What “Hoosiers” Can Teach Us About Brand Management

In a piece for Advertising Age aptly titled, "Sometimes You Need to Let the Town Drunk Coach the Team," Tom Denari, president of the Indiananpolis-based ad firm Young & Laramore, explains how Angelo Pizzo’s cinematic masterpiece (a.k.a. "the best movie ever made" in this critic’s opinion) can help you manage your brand. The advice is timely and quite creative. Here’s a 20-second timeout’s worth, but I’d advise you read the whole thing:

Work on the boring stuff, like defense and ball handling, first. When Coach Norman Dale arrived at Hickory High, he didn’t just roll out the ball and start scrimmaging. Instead, he wanted to see what kind of talent he really had, and then he worked his players tirelessly on the basics of the game to ensure their fundamentals were sound. Dribbling around chairs and doing defensive drills wasn’t fun for his players, but these basics had to be sharp before they’d be ready to play a game.

Too often, new CMOs want a quick fix, thinking a new campaign or a new ad agency will solve everything. They choose to jump into the most outward demonstration of change — the advertising and communications plan. While it’s the easiest aspect to adjust, a new campaign will make the least amount of difference if your brand’s fundamentals aren’t right.

Before you change your campaign, ask yourself a few questions. Can you easily state your brand’s promise? Is your brand’s product offering deficient in any way? Is your pricing appropriate? Does your service model support what your brand stands for? Until these basics are tended to, the communications part of the equation is meaningless. Too often, we forget that brands are more about the consumer’s experience with a product than the ad campaign that tries to sell it. One of the best examples of a company that gets this is Zappos, which is completely focused on the unglamorous, hard work of getting its service model right. Making sure that its service is consistent at every consumer touchpoint has paid big dividends beyond any ad campaign it could have produced.

Sit the player that doesn’t follow the game plan. During Hickory’s opening night of the season, Coach Dale yanked star player Rave out of the game, even though he was making one-handed set shots one after another. Why? Because Rave wanted to play fast and loose, ignoring his coach’s game plan of passing five times before shooting. Despite Rave’s early scoring, his coach knew that instilling discipline and sacrificing short-term gains would lead to team success later.

Especially given the current environment, exercising discipline is difficult. What are you doing in the name of short-term results that you’ll regret later? Are you selling a product that doesn’t fit your brand promise? Are you discounting to the point that it’s mortgaging your brand strength? Don’t forget that a brand is not static — it’s either getting stronger or weaker. Which direction is yours headed?

The Church of Facebook

I remember my church back in the day always had a moment to "pray for our shut-ins" — folks who couldn’t leave their houses to be there. Well now, via Facebook, those folks can actually go to church on their own. Or, I suppose they could just watch Joel Osteen on TV. But it’s an interesting concept nonetheless. PRNewswire reports:

If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest in the world behind China (1.33 billion) and India (1.17 billion), and followed by the U.S. (307 million). Now, a new church is being planted in the "nation" of Facebook, bringing live worship to its 400 million-plus residents.

On Sunday morning, Northland, A Church Distributed will officially open the doors to its new Facebook app, which will allow worshipers to invite their Facebook friends to go to church with them – without leaving the familiar Facebook environment. Plus, even when live worship isn’t happening, the opportunity for worship is readily available because the previous week’s service will be posted and available for viewing 24 hours a day.

"We encourage people to be the church everywhere, every day, so it just makes sense to put resources out there that will help people to be that church," explains Nathan Clark, Northland’s director of digital innovation.

With a congregation of 12,000 worshipers meeting throughout Metro Orlando and worldwide via interactive webcast, Northland first began taking church out of the building in 2001 via "distributed sites" – live, two-way video connections between locations. Northland now operates four of these sites in Central Florida.

The church started webcasting live services in January 2006 and, 18 months later, launched an interactive webstream of its services that includes immediate access to an online pastor and the ability to chat instantly with other worshipers. Approximately 2,000 people use this venue each weekend.

On July 4, 2009, the church launched an iPhone Web app – offering not just videos of past services, but the ability to join live services as they are happening over 3G and Wi-Fi networks. Additionally, 200 of Northland’s congregants now serve as online missionaries, replying to emails from thousands of seekers around the world.

Your Company Should Probably be Blogging

Unless you’re in the espionage business or something where you don’t want people to know what you’re up to, your company should probably be writing a blog. The blog Journalistics offers some advice on the why and how. Here’s a blip, but I’d recommend you read the whole thing:

There is only one thing that keeps most organizations from blogging…FEAR. The most common fears include:

  • Fear of People: your company is scared of people. If you write stuff on your blog, people will hold you to it (or hold the info against you). Worse, maybe competitors will get the upperhand – since information might leak out through the blog? And of course, people will say bad things about you in the comments. More good than bad will happen, trust me. Get over your fear and try a few posts – you won’t look back.
  • It’s Too Technical: HTML, CSS, RSS and PHP? Sounds like a bad game of Scrabble, right? A lot of organizations get hung up on the technical side of things. It’s too much work or will cost too much money to get a blog up and running. Honestly, it’s cheaper than almost any other type of marketing (and a lot easier to get a return). If you can type an email, you can probably figure out how to set up a basic blog. Custom programming and design costs more (but not as much as you think). And it will be well worth the investment.
  • Who’s Going to Write the Stuff? This is the biggest challenge in my opinion. It’s a lot of work to produce high-quality content on a regular basis. And if you succeed, you’ll also need to interact with your community (a topic for another post).

