Tag Archives: Branding

The King of Kona

26 Jan

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Lets play a game of word association. If I say coffee, what is the first word that comes to mind?

Starbucks, right? Either I’m clairvoyant or they have just managed to ensure such a response with their incredible marketing philosophy because you and millions of other people would likely answer the same way. They’ve guaranteed that their brand is at the forefront of people’s minds. Clearly they’re doing something right. (For the record, the other options are also very valid choices.)

The Starbucks Advertising Philosophy = No Advertising!

Their advertising philosophy is that there is no advertising. Think about it: How many Starbucks commercials have you seen? I bet that you haven’t seen any. Am I right? I guarantee you’ve seen print ads, but not TV ads. So how have they managed to build and maintain their “espresso empire”? It all comes down to amazing branding! “You can be extraordinarily successful as a business using what people would call non-traditional means,” says Senior VP of Marketing, Anne Saunders. “It’s expanded my notion of how important experience versus information or one-way communication can be.” When you walk or drive by a Starbucks, the parking lot is always full and there is always a line, am I right?

Non-Traditional Channels:
Do a search on YouTube for “Starbucks commercials” and you’ll come across quirky – slightly vague – vignettes. The brand has solidified a formula for success. Why spend millions in advertising dollars for TV commercials when we are all clearly in the virtual world? I mean, there are entire fields of study, college majors and advanced certifications dedicated to success online because that’s where business and the world exist.
 It’s an online world…so that’s where they are. Their online presence is interactive, modern and relevant.    

Public Relations and Platform:
Marketing a company as a conscious one is an excellent platform for public relations. Starbucks stands for something. Lots of things actually: Community, Environment, Wellness, Ethical Sourcing and Diversity. Cause marketing is a very effective tool, highlighting an organization’s globally-, socially- and locally- responsible philosophies. Not only is it trendy to be associated with these causes, but by patronizing businesses that are so conscious, customers are doing a small part as well to make the world a better place. 

Another aspect of their public relations efforts is delivering an experience. “It happens millions of times each week –  a customer receives a drink from a Starbucks barista – but each interaction is unique.” It’s all about the experience – from superior products to intentional customer interaction to the cool ambience – and engaging the customer so that their Starbucks visit becomes the high point of their day. Customers leave stores with a story, an experience that they don’t get anywhere else. 

As Anne Saunders alluded to, PR isn’t one-sided. It requires action on the part of the message receiver. Action may involve a call-to-action like signing up to follow social media feeds, calling a political candidate, etc. But action is more likely to be just as simple as making a decision one way or the other about a company or organization.

Their logo is as easily recognizable as, say, McDonald’s golden arches or Disney’s Mickey ears. The Starbucks logo is synonymous with “cool” and “experiential”, so much so that even if someone doesn’t like coffee, they still want to be associated with the brand in some way. When people see the logo, they know what it means and it resonates with them. And they start craving their favorite Starbucks brew. 

To support my analysis, here is a snapshot of Starbucks’ retail market share vs media dollars spent. (Note: these figures are from 2007, but they illustrate my point!)

Here’s the Bottom Line: You don’t have to rely on big budgets and traditional advertising to make your brand a household name. It’s about tapping into the unique characteristics within your brand and promoting them in a new and creative way. Public relations is all about perception. Help shape people’s perceptions of your products and services by offering an overall experience, one their bound to remember.

Thanks for stopping by! ~Laura~

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31 Dec

Saturday, December 31, 2011

I learned a lot about myself personally and as a business owner in 2011, things that I will take with me into the new year and beyond. I learned that you have to anticipate problems and plan for unexpected changes. It’s all about being flexible. Not everything is going to go as planned, but having a contingency plan in place can save a lot of time and headaches. I was also reminded that public relations is a 24-hour business. It’s not something that ends when the business day is over. Instead, it takes constant strategy to maintain a brand. A brand’s character can be destroyed in a second…and it’s difficult to recover from. There’s a lot left to be learned on this journey of owning a business and I am so thrilled to be on it. I can’t wait to see where the next year takes me. Thank you to all of my wonderful clients – and friends and family – for believing in me!

