Tag Archives: brand building

Three Ways to Build a Brand and Remain Relevant

Today’s Tuesdays With Coleman blog post features guest contributor Deena Hollander, President of Advantage Music Research. Coleman Insights and Advantage Music Research have a strategic partnership where each firm refers potential clients to the other when it is deemed the other’s music testing offering may be better suited to a client’s needs.

A friend from high school recently launched a new adventure in podcasting. Part of the iHeartRadio Podcast Network, Office Hours with Mike Steib features interviews Mike has with chief executives and leaders. I started listening to his first podcast, an interview with clothing designer Tommy Hilfiger, and right away I was enthralled. Tommy Hilfiger spoke about starting up a new company, how to keep a company relevant, as well as some marketing strategies.

As a recent entrepreneur, having launched Advantage Music Research eight years ago, this interview really resonated with me. As Hilfiger mentions, every company starts from the bottom and needs to work to build itself up.  He compared building a business to building a home. You need to go step by step, floor by floor. You can’t skip ahead. So, what are some best practices for starting up a business, getting your name out there, and staying relevant?

Here are the three points that really stood out to me.

  • Step #1: Do something disruptive

As you start a marketing campaign, think differently. What will make you stand out from the rest? George Lois, who headed up Tommy’s advertising, states you need to “do something disruptive.” Get the consumers’ attention. One of Tommy’s first ads is best known as the Hangman campaign. It features the names of four well-known American designers for men, only showing the first initials of their first and last names (Ralph Lauren, Perry Ellis, and Calvin Klein). Plot twist…there was a fourth name listed, Tommy’s, and a line showcasing the logo for the “least known” of the four designers. The ad teases viewers that soon, they will know Tommy Hilfiger and states the other designers will have some competition. What makes this ad so great? Tommy showcases the best designers and then boldly compares himself to them. It was a great way for consumers to ask, who is this Tommy Hilfiger? In the case of my company, it was delivering a quality level of music test research at a price point previously unavailable to the market.


  • Step #2: Pick a lane and stay in that lane until you perfect it

Where’s The Beef? Just Do It. Give Me A Break. I’m Lovin’ It. A Diamond Is Forever.

You’re probably familiar with all the companies that have consistently employed these taglines. They’re etched in your memory not only due to their catchiness but also because these companies have unwaveringly used them.

One of the most critical elements in growing a business is establishing and retaining brand recognition. Some of the most prosperous companies have clung to the same taglines and logos for numerous years. Tommy’s logo, for instance, has remained unchanged since its inception, and I would venture to guess that most consumers could identify it as a Tommy Hilfiger brand just by seeing the logo without the name. When it comes to brand awareness, repetition is key.

  • Step #3: Evolve and differentiate

How can companies distinguish themselves and maintain relevance in a fiercely competitive market? Tommy emphasizes that merely following the crowd won’t secure your place in the market. What actions can you and your company take to truly stand out and excel, surpassing your competitors? What is your unique value proposition?

Coleman Insights’ experts Jon Coleman and Jay Nachlis have extensively discussed the concept of Blue Ocean Strategy. This strategic approach is one that the Hilfiger brand adopted years ago. Tommy Hilfiger continually dedicates himself to enhancing his brand’s identity and ensuring its continued relevance. He stresses the importance of crafting superior products and understanding the needs and desires of customers.

How do brands expand and stay relevant? Some companies offer new goods and services. Some, like Play-Doh, need to change the use of their product.

In the 1930s, the popular children’s modeling clay, Play-Doh, was first sold as a cleaner that would help to remove residue from wallpaper. In the 1950s, as oil and gas furnaces became more popular, the demand for Play-Doh fell. The owners learned of a local schoolteacher using the clay for arts and crafts in their classroom. Seeing the potential of Play-Doh becoming a child’s product, they quickly changed the product to add some vibrant colors making it more appealing to the children.

Disrupt, pick a lane, and evolve. While this is never an easy task and requires regular auditing of your brand, it’s nevertheless a proven roadmap to success.


The Content Leeway Provided by Brand Building

Scott Van Pelt hosts the midnight edition of Sportscenter on ESPN. But unlike other editions of the show, which are highly ESPN-branded, Van Pelt’s variant is, well…very Scott Van Pelt.

When teasing the show, ESPN will use an acronym of his name­­—SVP. Scott Van Pelt has his own logo, which highlights his distinctively shaped glasses and a set of headphones. And the logo is all over the set—on a helmet and ball in front of him and via multiple vantage points behind him. As a viewer, you may know you are watching ESPN, and you may know you’re watching Sportscenter, but you definitely know you’re watching Scott Van Pelt.

If any other Sportscenter anchor started talking about the death of their dog, it would seem hopelessly awkward and out of place. But when Van Pelt used his “One Big Thing” feature on Sportscenter (which he also turns into a podcast) to talk about the passing of his dog Otis, it didn’t seem out of place at all. Why is that?

Yes, the content was good. Actually, it was extraordinary. Van Pelt perfectly put into words what every dog owner who has ever dealt with the death of their good boy or girl (both of my Shetland Sheepdogs passed last year) feels. It was both heartwarming and heartbreaking. And it was on Sportscenter.

