Wednesday, June 20, 2007

It walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, but what does it do?

Recently I had the opportunity to talk to an Aflac sales person. They marveled how the Aflac duck has put them on the map. Before said duck, nobody had even heard of them. Now just mentioning the name of the company gets people within ear shot quacking away. That brand icon has been immensely successful in building brand awareness world-wide. Aflac's commercials endear people to the brand. They simply love that duck. I wonder if the Aflac Duck is even more popular than other famous ducks such as Daffy, Donald and Daisy.

(Now before you read on ask yourself: "What does Aflac do?" )

The most interesting thing in our discussion is after the awareness of Aflac is established, the first comment they generally hear is: "So, just what does Aflac do?" Now this person, (who is commission sales) must explain what Aflac does to make money. Isn't the job job of advertising to first get awareness and then tell them what they do? If Aflac could get that duck to spread a little wisdom, the sales person wouldn't have to spend valuable time explaining what they do, to a person who may not be a prospect. Knowing what they do, allows us the consumers the opportunity to make that initial connection based on our desire for more information on a need. The sales person would then have a warm lead and can spend their time more proactively selling their services, rather than educating. The sales person said that this problem has concerned them for some time. To a commission sales person time is definitely money.

Besides this situation, what does it do to Aflac's brand? I am not even suggesting that they haven't been successful financially with what they have done to date, I only suggest that they might want to consider broadening their focus to start actually telling the viewers what the duck does for a living. It would certainly increase revenues further if the sales teams have more time to actually sell. The sales person I spoke with thought that this would be true. They found many times after explaining what Aflac does the person turns out to not even be a potential customer. Problem.

How many times have you seen this scenario, fabulous brand awareness , lousy product knowledge. In the Detroit area many years ago there was a local car dealer who went by the name Mel Farr Superstar. People were amused by his schtick, but when pressed to identify which of the Big 3 he sold many got it wrong. The promotional balance was off - awareness over product. If your brand icon is doing you a world of good it is only human nature to go with the momentum. The only thing I would like to caution you on is to not ignore the products or services you sell. Balance the message and allow your sales people the opportunity to do what they do best which of course is sell. The more money they make, the wealthier you become.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

What do portable signs say about your brand?

You see them lining the roads of shopping plazas and commercial zones - portable signs. Some are lit from the inside while others are not. All use bold easy to read flourescent letters. You can't miss them as you whiz by. One thing they all have in common is that they are plain ugly. Blights to our communities. I think they should be banned because of their esthetic insult.

What does a portable sign say about the brands of the host companies? I suggest that they say, "I don't care how bad this looks, so long as it drives sales!" Sometimes, you have to draw the line when it comes to how we advertise products and services. Surely with a little thought, a better alternative can be found to promote the company just as effectively. It irritates me to see these signs and the negative impression I have for the corresponding companies is a shame. This sign pollution is tarnishing good brands.
I wonder how many customers are turned away because of their distain for this promotional short-sightedness? In our city, they are like a plague - how about your home town?

I wonder if some intelligent sign people can dream up something more pleasing to look at AND do the job. Any ideas?

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Them's fighting words.

Maybe it's best to avoid them.

As a brand we are no more than our reputation. Our personal brand is every bit as important as our corporate brand. What ever we do impacts on our brand. Many times I've been tempted to write a letter to the editior in our daily paper to address some irritable issue. But I think better of it in favor of rational thinking. The fun of knocking heads is replaced with a realization that it could impact my reputation negatively. I think we've all been tempted though.

My reputation (brand) is everything to me. If I were to butt heads for fun I risk the chance that of soiling my integrity for amusement. If I do respond openly to issues that are truly important enough for me to comment on I try very hard to choose my words carefully. Not being a professional writer is a disadvantage when we try to express opinions in text. Email is especially sensitive to word play. It is extremely difficult to play with sarcasm in an email. It just sounds darn right mean and arrogant, so of course I try and avoid it (especially since I appreciate sarcasm so much). Verbally it is understood for what it is.

Reading blog posts sets a tone. We try and understand the writer by what they say. We build opinions by what we read and this reflects on our personal brand one way or the other. The next time you write something contemplate on what it says about your personal brand. Are your words working for you or against you? Everything you say and do has an impact. There's no reason to be paranoid, just aware. It is actually a great exercise in helping you to develop better communication skills.
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