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Brand Essence...Is It Really This Hard?

Seth Godin...if you do not follow and read do your business and your mind a great service and check him out.  Seth posted a piece about a company calling him and asking if he would help them "find their brand essence".  Here is that post and here is a video primer on figuring out where to start when it comes to your business brand essence.  Those of you in Des Moines may recognize several...locations.



Just to let you know, we monitor Twitter @MichaelLibbie (personal and business) @InsightADV (business and @RuralLife Radio (our love of the rural lifestyle). Thanks for coming by!


Sunday Morning Coffee - March 28, 2010

It's SUNDAY...time to catch up on what's been going on and a peek into the coming week.Coffee Cu ps   It's Sunday Morning Coffee.  Think of this as a visit between friends at the local coffee shop or cafe.  Grab a cup and let's talk.  And, as always I'm interested in your thoughts...after all, it's a conversation.

UNI can't take down Michigan State...but what an honor for Iowa to be represented at the "Sweet Sixteen".  Thank you!

Who is the "New Consumer" and why should you care?  Sorry to start our conversation with a business issue but...if you are trying to sell a product or service and you can't answer that are in huge trouble.  Here is a post I did last week on this subject.  The recession changed everything.  Even if you are not are buying.  Does this profile look much

I have a friend who is a physician in Mason City, Iowa who was complaining about his Internet satellite service from HughesNet.  He said on Friday, "Go ahead and send me an e-mail but we don't get to see much at home.  The service is so slow it takes Rural Electrificationforever for a page to load."  For years I have been beating this drum about Rural Internet Access the unfair costs and economic disability given to Rural America because folks "out there" can't compete with urban business.  This issue is as important as rural electrification of the 1930's & 40's when business failed to extend electric service to Rural America and the government had to step in.  Even then it took until the 1970's for all farms to be "hooked up".  So what's up now?   Here is the latest information on the $7.2 billion set aside to make this happen.  Oh, and in case you didn't see this:  Qwest Communications is seeking $350 million in federal money to take or improve rural broadband.  $29  million to be spent in Iowa.  Report from The Gazette in Ceder Rapids.

Sorry for the just drives me nuts and so many of my "city friends" just don't understand how critical this is...

My bride is doing a business blog called Strut Your Stuff.  She has had amazing success in readership in just a couple of weeks.   How?  In being who she is:  fun, light and interesting. It's about content. Have a look?  Oh, and another reason?   Twitter.  Just sayin'.Coffee Huh

What's the matter with coffee?  Who was it that decided coffee should taste like raspberries or pumpkins, hazelnuts or something called "Santa's Buzz"?  Who is responsible for this craziness?   Last week I was at a meeting and asked if I would like a cup of coffee.  Sure...and this is what I found.  Go ahead, click on it to make the photo larger....  So, where is the COFFEE here?  Yikes!!

Last May I started an on-line experiment called Insight on Business.  It's a daily business radio/TV show seen and heard on  Its focus is on advertising, marketing and consumer trends and it is produced by our advertising agency, Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications.  Insight on Business is a tool I've used to sharpen my skills and share with business people my knowledge and insight about this very confusing world of marketing and advertising.  Between research, writing, video and then doing the 90-minute show it takes about five hours a day.  Late this past Friday I was informed, by another host of Des Moines Local...LIVE, that the "management team" had reached an impasse on behind the scenes drama.  55 hosts who are all volunteers and take hours out of their day to follow a passion of hyper-local news and information were informed via mass e-mail that the "management team" had decided to split up.  Various folks were taking their toys and breaking up the co-op.  It was a 24/48 hour notice.  It's also shameful and a textbook case on business immaturity.  After the fact I was contacted by one half of the "management group" that "moved on" and asked if I wanted to continue the show on www.WorldWideLocalLive.  I've declined...too much drama.  I ain't buying the ticket to this opera.  Howver it shakes out...I wish everybody the best.

Its been worth the effort and I'm convinced that Insight on Business will some way.  The information and deivery is solid.  Stay tuned...

The folks over at the Des Moines Register should love this reading?

This week is Passover and for those of you celebrating...enjoy and remember:  "You were once slaves and now you are free."  Freedom has both risks and opportunity.  Choose wisely.

