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Would you rather be a reporter, or a columnist?

Reporters have a great combination of investigative skills, communication skills, moxy, and pluck. Columnists are made from the same raw material, but they get paid far more.  Why?

Readers care more about what a particular person is saying than what a generic person says. Said another way, a staff reporter is generic, while a columnist has a brand. This is true in just about every field of endeavor, and is doubly true for your organization:

  • You will pay more for a “name act” than for a no-name band.
  • You will pay more for name-brand computer than a clone.  (And you’ll pay more for an Apple computer than a name-brand Windows computer.)
  • You will pay more for a name brand advisor than a no-name one.

While price itself is part of brand signalling, the underlying brand question is how to imbue value to your organization’s brand.  The answer has nothing to do with your strategy, your marketing tactics, or your logo.  Building brand value is directly derived from your organization’s values.  This means:

  • Having a clear set of underlying values.
  • Communicating these values, internally and externally.
  • Living those values every day: from the leadership team to the front line to any volunteers.
  • Building processes and systems that reinforce these values.
  • Rewarding values-enhancing behaviors.

Missing even one of these bullets renders them one step short of useless.  A case in point: large organizations have codified values (as in “mission/vision/values”), often generated through a strategic planning process.  But ask anyone in the front lines what these values are (let alone what they mean), and you will likely draw a blank stare.

This week’s action plan:  What is true for the organization, is doubly true for you as an individual.  This week, spend some time looking in the mirror: have you even considered writing down your personal values? And what are you doing to live your values, and thereby grow your personal brand?  Do it right, and you won’t just be a capable reporter, you’ll become a great columnist.

Marketing insight:  Organizations that are strong on the inside are also strong on the outside.  The more aligned each person is within the organization, the more powerful the organization’s brand will be.  This has implications for recruiting, orientation, management style, client or member service, support – everything.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)



Insight: Rebranding recipe

by Randall Craig on September 23, 2016

Filed in: Blog, Branding, Insight, Make It Happen Tipsheet

Tagged as: , , ,

Have you wondered why an organization’s rebrand doesn’t seem particularly right?  That maybe they missed something along the way?  A bad rebrand can mean that at best, it doesn’t deliver the expected benefits, and at worst the brand is ridiculed in the market.

There are no shortage of these flubs – here are two:

  • The American SciFi cable channel renamed itself SyFy, presumably to appeal more widely.  Syfy is British street slang for syphilis, which definitely does not have much appeal.
  • When Houston Oil and Internorth merged, they chose the name Enteron.  This name was quickly discarded, as it was discovered to be the anatomical name for  intestines.  They then shortened it to Enron, which of course went bankrupt after the discovery of accounting irregularities. (Maybe they should have kept the name Enteron?)

So what does a successful rebranding recipe look like? Here is our approach, boiled down to ten practical steps:

  1. Rebranding scope:  Is it to change the name?  Change the logo and visual identity? “Refresh” the logo and visual identity?  Completely change the brand positioning?  Change the underlying attitudes and organizational culture?  Depending on the initial scope – and the scope might change after the discovery audit and competitive analysis – the investment and the time required can vary significantly.
  2. Discovery audit:  To determine where you want to go, a realistic assessment of your current brand is critical. Using surveys, focus groups, and interviews, ask three key questions:
    • What are the current brand attributes in the eyes of future target prospects/clients/members?
    • What are the current brand attributes in the eyes of staff and leadership?
    • What (future) brand attributes are important, by key audience?
  3. Competitive analysis:  What brand attributes are critical in the market, and how are competitors positioned?  For example, assume that the critical dimensions are price, expertise, and trust; imagine a 3D graph with each on an axis.  Where is each competitor in this space?  Where are you?  And is there a spot that is unoccupied?
  4. Positioning statement, Brand Promise, and Personas:  These define the core attributes of the brand, and the key aspirational messages for each persona. (Personas are representative descriptions of each key audience.)  Looking at the brand through the eyes of each persona puts meat on the brand skeleton, and allows an exploration of how the brand might be executed.
  5. Validation:  This means testing the positioning statement and brand promise, both internally and externally.  It can be as robust as national market research by persona, or as simple as an informal discussion with key audiences.
  6. Name discovery and research: If a name change is involved in the rebranding, this is the process that converts the positioning statement and brand promise into potential name candidates.
  7. Validation:  The names must be tested for meaning in different languages, cultures, and geographies.  There also needs be checks for existing domain names, trademarks/copyrights – and Google.  When there are several name options, ask focus groups to rate each option against the desired brand attributes.
  8. Logo and Visual Identity:  This begins the process of transforming the brand from words into its visual representation.
  9. Validation:  Often times, there are several visual identity and/or logo alternatives.  Use focus groups to rate each option against the desired brand attributes.
  10. Collateral production:  This includes the production of business cards, stationery, signage, powerpoint and word templates, website, social media, etc.

A rebranding process is only half-done if it stops at the production of the collateral – the brand must be launched.  The rebranding opportunity must also be used to lock in other changes, both in attitude and in behavior. This can be accomplished in many ways:

  • A launch event
  • A PR campaign
  • An advertising campaign
  • Employee training
  • New perks or policy changes
  • Internal town halls
  • Management shuffle
  • New management metrics
  • Improved internal communications
  • New business processes

Does a rebranding effort need to have all ten of these steps?  No – the effort accordions up or down, based on a number of factors, including business criticality, timeline and deadlines, budget, and management priorities.   Recognize however, that your risk increases dramatically as less effort is spent.  (Syfy, anyone?)

This week’s action plan:  Strong brands get stronger because they approach branding strategically, not opportunistically.  This week, use the rebranding process as a checklist: which activity (Discovery audit, Competitive analysis, New collateral, etc) can best strengthen your existing brand?

