A Timeless Brand

277px-Pan_Am_Logo_svgWhile vacationing on Maui in April I bought my son a vintage Pan Am ball cap that became a conversation starter over the following weeks. For those of you not familiar with Pan Am or if you have tucked a childhood memory in a corner, let’s just say that it was the embodiment of travel for the better part of sixty years and a cultural icon of the 20th century. The blue globe logo as its mark, identifying each aircraft with the word “clipper” in the name, distinct uniforms that mirrored the style of the time, and the “Worldport”, an architectural tour de force, for its flagship terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport, contributed to its iconic appeal as a timeless brand.

This tattered hat started a conversation with a retired flight attendant, who gently steered me away from that term, and recounted her last flight as a lead stewardess. It brought about a lengthy chat with a retired captain about flying the 747-SP to Japan. Lastly, there were the shared experiences traded between some of the older surfers and sun worshippers parked next to us on the beach or by the pool.

Was it all good? I venture to say no. But the customer experience Pan Am managed to deliver at its height in the 60’s and early 70’s is forever engrained in the psyche of the travelers. A mental snapshot of a by gone era that was innocent and sophisticated at the same time.

TWA brings about some of the nostalgia of Pan Am; however, I think that it was a legacy of the will power Howard Hughes brought to bear that keeps it in the running. He was not trying to out Pan Am with TWA. He just thought that he could do it better.

If you are still reading this post, here is the fun part. What happens when you try to out Pan Am with your own airline? You get Braniff International.

I am not going to go into Braniff’s history…you have Wikipedia for that. Let’s just say that entering the 60’s Braniff was a bit boring and the executives wanted to shake things up. And they did that by hiring Jack Tinker and Partners, with Mary Wells as the account lead (if you’ve watched Mad Men you can figure out who is based on her).

Mary and team differentiate the brand by hiring architect Alexander Girard, designer Emilio Pucci, and shoe designer Beth Levine to launch the “End of the Plain Plane” campaign.

The livery was now a single color on each plane, selected from a palette of bright colors. The fleet eventually used over 15 color with 57 variations of Herman Miller fabrics. The schema was applied to aircraft interiors, lounges, and ticket offices. Girard also designed furniture for Braniff’s ticket offices and customer lounges. Beth Levine developed plastic boots and designed two-tone calfskin boots and shoes and Emilio Pucci designed the Pucci Pant Dress uniforms.

Did it work? No it did not work as a timeless brand unless you are a marketing nerd and fan of fashion.
Even though it did not resonate past the 60’s and early 70’s, the effort that Mary Wells and her team put into differentiating the Braniff brand is legendary. But sometimes it is those who define the market early that set the tone by diligently managing every detail that their brand represents.
What brands that are no longer here resonate with you?

A final note; I was at JFK in 2013 watching the old Worldport being demolished to make way for a brand new terminal for Delta. What a shame. That terminal was unique and timeless.

Hawaii Social

Kaanapali Maui Honua Kai Resort
Kaanapali Maui Honua Kai Resort (Photo credit: Dave Dugdale)

I was sitting on a beautiful lanai in the breeze of the cooling afternoon trade wind, at the Honua Kai resort just two weeks ago, jotting down notes for this long overdue post. I was thinking about how well the businesses and people in Hawaii have tuned in to social media. This should not surprise me, especially knowing how Hawaii quickly took to SMS and had one of the highest engagement levels with text-based programs like American Idol when I worked in the mobile industry.

Over the last three years, in our trips to Hawaii, I’ve seen the digital footprints of resorts, small local brands, and local shops grow. They are not just using Twitter, Foursquare, and Facebook to broadcast out, but are also using the social web to make a connection with the customer on a personal level.  While on our family vacation, I had the opportunity to have a “talk story” session with Jill Mayo (@JillzBeanz)  who not only drives Social Marketing for several local brands and resort, but is also a hub of IRL—in real life—connections.

Although to Jill the adoption seems slow, to me it seems faster than the mainland. Small businesses are making effective use of Foursquare to drive offers and highlight events. Twitter is used to connect with customer on a hyper-local level to raise awareness around services and goings-on with the brand or resort property. The Honua Kai, for example, leverages their @HonuaKai handle to broadly converse about the resort and share information, and they manage a concierge only handle (@HKConcierge) to raise awareness around concierge services, share local events, and connect with guests one-on-one. This is quite a nifty idea and I wish others would adopt this hyper-local approach. Honua Kai’s marketing manager, Darren McDaniel, is doing a great job curating not only “traditional” kinds of hotel-related content but is also curating the stories of guests, and connecting the online experience with real life.

Jill believes that local brands in Hawaii are still experimenting and there is room for greater engagement. I fully agree. But I am also excited by the spirit of experimentation and not having pre-set ideas about how Social Marketing can drive loyalty. After all, the best sales person is the one that is not working for you; she is the advocate—the one whom others trust to give them the unadulterated skinny.

