How to Build Your Brand Through Mud…a LOT of Mud

November 19, 2012 View Comments

What is appealing about running for 11.5 miles through mud, dealing with 27 British Special Forces-inspired obstacles, jumping into a pool of ice known as the “Arctic Enema,” and getting shocked by electrified wires?

Well, for many people, quite a bit.

You can read my write-up of the course (on my personal blog), but here I will focus on the marketing angle.

It’s quite possible that the Tough Mudder is an endurance challenge which may just be one of the most tightly-marketed products I’ve come across.

I completed this course back in October in New Jersey (the shocks weren’t that bad) and while the physical requirements got me motivated and the need to challenge myself mentally (and overcome them) gave me a sense of accomplishment, I stood in awe of the marketing and branding prowess.

Know the Target Marketing Intimately

Interestingly enough, it was while watching Bloomberg TV that I first heard about this event and, as the CEO explained it, he demonstrated a better understanding of his core market than most people could.

“We believe that there are a lot of people out there who are looking for a challenge. They don’t want to do a 3 mile mud run and drink beer-though there’s nothing wrong with that-and an Ironman is more than they want, since they don’t want to quit their jobs.  It’s giving people a challenge both physically and mentally.”

That was enough to get me interested, but it showed lesson #1, as always, understand your core market.

Build the Desired Identity at Every Turnspacer

As you get more and more into the Tough Mudder experience, you notice a consistent tone, a slight attitude that says, “hey, this race isn’t for everyone, so if you don’t have what it takes, that’s fine.”

They slightly dis their competition and they do what they can to cultivate an identity of the brand.

And when I say “an identity,” I don’t mean just how the pages look (that’s the obvious part), but the feel. There is a definitely “us” versus “them” and to be an “us,” you have to earn it.  For example, they talk about the Tough Mudder headband…but you can’t buy it, you only earn it by completing the race.

There’s an edge to the humor, in the copy , the email, and on the course, with signs that say “Don’t Whine, Kids Whine” and “If you’re tired, keep running.”  Throw in a strong connection to the military and the Wounded Warrior project and you get a bit of machismo, but also a respect for commitment, camraderie, and, well, grit.

Everything…and I mean, everything, including the partnerships (Under Armour and Dos Equis) is carefully cultivated to reinforce the message that “there’s a unique type of person who is part of this brand.”

My personal favorite (and I admit that I love the Dos Equis guy) was the poster with his face on it that said, “If you have to sign a waiver, it’s probably worth it.”

The waiver, by the way, is actually called on the website, “The Death Waiver.”

Build Community

By making people commit to the “Tough Mudder Pledge” which included “it’s not a race, but a challenge” and, basically, “No Man Left Behind,” they deliberately foster a sense of community among all of the participants.  You earn the t-shirt, you earn the headband, you earn the badge on your Facebook profile. From then on, you are in the fraternity (well, about 30% of the participants are women, but whatever) of people who have done it…You get the street cred (thanks to the reinforcement of the TM corporate team) and you are connected.

And, guess who fuels the growth of the brand from there?

Yep…Word of Mouth and Community all stemming from a remarkable experience.

And they augment with huge amount of Facebook advertising…to amplify their fans’ passion.

Now, enjoy the video…and yes, I am doing another one in April.


Must Use Password Management Tool

November 15, 2012 View Comments

I cannot recommend this tool highly enough.

It's called LastPass and it plugs right into your browser, syncs across multiple devices, and most importantly, makes it ridiculously easy to securely save all of your passwords.

What's more, you can share your password with friends without actually giving them the password.

Say, I want to let you log in to some site that I use (maybe register my kid for camp, I don't know).

Instead of emailing you the password (not so good), I "LastPass" it to you. You accept it and can log in...but you never actually know the password.

What's more, it's allowed me to get more secure in choosing my passwords and remember the various iterations I use or must (1 cap, 1 number, 1 symbol or whatever).

