What comes first the brand strategy or the egg?  The question is particularly germane when brand planning for a service company whose deliverables are people, paper, process and transaction.  Does the strategy inform the service or the service inform the strategy? Almost always the answer is the latter.

When you work on this kind branding initiative the care-abouts and good-ats are numerous and varied – way more so than with a packaged good.  One of the areas I like to delve into with service companies is “tradition.” Not something you can do a deep dive on with  start-ups by the way. Borrowed from my early days in cultural anthropology, “custom and tradition” are fertile areas of study and important brand contributors. When there are none, things get tricky but you must push forward. Even into aspiration land. Projection techniques can provide unrealistic results but the learning is important.

I don’t currently have a “tradition” question in my discovery rigor, though there is one in the neighborhood. Definitely time to add tradition to the mix.

Peace…in Syria.

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Tools and Rules.

Yesterday I was watching a video entitled “How to Use Periscope Like A Pro” and about 3 minutes in the speaker mentioned the #1 rule for success: “Know your brand.”  Good advice. “Think about your brand, your message, your topic, your expertise,” was the speaker’s advice.

Know your brand (strategy) is how all brands must operate, be they on Periscope, 60 Minutes or Instagram.  The “B” word is easy to talk about in theory but not so much in practice. 90 out of 100 times the brand has no plan.  

Thanks to marketing’s social media and digital avalanche, we have tons of new tools and tool vendors. Read Twitter some time and see home many rule and tool providers are out there. Their Tweets all have numbers in the first sentence. “7 ways to..” and “15 surefire tactics to…”

Know your brand is good advice, being able to articulate it clearly, succinctly and in a meaningful way, is hard.  Brand architecture is the provenance of business people. Creating meaningful delivery is that of creative people.  A brand strategy (one claim and three proof planks) bridges the gap.

Only with a tight brand strategy in hand can the tools and rules take on true value.  

Peace.                         

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I took a part time job a couple of years ago doing something I’ve never done before. Sales. Belly-to-belly sales, to be more specific. Quite a departure getting paid to look the consuming public in the eye and pitch.  

“Story” had always been an important part of my marketing life but in this new position, after product knowledge, it became a very close second in terms of my sales effectiveness.

There are two basic kind of stories a salesperson can tell: product-based stories focusing of features, functions and outcomes and entertaining stories tangential to the product. Everyone needs the first to move the merch, but for me the entertaining, humanizing stories were the difference maker. They kept me on my toes and helped engage consumers.

The last two days I was working side-by-side at a trade show with our territory’s best sales person. He is brilliant with customers, performing straight from the sale manual and beyond. At his best he’s jovial, informative, a locomotive of product fact. His stories are all about product. I, on the other hand, used personal stories to pepper my sales. Some self-deprecating, some shared interest, some environmental – the whole gamut.

Turns out, mixing in some entertainment with sales haymakers was a winning combination. Not everyone is an entertainer. I’m no Sebastian Maniscalco.   As Jimmy Breslin taught us, the best way to tell the news is to get out of the building. In sales, the best way to sell product is to get out of the building…and the product is the building.      

Peace.                     

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

In my brand strategy presentation I share real examples. The first couple of minutes are about theory and process then I trot out real client strategies, sans brand name, as they are proprietary.

The first examples, which everyone sees, is wonderfully tight, uncomplicated and easy to reckon. It’s for a commercial maintenance company – the people who keep buildings clean and operational: vacuuming, washing windows, emptying garbage and keeping the grounds in order. This particular commercial maintenance company had no brand. It had a logo, invoices, website and a strong owner.

When all the care-abouts and good-ats were understood and assembled, and the boil down complete, the brand strategy became quite obvious: “The navy seals of commercial maintenance.” The claim was supported by proof planks: fast, fastidious and preemptive.

As brand strategies go – and they are always 1 claim and 3 proof planks – this was a particularly easy metaphor. Not all are this easy. Done well, all brand strategies have a mellifluous quality to them. Almost like a song or hook, constructed out of product or company notes that create pride and desire.

Peace.

PS.  If you’d like to see the presentation, please write Steve@WhatsTheIdea.com

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Proper Profit.

How many corporate marketing plans are created each year using cut and paste?  That is, how many marketing directors open the Excel chart from last year, copy all fields and pasted them into a new worksheet as way to start their budgeting and planning process?  Far, far too many.

Some budget line items will stay the same, others will increase to meet inflation or some corporate dictate, while others are cut. Likely as not, the line items will remain the same year to year. (As will the calculation formulas.) It’s just easier that way.  

Too much of marketing is cut and paste these days. The objectives, the strategies, and the tactical line items.  Few companies want to reinvest in the marketing planning process.  And it’s a mistake. Marketing plans should be revisited in earnest every year. Their depths thoroughly plumbed. Their objectives parsed and reparsed. Strategies discussed and vetted.

New “to task” budgets should be prepared and weighed. And for that to happen there must be serious, accurate and achievable objectives.

