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In my career as a planner, I have trotted out two different Steve’s when interviewing people in discovery. The first is the “I’m a quick study” Steve. This Steve wants interviewees to know he’s savvy in the business, the market and the category. I wouldn’t call him cocksure, but an air of self-assuredness is the goal. The second Steve is the “Help me, help me, Steve.” He plays grasshopper to the interviewee’s Mr. Miyagi. Not in an obsequious way but as someone in need of intense category nourishment.
There are times and places for both, E.g., when interviewing a subject matter expert (SME), they want to know you can understand them. But for the most part I tend to use the “help me” Steve. More so as my planning experience grows. We humans are a helping and nurturing clan. And people tend to be more open when they are helping. It’s always best to have your interviewee be the smart one.
Our mission is to extract learning, attitudes and values. Open the faucet and let insights pour forth. Half duplex ego is the goal.
Tags: brand planning tips, brand strategy interview techniques, brand strategy interviews, Half duplex ego, Mr. Miyagi, mr. myagi, peace, whats the idea, whatstheidea
My brand briefs are filled with heart-warming, heart wrenching twists of a phrase. They are meant to engage the Amygdala. Trust me, they work when it comes to selling brand strategy (one claim, three proof planks.) But unless you are Bob Dylan no consumer is going to remember your poetic brand claim and proof array. They may remember a song from an ad. They may remember a tagline plastered everywhere locked up with your logo. But for lasting impact and indelible brand strategy, choose deeds over words. Deeds and evidence.
The New York Yankees are a premier sports franchise because of their 27 world championships. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center is “the best cancer care anywhere” (words) because its physicians have more experience treating cancer (deeds).
When companies bring their brands to me for help positioning, I look for deeds, evidence and proof. That’s the ore that precedes the jewelry.
Tags: amygdala, Bob Dylan, brand, Brand Planning, brand planning tips, Brand Strategy, deeds versus words, Memorial sloan kettering cancer center, ny yankees, one claim three proof planks, whats the idea, whatstheidea
I write a lot about “We’re Here” advertising. Typically these ads do little more than tell readers a product names, maybe what it does, and where to find it. It is the lowest form of advertising.
Yesterday, I watched a video that lasted maybe :90 and it reminded me of We’re Here advertising. Fairly well produced, it lacked a stout claim and, more importantly, it lacked proof. Effectively, it was a We’re Here video.
What did the video convey? It explained a particular part of the health care industry today. It shared some trends in healthcare. And a few problems providers are facing related to shrinking fees. Then, in the selling portion of the video, it talked about services provided and benefits resulting from those services, e.g., make more money, improve efficiency.
If “make more money” was the claim, then what the video lacked was “proof” of that claim. There was no evidence. Nothing tangible. You can’t tell a story that is all promise and no substance. All the video had to do was identity one problem, an actionable insight and an outcome.
Consumers are tired of promise. They want proof.
Tags: all promise no substance, brand planning tips, Brand Strategy, we’re here advertising, whats the idea, whatstheidea
One of the keys to good brand planning is the consumer interview: Getting consumers to open up and share deeper insights. To start you must do some shallow digging, but you don’t want to stay there too long or the process will feel like an online survey. If you sound like a research survey, you will be treated so. The goal is to get to conversation as fast as you can, so the notion of an interview and the interview dynamic are quickly forgotten.
When I am on roll, I’m giving as well as taking. I’m sharing ad hominem personal views and stories to fuel the conversational pump. My intent is to connect, share, listen, process and grow the conversation. In a word it boils down to “caring.” About the topic and the person sharing. When the questions feel too “commercial,” the caring quotient goes down. When stories flow, insights flow
By caring and with a good ear for insights and the opportunity for redirection, each interview can be different. There’s nothing worse than hearing the same answers to the same questions. It makes the interviewer care less. And that’s bad tradecraft.
Tags: brand planning tips, brand planning tricks, Commerce versus caring, Interview techniques for brand planners. Brand planning interview questions, whats the idea, whatstheidea
I was reading a recipe this weekend for chick pea chili (don’t judge) and decided right off the bat I’d never make it. Not for the chick peas, not for the drive to the grocery store(s), but for the over complication of ingredients. I favor minimalism in my cooking. It’s easier to taste a few ingredients. (Google “Fruit Cocktail Effect.”)
