Tom Wingert is Marketing Manager of City Fitness. This week, he shares with us how his unique path led him to marketing in the fitness world and how he and his team seek to take a unique approach to standing out in a growing and somewhat crowded market. If you like our podcast, please subscribe and leave us a rating!

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The most fundamental brand architecture decision following and M&A event has to do with identity – the name, logo, and core message of the post-transaction company. In an M&A situation, there are 10 prevailing approaches – each with strengths and weaknesses. In this episode, we review what these options are and how to decide which approach is best for your specific situation. If you like our podcast, please subscribe and leave us a rating!

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In this episode, we interview Amy Kothari, CEO of My Alarm Center. My Alarm Center has grown and expanded into new markets by making strategic acquisitions throughout the years. Hear from this practitioner as she details how she and her team thought through the difficult decisions around brand architecture and identity. If you like our podcast, please subscribe and leave us a rating!

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With the increase of M&A activity every year, its shocking to hear that more than half of these decisions fail to create value for organizations. One often overlooked factor in a merger or acquisition’s success is the brand decision. In this episode, we look at the need for practitioners to understand the role the brand plays in a M&A situation. If you like our podcast, please subscribe and leave us a rating!

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Reeling from struggling earnings and loss of market share, GNC announced a “One New GNC” rebranding initiative, will it be enough to pull the brand out of its slump? If you like our podcast, please subscribe and leave us a rating!

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Bill Gullan: Greetings one and all. This is Real-World Branding. I’m Bill Gullan, your host an President of Finch Brands, a premier boutique branding agency. We were very happy to have you, and this is a fun time of year in our industry. There’s a lot happening in terms of new initiatives that clients and others are launching in advance of what they hope is a great year, and also one of the major rituals that brings about a lot of focus on brands and on marketing is the Super Bowl.

Word came down a couple weeks ago, I think, and actually the meat of this was happening between the Christmas and New Year holidays, was GNC, the major, I think they have 9000 stores worldwide or something big like that, maybe 4000 in the US, was going through and really put together an initiative geared toward a rebirth, bringing that chain out of the graveyard, and that may be an overstatement, a little bit reductive, but they’d had some trouble.

GNC’s been in financial trouble, perceptual trouble, and everything else for really 18 months or more, so it was long overdue for management and others to think about what GNC means in today’s commercial landscape, and how the company and the brand can regain some of the momentum that it had for many years before. So, they launched this new initiative. I think it was called “One New GNC” and it included a major store redesign. In fact, I think the entire, at least US store base, closed for a 24 hour period at the end of December to change over from old look to new look.

It also included a revamped loyalty program, and thankfully, an end to the practice of having different prices online and in store. A lot of changes and we know that these will be heralded, we hear at least, through a Super Bowl ad, the first in the company’s history that will design to bring to that huge audience word of the fact that their GNC experience is new and that folks ought to come back and give it a shot. I remember when Domino’s did that a couple of years ago. That’s worked, and we’ll get to that in a minute, but here we are with GNC and there’s a couple of questions that this raises from my perspective.

First of all, every couple years, it seems like a major brand – and Domino’s was one example, J.C. Penney is another example – goes through a spurt of big thinking that is designed to really transform a company in a category. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t, but the questions I have related to what GNC is doing is first of all, are they focusing on the right things?

There’s no question that the areas that GNC is addressing are areas in which it has fallen behind. The loyalty program previously was this weird thing – you get triple points on this day and double points on this day, and there were different levels. It was very hard to understand, particularly for a consumer that has been educated to expect, at least at mass interest retail, you get a loyalty card, you get a discount on certain products, you amass points that you can then spend or whatever the case may be.

GNC’s was very complicated. They’re focusing on bringing more technology to the store experience, so that’s good. They want to win back consumers that the company lost to other channels, but the question is does the world need a 9000 unit specialty vitamin supplement store? Its highest interest categories are widely available – they faced and one of the factors most seem to credit to their decline is tremendous competition – online and off, across food, drug and mass, including Amazon, of the basic categories, the vitamins and other things, whey protein that GNC made its name on.

I mean, GNC does have a vibrant private label program with I think it’s Mega Man and other brands that you can only get there, but the sense of their proprietary product excellence, I think it waned considerably. The fact that you could get good or better deals on what the marketplace thinks are very similar items in a variety of different channels. So, the question really is are they focusing on the right things and are they doing enough here that’ll really reverse the marketplace’s … I don’t think there’s hatred for GNC in the marketplace, but there’s a, ‘Meh, this brand isn’t current, relevant, necessary,’ and I’m not sure whether at least these first initiatives are really enough to address the downward trajectory that the brand has been on.

Secondly, and J. C. Penney certainly brings this up is will there be unintended consequences? We remember a few years back when Ron Johnson I think, the new CEO that came from Apple, at J. C. Penney, had a major initiative to really reinvigorate the retailer, and there were a lot of really interesting things. It was going to move more into a bazaar, a store within a store concept. It was going to be really interesting on the store design perspective, etc. But one of the things that led to this really flaming out quickly and the board having to respond, and to what the plan was, was that the company changed without much warning to its couponing structure. The company at J. C. Penney at least had really convinced and educated their marketplace to respond to a particular promotional approach.

While the vitamin/supplement category is large and mature, GNC’s position is volatile given this competitive dynamic, so the previous loyalty program was a strange concoction. It was, as noted, based on discounts, certain days, etc. The new iteration is much simpler, it makes much more sense, but there are some consumers, their core market, who are still big GNC customers who have been educated by GNC to shop a certain way, and now that’s changing, and how are they going to react when their patience or discipline or just basically the rituals that they’ve created around that loyalty program, when those are gone or rewarded differently?

J. C. Penney’s coupon clippers rebelled several years ago and it led to overthrow of the CEO and the company basically in a scared way saying, ‘Okay, okay, okay, we’re going to back to where we were.’ I’m not sure whether these unintended consequences will also befall GNC. I think there’s a strong likelihood that they will, because this is a struggling brand, but a big brand nonetheless and there’s millions of people who’ve been educated to shop a certain way and now they’re being told to shop differently, and we’ll see whether that takes hold.

Thirdly, just the fundamental question, is GNC a brand for this moment in our culture and in our commercial life? We noted that the category that they serve is large and mature. They may not be growing very fast, but there’s billions of dollars of business to be won and to be expanded upon in vitamins and supplements, but GNC is facing competitive pressures like never before, so in addition to the food, drug, and mass, there’s a ton of direct businesses that have proprietary approaches and really unique, or at least marketed as unique kind of product offerings.

The company, GNC, has stood for engineered nutrition, yet the data suggests that many consumers are heavily scrutinizing ingredient panels. They’re very skeptical of synthetic processes. So, in short, GNC’s still selling the power of science while the consumer culture seems to be all about the simplicity of nature. There’s a real question as to whether or not those eccentric rhythms of what consumers define as healthy accommodate GNC’s historic brand definition of what it means. Now, a ton of vitamins and supplements are always going to be bought, so it isn’t about the industry or the category going away. It’s about whether or not GNC can grow within it.

My three questions here, and they’re critical questions, is one, is GNC focusing on the right things? Is it a big enough change to right the ship? Two, are there unintended consequences that will compromise their efforts? Then three is, is GNC really just a brand for now? 9000 stores worldwide, 4000 in the US, and is that the right size of a business here that is facing crosswinds both of their making and not of their making? As noted, every so often this major company shifts direction. Sometimes the changes are too big, too fast, like J. C. Penney. Sometimes they get it right.

We mentioned at the beginning that Domino’s offered a multifaceted initiative that touched the product, it touched the promotion, and it touched the marketing, and Domino’s has had a tremendous resurgence. Sometimes the changes aren’t big or deep enough, and Sears and their many false starts is an example of this.

My fear is that GNC might at least at present, and it’s very early, my fear is that they may be falling into that category of changes that are welcome but not fundamental enough to reorient the trajectory of the brand and the business. As always, it’s very easy for me to sit here and sound off without either the dataset to illuminate these opinions, nor the responsibility to execute.

