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    MBA Brands During Recession

    December 10th, 2008

    So what does a brand mean during a recession?  That is the real question.  Does your brand gain or lose value in a recession? Have you positioned yourself to be seen as a “luxury” that can be done without, a “value” brand that everybody needs, an “affordable luxury”, or as a brand that “is worth the price” because your customer doesn’t have to repurchase every week?

    Certain companies have stood by their luxury brand – such as A&F – and that has not yielded the greatest results.  On the flip side you have Wal-Mart that is doing very well because of how they have positioned themselves from day one.  Both brands are sticking to what they feel their brand stands for, which makes sense for Wal-Mart and takes guts (and deep pockets) for A&F.  It is interesting to note that Wal-Mart has tried to position itself as more like a “Target” in recent years and now they are back to the basics.

    How does all of this relate to what I term “MBA brands”?

    With the economy as it is companies are going to hire “Smart people who get things done“, not just anybody.  They are focusing the available resources so that every dollar is well spent.  Efficiency is key when resources are limited.  These are basic statements that I think everybody should be on board with.  That leads me to my next point:

    MBA brands, the school you are attending for an MBA, become more important as the economy declines.

    Let me break it down how I see it.

    When everything in the economy was good, companies loved to hire the MBAs and were basically going under the assumption that a certain skill set was going to come with somebody that had an MBA.  There was, and is, a premium placed on the top schools and companies were not always willing to fork over the extra money.  Companies, overall, had the school of thought that an MBA is an MBA.  Sure one may be slightly better than another, but not all that much.

    In a down economy there is much talk of people going back to school because they no longer have a job.  Clearly this will saturate the market with MBAs.  How does a company filter out people?  There are many criteria, but I think that the brand of the MBA will increase in importance.  The brand of a top MBA program tells a company that this person is, in essence, “guaranteed” to be a quality candidate for the job – at least in terms of experience and skills gained from an MBA.

    I think this is interesting because it is fundamentally different than how people spend their money during a downturn.  They tend to do away with the brand they normally pick in favor of the store brand or “Sam’s Choice” sort of goods.  They are willing to sacrifice a little quality to get more with the money they have.  The “Great Value” peanut butter is basically the same as “Jiff” but costs less.  Why not get it?

    With a company, the company is going to put an increased focus on the quality of the MBA more so than in the past.  The brand, both your individual brand and other brands you carry with you, such as an MBA, will make or break deals.

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.

    Build Your Brand

    December 5th, 2008

    Just watched a video over at one of my favorite, and rather recently discovered, websites and this guy nails it.  There is no barrier to entry in building your own personal brand in today’s world.  It will not happen overnight, but it will happen.  Build your brand over time by branching out and create value.

    Take something as simple as Twitter.  I started Twitter not that long ago and did a post about my thoughts.  I started with almost nothing.  Slowly I have found people that are interesting and followed them.  Some are individuals, some are companies.  Most have a blog or site of some sort that I can read to find out more about them.  Some I started following on Twitter because I read a post that was interesting or enjoyable.

    I must say that it is an odd feeling to develop these friendships over Twitter.  I read what they are up to, some even follow me back.  And now, just like that, we have a faux dialog between us.  We may not be directly taking to each other, but I still know what is going on with them.

    I still take the position that I don’t what my Twitter feed to be inundated with lots of meaningless junk.  I still try and make my updates interesting.  A comment on something I just found, a link, a question posed to people, a quick response to someone else’s question or comment.  These are the things that I find most interesting and, therefore, try to keep my updates in a similar fashion.

    What do you use Twitter most for?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.

    Sales Over Scarcity

    December 2nd, 2008

    With Black Friday here and gone I am left with the very simple question the I would think is in the minds of many brand managers, “Do we promote sales over scarcity, and how does that impact the perception of our brand?”

    Clearly on Black Friday there is a scarcity of products.  People are out to get the great deals, though I didn’t think they were all that fantastic.  There is only a certain amount of every product in the store, or at least only a certain amount at that price.  The issue is how this impacts a brand.  If there are limited quantities, people are more apt to think that the item is better.  If there are limited quantities and some are already gone – or in the process of being taken – a consumer is ever more likely to want to buy the product.  Scarcity, or the perceived scarcity, creates a demand for the product.

    Even Lands’ End, the company I work for, has employed this concept in our “On The Counter” area of our website.  There are limited quantities of the items put up each week and then discounted throughout the week even more.  But, when an item is out it is still displayed with a “Sold Out” where the price should be.  It shows that the other items may sell out as well, so get yours now.

