Branding the Purple Cow

In Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, Seth Godin argues that businesses can no longer rely on run-of-the-mill marketing to sell quality products.  That’s boring.  It’s a strategy that doesn’t stand out from the herd; it’s another brown cow in a herd of brown cows.  He advocates creating a purple cow- a cow that is remarkable – a cow that calls for stepping on the brakes and pulling over for a closer look, a cow worth commenting on.

A purple cow certainly calls for mentioning.  But as the owner of that cow, my main concern would be having my name tied to that comment- my name insinuated by the cow’s brand.  Purple or not, the reality of the young calf’s life involves a ten-second sizzle that permanently marks her hide- a brand that denotes ownership.  Seth Godin provides directions on how to raise a purple cow.  I’m interested in the next stage of the cow’s youth, the branding of the purple cow.

Considerations in Identity and Branding

Mindshare specializes in the branding of purple cows, the development of a novel idea.  No matter what attempts are made down the road to tweak the initial branding efforts, the scar from that burn is permanent, along with whatever blotches might have been made by the wielder of the branding iron.  Given the long-term repercussions from the first attempt to shape the identity behind the brand, it is worth analyzing a potential brand identity based on the following considerations:

Geographic Equity: Is there considerable “geographic equity” imbued in the brand’s birthplace (Aiken)?  If so, will it be beneficial to link this identifier to the brand?  Some geographic locations have a considerable amount of geographic equity, and evoke very strong connotations.  If you are opening a night-club in Las Vegas, a city of the world, it would be beneficial to link the new brand to the city, and ride off of the common connotations sparked by “Vegas.”  However, judgments and biases are likewise sparked, both positive and negative.  Considering the shrinking “global [economic] playing field,” it might be more beneficial in the long-term to create an identity independent of any specific location (Friedman, 8).  The brand becomes a “global brand”- or one that is not restricted by geographic boundaries and is translatable across borders and cultures.  This strategy also bypasses the possibility of linking the brand to any negative connotations that might be evoked by its roots.  For MindShare, we worked on a branding and identity project for a company that specialized in imports and exports.  We ultimately chose a strategy that avoided attaching strong ties to any specific location, and instead opted for one that stressed “skipping” borders.

Brand Personality: What is your brand’s personality?  What feelings should be evoked by your brand?  Brand personality proved to be a significant factor for a branding project we worked on for an entrepreneurial company that provides cloud computing services tailored to urban farmers.  We felt the name should feel somewhat lighthearted and amicable, yet simultaneously convey a technical competence.  We brainstormed, and cut our extensive lists down to three top choices; FarmIt, CloudFarm, and Intellifarm.  All combine the concept of farming with intelligence and technology- yet do not go so far as to exude an “overly formal stuffiness.”

Brand Perception: Where does your brand fall on a perceptual map with likely competitors?  Is it a luxury or a commodity, or somewhere in between?  Wherever you happen to find your niche, an eye towards the future is key.  If your long-term strategy is for your brand to be perceived as a luxury product, it is a gross mistake to start out somewhere beneath that just because you found a niche.  Rebranding efforts tend to be in vain- racking up extensive costs for naught but a confused customer who already had your brand solidly plotted in his or her personal perceptual map- right where you initially placed it.  Despite McDonald’s extensive rebranding efforts to be perceived as “healthier”- my personal connation with the brand remains “obesity.”

Differentiator :  What is your brand’s core competency- that primary differentiator?  Most successful businesses have some process that they do better than everyone else, and that is where they find their niche.  However, some lose sight of this core competency as they attempt to further differentiate themselves by branching out.  This draws resources away from processes that strengthen the primary one, and can have a weakening effect on it.  Identity and branding concerns should for the most part revolve around this core focus.  Companies need to remain aware of what made them successful in the first place, and base their selling points off of those strengths.  If you are selling a purple cow- the main attribute that you are selling is the cow’s unique lavender hue- not her exceptional milk-producing abilities (unless the milk is a youth-inducing elixir that also gives off a lavender glow).