Seriously, I love it.



Ford, the Publisher…and a Sneak Peak at Your Marketing Future

November 12, 2012 View Comments

There’s been a lot of speculation that companies (of all sizes) need to move into “brand journalism” and think of themselves as “publishers,” with a responsibility for good content.

Most haven’t, but we’ve seen a few that have started.

Here’s a really interesting effort by Ford to drive (pun intended) that effort forward.

I think this has potential, depending on how it ends, but it is a sign of more things to come.

For a crash course intro to the idea, see this post on Coke.

HT: Matthew Woodget



Are You Honest or Dishonest?

November 9, 2012 View Comments

Most likely, you are dishonest.

Here’s why…in a great 11 minute video by Dan Ariely (his previous book reviewed here).

Good can do something about it for yourself…and to protect yourself from others.

HT to David Berkowitz


How to Identify Snail Mail Spam

November 6, 2012 View Comments

This is so darn smart, I'm just upset I didn't think of it first.

My friend and fellow JHU Blue Jay, Ray Wang of Constellation Research, has a brilliant system for identifying which companies sell his name to others.

He uses the "Address 2" line to identify the company to which he is giving his info. 

So, for example, he'll write "United Airlines-Spam" or "Verizon-Spam"

The Address 2 line is not subject to mail verification, so it always works.

Then, when he sees a piece of mail coming with that on the address, he knows who sold it.

Before he throws it away, he can call the company and give them a choice:

"Take me off your list or get sued. Your call."

Love it.


How to Show Your LinkedIn Street Cred

November 2, 2012 View Comments

This should have been obvious, but it wasn't. 

Want to earn some "street cred" in the social media world by showing what an early adopter of LinkedIn you were?

Click on your own "View Profile" link.

In the URL, you will see a number...that's what number you were to join LinkedIn.

Now you know why I am proud of mine: 

What's yours?


Ever Take A Trip to Abilene?

October 29, 2012 View Comments

Talking to my friend and loyal NSM reader, Marc Sanders over coffee the other day (thanks again for the latte, Marc), I was introduced to a new management concept.

The ill-conceived “Trip to Abilene.”

It’s when we all do something even though none of us actually want to do it.

Read the full story on Wikipedia.

A good “made to stick” story to help prevent me from getting stuck in the future.


MUST READ BOOK: Imagine-How Creativity Works

October 24, 2012 View Comments

Ever found yourself staring at your computer screen trying to come up with an answer to a vexing question that requires some insight or fresh thinking?

Turns out, you’re probably better going off to take a shower.

Long-time readers know that along with marketing, my other passion is innovation. Heck, I bought the domain “Never Stop Innovating” as well.

But, it’s bigger than that.

The key to growth, longevity, and profits lies in innovation. And even bigger than that is that the future of American competitiveness requires it as well.

Which is why you MUST pick up Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer.

I was entranced by it from the git-go, as I learned how the two sides of the brain complement each other in creative thought, why we need to actively cultivate both of them, and how to do it.

  • You should force yourself to meet new people, out of your traditional circle. In fact, growing your network may be one of the best things you can do for your own creativity.

    According to one study, “the highest performing employees-those with the most useful new ideas-were the ones who consistently engaged in the most interactions.”
  • Take a step away from your desk and go for a walk, a run, or take a shower. You don’t work on an assembly line. You are paid for creativity and these are ways to help connect the dots in your mind.
  • Foster dissent instead of group think. 
    In fact, “beginning a group session with a moment of dissent-even when the dissent is wrong, can dramatically expand creative potential.”

Bottom line: if creativity and innovation is important to you for your career and for your children’s future (that was rhetorical, my friends), then I HIGHLY recommend you read this book.

Highly recommend.

Imagine: How Creativity Works


How Microsoft Does Remarkable Hardware

October 21, 2012 View Comments

I’ll say this…if my friends at the Microsoft hardware team were responsible for all of Microsoft’s product design, you guys would have a different perspective on the company.

