beyond the dashboard planner

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I was thumbing through old Quora posts and noticed I had made a ringing endorsement of Google Glass.  “How could it not work?” The medical field alone would be enough to keep it an exciting new product. Wrong!

Many years ago I worked for McCann-Erickson, a top 3 advertising global agency. McCann handled Coca-Cola. They had just brought on a new creative director, Gordon Bowen, who stood before the entire NYC office in the grand ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria and he smilingly told us, “It’s Coke, how hard can it be.” It practically sells itself, he implied. Coke was gone within the year to a group called Creative Artists. A west coast talent agency.

So here’s one for the prognosticators.  Expect to be wrong. Even when you know you are right. Don’t be paranoid, but keep an eye toward the future knowing there are no absolutes.

I love to position myself as a beyond the dashboard planner. It’s where, I believe, the successful marketers need to play. But you get a black eye every now and again. Expect it. Learn from it. Parlay it.


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One of my memes on the web is “beyond the dashboard planner.”  (I’m first in Google yet my goal is to be first with “beyond the dashboard.”  So on I type.)

The planning and strategy business is parsed into 4 approaches. The biggest segment is the Rearview Mirror planner — those who look at what has gone before to help plan the future. The second segment is the Side View Mirror planner, who looks backward but also at the fast approaching from the rear.  Think Anheuser Busch/InBev watching the smaller but quickly growing craft beer category. Then comes the fairly new school category called Dashboard planners. Those of the Moneyball or 538 Blog data jockey school. Viewers of “the data and nothing but the data.”

Beyond the Dashboard planners look back. They also at the fast approaching and statistical. But then they do something smart with the learning. They think primarily about the future.  That dark-bright place where nobody’s ever been.  Yes, it’s scary. But, oh so human. It’s where all the big whooshes in business are born.  

Every big brand needs a beyond the dashboard planner.




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I’ve said before that “a brand is an empty vessel into which we pour meaning,” but that isn’t exactly correct. If a product, the brand is not an empty vessel, it’s a thing – a thing to which we “attach meaning.” A bottle of water is a bottle of water. We expect it to be clear, tasteless, and priced reasonably. It bring meaning that marketers must work with when branding. The same can be said, somewhat, for a service. Though not a thing, it does come with prepackaged meaning: a lawyer provides legal service, physicians healthcare, etc.  Services can be branded but present a slightly different challenge.

My approach to brand development for both is the same. I work to understand at what ta product or service is great and what consumers want most.  This is the area in which I live as a brand planner. As a beyond the dashboard planner I may think delve into what the customer doesn’t know s/he needs (but will need)…and dial that up a bit.

Where a service differs from a product is often in process. For a healthcare system a brand plank might be about “sharing.” For a website, maybe “community.”  Services, though they may not have a visual or taste appeal, can open up exciting new ground based on the simple fact that employees who deliver the service, who affect the experience, become part of the strategy. Done well, with a tight plan, that can be very meaningful. And very appealing.

Product brands live in your hand and your mind. Service brands only in the mind. But that’s a powerful place to be. Peace.



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