You have a great idea for a company, product, or service and you want to make your mark.  You want the world to know how revolutionary, helpful, or significant it is so that they will participate in it, or buy it, or let all their friends know about it.  You want to create a wave of interest so that your product is successful.  Basically, you want to build a brand.

So what’s in a brand?  The dictionary will tell you that the word “brand” is a noun, adjective, or verb that means “label” or “mark.”  But as marketers, we know that a brand is so much more.  To build the multidimensional thing known as a brand, you’ll need to incorporate several components:

  • Look and feel.   How your company, product, or service appeals to the senses.  It may include the logo, colors, packaging, product design, texture, user experience, or other distinctive physical attributes.
  • Product features.  Attributes of the product such as the task it performs or services it provides.
  • Product benefits.  Advantages your product delivers to consumers which will solve their problems or otherwise improve their lives.
  • Perception.  This is the “holy grail” of branding.  How do you want your consumers to feel about your product?  What do you want them to think about the product?  The perception that your consumer has about the product is the most important function of branding because it is the reason most consumers will buy or re-purchase your product.  Your consumers may not remember the product features or benefits, but they will have a perception about it.  Most of brand building is perception management – and messaging both captures and conveys that perception.

In other words:

Look + Features + Benefits + Perception = Brand

In my next post, I’ll go deeper into Brand Perception.


New Book, New Look

It’s been a while since my last blog post, and that’s because I’ve been in the process of publishing my new ebook!

I am truly excited to announce the publication of  “Before the Brand: Using Positioning and Messaging to Build Brand Identity.” 

Think about it.  How is your brand perceived?  Unless you consciously define your brand, your customers will create their own perception. This book helps you take control of your brand by defining what your brand is before your marketplace does.  It contains a step-by-step process to create positioning, value propositions and messaging, making it much easier to influence customer perception of your brand.

To learn more, or to purchase a copy ($10 USD), click here.

And there is another change you may have noticed.  My blog brand has changed from “Marketing Magic” to “Before the Brand.”  I’ve had so much interest in the intricacies of positioning and messaging that I’ve evolved this blog to cover that topic more fully.  In upcoming posts, you will learn:

  • How to create a value proposition
  • How to manage brand perception
  • How to position your product
  • What the difference is between vision statements and mission statements
  • …. and much, much more!

I’m pleased to bring my subscribers new, useful tools to help them in their day-to-day work.  Go forth, and make your mark!

One of the things that strikes me most about true leaders is that they don’t talk much.

They listen.

Listening is a skill.  Firstly, it requires that you put your own thoughts, opinions, and creative ideas on the back burner — to “table” them, to mix my metaphors.  Secondly, it asks you to actually hear — to process, understand, synthesize — what others are saying.

The results can be stunning.

As any good sales person (or person on the dating scene) will tell you, when you listen to someone, hear what they are saying, and let them know you’ve heard what they wanted to communicate, you have a tremendous impact because that person will feel understood.  When a person feels understood, it generates trust and with trust comes a sense of loyalty and the genesis of commitment.

Now, any book on customer satisfaction will tell you this — that listening can actually be a more effective way to build communication and commitment between people and groups than speaking or evangelizing.

So how are leaders translating this listening skill in the Social Media Age?

Many companies, such as IBM, Symantec and Nabisco, are systemitizing their “listening,” by tapping social media streams using tools like PeopleBrowsr.com or putting in place employee groups that are responsible for tracking and responding to posts as well as analyzing posts to look for trends.

But there are also leaders out there that are actually rolling up their sleeves and participating – and by doing so, leading the way.  Leaders like Sandy Carter, VP, Software Business Partners at IBM.  A consistent blogger and tweeter, she engages personally with a virtual community that she has built on her own — by leveraging the power of social media to reach communities of people she never would have connected with before.  (Visit her  blog at: http://socialmediasandy.wordpress.com/ and Twitter – http://twitter.com/sandy_carter). 

I heard Ms. Carter’s keynote at the annual WITI conference in San Jose this week and was impressed with the dialog that she has created with her virtual community.  She not only pays attention to the comments in her network, she responds promptly.  The result of this listening is that she is able to monitor trends, analyze them, and create a vision of social media and next generation marketing strategies that she can then communicate to other business professionals.  Essentially, it’s a feeback loop, but one that is fostered by her own ability to listen coupled with her own thoughts, experience and knowledge.

And because Sandy has created a dialog with her community — she hasn’t just tried to “sell” them — when she goes back to them with this vision, they listen to her.  Avidly.

