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24 Quotes on Brand Conservancy

 

“It’s rarely one brand that knocks off another. Usually, brands succumb to self-inflicted wounds.”

See what I did there? I opened up this post about quotes from You Can’t Ride Two Horses with One Ass by branding expert Kurt Bartolich with a quote from the book.

 

The essence of the opening quote and of the book is brand conservancy. Protection. Vigilance. Curation.

Many branding books have been written on how to build a brand. Now we’ve got a clear and concise guide to nurturing and protecting our most valuable asset from the lack of discipline and understanding that devalue, if not destroy, our brand.

 

The book title itself is a quote. “I immediately recognized how it embodies everything I believe about branding,” Kurt writes in the opening chapter about the expression he heard an account manager use with a client.

And with that … two dozen quotes about brand conservancy from You Can’t Ride Two Horses with One Ass.

Continue reading

Personal Branding: Steelers QB Roethlisberger – Bad Boy or Dirt Bag?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are headed to another Super Bowl with Ben Roethlisberger at the quarterback position.  Roethlisberger’s already won two Super Bowl rings with the Steelers.  In those games, he set up wide receivers Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes as Super Bowl MVPs (in 2006 and 2009, respectively).

Big Ben Rothlisberger, QB, NFL, Steeler, Super Bowl, champion, Pro Bowl

NFL superstar, Super Bowl champion and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback "Big Ben" Roethlisberger

The Personal Brand

With due respect to defensive standouts Troy Polamalu and James Harrison (and to Polamalu’s insanely distinctive hair) – I suggest that Roethlisberger is today’s face of the Steelers franchise.

Physically large and notably tough compared to others who play his position, “Big Ben” seems a good fit for this role.  The city, the uniforms, the tradition – they all say “tough,” “blue collar,” “hard-nosed.”

Pittsburgh Steeler Quarterback Rides a Motorcycle

Roethlisberger's Personal Brand: Bad Boy?

With his penchant for riding (and crashing) motorcycles without a helmet, sporting sleeveless (cut-off) shirts, wearing his ball caps backward and sporting facial hair in various styles and stages of growth, Roethlisberger is Steelers football.  The only NFL locale more fitting for this might be Oakland, but Ben’s a Pennsylvanian who played college ball in Ohio.  He’s far more a Steeler than a Raider.

I could simplify Roethlisberger’s personal brand as NFL superstar, Super Bowl champion “bad boy.”

I could … but I won’t.  “Bad boy” is too cute and harmless.  Instead, I’ll go with “dirt bag.”

Please note: you are building your personal brand and your legacy every day.  They’re in every decision and every action you make, as well as in those you don’t.  You’re welcome to take control over your brand and your legacy, but know that they will be built whether or not you exercise any control over them.  Now, back to the current topic …

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Big Ben with women at the bar

Roethlisberger's Personal Brand: Dirt Bag?

The Dirt Bag Brand

Ben Roethlisberger drags around everywhere he goes the weight of multiple rape allegations.  To be fair, he’s never faced charges due to insufficient evidence.  He has, however, enjoyed a 6-game suspension from the NFL due to this behavior.  Not even a year after he claimed a Lake Tahoe woman’s allegations “false and vicious,” adding that he would “never, ever force (himself) on a woman,” he officially locked down his dirt bag brand in Milledgeville, Georgia.

Fact: this two-time Super Bowl champion, perennial Pro Bowl quarterback and multimillionaire had sex with a 20-year-old girl in a bathroom in a bar in rural Georgia.  Read that again, let it sink in, then proceed to the next line.

This is not a winning play.  In fact, it’s a guaranteed loser.  This time, it resulted in another rape allegation.  He admitted contact, but denied assault.  I hate to add this, but I must … this happened in a bar bathroom, not in a club, not behind a velvet rope, not in a VIP section, not in a private room, not over at a nearby condo or hotel room.  Consensual or not, this is dirt bag behavior.

Witnesses claim that Roethlisberger demanded “all you bitches, take my shots” at the bar (“Wow, thanks for the invite!” and “Will do, Big Ben!”) and that his bodyguards were blocking the bathroom door (“Please move along, nothing to see here.”)  Enjoy this video deposition from his accuser.

All these details aside, guilty or not, fair or unfair media treatment … Roethlisberger’s not in control of a winning brand.

