Integrity Is What A Brand Lives By … Or Not

Brand IntegrityIntegrity … a brand lives and breathes by this. Right? All (ok maybe not ALL) business owners live by their integrity as this drives who they are and how they are perceived in the marketplace. Zappos did not become the best online retailer by not living by their brand integrity. Integrity drives as it is that adherence to principles that your customers embrace and gush about. Integrity is the fuel behind the unimpaired excellence that makes customers make you the only choice and have them sit around the campfire and sing your kumbaya. Many brands but cannot achieve that ultimate brand loyalty. It is earned and when there is a challenge of that very integrity that earned the loyalty, the brand image is tarnished. Over the past year or so, we have seen a lot of brand images being tarnished and it is up to us as the consumer to say yes I am in or no no I am going elsewhere. As a HUGE fan of the NFL and of course my beloved JETS I have been challenged by the integrity of the brand that is the NFL.

The Brand of the NFL

The brand of the NFL is huge. Ok bigger than huge. It is a 9 billion dollar industry and growing.  We trust you NFL that you will bring us the best of the best each week and when you do, we buy more thus adding to your revenues. We buy tickets to the games, we fly city to city to support our team, we are so proud to wear our jerseys, sweatshirts, jackets, boxers, socks, clings on our cars … we spend our money to show our support and in return we ask you to maintain the integrity of the brand.

Integrity of the NFL Brand

NFL, we as fans ask you to maintain the integrity of the brand. You are not above any other brand, though sometimes you make us feel that way. You are not there all year round like so many other brands. You are SEASONAL. Yes, NFL, you are seasonal but yet garner more revenues than many companies can even fathom. Forget Hello, you have us with the tingle in our ears from that last whistle in the ProBowl. We are that dedicated. We watch or go to the draft and fully engulf you as we love our teams and because you, NFL bring us our team, you become a part of us. We trust that you will give us what we give to you. We can see that the integrity of the NFL brand is an umbrella as each team and everyone associated with the team has to uphold that integrity. And when our team loses we are not yelling at you umbrella NFL or we used to not … now that umbrella has been flipped! We, the fans, the ones who trusted and believed that you would uphold the integrity of the brand, are screaming at you.

Losing Brand Integrity

The NFL has lost the integrity of the brand. If we did not see this in Weeks 1 or 2, we were slapped really hard in the face on Monday Night Football in the Green Bay vs Seattle game. I recognize that there are contract disputes and each side wants and wants and there is no giving. The NFL knew for months that the contract talks were not progressing, could stale and the refs would be locked out. We as fans trusted that the contract dispute would be worked out. Like any other brand that is in a crisis, we expected them to fix it. The replacement refs were that quick fix but this band-aid seems to be made of dental floss as boy oh boy it is quite thing and is not getting the job done. You NFL have caused chaos, come at a very big price.

Do the NFL refs make a lot of money? YES! But should we care? Really, should we? Some may say we should but, I think the greater question is, is it necessary to keep the brand in tact to pay them high salaries? The NFL refs are part time. Imagine on a part time gig making about 150K – not to shabby. But we have to think about the responsibility they have and how the pressure shifts to THEM to uphold the integrity of the brand. If the refs did not bear the burden on the field to uphold the integrity of the NFL brand, there would be no discussion about the replacement refs. Actually, if this was untrue, the NFL would have crumbled years ago as there would not be many players willing to play, there would not be any fans and without players and fans, there would not be an NFL, which would trickle down to College and then HS and Pee Wee. Game over. Instead, the refs bring a high level of expertise and professionalism which keeps the players playing, the fans coming and contributes to the success of the brand. Now with the replacement refs, the NFL has lost the integrity of the brand. They, the NFL exclusively OWNS the overall brand and the integrity therein, so it was theirs to lose.

Restoring Brand Integrity

Can the NFL restore the integrity of the brand? Sure. Like in any crisis, there can be a turn around. However, a chance was missed when the NFL made their official statement and felt that the replacement refs as well as the replay refs (who are not replacements) made the right call. The NFL created more of a crisis here and while the NFL will survive this, a crater larger than the Grand Canyon has been created. While the blown call is alarming, the official statement send up more red flags than meets the eye. Losses happen but when it comes at the hands of those who could have prevented this, it becomes difficult to swallow. It makes us think what is it going to take for the NFL to realize that there is a huge crisis and it goes deeper than the integrity of the brand. Fans love our teams and our players (though sometimes we are critical of their play) but we do not love you NFL owners and commission.

The safety of the players has been compromised and, as fans, we love them more than we could ever love the overall brand of the NFL. We have to wonder what will it take for the NFL to fix this? A catastrophic injury? As much some may believe that a boycott would evoke change, it would never happen as we love our teams and would never leave our players. You see NFL we do not come for you we come for them, our players. You now have separated the players from you and, unless you fix this right now, I am not sure any crisis communications strategy will bridge the gap you have created between you and the players.

