Commentary

Justin Willingham / WKNO-FM

When I think about all the inventions and discoveries in my lifetime, it’s mind-boggling. Plastic. Television. Computers. Cell Phones. Jet airplanes. Color photography. 

And that doesn’t scratch the surface.

But I believe the most extraordinary marketing successes have been achieved for two products that are centuries old: drinking water and music.

Justin14 / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike

Despite all its problems in recent years, including bankruptcy, American Airlines has retained a certain aura. Consider every other airline brand in the world and tell me you could pick one better than American Airlines.

Then look at the graphics on airplanes of all the world’s airlines. Find one cleaner, more professional-looking than American. That silver airplane with classic Helvetica type. 

When I began flying for business in the ‘Sixties American was dominant. No competitor in the U.S. compared with American service.

Riccardo Arata / fotolia.com

We spend our lives in a branded environment. We buy branded products and services. We work for companies that are trying to build their brands. Some of us work in a brand-building role.

At the very least, we spend our money with a keen awareness of brands.

Why? What is it about a brand that influences us so? What makes a brand worth billions? What makes one bar of soap worth twice as much as another?

The brand.

What is a brand, anyway? One word: trust. The definition of a brand is trust.

The effects of the Internet continue to astound me. As simple an asset as a killer web site name – and knowing what to do with it - can turn a nothing business into eight-figures in no time.

Serial entrepreneur Jesse Stein bought the name SportsMemorabilia-dot-com in 2006 for twelve-thousand-five-hundred dollars. At the time, the site was doing business of a few hundred dollars a month.

archer>malmo

True marketing is a process of maximizing a company’s assets. It begins with identifying the company’s assets, and that’s not always as obvious as you might think.

The genius chief marketing officer at Delta Airlines was the first to identify Delta’s customers as an asset two years ago. The result included new sales opportunities that have accounted for over $1.5 billion in new revenue.

You can go through a similar marketing process in your own behalf, and you begin the very same way.

ganko / fotolia.com

Shopping in Memphis is hard. Recently in a large supermarket, a shopper of close acquaintance discovered that the shelves were bare of skim milk. She found an employee and asked if they had any more. He went the storage area, then returned after several minutes to say that they were still looking.

I'm not sure which is worse: that they had no skim milk in the store, or that they had it, but did not know where it was.

Also recently, I dropped-in at a car dealership to look at new SUVs. There were two shiny ones in the showroom.

Redstark / fotolia.com

I was having lunch near my office downtown. The restaurant was almost full, and I was by myself, so I took a seat at the bar.

Even though it's a place I don't go often, I knew most of the other people at the bar, common among us downtowners. And they all knew the bartender, Mark.

Mark was an octopus, serving food and drink customers at the bar, which equaled several tables full of people. Service was good, but secondary, because every one of us was enjoying ourselves. It helped that it was Friday.

In a recent conversation with a group of instructors at a vocational college, one of them said, “Finding these young fellows a job after they graduate isn’t the problem. The problem is that many don’t understand what they have to do to keep their jobs.”

They just can’t get it in their heads that they have to come to work every day. That they can’t just decide to skip a day or two. They can’t realize the importance of being on the job at eight, not eight-forty-five. That they have to have on a clean shirt. They have to have their tools.

Randy Glasbergen

One good thing about the passing of time is the diminishing popularity of bad corporate ideas. Near the top of this list should be company mission statements.

Whether you call it a mission statement. Philosophy. Vision. Code of conduct. Goals. Commitment. There are a lot of names for it, but it’s almost always meaningless.

A committee-written document with little relevance. It’s not that the content – the idea – embodied in most is bad. The content, itself, is almost always good.

As adults, we realize how different our world is today from that of our parents. And theirs from their parents. And there’s nothing like generational differences to kill off brands that don’t stay relevant with each new generation.

A critical aspect of marketing is making sure that a brand stays relevant to each new generation.

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