Thoughts from Ciana

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  • 10:14:02 pm on July 6, 2009 | 1 | # |

    What’s in a Name?

    “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

    Juliet in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

    In this passage, Juliet argues that a name is a meaningless convention. She professes her love for Romeo, the person, not the dreaded Montague family name. Product names are important, but more important are the attributes associated with a product – attributes that customers can relate to and which can be reflected in a name.

    When naming my children, my husband and I (don’t laugh!) defined criteria when considering our children’s names. We put these criteria in a spreadsheet and rated possible names. We were concerned with alliteration, meaning, possible nicknames, fit with last name, initials, strength, overuse (we didn’t want our kids to have the same names as 3-4 kids in their class), etc. The result:  Benjamin and Jordana!

    As a marketing/branding firm, Ciana Associates has applied a similar methodology to product naming. We start by understanding who is the customer/audience, what is the unique value of the product/service, and how it differs from the alternatives. We work with our clients to identify key attributes that we can rank versus the competition and we create a matrix ranking system that looks at the spectrum of literal to highly creative names.

    Product Name Attributes: (Rating 1-10, with 1=lowest, 10=highest)

    • Distinctive: memorable, different from competitors’ names
    • Emotive: beyond image, what are the emotional associations with the brand
    • Intuitive: is the name more descriptive (i.e., obvious what the product is/does)
    • Form: the visual look of the name, as well as how it sounds (spoken)
    • Differentiates: does the name highlight an attribute that’s unique or differentiates the product/service from alternatives?
    • Trademark: likelihood that name is available for trademark

    Are you in the process of naming a product or service?  We recommend that you start the process early, as it’s often difficult to shake a code name. Or better yet, apply this process when choosing a code name, since code names often stick around longer than anticipated!


  • 03:33:29 pm on June 17, 2009 | 1 | # |


    Several months back I signed up for Twitter to learn more about it. I follow(ed) some interesting social networking experts who have something to say and friends who are also experimenting. As I followed folks, others followed me. Much like when I signed up for an afterschool class and found myself habitually absent, I became embarrassed how far behind I was and stopped attending the class. I’ve been virtually tweetless the last month. Life has been catching up to me and I find that I don’t have enough time to live life — let alone microblog (on a regular basis). And I feel guilty.

    I’m happy to see I’m not alone. A recent BBC study reports that 90% of the content on Twitter is generated by 10% of the tweeters. Although Twitter is growing faster than any social network (more than 10 million users), most people only tweet once in their lifetime.

    As a marketer, I understand that Twitter is an important new way to establish two-way conversations with customers — but I haven’t seen many examples where Twitter connects business to business. Please share your examples of how Twitter helps B2B.

  • 09:19:08 pm on April 28, 2009 | 0 | # |


    Last week, we showed how our TRUESM model for value proposition development could apply to writing effective resumes that help you stand out from the competition.  We asked readers to submit examples so that we could illustrate how to improve the content using our principles for developing effective messages. Here’s an example from an individual who submitted her resume for review.  She is looking to transition from a college-level Psychology Instructor to an applied accounting position.

    1.  Our first recommendation to this candidate is to TARGET the resume to a specific position (and type of company).  If the resume is going to include an objective, make sure the objective is targeted to appeal to the recipient.

    Objective from the original resume:  “Seeking to bring my communication and analysis skills to a position in regional accounting firm focusing on tax, but also providing opportunities for involvement with other professional services.”

    Remember to “tailor your resume for each position you apply for. Make sure that your experience closely matches the requirements of the job.”  The applicant can gain more traction by focusing on a specific position within the company and a specific industry.

    Our suggested new objective (based on our understanding of her background and the requirements of this internal auditor position):  “Internal Auditor position in regional tax accounting firm where I can bring together my skills in accounting with my years of experience as a college level psychology instructor.  I can apply findings from psychology and behavioral economics to help people more effectively manage their financial futures.”

