Brand Strategy

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If you read the previous What’s The Idea? post you’ll know I’m thinking about building an implementation phase into my brand planning engagement process. The idea is to become a brand supervisor at the client company for a couple of months to manage adherence. This, I know, is likely to go poorly unless handled with care.

Some people see strategy as constricting. Others see it as freeing.  I sit in the middle.  I certainly don’t want marketers to spend effort and money on “off message” activity. Bad for the brand and not great at building muscle. But I do want them to be as creative and exhilarated as possible when it comes to ideation. Not looking at a blank sheet of paper saves time. Having a jump start on marketing efforts is also an energy saver. And it creates focused, fertile ground for the work.

In the middle is where the on-prem brand supervisor will sit. Coaxing and charming good ideas and work that toes the strategy line. But also creating a new lens through which to see marketing that adds value to the brand, company and one’s carrer.

Ima need a syllabus.

Peace.

 

 

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One the fallacies of the brand planning business is that everything will change when the engagement is over. I’ve presented and sold brand strategy (an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging) to numerous clients, only to see it used to launch a tagline, logo, new website or ad campaign. And then little else.

In those cases it simply became stim for a top drawer tactic, not a strategy to work by. Not a strategy to build a brand.  

I’m beginning to rethink my offering. I’m beginning to see the value of packaging a 3-month on-prem implementation phase. One whereby I supervise the marketing department and help to fit any and all marketing activities and outputs to the newly purchased brand strategy. It’s only when marketing stuff is made that the strategy takes hold.  Brand strategy is not some ephemeral, cultural construct of the marketing department. It’s an activity guide.        

When you have a brand claim and three proof planks to guide the work, everything has a purpose. Everything is either on or off.  

(By the end of the day, I expect to be the owner of a little red house in Asheville, NC.)

Peace.                      

 

 

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How do you build a brand?  It’s an easy question. Sadly, it has a thousand answers.

Were I to ask how to build a car, the answer would be with an engine, steering, wheels, transmission, chassis, etc.  How do you build a sandwich? How do you make beer? Of course there will be variations in ingredients but the components are pretty static. Not so much in brand building.

If you ask ten brand consultancies you’ll get ten different constructs for what constitutes a brand plan.  Components may include product development guidelines, packaging, a visual identity scheme, (e.g., a logo, style and usage manual) and rough communications guidelines, but for the most part the actors charged with building the brand are a federation of marketing people inside and outside the company (agencies) following a marketing plan, not a brand plan.

Marketing plans are built with line items transferable from one company to then next. Metrics include: unit sales, revenue, market share and profit plan. And lots of tactical cow bell. Brand plans, on the other hand, are devoted to building product and consumer value. Values based on care-abouts and good ats. They are not transferable line items but values endemic to the product.

The best marketers are also great brand advocates. They don’t care only about the plumbing, they care about the product and its unique value to the consumer.

Peace.

 

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Brand strategy is more effective when understood and acted upon internally. Frankly, it’s the best way to get brand value disseminated externally. But most companies don’t really work this way. Ninety percent of brand word is external. Typically delivered through advertising, PR and promotion. 

Educating every employee in brand strategy, i.e., “claim and proof planks,” is the best and fastest way to have an impact.  It multiplies the power of branding exponentially.

The claim for a healthier-for-you cookie company was “Craft cookies au naturel.” The planks were “naturally moist,” “healthier properties” and “complex flavors.”  By understanding these simple values, every employee at every stage of development, manufacturing, delivery and marketing, can make easier decisions. There are no forks in the road. No room for interpretation. The talking points are set. These aren’t just words on a box but strategic selling points that add value and deflect competition.

Get the strategy right, get your internal house in order, then broadcast the brand value. Don’t ever forget the employees.

Peace.

 

 

  

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So I don’t know if you follow Michael Rapaport on Twitter but the actor turned social commentator has used social media to quickly establish his brand. Marketers and brand managers can learn from him. (Save for the F-bomb every six words.) Actors are like tofu. They’re as good as their craft and roles. Mr. Rappaport is best as an actor when doing irascible characters; but because he’s an actor, you expect he can do milk toast if need be. It’s all acting after all.

On Twitter he Real. The real Michael Rapaport, albeit with a fun gangsta flourish.  

I tell clients different social channels are for different things. Facebook’s for friends. LinkedIn’s for work. Instagram for one’s artistic self. And Twitter for the full-on personality. Well Mr. Rapaport uses Twitter right. It has quickly defined him for me. In a week or two.

His Twitter pic is an image of Charles Oakley sporting a crown.  He tweets about St. John’s basketball. He rants in his car about Trump and he hates haters with the best or them. He defends where defense is needed. And he’s funnier than shit.

