Tag Archives: branding

Nobody Likes Kale

Coleman Insights’ Brand-Content Matrix measures brand and content strength. The goal is to be in the upper right quadrant, at the intersection of strong brand and great content. While we generally share examples of where audio brands fall on the Brand-Content Matrix, today we’ll have a little fun. I’ll demonstrate how this tool can be used to evaluate the brand and content strength of just about anything. Even a vegetable.

Kale is disgusting. It is dry, has a texture so rubbery my car could drive on it, and leaves your mouth with a bitter aftertaste. Mmmmm.

But my opinion isn’t shared by millions who eat kale everyday and think it offers “great content.” It’s become a brand juggernaut in the health food space.  But kale didn’t always have a strong brand, and it wasn’t loved for its content either. If kale—kale!—can build a brand and develop strong content, surely your brand can too. Let’s explore how it was done.

First of all, while its popularity may be, kale itself is definitely not new. Kale has been cultivated for over 2,000 years in North America, and the frost-resistant crop dates back to 600 BC when the Celts brought it from Europe to Asia Minor. Legend has it that the largest buyer of kale prior to 2012 was Pizza Hut. They used it as garnish around their salad bars.

Pizza Hut using kale on its salad bar

But today, kale is found in high priced foods and beverages and is a darling of the health food industry.

Which hipster is responsible for this disaster?

Actually, it may be Martha Stewart’s fault.

Her company’s Whole Living magazine branded kale a “powerfood” in 2008. Then she published a recipe for kale slaw in 2009. The next thing you know, Dr. Oz is talking about kale and thyroids, Gwenyth Paltrow’s making kale chips, and your kale smoothie–natch, “superfood smoothie”—is $8.95.

The rise of kale was pretty handy for the food industry, as you can snag a bunch of it at Walmart for 78 cents. Which I contend is still overpriced.


Kale would not and could not have climbed its way up the brand ladder from buffet garnish at the Hut to chic miracle green without some really impressive branding and marketing efforts. Calling it a “superfood” and “power food” is utter genius. Getting the right celebrities behind it powers the engine.

This is how kale’s brand shifted from weak to strong, but it still had a content problem. You may be drawn to try kale thanks to its brand strength, but you won’t try it again if you don’t like it.

An equally brilliant move by the kale brigade was the decision to include kale as a secondary ingredient in so many recipes.

You likely don’t order a kale smoothie—maybe you order a pineapple kale or blueberry kale version. Or something like the Detox Island Green smoothie at Tropical Smoothie Café with spinach, kale, mango, pineapple, banana, and fresh ginger.

Fun fact, I’ve had the Detox Island Green smoothie. It’s delicious. You know why? IT DOESN’T TASTE LIKE KALE!

Fruit masks the flavor of the kale.

So does the spicy sweet potato and avocado sauce in a Southwestern Kale Power Salad.

“Oh, I sauteé kale! It tastes so good!” Maybe that’s because you mix in garlic and bacon.

So you see, the kale squad didn’t just run a master class in branding. They knew the taste of mere kale alone would keep its sad spot in the upper left quadrant of the Brand-Content Matrix (strong brand, poor content.) So close, but yet so far.

Because they figured out how to boost the brand as well as improve the eating experience, it could easily be argued that kale is in fact it its rightful position in the upper right quadrant, with its strong brand and great content.

I can only hope we’re towards the end of this long national nightmare. But in the meantime, I’ll tip my cap to team kale, and take this moment to remind you that there needs to be consistent, deliberate efforts undertaken to build a strong brand. But that is simply not enough.

You better also come to the party with strong content. If your content is mere kale-level, it is incumbent on you to spice it up and make it a superfood.

Finally, let’s toast this branding/content moment with a strawberry-banana smoothie.

You know, what smoothies are supposed to be made of.

Gathering the Family Together for Noods

Tuesdays With Coleman

With all the news lately, you may have missed one of the all-time greatest examples of a brand-content mismatch.

The Kraft Macaroni & Cheese “Send Noods” campaign.

Yep, that Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. The one you remember eating as a kid. The one your kids ask for by name. The brand that’s part of warm family memories around the dinner table.