The reason why it worked on Van Pelt’s Sportscenter and why it would not have played the same on another version of the show is Van Pelt himself. Scott Van Pelt has effectively built a brand within the construct of the ESPN and Sportscenter brands. He does it with his personality and his content, but it is reinforced with the branding. Great logos work. Great acronyms work (just ask KFC and IHOP). The branding reinforces the content, helps build perceptions, and gives Van Pelt license to share with his audience how the death of his beloved Otis affected him. The Sportscenter brand on its own does not.

Always focus on generating great content, but never forget the brand building component.

The Urgency of Brand Building: A Conversation with Pierre Bouvard

Pierre Bouvard, Chief Insights Officer at Cumulus Media and Westwood One, worked with Coleman Insights in the 90s and was instrumental in the growth of our company. Recently, Pierre and I have had discussions about long-term brand building strategy versus short-term activation tactics. We’ve talked about how favoring short-term strategies over brand building has become something of an epidemic in most advertising. What’s striking is just how similarly many radio stations are following the exact same short-term playbook, often to their peril. I spent an hour with Pierre to dig into the reasons why brand building is not just a good idea, it’s urgently required. While it applies to nearly every brand, he specifically covers why and how radio should pay attention.

Cumulus Media/Westwood One Chief Insights Officer Pierre Bouvard

“The job of brand building advertising is to be known before you’re needed.”

This was the line that began our conversation. Creating awareness and good feelings about your brand is, by far, the most important thing you can do–whether it’s a radio station or a furniture store. We talked about two common marketing tactics: sales activation and brand building.


For a retailer, a sales activation strategy manifests itself as a sale/event. It may include price drops, promotions, and giveaways. The goal is to get the consumer to do something quickly. Radio stations deploy this strategy all the time in the form of contesting. Calls to action. Listen and win. Text for concert tickets. What is the effect of the sales activation strategy?

Generally speaking, it works…which is why marketers keep doing it. But how it works, and the net effect is important.

Pierre outlines the work of Les Binet and Peter Field, who he calls the “godfathers of marketing effectiveness.” Binet and Field showed that when the sales activation strategy is used, though it can show great ROI, brand perceptions are unchanged. Additionally, there is actually no long-term increase in sales.

You can see a parallel to the way many in radio see the world through “this quarter” or “the next book.” An attempt to justify ratings in the most recent period based on generally inconsequential effects such as some bad weather or a jock being on vacation is pure folly. The reality is your current performance is reflecting things that happened in the past year or a year ago. Focus on the short-term and you get intoxicated with doing promotions or finding a meter. That does nothing to build who you are and what you do long-term.

This is validated by research from marketing consultancy Gain Theory, demonstrating that only 18% of the impact of marketing communication is immediate. 58% of the impact is realized six months or later.


Just as brand building builds sales over time, at a higher level than the sales activation strategy, radio stations with strong brands build stronger ratings over time.

And, it starts with something that affects how consumers choose your brand and is perhaps more important than anything else…”mental availability.”

Pierre shared a quote from Les Binet and Sarah Carter that he feels is immensely important for radio stations:

“The single most important factor driving brand preference is mental availability. How well known a brand is, how easily it comes to mind. Brands with low mental availability tend to struggle in favor of more familiar rivals or are not considered in the first place.”

If you really think about it, this is contrary to how many programmers think about their radio stations. Are you thinking about extending the amount of time someone listens every day or week? The reality is their lifestyle and habits very well may not permit them to give your station more listening. That’s why the answer is to expand the pie and bring more people into the station. The way to do that is building awareness. That’s done through brand building.

When focusing on brand building, Pierre points to the use of “fluent devices,” and he wishes more radio stations would use them. Exhibit A is a new segment that has become a significant radio advertiser–online sports betting. Almost all advertising for these companies is sales activation: “Download our app, get a $50 bonus”; “Get a free play for signing up,” and so on. But one company has chosen the brand building route.

Featuring comedian JB Smoove as Caesar, commercials for Caesars Sportsbook have featured everyone from Halle Berry as Cleopatra to football’s Manning family. They are unique, funny, and fun. The offer isn’t the star. Caesar is the fluent device.

A fluent device can be a memorable slogan, like Snickers unleashed for years with “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” It’s the lonely Maytag repairman. It’s memorable and fun, and it builds the brand.

Brands shouldn’t employ only a brand building strategy, just as they shouldn’t only employ a sales activation strategy. In fact, Binet and Field themselves say the typical brand should do about 60% brand building and 40% sales activation. The problem is that most are way too heavy into the short-term camp.

Pierre suggests radio stations perform a promo inventory analysis. Determine how much time is being spent screaming about concert tickets and how much time is truly being spent explaining what the station does in a fun way. It’s not about losing the contesting, which serves an important role. It’s about finding the right balance and recognizing the patience required to build a brand is well worth it.

“Imagine I have a lawn that needs work. I watered and fertilized it this week and nothing happened. It didn’t work! That’s the danger of short-term thinking. If we treat building brands the way we treat growing our lawn, you’ll love the end result.”