claim and proof

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More and more, technology startups are being purchased by multinationals to help large ships chug into the future. Owners in hot categories like self-driving cars, streaming video and alternative energy are cashing in daily as billion dollar companies purchase their intellectual property. It’s a tech thing. The purchased companies are small, 8-15 people, so prices aren’t crazy high, but the stock agreements make sellers happy.

This makes me think about my company. I am not a tech startup. What I offer, however, is in demand: A way to harness marketing power by strengthening ties and building preference among purchasing consumers.  What I offer is a framework for business winning brand strategy. The secret sauce of the discovery process is “proof.” Ninety five percent of brand strategy firms, I’d venture, have discovery processes similar to mine: Interviews, research (primary and secondary), hierarchy of needs, stuff like that. But none look at proof, as a foundation.

I don’t expect large companies to buy What’s The Idea? Proof, my IP, is not technology. It’s not code. To many it’s ephemera.  Process is hard to value.

Peace.

 

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Branding is Tangible.

One of the things I dislike about advertising can be summed up by the words of an ex-client many years ago. He killed an ad made by some reasonable craftsman at FCB/Leber Katz saying “It just doesn’t do it for me.” Client’s prerogative, but not helpful. I coined the term “like-ometer” after that meeting.

Judgmental responses don’t help. They aren’t constructive.

When I speak to marketers and some of their paid agents I often get the feeling they think branding is a judgmental business — where color, name, shape and package are all easements to purchase. Where arts and crafts people make a likeable product visage.

To these people, I say no. No-no-no.

In brand strategy everything is tangible. The What’s The Idea? framework is based on claim and proof. Claim is the promise. Proof is why a sane mind can believe it.  It is proof that makes branding work and it is proof that supports the tangible claim. (You can’t support a claim with another claim. Sadly, many practitioners don’t adhere.)

With claim and proof there is no blow hole advertising. No off-kilter design. No hollow, fuzzy copy. No approvals solely tied to the like-ometer.

And for brand planners who say brand managers aren’t the brand police, I feel you. They are instructors. If brand managers convey the need for proper proof of brand claim they’ve flipped their job calculus…and the likelihood of brand success.

Peace.

 

 

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Yesterday I went off a bit on Trout and Ries, saying a brand Claim is akin to a brand Position, but the process, pre-idea and post-idea are different. You can plot a position. You can only cultivate a claim. A claim requires care and feeding. Marketing either strengthens or weakens a claim. A position is less animate.

When Marilyn Laurie a famous AT&T marketer used to say advertising either put a “deposit in the brand bank or a “withdrawal,” she was referring to an animated process.

Branding is simple. Don’t let brand nerds marko-babble you into thinking it’s this complex “only we understand” science.  If you land on the right “Claim” and support it with the right “Proof” planks (3), you can easily build your brand — knowing when you’re making deposits and withdrawals.  

Claim gets the branding glory but Proof is the work horse. Proof is the day job of a brand strategy. Proof is the day job of brand managers. And agents. (The guys hanging off the I-beam with his helmet attached by Super Glue is Proof.) Proof is what convinces consumers. Bluff and bluster do not.

Peace.  

 

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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.

Peace.

 

 

 

 

 

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I don’t like picking on Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s advertising.  It’s not like they have better things to do than treat cancer.  But strategy it’s my job.

I was reading online and a big pop up ad from Memorial overtook the screens. “The future of cancer care” was the type on the screen. It dissolved to a second screen which read “Now available on Long Island,” closing with logo and tagline “More Science. Less fear.” More science, by the way, is a genius brand strategy.  But here’s the rub. And it’s a rub for the MSKCC brand managers and agency Pereira O’Dell.  Prove it.  Don’t waste your breath, pixels and budget on a claim.  If you are trying to give patients and families hope, give them proof. Where the science at? Where the more science at?

We are smart consumers. We can take it. Start talking science.

This digital ad is from the “We’re here” school. This is our name, we are on Long Island, buy from us.

Shallow. More homework. Less fear.

Peace.

 

 

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Salesforce, a spectacular online business, ran an ad today in the NYT paper paper using a tried and true ad tactic “the testimonial.”  Amazon Web Service was the customer. Both are great companies, but the ad was so weak. It’s what my dad Fred Poppe might have called the “doggy’s dinner.”

