Substance Over Everything

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There’s a coffee shop in Orange County called “Bad Coffee“. The owner is an alum of another well known shop in OC called Portola. Bad Coffee is anything but, in fact, it’s probably the best coffee shop in Orange County. The first thing anyone is going to notice about the spot is the name. It’s very in your face and up front about the potential of the product you’re about to consume. So why did they call it Bad Coffee? Because they can back up the fact that they’re great and everyone behind the count knows what they’re doing. Their brand is all about substance, the name tries to subvert that but they rise above constantly. When your product is so good you can call yourself “bad”.

This goes towards a more disciplined approach in marketing today. Gone are the days of extolling virtues of a product that doesn’t hold up or contains little merit. With the rise in review sites popping up, huge brands like Nike asking for reviews on their site, and the internet connecting everyone all the time, it’s hard for a brand to lack real substance. Consumers today can tell anyone and everyone how valuable your brand is within a few minutes, it’s best to make sure what you’re marketing has substance.

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I’d advocate that marketers need to push back on products without substance. If we’re going to build brands then we need to make sure what we’re building has a solid foundation. A product like Stance socks can’t continue to exist without major substance. Just like, Nike, adidas, and, to a much, much lesser degree, Under Armour, Stance is becoming a staple in the NBA. Most notable players past and present have their own sock line and you’re seeing Stance become the default sock of the NBA Finals. What’s their secret? Substance. Outside of solid design, good marketing, and endorsements, they provide a solid product that matches the price point. If you’re paying $10 for a single pair of socks you better get your money’s worth and Stance has made sure they deliver. The NBA doesn’t build itself on brands that fall apart, look at Nike’s stock price to prove that, so putting Stance on the court lends itself to their substance.

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At the end of the day all that matters is what someone else is going to say about your brand and if they’ll back it with their money. People vote with their dollars and every vote is advocacy of the substance backing your brand. Be so good you can call yourself Bad Coffee.


Branding is Your First Conversation with Your Customer

Recently I switched from using Dollar Shave Club to Harry’s. This was due to my

I love this stuff. Keep doing this please.

Mother in Law buying me a trial kit. I honestly figured I’d try it out but stick with DSC just because I had used them for well over a year. However, after using the blades for the first time I really fell in love with the company. The thing is though it wasn’t the quality of the blades that got me but the overall presentation of the product. Everything from the blade handle to the included shaving foam had a more premium feel to it that, I suppose, I’ve been wanting. It felt a little bit classier and a step above DSC. Now I haven’t even bothered to look into the reality of either companies claims about their blades (Harry’s says they’re made in Germany and DSC is, well, they’re made somewhere) but both seem to cut about the same and extra products they offer both seem to be good enough. I was thinking why I’m so into this brand and then I realized I was persuaded by branding, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Solid branding starts when you open the package

I know lots of marketers (perk, or curse, of being one myself) and we all talk about how much we buy into good marketing. Kinda like when an NBA player seems someone else on their team throw down a monster jam, we get that excited when we see others market well. Branding is a function of marketing and Harry’s is doing it right on the money. DSC really claimed the market early with their very well made and viral-ready ads, but Harry’s seems to be cornering the market on brand aesthetics and implied status. In fact, they have to do this because they only own about 9% of the market.

Smart marketing is knowing your position in your industry and exploiting your

A bit more premium from the beginning - speaking the right language
A bit more premium from the beginning – speaking the right language

niche as much as you possibly can. Harry’s seems to be doing just that. What’s most interesting is how much they’re associated with Warby Parker (whom I have written about in the past). Both brands know they can’t just repeat their competitors formula and hope to outsell them, but instead they focus on finding the pockets of people within the market they want to capture and they pursue them with integrity, honesty, and transparency. I say this all the time but when you speak an audiences language they will listen.


This isn’t a paid post for Harry’s – not in the slightest. I just like to point out good branding when I see it and make sure others do the same.

Bottom of the box - I was hoping for a secret compartment.
Bottom of the box – I was hoping for a secret compartment. This was just as good though.

Yes = Yes

When you tell someone, in any business capacity, that you’re going to do something for them, you actually have to do it. The problem for most people is that they think these sort of things don’t always follow them around but they do. If there’s one thing I’ve grown to love as a manager it’s any employee who says they’ll do something and then actually does it. It’s profound how rare that sometimes is.