The management team in Pittsburgh is there, they’ve had their heads down, studying the business, talking to consumers, and so they deserve a chance to see what happens here. Yet, my sense is that GNC plan is more cosmetic and the issues are more fundamental. The CEO of GNC admits that the model is ‘badly broken.’ I’m not sure this ultimately is a big enough fix for a retailer with fundamental problems.

So, we’ll leave it right there. That’s One Big Idea for this week. We’re so glad that you’re with us, and we’ll sign off from the Cradle of Liberty.

The post One Big Idea: Rebranding GNC, A Recipe for Gains? appeared first on Finch Brands.

Much has been made of the NFL’s early season ratings drop and subsequent recovery, with explanations ranging from the situational to the fundamental. We take a look at the state of the NFL’s brand and how cultural trends are shaping the future of the league. If you like our podcast, please subscribe and leave us a rating!

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With less than two weeks until election day in the US, we take a look at the role and effectiveness of campaign slogans across the years. With unique insight provided by the glimpse into the Clinton campaign and the road to the final slogan, we take a nonpartisan look at branding presidential candidates. If you like our podcast, please subscribe and leave us a rating!

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Bill Gullan: Greetings one and all, this is Real-World Branding, I’m Bill Gullan, President of Finch Brands, a premiere boutique branding agency and this is One Big Idea. Here we are, less than two weeks away from election day in the U.S. and the presidential election and really important elections at all levels.

We’re here in Pennsylvania so we have a pretty close Senate race as well as a bunch of other things to really look forward to and everyone’s talking about it. Both the presidential campaign and all the way down. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how one looks at it, it’s all going to be over in about two weeks we think, we’ll see if there’s any hanging chads but doubtful given where the polls look today.

We will do a postmortem after the election on the role of branding in the 2016 campaign. I was looking back at a previous episode of Real-World Branding that we recorded in I think it was May, it might have been March of 2015 during which we discussed with Matt Lewis, who’s a CNN commentator and political analyst the slogan and brand approaches of the candidates who had already declared at that time, so we did include Hillary.

That was pre-Trump, though, so we didn’t get too deeply into the approach that the Trump campaign was going to take. I’m not sure they knew at the time, but we talked about probably 10 or 11 different candidates and I can’t wait to look back and to listen to that again to see what we got right and what we got wrong.

One of the things that’s been really interesting about this election season is the glimpse into the Clinton campaign that has been provided through WikiLeaks. By whatever means they acquired these, and somewhat nefarious perhaps, but either way we’ve had really unprecedented access, a window into the decision making of senior staff, their frustrations, their exhalations, and everything in between.

One particular exchange that I’ve been interested in and been thinking about was a release of a list of I think 84 different slogans or taglines that have been presumably tested and considered for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. I think they were going through a relaunch at that point, one of many I guess. They were looking to really solidify the slogan that they were going to take through the end of the primary and into the general and I think there were 85 different options that had been put together by her polling firm and the senior staff was circulating this and they were scheduling a meeting to discuss it. So we can’t hear all the discussions in the meeting but we can certainly look through these different slogans and see where they were thinking and what their directions were.

What’s interesting about political slogans, and the role of slogans and brands on presidential campaigns, is that they do work similarly to that of our corporate clients – whether it’s products or companies and the way they think about taglines. We spoke a couple weeks ago about the possible uses of a tagline, when to have one, when not to have one, what are some great ones over history, what are some of the ingredients of a great tagline, but when it comes to great taglines or certainly political slogans, what you’re really looking for is the right joining of the person in the moment, or in the case of corporate clients, the company or product in the moment and the culture.

We’ve talked from among our clients a couple of taglines from the past that really we were very proud of or Join In, Geek Out for ThinkGeek that was really designed to suggest the roll of the company in bringing together geeks of various types and we all have the geek inside of us and let’s share and become part of this community and raise our hand and say this is what we value and also there was a moment, and is a moment in our culture where geekdom is being celebrated so that’s a tagline that, not only in terms of it’s cadence as effective, but it really does connect company and cultural moment.

Another one we were proud of is you got this for the Scucci brand of Conair and it was really drawing on confidence as a way of connecting with the modern, feminine creed today and connecting that to what Scucci products do and so those are taglines that we’re proud of. In part because they encapsulate the unique product attributes or corporate values of our client and the moment that’s occurring culturally.

I think the best political slogans are like that too. It’s that intersection of the candidate and what they stand for, both in terms of policy but also personal characteristics and the moment in the electorate. A lot of ink, or pixels, have been spent talking about the nature and the mood of the electorate this year, and that’s obviously been a really important factor in the rise of the Sanders candidacy and certainly the Trump candidacy and well beyond.

When we look at what the best slogans are or best taglines for candidates, they tend to be this organizing principle for a candidacy. They’re not too detailed, but they express the personality of the candidate as well as an overarching key theme that links together their policy proposals and their beliefs and all that they are and all that they want to do. It really is that intersection of how the electorate is feeling and what the person who’s running is promising to provide, and we look at a few of these over history, those that were particular effective were at the very least memorable.

Going back to 1984, Ronald Reagan running for reelection, ‘It’s Morning Again in America’ was a campaign slogan that really registered and has withstood the test of time. Reagan was appealing not only because America had come out of the economic malaise of the late 70s and had restored economic growth by 1984. Also a bit of a swagger and sense of pride and purpose and patriotism was back. It also connected to Reagan’s, and again whatever you think politically about all of these things, Reagan projected kind of the sunny, optimistic, idealized view of American patriotism and purpose and so Morning Again in America in 1984 was a really strong encapsulation of a man and a moment.

In 1988, when George Bush, we call him Senior, he’s not really Senior but when George Herbert Walker Bush ran for the presidency talking about a ‘Kinder, Gentler Nation,’ not only did that reference his personality, which in some ways was portrayed to his detriment, but that of being an experienced, gentle, almost courtly soul. While at the same time was suggesting that with the Cold War near its end, that America could begin to focus a little bit inward. Some of the soft underbelly of the Reagan years was some concern when it comes to poverty, when it came to AIDs, when it came to the more vulnerable in the U.S. This Kinder, Gentler Nation that George Bush was championing in 1988 stuck and became a really strong connector between the person and the political moment.

Then 2008, President Obama’s ‘Change We Can Believe In,’ ‘Hope’ and ‘Change,’ a lot of the words that were important currency for the Obama movement both in 2008 and in some ways in the present day. Change We Can Believe In was a slogan that encapsulated not only, what at that time after the financial crisis really in the throws of it and everything else, was a significant desire for a change in trajectory within the country, also fatigue certainly at the end of the Iraq War and the Afghan War and the 7 years after 9/11. This was all wearing thin. The electorate was craving change and Change We Can Believe In, in terms of President Obama, his unique talents and his characteristics, what he represented and what he brought forth into the electorate at that time. Change We Can Believe In is another example of a slogan that really stuck and was very apt for both the candidate and the moment.

Moving on to Hillary. The list that they provided has, let’s see 3, 6, 9 different buckets. They put these into categories. Actually it’s funny because we do this sometimes for clients too so it’s interesting to see how political consultants portray this. There are 9 different buckets and there’s like 84, 85 tagline options overall. One bucket is Fairness and Families. The next bucket is Fighter. The next bucket is Basic Bargain, Making America Work. The next is Strength. The next is Results, etc. etc. On the list, embedded within these 80 some options was the one that they eventually chose to move forward and that their using now which is ‘Stronger Together.’ The slogan of the Clinton campaign is ‘Strong Together.’

I think the question ought to be asked at this point, again regardless of ideology or policy or what happens two weeks from now is, was this the right choice? I guess you could say every choice was right if a candidate wins or every choice was wrong if they lose, but from a perspective of how we’ve defined slogans and their advocacy in terms of meeting the candidates unique characteristics and attributes and the moment within the electorate; is Stronger Together, a strong choice for the Clinton campaign?

