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Original articles from Andrew Davis.
 
The Three Pillars of a Solid Super Bowl Ad
Likeability. Persuasiveness. Brand recall. These are the three pillars to great advertising. Without even one of these pillars, an ad will go down like quarterback in the fourth quarter who should have been pulled in the first half (yeah, Shanahan, you just got called out). Okay, so maybe it won’t be that painful to watch, but...

Google Takes a Page from the Handbook of Bush League Branding Tactics
Adding a cover photo and tweaking the aesthetics of the network doesn’t make up for the fact that G+ still doesn’t offer anything worth consumers' attention.

Keeping it Real With Authentic Authenticity
Women’s magazine Marie Claire is taking the principle of "Keeping it Real" to its models, replacing the "fake" runway cutouts with real women. And, in a fashion industry that has recently come under scrutiny for its unrealistic portrayal of women through digital manipulation, Marie Claire’s use of non-model models is a welcome breath of fresh air. “We’re about being approachable,” Michele Zeiss, assistant advertising manager for General Motors, told AdWeek regarding their decision. “So we’re looking for real people that the readers can identify with and not so much the celebrity who makes millions of dollars.”

The Passion of Branding
Taking a look at some of the strongest, most culturally imbued brands, passion is always present. Apple consumers stick the logo on their car. Harley Riders have the logo tattooed on their arm. Gmail users laugh at those who still use Hotmail or Yahoo.

A Lesson in Building Brands from the Masters of Advertising
Branding. What is a brand? What is branding? There are many definitions. Many theories. And, many agencies that do branding in many different ways. But what can we learn from the masters of advertising — those that have put products on the map, and made them household names — about building brands? According to Lee Clow, brands “are very much like people.”

The Fight To Save Pornography is Also the Fight to Save the Advertising Industry
Yes, this is an advertising site. And I already have enough political baggage to my name that I sometimes wonder if a career in advertising (stereotypically portrayed as a liberal man's industry) is even possible. I suppose at the very least I can claim strong libertarian roots, which hopefully will appeal to any future employer who can look past my heartless capitalistic sentiments and see me for the good person that I am (Eagle Scout, reporting for duty).

Call for Reinforcements
A recent post at Nex Level Advisors, LLC has a headline that reads, “It’s important that you do everything possible to establish and reinforce a positive brand.” The article goes on to list several good suggestions for brands, such as basic (but, often forgotten) fundamentals like positioning and consistency. However, the headline itself drives home an important concept for brands: reinforcement.

Use Social Media to Create Emotional Connections to Your Brand
It’s no secret that emotionally connected consumers have greater brand loyalty. An emotional connection to a brand is a strong bond that is completely independent of temporary sales or clever marketing pitches. A consumer has decided to give you their business because they believe in your brand. It’s almost enough to make you shed a tear.

The Super Bowl’s Best and Worst Ads (Based on What Really Matters)
Last Sunday, 111.3 million people tuned into NBC to watch the Super Bowl. Some brands nailed it. Some floundered. And, others should have never even set foot on the advertising field. In this article, Andrew Davis breaks down the three best commercials, and the three worst, according to the four elements of an effective Super Bowl ad.

The Four Elements of an Effective Super Bowl Ad
According a National Retail Federation study conducted by BIGinsight, 73% of viewers of the Super Bowl see commercials as entertainment. This sets a high standard for advertisers for not only capturing the attention of viewers distracted at parties, or looking down from the television to check Facebook on their phone. It also requires that they keep consumers entertained.

Billboard Brands
Designing an effective billboard is always a challenge. This probably explains why so many are terribly executed. Billboards require concise copy — sometimes only a few words — that people are supposed to read, digest, and process in just a few seconds. If the billboard is too busy, consumers will move on.

Outsource Your Marketing, Outsource Your Ethics
Perform a Google search for the Avenger controller, made by video game controller manufacturer N-Control. Doing so will query a variety of sites containing information about the device. The search will also include stories about how a marketing firm contracted by N-Control nearly destroyed their brand. As Eric Turkewitz says, “outsourcing marketing = outsourcing ethics.”

