Nike didn’t discover the power of advertising, they discovered the power of their own voice
Brands are Built on What OTHER PEOPLE Say About You
Last week I flew on US Airways, United, Virgin and Delta airlines. (Life of a VC living in Pittsburgh). It’s fair to say that one of these airlines is not like the others.
However, what struck me as interesting is that as they’ve ALL replaced the safety instructions with a video demonstration it’s become popular to do a marketing message before the instructions like “here is how to fasten your seatbelt” comes on. They basically all say the same thing (with slightly different words) “we are a great airline please please please fly us again” but only one of them felt authentic at all.
The most ridiculous example was United Airlines CEO talking about how important customer service is to United. The guy sitting next to me asked out loud to no one in particular ‘has he ever flown his own airline?’ and the entire group within ear shot burst out laughing. It was a good reminder of one of my favorite Guy Kawasaki quotes:
Next time you sit down to work on your content marketing and brand strategy (which you should do), make sure you aren’t being as ridiculous as United!
How Brilliant Branding Amplifies Strategy
I shared a link here last week to a new 3 minute video that IBM did about “Smarter Commerce.” Over the last 6 months, I’ve been thinking a lot about how software is changing commerce. The video did a great job talking about this transformation in retail so I shared it.
However, even more than great content, I want to focus on how brilliant the IBM branding is for smarter planet, smarter food, smarter cities, smarter commerce, etc … I suspect it’s been as valuable for IBM as Apple’s historic Think Different campaign was for the infamous Apple turnaround. Rob Siltanen recently shared on Forbes the “real story” behind that campaign. At the end of his story talking about the impact of that famous campaign, Rob writes:
When the “Think Different” campaign launched, Apple immediately felt the boost despite having no significant new products. Within 12 months, Apple’s stock price tripled. A year after the “Think Different” launch, Apple introduced their multi-colored iMacs. The computers represented revolutionary design, and they became some of the best-selling computers in history. But without the “Think Different” campaign preceding and supporting them, it’s likely the jellybean-colored and gumdrop-shaped machines would have been viewed by the press and general public as just more “toys” from Apple
I suspect similarly this Smarter Planet campaign has put a lot of the solution development into context for IBM. Interestingly, you also can see a similar impact on Wall Street’s impression of IBM. The “Smarter Planet” campaign was first mentioned in November of 2008 and if you look at the chart below from Google Finance you see that after years of IBM basically tracking or underperforming the market it has completely outperformed the market over the last few years:
So here is my question, which other technology companies need a similar unifying branding campaign to frame their offerings? I fear the answer is almost all of them. This is especially disappointing when you think about how software is truly revolutionizing our entire economy.
Having interacted with many of these marketers while running ReadWriteWeb, I can attest it has nothing to do with the IQ of most of these marketing professionals. The technology industry is nothing if not a meritocracy and the marketing leaders are brilliant.
Instead, I fear it’s because many of them are busy working on their business generating leads for the next quarter instead of stepping back and changing the conversation like IBM and Apple did with the campaigns above. As you jump into 2012, hopefully you can take a few minutes and re-evaluate if your marketing mix wouldn’t benefit fro some branding to shape the conversation and amplify your strategy.
Note: This post has nothing to do with RWW’s product mix, we have great solutions for both lead generation & branding marketing goals. If you’d like to discuss, let me know and I can introduce you to the right people at SAY Media.