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Bipolar Brands

I say bipolar brands and you say “not good.” When doing discovery on a branding assignment, I’d love to ladder down to a bipolar brand dealing with only two care-abouts or good-ats. Most of the time, I’m dealing with 15 plus.

Who would start a business with a product or service that was only good at one thing?  I walked into the corporate headquarters of advertising client Adecco a number of years ago and on the reception wall was a canvas touting 40 or so mission words. The written strategy diaspora for Adecco. It’s amazing we were able to get an ad approved.

Brand strategy is an organizing principle anchored to an idea. Bipolar brands, tripolar brand, quadripolar brands don’t have an idea.

Staking your claim to an idea is freeing. Cathartic. A big exhale moment.

What’s your brand idea. What’s the idea?




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Every once and a while I send a Tweet based upon something I’ve read and reacted to, that excites me.  (A blind squirrel…) As it rolls of the keys it just feels right. Almost poetic. Not to poets but to those in the brand business.  Here’s one such:

“Brand ideals” cobbled together by a design firm are not brand strategy.

Let’s parse the statement. “Brand ideals” are real things. Understandable things.  And though the words may be a little unfamiliar, the meaning makes sense. The problem is ,there may be a number of brand ideals. (In the lobby of Adecco’s US headquarters I once noted its brand ideals on a wall. Fifty of them. Professionalism, honesty…you get the idea.

The word “cobbled” is a nice word, suggesting put together with some craftsmanship…but not that much. Not like engineered. Cobbled might connote put together with tacks and a few swift strokes.   

A “design firm” is a specific organization. Artists, creators, some thinkers arrayed in colorful offices, wearing fashionably unfashionable clothes. An artful charm pervades a design firm. McKinsey doesn’t come to mind, but design firms with names like Frog and Idea do offer panache.  

And “not a brand strategy” is, contextually, the mother lode. Very few can succinctly articulate what a brand strategy is. Many can define brand. Few can define a branding. Fewer still brand strategy.  And when people try the halls fill with marko-babble.  Stuff like “brand ideals.” And here we come full circle.

This tweet, these 12 words, captures attention, takes a little swipe at a big segment of the branding market and highlights a shared information problem in brand planning – the lack of understanding. The implication of the tweet is a not-too-professorial suggestion that the tweeter has the answer. Back pat, back pat.  Peace.

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