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Here’s an exercise for brand planners.
I read this morning that when president Richard Nixon prepared for a summit in China to meet Mao Zedong, he created a checklist. What do we want? What does China want? And what do we both want? Each question had three answers.
Brand planners should ask themselves the same questions only with a slight modification at the end. What does the company want? What do the consumers want? And what does the brand want? The brand’s desires may not align with that of the company and could be a healthy source of exploratory tension.
The What’s The Idea? the brand strategy process plumbs consumer “care-abouts” and brand “good-ats.” The nexus of these qualities decides the brand claim and proof planks. But with the tripartite “What want?” approach, it may make the planner look at a new dimension. May.
Might be worth a try.
Tags: Brand claim and proof planks, brand good-ats, Brand Strategy, brand strategy rigor, care-abouts, care-abouts and good-ats, claim and proof, Consumer care-abouts, exercise for brand planners, good ats, good-ats and care-abouts, mao zedong, richard nixon, whats the idea, whatstheidea
Brand strategy is an organizing principle that gives brand managers a “go-no go” guide for product, experience and messaging. It makes branding easy.
Nicholas Kristof in the NYT today was talking about the social entrepreneurs attending Davos and how refreshing they were to have around. He was poo-pooing consumerists who are all about the money.
Doing “good” in a commercial sense is smart strategy. In my practice, when I’m looking at care-abouts and god-ats, I try to plot and push brand planks that are socially positive. It’s not hard to do, and it can’t be forced, but it butts up against the nature of what makes humans humans.
When a cigarette ad choses to shoot a photo at the top of a mountain on a bluebird day amongst cottony snow drifts, it’s hitting our natural beauty button. When a box of diapers shows an amazing toddler smile, it hits a warm, nurture button. But advertising which use positive imagery to cloud our judgement about what is “good” is disingenuous. And it give marketing a bad name.
A brand strategy, built with brand planks supporting positive social ideals is deeply human. And enduring.
Tags: an organizing principle for product experience and messaging, brand planks for good, Brand Strategy, care-abouts, care-abouts and good-ats, diaper advertising, enduring brand ideals, good ats, whats the idea, whatstheidea
I first heard of Masayoshi Son, head of international conglomerate Softbank, in 2,000 when he purchased Ziff Davis. Since then he has been quite busy. His new big care-abouts are Artificial Intelligence and Robots.
He has always been cutting edge – some hits, some misses – but the man is paying attention. And the man is paying. His investments are legendary.
In today’s New York Times Vijay Sharma, CEO of Paytm, said about Mr. Son “Masa is in a hurry. He sees this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity where everything we touch can become a market, where we’re at the opening up of a new industrial revolution.”
I love this “always in a hurry” worldview. I’ve never met a successful tech or industrial entrepreneur who wasn’t in a hurry. Andy Grove who drove Intel during its formative years admitted to constant paranoia. He was in a hurry.
Can you guess the best way for people who are in a hurry to be efficient? To make decisions. To learn? Brand strategy.
Brand strategy codifies vision. Ask any VC what they’re looking for in an investment and they will tell you vision. Brand strategy is vision on paper.
Tags: andy grove, Brand Strategy, brand strategy codifies vision, care-abouts, Intel, Masayoshi son, paytm, Softbank, vijay sharma, whats the idea, whatstheidea, ziff davis
I was reading an LG ad this morning, the headline for which was the “Customer Satisfaction: The Only Thing That Matters.” It struck me as a typical marketing pander. LG is a South Korean electronics company aggressively pushing into the U.S. market. My gut tells says the products are competitively priced, elegantly designed, but of just average quality. Again, my brand gut talking. Not too much different from the position Samsung was in 20 years ago, before Peter Arnell did his brand refresh magic.
Customer satisfaction is never the only thing that matters in manufacturing today. Price matters. Quality matters. (One could rightly argue quality is directly tied to satisfaction.) But materials and planet matter too. Materials that are hard to recycle or that dissipate into the atmosphere as carbons, matter. Even if they make consumers “satisfied.”
