A Tale of Two Specialities

a tale of two specialities

Once upon a time there was a techie whose career was shaped by product development. For years, she created software with very talented developers. They would create great products. They would celebrate exciting releases.

One day, she ventured into MarketingLand and was amazed by the world of market validation, product positioning, and competitive dynamics. Here, other talented team members had scoured the market landscape to determine how to position, price, and sell products even before developers created the technology. She had a sublime “eureka!” moment. “Without marketing,” she mused, “development is most unequivocally incomplete.” And so, awakened to the need for good marketing in product development and determined to learn about the ways of this new world, she stayed in MarketingLand and charted the next course of her career. She worked hard for the rest of her days to blend good marketing with good development and lived happily ever after.

Well, of course, I was not such a wide-eyed newbie, but my transition from product development to marketing has been an enchanted journey. Continue reading ‘A Tale of Two Specialities’


Colonel Math…on the Internet…with analytics!

Is too much math killing marketing?

In Clue, the classic board game, players strategically deduce which suspect has murdered Mr. Boddy, the game’s perpetual victim, with which weapon, in which room. Invariably, the deadly culprit seems to be the kerfuffled old Colonel Mustard. In the game of marketing, Colonel Math, it seems, has been lurking about with murderous intent, as marketers have started to question whether an intense focus on quantitative analysis is, in fact, killing the essence of marketing.

At this year’s SXSW Interactive conference, I attended one such session, titled aptly enough, “Is Too Much Math Killing Marketing?” The March issue of Advertising Age addressed the same in “Our Biggest Brands Can No Longer Be Managed By Nerds,” in which Tom Hinkes, principal consultant at OutBranding, writes that something is “desperately wrong with consumer brand marketing.” Marketing creativity and consumer-empathy is being crushed as marketers the world over wrangle obsessively with scientific analysis and spreadsheets.

Internet marketing, in particular, has transformed marketing into its myopically-focused incarnation of rigorous testing and algorithmic analytics. Continue reading ‘Colonel Math…on the Internet…with analytics!’


Designing a brand amuse-bouche

a brand amuse-bouche

In cuisine, an amuse-bouche serves as a gateway to the chef’s imagination. Literally translated as “mouth amuser,” the delectable morsel is a palatable introduction to value the restaurant is set to provide. An amuse-bouche can set the mood for the entire dining experience. In branding, a logo presents a similar opportunity to entice the consumer.

The corporate logo is a visual representation of the company’s offering and comprises an initial facet of its branding strategy. Like a well-constructed amuse-bouche, a logo serves as a key identifier that can provide consumers with instant and powerful brand recognition. It is, for all practical purposes, an “eye amuser” designed to catch the viewer’s attention and help form a crucial first impression of the business. Ideally, a good logo not only establishes brand identity and a professional look for the enterprise but also builds brand loyalty.

Formulating a solid branding strategy should be a precursor to embarking on the logo creation process. Why? A well-designed logo is a mini-advertisement for its company. Continue reading ‘Designing a brand amuse-bouche’


A city by any other name…

a city by any other name

Topeka, Kansas, the small capital city in the heart of America’s prairieland, came under the international spotlight last week when the city’s mayor announced he would rename his town “Google, Kansas.” Granted, the name change is temporary, but the rebranding decision came as an interesting twist in the city’s play to attract the “Fiber for Communities” initiative that Google® is spearheading.

Apart from the late-night barbs and opinion pieces about the absurdity of the name, the decision was not a whimsical move. The mayor hopes the cute alias will attract the Internet giant’s attention as it narrows locations for its high speed Internet program. The aggressive program, designed to provide wired Internet at 100 times the current average speed, has roused Internet providers who see it as a game-changing ploy by Google to own a market that they have defined. Needless to say, current providers are not happy. Continue reading ‘A city by any other name…’


Moving forward in crisis

moving forward in crisis

Tylenol®. Jack in the Box®. Enron®. WaMu®. Not only has each of these brands weathered crises of varying complexity and severity, but each firm negotiated its respective crisis with a degree of insight that resulted either in surprising success or utter failure. Today, few consumers dwell on Tylenol’s cyanide tamperings of the early 1980s. Fewer yet would have trusted their investments with Washington Mutual as the financial crisis unfolded last year. In a business landscape where crises steadily smolder, Toyota® is but the latest firm to land in the brand firestorm.

Brand crises can transform a company in inalterable ways, since a brand name serves as more than just a product identifier. For most companies, brands are repositories of years of strategic effort and company integrity. A successful brand conveys far more than a simple message about product efficacy. It carries a deeper promise to provide a consistent, safe user experience from one usage to the next. Effective brands transcend the label and become symbols of the trust and reliance that consumers put into the company. Continue reading ‘Moving forward in crisis’


Mental model message

mental model message

Just Do It.™” Three concise words that not only comprise one of the most recognizable slogans in advertising history but have transformed Nike® into an emblem of athleticism. According to Nike company lore, the slogan was coined quite unintentionally in 1988 at a meeting hosted by Wieden and Kennedy, Nike’s advertising agency. Dan Weiden, speaking admiringly of Nike’s can-do attitude to a group of Nike executives, reportedly gushed, “You Nike guys, you just do it.” And the rest, as they say, is advertising history.

