Brand Planning

    Charles de Gaulle Airport – the brand.

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    Just reading in The New York Times today that Charles de Gaulle Airport, Europe’s second most traveled, is number 34 out of 83 in flyer satisfaction. The culprit: “sprawling buildings with bewildering layouts, interminable waits, forgettable shops and restaurants, and often indifferent personnel.” 

    Sounds like something that would take hundreds of millions of Euros to fix. But maybe not.  All big airports are sprawling — they have to be.  Think about it.  Planes can’t take off and land at a good pace without sprawl.  So what needs to change is the organization of that sprawl.  Bewildering is fixable.  Good communication, good signage, ergonomic re-laying out of buildings, better transportation design and a little compromise among the airlines are fixable. Some airlines may have to consolidate space or even switch buildings. The parties need to come together. The interminable waits may require some technology upgrades, even more compromise (unions/competitors/gov’t) and once again better communication.

    And, as for forgettable shops and restaurants and indifferent personnel?  If the other fixes are made, these will fall into place.  Remember we are talking about one of the busiest locations in the world…with lots of wallets and lots of income in those wallets. And oh, it’s France. Paris, France.

    Before I picked up a shovel or an architect’s rendering, I’d create a brand strategy for Charles de Gaulle: an idea and some organizing principles. Sell that to all parties, then start to think about how to spend the money. Not easy…hard.  But very doable. Peace!      

    Google Trivestiture?

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    I’ve been writing for a few years, with great admiration, about Google and its amazing, transformative search tools.  Sergey Brin’s original vision “We deliver the world’s information in one click” is what allowed Google to become the NASA of the web. Case in point: Yesterday I was looking for one of my blog posts on my own machine using the Windows search tool.  After three strikes I Googled “whatstheidea+things we remember” (the title of the post) and in less than a second I found my entry. No on my machine, but on the Web.

    More recently, though, I’ve found myself commenting about how Google has wandered from its original mission – getting into the productivity software, social networking, chat and now the phone business.  The brand planner in me asks “How does one now articulate the Google Is-Does?” The Googleplex is filled with amazing minds but many seem to be trying to out-engineer one another; me thinks they have lost a sense of mission.  Steve Rubel’s post today on Google Buzz so reflects.

    Culture of Technological Obesity.

    Google’s amazing growth and economic success has spawned a culture of technological obesity.  It’s time for a change.  Here’s what will happen.

    The company will go through a corporate divestiture or as was the case with AT&T, a Trivestiture.  It won’t happen now…probably within 48 months.  My bet for the three parts? Search (text and video), Mobile (OS, apps, and tools), and Advertising Analytics.  How would you break it up?  Peace!

    IBM’s Unclean Idea.

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    Ogilvy is a great advertising agency.  Always has been.  It loves big ideas, big productions and big brands.  Lately, it has made a name for itself on services companies.  Other than American Express and IBM, I’m not quite sure what accounts they have – which is my bad, but partly theirs. 

    IBM’s “Solutions for a smarter planet” was a big idea. Already well entrenched with big businesses on the hardware, software and services (consulting) side, IBM decided that rather than grow by increments, it would focus on large-scale advances targeting countries and industries.  That’s some enchilada stuff, there.  “Solutions for a smarter planet” helped IBM take on the planets ills (traffic, energy, food) and showcase some future technology.  By going big, it covered small (corporate) and positioned IBM as vendor of choice for massive overhauls.

    Then the economy tanked. And companies started having a difficult time making payroll. And saving the planet lost a bit of luster.  Rather than returning to an advertising idea that supported product and services sales, IBM tasked Ogilvy with keeping revenue up by evolving the idea — the planet will be back at some point (knock wood).  Enter “I’m an IBMer, I’m an IBMer.” For the purposes of continuity (agencies are big on that) the campaign is tagged with “solutions” but focuses on smart employees.  Mistake.  It milks a campaign idea that is no longer the business idea.  Like the Microsoft Bing work that straddled two ideas “information overload” and “decision engine,” IBM is pushing an unclean idea.

    Come on Ogilvy, bring on the new work – the new idea. Peace!

    Yahoo’s Going to Get its Exclamation Back!

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    I would not be surprised to see Yahoo sold to Jerry Yang and the Texas Pacific Group (TPG) fairly quickly. Yahoo, with lots of schmutz on its shoes, is still one of the top 5 tech brands in the world. And what is a brand but a vessel into which we poor meaning. Organized meaning. Yahoo’s fix requires an Is-Does. What a brand Is and what a brand Does.

    Is it a portal?
    Is it search engine?
    Is it an advertising company?
    Is it a web content publisher?
    Is it a technology company?

    Does it provide news?
    Does it provide entertainment?
    Does it provide organization?
    Does it provide results?