One could argue that it represents the moment. Stronger Together speaks to multiculturalism and a focus that is very significant right now, an identity in how the American tapestry includes folks of various types, diversity, a lot about income inequality and what to do to make America’s playing field more level. A notion that the Clinton campaign represents about well chosen, collective government action. Stronger Together may represent, to a degree, the moment. At least some of the elements of the moment. I would argue, however, though that it maybe doesn’t represent the candidate as well as the most successful slogans do.

Hillary Clinton for all of her successes has never really been a unifying figure. She is thought to inspire great loyalty but also strong dislike among her political opponents. Several of the moments in which she faced the greatest amount of trouble in this campaign were when she called half of Trump’s supporters a ‘basket of deplorables’ when she said she was going to put coal miners out of business, when there was controversy over the use of her term ‘super predator’ when it came to the crime bill that the Clinton administration passed in the 90s. The moments of weakness for her have really not been about bringing people together, but separating and stigmatizing them.

However, her strength has always been, I would say and I think even Donald Trump said this when asked the question in I guess it was the second debate to say something nice about ones opponent. He suggested that she’s very persistent and that she fights. She doesn’t give up. When I think about the Hillary Clinton brand and what represents the candidate most effectively from that list of different buckets of taglines is the notion of a fighter.

When she thinks about this mission that she seeks to undertake on behalf of the middle class and other marginalized groups in the U.S. and to fight for families and fight for women and fight for equal opportunity for all, it seems that not only is that a helpful encapsulation of her energy and her animating spirit and her career, it also may go even a little bit further than Stronger Together towards the notion of a very restive electorate and the moment in which we find ourselves.

I would say, I don’t know if there was a better option when we go through the list, that Stronger Together, again though it may be attached to a candidate who rides all the way into the White House, maybe isn’t an example of a transcendent slogan that is just right for a moment and for a candidate that will be remembered long into history. I think in some ways it doesn’t reflect how most of us think about Secretary Clinton in terms of her career and her values, attributes, benefits, etc.

Now, that being said, we might as well look at the slogan of her primary opponent, her major party opponent, Donald Trump. I would argue, again, putting ideology and personality and everything else aside, we’re talking about branding here. That ‘Make America Great Again’ is a much stronger brand expression than Stronger Together.

We could argue as to whether or not we believe it or agree with it but, again, we talk about this meeting of candidate and moment. Let’s talk about the moment. We know, and the data suggests, that there are many, including Bernie Sanders supporters as well as Donald Trump supporters, as well as others who don’t think America really works well today. That it isn’t fair, that it’s rigged or whatever the word is – and I’m not talking about voting booths or ballot boxes but just the whole American system of government and economics.

Make America Great Again is a call to action to those who feel the America they knew has slipped away and the data suggests a lot of people feel like that. For some it hearkens back to a time of simpler values and greater confidence, a return to American confidence and purpose and focus.

Then when it comes to the candidate, Make America Great Again really connects in some ways to the man himself. Make is an active, doing, energetic word. It’s an imperative. As Trump fashions himself as a doer, a builder, an outsider, some have called him a ‘blue collar billionaire’ because even though he is, perhaps, part of the elite financially that he claims to revile and oppose this.

He really shows his insecurities and he’s very human and he cares a lot about status, and he cares a lot about a bunch of different things and he has a lot of concerns about his own place in the world. He’s very human in that way. I think Chris Matthews on MSNBC compared him to Frank Sinatra, as somebody who, again, obviously very financially successful but really wears his insecurities also in the case of Sinatra there were some shady dealings beneath the surface that were sort of made him rougeish, almost a little bit charming in a strange way, so I see that comparison to Trump.

Make American Great Again is polarizing, but I would argue that it’s polarizing because of the man, all that he has done and has said and all that he represents. There is an undercurrent that those who, there are many who don’t see the America he wants to go back to as a place we remember necessarily very fondly, certainly not by everybody and there are certain groups that find that whole notion of some sort of America restoration to be very off putting for understandable and powerful reasons, but just from a prospective of a slogan battle, this may bear out in two weeks, Trump’s in my opinion will be far longer remembered historically and is a better encapsulation of unique candidate attributes, as well as the electorate and the moment in time in which we find ourselves.

Anyway, WikiLeaks is giving us a fascinating looking into how candidates are packaged. There’s two weeks to election day. We’ll see what happens. We’d love to hear comments about your thinking about this. I don’t want to hear ideological comments or pitches on behalf of one candidate or another. This podcast is about branding and about the art and science of building strong brands and businesses and so to the degree that people want to weigh in on slogans, both through political history or this year, or taglines that they think are particularly powerful, we’d absolutely love to hear it and continue this dialogue moving forward on Real World Branding.

We will sign off from the cradle of liberty, happy fall.

The post One Big Idea: Slogans for President appeared first on Finch Brands.

As the company and business model evolves, MetLife recently debuted a new brand identity – the first major marketing change for the life insurance company in 30 years. With the rebrand, MetLife has chosen to part ways with Snoopy and the Peanuts gang. At a time when the Peanuts brand is surging after a renaissance, what does this move mean as the brand moves forward? In this week’s episode, Bill provides comment on the rebrand and decision to drop Snoopy. If you like our podcast, please subscribe and leave us a rating!

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Bill Gullan: Greetings one and all. This is Real-World Branding, I’m Bill Gullan, president of Finch Brands, a premier boutique branding agency. Today is One Big Idea. Forgive us, if you would, we’ve taken a few weeks away from this with a promise of getting back to it in earnest as the fall continues. This is, unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how one looks at it, the result of a busy life here at Finch Brands as projects come and go and clients certainly occupy a lot of the head space and hands and resources over here. Sometimes that leads to us having to shift our schedules a little bit, but we’re back.

This week’s topic is something that actually broke this morning it seems. At least, I became aware of it this morning. We were talking about an article, I think from last week, about the Peanuts brand and how it really was a moment of renaissance for a deeply cherished brand that’s been around many decades. There was a big movie last year that I think did a couple hundred million. There was a TV show as a result of it. There’s some interesting campaign work around Rock the Vote and other kind of civic yet non-partisan issues where you see the Snoopy character.

This is a brand that’s definitely on the move and has contemporized in some ways. I’ve got to say, and we’ve spoken about this before on Real-World Branding, that I really appreciate the approach Peanuts taken compared to the Muppets, to pick another example of a brand that was occupied as a special place in the perception of families yet more recently has really turned their back on that equity which led to what one could only probably conclude as a money-grab. The more recent Muppets TV show that was far more adult in content and it disappeared very, very quickly. You know what, they probably deserved it.

To their credit, Peanuts, while updating some elements in terms of technology and some of the visual aesthetic, Peanuts has stayed sweet. The brand has stayed true to its roots and its emotional feel of being innocent and sweet yet atmospheric in some ways a bit melancholy, a little bit sassy depending on the characters that we’re talking about. Seeing the Peanuts movie with my daughter, who at that time, I guess, was four, probably about five, it felt like a really fun opportunity to share something with her that was appropriate for her age. In any case, Muppets didn’t do that, but Peanuts has.

The news broke this morning that maybe the most significant and best known marketing partnership that Peanuts has had, and Snoopy in particular has had with the insurance company MetLife, the company is moving on. That partnership is no more. Snoopy and MetLife are parting ways. Hopefully both retreating or moving in the direction of great success and it’s a break up, ‘it’s not you, it’s me,’ but Snoopy and MetLife not together anymore. We dug around a little bit and of course some of the stories about this were more humorous, but in our world, it’s a big deal.

It seems that MetLife has gone through a re-branding process that went live today. The company put forth a press release and other content. I think they’ve changed the website and the app and some of their other easier to change touch points to a new logo, new message, new tagline, and everything else.

When you read their press release, Esther Lee, who’s the chief marketing officer, spoke about the fact that the world is changing and that the company took the opportunity to spend a lot of time with people around the globe. I think 55,000 people is what the press release said in terms of those who were part of the process, their customers around the world. They found that there was a really all-encompassing desire to demystify and cut through what is an overwhelming existence today of how quickly things are changing and looking for partners to trust to help them navigate these changes is what the company said.