Consistency: Finally, you want to maintain a consistency to your brand’s identity.  Find that core competency and shape branding strategies around it.  Multiple changes over a short time period creates confusion in the mind of the target audience, and weakens mental recall of your brand at key purchase moments.  Keep in mind that the burn marks from the very first branding efforts are permanent- any tweaks following this first “brand” should be consistent with the first (unless the plan is to start a new herd of purple cows from the offspring).  For example, the Starbucks logo has undergone multiple changes since the company’s conception in Pike Place market of the 80’s.  However, these changes have been subtle- remaining consistent to the initial image of the beckoning siren, that ethereal mermaid that never fails to call in unsuspecting, caffeine-deprived  passersby.  This consistency has enabled Starbucks to drop the lettering in its current branding- a move that marks extremely strong brand recognition.  The Starbucks logo of today is more streamlined than the previous, featuring a closer shot of the green siren, encapsulated by the same circular figure.  The “brand” remains crisp, clean, and consistent with its origins- additional tweaks have only served to further strengthen the overall image.  There is no doubt over who is the owner of that particular purple cow.

Overall, these considerations lend a sort of structure to the identity and branding process.  A crisp clean brand applies to cattlemen and businesses alike.  It not only allows the owner to differentiate his cow from other cows- it also denotes his ownership of the purple cow to others.

By Chelsea Stortz


Aiken, K.D.  (2011). Class Lecture.  Marketing Strategy.  Gonzaga University,  Spokane, Wa.

Friedman, T. L. (2007).  The World is Flat, A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century. New York: Picador/ Farrar, Straus and Giroux.


Maple-Bacon Flavored Corporate Internships

By Chelsea Stortz and Lauren Ginder

Eying the stretch of frozen-yogurt machines, I absentmindedly pulled a container from the dispenser and edged closer reading through the day’s offering:

Vanilla (whoop-di-do), Sugar-Free Vanilla (not worth the effort of driving here), Chocolate (safe-bet), Boysenberry (eh, not my style), Reese’s (getting better…), Coconut (hmmn. We’ll think about that one), Country Vanilla (huh?), Cake Batter (probably the top contender), Irish Mint (yummy), and . . . Maple Bacon?  I stopped- thrown off my usual, almost mindless, decision making route that I took for granted- forced to consider this new curve-ball.

Maple Bacon Fro-Yo?  My skepticism was immediate, and I wondered if perhaps this was just a clever naming tactic to move out slow inventory.  But on second thought, this would be too easy for the average Fro-Yo consumer to pick up on, and could only leave a feeling of purchase dissonance and disappointment after raising expectations.  Luckily I was given the option of a free taste-test, and was soon thereafter happily setting my sprinkle and kiwi-topped tub of maple-bacon flavored Fro-Yo upon the scale, and digging for my card.

The concept of “try-it-before-you-buy-it” has not only proven to be beneficial in business-to-consumer relationships and in influencing purchase decisions in the Fro-Yo and new car industries, but has also been applied to human capital as well.  Corporations have been “test-driving” potential employees for centuries, in the form of apprenticeships and internships.  However, it seems there is more to be said about the gains from utilizing a corporate internship program- especially in the light of a saturated job market and struggling economy.  Corporations are able to test out the different “product attributes” of a potential employee, while mitigating the risk of investing resources in the training of an employee that “just isn’t right.”  Not only are internships a cost effective way to increase employee retention rates, but they are also considered a “one-two punch” test run of future talent- enabling companies to recruit top-notch, highly qualified employees.  Relationships between companies and local universities are also strengthened, providing companies a direct channel to the strongest graduates on a yearly basis and implementing their skill sets towards company profits.

Internships have become the most effective recruiting tool today. In times of economic downfall, this is a tool that can be used as a resource to inexpensively fuel talent initiatives. Interns have the opportunity to prove themselves as the smart, tech savvy and goal oriented individuals they are as they build relationships with prospective future employers.  Companies benefit from the low cost of the new “employees’” labor and the word-of-mouth marketing that they initiate. This will have a positive impact on each company for years to come and decrease employers’ recruiting costs in the meantime. It is truly a smart move to make considering the return on investment for the company.

On-campus career centers now use internships 61% of the time as a recruiting strategy. Employers’ recruiting costs are reduced by converting an intern into a fulltime hire because the employers have had the ability to gauge both the technical competence and cultural fit throughout the internship period.

Internships have recently become more and more prevalent rather than temp or entry level positions among companies across the country as well as internationally, benefiting recent college grads, the companies they intern for, and the economy. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, one of the main incentives for companies to utilize an internship program is that they will be able to help the long-term unemployed reenter the workforce.

