Happy New Year

On behalf all of us at BrandMill, I wish you and your family a blessed New Year and offer you this Old Irish toast, ‘May all that you wish for be the least you get and may the best times you’ve ever had be the worst you’ll ever see!

May God bless you and yours.


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Today and every day, all of us at BrandMill wish you and your family and friends the peace and goodwill of this very special Christmas season.

If you’re still looking for a last minute Christmas gift for someone, consider these suggestions from author Oren Arnold:
To your enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, your heart.
To a customer, service.
To all, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To yourself, respect.

We hope you have a blessed Christmas season and wish you every happiness in the New Year.


Immaculate Reception Marketing Memories

Sprint PCS Immaculate Reception Billboard

I’m so looking forward to tomorrow, December 23 because its the 40th Anniversary Celebration of the Immaculate Reception. I was 10 years old and was listening to the Steelers Raiders football game on the radio (local broadcast was blacked out) and heard the news LIVE!

What a thrilling end to a game that propelled the Steelers to future greatness. In addition, this single play would change a city and would forever be immortalized as the greatest NFL play in history!

Immaculate Reception Marketing Memories

Ranking just as high on my list of favorite Steelers memories, was back in December 1997 when as the Director of Marketing and Sales Operations for Sprint PCS, I came up with an idea to help us more effectively communicate our digital ‘call clarity’ position.

Sprint’s Immaculate Reception Print Ad

You guessed correctly – it was also around the same time as the 25th Anniversary of the Immaculate Reception.

To clearly position our new wireless phone service in a hyper competitive wireless phone market, I searched and found a high profile customer (football great Franco Harris) whose testimonial and personal brand matched up perfectly with Brand Sprint.

The marriage between Franco’s most famous play in football and Sprint’s unique selling proposition of digital call clarity, helped drive favorable awareness, considerable store traffic and effectively communicated our unique product positioning (the first and only digital phone service in the market). And, the timing was perfect.  The 25th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception coincided perfectly with our new product launch.

Franco Harris and Stephen Wayhart
25th Anniversary of Immaculate Reception
1997 Commercial Photo Shoot

Testimonials are one of the most effective methods of building brands, and Franco’s testimonial helped us to effectively pull together a strong brand building and sales effort.

Our strategy was so on target that Sprint PCS realized record store traffic and sales.

Now 15 years later, I’m proud to say our campaign – like Franco’s famous catch – has been immortalized by the NFL Network in its feature film A Football Life – The Immaculate Reception.

Click here to watch the entire video of the Show and be sure to check out the mark at 31:57 to 32:04 to see one of our ads!

Happy Anniversary Franco and thanks for the memories!

P.S.: See Case Study here. Also, many thanks to my boss Doug Cotton for giving the idea a ‘thumbs up.!’ And to photographer Harry Giglio, designers Kathy Kendra, Mark Power; Mike Cusick Sprint Director of Sales; and Sprint marketing partner Maria D’Abruzzo.

Click here to see a super video treatment of the 40th Anniversary Celebration and marker unveiling of the Immaculate Reception from Steelers.Com


AMA Pittsburgh Hospitality Marketer of the Year

Riley’s Pour House Owner Operator Jim Riley
and BrandMill Managing Partner Stephen Wayhart

We’re excited to announce that our great client and friend – Riley’s Pour House in Carnegie, PA – won the Hospitality Marketer of the Year Award from the Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Marketing Association.

At a gala luncheon held last week at LeMont restaurant, the Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Marketing Association, the region’s largest marketing chapter for over 60 years announced its 2012 Marketer of the Year award winners at it’s 6th annual event. And, Riley’s Pour House took first place honors in the Restaurant, Sports, Entertainment, Hospitality, Travel category. The AMA’s annual Marketer of the Year competition was open to any western Pennsylvania-based company, agency, not-for-profit, individual or government organization that developed, implemented, and achieved noteworthy results for a marketing campaign that appeared in the United States.

What’s great about this unique award is that this marketing competition is strictly performance based. And, it’s the third year out of the six years of the event that one of our clients have won this special award (FACT – Friends Against Counterproductive Taxation – Whiskey Rebellion II; Priory Hospitality Group – Grand Marketer of the Year)!

When we helped the Pour House with its Grand Opening back in February, we knew that we had to hit the ground running with not a lot of money or time since St. Patrick’s Day was just a few weeks away and we needed to put in place key marketing strategies, tactics and processes.

We quickly launched a Website, email marketing, social media and public relations plan that immediately drove brand awareness and we’ve never looked back.  In addition, key marketing operational decisions were made for the Pub to be smoke free, have nightly entertainment, reintroduce lunch, add WiFi and add a new chef all contributed to the Pub’s success.

