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October 2011
Cropped 2011 head shotFourth Quarter 

It's hard to believe we are in the final quarter of 2011--didn't it just start?
Are you planning your marketing budget for 2012? Did you just begin a new fiscal year? We're never too busy to take your calls if you have any questions about marketing and/or research. 

Don't forget to get out and enjoy those beautiful changing leaves (if you are in the northern half of the country)! Before you know it, they'll be gone! 

Happy Columbus Day, and have a tasty and safe Halloween! 

Where It All BeginsUnbranded 


There is a great line from the show (and movie)  "Godspell:" "If your light is under a bushel, it's lost something kind of crucial!" In marketing parlance, if nobody knows you are there, they can't buy anything from you. 

Some years ago, I experienced a stunning example of this. I went out to Los Angeles to do a focus group for a mass merchandise chain. The screening question, chosen by the client, was: "Are you familiar with ____Stores?" Seems logical. When I began the group and asked when the participants had shopped there last, not one of them knew where one of these stores was located in the LA area; they knew this store from other places where they had lived, or by just having heard the name. They were "familiar" with it. So, in the first minute of the group, I had identified the client's primary challenge--awareness, or lack thereof.


This is one of those times when research is premature or unnecessary. Working in a company, or at a certain location, can produce tunnel vision. We begin to believe that EVERYONE must know where our business is, and what we do. Not so. It takes effort--and resources--to build awareness, and that must come first. It is not uncommon to measure awareness FOLLOWING activities designed to increase it. Sometimes a company conducts a survey before an awareness campaign, and another one following the campaign to see how much the needle has been moved. That will indicate how effective that campaign was in increasing awareness.


If that is the objective, the company should be prepared for low numbers in the first wave and a fairly modest increase in the follow-up wave. The size of that increase will depend on the size and scope of the campaign, as well as the nature of the product/service category. If it is a high-profile product or service such as consumer electronics or accounting services leading into tax season, there may be a fairly substantial increase. But if it is a fairly low interest category (say, socks) or a service that people need only episodically (say, home health care services), the increases can, indeed, be modest.


Even if the increase in awareness is just a percent or two, that doesn't mean that the awareness campaign was a failure. It just means that the road to high awareness is longer than was envisioned. Take the example of home health care services: people don't need these services all the time, but when they do, they will call the first provider they can think of. That means that awareness needs to be reinforced consistently. That takes time and resources.


If a company assumes that it is well-known in a certain industry, or by consumers in a certain demographic category, it may be wasting time and resources by skipping ahead to evaluative research or programs that offer special pricing. In the current AADD environment, people who want success immediately, without putting in the time and money may wind up tripping over their feet. Stop, take a breath, and go step by step.  It'll be better in the long run.


Preview of My Speech in DetroitIABC


On October 10th I will be giving a speech at the IABC Heritage Region Conference in Detroit on branding, and how to craft your optimal brand. Here are some of the highlights.

  • "Brand" has been described by Young & Rubicam's Brand Valuator Index as having four pillars. I have shuffled them around to express Brand Positioning, rather than the Brand Value.
    • Knowledge and Esteem, which form the Brand Image
    • Differentiation and Relevance, which form the Brand Promise, or Reason to Buy
  • Some companies confuse the marketing of brand and products.
    • "Brand" is the sum of all inputs from communications and marketing activities; it has a personality and stands on its own.
    • "Product" is the sum of features and benefits in a particular item or service.
  • A Master Brand has the qualities of a "Brand" but has several (or many) products that carry that brand name (such as Campbell's Soup).
  • Many companies with strong Brands try to extend them to different categories, but they should be careful not to dillute or mar the credibility and relevance of that Brand by extending it to a category that is too far afield.
  • Finding the optimal Brand Image and Brand Promise often employ qualitative or quantitiative research.
    • Make sure to use methods that match the objectives.

Check my website or my LinkedIn page in the coming weeks to see the whole presentation.


Upcoming Events
October 19, 11:30am-1:30pm 
IABC/LI welcomes back Carol Shiro Greenwald, Ph.D., President of Marketing Professionals, who will speak about "Body Language: The Lips Say Yes and The Arms Say No." This is a topic that everyone needs to know, whether you are dealing with a boss, employees, clients, or your kids! This meeting will be held at the Huntington Hilton, 598 Broadhollow Road, Melville. For more information and to register, visit the IABC/LI website.


October 12, 8-10am


SMPS-LI is sponsoring an important meeting on Workforce Housing. It is being held at the Milleridge Inn and offers an impressive panel of experts. For more details and registration, click here.


October 18, 6-8pm


New York Women In Communications, Inc. (WICI) is hosting Cocktails and Conversation with Mika Brzezinski, of "Morning Joe" fame, and author of Knowing Your Value. This meeting will be at Scholastic, Inc., in the Soho area of Manhattan For more information click here.
November 3, 5:30-7pm
IABC/LI offers a workshop, "Power Up Your Presentation Skills," featuring Marla Seiden of Seiden Communications. This workshop is FREE for IABC members and only $25 for non-members. It will be held in Garden City; check out the website and Facebook for more details.


This practice is dedicated to helping companies become knowledge-driven, rather than assumption driven about strategic and tactical decisions concerning lines of business, branding, communications, and various marketing activities. For more information about how we do this, case studies, frequently asked questions about marketing research, and testimonials, please visit our web site:

Ann Middleman