Daily Traffic for January 11, 2022

Finger getting ready to push a computer key that reads enter to win

by Mike Bawden, President & CEO

It’s the Tuesday before a national holiday – have you come to the realization that no one may be in the office next Monday? Oh, wait, no one’s been in the office since 2020.

Granted, a lot of people are recovering from the NCAA Football National Championship game (congrats to the Bulldogs), but for those of us not interested so much in the gridiron, I’ve been watching the marketing trades and see a few interesting trends developing.

Chief among them is the rise of Influencer Marketing which appears to be the next big “shiny object” to distract and bamboozle more than its fair share of brands and the advertisers that promote them. The growth of platforms like TikTok and the rebirth of others like Pinterest is certain to make this entire environment even more confusing.

So, where do you start?

Here’s a list of four things you can expect to see from the world of Influencer Marketing this year.

I do quite a bit of work with “Influencers” in the world of entertainment and I can tell you, there’s a lot of diversity of opinion and ignorance of how the commercial world of communications (i.e. marketing and advertising) really works. It’s going to be interesting to see how things shake out.

I’ll be reporting on it here with some frequency. I’d love to hear what you think.


Here’s what else I’ll be following today.
  • Nikola Tesla proved you could transmit power wirelessly over a distance nearly a 100 years ago. At this month’s CES show, that future looks like it may have finally arrived. Wired Magazine has the details – but just think what this could mean in terms of break-out products over the next decade!

Ford Motor Company is re-defining the way it thinks
of customers when came to rolling out its EV pickup, The Lightning.

  • What are the warning signs that the agency you’re considering hiring might not actually know what they’re doing? Check out these four warning signs … and if you see any of them, drop the chalupa and back away!

And finally …

  • Cybercrime is expected to rise this year and that means you need to be on the lookout around the office – not for phishy e-mails but for fake deliveries via USPS that appear to come from Amazon or the  Department of Health and Human Services. The Record has more information on how USB thumb drives are the new media of preference for these attacks.
Helpful Website of the Day …
  • Not sure which band to binge next? Check out this site where all you have to do is enter the name of the band you’re currently listening to find names of other bands that are similar (and worth a listen).

What difference does a mission statement make, anymore?

Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

by Mike Bawden, President & CEO

Back in the 20th Century, it seemed there entire branding and marketing consultancies built on their reputation for being able to help their clients craft compelling and, at times, clever mission statements and identities that would make them stand out and get noticed. But for those of us who suffered through the process time and again, it was clear that the process of putting together a company mission statement was muddled and unfocussed and usually resulted in some kind of Rube Goldberg-ian paragraph about values, returns, excellence and whatnot.

Occasionally, we’d see someone come up with something unique like “Don’t be evil,” and think that was interesting if rather vague. A decade or two later, we find it might not have only been a bit vague, it might not have been entirely achievable (or, at least a lot harder to achieve than originally thought).

So, are mission statements worth the effort?

You can determine the value of a company’s mission statement by looking at its effectiveness on two levels: the rhetorical and the practical.

Are the words of the mission statement clear and concise? Is every word essential? A mission statement is not a good place for flowery words with vague meaning. The statement is the company’s “marching orders” and should be as straightforward and direct as possible.

This fact is why clever, slogan-y mission statements – while memorable – are usually problematic.

So, just what are you going to say?

Brand Central Station President & CEO, Mike Bawden

It’s hard to define the mission if you don’t have a vision.

A lot of business owners bemoan the fact that even though their employees know what they do, they don’t “get” what their business is about. The company may have a mission statement, but it seems too vague to be very motivational.

Employees wait around to be told what to do. They don’t show any initiative. And to the owner, they look like they just don’t care about anything other than picking up a paycheck.

And that’s because the owner may not “get” what a mission statement is supposed to do. The statement defines the mission. It puts people to work. It helps them understand how they are to accomplish their tasks as part of a larger effort to achieve an ultimate goal.

But that goal isn’t spelled out in the mission statement in anything but the vaguest of terms.

When I work with clients, we spend a great deal of time digging into the world as we know it today (the present), exploring the history of the brand or the company (the past) and then dreaming about how things could be if everything worked out right (the future).

Defining “success” in terms that are achievable in this way helps us create an attainable “vision” that has to be shared and understood by employees, strategic partners, vendors and others critical to the ultimate success of the business.

The vision should be a little lofty. A bit of a stretch.

That helps make it exciting and interesting.

And most of all, desirable.

Turning rhetoric into meaning.

