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There are a lot of smart people out there in brand planning. Many work at agencies, some as consultants.  I was reading a piece on LinkedIn this morning by a Toronto consultant dba Beloved-Brands. It discussed Benefit Clusters. Lots of good thinking and a number of similarities to my framework at What’s The Idea?.  

Brand consultants don’t want to make the process sounds too easy or it won’t sell. Big ass consultant companies, in fact, want to make an engagement seem complicated so they can extract good margins. Beloved-Brands, as evidenced through its website, PPT presentations and perhaps RFPs, treads lightly on the complicated/easy continuum. The promotion is nicely done and quite palatable. Where I take issue with their framework (and that of many others) is in the use of the word “benefits.” 

I don’t look at benefits. I spent my time instead looking for “proof.”  Benefits tend to be holographic. Mass produced. Proof on the other hand is tangible. Memorable. Articulate-able.  Proof accrues to benefits, but only as determined by the consumer. Don’t tell a person to be happy, make them happy.  

When push comes to shove any brand consultant worth its salt is going to do discovery and insights work that helps them build a case for “an idea that drives product, employees and customers toward sustainable and profitable commerce.” (Not a bad for an on-the-fly definition.)

When you are thinking about your brand, don’t play in benefit land. Dig for proof.

Peace.

 

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Long Live Twitter

Yesterday I posted on the subject “Twitter Blather Be Gone.” I suggested not using Twitter solely as a business tool to promote oneself…ad nauseam. Yet I post Twitter promoting my blog. Am I breaking my own rule? Nah. If all I did on Twitter was promote myself with 20 tweets a day, that would be different.

I look at all social media channels differently. Facebook is for friends. LinkedIn for work. Instagram for the art director/photographer in you. A blog for your keen interest. And Twitter – as the representation of your total personality. A little bit of everything. I say stuff to on Twitter I’d never share on Facebook.

Twitter can be the best representation of the whole person. As an outbound vehicle, Twitter is the most freeing. The most important. It reflects the daily earthly cosmos, if that’s not a contradiction. Blather be gone. Long live Twitter.

Peace.

 

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I’m not sure how I feel about Microsoft’s plans to purchase LinkedIn.  Microsoft’s vison as a professional cloud co. sounds like it should marry with LinkedIn’s professional network co., but to date Microsoft just doesn’t seem to have a lot of luck with vision purchases.  I thought Nokia would end up a great idea. My post about lowering the prices point for smart phones around the globe never happened.  

LinkedIn lost money last year. Jeff Weiner and Reid Hoffman are so use to success, it must have been a smelling salts moment.  The buyout money was too attractive. When you are on a rapid rise you don’t have time to think sale. As the corner turns however one starts to consider.

I hope LinkedIn stays independent (under Microsoft) as Satya Nadella suggests. I’m worried it won’t. And don’t get me wrong, I am a Microsoft fan. Still a believer in the Windows phones. Still a big believer in Mr. Satya’s productivity focus.  But it’s the “buy your way to success” mentality that is the concern. It’s not very Gates-ian.  Bill Gates was a ruthless builder.

Still not sure about this purchase. It’s ballsy. If pushed to make a bet, I’d sadly say nay.

Peace to all.                

 

 

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LinkedIn sent me a survey yesterday which I gladly filled out. LinkedIn is one of the coolest tools on the web. Reid Hoffman, Jeff Weiner and team have uncovered a gem of a portal. No, they engineered a gem of a portal. I said gladly filled out the survey because as much as I like LinkedIn, it’s not perfect. Who is? I get more spam from LinkedIn than any other web provider. Even after turning off lots of things in preferences. The whole endorsements feature is a sham. They should have bulked up recoomendations.  People endorse like errant laps dogs. It’s a glorified like button.

linkedin grab

The newish content creation scheme is also annoying. Articles from so-called opinion leaders and influencers appear above the fold, crowding out the people I know and want to keep tabs on. I understand what motives the influencer articles and the endorsement features; they are engagement builders. That’s said, portals with a finely tuned idea who overdo it, who search for extra ad dollars by adding functionality beyond their mission are on a slick slope.

I believe LinkedIn is aware of this and now taking stock. Unless, of course, they’re researching ideas that will lead them further down the feature-creep path. Hopefully it’s the former. My heart and business sense tell me so.

Peace.

 R.I.P. Fergus O’Daly. A lion.

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I’m a big Lindsey Vonn fan.  It borders on creepy but not creepy enough to visit her Facebook page. Yesterday, Lindsey announced she pulled out of the Sochi games.  I learned about it on Twitter. She in in my Facebook feed, I think, but doesn’t show up so much as she’s kind of busy.

