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Inward Bound

Faris Yakob (you own me a beer, Faris) is a strategy genius. Just a real shmarty pants. For all the big words he uses, and they are plenty, his ideas are quite simple and rich. Faris is a wonderful communicator, as well. He is closely associated with his oft-used phrase “Talent Imitates, Genius Steals.” Here’s a steal, or as he might put it, a recombinant idea, purloined from David Brook’s Op-Ed piece this past weekend in the NYT. (It comes from David’s new book The Road To Character.) In the article he identifies a number of way to improve one’s character. I won’t do it justice so read the piece, but what impressed me most was Mr. Brook’s call for people to see the world not through the gravity of their own lives, wants and needs, but through others.

This notion is wonderfully instructive for brand planners. I was once spanked in anthropology class for suggesting cultural anthropologists should do more than observe, record and be passive. The pimp hand that hit me related that by being more than a passive observer I’d be insinuating myself into the culture, changing it ever so much.

Brand planners need to divorce themselves from the consumer. Go all tofu on the buying journey, the “if then” decisions, the psyche of the purchasers and influencers.

It’s not easy. But it’s necessary. Inward not outward is David Brook’s advice. And mine too, for brand planning. Peace.  

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Brand planners go about their business in a number of ways. If you’ve planned on 500 brands and identified 1,000 insights, it’s hard to go all tabula rasa on a new assignment. To quote a friend and colleague Faris Yakob of Genius Steals, there’s a lot of recombinant culture invading the planner’s work day. And this can be a bit of a problem.

Etsy is going through a bit of a hub-bub because some artisans are thought to be mass producing products and passing them off as artisanal. When brand planners do this, it also taints the work.

Brand planners look to two places for insights. The product and the consumer.  If we think of the product as comprised of natural resources — all natural, all built with different DNA, different chemicals – it’ hard not to see it as unique. Deconstructed, these unique resources bring forth insights and features from which the brand strategy flows.  A pizza parlor may look like another pizza parlor, an accounting firm may look like another accounting firm, but they really are all different. And by happenstance or design, those differences appeal to consumers in special ways. That’s the big “find” of the brand planner. And never forget we are creating disposition to purchase, not just packaging.

Brand planners find product uniqueness, decide if it is business-winning, then turn it into a brand strategy. (One claim, three proof planks.)

Off the shelf solutions don’t work. Every snow flake is different. Peace.

 

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