    This tactic is a great way to drive sales at all levels, but it does limit sales.  If you are sold out of an item, clearly you cannot sell more of it.  If you create scarcity around a product then you are, by the very nature of scarcity, limiting sales.  It is important to think about that when using a strategy that promotes scarcity over sales.  On the other hand, if you always have something then there is no urgency for the customer to purchase that moment; that is sales over scarcity.

    Think about how your brand is positioned and ask yourself, “Which is the better fit, sales or scarcity?”  The answer may change depending on the time of year, but every time it is changed you are impacting how people view your brand.

    What do you think is better, sales or scarcity?  Let us know in the comments.

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.

    Redbox Is For Me

    November 17th, 2008

    This story starts 2 days ago.  I recently had some great things happen at work and so I wanted to celebrate.  I headed over to Walmart (did they drop the dash?), the starting point for any real celebration, and picked up some beers and then headed over to the movie section.

    Keep in mind that I have not purchased many moves since my days on eBay when I made buying and reselling a hobby.  I counted on my awesome roommate for movies who had a great collection, Netfix, and newsgroups.  I also don’t really rent movies because I don’t like to pay for something that I don’t have afterwords.  See my post on virtual goods to see if you agree.

    Anyway, I was lamenting my purchase of several movies at work when a co-worker informed me that he just found out that there was a Redbox at our local Walgreens.  My response was a woefully uninformed “What the hell is that?”  He explained it to me, gave me a photocopy of some codes he had copied down for a free rental and here is sit less than 24 hours later having already watched 2 movies that I wanted to watch and didn’t spend a dime.

    So now that you are this far into the post, you may be wondering what Redbox actually is.  Basically it is a movie vending machine.  Not a new idea, but still awesome because it is a network.  You can return a rented DVD to any Redbox location.  The other point that is puts this from “cool” to “freaking awesome” is the cost.  One dollar a night.  You can’t beat that. Oh wait, except with codes that can be used once per credit/debit card you have.

    So I was already sold and then I decided to see if they were on Twitter.  They are.  More awesome.  Can it get better?  Oh yes.  They give out codes for free rentals on Monday.  With all of these codes one has to wonder how the heck they even make money, but I am sure there are a ton of people that never look for codes before buying.  I always do; its just my nature.

    I couldn’t help but spread the good word from my Twitter account @TheCakeScraps at which point a friend took the opportunity to point out that @redbox doesn’t have the greatest selection.  I can’t speak to that.  I don’t even know what was released this past week, or any week, because I just look for movies that look interesting.  I admit that there are movies in the case that kind of make me think “who the heck would want that movie.  Some just look like crap and no surprise that confirms my suspicions on many of the titles such as Beer For My Horses which is clocking it at a whopping 3.8/10.0.

    That said, I would highly recommend that people look into this.  My Redbox is a block away and it takes, literally, 5 minutes to go get a DVD and get back.  I doesn’t have the selection of a Netfilx or local rental store, but the price is right, free DVD codes abound, there are no hours on it – if it is an outside machine – and there is no monthly fee.  Check this service out.

    On a side note, and in closing, I want to say that if you work at or own a company that employs a lot of people – such as a manufacturing plant – or in a place that has high traffic you should really look into this.  I was a little disappointed because I found out that I can’t just buy one and make money from it.  I have to own the place that it is going.  Too bad, I would have thrown up some money to put one in somewhere and taken the chance to get some money.

    What about you; does this seem like something to look into?  Would you use it or is streaming video coming too fast and Netflix is too big, and who knows what else?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.

    Time For Twitter

    November 13th, 2008

    If you have had a chance to look at my About page you know that I can be found on Twitter @TheCakeScraps.  I can’t say that I use Twitter a lot, mostly for small updates and general questions, but I really think that is where the value in Twitter lies. has an interesting video on what Twitter is.  They elect to describe it more as an away message that you would find on Pidgin, AIM or whatever you may use.  This includes updates such as “Going to the game” or “sitting around the house”.

    It is true that some people do use it for that, but I tend to think that it actually degrades the service.  In fact, there are occasions where I do not follow people simply because I don’t want to have to wade through endless tweets that I don’t really care about. There was an interesting post on A Thousand Cuts that conveyed a similar thought

    On Twitter, many folks share personal details like what’s for dinner, how much they love caffeine or the occasional banter about the Red Sox.  These conversations help us get to know contacts more personally, but can at times be perceived as noise.

    Don’t get me wrong, I can enjoy a daily update about what went on or how you are feeling.  What I don’t want is an update every 10 minutes.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time to read through all of that crap.

