Disrupt. Breakaway. Win.

Thoughts on disruptive branding by @DavidKnies

Is your brand a User Experience or just a User Interface?

Mac vs PC is really about User Experience (UX) vs User Interface (UI).

I’m a Mac user and can’t imagine ever going back to a Windows / PC.

I believe that a Mac (and everything Apple creates) is a true User Experience (UX to some). Whereas a Windows PC is simply a User Interface (UI).

For many years, we lived in a Microsoft-dominated world. Smart engineers created sophisticated technical computing platforms. Then, they would figure out software applications to build on the platforms, and eventually a user interface was created. The user interface was generally clunky and driven by engineering considerations, not user needs, as illustrated by the acronym that described it, GUI (graphic user interface).

This is how we get things like Microsoft Clippy. Right church (offering help to the frustrated user), wrong pew (in an annoying, intrusive manner).

In the PC world, people use the words “platform” and “features”.

Apple flipped the model by starting with the User Experience. Focusing on the individual and how they experience a product. What benefits are most important to them. And eliminating everything that isn’t absolutely necessary.

Once the User Experience is clear, then its application is designed. Elegantly, cleanly and simply.

After that - the technical needs (“platform” in Windows-speak) are determined, and generally invisible to the user. (ever see one of those Windows blue screens on a Mac?)

To recap:

Windows places priority on the platform, then the software that works on the platform, and then the graphic user interface.

Mac focuses on the user experience, then its application, and then the technology needed to deliver it.

One could argue that the PC is a friend with nice features, and the Mac is a friend with benefits.

Hmm…kind of an easy choice, isn’t it?

What do you think?

(more about us at www.launchcontrolgroup.com )

Brand Innovation is design that surprises + amazes with a “why hasn’t someone thought of that before?!?!”

Nike design never fails to innovate in a unique way. They recently announced the new away jersey for the French national football team with a design that borrows from the famous + iconic “mariniere” navy striped shirt.  Stunning. 

What do you think of the design?

This is what makes our country great.

Story via our client Bob Jenkins from www.localhookerrods.com

The Sack Lunch 

I put my carry-on in the luggage compartment and sat down in my assigned seat. It was going to be a long flight. ‘I’m glad I have a good book to read. Perhaps I will get a short nap,’ I thought. 

Just before take-off, a line of soldiers came down the aisle and filled all the vacant seats, totally surrounding me. I decided to start a conversation. 

'Where are you headed?' I asked the soldier seated nearest to me. 
'Petawawa. We'll be there for two weeks for special training, and then we're being deployed to Afghanistan 

After flying for about an hour, an announcement was made that sack lunches were available for five dollars. It would be several hours before we reached the east, and I quickly decided a lunch would help pass the time… 

As I reached for my wallet, I overheard a soldier ask his buddy if he planned to buy lunch. ‘No, that seems like a lot of money for just a sack lunch. Probably wouldn’t be worth five bucks. I’ll wait till we get to base.’ 
His friend agreed. 

I looked around at the other soldiers. None were buying lunch. I walked to the back of the plane and handed the flight attendant a fifty dollar bill. ‘Take a lunch to all those soldiers.’ She grabbed my arms and squeezed tightly. Her eyes wet with tears, she thanked me. ‘My son was a soldier in Iraq ; it’s almost like you are doing it for him.’ 

Picking up ten sacks, she headed up the aisle to where the soldiers were seated. She stopped at my seat and asked, ‘Which do you like best - beef or chicken?’ 
'Chicken,' I replied, wondering why she asked. She turned and went to the front of plane, returning a minute later with a dinner plate from first class. 
'This is your thanks..' 

After we finished eating, I went again to the back of the plane, heading for the rest room. 
A man stopped me. ‘I saw what you did. I want to be part of it. Here, take this.’ He handed me twenty-five dollars. 

Soon after I returned to my seat, I saw the Flight Captain coming down the aisle, looking at the aisle numbers as he walked, I hoped he was not looking for me, but noticed he was looking at the numbers only on my side of the plane. When he got to my row he stopped, smiled, held out his hand and said, ‘I want to shake your hand.’ Quickly unfastening my seatbelt I stood and took the Captain’s hand. With a booming voice he said, ‘I was a soldier and I was a military pilot. Once, someone bought me a lunch. It was an act of kindness I never forgot.’ I was embarrassed when applause was heard from all of the passengers. 

Later I walked to the front of the plane so I could stretch my legs. A man who was seated about six rows in front of me reached out his hand, wanting to shake mine. He left another twenty-five dollars in my palm. 

When we landed I gathered my belongings and started to deplane. Waiting just inside the airplane door was a man who stopped me, put something in my shirt pocket, turned, and walked away without saying a word. Another twenty-five dollars! 

Upon entering the terminal, I saw the soldiers gathering for their trip to the base. 
I walked over to them and handed them seventy-five dollars. ‘It will take you some time to reach the base.. It will be about time for a sandwich. 
God Bless You.’ 

