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Is your current partner a keeper?

Right Partner_

It’s uncomfortable. We know it. That year-end review of your business and relationships. When done right — with an open and willing-to-own-all-the-warts mindset — it can be brutal, but it has to be done if you want to enhance and advance.

Even if 2015 was your best year ever, there are things you need to ponder: What went right? What didn’t? Did you have the right goals in place in the first place? What about your culture and capabilities? Are they what you need to move forward successfully in 2016?

These are just some of the questions that you should be asking … and your marketing partner should be asking them too, on your behalf, and about the way they service your business. If they are not, it may be time for you to ask the most important question of all: Do you have the right marketing partner in place?

What do you require in a partner?

You most likely have your own checklist for the ideal marketing partner for you. Just like many of our clients. From B2C to B2B — from Tech to Education to Healthcare to Consumables — we have found that while the verticals are quite different, many of our clients share some of the same requirements. Yet other selection criteria are unique.

Here are some must-haves:

  • Expertise — and intellect — to solve for all challenges.
  • Behavior path evangelists who can be an integrated extension of your customer service and directly impact conversion rates.
  • Strategists who can naturally inspire creativity.
  • Active listeners who truly hear, understand and execute accordingly.
  • A consistently collaborative, painless and valuable process/experience.
  • A proactive partner who constantly identifies gaps and searches for solutions.
  • The ability to make data actionable.
  • The flexibility to deliver a responsive, on-demand client-centered culture.
  • A relevance radar that filters which innovative trends are actually right for your Brand.
  • The agility to ramp up — or scale back — anywhere within the 360? landscape.
  • Established, leverageable relationships beyond marketing and advertising — everything from importers to VCs.
  • The capability to identify new sources of revenue — regardless of industry.
  • Right-sized cost with no “riders” to the fee — per-project or retainer.

How many of these are also on your list? If your current marketing partner doesn’t meet all of your requirements, give us a call at 312-214-6340. And let us learn about you so that we can share how we can help you enhance and advance in 2016.

Practice open-minded marketing to maximize ROI.

Big window

We’ve all heard it said, “Well, this is what we’ve always done.” No conference room has ever escaped it. And it’s possible that what you’ve always done is working — from your point of view — well enough.

But sometimes it isn’t. Or sometimes your market changes. Or sometimes a new target presents itself. How are you going to be successful considering your new circumstances? Not with what you’ve always done.

It’s time for open-minded marketing.

In these situations, it’s time to practice open-mindedness. Expanding your mind to new marketing avenues leads to unlimited discoveries and potential for growth. It uncovers successes you didn’t even know were available to you. In other words, it gives you the opportunity to truly maximize your ROI.

It seems simple enough. But we all know the challenge of change. The next time your question of why is met with, “Well, this is what we’ve always done.” use these exercises to break free and discover countless marketing opportunities.

  • Eliminate the fear of the unknown.

Fear of what you don’t know or understand can be one of the biggest obstacles to opening your mind to new possibilities and new markets. You may be so used to talking to one type of consumer that you don’t want to risk engaging with another.

But don’t close up to “new” segments that may love your product or service when addressed differently — in a way that is deeply meaningful to them specifically. Push fear aside and encourage your team to explore markets that are new to you —anything from Millennials to brand-conscious Boomers to specific cultural segments. Get to know them and how your product or service can better their lives.

You aren’t committing large chunks of your budget to these markets, but through opening your mind to get to know them, you may discover you want to — and need to. Some specific segments may represent your greatest growth opportunities for years to come. But, if you feel those segments are too complex to master, look for the right experienced, trusted partner to guide you through. There’s no better way to conquer your fear than with the right partner.

  • Learn the complete behavior path.

New avenues to success will present themselves the more you know about your customer’s behavior path. Walk in your prospect’s shoes from even before they recognize the need for your product or service to the minute they make their purchase decision.

This exercise will highlight any gaps along the path where your prospects are dropping off, getting confused or moving to the competition.

Those gaps you’ve discovered are the opportunities to be explored. Knowing them will open your mind up to new solutions you didn’t even know you needed.

  • Play the ‘What If’ game.