The new tag line is ‘Navigating Life Together,’ which is directly from this consumer insights process it seems. The new logo in this re-branding effort is, you know, the logo’s okay. It’s got some blue. It’s got some green. It is what it is. It seems to track very clearly and strongly with the direction of the brand that they’re seeking to make. I think maybe even more importantly for consumers of the life insurance category and insurance in general, the company’s really making reference to changes that are coming in terms of the customer experience and across touch points.

metlife rebrand

It was interesting to read what Esther Lee said about how the Snoopy affiliation and the Peanuts connection, which really began perhaps 30 years ago or so. At the time, the Snoopy connection was really about a desire on the part of the company to make MetLife and the category a bit more friendly and approachable in a time when the insurance and financial services industry in general was seen as kind of cold and corporate and to use the company’s word a little bit ‘distant.’ They used Snoopy over a couple of decades to help, again, create a bit of a friendly and approachable face to what is serious business and often fairly dense to those who don’t know much about it.

The company’s re-brand is designed to herald, or at least they claim, is heralding a shift, in terms of the way they do business and the way they think about product development, the way they think about interacting with their customers. I guess the overriding lesson here is that I love Snoopy, but really to what MetLife says it will do, it’s time to break free. I applaud them for doing so decisively. This is a long time in coming.

Life insurance has a clear marketing template, it’s gauzy emotional pictures of families with the unspoken sense that things happen and that we’re here when it counts. This is a template. Everybody, at least the larger advertisers in the business, seem to communicate in a very similar way. The selling structure within life insurance is almost a cliché at this point. It’s the insurance guy or gal at the party who’s always selling. There’s a lot of fine print. There’d been a lot of legal actions over the years about consumer awareness of some of these elements of legal contracts in the insurance marketplace.

This is a category that, by virtue of doing business in an old-school way, may not be as educational or consumer-friendly as it has the potential to be, so it’s exciting that MetLife is, at the very least, thinking about doing this a little bit differently. I guess the proof will be in the pudding about exactly how that takes place and what that means for folks like you and me who are out here trying to protect our dreams and our family and our most important assets.

If that’s true and if MetLife is truly thinking differently about its business model and trying to up-end some of the ways in which insurance in the life insurance category has marketed and interacted with the consumer, then it is absolutely the right time to think differently about their most high-profile marketing partnership.

What did Snoopy really earn for the brand today? Maybe 30 years ago, it created a smile and a greater connection and sense of friendliness, but more recently, certainly eyeballs, recognition, some vague sense of, you know, if you like the Peanuts brand, then maybe that led to some preference for MetLife, but generally speaking, it’s time to move on.

When we have cherished brand assets, whether it’s logos or names or specific marketing partnerships or ad campaigns, whatever it is, that are well-recognized and have a life of their own in terms of how seriously and deeply they are valued by the company, sometimes it’s hard to evolve. Some of these deeply cherished brand assets are incompatible with brand evolution.

We spoke on an earlier podcast episode about how brand strategy and brand identity evolutions can be a catalyst to herald and underline shifts in business strategy. Well, the opposite of that can be true. Sometimes shifts in business strategy don’t take hold or can’t manifest themselves as strongly if they are cloaked within the familiar to too strong a degree.

We applaud MetLife. I’ll say ‘I.’ I’ll speak for myself, because, as with everything else, this is a topic where I’m sure there are opinions all over the map, but I applaud MetLife. I wish them the best. I think all too often one goes through some degree of change merely for the sake of change.

Despite the fact that we do a lot of work around brand evolution, strategically and creatively, we never want our clients just to change for the sake of change. Sometimes you need to do a cosmetic re-branding to contemporize your look and feel, but brand is not the way for an executive to make their mark – if that’s the only reason or for a company to do something different. The look and feel has to be tied to something significant, something greater. It seems in the case of MetLife, the re-branding process and the difficult, I’m sure, decision to move away from their relationship with Peanuts is an example of this.

Applause for MetLife. We’ll certainly be watching. We wish them the best and, of course, Peanuts certainly doesn’t need our best wishes, because they are a juggernaut when it comes to family-friendly entertainment and other programming. Our sense is that everyone will be just fine. Every now and then there are really interesting branding questions like this one and so it’s fun to think about and talk about.

As always on Real-World Branding, there’s three ways to support what we’re doing. We’d love it if you’d click the subscribe button, so even if we take a few weeks off, you won’t have to wonder when that next episode’s going to come in, because as soon as it’s available, if you’re subscribing to it, it’ll download into the device of your choice. We’d love a rating if we deserved in the app store of your choice. We understand that that does help, particularly for those that rate us highly, others to find us who may find some interest and joy in this content. Lastly, let’s resume or keep that dialogue going on Twitter @BillGullan or @FinchBrands. We always love ideas for guests and topics and questions and everything else.

As fall is here and leaves descend, we’ll sign off from the Cradle of Liberty.

The post One Big Idea: A (Met) Life Without Snoopy appeared first on Finch Brands.

In this week’s episode, Bill examines the factors that are critical to deciding whether or not a tagline is appropriate for a brand. If you like our podcast, please subscribe and leave us a rating!

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Bill Gullan: Greetings one and all. This is Real-World Branding. I’m Bill Gullan, President of Finch Brands, a premier boutique branding agency, and this is One Big Idea. We’ve heard a lot recently in our own work and just, scanning the inter webs and other media sources, about taglines, for whatever reason. A question we get a lot, and it’s a good one, is do we need a tagline during a re-branding process or, just in general, when folks are approaching their marketing efforts and their identity?

There’s a couple of different dimensions to this. First of all, I think the general, overarching principle is that taglines do seem to be less important today. A lot of the famous best taglines that you hear are, frankly, old. These existed in the times when brands communicated in print or via major TV spot moments where they was a lot of copy and a lot of script, and really, a tagline was used to encapsulate the whole idea. Some of the famous taglines of old came to life that way.

Many of the taglines that today are regarded as among the best and in some ways it’s because of their longevity. They’ve become inseparable from the brands to which they’re attached. There aren’t that many of those. There’s a lot of ones that when you read top hundred list or whatever it’s the same ones over and over again.

A couple other reasons I think that taglines seem to be less important. One is that, as noted, as we’ve moved away from these big anthem level brand campaigns being the center of folk’s marketing budget, we’re dealing with small screens.

You’re dealing with a hundred and forty character limits. You’re dealing with different methods of delivering messages, social media, etc, that maybe aren’t as conducive or don’t require the delivery of a tagline alongside the core messages of an idea. In some cases, if it’s a banner ad for example, it’s just too crowded. You don’t need to stick another line of copy on there. The name’s enough. People are able to experience it in context.

The second piece is that, often, brand communications are found in a commercial context that encapsulates what a company does and is trying to communicate. If you are searching on Google for x, y or z, it is the algorithm that will get you there, not some fancy tagline that is designed to express clearly what the name of the company and what the brand of the company is trying to accomplish. The addition of context particularly in the digital realm and particularly on mobile, provides a release valve where you may not need a tagline to get your message across.

The third thing that we see is reducing the necessity or the frequency of tagline development is, brands today are about values, about personalities, maybe more than product differences and core feature identifiers. Some of the greatest taglines in history, and we’ll go through them in a minute, where really built upon one feature based point of interest. ‘Great taste, less filling.’Where’s the beef.’ These are classic taglines that were really used as positioning ladders to get across a core differentiable element. The fact that brands are communicating at a level more of values and lifestyle, larger thematic approaches makes at least that type of tagline a little bit less appropriate and related.

Lastly, and before we move into answering that question of should we or should we not, brand has gotten more flexible. Consistency still matters a lot obviously when it comes to message and color and personality and tone, but there’s also a strong emphasis on brands not trying too hard, not delivering an imperative to their audience, not top down.

The fact that social media and other elements have made the brand conversations more of a dialogue than a dictation or an imperative has made it so that taglines often come across as being a little bit too eager. You don’t see fashion brands that are designed to have this mystique, ever really taglines. It’s fashion brand x, ‘providing the best shirts,’ you don’t see that. it just doesn’t work.

The brand nature of the dialogue today and the way strong brands are built and constructed are with flexibility as well as with authenticity. Taglines, may to a degree, rob that, if not well executed.

