There are a number of brand strategy consultants out there I hold in high regard. They totally get insights and market conditions, are quick studies in business categories, have keen understanding of meaningful metrics, and possess indefatigable bullshit barometers. Sadly, I’m seeing a trend among this crew where they are reinventing and repositioning themselves away from pure brand work into other aligned areas. Customer experience. Team optimization. Digital transformation. Culture plotting.

Why is this?

Well, that’s what the market sparks to. Most marketers and business owners don’t think they need a brand strategy. They want measurable results on sales. Higher top line and lower bottom lines.  What they don’t understand is that those things are directly tied – or can be tied – to a smart brand strategy. When you define brand strategy as “an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging” you begin to understand how brand strategy can impact bottom lines. And top lines.

Tomorrow I’ll share some business metrics side-by-side with brand metrics. I encourage you to tell me which are more actionable.

Peace.

 

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I was riding my bike yesterday and noticed the name on the handlebars grips, the same name as a sign I pass daily on the fence of a marine store: Yeti.  The signage got me thinking about media placement and how it might be supercharged by placing logos on things we love to do and places we love to go. This intuitively happen anyway to a degree. Smith sunglasses at the ski resorts. Bunger Surfboards near the beach.  We might call this point-of-use branding, as opposed to point-of sale, where one buys the goods.

But what about just putting your logo near favorite places?  Parlay the positive feelings one has for a place or situation and attach them to your brand. Placing Coke ads where a consumer might need refreshment is certainly smart and an example of point-of-use. But how about placing a Coke logo near Dominic’s restaurant on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx or atop the Jupiter Bowl in Park City, Utah?

Brand where your customers and prospects are positively Zenned out.  Peace.

   

 

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$17,500 is the number I use as my brand strategy fee. It covers one month of work and a brand strategy. A brand strategy is here defined as An organizing principle for product, experience and messaging.  The brand strategy itself comprises “One claim, three proof planks.” What’s a proof plank, you ask?  A homogeneous array of consumer value examples.  I’ve been using $17,500 as a fee for close to ten years; it’s time for rate increase.

Starting February, the monthly rate will climb to $20,000. Inquires fielded before February will hold old pricing.

Many small companies spend scores or thousands of dollars on advertising and marketing. Larger companies hundreds of thousands. And most do so without a brand strategy. Without an organizing principle. Those who invest in a brand strategy make the best one-time investment of their business lives.

A pittance in the total scheme of things.

Peace.  

 

 

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Yesterday, for a friend at Reputation Management, I wrote about brands and reputation management. Today, I’m going to take a crack at “malicious comments and trolls.”  I was director of marketing at Zude back in 2006-08, a web start-up in the social computing space. We were a drag-and-drop web authoring tool — that the brand brief referred to as “the fastest easiest way to build a website.”  Zude earned Robert Scoble’s demo of the year and we had lots of big stories on Tech Crunch, Read Write Web, Giga Om, ZDNet and more. When you get that type of pub it brings out the trolls.

Dave Berlind a key blogger and confidant at the time, told us “Correct false information immediately, but don’t get dragged in to long harangues.”  Some people just love to type and argue. Don’t give them a forum. Another time, when director of marketing at an education company – and trust me educators like to type and argue – I was careful to allow different points of view, but never attempted to tit-for-tat them. Trolls bore easily and will find new people to pester.

In Social Media Guard Rails, is a key caution that applies to trolls and malicious comments, “Don’t anger the angry.”  It’s good advice.

Peace.

 

 

 

 

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The company Reputation Management has asked me to comment on how a brand can bounce back from poor online reviews.

I believe it’s best to leave them up. As hard and painful as it is, it’s “real world” online commerce. Not everyone is a super model. Not everyone bats .400. To err is human.  How you overcome quality or service problems dictates how you improve. If a product has flaws, fix them. Or acknowledge why they happen. When Chipotle made people sick, it acknowledged “farm to table” is not easy. Healthier is not easy. And they changed.

When Marmot, known for quality in winter gear, gets a bad review, it isn’t defensive, it works even harder to make better product.

Today, if an e-commerce site doesn’t have poor reviews people know it’s been cleaned.

Also, a strong brand strategy (one claim, three proof planks) is also a good way to maintain reputation.  Using an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging feeds the market the information it needs to understand your product. When care-about and good-ats align, brands are hard to tear down. When you simplify and strengthen your value, a few disorganized comments won’t hurt. They just make you real.

Peace.

