10 Ways to Build Brand Trust

If you’re looking for a way to truly build your business in a uniquely profitable way, put a plan in place to build customer trust in your brand.

I say unique, because when you consider this chart, you’ll see that many industries are not highly trusted. This online U.S. Harris Poll was conducted on November 8 and 15, 2010 among 2,151 adults 18+.

Trust in a brand (personal or business) is the keystone of all relationships. By doing the right thing/s, you an earn a person’s trust, but it’s easy to lose it – and you can lose it quickly – practically overnight regardless of your past reputation.

Here my 10 ways to build trust:

  1. Be authentic – be real
  2. Lead with integrity and humility
  3. Be honest, don’t lie and always tell the truth
  4. Be objective, fair and consistent in your actions
  5. Don’t gossip – respect people in their absence
  6. Keep your promises by doing what you say you’re going to do
  7. Don’t take people for granted – anticipate needs, don’t just react
  8. Be open and transparent on your dealings and provide clear information
  9. Always do your best and give your engagements everything you’ve got
  10. Be a Servant Leader by putting others best interest ahead of your own

If you follow these 10 ways to build trust in your brand, “they (your customers)” will come again and again.  Trust me.


3 Secrets to Achieving Social Media Success

If you want to be a successful, profitable brand via Social Media Marketing, first remember one thing above all – it’s not about the tools, so don’t be one!

The secrets to success in life and business are so basically simple (certainly putting them to practice requires focus, hard work ) that we get so caught up in tools, investments and processes that we lose sight of the easiest ways to get from Point A to Point B.

For example:

  • If you want to lose weight, eat less and exercise more. Burn up more calories than you consume.
  • To find love in your life, first be a loving person. Give and you shall receive. Knock and it shall be opened etc.
  • If you want to be treated nice, follow the Golden Rule and on and on

Brands today get so caught up in the the “new new” tools of Social Media (Blogs, Twitter Facebook etc.,) that they lose sight of the true secrets of success. The reason I call them secrets is because most brands are unaware of them, avoid them or think they’ve already uncovered and accomplished them, but they’re not even close.

And, these secrets are not tasks you complete once and move on, rather they’re they’re three pillars of success that need to be strengthened every day through a brand’s daily actions.

Here are my three secrets to Social Media Success.

1. Build a Rock Solid Brand of Character and Integrity – Are you a stand up brand when no one is watching? Do you keep and deliver on your promises? Do you follow your ethical standards in tough times? Not easy to do, but certainly doable.

Check out Gallup Ethical Standards ranking of people in the various fields listed below. Take for example, “business people” – only 12% say they have very high/high standards. Don’t you think we can all work a bit harder on building our reputations than another Facebook Fan Page?

If/when you do, your customers and acquaintances in the Social Media world will be banging their Social Media Marketing drums, praising your name!

Gallup Ethical Standards 11.09

2. Deliver REMARKable Products and Services – Do you simply produce a product or service to get by or do you really “bring it and WOW people!” Are your standards and expectations higher than the norm? Do you sometimes hit them or blow them away all the time? Do you work hard to surprise and delight your team members and customers? Do you deliver a truly unique, meaningful and memorable experience?

When the REMARKable Susan Boyle performed awhile back on Britain’s Got Talent, her authentic, transparent and awesome talent delivered a a truly unique, unexpected (can you say, “WOW”) meaningful and memorable experience?

And, in a few hours/days, 100+ Million Youtube Views were achieved and she became a richer person and a household name.

The REMARKable Brand of Susan Boyle

3. Be a Servant Leader – Lead from Behind

Finally, brand leaders would do well to remember that the most successful ones long-term lead best by serving the needs of their people. In a servant leadership based brand, the leader’s role is one of a resource (people, capital etc.,) steward and encourages leaders to serve others while staying focused on achieving results in line with the organization’s values and integrity.

People (customers, vendors and employees) want to be aligned with brands they respect, value and admire and servant leadership driven brands deliver on every one.

