Posts filed under ‘Branding’

How to Launch a New Product or Service

By Mike Kolbrener
For any new venture, an undifferentiated brand and undefined integrated marketing and lead generation strategy are potential barriers to realizing growth. As part of a three-fold effort to (1) Clearly articulate the value of your offerings to prospects, (2) Build the marketing material to communicate this value and (3) Develop a lead generation program to increase inbound opportunities, the following is typically recommended:
  • Develop Brand Positioning and Marketing Communications Strategy
  • Marketing Communications Implementation
  • Develop and Implement an Integrated Drip Marketing and Lead Generation Program

To achieve your goals, you must carve out the unique and compelling reasons for potential customers to select your over competing products and services…and consistently communicate both your distinct personality and benefits in ways that connect with your target audiences.

A good process must walk a fine line between too much and too little, and allows for collaboration and ensures that the outcome makes the highest possible impact.

Recommended Steps
1. Product /Service Brand Evaluation Research
2. Competitive Analysis
3. Product or service Brand Platform Development
4. Brand Attributes/Definitions
5. Brand Essence
6. Positioning Statement
7. Target “Persona” Development

This comprehensive approach ensures that your brand becomes the thread that runs through all of your discreet marketing efforts…and that each and every effort reflects positive equity back to the overall brand.


December 8, 2009 at 5:02 pm Leave a comment

Top 6 Marketing Mistakes Companies Will Make in 2010

By Mike Kolbrener

1.     Not Narrowing your Focus: Find your target audience and gear your marketing efforts to that audience. Trying to appeal to everyone typically does not work.

2.    Inconsistency in your Marketing Efforts: You need to have the same look and feel across all of your ads, promotions, and overall marketing efforts. This is a critical part of creating a consistent brand.

A thorough marketing report
will guide you throughout the year.

3.     No Clear Marketing Message: Marketing messages that are complicated, contrived, too subtle or too long can easily miss the target market entirely. Your efforts are wasted if no one understands what you’re selling.

4.     Tactics with No Strategy: Sending marketing messages into the world without an overlying “big picture” strategy will waste your company’s time and money.

5.     Confusing Marketing with Sales: Marketing and sales are two different disciplines that must compliment each other. Marketing defines the audience, builds awareness and generates the interest. Sales should hunt down those who show interest and bring new customers in the door. Connecting your sales process with your marketing process is critical.

6.     Extraneous Activity: Attending networking events, sending out marketing materials, writing blog posts, etc. are all necessary, but if they are compromising your company’s sales activity, you are probably putting your company at risk.

December 1, 2009 at 4:21 pm Leave a comment

Pittsburgh Public Schools, Pathway to the Promise

By Kirk Littell

This is a TV spot AXIS recently created for the Pittsuburgh Public Schools to help promote the “Pathway to the Promise” to ensure that every student is “Promise-Ready”, meaning that they are academically eligible to receive up to $5,000 per year towards their post-secondary education (college, vocational school, etc.) This is one part of a larger branding strategy that AXIS developed for PPS around promoting this program to the community. It is their commitment to build a culture of expectations, promote aspirations for higher education, and ensure that students are on course to be eligible for Pittsburgh Promise scholarships.

November 8, 2009 at 6:55 pm Leave a comment

Marketing and Sales: “Two great tastes that taste great together”.

By Mike Kolbrener

You got chocolate in my peanut butter! You got peanut butter on my chocolate! That very successful 1970s launch for what is now a ubiquitous treat is the perfect metaphor for the way marketing and sales disciplines often view each other. To make matters worse, most marketing professional have convinced their clients that “successful” marketing will get them noticed! What about marketing and branding that actually fills the new business pipeline? Novel idea, but it shouldn’t be.

How do you really generate sales? Some companies are lucky enough to ride the wave of an emerging technology, others are just lucky, the rest have to actually work at it. We’ll assume that you have something that others really want, have identified who those people are and then differentiated your offering from competitors. We’ll also assume that you have someone to sell your offering (even if it’s just you). Next, you might consider allocating a marketing budget of 2-4% of your gross revenue. Now comes the part that will define your sales success or failure. In order to get that 2-4% of gross revenue to actually work, you’ll need to align that marketing spend with your sales process. That means documenting how your sales team sells and weave in marketing tactics that are in lock step with that process.

Don’t have a sales process? There are many good ASP (on demand) and server-based options out there, but you’ll need to choose one ( or Next, find out how often your sales people contact a prospect? How do they do so? Letters, phone calls, direct mail, email, newsletters, etc. How are those timed with relation to a projected close date? Herein lies the secret. It’s the synchronization of sales and marketing that makes it all work. When they are synchronized, they work harder than each on their own. At the end of the day, marketing and sales need to dance together. Just like peanut butter and chocolate. After all, marketing and sales are “Two great tastes that taste great together.” peanut butter cup

October 6, 2009 at 4:28 pm Leave a comment

A Quickie Guide to Web 2.0 SEO Strategy

By Mike Kolbrener

Lately, a lot of people have been asking us about Web 2.0 strategies and more particularly about Web 2.0 SEO and social media strategies. Below, are 6 things that you can do yourself to take advantage of SEO as an integral part of your company’s lead generation strategy. A Web 2.0 SEO “social media” strategy will build awareness of your products and services and help engage your prospects in a larger conversation about the topics in which you are an expert.