    2.  RELEVANT:  In applying for a job, candidates can improve their chances of success by focusing on the requirements of the job, not necessarily on what he/she does best if it does not map to the requirements.  For this candidate, instead of highlighting universal skills like “experienced teacher and advisor, superb writer, experienced public speaker, strong research skills using library databases,”  try focusing on points that relate to the position (degree in accounting or finance, ability to research and present findings, strong communications skills):

    • Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Accounting with 3.85 GPA
    • Innovative tax preparer helping clients understand basis for deductions, saving an average $200 per year
    • Top ranking instructor at a high-ranking small private liberal arts college for five years teaching  classes in research methods focusing on statistical analysis

    3.  UNIQUE:  This candidate has distinctive skills that set her apart from the next candidate:  as a Ph.D. in psychology with a strong analytical background and an author of instructor manuals to accompany textbooks in her field, she is able to bridge the accounting and communications skills required in the internal auditing profession. These differentiators should be highlighted in her summary of accomplishments and discussed in terms of the relevancy to the position during any resulting interviews.

    4.  EVIDENCE:  This candidate can benefit from changing the language in her resume from descriptive to more results-oriented by highlighting proof-points that she created or proof others have created:

    For example, when she says she “worked with diverse population to communicate basis for taxes and gave advice about possible deductions that could be taken,” she can highlight her achievements more specifically by saying “helped low income and middle bracket taxpayers better understand taxes and deductions resulting in average taxpayers savings of $200 based on uncovering legitimate deductions.” We know stats are hard, but even if she estimates savings, it’s much more powerful.

    Rather than describing that she “developed ‘Money and Happiness’ course which teaches basic financial as well as psychological concepts,” she can use independent endorsements as evidence of her accomplishments: “Received top ratings for college course I developed ‘Money and Happiness’ which teaches basic financial as well as psychological concepts.”

    Once she gets the interview, she can draw upon her experience as a psychologist and training in finance and accounting and tell a compelling story of how she has helped one or more individuals or companies more effectively manage their financial futures.

  • 07:49:49 pm on April 7, 2009 | 0 | # |


    Disclosure, transparency, and authenticity have always been important ingredients in product reviews, whether online or not. For the first time since 1980, the FTC is reportedly revising its rules on advertising and planning to make bloggers and companies legally liable if they make untrue statements about products or services – “meaning companies or bloggers could get sued for saying a product was good if it really wasn’t,” according to  A recent article in the Financial Times adds “The main target of the new guidelines appears to be the widespread practice of viral marketing in which companies recruit non-employees to talk up products in exchange for samples or promotions.”

    (Full disclosure: I have not read the FTC’s proposed legislation, so I don’t know the full impact.) David Meerman Scott blogs about this topic and social media seeding practices (companies putting product into the hands of influential bloggers in exchange for reviews) and raises interesting questions. Does the price of the item matter? Should bloggers be hauled away in handcuffs?

    Legislation should not be a substitute for common sense, or ethical communication practices.  But if businesses and individuals do not adequately disclose receipt of “free products or services” in exchange for a review, or worse yet, if they intentionally make untrue statements, in my opinion they should be held liable. Hopefully these regulations will not stifle freedom of opinion and valuable content to help aid buyers in their decision process.

    I have found user generated reviews (whether they be for products or services) to be immensely valuable as a consumer. When I bought a new digital camera (Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5K), I relied on product reviews (and user ratings). When I planned a family excursion last year to Southern Italy, I relied heavily on reviews and recommendations from other travelers. In a related article in Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle, “Why you can’t trust user generated Web site reviews”, travel journalist Arthur Frommer indicated that he had removed “Reader’s selection” from his guidebooks years ago because of manipulated content (posed as user reviews) from hotels and restaurants. Today, he questions the integrity (fake recommendations submitted by commercial establishments) of user-generated comments on travel web sites and cites less than professional business standards. “More recently, a major cruise line has been accused of bestowing free cruises and other perks on people who contribute enthusiastic reviews about that cruise line to the user-generated cruise Web sites,” per Frommer.

