experience and messaging

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First question, “Do you have a brand?”  Most marketers will answer yes.

Second questions, “Do you have a brand strategy?”  Those same people are likely to pause then offer a less-than-emphatic yes.

Third question, “Can you articulate your brand strategy?”  This is where the homina-homina kicks in.

It’s a simple fact that most brand practitioners (meaning client side marketing or brand managers) have brands but not a tight articulation of strategy. Most agencies (ad, digital, PR, direct) also don’t follow a tight articulation of brand strategy — because one doesn’t exist. Brand strategy is the least scientific business tool in commerce. It’s an ideal. Not a framework.

Brand strategy is an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging; all three of which are marketing’s domain. Actual brand strategy framework is one claim, three proof planks.

Ask Interbrand, Landor, Future Brand, Siegel+Gale, Lippincott, Brand Union and Wolff Olins what their framework for brand strategy is and all you get is talk, process and case studies. They are long on smart people, insights, approaches, logos and style guides, but no framework. No “business-winning” binary (on or off) approach to building a brand.

When you have a framework that shows when work is on strategy or off strategy, you have found the brand building grail.

Peace|

 

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There are many definitions of brand strategy. Most hard to understand.  And for businesses whose sole purpose is clarity of message, you would think brand strategy definitions would be easy.  

Here’s mine: “An organizing principle for product, experience and messaging.”

What does an organizing principle look like in words?  (Brand strategy is inanimate.)  Well, it is a “claim and proof” array. A single claim about brand superiority or value, supported by 3 proof planks. Proof planks are evidence of the claim, grouped into homogenous clusters.  One of my favorite brand claims for a small commercial cleaning and maintenance company is “The Navy Seals of Commercial Maintenance.”  The proof planks are: “Fast,” “Fastidious” and “Preemptive.”  Put these words into a single sentence and you have a clean, articulate brand strategy. You are organized to market. You are organized to productize. You can build your business experience, communications and website.

Okay other businesses out there — care to share your brand strategies in one sentence?

Peace|

 

 

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For most small businesses the name is the brand. I suspect, that is why small businesses remain small. For mid-size businesses, the name is also the brand, but there tends to be a need for more marketing and sales support; there is stationery, a website, boiler plate copy for press releases, a need to explain company ethos to new hires. In other words, the need for branding elements.  Whoever creates the elements is the de facto brand manager. When it falls to the CEO, it is probably on target strategically, but inelegant.  In a mid-size company, if there is a marketing person, the branding elements have a chance. 

Large companies have marketing people and marketing departments. They are awash in branding elements.  Smart large company marketing departments have brand strategies. Most do not. A brand strategy is “an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging.”  Every company can benefit from a brand strategy. From a one-woman shop to a billion-dollar healthcare system.

Beautiful things can come from disorganization – from random assemblages. But not brands. Not brands.

Peace.

 

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There’s a famous David Belasco quote that goes something like this ‘If you can’t fit your idea on the back of a business card, you don’t have a clear idea.’ David was an impresario of Broadway plays.

A number of years ago I worked at a web start-up run but a mad code scientist. He was a drag-and-drop genius. Like many entrepreneurs he fancied himself the head of marketing (my job). He wrote a draft of the home page copy which my pops would have called a “doggy’s dinner” of claims, goals and marko-babble. Suffice it to say it wouldn’t fit on the back of a business card. That didn’t keep us from winning Robert Scoble’s Demo of the Year.  It did, however, keep us from becoming bah-millionaires (billionaire slash millionaire). due to feature creep and poor consumer usability.

A good brand strategy – defined as an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging – will fit on the back of a business card. It might not make you a millionaire, but it will make you an articulate marketer. And hopefully it will make your customers similarly articulate about the product. Of course that’s in the execution…which will be a topic for another day.

Peace.

 

 

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Growth Hacking is an idea for the times.  I’m kind of sure it’s a bad idea.

Here’s a definition from Wikipedia:  

Growth hacking is a process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels and product development to identify the most effective, efficient ways to grow a business. Growth hackers are marketers, engineers and product managers that specifically focus on building and engaging the user base of a business. Growth hackers often focus on low-cost alternatives to traditional marketing, e.g. using social media, viral marketing or targeted advertising[2] instead of buying advertising through more traditional media such as radio, newspaper, and television.[3]

I don’t take issue with rapid experimentation across marketing channels. I do believe, though, product development as a hack is a little iffy. If growth hacking is a synonym for research and development (R&D) that’s fine. But using the web to randomly and quickly build a business case is goofy.

When it comes to growth hacking, start-ups or recalibrating business better know their good-ats. They shouldn’t look to the web to find out what people want. Brand planning is about good-ats and care-abouts. At What’s The Idea? brand strategy is an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging.  It’s business strategy writ small.  Too much focus on care-abouts and not enough focus on good-ats is an extensible recipe for business failure. You may want to look like Cinderella but you are who you are.

Growth is what businesses aspire to. How they get there and how they get to success is a result of planning, learning and commitment. An hour-long presentation on growth hacking may make you feel all warm inside, but it’s not a sustainable business approach.

Peace.          

 

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“Brand identities create memorable distinction and differentiation in marketplaces in which meaningful functional product or service differentiation is increasingly impossible to secure. They help convey stories and meaning that assist decision-making, establish relevancy and positive disposition.”

This is a quote from a friend and really smart branding person. Someone who taught me a lot. It is true as true can be. It explains brand identity in a thoughtful, complete and rich way — yet it is a bit dense and suffers from what I call marko-babble. If you parse the sentence slowly it makes sense. It’s cogent. However, in branding circles where there is so much marko-babble quotes like this gets sucked right in.

I have worked really hard to take the marko-babble out of branding. I like to think I’ve simplified the definition and the outputs. Here are a couple of boil downs, in consumer language, for you to ponder.

A brand strategy is an “organizing principle for product, product experience and messaging.” (Some might argue product is the domain of product strategy and they would be right. But after the product is created, enhancements, extensions and evolutions need to be true to the brand strategy.)

A brand strategy is 1 claim and 3 proof (support) planks. Planks are populated by actual and future examples of what a company is great at and what consumers want most.

In sum, my branding meme is this: Branding is about claim and proof. Proof and deeds. Deeds and experiences. Strategically organized and tightly managed.

Marko-babble beware. Peace.

 

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