brand consultancy

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Organizational Design is a shiny new business thing. A number of smart brand planners and digital raconteurs have noticed that many corporations are floundering using old org charts and technology. Old infrastructural assumptions. So these new change agents are hoping to consult their way to new revenue streams as org design consultants.

Ten years ago “Social Business Design” was an inchoate business response to poor organization. It attempted to alter business by using digital social tools.  Those tools turned into software and much of the concept was lost. Sure Slack is a cool social tool. Dashboards and marketing platforms have emerged and evolved – mostly to streamline and cut cost. But organizational design, the recasting of the modern business in a way to make it more responsive, agile and effective, though a fine pursuit has been mostly talk.

My consulting business is a brand consultancy. I make no promised to reorganize your business. But organizational design is a likely and probable outcome. 

Defined as “An organizing principle for product, experience and messaging,” brand strategy has the potential to touch everything: supply chain, customer care, manufacturing quality, hiring, and advertising. All are possible levers in brand strategy. 

Brand strategy ain’t what it used to was.

Peace.

 

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At What’s The Idea? clients pay the bills. They do the hiring, provide the homegrown insights and share business data. Without clients there would be no brand consultancy.  But clients are not my customer. My customer is the brand. It is the brand to which I pay allegiance. It is the brand that is the object of my strategic desire. By being so focused it helps remediate politics from the equation.  

By putting the brand first and the people and clients second, it cleanses the process. Brands have no egos.  They just sit at the nexus of good-ats and care-abouts.  A brand doesn’t look to be promoted or aspire to Ad Age Marketer Of The Year. You can’t artificial intelligence your way around a brand. It’s a thing or service.

Don’t get me wrong, I need people to help navigate insight work. The stories, the human impact of purchase and use, the role of the product, can never be ably understood without people — be they brand and product manager or consumer and influencer.

But when all is said and done the brand must be the customer. At What’s The Idea? that pays the bills and provides the dividends.

Peace.

 

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My friend Terrence and I once drove to John Hopkins University from NY to see a wonderful panel of physical anthropologists speak. Big, full auditorium.  I was never one of those “ooh, ooh, ooh kids” who asked a lot of questions in class, but during Q&A time, from way in the back of the expansive auditorium, I asked paleontologist Tim White of UC Berkley, how he thought man was currently evolving.  The question got a giggle or two from the room. (Doh!)  He went on to say brains cases would get bigger and women’s birth canals also…

I love to think about what’s next. It suits me well as a brand planner. The future takes up a good deal of my time at What’s The Idea?.

The future of marketing, product and delivery are not always top of mind for clients. It’s a shame. Had Intel thought this way it may not have had to lay off 12,000 worked yesterday.  Healthcare providers need to think about the future, but they don’t; it’s all about the next diagnosis.  Google needs to think forward and it does. But they need to think forward not about cars and energy, but also about their current search focused product line. And monopolies.

The brand strategies I develop always have the future in their peripheral vision. The strategy developed for Northwell Partners nee North Shore LIJ Health System, is as relevant today as it was 15 years ago.  

If your mantra is “Campaigns come and go…a powerful brand idea is indelible,” the work must be future proof.

Peace.

 

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I’m a big Al Ries fan. His and Jack Trout’s book on Positioning changed my career. I have memories of reading it on a Long Island Rail Road. It’s a great thought piece.

Today however, I take issue with the idea of positioning in branding. 

Positioning is the act of finding a competitive and defensible place for your brand in the consumers’ mind. The search for a position — a position being a noun. Position is defined as “a place occupied or to be occupied; site.”

In my brand consultancy branding is defined as “an organizing principle” for product, message and experience. This approach is much more fluid and alive. It allows for branding as a series of behavioral acts. Ongoing. Making ads, customer care, retail design, and web experience all fall into activities that define the brand and its promise. That prove its promise.

With branding as an organizing principle everything is viewed as an active, a non-machine related sales opportunities.  Built and enforced by people. Not a destination or compass point in the mind of a consumer.

Positioning was way better than anything before it. And barring any real brand strategy (one idea, three planks) it is the next best approach. But I think we can do a little better.

Peace.

 

 

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I consult with a lot of companies, especially start-ups and those in emerging markets, that have a hard time articulating their Is-Does: What a brand Is and what it Does.   The reality is, I have a hard time with the Is-Does in my own humble practice.  My logo says I’m a “brand consultancy.”  Everyone knows what a consultancy is but when the word brand is added, understanding goes out the window.   

Marketing insiders and those in the branding business know what I mean, but they’re not the target. (Not unless I’m looking to get hired or freelance.) Most of my customers are marketers.  And most marketers don’t wake up every day sweating a hostile business environment saying “I need to invest a few thousand dollars in brand consultation.” They might say “I need some sales,” or “I wish I understood why my customers are leaving,” or “Are there segments I am overlooking?”

The word these people understand is strategy. Slap the word brand next to it and it loses meaning – losing the ability to answer the aforementioned questions. (My explanation of brand planning and the brand strategy rigor clears up the misunderstanding, but at face value, contextually, the business value is not obvious.) 

Were I to position myself as a marketing consultant rather than a brand consultant, I would reduce any Is-Does issues. I, too, have an Is-Does issue. Stay tuned for the deconstruction of the problem and the solution. Peace.

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The secret sauce of the What’s the idea? brand planning rigor (WTI is my blog, but also a brand consultancy I had for 3 years prior to coming on board at Teq) is the battery of questions I use when interviewing company stakeholders. Finding out what a company does best and matching it with what the market wants most is the goal.  I may have just found a new question.  The inspiration was an amazing story today in The New York Times of Lonnie G. Thompson, a man in search of proof that global temperatures are rising.

The secret sauce question is most powerful when asked of an individual, yet it can be altered to apply to a company. Let’s stay with the individual, for simplicity’s sake:  

What is your life’s work?

Not an easy question to answer.  Or is it? Most will probably say something like “Be a good parent.”  Or “Be a good spouse.”  Maybe “Leave the world a little better place.” Perhaps “Be a better person.”  Following up these answers with probes will get you to the meat of the discussion. Using the question with a company, however, may get bogged down in “mission statement miasma,” but don’t let it.  A “life’s work” has to have import. If a company has a hard time answering, it likely will have a have a hard time branding it.

As my Norwegian aunt Inga might have said “Tink about it.” Peace.       

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