Friday, March 27, 2009

Understanding Influence - Part II: Seven Beliefs

Yesterday we blogged that social media has fundamentally changed the world of marketing. Marketers can no longer consider that they are the exclusive owners of their brand—because brands exist in the minds of their consumers. While social media empowers those consumers and enables them to actively participate in the conversations that define their brands.

To grasp the scale of this monumental change, “Understanding Influence – Part I” offered a brief historical perspective on marketing influence. Part II picks up with the brand conversations that social media bring. And how, by participating in the dialog, you can influence it.

1. Influence begins with listening, really listening.

Put yourself in a social situation. A group you’d like join is conversing. What do you do? First, you listen. Why? To get a feel for the tone of the conversation and see where you fit in. It’s the same in social media marketing.

Your first order of business should be to see who is talking about your brand and what your audience is saying. Identify the followers and the influencers—who, by the way, will not all be customers. These free tools will help you automate the listening process.

  • Google Reader – Tracking all the people who are talking about you is easier if you aggregate them into a few places. Use Google Reader to search for anyone talking about your brands and gather their RSS feeds.
  • Google Blogsearch – Use Google Blogsearch to take snapshots of brands and subjects of interest. Say your business is solar energy. Blogsearch can show you not only who's talking solar, but who else is talking about helping customers go renewable through the same method--power purchase agreements--as you.
  • Google Alerts – After you've found the people who are talking use Google Alerts to automatically email you updates of the latest results.
  • Twitter Search – Keep track of relevant Tweets. Who's talking about Velveeta, right now?
  • Delicious – Use Delicious save all your bookmarks online, share them and see what other people are bookmarking. The site’s search and tagging tools let you see the most popular bookmarks being saved across your areas of interest.
  • Feedburner and – By sending your RSS feeds through Feedburner you can easily track your blog subscribers. Use Feedcompare to graphically contrast your Feedburner subscriber numbers with others.
  • Technorati – The self-proclaimed, “most comprehensive source of information on the blogosphere,” Technorati indexes more than 1.5 million new blog posts in real time. It also ranks them by “authority,” the number of blogs linking to a website over the last six months.

If you need more detailed metrics and reporting, several services can take your listening to a professional level. Their websites will do a far better job of explaining what they do.

2. Influence is not control

As tempting as it may be to jump right in and control a conversation, especially if it’s not going your way, attempting control is not the best strategy. Social media has customs. You have to be willing to give up the illusion of control left over from Mass Market era-thinking.

A funny thing happens when you surrender control. You actually become more powerful. Athletes will tell you that their best performances come when they “let go,” and get, “in the zone.”

Think what happens in a conversation when someone monopolizes it or makes it all about themselves. If you’re like me, you duck out as quickly as you can. If you want to be around to influence the conversation, you need folks to stick around.

3. Influence is built on authority

Want to have greater authority? Write greater content. It’s that simple—and difficult.

Worry less about chasing authority rankings. Worry more about posting unique and relevant content that reflects your brand and builds the brand experience. That’s what’ll keep your audience interested. And bring them back again and again.

Need help with your writing? Check out “How to Write Great Blog Content” by ProBlogger and follow Copyblogger whose blog focuses on writing great content.

4. Influence is built on relationships and sense of community

Say you’re looking for a restaurant. Who are you more likely to be influenced by: A close friend? Or, a complete stranger? The answer is obvious.

A recent Harvard Business Review study, “The Dynamics of Personal Influence” by Nichlas A. Christakis, finds that “although a person may be connected to other people by six degrees of separation, he or she is influenced only by those up to three degrees away.”

The more people talking about your brand, the more first, second and third-degree relationships you have. And the greater your potential influence. Creating a sense of community—a place—for your customers to gather and talk about your brand allows you to extend those close relationships.

Fan pages can create a hub for brand conversations. You’ll quickly learn what your customers love. And what they hate. You’ll also empower your customers to advocate for your brand.

5. Influence is built on honesty and trust

Trust is incredibly valuable—and fragile. Relationships are built on trust. So it follows that the more trusted you are, the greater your potential influence. Consistency is important. Read, “When Trust Breaks” by Amber Naslund of Altitude Branding.

