Thursday, December 23, 2010

As The Year Ends...

2010 marks the end of the sixth year for the Avant Marketing Group.  It was a year that gave us opportunity to conduct brand development in the United States, China, Brazil and Europe.  We planned and implemented a very successful integrated marketing program in Texas that featured a 1,000-mile tractor drive in support of the Children's Miracle Network and completed several key research projects that will ensure continued marketing success for our clients.

As the year closes, we simply want to thank all our clients who not only have made Avant a continued success, but who challenge us in developing and refining our research and planning techniques to meet their objectives.

What will 2011 bring?  We see an enormous demand for market research and planning early in the year.  Marketers need to get back "in touch" with the market -- and realize that buyer values have significantly changed through the economic downturn.  Nearly all market segments are truly dynamic -- general assumptions cannot ground market strategies any longer. 

In some respects, recessions are good for business.  It forces us to trim waste and deliver our products and services in the most efficient manner.  And regardless what many self-proclaimed "marketing experts" promote, brand investment still defines the winners versus losers as the economy improves.  Successful marketers understand the importance of not only investing in product branding, but also understand the visibility of their company's brand making enterprise branding significant as time moves forward.

We want to thank all of our clients for their support in the past six years.  Not only do we value our professional relationships, but we also consider our clients good friends.

Have a very blessed and enjoyable holiday.  And though it may be one of the most overused phrases in the English language -- May There Be Peace on Earth this holiday season.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Avant Marketing Group and Cambium Creative Launch Sweepstakes Program for the World’s #1 Selling Tractor

Quick!  Which brand has the #1 selling tractor in the word?  Did you guess Mahindra?  If you did, you are correct!  Since 1963, Mahindra’s Farm Sector has maintained its leadership position in the Indian tractor industry and is now the #1 selling tractor company in the world, based on volumes.  Mahindra has operations in 35 countries.

The Avant Marketing Group, in collaboration with Cambium Creative, is proud to launch Mahindra USA’s sweepstakes program.  Avant and Cambium designed and implemented the sweepstakes program, which involves five Gulf Coast states.  

Read more below!


Dec. 17, 2010
Source: Mahindra news release

Residents in the five-state area along the Gulf Coast have the opportunity to win a Bill Dance Signature Series 3016 Mahindra Tractor and Loader as well as 186 other prizes in the Mahindra "Work Hard, Play Hard" Sweepstakes. 

Through March 31, 2011, legal residents of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, who are 25 years of age, can enter the sweepstakes by visiting their local participating Mahindra Dealer or by visiting the sweepstakes website at

In addition, participating Mahindra Tractor Dealers are offering a free copy of Bill Dance's "Fishing Tips" book for test driving a Mahindra Tractor during the sweepstakes promotional period.

The First Grand Prize in the sweepstakes is a Bill Dance Signature Series 3016 Mahindra Tractor -- a 4WD 28 horsepower tractor with front-end loader that is ideal for medium-duty applications including home and commercial landscaping, vegetable gardening, lawn and grounds maintenance and light construction.

The Mahindra sweepstakes also features a TRACKER Pro-Angler 16 bass boat & trailer as the Second Grand Prize and 185 other prizes including Bill Dance fishing tackle and accessories.

"The Mahindra 3016 Tractor is ideal for southern farmstead maintenance and chores," stated Mahindra USA vice president, marketing and organizational development Mike Hilderbrand. "Through this sweepstakes, we are hopeful that more people in the South become familiar with Mahindra and its quality line-up of tractors."

"Mahindra tractors have the qualities I admire -- they're tough, powerful, and durable," said championship fisherman Bill Dance. "I am pleased to have my name associated with Mahindra, the number one selling tractor in the world."

For complete sweepstakes rules, visit the Mahindra website. No purchase or payment of any kind is necessary to win. Odds of winning are dependent on the number of eligible entries received.

Mahindra USA (MUSA) is part of the US $ 7.1 billion Mahindra Group's Automotive and Farm Sector -- the #1 selling tractor company in the world, based on volumes.


Press release in
Mahindra Website:
Bill Dance Outdoors:

In its quality journey, Mahindra's Farm Sector has won the Deming Application Prize in 2003, followed by the Japan Quality Medal in 2007.  It is the 20th Company in the world, the 2nd company in India, and the only tractor manufacturer in the world to achieve this distinction.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Who is the “Brand Champion” in Your Organization?

We use this typical brand scenario in our brand workshop presentations:

Imagine you visit a nearby hospital and come upon a maintenance worker mopping the floor of a hallway.  You ask the worker, “What do you do for a living?”  He responds by saying, “My job is cleaning floors.”

You visit a second hospital and come upon another maintenance worker mopping the floor of a hallway.  You ask the same question, “What do you do for a living?”  He responds by saying,I help doctors save lives.

Which hospital would you say has the better brand orientation?  Which hospital would you say has better motivated employees?  Which has less employee turnover?  Which hospital do you think has the best customer satisfaction?