Who are you listening to?

I remember once taking a class from Suzie Orman, the financial guru.  She had the audience reach into their wallets and select one bill of money.  We could pick the denomination — and I chose a $20 bill.  Then, she told us to rip the bill in half.  A gasp went through the crowd.  She egged us on and I went ahead and ripped the bill in my hand. 


After letting the collective groans and gasps subside she made her point – that money is not just paper and ink.  We infuse meaning into it.  It has value to us.  And what we do with it and to it is steeped in emotional and spiritual energy.

The same is true of communication in all it’s forms – verbal, written, visual or a combination of the three.  I would posit that very little of what we communicate on a daily basis is based solely on communication of information.  It’s the emotion, the intention, the how, the what, the motivation behind the communication that people remember.

Let’s test this theory.  Think of your favorite comedian.  Have one?  Okay, now think about how that comedian makes you feel.  Does he/she make you laugh, feel uncomfortable, feel envious that they can say what you are thinking but get away with it? 

Now, quick, remember a joke or a story that they told.  I’m waiting……

Takes a few seconds, doesn’t it?  But it sure didn’t take long to recall how they made you feel — that was immediate, wasn’t it?

I’m sure that you understand my point — that the deepest value in any communication or message is the emotion, intention, and clarity of thought behind it.  Yikes!  That explains those emails that people send where the words are so carefully chosen but it still makes the recipient mad.  As intuitive creatures, we each pick up the non-verbal intention behind all of our communications and interactions.

The Zen of Communication is: what you believe about what you are saying or communicating is what people are going to remember. 

If you believe it’s the world’s greatest idea, people are going to pick up on that passion.  Investors will invest in companies where the people are excited and passionate about their ideas far more quickly than they will a company where the people are simply super-smart.

Think about it.  What do you really believe and what are you subliminally communicating to others?

I’m pleased to let my readers know about some great new partner marketing workshops that will help them with their co-branding, co-marketing planning, and positioning and messaging with and for partnerships.

Take a look!  And feel free to send me questions at events@phoenixcg.com.

Co-branding and Co-Marketing Planning for Collaborative Business Relationships


Norma Watenpaugh, CSAP, Principal, PhoenixCG

Leslie Sutherland, CA-AM, Market Development Practice Lead, PhoenixCG

Let’s face it – when it boils down to it, we partner to meet specific business goals that will ultimately profit our organizations in some tangible way.  To achieve these benefits, it’s essential that the parties agree upon their core value proposition and marketing strategies.  In this workshop, you will use structured processes to formulate your own winning value proposition that appeals to you, your partner and your joint customers.  Then, you will formulate and plan an effective marketing program.  Included in the workshop are tools and templates to take with you to apply to your partnerships and collaborative business relationships at work.  To find out attending a workshop or hosting one at your organization, send an email to events@phoenixcg.com or go to our Website http://www.phoenixcg.com/what-we-do/marketdevworkshops.htm.

Positioning and Messaging for Collaborative Business Relationships


Leslie Sutherland, CA-AM, Market Development Practice Lead, PhoenixCG

Organizations collaborate to achieve specific objectives that they cannot reach on their own.  While the value proposition of the partnership and your product offering may be agreed to, aligning your larger organizations around a joint market position and clear messaging can be a real challenge.  In this interactive workshop, you will learn road-tested strategies to align your organizations.  You will also formulate a clear messaging hierarchy for your partnership or solution using defined processes and tools.  Included in the workshop are tools and templates to take with you to apply to your partnership and collaborative business relationships on the job.  To find out attending a workshop or hosting one at your organization, send an email to events@phoenixcg.com go to our Website http://www.phoenixcg.com/what-we-do/marketdevworkshops.htm.

In this series of posts, I’m reviewing how to conduct a messaging process.  On August 4, I presented Stage 3 of the messaging process, Finalize and Validate.  It was focused on finalizing your brand and message architecture and validating it’s messaging with a test group.  Today, I discuss what do to next — get the word out through Evangelism.


Evangelism is a term that became part of the high technology lexicon when Apple Computer introduced it’s developer evangelism organization in the ’80’s.  It’s mission wasn’t just to get the word out – it was to engage the software developer community so completely that Apple became a religion to them.  Do you think it worked?

Getting the Word Out – Tactics

You’ll need to get the message out to audiences inside your organization as well as the target audiences outside your organization.

Internally, you’ll need to gauge the scope of your message and who is affected.  In some cases, you’ll want the entire company to know.  In others, only select groups, like marketing, product management and customer service.  Consider carefully how you are going to communicate to these audiences.  Will it be at a group meeting?  Will it be via Web conference or email?

