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Here’s an exercise for brand planners.
I read this morning that when president Richard Nixon prepared for a summit in China to meet Mao Zedong, he created a checklist. What do we want? What does China want? And what do we both want? Each question had three answers.
Brand planners should ask themselves the same questions only with a slight modification at the end. What does the company want? What do the consumers want? And what does the brand want? The brand’s desires may not align with that of the company and could be a healthy source of exploratory tension.
The What’s The Idea? the brand strategy process plumbs consumer “care-abouts” and brand “good-ats.” The nexus of these qualities decides the brand claim and proof planks. But with the tripartite “What want?” approach, it may make the planner look at a new dimension. May.
Might be worth a try.
Tags: Brand claim and proof planks, brand good-ats, Brand Strategy, brand strategy rigor, care-abouts, care-abouts and good-ats, claim and proof, Consumer care-abouts, exercise for brand planners, good ats, good-ats and care-abouts, mao zedong, richard nixon, whats the idea, whatstheidea
Brand strategy is an organizing principle that gives brand managers a “go-no go” guide for product, experience and messaging. It makes branding easy.
Nicholas Kristof in the NYT today was talking about the social entrepreneurs attending Davos and how refreshing they were to have around. He was poo-pooing consumerists who are all about the money.
Doing “good” in a commercial sense is smart strategy. In my practice, when I’m looking at care-abouts and god-ats, I try to plot and push brand planks that are socially positive. It’s not hard to do, and it can’t be forced, but it butts up against the nature of what makes humans humans.
When a cigarette ad choses to shoot a photo at the top of a mountain on a bluebird day amongst cottony snow drifts, it’s hitting our natural beauty button. When a box of diapers shows an amazing toddler smile, it hits a warm, nurture button. But advertising which use positive imagery to cloud our judgement about what is “good” is disingenuous. And it give marketing a bad name.
A brand strategy, built with brand planks supporting positive social ideals is deeply human. And enduring.
Tags: an organizing principle for product experience and messaging, brand planks for good, Brand Strategy, care-abouts, care-abouts and good-ats, diaper advertising, enduring brand ideals, good ats, whats the idea, whatstheidea
For the last three days Red Hat software has run fill page ads in The New York Times paper paper. Today I broke down and read one. I’m not sure if they were three different ads or the same one. Lost opportunity. Advertising is a funny business; even bad ads work. Sometimes just being there is enough. But I’m not of that school. I dislike “We’re Here” advertising. Ads that do little more than arrive, list services and give contact info.
What’s the idea Red Hat? It appears, from the headline, that the idea is “Tame Today. Frame Tomorrow.” If the idea wasn’t so hackneyed I’d mention it’s actually two ideas. Both well-done. (Like a 2 hour Bubba Burger.)
I’ve liked Red Hat, as a brand, from its beginnings many, many moons ago. Famous for open source, famous for dashing tech branding. But come on people! Could you make an ad with some vital organs? With some proof of claim? With a semblance of a brand strategy? You can’t just toss a logo on a page, add a second color, play copywriting scrabble and call it advertising.
Red Hat needs a brand strategy. Look to your advertising ancestors. Read a book on advertising. Find an idea based on care-abouts and good-ats.
Tags: care-abouts, care-abouts and good-ats, good ats, hey red hat whats the idea, paper paper, red hat advertising, red hat solutions, the new york times, we're here advertising, whats the idea, whatstheidea
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