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Not enough credit has been giving to the name of my business in this blog. What’s The Idea? is the name of the blog and the business. People think is a cool name even though the URL requires explanation: “Not what is the idea, what’s the idea dot com, sans apostrophe.”
What’s The Idea? perfectly describes my brand consultancy. The search for a fitting and motivating brand idea consumes me. A single idea that captures what consumers care about and what brands are good at. (Care-abouts and good-ats.)
Not every marketer thinks they need an “idea.” It’s not top of mind. But a sound brand idea helps position, sell and defend against competitors. If you market and don’t brand, you’re apt to struggle.
The funny thing is, the “ideas” I come up with are almost never mine. Sure I put the words together. I may even add some poetry. But the ideas come from others: from buyers, and sellers, and influencers. I’m actually just the curator. The prioritizer. I decide which idea best motivates selling and buying of a particular brand. The I organize under that idea, three proof planks to guide the way.
So when I say “What’s The Idea?” to a marketer, I’m not just branding, I’m asking a fundamental marketing question.
What is your brand idea?
Tags: brand name development, brand names, brand naming, Brands, care-abouts, care-abouts and good-ats, good ats, good-ats and care-abouts, proof planks, whats the idea, whatstheidea
Foster Bias & Sales is an imaginary ad agency name I came up with that offers a trifecta of marketing success. These steps to a sale apply to marketing, advertising, even memo writing.
It starts by fostering a positive and receptive environment in which to communicate with customers. Product context, entertainment and/or education are all tools used to foster interest. Gather attention and predispose consumers to listen….that’s Mr. Foster.
Create bias toward your product or against a key competitor is step two. This is where marketers become competitors. Care-abouts and good-ats are what the brand planner mines and the communicator deals in here. Creating bias is not nuanced. It’s hardball.
Sales obviously refers to action. Real purchase, decision to purchase, or predisposition to purchase. In the sales trade this is called “asking for the order.” Even if implicit. Being too pushy is not attractive, however. You have to know how and when to ask. If you cross the line you may damage to your ability to foster a proper selling environment. Know when to walk away. Customers appreciate commitment sans the pushy hand. They may come back.
Tags: care-abouts, Foster bias and sales, good ats, good-ats and care-abouts, steps to a sale, whats the idea, whatstheidea
What comes first the brand strategy or the egg? The question is particularly germane when brand planning for a service company whose deliverables are people, paper, process and transaction. Does the strategy inform the service or the service inform the strategy? Almost always the answer is the latter.
When you work on this kind branding initiative the care-abouts and good-ats are numerous and varied – way more so than with a packaged good. One of the areas I like to delve into with service companies is “tradition.” Not something you can do a deep dive on with start-ups by the way. Borrowed from my early days in cultural anthropology, “custom and tradition” are fertile areas of study and important brand contributors. When there are none, things get tricky but you must push forward. Even into aspiration land. Projection techniques can provide unrealistic results but the learning is important.
I don’t currently have a “tradition” question in my discovery rigor, though there is one in the neighborhood. Definitely time to add tradition to the mix.
Tags: Brand Strategy, building a brand strategy for a service company, care-abouts, good ats, service company brands, tradition and custom, whats the idea, whatstheidea
The company Reputation Management has asked me to comment on how a brand can bounce back from poor online reviews.
I believe it’s best to leave them up. As hard and painful as it is, it’s “real world” online commerce. Not everyone is a super model. Not everyone bats .400. To err is human. How you overcome quality or service problems dictates how you improve. If a product has flaws, fix them. Or acknowledge why they happen. When Chipotle made people sick, it acknowledged “farm to table” is not easy. Healthier is not easy. And they changed.
When Marmot, known for quality in winter gear, gets a bad review, it isn’t defensive, it works even harder to make better product.
Today, if an e-commerce site doesn’t have poor reviews people know it’s been cleaned.
Also, a strong brand strategy (one claim, three proof planks) is also a good way to maintain reputation. Using an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging feeds the market the information it needs to understand your product. When care-about and good-ats align, brands are hard to tear down. When you simplify and strengthen your value, a few disorganized comments won’t hurt. They just make you real.
Tags: care-abouts, care-abouts and good-ats, chipotle, farm to table, good ats, marmot, one claim three proof planks, organizing principle for product experience and messaging, Reputation management. Reputationmanagement.com, whats the idea, whatstheidea
“Preservation is one of the highest forms of good citizenship” said the late John Belle, partner at Beyer, Blinder and Belle, the architectural firm that renovated Grand Central Terminal. Words to live by, also, in the branding business.
