1222You may not be Elon Musk (Tesla) disrupting the auto industry, or Jeff Bezos (Amazon & Washington Post) seeking to disrupt the newspaper business. The former probably views himself in the technology/clean energy business. The latter, not in the book or news, but rather in the consumer service business.  But disruption isn’t the only reason to consider a branding initiative. Many events can trigger consideration of a brand refresh. It’s not always necessary, but if a series of disappointing quarters, or new management, or upcoming new products are in the future, it may make sense. The undertaking may seem daunting, but the following points may help you get off on the right foot.

1. What are we and for whom?

The word “Brand” is a fuzzy one to most people… reputation, logo, price, packaging, advertising and so forth all add up to “brand.”  But there are other intangibles such as culture, values image, service, satisfaction and so much more. In truth, it’s everything you do that adds up to what your brand stands for.

The best companies/brands do some heavy soul-searching to set forth their brand in a consistent way that touches or engages all of their stakeholders. A brand’s reason for being and its compelling (sometimes unstated) promise is why brands such as Starbucks or Apple have such a loyal following.

2. Who’s responsible?

Marketing can formulate the positioning, develop advertising, engage consumers via PR and social sites, events, in-store and so forth. A compelling and integrated campaign can convey (hopefully) a unique and important promise. But keeping that promise is also critical, and it’s the responsibility of everyone in the company…reception, R&D, sales, operations, customer service and others. When you bring together a team to work on redefining your brand, it is crucial that it comprises a cross-functional team that represents both your promise-makers and your promise-keepers.

It is also critical that you have the endorsement and active participation of senior management. You know all those great brands you love?  It’s been well documented that senior leadership (e.g. Jobs, Welch, Ralph Lauren, Wynn, Schultz, Musk, etc.) not only participated in the process—they owned it. And the results were obvious!

3.  Who are your stakeholders?

Everyone who will touch your brand inside and outside of the organization. Not just the end user or your employees, but your suppliers, franchisees, dealers, bankers, regulators and…of course, the Street (if you are public). It’s critical to do some research to understand all of these constituents…assuming you want a great brand.

4. Can you be courageous?

The world is filled with forgettable brands. Don’t try to be all things to all people. Take a stand. Define who you are and who you are not. Make the tough decisions about legacy names, sub-brands, and causes to support, messaging and thinking. Think about design and marketing communications as a strategic tool that can redefine how a category is viewed. And focus on your brand experience touch-points to drive home that your brand re-launch is more than lipstick on a pig—it’s real and meaningful.

5. Can you deliver on your brand promise before you make it?

Re-branding programs typically involve developing the strategy and tactics communicating it to an external audience. However, the best organizations recognize the importance of internal communications and training as part of their launch plans. But communicating to employees about the brand is only the first step—what is much more important is to make sure that employees know how to deliver on the brand promise, and that they are empowered to do so.

This requires looking at the customer’s experience of your organization through their eyes. Mapping the customer’s experience and then assessing (qualitatively or quantitatively) how well you are delivering on your promise at each step is the true foundation for an internal launch—not emails and company newsletters. From these maps, you can then begin to focus on the high-priority touch-points and ensure that employees who manage those touch-points are trained in the brand, understand how to deliver it and, most importantly, have no obstacles in place that would prevent them from delivering.

Only when you’re prepared to keep your brand promise at your highest priority touch-points should you start making that promise to the marketplace.

6. How long to re-launch a brand?

If your strategy is bold enough it takes about three to five months to develop the strategy and then two to three years to implement it. Your plans need to consider the long haul—including aligning all your touch-points to deliver on the promise. This means you have to find employees who share your brand values, recruit them, hire them, train them so that they know what is expected of them, and remove obstacles to their performance. It also means that you may have to redesign products or processes. You may have to create or dismantle certain infrastructures. You may have to eliminate and replace certain cultural norms within the organization. These things take time.

