Tag Archives: Brand Building

Building Demand While Killing Brand

Marketing leaders often see their task as stoking demand by building awareness and desire.

“Make it sexy!”

“Sell the sizzle, not the steak.”

“Forget the features, sell the benefits.”


Glossy photos, glowing copy, a firm, smooth close.  Bring ’em on home, Marketers!

Nothing happens until someone sells something.  The art of creating desire; nothing would sell without it.  How else could we possibly meet this year’s top line goal?

Putting these popular ideas into practice might drive short-term demand, but they will kill your brand in the long-term.

The problem is, according to Joyce, in his Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, art that creates desire alone is pornography.  In the end, pornography is never satisfying, it’s the ultimate bait and switch.

Your customers expect much more from their experience with your products and services.

Customers hope for an experience of the sublime, something just short of pure heaven; not only in the product we doll-up for our catalogs and web pages, but from every interaction with us.  They don’t  click onto your site hoping to find something mediocre, they don’t order your product in hopes of getting something passable.  No, when customers interact with us, they hope, deep within, to experience the sublime.

We’ve all grown used to accepting better than usual, but our hope still smolders in our subconscious driving us onward.

Our deepest hope might be to find some proof that perfection of Form, a truly sublime experience, is possible.

Companies who have figured this out develop seemingly magical loyalty (Apple) and often cash to match (Apple).  Steve Jobs told Walter Issacson, “The most sublime thing I’ve ever seen are the gardens around Kyoto. I’m deeply moved by what that culture has produced, and it’s directly from Zen Buddhism.”

Of course, Joyce approached aesthetics and the sublime from a Catholic/Thomist perspective but the pursuit of the sublime, by Japanese Zen Buddhists or Irish Catholics shares some common characteristics:

Thomas Aquinas‘ aesthetics can be summarized as pursuing the following:

Integrity and perfection: Integritas sive perfectio

Harmony or due proportion: Consonantia sive debita proportio

The brightness or clarity of Form: Claritas sive splendor formae

Of course, Form emerges from the fundamental belief of Platonic Idealism, that the idea of the thing, its form/whatness/quiddity/essence is more real than its material/thisness/the particular  object before you.

A circle is a good example.  In theory or form, it is :

A round plane figure whose boundary (the circumference) consists of points equidistant from a fixed center.

In the material world, a  perfect circle has never been created… even in the most precisely machined material manifestation, one atom might be out of alignment and keep that particular manifestation of circleness from meeting the idea of circle that we can easily describe and imagine.

You might say, “I see circles all the time, get real.”  Well, that’s been said before:

Antisthenes: Plato, I see particular horses, but not horseness.

Plato: That is because you have eyes but no intelligence.

The best marketing and brand leaders understand the relationship between desire and the sublime, between pornography and art, between real products/real people, and Form.

Steve Jobs certainly did, and look where it took his products, his company, and his balance. sheet.

I imagine him not missing his money because now he’s happily joined the world of pure Idea.





Customer Experience, Brand Building, and Leadership

Newton’s second law of thermodynamics, it’s not only about heat, it’s about entropy, and entropy seems to act on everything, even brands.

Customer Experience and Brand Building

Of course, some brands are hot and getting hotter while others seem to be cooling or are dead cold

When was the last time you bragged about your Buick on MySpace over an AOL internet connection?

Were all of those brands victims of expert managers who worked the numbers while missing the fire of great customer experience?

Do you ever remember thinking:

This Buick is magic!

This AOL start up CD I received in the mail is inspiring, again!

I wish Facebook was a lot more like MySpace!

Customer Experience Leadership

The difference between heating and cooling (building and entropy) seems lie in the distinction between management and leadership, e.g.:

  • Apple starts cooking under the leadership Steve and Steve
  • Apple cooling/dissipating under expert managers Scully and Spindler
  • Apple refocuses and gains heat after Jobs returns to leadership
  • Apple becomes the most valuable company in the world in April 2012 with a valuation over $600 billion making it one of the two most valuable companies in history.
    • n.b. The other was Microsoft in 1999 at the peak of the first internet bubble.

Jobs combined an artist’s commitment to elegance in Customer Experience/UX – from product design, interface quality, to site/store experience, even to packaging with notoriously driven and focused leadership practices aimed at delivering a customer experience vision.

Customer Experience Management v. Customer Experience Leadership

Is the distinction between managers and leaders in their balancing of numbers and vision?

Do managers use vision to reach an envisioned financial/organizational/brand metric goals?

Do leaders use numbers along the path toward a vision of a relationship between their customers and their own lives mediated by the company’s product/service?

Of course, every successful business person is partially a manager and partially a leader, but what’s the current balance at the top of your organization?

What would it take to shift your leadership’s focus to one with a clear vision of customer’s experience that builds heat in your brand?