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I came to a conclusion the other day while at the Griffin Farley Beautiful Minds competition in NYC. I decided my definition of brand planner is different from most other’s. Most feel a brand planner is a person who does strategy for individual projects, understanding the brand strategy and writing briefs for particular tactical projects.  In a brand’s life there is one brand strategy yet scads of individual executions or communications supporting it. These executions give brand planners constant day jobs.  My definition of a brand planner, however, is a macro definition. In my world, you write the brand strategy once and you are done. One tight brand strategy (1 claim, 3 proof planks) sets the “organizing principle” for life. The creative and the tactics then become ongoing expressions of the brand strategy.

I’m not talking about building Levittown here. There can and must be a crazy amount of creative inflections throughout, but the goal is to sell more stuff, to more, people more times at higher prices (thanks Sergio Zyman) using “a single claim and proof array.”

There is no doubt that the industry’s definition of brand planning – the ongoing supervision of a brand idea – is a solid one. The marketing and ad worlds are better places with planners around. But at What’s the Idea?, my vision is to teach marketers and creatives to fish. Using one amazing hook.



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As a marketer, I’m not a big template guy. In fact, I believe templates can be harmful.  At Zude.com, the world’s first drag-and-drop web community, the secret sauce was that everyone, grandmothers included, could design and create their own web pages. (No code required.)   By dragging and dropping or copy and pasting objects onto a blank Zude page anyone could have a unique web site.  But by providing new users with a large assortment of design templates  took that secret sauce and short-circuited it.  Fail.

PPT templates hinder presentation creativity. Marketing brief templates reduce output quality. And website design templates make for a Levittown approach to digital marketing. Formula TV shows (80% of Americans know who the bad guy is by minute 40), Googled business plan formats, and repurposed corporate documents and RFPs are infecting the creative side of our brains.

Tables and graphs and well-organized data are still important time savers. As long as there are organized inputs, there will be templates. But we must learn to stop repurposing stuff and create things anew.  To all templates, perhaps we should add the line: “If this template could talk, what would it say?”  Go forth and try to de-templatize.  Peace in the Strait. 

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RGA and the Platform.

bob greenberg

Yesterday I attended a talk by Bob Greenberg, CEO of RGA and his right hand man Barry Wacksman as part of Advertising Week in NYC. The preso was entitled “The Way Forward,” an up to speed on digital marketing.

Messrs. Greenberg and Wacksman are both very smart men and have done some serious selling – especially for Nike – but I’m not sure anything they shared was seminal. These gentleman suggested the way forward was via online “platforms.” Campaigns come and go, they offered, which I completely agree with. Bridging ecommerce with an online experience that collapses steps to a sale is a good idea. And I agree using the web in a participatory fashion to further affinity for a brand, increase loyalty and/or promote or entertainment is a terrific use of marketing dollars. But if to believe Mr. Greenberg and Wacksman, one might come away thinking the platform is more important than all else. Nay, I say. Nay.

Brand strategy is the driver of marketing success. Campaigns, platforms, media are all tactics used to deliver the strategy. Unless a marketer has a tight brand strategy the world wide web and all these commercial platforms will turn into an online Levittowns; a bunch of houses all looking alike, with a few build-outs on the corners.

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