You will also need to measure your progress. You should be benchmarking and annually assessing whether your company is being increasingly associated with your brand promise, and whether that is driving preference and loyalty among your consumers. You should also benchmark and annually assess progress in delivering on the promise at key touch-points—and then work with internal teams to develop methods to close the gap.

And lastly, you will need to continually evolve your brand to keep it fresh and relevant. This evolution may take the form of brand extensions, fresh advertising campaigns or an online experience that employs all the latest technology. Sustaining your brand is more important—and can be more challenging— than building it in the first place.

A new branding program is an exciting time, full of potential for transforming a company. Considering that a brand is a promise that must be kept at each interaction provides a framework not only for developing the brand, but also for assembling the right internal team. The brand promise must be true to your organization, and thus both internal and external points of view need to be explored and considered. And your story—from messaging to design—should be bold. Remember, the world didn’t ask for you to rebrand, so make it take notice.

Finding the right outside partners to help you (meld with inside resources) with this process is part of the service we provide…from branding firms to advertising agencies, from public relations to crisis management experts, from media management to even/sponsorship, from digital to social marketing, from sales promotion to shopper marketing. Not just competency, relevant experience and the like, but also a good culture fit and ensuring that mutual expectations are met. Contact


 The creation of advertising and all marketing communications campaigns involves science and art. Like the making of a motion picture, effective marcom is a collaborative effort.  Ultimate control with the making of a motion picture rests with the Director, just as a marketing campaign rests with the Client.

Clients working with an Agency Search Consultant is exactly like a Director working with a great Casting Director. The Consultant must know the script (marketing strategy), must understand the audience (consumer), must know the likely actors (agencies… be they stars or unknowns).

In evaluating the likely actors, Casting Directors need to identify the pin-up girl, the femme fatale, the heart-throb or the tough sheriff (Consultants need to do the same). Most go to many opening nights of various plays (consultants go on regular agency visits), offer counsel/training to sharpen the actor’s skills, selectively offer the big break (long shot agency), frequently spotting the hidden talent/range of an agency before the director. Ultimately, they both cast for chemistry and potential break-through performances.

Sometimes, the experienced Casting Director (Consultant) may bring in fewer actors  (agencies) than usual. They can sense an intangible quality beyond the normal evaluative criteria. Rejected actors (agencies) value the feedback they receive from the Casting director (consultant). They learn how to do better and truly tap into their potential. And since both actors and agencies need ongoing encouragement…Casting Directors and Consultants have the unique ability to make potentially painful failures/losses more palatable.

In short, both Casting Directors and Agency Search consultants are the unsung heroes of their respective industries. They create a necessary environment for better work and help set the stage for truly creative/break-through work that can make for a hit.


…Then and Now

 We all are constantly amazed at the speed by which everything around us is changing. Technology is largely at the root of this…the transmission of ideas, news, events and plans is virtually instantaneous.

 Here’s a little story to put it all in perspective:

How Old Is Grandma?

One evening a grandson was talking to his grandmother about current events.  The grandson asked his grandmother what she thought about the shootings at schools, the computer age, and just things in general.
The Grandmother replied, “Well, let me think a minute…I was born before:

  • ‘ television 
  • ‘ penicillin
  • ‘ polio shots
  • ‘ frozen foods
  • ‘ Xerox
  • ‘ contact lenses
  • ‘ Frisbees and
  • ‘ the pill

There were no:

  • ‘ credit cards
  • ‘ laser beams or
  • ‘ ball-point pens

Man had not yet invented:

  • ‘ pantyhose
  • ‘ air conditioners
  • ‘ dishwashers
  • ‘ clothes dryers
  • ‘ and the clothes were hung out to dry in the fresh air and
  • ‘ man hadn’t yet walked on the moon


Your Grandfather and I got married first, and then lived together. Every family had a father and a mother.