Pushing this out the door on what I am told will be a wonderful Sunday morning...thanks for coming by.  I monitor, on Twitter, @MichaelLibbie (personal & business), @InsightADV (business and @RuralLifeRadio (our love for everything rural.  Have a great week...and we'll catch you back here with more a bit later. 




















Social Media One-on-One

On Friday I was, once again, part of the Urbandale Chamber Round Table for professionals.   Today it was 25 sales professionals who reserved some time for some one-on-one learning.  I think the best kind.

Here is just a snip of what we were doing...


Big SHOUT OUT to the Urbandale Chamber of Commerce who is giving their members the opportunity to learn new ways to increase their market share.  These type of activities go a very long way toward strengthening their members businesses.  And, that's' the real goal!

Consumer Spending...What Business Needs to Know

Will consumers return to their heady spending habits of the pre-recession era?  TheMan Sale quick answer is no...but it's not that simple.  We told you months ago that Americans would continue to pinch pennies long past the recovery.  They will remain frugal but not deprived.  There is a difference.  In this post I'll share the data and tips to help keep you attractive to the consumer in this new market.

Two reports out this week should be required reading for any business that wants to stay in business over the long term.  Ogilvy Mather of Chicago and Booz and Company have released some interesting data...we'll summarize here and you can check out the longer reports for full info.

The Ogilvy Report gave us a glimpse of the collective guilt they now feel:

  • 78% said the recession changed their spending habits...for the better.
  • While only 17% admitted to over spending.  "Hey Mom, it wasn't me!".
  • But again, 84% said they needed to "clean up" their spending act.

The Booz Report asked if consumers would RETURN to their spending habits:

  • Less than 20% said they would go back to eating out...
  • 18% will go back to buying clothing like they did pre-recession
  • 17% will return to buying electronics
  • 13% will continue buying for home improvement.

Those numbers would indicate lots of folks...won't.

What has changed in buying habits might help you position your company.  Here is a short list:

  • 44% of the respondents have switched to less expensive food brands;
  • 40% to less expensive household products;
  • 34% to less expensive health and beauty products;
  • 58% say they have deferred buying larger purchases like home furniture;
  • 65% said they would shop at a different store for price EVEN if that store was not as convenient;
  • 55% said the best price was more important than the best brand.

There is loads of information for you here if you THINK beyond the numbers.  Here are seven things we think you need to do...NOW to retain your market share.  It's that important:

  • Trust - You need to build it and stay on message.  The consumer needs to know they can trust your product or service. 
  • Value - The other word you need to incorporate in your marketing message.  We told you this months and months ago...done anything yet?
  • Reward for Savings - Tell your customer they deserve to make the buy.  They have saved for "it" now they need that reward.
  • Worth the Indulgence - Show how, even high ticket items, actually save the consumer money in the long run.
  • Can Do - "America has been through so much, and we've been there all along.  Together we can do...."  Join in the message of hope.
  • YOU are in Control - Make sure you recognize that the consumer is in control...of nearly everything.  From customer service to the buying's out of your hands.  Treat your customer well...very well.
  • Focus on THEM - Center your message around your understanding of the consumer not from the message of what is good for the company. 

Remember frugal is different than deprived..  Oh...a couple more interesting stats:

93% of the respondents said they would rather have a smaller home with no mortgage than a big house with a mortgage.   And, 75% said they would rather have a secure job without the benefit of regular raises than have a less secure job with the promise of annual raises.

Think things have changed?

The Ogilvy Mather Post Recession Study is right here.

The Booz & Company Study is right here.





Big City Ads - Des Moines Pricing

We, like advertising agencies around the country, spend loads of time in creative.  Finding ways to allow our clients products and services to get a second or even a third look by CV_Teeth_Ad consumers.  It's what we do...everyday

But, one of the things we don't charge enough.  Hey...we're in Des Moines, not Los Angeles.  But, if we were...maybe our ideas would fly there as well.  Here is the story:

In January of 2009 we were asked to come up with some ads for a new line of biscuits made by our client, Country Vet Pet Foods.  So, off we go building images and looks and text and messages...some of them are accepted and others never see the light of day.