How to Make It Work

The last thing you want is to launch a blog and then have no content there. Your blog becomes a ghost town, and nobody comes to visit. You don’t have to crank out 100 posts a month to be successful. If you focus on quality over quantity, you can easily get away with four posts per month in the beginning (the minimum number I recommend).

Brokaw Among Those Whose College Rejection had Positive Outcome

Building upon higher education week on our blog last week is an interesting article from the Wall Street Journal illustrating how getting rejected from their first college choices served to motivate some who became icons in their fields. Case in point is Tom Brokaw, broadcast journalist and keynote speaker at our 21st Annual Awards Dinner in November:

And broadcast journalist Tom Brokaw, also rejected as a teenager by Harvard, says it was one of a series of setbacks that eventually led him to settle down, stop partying and commit to finishing college and working in broadcast journalism. “The initial stumble was critical in getting me launched,” he says.

Who’s Saving the Electric Car?

The United States government is working to make electric cars more mainstream. Much controversy has centered around this technology and why it has failed to thrive in the market (and that controversy culminated with the popular documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car?"). Some blame flaws with the technology, some blame car manufacturers, some blame the government, and some blame oil companies. But an article in Government Technology reveals the electric car is far from dead:

President Barack Obama has called on the U.S. to put 1 million electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrids on the road by 2015. But the country won’t get anywhere close to that number until drivers are confident they can find places to recharging stations.

How best to deploy a network of charging stations and jump-start the market for EVs are questions at the heart of the EV Project, a two-year study in five states that will put drivers in thousands of all-electric cars starting late this year. The U.S. Department of Energy announced a $99.8 million grant to the project in August 2009.

While an efficient gas-powered car can run 350 miles or more on a 12-gallon fill up, a battery charge will take an all-electric vehicle only 100 to 200 miles. Most electric car drivers will recharge them at home or at work, but if they want to use their vehicles for more than just local trips, they will need to plug them in while out and about.

Fear of getting stranded if they drive too far makes many people leery of electric cars. "People already have ‘range anxiety,’" said Colleen Crowninshield, manager of the Clean Cities Program at the Pima Association of Governments (PAG), in Tucson, Ariz., one of more than 40 partners in the EV Project.

Electric Transportation Engineering Corp. (eTec), a Phoenix-based developer of vehicle charging stations that heads the project consortium, will install 4,700 chargers in the homes and businesses of drivers who participate in the study, as well as 6,510 chargers in commercial and public locations. 

What do you think? Is this the right approach?

Wanted Dead or Alive

March 14 was the 60th anniversary of something I venture to say that 99.5% of us have seen or heard of. None of us, however, aspire to be part of this piece of history.

The debut of the Fedreal Bureau of Investigation’s 10 Most Wanted Fugitves list was March 14, 1950.

How did it start? According to the agency web site, the year before an International News Service reporter asked the following question: Who were the "toughest guys" the FBI was pursuing.  

Bank robbers and political activists were popular figures through many of the early years. Today, terrorists, serial killers and drug traffickers are among the notorious top 10, with Obama Bin Laden at the head of the list.

Trivia: Ruth Eisemann-Schier was the first female on the list in late 1968. She participated in the kidnapping (orchestrated by her boyfriend) of heiress Barbara Jane Mackle. Gary Steve Krist was captured, but Schier eluded authorities until March 5, 1969.

McRobbie: IU’s Renowned Creative Arts Culture to be Enhanced by University Cinema

Indiana University President Michael McRobbie tells us what’s unique about IU. (Thanks to all the presidents who participated this week — and a special thanks to our readers.)

  • Tell us something that not enough people know about your college or university that makes it such a special place.

IU has a magnificent tradition in the creative arts and the humanities that sometimes can go overlooked but has a major impact on our quality of life as Hoosiers. We have a myriad of areas—from language and literature to fine and performing arts—where IU programs are among the finest in the world, and our superb arts facilities across all of our campuses attract hundreds of thousands of people to art exhibits, ballets, concerts, lectures, plays, operas, and other events that typically are only offered in the nation’s major metropolitan areas. Our Bloomington campus alone hosts thousands of these types of events each year, many of which take place at the world-renowned Jacobs School of Music.

There is one area, though, where IU has had a superb scholarly reputation but has had no facilities, and this is film. We have remarkable cinematic collections, including our Black Film Center Archive, the David Bradley Film Collection, and our general library collection, which together contain tens of thousands of items. Last fall, we broke ground on a new University Cinema, which will feature a combination of digital cinema and traditional projection capabilities that will place it among the top tier of similar facilities around the world. It will show film classics, as well as the latest digital experimental, international, and scientific cinematic creations. We are extremely excited to unveil this state-of-the-art facility, which will serve scholars, students, and the broader community and showcase the masterpieces of cinema as they were meant to be seen.