  • Until I was 25, I called every man older than me, “Sir.”
  • and after I turned 25, I still called policemen and every man with a title, “Sir.”
  • We were before gay-rights, computer dating, dual careers, daycare centers, and group therapy.
  • Our lives were governed by the Ten Commandments, good judgment and common sense.
  • We were taught to know the difference between right and wrong and to stand up and take responsibility for our actions.
  • Serving your country was a privilege; living in this country was a bigger privilege.
  • We thought fast food was what people ate during Lent.
  • Having a meaningful relationship meant getting along with your cousins.
  • Draft dodgers were those who closed front doors as the evening breeze started.
  • Time-sharing meant time the family spent together in the evenings and weekends — not purchasing condominiums.
  • We never heard of FM radios, tape decks, CD’s, electric typewriters, yogurt, or guys wearing earrings.
  •  We listened to Big Bands, Jack Benny, and the President’s speeches on our radios.
  • If you saw anything with ‘Made in Japan ‘ on it, it was junk.
  • The term ‘making out’ referred to how you did on your school exam.
  • Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, and instant coffee were unheard of.
  • We had 5 &10-cent (5 and dime) stores where you could actually buy things for 5 and 10 cents.
  • Ice-cream cones, phone calls, rides on a streetcar, and a Pepsi were all a nickel.
  • And if you didn’t want to splurge, you could spend your nickel on enough stamps to mail 1 letter and 2 postcards.
  • You could buy a new Ford Coupe for $600, but who could
  • Afford one? Too bad, because gas was 11 cents a gallon.

In my day:

  • ‘ “grass” was mowed,
  • ‘ “coke” was a cold drink,
  • ‘ “pot” was something your mother cooked in and
  • ‘ “rock music” was your grandmother’s lullaby.
  • ‘ “Aids” were helpers in the Principal’s office,
  • ‘ “chip” meant a piece of wood,
  • ‘ “hardware” was found in a hardware store and.
  • ‘ “software” wasn’t even a word.
  • We were the last generation to actually believe that a lady needed a husband to have a baby.
  • We volunteered to protect our precious country.

No wonder people call us “old and confused” and say there is a generation gap.

How old do you think I am?

Read on to see — pretty scary if you think about it and pretty sad at the same time.

Are you ready?

  • This woman would be only 61 years old!
  • She would have been born in late 1952.




  • Pot–weed
  • RSVP–flash mob
  • Andy Williams –Lady Gaga
  • Folk– techno
  • Movie – IMAX
  • Stereo–surround sound
  • Newspaper — tablet
  • Week -in review — instant news
  • Rolodex — database
  • Carousel — PowerPoint
  • Polaroid — digital
  • Wedding planner — sponsored event
  • Phone call – text
  • Fax – FedEx – e-mail
  • Oil – data
  • Tape – streaming
  • Article – blog
  • Attachment – link
  • Album – Instagram
  • Invite – E-vite
  • Blockbuster – Netflix
  • Auto dealer – CarMax
  • Upfront – real time
  • Field interview – Survey Monkey
  • Website – LinkedIn
  • Public relations – social marketing
  • Sales report – dashboard
  • Soap – reality TV



Better Agency Work Requires Better Client Briefs…

Strategic Thinking, Agency Collaboration, Integration Also Need Improvement

Marketers should focus on improve their briefs to agencies if they want better work, according to the results of a new survey (over 1000 C-level agency executives) by our Joint Venture Partner Joanne Davis Consulting and SCAN International.

Agency assignment briefs were a major problem area, agencies said — highlighting the old “garbage in, garbage out” mentality. Most agencies reported some level of frustration regarding the quality of assignment briefings: 53% found briefs complete but lacking in focus; 27% found them incomplete and inconsistent; 20% found them complete and focused most of the time; and zero respondents found them complete and focused all the time.