For example, to date, we’ve nearly tripled sales – over and above the previous owner’s numbers – and we increased Website page views by a 27X multiple too!

All of our success helped us earn favorable and well deserved third party recognition too.

In the summer Riley’s Pour House was recognized as the ‘Third Best Pub – Best Irish Pub’ by Pittsburgh Magazine in their annual Best Restaurant’s Reader’s Poll.  A few weeks ago, we won an ‘Irish Echo Hospitality 50’ award in New York. And, just last week on December 7, we earned our third major ‘Shout-out’ of 2012 – Pittsburgh’s Restaurant and Hospitality Marketer of the Year!

Thanks AMA Pittsburgh!


Our Greatest Generation’s Branding Lessons

USS Arizona – Pearl Harbor

Today, we’re remembering ‘those who gave some and some who gave all’ for our freedom on this 71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Thank you greatest generation.

When you think about the trials our Greatest Generation (GG) overcame to ‘win the big one’ and come home to rebuild America into a global super power today’s challenges seem to pale in comparison.

I’m honored to say that several uncles of mine served in America’s military during World War II. Two uncles in particular taught me many life lessons – verbally, but mostly non-verbally. My Uncle Lambert was in a tank division in the Battle of the Bulge and my Uncle Tunny was part of the Army’s rescue detail in Germany’s Concentration Camps.   Their actions communicated so much more than words.

These people lived through – and overcame – terrifying times including the Great Depression, World War II the Cold War and were bombarded by the rapid succession of technological breakthroughs.

My uncles and aunts as well (Nell and Vi) taught my brothers and me that a lot of good can come from having endured tough times.

They taught us that forging ahead through rough times forces you to focus on securing your essential needs and learning to find ways to effectively work together and help each other.

Many of my clients are worried about how the aftermath of a tough presidential election and potential ‘financial cliff’ will impact their families and businesses. Fortunately for me, I have the lessons of my Uncle Lambert and Uncle Tunny (and Aunts) to guide me when I need to lead my clients through troubled waters and help them build strong, tough brands.

The main lesson my Greatest Generation relatives taught me was that, “Tough times don’t last, but tough people (and brands) do,” but here are 10 more that can help you build a strong, tough brand.

10 Brand Building Lessons from Our Greatest Generation (GG)

  1. Be self reliant – The GG always took personal responsibility for their lives and were self reliant.  They never (or rarely) complained about self sacrifices (physical, material) they made for their families, friends or country. And, they didn’t demand, much less expect or ask for handouts.
  2. Have class – Whatever my relations lacked in money, but made up for it in class. My uncles and aunts were always kind, respectful and appreciative. They had self respect and manners. My Uncle Lambert would always tell us that us that you don’t need a lot of money to look good and to keep your hair cut, be clean and shave (‘don’t look like  a bum’) – hah!
  3. Be frugal and resourceful – The GG always did more with less, never ran up huge debt and lived within their means.  They were handy too – my Uncle Tunny could fix anything. He was a lifelong butcher in a grocery store, but could have made a good (if not better) income as an electrician, carpenter or plumber..
  4. Be humble – The GG accomplished a ton over their lifespan and didn’t brag about their accomplishments. They merely did what they were expected to do. My uncles helped to rid the world of Nazi Germany, but rarely talked about their wartime experiences (only if encouraged) let along patted themselves on the back.
  5. Honor your word and commitments – The true essence of any brand is how it delivers on its promises. My uncles and aunts kept their promises and loved their families with fondness and lifelong loyalty. They took oaths and vows seriously.
  6. Never give up or give in – My Uncle Lambert (with the support of my Aunt Vi and Uncle Paul) never gave up when wartime injuries crippled him (he eventually lost both legs and his voicebox). After he returned home he became a successful entrepreneur. He never quit or complained about his physical limitations. And, he always maintained his gentlemanly manner.
  7. Work hard for the greater good – The GG were raised to take care of themselves (self reliant), but not in a selfish way. They worked hard to not only make their families secure, but their family’s family too. And, they knew that their communities would be strong if they were strong.  They were always willing to help a neighbor or those less fortunate even if they didn’t have much themselves.
  8. Embrace challenges and build solutions –  My uncles and aunts were like the rest of their generation whereby they helped to build solutions to any challenges they faced. Think about it, this generation created social security, unemployment compensation, pushed for regulations in the banking industry, supported labor unions and more.  Look at the Fraternal Benefit (Insurance) Societies – all started by immigrants or first generation Americans who could not get insurance.  They pooled their resources and figured out the problem themselves. They got involved – they showed up.
  9. Keep things simple and do the right thing – The GG didn’t make their lives complicated. Life was very much black and white – right and wrong – which makes life a bit more easy.
  10. Be happy with what you have. The GG valued simple pleasures of family, friends, a good job and security. They enjoyed what they had and their state in life. They didn’t focus on or complain about what they didn’t have, but valued what they did have – how refreshing.

