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When I when I started my blog What’s The Idea? in 2007 I had a tough decision to make. Originally, I wanted to call it What’s The Big Idea?, thinking big ideas were better than regular old ideas. Eight years out, I’m happy with my decision to leave off the “big.”griffin farley beautiful mind logo

The reality is, as much I seek big ideas for my brand strategy clients, sometimes just getting them to agree to an idea is enough. Big, bold, brave ideas are currency of the planning realm these days. According to Suzanne Powers, chief strategy office at McCann-Erickson, it is one reasons Team Catfish won the Griffin Farley Beautiful Minds competition last night at Google. And she wasn’t wrong. But “big” can sometime be a synonym for brazen. (And I get it, most of my brand strategies contain one word that make CEOs and marketing officers uncomfortable.) But brand ideas don’t need to be huge, or poetic, or brilliantly layered — they just need to be clean. More importantly they need to be followed. Enforced. And enculturated.

Coke’s “refreshment” wasn’t a big idea. It was a smooth sailing idea. “We know where you live” for Newsday wasn’t a big idea, it was a comfortable idea.

A brand strategy idea (the claim) doesn’t need to be big to be effective. It must, however, be believable, relevant and easy to understand. Peace!

P.S. Great job last night Sarah Watson, Angela Sun and BBH.

 

 

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Innovation in selling has always been with us. Half driven by science, half driven by art, through the years marketers have looked for more cost-effective, efficient ways to sell product and out-sell competitors. These days the web, digital production and mobile have tossed into the innovation crucible a number of exciting new tools. It’s a new day. An example:

I saw a TV spot last night in which the screen was split into four quadrants — each had a picture of the same young lad with four different style glasses on. If you want to sell glasses, this is a very efficient way. It’s a trial application, a comparison application, and perhaps, should they put prices in each screen, a price/value application. Did someone think of this as a tool in the 80s? Probably. Could they do anything about it then? Elegantly? Nope.

This is what excites me about marketing technology or marketing tech today…the possibilities. And the ideas can come from anywhere. But my bet is that this idea came from an agency? Some shop like Anomaly, Droga5, BBH, Mother, or R/GA. It may have come from an innovation group, but my money is on a shop. Agencies have the most creative people. Innovations groups tend to have facilitators and rent-a-cops.

Agencies know the future is new marketing apps, buildables and technologies in addition to lovely advertising. Agencies, if used properly, are way more valuable than they used to was. A new whoosh is here. Let’s use it. Give your agency the opportunity.

Peace.

 

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Google Brand.

Ya gotta love Google.  These guys get branding.  (That’s why they use BBH for advertising, projects and counsel.) I’ve been blogging about the Google brand strategy — first articulated by Sergei Brin — for years.  Their clam is “The world’s information in one click.”  Today, even Motorola CEO Dennis Woodside (Moto is a Google subsidiary), was singing off the same hymn sheet.  Said Mr. Woodside in the NYT “Google’s mission is to organize all the world’s information and make it universally accessible.”   He continued “For Motorola, one of the things we’re trying to do is create a very high-quality mobile Internet experience over time for hundreds of millions of peoples.”  That’s a tight brand strategy. And scalable. Create a claim and productize the proof.

Granted, self-driving cars, one of Google’s pet projects, are not proof of the world’s information in one click.  But do they facilitate the claim? You can’t search while driving. Hee hee. Google has Labs (hey Ben Malbon) and dabbles in many things, so we can’t say for sure that it will make money the same way 100 years out, but for now they understand strategy, what people want, and what they are good at.

One thought though…right now Google searches for websites. That’s where searches resolve. But some of the cooler things these days shooting over the web are not websites — they are apps, messages, pics and vids. That’s something worth thinking about. Peace.  

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pregnant-red-apeWhenever I try to explain to business people what a brand strategy is, I find it often better to just show them a few strategies. When I go on about “an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging” eyes glaze over and I fall into the marko-babble trap. But when I display the brand idea and 3 proof planks, the synapses start to fire and they begin thinking about their own business.  Practice and a modeling (as they say in .edu) are brain sparking. Theory not so much.  

Then I typically walk prospects through the hard part of brand strategy: what we need to throw out. As in, what we needn’t say. The iPhone was positioned as a phone, not a camera-email-text-app device. The “i” carried all of that. The “i” was pregnant with all innovative things Apple.  

Pregnant context is what you get credit for even when you don’t say it.  Select your brand strategy words with precision and you’ll get way more than you ask for. In the recent tyro brand planner event at BBH, celebrating the life of Griffin Farley, the winning idea for the Citibike assignment was “Bikes with Benefits.”  The idea was pregnant with target information, aspiration, vitality and value.  The best brand strategies live a long, long time. First they borrow context then they create their own.  Peace in The House (of Representatives). 

