brand planner

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People often ask me how I use the different social media properties. My answer: Facebook is for friends, LinkedIn for business network, Instagram for pictures and my artier side and Twitter, well, Twitter it’s just “me.” It reflects my personality. What does that mean? Honestly, and I can’t believe I’m going to say this, it’s about my personal brand.  The total me — reflecting my unadorned personality and complete life interests.  As a brand planner, I can often get to a person’s persona fastest thru Twitter.

Point two.  Twitter is up on the shopping block, with many names bandied about as possible buyers, but one name is missing. There is one social play that remains happily on the sideline. One player who will benefit the most if Twitter gets absorbed into something else – screwed up by another owner who tries to monetize and grow it beyond the current 330M users. And that’s Facebook. If Twitter starts to suck and becomes something it shouldn’t be, Facebook will win by default.

Twitter is important. It’s not for everybody, but it is for everybody. You can’t watch TV or read a paper without some reference to Twitter.  Nations and wars will be lost and won because of Twitter.



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One of the coolest things I get to do as a brand planner is sit back and watch a company or product transform after a new brand strategy is presented. The word viral would be an overstatement, because “one claim and three proof planks” aren’t quickly acculturated into a company. When properly sold in, however, and that means well beyond the marketing department, a brand strategy can take hold fairly quickly. It will alter the work of the SEO team — all of a sudden new key words begin to pop in as traffic drivers. Company language in meetings tilts in a slightly new direction. And once a company language changes it’s not long before partner and consumers language follow.

The day after I present final brand strategy, I’m checking the website to see if anyone has made changes to the home page. Week two I’m checking new videos to see if the company Is-Does has morphed. I look to newly minteed press releases for changes to the first sentence and the “About” paragraph. My expectation is that things will change immediately. (Doe-eyed Poppe.)

Strategy work is a lot less requited than design work. When a new logo and tagline hits the street, it’s easily seen. It’s fast and obvious. But when a brand strategy hits, it’s often a slow creep. That doesn’t keep me from checking right away. Hee hee. 



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Good brand planners are collectors. They question, amass, sort, collect and divine. Great planners take all that and find the truffle. Like the truffle hunting pigs and dogs of Europe. I was recently on a call with some web app people, looking to fund the next big platform. I couldn’t quite tell what the platform was. Or wanted to be. Other than the next big web property. Money lined up, so they said, but the idea was hidden in 10 ideas. So what’s the Is-Does I wondered.

Well turns out the original idea was and is genius! Never done before. Done qith a capital D. In demand. In users’ hearts. And tied to one of the biggest investments a person is likely to make in a lifetime. Did I mention it hadn’t been done? The current construct, however, was nothing more than a Facebook Group.

This truffle hunter (me) listened and in minutes knew the problem.

What’s the Idea? Answer that, you of the web world, and you may proceed. Take it from someone who missed out on a brilliant web property (Google Zude+Scoble) because it was overbuilt. Suffered from feature creep. Didn’t follow the “idea.”



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Or keep it in the cloud. That’s the big technology question of the 21st century. That’s the big bet. As a brand planner who likes to operate “beyond the dashboard,” I love looking into behavior, purchase patterns and technology advances trying to come up with macro commercial trends.

Nokia decided it was not good at small handheld devices (after killing it for decades) and sold its device business to Microsoft. This, at a time when Apple was creating continents of wealth in handhelds. Microsoft paid $7.2B for the (shitty) Nokia phone business. (Como se speaker problems with Lumias?) And now, Nokia with its big iron phone and internet switch business intact is looking to purchase Alcatel/Lucent. This is Nokia’s raising its hand in favor of cloud vs. devices.

It wasn’t that long ago when computers were big. Phones got smaller. Comms devices of every stripe shrunk into wearables. And now chips, screens, software and apps are getting so good and “thin” that funationality and decisions are moving into the network (cloud) and in our future “tons” of devices will move into the landfill. Literally.

The Apple Watch people are breathing this stuff daily. I’ll bet Apple’s very best engineers are deployed against all this miniaturization. And all that intelligence has to move somewhere. Apple might be smart to start thinking about the switch (software) business too. That’s my bet.

Ain’t this fun? Peace.


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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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A wonderful expression was used in a New York Times article today on the expansion of the American Museum of Natural History. It referred to the changing nature of museums and the old role of museum as “cabinets of curiosity,” where things were collected and catalogued. Museum president Ellen V. Futter, nicely captured the new role saying, “Now what we’re interested in is what the connections are among the different things we have. It’s a much more interdisciplinary world.”

Brand planners sometime get caught up in cabinets of curiosity. And we obsess about them. I know I can. We find an insight that just screams “importance.” And uniqueness. And cultural spark.  But to use Ms. Futter’s words, we must not forget the interdisciplinary role the insights play in the buying habits and behavior of consumers.  The insight we unlock may actually be trumped by another factor. And though it may be a mundane factor besmirch our exciting, newly uncovered insight, we must not overlook it. Awesome insights don’t operate in vacuums. So find them, truly see them, and make sure they fit into the full pattern of the buying consumer. Peace.



