Monday, May 18, 2020

Why Generic Marketing Won’t Work during #COVID19 Crisis

In 2014, while I watched the Super Bowl and the ads, I encountered a stream of live Tweets on Twitter led by Jim Joseph in New York using the hashtag #SuperBowlExp. While 3,000 miles away, I enjoyed the discussion about the ads with fellow branding and marketing experts. Each year since 2014, I've looked forward to Jim's Super Bowl chats sometimes even more than the Super Bowl itself. Based on Jim's expertise, I've invited him to participate in a Q&A about branding and marketing in the current COVID-19 era, and highlights follow his bio below.

To quote Jim Joseph, “Marketing is a spectator sport,” and he’s one of the industry’s most engaging, enthralling, and entertaining commentators. As the Global President of marketing communications agency BCW (Burson Cohn & Wolfe), Jim constantly puts his experience to the test. He is also an award-winning author of "The Experience Effect" series and an adjunct instructor at New York University where he teaches a graduate class in integrated marketing. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimJosephExp and check out his blog at

QUESTION: Tom Fishburne's cartoon accurately reflects how countless brands are interacting with customers and consumers during the COVID-19 crisis. What is wrong with the generic strategy?
JIM JOSEPH: In one word, fatigue. Consumers are getting tired of the same messaging over and over again. This proves that you have to be a first mover if you want to break through!

QUESTION: What brands do you think are doing a good job with their advertising and marketing during the COVID-19 crisis?
JIM JOSEPH: It's hard for me to specifically call out brands with so many being clients. But I will say that the brands that have pivoted their normal activities from trying to sell their products/services to instead focusing on adding value to their communities, be it small businesses, teachers, healthcare workers, etc., are doing a good job.

QUESTION: You last appeared here on my Blog in a Q&A in August 2018, and one of your pearls of wisdom was, “It’s nearly impossible now to separate an organization’s leadership and values from a brand.” In today’s COVID-19 era, how can leaders translate their vision into actions when many businesses are closed?

JIM JOSEPH: Connectivity is key here, more so than ever. As businesses close and employees go remote, engagement and connectivity are the only ways to keep teams feeling like they are still a part of something solid and sustainable.

QUESTION: Which five marketing books should everyone read while staying safe inside?
JIM JOSEPH: I’m currently reading:
(1) Superforecasting, the Art and Science of Prediction by Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner
(2) Authentic Marketing by Larry Weber
(3) Mindset by Carol S. Dweck

And then, but of course, my two latest books titled “The Conscious Marketer” and “Out and About Dad.”

A final thought…while in the second question, Jim did not highlight specific brands, I’d like to share some excellent examples of brands who have stepped up their marketing and advertising during the current crisis – as featured on Jim’s blog: Cottonelle, DoubleTree Hotel, Jeep in Peru, McDonald’s, Nike, Honda, Fisher-Price (as well as Mattel). I urge you to check out the timely messaging presented by these brands. You’ll be impressed!

My gratitude to Jim Joseph for appearing on my blog and for sharing his amazing insights about our passion, branding. Hope you join us during the next Super Bowl on February 7, 2021, pending how the COVID-19 pandemic affects the 2020 NFL season, from the comfort of your living room and smartphone or tablet on Twitter for Jim's live TweetChat using hashtag #SuperBowlExp.

Image Credit: Tom Fishburne ( and @TomFishburne on Twitter.

August 2018 Post Featuring Jim Joseph Q&A:
Can You Build a Brand and Tell a Story with a #Hashtag?