Ask yourself, “How would I solve this problem if I had all the time and all the money in the world?”

The budget and the fast approaching deadline may discourage you from playing initially. But play anyway. It will be worth your while.

Without constraints, the ideas are endless. And through this open-minded brainstorm you just may find that special portion of the crazy big idea that is actually doable, effective and revolutionary to your marketing efforts.

Don’t let the phrase, “Well, this is what we’ve always done.” lead the way. Practice open-minded marketing and uncover the myriad opportunities and possibilities waiting to help you reach your marketing goals — and maximize your ROI — in ways you never thought possible before.

3 pasos para comenzar a construir el éxito de tu marca en los E.E.U.U.

LI Mariano's 3 pasos

¡Enhorabuena, estás introduciendo tu producto en los Estados Unidos! Es como apuntarte a un nuevo club de tenis en el que no conoces a nadie y nadie te conoce a ti. ¿Dónde están las pistas? ¿Cuánto cuesta alquilarlas? ¿Querrá alguien jugar un partido contigo? ¿Cómo entablarás nuevas relaciones? ¿Lograrás encajar en ese entorno?

Pero simplemente encontrar las “pistas” no es la meta. Una vez aquí, debes ser proactivo en el marketing para construir una marca memorable, deseable y de prestigio. Saber cómo jugar es fundamental.

Una clave importante para construir un éxito a largo plazo en tu nuevo mercado es asegurarte de tomar decisiones inteligentes desde el principio. Ten en cuenta estos 3 pasos para conseguirlo:

1) Escoge el distribuidor/importador adecuado.

Crear una alianza sólida con tu importador/distribuidor desde el principio es crucial para el éxito a largo plazo de tu producto.

Hacer muchas preguntas puede ayudarte a tomar la decisión correcta. Busca que ofrezcan productos complementarios a los tuyos en su catálogo en vez de productos en competencia directa. Pregunta también cuánto tiempo llevan con sus clientes actuales para averiguar si la longevidad es uno de sus fuertes.

Una vez hayas encontrado un importador/distribuidor compatible contigo, disponte a entablar negociaciones inteligentes que te proporcionen una alianza sólida. Recuerda que es mucho más complicado pedir ajustes una vez alcanzado y firmado un acuerdo.

2) Ten un profundo conocimiento y control de tu gasto en marketing.

Algunos fabricantes extranjeros dejan todo su presupuesto para marketing en manos de su importador/distribuidor. En muchas ocasiones, este presupuesto no se utiliza bien o termina por usarse para ayudar a todo el catálogo del importador/distribuidor y no específicamente para la promoción de tu producto.

Al igual que en el tenis golpear con mucha fuerza pero sin técnica no es lo más aconsejable, un importador/distribuidor que organiza degustaciones o eventos para lograr un incremento de ventas a corto plazo no necesariamente produce un retorno de inversión sostenible en el medio y largo plazo. Es vital dirigirse a los consumidores finales además de a los minoristas para maximizar tus ventas e ingresos.

Debes mantenerte implicado para asegurarte de que el dinero que dediques a marketing se usa para apoyar tus objetivos globales, tanto a corto como a medio plazo. Estar al tanto e involucrarte también te ayudará a descubrir qué funciona y qué no, y a realizar ajustes que optimicen el gasto y el esfuerzo de marketing.

3) Encuentra el presupuesto para construir tu marca.

Los importadores/distribuidores pueden resultar magníficos en el marketing business-to-business a la hora de poner tu producto en las estanterías de los minoristas. Pero los fabricantes extranjeros deben recordar que si el consumidor final no compra sus productos, el minorista no se convertirá en un comprador habitual o incluso podría llegar a prescindir de ellos y sustituirlos por otros.

Si no eres capaz de construir tu marca y hacerla reconocida, deseada y buscada por los importadores/distribuidores, los minoristas y los consumidores finales, serás fácilmente reemplazado por otras marcas el año que viene o al siguiente.