According to the findings, media agencies are consistently more positive about the quality of their clients than leaders from other main agency disciplines, such as PR. They ranked quality of clients more than 20% higher than other types of agencies in granting access to client decision-makers, which could be partly due to the large budgets with which media agencies work. Media agencies also ranked clients’ evaluation processes higher than other types of agencies. The survey attributes this result to the popularity of media audits as part of the agencies’ evaluations.

On the flip side, 53% of total agency respondents said clients processes for evaluating agencies are not up to par, and only 3% said clients had excellent processes.

Strategic thinking is something agencies believe is lacking among marketers too. Only 3% of agency leaders said that typical clients have excellent strategic capabilities; 45% found them adequate; and 49% said they were limited.

Agencies’ perspective on the level at which clients are integrating disciplines is a mixed bag. 12% found clients adequate on the integration front; 72% said the level of integration varies by project; and 15% said clients have no integrated strategy.

On hot topics such as procurement and compensation, agencies anticipate that there will be better models in the coming years; they were optimistic that procurement could focus less on cost management and more on aligning their departments with marketing. But respondent scores were still relatively low. Currently, 50% of the respondents associate procurement only with cost management.

Client compensation is also relatively bleak, according to the research. Only 3% of the respondents said clients actually want agencies to make a profit and offer incentives; 36% said clients provide acceptable profit; 50% said clients provide some profit and 11% said they cover costs. European agencies gave clients higher marks for fair compensation than other regions did.

The survey also asked the shops to explain why they think there’s so much agency consolidation by clients of late. Agency leaders said that 56% of typical clients are consolidating to reduce agency fees; 16% to reduce headcount; 23% to improve harmonization; and 5% for full integration.

Clients’ influence on agency collaboration is a far cry from perfect, as 51% of agencies said they coordinate themselves.

Despite all of the imperfections, agency leaders anticipate that client quality will improve in a number of areas over the next two years. And in the survey, most agencies took some responsibility for the future success of the relationships.

When asked how they could meet clients’ needs, 10% said no major changes were planned; 25% said they need more diversified expertise; 34% said they need more diversified expertise and technology; and 31% said they need more diversified expertise, technology and training. Media agencies were 23% more likely to say they need more diversified expertise, training and technology.

Cause Marketing Coming Back From The Dead

More than 20 years ago, cause marketing made it’s debut with a patriotic call by the Statue of Liberty Renovation folks. Lee Iacoca, former CEO of Chrysler was its spokesperson. The  campaign blended sponsorship, PR and more in creating a public-private partnership

The campaign gave me an idea about how to blend worthy social causes with brands in a manner that would generate a win-win for all parties. I created a company (The Pearlman Group) that sought out CEO’s of brands who might embrace causes that fit with their brands culture and resonate with its target constituents (e.g. Coca Cola and education, Crystal Cruises and cleaner oceans and bays, and Chevrolet/Geo and the ).

In the latter case, we linked the most fuel efficient cars in America (Geo) with non-profit tree planting/beautification non-profits in cities throught out the U.S. Buring less fuel led to less CO2 on the atmosphere, and trees contribute to taking CO2 out of the atmosphere. Alll of this was a prelude to GM’s launch of the electric car, Earth Day and more. The campaign was fully integrated using sponsorship/event marketing and public relations as its foundation, and being supported by direct/interactive, social and traditional advertising. Consumers, dealers, government agencies (lcity, state and national) and GM employees all responded enthusiastically. Some skeptical media got onboard when they saw the cmpaign was authentic and did not deny that what was god for society, could also be good for business.

For a few years, cause marketing had its day in the sun, but then it was trivialized as every brand manager and account executive tried to come up with cause promotions such as discounts, percentage of profits to a non-profit, and so forth.

Eventually, cause marketing were viewd as passé and a bit superficial…and began to go away as the economy ran into trouble and non-essential programs were eliminated.

In recent years, some brands and programs have revived cause marketing with good strategic planning, authentic motives and synergy between their chosen cause and brand…and so forth.