Monday, May 11, 2020

Leading and Brand Building during #COVID19 Pandemic

To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." As a member of the Twitterverse for ten years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently connected with John Cloonan and invited him to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A format. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

John Cloonan is a marketing and branding strategist who creates measurable growth for both companies and people. He's created brand and marketing strategies for companies ranging from startups to $2B plus, and has talked about those experiences as a speaker. John's held roles as a marketing consultant, an agency owner, a corporate marketing executive, and an adjunct professor. You can follow John on Twitter at @JohnCloonan and visit his website at

QUESTION: On your blog, you described the difference between a boss and a leader (link provided at end of this Q&A). Can you provide some examples from your work experience?
JOHN CLOONAN: In a recent role, I was brought in to manage a team of early career professionals and to reduce turnover. A typical marketing team member on this team would stay for a year or two and then bail out for greener pastures. When I got there, the reasons became pretty clear to me why they were leaving. They were being managed, mainly because of their relative youth. They had no decision autonomy on how work would get done. The person managing them was remote and treated them like children. In fact, one of the first things I had to end was other leaders calling them "the kids."

One of the first things we did as a team when we started was figure out what goals we had to accomplish to be successful in the organization. We then determined, as a team, how we were going to accomplish those goals. I provided guidance to the goals, acted as an advocate with the rest of the leadership team, and removed roadblocks. Mainly, though, I was there with them in the trenches. As an example, we found ourselves needing to edit hundreds of job descriptions on our employment site. I sat with the team for several nights, working right alongside them. We accomplished in a week what the rest of the company thought would take forever.

In a short period, the turnover stopped. The team overcame many challenges together, and both productivity and quality increased.

TWEET THIS: A boss directs and manages the activities of a group. A leader motivates a group to a common goal. ~@JohnCloonan #LeadershipTip

QUESTION: How can leaders be educated to understand that an amazing culture will yield a positive employee experience that will ultimately spill over into a positive customer experience?

JOHN CLOONAN: Begin by explaining to leaders that HR and marketing have the same job. The only difference is segmentation. Think about it. A brand represents the promise you make to your customers, and how you fulfill that promise. Your employees are a customer segment for whom you need to provide value in order to attract and retain them. You increase your customer lifetime value by providing a positive experience. That positive experience is your culture.

Beginning with that framework makes the rest simple. If you're happy, you're more likely to provide good service to your customers. If you're delighted, you're going to be an advocate for the organization and go above and beyond to improve the overall experience.

QUESTION: As a result of the current COVID19 situation, how would you recommend that leaders connect with their employees - when most businesses are closed?
JOHN CLOONAN: Be creative. Meet your team where they are. Give them the opportunity to reach out to you in the channel they want. Also, make an effort to be where they are. If you have a team member who is active on social media, engage with them there. Comment, like, and reshare their posts. If you have team members who prefer text messages, give them your mobile number and respond there. A personal favorite of mine that tends to surprise people is the occasional handwritten note in the mail. I've had former colleagues tell me they still have notes from me from years ago. Don't assume that everyone wants an online video call.

No matter what channel you choose, what you have to do is connect regularly, and continue to motivate and advocate.

QUESTION: As a result of the current COVID19 situation, how would you recommend that brands communicate with their customers and fans - when most businesses are closed?
JOHN CLOONAN: If you have customers and fans, you should already be communicating to them in a preferred set of channels beyond in-person interfaces. What changes is the message. My personal belief is that the only acceptable messages right now are "How can we help you through this?" and "Here are ways we are trying to help. Is this valuable to you?"

Notice that both of these are questions. Spend a lot of time listening. Find out what your customers and fans need or want from you right now and figure out how to deliver it.

TWEET THIS: During #COVID19, brands need to spend a lot of time listening. ~@JohnCloonan #BrandTip #BrandExperience

QUESTION: What is your favorite brand, and why?
JOHN CLOONAN: I always struggle with this question. I'm not terribly brand loyal, in fact, I'm more brand DISLOYAL - as in there are certain brands I know I'll never use. If I had to pick one, though, I'd have to say Southwest Airlines. I make a point of always flying with them, which is almost anathema here in Atlanta. I've never had a truly awful experience with them, as I have with a couple other of the major airlines.

My gratitude and appreciation to John for appearing on my Blog and for sharing his inspiring insights.

Link to John's blog post referenced in first question:
"Boss vs. Leader"

Image Credit: Medium.