Archives For Brand Pubishing

90 million Americans are classified as obese. Many people can be described as professional couch potatoes. A study led by kinesiology researchers at the University of Tennessee, found that the average adult takes just 5,117 steps per day–barely half the daily steps recommended by the U.S. Surgeon General.

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Gym memberships increase right after the holidays but by mid-March attendance is down. Many people start fitness programs but lack the willpower to make it a regular habit. Can technology help? Wearable devices that monitor every footstep and exercise milestone allow people to keep track of their own fitness activities like never before. The devices track steps, distance, calories burned and sleep. Companies like Fitbit, Nike and Jawbone are enhancing users’ workouts through analytics, encouragement and the ability to share your accomplishment with friends through social media. These devices try to make fitness fun and interactive. It is the intersection of health and technology.

The Consumer Electronics Association says the sports and fitness category is a $70 billion annual business in the United States. Fitbit has emerged as the leader in the fast growing digital Health and Fitness category. The NPD Research Group says that Fitbit has 77% of the market for full activity body trackers and 50% of the market for digital fitness devices. Most experts predict rapid growth in this category over the next three to five years.

Fitbit was founded in 2007 by Eric Friedman and James Park. Friedman and Park realized that sensors and wireless technology had advanced to a point where they could bring amazing experiences to fitness and health. The company’s initial product, the Fitbit, was released in September 2009. It was the first wireless wearable fitness device for the mass consumer market. Fitbit’s offering has expanded to include several products including the Flex, Zip, One, Force and Aria. Their products are stylish and available in a variety of colors. Fitbit is sold at Best Buy, Dicks Sporting Goods, Sports Authority, Target and REI to name a few.

Fitbit’s mission is to empower and inspire people to live a healthier more active lifestyle. Their goal is to design products and experiences that fit seamlessly into your life so that you can achieve your fitness goals whatever they maybe.

Can Fitbit sustain its amazing growth? Wearables have become part of many people’s daily lives. Are these products a passing fad or a product category that will grow for years? Will smartphones through apps add this functionality and kill the category?

Have you tried Fitbit or another wearable fitness product?

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Ten years ago Dove set out to widen the definition of beauty. In 2004 Dove commissioned a research study called “The Real Truth About Beauty” to more deeply understand the relationship of women, beauty and well-being. The results of the study were very surprising. Only two percent of women interviewed considered themselves to be beautiful, while the majority placed themselves in the average or below average category. The study found that women felt disconnected from the way culture describes beauty. The study found that women held different criteria for beauty than popular culture. Women see emotional qualities, character and individuality as equally expressive of beauty as the narrow physical aspects of beauty that currently dominate popular culture.

In 2004, Dove launched the “Campaign For Real Beauty”. The campaign was designed to change the conversation about the need for a wider definition of beauty. This campaign has had a positive impact on women, changed the conversation and generated strong sales increases. Dove produced one of the best ads of 2013 in “Real Beauty Sketches”. 

Last week Dove premiered “Selfie” an eight minute film that challenges young women through social media to take an honest selfie and to encourage their mothers to do so, too. “Selfie” premiered at the Sundance Institute in Park City, Utah. This marked the 10th anniversary of Dove’s “Campaign For Real Beauty”.

Selfie is directed by Oscar Winning Documentarian Cynthia Wade and produced by Sharon Liese. “Selfie” captures the journey of multiple generations of girls and their mothers in the western Massachusetts town of Great Barrington as they create a new type of selfie that celebrates their unique beauty. In the film, the girls admit that they adopted many of the insecurities that their mothers also felt. The girls are seen getting together with their moms to create a new type of selfie that features what they perceive as their least desirable physical features.  

A decade later, Dove has uncovered through a major study in the U.S. that 62% of women feel they are responsible for influencing their own definition of beauty, nearly triple the number from ten years ago. Women believe the definition of beauty has evolved to become more inclusive and have taken on the role of defining the standard for themselves and each other.