Ten young men left that flight feeling the love and respect of their fellow travelers. 

As I walked briskly to my car, I whispered a prayer for their safe return. These soldiers were giving their all for our country. I could only give them a couple of meals. It seemed so little… 

A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The United States of America ’ for an amount of ‘up to and including my life.’ 

That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.’ 

"Fast Brands are Honest" - Verizon vs AT+T

Calls on AT+T don’t end in “Goodbye”, they end in “Hello? Hello? Can you hear me?”

What people say about your brand is more important now than what you tell them it is.

And if your brand isn’t honest about what it says - just watch what people say about it.

Consumers now have the tools to unmask brands that don’t tell the truth. We see it again + again with brands who promise one thing in their branding + marketing and then deliver something altogether different.

BP. AT+T. Cable companies (anyone have anything good to say about Comcast or TimeWarner Cable?). Banks + their mysterious hidden fees. Tiger Woods.

Verizon built their brand experience around a superior network and has backed it up at every single consumer touchpoint. “Can you hear me now?” “Rule The Air” and other marketing that they use tells the story of their reliable network.

AT+T chose to build their brand experience the same way - “More Bars In More Places” and “AT+T Covers 97% of All Americans” etc… - but didn’t back it up with a network or an experience that delivers against their promise. 

Many millions of dollars on Marketing -  advertising, retail signage, direct mail, promotions, etc…to tell us that “AT+T Covers 97% Of All Americans” and “AT+T Has More Bars In More Places.” Excellent Marketing. Well done by the AT+T Marketing Team.

So what! Ask anyone who has an iPhone what they think of AT+T. They’ll probably tell you that truth in advertising laws should make their ads say “AT+T Covers 97% Of All Americans BADLY”. 

Even worse - a recent analysis by Crimson Hexagon of 1.3 million online conversations about the iPhone to Verizon rumor showed that nearly 60% of AT+T customers were strongly considering dumping them for Verizon as soon as the Verizon iPhone is released.

A Brand is only as strong as its weakest link. Because people now believe the way that your Brand does anything is how it does everything.  And they will talk about their experience – good or bad.

And if you’re not honest, you’re done. Just ask Tiger.

My Thoughts on Fast Company’s “Future Of Advertising”

Fast Company wrote an excellent piece a couple months ago called “The Future Of Advertising,” which summed up the frenzy of discussion and soul-searching in the marketing world about the death of advertising.

I would’ve titled the piece “The Future of the Advertising AGENCY” – because I believe that advertising isn’t dying per se – but its role has changed, moving away from preaching - traditional broadcast (TV, radio, print) to human conversation - digital, direct targeting of individuals (Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, YouTube videos & pay per click banners) and branded content.

My answer – advertising is a marketing medium. The future of marketing is all about the message, not the medium.

I define a brand as an experience, not a logo.

And I define marketing as how a brand creatively tells many people about this experience.

Marketing is not advertising. Advertising is a marketing medium and often a tremendously effective way of reaching many people. Just like social media, PR, email marketing, content creation, events, sponsorships, endorsements, retail, point of sale, direct response, websites, SEO, SEM, mobile, blogging and many others are.

I believe that the advertising-agency led branding / marketing model that has been in place for the last 50+ years is completely outdated for building successful brands and businesses in a digital age of instant communication, where consumers now have the power to tell the marketplace what a brand is more rapidly and reliably than a company does.

In his remarkably prescient book, “The Cluetrain Manifesto”, Doc Searls said that “Markets are conversation, and conversation is fire. Therefore, marketing is arson.”

Ask yourself this simple question – “How do you learn about brands + products?”

We learn about brands + products from conversations, not ads. Branding and marketing for brands needs to be built around this reality. Consumers used to talk about ads. Now they talk about experiences.

What this really means is that advertising is no longer the creative core of a successful brand. A brand’s experience + its creative articulation at all customer touch points is. And – by extension – the advertising agency is no longer the creative source for a brand’s experience.

Many of the “traditional” ad agencies have done an excellent job in changing their focus from the creation + production of advertising to being medium-agnostic creative partners to the brands they work with. They’ve rebranded themselves as creative agencies. Not an easy thing to retool, refocus and rebrand, and respect to those who have been able to do this.

So what does this mean to you, the marketer? Here are a couple thought starters: 

  1.  Focus on creating your brand’s message + story first. Then worry about its distribution mediums;
  2. Choose an agency partner whose true strength is exceptional creative thinking, independent of medium, and one that truly + deeply understands your brand and the consumer you are working to reach;
  3. Then find the partners who understand the mediums right for your brand. Focus on the ones that are right for your brand + your consumer.
  4.  Make sure that they are fluent and native digital citizens, and that their “digital” team isn’t there to build websites and sites while sitting separated from the rest of the team;
  5. Remember that successful marketing is not just about creating great advertising.

What do you think?