June 7, 2011

DIY branding advice for CEOs. In one word!


Dear CEO: branding is probably not your core competency, or even a game where you read the box scores daily. It’s best outsourced to experts, for the same reasons you outsource brain surgery or elevator repair – find smart people with specialized tools and experience, then demand good outcomes.

I have to admit that a few years ago I co-authored a book, Do-It-Yourself Advertising and Promotion (Second Edition, Wylie Press), aimed at smaller businesses which could not afford a professional agency relationship. I wrote the branding chapters.

Don’t buy the book. Branding, advertising and marketing have evolved so drastically over the last few years that much of the advice in the book is obsolete.

For example, the book would see no problem with sending 1980s-era Bob Stone “traditional” direct mail packages: a brochure, a reply card, a letter (complete with Johnson box, a P.S., a few blue underlined paragraphs here and there, a foldover “frankly, I’m surprised…” note, all stuffed into an envelope, ready to be thrown into today’s trash. (Failure to evolve leads to extinction.)

Many marketing tactics which were perfectly acceptable even five years ago now yield unacceptable levels of ROI. Most local-intercept cable TV, most celebrity endorsements, most banner ads, all Yellow Pages.

Heck, research from this week deserves attention: it seems if a box on your e-commerce site’s shopping cart asks for a discount coupon code, it chases people away – they bug out to hunt for the code, you lose the sale.

From 30,000 feet up, many forms of outbound messaging are returning diminishing results year after year. As we have pointed out previously, who’s going to listen to your message on the radio, if they’re listening to their iPods instead? Does anyone under 30 read a newspaper? How many people are zapping your message … because they can? Time to re-think your father’s hunter-gatherer marketing, and take up consumer farming.

Is branding becoming more complicated than ever? Probably so. Change has been deep and rapid, and the goalposts keep moving. New rules, new tools. Don’t DIY.