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I’m all about systems. When developing a marketing plan I use my proprietary “24 Questions,” a follow-the-money rubric. When working on a brand, I have a form simply called “Fact Finding Questions.” Broken into two sections, one for C-level executives, the other for top sales people it asks generic things, e.g., “If you were to get a job at a competitor, how would you deposition your current company?” Stuff like that. Good, but generic.
When working in a new category and having to learn a new language – a language in which I am illiterate – generic doesn’t always cut it.
I’ve worked with a magician and I’ve worked with a top two professional services company. The questions that work for a teeth whitening company don’t translate. So my question framework almost always needs to go off the reservation. The off-the-rezzy questions are always works in progress. They require listening, parrying, redirection and often a good deal of bi-directional story telling.
When I ask an executive or sales person a question that spikes their blood pressure, it’s a hit. Follow that trail. If a hospice nurse is explaining how to tell whether a patient is minutes or hours away from passing, feel the mood. The sanctity.
Learning is the absolute best part of brand planning.
Tags: brand planning advice, brand planning technique, Learn baby learn, off the rezzy questions, whats the idea, whatstheidea
Came across a cool new website called Houzz. It’s also an app on the iPhone. Someone showed me the app on the iPhone (my first user experience or FUE) where it displayed a picture of a kitchen with lots of scroll over call-outs. You scrolled over a countertop and lots of little bubbles (way too many) popped up – I assumed they were prices, or comments. For the life of me I couldn’t figure the app out. I later went to the website and subscribed and started receiving emails, which I didn’t open. Until today.
It’s a real nice website. Lots of bleed pictures, little text on the homepage, the way I like it. But I still couldn’t tell what the site was about other than home stuff so I dug in and visited the About Page. Here’s what they say:
“We are a platform for home remodeling and design, bringing homeowners and home professionals together in a uniquely visual community.”
Now that made sense. My FUE with the app did not.
The Houzz site (not the app) is an awesome resource. Power kitchen and remodeling users (people with leisure time?) spend a nice amount of energy here. This is exactly the kind of place a brand planner wants to do research. It’s the kind of place where thoughtful helpers, info seekers, and smart sellers spend time sharing. All in one location. Brand planners with ample asses (impolitic, I know) can learn a lot – sans fieldwork – on a site like this. I love finding gems like this in every category. It’s where Posters go. (Google “Posters versus Pasters”.) Peace.
Tags: ample asses, brand planners, brand research online, first user experience, fue, Houzz, online brand planning research tips, posters versus pasters, whats the idea, whatstheidea
So I was listening to Merle Haggard yesterday and the old coot was doing a duet with Jewel and, by God, he changed his vocal treatment – his voice — on the song. It was Merle but he was trying to impress her, trying to woo her. Men! There was a gentleness to his voice that you won’t hear in most of his tunes. The tone send a message. So I’m thinking if he can change his tone and impart different meaning, sub rasa meaning, so can the rest of us. Why not use it as a brand planning tool? So I’m playing around with an interview technique that will prompt interviewees to answer questions in various voice types. You know the voice you use when someone is confiding tragic personal news to you? Or the voice used to encourage a child who needs support? Have you a sexy voice? The key is to get the interviewee to use a topic-appropriate voice in an interview to impart greater meaning. To do so you have to put them in a zone; coach them like an acting coach. Get them to a place where they are feeling an emotion then get them to answer your question, truthfully, but that particular voice.
Try it, I certainly will. Peace.
Tags: brand planning tips, brand planning tricks, interview techniques, jewel, Merle haggard, whats the idea, whatstheidea
I’m always on the lookout for new ways to extract important information from executives about their companies. My 24 Questions, designed to follow the money, are not great at generating stories… and stories (aka proof/examples) are what create context and power for brand planners. A flesh vs. bones thing. So the latest question I’ve been dabbling with is “Who is the industry’s biggest critic?” Or, “Of all the opinion leaders in your business, whose approval do you hold dearest and why?” I’ll probably test it out both questions. The first is the more open of the two and presumes a critical but, honestly, I am more eager to hear about praise. It is an open question and can be easily toggled.
Most people, be they executives or consumers, can articulate the opinion leader they most admire. That person is a good source of brand planning study. That person may not want to share all his/her secrets, but often provides shortcuts to pearls of wisdom and grist for the narrative mill. Successful home brewers’ opinions are worth more to the average beer drinking Joe than are sports stars. An IT professional’s opinion is more valuable than a Best Buy salesperson. Think “expert witnesses” in a jury trial, to the max.
Find these people, learn why they are great critics, and get their stories. Probe the “doing” part of their role rather than the “critique or praise” itself. Probe for story. Peace.
Tags: 24 questions, biggest critic, Brand Planning, brand planning tips, brand planning tools, how do I probe for stories, opinion leader research, whats the idea? opinion leaders, whatstheidea
Bravery is big these days. A lot of agencies and marketers have tied their brand promises to the word, including David and Goliath and Mondelez – a couple of forerunners. And why not? Who doesn’t want to be brave? It’s as American as apple pie. I, too, rely on the word in my practice. A boast I proudly share with clients (after signing them) is that there will likely be one word in the brand strategy they may find objectionable. They’ll love the sentiment. Feel the strategy. Know in their bones I get them. They’ll proudly nod at the defensible claim. Yet often, they will sheepishly ask “Do we have to use that one word?”
A $5B health care system asked “Do we have to use the word systematized?”
The world’s largest tech portal asked “Do we have to call consumers browsers?”
The country’s 10th largest daily newspaper asked “Do we have to say ‘We know where you live?’”
The list goes on.