If you’re going through some tough financial or brand building times right now, embrace the values of the Greatest Generation.

A lot of it is simple, basic common sense.

Don’t make things more complicated than they are and keep things simple.

Don’t sit around and complain or wait for someone to help you (divine intervention). Help yourself.

Get up and do things – the right things.

Focus on the most important task/s at hand.

Keep on keeping on and keep fighting the good fight.


Show Thanks Through Veteran Causes

Today we offer a warm, respectful salute of thanks to all American veterans – present and past.

Here’s a nice story about Pittsburgh’s Veterans Day Parade, but with a most disturbing statistic!

About 33% of the homeless people in Pittsburgh’s homeless are veterans and nationwide the figure is 23%! So, if you’re putting together your 2013 budget and considering a cause marketing effort, consider our veterans. Sure, you’ll see lots of brands offer a kind gesture such as offering free coffee, a meal etc., on Monday or this week, but that’s a promotion – not a meaningful cause marketing (relationship building) effort.
In Pittsburgh – as in your hometown – I’m sure there’s a wonderful asset helping our veterans such as Shepherd’s Heart Veterans Home in Pittsburgh’s Uptown neighborhood which provides transitional housing. Consider something like Shepherd’s Heart, hire a veteran and/or help your local/national VFW – http://www.vfw.org/Contribute.
Remember that all gave some, but some gave all! Please do your part and give some too!

A Great Demo of How to Wow

In our client strategy sessions, we always discuss “How to deliver a ‘WOW'” because most brands don’t take the time to think how they can create brand buzz – or, believe they can!

Every brand has a ‘WOW” within them – cost effective ones to be nurtured with thought and care – that will effectively separate themselves from their competitors and carve out a unique branded value proposition, awareness etc.

For example, here’s a ‘WOW’ case study right in our own backyard by a small family owned window cleaning company based in Pittsburgh.

Their idea is a cool and commendable story. The idea was a simple lift of one that a firm executed  in another country.

This simple ‘WOW’ paid off big time too. The brand made a more favorable impression with clients, prospects, employees and for its potential little customers that will last a lifetime. In addition, this ‘WOW’ landed the company and its owners on the front page of Pittsburgh’s major daily papers, 6PM and 11PM TV news and more. Do you have a ‘WOW’ cooking NOW?  If not, why not? You can do it and get people buzzing about your brand!

10 Ps of Marketing

Throughout my career, I’ve used the original four (4) Ps (Product, Price, Place (Distribution), Promotion) with great success and the formula works quite well to this day.

However, over the last 10 years, I’ve added a few more Ps to my list.  These additional Ps have helped me provide a more thorough Marketing Audit and effective marketing mix. The 10 Ps have uncovered additional sales building opportunities and cost savings for our brands.

Here is my entire list of 10 Ps and a few related questions (certainly not an exhaustive list) to ask of your brand. Good luck with your answers!

10 Ps of Marketing

  1. Product – Discuss and review needs and opportunities pertaining to design, technology, usefulness, convenience, value, quality, packaging, branding, sizing etc.
  2. Price – Discuss price strategies such as cost-plus, loss leader and more. See ‘How to Get Your Pricing Right.’ And, discuss potential cost increases (cost of goods, labor, insurance, taxes) and sales impact.
  3. Place – Discuss and review needs and opportunities with regard to retail operations, wholesale, mail order, internet, direct sales, multi-channel, USA vs. Europe, headquarters etc.
  4. Promotion – Review special offers, BOGOs, advertising, endorsements, direct marketing, free gifts, Groupon etc. See ‘Think and Plan for Christmas in July.’
  5. Promise – Discuss and review whether or not you’re truly delivering on a unique brand promise.  And, if you don’t even have one – get one.
  6. Positioning – Discuss and review ways in which your customers position you (it’s all about them and their beliefs not yours), where you want to be positioned (e.g., low cost provider) and plans to get there.
  7. People – Review needs and opportunities regarding culture, employees, interns, management, customer service etc.
  8. Performance (Proof) – Discuss and review ways you can prove your brand promise. Are you using testimonials, have you won meaningful awards. Success begs Trust – how to you prove your trustworthiness?
  9. Process – Discuss and review checklists and critical paths of making things, delivering things, hiring people.  Look for ways to speed up processes and decrease error rates.
  10. POW – Discuss and review unique ways to surprise and delight customers that make you special in their eyes. Work to bulletproof your dramatic difference.

