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What comes first the brand strategy or the egg? The question is particularly germane when brand planning for a service company whose deliverables are people, paper, process and transaction. Does the strategy inform the service or the service inform the strategy? Almost always the answer is the latter.
When you work on this kind branding initiative the care-abouts and good-ats are numerous and varied – way more so than with a packaged good. One of the areas I like to delve into with service companies is “tradition.” Not something you can do a deep dive on with start-ups by the way. Borrowed from my early days in cultural anthropology, “custom and tradition” are fertile areas of study and important brand contributors. When there are none, things get tricky but you must push forward. Even into aspiration land. Projection techniques can provide unrealistic results but the learning is important.
I don’t currently have a “tradition” question in my discovery rigor, though there is one in the neighborhood. Definitely time to add tradition to the mix.
Tags: Brand Strategy, building a brand strategy for a service company, care-abouts, good ats, service company brands, tradition and custom, whats the idea, whatstheidea
The company Reputation Management has asked me to comment on how a brand can bounce back from poor online reviews.
I believe it’s best to leave them up. As hard and painful as it is, it’s “real world” online commerce. Not everyone is a super model. Not everyone bats .400. To err is human. How you overcome quality or service problems dictates how you improve. If a product has flaws, fix them. Or acknowledge why they happen. When Chipotle made people sick, it acknowledged “farm to table” is not easy. Healthier is not easy. And they changed.
When Marmot, known for quality in winter gear, gets a bad review, it isn’t defensive, it works even harder to make better product.
Today, if an e-commerce site doesn’t have poor reviews people know it’s been cleaned.
Also, a strong brand strategy (one claim, three proof planks) is also a good way to maintain reputation. Using an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging feeds the market the information it needs to understand your product. When care-about and good-ats align, brands are hard to tear down. When you simplify and strengthen your value, a few disorganized comments won’t hurt. They just make you real.
Tags: care-abouts, care-abouts and good-ats, chipotle, farm to table, good ats, marmot, one claim three proof planks, organizing principle for product experience and messaging, Reputation management. Reputationmanagement.com, whats the idea, whatstheidea
So yesterday I outlined part one of my (in-development) brand strategy workshop. In it I’ll provide a data and information dump to attendees and have them underline all the “proofs” of marketing success they come across. Part two will see them take the 30 or so pages of proof and do something smart with it.
For the allotted 30 minutes, attendees will be instructed to read and reread the underlined items. The goal of this “reading of proofs” is to begin to organize them into groupings. Ideally at the end of the exercise, I’m going to see it they can find 3 discrete groupings. There may be two or four and there will certainly be some outliers, but three is the goal. This is the beginning of brand planks. The groupings we’re looking for are extreme customer care-abouts or brand good-ats. At the really expensive business consulting companies these groupings are called clusters. Clusters that computers and data analysts array. In our workshop, the brains of attendees will do the work.
Tune in Monday for Part 3. The Claim.
Tags: brand planks, brand planning workshop, Brand strategy workshop, care-abouts, goopd-ats, reading of proofs, whats the idea, whatstheidea
“Preservation is one of the highest forms of good citizenship” said the late John Belle, partner at Beyer, Blinder and Belle, the architectural firm that renovated Grand Central Terminal. Words to live by, also, in the branding business.
We want to preserve in the minds of consumers a brand’s “good-ats.” And we want to maintain the linkage of those good-ats to consumers’ most strenuous “care-abouts.” Good brands start with good products. It’s simple really — build a product that is good at something. Make sure it’s something customers really care about. Then work your ass off to preserve the product good-ats over time.
One definition of branding is “identity + reputation.” It’s a nice definition but doesn’t take into account product — or should I say core product value. Good-ats and care-abouts.
So when you are spending a quarter of a million dollars with a big branding firm, make sure your strategy and tagline have a product component to it. Otherwise, your brand strategy firm may not be good-at branding. Peace.
Tags: beyer, blinder and belle, Brand Strategy, branding firm, care-abouts, good ats, john belle, preservation in branding, tagline, whats the idea, whatstheidea
Were I to conduct discovery on What’s The Idea?, my brand consultancy, and articulate its claim, it would probably be “A powerful brand idea is indelible.” My email signature and tagline use this statement behind the words “Campaigns Come and go…”
So that a brand strategy isn’t perceived as a one-trick pony, I employ a proof array comprising 3 support planks. This allows for pluralism in the brand story. This allows for a the claim of brand value and, hopefully, superiority to have multiple dimensions. All of which build the case and brand value. (If the claim and proof array theory isn’t working for you, please email for examples. Steve@WhatsTheIdea.com.)
I’ve never written a brief for What’s The Idea? Amazing! It probably would be a good thought. Shoemakers children and all that. So sans brief, what might my three proof planks be for the “indelible” idea? Let’s think on the fly:
- Indelible means Memorable. Easy for consumers to play back, either in conversation or visual imagery.
- Emotional. Something that is near to the heart of the buyer. I refer to care-abouts often in my blogging but an emotional care-about trumps a wan care-about any day.
- Optimistic. A plank should be positive – toward the category, the purchaser and the marketing order supporting the commerce. Leave bad news for the media. Good news is branding’s purview.