As a taste-test typically benefits both Fro-Yo establishment and Fro-Yo enthusiasts, typical three-month long internship programs turn out as a win-win for both the individual and the company itself.  Graduates have the opportunity to strengthen their resume and increase the odds of receiving a full-time position after the internship is over. Companies are able to integrate fresh minds and the most recent aspects of a college education into their sales, marketing and communication channels.  They are also perhaps a bit more likely to consider a product with less than traditional attributes- to take a slight risk, if you will- which might very well be key to infusing the company with innovative thought in a stagnant economy.  I myself am exposed to the contradictorily delectable attributes of Maple-Bacon Fro-Yo, whereas I might have not been willing to run the risk of wasting my experience and $5.44 on a questionable venture had I not been given the option of a taste-test.

Management at MindShare is committed to strengthening and expanding its existing internship program through supervisory and financial support. This month we are celebrating former MindShare intern Colin Casey on his new full time position with Salesforce. This is a sad but positive loss with respect to the power of MindShare’s internship program. MindShare’s Sales platform helped Colin sharpen his sales skills and gave him the real industry experience needed to win the position at Salesforce over other candidates.

Colin just graduated from Gonzaga University last month in marketing and finance. Gonzaga provided him the opportunity to connect with MindShare and in turn, MindShare provided him the resources to succeed and stand out as a beneficial candidate for Salesforce’s San Francisco office.

To find out more information about our internship program contact Chhe Taing at


Unemployment: A Cyclical or a Structural Problem

The national unemployment rate remains persistently high ranging from 9% to 10% for the last three years, which translates to millions of Americans who remain unemployed or underemployed. The unemployment landscape or should I say “The Waste Land” is the worst this nation has seen since the Great Depression. Is this cruel landscape the result of a global cyclical crisis or is it a fundamental structural issue?

Since the financial meltdown the unemployment issue has now become a crisis and the cause remains a matter of debate.

Let’s understand the distinction with respect to Cyclical Unemployment and Structural Unemployment:

Cyclical Unemployment arises as the result of businesses not having enough demand for labor to employ all those who are looking for work. The lack of employer demand comes from a lack of spending and consumption in the overall economy

While; Structural Unemployment is the result of the fundamental disparity with respect to the demand in labor and the skills of the labor pool.

Some policymakers, economist, and “experts” would have you believe that the source of our nation’s persistently high unemployment rate is rooted in the “skill-gap theory”.

These pundits support this theory with data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s employment projections, which analyzed 30 of the fastest growing occupations through 2016. Based on this analysis 22 which represent 75% of the fastest growing occupations such as network systems, data communications analysis, computer software engineers, etc. require highly technical skill sets that the present and decreasing margin of the future employment pool lack.

This theory is a great tool for those responsible for the present state of our nation’s economic turmoil to cover us in a “forgetful snow, feeding a little life with dried tubers”. “And out of this stony rubbish” it places the blame on the millions which are unemployed or underemployed.

While others policymakers, economist, and “experts” state that structural unemployment is a fake problem, which serves their counterpart’s objective of not pursuing real solutions to the cyclical issues.

Thus the “skill-gap theory” is just “fear in a handful of dust” because the 22 occupations cited only represent 3% of all U.S. jobs. Further these pundits site the IMF’s recent report which argues that 75% of the average unemployment is due to a lack of demand in the economy. This report contends that the present state of the economy and the persistently high unemployment rate mirrors the recession of “1973-1975” where shocks to various industries translated to a prolong rise in unemployment.

But for the millions of Americans unemployed or underemployed these theory don’t matter because a “dead tree gives no shelter”. And as both side debate on the theory instead of resolving the issue by investing in programs which will aid the unemployed millions of Americans continue to pay the price.


Business Strategies Gleaned from “The Godfather”

I remember the first time I watched the The Godfather, the 1972 American epic crime film directed by Francis Ford Coppola. I’m sitting there in the living room of our two-bedroom tenement apartment in the North End. Its 1985 and for a 10 year old boy growing up in the Ghetto of Bridgeport which is the largest city in Connecticut and greatly known for its poverty, violent crime, easy accessibility of drugs, and an educational system that produces more future inmates than college graduates…the negative aspects of this film was not to far off from the realities of life.

