Advertisers are the Real Super Bowl Losers

The Carolina Panthers weren’t the only losers in Super Bowl 50.

Once again, the marketing profession lost!

As football fans and fans of our marketing profession, you may think that we were excited about seeing all of the $500,000+ (add in a million more for production, time, distraction from other client work, etc.) ads.  Well, we were not. We were just hoping for a good close game since our Steelers were out of the picture.

There are two simple reasons why we harbor a complete disdain for the annual Super Bowl Ad Game:

  1. The ads rarely pay off in increased brand sales
  2. The ads contribute to the pervasive lack of respect and trust in the marketing profession due to our lack of accountability

Every year there’s a lot of buzz about the cost of the average ad, the brands featured, and their stories.  Respected marketing “experts” are interviewed on pre/post game about these ads and our various marketing professional associations (AMA, PRSA, Ad Feds etc.) hold post Super Bowl meetings to discuss the best/worst ones – ugh!

So much of what feeds this beast are inflated agency, client and industry egos and a sheer lack of professional accountability because…THE OVERWHELMING MAJORITY OF THESE ADS DO NOT PROFITABLY BUILD SALES!

Be honest. Was there any brand or handful of brands that engaged you enough yesterday to make a phone call or plan a visit to inquire about or buy the product it was pushing?

Advertising doesn’t have to entertain. If you can entertain while engaging and persuading OK, but entertaining is hard. How about leaving the entertainment to the professionals…the NFL game itself?

Again, there’s nothing wrong with trying to entertain an audience, but it’s better to leave that to the NFL! Entertainment isn’t exactly what business owners, boards of directors or Wall Street expect with a half a billion dollar investment! They want an ROI!

The great Sergio Zyman who led the still famous (one of the all-time 10 best – see #9) Coca-Cola ad featuring our beloved Steelers Hall of Famer Joe Greene meekly said years later than not only did Coke’s adulated ad NOT build sales, but Coke sales actually DECLINED!

For what it’s worth, the ads inside the stadium rarely sell too.

If you’re a season ticket holder ask yourself who are the top 5 advertisers in your particular home stadium (don’t guess).  And if you can answer that question, ask yourself if you increased your business with any/all of those brands. For us Pittsburghers, We love Heinz Ketchup, but Heinz Field and its sponsored “Red Zone” have done nothing to increase our per capita usage. Our take is that their field sales force (marketing) that do an awesome job in making sure their product is widely distributed could have benefited more with a $500,000 cash infusion…more salespeople in the field anyone?

There’s a lot a brand can do with $500 – $600,000 dollars such as:

  1. Save it
  2. Use it to hire more/better people
  3. Use it for innovation
  4. Use it for incentives
  5. And a ton more…

We’ve been there!  We know!

One of us has been part of this process having sat for several years on a national advertising board of one the world’s largest brands debating and voting on Super Bowl advertising.  In fact, over the years, one would even hear silly arguments such as, “if we don’t do it (insert name of closest competitor) will do it! Are you kidding?

Is it any wonder then why the advertising profession is so disrespected?

Every year, Gallup conducts a “trust poll” to determine U.S. views on honesty and ethical standards in professions.  The poll asks people to rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in different fields – very high, high, average, low or very low.

Here’s the % saying “very high” of “high.”

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Noting that advertising practitioners are at the bottom of the heap, Ad/Marketing executives will always find it hard to get a seat at the CXO table. Why play games with money your clients have entrusted to you?

And, that’s why BrandMill is positioned as a marketing firm.  Marketing is what we believe in and feel most brands need to believe in more too. Advertising is one of the tools in our quiver, but it’s the last one drawn.  And, if/when we choose to draw our advertising arrow, you can be sure it will be aimed to engage, persuade and sell!

P.S.: Here’s a link to the “best” Super Bowl 50 commercials starting off with “Puppy Monkey Baby!” Utterly disgraceful!
Just driving awareness or entertaining isn’t what the purpose of good advertising! As an old ad pro once said, “I could drive awareness of any restaurant if I put a shrunken head in the window, but I doubt you’d want to eat there!” Enough said!


