I was going over some notes taken during a recent WARC webinar presented by (my boy) Faris Yakob and came across a slide on the customer journey.  I’m a fan of customer journey having created a facsimile I call Twitch Point Planning.  Twitch Point Planning attempts to “understand, map and manipulate a customer closer to a sale.” In effect, it’s a customer journey, but using media twitches.

The WARC presentation on customer journey had a wonderful slide entitled “Start with what customers are doing rather versus what we want to say.”

I love this advice.  It may be the anthropology major in me, but this is just such a rudimentary planning perspective. Everything needs to start with the consumer. As planners we can decide not to heed consumers’ behavioral advice, but we need to understand it.

Consumers first. Peace.

 

 

 

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Meme Metrics.

I’m a big proponent of something I call Meme Metrics. Wikipedia defines a meme as

A meme (/ˈmiːm/ MEEM) is an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture — often with the aim of conveying a particular phenomenon, theme, or meaning represented by the meme.”

As a blogger who tosses crumbs around the web in an effort to draw attention to What’s The Idea? and my marketing consultancy, marketing memes (phrases) are critical.  The metrics referred to in Meme Metrics are straight up Google rankings.  When I’ve done a good job pounding the digital pavement with phrases filled with brand meaning, they propagate.

The more memorable and longer the phrase to more likely it will point back to my website. I’ll show you how it works. My sister’s nickname is EJ.  Google “EJ” and you are likely to get thousands of results. Google the little sing-songy lyric I wrote for my kids to sing to her “EJ the DJ radio personality” and you will find my blog. But not today. Since I’ve never posted this phrase before. All I’ll need to do it post it a few times and it will point directly to my site.

So find a marketing meme, preferably one that is memorable, and put a little digital wood behind it. Meme metrics.

Peace.

 

 

 

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I’ve been on a little discovery jag lately.  When you are a consultant and freelance for ad or branding agencies, you must often use discovery methodologies with which you are unfamiliar. You do it then calibrate your brain to cill the insights needed to write the brief. A brief that may, also, not be yours.

My discovery questions are somewhat static. But when I work for start-ups, there is nothing to discovery about the existing brand – it’s a start up. Other times, I’m working in a category I must learn anew , so I’m learning a business and language while mining brand values. In these cases the discovery question sets have to be developed on the fly.  When I learned about accountable care organizations in a transforming healthcare system, it was for a startup and new type of organizational category.

I’m always on the lookout for new discovery questions and today I’m wondering about a brand weakness question that goes down the “honesty” trail. It will work in any discovery scenario.

“When you are being perfectly honest with yourself, what one _______ (fill in the blank) worries you most.”  The cue of the question is more psychologist than business consultant.  It’s a strengths and weaknesses Q with a more powerful landing strip.

I’ll try it and report back.

Peace.

 

 

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Discovery.  

Radhika Jones was named editor in chief of Vanity Fair magazine yesterday. Vanity Fair is a literary brand with few global peers. Magazine brands like The New Yorker and Vanity Fair have a history of long standing editors, people who sit atop the title for decades. Great magazines get branding. When asked about her plans for Vanity Fair she says she will spend her initial time in discovery.  Immersing. Acculturating. Learning the love.

New GE CEO John Flannery, on the other hand, already has a plan.  Cut, cut, pare.  His board, unlike that of Conde Nast or parent Advanced Publications, expect action not discovery.

Brand planning is a business about discovery. Maybe that’s why, as a business, it offers small category revenue. If you were to add up the revenue of all the branding firms in the world, you’d find maybe $95 million per annum. And if you parsed those bills the lion’s share of that money would likely fall to logo design, naming, style guides and advertising grist. The puniest slice of the pie being discovery.

Brand churn is a result of poor discovery. Advertising and marketing directors “come and go, a powerful brand idea is indelible.”  It all starts with thoughtful and committed discovery. Anyone can slap paint on a canvas. Planned, extensible relevance takes time.

Peace.   

 

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I just read an interesting study on brand recall. The methodology used saw consumers attempt to draw from memory brand logos.  Starbucks, Target, Apple, Adidas, etc. are apparently hard to recreate when asked to put pen to paper. Much easier I would imagine, would be creating logos when given marks and type from a sort board. Visual memory is better than creative memory.

So think about how hard it must be for consumers to identify a brand strategy – the organizing principle for product, experience and messaging. The best brand strategies are embodied in taglines.  Can you sing “We are Farmers, dum, dah dum, dum, dum, dum, dum.”  Of course you can.  Is that a brand strategy? Nope. It’s advertising.

The hard work of the brand strategist, the brand planner and brand manager is getting the value story right…and hammering it home with each dollar. Creating a focused, repeatable product-based “feeling” that endures and sells is what brand strategy is all about.

If consumers can tell you what the brand claim is and explain how the product achieves that claim, that’s branding. Coke is refreshment. Google is instant answers. BMW is exhilarating driving.

Not easy, but can be done with a plan.

Peace.

 

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Before there was Google Maps, before there was Waze, before Siri, we used to be get into cars and drive to places we had never been before, without software.  Only a couple hundred years ago we navigated by trails, celestial guides and landmarks.