The mission, then, defines exactly how everyone is to work together to achieve that shared vision. Properly done, a corporate vision and mission statement work together to serve as a road map and concise instructions leading to our ultimate destination.  The performance standards mentioned in the mission statement should serve as touchstones for every important decision made by management, every relationship formed with a customer and every innovation created in the R&D lab.

And the connection between the words of the mission statement and the action of the business needs to be called out publicly time and again to make sure the two are tied together.

Leadership messaging needs to be grounded.

What makes a mission statement work on a cultural level inside a business, isn’t just what’s written on the sign or put on the website. (In fact, there may be times when putting a company’s mission statement on the website might not be advisable.)

The secret to making a mission statement work lies in the hands of management and their ability to continually tie the activities of their teams in the present to the company’s vision of the future. And they use the mission statement (either directly or in a paraphrased form) to do so.

Every opportunity for a message from a corporate leader (whether they’re in the C-Suite, a department or a team leader), should provide an opportunity to tie the business’s shared vision of the future to the processes identified and defined in the mission statement. By consistently making this connection, people begin to really understand the role they play inside the company when it comes to achieving the big dream.

The benefits of having a clear mission statement.

Of course, there are some very practical benefits of having a clear mission statement that is both honest and concise.

From a marketer’s point of view having a well-written mission statement usually means business leadership has a clear understanding of who they are and who they want to become. In most cases, it also means business leadership has research to back up their assumptions and ambitions.

This is all very important information when it comes to developing key messages for the brand, unique selling propositions for products, etc. This material also serves as a helpful yardstick for measuring creative ideas, campaigns and media strategies to determine whether or not they are “on mission” with the brand.

And when we turn to the world of online marketing, a well-written mission statement is an essential element of a successful search engine optimization strategy that can amplify your company’s e-commerce efforts.

In fact, it’s possible to break a corporate mission statement into search terms to identify how content (copy, video and graphics) should be optimized to be easily found by search engines and, more importantly, customers. The scores of these various terms may also help a business in identifying what kind of content it should be producing on its website in order to optimize flow to the site.

All of that, from one little mission statement.

In summary …

So, is it time to re-write your business’s mission statement? Does it have to be a hard thing to do and cost lots of money?

Of course not.

But you might want to start off with doing the background research required to create (and define) a vision of your future, first.

I provide a service called Brand Anthropology that study’s the history behind your business and your brand and then provides insights into the kinds of moral and ethical values that serve as your brand’s foundation. We usually follow that up with a more in-depth look at the situation you’re in today (Touchpoint Analysis and Brand Mapping) and then lead management through a process of Strategic Visioning.

The end result is a clear picture of where you’ve been, where you are and where you want to go. Then it’s just a matter of management determining the most practical means for getting there.

Let me know if I can help. I’d be happy to help you arrive at your destination.

Daily Traffic for January 10, 2022

Finger getting ready to push a computer key that reads enter to win
by Mike Bawden, President & CEO

It’s a Monday morning and we’ve got a full work-week ahead of us.

With the Super Bowl right around the corner, our inboxes are bound to get filled up with more and more marketing news about big-budget advertisers breaking spots in the game, breaking spots next to the game or sitting out the game altogether. I’m not going spend my time on that (for the most part), but I do find it interesting to see how the NCAA and pro leagues have all found a way to stay in their respective lanes while we’re all trapped inside, so we can watch months of post-season sports and pretend it’s something better than what you’ll see during the regular season.

And if you’re going to party in your mancave during the NFL post season and the College Football National Championship/NCAA March Madness/Final Four trifecta, what better way to spend your time than with a little EPSN Postseasoning to flavor your favorite tailgate treats? It’s a clever promotion that kicked off this weekend, and was reported on in Ad Age (tiered subscription).


Here’s what else caught my eye over the weekend.
  • I live in the upper Midwest, and we’re tired of hearing the rest of you whine about how hard your winters are. Here’s a list of every state ranked by how bad things get this time of year.
  • What do consumers want to hear from brands when they open their email? An announcement of a new product or a lower price? A service guarantee? A point of differentiation? No. How about a little kindness and a gentle laugh?By the way, in that same article, they point out that more than one in three consumers are happy to receive emails from brands one or more times a week and at least half expect to hear from marketers weekly.
Helpful Website of the Day …
  • Looking for an audio soundscape of an Irish beach to listen to in the background while you work? Check this out. You can make your own custom soundscapes here.

Why commenting on blogs might be your most effective D-I-Y PR task.

Blogger reviewing comments on her laptop

by Mike Bawden, President & CEO

I’m often asked what one thing a person can do to raise their visibility or the visibility of their brand. Usually, these questions are asked by people looking for free advice and I preface my comment by explaining my tip is worth everything they’re paying for it … but the tip is good and the advice valuable.

