brand planning advice

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In the toast at my daughter’s wedding I plan on sharing a smidgeon of marital and parenting advice. A brand planner by trade, I make a living observing behavior then packaging it into small, memorable bits of advice.

Toast advice number 1. Don’t use the “H” word.  Both my kids should remember this one; it’s good counsel for marriage and parenting. The “H” word is the ugliest of words. More harmful than the “F” bomb and all of its scatological allies. The “H” word is the root of the word hatred… and no good comes of it. Even if you don’t like peanut butter – perhaps it causes a physical reaction – it’s not worthy of hatred.  Nor is a poor movie or book. Nor a villain. These are things one might not like, but certainly don’t merit hatred. (How many Eskimo words are there for snow?) 

Hatred and the “H” word are a blight on humanity. Yes, humanity kills. Yes, we destroy mother earth. We are jealous, we are covetous. But we needn’t minimize the root cause — using the word in our everyday language.

Start fixing ourselves. Stop using the “H” word.



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I’m all about systems. When developing a marketing plan I use my proprietary “24 Questions,” a follow-the-money rubric.  When working on a brand, I have a form simply called “Fact Finding Questions.” Broken into two sections, one for C-level executives, the other for top sales people it asks generic things, e.g., “If you were to get a job at a competitor, how would you deposition your current company?” Stuff like that. Good, but generic.

When working in a new category and having to learn a new language – a language in which I am illiterate – generic doesn’t always cut it.

I’ve worked with a magician and I’ve worked with a top two professional services company.  The questions that work for a teeth whitening company don’t translate. So my question framework almost always needs to go off the reservation.  The off-the-rezzy questions are always works in progress. They require listening, parrying, redirection and often a good deal of bi-directional story telling.  

When I ask an executive or sales person a question that spikes their blood pressure, it’s a hit. Follow that trail. If a hospice nurse is explaining how to tell whether a patient is minutes or hours away from passing, feel the mood. The sanctity. 

Learning is the absolute best part of brand planning.





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