That's the way it was with this sample ad.  I think it's a first or second draft.  We wanted to focus on the healthy gums and teeth...go ahead, you can click on it and make it larger:

Smiling Dog Ad March 2010 We had forgotten about it until this weekend when the Sunday Des Moines Register arrived.  We opened it up and both Mike and I see an ad that looks very much like our "Teeth" piece from 13 months ago.  However, this ad was done by TBWA/Chat/Day Los Angeles.  They've even done a new television commercial based on the look.  Hats off to Lee Clow their chief creative person.

While it's for a different product the message...and the "look" is...pretty close.  Except for the price.   We suspect the design, creative, shoot and final edit might have cost Pedigree a bundle...we're guessing well into six figures.  Los Angeles ain't cheap!

So, why the post?  Just sayin'...creative isn't a location.  It is a "state of mind".   And, that creative can come from Des Moines as New York City or Los Angeles.  Just sayin'.

Thanks for reading.  I monitor Twitter:  @MichaelLibbie (business and personal) or @InsightADV (business baby...only business) or @RuralLifeRadio (our love for things...rural).  Thanks for coming by.


Sunday Morning Coffee - March 21, 2010

Not much of the serious stuff.  Sunday Morning Coffee is a chance for us to sit down and Coffee Cu ps visit about all sorts of things.  We'll look back at the past week and a little forward gazing as well.  Enjoy, and as always, I'm interested in your take on any of the stories.  You can comment below...or shoot me an e-mail.

We called it.  One time Des Moines School Board member Jonathan Narcisse will not challenge Governor Chet Culver in a Democratic Primary.  He will run, as we suspected and wrote several weeks ago, as an Independent.  A very conservative Independent that will move votes out of the Republican camp and will boost the re-election of Governor Culver.  Go ahead...write it down someplace...we did.Snow March 2010

Welcome back....WINTER!   Following a beautiful Spring (Spring was Thursday with a high of 60 and something called "sunshine") we've returned to more "normal Iowa weather":  Snow, Ice, Clouds and Wind.  On Friday afternoon I attempted to make my monthly trip to Mason City, Iowa but turned around near Story City when I-35 became an ice rink and visibility was reduced to a quarter-mile. "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas..."  Come on everybody...sing along!

The University of Northern Iowa beats Kansas the number one seed in basketball?  When it happened I was with eight UNI grads who were...excited?  Bet that game messed up some brackets.  UNI now advances to The Sweet Sixteen.   That and this:

This weekend our son Aaron turned 30.  He wrote on his Facebook page:  "WelcomeAaron 30 30, nice to meet you...the 20's were OK, hey I got a wife and beautiful daughter who can top that?  I think you and I will get along just fine and I sure don't have the fear of you that I did when I was in my teens."  I thought that was...very insightful.  Being an adult is just fine....

Taylor's Maid-Rite of Marshalltown, Iowa has been serving their trademark loose meat sandwiches for 82 years.  Now state inspectors want the business to change how they cook the meat for fear of  boogie, boogie, boogie...bacteria.   Even the Legislature got into the act.  Yawn...

This guy is 52 years old?  The "Business Card Robber", Scot Davis looks a bit older and it's perhaps NOT the FIRST time he's been in trouble...or he just likes the look of orange jump-suits.  Loved the line, "He left with a woman on his arm...."  Romantic, no?

Speaking of silly stuff:  When is it the right thing to do to blast your customer/business partner/friend in a business blog?   Just askin'.  A friend of mine did that last week...dumbfounded.  No I'm not sharing...just dumbfounded.Roxi Copland

Good stuff!  Tomorrow (Monday) I've got the sensational singer Roxi Copland on our TV/Radio show, Insight on Business.  It's Metro Monday and we'll talk about her work, marketing her music, marketing...her, the insane schedule she works and maybe something about  Roxi Copland...with Insight on Business 12:30PM Central as part of Des Moines Local...LIVE.  She is fantastic.  Here is a sample of her music.

Government?  I'm writing this before the National Health Care Reform vote.  Will Barack beat back Sean and Rush?  We think so...but hold on.

Taylor pink It's been awhile since I've shown you a photo of our youngest grand-daughter.  This is Miss Taylor enjoying her moment in front of the camera.  She's 13 months old...OK, OK....  too cute though huh?