Value is the Deal
At Forbes.com’s MarketShare, BrandKeys Founder & President Robert Passikoff is highlighting 12 branding trends for 2012. “These 12 will have direct consequences to the success, or failure, of next year’s branding, engagement, and marketing efforts,” says Passikoff. Trends such as “Inward Bound” and “Real-Time Branding” are just two of things discussed by Passikoff.

Marketing May Fade, but the Brand is Forever
Apple’s marketing budget is $5.5 billion. Microsoft’s is $17 billion. Yet, according to BrandZ’s Top 100 global brands chart, Microsoft holds the number five spot, behind brands such as McDonald’s, IBM, Google, and…Apple. Why? According to conventional wisdom, the companies that spend the most on marketing should have the best brand, right? Not so, according to a recent article at Fast Company's Co. Design, which suggests that the days of marketing are fading.

Bells and Whistles Won’t Save Your Brand
You have a problem. Your product isn’t moving. Customers simply ignore it. Your CEO calls your marketing team the table and tells you it is time to rethink what we’re doing: find out what’s wrong, fix it, and get it back out there with a new strategy. So, what do you do? Questions such as this are never easy to answer. They require getting dirty and investigating hard truths that force account teams to challenge the status quo. In many cases, that status quo is the result of C-Suite decisions, and going against them is almost certainly sure to ruffle feathers. In the end, you’re caught between a rock and a pink slip. On one hand, you have a product that isn’t working.

How Apple and Google Came to Dominate the World
Apple and Google. They are respectively the number-one and number-two brands in the world, according to BrandZ’s ranking of the Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands of 2011. Compared to other brands in the top-10 — such as IBM (1911), McDonald’s (1940), Coca-Cola (1886), and Marlboro (1924) — Apple (1976) and Google (1998) are relatively new brands.

For Online Brands, Play to the Niche
The rise of microtargeting, especially with online mediums of advertisement, has completely changed the game. No longer do brands have to sacrifice a narrow focus in order to have a broader range of appeal. In fact, the ability of brands to microtarget audiences amplifies the strength of narrowly focused brands.

A Conversation About Branding With Stanley Hainsworth
Over at Fast Company, Debbie Millman, president of Sterling Brands, sits down with a man who helped build Starbucks into one of the world’s most powerful brands. Stanley Hainsworth, who has served as the creative director at Nike, Lego, and Starbucks before leaving to start his own agency, knows something about branding, and making brands superpowers in the marketplace.

The Daily Deal Emperor Has No Clothes
Groupon is in trouble, and not because the rise of localized, competitor brands has already begun to take a huge chunk from Groupon’s market share. More and more businesses are learning just how disastrous daily deals can be for their bottom line. “We’re giving [customers] a discount when we could be filling that seat with a full-paying customer."

3 Simple Steps to Building Emotionally Connected Customers
It should go without saying that branding is important. From a Fortune 500 company to the little shop down the street, branding is how businesses establish themselves in the minds of consumers. Miss this opportunity, and your brand passes consumers like a ship in the night. But, do it right by building an emotional connection, and you will have a customer for life.

Digital Era Makes a Brand Alignment Analysis Even More Important
Decades ago, brand management was a much simpler pursuit. Limited access points to brands for consumers allowed brands to better craft their messaging and control how customers perceived them. The access points to brands were limited mainly to traditional advertising and storefront operations. If you kept your advertising on point, and your brick and mortar operations running smooth, that was managing the brand. The advent of the digital age has made brand management a much more complex operation.

The Importance of Social Media Awareness
Much has been written about the need to monitor your brand’s online reputation. In fact, an entire niche industry of “online reputation management” has been born from the concept. And, without a doubt, it’s an important part of any online marketing strategy. However, just as important is your brand’s “Social Media Awareness.” There is more to monitoring social conversation than managing your brand’s reputation. The key to social marketing is joining the conversation, not changing it. And if you don’t know what the conversation is, your brand can’t become engaged with online consumers

Looks Like Abercrombie is in 'A Situation'
Brands pay celebrities all the time to sport their gear. Yet, clothing line Abercrombie & Fitch is taking a different approach. Instead of sponsoring a celebrity, they’re offering to pay the cast of MTV’s Jersey Shore to not wear their clothes. According to A&F, the appearance of their label on the Guido and Guidettes of the Shore is “contrary to the aspirational nature of the brand.” I suppose reality stars puking in the streets while wearing an A&F shirt is not exactly what the brand wants people to “aspire” to become. (Then again, they are making a boatload of cash for getting drunk.)