As an adult and marketer, I have started to coalesce my thoughts on social networks. Readers know I’ve long said Facebook is for friends and school peepsLinkedIn is for people with whom I have done business (ish)Twitter is for all of the above plus likeminds and admirees.  Twitter is where I share my total persona. Some politics. Some personal philosophy.  Some troll-able business scat (not the dung).  It is where I hope to learn from others, often those unknown. Twitter is my most expansive social network.  

Facebook is only as good as the shares — and sharing is magnified based on how close you are to the person. I’m not going Gaga over a 7th grade crush showing pictures of her kids in Clearwater (Facebook). Your feed is watered down if it has too many uninteresting posts. Burger King is offering $4.00 duck burgers. That said, I really don’t cull the “follow herd” and that’s an issue for Facebook.  Too much noise in the feed.

What to do about it.

Remove unwanted friends, peripheral people and brands from your Facebook community.  You can always add them back.  You can always find the brand if you need it. Play LinkedIn by the book and only connect with those you have done business with. The rest is spam.  And fly like a birdie on Twitter. Note to Twitter: don’t extend beyond 140 characters.  Where does this leave marketers? Better off. With more traffic to their own sites and ads that are more powerful because they are ads – not friends. Peace.

 

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When a group of CMOs on LinkedIn has to ask the question “What is a brand?” (Or was it a bunch of brand planners?)  The fact that the question is asked is damning.  I’m a big Noah Brier fan – he of Percolate – and even he asked me once “How do you define a brand plan?” His question was meant to see if I was all dreads and no cattle. There are so many a practitioners out there who don’t have a clue.

Many rubber-meets-the-road marketing types want to know “How do I measure a brand plan?”  “How do I measure the sales return of a brand plan?”  The answer is easy.  First, have one.

Assuming your brand plans are like mine: one claim and 3 support planks, the measures are easy. If one plank is about being fastidious, you can ask your customers to rank you on fastidiousness.  You can ask general consumers to rate you as well, that will tell you how well the story is getting out. You can rate yourself on fastidiousness – doing spot checks on personnel performance. On a macro level, you then tie sales, margins, or stock performance to the rise and fall of these brand plan metrics.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  This is the part of the dashboard you get to present upstairs at headquarters, while the cost-per-click and coupon redemption people remain waiting in the lobby.  Along with the people polishing that gleaming Cannes Lion.

(The headline for this post is for you to interpret.  It’s part George W. part morning coffee. Hee hee.) Peace!

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Roots Rock.

Someone from McGarry Bowen in an account planner’s group on LinkedIn posed the question “What are some hot trends in the offing for 2013?” My response was roots. In college I read a book that talked about cultural transferences – the complications of modern society that take us farther and farther away from being able to provide for ourselves. As in, Can you put asunder, pluck, clean and cook a chicken with the help of Pathmark? Do you know how to jump start your Prius if it conks out? Can you walk 12 miles in a pinch?

Roots is all about removing the middleman and doing things for yourself. And in doing so, being just a little more self-sufficient, healthy and sustainable. Rather than throw out jeans with a rip, sew them. Rather than toss an appliance, fix it. Have friends over for a meal that you cook rather than order in or go out. Build a birdhouse with your hands. A lot of learning there.

Hike to smell a flower, instead of purchasing aromatics. Listen to simpler hand-made music. Etsy is about roots. Going to school board meetings is about roots. Fishing with your kids, sitting around a campfire, sitting on a stoop in Brooklyn drinking a pint of homemade beer – the list goes on.  As statistics and big data and the web flatten the world, bringing tragedies and goblin to our door, all glamorized by TV and movies, we need to and will return to roots culture.  (Just Google it.) Peace Friday.     

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Passion.

Is there a word more used these days in marketing meetings than “passion?” I write and speak about marko-babble a lot — marko-babble defined as words so often used and watered down, they become meaningless. It’s like they come out of a handbook. Authenticity, transparency, ROI all come to mind. I’m not saying “passion” is marko-babble, it’s a price of entry, a means of staying  truly alive in your business category, but in brand planning, it is actually a negative word.

For less than a day, I changed my LinkedIn profile to read: “I am a passionless brand planner.  That’s right passionless.”  Passion can cloud the judgment. Parents are passionate about love of their children. Is that why many miss teenage maladaptive behaviors?  Company officers are passionate about their product and services.  Does that put a gauze over their ability to see market realities?  Brand planners must be ever-energetic in their search for insights, patterns and cultural observations surrounding commerce and purchase behavior, but passion should not enter into it. Peace!

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