Social media has emerged as one of the most powerful influencing factors in how women define beauty. Social media offers women the opportunity to create their own media, personalize beauty and influence the conversation. More than half (55%) of women believe social media is playing a larger role in influencing the beauty conversation than traditional media.

“Selfie” is an excellent short film. Dove has done a great job promoting self esteem. As a father of teen age girls and a husband, I applaud what Dove has done. Once again they have redefined the notion of beauty. Dove has stayed true to their brand purpose of celebrating women’s unique beauty.

What do you think of Dove’s short film “Selfie”?

Levi’s has one of the best stories of any brand in the United States, if not the world. It is an iconic brand. Levi’s is the original blue jean. It has an incredible heritage and is a symbol of youthful rebellion. Levi’s always worked hard to balance making profits with doing the right thing. Strong core values informed how business was conducted. The company gives back to the community and supports many charitable causes. Levi’s is a leader in sustainable manufacturing and responsible sourcing.

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This week, the Levi’s Brand announced that it was parting ways with its advertising agency Weiden and Kennedy after a five-year-stint. The brand has struggled in recent years and stopped growing. It has had a series of leadership changes. The brand has lost touch with its core purpose. Levi’s has failed to engage and inspire consumers with meaningful stories. As a result, Levi’s has struggled to stay relevant with consumers.

In recent years, the brand has tried hard to regain relevance with younger consumers. Many of their recent marketing campaigns have tried too hard to be cool and often seemed very exclusive. Much of their recent advertising feels dark, somber and not for me. The classic Levi’s 501 Blues Campaign from the 1980’s connected emotionally with a diverse audience of consumers on multiple levels. More than anything it was an inclusive campaign that made people feel good about the brand.

Twenty years ago if you visited a high school or college campus, you would see Levi’s Jean everywhere. Levi’s was clearly the blue jean brand of choice. Today if you visit a high school or college campus you see very few pairs of Levi’s being worn.

Rather than hire an advertising agency, I recommend that Levi’s hire a Brand Journalist to help them connect the stories of their past with the stories of their current users. The brand’s loyal followers have great stories. Its time Levi’s told the stories of its most passionate customers and stopped trying to be cool. It is a great story, tell it in a simple inclusive way.

I worked for Levi’s in marketing for nine years. I am passionate about the brand. I hope they turn it around.

What is your favorite brand of blue jeans?

I am currently reading Ann Handley’s book “Content Rules”. Content Rules is a guide to engaging customers through great content. It is an excellent book. Ann is the Chief Content Officer at Marketing Profs. Ann is a leader in Content Marketing and a frequent keynote speaker at marketing conferences around the country.

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Ann is a journalist with an engaging and human writing style. In her book, Ann highlights Eighteen Business Buzzwords We Need to Ban Because They Make Us Sound Like Tools. I have used many of these buzzwords in my own communication. I suspect we all have.

I thought it would be fun to share these buzzwords and hear your feedback. The Eighteen Buzzwords are listed below:

  • Impactful
  • Leverage
  • Learnings
  • Synergy
  • Revolutionary
  • E-Mail Blast
  • Proactive
  • Drill down
  • 30,000 feet
  • Incentivizing
  • Solution
  • Users
  • Ping
  • Granular
  • Buy-in
  • Run it up the flagpole
  • Brand Nazi and Drinking the Kool-Aid 

Can you think of any other annoying business buzzwords that we could do without?

Yesterday I attended a Social Media Tech Valley Breakfast event at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall in Troy, New York. It was an excellent event. It was my first visit to the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, which is a wonderful venue with a great story and heritage. It is notable for having a music hall constructed on the second floor above the bank itself. The Troy Savings Bank Music Hall is world renowned for its near perfect acoustics. In another post, I will tell the story of the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, one of the gems of the capital region.

I was impressed by the presentation given by FarmieMarket founder Sarah Gordon. Sarah had a great story to share about the founding and growth of FarmieMarket, an online farmers market.