Your Brand Narrative
Your brand is a narrative about your product. Just as an author uses words to build his story, brand managers use a series of brand signals to establish the narrative. And, just as there are many genres in literature, there are several genres of “brand stories” in the marketplace, particularly among beers. The competition among brewers is amazingly fierce.

State of Regret: Getting Involved in Discount Wars
In an era of sales, BOGO, and discounts, it’s nice to see someone doing something…different. This is especially refreshing when it comes to car insurance. Geico set the standard for discount auto coverage in 15 minutes or less, and a plethora of companies have emerged to serve the low-end market with minimum coverage.

The Commercial Your Commercial Should Look Like
"Whatever happened to commercials?" asks Michael Imperioli, in one part of a series of commercials for 1800 Tequila. "So many of them don't make any sense, and you can hardly tell what anyone is selling." How is it that a commercial reached a level of enlightenment lost on even the biggest advertising agencies in the world?

Google+ Will Fail
Google+ will fail. That’s a pretty bold position to take given that Google+ is in beta testing, and, after all…it’s Google we’re talking about here. However, despite the flurry of chatter, and the soaring subscriber numbers, Google+ will not be all that it is heralded to be. It will not be the Facebook Killer. Google+ was launched with the typical fanfare that would be expected of an announcement that Google was getting into the social media business (again). These are the guys that revolutionized search and built a tech empire that has swiftly become the world’s second most valuable brand. The common logic goes that if Google can do what it did for search, they should be able to do the same thing for social media.

Your Brand Doesn’t Need a 'Mr. T' Strategy
Mr. T is one of the most iconic faces of the 1980s. He was the star of the A-Team, showed-up in the Rocky series, and has done a myriad of commercials over his acting career. His catchphrases reside among the immortal words of other American paragons like Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Paine, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Yet, in spite of Mr. T’s cultural and celebrity prowess, he won’t save your brand.“ American consumers insist that they are not swayed by celebrity endorsements,” reports Adweek on the results of a recent Adweek/Harris Interactive survey. “More than three-quarters [of respondents] answered that it has no impact on their intent to buy.”

Are You Doing Too Much With Your Brand?
The goal of every brand manager is to get the brand to resonate with consumers in a personal and lasting way. Branding is a war for the mind. And, if your brand is eventually able to overcome the noise of market competition and find that sacred spot in the mind of a consumer, it’s a remarkable accomplishment. The brands that most often find, and then keep, these positions are those that most easily cut through the noise.

Can You Build a Branding Empire Without Advertising?
The local Mom & Pop store around the corner will most likely never find itself on BrandZ’s Top 100 global brands list. However, by following some basic steps to building a lasting brand, that Mom & Pop store can dominate the local market without ever needing to spend a penny on advertising.

Fix Brands at the Foundation
Problems with brands are much like problems with houses. They can’t always be solved with new paint or fancy shutters. One must go straight to the source, or else risk spending resources on a quick fix rather than a long-term solution. It’s easy to slap a new logo to your brand hope your sales go up. Companies try it all the time. For example, look at department stores, where Belk and JCPenney recently redesigned their logos. Sure, the new logos are nice, but new brand identities fail to address the real problems the two stores face.

Open Discussion: Gilt's New Food Porn
Online luxury discounter Gilt Group recently launched an online gourmet “meat market magazine” where consumers can purchase premium cuts of meat for top-dollar prices. However, GiltTaste doesn’t appear to offer discounts on its artisan foods, which has been the unique feature to the Gilt Group’s luxury sales sites like Gilt.com and Jetsetter.com.

The Power of Perception
The mind is powerful. So powerful, in fact, people see what they want to see regardless of the reality that surrounds them. Like hypochondriacs, consumers can suffer from similar delusions. That's because in marketing, there are no facts, or objective reality. Only perceptions. Consumers can suffer from the same delusions. “There is no objective reality,” write marketing mavens Al Ries and Jack Trout in their book The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.

