brand proof planks

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Yesterday I went off a bit on Trout and Ries, saying a brand Claim is akin to a brand Position, but the process, pre-idea and post-idea are different. You can plot a position. You can only cultivate a claim. A claim requires care and feeding. Marketing either strengthens or weakens a claim. A position is less animate.

When Marilyn Laurie a famous AT&T marketer used to say advertising either put a “deposit in the brand bank or a “withdrawal,” she was referring to an animated process.

Branding is simple. Don’t let brand nerds marko-babble you into thinking it’s this complex “only we understand” science.  If you land on the right “Claim” and support it with the right “Proof” planks (3), you can easily build your brand — knowing when you’re making deposits and withdrawals.  

Claim gets the branding glory but Proof is the work horse. Proof is the day job of a brand strategy. Proof is the day job of brand managers. And agents. (The guys hanging off the I-beam with his helmet attached by Super Glue is Proof.) Proof is what convinces consumers. Bluff and bluster do not.



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I do a good deal of work with corporate brands and they are way harder than consumer brands to package, yet I approach them the same way. The brand strategy for a corporation is the same as for a packaged good — one claim and 3 proof planks. Corporate proof plank arrays are rich and deep while those for, say, an energy drink or break-and-bake cookie are few and shallow. (For CPGs you make actually need to create proof where none existed before.)

It is because corporate proof arrays are manifold that The Reputation Institute has made such a nice and successful living. They mine attributes and values customers feel are business-winning, then track them through quarterly quantitative studies – measuring key careabout movement versus competitors — packaging it as reputation. Brilliant.

But in B2B, reputation is just a lovely generic way of saying strategy. They are measuring strategy. Multiple strategies. And if you looks at some of Reputation Institute studies you will see they cluster values generically: product values, innovation values, governance values, ETDBW (easy to do business with) values, etc. These are market research-centric studies. Brand-centic studies look at the proof based on the unique brand strategy of the corporation, organized by brand plank.  Not multiple generics. This is how we measure ROS (return on strategy.)

When companies like Undercurrent and Altimeter Group talk about more responsive organizations or disruption, they are (and often may not know it) thinking about a brand value paradigm for organization, not a generic B-school paradigm. Stay tuned.









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