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I was reading the paper this morning on president Obama’s state of the union speech and realized the word “politics” has become a dirty word. “We can get things done so long as politics don’t get in the way,” the speech suggested. When issues are “politicized” there is gridlock. (I suspect this isn’t too different from the word “religious” or “beliefs” in the Middle East.) In the U.S. the word “diplomacy” is not a dirty word. It still suggests gridlock but in a more positive fashion. Using tools to work together. Compromising. Give and take. The word diplomacy is more leader-friendly. I once read that America Indian chiefs were not the greatest warriors but the ones whose decisions were most likely to help the tribe. (A learning moment when I lost my fraternity election.)
Words are important. How the meaning of a word evolves is also important. Very important. When words are used as weapons, take note. That’s why brand planners make a living listening. Contextualizing. Truly hearing. There are hollow words. Words that mean the opposite, e.g., transparent, return on investment. And there are pregnant words, words layered with meaning — ready to be unleashed. The latter is where we play. Seek them out and let them sell. Peace.
Tags: Brand Planning, brand planning tips, dirty words, hollow words, pregnant words, whats the idea, whatstheidea, words are important
I ask a lot of questions. It’s the trait of a brand planner. Questions are always about learning but when all is said and done they resolve into one of two types of strategy: optimistic or pessimistic. Back in the day working in the tech sector there was an acronym FUD which stood for Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. It drove strategy for IBM and lots of other tech companies selling hard- and software. Pessimism.
For me, positive is the grail in marketing. It may seem Pollyanna-ish but is a quicker way to the heart and mind. That said, it’s not an easy path. A strategy for a home security system might seem most effective when the grim reaper is lurking in the bushes. Conversely, a smiling sleeping face on the pillow doesn’t stand out and it’s poor tradecraft. Positive is hard (unless you’re Corona or a travel marketer.)
For pessimism we have cops shows, thriller novels and news radio. Pessimism is all over the place. “Fail at school and get a bad job.” “Smoke cigarettes, hack up a lung.” “Work in construction, sue the city.”
I’m no Maslow but I think it’s safe to say brand planners who spend time in positive land are more apt to garner favor and loyalty with consumers then are their negative-focused counterpart. So wash your hands and go be positive. Peace (not war).
Tags: brand planning tips, Brand Strategy, corona beer, FUD IBM strategy, maslow, optimisn and pessimism in brand strategy, whats the idea, whatstheidea
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:
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: anthropology in brand planning, anthropology in marketing, Brand Planning, brand planning short cuts, brand planning tips, brand target, customer journey, DILO, whatstheidea
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: advertising strategy, anthropology in marketing, brand planning tips, Brand Strategy, education in marketing, Marketing Strategy, whats the idea, whatstheidea
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: brand planning tips, brand planning tricks, interview techniques, jewel, Merle haggard, whats the idea, whatstheidea
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: brand planning tips, Edward snowden, nestle, sales training, salesforce chatter, whats the idea, whatstheidea
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.
Tags: brand, brand insights, Brand Planning, brand planning insights, brand planning tips, Consumer targeting, whats the idea, whatstheidea
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: 24 questions, biggest critic, Brand Planning, brand planning tips, brand planning tools, how do I probe for stories, opinion leader research, whats the idea? opinion leaders, whatstheidea