If you want to have an influence, strive for honesty, humanity and humility in your all your social media communications because they build confidence—and trust—in you and your message.

6. Influence means being responsive.

Bad word of mouth can go viral almost instantly. You need to stop rumors and news about poor product performance or service before they spread.

When you blow it. Admit you’re wrong, apologize and fix the problem. Here, your actions will speak louder than words. And help regain lost trust.

Social media gives you the tools to listen, build positive relationships and a sense of community and provide trust-building opportunities that can help carry you through and resolve the inevitable trouble spots.

7. Influence is more powerful when it’s fully integrated

Those who say, “advertising is dead,” are just as off base as those who ignore social media. It’s not the medium. It’s the brand message and experience. Consistently delivered. At all points of brand contact.

Go and influence better

The aim of this two part series was to provide a perspective for understanding the value of social media in a marketing context. And to help you understand the components of influence. Effective influence—and marketing success—depends on going where your consumers are and joining them in the brand conversation.

Blog content: ©2009 Paul J. Hydzik. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


Paul Hydzik grows brand value. As a brand marketer and award-winning creative leader, Paul has more than 15 years of experience driving business success from start-ups to blue chips. His strategic resume covers all aspects of B2B and B2C branding from go-to-market to consumer insight to identity development and all forms of marketing communication.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Understanding Influence - Part I

Social media has fundamentally changed the world of marketing and there is no gain in going back. Marketers may no longer consider that they can “own” their brand—if indeed they ever did. Brands exist in the minds of their consumers. And social media empowers those consumers to actively participate in the conversations that define their brands.

To understand just how powerful a tool of influence social media has become, and its potential to further reinvent how we market, it helps to gain a little perspective and understand where we came from—where Part I begins.

A brief history of marketing influence

Mass Market Era. During the 1950s and 1960s, marketers developed a mass approach to selling standardized, mass-produced products to similarly standardized, undifferentiated mass consumers. For major brands, decisions were simple. Advertise heavily on one of the three major television networks and succeed. If success wasn’t automatic, fire the ad agency, freshen the creative and heavy up the media plan. Minor brands were effectively blocked from the game (and turned to more creative solutions).

Communication in the Mass Market era was all top down, company out. Whether consumers had a problem, or wanted to sing their favorite brand’s praises, their influence was pretty much limited to a closed circle of friends and contacts.

Positioning Era. In 1972, Al Ries and Jack Trout wrote a series of three articles for Ad Age that led to their groundbreaking 1980 book, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind,” now in its 20th printing. It recognized that advertisers and agencies don’t position products, consumers do. It suggested that companies need to determine what position their products occupy in the consumer’s mind relative to other products and then to act strategically to reinforce or change that position.

Communication options, however, did not advance with the theory. Brand marketers fought the battle for consumer’s minds with essentially the same mass media to which they’d long been accustomed. Warily, the book also identified communications clutter—that consumers were being bombarded with more and more advertising messages and beginning to pay less and less attention.

High Tech/Media Options Era. Technology and media advances in the 1980s and 1990s began to shift the tectonic plates of brand power.

Media options began to explode with the advent of cable TV. Video recorders enabled consumers to time shift their favorite programs and skip past commercials. Video games gained a large, loyal following. Special interest magazines experienced tremendous growth as well, their success providing proof of niche marketing’s value.

But most of all, the growth of the Internet and effective search tools enabled consumers to do something they never could before. Suddenly, they could find all the information about brands that they might want. And they could get that information from sources they trust, outside of the brand’s control.

The marketer’s top-down communications monopoly was broken. With the ability for individual consumers to choose when they’ll be receptive to brand communication, consumer’s were at last in control. We demanded legislation that soundly trounced unwelcome telemarketers. And wise marketers recognize us as a market of “hand raisers” who can opt in and opt out the moment we aren’t receiving value from our membership.

Social Era. The rise of social media and the ascendance of the individual alters the game again. Totally. You and I and the folks next door now have the ability to directly communicate with and influence large audiences, decision makers, CEOs and celebrities. Even President of the United States. Social media levels the playing field. Big dollars don’t equate to success as they did in the Mass Market era. Niche marketing Davids can slay their Golliaths.