These are reasons why taglines seem to be less important, but now to the fundamental question and the topic and the title of this One Big Idea, which is do we need a tagline? The answer of course is situational and it depends. I think there are four primary reasons to think about. In terms of a checklist, if the answer to these questions or one of them is yes, then maybe you should consider developing and using a tagline as part of your identity – either locked up with it or in a prominent place alongside of it.

The first is does the name of the brand require some degree of modification in context that advances a position? One example, and there’s a ton of them, that’s close to home here is Finch Brands. We have a tagline that’s ‘Building brands for the real world.’

What we wanted to do and accomplish through that and the reason we developed a tagline was that the name Finch Brands doesn’t necessarily say exactly what we do nor does it define, by itself, what is distinctive and memorable about us, what makes us different. The use of a tagline is that next level of positioning detail alongside a name that isn’t as directly descriptive, was an important and is an important part of our brand expression at Finch.

I think you can think of a lot of different companies. Some have proper names. Others may have names that are more general, where a tagline is used to deliver a more specific and descriptive message, while also advancing a core argument of the brand. If the name needs additional description and modification and it exists in a context that doesn’t automatically have that built in, a tagline is worthy of consideration.

The second thing to think about are taglines that evoke a feeling. One of the most famous is ‘Just Do It.’ Nike is the Greek goddess of victory. The name in and of itself didn’t mean anything. Then again, Nike starting in track and with marathon runners, did have a context surrounding what it was doing, but Nike wanted to advance a system of belief and a feeling, a personality and Just Do It was a way of expressing that.

One category that does this, I think, very well actually is the insurance category. Some of the best known and best regarded taglines come from insurance. ‘Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm is There.’ ‘You’re in Good Hands with Allstate.’ ‘Nationwide is on Your Side.’ These are enduring taglines that, yeah, they lean into the category of service or product that’s being offered but they’re designed to evoke a feeling that is central to brand differentiation and identification. The second reason to consider a tagline is if you really find it to be competitively relevant to evoke a distinctive feeling or personality. A tagline may be a good way to do that.

Third, and I think very importantly, is a tagline has the ability to herald a shift in brand strategy. Two examples from our recent past. Fathead, known for vinyl wall graphics of various types, started originally, at least was the core of their advertising approach was, life-sized NFL wall decals. When we were working with the brand it became clear both from our research as well as what they were doing, that Fathead was a lot more than life-sized NFL wall decals.

First of all it wasn’t just NFL. It was across the sports world, across the entertainment continuum with a fully integrated custom offering so you could have your daughter’s soccer team or anything else. Certainly the licenses were extending into Disney princesses and other characters. The brand was a lot more than the context in which consumers held it, that was largely of Fathead’s own making.

Their original tagline was, ‘Real Big.’ When we began to work with them and as a brand strategy and communication strategy shifted more in the direction of promoting the full diversity of the line of offerings that fathead could bring to market, in addition to just different characters and different images, Fathead had a ton of different sizes. The Real Big product was the one with which it was most intimately associated, but Fathead was a lot more than that.

In fact to drive the business forward it was important that the marketplace understand that Fathead was more than about life-size wall graphics, because how many places can you really put one in a house? Maybe you have a so called man cave where you can put three or four that’s dedicated to watching sports or whatever but most people don’t have that. It was important that the marketplace understood that Fathead wasn’t just about this, really high intensity but exclusive product application.

The tagline had been Real Big, as noted, but then as the brand strategy shifted, and as we helped Fathead shift the brand strategy, the tagline shifted into ‘For Real.’ It was Fathead, For Real. The idea there being not about size but about the vivid nature of the graphics and how they were represented and delivered across entertainment and athletic franchises and across product sizes and formulations.

A small shift in tagline from Real Big to For Real, heralded a shift in brand strategy and in communications emphasis. It was a very good use not only of a tagline but an example of how a tagline can help shift brand strategy. The company name wasn’t changing, the brand equity was a tremendous asset for Fathead, but they just needed to contemporize it and shape it in a way that helped the business grow. A tagline was indispensable to that.

Another example, is, we’ve talking about it on this podcast before, ThinkGeek, ecommerce purveyor of licensed and home grown merchandise for the geek in all of us, was really undergoing a major shift at the brand strategy level. Again, not changing name but at the brand strategy level it was shifting from this out of date perspective of a geek as a pejorative term of a socially awkward, inwardly focused person living in a parent’s basement and communicating with a small group of folks over a game of dungeons and dragons.

That was the old version of geek. The new version of geek was embracing this moment of sharing and community and Comic-Con and all these things that had made ‘geeking out’ the verb of choice to describe going deep with your passions regardless of whether they were traditionally geeky or not. In addition to the rebranding at the visual identity level and everything that came along with it, we shifted the tagline.

The original tagline had been ‘Stuff for Smart Masses.’ Emphasizing that old school version of geek as being smarter than everybody else and snarky. It was a play on smart asses, smart masses, but the new tagline which was designed to really usher in this era of geek as a verb, geek as a high social currency, very active community driven reality, became ‘Join in. Geek out.’

It was a subversive nod to Timothy Leary for those who got it, although I’m sure most in the target market didn’t, but Join in. Geek Out. was welcoming. It was about sharing. It was about geeking out and going deep with the things that you love. That was another example from Finch’s recent past of using a tagline to cement a meaningful shift in brand strategy.

Then the last checklist item of should we have a tagline or not, is do you have a core benefit that you need to underline that is essential and fundamental to what the brand stands for and the basis on which folks in the marketplace may want to choose it over its competition?

Some examples from history of this, although some still exist, is ‘Burger King, Have it Your Way.’ Customization of the whopper and the entire menu at Burger King was a major competitive benefit, worthy of underlining and representative of differentiation. ‘McDonald’s, Billions and Billions Served.’ The same old thing, Burger King, Have it Your Way, was a tagline that was helpful not only to again underline something fundamental about the brand choice but also as a way to send vibes about the personality and the welcoming nature of what the brand sought to embody.

Another one again, at the product level is ‘Bounty, It’s the Quicker Picker Upper.’ It does it faster, a core benefit within the product proposition was solidified, extended, and made ever more memorable and accessible through the use of a tagline.

Another one, interesting historically, that also maybe heralded a brand shift was Verizon. ‘Can you Hear Me Now,’ ultimately became the tagline for Verizon mobile and if you recall, Verizon was formed out of the merger in I guess, the mid probably late nineties of GTE and Bell Atlantic. These were two old line phone hardline long distance phone companies dealing primarily with long distance calls from landline phones within houses. The markets were changing. The companies merged. They took the bold step of creating a new brand, Verizon, to identify this new organization, in part because the marketplace was moving in a direction of mobile and they saw that, and neither of those brands really stood effectively for mobile. Or for technology for that matter.

They were basically public utilities was the way the marketplace perceived them and once Verizon was rebranded as such and it became clear that mobile was a dominant present and future nature of what the company was seeking to accomplish, Can You Hear Me Now became of way of underlining the strength and supremacy of their mobile network.

Can You Hear Me Now, was taken directly from many of the early and continued frustrating conversations that one would have with their mobile device as they reach the level of roaming or when the tower was a little bit too far away. As a memorable and potent and functionally important tagline, Verizon Wireless’s Can You Hear Me Now, of course backed up by a lot of dollars and a campaign and everything else, was a really effective way to underline a core benefit of their offering. We’ll leave it there.

Suffice it to say as noted that taglines may be less in favor and in fashion in our industry than they used to be for a variety of valid reasons but at the same time brands can benefit extensively and meaningfully from the adoption alongside their identity of a very effective tagline and again, those four things to think about are:

1. Do you need a tagline to modify and describe what your company does for a name that maybe doesn’t do that alone?

2. Do you need your tagline to evoke a feeling or a strong brand personality as in the case of just do it or State Farm is there or you’re in good hands with Allstate, etc?

3. Can a tagline be a helpful part of the arsenal to herald a shift in band strategy? Like Fathead going from Real Big to For Real or ThinkGeek going to Join In. Geek Out?