I learned more about Michael Rapaport in 10 minutes on Twitter than I would in years of watching Access Hollywood or reading journalist magazine accounts.

Brands can establish their personality on Twitter. Fast. They just have to dedicate time and work their brand strategy (one claim, three proof planks,)

Peace.

 

 

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Yesterday’s post was about adherence to the brand strategy. A great brand strategy is the elixir for marketing success but compliance is the key.

In Nicholas Kristof’s Op-Ed piece in the NYT today he suggests paying Congress based upon Americans’ health. If healthcare gets better, they get paid more. The problem with healthcare, however, is also adherence. You can lead a grandpa to the medicine cabinet but you can make him medicate.

The way we mete out medicine and follow up with patients to insure compliance is an important part of the Affordable Care Act. Phone calls from docs, more office visits – a preventative approach – is how the ACA aims to improve compliance.  In brand strategy adherence, as I mentioned yesterday, a brand steward or brand compliance officer is a step in the right direction, but a companywide behavior change is even more profound. For that, as with congress, perhaps financial incentives are required. At least to prime the pump.  Long term, company growth will ultimately be the financial incentive.

Let’s incentivize compliance. It’s the American way.

Peace.

 

 

 

 

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There’s a famous David Belasco quote that goes something like this ‘If you can’t fit your idea on the back of a business card, you don’t have a clear idea.’ David was an impresario of Broadway plays.

A number of years ago I worked at a web start-up run but a mad code scientist. He was a drag-and-drop genius. Like many entrepreneurs he fancied himself the head of marketing (my job). He wrote a draft of the home page copy which my pops would have called a “doggy’s dinner” of claims, goals and marko-babble. Suffice it to say it wouldn’t fit on the back of a business card. That didn’t keep us from winning Robert Scoble’s Demo of the Year.  It did, however, keep us from becoming bah-millionaires (billionaire slash millionaire). due to feature creep and poor consumer usability.

A good brand strategy – defined as an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging – will fit on the back of a business card. It might not make you a millionaire, but it will make you an articulate marketer. And hopefully it will make your customers similarly articulate about the product. Of course that’s in the execution…which will be a topic for another day.

Peace.

 

 

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Every brief is a brand brief…that is, until the brand brief is actually written.  This is my life. A friend asked for some help with his website. I was paralyzed until I wrote a brand brief.  “Can’t you just write copy for the website? Only a couple of pages?” Sorry.  

A brand consultancy asked me to work on an idea for a top six business consulting company – they really wanted a brochure. “Love to help. Gotta do a brand brief first.” Want me to write an ad for your energy drink? Brand brief.

I can’t go tactical — not in good conscience — until I understand the organizing principle aka the brand strategy. I’d have restless leg syndrome. I’d be afraid I would do something to hurt the brand – which would be hard since without a brand brief “Who knew?” what would help the brand. 

So this is my career dilemma. The boulder I must push up the mountain. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

Peace.

 

 

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Though I am of the belief that political strategists have a lot to learn from brand planners, I do acknowledge borrowing some tools from politics; for instance, the nomenclature for my “brand plank” framework comes from the political arena.  Reading a political story yesterday, in which the word “agenda” came up, I immediately wondered how to use brand agenda in my practice. Clearly a plan needs an agenda. A strategy needs an agenda. But admittedly, an agenda is for a strategist not a consumer. So let’s think this through.

The brand planners adheres to an agenda.

The brand managers adheres to the planks.

And consumers? Consumers adhere to the (brand) idea.

As I think about incorporating a brand agenda into my process, where does it fit?

Does it sit at the beginning of the brief along with Brand Position and Brand Objective? Should it come in at the end after the idea is born. After the planks are scribed and the target parsed?

And what should a brand agenda look like? Is it single-minded? Longer form? Short and pithy?

Let me sleep on it, but I think it should be the last thing on the brief. And in answer to what it should look like, I’m leaning toward “yes, yes and yes, yes.”)

Peace.

 

 

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Way at the top of unpaid Google search results on brand strategy is HubSpot’s post “7 Essentials for a Strong Company Brand.”   Point one is about brand purpose and brand promise. Not bad places to start I guess, but a little too soft for me.

Brand strategy is not about a promise. It’s about a claim. A prideful statement of consumer value that “is.” Not a might be, or a try-to-be.  But a fact. A fact found at the nexus consumer care-abouts and brand good-ats.

If you have your brand claim right then everything you do in sales and marketing should be about proving it. Promise and purpose help may get you to your claim, but claim is the quintessential essential.  7 is too many essentials anyway. Water, air and food are essentials.

Peace.

 

 

 

 

 

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