This post first appeared on http://www.crayon.co
Posted by Emily Dumas on August 15, 2019

What constitutes effective brand messaging? Why do some brands stand out more than others in their market?

Advertising legend David Ogilvy long ago offered this piece of advice regarding messaging: “Clearly define your positioning: What and for Who?” Even Mad Men’s fictional Don Draper offered recommendations, including these two:

  • “Make it simple, but significant.”
  • “Success comes from standing out. Not fitting in.”

Branding, corporate reputation, and messaging experts offer several handfuls of words they believe define effective brand messaging. The three M’s – Measurable, Meaningful, and Memorable, usually appear on every list.

On any given day, and depending upon who is offering the advice, you’ll also hear that brand messaging needs to be differentiated, distinct, consistent, or convey leadership. You’ll hear a consensus about using simple language. Or you may even hear that an effective message is one that is repeated by your stakeholders. Let’s take a look at six companies that do a great job of having effective brand messaging.

Brands that Endure, Evolve, and Strengthen Over Time

In the interest of keeping things fresh, we’re focusing on examples that maintained a sustainable competitive advantage through their messaging, even while going through change or encountering interesting or distinctive challenges through the years.


Distinctive positioning, daring strategy, and demonstration of leadership are all used to remake a brand.

Simply stated, Dove uses an emotive approach to differentiate itself in the beauty space by focusing on real people – and how they can love the way they look. In contrast, many competitors of Dove will tell you that if you use their products, you, too, eventually can look like celebrity A or B or like generic “perfect” person.

For half a century, Dove achieved success with a positioning tied to the fact that its products were mild on your skin. Fifteen years ago, however, the brand was reinvented with a “real beauty” campaign targeted to females; not actresses or models, but instead real women of various sizes, shapes, and ages – the real beauty of the real world.

The company also extended its brand positioning into issues of women’s empowerment. One particularly effective program was #ShowUs, designed to increase the representation of real women in media and other marketing channels. Dove was able to take a unique position and build messaging that resonated with their target audience, making them one of the top beauty brands on the market.

Dove Brand Messaging

Southwest Airlines

Customer service. Low prices. A flight attendant throwing you a bag of peanuts. Visceral, emotional, love it or hate it, that’s Southwest. And those feelings are the embodiment of successful branding.

If you’ve ever flown Southwest, you probably have a pretty accurate perception of the company’s brand messaging. Some of that, of course, is due to years of heavy-duty television advertising. But, even if you’ve never seen a Southwest commercial, simply boarding and taking off on a Southwest flight gives you a clear understanding of this company’s brand.

Since 2015, when Southwest introduced its Transfarency program, there has been a focus on telling customer-centric stories. Those stories, Southwest’s unique differentiators, and a positive user experience on their website, underscore why the company is viewed in a differentiated way by stakeholders.

Southwest Airlines Brand Messaging


Salesforce has been around for decades and, in fact, was one of the first to make a name for themselves in the CRM market. Their claim: The company’s CRM solution makes it easier for companies to become customer-focused through better information and connections, more efficient operations, and more personalized services.

Salesforce also scored big, right out of the gate, with its “no software” message and, especially its red-and-white circular graphic with the diagonal cross-out line running through the word “software.”

Their “no software” message is still important today because it vividly illustrates three competitive advantages regularly cited by experts.

  • The first is that it distinguished (and distinguishes) the company from its competition.
  • The second: Salesforce communicated what was important to customers and, despite the fact that it isn’t alone in its SaaS and cloud offering, it effectively owns the message and the positioning.
  • The third is that the “no-software” graphic depiction of the brand is memorable – and has been for years and years.

Salesforce Brand Messaging

[image via Forbes]

Newer Brands that are Making Waves with Messaging 

There are more new brands from the last few years than we can count, let alone cover in this article, but let’s dive into a few recent examples that are doing well with unique messaging.