4. Or is there still a core benefit that really animates the brand and crystallizes the choice that you want to emphasize? Can You Hear Me Now, the Quicker Picker Upper, Have It Your Way, etc?

With that, thinking around taglines we’d love to hear your feedback as always on this and everything that we do. We’ll sign off from the Cradle of Liberty.

The post One Big Idea: Do We Need a Tagline? appeared first on Finch Brands.

In this week’s episode, we host Mitchell Reichgut, Founder and CEO of Jun Group. With over two decades of applied experience, Mitchell explains how advancements in mobile and digital media are transforming the way brands communicate with consumers. If you like our podcast, please subscribe and leave us a rating!

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Mitchell Reichgut: In all the years that I’ve worked in digital media, I have never seen anything like the rapid and complete change that mobile has brought.

Bill Gullan: Greetings, one and all. This is Real-World Branding. I’m Bill Gullan, President of Finch Brands, a premier boutique branding agency. Thank you for joining us for this week’s interview with Mitchell Reichgut, who’s the CEO of Jun Group, a New York based but with offices all around, a real pioneer of ad tech with an advertising platform to help brands get their messages across in the new world.

Mitchell’s going to take you through his own career, but, interestingly, began on the art direction and creative side in a traditional advertising environment at Grey, obviously, a well-known and cherished name in the American advertising landscape, but quickly gave way to a fascination with digital, as he was there in the early days of designing the first websites that brands like the Wall Street Journal and Reuters and others put into the marketplace in the mid-90’s.

From there, shortly thereafter, he was at Bates, which was also a well-known ad name, running really the digital and what they called the interactive side of the house there. For the last almost 15 years, starting in his house, founding Jun Group, and he’ll take you through the growth of the brand. Mitchell Reichgut, CEO and founder of Jun Group.

Here we are through the wonders of Skype with Mitchell Reichgut, who’s the CEO of Jun Group in New York and wherever he happens to be any given day. Thank you for joining us, Mitchell.

Mitchell: It’s a pleasure. Glad to be here.

Bill: Good. We’re grateful for your time and for your insight. Perhaps a good place to start would be a bit of discussion about your own career journey, which has been a fascinating set of positions that you’ve had. We’d love to hear a bit more about some of the milestones, if you don’t mind.

Mitchell: Not at all. Happy to talk about it. I started my career as a creative guy. I was an art director in advertising. I was fortunate enough to be able to create print ads, television commercials, and outdoor ads for some big brands early on in my career. Quite by accident I fell into this thing called, ‘Internet web development,’ in 1993.

Bill: That’s early.

Mitchell: It is. I built the very first website, not by myself, but with a great team, the very first website for the Wall Street Journal, for Reuters, for Rodale Press, Men’s Health, Women’s Health, and a number of other brands back then. It was really fun.

I did a bit of a tour of Silicon Valley as it was all just starting. It was a thrilling time, really just halcyon days of change, and wound up running the interactive group within the United States for a global ad agency then called Bates Worldwide.

I was in my late 20’s by then, and it was a dream job. I stayed there for four years. It was wonderful. Toward the end of it, it got to be a lot of New York advertising stuff, where it was a lot of pressure. I had a wife and two kids by then and a house and a mortgage, and I decided it would be a good idea just to leave.

Bill: Right. Very responsible decision-making; right.

Mitchell: Exactly. My wife was great about it, really supportive. I honestly didn’t know what I wanted to do with my career at that time. It was a bit of a crisis for me, because I had achieved what I wanted to achieve. I didn’t want to go back to advertising.

It’s hard to believe, but internet experience at that point was almost like a black mark on your resume. This is post 9/11 now, right after the Web 1.0 crashed, so I started Jun Group out of my house. I did so as a way to earn a living while I wanted to figure out what to do next.

I had never had any dreams of being an entrepreneur, no ambition to start my own company, and yet when I did it, I found that I really liked it, and I just kept doing it. I learned some important lessons, that fear and pain are wonderful motivational tools, gets you right out of bed in the morning.

I’ve just been doing Jun Group ever since, and that’s really it.

Bill: What a story. I think sometimes the accidental entrepreneur is the most compelling story, as opposed to today, people coming out of business school knowing that that’s what they want to do and looking at white spaces on a board and all this data. What a great story. Here we are. ‘Jun’ means ‘Truth.’ Tell us a little bit about the development of the company into what you all are doing and focusing on today.

‘Anyone who’s worked in branding knows that it’s all about finding that kernel of truth within the organization that you’re working for.’

Mitchell: Sure. Early on, as I said, I was just trying to make a living, so I did the stuff I knew how to do. I did advertising. I did brand development and brand strategy. Anyone who’s worked in branding knows that it’s all about finding that kernel of truth within the organization that you’re working for.

I’d studied Kung Fu for most of my adult life. I once met a guy, a Chinese guy, who said his name was Jun, and it was spelled J-U-N, and I asked him what it meant. He said, ‘Truth.’ I never saw him again, but eight or nine months later when I started the company, I thought, ‘Wow, that’s a great name for a company that is going to do brand strategy,’ and I’ve just kept it all this time.

Over time, as I decided to become serious about running the company and really growing it, I didn’t want to just be an advertising agency. Back then they used to call it, ‘Integrated advertising.’ I met my now partner, Corey, who was at Sony, and he started telling me about peer-to-peer, which at the time Napster, LimeWire, Kazaa was 60% of the internet’s bandwidth, and that was our first distribution platform. Then we, together, had this vision of taking a file and getting millions of people to see it, and that was the birth of the modern company.

Bill: Obviously, when it comes to creating value in the enterprise, the ad agency business or the brand consulting or agency business that we’re in, is services-driven. You have growth. You throw people at it, and it’s a growth challenge. In terms of the platform work that you’ve been doing, how has that evolved, and how do brands today fit you into their roster of key relationships?

Mitchell: It’s funny, because the technology’s changed about a dozen times since we started, but our mission hasn’t really changed all that much. Our promise to our clients is that we will get millions of people, the right people, to engage with your content.

We’ve been doing it over social media. We’ve been doing it over mobile for a number of years and across channels. The technology is less important than the delivery of the goods.

When our clients use us, they know that it’s simple to understand. They know that we’re honest people and that we’re going to put their best interests at heart and really deliver for them. As much as the landscape keeps changing and the technology keeps changing, and all this stuff is dizzying, really the core tenets of the business have remained the same all these years. We say everything about our business changes except our values.

’If you think of a mobile phone, that is for most people now the first screen, and it functions completely differently than any other computer that’s ever come before it, so I’ve never seen anything so dramatic.’

Bill: Right. Right. That’s helpful. Speaking more generically, beyond obviously the experience that you’ve had, being part of the tip of the spear as the web was forming, as a commercial enterprise beyond just information and CompuServe disks in the mail and whatnot, AOL disks, how has the shift from what at the time was overwhelmingly traditional, then broadly digital or integrated, to use the word that we’ve heard a lot and that you mentioned earlier, and now obviously mobile has changed things yet again. How has all of this shaped the way that brands communicate and engage with those they seek to attract?

Mitchell: In all these years that I’ve been working in digital media I have never seen anything like the rapid and complete change that mobile has brought. It has absolutely fundamentally changed the internet. It has changed culture in general. It’s changed the way we communicate. It’s changed the way we interact with one another and interact with computers. It’s actually staggering.

I think the results of what’s happened over the past 24 months are only now really starting to become appreciated by brands and advertisers. If you think of a mobile phone, that is for most people now the first screen, and it functions completely differently than any other computer that’s ever come before it, so I’ve never seen anything so dramatic.

Bill: At the same time, you also spoke about the primacy and eternal nature of values. I would imagine when it comes to great brand communications, regardless of the platform, that there are some common denominators, regardless of the form of media. Is that still true, or are all the rules different than they used to be?

Mitchell: I can answer that in two ways. One, absolutely, it’s the same as it ever has been. Number two, there really is a big shift. It’s the shift that, I think the promise of digital is that we can finally leave the Wanamaker story behind us.

Just for those who don’t know that, famously, a man named Wanamaker said, ‘Half my advertising dollars are wasted. I just don’t know which half.’