    As I wrote in a recent blog “Using Web Sources as Marketing Evidence – When Would You Declare a Mistrial?” opinion-based evidence (e.g., industry analyst reports, product reviews, customer experiences) has been used for many years to support business’ claims of product benefits. Easy web access and social media sites have proliferated the number and types of opinion-based evidence (e.g., blogs, micro-blogs citizen reviews, online surveys, etc.).”

    The same rules of disclosure and liability should apply to online opinion-based evidence. FTC wants to regulate online viral marketing content which means changing the old rules of “truth in advertising” to adapt to the new realities of viral marketing. If bloggers/companies choose to intentionally make untrue statements or not disclose incentives for endorsements, let the FTC at them. What do you think?

  • 05:50:18 pm on March 24, 2009 | 1 | # |


    Last week, I stumbled across an article from The New York Times As Jurors Turn to Web, Mistrials Are Popping Up which highlights how instant web access with iPhones and Blackberry devices are wreaking havoc on jury trials.  In several cases, judges have declared mistrials as jurors violated due process by doing their own research for evidence on the internet  while other jurors shared confidential information about cases via social networking (Twitter/Facebook).

    As someone who has focused on “Message and Evidence Marketing” for a number of years, it got me thinking about how the types of marketing evidence has changed over the years. Last week, as I was working on an “Evidence Plan” for a large software firm, pulling together credible evidence to substantiate my client’s claims of their product superiority over the competition, I realized how the Internet has expanded the types of evidence being used in technology marketing.

    Opinion-based evidence (e.g., industry analyst reports, product reviews, customer experiences) has been used for many years to support businesses claims of product benefits.   Easy web access and social media sites have proliferated the number and types of  opinion-based evidence (e.g., blogs, micro-blogs citizen reviews, online surveys, etc.). [Note that the mistrials discussed in the referenced article were NOT about the type of evidence being considered, they were about the fact that jurors used evidence that the judge had not determined to be admissible.]  The legal system has complex rules of evidence. What rules do marketing departments’ follow, particularly with opinion-based evidence?  With nearly 1 million blog posts per day, and many more micro-blogs, what are some guidelines?  As a “rule of thumb” marketers should apply the same judgment when using blogs for evidence as they would apply to other types of opinion-based evidence:

    • Is the source credible/trustworthy/authentic/objective?
    • Are facts provided to support the opinion?
    • Is the fact-based opinion relevant?

    So what type of web-based evidence would you determine to be “credible” to substantiate marketing claims?

    When would you find a blog to be “admissible” evidence and when would you declare a mistrial?

  • 06:06:52 pm on March 12, 2009 | 0 | # |


    Several friends and colleagues have asked us who designed our Ciana Associates logo, so we thought we’d share this information!

    As a startup business with a limited budget, Cindee and I wanted to get up and running quickly with a new logo. We wanted our logo to convey our brand — our key values, core attributes, how we’re different, etc. And we wanted a design that was smart, crisp, and assertive with creative flair.  We knew we’d get more comprehensive services with a professional design firm and considered several  (who were well qualified and came with great references), but we wanted to try an open  approach  and crowdsource the design to benefit from the diverse perspectives of many designers from around the world and engage in an interactive, open process.  Also, we liked the quickness of this process.  Since most of the design contests are open for 7 days, we knew we’d have a logo in days, not weeks or months!

    We ran a logo design contest through ( charges $39 to run a contest). We began by posting a creative brief and offered $225 prize money for the winner. The contest lasted for 8 days and we got creative interpretations from more than 25 talented designers — as opposed to a single designer — with more than 70 designs to choose from.  We liked this diversity in creative approaches, which is one of the benefits of an open model.  Check out our contest (brief, submissions, comments and winner).

    Ciana Associates Logo

    Ciana Associates Logo

    This approach was open, not only from a design perspective, but also in that it enabled us to get feedback from others on the design concepts. Cindee and I used Facebook (we weren’t tweeting at the time) to let our friends and colleagues know about the contest and to encourage feedback on the entries.  We especially valued feedback from those friends and colleagues who are in our target market.