Blogs. Facebook. MySpace. LinkedIn. Twitter. YouTube. Wikis. Podcasts. iTunes. Hulu. Each of us can customize our online experiences as we wish. Invite friends and business associates into our circle. Participate as a brand fan. Create a group. Launch a business. Support a cause.

And actively converse.

Whereas earlier marketing eras were primarily one-way communication. Brand to consumer or brand to distribution channel, for example. The social era is about two-way communication. Success today is about relationships. Conversations. Give and take.

You can ignore the conversation that’s going on. Or embrace it and participate. And by your participation, influence it.

Tomorrow, “Understanding Influence – Part II” will continue with 7 thoughts on how influence works in brand conversations.

Photo of 1950s family, Raleigh City Museum. "Position: Battle for Your Mind" cover from Canon A5 review, Digital Photography Review.

Blog content: ©2009 Paul J. Hydzik. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


Paul Hydzik grows brand value. As a brand marketer and award-winning creative leader, Paul has more than 15 years of experience driving business success from start-ups to blue chips. His strategic resume covers all aspects of B2B and B2C branding from go-to-market to consumer insight to identity development and all forms of marketing communication.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Top 10 Tips to Do Brand Naming Right

Anyone can come up with a name. But successfully naming a company, brand, product or service is a strategic art. And a value-creating business. If it’s not your business, what do you do?

Common answers include…Brainstorming names with your team. Asking your best customers for a few thoughts. Employing web-based naming tools—hey, they’re free. Trusting your gut that, “this is cool.” Going social and crowdsourcing it. Calling in your advertising agency. Hiring a branding consultant.

The right answer for you, of course, depends on your needs, your budget and your timing. And for some, whether or not they’re feeling lucky.

Whatever direction you choose, luck should have nothing to do with developing a distinctive and memorable name and identity. You wouldn’t trust your business or your product engineering to luck, would you? Then why trust the brand naming process to luck? It’s that important.

What’s in a name?

Perhaps your very success.

Words and images matter. They separate the ordinary from the run-of-the-mill. They define and create brand value that drives right to the bottom line.

This is not just a basketball shoe, it’s the Nike Zoom Kobe IV – Black Mamba. Put this shoe on and “strike again” like Kobe.

The best way to ensure branding and naming success is to organize your efforts around a strategic approach.

1. Start with the customer

If you know me, or you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know how adamant I am that marketing—indeed all business—begins with the customer. All too often, businesses begin with a technology or engineering advantage and then belatedly back into the real consumer connections after the product development is nearly complete.

Don’t be that marketer.

Your job is to create an emotional bond. So, know your customer inside and out. Not just demographics. Know what makes them tick. Get inside their behaviors so well you can predict how they’ll act. Get inside their heads and identify with their psychographic makeup and lifestyle. Go where they go. Do what they do. Would you buy a hang glider from someone who had only read about it? I thought not.

Forget what you know and “ride the truck” to learn your brand experience from your target audience perspective. Go home, take your product instructions out of the box and see how long it takes your significant other, or better yet your neighbor, to put the thing together.

Break your customers into actionable segments: Who has the potential to bring you the highest sales, most profits, repeat business. Who are your influencers. Followers. See my earlier posting, “Find Your Segmentation Strategy Personality Type” for more.

2. Know your competition, know yourself

Certainly you already know who your competitors are, you also need to know how they compare to you and your products and services. Think of it this way, your business strategy ought to inform your branding strategy. Ask…

  • What your competition stands for and what your company and brands stand for, as well.
  • Compare mission/vision and corporate objectives
  • What area of the market space does the competition own and what’s missing in the market.
  • Your competitors’ Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. And yours.
  • Deconstruct the competition’s brand architecture and examine what their names convey, the positioning, the brand essence and promise, the structure, where they can go from where they are.

3. Communicate a compelling new idea

Now that you know your customer inside and out, and you know exactly where the competition stands, you’re ready to think about naming. Start by asking this simple, but singularly important, question.

What do I need my name to say?

