brand good-ats

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Endemic Branding.

Campbell’s Soup is one of America’s most famous and well-understood brands. It’s also known as one of the most economical meals in the country.  I’ve written a good deal about the Campbell’s Soup Company, especially so when they were moving into more healthy soups about 10 years ago.  Speaking of healthy, Campbell’s bought juice company Bolthouse Farms in 2012, which was a nice idea but not an endemic category. It didn’t work.  It was reported today, times are tough Campbell’s and losses are mounting. It is selling Bolthouse and considering selling the company.

Focus is what makes great brands. And Campbell’s is a soup company. A company that puts tasty, nutritious meals in cans. At low price points.  To get out of this hole the research and development people need to double down their efforts to recreate new soups.  New packages. New dayparts. New ingredients.

Pho. Stock. Bisque. Bouillon. Chowder. There are probably a hundred more types of soupy meals being served around the world today Campbell’s could consider. And another hundred they could invent. Bring David Chang in for a week. Or Katie Button.

Don’t think like Camden, NJ. Think like Asheville, NC. Mine your consumer care-abouts and brand good-ats. Peace.

 

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I was driving earlier this week and noticed a couple of Yuengling billboard ads.  Billboards are hard to do as the good ones contain 7 words or less.  It seems the Yuengling tagline is “spread your wings,” which until further notice with be their brand strategy claim. (A brand strategy is one claim, three proof planks.)  Yuengling is America’s oldest brewery, but that proof shouldn’t get in the way of a fallow claim like spread your wings. Everyone wants to spread their wings, no?

The “wings” are derived from the eagle on the label — not to be confused with the Anheuser Busch eagle logo. The rational-emotional claim for the beer, has nothing to do with the beer. Just the purchaser.  It’s the same claim used by brands in nearly every category from mobile phones to cars to airlines. (At least airlines have wings.)

Basically, Yuengling has no brand strategy…they have a logo.  That’s how you get headlines line “go big or go bigger.”  This is lazy and poor brand craft. 

Brand strategy is the thoughtful result of consumer care-abouts and brand good-ats.  Where ever the twain shall not meet, we get wings.

Peace.

 

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I’m not much of a cook but I’m certainly a student. What’s The Idea? uses a number of cooking metaphors in its daily operation. Many of the tenets of good cooking are also valuable in brand strategy. One such tenet is “Don’t use too many ingredients.”  The more ingredients used, the more likely the main component of the dish becomes obscured.

My uncle Carl taught me the best baked clams are the ones with the least amount of flavor enhancers. See the clam. The same for chicken parmesan. No sauce, just a brilliant tomato slice or two atop the golden brown cutlet.

Brand strategy development is about evaluating customer care-abouts and brand good-ats and selecting only the top three — the three with the most flavor (or most complementary flavors).  Most importantly, these three brand planks must support the brand claim, or, following the metaphor, the main protein.

Brand strategy is best served with one claim and three proof planks. It’s not over-complicated. It’s easy on the senses. And the consumer palate is very understanding.

Leave Michelin stars for the true chefs. Complexity in brand strategy rarely works.

Peace.

 

 

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Here’s an exercise for brand planners.

I read this morning that when president Richard Nixon prepared for a summit in China to meet Mao Zedong, he created a checklist. What do we want?  What does China want? And what do we both want? Each question had three answers.

Brand planners should ask themselves the same questions only with a slight modification at the end.  What does the company want? What do the consumers want? And what does the brand want?  The brand’s desires may not align with that of the company and could be a healthy source of exploratory tension.

The What’s The Idea? the brand strategy process plumbs consumer “care-abouts” and brand “good-ats.”  The nexus of these qualities decides the brand claim and proof planks. But with the tripartite “What want?” approach, it may make the planner look at a new dimension.  May.

Might be worth a try.

Peace.

 

 

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The problem with most brands is that they are skin deep. Products and services with derma measured only in millimeters. No  depth. No real rational and emotional meaning. Why is that?  Because brand building today is too randomized. No real brand plan.  No organizing principle driving long term, meaningful KPIs.

Sales and revenue are all that matters. Sales teams are motivated by commissions. Retail buyers are motivated by bonuses. Ad agents make money off of fee hours and volume.  And media is paid by the media transaction, not the result.

It makes me think of healthcare – where docs and hospitals are compensated for helping the sick, not preserving the healthy.

Brand planners dig beneath the skin. We get down to the organs. When we organize the selling principles, it’s not a Colorforms project, based on cut-and-paste tactics and theatrics. It’s a plan to build value leveraging what a brand is good-at and what consumers care-about. A plan driven by a deeply seeded claim, one that warms the hearts of brand employees and customers.

Salespeople can “sell anything,” they will tell you. Brand planners only want to sell one thing. Tink about it, as my Norwegian Aunt would say.

Peace.

 

 

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I read something smart in an account planners group on Facebook yesterday about targeting. It suggested you have to refine the brand target so as to make a more compelling message. When creating your brand claim, you don’t want to address the entire consuming pop. Not everyone will like you. You have to find the largest grouping of people who share a proclivity for your product, service and brand claim — and focus the strategy on them. 