How to Become a Marketing Rock Star

Clarion-University-Small-Business-SBDCBrandMill’s Managing Partner Stephen Wayhart recently gave a branding seminar to clients of Clarion University’s Small Business Development Center. In his one hour seminar to 50+ SBDC clients, Wayhart used Rock and Roll legends such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, U2, Jimi Hendrix and more in a metaphorical lesson to help businesses build an effective brand for long term success.

Wayhart’s simple “7 Notes of Marketing Rock Star Success” are:

1.Do What YOU Love
2.Embrace a Lifetime of Learning & Doing
3.Be YOU – Be Different – Be ‘Experienced’
4.Be Relevant & ‘REMARK’able
5.Build a DREAM TEAM
6.Generate Multiple Revenue Streams
7.Stand for Something BIGGER Than YOU
Rock on!

Iron City beer plays ball with Pittsburgh’s sports teams

Pirates-cansHere’s a nice story that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently ran about our BrandMill client Iron City Beer and their local sports partners – the Pittsburgh Pirates and Steelers!

We’ve been working with Pittsburgh Brewing (Iron City Beer) for sometime now helping them to rebuild their brand presence and favorable awareness with the regional media and customers.  And, I’m proud to say that we’re tracking well together and the Pittsburgh region is going to like what we’re cooking!

As Pittsburgh natives, we’re proud to say that Iron City Beer is coming back strong!


How to Lead Like Pope Francis

lead-like-pope-francisOn Friday, February 21, BrandMill helped the Bishop Canevin Alumni Association host best-selling author Chris Lowney as their first Ignatian Spiritual Leadership Speaker for more than 100 guests at Pittsburgh’s St. Paul’s Seminary, Cardinals’ Great Hall. And, the event which attracted over 100 paid guests ($100 per ticket) was a huge success.

Check out the great pre-event press coverage we earned in the Sunday, February 16 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (top/front page Business section – Former JP Morgan manager: The business world could learn a lot from Pope Francis. And, see a related article in the Pittsburgh Catholic (page 2).

Chris Lowney currently chairs the board of Catholic Health Initiatives. Formerly, a Jesuit seminarian and J.P. Morgan Managing Director on three continents, Chris is now is a popular keynote speaker who has lectured in more than 24 countries on leadership, business ethics, decision-making and other topics. As a well-known speaker, Lowney has influenced many people that range from religious, to educators, to corporate businessmen and women.

Event attendees received continental breakfast, Chris’ two part – three hour seminar on Ignatian Spiritual Leadership and a copy of his book, “Pope Francis – Why He Leads the Way He Leads.” Bishop Canevin students volunteered at the event and helped with registration, parking, welcoming guests and promoting the school.

Here are a few key Ignatian Spiritual Leadership Takeaways from Chris’ inspirational talk.

What is leadership

Per Webster’s Dictionary – “To point out a way, direction or goal….to influence others toward it…and to make good choices…in order to achieve results.”

The case for leadership

Moral and ethical leadership is needed more than ever because of people’s lack of faith in the character and integrity of “leaders” today.  See Gallup 2013 Honesty and Ethics (Rating of Clergy Slides to New LowNurses again top list; lobbyists are worst).

Because the world today is so much more complicated, fast-paced, and rapidly changing than years ago, it’s important that leadership be decentralized. Everyone on a team can lead, but there needs to be a clear direction or strategy; and a motivating vision of accomplishing things that are bigger than ourselves – our own personal goals; no buy in

Sense of self-direction

We must recognize that we’re all leaders and that we can’t be great leaders of our families, firms, communities etc. unless we can lead ourselves – it all starts with self-leadership – and answer the following questions:

  • Why are we here
  • Where are we going
  • How do we get there
  • What do we stand for
  • What do we do tomorrow

Great leaders are

  • Self-aware, authentic, and committed to purpose greater than self  (heroic)
  • Ingenious: free to make choices and skilled at decision-making
  • Reflect daily, deliver results, are grateful, treat others with love (See St. Ignatius’ Examen)

To strengthen your own leadership performance, every day:

  • Remind yourself that you will be pointing out a way and influencing others; you have a leadership opportunity.
  • Organize daily priorities by reminding yourself each morning: direction, influence, choices, results.
  • Take two mental “pit stops” of five minutes each: gratitude, lift your horizon, review the last few hours (See St. Ignatius’ Examen).