Why Apple Can Get Away With Murder
A 2011 survey from MillwardBrown lists Apple, Google, and Facebook as some of the strongest brands in the world. But, despite their tremendous gains, 2010 was not exactly a banner year for these brands in the news. How, then, can they seemingly get away with murder? The answer is simple: branding. Apple, Google, and Facebook have all developed such entrenched brand identities with consumers that it gives them a Teflon-like exterior.

A Tale of Two Brands
Out of the many businesses in Atlanta, there is the Express Oil Change & Service Center, and the dental practice of Dr. Elizabeth Caughey. While these two businesses are very different in the services they provide, they are both two entities with high levels of market competition, and face similar challenges in establishing a brand and growing their business.

Sometimes, We Just Get Too Creative
It's said that too much of a good thing is bad. Moderation is the key. It's what keeps us sober, and keeps us healthy. However, moderation is also helpful in restraining our creative juices when it comes to advertising. Because, sometimes, we just get too creative for our own good.

Best Buy Won’t Out-Amazon Amazon
Best Buy isn’t happy. It knows that consumer behavior has changed over the course of the past few years, and that the brick and mortar, big box stores have given way to a growing trend of online shopping. Hoping to reverse a one-year drop of $18 in the price of their stock, Best Buy is looking to make some changes before it becomes the next Circuit City.

Open Discussion: When Do Discount Programs Begin to Undermine Brand Value?
We live in a new era of brand engagement. The Internet has opened up a floodgate of channels in which to target consumers. A growing trend among these marketing channels is location-based services (LBS) like Google Places, Facebook Places, and Foursquare. These services use GPS location via smartphones, allowing customers to “check-in” at local businesses. However, are these programs undermining brand value? Leave your opinion in the comment section.

Lessons from Leo Burnett
"We, over and over again, stress this so-called inherent drama of things," Leo Burnett told Denis Higgins in an interview years ago. "There’s usually something there, almost always something there, if you can find the thing about that product that keeps it in the marketplace." Illustrating this point in his work, Burnett once slapped a piece of red, uncooked meat onto a red background. The ad campaign worked, with wild success. "This was inherent drama in its purest form," Burnett said. Burnett’s point is that in every brand, there is a single factor that separates it from all other brands. And, if there isn’t, then it won’t be on the market for very long. Good advertising teams know how to bring that inherent drama to life.

The Brand Experience
Brands, beware. Consumers are learning. Thanks to the rise of the digital age, an exponentially increasing level of data is available to consumers. As a result, they are more knowledgeable about their purchases, and demand more from brands than ever before. The digital age has tipped the market in favor of consumers. This has created a consumer culture based around “brand experience,” especially for younger consumers.

Why Brands Should Care About Customer Care
Prior to the rise of the Internet, companies could be insulated from bad customer service incidents with their customers. However, in today's social networked-world, a single bad customer service story can go viral within hours. In a market where consumers are demanding more from the total "brand experience," customer service can be an incredibly powerful brand signal.

Singularity and Consistency
Brands are ideas. They’re not a physical product, or a logo on a building. In order to get your idea inside the mind of a consumer, you must break through all the noise and clutter of competing brands in the market. Because the mind of a consumer has a finite amount of space it is willing to commit to brands, complex, ever-changing brands have a hard time winning the war for the mind.

The Real Lesson from Groupon’s Flub
If there is one ubiquitous theme throughout all the disciplines of advertising and branding, it's simplicity. Simple headlines. Simple logos. Simple ads. It may sound dull and plain, but simplicity is the foundation of lasting brands. Groupon's faux-advocacy ads took a simple brand, with a simple sell, and managed to completely fail at communicating with the audience.

The $26,000 Kia
It seems that Kia is no longer satisfied with the low-end of the automotive market any longer, and its rising price tag is slowly moving them into what branding guru Al Ries calls the "mushy middle" of the market. Kia has a brand built on producing affordable, reliable vehicles. A $26,000 car doesn't fit that image.

Charlie Sheen's Winning Position
Drugs. Alcohol. Strippers. What could be a lifetime of vice for some is a single night for Charlie Sheen. Yet, his celebrity star is burning bright. Sheen has gone viral, and in the process served as an interesting case study for how negative behavior can reinforce a brand. Thanks to his latest shenanigans, Sheen owns the "Hollywood rock star" image.

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