I can’t believe this year has come to an end already, but I am so excited for what’s in store for 2012. Happy New Year to you. See you in 2012 (by now, only a few hours away).

All the best,

Why Are You So Special?

19 Jan

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Here’s a thought-provoking exercise for some mid-week motivation: If someone asked you what marketing is, what would you tell them? Would you say that it’s your promotional pieces? Your social network activities? Your amazing product that speaks for itself? Or would you say that it’s the way you do business, you customer service and your outreach efforts? Well, if you said any or all of these, you’re not entirely inaccurate. Here’s a quote that I think will illustrate my point:

“Marketing is the process of teaching consumers why they should choose your product or service over your competitors.” –Laura Lake, about.com contributor

So, if you said that marketing is a combination of promotional pieces, your social media strategies and customer service, you have the right idea. But the concept as a whole is that you are ultimately promising a better experience to customers through these practices. What makes you more special than your competitor? Try this: Take a pen and paper or – because who does that anymore? – open a new Pages/Word document and physically answer that question. The answers will help refocus your future activities and make them more accurate and efficient. You will have a better picture of who your customer is and why the client should choose you.

Hint: Consider the 4 Ps of Marketing also known as the Marketing Mix – Product, Price, Promotion and Place. How are you unique in these key areas?

Million Dollar Question: What would you tell a potential client if they asked you why you’re so special? For more thought-provoking ideas, subscribe to the Marketing Musings blog and the newsletter. Happy Wednesday. Thanks for stopping by.



From Concept to Creation: A Lesson in Branding from Post

10 Nov

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Believe it or not, today I was inspired by the back of a cereal box. Well, adult cereals actually have some good information on the back; none of the games or toys, but still good stuff. This particular one told the history — and the branding — of Post’s Honey Bunches of Oats cereal.

According to Apple’s dictionary, a brand is defined “as an identifying mark burned on livestock…with a branding iron” and “a piece of burning or smoldering wood.” So it’s not a coincidence that this term is also used to define the identity of a product line or service. A brand should  leave an indelible impression in the mind of its consumers. If done correctly, it will be a positive perception, will give rise to a “smoldering” desire to use the product. The branding process is paramount to the success of any concept. Michael Levine, in his book, A branded WORLD, says that “[b]randing, when it’s done right, creates an institution.” Wow. What are you doing today to create an institution?

What’s in A Name?
In the case of Honey Bunches of Oats, what started as a mere concept from a facility manager in Battle Creek, Michigan turned into one of the company’s — and the market’s — most successful products. With the help of his daughter, Vernon J. Herzing came up with the idea of a new cereal by combining a variety of other Post cereals with just the right blend. He proposed his creation to Post and they loved it. After concept, they needed to create a title. A successful product name should resonate with consumers; evoke positive memories or suggest favorable images or emotions. Taking time before launching a product to research the effects of a name by way of a focus group or consumer surveys, can determine the its ultimate success or failure. For example, Post originally called their cereal “Battle Creek Cereal.” While that seemed appropriate, “research showed that many consumers didn’t like the name, although the product itself earned top marks.” Instead, the company chose a name that reflected the contents of the cereal, something that wasn’t on the market already, but was interesting and enticing.

New Opportunities
“The way you build a brand is by creating a new category you can be first in.” — Al Ries, marketing strategist and coauthor of The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding
Because there was nothing on the market like Honey Bunches of Oats, that offered such a mix of textures and tastes, it created a whole new niche in the cereal market. Being first in a new category is always preferable — you earn that recognition, have an advantage in publicity and set the stage for all new entrants to the category —  however, it’s difficult to do. Post started with a specific product, but one it knew could be expanded easily once the brand had been successfully established. According to Levine, it is easiest to enter “a market between two established niches”…”to carve out a portion of the market for a new brand.”

