Monday, April 19, 2010

How Supporting a Relay Race can Lead to Big Thinking about Communications!

I had a great weekend! Along with my husband, I was part of a team of people supporting the Coast Guard Team for the Baker to Davis Run. There were a few things about it that were terrific:

1. It was fascinating to be a part of such an intricate puzzle of logistics. There were 23 runners (20 main and 3 alternates) running a 120 mile course who needed to be delivered to starting points, followed for safety, and picked up. There were 7 support vans, a communications team, medical teams, and miscellaneous other volunteers (a total of about 50). And all of these needed to be coordinated in split seconds so that none of the team's advantage was lost to logistics. See the Team 1790 blog to read some of the highlights of each leg of the race. It was a great learning process and a little hint of what our armed services face on a daily basis.

2. The active duty and reserve Coast Guard personnel participating on the team were terrific. They were energetic, focused, and cared deeply about their mission. And it was really fascinating to hear about their day-to-day lives in the Coast Guard or as Reservists (one of the reservists is the head of City Planning for a city in California; another is a Las Vegas police officer; and I didn't get to hear about the rest).

3. Having been exposed to the Coast Guard through my husband's participation in the Coast Guard Auxiliary, I have become aware of how unheralded the Coast Guard is as a critical armed service. It is the oldest service and is responsible today for homeland security at every port and on every body of water in the U.S. as well as having numerous responsibilities in international missions. But it seems that, compared to the other armed services, most of us hardly know about the Coast Guard, in spite of its importance. It turns out that the one of the team members whom I met this weekend will soon be a member of the headquarters communications team for the Coast Guard. It got me to thinking about how interesting it could be to take on the mission to raise the awareness of the important role the Coast Guard plays in our Nation. Just as with any organization -- like a start-up company or large corporation -- the Coast Guard could be positioned strategically to accomplish certain key goals. And even though security is a necessary element of its mission, it would be highly possible to create a set of key messages and implement a consistent series of campaigns that could, over time, create a new understanding of the important role of the Coast Guard.

I never would have thought that a weekend of helping support a relay race could have such broad impact!

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Flight of the Dove: The Story of a Great, Consistent Communications Program

For some reason, I have been thinking a lot recently about Dove . For those of you who might not know (might be nearly all of you), Dove launched a fascinating marketing campaign a few years ago: "the campaign for real beauty."

I have probably been thinking about Dove because over a period of several years, with many brand extensions and new communications tools, they have been able to build a tremendously consistent positioning, branding, marketing, and communications effort. That's really hard to do. They continue to introduce products that are focused on "real beauty"; they have launched multiple programs focused on self-esteem; and have all sorts of social media activities focused on real beauty/self esteem.

Dove shows us that as communications become both more universally accessible through social media, it has also become more complex. That is, having a very clear and consistent message is all the more important when there are so many ways that the customer and influencer are touched.

Of course, at Roeder-Johnson we work technology start ups, most of whom are business-to-business companies rather than being consumer-oriented. But the same perspective is important with these companies. And, in fact, it probably is more manageable. Though unfortunately in this era of constrained resources, companies often forget that they can get MORE leverage by being thoughtful and consistent about their marketing and communications.

But imagine if a company had a clear "high concept" (like "the campaign for real beauty"), was able to develop products that reinforced this, AND developed marketing programs and communications through traditional and new tools that reinforced and built understanding of that core high concept? One theme, lots of leverage, and ultimately a lot of efficiency in building a unified brand.

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