So the good people at LG are right to care about customer sat. but they should pay heed to the very American care-abouts that the planet is warming, the climate is growing more squirrely, and electronics manufacturers need to do better. That is something that will make us all satisfied.
Tags: care-abouts, Customer care-abouts, LG, LG customer satisfaction, perter Arnell, peter Arnell and Samsung, Samsung, whats the idea, whatstheidea
For the last three days Red Hat software has run fill page ads in The New York Times paper paper. Today I broke down and read one. I’m not sure if they were three different ads or the same one. Lost opportunity. Advertising is a funny business; even bad ads work. Sometimes just being there is enough. But I’m not of that school. I dislike “We’re Here” advertising. Ads that do little more than arrive, list services and give contact info.
What’s the idea Red Hat? It appears, from the headline, that the idea is “Tame Today. Frame Tomorrow.” If the idea wasn’t so hackneyed I’d mention it’s actually two ideas. Both well-done. (Like a 2 hour Bubba Burger.)
I’ve liked Red Hat, as a brand, from its beginnings many, many moons ago. Famous for open source, famous for dashing tech branding. But come on people! Could you make an ad with some vital organs? With some proof of claim? With a semblance of a brand strategy? You can’t just toss a logo on a page, add a second color, play copywriting scrabble and call it advertising.
Red Hat needs a brand strategy. Look to your advertising ancestors. Read a book on advertising. Find an idea based on care-abouts and good-ats.
Tags: care-abouts, care-abouts and good-ats, good ats, hey red hat whats the idea, paper paper, red hat advertising, red hat solutions, the new york times, we're here advertising, whats the idea, whatstheidea
Not enough credit has been giving to the name of my business in this blog. What’s The Idea? is the name of the blog and the business. People think is a cool name even though the URL requires explanation: “Not what is the idea, what’s the idea dot com, sans apostrophe.”
What’s The Idea? perfectly describes my brand consultancy. The search for a fitting and motivating brand idea consumes me. A single idea that captures what consumers care about and what brands are good at. (Care-abouts and good-ats.)
Not every marketer thinks they need an “idea.” It’s not top of mind. But a sound brand idea helps position, sell and defend against competitors. If you market and don’t brand, you’re apt to struggle.
The funny thing is, the “ideas” I come up with are almost never mine. Sure I put the words together. I may even add some poetry. But the ideas come from others: from buyers, and sellers, and influencers. I’m actually just the curator. The prioritizer. I decide which idea best motivates selling and buying of a particular brand. The I organize under that idea, three proof planks to guide the way.
So when I say “What’s The Idea?” to a marketer, I’m not just branding, I’m asking a fundamental marketing question.
What is your brand idea?
Tags: brand name development, brand names, brand naming, Brands, care-abouts, care-abouts and good-ats, good ats, good-ats and care-abouts, proof planks, whats the idea, whatstheidea
Foster Bias & Sales is an imaginary ad agency name I came up with that offers a trifecta of marketing success. These steps to a sale apply to marketing, advertising, even memo writing.
It starts by fostering a positive and receptive environment in which to communicate with customers. Product context, entertainment and/or education are all tools used to foster interest. Gather attention and predispose consumers to listen….that’s Mr. Foster.
Create bias toward your product or against a key competitor is step two. This is where marketers become competitors. Care-abouts and good-ats are what the brand planner mines and the communicator deals in here. Creating bias is not nuanced. It’s hardball.
Sales obviously refers to action. Real purchase, decision to purchase, or predisposition to purchase. In the sales trade this is called “asking for the order.” Even if implicit. Being too pushy is not attractive, however. You have to know how and when to ask. If you cross the line you may damage to your ability to foster a proper selling environment. Know when to walk away. Customers appreciate commitment sans the pushy hand. They may come back.
Tags: care-abouts, Foster bias and sales, good ats, good-ats and care-abouts, steps to a sale, whats the idea, whatstheidea
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