The campaign encouraged consumers to visit enjoynoods.com (don’t bother, it’s gone), posts on the brand’s social media sites (they’re gone, too), and using the hashtag #sendnoods to get free boxes of Mac & Cheese to send to family and friends.

Creative and impressively designed marketing pieces includes blurred out images:

Top View Magazine Mockup by Anthony Boyd Graphics


Top View Magazine Mockup by Anthony Boyd Graphics

And a video (since deleted from Kraft’s official pages) starring former SNL cast member Vanessa Bayer laying beside the fireplace encouraging you to send noods, not nudes.

The campaign was scheduled to last from October 6th-11th, so by the time Kraft removed the content in response to outraged parents claiming they were sexualizing mac & cheese, it was already over.

So, was the campaign successful?

Kraft says they delivered over 20,000 boxes of mac. They certainly got some buzz, though it was likely limited thanks to everything else going on in the world.

For certain brands, a campaign using innuendo and double-entendres designed to surprise and grab attention makes perfect sense.

But for Kraft Macaroni & Cheese–a brand built on pretty much the opposite image–it doesn’t seem like the greatest move. On our Brand-Content MatrixSM, we’d put this campaign in the upper left quadrant. Kraft Macaroni & Cheese has an incredibly strong brand, but executed poor content out of sync with its images.

Brand Content Matrix

Brands should aim to be in the upper right quadrant of the Brand-Content Matrix.

Would they have had even greater response if, for example, they launched a campaign inviting parents to send pictures or videos of their kids saying “cheese”? If there’s one thing I know, it’s that parents love showing off their children, and that’s an example of content that’s perfectly in line with the brand. That would be in the upper right quadrant.

Kraft is a big brand, strong enough to easily move pass a branding faux pas. Not every brand would be.

Do you agree? Did Kraft miss the mark or was the campaign worth it?

The Story of a Once Dominant Brand

Tuesdays With Coleman

This is the story of a once-dominant radio station that did everything right.

The owners deployed a perceptual research (Plan DeveloperSM) study on the brand every single year to ensure its market position was the most optimal one. It had an enviable Image PyramidSM: a strong Base Music Position, a dominant morning show that complemented the brand, and deep images that permeated the community.

The Coleman Insights Image Pyramid

Because this station consistently fielded research, we saw things that were not obviously there. Ratings were great. Revenue was great. But there was trouble brewing, and we could identify it early.

For obvious reasons, we can’t share identifying information such as the market, station, and personalities, but we invite you to take a look back at the progression of studies done for this brand over a nearly fifteen year period to get a clearer glimpse of how the process works–and how valuable perceptual research can be.

At one time, our client station was in an outstanding position. Their perceptual research looked very strong. It was strongly associated with its desired music images and the morning show was the dominant leader in the market. In fact, in the early stages of research, our morning show was growing with Cume and P1 listeners and there were few signs of weakness.

Then a new competitor launched. It wasn’t the first time our station had fended off competitors. If ratings and revenue were the measure of success, the client station was still in an outstanding place. The new competitor was on a weak signal, which limited its potential. But early on, despite what ratings showed, the morning show on the new competitor displayed positive early indicators in our research. And, despite what the ratings said, we saw the first signs of image erosion with our show.

About a year later, it was clear the crosstown morning show showed impressive promise with the younger end of our target demographic. We recommended attempting to acquire the other morning show.

Eleven months later, our morning show still performed well in the ratings, but there was a clear disconnect with the younger end. At this point, our station had a far stronger Base Music Position and in fact the competitor’s base position was weakening. But their morning show was growing and was wildly popular among their P1s. Their show was not performing to its potential because that station’s Base Music Position was weak. Again, we recommended making a play for the other show.

A year later, the weakness of our competitor’s music position continued to hamper their morning show, which lacked familiarity in the market. But the show was outperforming our show perceptually on the younger end. We believed, particularly because of its weak music position, getting this show would be devastating to the other station. We once again recommended going after it.

Another year later: We insisted a morning show change needed to be made. The host of the other show had been given the time needed to develop into a superstar. Our show’s fan base was now significantly older than the target of our station. But by this point, making a pitch for their show was getting out of reach.