By Comparison

A quick look at Roethlisberger’s Super Bowl champion and Pro Bowl quarterback contemporaries in the AFC shows the difference between a winning personal brand and a losing one.  Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts: generically All-American, son of an NFL legend, best athlete host of Saturday Night Live ever (a nod to the hilarity of Michael Jordan’s obvious discomfort as SNL host), pitchman for all kinds of common things.   Tom Brady of the New England Patriots: GQ cover guy, dated supermodels before marrying one, pitchman for high-end luxury goods and brands.  These Super Bowl MVPs (Manning in 2007 and Brady in both 2002 and 2004) have relatively clear brands.

Though young and not yet as accomplished, there’s AFC championship game competitor Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets: southern Californian and USC grad, third generation Mexican-American and serious playoff competitor with 4 wins in just 2 years … all on the road.

An elder who’s a fair comparison is also a Super Bowl champion, Super Bowl MVP and Pro Bowl quarterback who spent his career in the AFC.  Similar to Roethlisberger in physical size, throwing ability, willingness to take a hit and overall style of play, John Elway of the Denver Broncos: worst thing he was ever involved in was a Ponzi scheme … and he was the victim, serious enthusiasm, big smile, looks kinda like the horse he wore on his helmet.

Roethlisberger wears number 7 in Elway’s honor; too bad he doesn’t take Elway’s approach to personal responsibility.

To Summarize

As I argued a couple months back, when Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics refused to own his words, you have to own what you say and own what you do.  These decisions and actions define you.  You can use them to build, develop and enhance your personal brand or you can just let it all happen and deal with the consequences (“Drink Like a Champion Today”).

Having sex with a 20-year-old girl in a bathroom in a bar in rural Georgia  – consensual or not, with your bodyguards blocking the door or not – is always a losing play.

Being an incredible on-field performer buys lots of forgiveness, but it buys no respect.  To me, Big Ben’s brand is “dirt bag.”

To Provoke

Bad boy?  Dirt bag?  Other?  What’s Roethlisberger’s brand?

Was media treatment of Roethlisberger and the rape allegations fair?

Does off-the-field behavior of NFL players affect your thoughts or feelings about the players or the League in any way?

Have you read Jack McCallum’s Sports Illustrated cover story with the subtitle “An NFL Superstar’s Repulsive Behavior, the Ultimate Expression of Athletic Entitlement Run Amok, Has Forced Even the Most Die-Hard Fans to Question Their Team and Their Football Faith – and Made a Small Town in Georgia Wish He’d Never Paid a Visit” yet?

Groupon Investing in Traditional Media: Smart Play?

This morning I met for coffee a friend whose website I’m writing.  It’s a pretty casual shop that opens at 7am; the owner was still getting everything together at 7:05am.  Part of the process: firing up the music.

“I can’t think of it … what’s the radio on the internet?” she asked.  “Pandora,” I immediately replied without thinking twice.  “Yeah, that’s it,” she said, adding “I like Slacker, too.  It’s deeper.”

Pandora’s built from the Music Genome Project, which started in 1999.  In its current form with which you’re probably familiar, the website itself started in mid-2006.  In less than 5 years, then, “Pandora” has come to mean “radio on the internet” on a fraction of a moment’s thought.  I don’t even use Pandora and the connection is instantaneous.  That’s an important and impressive achievement.

If Pandora’s growing by anything but word of mouth, social networking and maybe some online banners, I”m not aware of it.  I’ve never seen an ad for it in any form.

Meanwhile, “the fastest growing company ever” is now “experimenting with what’s now typically referred to as traditional advertising – TV, print, radio, outdoor billboards – to maintain momentum.”  The former quote comes from a Summer 2010 story in Forbes; the latter comes from this week’s Ad Age.  Both are about everyone’s darling, Groupon, the company that can say no to Google and its $6,000,000,000.

Groupon, Collective Buying Power, logo, corporate logo, social coupon, group

Groupon and Traditional Advertising: Is that what it takes to be a premiere brand, a true household name?

Written by Rupal Parekh, the Ad Age piece is built on the fact that Groupon tried to buy Super Bowl ads, but settled for title sponsorship of the Super Bowl pre-game show because the in-game inventory has been sold out for months (at $2.8-3M per :30).  It goes on to detail their engagement with Crispin Porter + Bogusky for creative and talks with cable networks about their new agency Starcom.  It seems like they’re embracing establishment in hopes of becoming a premiere brand.

Attention traditional media: put Groupon on your “new client that’s ripe for courting” list.

