Sword and the Script

Branding Heroin: Why Marketers Love Verbs and Lawyers Do Not

by Frank Strong

Heroin as a Brand Why Marketers Love Verbs and Lawyers Do Not
Been Googling branding lately?  If you do, there’s a good chance your search will reveal this post I wrote and Copyblogger published in 2012. My point in bringing that up isn’t to brag, it’s to broach a discussion about lawyers, marketers, branding and trademarks.

I didn’t start this post by asking if you searched for content about branding on a search engine with intention.  Instead I asked, as so many of us commonly do, if you found it by using Google’s trademarked name as a verb.  For marketers, a brand that becomes a verb is a sign of success, but for lawyers it spells risk.

That was the subject of a Marketplace story this evening titled: The English language is one big brand graveyard.  Indeed it turns out – Heroin was actually a “branded form of morphine” at one time.  So too were Aspirin, Escalator and Trampoline, according to the same story: Read More…

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The Brand Hashtag Hijack isn’t the Problem

by Frank Strong

brands hashtag hijack
When the NYPD decided to launch a hashtag campaign with #myNYPD the po-po organization might have been betting the campaign would be the social media equivalent of COPS – or community oriented policing services.

Instead of photos of a charitable officer giving a homeless man a pair of boots, the hashtag was flooded with images that border on police brutality: An officer (allegedly) shooting a homeless man’s small dog and an officer (with tall brass no less) pulling the hair of a handcuffed women. Read More…

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Infographic: Big Brands and the Evolution of Logos

by Frank Strong


Wikipedia says the word “logo” is derived from the Greek word “logos” meaning word or idea. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a logo as “a symbol that is used to identify a company and that appears on its products.”  It also says the first known use of a logo was in 1937, but it doesn’t indicate which company.

That date seems off by a wide mark in my own marketing experience. We had the first advertisement in an American newspaper in 1704, the first billboards in the 1790s, and the first press release in 1906 – all mediums that require text or print. Form the cave dwellers to the hieroglyphics of the Egyptians – symbols far preceded words. I find it hard to believe that the first logo ever was in 1937. Read More…

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PR: It is How We Discover Brands

by Frank Strong

PR branding

Source: GlobalWebIndex “Chart of the Day.”

Awareness, familiarity and trust are all essential elements of a brand that sells successfully.  It’s an evolution that begins but probably never ends, save for the termination of a brand.  It’s the latter that drives us down the road of analyzing whether or not PR facilitates a sales cycle.

The entry point however, should not be underestimated. The chances of a sales person closing a deal with a prospective customer that remarks, “Huh, I’ve never heard of your product before,” falls somewhere short of less than likely.

So how do we make customers aware of our brands?  The answer rests in PR. Read More…

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When Branding Gets the Better of Politicians

by Frank Strong

branding politics


This isn’t a political post. This post isn’t about whether or not the health care law is a good idea or a bad one; it’s not about red or blue; it’s not about who you voted for in the last election or who is in office right now.  It’s about marketing and why politicians are good at selling ideas, and even personas, but have so much to learn about products, positioning and product marketing.

* * *

Obamacare was to be a disparaging pseudonym to a law that passed amid a nation divided on the cause.  It was a label intended to underscore everything that was wrong with the law.

In a gesture of political jiu-jitsu — to use technique against brute force — the administration seized upon the term, embraced it and repeated it on every medium available:  in the print, broadcast and online and across earned, owned and share media. It was a rallying cry.

Obamacare used content marketing to brand the new law to be synonymous with the administration and it’s principle proponent.  Whether aware or not as to the vehicle for branding, it was a conscious effort and it worked.

Then the website launched and promptly flopped.

Political communicators were on their heels, slow to respond, then denial, even as polling tanked. Distance. They needed distance.  Read More…

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Delta: How the World’s Worst Brand can also Be the Best

by Frank Strong

delta worst brand

Wait! Didn’t we just see a headline saying this was the worst brand?

The first thing I remember reading last Thursday morning was a passing headline about the most – and least – respected brands.  Delta Airlines was in the headline as being the least respected brand.

Delta even got nailed by their hometown paper. The world is just unkind sometimes.  On the upside, I haven’t seen Scott McCartney write or interview about it.

I scanned the article briefly and moved on; that an airline ranks so poorly isn’t exactly earth shattering news.  Flying today is simply a miserable experience from start to finish and surely the airline has earned its reputation.

