1 claim 3 proof planks

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Probably the most overused work in marketing the last 5 years is disruption. Maybe the last 10 years.  If you were to put all the marketing conference speeches given since 2010 into a cull rack and block from falling through the ones with “disruption” in the title, you’d have a stack a mile high. Google SXSW speeches, book titles or blog posts.

Do you want to know something that is truly disruptive? Brand strategy. Huh?  Brand strategy.  Everybody has one they’ll tell you, but no one can articulate it. Not clearly.  Because brand strategy means so many things to so many people, it has become a nonentity. A quagmire within a morass.

Here’s the deal: A brand strategy is an “Organizing principle for product, experience and messaging.” Nothing less. The framework for such is “One Claim and Three Proof Planks.” Nothing less. And certainly, nothing more.

If you’d like to truly disrupt your business. If you’d like to make clear and easy marketing decisions. If you’d like to measure effectiveness with almost binary simplicity, consider a brand strategy. (And this is not a packaged goods thing. It’s a marketing thing.)

Peace.

 

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Brand Crest.

coat-of-armsCenturies ago, well-to-do European families had family crests. Crests were actually helmet ornaments for you historians, but for the purpose of this post I’m going to make synonymous crests with heraldry or paper heraldry. Here is a Wikipedia definition of Heraldry.

The beauty and pageantry of heraldic designs allowed them to survive the gradual abandonment of armour on the battlefield during the seventeenth century. Heraldry has been described poetically as “the handmaid of history”, “the shorthand of history”, and “the floral border in the garden of history”. In m bit more modesty. Hee hee.

Brand managers, ask yourselves to develop a crest for your brand. What pictures would you use? What are your brands’ most famous and motivatinodern times, heraldry is used by individuals, public and private organizations, corporations, cities, towns, and regions to symbolize their heritage, achievements, and aspirations.

The brand planning rigor here at What’s The Idea? works hard to identify “heritage, achievement and aspiration.”  These things are the groundwork for brand planning and contribute to the “one claim and three proof plank” strategy construct. The claim and proof array align nicely with the crests and heraldic designs of yore…but, perhaps, with ag achievements?

Peace.   

 

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Know More How.

I’m always on the lookout for arguments supporting brand strategy. A brand strategy, as I define it, being an “organizing principle for product, experience and messaging.”

Many marketing plans have firm business and sales objectives: increase stock price 4 points, slow market share by 1% per annum, reduce materials cost by 2%, increase sales 150%. These are important, hard metrics. Metrics with which no one can argue.

Accomplishing objectives is the purview of strategy. In marketing this is where things get problematic. Many marketers go to the marketing playbook. If there was a tactics store (An agency? A consultant?), they would shop there — given the money. Typical strategies one might find in a tactical plan are: customer acquisition, increased sales-per-customer, improved retention, increased efficiency in production or marketing. All are business imperatives. Sadly, they’re generic. Everybody has them in their marketing plans.

Where the road curves toward the light is with brand strategy. Brand strategy (one claim, three proof planks) provides the “how.”  Patton’s strategy was “kill more bastards than your foe.” Generic. But his brand strategy equivalent included things like “outflank, tank destroyers, thrust line, etc.”  Specific to the situation. And all actionable. 

I’m not going to go all Sun Tzu on you but will ask “What elements of your strategy are unique to you, differentiated, and non-generic?  What elements can every employee understand and personally act-upon? These are the elements of the brand strategy — the how. Know more how.    

Peace.

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Brand strategy is all about playing offense.  The organizing principle behind brand strategy (1 claim, 3 proof planks), which drives product, experience and message is designed to build value and engender loyalty. This claim and proof array all brand and consumer-positive. Offense.

In this presidential election season, Super PACs are spending lots of money supporting their candidates of choice. But contrary to consumer brand building, Super PAC money goes into playing defense. Rather than say good things about their candidate, Super PACs line up bad things to say about opponents. We’ve seen and heard these ads and they’re not pretty… but they can be effective. The John Kerry Swift Boat ads helped put his candidacy asunder. Typically, one big ad can have an effect.  But those Swift Boat ads are rare. What about all the other drecky ads? They just create confusion.

Just as consumer brands are built using an organizing principle steeped in positivity, PAC attack ads must be organized for negative effect. They should also follow the 1 one claim, 3 proof plank construct. Otherwise, PACS are just throwing tons of negatives at the wall.  It can become cartoonish.

I’m sickened by all the negative advertising in politics and wished it didn’t happen but, hey, it’s life.  And it’s a big business. Why do it poorly?

Peace.

 

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The hardest part of quantifying the success of brand strategy (1 claim, 3 proof planks) is the act of tying measurement of “care-abouts” and “good-ats” (the proofs upon which brand value are built) to sales. I call this pursuit: Return On Strategy (ROS).

Back in the 90s while working on AT&T Business Communications Services, fighting off MCI (a smart competitors buying share with discount prices), we knew that messaging the right combination of “competitive price” (within 10% of MCI), “network reliability” and “innovative telecom tools” (the 3 planks) would result in added business users. If market perceptions of this trifecta were offset by MCI, they started winning new account “adds.” The trick was meting out the right combination of planks with our media budget.  We were using quantitative research to gauge attitudes and tie them to actions/sales.

This is the way one does ROS.  But numbers about attitudes can lie. Nate Cohn, The New York Times version of Nate Silver, mea culpa’ed today about Donald Trump. He spent a 1,000 words explaining why the numbers lied and Trump beat the odds.

I often write about “proof” in my blog posts. And about “deeds” — the actual activities that feed the care-about and good-ats. This line of thinking and study is where I need to spend more time. As was the case in Mr. Cohn’s explanation of Mr. Trump, attitudes and numbers can mislead. So I’m off to look beyond attitudes and on to awareness of deeds tied to sales. Should be interesting.

