Proctor and Gamble

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Mark Pritchard, Proctor & Gamble’s CMO has asked Publicis, WPP and Omnicom to create a hybrid consumer agency to service a portion of his North American business. The collaboration, he hopes, will yield better creative and better economics. (Insert silent giggle here.) When the boss asks for something and is willing to pay for something, you do it. Mr. Pritchard is the boss and the biggest ad spender in the neighborhood.

As proof of concept, he points to the wonderful anti-advertising Tide Detergent campaign aired during the last Super Bowl. But there’s a massive problem with the logic. Ad people are very ethnocentric. Very egocentric. Did I mention competitive? Especially creative people.  Leonardo da Vinci let some talented interns mix the paints and sketch on some canvases, but he wasn’t collaborating.

Every time someone trots out this hybrid agency idea or the idea to have a totally dedicated brand shop, it’s failed.  As Faris says, “ideas are recombinant.” Egos aren’t.

This dedicated agency model may save money, it may make a couple of goods ads, but it won’t attract the best people and certainly won’t foster the best creative. Ring around the agency.




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Not too long ago I wrote a brand brief for a young woman with an artisanal cookie company.  The company will remain nameless since every brand strategy is a business-winning pursuit. Part of the promise of these absolutely delicious cookies is their all natural ingredients.  No preservatives. No additives for color or taste…just natural stuff, sourced from wholesome places.

One of the negatives associated with all natural though, especially when it comes to cookies and other baked goods, is that they tend toward the dry. After years of those foil-wrappered rectangular health bars, many people get a dry-mouth reflex just thinking about health bars. So one of the planks for this brand of cookies is moisture.  It’s as much a visual plank as a message plank. If a hand held cookie isn’t flexing in a picture (drooping wouldn’t be good), it should not be shown.  If a paragraph of copy block doesn’t include a reference to the science of moisture, usually tied to coconut oil, the next one should.

Brand plan planks can take on many forms and “moisture” isn’t one P&G might use, but in this category it’s a context breaker. To my cookie making friend I say “keep those natural cookies pristine and tasty – and make sure your art and copy teams stay away from all things dry.” Humor excluded. And please remember cookie responsibly. Peace.

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I say brand plan you say________? Right.  No one really knows what a brand plan looks like.  That’s not to say Proctor and Gamble and L’Oreal don’t have brand plans. Or that Publicis, Ogilvy or Crispin Porter don’t have them. They do. But what they’re called and how they are organized are all quite different. 

Brand Strategy Statement.

My brand plans are simple to understand.  They contain a brand strategy statement which I tell clients is a suit strategy.  It’s not very catchy, not creative or tagline-worthy, but it tends to hit the CMO and CEO right in the solar plexus.  It may be contextual and/or contain metaphor but it’s certainly a quick, decisive statement of the brand value. 

Brand Planks.

Beneath this simple statement are three planks. Brand planks. Borrowed from Bill Clinton’s first election campaign when the mantra was “It’s the economy stupid,” a brand plank is a product development and messaging directive.  My planning process begins with the gathering of formation. Then I boil it down into its most powerful, tasty flavors and those flavors became the planks.  Of course, I make sure the planks are key consumer care-abouts and key company strengths (or potential, attainable strengths). 

But lately I’ve been analyzing the planks to see if they share any formula for success.  Thinking about what makes good brand planks before I fill the stock pot with data and get sidetracked is (sorry Bud Cadell) what consumes me. 

I haven’t gotten there yet but here’s a quick start: 

One plank should educate (it’s what leaders do). One plank should engage (motivate preference).  And one plank should personalize (create a personally meaningful connection between the brand and consumer — bring the consumer closer to the brand). 

This stuff is mapping the branding genome hard. Or not. But when I finish, it’s going to be exciting.  Peace!

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