 To help your team:

  • Encourage them to do their own daily mental “pit stops”
  • Say thank you and look for ways to introduce more gratitude into work
  • At least quarterly, remind the team that each has a leadership opportunity
  • And, finally when you have to make choices, identify any “unhealthy attachments” that are holding you back from making a decision that’s free from all prejudices.



We Need More White Knights

Photo by: Dr. Roy Winkelman

We’re jacked after reading today’s Wall Street Journal’s front page story which referenced our client/friend John Graf of Pittsburgh’s Priory Hospitality Group and his goal of buying the famous Westinghouse Castle!

It’s great to know that there are still pioneering maverick people in America today who still MAKE THINGS HAPPEN and/or have the courage to TAKE A SHOT!

When’s the last time you took one!


15 Marketing Lessons of St. Patrick’s Day

As a 50 percenter of Irish blood and a serial marketing professional, I thought I’d offer you dear reader, my 15 Marketing Lessons of St. Patrick’s Day to help you find your little pot ‘o gold at the end of a rainbow!

And, I’ll offer them quickly because I shouldn’t even be working this hard today as I’m 17 days away from – and preparing for – St. Patrick’s Day which is one of my many “high holy days” – and there’s a Guinness pint with my name of it at my favorite Pittsburgh Irish pub (Riley’s Pour House) and it’s getting warm! So here you go!

1. Green Marketing Lesson One – Making Money. Always keep money (making it or saving it) front and center of any marketing campaign. If you know anything about the Irish (and I do growing up in a large extended family), the majority have experienced challenging economic times and know the value of a dollar. So, incorporating zero based budgeting into your marketing processes will help you become more creative and help you do a lot more for less. 

2. Green Marketing Lesson Two – Sustainability. These days when you hear brands talk about sustainability, it’s related to the environment, but the basic pure definition of sustainability is “the capacity to endure.” Using the same color in your marketing communications reinforces your brand, makes your marketing work harder for you and enables your marketing to endure.

3. Green Marketing Lesson Two – Color. Design and color can help you communicate a great deal. Red – hot, stop; Blue – cool. etc., Keep in mind that all colors also come in a great deal of shades so don’t be boring and predictable.  Green has about 50 unique shades.

4. Create Multi-Sensory Emotional Appeals (e.g., appeal to people’s five senses of sight, sound, touch, taste, smell). In a prior post about, “Marketing with Sound,” I discussed the awesome power of sound, but you should also consider all of the ways you can appeal to your customer’s five senses. St. Patrick’s Day appeals them all with color, strong visuals of parades, people having fun; taste of ethnic foods like corned beef and cabbage and drink (pints of Guinness and shots of Jameson) etc.,

5. Appeal to One’s Ethnic Heritage. There’s nothing wrong with appealing to people’s ethnic heritage – net, different strokes for different folks.  In fact, it’s a growing and popular strategy due to our mobile society, immigration, single parent households etc.

Some of this strategy’s keys to success include knowing your market well, being aware of unique cultural nuances, being respectful etc.  Disney’s Epcot Theme Park’s World Showcase is a great example of ethnic marketing, but Denny’s Restaurants’ old Pancake promotion is not.

6. Be Inclusive with Your Marketing. As much of an Irish heritage appeal the holiday provides, St. Patrick’s Day is all-inclusive and welcomes everyone to celebrate – everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!

7. Special Event/Thematic/Celebration/Holiday Marketing. Giving a unique thematic association to your marketing messages makes it easier for your customers to understand you and more immediately recognize you too. Tie-ing in to a major holiday celebration gives your promotion authenticity and a “reason why” you’re holding a sales event.

8. Limited Time Appeal.
Having a hard date against a campaign creates urgency, excitement and traffic. Pretty obvious statement, but many marketers leave far too many campaigns without a clear end date and a sense of urgent appeal.

9. Spokesperson/figurehead/celebrity/image appeal. Having a Saint as your celebrity figurehead ain’t too shabby, but it’s the consistency of using the same appealing celebrity with a unique story is what works.

10. Iconic Marketing – Shamrock – brand, sell, profit. Mickey Mouse’s Ears, Ronald McDonald’s big red shoes, McDonald’s Arches and more.