It’s just not always easy to follow.

That’s because the essence of good brand-building is engagement. And engagement takes work (a blend of time, patience, persistence and effort).

Engagement, on a brand level, requires those in charge of managing the brand to be informed, interested and willing to share their opinion (or take a stand) whenever the opportunity presents itself. Historically, those opportunities have been at trade events, community meetings and press tours. These were the places where you could build your professional network (and be seen doing so publicly), thereby enhancing both your personal and brand value in the process.

But now, more and more, those opportunities are online.

And here’s the crazy part … no matter your reputation in your respective field, you probably have not been invited to participate in those new conversations. You have to take matters into your own hands.

Battle of the Blogs

Journalists, experts, brands, policy makers, reviewers and just regular consumers, all write and publish online journals (blogs). Some folks are “citizen journalists” and publish on a regular basis. Most are not.

What are the “hot blogs” on a particular subject or in a particular industry? There are a few resources you can check (most notably Google, any one of about a dozen SEO/SEM databases and other sites, like Bloggeries).

Make a list of the names that seem to appear most often and then do yourself a favor: check out their relative web traffic (again, using a tool like Hypestat or SimilarWeb) and then identify a “prospect list” of blogs and bloggers to contact.

Thinking Strategically

When we talk about “engagement” on blog posts, we’re talking about more than just leaving a brief, canned comment with a link to your brand’s website or online product page. That’s the kind of behavior that gets you banned from websites as a “spammer.”

No, instead you need to make sure your comment on a blog post is relevant to the topic of the post. Remember, keeping your message “on target” shows respect to the blogger hosting the conversation and positions your brand as worthy of consideration by all who want to participate.

This means you need to follow some simple steps for commenting on a blog post in order to make sure it’s effective:

1. First, take some time out to actually read the post.

2. Then consider where the stated opinions in that post sit in relation to your brand.

3. Then write your post and include a link to a relevant page in your post (ideally a post you’ve written about the same or related topic).

4. Then read your comment a second time to make sure you don’t sound “overtly promotional” (which could get your comment bounced and you blacklisted).

5. Then click “post” and, if possible, tick the box that will send you notices via email if anyone responds.

Side Benefits

If you dedicate some time every day to this strategy, before long you will have posted hundreds of comments to dozens of blogs – all of which lead back to your website. Better yet, if you comments are relevant and thoughtful, it’s likely you’ll not only see an increase in traffic back to your site, you’ll start to see people trying to engage you there as well.

So why is all this worth the effort? Two reasons.

First, and foremost, sensible blog commenting can give you an opportunity to earn a little “shared spotlight” in places other than on your own website. By lending your voice to an active discussion – and possibly helping to inform that discussion in the process – you continue to build positive equity in your brand and enahnce your own reputation in the process.

Both of those things are good for business.

Secondly, after a month or two, you should see an impact in your website’s search results. The more backlinks that lead to your website from other websites, the more “authority” your website has in the eyes of earch engines like Google.

How Does this Benefit Creators and Small Businesses?

Large businesses and brands can afford to either build the talent to do this in-house or hire a marketing “expert” to handle it for them as a contractor. But small businesses, non-profit organizations and independent creators often don’t have the resources to do so.

That means serious consideration of the cost-benefit of this strategy needs to be given.

Blog commenting is an essential building block when it comes to estabishing a brand’s equity among those people who will matter most to its long-term survival and perceived value. Ignoring the importance of that can lead, in the long-term, to frustration and dozens of missed opportunities.

While regular blogging is an important part of the online marketing mix, sharing those thoughts and opinions through a regular, blog-commenting program is just as important. Brands and creators really shouldn’t consider taking up the former without making a decision to support the later.

Additional reading assignment

Finally, one last article I’d recommend reading is “How  To Find Bloggers In Your Industry – And Interact With Them!” by Oren Smith on the Precision Marketing blog. It’s an older article, but very practical and breaks this strategy down into bite-sized chunks.

Will COVID-19 give KFC the chance to drop its slogan and “do the right thing”?

by Mike Bawden, President & CEO

Late last month, venerable fast-food chain, KFC, announced it would temporarily drop “It’s Finger Lickin’ Good” slogan which it has used for the past six decades. The move comes as a company-wide response to the coronavirus health crisis. This made international news and was clearly calculated to garner the kind of press attention it did.

According to a KFC’s spokesperson, global chief marketing officer Catherine Tan-Gillespie, the plan is for the return of the slogan “when the time is right.”

“We find ourselves in a unique situation – having an iconic slogan that doesn’t quite fit in the current environment.”