10 Key Servant Leader Traits

If brands today would simply work hard to lead and improve their business in these three key ways, the social media world would take care of the rest and freely spread their good news and great stories using their Social Media Marketing tools!


Why Burger King Will Never Beat McDonald’s

John Belushi in Animal House Screams "Food Fight!"

As a former McDonald’s marketing guy, I pay attention to references of the so-called “burger wars” – as some people still call them – but please they’ve been over for years!

I ask you, “Is it really a war when the number one kid on the block – McDonald’s – continues to open up it’s marketing can of “whoop-ass” on just about any retailer that serves food and/or beverages and on average does it better, faster and cheaper than anyone else?”

The answer is, “No!”

What went wrong at Burger King, by Dan Mitchell in the September 3rd issue of Fortune caught by eye and he’s spot on in so many areas as to what’s wrong at BK.

However, I’d argue (and I’m proud to say without reservation) that the main reason Burger King will never beat McDonald’s, is that “Mia McFamlia” still walks founder Ray Kroc’s talk when he famously said, “We take the hamburger business more seriously than anyone else!”

McDonald’s personnel, owner/operators and partners have always worked together and have been in it to win it from day one. Sure, they got a little of track a few years back – who doesn’t after being so incredibly successful for so long – but Burger King has been off track for over 30 years!

McDonald’s recognized  awhile back with its “Plan to Win” initiative that to quote Pogo, “We have met the enemy and they is us!” So they got back to work and focused more on themselves and satisfying their guests changing needs. Bravo.

OK, so McDonald’s takes the burger biz more seriously than BK and others. You get it you say, but I know you want more substance.  OK…here’s 5 more reasons why Burger King will never beat McDonald’s.

  1. All of McDonald’s staffers, owner/operators and partners (or at least 99% of all of them) own stock in the brand and know that if the brand improves so does their financial situation. All of BK’s corporate behemoth owners (before and now) own other things.  McDonald’s is (practically) all McDonald’s.
  2. McDonald’s is just plain better – they’re more innovative, financially astute and they execute better.
  3. McDonald’s owns 100% (OK 90% plus) of the real estate the restaurants sit on which provides enormous cash flow and bankable assets
  4. McDonald’s owner/operators are part of the fabric of the communities in which they do their business, they’re involved in the communities, are operationally excellent and are not absentee landlords
  5. McDonald’s constantly reinvests in improving their restaurants, operations, staff and more.  BK is just now trying to get around to it

So, do you really think Burger King’s new owner, the Brazilian-backed private equity firm 3G Capital can ever beat McDonald’s? Neither do I.

BK is way behind in the pack.  They haven’t even been number two for a long time. And if you think the view never changes if you’re not the lead dog well…

P.S.: Here’s one more case in point about the lack of commitment by BK to challenge McDonald’s. About 15 years ago, I was part of a team organized to help put Burger King out of business in downtown Pittsburgh.  The BK franchisee was selling and we simply turned the heat up and got a great franchisee to take over some of our corporate restaurants. BK closed up all of their restaurants then and have never reopened in town to date. I know Pittsburgh isn’t the Big Apple or LA, but come on!


A Renaissance in Marketing is Needed

A Renaissance in Marketing is needed today..a rebirth!

When the Renaissance swept through Europe from the 14th to the 17th centuries, scholars followed the humanist method in study searching for realism and human emotion in art. And, today we marketers could learn a great deal from those old Renaissance scholars.

It seems like we’re on to something with Social Media – and I remain cautiously optimistic – but, where are all of the Masters today?

If you’re looking for a chance of great success, wow about stepping up and assuming the position?

My team and I are trying our best.

To succeed today (and be able to sleep peacefully at night), Marketers need to work harder in our field of art and embrace ethical and meaningful marketing communications and public relations. We need to create brand stories with integrity, character, authenticity, transparency, guts, and real value with flawless execution – net – we and our clients need to be walking our talk.