It’s so smart.  I had the same targeting discussion with a client yesterday.

When you do enough research on brand good-ats and consumer care-abouts, you’ll find that you can’t please everybody. It is at this point that the rubber meets the road. Do we change who we are? Do we try to change the attitudes and beliefs of what consumers think and know? Or do we simply speak to the low and “reach for” fruit that will most likely be motivated to buy our product?

This is how we do-oo it!  Peace.

 

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I was reading a recipe this weekend for chick pea chili (don’t judge) and decided right off the bat I’d never make it. Not for the chick peas, not for the drive to the grocery store(s), but for the over complication of ingredients.  I favor minimalism in my cooking. It’s easier to taste a few ingredients. (Google “Fruit Cocktail Effect.”)

My framework for brand strategy reflects this sensibility: One claim, three proof planks.  That’s how you build a brand. One and three.

Getting to one and three isn’t easy though. Trust me. You have to go through hundreds of ingredients to get to the one claim and three planks. When looking for brand good-ats and customer care-abouts, you’ll find many. But when forming brand strategy, don’t just look at the most common ingredients or the most abundant; this job is all about finesse.

For you tyro brand planners out there, use your palette when considering all the ingredients, but use your heart and brain when selecting the true flavors.

Peace.   

 

 

 

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The two fundamental components of strategic marketing are the brand plan and the marketing plan.  Most companies have a marketing plan. They also have brands. Not always to they have both. 

The marketing plan is viewed through a lens of “making money,” as it should be. Each tactic, event or channel strategy is gauged by how it contributes to topline sales and profit. The brand plan, on the other hand, is about creating value in the minds of the seller and buyer. It sets places in the minds of consumers differentiating the product and creating preference. It also creates a roadmap for brand managers and company stakeholders to deliver and create even greater value. Guideposts if you will. 

In all my years doing brand strategy I’ve never included a loci around profit or revenue. The proof array supporting a brand claim results from prioritizing care-abouts and good-ats. While profit is always the goal of the marketing plan, it is never the subject of the brand plan. This Yin and Yang, this republican and democrat balance is what make brands unique and powerful.

If every plank in a brand strategy was about profit and sales, every brand would be the same.

Profits are the motive of the marketing plan. Logical and emotional reasoning are the motives of the brand. Peace.   

 

 

 

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There are a couple of start-up companies founded by advertising ex-pats focusing on organizational design and strategy.  These companies are convinced the digital economy and digital tools are being overlooked when it comes to evolving organizational efficiency. They are not wrong.

NOBL and The Ready are two such companies whose missions are to assist legacy orgs transition to newer models, the goals being improved agility, aggressiveness, accountability and profit. (The Dachis Group operated in this space 10 years ago, but became a software company.)

I need to study some of these methodologies more before fully commenting, but here’s a quick observation. The going in premise is “the organization is the enemy.” The framework, as I understand it, begins with executive and stakeholder interviews, team workshops, feedback studies and lots of charts. No doubt, if you rub some stem cells on it, I mean add some digital productivity tools, you can move any organization forward. It’s no hocus pocus, it’s a real business and the advice is good.

But, I am a brand planner and for me brand strategy is like penicillin. A cure all. I am of the mind a well-constructed brand strategy can solve organizational problems; perhaps even better than rote org design.

An organizational design framework, can be generic. A templated approach to solving inefficiency. A brand strategy approach, though, does not view organizational structure as the problem. Rather, it studies the disconnects between customer care-abouts and brand good-ats. Organizations can and must change to remove these impediments but those changes are less about pathways and communications occlusions and more about strategy tied to brand value.

No one is arguing organizational delivery can be improved. I am just suggesting it’s better to make a cookie more moist and healthy, than making the formulary more efficient. One can do both…starting from the brand POV is all I am advocating.

Peace.

 

 

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Fred Wilson is a blogger (www.avc.com) and businessman I admire greatly. He blogs daily and share his knowledge without second thought.  He’s probably the most prominent VC on the east coast if not the county.  In a recent speech given at MIT, he mentioned that on his first ever test there he had gotten a zero.  About MIT he said, and I paraphrase, “When you go to MIT to go from being the smartest kid at your school to being the dumbest.” Anyway when asked about his nil test score his professor the response was “You didn’t understand the question.”

Here’s the thing about brand planning. The ones who get it right aren’t the ones with the best methodology or framework. They are the ones who understand the question. The problem is that question always changes. Yesterday I posted brand strategy is not Chaos Theory.  But if the question changes for every brand strategy, isn’t that a bit chaotic?

A generic question for all brands might be “What value or behavior does the brand provide that best meets the needs of the customer?”  Doesn’t seem like a bad question. But, per Fred Wilson’s professor, it’s the wrong one. Only when you are waist deep in a brand, customer care-abouts and brand good-ats can one ask the real question. It will be a business question, tempered by consumer insight, and help you pass that first and last test.

Happy hunting!

Peace.

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