Just say no to cut and paste marketing plans. Marketing plans are the blood, bone and sinew of proper profit.

Peace.     

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

I was thumbing through old Quora posts and noticed I had made a ringing endorsement of Google Glass.  “How could it not work?” The medical field alone would be enough to keep it an exciting new product. Wrong!

Many years ago I worked for McCann-Erickson, a top 3 advertising global agency. McCann handled Coca-Cola. They had just brought on a new creative director, Gordon Bowen, who stood before the entire NYC office in the grand ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria and he smilingly told us, “It’s Coke, how hard can it be.” It practically sells itself, he implied. Coke was gone within the year to a group called Creative Artists. A west coast talent agency.

So here’s one for the prognosticators.  Expect to be wrong. Even when you know you are right. Don’t be paranoid, but keep an eye toward the future knowing there are no absolutes.

I love to position myself as a beyond the dashboard planner. It’s where, I believe, the successful marketers need to play. But you get a black eye every now and again. Expect it. Learn from it. Parlay it.

Peace.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

I’ve met some unusually powerful brand advocates over the years. And some not so much. Both are approvers and deniers of advertising and messaging.  One advocate, a telephone company president, killed a Wall Street Journal ad containing a visual of 10 adorable puppies because “Our customers aren’t dogs.” The bad ones approve or deny ads because they like or dislike them. When a client breaks out the like-ometer, the agency is in trouble.  

And then there are clients who kills or approve and ad because they supports generic business or messaging goals such as it generates leads, get more “likes,” or offers ad memorability.  This is better but still poor brand craft.

When a product or service has an active and strong brand strategy, all the yeses and noes are grounded. They’re all strategic. A brand strategy (one claim, three proof planks) gives form and reason to advertising. I’ve never felt bad losing an ad when the brand strategy card was played. Ever.

Brand strategy makes ad craft and brand craft scientific.

Peace.          

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I work with a kitchen remodeling company, Kitchen Magic, that has built a huge business offering something called cabinet refacing. Refacing is half the price of new cabinets because the old cabinet box is kept and a new “face” of wood and doors are attached to the outside.  In an unrelated example, Architectural Record, a venerable consumer and trade magazine, recently underwent a facelift of its own — new design, new cover, new masthead and logo. A rebrand or facelift, as it were.

Rebrands are all about taking something old and updating it. Sometimes it’s cosmetic. Sometimes it’s structural.

In the business of brand strategy, cosmetics and structure are secondary. At least they are at What’s the Idea? The process starts without an endgame in sight.  No architects plans, no site maps. Brand strategy is about as organic and alive as words and idea can be.

Working with a brand, I certainly understand business objectives and sales goals. But what the brand strategy will look like is a complete unknown at the beginning of the project.  The direction and science are not sealed until the paper strategy is complete.

Maybe, that’s why some companies are nervous about brand strategy. And why they prefer facelifts. They want to see what the finished product will look like before they begin.

Peace.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

When Jeff Bezos is quoted as saying future Earthlings will be living in space – as he did in an article in today’s newspapers – was he tripping? I don’t think so.  It’s probably going to happen. Just as there will be self-driving cars and a cure for cancer. But the likelihood that Blue Origin, his space travel company, will be around or even contribute to space life is low. This so-called “space shot” bet by one the world’s most brilliant and effective marketers is, however, instructive.

Space shot proclamations are not just the provenance of billionaires. They are for business owner of every stripe and color.  While with Zude, a web start-up, I once proclaimed “In the future every person will have their own website.” And I wasn’t talking about a Facebook page either.

Every good business owner needs to understand the blocking and tackling of business “today,” but also they must see the “future.”  Only then can they help shape the future.

When a pizza parlor owner says s/he will make the best tasting pizza in town, then buys ingredients from Restaurant Depot with all the other pizza shops, that’s blocking and tackling; it’s not a moon shot. The best brand builders and marketers desire the future. It keeps them up at night and sometimes makes for wonderful dreams.

Peace.   

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Probably the most overused work in marketing the last 5 years is disruption. Maybe the last 10 years.  If you were to put all the marketing conference speeches given since 2010 into a cull rack and block from falling through the ones with “disruption” in the title, you’d have a stack a mile high. Google SXSW speeches, book titles or blog posts.

Do you want to know something that is truly disruptive? Brand strategy. Huh?  Brand strategy.  Everybody has one they’ll tell you, but no one can articulate it. Not clearly.  Because brand strategy means so many things to so many people, it has become a nonentity. A quagmire within a morass.

Here’s the deal: A brand strategy is an “Organizing principle for product, experience and messaging.” Nothing less. The framework for such is “One Claim and Three Proof Planks.” Nothing less. And certainly, nothing more.

If you’d like to truly disrupt your business. If you’d like to make clear and easy marketing decisions. If you’d like to measure effectiveness with almost binary simplicity, consider a brand strategy. (And this is not a packaged goods thing. It’s a marketing thing.)

Peace.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

« Older entries