Category Archives: Branding

Questions I ask when I’m building something

Just a few questions I like to consider when I’m building something:

  1. Who is our audience?
  2. How does it scale?
  3. What else could we be doing instead?
  4. What will indicate this project has been a success?
  5. What’s our deadline?
  6. What’s the goal? Is there a faster way to that goal?
  7. Is this undeniably our style? Does this look and feel like us, even if our logo/name isn’t attached to it?
  8. How does this make money (or drive leads, or traffic, or get us closer to a core business goal)?
  9. If my mom were to read/use/see this, would it make immediate sense to her?
  10. What can we cut?
  11. Is it fun?
  12. Is this — in even the smallest way — making the world any better?
  13. What problem does this solve?
  14. Who else should be involved?
  15. Would anyone tell a friend about this?

I don’t always ask every question. And if I did, I’m sure it wouldn’t be in this exact order.┬áBut regardless of age or professional experience, the right questions help everyone get on the same page during a project.

It can be frustrating and annoying to deal with these questions when you’re most excited — when you just want to jump in and start churning. But the earlier you face these issues, the better.

From here on out, it only gets more difficult to bring this stuff up.


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In some institutions, what came first is an invaluable guideline. Decisions are based on former decisions. It’s purposely difficult to justify changing course.

Law is probably the best example. Decisions made without precedent are rare and typically left to the highest court to determine… to, y’know, establish precedent.

But too many modern decisions are based on the templates of someone else.

Like: “Our return policy is the industry standard.”

Until, of course, someone changes the standard.

Or: “Whatever you sell, have ‘X’ as an option. You’ll alienate customers without it.”

Moral of the story: You’re operating something — right now — based on someone else’ precedent.

It’s not yours, it’s a false standard. Consider raising the bar, or changing the game altogether.

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The Snuggie phenomenon

From an article I just saw over at AdAge:

Marketing’s New Red-Hot Seller: Humble Snuggie

That’s right.

The blanket with sleeves is one of the hottest selling items these days. Selling more than 4 million units in the past three months, Snuggies has made just under $40 million in retail sales.

There’s even reports of customers swamping stockers and grabbing all the Snuggies before they even reach the shelves at Bed, Bath & Beyond or Walgreens, the first two retailers to carry the blankets.

Imagine that, people trampling one another to get a blanket that has sleeves on it.


Well, I think the 200 videos on YouTube that are parodies of the product’s goofy commercial might have something to do with it. This one has nearly 150,000 views.

I had a feeling that Snuggies would succeed, despite their lame storytelling. Should be fun to watch how this trend plays out, but I’m still thinking they missed an opportunity to be huge.

I think the lesson here is that for some products, the story is so obvious that no matter how bad you screw up your marketing, the world will step in and show you how to really tell it.

Odds are though, you’re not that lucky.


Filed under Branding, Copywriting, Marketing

Just add sleeves!

Have you seen it yet?

Someone created “Snuggies.” The blankets with… sleeves.

Complete with an incredibly cheesy infomercial. Check it:

But when I watch this, I can’t help but have mixed feelings. Honestly, a fair part of me admires the simplicity of the idea. It reminds me of the classic Homer Simpson line after his brother shows him his invention that translates baby talk:

“Oh, I dunno’ Herb. Couldn’t you just have taken an existing product and put a clock in it?”

But c’mon folks.

Adding clocks and sleeves isn’t enough. What’s the story here? I think snuggies missed it.

The story (in reality) is probably:

Holy shit, what a brilliantly simple, sorta’ goofy idea we had one day. We like to lounge around, use a laptop, drink some coffee, and we’re sick of fighting our blankets.

You feelin’ us?

So we invented something pretty damn revolutionary: A blanket with sleeves.

But nooooooo.

Snuggies tries to convince us that these things are socially acceptable at sporting events.

The irony of course is, had they been upfront with how ridiculous the concept is, everybody would be asking to print their sports team on the damn things.

C’mon folks. Now, more than ever, adding sleeves isn’t enough.

More Bacon Salts. Less Snuggies.


Filed under Branding, Copywriting, Marketing

Simple stories win

So I’ve been exploring this word of mouth marketing world for a few weeks now, and it’s been an interesting journey.

Coming from the branding and storytelling perspective that I’ve primarily focused on here at this blog, I can tell you of one element that spans pretty much everything:

Simple stories win.

Simply, the brands, the marketers, the individuals, the whatevers… those that tell simple stories — the kind that are easy to tell you, and easy for you to tell others, and so on — they win.

Note, simple doesn’t mean “boring.” And it certainly doesn’t mean “like someone else’s story.”

It means human. It means natural.

These are the stories we connect to. These are the ideas that spread. These are the winners.


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The lessons in lyrics

I’m listening to some random music and realized that there’s some potentially significant nuggets of wisdom that could really apply to marketing.

I’m not here to misrepresent an artists intentions, but the best stories are the ones that we can apply to ourselves. Here’s what I mean:

Modest Mouse: Missed the Boat — “…our ideas held no water but we used them like a dam…”

Bad ideas are the dams of progress. This reminds me of companies that still scoff at social media.

Buffalo Springfield: For What It’s Worth — “…singing songs and carryin’ signs / mostly say, hooray for our side…”

Marketing is about connections. Stories that fail to create connections, well, fail. If all you do is say hooray for yourself, we’re not listening. We can’t relate to that.

Cross Canadian Ragweed: Brooklyn Kid — “…a simple life ain’t that hard / no, a simple life ain’t all that hard..”

Fundamentals and simplicity often win. It’s amazing how difficult we can make success feel. Be honest. Be nice. Try hard. If you do those three things every day, you’re already in the top 10%.

How about you? Got a line of lyrics that speak to you?

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Remember your reason

The best companies, organizations, groups, tribes, etc. — they’re all guided by purpose.

Things get overwhelming. Markets change. Fads blow over. Opportunities pop up. In reality, this is all you can count on–this landscape of upheaval.

These factors are largely environmental and outside your realm of control.

But you control your purpose, your reason. You create it, you own it.

It’s up to you to see through it all.

Do you remember your reason? What if you asked that every morning? Before every meeting? When things get cloudy?


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