Many companies and organizations view brand management as only a function of the marketing or advertising departments -- it should be the responsibility of each and every employee in the organization.  Brands that “live” within the organization also “thrive” – ensuring that its brand’s promise is being supported with every action of every employee within the organization.

Successful organizations realize that every action is a form of communications that either supports or discounts the brand in the eyes of the customer.  True consumer-centric organizations understand the value of ensuring that each and every employee becomes a “brand champion” for the organization.

This “brand champion” philosophy is not only reflected in the organization’s communication, but is also reflected in how employees are evaluated, compensated and promoted.

Do your employees merely “mop floors for a living” or are they truly committed to the mission and values of your brand?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Are You a Brand Fanatic?

Successful marketers strive to develop “brand fanatics” among its customers.  Why?  Loyal and fanatical brand enthusiasts are your most cost-effective means of marketing and advertising.  Word-of-mouth fanaticism is priceless – each and every customer has the potential of becoming your best marketer of your brand.

But how can you expect your customer to become a brand fanatic if your own organization and its employees don’t reflect that same brand enthusiasm?

Avant has defined four levels of brand relationships:

Brand Awareness – this is simply awareness of your brand without cognizant differentiation.  In the 1970s and 1980s, high brand awareness was the only goal of many marketers – the higher the awareness, the higher the potential of increasing market share.  Smart marketers realized that though brand awareness did increase interest in the brand, it was more of an “effect” than a “cause” in the true brand relationship with customers.

Brand Advocacy – this occurs when a person is not only aware of the brand, but has a positive perception of the brand but has no brand relationship.  This stage normally occurs as a brand is initiated and is a stage in its maturity.  Brands that maintain this type of brand relationship with its customers find that their product or service is easily substituted and have not established strong brand loyalty with its customer base.

Brand Affinity – this occurs when a customer personally identifies with the brand.  Examples include a person that refers to themselves as a “Ford Owner” or as a “Starbucks Coffee Drinker”.  There is strong emotional connection with customers that have high brand affinity – they feel that they are as much of brand as is the product or service itself.

Brand Fanaticism – this is the ultimate brand relationship that few brands ever achieve.  Not only do these customers have high brand affinity and loyalty, but they constantly promote your brand to their peers and other potential consumers of your product.  They have a tremendous pride in being a consumer of your products – not usually because you have a great product, but because you have a great brand – they have connected on both an emotional and intellectual level through the basic beliefs and values of your brand.

So once again, the critical question is:  Can you expect your customers to become brand fanatics if your own employees aren’t enthusiastic about your brand and what it stands for?

The Avant “Living the Brand” approach ensures that all employees in your organization become “Brand Fanatics”.  This approach not only ensures that your brand performance lives up to the expectations of market participants, but ensures ongoing brand loyalty and profitability for your company.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Avant Marketing Group Assists Solutia Inc. with New Global Brand Identity

St. Louis, MO – December 6, 2010. Solutia Inc. enlisted the expertise of the Avant Marketing Group to develop its new global brand identity announced on November 10, 2010.

Avant applied its proprietary brand development process and “Living the Brand Training” to reposition Solutia’s corporate brand identity based on the brand pillars of Ingenuity, Productivity and Performance.

“Ingenuity, Productivity and Performance reflect the strength, vitality and spirit of Solutia as a global market leader, as well as the employees that drive its success,” said Jeffry N. Quinn, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Solutia Inc.  “By leveraging our new global Solutia brand, in addition to our product brand names, we will be able to further drive revenue, strengthen relationship with vendors and customers around the world, as well as continue to recruit and retain top employee talent.”

To accomplish this new brand identity assignment, Avant employed its market research expertise in interviewing both employees and customers in over 15 countries to determine “shared brand values” in developing the comprehensive Solutia brand platform.  The brand platform was then validated through focus groups on three continents.

In addition, to assist with Solutia’s internal brand launch, Avant conducted its “Living the Brand Training” in St. Louis, Sao Paulo, Shanghai and Brussels.  The training emphasized the alignment of employee values with corporate values that leads to improved employee loyalty, satisfaction and productivity.

“The entire Solutia assignment took nearly 12 months,” explained Mark Vogel, Avant senior partner.  “It was important to not only identify key corporate values within the Solutia organization, but to also understand how employees in the different cultures relate and identify with those values.”