Twenty years later, juxtaposed next to Nike’s indelible “swoosh,” the “Just Do It” slogan is still deeply imprinted on our collective brand consciousness. I felt the sway of Nike’s brand as I eyed a new pair of cross-trainers during a recent shopping trip. “You’ll like them,” the salesman assured me, “they’re really athletic.” Really athletic. My mind raced with images of Sporty Me. Suddenly, I was transformed into a vigorous jogger. Or perhaps the shoes would morph me into the aerobics maven who lurks under professional clothes and demeanor. Maybe I could “just do” the physical lifestyle that hectic real-life keeps me from pursuing. My mental model was seized with possibilities.

It is this mental model, mine and countless others, on which Nike has spent millions. Continue reading ‘Mental model message’


A brand new you

brand new you

Don’t you understand? I already have a plan. I’m waiting for my real life to begin.

In “Waiting for My Real Life to Begin,” Colin Hay sings of the restless ambition that lies in the quest for rediscovery. There’s a sense of anticipation, of looking forward to the adventures that lie ahead. The past year has been a momentous time of change and rediscovery for a number of my friends and colleagues as they navigate their respective careers. While some started a new journey of their own volition, others were forced to trek down a new path. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate doubled to 10 percent between December of 2007 and the same period in 2009.

Statistics aside, the recent economic twists and turns have presented not just difficult challenges but new opportunities, not the least of which is the chance to define (or in some cases, redefine) a personal brand. Continue reading ‘A brand new you’


Ride the social media wave

ride the media wave

On the eve of the new year, a friend asked me to define, in one word, the decade we were about to depart. “Waves,” I answered. She looked puzzled, but I gave her an assured nod. Waves represent change. At times the change is gentle, like the soothing ebb and flow of the morning tide. At others, a wave may usher in a sweeping transformation that alters the landscape in inexpressible ways.

Marketing in the last decade was marked by waves that transformed its more traditional forms. Each new technological tide offered businesses an improved way to market their products and services. And businesses followed each trend not because it was in vogue but out of commercial necessity. At first companies went online for the sake of being online. Search optimization followed with a quick push to Google Adwords and, soon, blogging became the channel of choice.

Today, social media have garnered a new wave of attention as businesses race to ride the surge of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and any number of offerings that dot the vast sea of specialized user communities and forums. Continue reading ‘Ride the social media wave’


Your site is the message

marketing communication

Years ago, a colleague handed a copy of You Are the Message: Secrets of the Master Communicators to me. “This will change the way you communicate,” he promised. Tucked inside the pages of the book were anecdotal pearls of wisdom from the renowned Roger Ailes. As each chapter illustrated individual techniques of public speaking and effective communication, the book’s overall message was simple. It takes seven seconds to form an impression. And in the time that our words convey an idea, every inflection of tone, each nuanced gesture speaks volumes in itself.

Did the book change the way I communicate? Yes. But not just in ways in which to improve my verbal and nonverbal communication. As the Internet and digital media have burgeoned in the past decade, I’ve looked past the book’s obvious relevance to interpersonal communication and come to appreciate its underlying theme: every form of communication is its own message.

This includes marketing communication, especially on the hyper-communicative World Wide Web where a company’s website is sometimes its only form of messaging. Continue reading ‘Your site is the message’


A technographic time-lapse

technographic time-lapse

In cinematography, the time-lapse technique is used to accelerate the evolution of an object. The development of a city skyline, the busy bustle of a crowd, or the ethereal motion of rushing clouds: each has been used to give the impression of transformation in an onslaught of activity. In my mind’s eye, the dramatic growth of the Internet along with the development of social media services that has accompanied this growth in the last few years is nothing less than a time-lapse of technology.

When I started my consulting firm six years ago, I would never have anticipated just how explosive this growth would be. Granted, at the time I was more focused on implementing marketing campaigns for client firms than on analyzing marketing strategies that would define the future of business. Yet the signs were there. In 2004, a little company named Facebook® was about to launch. Another newcomer, LinkedIn®, had convinced me to start my profile as a way to network with colleagues and clients. And Twitter® was but a glimmer at Odeo. Continue reading ‘A technographic time-lapse’

about neena gupta needel

In marketing, a brand touchpoint refers to every opportunity a company has to impress its brand upon its consumers. I hope my thoughts on these pages will help to connect my ideas with others who share a passion for marketing and communication.

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