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Sarah is a third generation farmer who grew up on the family farm in Knox, New York. She lived first hand the struggles and simple pleasures that come with a family farm. After college she knew that she wanted to do something that promoted sustainability and paid tribute to the knowledge she picked up on the farm. Living in downtown Burlington, Vermont, she was inspired by the prevalence of active farmers’ markets, local foods restaurants, and the agricultural community in the urban environment. Burlington was the first place she had ever been where the small farmer was King, and she knew she wanted to replicate feeling back home.

Sarah had two unique insights that has helped build her business. Consumer’s were hungry for fresh, local food but often too busy to visit the farmer’s market every week. Most families with active children fall into that segment. Sarah also understood that small local farmers were time constrained. Local farmers were too taxed by the day-to-day challenges of farming to market themselves.

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In January 2010, she began marketing her family farm’s products online, using social networking tools. The concept caught on. From there, she began talking to other farmers she knew and offered to help them to market their products by building synergy amongst local farmers in a central, internet-based market place.

In June 2010, Gordon founded FarmieMarket, an online farmers market where Capital Region consumers could order fresh produce, eggs, meat and more from local farms and have them delivered directly to their door. Catering to the needs of time-strapped consumer and farmer has proven to be a good business model.

The goal was to help family farms make their businesses viable by expanding their access to a broader customer base. The small farms she works with have limited resources and often cannot take the time away from the farm to go sit at a booth at a farmers market (especially not knowing how much they may actually sell).  By marketing on behalf of family farms online, farmers save time and money and reach a broader customer base than may be at a traditional farmers’ market.

The concept is simple and convenient. Local farmers list what items they have in stock on the FarmieMarket website, where shoppers can order online. Once a week, Farmie Market makes deliveries to consumers, while also marketing products on the website to help farms attract more business. Farmers set their own prices and Gordon adds her own operating costs on top of that. Shoppers only have to place a minimum delivery order of $25, plus a $5 delivery charge.

FarmieMarket’s mission is easy to identify with and support:

  • Improve small family farms profitability and economic sustainability.
  • Provide naturally grown, organic and local food to families and individuals.
  • Offer local customers a modern, convenient service.
  • Improve rural and regional economies by recycling customers’ food dollars with local farms and small businesses.
  • Create and maintain jobs on farms, in small businesses and amongst entrepreneurial local food leaders.

FarmieMarket is a great example of an entrepreneur following a passion who understood the jobs that consumers and farmers are trying to get done. Sarah has done a great spreading the word about FarmieMarket through content marketing and social media. I wish her continued success.

Have you purchased farm fresh vegetables online?

Investors Business Daily is a great example of building a brand through Content Marketing and Publishing. Content Marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience with the objective of driving customer action.

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Investors Business Daily is one of my favorite publishers. It is a must read for any active stock market investor. Investors Business Daily was founded in 1984 by William J. O’Neill. The purpose of the paper was simple: “To help individual investors make better decisions in less time”. Investors Business Daily provides investors with useful and timely information as well as training to help them be successful in the stock market.

The Investors Business Daily story began in the late 1950’s, when O’Neill asked two fundamental questions:

  • What makes a stock become a great stock?
  • What must be in place before I buy a stock?

To find the answer, O’Neill began studying great stocks of the past looking for common characteristics. He found seven factors that occurred repeatedly, year after year, decade after decade in winning stocks. He used that discovery to develop an investing discipline that came to be known as CAN SLIM®, a strategy based on data analytics. O’Neill used that approach to achieve remarkable success in the stock market. By the time he turned 30 in 1964, he had purchased a seat on the New York Stock Exchange and founded William O’Neill + Company a securities research firm. O’Neill founded Investors Business Daily to teach investors the CAN SLIM® investment approach.

Investor’s Business Daily is known for proprietary stock screens, comparative performance ratings and a track record of identifying stock market leaders as they emerge. Anyone can learn to use IBD’s step-by-step approach to making money in stocks. Countless ordinary investors have utilized the IBD approach to achieve extraordinary results.

