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Truffle Insights

Brand planning insights are a dime a dozen.  Upper echelon planners know which insights are the truly special ones. They know which to chase and which to leave alone. Insights that change markets are like truffles. Truffle Insights make you sweat. They set off the galvanic skin response.  Truffle insights spark what Maslow referred to as a peak experiences.

I once did a deck while freelancing at JWT on the Microsoft Office business, containing 7 or 8 truffle insights. There were so many the deck got filed.  It impressed but was hard to deal with. Too many truffle insights creates the “fruit cocktail effect,” it tastes good but leaves no visceral differentiation. So savor your truffle insights. Don’t re-bury them.

I’m reading David Brooks’ NYT Op-Ed piece today in which he discusses the 10,000 hour rule researched by Anders Ericsson and written about by Malcolm Gladwell. It suggests 10,000 hours of practice can trump innate intelligence.  Do 10,000 hours make you a truffle insight digger? Not necessarily. But it certainly helps.

If you put in the work and burnish your instincts, you may just becomes an effective truffle insight hunter.



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I was recently talking with a marketing friend from a company with $3+ billion in sales, who shared an interesting dilemma. The company is growing like a dookie yet not necessarily outperforming the category. A huge online competitor is about to unleash the wrath of its sales engine and though it is acknowledged it’s not overly concerning. (Como se dice MySpace?) When asked about brand strategy my friend defaulted to logo land and said it was not a priority. But s/he did share something that was quite interesting, saying the company salesforce was a bunch of freelancers (my words), designing their pitches to the companies upon which they were calling. “We have no value proposition. Our guys just go out and sell.”

That is something my friend acknowledged needing help with.

So where to sales people learn how to position the brand for selling? In sales training of course. Sales training without brand strategy, though, is like college without a major. You are tactically trained by not strategically trained. One can read all the Malcolm Gladwell books in the world but without an understanding of the “organizing principle” that ties what the brand does well to what consumers want most, you’re in the generic aisle.

The two most important places to share a brand strategy – providing your company has one – are: new employee orientation and sales training. Sadly, most brand strategy stays within the walls of the market dept. and is rarely shared.  A sad but dirty little secret.



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Two big ideas.

 The Root is a new online magazine targeting African Americans, underwritten by The Washington Post. Its editor-in-chief is Henry Louis Gates, Jr. a writer and Harvard professor . The managing editor is Lynette Clemetson and contributing writers will include Malcolm Gladwell and William Julius Wilson. Donald E. Graham, CEO of the Washington Post and son of Katharine Graham, is its CEO and looks to be putting some serious financial support behind it. With Senator Barack Obama running for president, now may be the perfect time for The Root’s launch.

Another interesting fact about the magazine is its focus on genealogy. Building family trees is encouraged as is DNA testing to assist in the tree building. Mr. Gates owns a company that will assist in this DNA research as African Americas trace their lineage backward, extending to various regions of Africa.  Very cool stuff.
Both of these are powerful, timely ideas, but probably should remain separate business ventures. The mission gets a little blurry when trying to explain how the two things work together, e.g., politcal and cultural news/commentary and genealogy. Were I running the show, I’d keep The Root for the genealogy business and come up with a more today, topical name for the editorial property. And separate them.
That said, good luck to both enterprises.

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