Is-Does

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In 1974 JWT London’s Stephen King wrote a Planning Guide. Thanks to Julian Cole of Bee Bee Do (BBDO) for sharing it today. The JPEG below summarizes nicely how a brand works, based upon Mr. King’s constellation of “appeals.”

This is a smart boil-down of what a brand is, why it works, and what it needs to do to connect with consumers.

I’m a simple man. One of the reason for my success in brand planning is my simpler view of branding. It is easier to articulate than that of many others. Verbose planners get you nodding. Then nodding. And more nodding until you can’t actually play back what they said. My meme-able word bites on branding stick.

In Mr. King’s case, I take into consideration all of his brand appeals but boil them down further. Into two variables in fact. I call it the Is-Does. What brand IS and what a brand DOES. The Does prioritizes the appeals and picks one. Ish. But don’t underestimate the Is.  The iPhone, for instance, was introduced as a phone, not a hybrid device. Smart.

Selling with simple language works. Consumers respond well. Even when those consumers are marketers.

Peace.

 

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Someone on Quora asked a question about the worst taglines used in branding. Got me thinking. Brand planners may feel differently about taglines but for me they’re a powerful branding vehicle.  To the tagline falls the work of explaining and defining what the brand is when the name falls flat.   When a name doesn’t pass the Is-Does test (what a brand Is and what a brand Does), the tagline needs to. Coca-Cola was a great brand name. The fact that is was printed on a beverage can helped with the Is. Snapchat is a great brand name. The fact that it’s plastered on a web or mobile page helps with the Is.

But not all product or service names are that lucky. When a name shares no meaning, a good tagline can clear things up. For startups and new products, it’s crucial they pass the Is-Does test. In these cases taglines are even more important.

For established brand, where the Is is well known, the tagline can tighten the bond of consumer attachment — focusing of care-abouts and good-ats.

My biggest peeve is when a tagline is used as an advertising cherry.  That is, as a summation of the ad campaign. When it’s all about the ad idea not the brand idea, it is the limpest form of tagline.

Get your brand strategy right and picking the strongest tagline will be easy.

Peace.

 

 

 

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I’ve been talking to a magician about doing some branding work for him. We chatted about the Is-Does – what a brand is and brand a brand does – something that is not as necessary for a magician as it is for, say, a startup. But there are many flavors of magician. So finding your magic sweet spot, is important in so far as positioning. Cards? Illusion? Big stage? Escape?

As we talked, I realized that a performance-based brand (an act really) may require slightly more scope than a company. If a brand strategy is “an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging,” then the proofs of the brand claim may include, things like introductory music. It could also include costume, staging, lighting, and lots of other things I’ve never thought about as elements of a brand plan.  It’s rather exciting, actually. The unknowns are aplenty. Kind of like magic.

Should be fun.  Peace.

 

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shells-only

I’m not a big fan of changing the name of a brand or company.  That said, there are certainly times when a name-change is in order. Shells Only is a local brand that has been around for a while. (A shell being the bones of a house — the two by for frame onto which and into which homes are constructed.) As you will see by the side panel of this truck, Shells Only now offers “complete home improvements.” It does dormers, bathrooms, kitchens, extensions, new home construction and “so much more.”

As memorable as the Shells Only name is, it doesn’t step up to the Is-Does test. The best names provides a clear picture of what the product or service Is and hopefully a view into what it Does. When you keep a legacy name around that only partly defines the business, especially if the name doesn’t account a large part of total revenue, it’s no longer a good name.

Name specificity is not an under-rated quality in consumer marketing.

Peace.                              

 

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I often wonder if the targets for my business truly understand what I do. Those targets, CMOs, directors of marketing and small and mid-size business owners, read “brand consultancy” and get the consultant part, but may not truly understand the depth of the word brand. Brand today is both a noun and a verb.  

Many think brand is a mark or logo. Something that, through design, helps consumers with product identity. The whole branded cattle history thing. For people who view brands this way a brand consultancy is all logo, name, style guide and, perhaps, tagline. When AT&T spun off Lucent in the 90s, the whole process, exquisitely implemented by the way, cost millions. A year later, the company had a new name, logo, building signs, stock symbol and ad campaign. But not a brand strategy. (Peter Kim’s “$14B tech startup” aside.)

The reality is, especially in today service economy, a brand is a living breathing thing. My definition of brand strategy as “an organizing principle for Product, Experience and Messaging.” Most of my targets understand this definition better. In fact, they are more apt to acknowledge needing and organizing principle that they are a brand strategy.  

So moving forward my mission it to educate my targets as to this new definition. It will be a long road but one I expect will redistribute marketing wealth in my direction. Onward.

Peace.

 

 

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7 Year Brand Itch.

LinkedIn says it’s my 7th anniversary at What’s The Idea? – so I guess it is. As someone who counsels others on brand building, it might be a good time to look back on how What’s The Idea?, as a brand, is doing.

