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There are few devices better than an icon, or mascot, to help build personality and awareness for a brand.   And creating a successful icon is not a terribly difficult process.   But Burger King managed to screw it up.

As for personal tastes, I have always thought a Burger King hamburger was the best-tasting among fast-foot burgers. But the weird-looking, and weirder-acting, speechless, and spooky king that’s driven Burger King advertising for years is a dud.

Thankfully, new Burger King owners think so, too, because he’s being dethroned.

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.

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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 /

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.


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.

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.

Taking Care Of Business

Dec 26, 2012
Christos Georghiou /

An expression I don't hear much any more is, “don't sweat the small stuff,” but I absolutely see demonstrations of it everyday. It means don't worry about the details and concentrate on the “big picture.”

Yet, little matters more than the details, because it is the details that determine the quality of the execution, and most great strategies or plans fail, not because they were bad, but because they were executed poorly. Billions in a retail chain with check-out clerks who don't even look at the customer.

xtremest /

In team sports the coach determines the strategy. The smart ones draft a strategy they believe their players can execute. The only job for the players is to execute the strategy to their greatest ability. Business is exactly the same. 

An article last year in Fortune Magazine was an interview with the worldwide HR czar for IBM. The interviewer asked him what it takes to lead at IBM.

Randy MacDonald said, “There’s a maniacal focus on execution. If you say at IBM you’re going to deliver, you’re held accountable.”

Auremar /

Almost nothing is a bigger gamble in advertising than humor. What you think is funny, your husband or wife doesn’t. Or thinks is corny. Or just doesn’t get it. 

I guess I can say now that I’ve seen it all. It was a big social step when New York City started giving away millions of condoms every year. But a recent story in the New York Times took things up another notch.