The most powerful and most memorable names communicate a unique idea. They instantly tell your customer about you, how your brand is different, what benefits they’ll enjoy and create emotional connections that energize brand relationships.

Often, this is not an easy exercise. You first have to agree on how you’re positioning your product and what you want the name to say before you can create a framework for generating on-target names. Do it right, however, and you can lead the category.

4. Dare to be different

Safe is no place to carve out a new brand space. How many more “Ameri” companies do we need? Ameri-Force, AmeriGas, Ameri-Cure, Ameri-Floors, Ameri-PAC…enough already.

While being original, your new name needs an element of familiarity that instantly makes your audience at ease. Speaking of which, it should be easy to pronounce and spell as well.

5. Brand architecture is foundational

Does your name have to fit within a corporate hierarchy of other brands and products? How will your corporate brand and product brands relate and how will your product brands deliver on the corporate brand promise? Considering brand architecture upfront is the smart move and could save your business an unnecessary and expensive rebranding effort.

Generally, marketers use one of three major brand architecture approaches:

  • Monolithic, where the corporate name is used on all products and services the company offers. Think of “branded houses” like Virgin, composed of more than 200 companies—brands as disparate as Virgin America (airline), Virgin Galactic (space flight), Virgin Mobile (mobile phone service), Virgin Active (health), Virgin Wines (online oenology), Virgin Vacations (travel agency), Virgin Megastore (shopping) and Virgin Earth (environmental).

  • Endorsed, in which all sub-brands are linked to the corporate brand by means of a verbal or visual endorsement. Branding powerhouse, Apple, is a perfect example of the “house blend” approach where the Apple brand halo adds credibility to Apple Macintosh, Apple iPod, Apple iTunes and Apple iPhone.

  • Freestanding, where the corporate brand is essentially a holding company and each product line or service is branded separately for its target market. The “house of brands” parent gets little or no prominence over the sub-brands. Clorox is a “house of brands” company with many well-known product lines under its corporate umbrella, including: Brita (water filters), Burt’s Bees (natural products), Glad (storage bags), Hidden Valley Ranch (salad dressings), Kingsford (charcoal), S.O.S. (cleaning products), Liquid Plumber (drain opener), Scoop Away (cat litter) and, of course, Clorox (bleach).

6. Today local…tomorrow the world.

Even if your small business has no intention of growing outside your home town, don’t constrain yourself with small town thinking. Make sure your name can grow as your business grows in the future to regional, national and even international distribution.

A small, high-quality food delivery service based in Austin, TX could have called itself Austin Food Delivery. Instead the business owners identified a consumer niche, developed a novel business plan and branded themselves Casserole Queens. Their business idea can grow as far and wide as they want to take it. And the name instantly communicates what sets them apart.

While you’re thinking globally, avoid creating an international incident with you new name. Make sure it successfully crosses cultural, religious, linguistic and language boundaries as well.

According to Coca-Cola when bringing its brand to China, the closest phonetic characters translated as “K'o K'ou K'o LĂȘ,” meaning “bite the wax tadpole.” Later a more preferable definition was found, “to permit mouth to be able to rejoice.” Know before you go.

7. Be expansive.

Plan for product line extensions today. Right now. Before your first brand is even out the door. Swiffer now covers a host of cleaning solutions from sweeping to dusting to mopping—both wet and dry—all under the same brand architecture.

8. Own it or regret it.

Making a comprehensive legal search of the rights to your name should be part of your plan from the start. Sure it’s possible to use a name without trademarking it. You risk all the value you invest in your brand if another company can lay claim to it.

Brand naming agencies often supply legal search services or they can connect you with partners who specialize in the area. Sometimes your own lawyers can help. Your legal team should make a definitive search to asses whether a name is both available and whether it’s protectable (distinctive enough that you can “own” it).

Availability and protectability are not binary issues.

Sometimes an availability search will find no relevant hits. Other times it will disclose relevant hits and be unclear about the prospects of availability. It can also save you big trouble by identifying conflicting marks where extreme risk may be involved.

Some names may be unique enough that your attorneys will judge them strongly or likely protectable. Other times a name may be weakly or borderline unprotectable. Some may be likely unprotectable. The earlier you know, the better.