Two years later: Our station’s perceptual position had eroded. Cume Conversion (the percentage of listeners that convert into loyal P1s) plummeted. Momentum images were concerning, with a high number of listeners that felt our station was “not as good as it used to be.” By this point, our morning show was replaced, but it was too late–and the new morning show was not a good fit and had high negative images.

Three years later: The competitor was now the preferred station in our target demographic. The other show was in syndication.

The station has arguably never recovered, going through a variety of format shifts and talent lineups while the competitor continues to thrive.

Every good researcher will tell you that their job isn’t to tell you what you want to hear–it’s to tell you what you need to hear, as we did here. And fortunately, we often get to deliver good news–but hearing bad news can be immensely valuable. It would be easy to say, “Why didn’t they just make the change??”…but of course it’s more complicated than that, including money issues and people issues. It’s hard to pull the trigger on something when ratings and revenue show things are going well.

By deploying strategic research, you get to see things that aren’t immediately obvious. You get to make the decisions that can have remarkable impacts on your brand. It’s certainly better than relying on ratings and gut alone.

The Everlasting Effects of a Roof-Raising Brand

Tuesdays With Coleman

In the world of brand building, never forget that perceptions associated with your brand can last a long time. A very long, long time.

There are a great many positives that can result from remaining consistent in your brand building initiatives. For example, the longer you use the same logo and repeat the same core messaging, the more opportunity you have to build brand association. If the images are positive, you build loyalty.

Brothers Dan and Frank Carney’s first Pizza Hut opened in 1958 in Wichita, Kansas. But it wasn’t until 1969 when the company was looking for a way to differentiate its brand, that Pizza Hut unveiled its first restaurant with a red roof.

Pizza Hut original red roof

Pizza Hut added the red roof to its logo and used that version until 1999.

The pizza business went through massive changes thanks to the widespread convenience of delivery. Today, less than 10 percent of Pizza Hut’s sales are dine-in. The market changes led to smaller stores and abandonment of the big restaurants with the red roof.

A visit to Used To Be A Pizza Hut features a map of North America where you can find locations of repurposed red roof Pizza Huts, some of which (shockingly) didn’t make it. Many of the roofs are no longer red, but the architecture is unmistakable.

Where Pan Pizza, salad bars, and family memories were once made, the Spyce Gentlemen’s Club and After Dark Adult Store would later hold court.

“You know that place that used to be a Pizza Hut? Great seafood and chicken, fast.”

“I remember eating at that Pizza Hut when I was a kid. I get my diabetes medication there.”

If you remember eating in a Pizza Hut, one look at any building with the signature Pizza Hut design likely evokes the brand images you remember, positive or negative. They stick with you. It’s an image any business that takes its place in the old building lives with.

It’s also a reminder that your content is not everything. You may have the best gentlemen’s club, seafood and chicken or pharmacy in town, but because of the power of a brand, it will always be in the old Pizza Hut.

Although your brand may not be building distinct structures, you are always building your brand. Never forget how long those images can last.

After 20 dormant years, Pizza Hut brought back the old classic red roof logo in 2019, evoking nostalgia and a taste for the familiar. Perhaps considering what 2020 has ended up bringing us, it was a timely decision.

Brand Like Your Life or (Liquid) Death Depends on It

Tuesdays With Coleman

You are always thinking of ways to get more listeners. How to best promote your talent. Which contests to run. How to make your brand “sticky”. We often see in our research that sticky brands–brands that do memorable things and become top of mind for those attributes–are more likely to grow their audience.

You can generate lasting, memorable images of your brand with great brand marketing. And the best part? Much of the brand marketing you can do to build those images is free or low-cost. The imaging on a radio station. The cover art you choose for your podcast. The name of a streaming channel. The home page on your website. These are not just opportunities to promote your brand, they are opportunities to build your brand.

Every piece of imaging you produce, every video you record, every photo you release, every blog you write should go through your brand filter. Does this support my brand and will it build my brand?

Enter Liquid Death Mountain Water.

Liquid Death Mountain Water

At liquiddeath.com, you’ll see:

  • A memorable, in-your-face positioning statement: “Murder Your Thirst”.
  • The “Contact Us” button is labeled “Summon Us”.
  • Their rewards program allows you to “Earn Skulls”.
  • There’s a blue button on the top right that says “HELL YES”. I didn’t know what the hell it was, but I had to find out.
  • And….