Target and education, Tom’s shoes and needy children, BP atoning for its oil spill in the gulf and more renew the faith of employees, customers, non-profit volunteers and regulatory bodies who respond favorably in today’s marketplace.

Selective cause programs have merit more than ever…what with hurricane Sandy, the recent tornado in Oklahoma and more. Brands would do well to consider the merit of such programs as they seek to differentiate themselves from competitors, while remaining true to themselves and their constituencies.





In all probability, most of who you are is some combination of genetics and environment. With maybe some bumper polishing along the way.

Yes, your socio-economic status growing up has some bearing on whom you are. Schooling, too. Some folks were groomed to be who they became…many of our presidents, politicians, sports stars and business leaders. Think the younger George Bush, Tiger Woods or Nelson Rockefeller.

Most talented people, however, find themselves in leadership positions due to a few, but not all key attributes. As they sense the power they could wield, the success they and their organizations might achieve, or the vision they might create it becomes critical to be self-aware. Not just about “best-practice” management skills, but a whole host of “things” that help make up your intended brand: where to you work, where you live, what car you drive, dealing fairly and honestly with people and so forth.  

Smart leaders make a point of thinking about how they’re perceived by others. That means being visible and consciously cultivating a memorable, unique public image. If you were a soft-drink, how would you brand yourself? In the case of you, it’s not much different.

Think about your target audience…constituents. What are they looking for? Develop a marketing program for yourself…photos, video, speeches, articles, social marketing. Network by joining the right club, giving to the right charities, banking with a certain institution…getting media training, surrounding yourself with the right people…at work and personally.

But remember this. Make sure the positioning/branding of yourself is authentic. Regardless of what brand image you’d like to project, if it isn’t really you, your efforts will most likely backlash.


Be Authentic – Stand out!


Is Big Brother Watching?

This is a true story: A man walks into a Target store and asks to see the manager. The manager asks if he can help and the man produces an advertisement that his daughter had received in the mail at their home. It was for diapers, wet wipes, strollers and other baby gear.

“My daughter is only 16,” the man said, “Why are you sending this stuff?”

The manager apologized profusely and offered a vague explanation. The man nodded and left. A few days later, the manager, who was bothered by the entire situation, called the man to once again offer apologies.

“Well, it appears that I complained too soon,” the man said. “Evidently there are some things going on in my house that I wasn’t fully aware of. My daughter is due in May. So I guess my only question is how you knew before I did?”

The manager again offered a vague explanation, but the truth is that retailers like Target have complicated algorithms that carefully analyze massive amounts of purchasing data. They can discern buying patterns and draw highly specific marketing conclusions.

In this case, the man’s daughter had bought a number of items in one transaction that expectant mothers tend to buy. Armed with this data and other customer information, the retailer can send out highly targeted marketing material — material designed, in this case, to create a strong bond with a potentially lucrative long-term customer.

Today, retailers are very careful with this sort of customer information. They still analyze the data, and they still make these sorts of conclusions, but they will include other offers to mask the intention of the targeted campaign — a coupon for dog food, say, or patio furniture and other seasonal items.

The truth is, retailers like Target, Wal-Mart, J.C. Penny and others use “Big Data” to know exactly the kind of ads to get in front of you. But what they don’t want is consumers to know just how much they know about them. Just think how much I could tell about you by examining what you bought at the grocery store. If you think that loyalty card is there to give you a discount, think again. This is how supermarket mailings are eerily for the exact stuff you typically purchase.

Today, the ability to use massive amounts of data and strain it into something resembling intelligence — even for something as mundane as what you buy at the grocery store — is a large, growing and dynamic industry. Essentially, it is the job of a Big Data to store large amounts of information, enable its easy analysis and use.

In 2010, Big Data was a $3.2 billion industry. But research suggests it will grow more than 428% to $16.9 billion by 2015.

Big Brother is watching? Marketers need to walk a fine line between gaining useful data versus the possible backlash of consumers who might feel that their privacy has been invaded.