Brand Starbucks, Brand Schultz

The December 3 issue of Barron’s carried an article about Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz, opining rather grandly that he could be “some kind of high priest, or guru, or java-swilling Gandhi.” Adulatory articles are almost as common for Howard as they were for that other CEO with whom American consumers were on a first-name basis, that person being Steve Jobs.

From SRI to SI: Changing a category by dropping a letter

With returns in the double digits, mutual fund marketing experienced a heyday in the mid- to late 1990’s. In those days, it seemed you could run an ad in Money Magazine, and the money would pour in. Socially responsible investing (SRI) funds soared along with other funds, in no small part because technology companies slipped smoothly through many of the exclusionary screens that characterized SRI funds.

What the Grateful Dead can teach you about marketing

I was never a Dead Head, though I liked their music when it was focused, and it was more so in their studio work than during their epic live jams. A recent New Yorker feature on Grateful Dead subculture motivated me to haul out some old vinyl (yes, I have a turntable and a few boxes of ‘can’t bear to pitch’ records) and spin up Workingman’s Dead, American Beauty and a few others.

Social media for financial advisors: power play or pitfall?

Ask most advisors about a particular hedging strategy designed to address market volatility concerns and they will share their point of view without hesitation. Inquire about social media’s value in meeting their firm’s growth objectives? That’s a different story. No financial services marketing tool in the past dozen years has attracted so much attention and created so much confusion as digital and social media.

David Bowie: Authentic oddity or oddly authentic?

What a strange beginning to this week: just after reading glowing reviews for David Bowie’s new jazz-influenced album, to wake up to the news that he had died at 69. I heard the news today, oh boy, to quote Bowie quoting John Lennon.

Patek Philippe authenticity personified

Ask anyone in advertising what the best themeline ever written is, and you’re as likely as not to hear “Just Do It” or “The Ultimate Driving Machine.” And for sure, who can argue with those? One you probably won’t hear, but which I believe is every bit as powerful, at least for a much narrower slice of the acquisitive culture, is this one.

Maintaining brand continuity in a shared world

Over the course of my career, I’ve been a brand custodian for global brands and start-ups, rebranded 50-year-old companies and launched shiny new brands. Managing brand communications has become increasingly complex along the way. The reasons center around three trends that present both challenges and opportunities for brand and marketing leadership.

Knight Moves

Earlier in my career, I did advertising for New Balance, and Nike to me was the big, bad enemy. Sure, it was the dominant brand in the athletic footwear category, had the slickest, most impressive, most crowded booths every year at the National Shoe Show and could basically buy athletes at will. (American runner Steve Prefontaine – “Pre” – was one of the first big-name athletes to ink a deal, receiving a $5,000 stipend in 1973 so he could stop bartending and concentrate solely on running.)

For wealth managers, differentiation is Job #1

A number of years ago, through a marketing relationship with Charles Schwab Advisor Services, I had face-to-face meetings and telephone interviews with a number of financial advisors around the country. Some were partners in well-established, multi-billion-dollar firms and others had just recently bolted from wirehouses and hung their shingles. But to a person, they all seemed to genuinely enjoy what they were doing.

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