I’m not going to leave out the best part: the Killer Baby Namer. Enter your last name, gender (or select the “death to gender” option), pick from a list of hilarious desired occupations for your child, and you’ll discover your baby’s name. (If I was going to have another kid, Rock Murderdome Nachlis sounds pretty sweet). Scroll down, and you’ll see that the company will send you an 18-year supply of Liquid Death if you upload a copy of the birth certificate with their killer baby name.

This brand knows exactly who and what it is, and you can only imagine how much fun they had putting this together.

What if your audio brand barreled in with this kind of chutzpah on the website? What brand-building game could you put on your site that’s not “Enter your name and listen for it?” How would you relabel your navigation tabs? What fun outfits could your talent wear in photo shoots?  What memorable hashtags (like Liquid Death’s #DeathToPlastic) could you come up with?

Read the “About” page and check out their description of unnecessary things (“Jumping over 14 Greyhound buses on a vintage motorcycle”, “Cat videos”) and necessary things (“Breathing”, “Colonoscopies”).

This makes me want to write a promo right this second.

To be clear, your brand may be (and probably is) way less “aggressive” than Liquid Death. The lesson here isn’t to be like Liquid Death. It’s to be your brand and all the essence that goes with it. Be your brand bigger, better and stickier. And maybe, just maybe a little more fun. Couldn’t we all use a little more of that right now?

Liquid Death doesn’t have the advantage of having been around long. Liquid Death doesn’t have a 100,000 watt transmitter. You can’t tell Alexa to play Liquid Death. Liquid Death doesn’t have an app, or a roster of amazing talent that have cemented a bond with its listeners.

But you might have one or two of those things. Maybe you’re fortunate enough to have all of them.

Now brand like your life or Liquid Death depends on it.

Early Observations of Apple Music Radio

Tuesdays With Coleman

As many of you may already know, Apple Music revamped its live global radio offerings three weeks ago. Its flagship station Beats 1 was renamed Apple Music 1, and it debuted two new stations: Apple Music Hits and Apple Music Country.

Apple Music Radio

In her recent column, “Spotify and Apple Music Disagree on the Future of Radio. Who’s Right?,” Cherie Hu observes that while Spotify seems to be all-in on on-demand, Apple Music is “leaning more, not less, into linear radio experiences than ever.”

To be clear, “linear” means a shared experience for all listeners at that moment. You tune in from London at 2 PM local time, I tune in from Raleigh at 9 AM local time, and we hear the exact same thing. It’s live and there’s no skipping ahead. Just like listening to your favorite local radio station…except for the “local” part…and a few other things…

Traditional Format Lanes

For the most part, Apple Music has positioned its three live radio stations in traditional format lanes:

  • Apple Music 1 (“The new music that matters”) is their Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) station.
  • Apple Music Hits (“Songs you know and love”) is their 80s/90s/2000s Classic Hits station.
  • Apple Music Country (“Where it sounds like home”) is their Country station.

Aside from 80s/90s/2000s being a more modern era focus than is heard on most Anytown, USA Classic Hits stations at the moment, these are three formats that will feel pretty recognizable and comfortable to programmers and listeners alike. In this regard, Apple Music does not seem to be trying to reinvent the wheel.

One thing I wonder about is whether there might be some initial listener confusion related to the branding of Apple Music Hits. I’m not arguing whether or not the songs they play from the 80s, 90s and 2000s are technically “hits.” But, in many markets, consumers may have been taught that the word “hits” in radio means contemporary hits (e.g., Z100 – New York’s #1 Hit Music Station). So do some listeners tune in expecting new music hits from Apple Music Hits instead of Apple Music 1? And are some fans of 80s/90s/2000s music left on the table because they do not realize that Apple Music Hits is where they should go to hear such music?

Collections of Distinct Shows

The three Apple Music radio stations have highly structured schedules, consisting primarily of one- and two-hour-long shows. And while each station sits in a general format lane, there is quite a bit of diversity from show to show. These shows are distinctly branded and programmed, with prominent hosts (e.g., Zane Lowe, Strombo, Ty Bentli) and unique content elements (e.g., artist interviews, special music features, countdowns).

Zane Lowe is a prominent host on Apple Music Radio, as well as Apple Music’s Global Creative Director.

