Patron Saints of… Marketing?

 It is better to be a hammer than an anvil.”
                                             – St. Dominic de Guzman

When you’re creating a brand, you’re crafting a message you hope will resonate and last for a long time. One that makes you stand out… one that is memorable.

I’ve always been curious about how the stories of people (and their messages) have been able to survive through the ages. When you consider historic saints, for instance, you typically have a crazy rebellious person of legendary actions. Heck, some were so persuasive that people today still devote their lives to them, or honor them in quiet ways. How many St. Francis of Assisi statues decorate gardens in your town? Quite a few in mine.

One of my favorite saints is Saint Dominic, who must have been fantastic at the art of persuasion. He started the Order of Preachers back in 1215. Born of wealthy parents, he traveled parts of Europe, sharing stories with people and correcting false information about Christian teachings. To help make his point about the perils of a worldly life (versus living simply), he practiced extreme self denial, wore uncomfortable clothes and slept on the floor instead of the beds provided.

In other words, he wrapped himself in his message.

Saint Dominic and others like him are fine examples of how personal branding can last for centuries – if your message is authentic and if its done right, with the right intentions. Here are some examples:

1) Logo and image – A dog with a torch in its mouth, and a star from his chest are both visions his mother is said to have seen around the time of Dominic’s birth. Now they’re part of his iconic images.

2) Consistent message – History books say that Dominic never spoke a work unless it was to praise God. Not a word. No “do you think it will rain?” No “these sandals are killing me.” Not a word that was not consistent with his message and his mission.

3) Stand out in the market – Dominic was passionate. He knew his market, who he wanted to persuade, and he was inspired to be as different from the existing “brands” (heretics) as possible. In his dress, in his behavior, in his message… “It is not by the display of power and pomp, cavalcades of retainers, and richly-hosteled palfreys, or by gorgeous apparel, that the heretics win proselytes; it is by zealous preaching, by apostolic humility, by austerity, by seeming, it is true, but by seeming holiness. Zeal must be met by zeal, humility by humility, false sanctity by real sanctity, preaching falsehood by preaching truth.”

4) Words supported by image – He wrapped himself in his brand, and he acted in a manner completely consistent with his message.

When you consider your own branding approach, both personally and corporately, what messages do you send? Are they consistent with the mission and goals for your business – and for your life?

When you offer “the full package,” you may not earn sainthood, but you’ll certainly be a top choice in your market to reach the clients who need you most. Be inspiring, and may your journey be Blessed!

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Do Ideas Come Quicker with Some Liquor?

 In today’s Ad Age, there’s an article about how the wet bar is making a comeback in the offices of some big-name agencies. <AD AGE ARTICLE> What’s old is new again.

Back in the day when I was the editor in chief of an upstart business-to-business magazine, I had a fantastic publisher who had the cadence of Murphy Brown. When it was time to really wrap our brains around a new marketing approach, the meetings were set for 5:30 PM, her office, “bring empty mug and ice.”

Soon after 5, the halls would begin to clear. And at 5:31, the meeting would start with her announcing that the book is doing great, and “the Skyy is blue!”

This was code for the bright blue bottle of vodka about to come forth from her lower desk drawer.

She poured. We’d sip. And great ideas began to flow.

Perhaps “thinking outside the box” can get some help from “drinking what’s inside the bottle.”

I’m not saying that you should go get all liqueured up before your next session of slinging slogans. But sometimes a little “social lubricant” can help. Sometimes getting juiced helps those creative juices flow.

Now, I don’t want to have a bunch of comments from people who are MADD or upset about my condoning the use of alcohol in the workplace. We know already. Consider it a tool for creativity.

When you want better results from your next brainstorming session, perhaps a little cocktail may be just the ticket. (Just be sure not to get drunk or you won’t be able to read your notes!) And be smart about it.

So when you’re stuck on the branding or wording of your current project, maybe it’s worth a shot.


The Marketing F-word: Focus

  Many small businesses make marketing changes on blind faith. They read a business book, or hear the gurus say things like “Change is good.” So they ponder and plan, then launch themselves into uncharted waters.

One of my favorite cliches is “You can’t expect different results by doing things the same way.” But you do have to be smart about it. And there’s a single element that can make all the difference, for more intelligent marketing.

It’s called Focus. Pick your path… one path… and go with it.

Those trash-mouthed marketing folks throw this F-word around all the time. But for some small businesses, Focus really is a dirty word. They remain stuck in neutral because of fear – fear of the changes that come when honing in on a single specialty area, or fear that their business will suffer by not promoting all of their services. No matter what the experts tell them, they truly believe that changing their marketing, focusing on the one thing they do best is too risky, or too expensive.

When you’re a small business trying to make a dent in your market, it’s vital to take a clean, focused approach. Of course part of you wants to cling to old ways and old ideas. So you hesitate… you want to hedge your bets… cut your losses. Bad idea.

Only when you focus in a single concept in your marketing messages will you begin to see better results.

Advertising and marketing is all about teaching your audience about your brand. It’s kinda like college. Offer a lecture of too many topics and your “class” of clients will glaze over, zone out, and forget everything you just said. But stick to a single focused topic and you have a much stronger chance of the message taking hold.

Focus also goes beyond mere slogans and tagline messages. Better results come from having a strong identity… knowing what you do best, and for whom. Marketing that reveals your confidence, along with a clear message, only strengthens your marketing approach.

That tricky F-word can make all the difference.