Almost Timely News: The Incredible Power of Brand (2022-11-13)

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Almost Timely News: The Incredible Power of Brand (2022-11-13)

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What’s On My Mind: The Incredible Power of Brand

Let’s talk about the power of brand for a bit. How powerful is brand? To hear some marketers talk about it, it’s this ephemeral, confusing, intangible mystery that’s unmeasurable and therefore not worth paying attention to. To other marketers, it’s the root of their marketing, the heart and soul of marketing itself.

Twenty years ago, when I was a much more junior marketing professional, I fell in the first camp. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it, and I was held accountable for very tangible numbers – leads generated, policies sold, ad inventory filled. If there wasn’t a direct response on the other end of my marketing, I paid no attention to it.

Over time, I realized how short-sighted that approach is. Yes, of course, you still have to make your numbers – that’s essential. But the force which powers those numbers, which reduces costs, which makes transactions easier? That’s brand.

What is a brand? The origin of brand is literally that – a piece of hot iron that you branded your livestock with so you knew which livestock were yours. It was an identity literally burned into flesh. Thankfully, marketing has changed and evolved a bit since then. There are two definitions I like for brand, a strategic definition and a tactical definition.

The tactical definition is from comedian Ze Frank in 2006: a brand is the emotional aftertaste of a series of experiences. In his words, the brand of “grandma” has an emotional aftertaste, which is why you can sell “Grandma’s cookies” but not “old people’s cookies”. Different emotional aftertaste.

The strategic definition of a brand is much simpler: a brand is a promise built on trust. It’s a promise of identity, of emotion, of consistency, of stability. Wherever you go around the world, when you see those golden arches, you know pretty much what you’re going to get. Take a look at this McDonald’s in Belgrade, Serbia:

McDonalds Serbia

Take a look at this McDonald’s in Munich, Germany:

McDonald's Munich

Or look at this McDonald’s in Seoul, Korea:

McDonald's Seoul

There’s little to no doubt what you’re going to get inside. Sure, there are regional variations and stuff but it’s not like you’re going to walk in McDonald’s and get something other than the fare that’s served there all around the world. That’s the brand, that’s the promise behind the brand. You know what you’re going to get.

Now, what does this have to do with the power of brand? This week, we saw the startling power of brand and what happens when a brand breaks a promise.

What brand is this, and what’s the promise behind this brand?

Blue checkmark

That’s the Twitter blue checkmark indicating a verified account. Prior to October 26, 2022, it meant that the account in question had established itself as the owner of a significant copyright and had gone through a verification process to prove that the account holder had the rights to whatever brand they were using. After October 26, 2022, that brand – and the Twitter blue checkmark is very much a brand – meant something different: the account holder was a paying subscriber of Twitter.

The brand’s promise fundamentally changed. It means something different now, has a different context. And yet, the enduring power of brand means that to many people, that little checkmark still signifies the “official” or the “real” account of a brand, because brand is an emotional aftertaste as well as a promise, and it takes time for tastes to change in our memory.

So what? That doesn’t demonstrate the power of brand, does it? It sure does if you’re Eli Lilly and Company, the multi-national, multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical company. On Friday, this tweet went out:

Fake Eli Lilly Tweet

Everything looks official – if you think the blue checkmark still indicates an official, vetted account. In reality, this is a fake account. It’s not the Twitter account of Eli Lilly and Company. Their Twitter handle, confusingly, is @LillyPad.

What were the consequences?

Eli Lilly stock decline

The stock price dived from 368 per share to a low of345 per share. How much money does that represent?

Eli Lilly market cap

The market capitalization of Eli Lilly went from 350 billion to335 billion in a day. That little blue checkmark brand – and the power of its now-broken promise – was still enough to temporarily destroy $15 billion.


Now, this is actually two brands, isn’t it? The broken promise of Twitter’s blue checkmark brand and the unauthorized use of the Eli Lilly brand. Still, that’s an incredible amount of money destroyed just because of the power of brand.

If brand didn’t matter, if brand had no value, if brand wasn’t a thing, then you could have a dozen fake Eli Lilly accounts on Twitter and no one would care. No one would notice. The stock price wouldn’t move. But it most certainly did, and investors in that brand – Eli Lilly – were punished for the broken promise of Twitter’s brand.

(I have absolutely no doubt that Eli Lilly’s lawyers are on their way to San Francisco right now to have a word with Twitter’s management. You don’t just make $15 billion vanish without consequences.)

This is the power of brand. Brand is the promise we make to our audiences, to our customers, that the experiences they’ve had will more or less be the experiences they continue to have. Brand is a promise built on trust. And like all things related to trust, it takes a long time to build trust and it takes almost nothing to break it.

This is the question every marketer must ask of every stakeholder when they want to make substantial changes to a company: are we breaking the promises we’ve made? If so, there will be repercussions, and those repercussions will take a long time to mitigate. It takes even longer to rebuild trust than it does to establish it in the first place.

The next time someone questions the value of a brand, show them this example. Show them what happens when a brand breaks its promise, when a brand is misused, when a brand leaves a bad emotional aftertaste. Then commit to building your brand, growing your brand, investing in it as much as you can. You now have a clear, tangible example of what a brand is worth. Isn’t it time you invested more in yours?

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ICYMI: In Case You Missed it

Besides the new Google Analytics 4 course I’m relentlessly promoting (sorry not sorry), I would recommend giving a watch/listen/read on how to build a brand from scratch, as well as the interview I did with GoCharlie Chief AI Scientist Despina Christou.

Skill Up With Classes

These are just a few of the classes I have available over at the Trust Insights website that you can take.



Get Back to Work!

Folks who post jobs in the free Analytics for Marketers Slack community may have those jobs shared here, too. If you’re looking for work, check out these five most recent open positions, and check out the Slack group for the comprehensive list.

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What I’m Reading: Your Stuff

Let’s look at the most interesting content from around the web on topics you care about, some of which you might have even written.

Social Media Marketing

Media and Content

SEO, Google, and Paid Media

Advertisement: Google Analytics 4 for Marketers

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  • You’ll learn how to determine if a migration was done correctly, and especially what things are likely to go wrong
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Tools, Machine Learning, and AI

Analytics, Stats, and Data Science

All Things IBM

Dealer’s Choice : Random Stuff

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Events I’ll Be At

Here’s where I’m speaking and attending. Say hi if you’re at an event also:

  • SMPS, November 2022, Las Vegas

Events marked with a physical location may become virtual if conditions and safety warrant it.

If you’re an event organizer, let me help your event shine. Visit my speaking page for more details.

Can’t be at an event? Stop by my private Slack group instead, Analytics for Marketers.

How to Stay in Touch

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Required Disclosures

Events with links have purchased sponsorships in this newsletter and as a result, I receive direct financial compensation for promoting them.

Advertisements in this newsletter have paid to be promoted, and as a result, I receive direct financial compensation for promoting them.

My company, Trust Insights, maintains business partnerships with companies including, but not limited to, IBM, Cisco Systems, Amazon, Talkwalker, MarketingProfs, MarketMuse, Agorapulse, Hubspot, Informa, Demandbase, The Marketing AI Institute, and others. While links shared from partners are not explicit endorsements, nor do they directly financially benefit Trust Insights, a commercial relationship exists for which Trust Insights may receive indirect financial benefit, and thus I may receive indirect financial benefit from them as well.

Thank You!

Thanks for subscribing and reading this far. I appreciate it. As always, thank you for your support, your attention, and your kindness.

See you next week,

Christopher S. Penn

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