As a listener accustomed to music radio stations that, by and large, are consistent in programming outside of perhaps a high-profile morning show and an occasional music feature, the structure of Apple Music’s radio stations can at times be jarring. For example, one hour of Apple Music Hits may give you Easy Hits Radio, in another you may hear Rock Classics Radio, and later you may come across Hip-Hop/R&B Throwback Radio.

Speaking personally, The Apple Music 1 List (“hear our current obsessions and new discoveries making waves”) and The Chart Show (“Brooke Reese hosts chart countdowns from around the world along with the biggest guests in pop music”) feel very much “on brand” and consistent with my expectations of Apple Music 1 (“The new music that matters”). But the string of throwbacks I heard earlier on The Rebecca Judd Show and the in-depth interview Zane Lowe had with Metallica’s Lars Ulrich were not what I was expecting when I turned to Apple Music 1.

This is not to say that any of these things are examples of unappealing content. It’s really a question of brands and expectations. What happens when you go to McDonald’s and there are no hamburgers on the menu for an hour? I may love the alternative, or I may go across the street to the other burger joint.

One more thing: maybe it’s my expectations that need to change. It’ll be interesting to see how I feel after spending more time getting accustomed to this structure.

The Human Touch

With these three radio stations, Apple Music has put the human touch front and center. As noted in their launch announcement, “Throughout its evolution, Beats 1 [now Apple Music 1] has established an inherent camaraderie with the artist community and championed human curation and discovery — an approach that will continue across the three stations.”

Both hosts and artists are prominently featured, with the latter sometimes playing the role of the former. Zane Lowe, who also wears the hat of Global Creative Director for Apple Music, has a deep passion for the music that comes through in his interviews with the artists who make it. Ebro Darden, who in addition to his Apple Music duties is the morning show host of Hot 97 in New York, brings the global audience to the streets of the city; you may hear him highlight influential Hip Hop classics or you may hear him trash the local police department for endorsing President Trump. These are not easy-to-miss background voices. And that’s the point, right? Give interesting, entertaining people a chance to shine, promote them accordingly, and hope it attracts an audience.

I’m not sure how this will eventually play out for Apple Music 1, Apple Music Hits and Apple Music Country—but it’s fun to see both some old things and some new things being tried.

Reflections on 25 Years With Coleman Insights

Tuesdays With Coleman

In May, I celebrated 25 years since joining Coleman Insights, providing me with an opportunity to reflect on the last quarter century. When Jon Coleman, one of the smartest—and more importantly, one of the most decent—people I have had the privilege of knowing, offered me the chance to join his company, I was flattered. Sure, the 29-year-old version of me already had more than a decade of experience in radio including six years at Arbitron, but it wasn’t long after I began working for Jon that I realized that I had a tremendous amount to learn.

This photo of me, Jon Coleman and Chris Ackerman was used extensively in Coleman marketing.

So, what have I learned? Far more than I can cover in one blog post, but a few key items stand out.

Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned is the importance of collaboration. When clients place their trust in me and my colleagues, it is vital to recognize that we don’t know everything and the best way we can help them is to listen closely when they share their goals and concerns. When we are truly collaborative and exchange ideas with the brilliant programmers, marketers and managers who we are fortunate to have as clients, we achieve even greater outcomes than we would without their input. I am sure I still don’t listen and collaborate as well as I aspire to, but I hope I’m getting better at it!

Another thing that I’ve learned working with clients is how to build brands. Strong, long-lasting brands almost always start with a great idea and then take a long time to build. I find it so gratifying when I can help our clients develop their great ideas into great brands and have seen first-hand the benefits they enjoy when this happens. Great brands allow those who manage them to avoid short-term thinking and chasing the latest “flash in the pan” trend; if they consistently deliver compelling content within the parameters of their brands, these managers win on a consistent basis.

I’ve also learned that doing research the right way is hard and is always evolving. There is a right way to acquire respondents, there is a right way to ask them questions and there is a right way to analyze the data we get from them—all of these elements are required to deliver the insights our clients need. Furthermore, the right ways to do these things in 2020 look a lot different than they did in 1995. I’ve also learned not to get frustrated when low quality research options enter the marketplace; there will always be a market for good work, and if we stay focused on delivering high quality insights, we will be rewarded with the loyalty of our clients and their ability to recognize our value.

