Tag Archives: brand zeitgeist

the jolly old brand

I had been thinking about writing a Christmas post, but couldn’t come up with an idea. Then I realized I’d already written the post; it was just ensconced in a book. What follows is an excerpt (pages 53-56) from Chapter 7 (Brands are Driven by the Message) of my 2010 book, Brand Zeitgeist where I used Santa Claus as a “case study” on using media and marketing to maintain brand consistency over the (very) long term…

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Page 55 of Brand ZeitgeistBrands are a long-term proposition. Just a few ads or a couple of PR mentions won’t have much effect over the short term. When you step back to look at brands that have used media and advertising over the long term, the power of a brand zeitgeist can clearly been seen.

The modern day image that most people have of Santa Claus, with the plump belly, red coat, and white beard has largely been shaped by media and advertising. For centuries, Santa Claus was portrayed as everything from a gnarled elf to a tall gaunt woodsman.

One of the first major steps to creating a unified Santa brand in the mind of the zeitgeist occurred with Clement Clark Moore’s 1822 poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (commonly called “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”). Moore’s poem was published annually in numerous newspapers and periodicals and helped define the basic physical characteristics of Santa in the public’s mind:

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes — how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

In the latter part of the 19th century, cartoonist Thomas Nast built on the foundation of Moore’s poem. He depicted Santa Claus as a plump man in a red suit and further cemented other aspects of the Santa brand in the zeitgeist with things such as a North Pole residency in his drawings for Harper’s Weekly magazine.

The modern day image of Santa was firmly established starting in 1931 when Coca-Cola commissioned illustrator Haddon Sundblomto develop advertising images using Santa Claus. Sundblom further built on established canon by Moore and Nast and drew Santa as a warm and friendly human character. The Coca-Cola Santa was placed heavily in the company’s annual Christmas ads in national magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal, National Geographic, The New Yorker and others.

Santa Claus is a brand that reaches almost every section of the zeitgeist. Stop almost anyone on the street and they could recite a checklist of all of Santa’s characteristics that have been established in the zeitgeist. If Santa is portrayed in the “wrong way,” consumers will reject it — i.e. skinny in a blue suit. He’s the ultimate example of a successful brand zeitgeist because everyone is on the same page as to what the brand represents.

However, there’s no way you can replicate his success with your brand. For one thing, the media atmosphere is much different today. The entire populace isn’t focused on a few big magazines and three television networks. You don’t have Coca-Cola’s media budget. You don’t have two centuries to wait for your brand strategy to kick in. Finally, let’s face it, you’re not Santa Claus.

But you can learn branding lessons from Santa on how to use media and messaging to establish your brand in the zeitgeist. Firstly, Santa has stayed true to a set of core brand assets and never drastically rebranded to keep up with trends and fads. During his busy season, he is everywhere. He’s at the mall, in parades, on TV, in magazine ads, and in your house. The brand image is inescapable. The image is consistent, clear, and repeated to the point of that the brand image of Santa Claus has been seared into mind’s eye of the public.

The Santa Claus brand was spread in the zeitgeist over the long term by using traditional media and word-of-mouth. While it might be impossible to build a similar juggernaut brand using those same methods, there’s now a new variable in the brand messaging and media equation. Until recently, Santa didn’t have to deal with the Internet.

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And that was an oh-so-clever segue into the “messaging in the digital zeitgeist” section of the chapter. If you’re interesting in reading the rest of the book, you can find Brand Zeitgeist on Amazon. Or you can become a fan of Brand Zeitgeist on Facebook.

guesting at B2CMarketingInsider

I was delighted when Brian Rice recently invited me to do a guest blog post for his B2C Marketing Insider. (It also allowed me an opportunity to shill Brand Zeitgeist again!)

My guest post is a little different from what is normally posted here. It maintains my belief in strong brand / marketing strategy, but does so in more of a motivational way. Please click over to B2C Marketing Insider and read it.