    This process combined the best practices of traditional design with an open design and feedback process:  Crowdsourcing a design can be risky for a variety of reasons (difficulty communicating with designer due to language barriers, lack of personal engagements, risk of not reaching an acceptable conclusion or results) , but fortunately we did not experience these issues.

    Why did this work for us?  We started with a creative brief (which communicated our brand) to guide the designers.  Designers that mapped to the concepts described in our creative brief got positive feedback from us.  Designers that ignored the creative brief did not rate very highly.  We gave public feedback to designers to help them iterate their designs.  Since all designers can see the feedback, they all benefited from the open feedback to modify their submissions appropriately.

    This experience was positive for us as clients (open process, many perspectives), and positive for the designer selected (as we engaged with the designer for follow on business). For those that want to try this model, do your homework first — understand the core elements that define your brand (creative brief) so that you end up with a logo that is a visual representation of what your business stands for.  It’s fun looking at the process of others (several of our colleagues have since used this to select their logo designs)!  Good luck and let us know how it goes.

  • 10:48:06 pm on March 3, 2009 | 3 | # |


    While working on summarizing the results of a recent workshop “Identifying Your Unique Value” for a non-profit client, I took a break to run to my neighborhood Trader Joe’s to buy critical ingredients for last night’s dinner (pine nuts and basil for pesto sauce).

    As I was walking through the store, it reminded me that here’s a store that delivers a compelling value proposition to its customers.  I could have gone to Andronico’s or Lucky to pick up these few items.  But I didn’t.   Why?  Because Trader Joe’s offered me a compelling value proposition to cause me to chose them over my alternatives.

    Let’s look at what makes a value proposition compelling and WHY theirs’ passes the test.  A value proposition communicates what’s important to the customer segment (in this case someone who wants a neighborhood grocery store to buy fresh ingredients at decent prices).  In essence a value proposition should answer the question: why should the customer buy from me vs. the competition? The value proposition is more than a promise — it must ring TRUE to the customer. At Ciana, we have a simple acronym for remembering the components of a good value proposition:
    T – Targeted at a specific customer segment
    R – Relevant to that customer segment
    U – Unique vs. the competition
    E – Evidenced (proof)

    Trader Joe’s TRUE value proposition gleaned from their website and “Fearless Flyer” looks something like this: Trader Joe’s is a neighborhood grocery store for people who want an adventurous buying experience for interesting specialty foods and every day basics at value prices.  Unlike chain supermarkets, Trader Joe’s is as much about value as it is about great food. (I always find myself grabbing just a few extra items not on my list — yesterday I grabbed a package of Mintz’s tofu blintzes, Manchego cheese, and dried apricots for my kids’ lunch).  So what’s the evidence or proof of the value?  For the critical items on my shopping list, the basil is fresher and the pine nuts are far less expensive than I can get at my neighborhood Lucky and the cost is a fraction of what it would cost me at my neighborhood Andronico’s store.

    For many, shopping is a chore — when I shop at Trader Joe’s, it’s fun and I look forward to the samples bar to get ideas for a quick family dinner.

    So why is it important to have a good value proposition? As a shopper I have many choices. It’s important for businesses to communicate their value to customers. I could just as easily have gone to Andronico’s or Lucky, but instead I chose Trader Joe’s, which is a few blocks farther  from my house, because of the value experience.

    Also, a value proposition helps to guide the actions and choices of not just customers but also employees.  On my visit to Trader Joe’s I saw how employees embodied the fun and adventurous spirit which is part of their value proposition. Making Trader Joe’s a fun place to shop doesn’t just apply to customers. Did you know that if you hear a single bell ring in a Trader Joe’s store it means a cashier needs a price check? Two bells means an item needs to be put back on a shelf. Three bells calls a manager. I heard four bells ring and the checkout girl looked puzzled, and then said “oh, that must mean ‘hot looking guy in lane four?'”.

    Now I need a quick dinner to bring in to a meeting tonight.  Time to head to Trader Joe’s!