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Many brand planners, by title, do the daily strategic work of advertising agencies: “Let’s write a brief for a new customer acquisition program,” for instance. At What’s The Idea?, I concern myself with work at the root level. I work on the master brand strategy; the brand “claim and proof planks” that drive all aspects of marketing. Important as tactics are, they only support and bring to life the master strategy.
Master strategy is brand planning at is most scientific. Done right, it is measurable and predictive of results. But, I’ve just come to learn planning is just that – planning. Only when the plan is followed, activated and enculturated can it work. When not followed, when not complied with, it lays fallow.
Hence “Brand Engineering.” Brand engineering goes beyond planning. It take a plan through to implementation. Brand engineering rolls out the plan – insuring understanding and adherence. When a brand strategy is understood it frees brand managers, agents and consumers alike to participate.
Smart brand consultants get this. Landor and Interbrand make brand books about this – textbooks really — to explain how to live by the brand. But, sadly, they sit on selves more often than not.
Stay tuned from more thinking on brand engineering. It’s going to be a thing.
Tags: aster brand strategy, b, brand cponsulting, brand engineering, Brand Planning, Brand planning definition, clam and proof planks, interbrand, landor, what is brand planning, whats the idea, whatstheidea
The difference between brand planners can be found in their respective abilities to do something “smart” with the info and data they collect during discovery. One planner’s questions will differ from then next, as will their observation techniques and data sources. Yet once all the hunting and gathering is done, it’s time for all planners to think. And apply. To fill out the brief, as it were.
My framework is different than that of some brand planners and the same as others. I use one claim and three proof planks as the organizing principle. How I get to the one and three model, however, is through an exploration of “evidence.” Evidence is not hearsay. It’s not marko-babble. It stuff. Actions. Existential results. Proof.
When Eva Moskowitz stands on the steps of city hall, alone or with thousands, that’s evidence. When a prepubescent cancer patient has part of her ovary preserved in liquid nitrogen at age 9 so that 15 years later she can gave birth, that’s evidence.
I’ve read hundreds of brand strategy documents from so-called brand planners and am appalled by how few are evidence based. Tring to change that one brand at a time.
Tags: Brand Planning, brand planning tips, eva Moskowitz, evidence based brand strategy, marko-babble, one claim and three proof planks, whats the idea, whatstheidea
It sounds like an AMC cable drama, The Unknown. But it’s the best way to look at any new branding assignment. Go in cold. Everybody wants someone with experience. But they really don’t. They should want someone who can come in and understand the business and brand, seeing them in a new light.
The unknown can be scary. In the last couple of years, I’ve worked on assignments in cyber security, global health and security consulting, Accountable Care and web accessibility (making websites and apps usable by those with disabilities). Going in, scary. Coming out, not so much. When you have no category experience it’s like walking into a dark cave. And that’s a good thing. If you have too much category experience you walk into that cave faster. Not paying as much attention. You can miss stuff.
Dump the cache planners. Go tabula rasa researchers. Come to each project anew and clear headed. You need to feel scared at the beginning of an assignment. It’s a good thing. A productive feeling. It helps you know when you are getting close.
Tags: accountable care strategy, AMC, Brand Planning, Brand Strategy, cyber security brand strategy, The unknown in brand planning, tips for brand planners, whats the ide, whatstheidea
Brand planning insights are a dime a dozen. Upper echelon planners know which insights are the truly special ones. They know which to chase and which to leave alone. Insights that change markets are like truffles. Truffle Insights make you sweat. They set off the galvanic skin response. Truffle insights spark what Maslow referred to as a peak experiences.
I once did a deck while freelancing at JWT on the Microsoft Office business, containing 7 or 8 truffle insights. There were so many the deck got filed. It impressed but was hard to deal with. Too many truffle insights creates the “fruit cocktail effect,” it tastes good but leaves no visceral differentiation. So savor your truffle insights. Don’t re-bury them.