Peace.                         

 

 

 

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The early Egyptians built with stone and what they built still stands. Shea Stadium was built in the 60s and had to be torn down. It was built with steel and cement. If you were to build a structure today that you wanted to last for 1,000 years what would you use? Perhaps someone will invent a new composite material for building construction that will last 500,000 years.

The materials with which we construct products – sugar in carbonated soft drinks, salt in French fries, silicon in computer chips – are seen as building blocks of brands. Yet, when I develop brand strategy (1 claim, 3 proof planks) the materials are secondary, perhaps tertiary. What the materials deliver is way more important.

During my exploration rigor I use a number of tools to mine insights as to “what customers want most” and what the product or service “does best.” Then with all the learning arrayed, I begin to boil down the elements into groups. The groups cluster and point to a common claim…of brand superiority or customer desire. So proof, in fact, comes before claim.

Rarely are materials the sole heroes of the proof planks; deeds and experiences often are. It may sounds backwards but it works for me.

Peace.          

            

 

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charger strom trooper

UBER is doing a really neat promotion in NYC, tying in to the new Star Wars movie. It is making 8 Dodge Chargers, painted to look like Mattel Hot Wheels Star Wars Storm Trooper cars (white with distinctive black striping), available for free for the day, providing you use the appropriate promo code. It’s really cool for Dodge, whose cars become roving brand billboards, and it’s a nice way to get UBER some excellent pub.

The promo made me wonder though about UBER’s brand strategy. I’m not sure I know what it is at this point. And that’s often okay for a first-to-category company. Your Is-Does becomes the brand claim a la “Your Ride, On Demand.” But without a brand strategy (1 claim, 3 proof planks), it’s hard to decide if a promotion is making a deposit in the brand bank or a withdrawal.  So this seems to me a promotion for promotion’s sake, not for strategy’s sake. Though I don’t know the Dodge Charger brand strategy, I’m feeling a proximity to it with this promotion. Storm troopers charge, no?

Start-ups and category pioneers need brand strategies. VCs should encourage this. It helps everyone make decisions about product, experience and messaging. UBER should have one.

Peace.          

 

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I came to a conclusion the other day while at the Griffin Farley Beautiful Minds competition in NYC. I decided my definition of brand planner is different from most other’s. Most feel a brand planner is a person who does strategy for individual projects, understanding the brand strategy and writing briefs for particular tactical projects.  In a brand’s life there is one brand strategy yet scads of individual executions or communications supporting it. These executions give brand planners constant day jobs.  My definition of a brand planner, however, is a macro definition. In my world, you write the brand strategy once and you are done. One tight brand strategy (1 claim, 3 proof planks) sets the “organizing principle” for life. The creative and the tactics then become ongoing expressions of the brand strategy.

I’m not talking about building Levittown here. There can and must be a crazy amount of creative inflections throughout, but the goal is to sell more stuff, to more, people more times at higher prices (thanks Sergio Zyman) using “a single claim and proof array.”

There is no doubt that the industry’s definition of brand planning – the ongoing supervision of a brand idea – is a solid one. The marketing and ad worlds are better places with planners around. But at What’s the Idea?, my vision is to teach marketers and creatives to fish. Using one amazing hook.

Peace.

 

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There’s lots of talk these days about content strategy and content marketing. It’s a big practice and bigger business. In fact, data analysis tools supporting these efforts is may have surpassed the billion dollar mark. Yet for a business with so much cachet, it is surprising there is so little in the way of real, innovative social sharing on the topic.  I’m not talking about the “7 ways to increase belly fat (I mean) social media engagement” kind if posts – those are a dime a dozen.  I’m talking about innovative, doable, free suggestions.

Here’s one.  Every social media team should be testing one new hashtag a day. Those hashtags should adhere to the brand strategy (one claim, three proofs planks), of course.  This regiment will provide multiple learning moments for the content marketing people daily. Moreover, it will create a new discipline for brand adherence. The team can meet before the day begins to discuss the daily hashtag and also what worked and didn’t the previous day.

Every day you are not learning about your brand, is a day it lies fallow. Eyes off the blinking dashboard lights for a moment sirs and ladies, let’s feed the marketing beast with real time analysis and learning, e.g., “What in the news of the day made people twitch to our hashtag?” 

Stay tuned for more social tips. Or visit “Social Media Guard Rails.” Not a book.  

Peace. 

 

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One of the hardest jobs in the world, I suspect, is teaching special needs children. Spec Ed, insiders call it. I am no expert but I do know there are certain stimuli that get through to special needs kids. They like to touch. They like the color purple. Certain sounds and instruments are soothing. Special needs children learn better when distractions are minimized and their individual leaning sweet spot found.  This individualized learning modus extends to non-special needs children. Children learn at different paces because they are like snowflakes.

In marketing, there are some similarities. Predisposing a consumer to your product and pitch does not benefit from a cookie cutter approach. Brand planners who understand buying behavior, context and psychology have a leg up when avoiding the cookie cutter approach. This deeper understanding can give form to the organizing principle that is the brand plan (here defined as 1 Claim, 3 Support Planks). This organizing principle offers flexibility to teach consumers in different learning places, yet enough control for brand managers to stay focused.

Consumers are so overwhelmed by marketing, unsupported claims, imagery, song and marko-babble, they can’t concentrate. We need to create a distraction-less, replicable selling schemes that are indelible. With a tight brand plan we can impact product, experience, benefit set, and most importantly muscle memory. Marketing is about creating behavior or changing behavior. The pedagogy of marketing. Peace.

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