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Brand journalists aren’t for every company. Certainly most small companies can’t afford them. The first brand journalist I ran into worked for JWT, a forward thinking ad agency. He worked on Microsoft and helped the brand do some really smart things in the B2B space. But he worked for the agency. When I moved client side to an educational technology company, I was lucky enough to have a chairman with enough vision to see the value of a brand journalist. We hired a photographer/videographer who was also a wonderful visual storyteller. His ability to make people feel things was amazing and powerful.
Thomas Simonetti was his name and he came to us with a newspaper background. The company we worked for, Teq, had a great brand strategy and I helped Thomas understand it: the claim and the proof planks. The plan was Thomas’s story guide. His mission: Go forth, research, compile and communicate stories that convince consumers that are what we say we are. We do what we say we do. We live how we say we live.
A traditional journalist has no agenda. That’s what makes them good. Brand journalists have an agenda. And that’s what make brands great. And rich. And successful. Peace.
Tags: b2b, brand journalist, brand plan, claim and proof planks, jwt, teq, Thomas simonetti, whats the idea, whatstheidea
Branding is not life or death. Unless you are talking about the life and death of products.
Branding is about developing a claim and proof array that brand managers use to organize product, experience, deeds and messaging. Once a brand plan is designed, brand managers are paid to manage adherence. Here’s the big tip: There is no room for diplomacy in brand planning. Diplomacy may be great when dealing with the Russians over Ukraine, but there is no room to “make everybody half happy through compromise” in branding. You are either putting deposits in the brand bank or you are making withdrawals (AT&T’s Marilyn Laurie coined this wonderful metaphor).
Brand managers are going to have to say “no” a lot as they manage their brands. And that’s a good thing. People are going to crawl out of the wood pile with requests for projects to be funded, with promotional ideas, PR events and more – many of which will be nobly intended. But if they’re not “on plan,” not making a deposit in the brand bank, they are a disservice to brand development. Even if a lost kitty farm.
If you are a brand manager and you don’t know how to say “no” or why to say “yes,” it is likely you don’t have a brand plan. If you do have a brand plan but the rest of the company can’t articulate it and use it to make daily decisions in their respective jobs, shame on you as well. Peace.
Tags: AT&T’s Marilyn Laurie, brand manager tips, brand plan, diplomacy in brand planning, diplomacy in branding, marilyn laurie, what makes a bad brand manager, what makes a good brand manager, whats the idea, whatstheidea
Bravery is big these days. A lot of agencies and marketers have tied their brand promises to the word, including David and Goliath and Mondelez – a couple of forerunners. And why not? Who doesn’t want to be brave? It’s as American as apple pie. I, too, rely on the word in my practice. A boast I proudly share with clients (after signing them) is that there will likely be one word in the brand strategy they may find objectionable. They’ll love the sentiment. Feel the strategy. Know in their bones I get them. They’ll proudly nod at the defensible claim. Yet often, they will sheepishly ask “Do we have to use that one word?”
A $5B health care system asked “Do we have to use the word systematized?”
The world’s largest tech portal asked “Do we have to call consumers browsers?”
The country’s 10th largest daily newspaper asked “Do we have to say ‘We know where you live?’”
The list goes on.
The point is, brand strategy needs to be brave. If it’s not, is it really strategic? If your brand strategy is not bold, it will be a long, expensive build toward effectiveness. And may weaken your brand planks. (Three planks support your claim.) This brave approach takes brand strategy out of insight land and into claim land. Out of observation mode, into prideful attack mode.
Oh, and the answer to my clients one-word objection? “No, you don’t have to use the word. The creative people will create the words. But you must use the strategy.” And everybody, myself included, bobble-heads in relief. Peace.
Tags: brand idea, brand plan, brand strategy idea, brave, brave strategy, bravery, brnad strategy, claim and proof, David and Goliath, mondelez, mondolez, whats the idea, whatstheidea
Brand planks are business-building supports for the brand claim. (A brand strategy contains one claim, three supports.) With a brand claim in hand, in order for it to become real, remembered and practiced it needs to be proved. All claim and no proof is what befalls most poor marketing and advertising programs today. That’s where the planks come in. Combined, the 3 planks create an impenetrable barrier for brand success.
You can do all the quantitative research in the world to find out what consumers want in your product or service — but changing your business to deliver those things does not translate into success. This is a perspective difference between a marketing strategy and a brand strategy. The brand strategy also factors in what the company is good at and famous for.
Brand planks don’t always fall into nice little containers either. They can be features, benefits, qualities, behaviors, or functions. For an all-natural cookie, I once used “moisture” as a plank. For a health system “community integration.” For a commercial maintenance company “preemptive.”
When I talk with clients about brand plan as an organizing principle, the claim gets all the glory but the planks do the work. Peace.
Tags: brand plan, brand planks, Brand Planning, brand stragegy, Brand Strategy, claim and proof, whats the idea, whatstheidea
One of the hardest jobs in the world, I suspect, is teaching special needs children. Spec Ed, insiders call it. I am no expert but I do know there are certain stimuli that get through to special needs kids. They like to touch. They like the color purple. Certain sounds and instruments are soothing. Special needs children learn better when distractions are minimized and their individual leaning sweet spot found. This individualized learning modus extends to non-special needs children. Children learn at different paces because they are like snowflakes.
In marketing, there are some similarities. Predisposing a consumer to your product and pitch does not benefit from a cookie cutter approach. Brand planners who understand buying behavior, context and psychology have a leg up when avoiding the cookie cutter approach. This deeper understanding can give form to the organizing principle that is the brand plan (here defined as 1 Claim, 3 Support Planks). This organizing principle offers flexibility to teach consumers in different learning places, yet enough control for brand managers to stay focused.
