brand strategy development

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The Boil Down.

Every brand planner has his or her own toolkit. But basically they drop themselves into a category or brand space and learns. They understand the product, competition, care-abouts and functions. If they’re smart they also try to understand the business and finances. A dive into the culture of the buying is important. And learning the language of the category is not underrated.

After all information is amassed, balanced by some qualitative data, it’s time to put paper to pencil. Or finger to keyboard. This is where the good brand planners separate from the not so.  

My key tool is the brief. Many brand planner use a brief to create strategy…or a fill in the box template. Same thing.

The real key in crafting a brief is the “boil down.” The boil down removes all non-essential information gathered during discovery.  I call it the boil down because it riffs on the metaphor of the stock pot. Fill up the stock pot and boil it down to a very rich bullion at the bottom.

At What’s The Idea?, a brand strategy is one claim, three proof planks. This is the organizing principle for brand strategy. Four things. That’s a lot of boiling.

Peace.  

 

 

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I manufacture brand ideas for a living. But each client that signs me on is only looking for one idea. A brand claim.

secret sauce

A lot goes into that claim. Hours of interviews. Days of observation. Book learning, article reading, blog scouring and research development. There comes a point during all of this discovery when I must start to boil down the learning and gleanings and circle the idea.  It’s a little Sherlock Holmes-esque, frankly, with deduction and gut instinct – but it’s the money making part of the business.

So how do 60 pages of typed and mistyped notes,  5 yards of OneNote links, copy, pictures and videos and a brain filled with stories, emotions and competitive brand noise reduce itself to one claim? Via two roads.

The Planks.

Brand planks for me are areas of proof that stand out for a company, product or service — a marriage of “good ats” and “care abouts.”  As I go through my material, I find “proofs” and highlight them. Proofs are actions, deeds, activities and results.  As these proofs begin to hang together or cluster they become planks. The planks, together, can inform the claim.

The Brief.                                                                

The brand brief is the document — actually a serial story — that explains the product, what it does, for whom, and why. When I write the brief I start at the beginning and, like a form, fill out one section before I move to the next. If there is dissonance in this serial story, it needs to be re-cobbled.  Only when the story hangs together can I write the final chapter: The claim. Once the claim is created, and once it fits like a glove with the three planks we’re done. Sometimes the planks need adjustment. Sometimes the claim. But it all must fit. It must be easy to understand. Contain sound logic. And a bit of artful poetry in the claim doesn’t hurt.

This is how I come up with a brand strategy. This is how I come up with an “organizing principle for product, experience and messaging.”  Peace.

 

 

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There is Brand Design, the creating of logos, packaging and style manuals, there is Brand Experience Design, the creation of product or service journey delivery across existential consumer touch points, and there is what I do at What’s The Idea?, Brand Strategy.

It’s nice in my world because brand strategy is the precursor to all other brand building initiatives. It’s the starting point.

The North Shore-LIJ Health System is in the midst of changing its name and logo. They’ve decided on Northwell Health as a name and a multicolor, multi-pixilated logo. Before Monigle Associates, their design house, started work they needed a brief. A brand strategy brief.

When Dunkin’ Donuts redesigned its stores to improve experience and dial up profitability, Starfish, their partner, needed a brand strategy brief.

When you decouple the brand strategy brief from the logo, package or experience design you get a cleaner, no lobbying approach. Brand strategy is the starting place for all things brand. It should not be part of another process, but a process in and of itself.

The design of the brand strategy is not a means to an end, it’s THE means to an end. Not an extra process, it’s the most important process. If you need some help with your brand strategy before building things, let’s chat.

Steve at whatstheidea.

Peace.

 

 

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The early Egyptians built with stone and what they built still stands. Shea Stadium was built in the 60s and had to be torn down. It was built with steel and cement. If you were to build a structure today that you wanted to last for 1,000 years what would you use? Perhaps someone will invent a new composite material for building construction that will last 500,000 years.

The materials with which we construct products – sugar in carbonated soft drinks, salt in French fries, silicon in computer chips – are seen as building blocks of brands. Yet, when I develop brand strategy (1 claim, 3 proof planks) the materials are secondary, perhaps tertiary. What the materials deliver is way more important.

During my exploration rigor I use a number of tools to mine insights as to “what customers want most” and what the product or service “does best.” Then with all the learning arrayed, I begin to boil down the elements into groups. The groups cluster and point to a common claim…of brand superiority or customer desire. So proof, in fact, comes before claim.

Rarely are materials the sole heroes of the proof planks; deeds and experiences often are. It may sounds backwards but it works for me.

Peace.          

            

 

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