David and Goliath

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Bravery is big these days. A lot of agencies and marketers have tied their brand promises to the word, including David and Goliath and Mondelez – a couple of forerunners. And why not? Who doesn’t want to be brave? It’s as American as apple pie. I, too, rely on the word in my practice. A boast I proudly share with clients (after signing them) is that there will likely be one word in the brand strategy they may find objectionable. They’ll love the sentiment. Feel the strategy. Know in their bones I get them. They’ll proudly nod at the defensible claim. Yet often, they will sheepishly ask “Do we have to use that one word?”

A $5B health care system asked “Do we have to use the word systematized?”

The world’s largest tech portal asked “Do we have to call consumers browsers?”

The country’s 10th largest daily newspaper asked “Do we have to say ‘We know where you live?’”

The list goes on.

The point is, brand strategy needs to be brave.  If it’s not, is it really strategic? If your brand strategy is not bold, it will be a long, expensive build toward effectiveness. And may weaken your brand planks. (Three planks support your claim.) This brave approach takes brand strategy out of insight land and into claim land. Out of observation mode, into prideful attack mode.

Oh, and the answer to my clients one-word objection? “No, you don’t have to use the word. The creative people will create the words. But you must use the strategy.” And everybody, myself included, bobble-heads in relief. Peace.

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I love the brands I work on. It’s a requirement. I’ve often said “your baby might be ugly but s/he’s your baby” and that’s what happens if you are a good brand planner. Brands become yours, like children.  It’s not likely you are doing a good job of planning until you do have the love.  Being smitten isn’t enough.

So what’s this dignity thing? Well, if you get to know your brand well enough to love it, then you see there are probably many ways to present it in undignified ways.  Ad agents, tyro in-house designers, social media interns may tart it up like a trailer park hussy. Or give it a smart-ass, know-it-all voice. The music arranger might change the vibe, like the DNG’s dancing hamsters for Kia, who are now grooving to techno rather than hip-hop. Undignified.

Once, in a focus group in Kansas City for AT&T, while exposing advertising to consumers I was smacked in the face by the comment “AT&T wouldn’t talk to me that way.  That’s not an AT&T ad.”  That consumer had a dignity-ometer working.

The point:  If you don’t know your brand, starting with the idea and planks, you are not able to understand how to present it with dignity. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, be irreverent and even a little pushy – it means dressing the baby up for success. Know it, love it, share it with everyone on the team, then present it. Peace.

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I’m no demographer but it doesn’t take a numbers nerd to know that a growing and sizeable portion of America is populated by Hispanics and Latinos.  Name a national retail store brand that caters to this group?  In NY we have independent bodegas, but that’s about it.  Among the retailers that index high for the Hispanic and Latino communities, the one I think should attempt to corner the market is Sears. 

The company is talking about selling off its most profitable stores to generate cash but the bold move – the future-forward move – would be to go “all Spanish all the time.”  Find the high density markets, tailor the skews, hire the right sales associates, alter the layout and colors.  Celebrate Spanish culture in a store retrenchment that will not only save the company but make it thrive. The Sear Roebuck Catalog was a cornerstone of America marketing. Sears can create another transformational marketing moment by following our changing demographics. Be bold, be brave… as they might say at David & Goliath.

Peace (in Syria)!

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The work of ad agency David and Goliath speaks to me.  I may not always be in the market for what they’re selling and may not always be the target, but I do know people and these guys and girls can package a message.  David Measer is a head planner at DnG and not long ago I offered him a “free day of planning,” something reserved for friends and family. He said “we are so immersive in our planning work, we don’t believe one day can really generate anything of value.”  And he’s right.  As it relates to the end idea. (But a day can generate some crazy good crumbs.)

I was reading today about a volunteer park clean up in Brooklyn which brought to mind my archaeology days and how it helped me become a better planner. Archaeologists uncover stuff from the dirt. They plot it, ponder it, and may actually have to wait until winter in the lab to understand it – if they ever do. It’s a slow and thoughtful process, though it does offer some exciting immediate rewards.  Brand planners operate in the same exploratory sphere but with truncated timeframes. We observe and intuit purchase behavior — then package it for creative teams. We don’t have the benefit of waiting for winter or have a long mental gestation period.

Brand planners need to be able to observe brilliantly. To see and hear only the important. Then they need to intuit the meaning, which requires context and experience. Lastly, it all has to be packaged for an art, copy and design team. In a way that inspires them to “focused” stimulating greatness. Observe. Intuit. Package. David and Goliath subscribes. Watch them grow. Peace.

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Here’s the thing about “consideration.” It’s a great marketing metric if your audience is not shopping.  If they are shopping, it’s not nearly as important as “preference.” The gap between consideration and preference can be a broad one indeed.  Brand building that accelerates the move from one to the other is what earns marketers and their agents the big bucks.  But not every seller of goods moves the dial up the ladder; some actually move it backwards.  If a consumer once preferred brand X, but now prefers brand Y, that’s a customer relationship management (CRM) problem.

Kia Motors, #8 in car sales in the US, has been brand building with vigor for about 4 or 5 years now.  Though far behind in overall sales, they led the pack with +54% sales jump in April. Kia has done this by building preference. Market factors have contributed certainly: price and car size have earned them a seat at the table. But David & Goliath, a very smart Los Angeles ad shop is building something for Kia.  Kia’s reputation in the market, not dissimilar from that of Hyundai a couple of years ago and Samsung a couple of decades ago, was that or a Korean company with questionable quality. Close to Japan, but not close. Considered but not preferred.

D&G has used advertising to target the younger side of the car buying market – an impressionable target – in a fun tongue-in-cheek, unexpected way. And it’s clearly working.  Their use of music, entertainment and parody allows them to stand out and showcase the nicely designed cars. David & Goliath is making the brand hip. And when a car brand is seen as relevant and hip, it accelerates towards preference.  The Kia story and D&G’s role will be a fun one to watch. Peaceful.

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