According to an Associated Press story, KFC called its tagline “the most inappropriate slogan for 2020.” In fact, the finger-lickin’ slogan has caused concern since the pandemic began.

Complaints have flowed in to regulatory agencies – both in the US and abroad – because the slogan encouraged behavior that might increase the chances of COVID-19 spreading.

But while the slogan is dropped from ads, it still appears on the company’s packaging, restaurant signage and website.

This isn’t the first time KFC dropped the “finger lickin’ good” slogan. The company moved away from the tag line in the late 1990s but brought it back in 2008.

Fried Chicken and Racism

But does the latest decision by KFC give it an opportunity to reconsider their geriatric slogan in a whole new way?

This year, we’ve seen major brands abandoning iconic marks as a reaction to increased racial sensativities stemming from political movements like Black Lives Matter and social unrest following incidents of police brutality.

So I have to ask if “finger lickin’ good” suffer a similar fate?

In fact, the entire business of selling fried chicken and other fast foods we associate with the south is steeped in racial stereotypes. It may not be as overt as a Brooklyn, NY restaurant named “Obama Fried Chicken” – but fried chicken franchises seem to hold a special place in the world of culinary racism.

As SLATE points out in the referenced article, fried chicken invokes images of poverty, ignorance, sloth and other racist associations:

“… fried chicken dishes were popular in slave homes on Southern plantations. In many cases, chickens were the only livestock animals that slaves were permitted to raise on their own.”

That may be, in part, why I think KFC’s decision to suspend their cliche (and, yes, racially stereotypical) slogan for public health reasons may give it an opportunity to permanently move on. KFC needs to create another catchphrase that evokes the benefit (great taste) without the cultural baggage.

In 1991, the chain changed their brand from “Kentucky Fried Chicken” to “KFC” – the reasons for which make for a fascinating read on its own. So maybe all KFC really needs to do is just create an abreviated version of their old slogan?

From my perspective, the result could be something more appropriate for a year filled with cultural and natural disasters:

KFC … “It’s F’n Good.”

You’re welcome, Colonel.

KFC has over 22,000 outlets worldwide and is owned by Yum! Brands which also owns Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.

Crafting a Brand

Marketing Education Diagram

by Mike Bawden, President & CEO

I’ve written quite a bit about how to create brand equity. But in reviewing all of those missives, I find I continue to come back to the one essential truth on which I’ve built my professional career:

“Brand equity is built through a series of promises made and promises kept.”

It’s that simple. Really.

It’s the same rule that applies to any relationship whether between parent and child, spouses, or employer and employee. Human beings tend to infuse life and meaning into everything they interact with, and that includes brands. So people really do have relationships with brands – and how those brands are handled by their stewards makes a difference in how much those relationships mean to the people who use them.

On Brand Crafting

So the first part of the process is easy to understand. It’s the “promise making” part. What we tell people. The images we evoke. The jingles. The jokes. The jeers.

Crafting a brand shouldn’t happen by accident. If you own and have responsibility for a brand, you need to be deliberate in how you position that brand and can clearly identify what kind of valuable contribution that brand brings to the people who matter most to it.

Think about it as having a “point of view” and a “proposition” for your brand.

This is your quest for “relevance” in the eyes of the customers, employees and partners you’re trying to form relationships with. If you can’t understand how or why your brand should matter to them, don’t even think of wasting money on the “shouting from the rooftops” part of this job.

For many brands, a “point of view” reflects the culture and values of the organization. It’s your approach to solving a problem, distilled down into a bottle, a service, a platform or a “mission” that drives your enterprise. Sometimes, a brand’s point of view doesn’t appeal to a prospective customer – and that’s okay. It’s all part of the social selection process people go through when they try to sift through the millions of messages and impressions that come at them relentlessly every day.

But you’re missing opportunities (and business) if the way you communicate your point of view is muddled in the messaging. Simply put, people will skip over messages delivered from a point of view they don’t understand.

You won’t even get a hearing, let alone a fair trial.

Once you’ve got a clear point of view on your brand, though, you’re work isn’t through. Understanding who you are and what you stand for is only part of the job. You need to do even more work getting to know and understand the people who are most important to your brand’s success: your customers, employees and business partners.

That takes time and effort (and usually money), but it can yield insights into the needs, aspirations, fears and concerns of those people with whom you want to do business.

And that’s a good thing.

You can use that information to identify opportunities where your interests and point of view overlaps with their needs and wants. With a little creative thought, you should be able to spot opportunities for making promises that will really mean something. Promises with real value.

Those are your brand’s propositions – and they need to be clearly and concisely explained, expertly packaged and delivered right to the people who need to hear them.