Category Archives: Branding

Online Brand Reputation Management


Building and managing your brand online is not always easy. With the thousands of new tools, widgets and social media platforms, getting found online — and getting found with the right brand message — is much harder than the good ole days (nee: 2 years ago) when all you had to do was get to the top of the first page of Google keyword search results.

AdAge has a great strategic planning “AIDE” (pictured above) explaining how to create and maintain positive word-of-mouth reputation in 6 months. What do you do?

Analyze.
Identify.
Deploy.
Evaluate.

Okay, now get started.

Where? How about here.

Brand Building: The Seven Essential Connections

New media has shifted marketing perception suggesting the rules for brand building have dramatically changed.

Actually, the rules haven’t changed — and neither has the end goal. Rather, it’s the methods and choices used to build those brands that have changed the way brands are marketed, with some new powerful tools gaining popularity and other previously-strong tools losing power (or already lost it).

Here’s what remains as true and essential today as always: for significant and meaningful brand building connections and branding engagement, brands have to share common ground with the desired customer.

What does this mean?

The relationship between brand and customer must represent something real to the customer; otherwise, the brand doesn’t matter in the customer’s world. Miss this connection and you certainly won’t motivate brand advocates.

Successfully-built brands have to be genuine and based on the real values and vision of the brand. Larger brand audiences and market share dominance happen when the brand links distribution of the brand intention with the brands perception.

It’s the bedrock of trust and common ground, allowing the relationship between brand and consumer to grow and prosper.

What are the Seven Essental Connections for Successful Customer Brand Building? The brand MUST share with the customer:

1) Life values (self-identity)
2) Core “roots” (history, heritage, religion, etc.)
3) Cause (forward-moving purpose)
4) Mutual interests and/or benefits (time spent together)
5) Lifestyle (community)
6) Hobbies (interactivity)
7) Preferences (like and shared dislikes)

Brands that connect with customers on all seven levels consistently are engaged. And yes, bottom line results are important just as it is for owners with brands not fully engaged . Look at some of the biggest successes: Apple, for example. BMW and Toyota (including the new Scions) for cars and Ford for trucks. Even TV shows like American Idol, Lost, Heroes, 24, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Each connect on all seven levels…and deliver financial results and customer buzz.

But not all brands connect on all seven levels.

Why not?

Most brands don’t consciously concentrate on servicing, staffing or budgeting the brand on those 7 levels. Which is too bad; if they did, the brand would earn the cherished “X Factor”…that special extra oomph in brand value making it superior than any competitor.

How well is your brand connecting?

Celebrity-Branded Search Engines

There’s something new bubbling up online. From the D-List.

It’s probably only a fad and not a trend…but it is something unusual. Or, at least, another way for celebrities to lose dignity. Celebrity-branded search engines.

Now, through search services provided by prodege.com (powered by Yahoo! Search) and others, custom search engines are offered with celebrity tie-ins.

Search with Kevin (Federline)! Search with Meatloaf! Search with Wynonna! Search with Hinder! Search with Andrew Dice Clay!

The hook: everytime you search with a branded “celebrity” search engine, you get a chance to win a prize (“enter to win the chance to attend K-Fed’s birthday party!”). And, if you chose to be a site host setting up a customized celeb search engine site, you can also earn money from every search (they say).

Now, I’m not really buying that this idea will take off and overthrow Google. I don’t even see it topping Dogpile or AllTheWeb.

However, there is a nugget of an idea there. Local radio stations could create customized search engines on their own websites featuring their morning shows. Now that might prove more interesting.

Search with Howard Stern! Search with Opie & Anthony! Search with Johnny B! Search with Kevin & Bean! Search with Rush Limbaugh!

Hmmm, check that last radio celeb search idea. I’m not sure I’d want to know Rush’s online search preferences…

USA Today Gets Makeover, Redesigns Website

USAToday’s online version of its newspaper — USAToday.com — has been one of my old reliables on the Internet for years. With new websites constantly popping up trying to get popular attention, USAToday.com has been like web comfort food for millions of web users.

Always reliable. Always there. Colorful. Easy to find and digest top mainstream news and pop culture stories. Just the right amount of news to give readers an idea of what’s happening today in the USA.

Just like their newsprint version.

That’s their brand online, too.

Or, it has been, up until USAToday.com’s new “makeover” this weekend.


Change and the Internet seem to go hand-in-hand. Change is inevitable in business. Like yesterday’s Jointblog posting, you have to find ways to “move forward“. Which is what USAToday.com is doing…moving forward to something they call “networked journalism” (a concepted apparently created along with BuzzMachine’s Jeff Jarvis).

According to USAToday, this new design will allow readers to comment on every story on the site, create profiles and blogs, upload photos and interact a lot more.

Here’s their official announcement:

Big changes are coming to USATODAY.com. Starting this weekend, you’ll have more interactive opportunities, see a dramatic new design and find a new way of thinking about the news.

USATODAY.com’s aim is to create a community around the news, one that connects readers to reporting. In its 25 years as “The Nation’s Newspaper,” USA TODAY has always tried to listen to a variety of readers and understand what’s important to them. As the next logical step, we’re building the nation’s newspaper into the nation’s conversation….So, watch the site. Change is coming, and you can be a part of it. (click here to read the rest of the USAToday announcement.)

