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In my pre-career as a brand planner I met with then head of NY planning at BBH, Paul Matheson. BBH was on a side street in Chelsea, in a little commercial walk up, trying to find its footing in NY. As someone with little formal brand strategy training, apparently I did a rather good job of talking trade craft. I recall Mr. Matheson saying of the 7 or so critical factors in a BBH brand strategy I mentioned 6. Most people got 3, he offered. Culture everyone missed, but not I — with an Anthroplogy background.
Today I’m thinking of revisiting my critical factors and adding a new one: Provenance.
A neat word provenance. It means where something comes from. Coors beer comes from the Rockies, brewed with Rocky Mountain water. Farm to table restaurant brands rely on provenance. Maine lobsters. Muscle Shoals musicians. That kind of thing. Understanding where brands physically come from is important. The people that make the brands. The materials. The design intent — Greene and Greene furniture, for instance. Endemic brand qualities are embedded in where and why products and services are made. Is an Austin app different from a Stanford app?
As my Norwegian aunt would say “Tink about it.” Think about provenance.
Tags: as my Norwegian aunt would say tink about it, bbh, brand planning factors, Brand Strategy, brand strategy factors, coors beer, green and greene, paul Matheson, provenance, provenance in brand planning, whats the idea, whatstheidea
I was a judge yesterday in the Griffin Farley Beautiful Minds completion. Mr. Farley was a BBH strategist who succumbed to cancer at way-too-early an age. The competition, and he would, likely, never have used the word competition, is a legacy built upon his nurturing of young planners. Clearly a beloved man.
The showcase reminded me of why brand planning and strategy are so important. And why we create strategy ideas not only with ballast but with singularity.
The judging process allows gives teams of 5 or 6 planners fifteen minutes to present and about the same time for Q&A. The tyros are given a brief, a couple of key objectives and 24 hours to create an insight, an idea, and a consumer connection platform. Judges are then given even less time to evaluate and select 3 or 4 of the 12 teams to put through to the final round. The final round of judging takes place on Tuesday evening with other judges given even less time to pick a winner.
What I love about the process is that judges have about as much time as consumers to make a buy decision. We saw some amazing work from all the showcase teams. Kernels of brilliance in many places. But what helped teams make the cut was clarity. Of idea. Of serial logic. It’s hard to shine one idea when so many good ones are on the table. But that’s the hard work. Mark Twain once said “I would have written a shorter letter if I had more time.”
I just love this business. Congratulations to Sarah Watson and BBH. Congratulations participants. Beautiful minds indeed.
Tags: account planning competition for young planners, bbh, Griffin Farley beautiful minds, mark twain I would have written a shorter letter if I had more time, sarah Watson, whats the idea
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.”
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.
Tags: Angela Sun, bbh, brand idea, Brand Strategy, coke, google, Griffin Farley beautiful minds, mccann erickson, newsday, sarah Watson, Suzanne powers, whats the big idea, whats the idea, whatstheidea
Back in the Mad Men days when David Ogilvy and Marion Harper were roaming the halls amidst the think Pall Mall smoke, whenever someone needed data, the research department was called in. Research was important. The quants were the drivers of insight back in the 50s — when American Demographic began publishing (I think).
Today there is nary a research department to be found. It’s the planning dept; either account or brand. Insights are the purview of today’s planning dept. BUT…
A number of marketing plans I have written for clients recently have included a line item for the hiring of a data analyst. Or a half of a data analyst. I was reading a story in the NYT today of missing black men, in the 25-54 demographic, and it dawned on me that data analysts are really needed at ad agencies. When I speak to heads of planning — at BBH and the like — they are interested in “quants” and data analysis, but it is not a core need. Maybe, when they’re working in digital it gains importance. But the top people are not jockeying numbers as a day job. (And they shouldn’t.) They should however, dial up their reliance on data analysts. And prep them with insights. It is an important component (pronounced COM-ponent) of today’s advertising. Use data to think like an ad guy.
As Mad Men leaves us, perhaps the research dept. of yore will make a comeback. Peace.
Tags: "david ogilvy", Account Planning, American demographic magazine, bbh, Brand Planning, mad men, marion harper, missing black men, new york times, new York times upshot, Pall mall, quants in advertising, whats the idea, whatstheidea
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.
Tags: anomaly, bbh, droga5, marketin technology, Marketing tech, marketing technology, mother, or R/GA, whatstheidea. whats the idea
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.
Tags: bbh, ben malbon, Brand Strategy, branding, dennis woodside, google, google brand, google labs, moto, motorola, nyt, sergei brin, whats the idea, whatstheidea
Whenever 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).
Tags: apple iphone strategy, bbh, brand planners, brans strategy, Citibike, griffin Farley, iphone brand name, marko-babble, modeling, pregnant context, whats the idea, whatstheidea
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.
Tags: bbh, beautiful Minds, bikes with benefits, Citibikes, ford, griffin Farley, james Farley, whats the idea, whatstheidea, “feel something then do something”
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.
Tags: bbh, citi bikes, Citibikes, coke, griffin Farley, happiness factory, mccann erickson, small world machine, the beautiful minds, W+K, whats the idea, whatstheidea