brand planning tips

You are currently browsing articles tagged brand planning tips.

Sometimes brand planners do not have the budget, time, or resources required to do a complete job learning and understanding their targets. Hey, welcome to the real world. The last thing a good planner does is impose his or her perceptions on the assignment. Perceptions soiled by previous assignments, individual experiences with a product, and pop cultural observations. Just as a good anthropologist knows not to insinuate him/herself into the fieldwork and only observe, brand planners should acknowledge they don’t know everything and attempt to “out-of-body” whatever they can. Here’s a tip: 

acting class

To help gain an deeper understanding of the target, identify a prototypical target persona, get into character and interview yourself. Of course it’s play-acting — and the DILO (day in the life of) you use to understand the target is made up — but as a creative exercise it is much better than the alternative.  Write out the questions in advance, put on your creative acting hat, dream daily activities (perhaps even do them), and observe signs, rituals and behaviors the target will experience. If not actually doing the behaviors in-situ, play act and interview yourself in a dark room. 

The key is to really leave yourself and your belief system at the door. Open your mind. Note activity function and structure. Sounds weird, I know, but it’s doable and a wonderful learning opportunity. Learn on, plan one. Peace.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

A great deal of brand planning revolves around observation. That’s why my anthropology major came in so handy after all these years. Who knew? Based upon observation, planners postulate and prove, then write briefs and decks which are given to others for action. Action that might be design-related, comms-related…even behavioral. The brief grows out of observations focused on creating behavior change. Want this. Buy this. Purchase more of this. That’s marketing and advertising today.

Since working in the education category – one I find utterly fascinating – I’ve changed my MO (modus operandi, for those who don’t watch a lot of cop shows) about brand planning. Now, I am of the mind that changing behavior as an objective is not the best way forward. Rather, I like to educate consumers and let them decide if and how to change their behavior. When a consumer comes to a conclusion on their own, without the smarmy hands of the marketing gods to convince them, then a sale better made and more loyal. In other words, consumers won’t buy because they were told, they buy because it makes more sense. It rationally lights up the right parts of the cerebral cortex.

The decision is learned and learned, not told and sold. Peace.

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

One of the cool things about being a brand planner, probably not unlike being a psychotherapist, is being a student of man. Though I am not looking for maladaptive behaviors as does the psychotherapist I am looking for behaviors. All types. By doing so, I’m always learning. When on the clock, I’m learning about behaviors contributory to commerce in a specific business category, but when off the clock, I’m learning about human nature. Always learning.

I’ve been a painter, a waiter, and ad guy and a couple two tree (sic) other things, but brand planner and constant learner has to be the best. And when you can share what you’ve learned to help people, it’s among the best feelings on earth. The fact that brand planners help sell things shouldn’t minimize the job. When working on a elemental nutrition formula for infants with eating allergies and observing “a mother is never more protective than of an infant in distress,” the goal was helping, not selling. In my presentation “Social media guard rails,” one of the first slides is about this point. Help, don’t sell.

The best brand plans help; the result is selling. Words to plan by. Peace.

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

merle haggard

So I was listening to Merle Haggard yesterday and the old coot was doing a duet with Jewel and, by God, he changed his vocal treatment – his voice — on the song. It was Merle but he was trying to impress her, trying to woo her. Men! There was a gentleness to his voice that you won’t hear in most of his tunes. The tone send a message. So I’m thinking if he can change his tone and impart different meaning, sub rasa meaning, so can the rest of us. Why not use it as a brand planning tool?  So I’m playing around with an interview technique that will prompt interviewees to answer questions in various voice types. You know the voice you use when someone is confiding tragic personal news to you? Or the voice used to encourage a child who needs support? Have you a sexy voice? The key is to get the interviewee to use a topic-appropriate voice in an interview to impart greater meaning.  To do so you have to put them in a zone; coach them like an acting coach. Get them to a place where they are feeling an emotion then get them to answer your question, truthfully, but that particular voice.

Try it, I certainly will. Peace.

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

In the curated social media world the most shared content tends to have numbers in the headline. In an effort coattail this phenomenon, following are three ingredients to successful brand planningshipdom.

Follow Trends. What is a trend? It’s a pattern. A pattern of behavior, thought and scientific phenomenology. As we watch patterns — first small, then large — we get in touch with what growth is. And we understand growth.

Create Trends. This one is more difficult and some might say egotistical. Fashion designers think this way. Copywriters sometime think this way, coining product memes. Some ad agencies suggest they create trends. It’s a wonderful motivating factor for strategists to project their work as trend-worthy. Aspire to it, but don’t be consumed by it. Trends are fickle. They are also functional (the anthropologist in me might say).

Optimism. Growth is about positive things working together. Stasis is about inaction. Death, about negative forces. Brand planners are best when focusing on the positive. We are in the optimism business. Is it dangerous not to worry the negatives? Nah, that’s someone else’s job. The art of growth, human desire and sunny tomorrows is what we do. Don’t spend an ounce of energy of the dark side of the ledger.

