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The World Cup: 4 Thoughts on Branding

Soccer is known around the world as the beautiful game. It involves an estimated 3.5 billion people annually as either participants or fans. In the USA alone, 18 million youth play soccer each year, that’s 1 in 4 children between the ages 4 and 18. For the 2010 World Cup, an estimated $1.5 billion will be wagered. Compare that to $83 million bet on this year’s Super Bowl and you can see how monumental this sport is to the world.

If you’ve ever watched a World Cup match, you’ve no doubt seen the passion and pride fans have for their national sides. It’s truly awe-inspiring, and personally I can’t get enough. As the world’s game has taken center stage over these 4 weeks here are four things we can learn about branding from the World Cup.

Every country in the world has it’s own national personality, and the brand of football they play matches this personality to a “t”. It’s one of the things I love to talk about when people ask me “What’s so special about watching two teams play to a 0-0 draw?” It’s the pageantry of it all. Here are a few examples of what I mean.

The English play physical, no-nonsense football, and their fans think they’re a little bit better than everyone else. The Dutch are technically proficient, hence the nickname, Clockwork Orange. They prefer a straight-forward style to a lot of dancing around and diving on the ground. Speaking of dancing, as originators of the “jogo bonita”, Brazil are known for their samba-style of play. Their fans not only expect them to win but to win with style and finesse. The Spanish are flashy and temperamental. Italy is known for its flair and dramatics (ever heard of players taking a dive?). The French style of play is moody—full of passion one minute, and disinterested the next. The Korean work rate is unmatched. And the US team is beginning to make a name for itself as the comeback kids.

Likewise, as an organization, or even just as an individual, it’s important to “not put anything on the pitch” that doesn’t represent you well. If you’re trying to emulate what someone else is doing, you’re not being authentic. Be yourself.

If you think the World Cup is just a one-month tournament that comes along every four years, think again. Qualifying starts nearly three years before the next cup takes place and lasts for over two years. It will on average involve more than 50 players per country as coaches navigate injuries and try to find the right mix of players. On top of helping their national sides qualify for the next cup, most players will feature in 60 or more games for their club teams each year, running over 7 miles per game, often at a dead sprint.

Qualifying is a grueling but necessary part of making it to the World Cup. Similarly, branding takes commitment and consistency. It also can’t be done by one person, it’s a team sport. If you want your brand to stand for something great and make a difference, it’s not going to come easy. Work really hard.

Soccer is a sport, a game. Its first participants? A bunch or bored barbarians. It’s first official ball? A severed head. The modern day game is a bit more sophisticated, but you’ve got to give those barbarians some credit for creativity. If you want to see passion and creativity in today’s game, you need go no further than to take a look at some of the nicknames by which teams are referred. The Aussie team is known as the Socceroos. Cameroon as the Indomitable Lions. Nigeria as the Super Eagles. Japan as the Blue Samurai. Spain as La Furia Roja “the Red Fury”, New Zealand as the All Whites (the All Blacks are their World Class rugby team), Italy as Azzurri, Germany as Die Mannschaft, Denmark as the Danish Dynamite, England as the Three Lions, the USA as the Yanks. And the all-time best, the South African team as their beloved Bafana Bafana (the Zulu word for boys).

We live in a time when creativity is being recognized, valued, and even expected as an important part of our lives. We’re much more likely to pay attention to brands that cause us to think, laugh, or cry. We’re looking to be inspired. So be passionately creative.

Since goals are hard to come by, the methods employed for celebrating them has become an art form. There’s the classic knee slide, often performed by England’s Captain Fantastic, Stephen Gerrard. Then there’s the “rock the baby” made famous by Bebeto of Brazil in the ’94 cup. A more recent celebration employed by some includes lifting the jersey to reveal a hidden message on the undershirt, i.e. Kaka’s “I belong to Jesus” message. And the group dances of Nigeria and Cameroon are always a sight to behold. Regardless of technique for the celebration itself, pointing at, shouting to, or saluting the crowd is a must.

Footballers understand that it’s their fans that make what they do possible and profitable. Celebration is one of the most sincere and memorable forms of branding. In the same way, you should celebrate with the people who bring you success. They’ll keep coming back.

Soccer is by no means a perfect sport. It has its fair share of coaching, reffing and doping scandals. Fan violence is all too common. Personally, I’ve been pick-pocketed twice in my life, and both occasions were at soccer games in Brazil and Italy. But for all it’s highs and lows, soccer remains unquestionably the most beloved sport on the planet. It reflects personality and pride. It takes an unbelievable amount of commitment and dedication. It puts the spotlight on creativity and passion. It brings people back time and again.

Does your brand do all this? It should.