    I use Twitter more as a mini-blog.  I think of each tweet as a post rather than an away message.  I like throwing in a link to my latest post.  I like posing a question or thought and getting reactions.  That is what I really love about Twitter.  That is what I have time for.  Follow me on Twitter @TheCakeScraps. You won’t be disappointed you did.

    What about you?  How do you think that Twitter should be used?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.

    No Such Thing As Bad Publicity

    October 31st, 2008

    Despite what you may think about bad publicity it is publicity none the less.  I can’t say that I totally agree that all publicity is good; there can be huge ramifications when something hits the press that is bad for your personal image or brand image.  No question.  That said, some bad publicity can be good because of the old saying: “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.

    Apparently the Republican Party of my state did not get that memo and missed that entire chapter on brand management.  Over the past week or two I have received no less than 8 mailings from them – not all of which were unique – and McCain was mentioned once.  Meanwhile all these mailings had told me how Obama is bad because of such and such and “Obama is not who you think he is” and other similar irrelevant remarks.

    There was not a single thing that told me McCain’s position on anything.  There were more pictures of Obama – in dark colors and whatnot – then of McCain by about 4 to 1 in Obama’s favor AND I could not read an entire sentence without at least seeing Obama’s name at least once.  Who are these people campaigning for anyway?  At least criticize something that matters instead of some relationship that he may have had or political back scratching that has gone on.  Guess what?  I don’t care and from the questions that people were submitting to the debates – and general reading on the internet – nobody else does either.

    Meanwhile, in typical smooth Obama fashion, I got mailings that I could not even tell who they were from on the outside.  It was literally a guide one how to vote.  It told me facts about voting and exactly what I would need to vote and what forms of ID were permissible so make sure I could vote.  The entire outside of the mailing even had my local polling station location printed on the mailing!  The only thing that even told me that it was from Obama is the clever “O” symbol that the campaign uses and a picture of him on the inside.  I can see people keeping that just because it has great information no matter who they are voting for.

    Now ask yourself this: which is more powerful for a brand, something that people will read and throw away – even people who support your brand – or something that people are going to keep around no matter if they like your brand or not?  You’d be crazy not to shoot for that latter.  Apparently we now know the mental state of the people running my state’s campaign for McCain.

    Know that I do not really favor one candidate over another – and suggest you find the party that is right for you even if it isn’t one of the major ones – but that as far as branding and marketing goes it seems like some of McCain’s supporters missed the boat.

    Just like in my previous post I will close with this thought:

    Best of luck to all candidates for President and make sure you vote.

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.

    Calling Out Seth

    October 29th, 2008

    If you have never had the chance to check out Seth Godin’s blog, you should.  I really enjoy reading it because of the variety of the topics he covers.  They are usually very interesting and definitive.  He tends not to postulate but rather state things as a fact.  It can be refreshing to read something with such a firm and decisive stance.

    All of that said, his most recent post titled How To Lose lacked the quintessential reference that would have given credit where credit is due.  The post is about customers who are looking for something that you don’t have.  Seth has this to say about it:

    Instead of feigning ignorance about the whereabouts of your competitors (you really don’t know where other shoe stores are?) and instead of pretending you don’t have a phone book, what would happen if you actually spent that spare minute being incredibly helpful. “Ask for Jimmy! Tell him Sal sent you…”

    I totally agree with this.  If you don’t have what they are looking for then tell them where they can find the exact product they are looking for first and then suggest that you also have some fine similar products – if in fact you do.

    The reason that I called this post “Calling Out Seth” is because this very principle is illustrated to the extreme in the holiday classic “A Miracle On 34th St”.  In case you don’t remember here is a quick summary from Wikipedia:

    Ignoring instructions to steer parents to goods that Macy’s wants to sell, Kris tells one woman shopper to go to another store, Schoenfeld’s, for a fire engine for her son that Macys doesn’t have. She is so impressed, she tells Julian Shellhammer, head of the toy department, that she will become a loyal Macy’s customer. Kris later informs another mother that Macy’s arch-rival, Gimbles, has better skates for her daughter.

    The store expands on the marketing concept. Anxious to avoid looking greedy by comparison, Gimbels implements the same referral policy throughout its entire chain, forcing Macy’s and other stores to respond in kind. Eventually, Kris accomplishes the impossible: Mr. Macy shakes hands with Mr. Gimbel.

    It is a great concept -if taken to an extreme in the movie – and certainly it can be considered a ‘statesmanly’ thing to do, but not giving credit to such a prominent reference is a small, but important, shortfall of the post.  Moreover, including it would speak so much more directly with the reader because they can instantly relate.

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.