Another thing I’ve learned is that a research company is only as good as the people it employs. Products, services, methodologies and technologies are important, but it is the people who design, analyze and deliver research projects and then help clients implement strategies based on them that truly make a difference. This has been driven home to me countless times over the years when clients tell me that they choose to work with us not because we have the best widget; they choose Coleman because they want the best brains on the job. Those brains—including mine, but also those of the many talented people I am fortunate with whom to work—have benefited from years of experience working with a dazzling array of audio brands in almost every situation imaginable and from the expertise that has been passed along by people like Jon Coleman, Chris Ackerman and Pierre Bouvard who built the company.

Obviously, I owe a great debt to Jon for the opportunity he gave me 25 years ago. I also want to thank my colleagues—past and present—for all they have taught me. We have an amazing team at Coleman Insights and the fact so many of my colleagues have been with the company for a decade or more is a testament to Jon’s philosophy of investing in people and giving them opportunities to learn and grow.

Today’s Coleman Insights consultant team (L-R): Me, Jon Coleman, Jessica Lichtenfeld, Sam Milkman, John Boyne, Meghan Campbell and Jay Nachlis.

All of these things I’ve learned, however, would be relatively meaningless without the tremendous support of our clients. Listing the many clients who have helped make me better at what I do would make this post unreasonably long, but I can say with great confidence that I have learned something from every one of our clients, and for that, I am grateful.

My favorite part of hitting the 25-year milestone is that it is just a stop along the way. I intend to keep getting better at doing this for many years to come. That will only happen if I continue to learn from the many smart people with whom I interact, which leads me to one piece of advice—make a lifelong commitment to learning. If you are as fortunate as I have been to have clients, colleagues and other mentors as your teachers, you will be as rewarded as I have been and continue to be.

Three Reasons Why the HQ Trivia App Failed

Tuesdays With Coleman

When the HQ Trivia app was released in the summer of 2017, it was an instant sensation. It was #1 on Time’s 10 Top Apps of 2017. Partnerships with brands including Nike, Google and Warner Brothers brought in millions in revenue. The popularity of HQ influenced internal discussions about what lessons radio shows could learn from it.

HQ Trivia app shuts down

My family was so addicted to the app in the summer of 2018 that we set our alarms to 8:55 PM, giving us five minutes to prepare for the daily 9 PM start time. We even stopped what we were doing on vacation–I specifically recall playing the game on a bench at Spruce Street Harbor Park in Philadelphia, because that was the night we won. A whole two dollars and seventeen cents.

There are always behind-the-scenes and internal reasons that can contribute to a company’s failure, and this is not a referendum on that dynamic. It is, however, a first-hand observation from a regular user who stopped using the app long before its demise last week, on Valentine’s Day.

When tactical strategy overwhelms brand strategy, brand growth is stunted. Ultimately, HQ was a game built heavily on tactical content rather than brand strength. Here are three reasons why the HQ trivia app failed:


I play three games on my phone: Words With Friends (my favorite), Jeopardy and Family Feud. In the case of all three of these games, I win nothing but pride. They are strongly branded apps that focus on the strategy and the joy of playing the game.

While trivia is fun, the carrot dangled by HQ was the prize, the amounts of which varied. Usually around $5,000, sometimes as high as $100,000. Unfortunately, if you actually got through all the increasingly difficult questions to win, it was a share of the jackpot (like my $2.17 windfall).

It’s hard to not be disappointed when a brand markets huge jackpots as the selling point, but you can’t actually win the whole jackpot.


A live trivia game show played on a mobile device is an ambitious idea but a highly risky proposition. If there are no technical issues on HQ’s end and everyone is on super-fast Wi-Fi, it should be a seamless experience! Unfortunately, there were sometimes technical problems on HQ’s end that required delaying game times or interrupting within games. As for the end-user, if you had a connection dropout or the picture started pixelating, you were out of luck and unceremoniously dropped from the game. With a stronger likable brand, perhaps players may have given HQ more leeway and forgiveness. There are only so many times you’ll put up with that.