Consumers are so overwhelmed by marketing, unsupported claims, imagery, song and marko-babble, they can’t concentrate. We need to create a distraction-less, replicable selling schemes that are indelible. With a tight brand plan we can impact product, experience, benefit set, and most importantly muscle memory. Marketing is about creating behavior or changing behavior. The pedagogy of marketing. Peace.
Tags: 1 claim 3 proof planks, brand plan, brand planks, Brand Planning, spec ed, special needs marketing, The pedagogy of marketing, whats the idea, whatstheidea
I read a headline this past weekend “When a food writer can’t taste” which got me thinking about brand strategy and marketing strategy. How does a food writer approach an assignment when s/he can’t actually taste the food? (How did Beethoven compose after losing his hearing?) Had the food writer the ability to taste prior to losing the sense, the experience would be muscle memory-driven. Of course the writer would need to know how the meal was prepared, the ingredients and the amounts. And watched preparation technique. It would also help to watch people eat the food to understand tastes, aromas and textures.
Sadly, a good deal of strategic work in the market today is perfunctory. It lacks the hand and design of someone who has actually tasted the product or product experience. Often there is a reliance on the muscle memory of other assignments. A reliance on demographics — and then the work is driven by nothing more than a media insight.
Just as creatives know when the work is done, so do planners. Planners need enough time to mine insights, experience those insights and learn deeply about their meaning. Put that level of learning into your brand plan and you are, then, ready to start tasting. Peace.
Tags: brand plan, Brand planning. Whatstheidea, muscle memory in brand planning, whats the idea
One of the 24 Questions I use in my deep dive brand planning rigor is “How much company revenue comes from existing or repeat customers?” When I compare this figure with lost customer and new customer revenue I get a sense of a company’s loyalty, loss and business development focus.
If you look at marketing job boards today you will notice a great deal of acquisition activity. The majority of marketers are absolutely smitten by new customers; it’s akin to generals in battle who need to take new territory. Loyalty marketers, on the other hand, know it is the back door, the door customers leave by, that is most critical.
Loyalty is engendered when customers are not overlooked. Everyone knows a broken family where mommy or daddy found s new partner because back at home they felt underappreciated. This behavior not only breaks up families, it drives wedges between parents and children. Loyalty, love, under-appreciation and inquisitiveness are human traits. Marketers try to build love through the AIDA principle: Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action, often forgetting Loyalty until it’s too late. Until the back door has been open too long.
Coupons (sorry honey flowers), shallow thank yous, and automated responses do not loyalty make. Understanding yourself and your customers through a well-principled brand plan, is the place to start. Otherwise, it’s off to the loyalty store for some quick fix tactics. Peace.
Tags: 24 questions, AIDA in marketing, brand plan, customer loyalty, loyalty, loyalty marketing, whats the idea, whatstheidea
In Spike Jonze new film “Her” in which a man falls in love with his operating system, there is a wonderful example of the power and influence of branding.
Having seen the trailer, I immediately put the movie into the “goofy, not going to see it” category, yet there was something familiar and alluring about the voice of the operating system. It wasn’t until the reviews started rolling in that I found out it was Scarlett Johansson’s voice. Hmmm.
Manohla Dargis wrote in The New York Times today “It’s crucial that each time you hear Ms. Johansson in Her, you can’t help but flash on her lush physicality, which helps fill in Samantha (OS) and give this ghostlike presence a vibrant, palpable form.” It is this muscle memory associated with Scarlett Johansson’s voice – this Pablovian response — that smart brands attempt to build. The frosty Coke bottle image on a hot day. The sweet pillowy taste and texture of a Krispie Kreme donut. The olfactory-palooza of a Peter Luger porterhouse.
When you have a brand plan, complete with promise and support planks, the casting becomes easy. Rich. And powerful. Peace.
Tags: brand plan, coke, Her, krispie kreme, mahohla dargis, pablovian response, peter lugers, scarlett Johansson, spike jonze, the new york times, whats the idea, whatstheidea
A.O. Scott in his New York Times review of the new movie “Inside Llewyn Davis” today nicely captures what makes a Coen Brothers movie a Coen Brothers movie. Says Scott, they offer a “brilliant magpie’s nest of surrealism, period detail and pop-culture scholarship.” To me this description means their work a magnetic, unusual and blasting through context. The Coen’s attention to period detail is another reason I love these guys. Como se “True Grit?” And pop-culture scholarship just suggests their storytelling is human and humane(ish).
It strikes me that these are qualities that also make for a great brand strategy.
I often find a little tension when presenting brand strategy… and it tells me I’ve done a good job.
- “We know where you live” a brand strategy for Newsday, was a thought a little creepy.
- “A systematized approach to improving healthcare” for North Shore-LIJ, a bit cold.
- “We crave attention” for a women-owned PR firm, a smidgen gender-sensitive.
Just as good advertising creative makes you think, feel and do something, so should a strategy. Sometimes, for the squeamish, the do something is ask me “Do we have to use that one word?” My answer is always “No, it’s a strategy, not a tagline.”
I’m no Ethan and I’m no Joel yet my work aspires to staying power. To muscle memory served up as product value. A great brand plan is an organizing principle that sticks to your ribs. Peace.
Tags: A.O. Scott, brand plan, coen brothers, inside llewyn davis, newsday, north shore-lij health system, whats the idea, whatstheidea