 

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Meryl Streep closed her Golden Globe acceptance speech with “Take your broken heart, turn it into art,” a borrow from Carrie Fisher. As I dried my tears after watching Ms. Streep I thought about my craft and how important feelings are in brand strategy.  When writing a brand brief, I tend to go long form. Creatives say they don’t like this, but it’s how I work. As I work through it, if my brief is flaccid and too business heavy it goes in the trash.  I know when a brief is working because I start to feel something.  

There’s an old advertising axiom, “Make them feel something then do something.”  It works in strategy too.

Like all good writing a good brief evokes a response. When my blood pressure changes, when I go flush, giggle or smile, I know I’m onto something. In a zone. More importantly, I know my clients and content creators will feel it.

Meryl Streep is more than a great actor she a wonderful evoker.  Brand strategy is meant to package or direct how consumers evoke. Those who purchase while feeling are much more apt to remain loyal.

You feel me?                                                                

Peace.

 

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Many brand planners, by title, do the daily strategic work of advertising agencies: “Let’s write a brief for a new customer acquisition program,” for instance.  At What’s The Idea?, I concern myself with work at the root level.   I work on the master brand strategy; the brand “claim and proof planks” that drive all aspects of marketing.  Important as tactics are, they only support and bring to life the master strategy.

Master strategy is brand planning at is most scientific. Done right, it is measurable and predictive of results. But, I’ve just come to learn planning is just that – planning. Only when the plan is followed, activated and enculturated can it work. When not followed, when not complied with, it lays fallow.

Hence “Brand Engineering.”  Brand engineering goes beyond planning. It take a plan through to implementation.  Brand engineering rolls out the plan – insuring understanding and adherence.  When a brand strategy is understood it frees brand managers, agents and consumers alike to participate.

Smart brand consultants get this.  Landor and Interbrand make brand books about this – textbooks really — to explain how to live by the brand. But, sadly, they sit on selves more often than not.

Stay tuned from more thinking on brand engineering. It’s going to be a thing.

Peace.

 

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D2C.

If you are a CEO in the mall business or major retailer, you had better quit your day job (as you know it) and start making some serious plans. Amazon is eating your lunch. And breakfast and dinner. I see a future for car dealerships. They had better ready themselves for the time when cars will not be bought on lots, but online.

We’re not that far away from virtual reality as a marketing tool and when it hitsit will accelerate direct-to-consumer purchasing. Amazon is fixing the same day deliver problem – one reason to buy in-store — and VR will allow user to try/experience products without a store visit. So buckle your seatbelts.

If you sell anything and are not thinking about direct-to-consumer, you’re napping. If you are thinking about ways to lead your category into direct-to-consumer, you will have an early windfall.

So get with it marketers. Get on the D2C bandwagon.

Peace.               

 

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What I love about the U.S. government is its design. Checks and balances keep governance fluid. Every few years an election comes along that topples the status quo. As a brand planner I’m always the optimist, always looking for the good. The new regime in the US government was a euphoric cleansing for some and a devastating punch in the gut to others.  Let’s hope the euphoric side does smart things.  Because this is America and the gut punch side will be in power again. Once the “guts” get over their anger, sadness and disbelief, they’ll be energized like never before and set the cycle of democracy moving again.

This reminds me a bit of the ad agency business. When business is good everyone is happy. Things purr along and growth begets growth.  Then stasis and comfort set in. People become complacent and losses occur. It’s Darwinian.

Whether government or the ad agency business, we must constantly manage progress. Not take it for granted. Sharks know this. That’s not to say you have to hump 24/7, but you do have to keep moving with an eye toward the future. Otherwise you allow the rhythm or democracy to take its course. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just a thing.

Peace.

 

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Many years ago I learned a trick about advertising from Brendan Ryan, president of FCB/Leber Katz, in NYC. One day he asked the AT&T Network Systems account team to paper the walls with the current campaign. The headline for each as we “Are You Ready.” Network Systems sold the 5E switches to phone companies that powered American communications. So paper the walls we did.

Mr. Ryan walked around the plush conference room reading sub-heads, looking at visual and dashing through copy here and there. He pointed to campaign outliers and confirmed what he thought to be the idea. Neat trick. Neat way to level-set the idea.

Fast forward 25 years to an era when communications manifest across more channels than we ever perceived, some with control, many with none. If you were to paper the walls with the myriad comms we generate today, you’d have a messy, messy room. A walk around that room  would remind you why an “organizing principle for product, experience and messaging” is critical. Otherwise known as a brand strategy.

So me droogies, paper your walls with your internal and external comms and see what-ith you spew-ith into the consumer realm.

Peace.

 

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