    Yahoo needs to retrench and make tough decisions — and that will only happen if the property is sold. A public company with lots of shareholders, Yahoo will get its Yahoo! back with new leadership, some old leadership, tough love, and a brand plan. And when I say brand plan I don’t mean a new logo, new color palette and an replacement agency for Goodby, Silverstein and Partners.  I mean an organizing principle for marketing.  A plan that inform every decision made by the company — from hiring to firing to what new mobile services to launch.

    When dimensionalized through obs and strats, a brand plan creates marketing clarity. TPG doesn’t speak like this, but they know how to make it happen. It’s about time. Peace. 

    Showing Up Isn’t Enough!

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    Bob Gilbreath, chief strategy officer at Possible Worldwide, wrote a book a year ago called Marketing With Meaning. It’s a counterpoint to Woody Allen’s quote about “90% of life is just showing up.”  Bob suggests embedding your message (and offer) with something of value.  Not mere boast and claim — something meaningful and fulfilling. The book is a must read.

    I created a brand plan for a health system a number of years ago designed to move the dial on about 9 attributes that make for a successful hospital experience; things like: “best doctors,” “leading edge treatments,” “improved patient outcomes.”  If you can answer yes to these hospital qualities, it is likely you will want your procedure done there.

    When I see work in this category today, sometimes I wonder if marketers are trying to be meaningful at all.  One NYC hospital spending a lot of money is doing it the Woody Allen way, just showing up. Doing “we’re here” ads. One word headlines and pretty pictures.  And the system that once had the nine meaningful measures?  It must have listened to its ad agency and now only measures “first mentions.”  That’s a research term for a telephone poll indicating what consumers answer when asked, “Name a hospital or hospital system in your region.” That’s measuring the media plan and the budget, not the communication of the work.

    The best politicians are those who have a vision, are true to it, and allow the populace to experience that vision.  Process that vision. The worst are those who read opinion polls and change direction at will.  Similarly, the best brands have a plan that creates meaningful differentiation and organized claim and proof to consumers.  And they stick to it. Peace!

    Levi’s Has Lost its Rugged Way.

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    I love a good cause.  Clean water, sans parasites , in the developing world (Africa) is one such. Levi’s jeans, as part of its “Go Forth” campaign, is sponsoring a Facebook program that ask people to click their support for Water.org, and once a 100,000 clicks are gathered Levi’s will donate money.   This is “good’s work” (thank you Bailey’s Café) and it will make a difference. I support it and suggesteth everyone go forth and donate. That said, Levi’s still needs a brand idea and “individualism and independence” ain’t it.

     

    If Levi’s cares about the environment, and I know it does, they should jump on the durability wagon.  Buy one pair, don’t get one free, you don’t have to buy another pair for 3 more years.  That’s environmentalism.  And stop with all the stone washing stuff that wears the jeans out a year early.  The worn-in patina of a pair of Levi’s is the badge.  Faded knees, faded pockets, holes in the crotch.  This is life. Not art imitating life.  Don’t pay some schmekel to pre- tear your jeans…get up on the life cycle and wear them out yourself!

    Levi’s is one of the great American brands and it has lost its way.  FCB got it.  BBH got it a bit and sexed it up. Wieden and Kennedy, a brilliant shop, has found a core, but it’s the wrong core.  Individualism and independence a brand plank, not “the idea.” 

    The Water.org project should be left to the PR dept.  Fight the durability fight (it’s American) and get mad credit for the environment – on so many levels. Peace!

     

    “Brand” is No Substitute for “Idea.”

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    I was just reading an article about Grimaldi’s pizza in Brooklyn (“This is my piz-ah-reeah,” Danny Aiello) and one of the key difference-makers for the stores is their coal-fired ovens.  Sure the ingredients are good, but there is something to be said for 700 degrees of coal-fired, brick oven pizza. An idea.

    Papa John’s Pizza, a national chain, also has a brand idea: “Better ingredients.” And a delivery mechanism for the claim: Papa John himself.  Better ingredients is a great place to start — if your ingredients are better. I suspect if the ingredients were better, we’d probably know why. But we don’t. This where brand planning falls down: all claim no proof.  I saw a Papa John’s ad watching NFL football this weekend that showed ingredients that looked like they were shot through cellophane. The commercial was likely shot using a video or low-def video camera.  

    Marketers and agencies who use the word “brand” all the time and who don’t fill their conversations with real “claim” and “proof” words are not only a nuisance, they’re a blight.  To wit, Papa John in meetings should never be talking about the brand, but about better ingredients. At the end of the day as he heads to his car he should be saying to himself “What did I do today to make our ingredients better?”  This isn’t meant to be a slam on Mr. John, he actually has a brand idea. (Many marketers just have campaigns.)  He just needs to live it. Peace!

    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!

    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.