At the time I never imagine that I would glean strategic leadership lessons from this film or that these lessons would form some of the core tenants in my business-consulting career. If we focus on the “The God Father” with respect to business strategy we are able to gain valuable insight on how to operate a successful business. Here are some strategies worth noting:

Appearance is important: In one of the most memorable scenes in the film Marlon Brando immortalized the character Don Vito Corleone in his expensive black suit done up with a bow tie. In this scene Amerigo Bonasera (the undertaker) comes to Don Vito Corleone for help, after the police refuse to arrest the two men who brutally beat up is daughter.

Don Vito Corleone: “And if by chance an honest man like yourself should make enemies then they would become my enemies. And then, they would fear you.”

This scene shows that dressing plays an important role in portraying a character, be it in movies or in the real world. It’s about projecting trust, credibility, experience, and influence.

Relationships are important: Also in this scene insights are gained into the importance of relationships. In Sicilian tradition a man cannot refuse a request on the sacred day of his daughters wedding. However Bonasera request is disrespectful because he didn’t cultivate a friendship with Don Vito Corleone and his family beforehand but expects a favor in his time of need.

Don Vito Corleone: “I understand. You found paradise in America, you had a good trade, you made a good living. The police protected you and there were courts of law. And you didn’t need a friend like me. But, uh, now you come to me, and you say: “Don Corleone, give me justice.” But you don’t ask with respect. You don’t offer friendship. You don’t even think to call me Godfather. Instead, you come onto my house on the day my daughter is to be married, and you ask me to do murder for money.”

In business, relationships are central to the success of your firm. The bridge that connects you and your present and future clients should be a personal one. Utilize existing technology like social media (Facebook, Twitter) etc. to connect. Nurture the seeds of this friendship by connecting with them over coffee, on the golf course, happy hour…etc. Be accessible to them and they will be more than happy to do business with you.

Build A Network: Imagine your organization like that of the “Corleone Family” well organized, smooth, efficient and profitable. But this organization in itself would not be successful if it did not have a network of businessmen, politicians and law enforcement; which protected them and extended the reach of their criminal activities. Furthermore, loose crime groups or “crews” operating independently as smaller units within the overall network were essential in the organization’s success. Thus building a network should be part of your organization’s strategic plan.

How do you build a network; one which will market your product and services? Make them and offer they can’t refuse. I’m not suggesting that you place the severed head of a racehorse in their bed, or send them a dead fish wrapped in newspaper.

  • Develop a referral structure, which rewards them for referrals.
  • Develop relationships with similar organization through joint marketing agreements.
  • Develop relationships with organizations like manufacturing extension programs; economic development programs etc. which foster economic growth.
  • Do pro bono work for non-profit organizations. This is a great way to increase brand awareness.

Build Strategic Alliances:

In the Godfather (Virgil Sollozzo) wants to form a strategic partnership with Don Corleone to protect the Tattaglia family’s heroin business through the Corleone’s political connections.

Strategic partnership alliances create advantages through the utilization of assets, which does not exist internally. As Robert M. Grant (2008, p 44) states in his book Contemporary Strategy Analysis, “For complete strategies, as opposed to individual projects, creating option value means positioning the firm such that a wide array of opportunities become available.”

Thus there are many advantages to a strategic partnership:

  • The pooling of resources
  • Improved management and understanding of clients
  • Greater operational flexibility
  • Integrated delivery through a coordinated efforts
  • Increased brand awareness and sales through new channels

The Godfather is considered to be one of the greatest firms of all time. The Godfather and the Corleone family and their criminal organization provides compelling insight into core business strategies which leaders can apply to their organization, which, are necessary for long-term success.  And as Don Corleone said to Sollozzo, “It makes no difference to me what a man does for a living, understand.” The business strategies are applicable regardless!

Written by:  Chhe Taing

Managing Director

Executive Strategic Development

MindShare Resource Solutions


The Airline Industry

The Airline Industry

Let me start by saying two things. First, this is my first blog so bear with me. Second, I don’t consult to the airline industry, but if I did they would get an earful of unwanted advice. I have never before witnessed an industry that has tried so hard to chase away each and every loyal customer. If you are like me, you’ll do anything within your power to avoid stepping onto one of those multimillion dollar overstuffed sardine cans. Short of hitchhiking, jumping a railcar, or stowing away on a freightliner – I’d do anything. Unfortunately, time constraints and the need to support my clients, demand that I take to skies at a pace that is disruptive to my life, not to mention my wallet. As I type, I am crammed against the window, with no stowage or leg room, in a “choice” seat on US Airways, I paid extra for this privilege.