The point is, brand strategy needs to be brave. If it’s not, is it really strategic? If your brand strategy is not bold, it will be a long, expensive build toward effectiveness. And may weaken your brand planks. (Three planks support your claim.) This brave approach takes brand strategy out of insight land and into claim land. Out of observation mode, into prideful attack mode.
Oh, and the answer to my clients one-word objection? “No, you don’t have to use the word. The creative people will create the words. But you must use the strategy.” And everybody, myself included, bobble-heads in relief. Peace.
Tags: brand idea, brand plan, brand strategy idea, brave, brave strategy, bravery, brnad strategy, claim and proof, David and Goliath, mondelez, mondolez, whats the idea, whatstheidea
Brand planning insights can come from anywhere and anyone. Planners have good ears. They possess the ability to cull through the din for the right set of words. In a recent assignment, I was with a number of financial IT folks participating in a Lunch and Learn with a hardware manufacturer. While the hardware guy, a sales engineer, was introducing his PowerPoint slides he said “let’s skim over the marketing and get to the good stuff.” Insight Alert. This statement helped form the strategy.
But planners need a good eye as well as a good ear. While the ear may pick up the thoughts, biases, feelings and emotions, the eye picks up the deeds. Deeds being behaviors, activities, actions and the process leading to them.
Many planners spend more time on the verbal than the physical. More ear than the eye — and that diminishes balance.
A third, less utilized component of planning, often referred to as semiotics, is the study of signs and symbols. It works best when you have fieldwork to support your spoken or written information. So, let’s skim over the theory and get to the good stuff. Open your eyes and ears, get out of the building, and go find a sales-motivating insight. Peace.
Tags: account planning insights, Brand Planning, brand planning insights, deeds, good ear, insight alert, insights mining, semiotics, whats the idea, whatstheidea
Salman Khan, founder of the Khan Academy an online educational video tutoring site, began his business by uploading math instruction videos to YouTube. Part of his secret sauce was making math instruction interesting. If instruction lacks vocal intonation (drone, drone) it didn’t connect. Been there. If it was overly flourished, same thing. His approach, like that of other good teachers, was to be in the middle. Connect. Watch what students tuned in to and package that using good pedagogy.
As a brand planner, I sometimes go into situations where the topic is less than exciting. Healthcare and banking come to mind. When interviewing SMEs (subject matter experts) or consumers using Salman’s approach is important. The interviewer needs to show interest; not academic interest but true category interest. The interviewer needs to find ways to bring the subject to life. To be engaged and earn trust. Personal stories are a good way to prime the pump. Hearing them. Telling them. Some will say interrupting people when they talk is not polite, however in this case it shows energy and interest. (Do it carefully however.)
Be a good listener, a careful watcher of body language, and most of all be human. React, respond, find emotional attachments. Joy and happy endings are also nice, though may not in all cases be appropriate.
Once again, good teaching and learning practices come into play in brand planning. Peace.
Tags: Brand Planning, brand planning technoiques, khan academy, pedagogy, salman kahn, SMEs
I favor the poetry inherent in good brand planning, so in various places on the web you may have seen some of my references to “redistributing marketing wealth.” Redistributing marketing wealth is a great calling if you can do it. It is one goal of great strategy. The only thing that trumps it is “creating new wealth.” The most exciting work in marketing is not taking a market that currently exists, say a $2.4B market for nutrition drinks, and rejiggering it to get more share – though that is fun. It’s taking a static market and growing it. Finding new uses, new custies, and new (I can’t think of a third thing)…
That’s not redistributing marketing wealth, that’s creating new wealth. A smart boss at McCann once asked me, “Where will the money to pay for this product come from?” In other words what will someone not buy to pay for this product? Carbonated soft drink dollars are flowing into waters. So Coke owns both. Now Coke is getting into protein – another reapportionment. But what if Coke took money away from the gyms? Or created a product that took consumer budget from the gas budget?
Rational consumers only have so much money to spend. Figuring out how to get them to spend it with you is a planners MO. New money? Or old money? That is a big planning question.
Peace be upon you this Friday!
Tags: brand planning tips, carbonated soft drinks, coca cola, coke, custies, McCann, mccann erickson, new money, new product development, nutrition drink, old money, protein drink, redistributing marketing wealth, whats the idea, whatstheidea
Yosef D. Dlugacz, PhD, Senior Vice President and Chief of Clinical Quality, Education and Research at the North Shore-LIJ Health System was the person I met when working on the North Shore brand brief who had the greatest influence on the strategy.
My first discussion with Yosef was on the phone and didn’t go very well. He offered up a lot of quality-speak. It was hard work getting to interesting truths about Yosef’s work. What he did for a living. His day. Outputs. Influence. But once I got it, once I was able to wend myself around the quality jargon and statistical answers, a very instructive insight emerged. When writing a brand brief you are telling (yourself and others) a serial story. If it doesn’t hang together it’s not done. There are gravity points in the brief that are important and create pathways for the strategy. Sometimes the gravity points come from consumers, other times from the product or service. They can really come from anywhere in the information gathering experience. Gravity points help with the “boil down” – the decisions about what to not focus on.
What separates great from the good planners are the boil down and the gravity points. With these in hand the story almost tells itself — finishing off with a big ending (claim) and moral (support planks). The moral, BTW, is always influenced by selling more, to more, for more, more times.
Searching for Dlugacz (pronounced Dlu-Gotch) is how to start. Peace.
Tags: boil down, brand support planks, claim and proof, north shore-LIJ health system. Gravity points. Brand plan, whats the idea, whatstheidea, writing a brand brief, Yosef D. Dlugac