Branding is a little old school like this. We create trails that over time become worn and easy to follow.  We branders provide general direction that with navigational tools-of-the-day help move individuals and masses toward our objective, e.g., sight, sounds, smell and other replicable assists.

When there were fewer products and less media choices branding was easier. Less clutter. Also less people touching and managing the sales channel.

Eight to ten years ago I used to rail against pop marketers who boasted how consumers were in control of brands. Not brand managers. Marketing pundits made millions touting this drivel. But consumers can only plot a map to themselves. “Follow me.” Not toward a brand.

Brand planners study consumers, landscapes, general directions and landmarks, then put on their big boy/girl pants and set the trail. A trail that is easy to follow.

Life and branding ain’t a grid. And in today’s digital world it can be even messier.

Peace.

 

 

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Brand planners at agencies have two jobs. One job is to assist with new business strategy where they mine insights that make it easier for consumers to like, want and buy a brand.  The other type of brand planner runs day-to-day tactical business. These are the day-planners.  

Once the master strategy is in place, it is the day-planners job to facilitate creation of marketing stuff. Day-planners crunch data, write briefs and ultimately foster the creative work that carries the revenue metrics. The day planner’s first job should be to support the master brand strategy. They are, however, often more beholden to the tactical or slave strategy (than the master).

What’s The Idea?, focuses mostly on the master brand strategies.  The master strategy is born of an array of proofs. Some might call them truths. I think proof is more accurate. If you make a singular brand claim, what proof have you to make consumers believe it?  In master strategy planning, when enough proofs are identified during discovery they begin to take shape. That shape reverse engineers a claim. That’s master brand strategy (one claim, three proof planks).

With the claim and proof array intact day-planners are looking creating “new proof” or repackaged old proofs to spark the creative work. Both types of planning jobs are important. But without a good master the slave strategy will have no legs.

Peace.

 

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Organizational Design is a shiny new business thing. A number of smart brand planners and digital raconteurs have noticed that many corporations are floundering using old org charts and technology. Old infrastructural assumptions. So these new change agents are hoping to consult their way to new revenue streams as org design consultants.

Ten years ago “Social Business Design” was an inchoate business response to poor organization. It attempted to alter business by using digital social tools.  Those tools turned into software and much of the concept was lost. Sure Slack is a cool social tool. Dashboards and marketing platforms have emerged and evolved – mostly to streamline and cut cost. But organizational design, the recasting of the modern business in a way to make it more responsive, agile and effective, though a fine pursuit has been mostly talk.

My consulting business is a brand consultancy. I make no promised to reorganize your business. But organizational design is a likely and probable outcome. 

Defined as “An organizing principle for product, experience and messaging,” brand strategy has the potential to touch everything: supply chain, customer care, manufacturing quality, hiring, and advertising. All are possible levers in brand strategy. 

Brand strategy ain’t what it used to was.

Peace.

 

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I was shopping at a Sam’s Club in NC a month ago and speaking with a couple of lovely ladies at the customer service desk. Both had holes in their smiles. (I wondered if they smiled as effortlessly as the rest of the population.) Missing teeth is a cue for poor or no insurance. And Sam’s Club, in my community, appeared to index high for workers with poor dental health. Sweeping statement I know.

I’ve spent weeks and weeks at BJs and Costcos in NY and seeing gap-toothed employees was uncommon. Not unheard of, but very uncommon.  It may sounds snooty but I like my food servers and customer care people to have a full mouth of teeth. (Let’s make America great again.)

As a brand guy, I’m thinking employees who exhibit improper dental health in front of customers impacts the brand preference. I’m not going to go too deeply into feelings and associations, e.g., hand washing, personal hygiene, etc. but this employee health oversight must be worth a couple of points of annual revenue. (Read millions of dollars.)

If you don’t care for your employees, why would you care for your customers. 

Come on Sam’s Club. Help a worker out.

Peace.

PS. I do not know for sure that Sam’s Club doesn’t offer dental insurance. I do know, in a research study of one, employees seem to need better dental health.  

 

 

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While Mark Zuckerberg slept in his Harvard bed dreaming about the future of Facebook, do you think he ever wondered if it might be big enough to impact a national presidential election?  I’m guessing not. But he may have.

I was at a start-up called Zuide.com when Zuck had 18M users. Both web apps allowed users to build their own website, but with Zude you used objects. Facebook was database driven. In my dreams, it was understood that social networks could be used for good and evil.

Social network can and will be abused. Even journalistic instruments are abused. When “the people” are in charge of content you have to know fake and manipulative information will happen. So when Twitter, Google and Facebook went to capital hill yesterday, no one should be been surprised spankings would be meted out. Not yesterday, not 10 years ago.

Mr. Zuckerberg should have known it would happen.  Perhaps not to the extent it did. Not to the point where the world’s leading democracy would be soiled…but he knew. And now we all must fix it. People must be responsible too. Just as we now can detect phishing schemes in our email, we must learn to root out false information.  

Shouldn’t have taken so long. Shame on Silicon Valley.

Peace.            

 

 

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