Neither LivingSocial, Groupon’s chief competitor, nor Facebook, which has 50% more users at 600M than Groupon at 400M, has spent any serious cash on traditional media.  Apple, on the other hand, can’t be avoided if you watch an hour of prime time network television.  Google falls somewhere in between, but much closer to LivingSocial and Facebook.  Microsoft also falls somewhere in between, but much closer to Apple.

It’s worth noting that Pandora passed the 400M user mark more than a year ago, a mark Groupon hit at a much faster pace, achieving it in 2010.

Questions for You

Is the Super Bowl a smart play for Groupon?

Is traditional advertising still a basic requirement for a brand to become top-tier, to become a true household name?  Do the spend and presence add credibility to a brand?

Does Groupon need an agency, a creative shop and traditional media?  If so, why?  If not, how might tens of millions of dollars be better spent?

I’d really like to hear what you think – please leave a comment below.

Upside Down: Traditional Advertising Relationships

This is how many of my posts get started: I recognize a pattern, see the same thing in two different contexts, feel something developing or seek to answer my own question.  In this case, I started with a pretty big idea that connects two books I just read with one of Terry Heaton‘s mantras (clearly expressed here as “the second ‘bigger boat'”).

The books are “The Idea Writers: Copywriting in a New Media and Marketing Era” by Teressa Iezzi and “The On-Demand Brand: 10 Rules for Digital Marketing Success in an Anytime, Everywhere World” by Rick Mathieson; they’re remarkably similar and overlapping.  Terry‘s a thinker, writer and consultant at the intersection of media, culture and postmodernism.

The moment I knew I had to organize my thoughts on this post’s topic occurred immediately upon picking up the latest Advertising Age, which opens with this headline: “ABC, Syfy and Best Buy? Retailer launches network.”  The sub-head: “Electronics expert turns publisher with multichannel net packed with original content – and it’s seeking ads.”  Per the story, written by Natalie Zmuda, Best Buy’s content will be distributed as an “‘online magazine’ and a huge in-store component with its content and ad messaging ‘broadcast’ on screens across the store.”

So what?  Well, one of Terry’s favorite phrases is “the people formerly known as the advertisers.”  And that’s exactly what we have here.  Advertising relationships are turning upside down.

Best Buy, a significant newspaper advertiser (think: Sunday inserts) and national advertiser across various other media, is now producing and distributing its own content at least in part to sell advertising to other brands and marketers.  Rather than interrupting people gathered around someone else’s content (think: national television commercial in the middle of 30 Rock), they’re creating their own content, distributing it online and in-store and selling impressions to other advertisers.

house, upside down, design

Advertising relationships are turning upside down, much like this house designed by Klaudiusz Golos and Sebastian Mikiciuk.

Another example of a major national advertiser getting into the advertising game – as a seller rather than a buyer – comes from one of the two books involved here.  Mathieson’s “The On-Demand Brand” is built on dozens of examples, as well as on interviews with top-notch agency, creative and marketing types.  In the third chapter, Mathieson describes Johnson & Johnson‘s social networking site, BabyCenter, which reaches “78% of all online women who are pregnant or are mothers of children under twenty four months old in the US” (p 66).

J&J designs, manufactures, distributes and markets loads of products for this demo.  Since they’re successfully enabling and encouraging more than three quarters of all new mothers and mothers-to-be in America to produce and share content within a J&J social networking site, why would they spend a dime on national television or a national magazine?  They needn’t.  Instead, all J&J product promotion within the site is “handled as any ad buy from any advertiser would be – and the site even accepts advertising from other marketers” (p 67).  Upside down.

The third reference point, Iezzi’s book, is a broad overview of the state of affairs as concerns advertising agencies.  It, too, includes many examples – many of which are also used by Mathieson, often to illustrate the same points.  Because her book is more agency- and writer-oriented, though, her allusions to this trend focus more on the threat to agencies seeking to sell creative services than to publishers and broadcasters seeking to sell advertising space.

In her own words: “There’s a lot of content being made, and brands are going to be responsible for making a bigger and bigger share of it” (p 11).  In the words of Spencer Baim, co-founder of Virtue, a new form of agency:  “We believe that every brand must think and act like a media company … You want people to tune into your brand, not to push a message out” (p 114).  In both cases: advertisers are becoming content creators and publishers.  In the latter case: content is an inbound marketing play that trumps commercial interruption.