McRobbie: Moving Forward Requires Asking Tough Questions

We end higher education week today with posts from Indiana University President Michael McRobbie.

  • What is the No. 1 change you would like to see in Indiana’s higher education system that would help serve students better?

I believe that strengthening the academic core of our universities should be our highest priority, particularly in these challenging economic times. This means we must begin asking ourselves difficult questions. Are we teaching in ways that are meaningful for today’s students, using technologies to educate students more effectively, assuring that important learning goals and outcomes are met, and identifying knowledge and skills that students will need to make valuable contributions in their communities? Asking these kinds of questions is critical in an economy where knowledge is expanding at an exponential rate, where people are changing jobs many times in their lives, and many of the most important jobs and careers are new ones.

We cannot wait for others to ask and answer these questions. Indeed, we must accept this challenge ourselves, and as a matter of urgency. That is why at IU we are establishing a New Academic Directions Committee that will examine the overall structure of our academic units and, hence, ensure that we are offering the best kinds of educational opportunities for students and responding quickly to major educational trends happening around the globe. In addition, each of our campuses will establish a New Directions in Learning Committee, including top administrators, faculty members, and outstanding students, to help us renew our commitment to the quality—and currency—of the education we provide.

Township Trustee Spends $20,000 to Defend $758 Decision… Sounds About Right

Since disbelief is already in the air due to the wonder that is the NCAA hoops tourney (Go Dawgs!), here’s a shocker to add to the list from the world of township governance. The Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP) blog sums it up aptly, but hold onto your beverage while reading (and hopefully that beverage is just coffee since it’s only 8 a.m.):

(Thursday’s) Indianapolis Star includes an interesting article on the latest antics from the world of township government – the Washington Township (Marion County) trustee racking up $20,000 in legal bills in a dispute over $758 in poor relief aid sought by a township resident for help with her rent and water bills.

Of the many troubling issues this story raises, two stand out.  First, the idea that these sorts of fiscally imprudent decisions are being made with little or no oversight by 1,008 separately-elected township officials is disheartening given the dire financial straits of state and local governments. 

Across Indiana, local officials are debating cuts in education, infrastructure, public safety and more.  Counties and municipalities are making tough choices.  Our legislature has made these choices even tougher by not stepping to the plate and making its own difficult political decision to reform local government, at least by demanding more oversight and streamlining of township offices.  And so we continue to be burdened by another layer of government bureaucracy that consumes and squanders tax dollars.

As to the circumstances of the Washington Township case itself, it’s difficult to argue the merits of either side on the basis of any statewide or even countywide guidelines.  That’s the second issue – there are no common rules for the provision of poor relief in Indiana.  Each township sets its own, leading to a patchwork approach that’s unfair and inefficient.  More than half the state’s townships provide relief to 20 households or less, and spend three dollars in overhead for every one that actually reaches a disadvantaged family.   It’s no surprise that disputes such as the one in Washington Township arise.

While the General Assembly again failed to take action on local government reform this session, more and more communities are exploring consolidation themselves out of financial necessity.  As these efforts multiply across the state and the fiscal climate continues to worsen, let’s hope that common sense reform – starting with township government – begins to gain more converts among lawmakers.

Bradley: ISU’s Noteworthy Alumni Key in Breaking Racial Barriers

ISU President Daniel J. Bradley explains how his university has played a significant role in American civil rights.

  • Tell us something that not enough people know about your college or university that makes it such a special place.

Indiana State University is proud to have one of the most diverse student populations in Indiana. Providing access and opportunity to higher education has been an important part of Indiana State’s history since it was created as the Indiana State Normal School in 1865.

Indiana State and its alumni have also played an important part in breaking racial barriers. Willa Brown Chappell, a 1927 graduate of Indiana State, was the first African-American officer in the Civil Air Patrol. A lifelong activist, Chappell lobbied the U.S. government to integrate both the U.S. Army Air Corps and the Civilian Pilot Training Program. She was appointed as coordinator of the CPTP in Chicago and trained more than 200 pilots including some of the Tuskegee Airmen.

With basketball tournament time upon us, many people may not be aware of the role Indiana State had in integrating the national basketball scene. In 1947, the Indiana State Sycamores men’s basketball team, coached by John Wooden, won the conference title and was invited to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) tournament. (Coach Wooden, of course, would later go on to win 10 NCAA championships at UCLA.)

However, the tournament officials had one stipulation to their invitation. Clarence Walker, Indiana State’s one African-American player, could not attend. Coach Wooden and the entire team immediately declined the invitation.

The following year, the team again won the conference championship and was invited to the national tournament. This time, the NAIA relented and let Walker attend. He played in the 1948 tournament with the full and unrelenting support of his coaches and teammates, becoming the first African-American to play in a national collegiate basketball tournament.

Indiana State has also been an avenue to success for many first-generation college students. Helping students achieve their educational goals remains a top priority and is a key component of Indiana State’s new strategic plan, “The Pathway to Success.”

Tomorrow: Indiana University’s Michael McRobbie