The online bedding company, Brooklinen, has experienced significant growth and recognition by utilizing a distinctive voice and inviting tone. An immersive subway campaign in Brooklyn featured memorable and clever wall messaging (Sheet, Yeah and Best. Sheets. Ever.), while internet advertising embraced an inviting, “here’s-a-big-hug” tone, including use of thematic winners such as:

  • Thick, lush, and crazy-soft – messaging that enables you to feel and experience
  • No middlemen, no luxury mark-ups, just good sheets – simple, easy to understand, you know what it means
  • Let’s be friends– clever, catchy, nothing to do with the product, special relationship
  • The ingredients of a great night’s sleep – clever, easy to understand, personal
  • Softest Sheets You’ve Slept In – assertion of leadership, personal, emotive

Brooklinen’s achievements are noteworthy as the company has carved out a strong and unique positioning in a very crowded online industry. In fact, they’re known as “the internet’s favorite sheets.”

Brooklinen Brand Messaging


In the past decade, marketers and communicators largely have embraced “storytelling” as a concept that brings together branding, messaging, and product/corporate narratives.  Crowd-funded Kickstarter, an online funding platform for creative projects, is the epitome of this notion as actual storytelling (the stories that users bring to its platform) — and user empowerment — is the story.

Kickstarter’s message, to bring creative projects to life, is illustrated effectively in many ways, including co-founder Perry Chen’s own narrative about the trials and tribulations involved in getting the company off the ground in the first place. The decision to reincorporate in 2015 as a Benefit Corporation also clearly reverberates with stakeholders as the company has a legal obligation to consider the impact of its decisions on society – and not just shareholders.

Finally, if the users’ stories are the brand message then, so too, are the sheer numbers: $4.7 billion pledged to Kickstarter projects and 168,072 successfully funded projects.

Kickstarter Brand Messaging


Talk about a really simple product story. Spindrift soft drinks contain just two ingredients: water and fresh-squeezed fruit or vegetable juice.

And that’s why the “Yup, That’s It!” message on its cans, bottles, and campaigns are so good.

It’s simple. It’s real. It’s honest. And it’s a clever and creative use of both humor and information to differentiate the brand from water competitors.

Spindrift speaks simply but clearly. Real Fruit. Real Good. You always are aware that there are just two ingredients.

Even the colors on the cans and bottle evoke real fruit.

Spindrift Brand Messaging

Companies, both old and new, are conquering their markets with messaging that stands out. Their messaging speaks to their target customers and differentiates them from their competition. If you’re looking to refresh your messaging, follow in the footsteps of these great brands to craft messaging that will make you stand out in your market.



Key Features of Top Executive Education Programs That Support Work-Life Balance

This post first appeared on http://www.ivyexec.com.

Executive MBA students quickly learn that corporate mergers need to be positioned as “one plus one equals three,” a clear message to shareholders, customers and employees that the combination is greater than the sum of its two parts. Schools with the best records for work-life balance deliver another benefit: they ensure incoming students realize that one-half (work) plus one-half (personal life) plus one-half (school) can actually summarize one holistic experience.

And that’s a good thing! Your decision to commit nearly two years to earning an Executive MBA must fit into your existing life, which — because of career and family commitments — already can feel like it’s bursting at the seams.

Every year, members from Ivy Exec review and rank the Best Executive MBA Programs for work-life balance. There are certain collective threads that run through all programs, of course, including being team-based, sharing meals, and emphasizing the uniqueness of their cohort, ambassador, and alumni programs.

Beyond those characteristics, however, there are some other noteworthy features at the leading executive education programs that support work-balance.

Relevant Curriculum

EMBA courses, by necessity, need to relate to the real world. At the Auburn Executive MBA (#20), the healthcare curriculum is skewed to specialty courses such as healthcare finance and law and policy. It also includes a trip to Washington, D.C., to get a close-up view at national policy formation. Operations studies, meanwhile, cover courses in quality management, project management, and supply chain management. Students at Auburn (and in some other programs, as well) are even awarded a 6-Sigma Green Belt in Quality, and will meet the instructional requirements for the PMP certification.

Since 2010, the Fisher Executive MBA at Ohio State University (#6) has offered an Innovation Practice specialty aimed at executives and senior managers tasked with driving innovation in their companies, and for business leaders wanting to drive sustainable, profitable growth.

All programs, of course, emphasize a global perspective. Noteworthy among the top programs, the Executive Master of Global Management – Arizona Cohort (#10), where a global perspective flows throughout its program. Two key areas of focus: creating a sustainable IT-dependent competitive advantage and understanding how multinational organizations make strategic use of Big Data to gain a competitive advantage in the global economy.

