brand claim

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Yesterday I went off a bit on Trout and Ries, saying a brand Claim is akin to a brand Position, but the process, pre-idea and post-idea are different. You can plot a position. You can only cultivate a claim. A claim requires care and feeding. Marketing either strengthens or weakens a claim. A position is less animate.

When Marilyn Laurie a famous AT&T marketer used to say advertising either put a “deposit in the brand bank or a “withdrawal,” she was referring to an animated process.

Branding is simple. Don’t let brand nerds marko-babble you into thinking it’s this complex “only we understand” science.  If you land on the right “Claim” and support it with the right “Proof” planks (3), you can easily build your brand — knowing when you’re making deposits and withdrawals.  

Claim gets the branding glory but Proof is the work horse. Proof is the day job of a brand strategy. Proof is the day job of brand managers. And agents. (The guys hanging off the I-beam with his helmet attached by Super Glue is Proof.) Proof is what convinces consumers. Bluff and bluster do not.

Peace.  

 

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Two days ago I promised to share some business metrics side-by-side with brand metrics, letting you decide which are more actionable?  I’ll make up a few business metrics and then use real life brand metrics from clients.

Business Metrics:

  • Increase percent of sales of services over hardware.
  • Reduce cost to acquire a customer.
  • Increase topline revenue by 6%.
  • Increase visitors to the website by 10%.

Brand Metrics:

  • Prove improved classroom design increases test scores.
  • Prove that digital security at the root level is more effective than the device level.
  • Prove global security is more effective when private and public sectors work together.
  • Prove commercial building maintenance is less costly when proactive rather than reactive.

Now you might argue that the business metrics seem like objectives and the brand metrics like strategies. But the simple fact is, these brand metrics are measurable. Brand strategy conflates obs and strats. Brand strategy drives the how. It’s a roadmap for the how. When you have a discrete how story (3 proof planks supporting one brand claim) you have clarity of business purpose.  

Brand strategy is not a color palette. Not a logo. Not a campaign. It’s a business winning organizing principle for product, experience and messaging.

Peace.

 

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In my two previous posts we outlined “proof gathering” and the creation of “brand planks.” Now comes the hard part. The Idea. As in What’s The Idea?  The idea is actually a claim. A claim of something offered or gained. It must be consumer-valuable. Good claims often contain a little poetry. Perhaps some fun and timely culture or metaphor.  That way they’re pregnant with meaning.

claim-and-proof-plank-visual

The claim must be single-minded. No commas, conjunctions or run on thoughts. A simple lone statement. It must be tied to the 3 brand planks. Since planks are proof of the claim, you’re really working backwards. Be careful not to use common marketing words in your claim. Spice them up. “Low cost,” for instance, isn’t very exciting. Lastly, the claim must spark creativity among the art directors, writers and designers assigned to handle the buildable.

Part 3 of the workshop will be assigned as homework. You can’t force an idea. But since all attendees will be working from the same briefing documents, we will entertain “ideas” from the group. Over the last 45 minutes we’ll paper the walls with claims and attempt to tie them to the planks as a group.

Attendees will be given 48 hours to submit their final claim and proof planks via email at which time a winner will be announced. It should be a blast.

If your organization would be willing to act as a trial balloon for this new workshop, please write Steve@whatstheidea.com.

Peace.

 

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I manufacture brand ideas for a living. But each client that signs me on is only looking for one idea. A brand claim.

secret sauce

A lot goes into that claim. Hours of interviews. Days of observation. Book learning, article reading, blog scouring and research development. There comes a point during all of this discovery when I must start to boil down the learning and gleanings and circle the idea.  It’s a little Sherlock Holmes-esque, frankly, with deduction and gut instinct – but it’s the money making part of the business.

So how do 60 pages of typed and mistyped notes,  5 yards of OneNote links, copy, pictures and videos and a brain filled with stories, emotions and competitive brand noise reduce itself to one claim? Via two roads.

The Planks.

Brand planks for me are areas of proof that stand out for a company, product or service — a marriage of “good ats” and “care abouts.”  As I go through my material, I find “proofs” and highlight them. Proofs are actions, deeds, activities and results.  As these proofs begin to hang together or cluster they become planks. The planks, together, can inform the claim.

The Brief.                                                                

The brand brief is the document — actually a serial story — that explains the product, what it does, for whom, and why. When I write the brief I start at the beginning and, like a form, fill out one section before I move to the next. If there is dissonance in this serial story, it needs to be re-cobbled.  Only when the story hangs together can I write the final chapter: The claim. Once the claim is created, and once it fits like a glove with the three planks we’re done. Sometimes the planks need adjustment. Sometimes the claim. But it all must fit. It must be easy to understand. Contain sound logic. And a bit of artful poetry in the claim doesn’t hurt.

This is how I come up with a brand strategy. This is how I come up with an “organizing principle for product, experience and messaging.”  Peace.

 

 

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Clients pay me for two deliverables: brand strategy and marketing plans. I can’t do the latter without the former. It’s possible to pretend, even hide the brand strategy component, but without strategy the marketing planning is a little bit like paint-by-numbers.

gem miningSo how do I approach brand strategy development?  I look for proof. How does a guy walk into a company and in a matter of days or week know a brand well enough to create a strategy that will operationalize marketing success? Proof. A hunt for proof.

Proof of what, you ask? Ahhh, that’s the $64,000 question. At the beginning, it’s way too early to tell. Each brand presents a clean slate. As I trek through fact-finding, data, sales, consumer and business partner interviews, I come across lots and lots of claim-ish fluff. But when tangible proof rises up, it is easily noted. Proof may be found in behavior. In deeds, business decisions, investments. Product taste. Product experience. It’s everywhere. With enough proof arrayed and smartly clustered, the brand planner can begin to formulate the brand claim and key support planks. And that is the secret sauce of What’s The Idea?. Proof hunting.

Rest in peace David Carr.      

 

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Ask any Chief Marketing Office or Marketing Director what their annual sales are and you’ll get an answer. Ask about the annual marketing budget. Quick answer. Cost of goods, manufactures suggested retail price, market share? These are questions for which marketing leads all have answers.

Two questions likely to baffle CMOs and marketing directors, however, are: What is your brand strategy (claim)? And what are your brand planks (proofs of claim)? Most marketers know their business KPIs, but don’t have them translated into brand-benefit language. The language that give them life and memorability. CMOs use business school phrases like “low cost provider,” “more for more,” “innovation leader”, “customer at center of flah flah flah…”, but that’s not how consumers speak.  

claim and proof

The key to brand planning is knowing what consumers want and what the brand is good at. (“Good ats” and “care-abouts”.) Combining these things into a poetic claim and three discrete support planks is the organizing principle that focuses marketing and makes it more accountable. Across every expense line on the Excel chart.

Stuart Elliott, advertising columnist of The New York Times should make this a requisite question in all his interviews. “What is your brand strategy?” If he gets any semblance of a claim and proof array, I’ll be surprised. Peace!

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