Shamrocks do the same for today’s holiday – it’s the day’s badge of honor and identification. What’s your badge ID?

11. Rule of Threes. Legend has it that St. Patrick used the common Shamrock to teach the Celtic Pagans about the unique Holy Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – 3 in 1 Godhead.

However, the “rule of three” symbolism in the good man’s teaching is relevant today as well because people’s minds are noisy and limited. Using the rule of three enables you to get them to remember you and buy-in a presentation or product mix selection. Small, medium, large; gold, silver, bronze; 3 bears; 3 blind mice; 3 Stooges (see more examples/proof here) – trust me – the rule of three rocks.

12. Be Positive. You won’t find a more positive group of people that the Irish. Despite all of their “Troubles” who else tells you that you can find a pot ‘o gold at the end of a rainbow? At Pittsburgh’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade this past Saturday, people throughout the day referred to the cold constant rain as nothing more, “a little Irish mist!”

13. Be Nice. You’d be hard pressed to find a nicer bunch of people than the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day too.

14. Have fun and don’t take yourself so seriously. In this age of “political correctness” the Irish are for the most part a happy and fun bunch and most Irish demeaning jokes bounce of them like water on a duck.

15. Plan Your Luck by Working Hard. In my opinion, “the luck of the Irish” is based on hard work – simple as that. You’ve probably heard the saying, the harder you work the luckier you get!” Well, its true. The majority of Irish are no strangers to hard work and I believe – all things being equal – people that work harder and smarter than their peers will meet with more profitable success in a shorter period of time.

Got to run, my pint is getting warm.

Slan (Gaelic for “farewell for now”)!


How to Build Trust in Brand You

Regardless of your political party affiliation or candidate preference for the USA Presidential election, I’m sure you’d agree that most voters will choose the man that they trust to be the best qualified and able to get the job done for the country.

Trust is critical to brand success and it is a dangerous deficiency for lots of brands as evidenced by the Gallup poll below.

Note that only 18% of those surveyed highly trust business executives! Building trust is a great way to differentiate your brand and bulletproof it!

The lack of brand trust is the basic reason for the success of customer/brand review brands such as Angie’s List, Consumer Reports, TripAdvisor, Yelp and more!

Gallup’s 2011 Trust Poll

Here for 15 ways you can start to build more trust in your brand today

  1. Be authentic, real, open, honest, kind and considerate
  2. Be consistent, competent, capable and deliver results
  3. Have integrity – do the right ethical things regardless of the consequences – even when no one else is watching
  4. Keep your promises – keep your word – walk your talk – honor your commitments – follow through – be on time
  5. Honor people in their absence – don’t talk behind backs or gossip
  6. Keep confidential things confidential
  7. Communicate your vision, values and expectations as clearly and fully as possible, but be open minded and flexible to change
  8. Create win/win shared goals with your customers and team
  9. Be present with people – actively listen to them
  10. Play no favorites – treat everyone special
  11. Criticize actions not the people – don’t judge
  12. Be understanding, compassionate and forgive and forget mistakes
  13. If you fail or make a mistake, admit to it and fix it, then fix the process and move on
  14. Own problems and take steps to fix them – don’t hide – be visible – be reachable
  15. Be generous and give without any strings attached
In short, keep your word and ‘show and tell’ – provide proof – ust like you did in Kindergarten to get the teacher and kids to like you and your ‘Show and Tell’ presentation!

How to Build Brand Likeability

There are quite a few marketing lessons you can learn from the USA Presidential election race.For example, how to improve your ‘likeability’ can get you elected and/or have someone repeatedly buy from you.

Likeability is defined as, ‘The property that makes a person or brand likeable, that allows them to be liked.’

Trust and proof that you can deliver on your promises is #1, but all things being equal – especially when you compete in an industry with lots of alternatives – likeability is a key for brands to breakthrough the clutter.

Here are 10 ways to improve your likeability factor

  1. Be nice, kind and considerate
  2. Be giving and help others selflessly
  3. Be happy, positive and optimistic
  4. Be complimentary
  5. Be passionate and have empathy
  6. Be humble
  7. Actively listen
  8. Have good manners,
  9. Control your emotions
  10. Follow the ‘Golden Rule’

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.


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!