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And for all the new folks clicking through from B2CMarketingInsider, you can browse some of my best posts here. And you can subscribe to the RSS feed here. Welcome!

san francisco #140conf

Marketing author Chris Houchens will sit on a panel at the San Francisco #140conf about using social media to promote a business bookI will be on the book author’s panel (with Pamela Slim) at the #140conf in San Francisco on Aug 19th. This San Francisco version of the #140conf looks to be interesting as it’s a part of Connected Marketing Week.

During the panel, I will be discussing how I am using Twitter (and other forms of the real time web) to promote my book, Brand Zeitgeist.

What? You haven’t read Brand Zeitgeist yet?
http://www.amazon.com/Brand-Zeitgeist-Relationships-Collective-Consciousness/dp/1450206794

(btw – you can use this link  to get a 5% discount on a pass to the #140conf)

blitz aftermath

You should never eat food cooked by a skinny chef. You also should never buy a marketing book from someone who can’t get the message out about that book.

I am really happy with the success of Tuesday’s Amazon Blitz for Brand Zeitgeist. The book rocketed up the Amazon Sales Rank. It started in the sub-basement at #446,248 and went all the way up to the high water mark of #3,148 in just a few hours. I am most pleased that we stayed in the top 100 of books in the Marketing category for most of the day. The high point was when Brand Zeitgeist was the #33 most popular marketing book on Amazon.

Of course, the whole endeavor was just a gaming of the Amazon rank system. Today, the book has fallen back down (just checked — it’s at #9,732 this hour). But the blitz accomplished several of my goals: it’s still allowing the book to occupy a higher spot than it did (9,732 is better than 446,248) But more importantly, it put the book in the hands of a lot of people on Tuesday.

Obviously, the sales are nice from that. But I’m hoping for a secondary effect as those people read it, blog it, review it, tweet it, and spread it in all manner of ways to their IRL and online networks. It’s confirmation of a point I made in the book. You have to grab the attention of the Innovators and Early Adopters in any new product launch for the brand to become fixed in the zeitgeist.

The nice way to describe my budget for the blitz is “bootstrapped”. The more accurate word is “cheap”. Basically I leveraged and co-ordinated my existing networks. I called in favors. I did a few targeted media buys (the 800-lb gorilla of those being a HARO ad). I used the Brand Zeitgeist Facebook page as a central communication hub that fed out to other SM as current fans of the book helped spread the word about the blitz through their networks. And I prayed.

As with anything, there were mistakes. I wish I had co-ordinated my blog tour a bit better. I wish my publisher had listed the book in more categories (I would have shown up higher in some additional categories). And I wish I had done a smaller pre-blitz to give the main blitz a better jumping-off point than from #446,248. But — hindsight is 20/20.

The Amazon rank is just a number. The point is not to sell books. The point is to spread the ideas. The Amazon blitz was a good jumping off point for the rest of the book’s promotion. I now head into media interviews (some additional ones generated by yesterday’s blitz) and physical location book tours for the next few months (counting down to the book tour kickoff with home field advantage on May 2nd in Bowling Green).

The big thing I take from the blitz is not the rank or the sales figures — it’s the people. There were people spreading the word for me that I had never met. I had lots of personal friends, who maybe were not that interested in marketing, buying a book just to help me out. I got lots of encouragement from several people.

If you bought a book, spread the links to your friends, or just wished me well — I truly appreciate it.

And if you didn’t get to take part yesterday, it’s never too late. http://www.amazon.com/Brand-Zeitgeist-Relationships-Collective-Consciousness/dp/1450206794  😉

amazon blitz

In the spirit of Joseph Jaffe’s Amazon bumrush, I’m holding the Brand Zeitgeist Amazon Blitz on Tuesday.

Basically, the Amazon blitz is a focusing of all online efforts to game the Amazon sales ranks. If a book goes up on the charts, there’s a good possibility that it will stick. If you’ve ever seen any of my presentations where I talk about media planning, it’s a bellyflop instead of toes in the water.

