Differentiation – How to be a Colorful Pineapple

How do we stand out from the crowd?

What sets us apart from the rest of the herd?

Sometimes all it takes  to differentiate is a simple phrase like, “leggo my eggo” or “they’re grrreat” to embed a vision of a product into our minds and start to make our mouth’s water. Even the snap, crackle popping sounds of rice crispies can pound that brand’s image into our subconscious like a tribal drum. It brings us back to childhood breakfasts and our first home run. It differentiates by connecting that jingle or phrase into our life’s memories. It brings us back and pushes us forward with a few simple words or sounds.

Other times it only takes a hint of color to transform the faint into the fabulous. The color of Tiffany blue (Pantone #1837 to be exact) can make a woman’s heart race like Secretariat to the Triple Crown and a man’s wallet cringe by its sheer presence.  Red, the most emotional and powerful of all colors, shows it’s supremacy in brands like Target, Colgate, Hane’s, KFC, Toro, Virgin and Coke Cola. This color has dominanted the brand scene over the past millennium and will continue to influence many more in the years to come.   What will be the next red?  Color can differentiate by it’s simple existence and connect with consumers in ways they didn’t even know were possible. Colors can transport us to safe relaxing places with hues of green and blue and give us energy and confidence to take on the world with bright oranges, reds and yellows.   It can be very influential into our purchases and help us to find a product on a saturated shelf.

Differentiation could be as simple as a swoosh, a golden arch, a red cross or a white apple to communicate to the world what millions of dollars in advertising could never touch upon. These symbols have earned a place setting at the “global” dinner table and are hard to forget. They cut deep into our emotional spectrum and make themselves known beyond the other 2,000 messages and images we are exposed to each day. They are simple, effective and impactful. They pull themselves away from the pack with easy to identify symbols of the culture from which they rose.  They connect the obvious with the brands core values and communicate to the consumer it’s true self in one proverbial image.

Differentiation in this complex world is critical to the success of a brand, a company or even an individual. With the internet serving as a breeding ground for personal branding it is even more important that you stand out in today’s world.  You need to scream louder. You need to become a symbol, a color, a QR code, a memory. It worked for Prince, so why not you. Creating your personal brand is a foundation of differentiating yourself from the rest of the wolf pack. It’s the phrases, colors and symbols that make up your personal brand’s DNA and that will make you shine through

So unleash your differentiation and not just be another statistic. Let the investigation begin and let me help to uncover what you stand for and how to make your statement to the world. Contact me at dabanks4u@yahoo.com to devlop your differentiating communication plan.

Photo credit: Tom Lolan / http://www.lolanphoto.com

May your basket overflow with beautiful pomegranates

May your basket overflow with beautiful pomegranates

I currently reside in Ohio. The sun is shining and my basket is overflowing with so many things to be thankful for. Thanksgiving, thankful. Cliche indeed. A good kind of cliche.

So let’s do this. Hug your loved ones, feast like kings and queens and be reminded that the basket really is half full if not overflowing. Even during the most difficult times.


Photo credit to Tom Lolan. Photographs are the muse to brilliant words.

Three things that brands can do to stay alive in the new world


Over the past seventeen years I have had the privilege to work with major brands from Cincinnati to Hong Kong and it’s amazing how some of them even survived.  Many were so big that they could coast along simply because of their name and some were the small guys looking to steal market share while the leaders were sleeping behind the wheel.  Others were nameless, virgin children to the branding jungle and looking to be noticed and make a lasting impression.

 Regardless of the size or marketing budget, each brand had one clear objective – to grow sales.  Sales generate money and money generates excitement and bigger budgets.  In this quest to be big, brands overlook the most basic element that got them there in the first place, their consumer.  They forget about the core values and reasons that made their brand or product successful.  They basically forget about themselves.  They get distracted by the everyday and become the yesterday.

 To avoid falling into the same trap and become part of the land of forgotten brands here are three things you can do to survive:

Listen – so often companies are so consumed by cutting costs, increasing market share and making profits that they forget the most important reason on why they became successful in the first place, their consumers.  You can have the most amazing product in the world, but if you don’t have a need or a consumer base, it’s worthless.   I get that the number one objective in a capitalistic society is to sell more stuff, generate profits and increase shareholder equity, but you need to understand your consumer and change with the world around you in order to survive.  With thousands of branding messages crossing our eyes and ears each day, it’s hard not be left in the dust by the newer, sleeker, sexier products that are looking to eat your lunch.