NFL, it starts with you as loyalists like me are not even on the same street as your ballpark. Houston, we have a very serious problem!

What do  you think? Can the NFL repair their brand image?

photo credit: Parker Michael Knight

Choosing Your Audience Without Apologies

choosing audience without apologies Choosing your audience without apologies is traditional advertising of tv, radio and print as these spots tend to reach the watchers of a certain show, magazine/newspaper or station and not necessarily those that would ever purchase. This holds true on the web as well with sites that have ads that reach the target market and then some who are viewers of the site but do not fit the exact target of the ad. Sure, we look at the numbers provided by the media outlets and strategically place ads based upon the demographics provided by them and see where our target is there and bam, we place and run. There is always an audience that is not the target and some may become and for others, the spot is falling on deaf ears. That is the nature of traditional advertising as regardless of how technology betters, we can never solely attract our target audience. Do we need to apologize for this? No. We have become accustomed to receiving advertising messages that are not for us. Sometimes we listen or sometimes we do not. Advertisers hope we do as they just want a return on their investment.

No Apologies

Discount retailers who are targeting a certain segment never apologize for having discount merchandise or attracting for new customers. They never apologize for not having the size scale or ample amount of merchandise that a non discounter has. They lure us in by giving us merchandise that is sold at a lesser price, which gives us more to enhance our lives in family time and enjoying the opportunity to have new things. They embrace living on a budget and exploit it. They are not trying to make the wealthy like them or dislike them, they are honing in on their target market through targeting them in the moment and creating the story for them and never apologizing for creating the “good life on a budget” story.

Bloggers do not apologize for the reach they get when their article is retweeted. Actually, we thank people for sharing. We apologize if someone does not like our writings but never apologize for the new set of eyes. If we apologize for the new audience then we are making a crucial error as our business model will be flawed. Yes, we need to map out our target market but there has to be a path to growth and expansion. Build your blog community and company by understanding and directly talking/selling to your core audience to create brand loyalty but also be mindful of the larger audience that may not know of your existence. There is no apologies needed to build a stronger business and attracting new customers to help enhance their lives. There are no apologies needed when we are gaining attention for what we believe in and want others to believe in (unless of course it is destructive in nature and sets out to cause  harm). Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ are not apologizing for attracting new people in drones. They are not apologizing to those that choose not to pay any attention to them. Why should other advertisers? Why should we have to apologize if our message is received by someone who would never buy? They make us by lashing out and we are compelled to, to protect the reputation and integrity of the blog/the company.

Creating the Apology

Creating the apology is done when when a tweet or an ad goes bad and people swarm all over it. This is more than people listening, it is where people are listening and reacting. The more popular the negativity becomes, the more attention that is given and people start listening to what you are saying in your apology. Many times this is people who may have never heard of us. This starts to snowball and while it can spiral out of control, it can also attract some new eyes and broaden your audience. No apologies here for bringing awareness so long as it has a positive outcome. When the awareness brings in negativity from the new audience and it continues to linger in the media, it can be damaging. We saw this with Ragu with saying men are incapable of cooking a family meal as that is a woman’s job. They were empowering women as the queen of the kitchen and not apologetic for dissing men who are the king of the kitchen. While we can all appreciate empowering people through advertising for them to relate to the product and the story it is telling to persuade them to buy but when it lends itself to the stereotypes, it starts to turn off certain audiences. Was this damaging enough to Ragu to hurt sales or was it just one select target market that had their attention and it was ignored by their loyal customers who championed them for supporting women with all that they do each day with work and caring for the family?  Competitors had a new target market opened up to them with those that were outraged and certainly were not apologetic to attract this new target.

Do We Ever Need To Apologize When Choosing Our Audience?

Do we need to apologize when we miss the mark? Missing the mark happens where the targeting starts to get broader and we generalize. We select certain criteria about  our target market and hit up those that meet the criteria. There is no way of ever knowing exactly if every single person we are targeting meets all the criteria so we run that risk of pissing someone off. If Hanes started inundating me with mens’ boxers emails, tweets, etc (and while I love Jordan), and I never clicked on, responded or bought, I would get annoyed. I would recognize that they are reaching out to women who would buy for their significant other and while the lil man loves his boxers,  I am not in the market for mens’. Would they need to apologize for targeting me? If I said publicly said something in a tweet I would think they would and remove me from their target list (while adding me to the boys targeting efforts) but do they really need to apologize? They generalized that women, especially of a certain age, with child(ren) would be buying for their man and they may attract new customers with this generalization. Do they need to apologize to me because while I fit MOST of their criteria, I do not fit all (in this scenario, the biggest part)? I do not think so.

