brand planks

    All dreads no cattle. (That’s dreads as in dreadlocks.)

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    When a group of CMOs on LinkedIn has to ask the question “What is a brand?” (Or was it a bunch of brand planners?)  The fact that the question is asked is damning.  I’m a big Noah Brier fan – he of Percolate – and even he asked me once “How do you define a brand plan?” His question was meant to see if I was all dreads and no cattle. There are so many a practitioners out there who don’t have a clue.

    Many rubber-meets-the-road marketing types want to know “How do I measure a brand plan?”  “How do I measure the sales return of a brand plan?”  The answer is easy.  First, have one.

    Assuming your brand plans are like mine: one claim and 3 support planks, the measures are easy. If one plank is about being fastidious, you can ask your customers to rank you on fastidiousness.  You can ask general consumers to rate you as well, that will tell you how well the story is getting out. You can rate yourself on fastidiousness – doing spot checks on personnel performance. On a macro level, you then tie sales, margins, or stock performance to the rise and fall of these brand plan metrics.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  This is the part of the dashboard you get to present upstairs at headquarters, while the cost-per-click and coupon redemption people remain waiting in the lobby.  Along with the people polishing that gleaming Cannes Lion.

    (The headline for this post is for you to interpret.  It’s part George W. part morning coffee. Hee hee.) Peace!

    Brand Plan as Immune System.

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    immune system

    Always on the lookout for metaphors that help marketers understand branding, I’ve come upon a new one: the immune system.  When a marketing entity has a brand plan (defined in my practice as one claim and three support planks) it has created an immune system designed to deflect all non-essential forces. Maintaining a healthy immune system takes work. It must be cared for and fed.  If the immune system has to work overtime, because the brand is constantly being attacked by outside forces, or it is spending time on off-plan activities, it weakens the immune system.

    And let us not forget the immune system is a system. It is not separate unrelated functions or activities. Brand planks, discrete parts of the value proposition working together to increase brand meaning and loyalty, are not always organically aligned. Too much price message might negatively impact the quality message, say. Too much focus on tasty, may impact the healthy message.  Each brand needs its own balance because every brand is different.  But the quick story here is that “a tight, focused organizing principle for product, product experience and messaging” can create an impervious barrier for your brand to ward off evil.  

    What are the parts of your brand’s immune system? Peace.   

    Downward Lulu.

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    lululemon pantsThe first time I heard of Lululemon I was on a weekend marketing retreat with a number of women at the invitation of Nfinity, a wonderful women’s athletic footwear company.  I was a last minute replacement for a woman who had to beg out.  Most of the ladies were aware of Lululemon and sang its praises. They loved the category (yoga), styles (great looking, great fitting) but what they spoke most about was quality. I’ve never done downward dog in my life, but to hear them talk I was ready to buy. 

    Come Christmas, off I went to buy the wifus some Lululemon yoga pants. Trying to explain hip size using your own hips to a young, comely salesperson is uncomfortable. But successful I was and I opted for a yoga mat too, hedging my bet. Hee hee.

    As I read about Lulu’s quality problems today, which include previous grievances about material pitting, seam unraveling and color bleeding, I see how far the company have come. Backwards. Even with sales and revenue up  thirty plus YOY, someone has taken their eye off the ball. (Not sure if their equity partners or public stock offering put undue pressure on the company, but quality has faltered, even as the brand had grown.)

    Quality is a tough brand plank to build around.  It’s most important in categories where it’s not common. Otherwise, quality is the price of entry.  But in yoga, where stress and strain and exertion are part of the experience it’s not a bad play. Lululemon needs a quality facelift. And fast! Peace.