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Before Christmas, I was removing dead strings of Christmas lights from garland – not a recommended pastime – and as the mind wandered I thought of my favorite pastime brand planning. While hunting for the next light in the branches I found that my sense of touch was often more powerful than my eyesight. When I couldn’t see the next light I just had to feel for it. It dawned on me, as my fingers began to lose feeling, that most marketing is visual. Even radio, though an auditory medium, paints a visual picture. Ads, websites, search links are all constructs that show or tell consumers what to buy.
Brand strategy, however, is a more “eyes closed” selling medium. Close your eyes and tell me why you buy Coca-Cola. Close your eyes and tell me why you prefer Burton snow board pants. Close your eyes and explain your preference for Disney World over Six Flags.
Of course there are visual cues in branding that spark associations, but done the right way the most powerful associations are feelings.
The difference between good and great brand planners can be found in their ability to drill past marketing jargon and ad phraseology and head straight to feelings. Feeling is believing.
Tags: Brand Strategy, Burton, coca cola, Disney world, feeling is believing, six flags, whats the idea, whatstheidea
I’ve been on a little discovery jag lately. When you are a consultant and freelance for ad or branding agencies, you must often use discovery methodologies with which you are unfamiliar. You do it then calibrate your brain to cill the insights needed to write the brief. A brief that may, also, not be yours.
My discovery questions are somewhat static. But when I work for start-ups, there is nothing to discovery about the existing brand – it’s a start up. Other times, I’m working in a category I must learn anew , so I’m learning a business and language while mining brand values. In these cases the discovery question sets have to be developed on the fly. When I learned about accountable care organizations in a transforming healthcare system, it was for a startup and new type of organizational category.
I’m always on the lookout for new discovery questions and today I’m wondering about a brand weakness question that goes down the “honesty” trail. It will work in any discovery scenario.
“When you are being perfectly honest with yourself, what one _______ (fill in the blank) worries you most.” The cue of the question is more psychologist than business consultant. It’s a strengths and weaknesses Q with a more powerful landing strip.
I’ll try it and report back.
Tags: accountable care organization brands, brand discovery, brand discovery questions, Brand Strategy, brand strategy development, honesty in branding, whats the idea, whatstheidea
Brand planners at agencies have two jobs. One job is to assist with new business strategy where they mine insights that make it easier for consumers to like, want and buy a brand. The other type of brand planner runs day-to-day tactical business. These are the day-planners.
Once the master strategy is in place, it is the day-planners job to facilitate creation of marketing stuff. Day-planners crunch data, write briefs and ultimately foster the creative work that carries the revenue metrics. The day planner’s first job should be to support the master brand strategy. They are, however, often more beholden to the tactical or slave strategy (than the master).
What’s The Idea?, focuses mostly on the master brand strategies. The master strategy is born of an array of proofs. Some might call them truths. I think proof is more accurate. If you make a singular brand claim, what proof have you to make consumers believe it? In master strategy planning, when enough proofs are identified during discovery they begin to take shape. That shape reverse engineers a claim. That’s master brand strategy (one claim, three proof planks).
With the claim and proof array intact day-planners are looking creating “new proof” or repackaged old proofs to spark the creative work. Both types of planning jobs are important. But without a good master the slave strategy will have no legs.
Tags: brand day-planner, brand strategy day-planner, day-planner, Master slave brand strategy, one claim three proof planks, two types of brand planner, whats the idea, whatstheidea
I was shopping at a Sam’s Club in NC a month ago and speaking with a couple of lovely ladies at the customer service desk. Both had holes in their smiles. (I wondered if they smiled as effortlessly as the rest of the population.) Missing teeth is a cue for poor or no insurance. And Sam’s Club, in my community, appeared to index high for workers with poor dental health. Sweeping statement I know.
I’ve spent weeks and weeks at BJs and Costcos in NY and seeing gap-toothed employees was uncommon. Not unheard of, but very uncommon. It may sounds snooty but I like my food servers and customer care people to have a full mouth of teeth. (Let’s make America great again.)
As a brand guy, I’m thinking employees who exhibit improper dental health in front of customers impacts the brand preference. I’m not going to go too deeply into feelings and associations, e.g., hand washing, personal hygiene, etc. but this employee health oversight must be worth a couple of points of annual revenue. (Read millions of dollars.)
If you don’t care for your employees, why would you care for your customers.
Come on Sam’s Club. Help a worker out.
PS. I do not know for sure that Sam’s Club doesn’t offer dental insurance. I do know, in a research study of one, employees seem to need better dental health.
Tags: BJs, costco, sams club dental insurance, sams club health insurance, Sam’s Club, walmart, whats the idea, whatstheidea
A couple of years ago a smallish branding shop contacted me about helping creating a strategy for a division of a top 5 consulting company. The master brand is known to all and likely has a brand strategy (maybe not) but the division we were helping offered a very complicated, layered value proposition in health and security. Read security as in homeland security, not home and property protection.
The ultimate deliverable was a long form brochure, changes to the division website content and some presentation pages explaining in somewhat lay terns, what the group did and did so well.
