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Or-Tal's Writings

entrepreneur/mother/education revolutionist/high tech addict

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branding

Convention of Education

The Annual Convention of Education in Israel will take place again in Holon in less than 2 weeks. A very interesting convention about education, considering not a single teacher is going to speak there.

A first look at the agenda reveals a series of attractive topics like the gaps in education (social-economic gaps), the marketing aspects – mainly branding – of the state of education, the role of technology in education, and separately – Internet, a global look at education (how is it done in other countries), co-existence and education (Arab-Jewish), literature and education and also historical view.

Being curious about these subject I am drawn to listen. But then again, I am trying to figure out what is the purpose of this convention. It isn’t a real convention, as in meeting place, or a place for discussion, if all you have here are politicians and business people lecturing to …to whom, really?? Teachers? School managers? Or other business people and politicians.

Some very important keys are held in the hands of these two segments: the politicians as decision makers, and the business people as those who have the ability to impact decisions and finance ventures.

But where are the executers??

What good is it to hold a lecture and refer to some YouTube clips showing embarrassing school moments, when there are no teachers nor students to refer to those events or clips??

What is the point in talking about the importance of technology in education when there are barely enough computers at schools?

Branding education or the teaching profession? Sure, that’s very important. A great work can be done here. But you know what? You never start with branding, you start with the product.

And that brings us to the final lecture of the day – “the state of education” (strangely enough, on all Hebrew formats, this title is displayed in English). Branding can’t change the state of education. It is my belief that a process of change must begin before we approach branding. A goal must be marked before any branding work can begin.

The “Israel is 60” Brand

Israel marked its 60th independence day yesterday. The celebration actually began on May 7th, at 19:45, when the Memorial Day ended.

barely 60Israel has marked 60 years of existence accenting its younger generation, with the slogan “today and tomorrow”. Some cynics were quick enough to produce the poster where the “60” is shown like a grade on a test page, supported by the verbal description of the grade: Translated freely from Hebrew it reads “barely enough”… I liked the double meaning here. However the official 60th Independence Day brand was not that smart or brave.

In fact, what bothered me the most was, that while 60 is a nice round number, and people tend to make a big deal out of it, the brand of this year’s Independence Day was no different than previous celebrations.

We are still celebrating our independence day closely to 2 memorial days: the Holocaust day and the Memorial Day dedicated to soldiers killed in the wars and to victims of hatred. It’s like a Jewish state cannot be simply happy. A sad, melancholic, streak must always be present. Look at our national anthem for example. Slow, difficult to sing, with words that are totally irrelevant to the present day 60 year old Israel, not to mention about quarter of its citizens.

There are many definitions to branding. There are those who perceive branding as a name or symbol. Walter Landor said “a brand is a promise”. David Aaker defines looks at the brand equity and suggests it is “a set of assets… linked to the value of…”. But the more general definition looks at a brand as “a collection of perceptions in the minds of the consumers”.

So if when you say Coka-Cola your mouth waters and you want to quench your thirst, and when you have a head ache you think Advil, that’s brand for you.

I am a consumer of the brand of Israel. For me Israel is first and foremost – home. But when I am thinking about its 60th independence day it is a unique brand, separate from the national or political or geographical brand of the country. What I really would have expected from that brand is feelings of joy and pride, festivity, hope and unity. This brand never delivered it for me. We just went through one more Independence Day.

So they got a 3-letter dot-com domain

So they got a 3-letter dot-com domain. Very cool sounding. Very hip. Does good work conveying the short, quick and up-to-date spirit. But is this name good enough for marketing purposes?

I tried typing the name of the company in Google. Got about 1.5 million results. First 3 results where unrelated. The company’s domain was 4th. Followed by a very long list of unrelated results, some included the 3-letter domain dot some other country. Somewhere around result number 25 I found the Techcrunch article covering the company. The company’s blog was result number 42.

Now let me just get this clear: I am not attacking the company’s SEO expert. Even if the best work would have been carried out and our company with the 3-letter name would have occupied all first 5 entries on Google, they would still have problem marketing.

Here are some reasons why:

Apparently, there are many uses for the company’s 3-lettered name. It is short for something in windows, it is used in several other software or tech solutions product or company names, it involves some European organization, it makes a part of the name of many companies all over the world.

That means that its uniqueness in not assured.

That usually translates to problems trade marking the name.

But really, the very basic: Think of the viral or word of mouth which is an essential basis for acquiring customers. First customer tells potential customer: “Hey, check out this XYZ company. Look’em up…”.

Now go fish.

The Client from Hell (2)

Well, that’s what happens when you don’t follow your instincts.

I could smell it was going to be a client from hell, but let my guards off when he begged me to work on this project for him. This never happened to me before and it was slightly embarrassing.