I’ve had the privilege of meeting some Renaissance Marketing & PR Masters such as Harold Burson, Aaron Cushman, Bob Dilenschneider and Al Golin and I have studied the works of Marketing and PR Master Strategist Al Ries and several more, and sadly it seems to me that there’s a lack of “people coming off the bench” and/or on deck ready to take their place.

It seems to me that there’s a lack of breakthrough effort, hard work, enthusiasm, guts, class and grace these days in marketing and in lots of professions too.  It’s sad.

For years, I’ve been a big fan of Edelman PR’s success and I love their whole ethical approach to business and look forward to their annual Trust Barometer.

There’s a good reason why Edelman PR rocks and why they’re the Mac Daddy of PR firms today and the biggest independent in the world. It’s the legacy of Dan Edelman.

Dad Dan Edelman rocks – still at 90!

And, he’s left a great legacy with his kids who lead the firm today. Check out this this link to an Ad Age Article about Edleman and his video interview with Rance Crain below – love the comment about enthusiasm and focus.

I can “smell” through the video that at 90, this guy would have my back, has a ton of integrity and class and would do everything it takes (in an ethical manner) to drive my business forward.  And, he’d be honest with me and nicely “call my baby ugly” and give me solid recommendations to improve my baby’s looks.

Can you smell it too?

Work on being a Marketing Renaissance Master…we need you!


Marketing 3.0 – Kotler’s New Values Based Model

Since graduating from college, I voraciously read a new marketing book every 10 days and in my library you’ll find several books by the father of modern day marketing Philip Kotler.

What I love about the guy is that even though his book Marketing Management: Analysis, Planning, Implementation and Control, 13th ed., is the most widely used marketing book in graduate business schools worldwide he never rests on his success and still innovates and tinkers with his marketing theories and models of how marketing works.

I’m a big Philp Kotler fan.

Now, here comes Kotler again with his latest creation (co-written with Hermawan Kartajaya), Marketing 3.0: From Products to Customers to the Human Spirit.

The central theme of the book is based on the simple values-based (not value) matrix above which demonstrates how marketing today has shifted from Product-Centric (Rational Marketing – 1.0 era – e.g., Volvo = safety), to Customer-Centric (Emotional Marketing – 2.0 era) to today’s Human-Centric (Spiritual Marketing – 3.0 era ).

Marketing 1.0 and 2.0 were about how a brands products and services would serve its customers.  Marketing 3.0 is about how a Brand connect with the human spirit of its customers who desire that they assume their fair share of social responsibility for issues that concern everyone (e.g., environment, hunger, poverty, human rights, health and well being etc.).

Brands that behave and conduct themselves properly with regard to the environment, general community at large and create real meaningful demonstrable value that aligns with the social good will be welcome and respected.  The media will promote caring companies which will influence buying behaviors.

Kotler posits that most marketers are stuck in the past. His new model for marketing treats customers not just as consumers, but as complex, multi-dimensional human beings – customers with complex human spirits who are active, engaged, anxious, informed, creative and have the ability to easily connect with others.

Marketing 3.0 addresses the complexity of the human spirit and S.C. Johnson is just one of the many brands Kotler cites as those who are creating products, services, and company cultures that lead, inspire, and reflect the values of their customers.

This recently released book is on my shopping list. I sure wish brands like BP will read it and embrace its philosophy – make sure you do!


$6 Google AdWords Campaign Lands Dream Job

For anyone looking for a new job (pay attention college grads) or trying to get that next big sale and running into a roadblock because you can’t get the attention of a key decision maker, check out this brilliant job search strategy by copywriter Alec Brownstein.

  1. Brownstein used Google AdWords to target Ad Agency Creative Directors on Madison Avenue in New York
  2. He bet 15 cents per click that these Creatives were no different than the rest of  us self absorbed people who Google ourselves
  3. What the CD’s saw when they Googled themselves was a personal ad from Brownstein – BRILLIANT!
  4. Young & Rubicam offered him a job!

Note: Brownstein’s Google Job Experiment YouTube video has been viewed over 500,000 times!  Rock on Alec!


Hopeful Marketing Ideas to Help Homeless

One of the things that sickens and saddens me in homelessness.