I’m reading David Brooks’ NYT Op-Ed piece today in which he discusses the 10,000 hour rule researched by Anders Ericsson and written about by Malcolm Gladwell. It suggests 10,000 hours of practice can trump innate intelligence. Do 10,000 hours make you a truffle insight digger? Not necessarily. But it certainly helps.
If you put in the work and burnish your instincts, you may just becomes an effective truffle insight hunter.
Tags: 000 hour rule, 10, Brand Planning, brand planning insights, brand planning tips, Brand Strategy, david brooks. NYT op-Ed, jwt, malcolm gladwell, Microsoft office, Truffle insights, whats the idea, whatstheidea
I’ve been thinking a good deal about prevention this morning. There’s an exciting article in the NYT on some Medicare trials to prevent diabetes among at risk populations. Another article on the bombings in Brussels had be wondering how we can prevent the kind of hatred that causes people to blow themselves taking fellow citizens with them.
Much of what modern societies do when faced with ills, illness and hatred focuses on curative or after-the-fact action. Not root cause prevention.
Yesterday’s What’s the Idea? blog post was about articulating positive “care-abouts” and “good-ats.” By highlighting positives, the logic went, one can trump positioning around negatives. So I’m asking myself today if I should be thinking about including a preventative plank in my strategies; rather than trump an existing brand or category negative, what if we look at ways to prevent them?
It may be a poor example but in a brand strategy I wrote a few years ago for a “healthier-for-you cookie,” I realized most cookies in the space were perceived as “dry.” Rather than build a plank around moisture, which I did, perhaps I should have taken a preventative approach — highlighting the use of coconut oil as a key product additive. Coconut oil smacks of moisture.
As you can see, it’s not a full baked idea but you have to start somewhere. And my gut tells me prevention and the education around it, is a def worth a strong look.
Tags: Brand Planning, care-abouts, good ats, Prevention in brand strategy, prevention plank, prevention planks, whats the idea, whatstheidea
A critical component of brand planning is understanding the special language of the seller and buyer. In the tech sector, the language can be quite unique, with many words to learn. As a young strategist working with AT&T’s Business Communications Services, I developed an acronym dictionary I kept with me every day. One could sit in a technical marketing meeting at AT&T back then and hear 10 acronyms in 10 minutes. In other technical businesses, e.g., healthcare, finance, and insurance learning the seller language is equally important. On the buyer side it isn’t as critical because the technical stuff goes thought a translation filter before it hits a consumer. (But if language is dumbed down too much, it comes out as marko-babble.)
When you learn the language of the seller, you hear things you couldn’t otherwise. Nuance. Emotion. It makes it so the sellers don’t have to teach, they can communicate. If you speak their language you also become more trusted.
Consultants and freelancers who don’t have a lot of time to learn the language are handicapped. It’s the first thing one needs to do on a new assignment. You need a good ear. No foreign word is unimportant. Study the language by reading trades magazines. Learning the language makes the first few meetings a bit clunky, but it’s necessary.
Tags: AT&T business communications services, brand planner tip, Brand Planning, Learning the language of the market place. Buyer and seller language, marko-babble, read trade magazines for language, the language of the buyer, the language of the seller, whats the idea, whatstheidea
All brand planners have their tools. We use them to corral insights and generate ideas we can sell as organizing principles for the work other will do. My go-to tools are the 24 Questions, my Executive and Sales Team Questionnaire, and a Brand Brief. From time to time I’ve used a presentation format sharing “Insights, Implications and Recommendations” as well.
Here’s a new ditty I came up with for an art start-up a few years ago. I call it the 10 conundrums. I use it as an interim step before crafting the brand brief. After doing all my exploratory work, quant research and interviews, I cobble together a number of market, consumer and company contradiction. Perplexing contradictions or true conundrums. These I share with the client work team to see how they feel about them. How they deal with them. The dialogue about these points if often quite important. Here’s an example from my art start-up project:
Art appreciation is personal and subjective. Yet having a trusted art-savvy acquaintance to call upon can influence that subjectivity – adding dimension and a level of comfort.
