Brand Planning

    GE’s New Health Campaign(s)

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    Happy Friday youze all…as we like to say in NY. It’s beautiful outside with everything blanketed in pristine snow. A fitting beginning for the Winter Olympics. Tonight, on the Olympics the new GE Healthymagination campaign breaks.  Knowing it’s from BBDO, I’m sure it will be heartfelt and striking…in its pieces.  It will also be a time for G.E. to try and flex some integration muscle.

    I’ve seen two print ads already and they are pretty but plainly messaged. Having read about the campaign in the New York Times today and piecing together bits and quotes, I’m going out on a limb here and gonna say “What’s the Idea?

    What’s the Idea?

    Here’s what we can expect: GE wants to humanize the technology, so no pictures of machines. GE wants to make doctors the heroes.  Doc’s are very influential in technology purchases, especially when it comes to those $80,000 procedures. Innovation will be in much of the new campaign; it’s a corporate keystone. Imaging technology will be front and center, as it should be; people understand medical imaging and how it helps them. Consumers will participate because “health spreads contagiously” so expect the people to be posting on Twitter and Faceboook. “Healthymagination is saving billions in healthcare costs.” There will be How-Tos on Howcast, iPhone apps, and, and, and.  Lots of ideas, lots of agencies (Big Spaceship has a chunk), lots of content contributors, yet I haven’t heard a powerful brand idea with muscle memory. Healthymagination is a word, not an idea.  After seeing the body of work I’ll weigh in again. Peace!

    Storytelling Vs. Story Listening.

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    storytelling

    From the big consumer package goods marketers to the mid-size boutiques to one-man PR shops, “storytelling” is the communications art form of the day. A well-worn pop marketing tactic.

    The stories to which most refer are content stories, spun by marketers to get customers to buy. Today, content is a by-the-pound business. Stories are, in fact, buildables — production buildables. Storytelling fills the revenue void of the once lofty high margin TV spot.

    I’ll trade you 25 stories, 50 stories, for one powerful brand idea. In terms of value.

    That’s what brand planners do.  We create big, honkin’, motivating brand ideas. And for brand planners “story listening” is way better than “storytelling.” Sure, I prime the pump by telling consumers a story. The more personal the better. I’m trying to get them to free up insights. Even strangers free up when you are real with them. I’ll show you mine… You’ve got to give to get. Brand planners are good at quant but great at hearing stories fertile with brand meaning. Consumer stories that set off alarms in planners’ heads.

    All you storytellers out there – you creative, biz/dev. and agency positioning types – go on and do your storytelling thing, but remember how you get the strategy for those stories. By listening.

    Peace.

     

    Learn Baby Learn.

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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.

    Peace.

     

     

             

    Brand Enculturation.

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    I had to look up the word enculturation a couple of months back while writing a pitch email. In fact, at the time I wasn’t sure it was a word.  Enculturation is mission-critical to my business and the goal of every brand plan I write.  A good brand plan helps employees drink the Kool Aid — educating them as to the unique and meaningful points of difference. By enculturating a company with the brand’s promise and supports marketing in its many forms is simplified and made more effective.  Only when a company adopts a brand plan can it truly be extended to consumers. The enculturation of a brand plan organizes employee and consumer minds, removing clutter.

    Most advertisers and marketers hate “clutter.” I love it.  The more clutter there is in a category the more likely it can be broken.  A brand strategy may sometimes sound familiar, maybe even undifferentiated, but if it’s the right one, it will be actionable and defensible and its messages, demonstrations, and deeds profound.

    Newsday knows where people (on Long Island) live. The Daily News doesn’t. North Shore-LIJ Health System provides a systematized approach to improving healthcare. St. Francis Hospital doesn’t.  Isopure Plus uncovers the taste of pure protein. Milky Ensure doesn’t.

    When a brand creates a culture around its points of advantage it becomes a brand. When it doesn’t it remains a product.  Peace!

    My Brand Strategy Secret.

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    Clients pay me for two deliverables: brand strategy and marketing plans. I can’t do the latter without the former. It’s possible to pretend, even hide the brand strategy component, but without strategy the marketing planning is a little bit like paint-by-numbers.

    gem miningSo how do I approach brand strategy development?  I look for proof. How does a guy walk into a company and in a matter of days or week know a brand well enough to create a strategy that will operationalize marketing success? Proof. A hunt for proof.