I hope you find this exercise helpful in building your brand and helping you to uncover sales building and cost savings opportunities!

Good luck!


Slay Giants with Brand Building Exercises

In marketing circles today, all the rage is about being ‘authentic’ and ‘transparent.’

It’s sad that we even have to discusstopics such as ‘being real’  because we should all be operating from our core.

A big reason why open and honest relationships for people and brands are tough to engage in, is because so many of us – people and brands – are dishonestly living a fake image of ourselves.

Being someone you’re not – trying to be all things to all people and living anyone else’s ‘ideal’ image of yourself never works – it’s impossible, not profitable and you’re doomed to fail.

However, what is possible, doable, enjoyable and profitable is living your life from your core being – your true north – because when you do, the right kinds of people will be attracted to you.

When Michelangelo was asked how he created David, he supposedly said, “The Angel was already in the marble, I simply chipped away the excess.” 

Begin today to chip away your excess/es of what’s covering up your angelic being and slay giants!

Here’s a little five question brand building exercise to help you in your endeavors.

Ask yourself and/or your team these questions:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What’s your story?
  3. Why should someone care?
  4. What’s your dramatic difference?
  5. How can you passionately demonstrate and clearly convey your dramatic difference?

Think long and hard about your answers. Work to refine your story – expand and enhance it. Make sure you have a clear and meaningful dramatic difference that can attract a large enough audience to make you profitable.

Effectively communicate your unique difference and you’ll be on the road to success.

The Harvard Business Review reports that, “up to 90% of spending goes to advertising and retail promotions. Yet the single most powerful impetus to buy is often someone else’s advocacy.”

Create and communicate stories worth reading, sharing and participating in and you’ll gain customer advocacy, patronage and slay a few giants along the way!


60 Free Local Business Online Directories

A great profitable step to take on your way to total local market domination is to take advantage of all of the FREE and EASY ways to help customers find you.

Forget the old days of advertising in the Yellow Pages with a ‘big ad is better’ mentality. If you’re still a believer in that strategy, you’re just going to lose your hard earned money – maybe even your business – a little bit faster.

As a local business – small or large – attracting new customers will always be a challenge so you need to work hard to keep your name profitably visible.

For the majority of people today, opening up a local Yellow Pages book to find a business is an outdated, antiquated – if not non-existent – method for of search!

Today, we simply Google to find your business – and you better be there at the top of the page!

Today, there’s a great, free and easy way for local businesses to get found on the Web and that is, by completing their profiles in online directories  and claiming their turf. And, it seems these directories continue to pop up online.

It’s pretty simple to add a listing, but if you’re only listing with Google – as powerful as it is – you’re missing out on lots of opportunities to get found by people who are interested NOW in what you’re selling.

Did you know that 82% of local internet searches follow-up offline with an in-store visit, phone call or purchase? Well, it’s true.  In fact, check out this Local Web Infographic for more insights.

Every online directory you submit your Business to gives you one more chance to step up to the plate and hit a home run with your customers.

Over the past few year or so, we’ve come across over 60 free online directories to date (see below), and wish you much success in using the list to help you get found.  If you come across any others, please let us know so we can add to our list.

60 A to Z and Free Local Business Online Directories

AOL Patch SitesAmerican TownsAxciomBest Deals onBest of the Web
BingBizJournals.comBiznikBrownbookChoiceVendor.com (TBD – bought by LinkedIn)
Discover our TownFoursquareGenieknowsGoogle PlacesHopStop
 Kudzu LinkedInLocal.comLocalCompanySearchLocalEze
Localndex.comLocal Pages Local Site SubmitMagic YellowMapquest
 Manta MatchPoint Merchant CircleMetrobotMojoPages
 MyhuckleberryNavteq GPSOutside.inRelyLocalShowMeLocal
(Yellow Pages)
ZipwebTravelocity*UrbanSpoon**Note:HospitalityAngies List – Service Providers

Here are three final key points.

First, to see where you rank now, go to this GetListed.Org link.

Second, you might get tired filling in all of these online directory forms, so check out Firefox’s Auto-Fill add-on link to help save you some time.

Third, if you still don’t have the time to complete online directories for your business/es and keep them up-to-date,  check out companies like BrandMill or others such as Yext.Com who will charge you a small fee to keep you updated in online directories.

Good luck in getting found more often!