I like what Jill had to say about taking the brand breaking the fourth wall to connect in the real world and drive unique experiences that foster loyalty and advocacy. Perhaps it’s the fact that in Hawaii the spirit of ohana (family, in an extended sense of the term) allows the opportunity to take a simple 140 character message and make a connection on a human level.

Wouldn’t be cool if we could all get together next year for a Social Marketing conference on Maui? Let me or @JillzBeanz know.

Full disclosure: my wife and I stay at the Honua Kai and actively compete on becoming the mayor on Foursquare the moment we land.

Some interesting handles to follow in no particular order:

Aloha and Maui No Ka Oi

3 Basic Ingredients

Recently I’ve had the pleasure of meeting several early stage business founders. Each of them have amazing passion for the ideas they are growing, conviction about the market segment they are impacting, and are full of energy. The one thing I found surprising was how a couple of them did not realize the value of establishing a digital footprint.

While my own startup experience predates the social web, we had a great conversation about personal branding in the digital world. Specifically, we talked about the value of connecting their personal brand to help shore-up the value of their new ventures’ brand. This is important for an early stage company because investors are not only buying into your product’s value proposition, they are also buying into your vision and value prop. Do this the right way and capital and customers will come to you. Do it the wrong way or be absent from the social web, and you’ll have to do it old school by smiling and dialing your way to success.

Is there a right recipe for this? Well, it’s like asking if there is one recipe for macaroni and cheese. There are always a few basic ingredients:

  1. Set up Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn profiles for yourself (not your company). Keep it simple, and clearly identify who you are and what you do.
  2. If you have more than 10 employees, set up a social media policy with some do’s and don’ts, agree on a posting schedule, and stick to it.
  3. If you happen to have a live website, connect your executive profiles to the social web. Include all the relevant links (LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.). If, like some startups you list your whole team on the site, encourage them to connect their social links as well. Don’t be afraid of them leaving—exporting talent can be a great thing. They could be the next connection into a partner or customer.

These are the basics. As you grow, so will your digital footprint, and as one of my friends @katrinaklier likes to say, “if it’s online, it’s marketing material, whether it’s a person or a product.”

So get out there. Build your footprint and start participating in the social conversation.

Of Tales and Cocktails

It’s hard to believe that the last time I hosted Dot Tales & Cocktails was 11 years ago. The event was part of Seattle’s high-tech “schmooze” circuit, as Manny Frishberg described it in his Seattle Weekly article, “Cash and Cocktails”. The point of this reflection is that short of having an online social network, we were making connections through events, mailing lists, websites, and one on one introductions.

You were vetted and validated as an individual microbrand by your business contacts and friends. And you worked hard to maintain those relationships. A great many of us leveraged these events to raise money, make business contacts, start companies, and sell them, too. At the same time, we transitioned from our twenties to our thirties and started to shift to larger companies that needed entrepreneurial approaches to getting things done. In that moment a lot of us (including me) left those connections behind and our microbrand was integrated into larger ones.

Here are the lessons I’ve learned:

  • Curate your relationships – Nurture the ones that help you move forward collectively and be available to those that might only be one-sided.
  • You will be surprised – Sometimes it is the people on the periphery that come through. Let yourself be surprised. You’ve made impressions on people you had no expectations of.
  • It’s hard work to build your brand – You have to work at it. Meet people in real life, have that phone call, go for coffee, take the lunch meeting. You can only go so far online. Learn to appreciate the face-to-face and try to provide value in your interactions.
  • Return the favor – Always, no matter how small.
  • Be available – There are a couple of people I know who think being mysterious adds to their persona. In reality, unless you are a celebrity, this approach does not work, and may put people off.

One last point, you never know who you will reconnect with. If I had not started Dot Tales & Cocktails I would have never reconnect with @dianego …although she never attended one of my events.

Over the next series of post I am planning to interview friends, business leaders, and entrepreneurs who I believe have done a great job building their microbrand.

The Emergence of the Micro Brand

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

As a marketer for dotcoms, startups, and large companies over the past 20 years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing people who are sought-after influencers in their respective industries. The trait they all have in common? A solid micro brand.

They also are experts in their specific field, confident in who they are, and not shy about sharing their knowledge. But first and foremost, they are great listeners and teachers. They spend time cultivating their brand by curating their relationships, both online and offline. Lastly, they are genuine. They say what they do and do what they say.

In our tech driven world, they are high touch and welcome the face-to-face meetings. Because in the end, as my friend Ted Rubin  would say, it is about the “Return on Relationship” and it is about serving without expectations.

You need to choose what your micro brand represents. If you know who you are and what impact you want to have, this should be easy. Jeremy Epstein put it most succinctly “Building your brand online (and offline) just takes time. It also takes rhythm and process.”

For me, the rules to help foster your micro brand boil down to a couple of essential things: establish your area of expertise, and define and stand for your values as you build relationships.

Over the next few months on this blog, I’ll be talking to people who I think have mastered the micro brand concepts. I’m looking forward to these discussions, and hope you’ll join me here. Connect with me on Twitter @khodyg.