Marketing insight #1:  Of the ten rebranding steps, notice that a full half of them are external validation?  This ensures the brand’s market relevance and impact.  And of the ten launch activities, seven of them are internal?  Only if your brand is strong on the inside, will it be strong on the outside.

Marketing insight #2:  While brand standards are critical for consistency, locked-in-stone branding can become brittle and break.  The best brands have some built-in flex.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
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Avoiding costly design corner cutting

by Randall Craig June 8, 2016

Have you ever purchased a new house, only to later discover that the contractor cut some corners?  And that buck or two savings for the contractor now translates into thousands of dollars of extra cost for you?  Unfortunately, many branding agencies and design houses have taken a page from the building trade, and are cutting corners […]

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Trust Killers

by Randall Craig May 13, 2016

How much does your organization invest in marketing?  Beyond thought leadership and inbound marketing strategies, there is advertising, promotional items, trade shows, CRM, marketing automation, the web and social media.  Any way you look at it, the investment is substantial. Yet despite this focus, and despite all of this strategy, why is marketing so often ineffective? […]

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Branding and Web Security

by Randall Craig April 29, 2016

What determines the confidence in your brand?  Yes, the visual identity and what people see.  And yes, the experience and interaction people have, both online and in the real world.  And yes, the social media (and traditional media) buzz – both positive and negative.  But there is another factor, hidden from most marketers, that can […]

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Reputation Rescue

by Randall Craig March 11, 2016

Have you ever been in a situation where your personal reputation has been called into question online?  Or your organization’s brand is under attack from a special interest group, and it is emerging somewhat battered?  Not good. Of course, the best way to build a great reputation is to do everything “right” in the first […]

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Brand Building and Brand Transfer

by Randall Craig March 4, 2016

Beyond ads, media mentions, and the web, is there another mechanism to build your organization’s brand? One that might cost significantly less, yet yield powerful positioning advantages? Brand Transfer is the “borrowing” of another organization’s brand to better convey – or even amplify – your own. Consider the following examples: How differently is your organization perceived when […]

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Brand Building: Strong On the Inside

by Randall Craig February 5, 2016

How much does your organization spend on your brand? Usually, this question yields answers in the following categories: logo design, collateral production messaging, and ads. And for more sophisticated organizations, it also includes elements of Social Media. While all of these items are important, this list is missing the two fundamental delivery mechanisms of the brand itself: people, […]

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Marketing Congruency

by Randall Craig November 27, 2015

At one time, a marketer needed only consider a few communications channels: Print, TV, Packaging, and the speaking points within a salesperson’s sales pitch. Today, all bets are off:  Traditional channels still exist, but have been eclipsed by the website, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and 100s of other Social Media sites.  These newer […]

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Ten Tests for Assessing Influence

by Randall Craig November 6, 2015

Influencers are incredibly powerful, not just because of their reach, but because of their trusted relationships. They can bring your name and your services to a completely new audience. They can provide insights into your market – and the market’s view about you – that are uniquely valuable.  They can recommend you – or skewer […]

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Choosing your Marketing Voice

by Randall Craig August 21, 2015

Have you ever considered why some emails resonate, and others seem just a bit off? While the general topic of copywriting has been handled here quite well, too often emails – especially ones that for part of a marketing automation sequence – fail because of one thing: voice. Consider these four examples: 1) Passive Voice […]

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Content Marketing and the Marketing Hierarchy of Trust

by Randall Craig September 21, 2012

“I am great!  Really.  Truly great!  Really!” How many people (or organizations) have marketing strategies that boil down to self-serving claims of greatness?  (Too many.)  How effective are these LinkedIn profiles, ads, websites, TV commercials, or billboards?  (Not effective at all.) There is a trust hierarchy of marketing strategies: the higher the trust, the more […]

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Social Choice: Ignore, Listen, Join or Host

by Randall Craig May 31, 2012

Think back to when you last bought a book – did you check the reviews on Amazon? When you last booked a hotel – did you check the hotel rankings?  There is an incredible conversation happening on the social web, and for the first time in history, there is transparency: these conversations are available.  The […]

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by Randall Craig October 12, 2011

How often have you struggled to show up on time for a meeting, only to be kept waiting as others stumbled in 5-10-15 minutes later? Or have you ever tuned in to your favorite TV show, only to find that it was “rescheduled” for some other time? Or travelled to a faraway store, but finding […]

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Personal Blog Branding

by Randall Craig October 6, 2010

“You only have one chance to make a good first impression.” This is the siren song of personal branding, and is what causes millions of people to think carefully about what they wear each day. Too bad though, that in today’s too-fast social media world, the first impression does not come from your clothing, but […]

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No Blog Pressure

by Randall Craig September 29, 2010

Have you felt the pressure to write a blog? If so, you’re not alone – many people (and businesses) succumb to the pressure. This results in a sparse, poorly written blog, disconnected from strategy, and which is eventually abandoned. Of course, the embarassing initiative is preserved forever somewhere on the internet, even if it is […]

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Personal Branding Early Warning System

by Randall Craig December 22, 2009

A common definition of Personal Branding relates to the first impression you make. What do your clothes say about you? Do you look friendly, or aggressive? Expressions such as “you only have one chance to make a good first impression” reinforce this definition further. Here’s a second definition: what people say about you behind your […]

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Personal Branding Proxy

by Randall Craig February 10, 2009

If you think about the various consumer products that you use, most of them enjoy significant brand equity. Each brand name represents a series of attributes: when you think of IBM, for example, you might think of dependable technology for big business; Apple, on the other hand, might represent sleek, easy-to-use technology for the younger […]

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