There you have it, 3 proof planks for the powerful “indelible” idea. Now, off to work.
Tags: brand care-abouts, campaigns come and go a powerful brand idea is indelible, care-abouts, memorable emotional and optimistic, whats the idea, whats the idea brand strategy, whatstheidea
I was in a meeting earlier this week with a couple of smart agency guys, explaining the exigencies of being a brand strategist. How nobody wakes up in the morning, yawns, and says “I need a brand plan.” Or how the branding business is filled with a small group of people with a special lexicon of marketing and brand gibberish – I call it marko-babble – filled with words like “authenticity,” “brand voice,” “truths,” “journey,” etc. Lots of brand consultants have a process for doing business, but they don’t actually have a framework for what is delivered. Or, a plan for the future.
I do and I explained it: “One claim, three proof planks. This is the organizing principle for product, experience and messaging. The key to my framework is “proof.” I explained to my agency associates that my discovery, research and strategic development all focus on product proof. Proof of what? Good question. It’s not until the proofs are arrayed that the proof of what raises it head.
Proofs tend to be grounded in customer care-abouts and brand good-ats.
One brand planner’s discovery is often much like the next…lots of reading, interviews, primary and secondary research and cogitation. But at What’s The Idea? It is proof that makes the pudding. It is proof that drives the brand strategy.
Tags: brand good-ats, Brand Strategy, brand strategy defined, care-abouts, one claim three proof planks, organizing principle for product experience and messaging, whats the idea, whatstheidea
In my lifetime and the lifetime of What’s The Idea?, I’ve probably written 50 marketing plans. Their formats are all pretty much the same: market situation, key issues, objectives, strategies, targets and messages, tactics, budget and timeline. To the uninitiated who might read one of these plans, once past the up-front market review and obs and strats, the tactics of one plan might look like the others. Interchangeable almost. probably containing ads, PR, direct, web, promotion and social. Simple, undifferentiated line items on an excel chart.
The fact is, it’s the brand strategy that really sets one plan apart from the next. Every dollar spent is guided by a brand claim and three proof planks – or supports. The tactics aren’t just random copy with fill in the blank marketing claims. Every piece of external and internal communications, meant to position and sell, is scripted. Well not scripted, but guided.
Branding strategy is an organized principle for building brand value and sales, based on consumer care-abouts and brand good-ats.
Brand strategy is the secret sauce to every marketing plan.
Tags: brand good-ats, care-abouts, Consumer care-abouts, good ats, marketing plan, obs and strats, one claim and three proof planks, what makes a good marketing plan, whats the idea whatstheidea, whatstheidea
I was just reading an article on the correlation of mass attacks and spousal abuse citing examples from years ago and continents afar — stories about which I’d never heard — and it dawned on me that with a few clicks of a keypad and the help of Google a reporter can do months of homework in minutes. Google is a freaking crazy research utility. Journalists use Facebook and Twitter to quickly source people for stories.
When in college I read The Modern Researcher by Jacques Barzun to help navigate libraries, newspaper and magazine archives to learn effective research methods. Today, with Google and Wikipedia you can be done before getting half way to the local library.
As a brand strategist, Google offers immeasurable advantage. But there’s a term I’ve come across “Google planners” and it’s not a very attractive descriptor. It refers to brand planners who never leave their desk.
Even if they use videoconferencing to conduct discovery interviews (another cool tool), Google Planners need to sit next to their interviewees to get higher def reactions. And emotions. Google is a wonderful assist, but Care-abouts and Good-ats are best mined in person, in situ, on prem, and up close. You gots (sic) to get out of the building boys and girls. Stim is the key to great ideas. And stim is multi-dimensional.
Tags: brand planning research, brand planning research techniques, brand planning research tools, care-abouts, facebook as a research took. Twitter as a research tool, good ats, google for research, google planners, Jacques Barzun, whats the idea, whatstheidea
I’ve been writing a lot lately about how brand strategy is the perfect intersection of customer care-abouts and brand good-ats. Earlier this week I posted that it’s best to have good-ats as part of company DNA rather than just build them based on customer needs research.
Enter Stitch Fix, a very cool clothing start up that melds the best of the online web retailing with features of brick and mortar clothing stores. Stitchfix has built its business around convenience, surprise and renewal. It’s genius. And addictive.
The brand planner in me loves what I interpret as the company’s three brand planks: “personalized,” “better every time,” and “on your time.” This organizing principle for product, experience and messaging is unique and, if done well, highly defensible.
The website lists these three things as benefits, which is another word for care-abouts. They are presumably brand good-ats but time will tell. This is a case where a start-up has to build the good-ats as the business matures. And course-correct in real time. But you can see how having a plan, an organizing principle and commitment to brand strategy can make it work.
If Stitch Fix gets benefit delivery right it is going be a high-flier.
Tags: an organizing principle for product experience and messaging, care-abouts, good ats, organizing principle, start-up strategy, stitch fix, stitch fix brand strategy, stitch fix marketing strategy, stitch fox marketing, stitchfix, stitchfix brand strategy, stitchfix marketing strategy, whats the idea, whatstheidea