If you’re going to purchase a copy of Brand Zeitgeist online, I would appreciate it if you did it sometime on Tuesday 3/23. Here’s the link:
http://www.amazon.com/Brand-Zeitgeist-Relationships-Collective-Consciousness/dp/1450206794

I don’t plan to knock Michael Lewis’ The Big Short out of the top #1 spot, but I would love to see Brand Zeitgeist a little higher on the marketing charts.

Invite your friends via Facebook here or you can download the event to your Outlook or other calendar.

Or you could just forward this link: http://www.amazon.com/Brand-Zeitgeist-Relationships-Collective-Consciousness/dp/1450206794

As always, thank you for your support. I appreciate all the support I’ve gotten thus far from blog readers, friends, and complete strangers who have gotten excited about the book.

Look for my IRL book tour dates coming soon.

business book reviewers

My publisher has provided me with a limited number of review copies of Brand Zeitgeist. I am looking for a few good online mavens and connectors who want to review the book.

If you have an active (couple of posts per month) small biz or marketing related blog, some dedicated Twitter followers, you’re a power Amazon reviewer, or you have some other online superpower — please email me and I’ll mail you a free copy of the book.

You’re under no obligation to provide a positive review — just an honest one. The reviews will be highlighted on this site and others during the online book tour from March 22 – 26.

The book is a quick read, 108 pages, and full of interesting case studies. The big idea behind Brand Zeitgiest is that it reinforces basic marketing and branding principles and illustrates how businesses can use fundamental aspects of human nature to develop a brand strategy. Find the pdf of the Brand Zeitgeist sell sheet here.

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By the way, the best way to keep up with events and other info about Brand Zeitgeist is to connect on the Brand Zeitgeist Facebook page (or if you’re not a FB person, all the Facebook posts feed to @BrandZeitgeist on Twitter.)

And mark your calendar for the Brand Zeitgeist Amazon.com Blitz on March 23rd. (Download a reminder for your calendar here.)

(Or if you can’t wait 😉 buy your copy of Brand Zeitgeist on Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble today!)

judging the book by the cover

Brand Zeitgeist cover

Brand Zeitgeist will be available in March.

Finally. I present to you the cover of Brand Zeitgeist.

My book, which will be available in March, reinforces basic marketing and branding principles and illustrates how organizations can use fundamental aspects of human nature to develop a brand strategy.

Click here to connect on the Brand Zeitgeist facebook page to stay informed about events and announcements about the book.

I’ll soon be looking for some folks who want to review advance copies of the book and/or host a stop on the blog book tour. Stay tuned.

want to write a business book blurb?

UPDATE: manuscript has been sent to all who requested it for blurbs. If you requested and didn’t get an email from me, contact me.

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For the past year, I’ve been writing a book.
(a blog post will eventually be written about the joys and struggles of doing so)

It’s due to the publisher the week of Thanksgiving. (thankfully)

This new business book will hit the streets (as well as bookstores and Amazon) in early 2010. It looks at how groups and the overall society relates to brands and how brands can relate back to their markets’ culture. The book is geared toward brand novices. But it can also can be enjoyed by branding experts as a fresh look at how brands relate to society as well as a refresher of branding basics.

I’m looking for experts with demonstrative credentials in branding, advertising, or other business marketing areas to offer blurbs about the upcoming book.  These blurbs will be used in the forthcoming promotion of the book with the possibility of some being used on the book cover.
(uh, exactly what is a BLURB?)

If you’d like to write a short blurb about the book, please contact me via email or twitter by this weekend.

A pdf of the manuscript will be sent over the weekend only to those respondents that have offered sufficient credentials in their initial request. (super bonus points for previously published business authors!)

You’ll have a week (until 11/20) to read the manuscript (it’s a quick read) and send the blurb back to me along with how you’d like to be credited. If after reading the manuscript you feel that you cannot offer a positive recommendation, you are under no obligation to do so.

Bonus for people who read to the end of blog posts: Currently, the book will be published without a foreword. If after reading the book, you feel you can offer a 500 – 2000 word foreword. I’d be delighted in talking to you about how we can do that.

And if you’re stressed that you can’t help me right now, don’t despair. After the first of the year, there will be a blog book tour, a sales blitz, and the opportunity to do reviews.