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Most brand strategists are insight doctors. Insight detectives.  Consumer behavior and motivation are their daily gruel. It’s a wonderful living. It’s like being a psychotherapist but without all the focus on negatives. I am a brand strategist of a different color. Certainly I can find insights with the best of them. Also I can write actionable projects briefs but my real job is in casting the master brand strategy. I plan the house while most brand strategists decorate the rooms.

A large brand, on any given day, may have 20 assignments in play across 5 agencies. That’s a lot of briefs. It’s not effective to have so many re-inventors and it’s not cost-effective.

I don’t want to put anyone out of work here but with a good master brand brief (aka brand brief) the need for strategy soldiers across agencies is lessened. And the work becomes tighter.

I went to a Conagra meeting on the Banquet brand a few years ago and there were probably 6 different agency strategists in the room. Silly.

Peace.                      

 

 

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7 Anxieties.

banquet I did some freelance for Possible Worldwide (nee Bridge Worldwide) a couple of years ago on ConAgra’s Banquet Frozen Foods. As part of the exercise, all team members were asked to go the grocery store and plan a meal at a given weekly budget. My assignment was “retired man with a weekly food budget of $50.” I was to record what I bought and report in. Neat exercise. Great start to the project. Great formula for priming the pump and creating context.

Then we had the team meeting. I’m not exactly sure what came out of the meeting but it wasn’t brilliance. I do not really recall any visceral insights or discussions. And recall in planning is where it’s at.

The exercise could have gotten exciting at this meeting had it been more fluid. The thinking of collectives is best when accompanied by serendipity. Had the in-store exercise been used as a spark and team members set loose to report findings and start discussions in their own ways, we may have had some magic.  I, for instance, may have presented “7 anxieties.”  What goes through a man’s head at shopping time, when budgeted only $50 per week.

In planning, sometimes the tools we use limit us. It’s natural. The rules we use in planning are also natural. But the excitement comes from agility, inspiration, experimentation. So use your tools then break some rules. Peace.

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1%ers.

Strategy is foreplay.  It’s the upfront work that prepares the way for the big event. In brand planning, though, it’s about many big events. As they say in the technology business, a strategy is extensible.

Marketers who get branding understand the role of the brand plan. (Noah Brier –name drop– once asked me “How do you define a brand plan?”)  Creating a brand plan is the most important work a marketer can do, yet ironically less than 1% of all money spent in marketing goes to it.  Go to ConAgra, Microsoft or Heineken or, or, or.  They’ll provide project plans and briefs containing lots of paper and digits on sales and targets. And one page on message.  This most important page is often not message-restrictive…it’s about tonality, goals and insights. You can drive trucks through these pages.  A good brand plan has a tight message strategy. You either hit the claim and support planks or you don’t.  If you don’t, go back to work.

Creative people who hate strategy don’t really hate strategy, they hate bad strategy. Mealy mouthed strategy. Strategy is not about making creative people color between the lines, it’s about using a brand language that helps them speak to consumers through a brand-positive, business-building organizing principle.

Tomorrow, marketers will go off and spend the 99% of their budgets on ads, agencies, video and interactive.  (Cannes rewards the beautiful and funny.) But the Jay Chiat Awards is where the 1%ers are headed. Peace. 

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Content marketing starts with being seen. Following is a story and insight. And a Twitch Point crumb trail.

This morning I was reading a New York Times article (a daily anchor read) describing a new ConAgra Slim Jim campaign. I twitched over to Twitter and followed an author by the name of David Vinjamuri, quoted in the article, writer of a book called Accidental Branding. I have heard of the book but now, thanks to the media surround, will consider buying it.) On Mr. Vinjamuri’s Twitter feed, I read and how his Amazon reviews rock, according to Mars Dorian. I might consider following Mr. Dorain but didn’t have time. His name will go into the gray mush database and should it come up again, he’s in.

The notion of being an Amazon review rockstar is very interesting to me, and plays into my Poster vs. Pasters theory of online magnetism. Mr. Vinjamuri, blogs, writes book, Tweets and no doubt does lots of other posting. His Amazon reviews, however, are placed on a canvas that seen by many and more importantly, seen in context. He has found a place where concerned readers congregate and he is posting there — with things they like. (In doing so, he is creating twitches back to himself.) Had Mr. Vinjamuri doen the review on his own blog he’d have to wait for his Google ranking on the topic to float up. So he used Amazon to fish for acolytes. Genius.

Just as inbound links are the key to Google rankings, commenting and leaving a trail of crumbs on other people’s sites is a key to content marketing. It’s the last mile. The one most people forget about. It’s the map or directions to you and your site. There is way too much Fotchbook focus for marketers today. They create content for Fotchbook (faccia, is Italian for face) and becasue the platform contains so many crumbs, people tend to stay there…giving Mr. Zuckerberg all the traffic. So Posters, you need to troll. You need to troll in rich waters. And you need to create content back at the ranch that will build greater affinity. Sorry for going long today. Peace!

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You can tell the vitality of a marketing category by its advertising — and right now the retail grocery business is heating up.  With 17 percent of all US adolescents obese and the likelihood that for the first time in the history of our country children will grow up less healthy than their parents, the retail grocery business is finally beginning to innovate and in the right direction.

Thumb through the ads in Progressive Grocer and you will see some with real claims. Real proof.  It’s easy to do good advertising when you have real innovation to sell.  Yeah, yeah there are still some charts and an ad or two with cheesy headlines (Hershey’s “Delivering Innovations Shopping Solutions”), but unlike the ads in a recent copy of CIO Magazine, crafted with stock art by internal market departments, the grocery trades are cranking out work with real stories. And you can tell that the ConAgra’s of the world are excited to be introducing lines of healthy steamed entrees.

Feeding America more healthy, more affordable food (not usually used in the same sentence) is driving “what’s up” in the grocery business. It may not be a sexy category, like social media, or mobile phones, but it’s important and growing.  And in a few months all this trade advertising will move into the general media markets and feed (sorry) the general advertising business. Exciting!  Peace!

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