Central to the idea is something called the (initial caps) Customer Success Platform. Oy. Luckily, the Customer Service Platform is powered by (initial cap) Einstein artificial intelligence. A skootch better.  It “qualifies leads, predicts when customers are ready to buy, and helps them close more deals.”  This is actually stuff a real copywriter could work with — but as written it’s all claim, no proof.   

To make matters worse the ad ends with “What if you had a way to help your business take flight?” followed by the Salesforcrce logo (When did they lose the .com in the logo?) and tagline “Blaze new trails.”  Flight? Trails? Talk about mixing your metaphors.

It’s as if someone used an ad-by-numbers kit.

For a company as successful and powerful as Salesforce, you’d think they could put together a cogent, well-craft print ad.  Maybe they should download a Hubspot template. JKJK.  

Peace.

 

 

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When I interview people at a company to learn more about it during my discovery process I have a set piece of questions. If working in a category with which I’m unfamiliar I often create a new questions to level set me. Learning the language of the category is an important first step. Before I start questioning I tell the interviewee to please tell stories to make your point. It helps me better and more quickly understand. Stories provide texture, importance and ballast from the teller’s point of view.  Data and information are just tracks to be trod over. Data and information are the CV of the business. Important and crucial stuff yes, but they don’t reveal “soul” the way stories do.

I never closed a deal during a brand strategy without stories. Never. If you have stories, when presenting to decision-makers, you are a brother/sister. People don’t have a hard time disagreeing with you if you have a story. They’ve more open and real in their objection…often sharing a contrary story.

I loves me some data in brand planning. But stories feed the brief. They give heart to the claim and proof planks.

Peace.

 

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I’ve been thinking about two brand strategies lately. One for the Madison Square Garden the other for James Brown. Madison Square Garden’s is “The World’s Most Famous Arena.” James Brown was “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business.”  These two sentences are brand claims.

A claim is only good when it’s believable. If you’ve ever seen James Brown, you know his claim to be true. As for MSG, the same, but you may have to take their word for it to a degree.  There have been 4 Madison Square Garden’s and none in Madison Square since 1925. There have, indeed, been some amazing events in the 4 gardens, but it’s no Roman Coliseum. What The Garden is is a well-tended brand. At every major sports event the announcer welcomes one and all with “Welcome to Madison Square Garden, the world’s most famous arena.” The halls are bedazzled with black and whites of Ali-Frazier, George Harrison, and Mark Messier.   Hanging from the rafters are aging championship banners from the NY Rangers.

MSG works hard to prove its claim. James Brown used to sweat his claim.

Claims are the basis of brand strategy. With claim in hand, all that is left are the deeds and the proof. Peace.

 

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If asked to provide one word that defines my business practice – one word that drives my philosophy of brand planning it would have to be “proof.”

Proof is the most tangible of marketing words. And the most tangible building block in brand strategy.

Proof trumps subjective opinion. It overrides marketing insouciance. It answers that age-old creative brief question “What is the reason to believe?”.  Teach a man to prove and you build a brand for a lifetime. In brand strategy, of course, you need to organize your proof;  into no more than three proof planks. Random proof becomes a grade school science fair.

The best framework for brand strategy is one claim and three proof planks. Get the claim right then make the proof fit like a glove.

Here’s an exercise: Spend time studying your marketing materials. See if you can discern the proof from the blather. From the self-interest babble. Underline or highlight the proof. See what you’ve got. Does it focus you?

Peace.

 

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I’m not against storytelling. It’s an important part of my business. When collecting information to build brand strategy I hunt for stories and often tell stories to get others to open up. But in and of itself, a story won’t do shit for a brand. Especially, if it’s off-piste.

Storytelling is a pop marketing topic many brand consultants rest upon.  My “brand-ar” goes off when I hear someone use the term; it suggests they’re blowing marko-babble smoke.

Think of storytelling as the code and brand strategy as the app. The app being the meaningful, useful tool.

Brand strategy done right is about claim and proof — packaged into a discrete organizing principle for product, experience and messaging.

Stories and storytelling are communications tools, not strategy tools.

Peace.

 

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