    Proof of what, you ask? Ahhh, that’s the $64,000 question. At the beginning, it’s way too early to tell. Each brand presents a clean slate. As I trek through fact-finding, data, sales, consumer and business partner interviews, I come across lots and lots of claim-ish fluff. But when tangible proof rises up, it is easily noted. Proof may be found in behavior. In deeds, business decisions, investments. Product taste. Product experience. It’s everywhere. With enough proof arrayed and smartly clustered, the brand planner can begin to formulate the brand claim and key support planks. And that is the secret sauce of What’s The Idea?. Proof hunting.

    Rest in peace David Carr.      

     

    Brand Planning Technique.

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    I was on the We Are Slightly Mad website yesterday and noticed a quote from Sun Tzu worth repeating. “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victor. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” This little gem went ink to parchment around 500 BC. In brand planning and marketing some are actually getting away with a tactics-first approach.  But only the few that course-correct around a strategy live on. Social media, let’s not forget, is a tactic; a tactic that has garnered close to a billion in annual revenue I’d guess.  Yet those are not marketing positive dollars for the most part, they are more like R&D dollars. The social media programs used to support strategy are the ones paying off.cooking technique

    Metaphors and examples are the key to inspiring brand planning so I’ll drop a metaphor here. In great cooking there is technique and there are ingredients. As with the Sun Tzu quote both are needed, yet technique is most akin to strategy. My cooking gets better as I understand the various heating methods, preparation skills, complementary flavors and seasonings. As these techniques become more intuitive, creativity and possibility become more apparent. In brand planning, understating how and when to listen is technique. As Sherlock might say “hearing” can trump “listening,” so that, too, is technique. Redirecting, building trust, connecting with the interviewee – all technique. Also seeing patterns in data and behavior and the ability to predict behavior — technique.

    When searching for good strategic planning people, talk about technique not ingredients. It’s even more important than the final product…the idea. (Did I just say that?) Peace.

     

    Why I like brand planners.

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    Brand planners are always observing. Always willing to learn. They crave learning. Part anthropologists – students of mankind – brand planners are also creative; it rubs off on them being around art directors, writers and creative directors. In addition to learning about consumers they must learn how to eroticize ideas for creative people.

    margaret meadBrand planners are always on. They can’t afford to be depressed. They love brands, the lifeblood of commerce. They are always friendly, even in the face of haters. There are lessons to be learned from hating. (Brand Spanking, in fact, enables negative discussions.) Brand planners are good lovers. They’re exocentric – caring about others. They are not academics. They are humanists, realizing it’s not always about being right…more about being. Environments are of great interest to planners. Stim in any form.

    Brand planners are paid to make money (for others) but are not motivated by money.

    I didn’t know it at the time, but seeing Margaret Mead speak at the American Anthropology convention as a college kid, cast the die.

    When was the die cast for you? Peace.

    Behind the Curtain, Part 2.

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    For my upcoming workshop “A marketing consultancy, behind the curtain,” I suggested yesterday that the best way to undergird a brand strategy is by asking 24 Questions. With questions answered about business economics, processes and financials we move on to more of a customer focus, the brand strategy. Brand strategy (one claim, three support planks) is a coming together of what “a brand does exceedingly well and what customers want most.” An organizing principle, if you will.

    Marketing and branding more specifically, are about claim and proof. Disorganized proof is not the answer. And claim, claim, claim without a reason to believe is what today we call “badvertising.” So once the claim is found the heavy lifting is finding the proof to support it.  Proof not platitude.

    There’s a questionnaire I use to get to the brand brief, some of which I will share at the workshop. Questions are designed for customers, C-level execs and salespeople. I also like to do windshield time with salespeople. Watching them sell and buyers buy. If not a B2B brand, I turn windshield time into retail store time and customer observation.

    For other workshop goodies tune in tomorrow. Peace

     

    A moment of reflection…about selling.

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    One of the cool things about being a brand planner, probably not unlike being a psychotherapist, is being a student of man. Though I am not looking for maladaptive behaviors as does the psychotherapist I am looking for behaviors. All types. By doing so, I’m always learning. When on the clock, I’m learning about behaviors contributory to commerce in a specific business category, but when off the clock, I’m learning about human nature. Always learning.

    I’ve been a painter, a waiter, and ad guy and a couple two tree (sic) other things, but brand planner and constant learner has to be the best. And when you can share what you’ve learned to help people, it’s among the best feelings on earth. The fact that brand planners help sell things shouldn’t minimize the job. When working on a elemental nutrition formula for infants with eating allergies and observing “a mother is never more protective than of an infant in distress,” the goal was helping, not selling. In my presentation “Social media guard rails,” one of the first slides is about this point. Help, don’t sell.

    The best brand plans help; the result is selling. Words to plan by. Peace.