boil down

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Inside every huge piece of stone is a beautiful sculpture.  Or not.  Upon every blueprint is an architect’s rendering of an amazing building. Or not. On every canvas… okay, you get the idea.

It’s the same way with brand planning.  Any knucklehead with a pencil or keyboard can ask executives, customers and thought-leaders questions. Anyone can fill up a OneNote document (cool Microsoft product) with lots of words, links, quotes and data.  But what makes a great brand plan is what is left at the end.  And how it is organized and integrated. And what can be acted upon for the good of the brand. 

I call this process the boil down.  I like to cook and the metaphor about making a rich sauce through the reduction process works for me.  No matter what you name your process, when going from the massive (discovery) to the reduced and pungent, it is the final product that makes the successful brand planner. Branding is an organizing principle. Most CEOs, CFOs and CMOs know what makes a brand tick; they just can’t always decipher or decode the promise. Not in words consumers can hold dear. Or that employees can understand and live by.  But when a brand planner presents the boil down to C-level execs and sees that sparkle in their eyes — the sculpture is done. And properly conveyed and packaged a brand plan can work for consumers and employees.  This isn’t like approving an ad campaign, this is business strategy… in poetry.  Peace



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The real art of brand planning is in knowing what not to say. 
When brand planning, I use something called the 24 Questions to help find the money. Once the money is found, job two is how to position. For this a number of hunting and gathering techniques are used; tools that are now vastly improved thanks to the Web. Information is amassed about the product, the competition, corporate leadership, the market, and current buying culture. Then future buying culture is projected, based upon trends. Only then, does the “boil down” process begin. 


The boil down is the point at which things are prioritized and edited. Evaporation occurs over time until only a powerful branding idea is left.  By itself, the idea may come off as mundane. But when presented to executive management along with the boil down logic, that’s when the magic occurs.  Marketing executives love logic and strive for simplicity, but are often too close to make it happen. A powerful brand strategy can set marketers free, but it is the logic of the boil down that sells it. Peace!

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Having worked the last couple of years for an internet start-up and a consumer product launch I can tell you how important the “idea” is when it comes to bringing something new to market.  


The web start up was not easy to explain. It was part social network, part web development tool, part web portal. Try ‘spaining that one Ricky. The consumer product was a nutrition and protein drink, boasting the highest form of pure, drinkable protein – highly desirable qualities among the infirm who cannot stomach lactose, sugar and thickness of the shakes currently dominating the market.


When a new product is released to market it needs to be easily defined.  The definition needs to resonate with consumer, the media and the product’s sellers.  It requires a single statement of product, value and benefit.  To get to that simple statement requires many decisions about what not to include.  This is the “boil down” process. You boil away the extraneous, and what is left is the most powerful, flavorful truth about the product.    


This statement is the “suit strategy” and it is the most critical part of the brand launch. It galvanizes the company, informs the markets and gives creative people the direction for the creative. Once fed and cared for over time, the suit strategy morphs into the “branding idea.” Campaigns come and go, but a powerful branding idea is indelible.


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Brand Planning


Brand planning begins with a question and ends with an idea. What happens in between can be magical.  If the branding idea is powerful enough, it can generate billions. If focused enough, it can alter markets and change corporate structure. If creative enough, it can impact culture and influence language.  Powerful branding ideas can be indelible….but only if understood, operationalized and well managed. 


Branding ideas are strategic, not tactical.

Branding ideas are simple, not convoluted.

Branding ideas are inspirational, not congratulatory.

Branding ideas are personal, not global.


The art of brand planning is found in the “boil down.” Knowing what not to include.  It is the most important discipline in the craft. Presenting the boil down to clients makes the fur fly. It makes people raise their voices. It is cathartic. The boil down is the money. Peace! 


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