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The short answer is about 45 minutes. The long answer is maybe 100 hours.  Someone once asked Picasso how could he charge tens of thousands of dollars for a sketch that took him only 10 minutes to draw.  His response was “That sketch took me a lifetime to draw.”  I paraphrase.

I’m no Picasso. Plus any cache in the brain, save some technique and linguistic phrasing, stays in the brain.  Every brand brief is a like snow flake. Each brand brief is built from scratch; leaning heavily on customer care-abouts and brand good-ats. All that information takes time to amass. I’ve taken months to write a brand brief. I’ve taken weeks.

In some cases multivariate statistical analyses were used. And slopes were plotted. Findings clustered. Interviews by the hundreds. Others have been developed on a shoe-string. 

On most proposals I say it takes a month to write a brand strategy brief.

Now, to the next question: How long is a piece of string?




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femmes d alger

Ninety percent of branding is plan driven: understanding what customers want most (related to your product and category) and what you do best. You find a strategic claim and three proof planks, then you build equity using that claim and proof array until its hard as steel. But…but.

Just when you think you know something about the business, someone comes along and proves you wrong. And therein lies the other 10%.

Every one once in a while an idea comes along that is off brief, off strategy, and is just too good to pass up. It may be tangential to a strategy. It may be in the neighborhood but not on the right block,. You just feel in your bones it’s a business winner. That’s the 10 percent. And you have to go for it. As Eddie Vedder says “It’s evolution baby.”  It may help morph the strategy. It may not. This is a creative business plus we are dealing with people; so you have to try things that speak to you. Strategy is mellifluous. Impressionistic.

Show a person on the street a copy of Picasso’s “Les Femmes d’Alger, which BTW recently sold at auction for $180M, and they might think it childlike. Brand planners are in the business of creating positive product impressions. Impressions that draw consumers closer to a brand, not just closer to a sale. It’s so “not science” alone.  Cut the leash 10% of the time and allow in a little impressionism.



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