I read all their decks, interviewed a number of consultants from around the world, performed the due diligence one does when sanity checking the Kool-Aid drinkers, and came up with a tight idea and organizing principle – a division brand strategy.
But then came the hard part. Consulting the consultants. Getting them to organize their “product, experience and messaging” around a claim and 3 proof planks (a division brand strategy). Consultants are great at giving advice, but are they any good at taking it?
Momma never said this job would be easy! She was right.
Tags: An organizing principle for product, complicated value propositions, complicated value props, Consulting company brand strategy, consulting for consultants, divisional brand strategy, experieince and messaging, whats the idea, whatstheidea
Fred Wilson is a blogger (www.avc.com) and businessman I admire greatly. He blogs daily and share his knowledge without second thought. He’s probably the most prominent VC on the east coast if not the county. In a recent speech given at MIT, he mentioned that on his first ever test there he had gotten a zero. About MIT he said, and I paraphrase, “When you go to MIT to go from being the smartest kid at your school to being the dumbest.” Anyway when asked about his nil test score his professor the response was “You didn’t understand the question.”
Here’s the thing about brand planning. The ones who get it right aren’t the ones with the best methodology or framework. They are the ones who understand the question. The problem is that question always changes. Yesterday I posted brand strategy is not Chaos Theory. But if the question changes for every brand strategy, isn’t that a bit chaotic?
A generic question for all brands might be “What value or behavior does the brand provide that best meets the needs of the customer?” Doesn’t seem like a bad question. But, per Fred Wilson’s professor, it’s the wrong one. Only when you are waist deep in a brand, customer care-abouts and brand good-ats can one ask the real question. It will be a business question, tempered by consumer insight, and help you pass that first and last test.
Tags: avc, brand good-ats, Brand Planning, brand strategy framework, brand strategy methodology, Customer care-abouts, customer care-abouts and brand good-ats, fred Wilson, mit, whats the idea, whatstheidea
I am loath to admit it, but What’s The Idea? is a small batch brand strategy consultancy. The market has been conditioned to think a large corporate brand strategy has to cost $100,000; add another $150k for naming and logo design. Most of my clients don’t have that kind of money. My clients tend to be small and mid-size or start-ups.
My framework for brand strategy – one claim, three proof planks – is tight and enduring. But for some larger businesses, helmed by multivariate MBAs, it may seem overly simplistic. And inexpensive. Simplicity is its beauty, frankly.
In small batches, with only 40 or 80 hours invested in research and planning, the process has to be relatively simple. The information gathering metaphor I use is the stock pot. My cognitive approach, the “boil down.” When you work in small batches, you self-limit your ingredients. You know what not to heap into the pot.
I’ve done small batch brand strategy for crazy-complicated business lines. A global top 5 consulting company with a health and security practice and a preeminent hacker group who helps the government keep us safe. Small batches both.
Try the small batch approach. As Ben Benson used to say, you are going to like it.
Tags: Ben Benson, one claim 3 proof planks, one claim three proof planks, small batch brand planning, Small batch brand strategy, What does a Brand strategy cost, whats the idea, whatstheidea
I’m going out on a limb here to say the majority of marketing buildables, e.g., ads, websites, PR plans, research studies, and content marketing are created sans a brand brief.
The tendency for agencies to work off a brand brief is much greater than for one-off contractors, but even they tend to use a campaign briefs or tactical briefs. Whose fault is this? Clients. It’s the client who provides the input…and the approvals. It’s the client who needs to have an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging (aka brand strategy). It is the client who needs to codify it and make it sharable.
Smart ad agents/contractors ask clients “Do you have a brand brief?,” but know the answer is “no.” Every company has a website. How many of those writers and coders worked from a brand brief? Every company has an ad. Same question. Every marketer will tell you they have a brand. 95% of those people can’t articulate that brand in a clear, concise way. They don’t have a brief.
Tags: an organizing principle for product experience and messaging, brand briefs, Brand Strategy, marketing without a brand brief, whats the idea, whatstheidea
There are a number of brand strategy consultants out there I hold in high regard. They totally get insights and market conditions, are quick studies in business categories, have keen understanding of meaningful metrics, and possess indefatigable bullshit barometers. Sadly, I’m seeing a trend among this crew where they are reinventing and repositioning themselves away from pure brand work into other aligned areas. Customer experience. Team optimization. Digital transformation. Culture plotting.
Why is this?
Well, that’s what the market sparks to. Most marketers and business owners don’t think they need a brand strategy. They want measurable results on sales. Higher top line and lower bottom lines. What they don’t understand is that those things are directly tied – or can be tied – to a smart brand strategy. When you define brand strategy as “an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging” you begin to understand how brand strategy can impact bottom lines. And top lines.
Tomorrow I’ll share some business metrics side-by-side with brand metrics. I encourage you to tell me which are more actionable.
Tags: an organizing principle for product experience and messaging, brand strategist, business metrics versus brand metrics, Culture plotting, customer experience, Digital transformation, Team optimization, whats the idea, whatstheidea