Is-Does

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The first step in brand strategy is getting the product Is-Does right.  They ability to articulate what a product Is and what the product Does sounds easy, but it’s not.  I developed this simple concept while working at a tech startup where the product was a software as a service (SaaS) called Zude. Because the management team couldn’t get the Is-Does right, we failed.  

The term of art “elevator speech” is the result of an improper Is-Does.  If it takes an elevator ride to explain your product, you are little toasty.  iPhone was a phone, albeit a very functional phone.  If it was called a Newton (hee hee) it may not have survived.

Zude’s Is-Does was “the fastest easiest way to build (and manage) a website. The Is was “website builder” the Does was “fastest easiest.”  But the management team could not completely agree. The technologist, who understood code and features but not consumers, kept building until Zude was part video platform, part social network, part advertising company…you get the picture.

Get the Is-Does right and there may be an Is to build a brand around.

Peace.

 

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My LinkedIn profile lists me as a Brand Strategist.  That’s the “Is” of my Is-Does. As for the “Does” I say “Redistributor of marketing wealth.” 

I use redistributor of marketing wealth rather than redistributor of business wealth because one can redistribute business wealth by buying a company.  That’s business and finance, not marketing. Marketing is about product, demand creation, competitive positioning and sales.

“Redistributing” is an interesting choice of words because it does not include creating new wealth. Or incremental wealth.  If L’Oreal doubled the hair color market by getting men to color that would be new wealth. Not redistributed wealth.  Coming up with a new product or service category would also not be included in redistributing wealth. Or would it?

Someone smart once told me the money spent on your product has to come from somewhere. Airlines took train revenue. That’s a redistribution for sure.

What’s your professional Is-Does?

Peace.    

 

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I wrote a biz/dev letter to a nearby digital agency yesterday pitching them on what I hope to be an interesting digital media planning tool. I call it Twitch Point Planning. (Google it for an explanation.)  Mindful of being brief in my pitch, I chose my words carefully and toplined what Twitch Point Planning IS and what Twitch Point Planning DOES. My typical “Is-Does” frame for explain brands and new products.  

What I neglected to do, while mired in my need to explain the product, was tell the reader what benefit accrued to them. I suspected that by making clear the innovativeness of the product, the benefit would be implicit. Wrong. I didn’t think like a custie.

In a much less ham-handed way I should have opened my missive with a claim about “a new revenue stream” for todays digital economy or another reader-centric idea. Only then should I have explained the Is-Does. Rather than getting all caught up in my underwear, I should have planned my outfit.

Think like a custie and raise your odds of cutting through.

Puh-eese.

 

 

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I was sitting in a living room a few years ago in Brownsville Brooklyn at the home of the head of a local non-profit.  There were volunteers there from all walks: educators, musicians, politicians, activists, neighbors and me. The organization, Bailey’s Café, for which I ultimately wrote a brand brief, did what I called “Good’s Work.”

The meeting started off with intros and backgrounds, and then surrounded by markers and large paper pads we got down to strategy work. The marketing guy who called the meeting, had never really done a session like this before it seemed, and asked where we wanted to start. Pin drop time. And so you know, Bailey’s Café helps underserved children and elders within the community by putting on programs, tending a community garden, fostering green issues and recycling, music and art appreciation, young girl issues and way way more. The missions of Bailey’s Café were, needless to say, varied.

To break the silence I suggesting we play the Is-Does game. We went around the room and asked “What Bailey’s Café Is” and “What Bailey’s Café Does.”  It got the room energized and began many conversations and discussions.

In brand strategy, the Is-Does is a great place to start.

Peace.  

 

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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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