The Seven Brand Secrets of the Obama Campaign

The success of Obama’s 2012 re-election branding strategy was clear. The President and his campaign advisor, David Axelrod knew what they had to do to win, it wasn’t luck. His team successfully developed a strategy to brand and position Obama to take office once again. Here are the 7 Brand Secrets utilized by the Obama campaign:

1) Have A Strategy: The Obama campaign started off early in a proactive manner a strategy for success. While watching election results roll in, it was very clear that Obama’s strategy was to strongly target the battle ground states. One by one, the swing states fell off of the map as they turned blue (with the exception of North Carolina and Florida.) Team Obama went into those swing states knowing who they had to appeal to and how to appeal to them. They nailed it. Just like in politics, you have to have a strategy and be proactive in order to succeed in business; you have to know your strategy and how to follow it.

2) Brand Your Opponent Before They Brand Themselves: Before we all knew who Mitt Romney was, Obama and his team had already branded him. The Democrats had negatively branded Romney as the epitome of the one percent of the upper class. Obama had won over Romney’s brand showcasing him as a vulture capitalist candidate who was out of touch with the public, didn’t care about the common man and had an agenda strictly dedicated to the wealthy and big business. This was one of the biggest mistakes made by the Republicans; you can’t let your competition determine your brand. You have to be proactive and beat the competition to it.

3) Steer Clear Of Traps: Another successful branding secret utilized by the Obama campaign was the art of avoiding the pitfalls, traps and potential problems that could have derailed their success. The branding messages that the Obama campaign relied on were “Forward” and “There’s More Work To Do.” Yes, these branding messages were somewhat vague but they garnered a strong following and created the notion to focus on the future and what else can be done in the next four years. The Republicans can learn a lot from the Democrats with this branding strategy secret.

4) Know Your Target Audience: Obama and his team knew their target audience and tailored messages that appealed to them individually. He utilized a laser focus that went after women, seniors, minorities, union members, the disenfranchised and the youth of America. The Obama campaign also developed scare tactic messaging targeted those specific groups. Some examples of the successful scare tactics were that Romney and the GOP were going to take away women’s rights, students loans, union jobs and even take away Medicare. Obama knew the issues that his target audience cared about and this strategy is what ultimately pushed him to victory.

5) Ground Game Plan: Team Obama had a high level strategy as well as a ground game plan to get their votes out and they executed to a tee. They were way ahead in establishing not only a strong branding plan that worked but also a ground game that motivated the troops into faithful action. Through phone calls, online social media and canvassing, Obama had identified all of the outlets possible to reach his target audience.

6) Execute, Execute, Execute: Team Obama had a high level strategy as well as a ground game plan to get their votes out and they executed to a tee. They were way ahead of the game on establishing not only an advertising plan that worked but a ground game and motivating the troops into faithful action. They didn’t let up; they didn’t rest until the victory was in the bag. Many people and companies have great ideas but the winners know how to execute and get the job done.

7) Be A Brand Champion: Obama did not only rely on his natural talent as a charismatic speaker, he was also surrounded by a very talented team. He knew how to win the hearts and minds of his supporters in order to grow his campaign and get people embrace him and his message as a Brand Champion. Great leaders aren’t a given, they work hard to be a Brand Champion of their cause, company or country, Obama did just that.

Putting politics aside, hats off to the Obama team for developing a winning brand and positioning the brand to take the win. Valuable lessons can be taken from political campaigns and those lessons can be directly applied to business. From creating a brand, to the developing an effective strategy to promote your brand, the steps to achieve success in politics and business are one of the same.

How to Cheat Your Numbers

How to Cheat Your Sales Numbers and Increase Your Odds of Success

As a branding agency, we think of branding and marketing as a way to support sales and drive revenue. By thoroughly understanding your company’s revenue goals, you can learn how to work backwards to “cheat your sales numbers” and make sure your efforts are going to produce the desired results. The more you know how to cheat your numbers, the more you increase your odds of getting new business. Here are eight ideas you should apply to your business to increase your odds of success:

1)     Know your numbers

Know just how much marketing and sales activity you need to have in your pipeline in order for you to obtain your forecasted revenue goals and objectives. Understand and know your close ratio and how that affects your numbers.