El branding es necesario y requiere una inversión. Pero no te agobies; con el enfoque puesto en maximizar el ROI (el retorno de la inversión) puedes crear un gran impacto sin tener que invertir mucho mientras inviertas bien. Esfuerzos tales como tener una página web sólida enfocada en tu mercado meta, que represente bien la marca y construida con inteligencia; promocionarse en los medios de comunicación adecuados; tener presencia en las redes sociales, y el shopper marketing pueden aumentar tus ventas mientras consolidas la marca. Por supuesto, siempre que en cada uno de ellos apliques la estrategia y ejecución adecuadas para captar apropiadamente a cada una de tus audiencias.

Estos pasos son sólo el comienzo para afianzar tu producto en los EE.UU. Encontrar el importador/distribuidor adecuado y permanecer involucrado te ayudará a mantenerte relevante en este nuevo “club”. Si a esto le añades un firme esfuerzo en marketing tal vez pronto tu saque sea el más admirado o incluso llegues a ser el número uno de tu club. Bienvenido a los Estados Unidos.

3 Steps to Start Building your Foreign Brand’s Success in the U.S.


Congratulations, you’re bringing your product into the United States! In America, that’s like lunchtime on your first day at a new school. No one knows you. You know no one. Where are you going to sit?

But just getting to the cafeteria isn’t the goal. Even though you’re here, you must pursue active marketing of your product to build a powerful brand. And then what happens when you feel like you only have today’s lunch money to spend?

The key to building long-term success in your new marketplace is to ensure you’re making smart decisions from the beginning.

Consider these 3 steps to help you do just that:

1) Choose the right importer/distributor.

Creating a strong partnership with your importer/distributor up front is crucial to your product’s long-term success.

Asking a lot of questions can help you make the right choice. Look for one who has complimentary products in their portfolio instead of products in direct competition with yours. Also ask how long they have been with their current clients to discover if longevity is one of their strengths.

Once you’ve found an importer/distributor who is compatible, be prepared to enter into smart negotiations that will set up a strong partnership. Remember, it is much harder to ask for adjustments after the agreement has been made.

2) Have a complete understanding and control of your marketing spend.

Some foreign producers turn over their entire marketing budget to the importer/distributor. Many times the budget is utilized to help their entire portfolio and not utilized to specifically lift your individual product.

Just like spending all your money on desserts at lunchtime will not yield long-term health, an importer/distributor organizing tastings and events for a short-term boost in sales won’t create a sustainable ROI in the medium to long-term. It is vital to target your optimal end consumers in addition to the retailers to maximize your sales and revenue.

You must stay engaged to ensure the marketing dollars are being used to support your overall goals, both long and short term. Staying aware and involved also helps you discover what is working and what isn’t, so adjustments can be made to optimize the marketing effort and spending.

3) Find the budget to build your brand.

Importer/distributors can be great at business-to-business marketing in order to get your product on retailers’ shelves. But foreign producers must remember that if their products don’t ultimately sell to the consumer, then the retailer won’t become a repeat buyer.

If you are not able to build your brand and to make it wanted, desired and recognized by importers/distributors, retailers and ultimately consumers, you can be easily replaced by other brands next year.

Branding is necessary and requires an investment. But don’t get overwhelmed; you can make an impact even with a portion of your “lunch money”. Efforts such as a smart, strong website, targeted media, social media and shopper marketing can all boost your sales — provided every effort has the right strategy and execution to appropriately target each of your audiences.

These steps are just the beginning to getting your foreign product on solid ground in the U.S. Finding the right importer/distributor and staying engaged will keep you relevant in this new cafeteria. Combine that with a strong branding effort and you may soon find yourself head of your class.

Do you have an Actionable Brand? Part 2

Actionabe brand Phto 2

If you were with us for Part 1 of this series, the term actionable brand is no longer new to you. And hopefully the previous 3 questions have you thinking about where to take action. But if you missed it, let’s do a quick review.

What Is An Actionable Brand?

An actionable brand expands on a company’s mission-built branding. It creates measurable activities and situations that deliver that mission back into the lives of the prospects in a way that is relevant to them and incents a desire to engage.

Is Your Brand Actionable?

Here are the last three of six overarching principles to an actionable brand. Any no’s to these questions will clue you into where your brand can take more action.