The complex industrial confluence of catastrophes that started on 9/11 have been long over, but the airlines have never looked back. Customer service is not a competitive advantage.  Not in the airline industry.

Later that night as I fortuitously boarded a Delta flight, I couldn’t help but notice the giant sticker posted on the right hand side of the aircraft door (photo nearby) which read “most admired companies.” And this year no less.  That reignited my interest in the story I read earlier.

How can this possibly be?  How can Delta Airlines be the least respected brand on in one study, and among the 100 most admired companies on another? Read More…

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Brand Extension: When a Beer is No Longer a Budweiser

Photo Credit:  Flickr

Photo Credit: Flickr

by Frank Strong

Budweiser drew well deserved applause for its Clydesdale commercial.  It was good story which made for great marketing.

Like other brands, it turned to social media to extend the life of it’s big game investment. The commercial on YouTube has racked up nearly 2 million views at the time of this writing and search volume skyrocketed.

However Budweiser had another commercial on the Super Bowl and the company ran a few variations several times before the Clydesdale commercial was shown.  It was the launch of Budweiser Black Crown.  The video, which was also uploaded to YouTube, has just shy of 300,000 views at the time of this writing and search volume is tepid by comparison.

Black Crown is purported to be a premium brand, with a premium price, which also comes with a higher concentration of alcohol.  It’s a brand line extension that says it’s a Budweiser that really isn’t a Budweiser. Read More…

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Why Content Marketing is the New Branding

content marketing

by Frank Strong

Note:  a variation of this post first appeared as a guest post on Copyblogger; leave a comment if you’d be interested in having me write a guest post for you! 

>>>Branding isn’t your company name.

It’s not a tag line. It’s not a logo.

Branding is creating a perception.  It gets new customers over the sales hurdle of education.  It renews loyalty with existing customers. It creates envy among the competition.

When marketers ask, “How do we want to brand this product?” what they’re really asking is how they want their audience to think about that product once it comes to market.

A brand is a promise. It’s an expectation of an experience.

The company and tag line and logo and brand colors only exist to call that experience to mind; they do not create it.

Brands can meet that expectation, exceed that expectation … or in the worst cases, fall short of that expectation.  In crisis, brands can lose credibility in a heartbeat; but how brands react to crisis often means more in the long run than the crisis itself. Read More…

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Content marketing is the new branding

by Frank Strong

content marketing branding

Military awards, in a sense, are branding.

“Truth is irrelevant. What matters are the perceptions that exist in the mind.  The essence of positioning thinking is to accept the perceptions as reality and then restructure those perceptions to create the position you desire.” – Al Ries, and Jack Trout in the 20th anniversary edition of Positioning:  The Battle for Your Mind.

What is branding?  On cattle it’s a burn mark that denotes ownership.  The permanence, perhaps even the cruelty, of that mark is hard to disguise.  It’s a sign of ownership.  Perhaps power.   It’s not easily erased.

For organizations, from non-profits to public companies, brands have become symbols. Symbols of quality, of guarantee, and of validation. For many, branding has been relegated to a logo.  This is misguided thinking.

No one loves a company for its logo.  No one hates a company, but loves their logo.  A logo is not a brand.  Read More…

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Audio branding, essential sound in marketing

by Frank Strong

Sound has a powerful emotional connection; think for a minute what is triggered in our minds when we hear:  a heartbeat, a doorbell, a phone’s ring, a car horn,  a lawnmower, a dog’s bark, a baby’s cry, or Christmas carols.

Each sound has a special meaning, like a language onto its own;  someone needs us, is warning us or entertaining us.   These sounds trigger’s emotions: a doorbell for example, might trigger excitement for a familiar friend, or dread, with an unwanted visitor.

Sound isn’t commonly associated with branding, perhaps because it’s not often cited as a mechanism to raise awareness or drive leads; it might however have a powerful connection to customer loyalty and retention.  Consider the sense of community stadium-wide singing during the seventh inning stretch of a baseball game builds.

What sort of music do they play in retail stores?  Shopping music.

It seems to me, sound in branding goes nearly unnoticed, it’s almost unconscious, or perhpas subliminal, yet  in a way that’s different than simply trying to ignore web advertisements.  This is why I found a Marketplace story – Company logos expand into sonic realm – so interesting (you can read, or better yet,  listen to that story).

If you subscribe to the idea popularized by Ries & Trout, that positioning takes place in the mind of consumers, as opposed to the words of a tag line, then you can instinctively understand the power of sound.  Read More…

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