2)     Have a large pool of prospects in the database

Most companies don’t understand that marketing and sales is a numbers game, it takes a large pool of quality suspects and prospects in the database to make the numbers work in your favor. So to cheat your numbers and reach your sales/revenue goals, you must have a big pool of prospects that you consistently stay in touch with.

3)     Use a CRM tool/database

It is consistently baffling that there are a number of companies that don’t have enough suspects and prospects to call upon to get the results they are aiming for.  Even more surprising is the number of companies that do not utilize a true Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool. A CRM system can help manage the client information and provide help and real-time information on how you’re tracking against those numbers. Many companies are still relying on an outdated excel sheet to “manage” their clients, when using a CRM tool is far more effective.

4)     Regularly reach out and touch prospects

They say most sales people give up after 3-4 touches, which sounds about right; yet they say it takes 7-12 touches in order for a prospect to get to know your company and make a purchasing decision. Make sure you are a company that makes enough touches to get them in your store.

5)     Use strategic partners to help build relationships

One of the most effective things companies can do is to tap into strategic partners for referrals and co-market each other’s products or services to both customer bases. Utilizing a key contact for leverage and an introduction is priceless and often can be one of the most effective things companies can do to shorten the sales cycle. Get a quality referral, and stretch your marketing efforts.

6)     Identify your unique position and own your space

It is critical to not only be different, but also have strong value points spelled out clearly and concisely. These value points need to verbalize why you are better and what differentiates your company, making you the clear choice and the only real option available.

7)     Utilize a strong call to action

In order to help get the response you need for your marketing, advertising and sales efforts, make sure you have a strong call to action. To do this, utilize an impending date or deadline that a special offer expires, a value add that they can only get for a limited amount of time, or an added incentive or bonus to sweeten the deal if you act now.

8)     Reevaluate and refine your efforts

To ensure you’re going to reach your goals, you need to consistently evaluate whether your efforts are producing the desired results. If they aren’t, you will need to make adjustments, tweak your offer, or find other strategic partners that understand the benefits of a reciprocal partner relationship.

Cheating your sales numbers is like adjusting the carburetor on your car, a little fine tuning is sometimes required to have a smooth running engine. Once you get the engine running just the way you want it, you can blow the doors off your competitors.

Michael Doyle

CEO of Brand Iron

Show Me the Money! 9 Key Steps to Packaging Your Brand and Company to Raise Business Capital

In recent years we find ourselves working more and more with companies who seek additional capital, whether to elevate to a new level, go public or fight through the cash crunch.  Regardless of the reason they are in need of raising capital so they can successfully grow their business.

Businesses in need of operating cash sometimes seem to take a very aimless approach to raising money.  Even the idea of creating and shaping a successful brand is an afterthought until cash is in hand.  The prevailing thought among business entrepreneurs is to raise money first, then build brand second.

But our experience as brand consultants has proven that these efforts must, at the very least, run concurrent.  Below are nine critical steps to fundraising success:

1)     There must be a clear and concise vision in place for the company.

2)     You and everyone else within the company must clearly understand the business goals, both short-term and long-term.

3)     A clearly defined plan must be developed on how the new funds will be utilized.  Have a game plan in place.

4)     Understand how you will demonstrate return on investment (pro formas).

5)     Company leadership should understand and agree on how the company competes in its space, how it is different and better from competitors, and a core understanding of the brand position.

6)     Paint the vision for the team.  This step focuses on creating the internal brand.  Ensure those associated with the company are on board.

7)     As your brand starts to evolve, focus on how to make it sexy and how you will “package it” for success.  It is here that the brand comes alive.

8)     Champion the Brand!  A key to growth and raising business capital is employing a leadership style that demonstrates a contagious passion.  One that quickly spreads to others within the organization.

9)     Sell it!

By considering these points, you and your company will be in a much better position to cultivate the growth capital as well as understand what your brand is and how and why you’re better than anyone else so you can get to the next level.

