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Author: Mark DiMassimo

Welcome to the Direct Age.

People have never had access to so many amazing tools for connecting with organizations and services that can inspire them to achieve incredible things. Not so long ago, “consumers” were out there. Marketers needed to learn about their customers and their preferences from “the channel,” the sales team, or from expensive market research. They needed to be recruited through retail or sales. It was hard to know much about them as individuals. Today, your customer holds you in her hand. Texts you. Tweets you. You are the button she pushes. You are the apps she launches. You are the tool she uses to get from here to there. Physically. Emotionally. Mentally. You are your customer’s utility. Today, consumers have unprecedented direct access to the organizations that serve them. Equally, companies have unprecedented direct access to their customers and prospects. The direct age is the age of interactive selling. It’s the age of collaboration. It’s also the age of social customer service. If your service and your story works best for inspiring action in the customer, and if that action becomes habit, then you win.

We inspire greatness in individuals and in the companies that serve them through great direct experiences that inspire action.

 

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Brand Is What People Say About You When You’re Not In The Room.

brand blog

Branding is the process of building a coherent and distinct pattern of associations in the mind of a target audience.

When I say, “Apple,” a whole world of associations come up. When I say “Microsoft” a different world of associations come to mind. To the extent that both bring up associations, they have been “branded.” To the extent that those associations are clear, distinct, and helpful, they have been successfully branded.

Branding firms use culture, product, image, design, sound, voice, language, price, service, entertainment, celebrity, fashion, and interaction – an extremely broad range of tools – to build the brand. Today, the mission of an organization and the meaning of being associated with that mission is important to many people as well.

Too often, branding is associated with much more limited objectives. For example, logo and visual identity standards. While these are key tools for branding, they alone don’t create the brand.

Very often, when people use the word “brand” they are referring to what the company thinks and says about itself.

But brand is what other people say about you when you are not in the room. Brand is about what your audience feels about you in their heart of hearts. Your brand is not what you tell people it is, your brand is what people tell people it is. What you say is just your attempt to affect that understanding.

Today, brands are built by great products and services, first and foremost. In a world of online reviews, advertising and spin cannot trump a predominance of bad experiences. Not everyone, but your target audience must be delighted.

 

To Build A Brand Masterpiece

I can’t remember when I first became fascinated with brands, but I know I was just a young child. Back then, Cheerios and Wheaties, Esso and Shell, Little Friskies cat food, Avis Rent-a-Car, were like cartoon characters to me. They had distinct personalities and I felt like I knew them, just like I knew the characters in my favorite shows.

From the brands I learned to love on TV to the more mature brands I later grew to love. The rock bands I worshipped. The threat and allure of Disco, Punk, New Wave and beyond. The religions I was pitched at school, in the streets and at my front door. My first credit cards from Citibank and American Express. Nike and Apple.

What art form gives you all the senses to work with? Sight. Sound. Smell. Hearing. Touch. And story, imagination and emotion too?

The dream began to form in me of building brands the way Picasso made paintings, the way Frank Lloyd Wright made buildings, the way Edison made inventions. Could I give thought to every touch point, and express a distinct and attractive personality that would remain consistent without ever being boring or trite?

I wanted to learn from the best, so I went to work for the best in the business. I chose as my clients entrepreneurial masters of brand building. I never thought of myself as the master, but only as student and servant. I practiced my craft obsessively. I stayed up nights writing. I read every book. I invited my heroes to lunch, always trying to learn a bit more, to add another key.

Yes, all of that time, I was a direct marketer. All of that time, I was measured by how well my work pulled, by beating controls, by winning tests, by conquering the A/B splits.

I learned all the tricks, but my greatest trick of all and the most effective was the ability to evoke emotion through brand. “A great brand idea is the ultimate response device,” I said. And I proved it repeatedly.

I’ve watched a lot of direct brands and careers die since then. Simultaneously, I’ve watched the great direct-led brands become the leading brands of our time. American Express, Apple, Amazon, Airbnb … and that’s just the A’s!

Remember, if you are in the business of selling directly, don’t merely sell. Build a rich, evocative, emotional brand. Use every touch point to differentiate. Err on the side of too much personality. Crush apathy. Make objectivity impossible.

Just as I do, so many wildly successful marketers remember their first journey of brand discovery as the true commencement of their marketing careers. They look back on that quest to uncover the insight that can change and organize everything going forward. The way they followed the data to the customer journey and came back with the golden insight, then mined that inspiring idea for all it was worth.

It’s a revolution in a brand, in a business and in a marketer’s career. In fact, many marketers have told me, “That’s when I first felt like a real marketer.”

Let’s do marketing for real. Let’s build a masterpiece.

 

See Like An Optimizer

The following post is an excerpt from Digital@Speed, authored by digital marketing guru Mark DiMassimo. Visit the official website here to download your free copy today.

Optimizers have a way of seeing.

If I can’t get this across to you, then nothing else in this book will get you all the way there. You have to be able to project things forward in your mind. Like a chess master, to think trough the next few moves. You have to develop a feel for how things might go. The truth is, we all have this radar. It’s just human instinct. But some of us have better access to it than others.