Instead of focusing on making HQ a world-class trivia app, the company hitched its wagon to line extension. They launched HQ After Dark, HQ Sports, HQ Words, HQ Tunes and HQX.

More often than not, line extension is a trap.


While brands across industries can find takeaways from HQ’s failure, brands (including radio stations) that spend a great deal of their focus on tactical strategy like contesting should use caution to ensure this does not come at the expense of brand building.

While tactical may bring a consumer in, your brand is why they will (or will not) stay.








Three Branding Lessons from the Campaign Trail

Tuesdays With Coleman

“Don’t write a blog about politics!!”

That’s my inner voice talking. And my wife. And maybe a co-worker or two.

But here’s the thing. Although there’s plenty about politics I loathe, there’s a lot about “the game” I enjoy following. When there are twists and turns (maybe it’s the researcher in me,) I want to know why there are twists and turns.

So when news broke last week that Elizabeth Warren is leading an Iowa Democratic Primary poll for the first time, I found it interesting.

A little digging indicates her surge isn’t isolated to Iowa.

If we look at an aggregate of three sources of polling data: Politico, Economist/YouGov and The Hill/Harris X, according to national surveys conducted the week of May 27 – June 4, the top three candidates were:

Joe Biden: 33%

Bernie Sanders: 17%

Elizabeth Warren: 9%

According to the same polling sources conducted the week of September 7 – September 15, the top three candidates were:

Joe Biden: 28%

Elizabeth Warren: 18%

Bernie Sanders: 17%

I wanted to know the answer to the question, “What’s behind Warren’s rise?” While only research can effectively answer that, in digging for reasons behind what may be fueling her poll numbers, I found some branding takeaways I feel are worth sharing,

It’s truly a sign of the times that I went back and forth on whether or not to share them. It might anger people! It may make us appear like we’re endorsing her!

So, here’s the disclaimer. Neither I nor Coleman Insights is endorsing any candidate. We acknowledge Elizabeth Warren is not the only candidate deploying noteworthy strategies. My hope is that we can set partisan politics aside to appreciate some branding strategy you may borrow with the understanding that there’s no agenda attached.

Here are three strategic moves Elizabeth Warren has made that are worth noting.


According to Democratic consultant Doug Rubin, who worked on Warren’s 2012 Senate campaign, she was depicted as someone detached from the average voter – someone who “dined with the intellectuals at Harvard.”

She developed a reputation for being stand-offish with the press.

She is a “policy wonk” – someone who knows a lot about many things, but perhaps gets in the weeds too much for the average voter.

Remarkably, Warren has turned her nerdiness into a strength with one simple phrase:

“I’ve got a Plan for that”.

Elizabeth Warren has a plan for that

Negative perceptions can hold a brand back from progressing and linger for some time. What if you had market research to inform the positive and negative perceptions of your brand? What could you do to turn your perceived negatives into positives?


Need to convey the message that the country is on the wrong track?

“Make America Great Again”.

Make America Great Again hat

Hope and optimism?

“Yes We Can”.

Like other simple messages on the campaign trail, “I’ve got a Plan for that” conveys that Warren has considered everything that might come her way. It conveys stability.

And, it repositions negative perceptions of her as a policy wonk into a strength against an incumbent president who many perceive is lacking in preparation and planning.

Do consumers clearly understand what your brand is about? Can they regurgitate it back to you?

Could Elizabeth Warren have changed the narrative from “Oh, Elizabeth Warren – she’s that know-it-all” to “Oh, Elizabeth Warren, she’s the one with a plan for everything” without a simple slogan like “She’s got a Plan for that”?

In what ways can you simplify your messaging so consumers can easily describe what you stand for?


Have you heard of “The Selfie Line” yet? At a rally last week in New York, Warren hung around for four hours after her speech to take a picture with anyone who was interested. The campaign estimates that over 60,000 pictures have been taken. And it isn’t some website you have to visit to get the pics. You get it taken on your phone. Within minutes, rally attendees are posting their photos with a presidential candidate all over social media. Their friends, of course, like and share it.

Elizabeth Warren selfie line

Now, every campaign manager knows paid social media advertising is an integral part of a strategy. Meanwhile, here’s Elizabeth Warren spending a few hours meeting fans and hearing feedback, while racking up organic social media exposure worth far more than any paid campaign. She decided to ditch the traditional “rope line” at campaign stops for something more intimate.