At #5-ranked Pace University Executive MBA, meanwhile, global competitiveness is a key study focus. Students are challenged with formulating a diversification strategy for a theoretical company with a portfolio of businesses in various countries with differing cultures, regional economies, and local needs.

Begun in 1995, LBS Executive Education Programmes Global Business Consortium brings together delegates from six world-leading organizations, meeting in three global locations over 20 days, to explore new concepts and discover transferable solutions.

Class Size

work-life balance Even among Ivy Exec’s top 10 programs for work-life balance, class size varies greatly. At Pace, the average class size of 12, while the class size at the Broad Executive MBA at Michigan State University (#7) is 109.

The importance of the make-up of your class size extends beyond the learning environment, however. According to Diane Sharp and Barbara Craft, EMBA students need to depend upon their classmates for support because, inevitably, issues at home are going to surface every once in a while. Their advice: Ask for support and give it back in return.

How can you avoid occupational burnout? Try work-life fulfillment.

Schedules and Structures

At first glance, would-be EMBA students might believe all programs have essentially the same structure and meeting schedule.  Not the case: the mix between classroom learning, online classes, and experiential activities is markedly different across these top 10 programs.

At Saint Mary’s Executive MBA Program (#8), Silicon Valley’s first EMBA, two-hour classes are held twice a week in the evenings online via live web conferencing (representing 42% of the learning experience). Classroom discussions are held approximately every other Saturday. Pace’s program is even more focused on digital delivery, with 50% of instruction taking place online.

Auburn has long been an advocate of educational media and developments in technology. The school says it has optimized the convenience and educational value of the “distance portion” of its EMBA program. According to their website, “Students are not locked to a computer at specific hours of the day or night; they can study, communicate, and interact virtually anytime.”

Creative Thinking

The #1-rated Rutgers Executive MBA Program offers a Powerhouse Advantage elective, which is taken throughout the program’s four semesters and comprises a series of stand-alone modules and lectures covering a variety of topics and given by experts across industries. Some past topics have included: Crisis Leadership and Change Management; Digital Transformation, Disruption, & Design Thinking: D3; Effective Business Writing; Presentation Skills; and Strategic Media Relations.

In 2016, Kennesaw State Executive MBA converted some of its classroom-based courses into a digital badge program. Available online, the courses can be completed in a matter of weeks, and students receive a badge certifying they completed the program.

The school took the unusual step because it believed the change would increase enrollment and make executive education more accessible. “We aren’t competing with the MBA program, says Dan Stotz, Executive Director of executive education programs. “We are competing with non-consumption of learning.”

Your Personal Brand

Kennesaw State also believes developing and nurturing your personal brand is a key component of your go-forward planning.  Self-reflection and continuous personal planning are featured as important leadership skills. Additionally, students develop a “Personal Plan of Action” and are introduced to journaling as a method of critical reflection around career-related topics.

Family Involvement

Your employer and your family are both important partners in your EMBA adventure. These top schools go out of their way to help you balance your professional and academic obligations while also maintaining a rewarding work-life balance.

Rutgers includes complimentary lectures for spouses, family, and even friends. And study groups are configured based on location and commute, so you can get together with other classmates who live or work near you.

Thunderbird, meanwhile, offers all types of students — from new entrants to established multinationals — customized programs such as multi-day engagements for a targeted population and multi-modular formats, spread over time or regions, across an entire organization.

Summing It All Up

Work-life balance is a key feature of each of these top 10 programs. But the benefit they deliver to EMBA students doesn’t end there. Each of these schools offers a distinctive approach to executive education — comprising unique learning modules and differentiated teaching approaches — that ensures you will get the best possible experience.

9 Easy-to-Remember Tips for Networking as an Introvert

This post first appeared on http://www.ivyexec.com.

You have a secret. Despite the professional success you’ve achieved, you’re concerned you might not reach the next level. You’re an introvert—and, in your mind at least, that could prevent you from being effective at networking and building professional contacts.

Of course, there’s a lot of literature devoted to helping introverts in the workplace. The American Management Association suggests following the 4 P’s:

  1. Preparation: Devise a game plan.
  2. Presence: Focus on the moment.
  3. Push: Stretch and grow.
  4. Practice: Rehearse and refine new skills.