I’m not taking into account people who legitimately forget things or the occasional slip up. The repeated action of saying you’ll do something or be somewhere and failing to do so immediately moves you into the “only ask them if necessary” pile. And that’s a place that no one should ever want to end up.

So here’s to the people that put themselves up to the task of actually executing and following through, they’re more valuable to a business than most realize.


Yesterday I failed and didn’t get a post up. The truth is it was a busy day at work and a friend I don’t get to see that often wanted to grab dinner. I could have hurried something and gotten a post up just to get a post up. Instead, when I got home around 11, I decided that there wasn’t anything to contribute and today was a failure. Instead of treating this as a mistake, I remembered that all failure is feedback. And what was this failure feedback? Plan ahead, plan ahead, plan ahead.

I knew I’d be tired after going out. I knew I’d be tired after work. I knew I’d be tired if I didn’t have anything written before 10. But I didn’t plan ahead and I let a good time get in the way. Am I upset that I hung out with a friend? Not at all, it was much needed relaxation. The lesson though is knowing yourself well enough to know that you won’t get anything done if you don’t do it by a certain point.

When you think about it, most lessons go back to the dip and stopping before you start.

Good Emails

This isn’t new but it’s something that I always keep with me in my career: “Will they miss you if you’re gone?”

I learned this one through a weekly email I used to send out that actually converted somewhat well. It started out with a whole plan about creating a character and a story but it just never panned out. The work wasn’t necessary, the email had a low open rate, and I honestly started to think that people weren’t reading it. So one weekend I decided to not send it and see if it even caused a mild ruckus, or even had one person ask for it. Not a soul wondered what happened to it.

If you’re going to push through the dip you have to know what you’re getting yourself into before you start. I didn’t plan and I wasn’t prepared to make things happen. Lesson learned. Always push, always grow.


Sometimes change is the exact thing a company needs. Sometimes change is the exact thing that you need to grow. Marketers, especially growth focussed ones, are always talking about Product Market Fit but sometimes we don’t think about Company Market Fit. If you’re company isn’t willing to change for the better then maybe it’s time for a change of attitude or scenery?

What’s the point in continuing if you’re not growing? There isn’t one.


Every day is a new opportunity to grow like it’s no ones business. If you don’t want to grow, don’t, leave it to people who do.

A mentor of mine once told me that any project he does he intentionally plans to go above and beyond what’s reasonable. It sounds pointless at first but while everyone is hitting 75% of their meager goals he was hitting 75% of an outrageous one. Meaning everyone’s making 1,000,000 while he’s making 10,000,000 shooting for 15.

It’s not easy, it’s not safe, but when people want something done, guess who they call?

Also, read this book.


I’m really excited to be participating in the Your Turn Challenge next week! For those that don’t know it’s basically Seth Godin and Winnie Kao’s way of challenging us to blog for seven days straight. We’ll be tweeting about it daily (or tumblr-ing it) while following others who are posting.

On the surface this might seem like a silly or pointless challenge, or, even worse, something that doesn’t have much resonance with marketers but I would argue that it does. Our profession, or any creative profession, needs two components – inspiration and perspiration. It’s a much easier task for us to surround ourselves with things that inspire or move us to be more creative but if we don’t get into the habit of acting on that inspiration and shipping whatever is is we’re doing then it becomes moot.

If you want to learn more then check out this blog post here and get excited to start blogging.

As a challenge to myself I’m going to list out what I hope to accomplish or gain from this exercise:

1. Develop a stronger habit of blogging not for an audience but for myself

2. Get my research game stronger

3. Figure out a way to incorporate basketball into every marketing analogy

4. Ship things on time and ship things often

5. Build my brand

Like I said, I’m really excited about this challenge and really excited about what can come out of it! I’m hoping you’ll take the challenge too and get to blogging. After all, being an effective marketer is like being an effective basketball player: practice often, know yourself, know your game, and shoot every shot you can (ALREADY WORKING ON NUMBER 3).

Oh and last but not least, read some of Seth’s books if you haven’t. They’re not just for marketers but anyone wanting to be a little better at life.