For external audiences, your marketing and PR folks will be able to take the ball — they do this for a living.  Marketing people will incorporate the messages into printed materials, tradeshows & events, and online properties.  PR folks will set up media and analyst briefings, press releases, and social media distribution.  

Then comes the question – how do you deliver the new messaging?  The only people that should receive the actual brand and message architectures you created would be your marketing and PR organizations.  This is because the format and content of the architectures are exactly what they need to incorporate the messaging into their communications materials. 

For other audiences, it’s a different story – literally.  You’ll want to weave a story appropriate to each audience.  The questions that these audiences will have are:

  • Why did you create this messaging – what is the history?
  • How does it relate to me (in sales, customer service, product management, etc.)?
  • Why do I care?  What will the impact be on me and my job?
  • What do I do with the new messaging?

In other words, you need to put the new messaging in context and “connect the dots” for each audience to show them why the new messaging is relevant to them and will make them successful.

If you do this — you will be successful.

Getting the word out will have tactical components, yes.  But do you need them to feel a sense of urgency, exhilaration and excitement — so that you can create momentum and carries your organization into something greater?

Getting the Word Out – WooWoo Mojo

To take you from “getting the word out” to “evangelism” you need to engage your audiences by appealing to their emotions.  If you do that, the message will take on viral power and spread much more quickly and pervasively.

There are several ways to appeal to emotions. 

One is to give your audience the sense that they are participating in something greater than themselves.  Something that is so compelling that they feel they must engage.  From the disaster of Apollo 13 (“Failure is not an option!”) to the U.S. Revolutionary War (“We have not yet begun to fight!”) to enlisting the altruism of a generation (“Ask not what your country can do for you…”), history is filled with examples of this kind of motivation.

Another way to appeal to the emotions is to rollout the showmanship and drama.  Yes, drama.  Put on a show, turn a phrase, create some excitement.  Steven Jobs is a master of this.  But so are Tony Robbins, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page and Sergey Brin — all of these personalities excel at creating a sense of “I better get on board now or I’m gonna miss out!”

What will your audiences miss out on if they don’t step up?  Share it with them — with a little flash and razzmatazz.  Then, watch what happens.  Who knows?  That ball may never stop rolling….

In this series of posts, I’m reviewing how to conduct a messaging process.  On July 14, I presented Part 2 of how to conduct a Strategy Workshop, centered around the agenda and how to get the attendees engaged and creating the Positioning Statement.  Today, I discuss post-workshop activity, including finalizing and validating the messaging you’ve created.


Now that you completed the first two phases of the messaging process, Discovery and the Strategy Workshop, you’ll move into the final phase.  in this phase, you will finalize the messaging, then validate it with key influencers to be sure that you have hit the mark.

Finalizing the Messaging

To finalize the messaging, review the positioning statement that the participants created in the Strategy Workshop.  You may want to word-smith it a bit to make it flow more smoothly.  Then, taking the positioning statement and the information gathered during the Discovery phase, you should have enough information to draft the following two deliverables:

  1. Brand Architecture.  This consists of the Positioning Statement, Key Messages and Proof Points, and, if your messaging process was extensive, you may also have developed a Vision Statement, Mission Statement and Tagline.  Read my post from April 8, 2010, for more detail on creating a the Brand Architecture.
  2. Messaging Document.  These are commonly used by company executives to stay in alignment on messages around different products and services.  But they are primarily used by PR people and marketing people to produce marcom materials.  They usually consist of the following information:
    • Boilerplates:  25 and 50 word descriptions of the topic.
    • Specific Messages:  Then you’ll produce messages in the following format for Industries, Audiences, Partners, and Customers:
      • Introduction
      • 3 Key Messages
      • Descriptive Paragraph

Read my post from April 14, 2010, for more detail on creating a Messaging Document.

Messaging Validation

Next, it’s time to test your messages to see if:  a) they capture the points you were trying to make, b) they communicate what you are trying to say clearly and succinctly, and c) they resonate with your key audiences.

Most validation processes are not fancy.  It may be as simple as sending the document to a select group of people who can represent the interests of core audiences or industries.  In more elaborate messaging processes, you can actually conduct a formal validation, with surveys, demos and even focus groups.  It all depends upon the scale — and strategic value — of the project you have undertaken.

In my next post, I’ll discuss how to evangelize your new messages.  After all, if you create them and no one uses them, then what was the point in creating them?