The Bottom Line

Increasingly, the advertiser need not interrupt an audience assembled by a traditional media company.  Instead, they’re producing, publishing and selling advertising around content of their own; they’re becoming media companies themselves.  I’d also speculate that their content is better optimized for customer conversion – and it’s closer to the point of purchase.

That’s to say someone “tuning in” to Best Buy’s online magazine or in-store video channel is more likely to convert from prospect to purchaser for a Best Buy advertiser like Toshiba than someone tuning in to 30 Rock on NBC.  That’s also to say someone reading a new mom’s blog post at BabyCenter is more likely to convert from prospect to purchaser for a BabyCenter advertiser like diapers.com than someone watching Dancing with the Stars on ABC.

As you can imagine, this is yet another threat to publishers, broadcasters, cable companies and various other outfits whose entire business model depends on revenue generated from traditional ad sales.

Related Ideas

>A separate post could be written about the people formerly known as the audience – based in the thoughts and writings of Clay Shirkey and echoed in The Idea Writers, The On-Demand Brand and Terry Heaton’s blog.  Note: these people are the ones filling J&J’s BabyCenter with relevant content.

>A separate post could be written about “advertising” – its former constraints (church and state separation of editorial and advertising) and its current and varied forms.  Former constraints: I did touch lightly on the “news” side a few months ago right here.  Current and varied forms: both books are stuffed with great examples.

>A separate post could be written about content and inbound marketing strategies mastered and taught by HubSpot.

>You can see more images and read more about the upside down house here at Xenophilia, a blog dedicated to “True Strange Stuff.”

>I absolutely love 30 Rock.  I completely abhor Dancing with the Stars.

BCS Football on ESPN: Another Blow to Broadcast TV

Right on schedule, the garbage bowl games keep rolling out across ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN3.com.  Fine, some of them are “intriguing match-ups” – I’m still not paying any attention to them.

The Bowl Championship Series games, though, are definitely worth sampling … with the obvious exception of Oklahoma versus Connecticut in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (automatic BCS berths are a true shame – Michigan State or Boise State should be in that game instead of UConn).  TCU versus Wisconsin and Auburn versus Oregon are both insanely promising on paper.

Sadly, though, I won’t be seeing a single down of a single BCS game this year.  I won’t see any next year, in 2013 or in 2014, either.  Why not?  Because they’re locked behind the paywall of a cable or satellite subscription.  I found no reference to online viewing through Google, Bing or ESPN site searching, so I presume that they’re either unavailable online or that there will be a subscription structure similar to Time Warner Cable’s deal with ESPN to deliver Monday Night Football online.  Regardless, there’s a cost barrier.

BCS logo, Bowl Championship Series logo, college football, national championship

BCS Football on ESPN: Another Blow to Broadcast Television

In November 2008, FOX and ESPN were battling for four years of BCS rights (2011-2014).  FOX’s offer peaked at around $100M/year.  ESPN won with a bid closer to $125M/year, for which they’re granted TV, radio, digital, international and marketing rights.  They’re even running the BCS website.  Here’s a little background about the battle and the conquest:

I missed this story in 2008.  It only came to my attention as New Year’s Day 2011 nears and I began assessing my college football viewing options.

My reaction to the BCS move to pay television passed from mild anger and disappointment through nostalgia to acceptance – this process took about 10 minutes.  The initial reaction was based on the fact that I only watch free, over-the-air broadcast television in beautiful high definition – the cleanest signal one can watch.  Our only content subscriptions are for a handful of magazines and for Netflix.

  • Note: I watch very little college football during the regular season, but I do like these end-of-season, cross-conference games between our nation’s best teams.
  • Also note: I grew up watching Big Ten football, am a University of Michigan alumnus and have seen many Rose Bowls (most of them ugly).
  • Final note: the Rose Bowl, “Granddaddy” of them all, has been broadcast free, over the air to the entire nation through broadcast networks since 1952; this run is now over.  Though ABC committed $300M over 8 years for the Rose Bowl through 2014, a clause in the ESPN deal allowed those games to be locked behind the paywall, too (ABC is the parent company of ESPN).

Some consequences for ABC/broadcast networks:

They maintain schedule continuity.  Football games interrupt normal schedules, are live and therefore unpredictable, often run long and require contingency planning.  I’m not sure that this is a positive or negative consequence; have you seen the broadcast network lineups?