So if I did consult to the airline industry, here is a top ten list of the advice they’d get from me.

  1. First, find the idiot that told them that nickeling and diming their customer and employees to would help their bottom line and profitability – and publicly flog him or her to death.
  2. Bring back free peanuts, free checked luggage, free meals, and yes, on some airlines, free access to the restrooms
  3. Top that by adding new technology goodies like free internet access, free movies, free TV, and free games, and God forbid, free drinks so we can actually have some fun on these flights.
  4. Learn how to board a plane, any inventory manager could figure this one out – it is first on – last off – pretty simple. Start in the back and work your way forward. Yes of course you have to give preference frequent flyers (that’s me), first class passengers, and to little old ladies in walkers and families with screaming kids in tow.
  5. Hide the fees. Yes, that’s right, hide them. I don’t want to know that I’m paying for every little thing, it makes me feel like I’m flying with IRS and getting taxed every time I turn around. I for one would be happy to pay more, knowing that all the items above are just going to be taken care of and I won’t starve on a flight.
  6. Move to a direct to consumer flat fee, and/or subscription model of charging for domestic flights. For example, $500 gets you anywhere, anytime. Or subscribe to 1, 2, 3, or 4 domestic flights per month, each subsequent flight is slightly less than the previous. They could even “roll-over” similar to the mobile phone industry.
  7. Create a frequent flyer program that you can actually use when and how you need it.
  8. Buy a new plane once in a while. I swear if I had started carving my initials into seat backs as a kid, I’d be getting onto the same plane and adding, “it’s me again!” It is bad enough that our military has to fly around on 60 year old bucket of bolts aircraft, the airline industry doesn’t need to follow suit.
  9. Probably the most sticky item, and a systemic issue with our country, get rid of the unions. No business can thrive bowing to powerful unions and nonsensical strikes. Didn’t anybody ever give these guys a calculator and show them that when they add up their union dues and the amount of money they won’t recover once they go on strike – they’d be much better off just taking the pay cuts when and if they come? And of course, keep the executive compensation in check and tied to profitability.
  10. And please, hire some flight attendants that aren’t burned out and been in the industry for 30 years. If you’ve ever flown on an international flight then you’d know that you’ll be attended to by beautiful, polite, and articulate young women, and you don’t even care if all the stuff above ever gets fixed. Of course on international flights they actually still treat you like a customer that their job depends on, but if the trends in the industry continue, those flights will be awful soon too.

I suspect that if any airline actually starts to treat their customers well again, they can stop parking their airplanes and actually flying them. If they think they can make more money selling airplane parts I guess that works, but my hunch is they’d be better off generating revenue from their capital assets. It is hard to remember with all the other things that are screwed up in our economy that these guys are the original bail-out parasites. Not surprising that the government did not acknowledge that it was a waste of taxpayer money then, as it was with the Wall Street bail out, and current stimulus spending.


CEOs, engineers, and theoretical physicists…oh my!

Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) 2010 has come and gone, but not before revealing new technologies, exciting shifts in the industry, and current trends in the embedded community. This annual conference—held in San Jose, California at the McEnery Convention Center—attracts many thousands of attendees ranging from executives and investment bankers to engineers and product mangers—plus, one famous theoretical physicist.