  1. Can your brand utilize FOMO? (Fear Of Missing Out)

    The Fear of Mission Out is hardwired into all of us. Your brand can capitalize on this by highlighting the exclusivity of what you offer.

    Example: Many people didn’t even know what ALS was when the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge launched on Facebook. They most likely didn’t welcome the idea of pouring ice water over their heads either.

    But the 24-hour call to act, coming from friends or family, prompted people to get it done. No one wanted to miss out on the fun. ALS attributes 100 million dollars in donations to the effort.

  2. Does your audience see your brand in action?

    Actions speak so much louder than words. Actionable brands are ready and willing to do what they say and are ready and willing to say what they’ve done.

    Ensure your brand is telling your story through case studies, testimonials and/or belief points.

    Example: Have you met the watchmaker Shinola? They sell watches but its story is a major part of their brand. They make 100% American made watches and they show you exactly how and why they do it.

    Its actions to keep manufacturing in America speak just as loud as the quality of its products.

  3. Have you built your actionable brand on your brand’s heritage?

History adds brand richness to an actionable brand. It is proof of your brand’s authenticity and supports the brand’s commitment and ability to deliver on your brand promise. Actionable brands that leverage brand history strengthen their impact.

Example: Coca-Cola has been a part of America since 1892 and has always stayed true to the concept of sharing this beverage with a friend. Its active Share a Coke campaign takes that concept virtual.

Customers will spend time searching the Coke cooler for a name of someone they want to “share” their drink with. Then they will turn around and digitally share that over social media continuing with the history of brand.

Actionable branding is the most powerful initiative. Are you using it?

Do You Have An Actionable Brand? Part 1

Actionable brand Photo

Although the term might be new to you, its concept and power isn’t. With today’s technology and tools, brands and consumers can engage instantly. And now more than ever brands need to adapt to these engagement possibilities.

What is an Actionable Brand?

An actionable brand expands on a company’s mission-built branding. It creates measurable activities and situations that deliver that mission back into the lives of the prospects in a way that is relevant to them and incents a desire to engage.

Is Your Brand Actionable?

There are six overarching principles of an actionable brand. Let’s start with these three questions (three more coming in Part 2) and if you answer no to any of these, it may be time to take some action.

  1. Is your brand relevant to the attitudes and preferences of your core target?

    Does the target read your content, listen to your podcast or see your ad and say, “I was just thinking about that?” As they connect the dots to solve their problem your brand becomes a part of their solution.

    Example: The conversation was getting crowded when it came to Millennials and men’s body wash and Old Spice was being left out of the discussion. That discussion was for their fathers.

    Old Spice didn’t change its product, it evolved the way it spoke to Millennials with a relatable spokesman addressing how to smell like a man. They took it further with a social media response campaign and actively engaged the next generation of men.

  2. Has your brand made an authentic connection with your target?

    Authenticity builds trust and trust turns into action. Be real and your target will know it and will gravitate toward it.

    Example: Domino’s Pizza tore down all its walls in 2008 when they realized its pizza just wasn’t delivering. It brought its CEO to the forefront of its marketing and announced a complete turnaround that was going to include the opinion of their consumers. It admitted its faults and showed how it would move forward.

  3. Does your brand have emotional relevance to your audience?

You need to know your audience if you want your brand to tap into their emotional needs. What are their dreams and desires? What keeps them up at night? How can your brand fulfill those needs every time?

There are all sorts of emotions that can be associated with brands, excitement, loyalty, nostalgia. Does your target experience it when it engages with your brand? Actionable brands tap into the consumer with a deep emotional tie. And emotional ties lead to loyalty.

Example: Illness brings on vulnerability like nothing else. The Susan G. Komen foundation unites women and their families who have been touched by breast cancer. It addresses the hardship and loss these women face along with the strength and hope they illustrate. The pink ribbon campaign encompasses all those emotions and makes it easy to join the movement without even having to say a word.

Let those three questions and principles sink in a bit. Next week we’ll release three more questions in Part 2 to help get your brand in action.

An Aragonese in Chicago

Original article in Spanish by Luis H. Menéndez.
Appeared in the Economy Section of the
Translated into English by Liquid Iron.

