brand

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I had a discussion with an Asheville, NC brewer last year who was in the process of doing a brand redesign with a branding shop based in Texas. They did a lovely job, by the way. The topic of taps came up — taps being the long ceramic bar-top devices used to pour beer.

Having poured a little beer at the Bluepoint Brewery taproom back in the day, I recognized up close how tap designs can be a cool branding “thing.”  Bluepoint, I was told, used a California-based tap manufacturer and paid a handsome price per piece. Each tap had a unique grab, including mermaids, monks, Rastafarians, lighthouses, buoys, etc.  All distinct and memorable.  When I shared this with the Asheville brewer, who perhaps had been bitten a little too hard by the branding bug, she suggested the lack of brand continuity was a weakness.  

Out for a quaff last Friday at the Mellow Mushroom, a local joint with over 100 beers on tap, I noticed about 5 or 6 of the local brewer’s beer taps. All had the same logo, all had the same block letter typeface for the beer name, all sporting a different color for package differentiation. Very corporate. Very easy to read. Beer personality: Zero.

Blue Point got it right. Each beer is a brand. Each should be celebrated as such at the local watering hole. Peace.

 

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My brand briefs are filled with heart-warming, heart wrenching twists of a phrase. They are meant to engage the Amygdala.  Trust me, they work when it comes to selling brand strategy (one claim, three proof planks.) But unless you are Bob Dylan no consumer is going to remember your poetic brand claim and proof array. They may remember a song from an ad. They may remember a tagline plastered everywhere locked up with your logo. But for lasting impact and indelible brand strategy, choose deeds over words.  Deeds and evidence.

The New York Yankees are a premier sports franchise because of their 27 world championships. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center is “the best cancer care anywhere” (words) because its physicians have more experience treating cancer (deeds).

When companies bring their brands to me for help positioning, I look for deeds, evidence and proof. That’s the ore that precedes the jewelry.

Peace.  

 

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Kylie Jenner’s makeup sold $420 million in 18 months with minimal advertising beyond her Instagram posts. Her lip kits and eyeshadow palettes, at one point, retailed for $27 and $42 respectively. At a street fair on Long Island teen girls were falling over themselves to buy the stuff. The police showed up after a while, arrested some entrepreneurial boys hawking the cosmetics, all of which turned out to all be fake. The teens didn’t seem to care.

Kylie got some game. Kylie has a brand. Just ask my SnapChat stock, which lost mega value when she dinged the platform after it updated the interface.

If you are not Kylie Jenner and there is not pent up demand for anything and everything you touch, you need a brand strategy. In fact, in 15 years when Kylie isn’t hot (commercially), she may rue the fact she didn’t establish an organizing principle for her brand. Kids!

Creating brands out of people is hard. Creating brands for companies and products is easy. Claim and proof is the fasted, most enduring way.
If you are interested in some success stories and examples, write Steve@whatstheidea.com

Peace.

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Bad Brand Magic.

magic cauldron

Brands are meaningless without products. It used to be easy in the old days, before service companies came about. Everything was clean; you bought things that went thump on a table or desk. You bought stuff. Stuff had qualities to which you could associate value. Then along came services like insurance and banking — and value was derived from process and experience. In this world price became even more important.

Fast forward 30 years past the service economy to the information economy, fueled by integrated circuits and computers, business accelerants, and product have become a much smaller part of the economy. The science of marketing in this economy has become “magical.” And not in a good way. In a way where magic is unexplainable. Enter the overuse and obfuscation of the word brand. Brand has become the ephemera around which fees and silly ads are built… around which logos and taglines are traded.

But let me take a breath. Branding has evolved.

Service companies can be brands. They can establish muscle memory for the value of a process or experience. But it takes a framework. It takes, as I like to call it, an “organizing principle for product, experience and messaging.”

I’ve done brand strategy this work for billion dollar organizations, service groups within billion dollar orgs and small businesses who sell to billion dollar orgs. And you know what? Every service is the same and every service is different. If you’d like to take the bad magic out of your marketing, write me (steve at whatstheidea) and I’ll share some examples of powerful service brand strategies. Peace.

 

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Learn from a salesman.

One of the things that makes watching the Olympics on TV so compelling is the human interest piece they do on athletes before each event. Usually it revolves around a home town and a hardship conveyed by friends, family or teachers. These back-stories not only set context, but allow viewer a little emotional skin in the game.

