brand building

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Brand Leadership.

I’ve written a lot about leaders and their role in brand building. When in the presence of a great leader you can feel it. In the presence of a faux leader, the same. I’ve been a good leader and a poor leader and all the time it’s just me. Why the difference? Why the variability?

There are times to use the pimp hand and times for succor. Knowing which to use and when are key.  I just write off the variability to being human. To being fallible. Learn. Learn constantly and keep leading.

Brand don’t have brains. So brand leadership isn’t as hard. With a good brand strategy in place – brand strategy defined as an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging – brand leadership becomes easy. A brand is either on or it’s off. No emotions, no jealousy, no envy. Just one claim and three proof planks.

With a good brand strategy in place, even (human) corporate leadership is easier. As I said earlier this week, brand strategy is like penicillin.

Peace.

 

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Persistence.

One of the nicest compliments I’ve had while in the consulting business is I’m persistent. In business development, I reach out to prospects and provide them with little nuggets that might help their strategy and marketing. I do if for years. Sometimes I get a meeting, other times not. Timing is everything. “You surely are persistent,” I’ve been told. So long as I don’t get the sense that persistent equals annoying, I stay the course.

Brands need to be persistent. They need to provide a predictable and expected experience and constantly remind everyone of the fact. Though brand strategy. Brand strategy is an organized proof array, anchored to an idea.

Persistence is action. It’s not rote repetition. That’s why I’m always pushing clients to seek new proof. The new proof is what makes things fresh. New expressions of claim and proof. Exciting and memorable expressions.

That’s brand building. It’s not called brand stasis. Persistence in branding yields value and results. Always building.

Peace.

 

 

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I ran across a company today whose boilerplate description reads thus (the name has been changed):

ABC Communications is a creative marketing partner to our clients. We are experts in building brands and promoting product across all media channels. Our ability to seamlessly integrate online and offline communications in a compelling, unique and effective manner has given us recognition in the quickly growing online community. Providing inspired ideas and compelling creative that empowers and optimizes market presence is our passion!

It’s an agency. Their specialty seems to be integrating off- and online work. So 2009, don’t you think. But let’s not be catty.

My problem here is with the use of the words “brand building.”  Copy the first para. of every agency website extant and paste it into a file then search for “brand building” and you’ll get an 80%+ hit rate. Why? Because every tactic can be seen as brand building, so say the unwashed agency masses.

Real brand strategists know otherwise. Brand building starts with a real brand strategy. A claim or promise and unique proof array. All the marko-babble about “mission” and “values” and “personas” and an assortment of similar agency taxon used to create a halo of understanding between agency and brand marketer really just comes down to “Is there an organizing principle in place that allows for brand building, in a measurable way, that ties to sales.”  With measures that are discrete and finite. In a way that allows brand managers to say “no.” If so, you have a brand strategy. And you can build brands. Otherwise your tactics are nothing more. A loose federation of acts to increase awareness, interest and sales. Simple templates for action.

Peace.

 

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I’ve been doing business development for over 30 years; trying to help grow organic business from existing clients and add new business by identifying, earning favor and wining new clients. It’s an art, like hitting a baseball. It’s hard to be successful a majority of time.

My mom is a wonderful women but she likes to give advice. Some might say if her gums are moving, the advice is coming.  Advice suggests that someone is doing something wrong.  One school of thought in business development is advice-focused.  Point out things that are fixable, get credit for seeing them, and ask for the solution order. Bad idea. Nobody wants to talk about their flaws, especially with strangers, not unless they are close to fatal. So the better biz/dev approach is to have prospects ask you for advice. And how does that happen?  

First the prospect needs to be aware of you. There needs to be some top-of-mind awareness. Second they need to consider you as a good source of advice. “What have you done for me that makes me believe you can help?”  Third, they need to trust your advice will be sound. And lastly, you need to be easy to reach and available.  Sound like the marketing “steps to a sale” model?  Sure does.

Business development done well is a long term brand build, not a short term direct response transaction.  Most of my clients have come from development over time.  I have shown interest in them and their business over time, offered up insights not advice over time, and become familiar enough so that when the time was right, they called me.

So two nuggets: Do not be an advice-giver and take a long term approach to biz/dev. It is a craft not a transaction. Peace.

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Storytelling in advertising and marketing is the haps. The narrative. The customer journey. These approaches refer to getting consumers onboard without direct selling. Direct selling being “me, me, me” advertising versus storytelling which is you, you, you — always a more thoughtful approach. An approach much harder to get funded by marketing officers.

Agencies like storytelling because it creates buildables. Video is big. A friend of mine with a women’s sneaker company tells me “everyone keeps calling trying to sell me video.” BBDO has a Lowes Vines story on its website, boasting of effective 6 second Vines videos that only cost Lowes $5,000.

I’m down with storytelling. And video. And the digital journey through an assortment of buildables. But I’m more down with strategy. Or moving consumers to the moral of the story –what one feels about a brand as a result of all the work. And it’s not just a click or a product purchase, it’s the why. I bought a Coke because I wanted refreshment. I bought a Krispy Kreme donut because I deserved a treat.

Story telling is good but branding is more like crescendo building. Moving custies closer to full on purposeful love. Geico, could take a note or two here. Peace.

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Is it better to gamify learning or learnify gaming? Is if better to gamify war or warify games? Perhaps I just enjoy being contrarian but I’m growing a bit tired of the gamify word.  Games are contests…with winners and losers.  Not everything in life needs to be so.  Art isn’t a game.  Science isn’t a game. Business isn’t a game.

Gaming is a trend that marketers are grabbing hold of and early returns are positive, but the reality is gaming in marketing is really about gaming the consumer into learning about and buying products.  And that will get old.  You know when you are watching a movie and stop paying attention for a moment to ask “Was that a product placement?”  It messes with the art.  Good promotional games are and can be successful, but I fear  turning loose coders and web marketers with hi-def gaming assignments will more often than not, detract from brand building. What would a Geico game look like? Exactly. Peace.  

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I just read the first page of an IBM white paper entitled “The End of Advertising as We Know it.” IBM spends a lot on advertising, is should know of what it speaks. But IBM also spends a lot of energy and Benjamins getting people to buy machines that process data.

The IBM thesis is that one-to-many advertising – using TV to create demand and preference for brands — is old school and the new school model surrounds micro-segment targeting, where handfuls of people, even individuals, are targeted. The new school messages are delivered over a number of mediums, especially the web, in ways that are much closer to the point of sale, much more measurable and efficient. A one-to-one approach.

IBM is wrong about the death of advertising. Way wrong. TV ads will live on. In fact, they will get better as we ferret out the sloppy craftspeople. But IBM is right in that marketing budgets will be using a lot more digital tools to help find customers, set the hook and maintain loyalty. These things will coexist; finding the right mix is the key.

The problem with IBMs of one-to-one prediction is that it requires more data analysts, marketing scientists and technology to get involved in consumer communications. The highly paid creative geniuses and the poorly paid Millennials who sit at their feet are not crafting the myriad brand stories. And product image suffers. The art of brand building and brand maintenance is lost when handled by the technicians in IBM’s data-driven world. The percent of actual dollars spent on marketing will tip in favor of computers and computer services and away from Macs, markers and music. A slippery slope indeed. Peace!

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