My framework for brand strategy reflects this sensibility: One claim, three proof planks. That’s how you build a brand. One and three.
Getting to one and three isn’t easy though. Trust me. You have to go through hundreds of ingredients to get to the one claim and three planks. When looking for brand good-ats and customer care-abouts, you’ll find many. But when forming brand strategy, don’t just look at the most common ingredients or the most abundant; this job is all about finesse.
For you tyro brand planners out there, use your palette when considering all the ingredients, but use your heart and brain when selecting the true flavors.
Tags: brand good-ats, Brand Planning, brand planning tips, Brand Strategy, Consumer care-abouts, Fruit cocktail effect, good-ats and care-abouts, one claim three proof planks, 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
In my ongoing effort to define brand planning and share my framework for building strong brands, the word “proof” comes up a lot. No matter what type of brand I study, no matter how many insights rise to the top of the discovery effluvia, proof provides path to a successful strategy. “Proof of what?” you ask. That’s not only the question, it’s the answer.
As a student of brands, marketing and advertising I’ve decided that 80% of the promotional side of marketing is baseless claim. Generic terms like “reliable,” “great taste,” “low cost,” and “best service” are ported to market by every marketer on the block. Listen to the claims in a pod of TV advertising and the claims are the same from one brand to the next. So consumers shut them down.
That said, it’s the “proof” of those claim that we hear. The evidence of those claims. Vestiges and residue of the claims is what remains. What is left for the mind to grasp after we’ve told people how great our product or service is.
PROOF is everything is brand planning. Insights may be the sexy side of planning, but mining and organizing proof toward a brand claim is how you build a brand.
Tags: brand planning tips, Brand Strategy, brand strategy tips, claim and proof, definition of brand planning, Residue of claim, whats the idea, whatstheidea
I read a lot about leadership and one word seems to pop up a great deal is passion. Leaders want passion in their companies and hiring agents want it in their hires. Employees when asked about personal traits often play the passion card. It’s kind of an over-used word in my opinion.
In my business practice I use the word love a great deal, telling customers and prospects I must learn to love their product to be an effective advocate. But how does one love JPMorgan Chase? How does one love Hospice Care Network? Or PwC? It takes some doing.
Passion and love may be allies yet they are really two different things. Don’t mix them up.
As a brand planner – someone who mines care-abouts and good-ats – I try to remove passion. It is the dispassionate planner who has the best ear. Removing passion for an idea or insight is not easy, especially if you hit it early on, but it’s a necessary. Brand planners need to keep an open door policy throughout the gleaning process. Om. It keeps a clear heart while you flesh out and prioritize all the values you need to consider.
Selling can be passionate, planning must be the opposite.
Tags: brand consulting, brand planning tips, Dispassion in brand planning, hospice care network, JPMorgan Chase, passion, PwC, whats the idea, 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
Part of the secret sauce of brand planning is the interview; be it of customers, prospects, partners, sales people or company management. And the art of the question is in the ability to ask and extract rational information that helps “follow the money” and “follow the preference,” but also emotional interests. Emotional connections with the product, brand or category.
The art of the question also lies in listening and the redirect…taking a path the interviewee establishes and working it is where contextual serendipity takes over. Don’t get me wrong, I have a battery of questions I use as thought starters, but the riffing is always good. It shows the interviewee is interested.
Questions that get people to warm up and open up tend to be less rational. I use one question with company management that goes something like this, “Fast forward one year, after we’ve worked together, and everything has gone beyond your wildest expectation, tell me what we’ve accomplished?” Here’s a new one I came up with while reading the paper today. It sounds a little goofy and simple but I’m going to try it. “What are your dreams for this company?” It may be one of those “idea to have an idea” prompts, but in the c-suite, with different department leaders answering, it may prove telling. Stay tuned.
Tags: art of the question, brand planning questions, brand planning tips, executive interview questions, executive interviews, listening in an interview, whats the idea, whatstheidea