We want to preserve in the minds of consumers a brand’s “good-ats.” And we want to maintain the linkage of those good-ats to consumers’ most strenuous “care-abouts.” Good brands start with good products. It’s simple really — build a product that is good at something. Make sure it’s something customers really care about. Then work your ass off to preserve the product good-ats over time.
One definition of branding is “identity + reputation.” It’s a nice definition but doesn’t take into account product — or should I say core product value. Good-ats and care-abouts.
So when you are spending a quarter of a million dollars with a big branding firm, make sure your strategy and tagline have a product component to it. Otherwise, your brand strategy firm may not be good-at branding. Peace.
Tags: beyer, blinder and belle, Brand Strategy, branding firm, care-abouts, good ats, john belle, preservation in branding, tagline, whats the idea, whatstheidea
In my lifetime and the lifetime of What’s The Idea?, I’ve probably written 50 marketing plans. Their formats are all pretty much the same: market situation, key issues, objectives, strategies, targets and messages, tactics, budget and timeline. To the uninitiated who might read one of these plans, once past the up-front market review and obs and strats, the tactics of one plan might look like the others. Interchangeable almost. probably containing ads, PR, direct, web, promotion and social. Simple, undifferentiated line items on an excel chart.
The fact is, it’s the brand strategy that really sets one plan apart from the next. Every dollar spent is guided by a brand claim and three proof planks – or supports. The tactics aren’t just random copy with fill in the blank marketing claims. Every piece of external and internal communications, meant to position and sell, is scripted. Well not scripted, but guided.
Branding strategy is an organized principle for building brand value and sales, based on consumer care-abouts and brand good-ats.
Brand strategy is the secret sauce to every marketing plan.
Tags: brand good-ats, care-abouts, Consumer care-abouts, good ats, marketing plan, obs and strats, one claim and three proof planks, what makes a good marketing plan, whats the idea whatstheidea, whatstheidea
I was just reading an article on the correlation of mass attacks and spousal abuse citing examples from years ago and continents afar — stories about which I’d never heard — and it dawned on me that with a few clicks of a keypad and the help of Google a reporter can do months of homework in minutes. Google is a freaking crazy research utility. Journalists use Facebook and Twitter to quickly source people for stories.
When in college I read The Modern Researcher by Jacques Barzun to help navigate libraries, newspaper and magazine archives to learn effective research methods. Today, with Google and Wikipedia you can be done before getting half way to the local library.
As a brand strategist, Google offers immeasurable advantage. But there’s a term I’ve come across “Google planners” and it’s not a very attractive descriptor. It refers to brand planners who never leave their desk.
Even if they use videoconferencing to conduct discovery interviews (another cool tool), Google Planners need to sit next to their interviewees to get higher def reactions. And emotions. Google is a wonderful assist, but Care-abouts and Good-ats are best mined in person, in situ, on prem, and up close. You gots (sic) to get out of the building boys and girls. Stim is the key to great ideas. And stim is multi-dimensional.
Tags: brand planning research, brand planning research techniques, brand planning research tools, care-abouts, facebook as a research took. Twitter as a research tool, good ats, google for research, google planners, Jacques Barzun, whats the idea, whatstheidea
I’ve been writing a lot lately about how brand strategy is the perfect intersection of customer care-abouts and brand good-ats. Earlier this week I posted that it’s best to have good-ats as part of company DNA rather than just build them based on customer needs research.
Enter Stitch Fix, a very cool clothing start up that melds the best of the online web retailing with features of brick and mortar clothing stores. Stitchfix has built its business around convenience, surprise and renewal. It’s genius. And addictive.
The brand planner in me loves what I interpret as the company’s three brand planks: “personalized,” “better every time,” and “on your time.” This organizing principle for product, experience and messaging is unique and, if done well, highly defensible.
The website lists these three things as benefits, which is another word for care-abouts. They are presumably brand good-ats but time will tell. This is a case where a start-up has to build the good-ats as the business matures. And course-correct in real time. But you can see how having a plan, an organizing principle and commitment to brand strategy can make it work.
If Stitch Fix gets benefit delivery right it is going be a high-flier.
Tags: an organizing principle for product experience and messaging, care-abouts, good ats, organizing principle, start-up strategy, stitch fix, stitch fix brand strategy, stitch fix marketing strategy, stitch fox marketing, stitchfix, stitchfix brand strategy, stitchfix marketing strategy, whats the idea, whatstheidea