Good Brand Spokes Figures

After reading my previous blog entry, you’re probably thinking I’m a raging cynic. However as opinionated as I am about terrible brand campaigns, I am equally passionate about the positively awesome ones. Many ad campaigns fly under the radar because they are neither ground breaking nor painful to watch. It’s always the particularly great and exceptionally bad campaigns that get attention. So, in this blog I will show you my optimistic glass-half-full side.

Dos Equis

I have to say, Dos Equis has really done a fabulous job with their Most Interesting Man campaign. Coming into the campaign’s fourth year, Dos Equis has truly developed a brand figure that communicates sophistication, class, elegance and smoothness. There are generally two types of ads: one features the man in a bar environment giving advice or opinion about various subjects, and the other features a narrator describing the man’s distinguishing, but frequently absurd, background. Not only does it cause the Dos Equis brand to shine as a premier beer, but this particular spokesperson makes the brand and product unforgettable in an already saturated market. “The Most Interesting Man in the World” really is everything a spokesperson should be: entertaining, captivating and engaging. Take a look at a couple of my favorites:

One of the first ads aired back in 2007:

  • His commentary on the art of being a Wingman is genius:

My hats off to the good people at Dos XX, who crafted such a relevant and likeable spokesperson. Humor can be one of branding’s most effective tools, but only when it is strategically aimed at a target audience. These guys nailed the development of a brand figure that positively represents the brand and communicates taste, smoothness and value.

Old Spice

Old Spice has been keeping men smelling fresh for 71 years. A seemingly “grandpa” brand did a one-eighty with their new campaign this year. Leading this improved ad crusade is their new spokesperson, The Old Spice Guy. He’s a television an internet phenom who’s got girls running out and buying their men new deodorant. Recognizing their old branding needed retirement, Old Spice openly compares their old look with their new packaging, which was apparently “forged from molten awesomeness.”  Being such an established brand, Old Spice wasn’t in any danger of falling off the shelves, but they definitely shot themselves to the top of the deodorant world. It really is an updated look with the same message they’ve had for generations: class, physique and eloquence for the real man.

Won’t we all be as smooth and blatantly remarkable if we wear Old Spice? Not only have they created hip, off the wall ads with a hot spokesman, who has impeccable comedic timing, but they have constructed an entire viral video campaign to back it up. The Old Spice Man has been answering (in a towel no less) fans’ questions via Twitter and Yahoo.

Old Spice has done a phenomenal job attracting and interacting with a wide range audience. Most importantly, they created national buzz and attention for Old Spice, a brand as old as the hills that’s lay dormant for far too long. Welcome back to the game Old Spice.


I probably didn’t give hamsters a second thought before Kia Soul Hamsters made their way onto my television. It isn’t because hamsters are on the lamer side of the rodent family, but because using them as the spokespeople (or animals) for a car company is totally off beat. Kia came up with a way to advertise their inexpensive boxy cars, or toasters as many of their loyal owners have affectionately called them, as fun and hip. These are adjectives that were not typically associated with Kia’s products prior to this campaign, check it out.

When the first “a new way to roll” campaign caught the attention of pop culture, Kia seized the opportunity to ride the viral commercial wave. So they did what any smart company would; they conjured up more ideas. Here is an example of the newer/hipper commercials that have been airing more recently:

Whether you think the hip hop hamsters are brilliant, or just find them to be completely creepy, you notice them. Kia has truly succeeded in bringing attention and revenue to a brand that was flying pretty far below the Toyotas and Volvos of the industry.

Brand campaigns like the ones detailed in this blog are the reason I started my own branding firm. However, being in the industry as long as I have, I learned how to spot the good brands, as well as the bad. It’s important to celebrate success, but point out failure as a means to learn and grow as a company and brand.

Bad Brand Spokes Figures

Lately, I can’t stop thinking about good, bad and sometimes ugly brand spokes figures in today’s media. Some of my favorite ad campaigns are smoother than your very best wingman. However, I’ve observed a few commercials that offer up some pretty hokey spokes figures that have me flipping the channel just to escape their cheese.