But networking isn’t the same as your day-in and day-out workday interactions. For many introverts, it takes more energy to communicate with strangers compared to people they’re already familiar with, like a group of coworkers. At networking events, there’s a lot of new information to process and remember, especially if you’re in a new setting, like a conference.

How to Network Effectively as an Introvert

1. Gain perspective.

You’re not on stage in a lavish opening-night production. Your capabilities, intelligence, and judgment led you to this point. Those same qualities will help you join the mix.

2. Leverage a home-field advantage.

Focus on topics where you’re an expert, and stay away from conversations that aren’t in your sweet spot. This simple step will help you feel instantly more confident and build in opportunities for you to speak. Exercise discretion when you’re choosing a venue, too. Dorie Clark, a marketing strategist and instructor at the Fuqua School of Business, suggests avoiding boozy harbor cruises and swanky after-parties.

“Instead, I’m increasingly trying to control my networking environment by creating my own events,” she says. She brings together interest groups among colleagues and hosts dinner parties, which are more personable and introvert-friendly than regional or city-wide networking events.

3. Become a listening networker.

You also have another advantage: introverts are great listeners. If this applies to you, leverage that skill and focus on drawing people out into a conversation. To get someone invested in a dialogue, ask them questions and listen to what they are saying—most people are happy to share their experiences.

Ryan Paugh, COO of The Community Company, writes in Fast Company about the importance of reading between the lines during networking events. “Sometimes, the person you are talking to doesn’t know you can help them—and it’s on you to figure that out.”

Once you identify common ground, you’ll have a stronger hold on the conversation. When you’re comfortable and the other person finishes making their point, respond to what they’ve said by pointing out ways that you could contribute to their goals. This might include sharing an article, bouncing ideas off each other, or offering to review a proposal for them. People look for reciprocity in their relationships, so try to outline an action point that will carry you past an initial interaction.


4. Use a digital “pre-handshake.”

Lisa Petrilli, Chief Executive Officer of C-Level Strategies, Inc., explains that “pre-introductions” can result in a more relaxed and productive in-person connection. “By reaching out,” she says, “You open the door to potentially rewarding business collaborations, and you do so on your own terms.”

If you know the names of the people who will attend an upcoming networking event, take some time to research their professional background. Do they publish articles or share content online? You can use this information to reach out on LinkedIn, Twitter, or via email. Let them know you’re familiar with their work and look forward to meeting them at the event.

5. Don’t fight your introverted disposition.

Embrace your introversion and the wealth of wonderful ideas that come with your reflective nature. Shape those ideas and the implications that grow out of them. Organize your thinking around those topics because they make you who you are. And then go out and confidently command each conversation in which you choose to engage.

6. Keep it short and sweet.

Meet. Introduce yourself. Share from your strength. Shake hands. Then ring up the experience as a positive and move on to the next person.

Keep your interactions productive and abbreviated to retain your energy. Have short conversations with lots of people, and then follow up later. This will help you feel less drained by the end of each interaction.

7. Assess and rate your ROI.

Like any business strategy, there needs to be a sufficient return on your investment (ROI) to make the activity worthwhile. Networking is no exception. With some events, the experience will come with a steep cost: you may feel emotionally exhausted for hours or even days afterward. That doesn’t mean the event won’t be worth the expense—but choose wisely and stagger social commitments to give yourself time to recover.

8. Kill your role-playing instincts.

In some ways, introverts can be even more effective at networking than extroverts. “When it comes to making connections, introverts may have the upper hand,” argues Karen Wickre, author of “Taking the Work Out of Networking: An Introvert’s Guide to Connections That Count.” “You don’t have to change who you are or concoct a phony-feeling persona to meet people easily.”

This attitude leads to genuine connections that tend to last longer and develop more emotional depth. While an extrovert might make a bigger splash, the impressions they create can also be fleeting—which might not translate into any tangible advantage in the professional landscape.

9. Recognize that you have something to contribute.

Just because you’re quiet doesn’t mean you don’t have something to say. Your thoughts and observations are the essence of who you are. Sharing your ideas, even if only once in a while, will make others feel energized by your passion. With the right approach, you can make an impression that extends beyond the limits of just one networking event or conference.