They tried to bargain off my expenses and I said that’s where I draw the line and if it doesn’t work for you – that’s OK. But so do I (…not work for you). Then the CEO phoned me and said that his envoy “doesn’t understand these small things…” and of course he wouldn’t mind paying the expenses”, and talked me into taking this job.

To tell you the truth, I was flattered. I know I am good at what I do, but it’s always a pleasure to feel needed.

So I began working with him. Right at the beginning I realized that the payment isn’t going to be the worst thing here. What the client wanted wasn’t a whole new name for his business, according to a professional positioning and branding analysis. What he wanted is a consultant to confirm that he can do this. He recruited all tools he had to prove me wrong, including his friends from around the globe…

I must wonder, why would he look for a consultant at all? I mean; there are plenty of ways to go about doing naming for your company. Prices range is incredible. You can find web sites and software to generate weird names for free and go for a “Do-It-Yourself” process. You can hire a copywriter to suggest invented words for 300$ or a naming company to do a complete positioning-branding-naming-legal trademark process for more than $100,000 (ask Dov Moran) and there are plenty of options in between.

I thought that if this client has decided to address a professional namer, and insisted on hiring me after I was ready to let him go – he values the professional input he may get.

Instead it felt like a sour face reaction to any suggestion I made. This has blocked the possibility of any true dialog, that must develop between the client and the service provider.

I don’t want to end a project with a dissatisfied client. It’s a rule. This has caused some projects of mine to prolong over unreasonable length of time. However, I guess it’s time I realized, that I can’t win them all. Certainly not those who felt like they are going to be a client from hell right at the start.

So here 2 new rules:

One – trust your instincts and two – you don’t have to win them all.

The chicken or the egg, marketing or the product?

Last week I participated in the Tel-Aviv-Yafo Entrepreneurs Meetup I organized. The meeting presented a panel of three, Danny Arazi, Ouriel Ohayon, Yaniv Golan and was moderated by Avichai Levy (about the participants). The debate was around the question “How early should a company begin to establish its brand and marketing strategy?”

It’s an interesting question and rather an emotional one. It is always emotional when you get to marketing. Being a marketing person myself I am lacking some objectivity. However the panel presented people like Ouriel Ohayon – a VC and tech oriented man and Yaniv Golan – CTO of Yedda, alongside the multifaceted Danny Arazi, and the more marketing oriented Avichai Levy, so it was a good opportunity to get a more comprehensive impression of the situation.

There were three of us when we prepared for the panel. Esther Loewy and Avichai Levy joined me. Esther is a Kellogg-Recanati graduate and a marketing communications consultant. We started with the gut feeling that the main problem the Israeli market is facing is either total disregard for marketing, or the opposite, “know-it-all” approach.

We felt encouraged by the discussion developed with the entrepreneurs from the audience, because it became clear there is a growing awareness of the importance of proper marketing strategic planning. However, the “know-it-all” approach seems to be leading the way even to this blessed result. VCs and angel investors are examining the marketing strategy of startup companies. It is rare that a startup will raise funds without any marketing planning.

However, some expressed their opinion that being marketing-aware is a needed requirement from anyone who wishes to establish a startup. Since at the beginning entrepreneurs are lacking the funds to hire a marketing function, they are required to work out their marketing strategy by themselves. And the general belief is – that if you can’t do it, than you can’t build your startup company. The result is – that more computer engineers or electronics engineers are doing marketing. It is not their specialty, nor their forte. But it is a necessity, driven by the market.

Quoting one of the panelists, Ouriel Ohayon: “But if your service is all about seducing, attracting and understanding the user, the marketing is a key competence of the company. Even more: the whole DNA of the company should be imprinted with marketing. From the CEO to the product team. Marketing is not a function or a title: it is the company. Marketing is about having a great product, a great user experience, a good logo and brand identity, a good customer service, a good distribution road map, a good customer acquisition program and even more important a good customer retention program.”

It is encouraging to think that investors hold marketing so highly. Repeating the DNA phrasing, Ouriel has rejected the idea of outsourcing or consulting. This has to be an internal value, he believes, outsourcing can come later.

But do all entrepreneurs have the marketing knowledge and qualities? People may be brilliant developers, but when it comes to marketing, a whole new set of tools, knowledge and …. well, eyes is required.

I think the solution might lie with cooperations and partnerships. And if you don’t want “to marry” a partner, there are ways to outsource tasks or get specific help or guidance from marketing professionals in many models: deferred payment or payment with equity, or an hourly based payment, which isn’t the same as a salary for a full time hi-level marketing professional. Using an outer source doesn’t diminish or belittle the entrepreneur’s initiative. If anything, it is a growing experience. The entrepreneur gets to learn of marketing and practice marketing thinking, since he must take and active part of any marketing strategy creating process. In other words, if you weren’t born with this DNA, why not use the available tools to acquire it?

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