Eduardo Dehesa Conde is living in the U.S. for 20 years. He tops his career with his own marketing firm today.



He arrived in the U.S. without knowing English after working in Zaragoza and Madrid in a variety of jobs. Today, 20 years later, he pronounces (in Spanish) the name of some brands — especially some of the multinationals — with an undeniable American accent. (more…)

It’s all relative: Lessons in Marketing from Albert Einstein

images-1To say that I have been deeply involved in science throughout my life would be a boldfaced lie — unless you count the Big Bang Theory. But, truth be told, I have had a lifelong fascination with Albert Einstein. And I really don’t know why.
Maybe it is because he always seemed more like an artist than a scientist to me. He was a man who was always led by his intuition and supported by his deductions.
Or maybe it is because of his supreme originality — always generating new ideas, new theories. His wisdom and insights transformed the world’s view of the world. And they apply to every aspect of it. Even — in some practical and trans-creational way — to Marketing.
Consider how elements of his ingenuity and reasoning can be a divining rod of sorts for marketers. Some of Einstein’s thoughts and principles have relevance as foundational principles for creating a high-value customer experience.

5 Lessons Marketers Can Learn From Einstein

“A person starts to live when he can live outside himself.”

It’s what we should do every day as marketers. Step outside of ourselves and into the lives of our customers to deeply understand who they are, how they live, what they think and what they feel — from person to person and culture to culture. And then provide them with campaigns, messages and initiatives that are aspirational — giving them a chance to “live outside” of themselves for that moment in time and maybe beyond.

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

And neither will your target. And if they don’t understand it they aren’t going to buy it, even if it’s a stellar product or idea.

“To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.”

It is all about the free exchange of ideas. Fostering an environment where all ideas are valued, considered and weighted. And it is the weightiest ideas that should intersect the consumer at every meaningful point — doing it in such a way that the customer truly feels the weight of the idea.

“Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted.”

We live and die by data these days. Its value cannot be overstated, but at the same time, it can also be blinding. Focusing intently on metrics can cause us to miss the insights that come straight from the hearts of the consumers themselves. And it is these “emotion points” — not data points — that are the most powerful motivators of behavior.

“When you are courting a nice girl, an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder, a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity.”

And that’s a perfect example of why the old adage of the right message to the right person at the right time and in the right way, can never be underplayed.

And Einstein’s most valuable advice of all?

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

Creative Lessons from David Bowie – Rock on!


Recently we went to the David Bowie exhibit at the MCA.The exhibit drives home the point that when creativity is brought to every thought, every action, every situation — no matter how significant or insignificant — the result is innovation, impact and longevity.

Bowie imbued the innateness of creative thought in every single thing he did from doodling on a matchbook cover to the way he wrote his lyrics to the way he promoted his appearances.

His relentless pursuit of creativity of thought helps you understand why he is considered a pioneer and one of the most influential artists of our time.

His creative process, his work’s versatility and chameleonic personality inspire us to think and analyze what we do and how we do it, and look for new creative ways to bring the best of us to every thought.

The Name Game – Giving Birth to a Brand

Have you ever tried to give birth to a brand? Every aspect of it can feel like a pure adrenaline rush. Yet there are those aspects – often the most important aspects – that are, shall we say, not so much.

We have journeyed through the birthing-a-brand process with our clients many times from the next how-cool-is-that mobile devices to the newest concept in higher education to transformational organizations in the nonprofit space to even our own brand. And it is always the same.

There is passion and possibility in every step. Yet, when it comes to the all important naming of the new idea, it can be filled with frustration before the ultimate “ah-ha-that’s-it!” gratification.

There are many must-haves when naming a new brand:

  • Does it communicate the core essence of the product or service?
  • Is it instantly understood, is it memorable?
  • Is it free and clear in the business category?

That last one can be the biggest hurdle of all — Odds are it’s not. Someone, somewhere has probably claimed it before you. But that is how the true brand name diamonds are made … under the pressure of continued pursuit and exploration of hundreds of options, down many different paths, until you find the one.

That kind of pursuit takes fluidity and strength. But it can be done, and done well every time.