As noted in #1 above, what better way to shed an image of being detached, cold and stand-offish than by hanging around for hours to take photos with everyone that wants one?

Your brand, too, has fans and potential fans. Do you have a “rope” between you and your fans? What can you do to create more intimacy and generate more buzz?

As the U.S. presidential election season continues, we’ll surely find other examples of impressive branding and content strategy. If there’s one thing we can count on between now and next November, it’s that anything can happen.



10 Quotes from 100 Blogs

Tuesdays With Coleman

On October 10, 2017, we started our Tuesdays With Coleman blog series as a way to share branding, content and research strategy. Last week’s entry, “Seven Solutions for the Podcasting Brand Challenge,” was the final of three consecutive blogs about podcasting, centered around the increasingly popular Podcast Movement conference in Orlando.

It was also our 100th Tuesdays With Coleman blog.

We love a good benchmark, and 100 blogs feels like an opportunity to look back and mine some nuggets from the past couple of years. Since 100 quotes seems excessive, here are 10, curated from a wide range of topics, strategic advice and members of our team.

“We sometimes get too close to the product for our own good, and are unable to see it through the lens of our customers.”

Warren Kurtzman, in “Is Inside Thinking Blurring Your Strategic Vision?” explains the Coleman Insights principle of Outside Thinking and how to achieve results by changing your mindset.

“If Bill Belichick showed up to a station remote, what would he think of a station banner hastily hung behind a bored jock eating a cheeseburger?”

One of our most-read blogs, “What if Bill Belichick Programmed Your Radio Station?” features Jon Coleman imagining New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick as a radio station program director.

New England Patriots Bill Belichick

An aircheck session with Bill Belichick as your PD could get pretty intense.

“We’ve all become so hyper-focused on the now, the instant gratification of numbers, that it is easy to take your eye off the big picture.”

After attending a talk by marketer Seth Godin, I wrote “Direct Marketing Is Easy. Brand Marketing is Hard” to reinforce the value of brand marketing, despite its lack of trackability.

Seth Godin Internet Summit

Marketing expert Seth Godin

“The Trader Joe’s lesson is that you beat a leader not by being better. You win by finding the inherent weakness in their strength and creating your points of differentiation.”

In “The Branding Genius of Trader Joe’s,” Sam Milkman explores why Trader Joe’s is so profitable in an industry with traditionally low margins and how to apply the lessons to your brand.

Trader Joe's Hawaiian Shirts

“TV is looking for talent in new places and banking on that talent. Why can’t radio?”

In “When it’s Time to Hunt (for Talent), Go Outside,” Jessica Lichtenfeld makes the case that radio should look outside the industry to find fresh, new, memorable stars for the medium.


“Don’t confuse the lack of 90s music exposure with the desire for hearing 90s music.”

In “The 90s Music Research Conundrum,” John Boyne explains how compatibility, not appeal, influences 90s airplay on many Adult Contemporary and Classic Hits stations.


“It’s possible while you’re programming on intuition alone, your competition is making data-influenced decisions.”

In “How Research Won The Super Bowl,” Sam Milkman debunks the myth that Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was a crazy risk-taker in winning the 2018 Super Bowl, when in fact he used a combination of research and instinct to take down the Patriots.

Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson uses a blend of research and instinct

“There are a few iconic brands in every category and there isn’t much changing going on.”

In “Don’t Change Your Radio Station,” I explain how the instinct to “freshen things up” can be detrimental to brand growth.


“Chipotle doesn’t sell pancakes. Hip Hop stations don’t play Taylor Swift.”

In “Should I Play That Song On My Radio Station,” Jon Coleman warns that playing popular songs or even songs that test strongly on your station that don’t fit your brand is a slippery slope.


“The ultimate success of the industry will depend on its ability to build brands.”

Warren Kurtzman, in “Joe Rogan and the Podcasting Brand Challenge,” writes that while producing great content is very important, listeners won’t discover it if the brand isn’t strong.

Thanks for reading Tuesdays With Coleman. If you haven’t yet subscribed, we invite you to do so. If you have an idea for a topic you’d like us to cover, feel free to reply and let us know. It may just show up in one of the next 100 blogs.