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Probably the most overused work in marketing the last 5 years is disruption. Maybe the last 10 years.  If you were to put all the marketing conference speeches given since 2010 into a cull rack and block from falling through the ones with “disruption” in the title, you’d have a stack a mile high. Google SXSW speeches, book titles or blog posts.

Do you want to know something that is truly disruptive? Brand strategy. Huh?  Brand strategy.  Everybody has one they’ll tell you, but no one can articulate it. Not clearly.  Because brand strategy means so many things to so many people, it has become a nonentity. A quagmire within a morass.

Here’s the deal: A brand strategy is an “Organizing principle for product, experience and messaging.” Nothing less. The framework for such is “One Claim and Three Proof Planks.” Nothing less. And certainly, nothing more.

If you’d like to truly disrupt your business. If you’d like to make clear and easy marketing decisions. If you’d like to measure effectiveness with almost binary simplicity, consider a brand strategy. (And this is not a packaged goods thing. It’s a marketing thing.)



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I’m reading the book Disruption by Jean-Marie Dru — it’s about time, I know – which was a pretty famous advertising thought piece back in the 90s. Even creative directors referred to it and they’re not ones to readily admit being inspired by other CDs. Live ones that is.

And Mr. Dru talks about two elements of an ad: the idea and the execution. The idea is the demonstration of the product value and the execution is the creative surround. So for Charmin bath tissue, said Mr. Dru, the idea was “squeezably soft” and Mr. Whipple was the execution.  

Brand planning for me follows this route for the most part, though I use words “claim” and “proof.”  The claim is the “idea” and the proof is the “execution.”  But in my world the execution is very organized.  Organized by selling schema in the form of three brand planks.  For a commercial maintenance company I wrote a brand brief that likened the company to the Navy Seals of maintenance. The planks were Preemptive, Fast and Fastidious.  When the client presented the company online, in brochure, ad or in person, the presentation was always cloaked in one of these three principles.  The company prevents problems through forethought, is absolutely quick to react, and precise and fastidious about every job.  Like a Navy Seal. This is a coda employees need to live by and one that customers find easy to grasp and hold on to. 

In branding, Claim and proof, well thought out, works every time.  That’s disruption! Peace!

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In a recent blog post, Paul Gumbinner, a friend and advertising recruiter, suggested NY unemployment in our sector is around 15%.  At one point I read there are 275,000 advertising jobs in NY which suggests about 40,000 are on the beach.

Between that, reduced budgets and digital and earned media shops rightfully requiring pie, one can safely say there has been a retrenchment in the ad biz.  As hard as it is to say, it has improved the business. The work product of ad agencies is improving; it’s more creative, meaningful, idea-based and friendlier — with the exception of all those ads about hitting on the Super Bowl.  Even the new work out of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese’s new agency Crispin Porter seems more wholesome. Roots! (Perhaps it’s all the bicycles and mountain air in Boulder.) And if you are watching a good TV spot and smiling, there’s a good chance you’re watching something from JWT. Quite a renaissance for them.  

It seems that all the pink slips got rid of many marginal players and a ton of haters.  The latter group can now be found commenting on Adweek and Ad Age posts.  Disruption (sorry Mr. Dru) has given way to heartfelt selling and that’s a good thing.  Money is creeping back into agency pockets and human resources calendars fill up — let’s hope we hire higher up the food chain. Peace.  

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