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IBD realized early on it wasn’t just in the “printed news” business. It was in the business of helping readers make money in the stock market, and subsequently help advertisers effectively engage with these readers. That required a commitment to train people so they have the skills to succeed and to make sure they have access to tools and research whenever and wherever needed. “When you boil it down, IBD is in the success business”. IBD’s job is to give readers the skills and information they need to make money in the stock market.

At a time when the newspaper industry continues to struggle, Investor’s Business Daily (IBD) is expanding and building one of the most dedicated readerships in the nation. It’s done that by developing a business model focused on proactively training readers to be successful, while providing them with proprietary ratings and research in whatever format they prefer. IBD engages with readers through a newspaper published six days a week, online, through local events, social media and IBD Radio and Television. Investors.com generates 3,000,000 unique visitors on a monthly basis. William O’Neill has also published several books including the highly successful “How to Make Money In Stocks”. Investors Business Daily is another brand that understands the importance of owning their media channels.

Have you read Investors Business Daily?

John Deere is one of the top brands in the world. It is a great example of innovation, core values, brand purpose and content marketing. I believe that a brand purpose that genuinely helps consumers and a content marketing strategy based on being useful are critical for building brands today. Founded in 1837, by John Deere, a blacksmith and inventor, the Deere Company has grown into one of the most admired businesses in the world. It is a brand built on integrity, commitment, quality and innovation. For over 170 years, the brand has stayed true to its core purpose of serving people linked to the land and helping to improve living standards for people everywhere. Their brand purpose guides their business strategy.

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In 1836, John Deere faced difficult business conditions in Vermont. He also had a young family to care for. John took a gamble that paid off. He traveled alone to Grand Detour, Illinois to make a fresh start. His skills as a blacksmith were in high demand. The new pioneer farmers in the midwest struggled to turn heavy, sticky prairie soil with cast iron plows designed for the light, sandy soil of New England. John Deere was convinced that a plow that was highly polished and properly shaped would solve this problem. In `1837, he created such a plow, using a broken saw blade. During the months and years that followed, John Deere would work closely with farmers to listen to their needs and understand their challenges and work to continue to improve the plow. John Deere was “customer centric” long before the term was popularized. This approach has been very successful. In 2012, John Deere generated $36 Billion in global sales.

The John Deere Company was also one of the original “Content Marketers”. In 1895, John Deere started publishing a magazine for farmers called “The Furrow”. The company published the magazine in hopes of being a resource for their customers. The Furrow magazine was not designed to sell John Deere equipment directly as a catalog would do. The content featured in The Furrow was educational, and it focused on teaching farmers how to be more successful business owners. If farmers were successful, they were likely to need more John Deere products. The magazine was not filled with promotional messages and self-serving content. The content was developed by journalists and storytellers and covered topics that farmers cared deeply about. The goal was to help farmer’s become more profitable. They understood what really mattered to their customers.

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Today “The Furrow” is the largest circulated farming magazine in the world. it is also available online. It is delivered to over 1.5 million farmers, in 12 languages in 40 different countries. It’s a novel concept, but if you focus on helping consumers solve problems and get jobs done instead of “sell, sell, sell” the revenue will come. It just requires a long-term perspective.

In his book “Epic Content Marketing”, Joe Pulizzi defines Content Marketing as the marketing and business process for creating and distributing valuable and compelling content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly define and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable consumer action. Content marketing is a strategy that focuses on the creation of a valuable experience.

As Pulizzi articulates in his book “Epic Content Marketing”, there is one thing that separates the content developed by a media company and the content developed by a brand, its how the money comes in. For a media company, content is created in order to make money directly from the creation of content through paid content sales. For a non media company, content is created, not to profit from the content, but to attract and retain customers. Content supports the business, but it is not the business model(meaning that non media companies are required to make revenues directly off the content itself.

Content Marketing is a new way of thinking about marketing that has been around for at least 120 years. Content marketing is about creating useful information for customers so they actually pay attention to you. It is marketing without selling. As Pulizzi so accurately writes, “your customers don’t care about your products, they care about themselves”.

Can you think of another brand that does a great job of providing their customers with useful content?