Let’s take Car Fax for example. I really used to enjoy their commercials, especially the one featuring a grandma trying (unsuccessfully) to back her car out of the garage, all while destroying all the contents. That was an undeniably funny spot. How can you not laugh out loud at this old commercial?

My question is, why did they think they had to develop an ultra lame brand figure? Check out the new fox:

I understand the need for the development of a brand figure to positively represent your brand. But…a Car Fox? Are you kidding me? The Car Fax Car Fox? No explanation, no cuteness, no redeeming brand attributes or values, no good old fashion funny spots like their former thirty-second gems. I honestly have no clue as to why their executive team OKed this bizarre puppet as brand spokes person. Can someone, anyone, explain this please? To me this seems like a lame attempt to associate your brand with a random figure so you can say you tried. It feels like there was no real thought or creativity put behind the campaign. Car Fax, I implore you: is a cheesy fox puppet really the best you can do?

Another great example of a brand figure gone wrong is the Bar None sock puppet. It was terribly cheesy and ineffective when used it, so why would it would be any better now? See what I’m talking about:

Bar None:

If this spot doesn’t say tired and low budget, what does? I am uncertain as to how the Bar None sock puppet conveys positive brand values or attributes. Does it even say cute, clever or funny really? No, no and no again. How original; buy the asset from because you can’t come up with anything else better, funnier, or clever? I am also confused as to how a dog is related to auto financing; at least it made sense representing a pet supplier. Bar None, let’s go back to the drawing board.

So on the value side of the spectrum, your beer is a fringe product. Yet you are desperately trying to make it smooth and sophisticated. Even more mind boggling is the development of the brand figure/character Keith Stone. Do the head honchos over at Keystone really believe that Mr. Stone oozes smooth sophistication? Are you serious? Here is what I see:

Always smooth… really? Dude is the antithesis of smooth. Pardon my repetitive vocabulary, but this spokesman is CHEESY. When I first started noticing this guy on billboards, my first reaction was less smooth and more rough with a strong after taste. A few years ago Keystone aired  a campaign that poked fun of the “bitter beer face,” made when one drinks cheap beer. Keith Stone gives me bitter beer face, and I haven’t even flipped the cap. Keith, is this really the best you could do to represent your brand?

Just like an afternoon special, there is a lesson to be learned. When choosing or developing a brand figure or spokes person/character, try creating ones that represent the brand in a positive light. It’s always best to communicate brand attributes and values with a clever and memorable character, instead of using an obnoxious representation that is cheesy, rough and has a strong after taste.

Stay tuned for a blog entry about brand spokes figures that could show Keith Stone a thing or two about “smooth.”

Branding Is About Winning

If you think branding is about flashy logos, being trendy and unquantifiable results, you are dead wrong. Branding is about winning, producing tangible results and reaching both your personal and corporate goals. Here are a few qualifiers on which you can measure your brands success and see those results.

#1 Branding is about owning your space in the marketplace and being the #1 brand whether you are a consumer product or a service company. Winning in your space means you will be the most frequently sought out brand in your industry.

#2 Branding is about quantifiable results which allow you to see an actual increase in the number of leads generated, greater number of overall sales, increasing revenue and ultimately more profit towards the bottom line. These results are not just for the company, they’re for your entire executive team who will also help you to reach your personal goals.

#3 Branding is about winning the hearts and minds of your employees. I call this Internal Branding. It is so important to have everyone within your company understand your brand, your position, your value proposition and how to make it a great brand experience for your customers. Communicating the brand message to the marketing team, the sales department and the operations team will help your company deliver on the brand promise and produce results.

#4 Branding is about gaining market share, expanding into new markets and regions, and increasing your brand recognition both locally and globally. This includes introducing new product lines, expanding service areas and allowing you and your company to grow as experts in your field.

#5 Branding is about being the go-to resource and the expert in your space. As an expert you will be the one the media calls on for information regarding your industry. Your company will be the one they follow and write about. Winning also means staying ahead of your competition and having other companies strive to emulate your brand and be like your company.