When I purchased ONE Giants shirt years ago as a gift and was still getting direct mail and emails to buy more when I bought a ridiculous amount of JETS merchandise from the same company, I was concerned. How can a company continue to send out direct mail and emails that never get opened? I suppose that this is a topic for another post but for right now, do they need to apologize for clogging up my email or my mailbox? I purchased an item so I was added to their targeted list. They had no idea that I would not buy more Giants merchandise. But year after year when the emails went  unopened and offers in direct mail never were acted upon, they should have gotten the hint. Did they need to apologize? No. They just needed to review the information better. This is being lazy and growing the numbers and not paying attention to the buying habits. Maybe they need to apologize for that. Hmh. That would be something. If a company came out and issued a formal apology for not paying attention to the buying habits of people and continued to email them as if they were a regular buying customer (and not creating marketing messages geared to decrease attrition). In other words, we were lazy and did not pay attention and we will improve that. Interesting concept and again probably best flushed out in another post.

When we are targeting with intent to expand upon our audience and improve customer conversion we do not need to apologize unless we offend an entire group. Mistakes happen. Outside of a bad mistake, we are targeting and reaching them to let them know we exist. We are trying to create awareness and the potential customers’ story by identifying the opportunity to buy and fulfill a need or want. It is right here in front of them with the underlying message to trust and act now and buy. Again no apologies for that. It is business and they key word in the headline is choosing. We do have a choice to target them or not.

Thoughts? Do we ever need to apologize for choosing our audience?

photo credit: Arenamontanus

The Biggest Unkept Secret

 

 

best unkept secretStart Spreading the News … yeah, the best but unkept secret. Ever have that? Sure we all have when we are sitting on something waiting to come to fruition and you leak a bit because you just know. It happens. A big book deal, a speaking engagement, a new big client – it is all something that is life changing but yet you just know the minute you open your mouth to that trusted friend that would never, ever say a word it all goes to shit. Yeah, well it happens to many but, who really talks about it? Isn’t it better to have the best kept secret and get so busy that no-one pays attention? Yes but, come on, we know that we have to tell someone, many, the chosen ones. We all have that best unkept secret that really is not a secret as we are so there while trying to be coy or cryptic – as it is our escape.

The Biggest Unkept Secret

I am here to expose the biggest unkept secret. It was a journey that was filled with from the ridiculous to the sublime. Friends gained, friends lost. Rulings that forgot about the law, filings that were late and frivolous that were geared to prolong. The escape is to put your heels are down in the stirrups and want nothing more than focus off of you just to gallop away but yet you still get tossed. Happens. We learn new ways to get back into the stirrups and realize that sometimes life is a big hole in the ground and you can climb up or stay there. Fighters get up regardless and my best unkept secret (damn that Twitter and DM failure) is a story so sensational that it makes soap operas look realistic. Imagine. I suppose I want this heavenly body to come in and take over and say what I should say. However, since that has not happened, I find it easiest to just put it in song:

[youtube aqlJl1LfDP4]

 

Top 10 Reasons I am Moving BACK to New Jersey

Number 10: I have driven across country 3 times, I am an even kind of girl.  Forget 3x is the charm …I move for 4x is the ticket!

Number 9: Cockroaches and scorpions … do I need to say more?

Number 8:  56% Graduation rate. Really?

Number 7: Mosquitos and Gnats need new blood.

Number 6: Rex called … girl show ’em it is about football and not the planting of the foot.

Number 5: Clammy is better than salty.

Number 4: Terry wanted me to push the Vegas line bring back a championship.

Number 3: Jersey Shore is recasting … hey, they can rename it to Cougar Time!

Number 2: Sunblock 10 months a year is so not anti-aging.

And the Number 1 Reason WE am Moving Back to New Jersey is  … because the Supreme Court of the State of Nevada said, not once, not twice but three times  – lady. Oh sorry a little Lionel.

And there it is.

What Is Next?

A long ass drive. Oh that is not the question that you all have? I guess I have a couple of miles days to think about it more. Where do you go from here? Returning to a State that is home is exciting as never will I miss a METS game or have to leave the couch for a JETS game but as a mom it is bringing my son into a life of family, friends, pizza to die for =-), great schools and all that comes with it. I will miss wearing shorts in October and April and will dread the day I buy an umbrella, ice scraper, shovel, really heavy coat, scarf, snow boots, etc. I will not miss the legal bills that are starting to approach my age =-( but after 12 years and the school system in such disarray, it was time 2 years ago to make this happen. I guess fast track really is an oxymoron.

See ya in NEW JERSEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! well in a few days because ole blue eyes has it right – Start Spreading the News, I am leaving TODAY!

photo credit: psflannery