 

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The finals last night at the Griffin Farley “Beautiful Minds” brand planning competition came down to two ideas: “Bikes with Benefits” and “Don’t Take That Shit.”  The former selected for its cultural currency and energy, the latter for its create-a-movement potential.  The judges, looking at briefs on the CitiBikes program, made the right call giving the competition to the Bikes With Benefits team.  

Great ideas should be able to come from anywhere, yet Bikes With Benefits was a creative idea as well as a strategy — and that can be a problem for some creative teams. Don’t Take That shit was not so much creative as it was a spark for creative. It may have won the room but it didn’t win the judges.   

Another Farley, Jim Farley of Ford, once said great advertising makes you feel something then do something. Both ideas accomplished this. Both strategies were strong.  One idea showed better. Peace.

PS. Great job BBH, Sarah Watson and Angela Sun.  This event is a keeper.

 

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I was judging at The Beautiful Minds Event last weekend, a wonderful BBH-sponsored celebration of the life of Griffin Farley, and was struck by how rose colored my glasses have become.  Not sure if it’s all the find the pain point pop marketing books the kids read in school or what the media hath wrought, but most of the young were wrapping their strats around problem solving. (Beautiful Minds, BTW, is a competition among tyro brand planners.)

The brief the competitors were chasing was about Citibikes. Imagery of sweat, commuter angst, cramped subway cars and ornery taxi drivers abounded.  Where was the happiness factory? Readers know I love Coke strategy and have been a little contrary when it comes to the happiness strategy. Growing up at McCann and seeing how “refreshment” can be optimized for Coke sales, I’ve not been “feeling” the happiness thing.  But then I watched the lovely “Small World Machine” video designed to bring closer together Pakistani and Indian youth. I cried then said to myself “that’s refreshing.” A different kind of refreshing.     

With all the negativity in the world, all the cop/killing TV shows, movies about aliens eating cities, religious wars and hate mongering, it’s not hard to stick out with some positivity. Let’s not just fix problems with our strategies, let’s surround and celebrate the good.  And let’s teach the youth to do so as well. Check all your briefs at the door people. Peace.

RIP Aunt Irma. The Poppe matriarch.

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Apple has been on the front page of many metropolitan newspapers over the last couple of years.  The FoxConn story on manufacturing in China under un-American circumstances, the hard looks at Steve Jobs during publication of his biography and passing and now its tax avoidance.  It’s almost as if some in the media have an axe to grind with this darling of American commerce and technology.  Overdogs often are targeted. Yet with all this bad press, most consumers still love Apple.

apple

Microsoft used to be the overdog and all consumers used their products — but most skewered them. Many techies loved to kill them on message boards, in offices and around the digital coolers.  The only Microsoft advocates worked at Microsoft.

So how why does Apple get stink on itself and still maintain the love? Products. And proper brand management. Much of the latter is due to Lee Clow, TBWA/Chiat Day, Steve Jobs himself and the marketing Kool-Aid drinkers.  The Apple ads are fun, funny, sometimes biting, colorful and artful.  And clean like the products.

I’m hard-pressed to see how the latest tax image problem will be resolved by Apple, but I’m sure it will be. Samsung, Microsoft, HTC and Google Glass will fight Apple for share of wallet. But when it comes to the “love,” they will need to create and manage their brands with grace, insight and focus if they are to beat the overdog syndrome. (Google and it’s agency BBH have a clue. Eye on them.) Peace.

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As a brand and marketing commentator it’s hard not paying attention to the Unilever brand Axe.  I’ve written about it with some frequency as have many business pundits. The brand and its wonderful ad agency BBH have innovated and made mad market share headway over the years. Axe created the first body wash for men/boys as far as I know – they are a category pioneer.   

What I find ironic about Axe Body Wash and Axe anything, is that I cannot remember ever having smelled the stuff.  My son Nits has left the house many times smelling like French “you know” but I have no clue what he was dipped in.  Body wash, cologne-ey stuff, Axe, Old Spice, Stop & Shop. Who knew?  He has used Axe (I woke him this morning to confirm). 

So what does that say about Axe marketing, which most people would agree is superior?  It says to me that it is missing an experiential component. If the stuff smells good, and I have to assume it does, why can’t I recall its scent? Where is the muscle memory I have for, say, Burger King? Where’s taste test… I mean scent test?  I’m not the target, but I’m a potential buyer and gifter.  Come on Axe, don’t go all Bloomingberg’s (Thanks cousin Thom Fleming. Hee hee.) on me and spritz me as I walk by —  but get me a sniff or two. Trial is the stuff of which market share growth is made. Peace!

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