In today’s social media driven society and with so many outlets to listen to your consumer it is amazing that so many companies still haven’t opened their ears.  When sales become the only objective motivating you to grow and cost cutting a company mantra, it is clear why some brands die alongside their consumer base.  So wake up, open your ears and pay attention, because consumers will tell you what they are looking for with their mouths to their friends, their blogs to their followers and with their wallets.

Engage – With so many choices you cannot simply be a brand on the shelf these days.  You need to interact with and excite their followers.  Brands are like a badge, they say something about the person who buys them.  As product choices continue to grow and messages continue to blur you need to connect and engage with your consumer. 

Step it up.  Talk to them in their own language, find them in their own environment and provide them a reason to believe that you have something to offer that goes beyond simply fulfilling the obvious need.  Let them know what you stand for.  Be transparent and share your vision and goals.  Let them know that you are there for them, when they need you and more importantly when they don’t know they need you.  Be real.  Establish your voice and don’t stop shouting, because when you do you are forgotten.  Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Evolve – Unfortunately, we only have a certain number of years to live on this planet and until science figures out something different we will all eventually die.  The same goes for brands.  Brands today cannot rely on what they did ten years ago, because the world dramatically recreates itself with each new decade.  Technology is changing so rapidly that what a College freshman is learning about today will be obsolete by the time they graduate.  If this is true, brands can no longer stay the same and rely on their heritage. 

The rapidly changing demographics in this country in conjunction with the technology boom have created an environment for a constantly evolving consumer landscape.  What was popular last week is so “yesterday’s news” in the blogosphere.  We have become a country where the news channels worry more about how the spin with increase ratings versus reporting the truth.  So let’s face it, there is no hope for brands to remain the same these days.

If there is one thing certain beyond taxes in this world it is, change.  As a brand, change needs to be embraced, not fought.  By understanding your consumer and enjoying this change a brand should feel energized that it has the ability to recreate itself and align with the evolving needs of its consumers.  Brands should be on the endless pursuit to amaze thier followers with countless things they didn’t know they needed to make their lives better.

So as uplifting as this post is, just remember one thing, we do live in a great country.  We love to buy stuff we don’t need.  We love the way a new Gucci bag makes us feel amongst our friends and we definitely will pay 100 times the cost to get one.  So keep up the capitalism, especially on this upcoming Black Friday, and help to keep brands alive, our jobs are depending on it.

Photo credit: http://cloud.decryptedmatrix.com/live/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/The_Ten_Major_Food_Companies.jpg

Do we play it safe?


Why does the turnip intrigue me? It’s the vegetable that can be difficult to find in the grocery aisle and is oddly shaped. It’s underused, underappreciated and unfortunate in many dishes.

If you want to play it safe you don’t choose the turnip.

Yeah, the turnip is not the “safe” choice. I like that. I can appreciate that. I can relate to the turnip. Until this point in my life I had felt underused and underappreciated in the corporate world. I have a mind that was being used for the “safe” routes of business.

I’m a marketing guy. I live for words like trending, analytics, consumer habits, and targeting. The word “safe” is a struggle for me. Safe, by my marketing definition, correlates to a lackluster ROI.

Risk. Don’t you just prefer the sound of it? So often we have a product, we need to get it to market but we want to play it safe. Play it safe because we’ve invested time, money and resources into development. Safe, because the process tells us that this product has an 80% approval rating and 2/3 of respondents state that they are “very likely to purchase”.  At the end of the day consumers say one thing and do something completely different, but the data tells us that it’s a safe bet. 

Don’t get me wrong. Data is good. I’ve built a career on market research platforms that identify CPG target audiences. But here’s an epiphany…marketing is an art and a science. It’s a combination of playing it safe and taking risk. We talk a good talk in the marketing world but are we willing to put ourselves out there to get results? 

