January 2017

You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2017.

Alphabet, the holding company parent of Google, just announced earnings and they were amazing. Microsoft, too, announced earnings with which they were quite happy following some tumultuous, leggy years.  I’m no economist so the difference between revenue, net income and post-tax profit are a bit beyond me but I will make one observation, software is back and cloud computing is the haps, to quote Dave Robicheaux’s pal Cletus.

Of course, we still have to make stuff we can sit on (furniture), wear, eat and communicate with (telecoms), but it seems the business of hosting and information access is as profitable as ever. The margins associated with software and cloud computing are killer. The margins on content aren’t bad but a distant second. Companies like Google and Microsoft are closer to “pure play” software and hosting companies than most. Salesforce.com too. Companies like Verizon, on the border of a deal with Yahoo! (content), and Netflix, smitten by Hollywood, are drifting away from their core – software and hosting.

For investors, code and iron are looking more and more attractive.

Peace.

 

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Farhad Manjoo, The New York Times tech writer, wrote today “Thanks to automation we now make 85% more goods than we did in 1987, but with only two-thirds the number of workers.”

Well, automation has had a profound effect on the advertising business too. Specifically Google and programmatic ad buying. The algorithm (Google) and ad buying servers that issue media bids in microsecond have removed thousands of people from the business of creating and placing ads.

These two automation facts are not alternative.

So what must we do to slow the robots?  It’s going to be hard to out-think them. But perhaps we can out-emotion them. Out-strategize them. There’s a saying I like to trot out every once and a while “Just when you think you know something about this business, someone comes along and proves you wrong.” Why is that?  Because intuitive rules don’t always work. Science says they should, but people don’t buy that way. People are people. We’re random.

So don’t worry about the robots, worry about your buyer. Engage them in new and exciting ways, and you will outlive the machine.

Peace.

 

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I’m not against storytelling. It’s an important part of my business. When collecting information to build brand strategy I hunt for stories and often tell stories to get others to open up. But in and of itself, a story won’t do shit for a brand. Especially, if it’s off-piste.

Storytelling is a pop marketing topic many brand consultants rest upon.  My “brand-ar” goes off when I hear someone use the term; it suggests they’re blowing marko-babble smoke.

Think of storytelling as the code and brand strategy as the app. The app being the meaningful, useful tool.

Brand strategy done right is about claim and proof — packaged into a discrete organizing principle for product, experience and messaging.

Stories and storytelling are communications tools, not strategy tools.

Peace.

 

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Always Right.

No one likes someone who is “Always Right.”  That is, unless you are in a marketing meeting.

I have not worked for many people who earned this sobriquet — they are certainly not legion — but from those who have, I have learned a lot. The Always Right do not cudgel you with their views, they lead you; offering logic and support. And even when they drift into subjective supports you believe them because, well, they believe them.

The Always Right are not flawless. They just seem so. They know the data. They know the science. They understand the business. And they share that knowledge. That said, no one is perfect. It is marketing, after all.

The polar opposite of the Always Right is the “vacillator.” The “consensus builder.”  The “circuitous discusser.”   

Aspire to be Always Right. Listen, learn, process and decide. Don’t spout before you’re ready.  Don’t spout when you are not sure. But have a position.

Peace.

 

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Most brand strategists are insight doctors. Insight detectives.  Consumer behavior and motivation are their daily gruel. It’s a wonderful living. It’s like being a psychotherapist but without all the focus on negatives. I am a brand strategist of a different color. Certainly I can find insights with the best of them. Also I can write actionable projects briefs but my real job is in casting the master brand strategy. I plan the house while most brand strategists decorate the rooms.

A large brand, on any given day, may have 20 assignments in play across 5 agencies. That’s a lot of briefs. It’s not effective to have so many re-inventors and it’s not cost-effective.

I don’t want to put anyone out of work here but with a good master brand brief (aka brand brief) the need for strategy soldiers across agencies is lessened. And the work becomes tighter.

I went to a Conagra meeting on the Banquet brand a few years ago and there were probably 6 different agency strategists in the room. Silly.

Peace.                      

 

 

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Some brands don’t have to work hard. Their product is their brand strategy — and deeply embedded in their DNA. It comes easy because employees know what the product is, what the product does (Is-Does) and why it’s needed.  When that happens consumers/buyers can’t help but parrot that value.

Helly Hansen is one such brand. For them, life is easy.

I’m not exactly sure what the Helly “claim” is, but I can certainly articulate its 3 “brand planks.” They are “warm,” “dry” and “protected.”  These good-ats and the customer care-abouts and both powerful and nicely aligned. A perfect fit.

So long as Helly Hanson spends its marketing money demonstrating warm, dry and protected, the brand can’t help but be strengthen.

This is a great example of product and marketing working closely together. All companies should aspire to this type of relationship.

Peace.    

 

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Two days ago I promised to share some business metrics side-by-side with brand metrics, letting you decide which are more actionable?  I’ll make up a few business metrics and then use real life brand metrics from clients.

Business Metrics:

  • Increase percent of sales of services over hardware.
  • Reduce cost to acquire a customer.
  • Increase topline revenue by 6%.
  • Increase visitors to the website by 10%.

Brand Metrics:

  • Prove improved classroom design increases test scores.
  • Prove that digital security at the root level is more effective than the device level.
  • Prove global security is more effective when private and public sectors work together.
  • Prove commercial building maintenance is less costly when proactive rather than reactive.

Now you might argue that the business metrics seem like objectives and the brand metrics like strategies. But the simple fact is, these brand metrics are measurable. Brand strategy conflates obs and strats. Brand strategy drives the how. It’s a roadmap for the how. When you have a discrete how story (3 proof planks supporting one brand claim) you have clarity of business purpose.  

Brand strategy is not a color palette. Not a logo. Not a campaign. It’s a business winning organizing principle for product, experience and messaging.

Peace.

 

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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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