On a such special day as today – Mother’s Day – where is our “mothering” skill when it comes to others – we’re all connected aren’t we?

In this rich country of ours, these homelessness statistics are mind blowing to me:

  • About 3.5 million people experience homelessness in a given year
  • 40% are families with children—the fastest growing segment
  • 1.37 million (or 39%) of the total homeless population are children <18.
  • 1 out of 50 American kids will be homeless

And, with people losing their jobs the homelessness situation is getting worse.

Last Friday, we helped out our good friends and former Steelers Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley reconnect with the super cool folks at KDKA’s Pittsburgh Today Live TV Show (many thanks to KD’s super producer extraordinaire Jill Neely) to talk about their 8th Annual Walk for the Homeless on Saturday, May 15 – benefiting Pittsburgh’s area homeless via the unsung heroes at Light of Life Rescue Mission on the city’s North Side.

Check out the very funny and yet touching Tunch and Wolf KDKA-TV video here.

What can you do to help?

Here are a few more marketing ideas that might spark a few more from all of you terrific marketers and brands:

Love this gal – one of my new heroes – Shay Kelley and her Project 50/50 – here’s her amazing story about helping the homeless after becoming homeless herself as told by CNN – Jobless woman finds generosity on the streets

Here are three great Web sites to kick start your thinking:

  1. Change.org
  2. Invisible People
  3. Homeless Children in America

And, here’s a list of more ideas and ways (some overlap of course) to help:

Granted, a lot of the ideas are tactical in nature, but certainly a lot of tactics can build up to a strong strategy.

You know one thing for sure and that is, your good, sainted mother would be proud of you, if/when you would help those less fortunate than you.

I have come to realize more and more that the greatest disease and
the greatest suffering is to be unwanted, unloved, uncared for,
to be shunned by everybody, to be just nobody [to no one].

Mother Teresa  ‘My Life for the Poor’


American Idol’s One Big Marketing Lesson

I’ve never been one to watch much TV and running your own company doesn’t leave you much time at all, but I’ve found myself tuning in to American Idol a lot. Love Siobhan, love Crystal’s talent too, but too much cocky attitude for me. Lee’s my fave guy…OK that’s enough. Oh yeah, I’m into it big time.

What’s been driving my nuts about this show is this over used contestant quote that seems to arise every time someone’s performance tanks, “I had fun…I was just trying to have some fun with it.”

Are you kidding me?

I don’t care if you’re on American Idol’s stage, your high school’s stage or a kindergarten school stage and you have non-speaking role as a tree or a rock  – you have to bring it!

Have fun later counting your money or bowing to a genuine applause.

And, if you’re in it to win it – you better be or don’t waste everyone’s time – listen to the judges (or in business your customers, sales receipts, food critics etc.,). It’s amazing to me how few of these kids actually listen to the judges who have been around the block a few times. They’d rather pay more attention to the over the top audiences who give everyone a standing “O” whether the rock or not.

These are the same Little League parents who give trophy’s to every team regardless of where they finished. Thanks Mom and Dad!

BTW – Do you notice how the word “great” is used so many times – not just on AI, but generally speaking? Ugh!

When these AI kids tank and say, “I had fun,” (when it’s clear the judges and I didn’t have any fun at all) I just want to reach through my TV and slap them. I’ve been waiting for one of the judges – Simon or Ellen would be perfect – to say, “Well we’re not having fun listening to you, so STOP IT!

These “having fun” kids are choosing songs they feel are safe simply because they’re afraid to fail. Are you like them in business?

Put another way, instead of trying to win…they’re trying not to lose…they’re not giving it their all and leaving everything out on the stage.

Note:  Similar to the NFL’s “prevent defense” – I hate it – worst scheme ever designed – that’s another post.

If these kids gave their performances everything they had – and not be afraid of failing –  there would be less tears because they knew deep in their heart they gave it their very best and they’ll sleep better at night.

Live with no regrets.