The brand came to life as a blog while I directed marketing for Zude.com. Zude competed with Facebook in the social media/social networking space when Facebook had 18 million users. Blogging was at its infancy and blogs about branding were not at all common. That said Ad Age had a counter on the top 50 blogs, which I never broke. Some big time talent headed the list. A guy can always aspire.

I had a 1,000 hit day once, thanks to a tweet by Steve Rubel, which made it to Lifehacker, giving What’s The Idea? global relevance (for a few days). When I left Zude WTI became the name of my consultancy. It already had some equity, the name along with the words “brand consultancy” provided a good Is-Does, and it posed the question most marketers ask when strategizing about selling: “What is my focus?”

Over the 7years I’ve had the opportunity to work with a number of name-drop brands and some small lesser known brands. I love them all. My job it to help organize the brand and bring it to life. When a brand is alive, it can be liked or disliked. If the latter it can be fixed. If it just lies their like a lox, as most do, it has nowhere to go in the mind of the consumer.

So here’s too “life,” to another 7 years, and to lots more brand building for What’s The Idea? and its clients. Many thanks.

Peace.

 

 

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charger strom trooper

UBER is doing a really neat promotion in NYC, tying in to the new Star Wars movie. It is making 8 Dodge Chargers, painted to look like Mattel Hot Wheels Star Wars Storm Trooper cars (white with distinctive black striping), available for free for the day, providing you use the appropriate promo code. It’s really cool for Dodge, whose cars become roving brand billboards, and it’s a nice way to get UBER some excellent pub.

The promo made me wonder though about UBER’s brand strategy. I’m not sure I know what it is at this point. And that’s often okay for a first-to-category company. Your Is-Does becomes the brand claim a la “Your Ride, On Demand.” But without a brand strategy (1 claim, 3 proof planks), it’s hard to decide if a promotion is making a deposit in the brand bank or a withdrawal.  So this seems to me a promotion for promotion’s sake, not for strategy’s sake. Though I don’t know the Dodge Charger brand strategy, I’m feeling a proximity to it with this promotion. Storm troopers charge, no?

Start-ups and category pioneers need brand strategies. VCs should encourage this. It helps everyone make decisions about product, experience and messaging. UBER should have one.

Peace.          

 

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First Ad.

A company’s first ad is very telling. Every company should keep its first ad and frame it. Make it available as a tab under “About” on the website. One can predict a lot about a company by reading or watching its first ad. Typically it contains the company Is-Does: what a company is and what it does; something not always well-handled by mature companies, let alone infants. The first ad is likely done in-house. If done by an agency, that’s a good sign. It shows trust and willingness to invest.

First ads often makes one think about logo and tagline. And story. Most first ads happen when a company is small and control is centralized. It will therefore help readers understand vision and the ability of management to focus. It will also convey if the company is going to be “me” (inward) focused or “you” (customer) focused.

A first ad is like a baby. Hard work. Nerve-wracking. Often a little bit ugly. But something to love. It is a beginning.

Dust off your first ad and send it to me. I’ll give you a little blurb on how you have grown your brand since.

Peace in Baltimore.

 

 

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Good brand planners are collectors. They question, amass, sort, collect and divine. Great planners take all that and find the truffle. Like the truffle hunting pigs and dogs of Europe. I was recently on a call with some web app people, looking to fund the next big platform. I couldn’t quite tell what the platform was. Or wanted to be. Other than the next big web property. Money lined up, so they said, but the idea was hidden in 10 ideas. So what’s the Is-Does I wondered.

Well turns out the original idea was and is genius! Never done before. Done qith a capital D. In demand. In users’ hearts. And tied to one of the biggest investments a person is likely to make in a lifetime. Did I mention it hadn’t been done? The current construct, however, was nothing more than a Facebook Group.

This truffle hunter (me) listened and in minutes knew the problem.

What’s the Idea? Answer that, you of the web world, and you may proceed. Take it from someone who missed out on a brilliant web property (Google Zude+Scoble) because it was overbuilt. Suffered from feature creep. Didn’t follow the “idea.”

Peace.

 

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The Interpublic Group of Companies (IPG) just announced a minority investment in Samba TV. Props to Michael Roth and Chad Stoller. This looks like money well invested.

I’m always looking for the Is-Does when it comes to brands and Samba TV seems to be an analytics company. One tapped into 10 million household TV cable boxes. The Does of the Is-Does may be best described by co-founder and CEO of Samba TV, Ashwin Navin: “We think that more data will allow brands to reach more people they care about and waste less of their media budgets.”

This bulls eyes the famous John Wannamaker quote “I know half my advertising is working, problem is I don’t know which half.” Samba TV may not corral the missing half, but it will start to get close.

Nice to see IPG getting back up on the horse again. It’s good for business. Peace!

 

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