World renowned theoretical physicist Michio Kaku

Dr. Michio Kaku, born in San Jose, was the opening day keynote at the conference. Kaku is one of the most influential theoretical physicists in the world today, specializing in String Field Theory (SFT). SFT takes String Theory and reformulates it with Quantum Field Theory (I warned you that I was geek!). Kaku’s goal in life is to complete the work Albert Einstein began, defining a Theory of Everything (ToE) that is aimed to provide one elegant equation that would unify the inherently incompatible sciences of quantum mechanics and general relativity. Kaku is also a world-renowned futurist, and the future was the topic of his keynote. He spoke about what he and some of his colleagues predict the world will look like 10 to 20 years in the future. For all you Trekkies out there, he revealed that the famed Tricorder is likely to be produced in the not-too-distant future. The technology behind it is no longer a mystery, yet you’ll be surprised to find it applied in an unusual location–your toilet! Who would have thought we would have toilets analyzing our health? Kaku said that the technology will be so advanced that the toilets will dwarf current day datacenters in computing power and could detect cancer in our body at a very early stage. Just send in the nanobots to remove the cancerous clusters and you’re good to go. Kaku then moved on to augmented reality. He presented an image of and discussed a contact lens with embedded computing technology that has been produced at the University of Washington–Seattle. The technology is in its infancy (not currently a working model), the possibility exists that small, but powerful computers will fit on a contact lens. He likened the technology to having Terminator-vision. Imagine walking down the street and having on-demand access to and a constant overlay of data, the computer in our contact lens tracking and analyzing everything we see. When we encounter someone we know but can’t recall their name, the information is instantly displayed to us, whether projected into our retina or on the lens itself. This innovation would not only revolutionize society, but have impressive applications and implications in mil-aero environments. The mind reels at the thought of how future warfighters could benefit from this novel technology. Unencumbered by goggles, handheld devices, heads-up displays, and other bulky equipment, soldiers on the ground and in the air would be instantly linked with the latest and greatest military hardware and software tools, repositories of information, off-site commanders, and their colleagues. Talk about an instant network-centric battlefield! The fast and effective development of technology innovations such as this requires the use of advanced electronic design automation tools. I look forward to the day when these technology visions come to fruition. It is a geek’s dream! In the next few blogs, I will cover many facets of the embedded computing industry—such as new technologies, shifts in the industry, and trends in the community—and how they relate to and impact the mil-aero market. Here’s a teaser: I spoke with a prominent military hardware supplier that uses Mentor Graphics’ software exclusively in the design of its printed circuit boards. Any guesses? Stay tuned to find out.


Electronics Renaissance Man

Posted by J.VanDomelen ( Check out more by J.VanDomelen at Mentor Graphics

Even when I was a young boy, it was evident that I was a bit different. It is not every 10-year-old boy who locks himself away in his room to carefully disassemble the newest electronic gadget just to see how it works. Many a birthday gift has been sacrificed to curiosity.

I could also be found scavenging components—a 12-volt automotive battery and charger, car stereo, amplifier, and a bunch of old speakers—to assemble and install them into a suitcase for hours of listening pleasure. Yes, I was likely the inventor of the first suitcase stereo system.

I am also the guy who everyone asks for electronics help: “Hey, will you fix my computer / MP3 player / TV / stereo / gaming console / printer / wireless network?” This query was most often followed with: “Oh, after that, can you assemble this do-it-yourself system that came with 100-step instructions?” or “Hey, you’re good with electronic gizmos. Will you videotape this five-hour presentation, as well as edit it and post it as a Webcast and Podcast?”

From a very young age, I knew I was destined to be an electronics renaissance man. It is a moniker I sport proudly. Heck, I might even add that title to my business card.

I am certain I am not alone, and I look forward to interacting with other electronics renaissance geeks in this blog. (May I call you geek? It’s another pseudonym I brandish proudly, by the way.)

Today and for the past decade, I have been a mil-aero geek, surrounding myself with all things electronic in military and aerospace environments. After graduating summa cum laude with presidential honors in information systems, I worked in varied fields—ranging from the gallium-arsenide semiconductor industry to the military/avionics market working on vetronics (vehicle-based electronics systems), avionics (airborne electronics), and thermal design, including computational fluid dynamics and mechanical engineering analysis.

Specifically, I worked for TriQuint Semiconductor running a division of its test floor and managing HP 84000 series RFIC test systems using good old HP-UX. I spent the next several years of my career working for Isothermal Systems Research (ISR)/SprayCool (which was recently acquired by Parker Hannifin) designing, building, and testing liquid-cooled computer systems for myriad military and aerospace platforms, including the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) and Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Currently, I am a journalist and a technical consultant with MindShare Resource Solutions ( and co-founder of Twitch Hosting (, both of which are headquartered in Spokane, Wa.

I continue to be actively involved in electronics design, particularly in mil/aero; as a result, I am always learning and I look forward to sharing the latest and greatest trends and technologies with you.

Welcome to the mil-aero blog. I am confident you will enjoy reading and exploring the mil/aero market with me and Mentor Graphics. And please don’t be shy; I hope you, too, will share your thoughts, comments, and experiences in this space.

