Hey geeks! Think everyone knows what you’re talking about? Think again.

This is a message from one geek to another. I was raised on computers as a teenager in the mid 80’s, capsule and have been on the Internet since before browser technology made it easy for everyone in the 90’s, website like this the question seems pretty straightforward: “what is a browser?” But in April, when Google staffers from the Chrome browser team asked that question of people in New York’s Times Square, they were shocked with what they found out.

Less than 8% of people interviewed knew what a browser was

It isn’t scientific at all, but it makes the point very strongly. You can hear people struggling to distinguish between a search engine, an operating system, office software, and a browser.

And the results are repeatable as you can see in this video from Rotterdam (Dutch with English commentary) – which means we also can’t dismiss the people in the Google video as just dumb Americans /  New Yorkers / etc. Dutch people are pretty smart – and Dutch Canadians even more so (editor’s note: may be some bias here).

The Googlers were trying to figure out how to get people to switch to the Google Chrome browser, but they couldn’t even start the conversation because most normal Internet-using humans don’t even know what a browser is.
To their credit, Google has now gone back to basics with a simple site called www.whatbrowser.org that breaks it  down for the average human (if they care enough to visit).

The results seem incredible to me (because I’m a geek)

As a geek, I naturally assume that because I know what a browser is, so does everyone else, right? And if they don’t, they must be uneducated, luddites, or just totally out of touch. I’m like the mechanic who assumes that everyone knows what a catalytic converter is – because we all drive cars that have them.

But it’s not true. Most people don’t know because they don’t care what the technology is called. They just want to perform their daily tasks and would prefer the technology to be as invisible as possible. 

Three problems this example highlights for branders

I coach executives and companies on sharpening their elevator pitches – 30-second verbal descriptions of their companies or products. And these are smart people too. But one of the first problems we almost always have to overcome is this:

Problem 1: We assume that our listeners know more about our subject area than they actually do.

They don’t. I think it’s because we don’t want to insult the intelligence of the listener by explaining things that seem obvious to us. So we jump straight in at the deep end, using all of the same catch phrases and jargon that we use with internal colleagues.

I catch myself doing this all the time when talking about some obscure brand strategy model, and then have to consciously take a few steps back before I lose my audience.

Problem 2: The audience doesn’t want to seem stupid, so they won’t interrupt and reveal their ignorance.

Just because they’re nodding their head doesn’t mean they get it. Find ways to figure out where they are on the learning curve and help them along it – in terms that make sense to them.

All of which leads to:

Problem 3: If your audience never gets past basic understanding, you’ll never get to the next level.

Forget about “positioning”, “marketing” and “brand awareness”. Especially forget about “sales”. If they don’t have a category for you in their brain, they’re not buying.

They probably don’t even know you exist.

Announcing: Ottawa Brand Strategy Boot Camp – August 27

Registration has just opened for the August edition of our successful Beg to DIFFER Brand Strategy Boot Camp – brought to you by the Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation (OCRI) and Brandvelope Consulting.

Wide angle - brighter
Dennis fields questions at the last OCRI Beg to DIFFER Brand Strategy Bootcamp in May 2009.

generic Helvetica, information pills sans-serif; FONT-SIZE: +3″>Register here at the OCRI Web site.

This  boot camp is for all managers and executives with marketing, PR, or communication responsibility–whether in technology, government, not-for-profit, or other industries.  Basically, if you manage a brand and want to learn how to manage it for maximum connection and value (for your customers and for yourself) this boot camp is for you.


Thursday August 27, 2009


Nepean Sailing Club 3259 Carling Avenue

Two Options:

OPTION 1: Half-Day Bootcamp – morning only

  • 8:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. – Registration and Coffee
  • 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. – Seminar 

OPTION 2: Full-Day Bootcamp

  • Morning seminar (as above), plus:
  • 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. – Lunch
  • 1:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. – Hands-on Workshop

Why you should attend:

Reason 1: morning session

Dennis at front -square
Morning Session provides theory, practical case studies, & tips

This seminar provides a great overview of three important topic areas for all Brand Managers:

  • What is a brand, and why is it important? You’re being branded one way or the other; we’ll help you take control.
  • The building blocks of brands. How to analyze, develop, and leverage the different facets of corporate strategy to ensure that your brands are making the right promises, and following through.
  • Brand management. How to use the brand elements and marketing tools at your disposal to manage your image in the minds of consumers. How to be a brand stickler without being seen as a “brand cop”. How to get your colleagues to live the brand.
  • Reason 2: afternoon workshop (only for full-day participants)

    Afternoon workshop (available only to full-day bootcampers) is more interactive, and involves hands-on critique of your brand.

    In this smaller-group setting, you’ll get a chance to apply the theory from the morning to your brand and get help from other participants and the workshop leaders.  The workshop will allow you to do a point-by-point inspection all the aspects of your brand. But note that the afternoon is for active participants only; be ready to give and take constructive feedback.

    Reason 3: Take-aways

    All participants will receive 1) Beg to DIFFER Brand Strategy Workbook  plus, full-day participants will also get 2) a personalized assesment of your brand strengths and challenges.

    Reason 4: Beautiful setting

    Nepean Sailing club is at 3259 Carling Avenue, just West of Andrew Haydon Park – only a short drive from downtown and Kanata. This venue offers stunning scenery and a relaxed atmosphere – we took the photo below from just outside the conference room. It’s the perfect place to spend a late August day gearing your brand up for the fall. Google Map here.

    Back deck
    Boot Camp will be held at the beautiful Nepean Sailing Club - 3259 Carling Avenue on Lac Deschênes near Andrew Haydon Park

    Reason 5: don’t take our word for it

    “I thoroughly enjoyed the day and want to thank you and your colleagues for your efforts. I believe this seminar is a definite requirement in the Ottawa area and you have already put in place many of the cornerstones to build on to make this a truly awesome and interactive event for new and seasoned brand management professionals.”

    Dan Chaput
    Director, Marketing Communications
    March Networks

    Register here at the OCRI Web site.