brand insights

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In advertising the real money maker is the creative. That’s what everyone talks about. That’s what marketers spend most of their money on. Creative creates most of the wealth in marketing and all of the wealth on the agencies side. The fuel for great creative is consumer insight. Notice I didn’t say insights. Lo, there are many insights to clog the mind of the brand or account planner. Many insights to confound the creative director or creative content builder.

mining tools

The role of the brand planner is to find a single insight that can be leveraged into a compelling selling proposition. Rosser Reeves can call it a Unique Selling Proposition (USP), Al Ries can call it positioning, any goober with a WordPress account can call it what they like (me included), but great creative doesn’t start until a single, powerful, clean insight is unearthed and frees the creative mind.

A powerful insight is pregnant with creative possibility. It can help organize an army of sellers. It can brainwash the tired huddled masses. It can launch an organizing principle that redistributes marketing wealth, unlike any TV commercial ever has. Apple’s 1984 included.

So you unsung insight miners take heart. Keep shoveling, mine till your fingers hurt, then cull, cull, cull until you find that emerald. It is so worth it.



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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.


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WTI brabd brief masthead

A brand brief is the place where lots of data and learning are boiled down into a simple unique selling idea. The brand brief I use was borrowed from McCann-Erickson while under the reign of Peter Kim in the 90s. As hard as I’ve tried to make it better, I’ve only been able to tweak it. It provides a wonderful logic that when filled in serially (in order) delivers a strong reason to buy. Or Selling Idea as Mr. Kim called it.

I know when I’m not there yet or not fully prepared when tripping over the logic flow of the brief. Each element, an opportunity to create a mini-headline, contains an important insight. Done right, the insights link together like a beautiful song.  

What makes this brief a brand brief rather than a creative brief is that beyond the main strategy idea (claim) lie three support planks. This is an addition to the McCann brief. These planks focus and array the proof, pounding home and cementing the claim in the minds of customers. Claim and proof. There are only three planks because that’s what consumers can remember.

If working with a feisty creative person who doesn’t like long briefs, I can jump the logic and hit the idea. But the logic is telling, so I prefer the long form.

The brand brief is my secret sauce and one only shared with clients…though I am happy to share some of its outputs, upon request. Peace.

Steve at WhatsTheIdea


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