Forensic marketing. That’s what I’m talking about. It’s no longer enough to pull spreadsheets, create brand awareness and place media with the assumption that all of this will pay off in the long run. Forensic marketing is a combination of playing it safe and taking a risk. Are you intrigued?  Send me an email dabanks4u@yahoo.com and let’s talk.



Fuzzy, Fuzzy, Cute, Cute


The Internet is a truly amazing place. It is filled with a treasure trove of facts, figures and data that can help us collaborate on medical conditions, compare notes with global counterparts on the history of organized labor or allow for thousands of bank transactions to take place in a matter of seconds. The Internet can be used for trading billions of dollars in commerce or Grateful Dead bootlegs and holds data on almost everything imaginable.

Despite all of this data flowing down the information superhighway I never realized just how amazing the internet was until last night. My eight year old daughter turned me onto the most insightful find of my lifetime. Fuzzy, fuzzy, cute,cute on YouTube. This video changed my life.

Check this out on YouTube:

My only thought about this video is that, this is America. Only in America can a video of this caliber get almost seven million hits. Only in America can someone work with cute, fuzzy animals and produce such a masterpiece. I just want to know how the creator got those mice to sit still for so long in that movie theater and that baby chicken to dance so smoothly.

The beauty of this country is there is a avenue for this video to be created, viewed and discussed. Despite the election outcome and the direction we are going, these fundamental values of freedom, creativity, ingenuity and choice that make America the best place on earth will not change with or be changed by any administration.

So, in light of a long and stressful week enjoy this forty seconds of annoyingly amusing, fuzzy, cuteness.



Everybody loves birthday cake, especially on their birthday

We all love birthday cake, right? The butter cream icing, the fluffy cake, the challenge and fun of blowing out the candles and the joyous sounds of happy birthday being serenaded sweetly to you. These are all but small distractions from the fact that we are another year older and further from youth. What is the most glorious reason that birthday’s are so special? It is the one day of the year that is all about you.

Well, in honor of my wife’s birthday I see it appropriate to understand the history of the birthday and all of the rituals and meanings. Why is it that we bake such delectable creations and place glowing rods atop? Why do we gorge ourselves on butter cream and yes, devil’s food? Why is it that my wife requests beautiful macaroons in lively colors from The Chef Case versus a towering cake with candles?

Research has shown that the birthday ritual stretches as far back as ancient Greece where round cakes were made to honor Artemis, the goddess of the moon. It was often decorated with a single candle to symbolize the glow of the moon and was believed that the smoke carried away your soul or at least your wishes and prayers to the gods above.

The German’s were the first to be credited with the birthday cake as a part of celebration. They focussed these festivities on children’s birthdays called Kinderfest. The candle was added as a way of symbolizing the light of life for youth. They evolved the cake from a symbol of worship to a culinary treat by using sweeter ingredients and incorporating layers of yumminess like fruits and chocolate. These cakes were named Geburtstagorten. It wasn’t until later in the 17th century that the birthday cake started to take on it’s true form that we know in the US with intricate designs of icing, flavor varieties and decorations.

Along with this great tasting treat we always have to add a bit of our culture. Superstitions and traditions are what make the birthday so much fun. Making a wish and blowing out all of your candles in one breath gives us the hope that your secret wish will come true. In medieval England people placed symbolic items like coins, rings and thimbles in the cake batter with the superstition that if you got the coin it was good luck, the thimble bad luck and the ring meant wedding bells in the future. If the cake fell while baking it was considered an omen of bad luck for the upcoming year. It seems only human that we add some bit of superstition into everything we do, why not a birthday?

Regardless of the past, the birthday cake, singing and candle lighting ceremonies thrive on. With so many choices in today’s world, how do we decide the best option – yellow, white, chocolate, double chocolate, cherry chip, rainbow, marbled, German chocolate, red velvet. Chocolate fudge, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, light chocolate, semi-sweet. My head is about to explode!

Well, the good news is that the birthday is the only day of the year that is all about you. It was created for you and is celebrated because of you. So sit back, have a slice of cake, a sip of whatever beverage you prefer and let everyone else remember that without you, there would be no reason to party.

Happy birthday, feliz cumpleanos, Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, joyeux anniversaire everyone and especially Holly.

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