Why the change? It’s not like USAToday is also changing their newsprint editions. Their previous online versions were designed to look and feel just like their newspaper. Not anymore. Perhaps that the point, considering the overall newspaper industry’s long, slow decline: change to read less like their newspaper and more like online readers.

For years, “The Nation’s Newspaper” has served its brand function with excellence in this noisy, distracted mediaworld. It’s fast, colorful and easy to read, perfect for commuting on the train or the shuttle flight (or even extended reading on the toilet — come on now, admit it). And USAToday.com became one of the top websites in the world, built on the same principles: fast, colorful and easy to read. Something you’d want to check out everyday. Sometimes several times a day.

In the past year, web traffic has gone down, according to Alexa (see graph). Which, ultimately, must explain why USAToday is making a change. However, I still don’t get the reason for their change. It doesn’t make sense. Despite some traffic drop-off, they still are the 525th most-trafficked website in the world!

March 5th update: Looks like the public is giving a collective “thumbs down” as of Day 3 since the changes. USAToday.com has slipped down to a one-week average of 649 most-visited in the world…and down to 856 for yesterday. What will Monday rankings look like when they are updated on Alexa tomorrow?

Now they’ve done a makeover…and, as a consumer and a media trend watcher, I’m less than pleased with the results so far.

Even on my high-speed broadband, this redesign is clunky and slow-loading for all the graphics and code they’ve packed onto their pages…including most crucially their homepage.

Is a makeover really going to bump up that traffic ranking when they’ve just made their site’s usage more difficult?

I’m sure there are bugs and fix issues to work out. Change and moving forward is important and needed. And sometimes it is unavoidable. If you must change, protecting the brand still remains critically important. And ideally, the changed user experience will prove better.

Right now, I have to wonder: Is USAToday.com now trying to be a brand they’re not?

Lessons in Customer Brand Building


In brand building, do you:

1) Teach with facts (without emotion, except perhaps subtle guilt or “do this now” commands)?

…or…

2) Promote with truthiness (with twisty wordplay of “wishful” results, even if unlikely)?

…or…

3) Create product/customer relationship opportunities (allowing the consumer to attach their own aspirations and value)?

Successful brand building is more than just associating a product with a brand message. Successful brand building results occur when a customer associates a product with a brand message…and agrees that union has continued value and meaning to that customer.

iTunes, the iPod and “Hello I’m a Mac” MacBoy all are extensions of Apple’s “Think Different” brand building proposition led by Steve Jobs…attracting loyal fans who love the product and love being associated with the product.

Coca Cola has been “The Real Thing” for 80 years, even while they tried to teach the world to sing.

What is your primary brand message doing for your customers: teaching, being truthy or creating relationships?

Have you media trend watched today?

Plan "Opportunity" into budgets, like Hot 99.5 with Bobby Brown

For right or wrong, the media loves to exploit celebrities…and, for the most part, celebrities (plus their publicists) love it, too. Look at all the major celeb meltdowns we seen in this post-YouTube, post-TMZ era. Paris Hilton. Mel Gibson. Tom Cruise. Michael Richards. Nicole Richie. Lindsay Lohan. Grey’s Anatomy‘s Dr. Burke. Britney.

Media watched, gawked and mocked as one PR crisis after another drove ratings, web traffic and headlines.

Bobby Brown is the latest notorious celeb in trouble. This time, instead of the media just piling onto the celeb’s scandal, a radio station has stepped up and given a helping hand.

Hot 99.5 in Washington, DC paid his bail (getting him out after a 3-day stay in lock up) as well as his overdue child support payments to the mother of two of his kids born prior to his marriage with Whitney Houston.

In exchange, Bobby Brown will co-host with Kane during the morning show on the rhythmic hit station, putting him to work for his money. It also gives Brown a chance to air his version of the events, entertain, be the spotlight and say any mea culpas he wishes to give.

The by-product?

Massive worldwide publicity references on the entertainment and late night TV shows, cable network newscasts and talk shows, other music and talk radio stations, newspapers…and, of course, the Internet.

And now it’s a front webpage web event for Hot 99.5.

Radio station’s MUST get back to budgeting a line item called “opportunistic marketing fund”. It’s a forgotten (but still valuable) brand builder. Planned and budgeted marketing dollars kept ready to use for the station to do good works in the community, creating positive goodwill (and potentially far-reaching word-of-mouth marketing buzz).

Trying to suddenly find $$$ in tight budgets for the station to respond to sudden “opportunities” (as Hot 99.5 has done with Mr. Prerogative) is minimally complicated and difficult. Usually to the point where nothing happens and the opportunity is lost.

Build “opportunity fund” mechanisms into your budgets and explain it to the controllers what that means. And then wait for opportunities. Don’t worry…you won’t have to wait very long.

After all, celebrities will continue to meltdown…

Just don’t forget to put out the press releases and viral video.

More melting down” update (3/2): But will Bobby Brown back out? Update (3/5): Yep, he’s out. Even so, Hot’s effort was worth it.

Always the drama…it’s not easy Being Bobby Brown…