Marketing buildables

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Experience is hot marketing word these days. It is rooted me thinks in user experience (UX), which started in the early days of the web when sites were hard to navigate and not intuitive. Ad and digital agencies caught on to experience a few years later as a way to create new buildables (content) and garner planning fees It didn’t hurt that “customer journey” and “communications planning” were smart ideas to begin with.

Product experience, some will have you believe, starts with communications and ends with the after-sale. The experience is everything in between. A lot of product experience buildables – designed to follow the AIDA principle: Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action — are online and in-store. But product gesture is different.

Product gesture is not so much about the product journey and surround as it is the “consuming experience.” (See my last blog post.) A product gesture is the olfactory response that occurs when you drive by a Burger King. It’s why “flame broiled” is such a powerful brand asset of BK. For Coke, whose long standing brand idea is refreshment, the moment when your head snaps back after a full swig of a newly opened Coke is induced by the product gesture. Google’s product gesture occurs during search when your problem is solved, you smile and twitch to act.

Every product has a gesture. Man-made gestures like the Stella Artois pour and glass are distant seconds, but they are gestures nonetheless.

Find your product gesture and you will find marketing and branding success.

What is your product gesture?


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WNYC, a NYC public radio station, just announced it will open a new $14 million facility to create and distribute podcasts. It’s a brilliant marketing idea. I’ve always had a soft spot for radio and podcasts feel like a smart new media content play. The brilliant investigative series “Serial” by Sarah Koenig last year sparked the podcast movement.

Podcasts are also a good content play in the marketing arsenal. Companies create lots of words and video to hanging off their websites to drive traffic, action and sales — a tactic mostly born to feed the Google Algorithm. And lately content has been championed by ad agencies looking to make more creative buildables. Podcasts have been overlooked.

Smart companies will begin to delve into podcasts. What’s the Idea? has been recommending podcast creation to clients for years.  Here’s how it works. The brand planning rigor at What’s The Idea? drives clients to care about what their customer’s care about. The nexus of customer care abouts and brand “good ats” (Thanks Robin Hafitz, for the wordsmithing) drives the organizing principle that is the brand plan. And the care abouts are where we mine for podcast development.

When you create content people find interesting (versus content about yourself), you connect. People found “Serial” interesting. If you are in the tooth whitening business how do you decide what consumers are interested in? How do you keep it fresh? How do you make deposits in the brand bank? These are good, tough questions. Questions with answers. Questions for a new medium.






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Some of my best brand strategy work has been done when asked to do something else. I’ve been hired to rebuild a website for a small commercial company, to fix a floundering relationship between client and agency, and to create a content marketing strategy for a trillion dollar financial institution. Had I told them I was a brand planner “here to fix your brand,” they would have thought me a vacuum cleaner salesman. Rather, they had a need and I held that need up first and foremost — addressing the “buildable.”

Buildables are how modern day agencies are paid. Rare is the day that strategy is a line item on an invoice. (It’s getting better, but not close to the rule.)

So with an eye on the buildable, I go to work. On a brief. Most pop advertising and marketing theory today suggests using a short brief. Not me. I like to go all on the brand strategy. The idea from the brief is short and focused, yet the journey to the idea is rich. Yesterday I presented a two word brand idea. Can you imagine? 20 +interviews, thousands of words and stories in the strategy stock pot, lots of IP and category learning over the years and a 2 word brand strategy? (It was supported by 3 planks and lots of proof.) Audacious? Hardly.

It fit. It organized. It created a launching pad for buildables. Peace.

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