1.    Build multiple blogs on multiple ideas around your expertise, all linking to eachother and back to the main site. You’ll need 5 to 6 (minimum) people who are willing to write for these blogs on a weekly basis. There are many good blogging tools and many of them are free. Take a look at

2.    Create video content (interviews, discussions, activities, etc) to post to that also links back to your main web site. Inexpensive digital video cameras can be purchased for as little as $225 and are an invaluable tool. With drag and drop interfaces for YouTube, the process is easy.

3.    Post photos on that link back to the main site.

4.    Develop pod casts and post on your main web site (you can take audio contentfrom the videos or an interview with some of your key clients on the benefits they receive from your company).  Here’s a great link explaining DIY podcasting. Also check out as a good place to start and create and host your podcasts.

5.    Open LinkedIn, FaceBook, MySpace or Twitter accounts for your company and or yourself. The one’s you choose largely depend on who your target audience is, but don’t underestimate the power of these locations.

6.    Find 5 or more advocates of your product or service and ask them to blog about your company. Make sure that their blogs link back to the main page.If you’d like to know more about Web 2.0 strategies you can contact me at

October 6, 2009 at 4:07 pm Leave a comment

Branding from the Inside Out

By Mike Kolbrener

Back in October of 2007, John Quelch of WPP and professor since 1979 at the Harvard Business School, shared his insight with Laura Mazur and Louella Miles regarding the power of “branding an ingredient” as a key to better marketing a larger or more complex product or service. “When is the provider of the final product or service willing to compromise its own brand-building to add the ingredient brand on the package as well as in advertising? There are four conditions:

  1. The ingredient is highly differentiated, usually supported by patent protection, and so adds an aura of quality to the overall product. Think Gore-Tex for water resistant rainwear.
  2. The ingredient is central to the functional performance of the final product. Think Shimano gear systems on performance bicycles or Monsanto’s Nutrasweet, added to Equal sweetener.
  3. The final products are not well-branded themselves, either because the category is relatively new, because customers buy infrequently or because there is low perceived differentiation among the options. Think about all of Dupont’s ingredient brands for clothing, from Rayon through Lycra.
  4. The final products are complex, assembled from components supplied by multiple firms who may sell the “ingredients” separately in an aftermarket. Think cars with Michelin tires, Dolby stereo systems and Champion spark plugs. “

October 6, 2009 at 4:05 pm Leave a comment

Does Branding add Merger and Acquisition Value?

By Mike Kolbrener

Identifying brand assets and building their value is crucial before, during and after mergers and acquisitions.

In almost any industry, we have seen firsthand that branding and marketing of a target company directly impacts the success of M&A deals. And that timing is essential.

Enhance Brand Value Before M&A

If you plan to sell your business, don’t underestimate the impact of brand value on the final selling price—because acquirers don’t.
Your brand is among your most important assets. An Interbrand/JP Morgan study found that brands account for over one third of company book value.* Another expert asserts that, on average, a corporate brand accounts for 8.5% of a company’s market cap.2**
After selecting an M&A advisor to sell your business, you typically have 60 to 90 days to get your house in order before evaluation by private equity firms and acquirers. During this period, an expert branding partner should quickly identify your key attributes, and, working seamlessly with your investment banker or M&A advisor, implement the branding and marketing improvements that will most effectively increase your company’s selling value.

Integrate Brands After M&A

Mergers and acquisitions create unique opportunities: expanded offerings, new markets, economies of scale, better competitive outlook, and more. But studies suggest that up to 70 percent of acquisitions fail to deliver long-term value for the acquirer. If not addressed promptly, post-M&A brand issues—market resistance to a brand shift, brand confusion, incompatible marketing and sales process, negative perceptions of a deal among customers or employees—can form a “black hole” for a deal’s value.
You’ll need to quickly assess affected brands or brand extensions and target markets, then devise and begin implementing a value-building brand integration strategy in the critical first 60 to 90 days after a deal. Taking these steps will help you maximize long-term brand value while avoiding the marketing missteps that cause so many deals to fall short of expectations.

* Brand Valuation: The financial value of brands (April 27, 04), Interbrand

** Speaking in Numbers, the Language of Bottom Line Business, David Stewart, University of Southern California (February 7, 2006), A panel discussion presented to the IIR 9th Annual Conference on Returning Marketing Investment

October 6, 2009 at 3:47 pm Leave a comment

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