Description: Matthew Kilmurry presents the Good News in a completely unique way – through the lens of modern-day brands. This session on creating a personal Catholic brand will be both inspirational and practical, whimsical and full of anecdotes.
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Sunblock has been the bane of the Kilmurry family vacation experience for as long as we’ve had kids. With six small children, we go through it like water on a hot beach. Inevitably, someone gets sunburned or they cry and wipe their eyes and then cry some more when it begins to sting. My wife, Shannon, finally took to the Internet in search of a solution. She came across an Australian sunblock called Blue Lizard. It was endorsed by a pediatrician (which is the same as a celebrity endorsement) so she gave it a try. It turned out to be everything it claimed to be. Several uses proved it only needed to be applied once and the stinging eyes were gone. Shannon converted from customer to Brand Evangelist. She would have done a commercial for free if she had been asked. She touted the awesomeness of this sunblock to any mom willing to listen on a hot, sunny day. She even converted a few of her friends, offering to make bulk orders to save on shipping. She became the type of customer every company dreams about. She is truly a Brand Evangelist. Heck, on any given sunny day, she might talk with greater ease and enthusiasm about this sunblock than her amazing experience with Jesus and His Church. How many of us can say that about something similar in our own lives? I know I can.
Several years ago I heard a radio ad for a men’s clothing store called Jos. A. Banks that was having a ‘buy one suit, get two free’ sale. I had just taken a job where I would need to wear a suit every day. It was perfect timing. I was skeptical, thinking it a marketing ploy. This sale was a classic example of a rational marketing message. They didn’t appeal to my emotions telling me how distinguished I would look or baiting me with the number of ladies I would score wearing their suits. They appealed directly to my pocket book.
I walked into Jos. A. Banks feeling rather sheepish. I thought for sure the employees would see me and think, “Oh great, another person only here because of the sale. When will this be over?” Instead, I found them very friendly. They took time to ask my suit wearing history and what my upcoming needs were. I told them I would be wearing suits five days a week and currently had none. One of the employees took me over to the rack and showed me suit and shirt options that could be mixed and matched to maximize my purchase so that three outfits could extend over five days. I was thrilled!
Unfortunately, it was just two months later when I bent over to pick up a piece of trash and a small piece of metal extruding from a window a/c unit ripped a strip of material on the upper part of my suit jacket sleeve. What horrible luck, I thought. The buy one, get two free sale was long gone and I had no idea if I could purchase jackets separately or not. Then the thought occurred to me that perhaps they have extra sleeves and could just sew on a new one, salvaging my bargain purchase.
I went back into Jos. A. Banks, this time feeling even more sheepish. Despite how crazy it sounded, I asked if there was a way they could replace just the arm. The employee looked skeptical, but said he would ask the tailor in the back room if my plea was possible. He took my coat, disappeared in the back, and shut the door. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how silly my request sounded. Five minutes later he returned. Only, instead of carrying bad news, he had a brand new suit in his hands. An entire suit! He hung it on the rack and smoothed it out as if preparing for me to take home.
“Do you have a dollar?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I mumbled, dumfounded.
“I’ll need it to put a transaction in the computer,” he said. Apparently every transaction had to be worth something.
It took me a moment to realize I was getting a completely new suit for merely one dollar, two whole months after my original purchase.
You see, like 99% of other businessmen wearing suits, I don’t really know the difference between the material, the cut or the stitching. I only know three things about suits: how they feel, how they fit and the experience I had that day with the customer service rep.
It was an emotional experience that has made me a Jos. A. Banks customer forever.
A brand consists of the things you’ve learned throughout your life – thoughts; pictures and colors; statistics; experiences you’ve both had and not had; smells and tastes; comfort; and speech and everything else – all wrapped into a single emotional experience. All those things and more make up a brand. Humans are simply unable to process all the information we receive in a rational way at the time of decision. As a result, our minds compensate by giving us a lifetime summary that enables us say yes or no. On a daily basis, we make the vast majority of our decisions through these gut feelings, often time leaving behind our better judgment. This manner of decision making is most popularly characterized by buyer’s remorse, which often follows an emotional decision.
Ralph Crosby, founder of Crosby Marketing Communications in Annapolis, Maryland provided with my first understanding of what makes a brand. I arrived fresh from selling my tech startup company that specialized in digital marketing. In the previous six years, I helped a wide range of companies achieve online success through search engine optimization, pay-per-click and online display. Crosby was transitioning from traditional marketing to a world of digital marketing. I was convinced Crosby had it all wrong because of my several years of digital marketing experience. I thought I knew everything.
Ralph soon developed the habit of calling me to his office. He was interested in this new form of marketing, and as a wordsmith, wanted to develop a set of terminology unique to the industry. I clearly remember getting that first invite via email, convinced it would only be a matter of time before the side of the building read Crosby and Kilmurry Marketing.
While I never achieved partnership, the experience gifted me in so many wonderful ways.
Ralph commanded a room. I don’t know whether it was his collective years of experience swirling around him that made every encounter seem heavy or whether it was simply his perfunctory nature. A fifteen-minute meeting with Ralph meant fifteen minutes only. When I walked through his door into his corner office overlooking Annapolis, all confidence drained away. Those visits seemed like trips in a canoe on a white-water river. You crawled in and just hoped for the best.
Meetings with Ralph ended up being some of my best experiences at Crosby. After the first few, I finally mustered up the courage to explain, based on my experience, the differences between the free and paid listings in search engines and why a company like Google was exploding onto the market. He listened carefully and always had new questions at our next discussion.
My view of marketing was myopic. Everything I knew revolved solely around website analytics. But I was missing the bigger picture. It was Ralph who first explained the difference between rational and emotional marketing. I saw firsthand the power of emotional marketing over the next several years.
Achieving, managing and growing a brand is a concept now accepted by both CEOs and checkout counter clerks alike. Brands have exploded on the scene and have become the watch word for our consumer culture. You can easily think of dozens of brands that are a part of your daily life. Many of us display them with pride on our clothes and the cars we drive. You may have also been through brand training as part of your work life. Companies are now requiring it for new employees and, more frequently, as refreshers every year of employment.
So, as Catholic Christians, what can we learn from brands? Do we push them aside because of their secular concepts or are there practical applications to be used by us as followers of Christ?
First, it’s important to note that brands has always been around. There is no person or organization that comes close to the success achieved by Jesus and the Catholic Church He established. Of course along with Jesus came the ever-present help of the Holy Spirit guiding and empowering – now that’s something Steve Jobs and Apple would have killed for!