Bill: John Wanamaker, by the way, a Philadelphia-based department store magnate, so we’ll take some regional pride in that quote, but continue. Sorry.

Mitchell: That’s right. You guys are in the Wanamaker Building, aren’t you?

Bill: We’re close. We’re actually seven or eight blocks from the Wanamaker building, which is now a Macy’s. We’ll see how much longer.

Mitchell: Yeah. There you go. The internet’s changing that too. In that way, I think what we’re slowly starting to see is brands demanding business outcomes instead of media outcomes. In other words, I give you half a million dollars. Okay, great. You can show me this number of impressions, this many views. They want to see how did it affect my sales. We’re just beginning to be able to deliver on that, which is really exciting.

’We’re slowly starting to see brands demanding business outcomes instead of media outcomes.’

Bill: No, absolutely. It used to be, to the point about Wanamaker, things like 800 numbers and coupon redemptions, were the traditional way for folks to try to tie in some degree of accountability, but reach and frequency only goes so far. Ad equivalency, on the PR side, only goes so far, and to have all of these tactics that have built-in metrics, all the way up to clicked and transacted, is a powerful answer for those of us in the marketing realm who have often over our careers faced that question of ROI.

Mitchell: I tell you what, it’s the promise, and the actual delivery can be somewhat different, because it’s worth noting that right now Google reports 46% of online video is not seen by a human being. The AMA (American Marketing Association) says that ad fraud will cost the industry 7.2 billion dollars this year, so it’s not all sunshine and daisies.

Everybody in black jeans and a blazer in ad tech says that they’re going to deliver X, Y and Z to the right person at the right time, etc., etc., but there is a lot of shakeout that still needs to happen in this industry to really fully realize the promise that, I think, is what we all want to capture.

Bill: No, absolutely. You look at YouTube. You look at pre-roll in general. We talk about the connection between new media, so to speak … not really new anymore … and traditional media. You see oftentimes if you look in your pre-roll, it’s a TV campaign that’s been re-purposed. It’s a cheap way, you’ve produced it already, etc.

With the explosion of mobile and digital, what’s your outlook on traditional? I know, a bit outside the lane, but where you started, traditional media and the role of new, and what we would call old media, in terms of getting across key messages and overall brand values?

Mitchell: It’s funny. I think all this ad fraud has been great for television. Television CPMs are going up. Advertisers can’t put enough money into TV, because they know what to expect there.

I think the ad tech community has let them down to the extent where they really don’t trust it, and they shouldn’t with numbers like the ones that we quoted earlier, and there are several others. Everyone always says TV is dead or whatever. Personally, AM radio is something that I listen to all the time, and I think it’s still a really powerful, viable medium. I think traditional media is going to be A-OK.

Bill: No doubt. When it comes to content, and you mentioned ad fraud. You mentioned other threats to this value proposition that either come from inside or outside the mobile and the digital marketing realm. What are some things that are working really well? You talk about video in some cases not working, but the biggest trends you’re seeing in terms of best practices on the content side of the types of content that’s breaking through in this new alignment of publishers and sources that consumers can access from anywhere.

Mitchell: It’s interesting, because somebody at our company framed 2016 this way, and I think it’s really adept. It’s a battle between opt-in and auto-play. If you look at what Facebook is doing, it’s auto-play; right? You see all those ads that appear in the stream of someone’s social profile as you breeze by on your mobile device, and that’s been enormously successful. They’ve captured a ton of market share using that tool.

Yet there’s a whole school of thought, of which our company is a part, by the way, that doesn’t believe in that. I don’t like interrupting people. I think that if you look at younger consumers, they demand not to be interrupted. We can talk about ad blocking [for hours].

Opt-in, how do you present ads to somebody in a way that’s non-interruptive? We’re big believers in what’s called value exchange, where you get something in return for your time. We’ve seen results of that for years. I think you’re seeing the great battle between those two schools of thought this year.

Bill: Right. It used to be, with the history of this thing and the golden age of television, all these shows were brought to you by … and that was the implicit, A, it was obviously fresh and new, but it was implicit that this is what kept the medium free was because advertisers, and then you see moves in the direction of product placement. Now as technology is, there’s all sorts of new-fangled issues related to opt-in and everything else. When it comes to pioneering new forms of unobtrusive, yet effective, media approaches for brands, what are some of the core principles that you counsel your clients to embrace as they think about content?

’One of the things that’s changed so much is the customer journey, the consumer journey.’

Mitchell: The first thing I tell them is to fish where the fish are. What I mean by that is, I mentioned this dramatic change. One of the things that’s changed so much is the customer journey, the consumer journey. Not too long ago, in 2014, it started with a Google search that led you to an HTML page. You hyper-linked to another one and another one and then back to Google. That really is a small percentage of what happens now.

Ninety percent of what goes on in a mobile device happens in an app. That journey is completely different. In-app advertising is critical to success. Apps are not editorial-style websites. They’re just totally different. To understand the moors and the culture around apps is to understand your user and to have a much better way of contacting that person.

Bill: You talk about obtrusive versus unobtrusive and opt-in versus auto-play. Just in my own traipsing about through the apps that I value, the games that I play or whatever, there seems to be, it’s certainly clear that people haven’t figured this out, or that some have but many have not. You see folks who have the advertising approach for an app, for example, where it pops up and it takes you right to the app store. All the technologies that have been created, as you say, around ad blocking, etc. have been positioned as allies of the consumer who does not want to be interrupted.

When we look at the future, we’ve talked about the incredible changes that mobile has wrought, obviously going back earlier in your career and mine, the changes of just basically the commercial internet, that those were created, and none of us can perfectly see the future. What’s next? Is it another era, or is it individual changes as we all catch up to this?

When you and your futurist colleagues of Jun Group are helping counsel brands for how to get ahead of these things and to get ready for what’s next, what are some beliefs that you have about what’s going to happen and how the future will unfold for all of us in this industry?

Mitchell: I think you can look really clearly around right now and see the future taking root in the present and these dramatic changes still continuing to happen. If you said the word, ‘Television’ to a guy like me even five years ago, it was a physical thing that lived in my living room with a little cable box under it. You say that to my kids, they have no idea why I have that thing hanging there.

Television is a style of content for them that they can enjoy over any device they wish whenever they want to. If you just look at that one facet of what’s going on right now, you see the television transforming into the internet. That is an enormous massive change. You look at the way people communicate with one another, especially … I have two teenage boys, and you watch ten of them in a room, all of them on their devices, talking to one another over their devices. It’s absolutely amazing.

Bill: Right. Yes.

Mitchell: It’s just phenomenal. The cultural changes, the way we interact with each other, the way we interact with brands, it’s changing before our eyes. If you take these things that you see in the present and you project them just a little forward, it makes for a future that’s really exciting in some ways and a little sad in other ways and still hard to predict. I can’t tell you the next Snapchat that’s going to pop up. I don’t even understand that fricking thing.

Bill: You’re not alone. Not alone.

Mitchell: There was a wonderful article, if anybody’s interested, in BuzzFeed about that several months ago, where a 30-year-old was tutored about how to use Snapchat by his younger sister who is a teen. I watch my kids on Snapchat, and it’s a whole different thing.

That kind of stuff is unpredictable, and yet the larger media trends and social trends, I think, don’t happen as quickly as everyone thinks they do. Apps didn’t just happen. It took three or four years.

Bill: Bringing that into the workplace, yours and mine, you built a company here. As you think about creating workplace culture and team alignment, there are, as we experience too and our clients do also, there are generational forces that shape what the workplace is like, that shape how folks expect their professional careers to unfold, and what they need to feel actualized in the workplace with the company that they may have chosen.

As a Gen-X-er like me, looking at those teen boys sitting around the sectional, looking at how they’re interacting … You didn’t say it, but I will. I’m completely befuddled and in many ways scared for the future when you look at something like that, until I can talk myself off the ledge. Key principles that you’ve employed as you built your team and your culture that may have to do with the multi-generational workforce and changes in expectations that that brings?