About Avant Marketing Group:
Avant Marketing Group is a leading St. Louis-based practice specializing in market planning, brand development, and market research throughout global markets.  Avant combines the highest level of sophisticated research and an insightful strategic market approach in delivering results for its clients.  Founded in 2004, Avant works with leading national and international business-to-business and business-to-consumer clients in over 15 industries. More information is available at

Forward Looking Statements
This press release may contain forward-looking statements, which can be identified by the use of words such as "believes," "expects," "may," "will," "intends," "plans," "estimates" or "anticipates," or other comparable terminology, or by discussions of strategy, plans or intentions. These statements are based on management's current expectations and assumptions about the industries in which Solutia operates. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and are subject to significant risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results or achievements to be materially different from the future results or achievements expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, those risk and uncertainties described in Solutia's most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K, including under "Cautionary Statement About Forward Looking Statements" and "Risk Factors", and Solutia's quarterly reports on Form 10-Q. These reports can be accessed through the "Investors" section of Solutia's website at . Solutia disclaims any intent or obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements in response to new information, unforeseen events, changed circumstances or any other occurrence.

About Solutia Inc.:
Corporate Profile
Solutia is a market-leading performance materials and specialty chemicals company. The company focuses on providing solutions for a better life through a range of products, including: Saflex® polyvinyl butyral interlayers for glass lamination and for photovoltaic module encapsulation and VISTASOLAR® ethylene vinyl acetate films for photovoltaic module encapsulation;  LLumar®, Vista™, EnerLogic™, FormulaOne®, Gila®, V-KOOL®, Hüper Optik®, IQue™, Sun-X™ and Nanolux™ aftermarket performance films for automotive and architectural applications; Flexvue™ advanced film component solutions for solar and electronic technologies; and technical specialties products including Crystex® insoluble sulfur, Santoflex® PPD antidegradants, Therminol® heat transfer fluids and Skydrol® aviation hydraulic fluids. Solutia’s businesses are world leaders in each of their market segments. With its headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, the company operates globally with approximately 3,400 employees in more than 50 worldwide locations. More information is available at


Is All Research Good Research?

I recently came across a published report from an advertising & communications agency that conducted research in regard to mobile technology usage in a specific target audience category.  The findings were impressive – reflecting that mobile communications is being utilized by a majority of the audience through smart phones and other devices.

I lost interest in the study when I finally realized how the research was conducted – agency staff interviewed 25 participants at a trade show.

Is this valid research?  The answer is both yes and no.  From a qualitative standpoint, the research can validate potential trends in the category as most qualitative projects can do.  However, from a quantitative perspective, the research has no statistical validity since the total population of the target audience is just under 1 million.  Can a mere 25 research participants represent the entire category? 

The research was obviously conducted by the agency with the specific purpose of promoting its services while positioning the agency as a thought leader in the category.  But unfortunately, the report, published as a white paper, loses credibility when the research methodology is in question.

This is a good example of misuse of market research.  No true trend lines can be established based on qualitative studies.  Qualitative research, including in-depth interviews and focus groups can uncover certain behaviors and perceptions.  However, those market trends can only be confirmed through an adequate representation of the target audience in quantitative studies.

Ironically, the above agency is promoting social media and personal communication technologies to reach this specific target audience.  It would have been credible research if they used that same technology to survey a large number of participants to provide statistical representation of the target audience.

The important point is to know the limitations of the different research methodologies and don’t embellish findings to attempt to prove your point.

There is no replacement for objective, factual and thorough research.  It is critical to understanding the dynamics of your market.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Who Owns Your Brand?

Profitable companies invest in their brand and do realize tangible value in brand equity that creates an ROI in current and future sales.  Companies financially “cash-in” on this equity when the organization is acquired and it usually appears on the balance sheet as “goodwill” and is included in the selling price of the company.

Unfortunately, based on this financial scenario, many companies view their brand as something they own based on this “goodwill” equity that can be realized.  Smart brand managers know that this is far from the truth.

We use the term “brand equity” to measure the amount of brand loyalty that our product or service has in the marketplace.  A company that has strong brand equity has assurance that there are customers who will continue to purchase its products or services in the future.  That is the true definition of a brand’s value.  Without the customer loyalty, brands have very little value and are worth not much more than the paper they are printed on.

Smart brand managers view their brand as “owned” by the marketplace – since that is where the equity resides.  Without loyal customers, brands have very little worth.

The job of marketers is not to be “brand owners” but to be “brand stewards” – constantly understanding the needs of its customers and ensuring that the brand lives up to the expectations of its true brand owners – the marketplace.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What is Your Definition of Brand Management?

One of the most ambiguous terms used in business is “brand management”.   Certain marketing experts limit the term to the management of the brand communications in advertising and promotion.  Advertising agencies generally refer to logo design and taglines executed through consistent creative design and messaging. 

By definition, a brand connotes a certain promise to its customer.  Marketers now understand the importance of delivering on the brand promise in every aspect of the organization’s operations and behavior.  This is truly emphasized today as consumers are seeking as much information about the company behind the product or service as the product or service itself.

Brands must “be alive” in an organization through the values of the organization.  Each and every employee must understand the organization’s mission and their role in living up to the brand promise that is promoted through the marketing effort.

Brand management is no longer just the responsibility of the marketing department.  Brand values need to guide the actions and communications of all internal brand participants – your entire workforce.