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You ever sit in the yard and pull weeds? It’s a horrible job and even worse metaphor for what I’m about to share. My job is not pulling weeds but “pulling proof.” Brand discovery is all about the search for proof points. What is a proof point? It’s evidence. It may be an action. A practice. Perhaps a milestone. A result. Proof is existential. Why is proof in branding so important? Because 90% of all consumer facing advertising, packaging and promotion is sizzle. It’s claim, claim, claim. A promise without any foundation.
If an ad makes a claim about a product or service and the consumer asks “Why?” or says “Prove it,” is there a suitable response? Is there proof? Almost always there is not. That’s why brands today are media driven not idea driven.
Proof is what you use in a debate to make your point. Proof well told (McCann-Erickson’s mantra is Truth Well Told) makes a superior debater.
The process of brand discovery begins with proof pulling. Then organizing the proof into care-abouts and good-ats. Then, if you learn the language of the consumer, overlay some category culture, and organize your findings, you may have yourself a brand strategy.
Tags: Brand Strategy, brand strategy guidelines, brand strategy tips, care-abouts, care-abouts and good-ats, good ats, mccann erickson, proof in brand strategy, proof in branding, proof well told, Truth well told, whats the idea, whatstheidea
As a kid in the business I read a great book on business to business advertising. It gave an example of what a purchasing agent is up against when buying an expensive piece of industrial equipment. The agent puts together a side-by-side chart of all the specs and benefit statements for the two final vendors under consideration. More often than not, commerce being what it is, it’s a draw. The book suggested, absent a clear winner, the logical mind takes over. The personal logical mind, that is. In order to make a decision with so many variables, the purchaser decides which of the variables is most important. Which of the 20-30 variables is the one upon a which the decision will be made.
I was reading about Harvard’s selection process yesterday and it’s pretty complicated. SAT scores, other testing scores, GPA, ethnicity, alumni parents, future ability to donate, interview performance essay, geo-social background are all evaluated. Not unlike the chart from the book. Choices.
Brand strategy development is not dissimilar. We look at a multitude of “care-abouts” and “good-ats” and decide how to best organize the selling principle. Brand strategy helps marketers make the tough choices. It helps brands make the right choices.
Tags: brand strategy choices, brand strategy explained., brand strategy whatstheidea, care-abouts, care-abouts and good-ats, good ats, Harvard selection process, selling principle, whats the idea
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
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
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.
Tags: brand plan, Brand Strategy, care-abouts and good-ats, what goes into a brand plan, what is a brand strategy, whats goes into a brand strategy, 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
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.
Tags: Brand Strategy, care-abouts and good-ats, claim and proof, hubspot, whats the idea, whatstheidea
In my brand strategy presentation I share real examples. The first couple of minutes are about theory and process then I trot out real client strategies, sans brand name, as they are proprietary.
The first examples, which everyone sees, is wonderfully tight, uncomplicated and easy to reckon. It’s for a commercial maintenance company – the people who keep buildings clean and operational: vacuuming, washing windows, emptying garbage and keeping the grounds in order. This particular commercial maintenance company had no brand. It had a logo, invoices, website and a strong owner.
When all the care-abouts and good-ats were understood and assembled, and the boil down complete, the brand strategy became quite obvious: “The navy seals of commercial maintenance.” The claim was supported by proof planks: fast, fastidious and preemptive.
As brand strategies go – and they are always 1 claim and 3 proof planks – this was a particularly easy metaphor. Not all are this easy. Done well, all brand strategies have a mellifluous quality to them. Almost like a song or hook, constructed out of product or company notes that create pride and desire.
PS. If you’d like to see the presentation, please write Steve@WhatsTheIdea.com
Tags: 1 claim and 3 proof planks, brand idea, Brand Strategy, care-abouts and good-ats, pride and desire, pride and desire in brand strategy, whats the idea, whatstheidea