Now, full disclosure, I did get these products for free. I did not promise a review of any kind or a favorable review.

Here’s the thing about hardware on a computer.

Most of us spend a lot of time thinking about software, apps, operating systems, etc.

However, the things we touch most are the keyboard and mouse (at least on a desktop) and they are critical factors in terms of productivity.

If you spend a lot of time in front of a PC, it’s worth thinking about your keyboard/mouse configuration and I have to say, in this unexpected arena, the folks at Microsoft are doing a solid—and bonus points for great packing.

The Mice

In the mouse category are two new entrants.

  • Microsoft Wedge Touch Mousespacer
  • Microsoft Sculpt Touch Mouse

Both of them are Bluetooth enabled, which is really slick. No more wires and no more USB connectors that can get lost or broken. This is a big deal, particularly for travelers.

Now, the Wedge is supposed to be the upgrade for my old standby, the Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse, but for me, it didn’t make the grade. It was too small and I had a difficult time getting used to it. Plus, my previous mouse was (and is) just phenomenal, so I didn’t want to give it up.

The Sculpt, however, made a very strong case to be either a backup travel mouse (yes, I use those) or a 1st-tier desktop mouse. Now, it doesn’t work so well on my main machine (I have 4 monitors, so need a trackball), but on other machines, it is quite solid.


Not only does it work with an Android tablet, if you want it to, it works on any surface, so no more trackpads. It’s smooth, comfortable, and really easy to use to navigate in 4 directions. Worth a look.

The Keyboards

Whereas the mice were very good, the keyboards in this batch are special.

The Microsoft Sculpt Comfort Keyboardspacer is a thing of ergonomic beauty. It’s light, wireless, and thin. Think thin crust pizza here.  You can switch it between traditional and Windows8 special keys and they even have thought of something really unique…the ability to move the backspace key (the 2nd most frequently used key on the board after the space bar) to a different position (next to the space bar), so you don’t have to move your hands as much.

Clearly, a TON of thought went into this and it shows. Worth a look.

The surprise winner for me of all of them was the Microsoft Wedge Mobile Keyboard, which I had the nerve to connect via Bluetooth to my iPad, while sitting on the Microsoft campus. Yes, I know. Gumption.

But what my friends at MSFT hardware have recognized is that they can make a GREAT device that is small, compact, portable, comes with a stands for your tablet (they want it to be a Surface, but are prepared to help you with anything) and has battery life to boot.

So, if they can make it, they might as well and they might as well play nicely with everyone else.

The single biggest issue for me since the beginning with my iPad/Tablet has been that I can’t write long messages on it. I’ve seen a bunch of other keyboards, but this one (if you are a tablet owner and in need of a portable keyboard, in particular), is the best.

Bottom Line 

Whatever you choose (or none at all), I would encourage you to take a step back and think about your hardware configuration on what is surely multiple devices. They can be a huge productivity differentiator for you.

My favorite thing of all of them? The AA batteries come included spacer


How to run faster than the speed of light…

October 17, 2012 View Comments

I just love this race idea and I love the marketing lesson it teaches all of us.

Check out

You start at 1:50am on Sun. morning Nov. 4th for a 5k.

Then, because the clocks fall back at 2am due to Daylight Savings Time, you finish before you started (unless you are ridiculously slow, I suppose).

Of course, I am doing it. I’m hoping for a time of negative 35 minutes spacer

But what I really love is how the race organizers saw something that we all take for granted (the clocks falling backwards) and asked themselves…”what can we do to take this unique moment and make it worth talking about?”

So, they appealed to runners who always want to run faster.

Then, they partner with a good cause (supporting veterans) and Old Navy (who are giving away Pajama pants).

Often times, the a word of mouth moment sits in front of us for years and we don’t even realize it.

These guys did.

Tweet is neither affiliated with the authors of this page nor responsible for its contents. This is a safe-cache copy of the original web site.