This has been scientifically proven. If a threat – say a rat or a coyote – enters your peripheral vision, your little hairs will stand on end before you even consciously know what’s going on. Something in you knew, and reacted.

We know. Even when we think we don’t. Even when we’re so invested in the idea that we don’t that we’d swear to it ten ways to Sunday. We know.

We need a way of getting it out. I write a journal. I meditate. I play devil’s advocate with my partners and ask them to do the same with me. I indulge in focused worry sessions, to make sure i’m not missing anything.

Project forward, and optimize.

Hunting With A Fishing Pole?

The following post is an excerpt from Digital@Speed, authored by digital marketing guru Mark DiMassimo. Visit the official website here to download your free copy today.

Too many people are failing for hunting with a fishing pole. 

Let’s say you’ve gotten this far in life on your fishing skills. But the waters are all fished out and the hunters are bringing home the big dinners now. Do you get advice, read all you can about hunting, find a guide or partner to lead you? Or do you just head off into the woods with your fishing pole and tackle?

Of course not. If you are with me to this point, you of course recognize this as absurd. And yet we all do this in some part of our lives, very likely in more than one. The fact is it’s so hard to keep track of the things we know that it’s impossible to even learn the names and categories of all the things we don’t know.

And knowing is just the first step. Accepting is another thing entirely. Knowing what to do about it is a third. If the thing you don’t know is a fatal flaw such as not knowing how to judge character and quality in people, then that’s going to dog you no matter what you do. You are going to need to address that directly, as quickly and as energetically as you can. You’re going to need to get the best help you can with that, because it will be like driving with the emergency brake on- it not only slows you down, it also stinks.

Work as hard as you can on getting to know what you don’t know. If you don’t know marketing, find someone to trust. Of course you need to learn and check with other advisors, but you want to try to develop trust and a good relationship with a key advisor. Look for proof, for measures of success that make sense, but delegate real responsibility and authority.

Create a real partnership and let it flower.

 

Take The Word “Brief” Seriously

The following post is an excerpt from Digital@Speed, authored by digital marketing guru Mark DiMassimo. Visit the official website here to download your free copy today.

Ernest Hemingway is said to have created the shortest short story ever. Over lunch at the Algonquin Round Table in New York City, Hemingway bey his writer friends he could write a compelling tale in only six words. His lunch mates happily bet $10 each that he couldn’t do it. Hemingway scribbled six words on a napkin, then passed it around. Each writer read the napkin and immediately conceded Hemingway had won. The six words: “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.”

At DiMassimo Goldstein, we could say, “We’ll get you to a better place and we’ll get you there quicker.” But we say, “Higher standards. Shorter runways.”

So let’s not ever make each other guess which part of a brief is the important part. Let’s just include the important part. Let’s make sure our briefs are simple, compelling and crystal clear. Nothing in an agency is more sacred. – From the DIGO Standard .

I like to think that it’s called a brief for a reason. This is not about “minimalism” or some fetish for curtness. Before a brief can be a tool for getting the right creative work or media thinking out of a team, a brief is a tool for getting thoughts focused. Focused thinking is elegant. An elegant solution is everything that is necessary to solve a problem, and not one thing more. Looking at it from the other directions, you want it as simple as possible, but no simpler.

Think problem/solution. Question/answer. Stimulus/response. Just as listening well is essential to communicating effectively, defining the problem is essential to creating a solution.

 

Excavate Your People Theory

The following post is an excerpt from Digital@Speed, authored by digital marketing guru Mark DiMassimo. Visit the official website here to download your free copy today.

What do you believe about people? What do you think they work for? What motivates them?

You have a people theory whether you know it or not. No one could long survive in a society without some operating theory of what will work in interactions with other people.

When I was in college, I interned at a psychiatric hospital on the acute care ward. People came in at their absolute craziest. Sometimes they were truly stark raving mad. But for the most part, these people were successful more than half of the time in navigating interactions with other people.

On the other hand, even the most successful don’t have perfect social records. They misjudge people or themselves. They make mistakes.

They too have people in theories in action.

A leader should be as conscious of his or her people theory as possible. Look for your patterns. Write stuff down. Question your assumptions. It’s not easy, but it’s less painful than expensive mistakes.

 

Game Changing Isn’t Game Winning

The following post is an excerpt from Digital@Speed, authored by digital marketing guru Mark DiMassimo. 

I love game changers. They drive the world forward. They are the natural force in national selection. They are the good guys of business. And I want them to win. I want them to end up on top.

But, often they don’t. Because game changing and game winning don’t automatically go together. Think about it this way: Innovation creates a window of opportunity. The window opens with the introduction of the change. It closes when the new way is copied, tweaked, improved and deployed by the competition.

What the game changer does between the opening and the closing of that window is everything. If you move quickly to own the change, to own it in the marketplace, to own it in the minds of your target audience, then you make it much more difficult for your much larger and richer competitors to co-opt that innovation.

Between the opening and closing of the window, there is DIGO.