Need to push this out of the office.  Hey, if you are in Des Moines and want to remember what the flowers and gardens and lawns were like...before the glacier.  Head out to the Iowa Flower, Lawn and Garden Show at the Iowa State Fairgrounds today from noon - 4PM.  Say howdy to Craig and Brian from NatraTurf?  They make products to help you kick your lawn's chemical dependency problem.  Good stuff.

Catch you here and there.  I monitor Twitter: @MichaelLibbie or @InsightADV or @RuralLifeRadio.  Thanks for the visit!!

Insight Advertising, Marketing and Communications is a full service advertising agency based in Des Moines, Iowa  (Greatest city in the greatest state in the nation!)  Well, we think so!  Have a great Sunday!













Follow And Get Crushed...

The other day I was heading out for a photo shoot with a client and the conversation turned toward marketing.  It always's what we do.  We were talking about new marketing and advertising ideas for next year when the subject of "doing things different" came up.


It's an interesting thought for those of you who want to break out of "commodity marketing". That's selling your stuff the way everybody else in the world sells their stuff.  

Same look, same message, same method...same, same, same.  Want proof?  Let's look at just two examples with a focus on television advertising.

Think pickup truck television ads...  Every manufacturer has the same ad...just different trucks.   Dirt, mud, rocks, dust, big voice-over and powerful music.  Same, same...same.

Now, let's think...different.  Here is a piece that speaks to loads of things, think values, important to Iowans from Karl Chevrolet in Ankey, Iowa.  Go ahead click and have a look.  Gone are the flying rocks...back are values Iowans can relate to...

Let's go to finance.  What are you...used to?   Suits, graphs, success images?  Same, same same...but what gets noticed?

Think...different..not local now but national and take a look at this from  E*Trade.


You can follow the pack and get crushed...or be different and get noticed. 

Your call.



Thinking of Rob Borsellino...

On Tuesday evening I was the "Designated Driver" for my bride and a group of women from Fongs Pizza the office.  Each month they make it out to a fun spot have a drink, enjoy the food...and talk about stuff girls talk about.  Don't ask...I don't.

Tonight it was Fong's Pizza on 4th Street in the heart of Des Moines.  As I was walking up former Lt. Governor, Bob Anderson came out, saw me with a camera and said, "So, Michael, what are you doing?"  "Good to see you Bob.  I'm here to...listen."  I'm not sure why I answered that way.  I was actually taking a photo of the front of the restaurant.

Over the next three hours I found myself thinking about my old friend Rob Borsellino.  Rob was a writer for the Des Moines Register who died several years ago...much too young...from ALS.  Labeling Rob as a writer isn't quite complete.  Rob, to me and thousands of others, was the conscious of this city.  He wrote about the powerful people with little problems and those who had no power but lots of problems.

Tonight, seated at the far end of the bar, I sat and listened to the stories of others. 

There was the older woman sharing her "relationship problems" with a friend over a cool drink and hot pizza.  A guy at the bar telling another guy about his recent arrest for public intox and his night in jail.  He swore it was the worst experience of his life.  "The cops man...they were really vicious but nothing like the losers in the cell.  I was really, really scared.  I mean, hey, I'm white, I've got a job, a good car and a life it was bad, man...really bad."  There was "Billy" a guy in a Vietnam Vet cap who walked with a cane and said to the bartender,  "I've lived downtown for 25 years.  Ya know, they hiked up my rent over at the Kirkwood, not sure what I'm gonna do."

And so it went.  Little stories about big problems.  Nothing that would make the was  And I thought about Rob Borsellino and how I miss his talented work.






Money...It's Always The Money...

Not long ago I was contacted by a friend who asked me about a problem one of his non-Money Hand profit clients has.  My friend is a social media expert and he wanted my advice on traditional media.  He was up front and told me his level of experience with traditional media is lacking.  "It's really something I have little experience with.", he told me.

I was delighted...and who might even turn into business.

Here is the problem this business has:  "They serve many 'publics' but outside of one demographic they are virtually unknown.  They really need to boost their public image.  How can you help?"