They lose live, mass-audience events.  As internet delivery, advertising alternatives and reduced ad budgets continually encroach on broadcast, cable and satellite revenue potential, live event programming continues to be a strong point for broadcast TV.  The Super Bowl keeps setting viewership records.  The Oscar, Emmy and Grammy Awards broadcasts have all enjoyed very good rating results in recent years.  Mass is not just the strength of a broadcast network, it’s also its entire purpose.  This is a negative consequence.

They lose strong promotional platforms to support or launch the comedies, dramas and reality shows of which their prime time lineups are built.  Reaching young men through mass media has been difficult for more than a decade; college football gathers a mass audience with a strong concentration of this elusive target.  Given, most of them will ignore the network promos in commercial breaks.  Those pop-up animations under which the football announcers must uncomfortably read promo copy?  Can’t miss those, even if we ignore their calls to action.  This is a negative consequence.

Some consequences for ESPN:

They reaffirm their unbreakable lock on the image of “sports.”  They alone own it.  They own it outright.  ESPN is synonymous with and inseparable from sports.  They are access, analysis and all other things “sports.”  This was never really in question (a quick nod to, then chuckle at FOX Sports Network), but this contract is another pioneering achievement that fits perfectly with their entire reason for existence.  Specific to this situation and contract, ESPN completely owns every aspect of the Bowl Championship Series right now.  All consequences for ESPN are completely positive.

Some consequences for the BCS:

College football may lose a bit of cultural currency.  New Year’s Day belonged to college football; it took over all the broadcast networks all day.  Even as bowl games proliferated and bowl eligibility and invites became far easier for a team to come by over the past decade, all the best games remained on broadcast.  This is over.  Though power comes through focus, targeted delivery makes your offering easy to miss for peripheral fans and viewers.

To illustrate, here’s a snapshot of ratings results for NFL football relative to the Monday Night Football move from ABC to ESPN.  The single highest cable rating ever (15.3) was achieved with the Vikings-Packers Monday night game on ESPN in October 2009.  The best season of MNF on ESPN ever averaged a strong 10.4 rating (2009).  For reference, though, the lowest rating ever achieved when MNF was broadcast on ABC was a not-too-shabby 7.7 (Rams@Bucs, October 2004).  I could not find the lowest rated MNF game on ESPN.

The broadcast void from this MNF move from ABC to ESPN was filled with the inception of Sunday Night Football on NBC.  Obviously, the NFL recognizes the need – or at least benefit – of a prime time network showing.  SNF did not disappoint; it consistently delivers double-digit ratings, typically wins the weekly TV ratings race overall and has beat that highest cable rating ever (15.3) a half dozen times.  Per Ad Age’s “Annual 2011” issue, the average cost of a :30 commercial in SNF ($415,000) is $150,000 higher than an ad Glee and $210,000 higher than one in Dancing with the Stars.  By this measure, it’s the most valuable show on television behind American Idol.

Same product, similar packaging, different delivery – NFL football reaches more people on NBC than on ESPN, despite the fact that a Sunday night game concludes a long day of football while Monday night is a stand alone event.  A paywall blocks out casual fans.

All that said, this is only a slightly negative consequence that washes out when you consider the incredible strength and focus that ESPN provides.  The entire delivery and marketing of the Series falls under one roof – and that roof belongs to the world’s premiere sports brand.

The Bottom Line:

There’s no other way this could have gone.  It was a two-way race and the winner, ESPN, provides more money and more momentum for the BCS (through a focused brand and a comprehensive delivery and management offer).

The BCS on ESPN, though, is another blow to broadcast television.  Without live event programming, networks are playing to lose.  The broadcast revenue model depends on mass.

Had the contract instead been awarded to FOX – even at its lower price – the BCS would certainly have been a loss leader for FOX financially, just as Sunday Night Football is for NBC.  Still, these are the events that keep broadcast networks relevant as bolder concepts and smarter niche plays move to cable and satellite networks.

Related: the March Madness contract now spreads college basketball games across three cable networks in addition to CBS so that all the simultaneously played, early round games can be viewed live.  CBS, however, remains the sole spot for the final two weeks of play, including the entire Final Four.

Last Request:

I’ve not seen SportsCenter in a few years, but I can’t imagine why this offensive practice would have ceased.  ESPN: if you’re still running Dancing with the Stars highlights in SportsCenter, please stop.  It’s a ridiculous, shameful and transparent pitch to your parent, ABC.  The only time I want to hear about a former NFL player like Emmitt Smith is when he’s welcomed to Canton or, perhaps, in a highlight-for-highlight comparison showing how he was almost as good as Barry Sanders.

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