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The New Web


The web world is changing at breakneck speed (I know I’m stating the obvious). It’s interesting to see who is embracing web change and who isn’t. We’ve seen early adopters, which represents the overwhelming minority, keeping up with end user expectations. And, we’ve seen late and non-adopters gradually loose their online relevance because of complacency or their simply being unaware of what’s happening around them. 

ONE DIMENSIONAL WEB (limited web foot print). The vast majority of web sites are comfortable (sadly) in pushing one-dimensional information to their audiences. There has been safety in knowing that people on the inside are “controlling” the messages delivered to those on the outside.  There was a time when this was the expected norm… everyone’s web site was thought of as an abundant resource of information to be pushed to its audiences. Their web foot print primarily consisted of their url as an online destination or defined space. A real problem with one-dimensional/information web sites is they typically squash the heartbeat or voice of that organization. The experience is more about details and less about human emotion and interaction. Unfortunately this site is often devoid of perspective, inspiration, spirit, life, and changed lives.  Even worse, it places a real limitation on your mission’s reach. The success of this model was predicated on getting people to your site and providing relevant content once they arrived. As you can see, this represents a very one-dimensional approach and illustrates a tired and dying web model. 


MULTIDIMENSIONAL  COMMUNITY AND CONVERSATION (multiplied web foot print). Contrast the one-dimensional web experience to the multidimensional experience and you’ll see a dynamic exchange of conversation and relationship building between intertwined communities. This web experience is far from static. The multidimensional web provides information but is not limited to just that. Relationships flourish. Conversation and connection is natural and encouraged. Mission, vision, perspective, and changed lives are openly shared. Web experiences are richer and more personal to end-users.  Information is provided in ways that is relevant to various audience needs… more dynamic than static. The multidimensional model represents a greatly expanded web foot print because it is now permeating peoples’ social networks. (One-dimensional web sites are cut off from this world entirely… equating to lost opportunity.)

Multidimensional community and conversation means strategic integration and cross referencing of your web site, facebook, twitter, blog, flickr, podcasts, enews, vimeo or youtube channels. Instead of having one door of entry, being your web site, audiences now have multiple entry points for connection. Each of those entries connects you to a vibrant network of people, communities, and experiences. From our last post we saw the crazy-growth statistics in the web world… social media, smartphones, video, podcasts, and blogging continue to experience rapid increases. It’s paramount that we continue to listen to digital audience expectations and more aggressively embrace their shifts and preferences. 

For those who have an experimental or even accidental presence in twitter, facebook, or the blogosphere you have missed the boat. You are likely silent to your audience and the vast, social network frontier. For those who find themselves in one-dimensional web space, it’s time to embrace change and begin to rethink. It’s time to create a strategy focused on multiplying your web footprint to allow your mission and vision to impact more people. Delaying any movement only widens the gap between you and the web world.

If you already have a multi-dimensional web footprint, your challenge will be as simple as author Jim Collins’: how do you move from “good to great”? How do you continue to refine your strategy and strengthen the relevance of your web foot print or multidimensional reach?

The digital tools to impact more people are here. They’re proven. And, they’re right in front of us. It’s simple… you’ll either move to multiply your relevance and reach. Or, without changing, you’ll begin to retract your relevance and reach.

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The Digital World In Which We Live

There’s a new paradigm in communication that is being fueled by conversation, community and convenient technologies. By first understanding more of what the communication landscape, trends, and preferences are, we then will be able to connect with more people in meaningful and relevant ways.

Here’s a broad, current snapshot of the communication world of the people you are trying to engage…

+ 45% male, 55% female
+ Most people would rather follow other tweets than make their own tweets
+ Average Twitter user has about 27 followers
+ 37 percent of active users utilize their phone to tweet.
+ Don’t concentrate so much on the number of followers you have as the content you provide. Most people won’t have Rick Warren’s 100,000 followers, but your influence and impact on 25 followers can still be as profound.

+ The number 1 website among 17-25 year olds
+ Average user is connected to 60 pages, groups and events
+ Average user creates 70 pieces of content each month
+ 50% of active users log on to Facebook in any given day
+ Average user has 130 friends

+ 1 in 3 adults has recently read a blog post
+ 61% of blog readers are 30 years old and up, 40% of them have an average household income of +$90k
+ 25% of young adults read blogs at least once a week

+ 35-64 year olds make up nearly 50-65% of YouTube’s audience
+ Average viewer watches almost 6 hours of Internet video every month
+ 54% of female Internet users ages 12 and up have streamed a video online in the past 30 days. 60% of adults 35 to 54 have recently streamed online video in the past 30 days.