Check out my other blogs at Mentor Graphics


Take Care When Cutting

Posted by Courtney E. Howard (

Today’s trusted financial pundits cannot come to a consensus as to whether the national economy is deeply entrenched in a recession, simply experiencing a cyclical decline, or experiencing something in between. Lacking a commonly accepted term for the present status of the economy, most of us can agree upon one adjective: tough. It’s a tough economy and, as a result, times are tough.

Customers are spending less and wanting more, or just disappearing all together. Contracts are increasingly difficult to win, and the same can be said of new customers. In turn, companies across the board are tightening their belts.

In a challenging economy, it is often a knee-jerk reaction to balance budgets by reducing expenditures throughout the organization. More often than not, the most substantial cuts are made to the marketing budget. At a time when customer bases are shrinking and clients are spending less, if they are spending at all, cutting marketing can be a serious and unfortunate mistake.

“The truth is, if you don’t dedicate an adequate budget of time and money to marketing, it’s unlikely you’ll attract enough customers to sustain and grow your venture,” says Gwen Moran of

In fact, during an economic turndown, it is beneficial to increase, rather than decrease, marketing, promotion, and business development efforts. You don’t have to believe me; take it from any number of well-documented sources.

Successful business man and investor Warren Buffet offers the following advice: “Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.” At the same time, Harvard Business Review reveals: “It is well documented that brands that increase [marketing] during a recession, when competitors are cutting back, can improve market share and return on investment at lower cost than during good economic times.” Similarly, researchers at Penn State’s Smeal College of Business (in the report, “Turning adversity into advantage: Does proactive marketing during a recession pay off?”) offer: “For well-positioned companies, an economic recession should not prompt marketing cutbacks, but rather an aggressive increase in marketing spending to achieve superior business performance.”

By spending more on marketing, promotion, public relations, and business development in tough times, you can potentially reap many benefits. First and foremost, you will stand out from the crowd. It might sound like a miniscule point and simplistic, but it is not.

Consistent and dedicated marketing efforts in a struggling economy send a strong message to current and potential customers. When your competitors and other firms around you are retreating to take cover in this economy and make no effort to reach out to new clients, your firm will stand apart and convey strength, confidence, determination, and longevity. In this way, you allay any fears about the long-term viability of the company and its offerings. Public perception of your company will be favorable, especially in contrast with firms that are nowhere to be seen, followed by an increase in consumer confidence when it comes to your brand. In turn, you stand to increase market share.

Now is the time when you can gain the most bang for your marketing buck. It doesn’t make sense to spend money on gaining customers in good times, but not spend money on gaining customers when you need them the most. It takes more of an effort to capture customers in trying economic times, and greater effort equals greater costs; so why would we spend less? Now is the time to be more proactive, more aggressive in our marketing efforts. As Bill Austin has said: “There are no problems, only opportunities.” In short, cutting marketing, promotion, and business development efforts can undercut short- and long-term growth opportunities.

When the economy turns around and again flourishes, a company that has invested in building the business, its brand, its presence, and its customer base – opposed to those who sat around waiting and stagnating – will be in a far more favorable position with customers, already have strong brand recognition, have a legacy of thriving and supporting customers in challenging times, and be more in tune with and likely leading the market.

By slashing marketing budgets and annihilating business development efforts, companies could not only lose customers and market share, but even worse, not gain new clients or market share and be on worse footing when the economy does turn around. When times improve, these companies will have taken a step backward and will have to work even harder just to regain what they’ve lost. Another firm, having maintained or increased marketing and business development efforts, will have not only preserved the status quo, but surpassed it.

Resist the temptation to retreat into a shell to try and weather the storm. Such a reaction to a challenging economic client can have adverse effects on a business in the long term. Decide whether you are in business to survive or to thrive. If it is the latter, do not put your growth on hold.

Do not cut back on marketing, promotion, public relations, and business development; instead, seize this opportunity to grow your business, broaden your customer base, improve brand recognition and public perception, and much more.

Marketing cannot be viewed as an optional expense. It is essential. It is what propels a company forward. Relegate money to marketing, promotion, and business development annually, and partner with people who deliver results in these areas. If you are ready to move your company forward, start now by talking with or e-mailing any one of the experts at Mindshare Consulting.