In advertising, this is not really possible. It used to be in the early days of long copy print ads, not anymore; not in this fast twitch media world with smart phone ads the size of a pinky finger.

The ability to set the stage for selling using exposition is something great sales people do. They story tell with examples tied to the course of the conversation. And they story tell, not off the boiler plate talking points of the company, but using heart and soul of experiences (or proofs) that carry emotional “reasons to prefer” a brand. As I mentioned in my last post, that’s usually not material-based but experience-based.

This is the heart of storytelling today. And it was learned from belly-to-belly salespeople, as are most great selling schemes and techniques.

Web sites could borrow a page. Peace.

 

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Context Matters.

broadway boogie woogie

Look at the picture above. It is one of the most famous paintings in the world.  To some, however, it is a simplistic primary color pattern of boxes;  childlike in its construction. To art connoisseurs it is rapture. When I saw it in art class in college I fell into the former category. Today, though no connoisseur, I tend to see its virtue. Why?

Context.

This paint by Piet Mondrian is titled “Broadway Boogie Woogie.” Now, I am able to get it. Finally, I understand the painting. My years on the planet have allowed me to see the painting with a new familiarity thanks to the title.  The title, for me, makes this painting. Setting my mind afire.

This may not sound like a branding observation; it is. Context matters. Oh does context matter.

Peace.

 

 

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If I keep writing about ROS or return on strategy it may become a brand planning meme. First, brand planning has to become a meme (hot web topic) which may be wishful thinking. Hee hee. Anyway, Return On Strategy suggests there is something to measure. Upper case DUH.  The problem with most brand design and redesigns is that much of the money and thinking is tied up in the mark. And tagline. The mark should be the last mile of brand strategy and brand design. It’s about the paper strategy first. The idea.

If Newsday’s brand strategy is “We know where you live” (Newsday is a top 10-15 daily newspaper in the U.S.), then the value of that claim must be measureable. To do that you need support planks – planks that are of value to readers. e.g., a great source of “local entertainment” or “events and legislation affecting local taxes.” The ability to measure attitudes, actions and perceptions against these planks is the heavy lifting of brand strategy.

The Interbrands and Landors of the world don’t spend real time here. They design and deliver logos, taglines and style manuals. You may be able to measure adherence to a style manual but that’s not likely to drive revenue.

Start with your paper brand strategy and you start at the beginning. Peace!  

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Facebook reported huge earnings yesterday. It has often spoken about killing it in mobile advertising but I couldn’t see it. I understand where the ads are placed on desktop Facebook but have yet to see how they’re used in the mobile interface.  Are they little banners like on Weatherbug? Sidebar text ads? Nah, no room. I have never seen any ads on my Windows Phone so the whole thing doesn’t compute.

Then the earnings article I read today cleared it up.  It said the ads appear in the feed, much like this shrunk down ad from the desktop Facebook application:

facebook ad

Ahhh, now I get it. The mobile version of this ad will measure about an inch in height, contain a logo or brand mark, an eyebrow, headline and a few words of copy, a visual the size of a thumb nail and link. At least this is the way I see it. Anything bigger will be too intrusive for the Facebook masses. This ad unit, to be named later, will be the advertising unit to replace all. It will be as common as the TV ad, the page 4C, the banner. Ad agencies will perfect it. It will launch video. This unit is why Facebook will be printing money for the next 10 years. The unit is here, the time is now.

If Facebook exhibits restraint on how frequently they can serve these ads there should be no consumer backlash. And don’t get greedy Mr. Z and Ms. S. Don’t sell super-premium size mobile ads that gobble the screen.

Does anyone have a good name for this new unit?

Peace.

 

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I get major brand planning wood when landing on a cool target insight. Not a transplanted insight from my experience imposed on the target, but something from his or her very soul. Target transference besets all planners. How could it not? Young planners, planners in a hurry, planners without data and depth of consumer experience take from their own frame of reference. From reading. Past research. Input. But if it feels “safe” and “done” it probably is.

And let’s not forget that when doing brand planning, not project planning, there are often many targets to consider. For instance, a brand plan for a toothpaste needs to appeal to the brusher, household goods purchaser, and even the dentist. All targets count. So the target insight can have a tendency to get watered down. Don’t let it.

Be selfless. Remove yourself from the equation. Close your eyes and listen. Every word matters. Find the special words. If you are not getting special words, plants some and see where they go.  Some words have many meanings to your target. Plumb their depths.

Peace.

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