Peace.

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

I use a battery of static questions when doing discovery in my brand planning process. There are follow-the-money questions for C-level executives and follow-the-sales questions for sales people. I augment the latter with sales call tag-alongs with top and bottom sales earners.

An interesting way to get information fast is to interview the head of HR. S/he should have a great understanding of heard-on-the-street market perceptions. The tough questions they field from candidates are great input and can provide competitive intell. Additionally, ask the HR head to recap the boiler plate they use to introduce the company.

Another way to get to information fast is to sit in on new employee sales training. Succinct and compelling value props, key talking points, and product benefit highlights suggest an easier task for the planner. A fruit cocktail approach, not so much.

If a company is smart enough to have an internal messaging service like Chatter, see if you can get access and peruse key topics. (At Nestle, the internal messaging community is very strong.) This is not Edward Snowden stuff, I’m talking about approved community threads and discussions. Read them, they can provide centers of gravity for planners.  

Great planning is 80% listening. But when you don’t have the time to listen to everybody you need some shortcuts. Plan on. Peace!

Tags: , , , , , ,

I get major brand planning wood when landing on a cool target insight. Not a transplanted insight from my experience imposed on the target, but something from his or her very soul. Target transference besets all planners. How could it not? Young planners, planners in a hurry, planners without data and depth of consumer experience take from their own frame of reference. From reading. Past research. Input. But if it feels “safe” and “done” it probably is.

And let’s not forget that when doing brand planning, not project planning, there are often many targets to consider. For instance, a brand plan for a toothpaste needs to appeal to the brusher, household goods purchaser, and even the dentist. All targets count. So the target insight can have a tendency to get watered down. Don’t let it.

Be selfless. Remove yourself from the equation. Close your eyes and listen. Every word matters. Find the special words. If you are not getting special words, plants some and see where they go.  Some words have many meanings to your target. Plumb their depths.

Peace.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

I’m always on the lookout for new ways to extract important information from executives about their companies. My 24 Questions, designed to follow the money, are not great at generating stories… and stories (aka proof/examples) are what create context and power for brand planners.  A flesh vs. bones thing. So the latest question I’ve been dabbling with is “Who is the industry’s biggest critic?” Or, “Of all the opinion leaders in your business, whose approval do you hold dearest and why?” I’ll probably test it out both questions. The first is the more open of the two and presumes a critical but, honestly, I am more eager to hear about praise. It is an open question and can be easily toggled.

Most people, be they executives or consumers, can articulate the opinion leader they most admire. That person is a good source of brand planning study. That person may not want to share all his/her secrets, but often provides shortcuts to pearls of wisdom and grist for the narrative mill.  Successful home brewers’ opinions are worth more to the average beer drinking Joe than are sports stars. An IT professional’s opinion is more valuable than a Best Buy salesperson.  Think “expert witnesses” in a jury trial, to the max.

Find these people, learn why they are great critics, and get their stories. Probe the “doing” part of their role rather than the “critique or praise” itself. Probe for story. Peace.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Over the years, obesity has been a subject I have studied quite closely. I’ve endeavored to understand and strategize obesity surgery, weight loss programs, post-surgery protein drinks — and I even wrote the brand and marketing plan for a physician-supervised weight-loss modality launch in the United States.

Understanding the personalities and influencers involved has always been part of the deep dive. The obese, their family, physicians, other care providers – even payors (insurance approvers) are all part of the picture. It is an emotional, layered, personal condition with lots of psychological underpinnings. (Guess what the word “salad” means to an obese person?)  And sadly, the weight regain recidivism rate for the obese is higher than prison recidivism. Much.

The ability to submerge oneself into a target, to know the targets’ sensitivities, cues, tells and thoughts is what brand planners do.  As a kid in the business, making ads and taking names, I hadn’t a clue about the target. Today, the target is everything.

When explaining brand planning I say it is a process of understanding what customers care about and what a brand is great at. The hardest part of the process is the plumbing, mining and prioritizing of consumer careabouts.

The payoff?  Better brands, better marketing and better, more humane brand planners. Puh-eace!  

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Boil This!

The secret sauce of the brand planner is their ability to take all the information at hand and boil it down into a compelling argument that leads to a sale…or predisition to a sale. (We are not always buying, you see.)

I was with a bunch of IT guys yesterday and the technical fur was flying. Back in the day it would have been enough to make me feel light-header and inadequate. Yesterday it reminded me of times at Bell Labs and AT&T’s Microelectronics listening to English-as-a-second-language engineers talk technical gibberish (to me) about their digital signaling processors. My job at the time was to be polite and make a good ad. Actually, be polite and come home with a strategy to give to creative people to make a good ad. These trips, it turns out, are where I cut my planning teeth.

Information gathering is an art, but taking that “stock pot” of information and boiling it down to insights, then a single selling argument is da monies. Packaging that argument with a little evocative poetry is the Richard Sherman monies.  Thank you AT&T Microelectronics. Peace.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

« Older entries § Newer entries »