walking the Viral Tightrope

Walking the Viral Tightrope

Alltel has given us a great case study in viral marketing with their recently-flopped “People Against My Circle” campaign. After almost a week, the campaign has failed to generate any significant buzz or publicity, despite its apparently large cost. The...

Website Promotion Guide for 2006

Website Promotion Guide for 2006

It is estimated that there are around 85 million websites in existence at the time of this writing. By the time you launch your website, it will probably be closer to 100 million. The days of “If you build it, they will come” are long gone. Don’t lose hope, though....

5 Rules for Great Websites

5 Rules for Great Websites

In a world in which it’s unusual for a business not to have a website, an ambitious business owner must expect to do more than just throwing something online. Following these simple rules will help your website stand out in the crowd. Rule #1: Challenge...

What to Look For When Hiring Web Design and Development

What to Look For When Hiring Web Design and Development

The web design and development industry can be difficult for businesses to navigate, with options ranging from your cousin looking for iTunes cash to multi-million-dollar agencies like Avenue A | Razorfish. This guide will help you to understand your options, and...

The 5 Forbidden Words of Advertising

The 5 Forbidden Words of Advertising

Quality - Service - Value - Integrity - Caring They look great. They sound great. You’re sure that they’ll convince the customer that your firm, above all others, is the “the one.” The only problem, as pointed out by this BusinessWeek article, is that those...

Top 10 Stock Photography Cliches

Top 10 Stock Photography Cliches

1. The Handshake of Synergy: You’ve made the sale and closed the deal. They can’t back out now—you shook on it! 2. The Flirty Customer Service Gal: Operators are standing by to take your call…and your heart. 3. The Big Thumbs of Triumph: Good job, ace. You’ve saved...

The Sneaky Side of Viral Marketing

The Sneaky Side of Viral Marketing

Stealth Marketing: How to Reach Customers Surreptitiously is a fascinating article from the California Management Review that describes how agencies can intervene in natural communication situations to achieve results that traditional advertising can't achieve....

The Product is the Best Marketing Tool

The Product is the Best Marketing Tool

Once upon a time, marketing was about hyping the benefits of a product in order to convince you to buy it. Whether you were happy didn't matter much, because you already had your money and had moved on to other customers. In a contemporary consumer society, however,...

What’s Wrong with Commas Anyway

What’s Wrong with Commas Anyway

This is a question that has gnawed at my soul for months. I’ve sent e-mails to a variety of prominent people who could answer the question, but I haven’t received any responses. Maybe they think I’m a nut.In any case, I now present this as an open question to the...

7 Lessons Learned from One Year in Business

7 Lessons Learned from One Year in Business

Forty has been in business for over a year now, and it's been a wonderfully successful first year, having completely blown away our business plan estimate, our own expectations, and even our craziest ambitions. While I don’t claim to be a business expert, I do think...

Don’t Mess It Up!

Don’t Mess It Up!

The world’s biggest branding crisis isn’t accounting scandals, poor customer service, or ugly logos—it’s executives’ paralyzing fear that they’re going to do something wrong. Imagine that you’ve just been chosen as the new CEO for a Fortune 500 company. The numbers...

Fresh Thinking from…Bank of America?

Fresh Thinking from…Bank of America?

We don’t typically think of banks as a source of clever and innovative ideas, but Bank of America has somehow managed to break out of the mold. Keep the Change is a brilliant new service from Bank of America. In a nutshell, whenever you purchase something with your...

Why Podcasting Took Off

Why Podcasting Took Off

The technology for of “internet radio” has been around for well over a decade, so why is it now taking off in the form of podcasting? Folks have dabbled in online radio for ages. Dozens—possibly hundreds—of companies have risen and fallen on the promise that it would...

What Corporate Identity Isn’t

What Corporate Identity Isn’t

Misconceptions about the purpose of a corporate identity system often cause companies to limp along with a sub-standard business image. Find out how you can avoid these common mistakes in your own organization. (Update: Many thanks to Antonio Mariscal, who took the...

Imperfection and the Human Brand

Imperfection and the Human Brand

Compelling stock photos, catchy slogans, and memorable marketing copy have just a fraction of the branding power of a single human being. Think of all the great ad campaigns you’ve seen in your lifetime. Now think of all the great people you’ve known. Family. Friends....

Should U.S. States Consider Changing Their Names?

Should U.S. States Consider Changing Their Names?

In an effort to improve public perception (which leads to increased tourism and investment), some states might consider investing in an attractive new name. We’ve seen numerous examples of well-established companies changing names in an attempt to reinvent their...

Being Different Kind of Leader

Being Different Kind of Leader

There are passengers, and there are drivers—and there are also a few people who ride a bike instead. In his post Let’s Steer This Ship Together, Will Pate talks about a concept that I’ve also been noodling on for the past few months: “leading” and “being led”...

Top 10 Tips for Corporate Naming

Top 10 Tips for Corporate Naming

Having recently been consulted for a corporate naming project, I thought I’d post my personal guidelines on how to dodge the most common naming landmines. Over the years, I’ve put together a mental checklist that I’ve used when working on naming projects, and this...

Your Business is Dying…Now What?

Your Business is Dying…Now What?

The LA Times is feeling the effects of the population’s media consumption moving away from print, but their $10 million solution leaves much to be desired. Large companies tend to get so wrapped up in their own momentum that they fail to notice that the rest of the...

To Give an Idea Flight, First Give It a Name

To Give an Idea Flight, First Give It a Name

XHTML, CSS, DOM, XML, XSLT, XMLHttpRequest, and JavaScript were just programmers’ techno-babble…until they were collectively christened “Ajax.” On February 18, 2005, Jesse James Garrett (founder of Adaptive Path, wrote a brief essay entitled “Ajax: A New...

Integrity, Branding, and Blog Payola

Integrity, Branding, and Blog Payola

Eris Free, Paul Scrivens, and Molly Holzschlag have all touched an emerging issue in marketing—blog payola. Marqui is a new company with an interesting business model. Companies pay them to get their products written about in weblogs, and Marqui in turn...

Better Sorry than Safe

Better Sorry than Safe

(I wrote this back in 2005 but I preach the same principle today.) The brands we respect, the brands we’re drawn to, the brands we’re compelled to follow are those that are willing to let go of their fear and do what they know is right for them. I recently worked on a...

You Can’t Fake Cool

You Can’t Fake Cool

The recent “I’d Hit It” ad campaign from McDonald’s illustrates the perils of trying to tap into hip subcultures from the outside. Andrew Teman of “World Champion” originally pointed out the ad, a Flash piece appearing at the top of ESPN’s Page 2. (It’s still there at...

Marketing the Mundane

Marketing the Mundane

There’s no shortage of advice available regarding the best ways to generate buzz for your hot and exciting new product, but what are you supposed to do if your product isn’t really buzzworthy? Let’s say you’ve made a new line of those plastic clips that you put on a...

Doing the Google Dance

Doing the Google Dance

If you run a website, you may have noticed that your Google rankings dancing around over the past few weeks. Is this the end of the world as we know it? Google wields enormous power over the economy. When a Google developer tweaks a formula, thousands of businesses...