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mStoner’s First Law of Branding


mStoner’s First Law of Branding

Nov 04, 2010By Michael Stoner

Let’s get right to the point: “Everything is connected to everything else.”

I often begin conference presentations about social media by talking about this concept. To me, “Everything is connected to everything else” means that what you tweet about should be connected to what you post in Facebook. Not the same, mind you, but connected.

And while I’ve had insights before about how this is as true of brand strategy as it is of social media [and the real world: it happens to be Barry Commoner’s first law of ecology], the connection really hit me this week after a conversation with Ed Sirianno from Creative Communication Associates. Ed and I were talking about a presentation he’s developing for the Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education next week and I had one of those DUH! moments.

Everything is connected to everything else” is the foundation of brand strategy, which social media should support. In an ideal world, anyway.

The conundrum of a .edu brand

Let’s not delude ourselves: in the world of education—which is the world that mStoner serves—institutions are much more alike than they are different. So to market itself effectively, an institution must be clear about what it stands for and what differentiates it from other institutions. Institutions or consultants work hard to determine the essence of those differences and come up with the right language and images to communicate them. Many people think that “branding” is all about the shorthand you use or the stuff you create to package the image: the tagline, the colors, the cool design, the institutional typeface, the advertisements, and other cool stuff.


Real branding is about selecting, cultivating, and communicating what many agencies call “key messages.” [At mStoner, we focus on understanding and telling authentic brand stories; I’ll write a blog post about this topic at another time.]

Back to our first law. Once you identify those important messages/stories, you’ll want to incorporate them into the important channels of communication and interaction for your institution. The more disciplined you are, the more effective you’ll be. Call it “integrated marketing” if you will, but it really is about connecting everything in a systematic way, across multiple channels.

Your website is your most important communication tool, but today your website is part of a much larger ecosystem. The social web is particularly important because that’s where of your institutions target audiences connect and engage—prospective students, parents, alumni, friends, donors, members of your local community, faculty, staff, current students, and so many others spend their time in these spaces. Print and other channels help to reinforce the value of these social web interactions.

Every communication—whether a 2500-word profile in your alumni magazine or a 140-character tweet—should reinforce your brand and work together as an ecosystem bound by a sure knowledge of the stories that are most important for your institution and yours, alone, to tell.

As I said, it’s simple. Once you understand that “everything is connected to everything else.” It’s just putting it into practice that’s difficult.

  • Michael Stoner Co-Founder and Co-Owner Was I born a skeptic or did I become one as I watched the hypestorm gather during the dotcom years, recede, and congeal once more as we come to terms with our online, social, mobile world? Whatever. I'm not much interested in cutting edge but what actually works for real people in the real world. Does that make me a bad person?