There’s a whole world of introverts out there who approach networking as an enjoyable opportunity. It becomes far less daunting if you put these strategies into practice.


Iconic Brands: How Branding Reinforces Company Value

Companies often spend years and exorbitant amounts of money trying to develop an iconic brand.

There are good reasons. While business success is obviously a great motivator, there are affiliated objectives as well: Effective branding helps with employee engagement, drives and supports messages, underlines your USP and highlights your differentiation. According to Forbes, “Brands are psychology and science brought together as a promise mark as opposed to a trademark … Brands convey a uniform quality, credibility and experience.”

“There are several well-documented journeys by now-global brands to build a memorable logo. Google co-founder Sergey Brin created the company’s first logo using a free image editing tool. And Apple got its start with a logo depicting Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree before quickly adopting a much cleaner rainbow-striped fruit illustration with a “bite” taken out (which was intended to help distinguish it from a cherry). It took Microsoft four attempts to arrive at the iconic italicized typeface that lived on for 25 years before it was refreshed in 2012.

Long before Amazon extended its reach into grocery retail, or became the industry’s leading
e-commerce platform for electronics, books, fashion and a plethora of miscellaneous items, its initial logo included the tagline, “Earth’s biggest bookstore.” From 1998 onward, Amazon’s logo featured the familiar (and smiling) A to Z arrow, highlighting the company’s ability to cater to any and all of its customers’ shopping needs.

Each of these companies experienced its own growth trajectory. However, the evolution of each of their brand identities lends itself today to the company’s instant recognition, credibility, valued products and user experience.

Here at Cast & Crew, we’ve thought a great deal recently about these types of branding issues. That’s because we are going through a transformation as a company, moving – in a measured way – from being a business services provider to becoming a company that is developing digital payroll-, accounting- and production-management software for the entertainment industry.

And, as we look ahead, we can’t help but look back and be thankful for our incredible four decades of history. Our company’s name is one that clients tell us is both memorable and descriptive, and we’re lucky to say it also is accompanied by a logo we believe is instantly recognizable in the industry. Yet, as we transform and evolve our brand, that image is also undergoing its own transformation.

Yes, we realize that our copper-colored filmstrip might be viewed by some as anachronistic for a company developing and delivering digital products. So, we brought the old and the new together (see below), and we recently incorporated a pixelated graphic component into the existing filmstrip.

Over the past year, we also selectively introduced a secondary product-specific logo, a pixelated plus sign. The first two products of our digital rollout – Start+ and Hours+ – are already being used by multiple clients on a number of productions. We have also included the plus sign, from time to time, when discussing our strategic digital product vision, which will have us delivering similarly named “plus” and other products around the entertainment finance production lifecycle, from script to residuals.

There are additional interesting branding observations across the Cast & Crew family as a result of joining forces with two foremost companies in the entertainment field.

In 2016, we also acquired CAPS Payroll, whose name clearly is recognized as being a leader in its focus verticals: commercials, venues, music tours and live events. CAPS’ expertise in multiple vertical areas nicely fits with Cast & Crew’s existing film and television profile. Moreover, CAPS has been a leader in its own digitization efforts.

Final Draft, which we acquired in early 2016, is, of course, the leading screenwriting software company in the market. And its taglines, “It Starts With the Script,” “The Industry Standard” and “Just Add Words,” are memorable phrases. Those on-the-mark messages existed at Final Draft long before the acquisition, however, so it is especially noteworthy that they continue to work so well a year after we acquired the company.

“It Starts With the Script” is particularly important when we discuss our digital vision. And whether those scripts are being written at a Starbucks, in an office by a writing team or at home, the script is the starting point for the digitization efforts that are transforming our business.

But what’s exciting to us is that the screenwriting software that the writer used created more than just pages of script. That’s because it is the metadata behind the script that holds the promise. It’s what the script provides … what it enables. Consider, when you break down the script, there’s critical data relating to scene locations, schedules, budgets, assets … even metadata – data about the data! That metadata – and the creation of information – flows through the entertainment production finance lifecycle – and it will flow through every digital product we create.

All of this works, and we look forward to the best parts of each company’s past playing a critical role in refining our brand as we move into the future.

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