It’s certainly been true for me. And, I see it in business every day with the lack of breakthrough ideas and vanilla milkshake task mentality efforts.

A few months ago on one of the world’s biggest stages – the Winter Olympics – if you paid attention to sports like downhill skiing, you’ll see that those who really pushed it and got on the edges of their skis either broke world records or crashed – there’s no in between – but both kinds of skiers probably slept well at night knowing they gave it their all.

Breakthrough, WOW performances are always a delicate balance between “edgy” efforts and crashes – both are memorable!

However, if you’re just trying to have fun, boring and in middle road – I guarantee that you’ll get run over!

P.S.: One more thing.  Notice how the judges often say, “I think” which is weak language. Instead of saying something like, “I think that was your worst performance ever.” Say, “That was your worst performance ever.” Much stronger and effective use if language.


The Unique Selling Proposition of Brand Jesus

I’ve been a practicing (and far from perfect) Roman Catholic and Christian all my life, and for over 25 years, I’ve been a practicing (also far from perfect) marketing professional.

For the past few months, I’ve been working on a lot of brand positioning exercises and marketing audits as well as attending a weekly bible study. As I’m preparing to enter Holy Week and Easter – my favorite time of the year – my professional and personal life is colliding in an interesting way.

I’ve been thinking about Jesus’ ministry and his time on earth a lot lately. And, I’ve been thinking about him as a brand too. And, when I think of him as a brand, his radical and remarkable message and unique selling proposition is clearly one of unconditional love, tolerance and forgiveness – but, love is his foundational core message. And, he demonstrated his core message of love by living it out loud through his actions and by making the ultimate sacrifice.

I say radical and remarkable because if you closely study The Sermon on the Mount, you’ll see what I mean. C’mon…turning the other cheek is one heck of a radical concept! Even today!

When I try to stand outside of my faith and look at Christianity as a product,  it’s amazing that it has spread throughout the world and has welcomed 2 billion adherents without depending on large scale ad campaigns, social media and the like.

Christianity has spread because one person – Jesus – started it by speaking his message of truth, being authentic, transparent and following a singular focused devout message of pure unconditional love for everyone.

It’s a great lesson for all of us people of the world and marketers too.

Happy Easter to all of you.

P.S.: With all due respect, this post is not meant to be sacrilegious at all, but merely an essay in effective branding/messaging. Also, for those of you interested in religious marketing lessons, I came across this Blog – Church Marketing Sucks – and found it pretty interesting. The site’s goal as stated is to…“frustate, educate and motivate the church to communicate, with uncompromising clarity, the truth of Jesus Christ.” Another interesting post is here, Jesus Is Not a Brand; Why it is dangerous to make evangelism another form of marketing, by Tyler Wigg Stevenson.


March Madness Diversity Lessons

Growing up I was fortunate to be a decent athlete and play a lot of sports. Fortunate to be healthy, having fun and connecting with so many different people from all walks of life, races, creeds etc., that I never would have been influenced by or had the pleasure to meet.

While watching these crazy NCAA basketball games throughout March Madness you see the positive impact of team diversity – pay close attention and you’ll see and feel it. There were 11 different conferences represented in the Sweet 16, but the magic and excitement of seeing diversity goes so much deeper. Big schools, small schools, freshmen stars, senior role players, blacks, whites, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and so much more.

Really, do you remember a more exciting tournament? Diversity rocks!

The success of diversity leaves clues people.

Take for example, my McAlma Mater and good friends at McDonald’s who’ve been rocking these days. Check out McDonald’s Board of Directors and of the 15 representatives listed, you’ll note 4 women (yes – 4 women), 2 Hispanics, 1 African American (who happens to be President and COO), a European and I’m sure there are more diversity examples that are not visible on the surface such as work experience, cultural experiences and more.

I’m lovin’ McDonald’s Diversity lessons and you should too.

Diversity wins games and market share.

P.S.: One of my mentors Tom Peters agrees that diversity wins.  And, I’m happy to say one of McDonald’s Directors Jan Fields in a former boss of mine – you go Jan!