+ News and reference apps are the most frequently used apps on smartphones. On average, news apps get used more than once per day, at a rate of 11 times per week.
+ The iPhone made up 50% of US smartphone usage
+ iPhone users perform the following: web browsing 80%; email 76%; mobile music 66%; social networking 55%; web search 55%
+ 75% of iphone users are male and the majority are aged 18-44

+ The average number of hours per week the average person is spending online is now at 11 hours, up from 9 hours last year.
+ Typical “internet users” spend 32.7 hours per week online and about half as much time watching television

+ People have multiple, digital connection tracks today in which they expect conversation, community, and relevant content.
+ Social media is not a passing trend, but an integral part of people’s daily lives.
+ Smartphones and broadband growth are changing the type of information way we seek and expect on a daily basis.
+ Video will become a more commonplace experience and expectation especially with the increasing growth and power of smartphones.
+ Opportunities for churches, schools, and organizations to connect are greater than ever. At the same time, the opportunities for disconnect are greater than ever as well.
+ Your communication plan increasingly becomes more essential with the constant evolution of people’s application of technology to their lives.
+ Smart application of social media can expand your web footprint substantially and connect you to hundreds and/or thousands of new people and relationships.

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Secrets Behind the Launch of Apple’s iPad

Great post from Seth Godin, author/blogger (sethgodin.typepad.com, tribes, the dip, linchpin) regarding perhaps one of the biggest marketing launches of our lifetime…

Apple reports that on the first day they sold more than $150,000,000 worth of iPads. I can’t think of a product or movie or any other launch that has ever come close to generating that much direct revenue.

more: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2010/04/secrets-of-the-biggest-selling-launch-ever.html

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Are You Sparking Conversation?

Why is it that some organizations have natural, positive conversations from people who experience their brand while others produce little to no conversations in response to their brand? Great post from Dan & Chip Heath Made to Stick authors and regular blog contributors at www.fastcompany.com and www.heathbrothers.com on examples of how organizations create conversation thus creating more fans…


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Branding: A Lesson In What Not To Do

BRANDING. It’s critical to an organization’s DNA and overall success. Today’s leaders know that the quality and perception of their brand is important at so many levels. Afterall, your brand is a direct reflection on how your mission and vision are lived out. The DC team has worked with hundreds of organizations of all shapes and sizes… we’ve seen it all when it comes to branding done right… and branding gone wrong.

Through many DC partnerships, there has been one constant when it comes to branding. Everyone, at some point, realizes their brand is not being represented clearly with relevance, purpose, and excellence.

The NY Times Bestselling book “Good to Great” challenges organizations to embrace their realities… the good and the bad. Let’s look at the different stages in which organizations may find their brand and learn what not to do….

OLD SCHOOL. This brand finds the community around them changing rapidly and they have done little to stay relevant to the change. It’s typically harder for this brand to be dynamic and relevant because their perspective is behind the times. Younger audiences find it challenging to fully engage their Old School or outdated approaches.

FRAGMENTED. This brand is broken into so many pieces that it’s hard to discern who it really is. Their fragmentation of messages and identity tends to create more challenges and obstacles for everyone. We often hear fragmented brands find it more difficult to connect internally and externally because of the noise and multitude of mixed, inconsistent messages.

COMPLACENT. This brand has had success and they have ridden that model of success so long that complacency now becomes a barrier to growth and connection. The complacent brand is most comfortable with the way it’s always been done. Inevitably, complacency ends up limiting mission and vision potential at some point.

UNDERVALUED. This brand knows who they are and is likely executing their mission yet they are unable to leverage and build momentum from their strengths and cultural assets. Often times, their identity is known by many but may not be known by others within their tribe.

TRENDY. This brand is focused on keeping up with the trends of other models rather than creating their own unique brand. The trendy brand can create skepticism for people searching for substance over sizzle. Chasing trends often limits the ability to dig deeper for genuine authenticity.

DUPLICATED. The duplicated brand has taken the easy road when it comes to branding… they simply copied a brand from another model from across the country. These organizations have a brand but it’s not their brand. There will come a point in which the duplicated brand begins to show some cracks because their unique culture and distinctives has been masked by someone else’s brand.

INTROVERTED. This introverted brand operates in a silo. They likely have solid organizational culture within the their confines. But to those beyond their walls, many wonder who and what they are about. Introverted brands are often “well kept secrets” within the community.

VISIONLESS. This is the brand in which their brand reflects lack of clarity for who they are and where they are going. The visionless brand is often overlooked and unseen in the community. They also run the risk of losing followers because it’s apparent they do not truly know and express their calling effectively.

As you can see, brands are positioned in so many different ways… often times to the detriment of their missional goals and values.

So what’s the honest assessment of your brand?

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