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I’ve written tons of briefs. Mostly for ads. The last quarter ton have been mostly brand strategy briefs which create “the organizing principle for product, experience and messaging.” My first healthcare brand brief was for the North Shore-LIJ Health System, now Northwell Health. Fifteen years and 3 agencies later, I’m still excited to hear my strategy every time it pops up on radio, TV or community newspaper. But my head wasn’t into it when I first put paper to pen – I mean how exciting could a healthcare brand be?
Healthcare, even back in the day, was a crazy fertile space to develop strategy. We’re not just talking whiter teeth here (done that), we’re talking life. Death sometimes. Family. And powerful emotions.
Since North Shore, I’ve done hospice work, nutrition, obesity, accountable care, senior care, acute rehab and global care. The insights have been some of the most exciting I’ve ever encountered. Healthcare is even more exciting today, if you make it so.
Tags: accountable care brand strategy, acute care brand strategy, healthcare advertising, healthcare brand planning, healthcare brand strategy, north shore-lij health system, Northwell health, obesity brand strategy, organizing principle for product experience and messaging, whats the idea, whatstheidea
It is tough when you are in a business selling the second thing a customer wants. That’s my business — the business of branding.
Not a lot of marketing-savvy people wake up in the morning saying “My brand needs a better strategy.” Most people who find their way to a brand strategy firm understand an “organizing principle for product, experience and messaging” is a good thing to have. Anything that can codify “sales improvement” and “organizational operation” is a plus for business. No one disputes that. BUT. As fiction winter Peter Heller likes to say in his one-word sentences. But, it’s not the first thing marketers crave.
First, they want a website with a customer testimonial from the NY Jets.
Or a radio campaign like Winthrop University Hospital.
Or to be able to buy other physical therapy companies and assimilate them in 3 weeks.
Or to explain the value proposition of the Affordable Care Act and be the hero provider.
Or position competitive cybersecurity companies as device-centric.
If brand design or brand strategy helps them get there, all the better. But it is the second thing, not the first.
And that’s the bane of brand work. It’s also why I love brand strategy. Once I find the first thing I can sell the second thing. BAM.
Tags: Affordable care act, Brand Strategy, brand work is the second thing, cyber security brands, ny jets, organizing principle for product experience and messaging, Peter heller, whats the idea, whatstheidea, Winthrop university hospital
I’m not against storytelling. It’s an important part of my business. When collecting information to build brand strategy I hunt for stories and often tell stories to get others to open up. But in and of itself, a story won’t do shit for a brand. Especially, if it’s off-piste.
Storytelling is a pop marketing topic many brand consultants rest upon. My “brand-ar” goes off when I hear someone use the term; it suggests they’re blowing marko-babble smoke.
Think of storytelling as the code and brand strategy as the app. The app being the meaningful, useful tool.
Brand strategy done right is about claim and proof — packaged into a discrete organizing principle for product, experience and messaging.
Stories and storytelling are communications tools, not strategy tools.
Tags: Brand-ar, claim and proof, claim and proof array, marko-babble, off-piste, one claim and three proof planks, organizing principle for product experience and messaging, story telling in branding, story telling in marketing, storytelling in branding, storytelling in marketing, whats the idea, whatstheidea
Two days ago I promised to share some business metrics side-by-side with brand metrics, letting you decide which are more actionable? I’ll make up a few business metrics and then use real life brand metrics from clients.
- Increase percent of sales of services over hardware.
- Reduce cost to acquire a customer.
- Increase topline revenue by 6%.
- Increase visitors to the website by 10%.
- Prove improved classroom design increases test scores.
- Prove that digital security at the root level is more effective than the device level.
- Prove global security is more effective when private and public sectors work together.
- Prove commercial building maintenance is less costly when proactive rather than reactive.
Now you might argue that the business metrics seem like objectives and the brand metrics like strategies. But the simple fact is, these brand metrics are measurable. Brand strategy conflates obs and strats. Brand strategy drives the how. It’s a roadmap for the how. When you have a discrete how story (3 proof planks supporting one brand claim) you have clarity of business purpose.
Brand strategy is not a color palette. Not a logo. Not a campaign. It’s a business winning organizing principle for product, experience and messaging.
Tags: 3 proof planks, brand claim, Brand metrics, obs and strats, organizing principle for product experience and messaging, trump business metrics, whats the idea, whatstheidea
$17,500 is the number I use as my brand strategy fee. It covers one month of work and a brand strategy. A brand strategy is here defined as An organizing principle for product, experience and messaging. The brand strategy itself comprises “One claim, three proof planks.” What’s a proof plank, you ask? A homogeneous array of consumer value examples. I’ve been using $17,500 as a fee for close to ten years; it’s time for rate increase.
Starting February, the monthly rate will climb to $20,000. Inquires fielded before February will hold old pricing.
Many small companies spend scores or thousands of dollars on advertising and marketing. Larger companies hundreds of thousands. And most do so without a brand strategy. Without an organizing principle. Those who invest in a brand strategy make the best one-time investment of their business lives.
A pittance in the total scheme of things.
Tags: 1claim 3 proof planks, brand strategy definition, brand strategy fees, one claim three proof planks, organizing principle for product experience and messaging, What does a Brand strategy cost, whats the idea, whatstheidea
The company Reputation Management has asked me to comment on how a brand can bounce back from poor online reviews.
I believe it’s best to leave them up. As hard and painful as it is, it’s “real world” online commerce. Not everyone is a super model. Not everyone bats .400. To err is human. How you overcome quality or service problems dictates how you improve. If a product has flaws, fix them. Or acknowledge why they happen. When Chipotle made people sick, it acknowledged “farm to table” is not easy. Healthier is not easy. And they changed.