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There’s a neat media newsletter service I’ve used a number of times in marcom plans called SmartBriefs.  It’s an aggregator of articles, sorted by topic, sent to subscriber email boxes.  It is a great one-stop free-shop. One such newsletter I subscribe to deals with social media.  The ironic thing about this one is that very few of the articles it highlights points to actual social media posts, meaning blogs.  They are mostly items from USA Today, Washington Post, WSJ, Adweek, etc.  They hit the occasional Mashable piece but do not do a good job or finding true web Posters. Posters are original content creators and bloggers whose love of the topic goes way beyond a job.

Posters may be good writers or bad and may not have made it through journalism school, but they are the backbone of the web. As a brand planner, I’m always on the lookout for big time posters in the categories I study.  They engender loyalty and lots of comments. They are analytical and love to share the goodness that is their area or interest.

Poster beget Pasters (curators and info sharers), ergo community.   

I’d love to see an aggregator service that only focused on blogs. Craft economy people in the woodworking business like the Wood Whisperer. Melting Mama for the overweight and obese. Boogie2988 for gamers.  Kandee Johnson for the young fashion conscious. Emo Girl. There are thousands of them out there.  An occasional snark would be fine too, but the more positive the better.

This is the future of the web. Where there is avoid there is an opportunity.  Maybe SmartBrief will start one. Peace.


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oyster farm

A few years ago, a pal Chuck started an oyster farm where there was no Foursquare check in. He did it not because he wanted to be a bazzillionaire but because he likes oysters. And he likes building things.  In this case he wasn’t smitten by building oyster racks for his Blue Island oysters (the name he uses with his distributor), he was interested in building a business, a brand, and a little piece of the craft economy. Some are referring to this as the maker movement.

Over a frosty yesterday after a few hours helping in the field, I tried to explain what a brand planner does. He looked at me like cormorant might look at a garbage truck. Huh? Then we got to talking about renaming his oysters; the nearby inlet, the history of Fire Island and the importance of story with muscle memory in creating a brand and our crafts collided and it made sense. 

I love talking to people who love what they do.  All this talk about passion is so 2000 and, frankly, I’m tired of it.  (It’s like ROI — if you have to talk about it, you are not getting it.) Hard work is passion. Members of the craft economy tend to put a little extra into what they make. It’s more about what they make and less about what they do. Think product, not process.

Chuck, I suspect, could work on Wall Street or manage thousands, but he chooses to put on the waders, schlepp oyster seeds, and put the near-market-ready oysters in the tumbler.  When he brings his saline little beauties to market — be that at Le Bernardin, The Dutch or Babylon Fish and Clam (just guessing), he’s putting a product on a plate like no other.  “Take another little piece of my heart now baby.”

Do you love what you do?  Become a member of the craft economy. Peace.

(Pictured is Greg, Chuck’s marine biology-studying employee.)

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Sean Boyle, a really smart Publicis brand planner, once told me good brand strategies offer a poetic appeal. To understand his point, I suspect it is much easier to look at a brand strategy and notice a lack of poetry than is to articulate  a poetic frame.  I’ve tried poetry. When my pops died, I wrote one. Following powerful relationships, others. They weren’t “There once was a man from Nantucket” ditties, they were home-grown and from the heart. Without rhyme or perfect tempo.  They were my tempo.    

Poetry and what is poetic is in the eyes of the beholder I reckon, so Sean’s notion about good strategy will be different to each planner. But let’s agree to say poetic ideas are pregnant ideas. And dimensional. Ideas that strike up emotion. Certainly they can provide rational context — it is the real world after all. Perhaps this is why “storytelling” is such a pop marketing topic of the day. But storytelling and the journey and all that other brand-speak, is only as good at the strategy that gave it birth. Only as good as the morals of those stories.  “A closer shave” is not poetic, “a softer rough” just might be. Peace.    

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Ask me the title of the book I’m reading and you’ll mostly get  “I nah know.”  Ask me the name of the bespectacled, nerdy character from TV show Revolution. “Sorry.”  But ask the most important thing told to me by the head of marketing at Kinney Drugs in 2008 while planning on a protein drink and not only will I recite the sentence, I’ll build a new store around it.

I once got a meeting with MT Carney, an original partner at Naked Comms, by telling her I have a good ear…that I hear things other don’t.  Like the dog that hears abba dabba do abba dabba do Wannagofor a WALK?

This is no curse, it’s a blessing.  It was born, not of an account planning manual from the UK, or a year of quant in the research dept. at P&G, it was born of the crucible that is advertising.  Studying how it’s make, its results and consumer attitudes toward it. (Okay, throw in some amazing anthropology instruction at Rollins College and seeing Margaret Mead at the annual convention. )

The mind of a planner sorts, compartmentalizes, after seeing and hearing everything.  It is always on. That’s why we smile a lot.  We’re the sober dudes and dudettes smiling on the street when there’s no reason.

Lastly, we are not horders.  We remember the important stuff – the big stuff – but we know what to keep. To act upon.  To celebrate. Then we make the paper. For some sample paper in your category, please give a call. Peace.

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