Beyond the look and feel, branding is about winning and producing results, it’s about branding and positioning the company and yourself to reach your bigger picture goals and objectives. A strong brand has the ability to help your company get to the next level, raise capital for growth, go public, and maybe even get acquired so you sail off into the sunset….

-Michael Doyle, Brand Champion

Branding and Positioning for Acquisition

You can’t ignore that fact that business has been down the last several years. The question is what can we do now? Today is perfect time for businesses to brand and position their companies for expansion, growth and a possible acquisition. Having gone through two major recessions over the last 10 years, money has been next to impossible to come by for many businesses and mergers and acquisitions have come to a screeching halt. With this current recession ending and the dot com bust becoming a thing of the past, many business owners want to build up their businesses and cash out.

The best and most effective way to get acquired is to brand and position your company for growth, expansion, increased revenue and profits which will in turn lead to increased business value. Now is a great time to gain market share because a lot of businesses have been hammered by the recession and many don’t have a lot of cash to finance branding, marketing and expanded sales efforts, thus making it great time for you to take advantage of weakened competitors and gain market share.

Branding and positioning your companies to own your space in the marketplace, by defining key differentiators and an easy to understand brand value proposition allows people to understand how and why you are better than the competition and why they should buy your product or service.

Don’t waste any time or allow your competitors to grow and expand before you do. Brand and position your company and prepare yourself for an acquisition that will set you up for life. Get started today.

-Michael Doyle, CEO and Brand Champion

Michael Doyle Speaks at Aspen Grove

Last Wednesday, our very own Brand Champion Michael Doyle gave a talk entitled “The Importance of a Brand. How to create one. And how to make it memorable.” It was an intimate gathering of about ten business leaders perched on backless stools and Michael had them all engaged.

The event kicked off with everyone introducing themselves and their industries.  As always, it was great to see Brand Iron friends, clients, as well as some new faces. All the guests expressed how they felt their companies could be better branded, and the marketing issues they faced. It was great to see such a wide spectrum of professionals attending for a common purpose: to learn how to better brand their companies.

Using digital slides to illustrate his main points, Michael touched on important points such as scouting out the competition, owning the market space and being the next big thing (easier said than done.)  He stressed the significance of branding yourself before another company brands you, using the popular television ad war between AT&T and Verizon as a relevant example.

At the conclusion, Michael and the rest of the guests exchanged business cards and mingled like it was a cocktail party and not an 8:00am lecture on branding. The event can definitely be considered a success and Michael was even asked to come back. Aside from a repeat of last week’s talk, Michael has a lot more speaking engagements already scheduled for this year. Stay tuned!

Written by Heather Sundell, Marketing Intern

“It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who Knows YOU.”

A close friend of Brand Iron, David Avrin is currently touring the country with his new book, “It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who Knows You.” For more than 20 years David has been on the forefront of the marketing, public relations, and branding industries. Now he is taking his show on the road to share his wisdom with small business owners and entrepreneurs all over the country, promoting his fresh off the press publication.

Recognized as “The Visibility Coach,” David is a well-known international speaker and consultant. He has been able to come to the rescue of many professionals and entrepreneurs by refining their messages, building their brands and promoting the unique aspects of their business. Avrin understands the plight of small businesses’ inability to afford hiring outside firms. He has developed strategies to build market awareness without the high costs.

Avrin’s published argument that “it’s not who you know, but who knows you,” makes perfect sense in this economy. It’s impossible for a professional to know all his potential clients, but it is perfectly feasible for all the potential clients to recognize a business. Avrin believes this is possible through raising the profile of the business and creating a strong brand implementation. Below is a passage from his introduction (which he explicitly asks you to not skip):

“The fact is that you can never know all your prospective customers, but if you’re going to attract new customers or clients, they’d better know you. As I am fond of reminding my audiences: “If they don’t know who you are, they can’t buy what you’re selling.”

Check out his book, recently ranked No.1 in Small Business Marketing Books on