Toolkits are nice to have. Reinventing them, adding to them and evolving them are how we get better at what we do.
Tags: 10 conundrums, 7 conundrums, art start-up, Brand Planning, brand planning tip, brand strategy tips, brand strategy tool kit., whats the idea, whatstheidea
When brand planning I like to see the product and brand strategy in historical perspective. It’s what I strive for. Big thinking requires looking at problems not of the moment, but from a higher, longer-term perspective. Marketers are paid to ring the cash register. Paid to transact business. Brand planners are paid to position products and services long term. Seeing what Al Reis calls the “position” requires viewing a product not up close but from afar. So far, you may have to squint to see it. What is visible from afar is most visible.
This thinking is often what creates tension in a presentation of brand strategy to a CEO. S/he thinks of brand strategy as a tactic done once every few years prior to a new ad campaign exploratory. The tension comes from being asked to look at a brand long term, yet with a tightened focus. CEOs are great with stretch goals, but not with stretch strategies. They find them confining. Stretch strategies are only evident when looking long term.
If you were to ask Tim Cook to see his brand through a historical lens, he could do it easily. Ask the CEO of HTC and you’d get the dog’s “ball behind the back look.”
I can think of only one brand strategy I’ve worked on that has not lasted the test of time. The rest were built to last. See history me droogies.
PS. An example: Regardless of where you stand on president Obama now, his presidency viewed from a historical perspective – policy wise – will be viewed as momentous.
Tags: al reis, Brand Planning, HTC brand strategy, stretch brand strategy, stretch strategies, stretch strategy, tim cook’s brand strategy, whats the idea, whatstheidea
Look at the picture above. It is one of the most famous paintings in the world. To some, however, it is a simplistic primary color pattern of boxes; childlike in its construction. To art connoisseurs it is rapture. When I saw it in art class in college I fell into the former category. Today, though no connoisseur, I tend to see its virtue. Why?
This paint by Piet Mondrian is titled “Broadway Boogie Woogie.” Now, I am able to get it. Finally, I understand the painting. My years on the planet have allowed me to see the painting with a new familiarity thanks to the title. The title, for me, makes this painting. Setting my mind afire.
This may not sound like a branding observation; it is. Context matters. Oh does context matter.
Tags: brand, Brand Planning, Brand Strategy, broadway boogie woogie, Context matters, peace, piet Mondrian, whats the idea, whatstheidea
Ninety percent of branding is plan driven: understanding what customers want most (related to your product and category) and what you do best. You find a strategic claim and three proof planks, then you build equity using that claim and proof array until its hard as steel. But…but.
Just when you think you know something about the business, someone comes along and proves you wrong. And therein lies the other 10%.
Every one once in a while an idea comes along that is off brief, off strategy, and is just too good to pass up. It may be tangential to a strategy. It may be in the neighborhood but not on the right block,. You just feel in your bones it’s a business winner. That’s the 10 percent. And you have to go for it. As Eddie Vedder says “It’s evolution baby.” It may help morph the strategy. It may not. This is a creative business plus we are dealing with people; so you have to try things that speak to you. Strategy is mellifluous. Impressionistic.
Show a person on the street a copy of Picasso’s “Les Femmes d’Alger, which BTW recently sold at auction for $180M, and they might think it childlike. Brand planners are in the business of creating positive product impressions. Impressions that draw consumers closer to a brand, not just closer to a sale. It’s so “not science” alone. Cut the leash 10% of the time and allow in a little impressionism.
Tags: brand impressionism, Brand Planning, Brand Strategy, branding impressionism, claim and proof array, cut the leash, its evolution baby, one claim three proof planks, Picasso, whatstheidea, wjhats the idea, “Les Femmes d’Alger”. Eddie vedder