First Impressions…and Second Impressions…and Third Impressions
“Ninety percent of a brand is the experience you get once you get where you’re going.” — Charlie Koones, publisher of Daily Variety
So whether you are the first in a category or entering into one that is established, you have to make the best first impression possible. Your first goal is name recognition on which Post thoroughly concentrated. They then focused on making Honey Bunches of Oats a cereal for the whole family, enticing even children by adding their sugary flakes to provide some sweetness. No other “adult cereals” (i.e. ones without cartoony mascots) had that particular draw for everyone in the family. Make a conscious promise to the consumer and throughout the establishment and life of the brand, do everything possible to fulfill, and even exceed, that promise. The promise should be part of the identity of the brand. The life-force behind it. Don’t forget the importance of public relations in creating your first impression. Make sure consumers know that you are fulfilling that promise “every minute of every hour of every day that [the] brand is on the market.” (Levine)

Brand Expansion
Once a brand is established in the market and has name recognition which has never been questioned, you might consider product expansion. Post capitalized on the prosperity of its product and chose a product expansion as the next step. From Honey Bunches of Oats was born Honey Bunches of Oats with Vanilla Bunches, with Cinnamon Bunches, with Pecan Bunches, with Chocolate Bunches, with Strawberries, and varieties of Just Bunches. When considering an expansion, “[n]ever, ever lose sight of your brand identity. And your brand identity is merely the promise you make to the consumer.” (Levine)

Coming Full Circle
Following three years of development, Honey Bunches of Oats hit the market in 1989. Since then through branding efforts and product expansions, it has grown to be one of the top-selling cereals in America today. Branding is a simple concept, but is not always easy to complete. It’s not something that is done just once, but continually over the life of a product. Honey Bunches of Oats works hard to constantly fulfill their promise of a quality, family cereal. What are you doing to fulfill your promise to your customers? How have you fallen short?

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If you have questions about branding or any other aspects of your product’s development or expansion, I would love to talk to you. To schedule a free consultation, please contact me at 610.393.4430 or LRDConsulting@gmail.com.


Customer Service and Its Place in the Public Relations Mix

20 Oct

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

“Never underestimate the value of customer service to your Branding, and never think for a moment that customer service is not a form of public relations.” — Michael Levine, A branded WORLD

There you have it. Seems simple, right? Well, not always. I don’t know why, but sometimes we forget the smallest and easiest way to keep people talking about our businesses; and it can be so simple. In fact, according to Levine, “customer service might be the purest form of public relations.” I have to say that I absolutely agree with that. Think about it: How often do you patronize a business and decide you never want to go back because of the way you were treated? Consider that perspective in your business dealings. Are you approachable, compassionate, friendly, etc? Do you do your very best to exceed your customers’ expectations? If not, maybe it’s time to revisit some basic principles of customer service.

Your goal is to attract customers and ultimately receive business from them. You’re not going to do that if you (or your staff) don’t make a good first (or second, or third….) impression.
1) It starts with making a promise to your customer and above all else, sticking to it! Your regular customers — and even potential ones who hear positive things (remember, word-of-mouth is POWERFUL!) — are going to start counting on you to deliver on your promises and will continue to come back if you continue to keep that promise. Make a friend, you have one for life. If you make an enemy, they are sure to tell everyone!
2) How do you deal with customer complaints? It’s good to have a “policy”, but sometimes you need to be flexible in how you enforce it. Consider it a sort of compromise so that you are still meeting customers’ needs while maintaining your integrity.
3) The way you greet your customers is important whether you’re face-to-face on on the phone. I once worked for a company who’s most basic value was customer service. We were encouraged (a nice word for “required” in this case) to answer the phone with a smile and greet customers the same way. Believe it or not, you can hear a smile in someone’s voice even over the phone!!

I think the Bottom Line is: Put yourself in the place of your customers. How do you want to be approached? Translate that into your every-day practices. Honestly, your clients will go out of their way to see you over your competition!

True story to emphasize my point– Where I live, there are basically two ways to cross the river: a) extremely busy highway/bridge or b) the costly Turnpike (costly, relatively speaking; $1 to go about 3 miles). 90% of the time I’m going to take the Turnpike because nowhere else that I have traveled has there been such incredibly pleasant employees! Honest! Every time my husband and I drive through, we comment about the amazing customer service…and it’s just the Turnpike. But it makes the drive a little less stressful (because a half mile down from the toll booths you can expect to sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic).

Take a good look at your customer service. If it’s not already a priority, consider making it one! Customer service is public relations, too. Good luck!


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