Mitchell: It is a real challenge. The latest generation of people to enter the workforce right now, they are wired left and right, up and down. They bring a skillset that is unbelievable. They are often rather entitled, I think, in general. They have a high expectation set that we’ve not seen in the workforce before.

What you have to do is find the work ethic and the passion, because the skills and the talent are almost baked in. You find people that are passionate about what they do, and you can really hit a home run. We’re so proud of the team we’ve built here. We work really, really hard to make sure they get the support they need and the understanding they need and the tools they need. Then we just sit back and learn from them, honestly.

Bill: Natives in the technology, no doubt. Do you think, and I’ve been thinking about this a lot … I don’t know what the answer really means or if it even matters, but as an intellectual exercise, when folks … We’ve always thought young people are knuckleheads, whether it’s millennials today or back then when we were the knuckleheads, and the generation above us thought we were knuckleheads. Will folks today, understanding the different realities of how they communicate and all that that means in terms of social styles and work-styles, when they reach that next phase in their career, in their life, and they begin to mature and see the future a little bit more, will they become a digital version of what we became, or is there something fundamentally different about younger generations today given what they’ve grown up with and what comes naturally to them and the expectation that that creates?

Mitchell: That’s a great question. I think there’s something fundamentally different. I think that when you look at people that have grown up with cell phones and grown up with digital media in a way that you and I did not, they function in a different way, and they have capabilities that are just beyond the stuff that you and I have.

Snapchat is perhaps the best example of that. If you watch a teenager use Snapchat, it’s actually scary. In a space of three to five seconds, they can answer eight or nine snaps. That is a skillset and an understanding and a state of being that I’m never going to accomplish and probably you won’t either.

I think that our job is to harness that as much as we can, and that’s what we do here, is learn from these guys as much as we can and direct that energy and that passion that they have and that expertise in ways that are beneficial. The stuff that you and I can teach them is, ‘Hey, if you send a paper thank-you note to someone, they’ll actually remember you.’

Bill: Right. Right. I get a lot of eye-rolls around here. My kids are three and five, so they haven’t quite figured out how to roll their eyes, but they’re going to get ready for Dad talking about the good old days. In that spirit of the path that you followed, that you took us through and from being on that, the vanguard of website creation for various entities that were figuring it out, and you were figuring it out too, coming from a design background, all the way through to what you’ve built it at Jun Group. Any words of wisdom that you’d like to share with those who’ve been inspired by the path you’ve taken, beliefs that have served you well that are core to who you are as a business person as well as a leader?

Mitchell: Oh, yeah. It’s funny, because, and you referenced this earlier, starting a company now is a hip and cool thing to do. I will tell you a quote from AC/DC, ‘Folks, it’s harder than it looks.’

Bill: The philosophers of our modern age; right?

Mitchell: Exactly. I forget who it was, one of my early bosses, said, ‘You have to give advertising everything that you’ve got, and if you don’t give it, advertising will take it anyway.’ If you want to start a company, it’s quite simple. Just don’t stop. Just give it everything you have. The temptation to quit, to feel sorry for yourself, to just wilt, is overpowering at times. It’s a simple principle. Just keep going.

Maybe the corollary to that is, you head off in a direction that’s almost always incorrect. There are very few people that see the future of their company and get to the right place. Even Zuckerberg famously made some big changes. People that are successful do those two things. They just keep going, and then they make the changes that need to be made at the time that they need to make them. Neither of those two things is easy, and running a company is not easy. If you’re looking for an easy life, don’t start your own ad tech firm or any kind of firm.

Bill: No doubt. Thank you so much, Mitchell, for your time and your insight. We’ll close with this, unless I lie and something else comes up, given how you answer it, but when you think about how you’ve evolved as a leader, and you’re at a point and your company’s at a point where clients are coming to you often, I think, with palms up, likely expecting and seeking expertise and counsel in areas that they may not have a great deal of comfort, and I would imagine those in your workforce, that may be a new experience for them, or one that the date on their birth certificate may not indicate that they would have this level of expertise and be sought after the way that they are.

One of the challenges, I think, at Finch … ‘Challenge’ isn’t the right word, but one of the things that people who join our team need to get their arms around pretty quickly, even though they may not feel like experts, they’re being consulted for their expertise, and often the product becomes us. It’s different for somebody who may have started their career in retail or as a brand manager at a CPG company or whatever, they weren’t the product.

This is a long, rambling way to ask the question, are there particular leadership lessons or team development lessons for folks who on your team are in a client interaction situation, who are really being relied on to be both client satisfiers but also experts and trailblazers and ideators and creatives when it comes to helping clients supercharge what they’re seeking?

Mitchell: Yeah. Over the past several years I’ve come to value the idea of clarity. I think that when you can provide clarity for anyone, whether they realize it or not, they’re so grateful. Clarity does not come easily. It takes a lot of thought. There’s a particular thrill that comes with solving a problem, whether it’s an internal company problem or a client’s problem.

Yeah, the folks that we have here who really run our business every day on the account services side, on the sales side, on the operations side, they’re making big decisions. These are young people, frequently that millions of dollars ride on their expertise and their decision-making. Part of the reason that they chose to come here is because we entrust them with that, and there’s nobody more capable.

Alongside that comes some pressure, and that’s not always easy to deal with. You just made a mistake that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s not an easy thing to have on your head. Yet, that’s how you get better, by facing those demons. I think as I’ve grown as a manager, that’s one of the things that I’ve learned is important, is helping people cope with the pressure that comes along with success. Success looks great on a television show. In real life it’s not always easy.

Bill: To your point, there are probably moments … You said just keep going. I think another thing is don’t look down. When you’re up at the top of the cliff, they always tell the climbers not to look down. When you’re in a situation like this where you’re being called upon to direct, whether it’s a lot of money or manage a key relationship or whatever, there are moments when the gravity of that rises up, wells up within you, and you are either fueled by that, or you’re petrified by that.

Either way, both of them are natural. Yeah, to your point, in those moments of awareness and those moments of having to rise to meet the moment or the situation, it probably helps to hear what you like to share with folks at those important times.

Mitchell: Yeah. You have to show them how to do it. That’s not something you can tell someone. When a client is really upset, when something’s gone wrong, when you’re having a problem, how are you as a leader going to react? Are you going to be calm? ‘Okay, let’s think this through,’ or are you going to lash out at someone or blame someone? I think that it is the key lesson I have learned is coping with that fear, that pain, that thing that we all wish we could avoid, and yet it’s so integral to our success and our health really, is coping with that kind of stress. You have to embrace it. When you do, it makes you feel better.

Bill: No doubt. Perfect place to stop. Mitchell Reichgut, CEO of Jun Group. Founder, entrepreneur, digital pioneer and visionary, thank you so much for your time and insight, both about your own career and the things that have helped you grow, and also just about the industry that everybody watches and is in, either as consumers or, in your case, certainly in our case, to a degree, as practitioners, so much change, so many fascinating ideas, some of which amount to nothing, others of which absolutely change everything. Thank you for your time and being with us.

Mitchell: Gosh, it was such a pleasure. Any time. Thank you for having me.

Bill: Thank you, Mitchell, for your time and insight. The work we’re doing here at Finch is, I guess we would call upstream often. We’re focused on the strategic and creative elements of how a brand connects with its audience and how it defines who its audience is and how it puts forth what it values and how it seeks to be perceived. For our clients and brands across the world, the downstream conversation includes how to get these messages across, both in terms of selecting the right platforms and putting forth the right content.

The digital world has changed just in my own career, first of all, it was created, and it’s changed so much and within one-, two-, three-, four-year increments, everything we thought we knew is different. There are parts of the toolkit that remain standard for winning brand communications no matter the media that’s selected, but there are other things that are equally vital that, again, change with every new innovation. Mitchell’s perspective and insight on that, I think, is tremendously helpful, as our listeners think about how their own brands and careers can take shape in and around digital and particularly mobile. We really appreciate your time.

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In that spirit, as, hopefully, the heat wave cools to something manageable, we will sign off from the Cradle of Liberty.

The post The Truth About Digital: Mitchell Reichgut, CEO of Jun Group appeared first on Finch Brands.

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