You can make a quick check can on Google. Add more depth by searching the United States Patent and Trademark Office database at But get professional legal help on this.

Make sure the domain is clear or available in the aftermarket before you fall in love with a name. Some places to check.

9. Test it.

See how your names connect and resonate with your key audiences. Budget may decide the level of research and statistical sophistication you apply. But avoid staying in-house. You’re too close. And be skeptical of focus groups where the dynamics may identify weak names yet are no guarantee of finding strong, original names.

10. Integrate it.

All your marketing efforts should speak with one voice. Integrate your branding by developing brand guidelines and make sure anyone who needs them has them.

Be prepared to spend behind the launch of your brand. Brand name associations are not built in a day. They take time and repetition, regardless of the media you employ.

Bring everyone aboard. Employees. Sales force. The board room. Partners and vendors. And, of course, your customers. Everyone should know what you and your brand stand for and how the name and identity deliver.

Don’t trust your brand name success to luck

Great names don’t just pop up—and your brand is too important to trust success to luck.

Many marketers, once they realize what’s involved in creating successful names, find that the professional help of an experience integrated brand marketing agency is well worth the investment.

However you approach your naming assignment, put these 10 tips to work and think strategically about your naming process to ensure a great foundation for business success.



Here are a few web-based resources you may find helpful.

All images and trademarks are copyright by their respective owners, including: Nike, Virgin, Casserole Queens, and Swiffer.

Blog content: ©2009 Paul J. Hydzik. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


Paul Hydzik grows brand value. As a brand marketer and award-winning creative leader, Paul has more than 15 years of experience driving business success from start-ups to blue chips. His strategic resume covers all aspects of B2B and B2C branding from go-to-market to consumer insight to identity development and all forms of marketing communication.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Social Networks Transforming Consumer Behavior

A new study shows the way consumers interact is changing. Marketers and advertisers will need to adapt their strategies in order to target and better engage.

The impact of the social media phenomenon on Internet usage is now harder to miss. A new study, “Global Faces and Networked Places: A Nielsen report on Social Networking’s New Global Footprint” shows the extent of the change. Member communities, which include social networks and blogs, are now the fourth most popular online category worldwide. They lead personal e-mail and are growing at a rate more than twice that of the largest sectors—search, portals and software.

Time on social sites growing 3X faster than Internet
Two-thirds of all Internet users visit a social network and social networking now accounts for nearly 10% of all the time spent online. According to the study, between December of 2007 and 2008, the total time spent online globally rose 18%. Member community sites, on the other hand, jumped 63%to 45 billion minutes. Facebook, which is leading the way globally, jumped 566%, from 3.1 billion to 20.5 billion minutes in that same time period.

Audiences now broader
The study also shows that as these networks become more mainstream, their audience composition shifts—becoming broader and more mature as well. As a result, marketers can now consider social media for products and services that appeal to a broader audience.

Points to a need for strategic change
The “potentially transformational change” in the way consumers interact, calls for a strategic change in the way advertisers and advertising approach their audience.

Nielsen noted several key challenges posed by social media marketing.
  • Media dollars spent so far aren’t commensurate with the size and engagement level of the audience.
  • Members have a sense of ownership around the personal content they provide and may be less inclined to accept advertising around it.
  • Network members may see highly-targeted ads as invading their privacy.
Five Strategies
The report identifies five strategies marketers may need to adopt to ensure success.
  • Work more closely with the networks. Because the networks need advertisers to monetize their audience and advertisers need the networks to go where their consumers are spending more time, programs that benefit both parties will have a major advantage.
  • Change the advertising model. The social network experience is diverse and that means that standard ad models will need to be set aside in favor of trying and testing new approaches.
  • Be conversational. The social world is one in which participating in a two-way conversation is the rule. The old push advertising model will not be effective.
  • Be authentic. At a time when traditional advertising is losing trust, word of mouth, humility and honesty—coupled with conversation—will be the norm.
  • Add value through interaction and consultation. Social networks thrive because members add value to each other’s lives through interaction. Marketing efforts should follow suit. Continual investment in time and effort—as opposed to purely financial—is needed to be of value to both partners.
Download the full PDF report and compare it with your social marketing plans. Are you on target?

