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Fred Wilson is a blogger (www.avc.com) and businessman I admire greatly. He blogs daily and share his knowledge without second thought. He’s probably the most prominent VC on the east coast if not the county. In a recent speech given at MIT, he mentioned that on his first ever test there he had gotten a zero. About MIT he said, and I paraphrase, “When you go to MIT to go from being the smartest kid at your school to being the dumbest.” Anyway when asked about his nil test score his professor the response was “You didn’t understand the question.”
Here’s the thing about brand planning. The ones who get it right aren’t the ones with the best methodology or framework. They are the ones who understand the question. The problem is that question always changes. Yesterday I posted brand strategy is not Chaos Theory. But if the question changes for every brand strategy, isn’t that a bit chaotic?
A generic question for all brands might be “What value or behavior does the brand provide that best meets the needs of the customer?” Doesn’t seem like a bad question. But, per Fred Wilson’s professor, it’s the wrong one. Only when you are waist deep in a brand, customer care-abouts and brand good-ats can one ask the real question. It will be a business question, tempered by consumer insight, and help you pass that first and last test.
Tags: avc, brand good-ats, Brand Planning, brand strategy framework, brand strategy methodology, Customer care-abouts, customer care-abouts and brand good-ats, fred Wilson, mit, whats the idea, whatstheidea
My earlier post about brand polemics has me thinking about ways in which my framework is different from most. Having not studied directly under any of the British planning mafia or working at any length in a planning department, I’ve had to home school myself. Sure, I’ve met with accomplished planners, studying their careers and outputs, and also read numerous Account Planning Group and Effie Awards cases, but much of my framework can’t be found in a book.
One key driver of my practice, borrowed from time as marketing director at an educational technology company, has to do with pedagogy — the science of teaching. During my time at Teq (the education company) I learned the difference between teaching and learning. Learning is the goal or objective, teaching the strategy or process. Many students are taught but do not learn.
In brand planning (and marketing, for that matter) success is more tied to learning than teaching. Learning influences behavior. Teaching doesn’t always. Poor teaching, or poor selling, can actually have a negative effect.
By focusing more on learning than teaching you have a major leg up.
Tags: account planning group, Brand polemics, brand strategy framework, branding polemics, british planning mafia, effies awards, teaching and learning, teq, whats the idea, whatstheidea
I once gave a creative brief template to an account manager who took it to a meeting at Adelphi University where he sat with the marketing lead and, together, tried to fill it out. In the midst of the meeting they called me to clarify one of the points – probably brand essence or core desire or some such. I was flabbergasted. Fruitcake. Not him, me; for not explaining the briefing process well enough.
A brief is a framework to get to an idea. I’ve lived with mine for years and it’s not too much different than it was when purloined from Peter Kim and McCann Erickson in the 90s. It has a nice linearity to it and helps me down the road to a selling idea.
There are often many sparks for the idea within the brief, but it is the planner who himself or herself understands which one is going to birth the idea. There is always one insight that just hits the brain like a freight train.
Some planners eschew frameworks so they can be more fluid. That’s okay. If it works — to each his own. We gather, we learn, we think, formulate, test and finally decide.
Getting there is all the fun.
Tags: adelphi university, brand essence, brand strategy framework, core desire, Creative brief, mccann Erickson NY, peter kim, whats the idea, whatstheidea
What’s The Idea? readers know my brand planning framework revolves around the mining of proof. Proof of actions, deeds and results. But how does one mine for proof? Google might use the algo. Me? I ask questions. Done well, questions are the lubricant that bring forth critical values.
I’d be fibbing if I told you the battery of questions I use is unique to each investigation. That said I’m constantly adding, subtracting and thinking of question to help in discovery. Following are two new questions worth sharing.
What about this product or service heroic? Heroes are what make great books and movies. It’s what kids aspire to. Saviors of the neighborhood. Heroes are what make countries, religions and cultures great. Heroes are passed down generationally. This question requires thought and may take some prodding. Best to ask it early in the interview so it can be thought about if not readily answerable.
What about this product or service will stand the test of evolution? Students of natural selection understand the scientific order that culls out bad traits and preserves good. Genes that improve an organism will, over time, outlast the destructive ones. This question is meant to find brand strengths through a new lens. A scientific lens.
I can’t wait to pop these questions. Always be learning. And evolving.
Tags: brand strategy discovery, brand strategy framework, Brand strategy questions, brand strategy tips, google algo, whats the idea, whatstheidea
“Deeds, not things, make father Berrigan one of the best-known Catholic priests of the 20th century” is a line stolen from The New York Times today. Deeds indeed.
At What’s The Idea? the framework for brand strategy (1 claim and 3 proof planks) is built upon deeds. And proof. They are the bedrock of a high-value selling proposition.
When I do discovery for a brand, I’m not searching for shallow platitudes or adjective-filled praise. I need existential examples. When I ask hospital administrator why their healthcare is better than others, I’m often met with “It’s our level of care. Our people.” That’s not input. That’s phonetic sounds and breath. Hunting for proof and deeds, often through stories, is how we start the process. In a page of notes, you may only find 2 proof points. Read a web page or brochure someday. An ad even. Circle the proof. Paltry.
When the same hospital says it does more cyber knife treatments in one year than any other NY hospital, that’s proof. But drill down. Find out why. Understand the proof and build upon it. The information is there.
Stories and storifying are big pop marketing topics today. I love stories…but as a listener. As a listener who’s looking for proof.
Tags: 1 claim and 3 proof planks, Brand Strategy, brand strategy framework, Deeds and proof, Father Berrigan, hunting for proof, one claim three proof planks, proof and deeds, storify, whats the idea, whatstheidea
The SWOT Analysis is an age-old business planning tool. Mapping out Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats sets businesses up to self-evaluate and make better decisions. Google the words business, marketing or brand consultant and you will prob find 50% of the websites referring to SWOT.
Well, I am a brand planner. I don’t do SWOT. I look primarily at positives. My brand strategy discovery gravitates towards “Good-ats” and “Care-abouts.” Brand strategy is all about positivity. Aspiration. Likes. Sure, some of these overcome negatives but branding, at its very core, is about identification and positive reputation. So why, why spend time in negative land.
If I turned my framework on its head, I’d be asking about “bad-ats” and what consumers don’t “care about.” As a single shingle brand planner, one who needs to be nimble and cost=effective, I choose to live in always-always land. Where goodness lives and happens — and where brands are built to serve people in positive ways.
And I’m sticking to it. Peace.
Tags: always-always land, bad-ats, Brand Strategy, brand strategy framework, care-abouts, don’t care abouts, good ats, single shingle brand planner, single shingle brand strategist, SWOT analysis, whats the idea, whatstheidea