"Life's too short to work for a CEO who doesn't get marketing."
"Dave, we need to talk about your budget," answered the CEO. Substitute "client" or "boss" for CEO, it still works.
Renown marketing professor Philip Kotler says there are two types of CEOs:
- those who know they don't understand marketing, and
- those who do not know they don't understand marketing.
Ouch! Ounce your company gets to a certain stage of growth, you really need marketing. But what kind of marketer? I was talking with a young graduate who just joined a newly-minted company this week. They need a smart plan, but what they don't need at this point is a lot of overhead.
Most founders and CEOs have an engineering or technical background. If you're talking about a bigger company, they have operational expertise or a sales background. They're just wired differently.
My take is you talk about what they want, take a look at what they've got, and figure out how you can help them prepare for a wider range of outcomes.
The fancy name is positioning. In war-metaphor terms, it means they're prominent in the minds of buyers / customers and stand out among other companies doing something similar. Companies that:
The game is about who owns what. Great if you get to establish that position and remain unchallenged. It's also going to cost you. How many new brands can say they own a position?
- Conquer and own ground
- Own a position
- Reflect strength in holding ground
- Bring customers to a place and evolve the place over time
But say you've been at it for a while (mature brand) and are looking to inject new growth (my sweet spot), you may be able to change the game in a slightly faster way. Many younger brands are doing that successfully (I helped a few). How?
- Owning the movement, a direction
- Reflecting flexibility and speed in holding the course
- Bringing customers on a journey, a specific path moving forward
The game becomes about who is going where. Movement allows you to do several positive things that can help you grow the business:
- Focus more on creating and energizing
- Capitalize from collaboration with customers, partners, even competitors (frenemies?)
- Promote your vision as a way to provide direction
- See more opportunities along the way
- Do your own thing and are not totally preoccupied with fighting someone else's battle
This saves a lot of energy and can be fertile ground for innovation. Opportunity is often just a conversation away.
A few weeks after naming
two younger executives to run his company,
he made headlines again.
Brunello Cucinelli to donate
$34 million worth of unsold lockdown clothes.
"This project that we all call 'intense' seems to me
to somehow elevate the dignity of man
and honor all those who have worked
in the creation of such garments."
Cucinelli has set up a “Council in Support of Mankind”,
which includes six people from his family and four from the company,
who will work with the brand's worldwide partners
to choose the organizations that will receive the garments.
“We have been channeling 40 percent of our time
to the management of 2020 to protect the brand,
our creative minds and the organization,
and the remaining 60 percent of time is dedicated
to 2021 and 2022.”
Cucinelli remains positive about the future
His cashmere jackets and
garments are meant to last generations.
Hence why there's room on the label for your name.
That's what I call style with substance.
Is brand value just an illusion?
It's forever a topic of discussion. There are several organizations that track it in different ways. You may know about Interbrand and their annual best global brands. Among the top 100 spots are mostly tech companies. You could argue that car companies have become tech-driven. Coca-Cola and McDonald's still give marketing lessons.
Honorable mention to Gucci at No. 33 and Ferrari at No. 77. Such symmetry! Prada squeaked in at No. 100. The very same Italian brands doing better on Brand Finance Italy 50 (Italian). "Gucci is still the Italian brand that produces the greatest economic value, Ferrari the strongest, that is, the most influential."
Take a glance at the numbers we're talking about. Financial value is part of it.
To brand or not to brand, that is the question. Naming is part of it.
- It's something I've done for products and services. Naming is part science, part art. What's in a name?
- Poets have an advantage with naming. They're curious. What's involved?
- What's the value of a brand name? Do you have the power to charge a higher price for the same product? That could be part of the answer.
- How does a drug get its name? Drug makers propose generic names according to their compound's chemical makeup. We did something similar with chemicals for agriculture.
- What brand names do you use as generic terms? Here are 41. FYI: Even heroin, which no one should use any day, was a brand name.
Maybe brands are just like classics: survivors.
The classics influence our thoughts and words. Reading the classics, even those that might have survived for the wrong reasons, is useful to understand what we're thinking.
Umberto Eco was a deep thinker, I scoured interviews and talks to find interesting questions to ask him, posthumously. He could also have a lot of fun with stories. Here's one about eating on planes.
His thoughts on lists inspired me to create an incomplete list of verbs—a bias toward action? I'm introducing a lot of work by Italians in these letters, it's my way of inviting you to dinner where culture is the entree.
[if you'd like to argue with me the wisdom of my choices,
there's a handy article below]
“Don't take yourself too seriously."
- Umberto Eco