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Claim and Proof.

Claim and proof are the driving forces of the What’s The Idea? brand strategy framework. Find a claim (a simple, endemic idea that sets your product apart from the competition), then array three proof planks beneath. Proof sells the claim. It is evidence. The planning rigor, unlike many, is evidence-based.

It’s not overly complicated. That’s why it works.  Consumers get a consistent brand claim, supported by memorable proof. Without proof a claim is just marketing drivel. (Hey Laura Ingraham “Shut up and drivel.”)

When I turn over the brand brief to content creators, they love that there is direction. Some wonder, however, if they need to espouse all three proof planks in each piece of content. The answer is no. One is fine. One makes for a clean deposit in the brand bank.

A website home page should hit all the planks, certainly the “About” section should. But the claim is always present — across product, experience and messaging.  Again, don’t feel that every ad, every promo, every PR story must hit all three support planks. Do one and do it right. 

Once ensconced in this approach, it’s fun to modulate each plank and see how it impacts KPIs.




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The lifespan of a CMO is somewhere in the neighborhood 18-22 months.  Who would want that job?  I guess it pays well. The reality is chief marketing officers tend to be judged harshly by other C-level executives. They are Cs, but judged as Ds.  Would you like to know why? (I bet you saw this one coming.)  It is because they don’t have a brand plan and are judged based upon subjective criteria. 

Many think a brand plan is a color scheme, or new logo and signage. Or a new ad campaign from the new agency. 

A brand plan is so not those things. A brand plan is an organizing principle for doing business. As an organizing principle it provides direction for everything done on behalf of a brand. (Even hiring.) If a CMO has a plan understood and blessed by the CEO, then everything created by the CMO is pre-approved.  No more looking at a blank piece of paper for marketing program inspiration. No more trotting out last year’s program and for updating. There is a strategic plan in place that gives form to all 4Ps.  But most CMOs don’t have this tool.  They have an Excel spreadsheet with a budget, sales goals and deltas (the diff between goal and actual).  They have a marketing plan with line items for tools, functions and a KPI or two. If they are lucky the budget sheet and the marketing plans resolve to some sort of accountability (ROI), but that’s a rarity. 

 A brand without a plan metaphorically is like looking at a new home construction and blaming an ugly, dysfunctional house on the nails. “Less nails, next time.”

I know firsthand what CMOs face. And without a brand plan, sold in and sold firm, the clock on CMO tenure continues to tick. Peace! 



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Greed in marketing is nothing new.  Being different. Acting different. Selling differently…all support creating a competitive advantage and making more money. But greed is not a good thing.  It has ruined the economy (mortgage-backed securities), kept the U.S. beholden to terrorist oil states, and no doubt played a role in many hatreds around the world.  Sometimes greed needs to reach a breaking point before it succumbs.

Yesterday’s announcement between Ford and Toyota, to work on a hybrid engine for pick-up trucks may be a good sign for the planet and for marketing. The U.S. gov’t smartly threw down the gauntlet in terms of miles per gallon goals for vehicles recently and this new rear wheel drive engine is a massive step toward meeting those goals. (Anyone home GM?) Normally, greed would have kept a deal like this from happening, but Ford and Toyota are showing good judgment and forward thinking and they woman-ed up.  Oh, and the only reason it is happening is because Alan R. Mulally and  Akio Toyoda (company CEOs) ran into each other in the airport and probably actually liked one another.

As we marketers put our plans together, fill in our charts and goals and KPIs, how about we ask ourselves a simple tough question “If I wasn’t going to be greedy, what new company strategy might I employ?” As my Norwegian aunt might have said “Tink about it.”  Peace!  

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As the role of marketing director gets more complicated, owing to all the new tools and arithmetic available to sellers and selling agents, the brand plan grows in importance.  I met with smart strategist Noah Brier a while ago and he asked me “How do you define a brand plan?”  Everyone has a different definition, he added.  Truism that.

My brand plan is quite simple: One claim, three proof planks. The claim embodies or pays off the Is-Does (what a brand is and what a brand does) and the proof planks (or supports) organize the story – into 3 telling and impactful reasons to believe.  A brand plan is an organizing principle for selling more.

I wrote a consultant this morning telling her how most companies can save mad money by investing in a tight brand plan. Rather than pay a marketing person $150,000 a year, a company can pay $90,000 per year if the brand plan is definitive.  And if the KPIs (key performance indicators) are correct.  And beyond the annualized salary savings, don’t forget the money spent on wasted tactics each year by marketing organizations — money that could be saved with a brand plan. John Wanamaker’s famous suggestion that only ‘half his advertising was working, he just didn’t know which half,’ can also be applied to marketing tactics today.  We are living tactics-palooza. More cowbell, I mean, more social media!

My business is called What’s the Idea? for a reason. Most businesses don’t have an idea (a brand strategy) they can articulate without going all mark-babble and tripping over their tongues. One idea, three selling planks.  Pieces!

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I haven’t written about ROS (return on strategy) for a while but on the heels of my empanelment at OMMA Performance this week I’ve given it some more thought.  One of the good things heard discussed at OMMA was the metric “intent to purchase.”  As one person said, however, I may walk around the Jaguar dealership with an intent to purchase, but without consummation (check writing) it doesn’t makes the commerce world go round.

Another important metric discussed was the Net Promoter Score – scoring one consumer’s willingness to recommend a product.  These  two metrics are moving in the right direction and are good dashboard measures. Time on site, bounce rate, “like,” page views, are nice directional metrics but can’t always be attributed to a sale. The quants may disagree.


If you can’t create a value for an action, how are you going to create a value for a strategy?  The strategy for a billion dollar health system was built upon the following brand planks: leading edge treatments and technology, information and resource sharing, and community integration.  Combined, these 3 consumer care-abouts were projected as the business-winning marketing strategy. How do you measure the effectiveness of that strategy? Consumer attitude studies tying the brand plank metrics to KPIs such as beds filled, procedures completed, re-admits, profitability are certainly doable.  But how might one measure the strategy effectiveness using the web?  Thoughts?  Einsteins?

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scaleROS stands for Return on Strategy. It’s a chop block on the pop marketing term ROI which stands for Return On Investment (for members of the clan of the cave bear).  ROI is an important marketing measure but way more tactical and transitory than ROS. ROI without a strong understanding of Return On Strategy can do more harm than good – prolonging a misguided marketing plan. (“Weeee, our cost per customer is down!”)

In order to measure marketing strategy one must first have a strategy. Make more money is not a marketing strategy, nor is sell more products. For a hospital system, I once arrayed a number of measures that would positively impact the bottom line: patients per year, percentage of beds occupied, recruitment of excellent physicians, reduction in number of in-hospital infections, out-migration to the city, consumer perception of clinical excellence. The marketing director and even the ad agency principals pushed back “Advertising can’t do all these things.”

My response? “Sure it can — if we articulate the right strategy.” One needs to know all the important measures of success before developing a brand or marketing strategy. The next step is to prioritize those measures. Some will be at odds with others and decisions must be made. Others will be tougher to move based on competitor entrenchment. However, once all of the key performance indicators (KPI) or measures are known and prioritized based on product and marketing realities and brand vision, the strategy can be determined. And over time — measured. That’s the real weeee. Peace!

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