Deeds vs. Materials.

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    An important brand planning question.

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    The secret sauce of the What’s the idea? brand planning rigor (WTI is my blog, but also a brand consultancy I had for 3 years prior to coming on board at Teq) is the battery of questions I use when interviewing company stakeholders. Finding out what a company does best and matching it with what the market wants most is the goal.  I may have just found a new question.  The inspiration was an amazing story today in The New York Times of Lonnie G. Thompson, a man in search of proof that global temperatures are rising.

    The secret sauce question is most powerful when asked of an individual, yet it can be altered to apply to a company. Let’s stay with the individual, for simplicity’s sake:  

    What is your life’s work?

    Not an easy question to answer.  Or is it? Most will probably say something like “Be a good parent.”  Or “Be a good spouse.”  Maybe “Leave the world a little better place.” Perhaps “Be a better person.”  Following up these answers with probes will get you to the meat of the discussion. Using the question with a company, however, may get bogged down in “mission statement miasma,” but don’t let it.  A “life’s work” has to have import. If a company has a hard time answering, it likely will have a have a hard time branding it.

    As my Norwegian aunt Inga might have said “Tink about it.” Peace.       

    Deeds

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    Many pop marketing discussions today revolve around narrative. Campaigns are bought and sold based on the word. Agencies hired and fired. Social media has cornered the market on brand narrative.  I like the word, in fact.  It’s a much better word than “sell.”  In fact. my brand planning rigor is steeped in narrative.  But it’s over as a selling mechanism…ish.

    Deeds are the new narrative.  Old schoolers might call it “putting your money where your mouth is.” Story tellers tell stories. Leaders use deeds.  What are deeds? Tangibles. Things. Actions. Hands on stuff. Story tellers sit about the camp fire.  Deedists, make the campfire.

    A soldier with lots of medals on the uniform has performed not chronicled. A marketer with a claim and lots of proof to back it up is a marketer whom narrators can get behind.  Similar to my Posters vs. Pasters opine – target the Posters, the Paster will follow – marketers should concern themselves with the deeds and leave the narrative to others.  Puh-eace!

    Hierarchy of Likes.

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    I was in the Bronx Friday night at the Met Yankee game. Don’t ask.  And for all the falderal it was quite civil. I didn’t fly my Met colors, nor did I instigate.  I just did the late 1960s Fillmore West clap and watched me some hardball.  One thing I took away from the game, though, was an insight that for all of people’s preferences, divides and loyalties – if you find a point of common ground more important, you can create dialog. 

    At one point during the national anthem I felt a 9/11 moment resulting from the video.  It brought the entire stadium together as one (in my mind). It pointed to something bigger than a baseball rivalry. And on two other occasions during the game I spoke with a couple of guys  who noticed my Pearl Jam shirt.  We connected on something that was perhaps even more important to us than a baseball game. As I walked along River Avenue leaving the game, a guy quietly said in passing “Yellow Ledbetter.”  I only half heard it until it registered, then I looked back and “peaced” him with a knowing smile. A brother.

    The insight is this: You can always ladder up common ground or affinity with someone you don’t necessarily agree with. It takes work, and thought, and open-mindedness.  It’s a hunt worth pursuing. So marketers and planner dig in.  Peace!     

    Brand(ed) Utility.

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    Branded Utility has a number of definitions in the marketing world. In my world it is more than simply a branded public service; it’s something that moves a customer closer to a sale or position of greater loyalty.

    Ingmar de Lange did a neat presentation on Brand Utility, but we are not always on the same page.  Nokia providing a quiet room on city streets for mobile callers is nice, even with a big logo on the door, but it’s not uniquely Nokia.  MasterCard providing an ATM finder phone app is helpful but not uniquely MasterCard. 

    A branded utility, to me at least, is one that no one else can offer.  Users need to plug into the product or service grid of the marketer a for a utility to be truly branded — to use an electricity metaphor.  Simply slapping a logo on something useful and making it free is lazy.  It may be less lazy than a poor boast and claim ad but we can certainly do better.

    I once suggested that Ben Benson give away golf umbrellas to customers of his expensive steak house caught unprepared on rainy days.  Branded utility. Why was it unique? Because the customers were at Ben’s.  When thinking about branded utility ask yourself “Has the usefulness of the gift or a value made the customer more committed?”  Or just similarly committed? If the answer is more, then the investment was worth it.  Peace!