When Marmot, known for quality in winter gear, gets a bad review, it isn’t defensive, it works even harder to make better product.
Today, if an e-commerce site doesn’t have poor reviews people know it’s been cleaned.
Also, a strong brand strategy (one claim, three proof planks) is also a good way to maintain reputation. Using an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging feeds the market the information it needs to understand your product. When care-about and good-ats align, brands are hard to tear down. When you simplify and strengthen your value, a few disorganized comments won’t hurt. They just make you real.
Tags: care-abouts, care-abouts and good-ats, chipotle, farm to table, good ats, marmot, one claim three proof planks, organizing principle for product experience and messaging, Reputation management. Reputationmanagement.com, whats the idea, whatstheidea
Compliance is a medical term with huge impact on patient outcomes. Patients who comply with prescription drug plans, treatment modalities and lifestyle changes live healthier lives.
Compliance is also a word that comes up in brand strategy discussions. Brand strategy, an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging, guides commerce in very predicable ways. And if compliance is high, success is high.
How does a company insure brand strategy compliance? One way is to install a Brand Compliance Office. Typically, this function would lie with the Chief Marketing Officer. But the realities of managing revenue growth, marketing spend, staff and profit don’t really allow time for compliance. The title of brand manager might suggest someone who looks after compliance, but they don’t wield the power. It a “herding cats” type of job. And some cats are way up the corporate ladder.
A Brand Compliance Officer needn’t be a 6 figure job but it’s an important job. Appointing someone to watch over internal stakeholders and make them comply with the plan is a sure-fire way of strengthening brand, sales and margin.
Tags: brand compliance officer, brand manager, brand manager duties, chief marketing officer, medical compliance, organizing principle for product experience and messaging, whats the idea, whatstheidea
Over the last 30-40 years the business environment has evolved from a manufacturing economy to a service economy. We are making a lot less things and selling a lot more service, software and subscription. If you ask a small service economy business owner, say, in the financial planning business, if her company has brand, she is likely to say “yes.” On probe, she’ll offer up her company name. Maybe logo. Even $75 million companies in the service sector would agree they have a brand. But ask the CEO or marketing director and you’d get the same answer: name and logo.
The fact is, most service companies don’t get branding. Sure, they understand signage, advertising and graphic standards, but they don’t know it to be the “organizing principle for product, experience and messaging” branding really is.
When your business, as my dad used to say, goes up and down in the elevator every day, it’s hard to see it as a brand rather than a group of people. But, oh, it is. Service companies have a leg up on product companies, because unlike products, people are living, breathing, intelligent beings with friends. But service economy companies need strategies. Brand strategies.
For examples of service economy brand strategies, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Tags: organizing principle for product experience and messaging, product branding versus service branding, service companies are poor at branding, service company branding, service economy brand strategy, whats the idea, whatstheidea
I was in a meeting earlier this week with a couple of smart agency guys, explaining the exigencies of being a brand strategist. How nobody wakes up in the morning, yawns, and says “I need a brand plan.” Or how the branding business is filled with a small group of people with a special lexicon of marketing and brand gibberish – I call it marko-babble – filled with words like “authenticity,” “brand voice,” “truths,” “journey,” etc. Lots of brand consultants have a process for doing business, but they don’t actually have a framework for what is delivered. Or, a plan for the future.
I do and I explained it: “One claim, three proof planks. This is the organizing principle for product, experience and messaging. The key to my framework is “proof.” I explained to my agency associates that my discovery, research and strategic development all focus on product proof. Proof of what? Good question. It’s not until the proofs are arrayed that the proof of what raises it head.
Proofs tend to be grounded in customer care-abouts and brand good-ats.
One brand planner’s discovery is often much like the next…lots of reading, interviews, primary and secondary research and cogitation. But at What’s The Idea? It is proof that makes the pudding. It is proof that drives the brand strategy.
Tags: brand good-ats, Brand Strategy, brand strategy defined, care-abouts, one claim three proof planks, organizing principle for product experience and messaging, whats the idea, whatstheidea
At What’s The Idea? a brand brief costs $17,500. List price. The people willing to spend that type of money know it’s s steal. Having an “organizing principle for product, experience and messaging” makes every act of marketing easier. Compare $17,500 to the cost of a newspaper ad, website take-over, or a radio flight. It’s peanuts. Sadly, the word brief, in advertising and marketing has been reduced to an instructive piece of paper telling creative people what not to do. Ish. They are often poorly written, almost all interchangeable, and not given much heed. But brand briefs – they are different story.
For a robust brand brief I need weeks. A month actually. A good brand brief requires interviews, fieldwork, research and brain steep. If we’re talking about a brand brief for a billion dollar company there may be lots of qualitative and quantitative testing as well. Up goes the price. And money well spent.
Done well, a brand brief informs all areas of business. If CRM is marketing template, the brand brief is its architecture. If PR is a communication template, a brand brief is its measure of success. If customer journey is a template, the brand brief is the bread crumb trail.
If you are in the business of selling things, raise your hand. If you don’t have a brand brief you are a simple fisherman.
For examples of brand briefs, showing claim and proof (brand tangibles), please write me at Steve at whatstheidea.
Tags: Brand tangibles. Whatstheidea, claim and proof, claim and proof in branding, CRM, customer journey, customer journey template, how much does a brand brief cost, organizing principle for product experience and messaging, PR, whats the idea