brand planner advice

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I’ve done a good deal of brand work with startups.  It’s not the easiest work but it is exciting because a great deal of the planning takes place “beyond the dashboard.” When I break out the “24 Questions,” (the follow the money questions) there’s not a lot of history to discuss. No last year’s earnings. No market segments. Just lots of nos and nones. (Note: Beyond the dashboard planning refers to tabula rasa planning, contrasting with the more common “rearview mirror” or “side view mirror” planning.)

And let’s not even start talking about how founders, especially in the tech space, can change strategy. Like underwear. More disciplined startup founders may change business strategy only once or twice. Sometimes a meandering proof-of-concept is the culprit, e.g., you build a brand around family doctors and specialists want to purchase, or you focus on ecommerce and people keep paying you for search. Shit happens.

The more flighty founders (the underwear changers) can be influenced by the last meeting they were in; say, an investor or a key industry blogger. (Been there, learned from that.)

But startups are a good training grounds for brand planners. Planners can have a powerful influence on direction. Even if founders don’t abide   It creates structure for them. Yeses and Nos. Ones and Zeroes. 

If you are a brand planner, you need to bracket your experience with some startups. Trust me.




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Yesterday’s brand planning piece was on the difference between technique and ingredients. Today I’m focusing on evidence and story. Evidence and story are inseparable in good brand strategy.

Claim and Proof are key outputs of a brand plan. Once you get the claim right you need to use your marketing and sales dollars to prove it every day. And you prove with evidence. And just so you’re not a one-trick pony, we use three proof planks to support a brand claim. Proof, defined as deeds, experiences, and actions, are the bedrock of the strategy. In the brand planning rigor proof or evidence is actually mined first, giving form to the claim.

But evidence is just artifacts. In my archaeology days, digging up things was easy — trying to figure out how they were used and the cultural context was hard. So an array of organized proof/evidence is not likely to inspire creative people or consumers without a nice narrative or story.

Get good at evidence collecting and storytelling and you are well on your way to becoming a talented brand planner.  Peace.

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