Blog content: ©2009 Paul J. Hydzik. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


Paul Hydzik grows brand value. As a brand marketer and award-winning creative leader, Paul has more than 15 years of experience driving business success from start-ups to blue chips. His strategic resume covers all aspects of B2B and B2C branding from go-to-market to consumer insight to identity development and all forms of marketing communication.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Want to be more innovative? Be less comfortable.

The 80th birthday of one of America’s great architects, Frank O. Gehry, got me thinking about innovation. Where do great ideas come from? Are they born whole or do they evolve? What do they look, feel, sound like?

Innovation is hard. It’s also easy. All it takes is the ability to take a giant, uncomfortable leap.

Comfort has its places, but the realm of creativity and innovation is not one of them. So innovators learn to heave themselves out of their comfort zones and launch into rarified, never-been-done-before air without a net. Without censuring or conscious thought. Innovators put faith in their experiences, their talent, their team and process.

Is it any wonder why serial entrepreneurs succeed so often? They believe in the absolute fact that they’ve done it before and they’ll do it again, present comfort be dashed. The money isn’t bad, either.

Get outside your zone

Innovation is not about what you know. It is, however, a lot about what you don’t. So chuck the map, take the corner and GO!…up maybe, instead of left. Step outside your comfort zone and look for inspiration outside your field of expertise—away from your knowledge base.

What we know too often interferes with innovation. We acquire such vertical expertise that we get too close to a problem. We know all the reasons something won’t work and all the dead ends. Having a can’t be done attitude prevents us from making the giant leaps that true innovation requires.

So if you’re a geneticist, look at the work of a photographer. If you’re a photographer, read a book on physics. If you’re a physicist, study a book on Taoists. Oh, that’s right, physicist Fritjof Capra did just that, publishing The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism, a perennial bestseller translated into more than 20 languages.

A favorite source of inspiration

One of my favorite sources of inspiration is architecture. Like marketing, it combines business and aesthetics. It embodies emotion. Captures the imagination. Takes you places you’ve never been before. Inspires passion.

Arguably, one of the most creative and innovative architects of a generation is Frank O. Gehry. These masterpieces, which require immense computational power to plan and build, do not come from the mind of a computer genius. In fact, to this day, Gehry still cannot or does not use a computer in his work. Gehry’s innovations come from a mind that reveals itself in rough, childlike sketches. In these squiggles you can see the form of the new structure. The energy. The life.

Gehry is about creating, “an architecture rooted in the messiness of everyday life. His aim is to break down accepted social norms, to liberate the creative imagination.” His Disney Hall design was deemed, “a powerful and madly exuberant work.” (See “Review of Disney Hall: Reflection of the city around it” by Nicolai Ouroussoff, L.A. Times, Oct. 19, 2003.) His sketches prevent him from putting too many reality-laden parameters on the design while innovation is being born.

Watch Sketches of Frank Gehry – Bilbao and hear Gehry and others talk about the impact of his artistry. What’s amazing is that the Guggenheim at Bilbao comes from sketches like the one just below!

I like to put Gehry’s sketchiness and messiness to work when brainstorming creative solutions to marketing challenges. I like to forget what I know (those who know me might argue that this is especially easy for me) and assume, even if only for a moment, that it can be done and we’ll work out the difficulties later. That’s the way of innovation.

If innovation matters in your line of work—and frankly, I can’t think of an area in which it doesn’t—get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Photograph Disney Hall, Los Angeles, CA: ©2003 Paul J. Hydzik ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Photograph Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain, Getty Images/Dominique Faget/AFP

Ilustrations: Frank O. Gehry, courtesy of

Blog content: ©2009 Paul J. Hydzik. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


Paul Hydzik grows brand value. As a brand marketer and award-winning creative leader, Paul has more than 15 years of experience driving business success from start-ups to blue chips. His strategic resume covers all aspects of B2B and B2C branding from go-to-market to consumer insight to identity development and all forms of marketing communication.