So we sat down, looked at their website and other media and offered up a single page report on what we thought needed to happen, how they might use print, radio, television, etc.  We also offered a projected first year budget.  It didn't take that much's what we do.

Several days later I got an e-mail from my friend telling me they had to "pass" on our suggestions, "They just don't have the budget.   I'll continue to work with them and help them get their social media platform ready."

Turns out there isn't a budget even close to what they need to make an impact.  So they will put their hopes into Social of the many tools we use in advertising and marketing.  And, a year from now...we still won't know who they are.

There is a reason large and small corporations get noticed. have business and thrive.  And a reason some don't.  It's always the money...






Sunday Morning Coffee - March 14, 2010

Pull up a chair, a hot cup of "Joe" and let's visit a bit.   Think of this as a visit between friends at the local cafe or coffee shop.  Time for a little "Sunday Morning Coffee".Potholes

Got Potholes?  This is going to be a rough year for 'em.   Over the past two weeks I've read, on Twitter, of at least six people who have had their tires blow out because they hit a pothole.  And, with all the money many of our cities have been spending on snow and ice removal you've got to wonder how much is left to fix craters like this one.  (Note the re-bar poking through - and yes, you can make the image larger by clicking on it.)  Aren't you glad you are not on the local city council?

I've been to Leadville, Colorado, it's one of my favorite towns.  The white chili at The White Burro rocks...or at least did when I was there several years ago.  Now the little town of Leadville is home to a "home-grown" terrorist?   Seems my friends from "the religion of peace" still have an issue with cartoonist Lars Vilks who ticked them off when he depicted the prophet in a cartoon.  Here is the story about "Jihad Jane" from CNN.

This was nice.  The power of Viral Video.  Over the past month we've been shooting "stand ups" for our daily Radio/TV show, Insight on Business.  Today we made a piece from Business Week.'s just our stand up.  But...hey.  It's still pretty cool being right next to President Obama...  Have a look.

Thomas Allen Last week my friend and fellow broadcaster, Thomas Allen, had a story on his show Outdoor Pursuits about the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.  It was one of those "gotcha" stories with loads of people and plenty of intrigue.  (Believe me, it's hard to sort out even when you draw diagrams of all involved.) The story resulted in great ratings for Des Moines Local...LIVE but still...there is a question of "balance".  I'm not sure who is right or wrong in this effort but my friend took a side and ran with it.   Did he give both sides the ability to explain the story?  I don't think so....but we'll see in future follow up stories.  This is another example of how different reporting in the days when it was reported, from both sides of the issue.  The media, my friends...has changed.CoOp logo

My friend Steve Young from Bondurant, Iowa was asking about this Co-Op LOGO.  He, and now we...are wondering where it came from, who designed it and how old is it?  Anybody?  Anybody?

The Ku Klux Klan in Iowa?  Yep and according to this story from The Northern Iowan they are gaining strength.  How nice....  A new tourist venue...bring your own sheet.

Why would Target carry soybeans that are a Product of China?  Seeing how, here in the Midwest, we grow all kinds of soybeans.  Anybody on this one?  Can it be cheaper to grow the plants in China, pick them and then ship to the US? remember, the same country that gives us lead paint on children's toys and melamine in pet foods.  Just askin'.

I "think" I've "sprung forward"...  And will now be mixed up for about a week.

Aaron Lablat Our son, Aaron Libbie, turns thirty this week.  I seem to remember "30 year old birthday parties".  But that seems like a very long time ago...  We seem to put emphasis on those birthdays that end in a zero.  Celebrating 55 should be as important as 50 (and it is because that's when AARP sends you a "welcome letter") but the celebration of a new decade takes the to speak.  Happy Birthday son!  This is cool.

We watched the movie 2012 last night.  And, I stayed awake.  That is the new measure of success for a movie, "Can Michael make it past 9:30PM..."

That's it..just a little gossip, a little business and a short visit between friends.  We'll get back to the full boat business side tomorrow.  In the meantime, and as always, I'm interested in your take and conversation.  Feel free to jump in.  To follow me on Twitter it's @MichaelLibbie (personal and business) or @InsightADV (business baby, business) or @RuralLifeRadio (for our love of things...rural).  Have a great Sunday!