ros

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Wikipedia defines deterministic system this way:

“In mathematics and physics, a deterministic system is a system in which no randomness is involved in the development of future states of the system. A deterministic model will thus always produce the same output from a given starting condition or initial state.”

I am here to argue that brand strategy is s deterministic system. Most would argue it’s chaos theory.  Frankly, most people would be right. Brand strategy is chaotic. It is random,

Ninety percent of marketing organizations are set up to deal with brand strategy as a communications consequence. “We need order in our messaging, ergo we need a brand strategy.” Tasked with spending money mainly on ads and events, these orgs spend hundreds of millions each year on naming, logo development, style manuals and ad templates. Landor says, “Thank you very much.”

A smaller number of marketing orgs take it to the next level plotting out consumer experience; mainly in retail or online settings. What does t a Dunkin’ Donuts store look like? Where do we put the seasonal stuff at Costco? How do we offer online professional development at Teq?

And lastly, in the smallest percentage of marketing organizations, are those who actually think about the product. What do we do to the product to improve it to meet customer needs? Or with what do we replace our product to better deliver our value promise?

A tight brand strategy leaves nothing to chance. It speaks to all three marketing organizational models.  One claim and three proof planks drive all measures of business success. It starts at the brand level and IS accountable. I used to call it Return On Strategy (ROS), I now call it Return On Brand Strategy (ROBS.) Stay tuned.

Peace.           

 

 

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Recall of a Recall.

As I settled into my seat on Jet Blue last week a passing stewardess mentioned that all Samsung Galaxy Note 7s were barred from the plane. Glad I wasn’t a Samsung brand manager that day. That was on a Jet Blue flight. I suspect all airlines were making similar announcements. Hourly. Daily. For as long as it will take to eradicate the potential threat. That’s like 20 Super Bowl ads a week in terms of reach. (Please don’t fact-check, I’m riffing.)

All of this could have been avoided – yes, at quite an expense I know – by simply recalling the phones at first light (poor pun). Rather than doing the right thing, Samsung put a blight on its brand that will take a long, long time to quiet.  Especially for those who travel on airplanes.

That ROS (return on strategy) will be negative for quite some time.

Peace.                         

 

 

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I have decided to work on the What’s The Idea? website, expanding it to include a number of offerings, real and in Beta. Here’s a list of the first few offerings to be included — some of which are also memes on the web.

Return on Strategy (ROS). Unlike return on investment where expenditures on tactical marketing dollars or project dollars are measured, return on strategy links revenue and value to strategy.  With ROS, attitudes, perceptions and dispositions are weighed against behaviors and sales to determine drivers of market success.

Brand Strategy Tarot Cards. In the brand strategy tarot card reading, client companies come to the meeting with 5 pieces of content.  Serially and in real time each piece of content is turned over and read.  Learnings and gleanings are shared with the marketing team until all five pieces are revealed. The reading ends with a summary of brand strategy and a view into the brand future.

Brand Strategy Workshop. This three part workshop walks attendees through the key stages of the What’s The Idea? brand strategy development framework. This hands on, participatory workshop allows attendees to more fully understand brand strategy by experiencing the discovery, boil down and synthesis process that results in powerful brand ideas.

Posters Vs. Pasters. Born out of social media research, Posters vs. Pasters is a quick-draw research tool used to arrive at consumer and market insights. It is a wonderful early stage brand planning discovery tool. At last count the market was make up of 92% Pasters, 8% Posters.

Twitch Point Planning.  A Twitch Point is a media moment during which a consumer changes his or her media consumption in search of clarification or greater meaning. Often changing devices or apps. Understanding, mapping and manipulating these twitch points in a way that moves users closer to a sale is the goal of Twitch Point Planning. Think customer journey with real weigh points.

Stay tuned. And all inquiries are welcome.

Peace.

 

 

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The hardest part of quantifying the success of brand strategy (1 claim, 3 proof planks) is the act of tying measurement of “care-abouts” and “good-ats” (the proofs upon which brand value are built) to sales. I call this pursuit: Return On Strategy (ROS).

Back in the 90s while working on AT&T Business Communications Services, fighting off MCI (a smart competitors buying share with discount prices), we knew that messaging the right combination of “competitive price” (within 10% of MCI), “network reliability” and “innovative telecom tools” (the 3 planks) would result in added business users. If market perceptions of this trifecta were offset by MCI, they started winning new account “adds.” The trick was meting out the right combination of planks with our media budget.  We were using quantitative research to gauge attitudes and tie them to actions/sales.

This is the way one does ROS.  But numbers about attitudes can lie. Nate Cohn, The New York Times version of Nate Silver, mea culpa’ed today about Donald Trump. He spent a 1,000 words explaining why the numbers lied and Trump beat the odds.

I often write about “proof” in my blog posts. And about “deeds” — the actual activities that feed the care-about and good-ats. This line of thinking and study is where I need to spend more time. As was the case in Mr. Cohn’s explanation of Mr. Trump, attitudes and numbers can mislead. So I’m off to look beyond attitudes and on to awareness of deeds tied to sales. Should be interesting.

Peace.                         

 

 

 

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I do a good deal of work with corporate brands and they are way harder than consumer brands to package, yet I approach them the same way. The brand strategy for a corporation is the same as for a packaged good — one claim and 3 proof planks. Corporate proof plank arrays are rich and deep while those for, say, an energy drink or break-and-bake cookie are few and shallow. (For CPGs you make actually need to create proof where none existed before.)

It is because corporate proof arrays are manifold that The Reputation Institute has made such a nice and successful living. They mine attributes and values customers feel are business-winning, then track them through quarterly quantitative studies – measuring key careabout movement versus competitors — packaging it as reputation. Brilliant.

But in B2B, reputation is just a lovely generic way of saying strategy. They are measuring strategy. Multiple strategies. And if you looks at some of Reputation Institute studies you will see they cluster values generically: product values, innovation values, governance values, ETDBW (easy to do business with) values, etc. These are market research-centric studies. Brand-centic studies look at the proof based on the unique brand strategy of the corporation, organized by brand plank.  Not multiple generics. This is how we measure ROS (return on strategy.)

When companies like Undercurrent and Altimeter Group talk about more responsive organizations or disruption, they are (and often may not know it) thinking about a brand value paradigm for organization, not a generic B-school paradigm. Stay tuned.

Peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Any brand planner worth his or her salt uses the word promise. I use it all the time. That said, as I codify and package my practice–trying to explain to business owners and marketing people what brand planning is–I gravitate toward the word “claim.” Branding is all about “claim and proof.”

The word promise is so much nicer it seems. Softer. More forgiving. Claim, on the other hand, feels boastful. Perhaps full of itself. The fact that most advertising is claim-based rather than promise-based is not a trivial obstacle either, when it comes to defending claim vs. promise. I am undaunted; it’s still all about the claim. Why? Because consumers want value they can count on. If consumers are let down by the claim and they really care, they will say so. They will rebel. Sales will take a hit. With a promise the whole position and sales thing is more nebulous.

A brand with a claim needs to prove it every day. A brand with a promise has leeway. Less urgency. I won a huge piece of business once by telling a multi-billion dollar company they had a great claim, but weren’t proving it. The fastest way to return on strategy (ROS) is to have a claim.

When your brand lacks real proof of value, it’s time to trot out the promise. Which is about as satisfying as bad margarine. Peace.

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Chipotle raised prices last year on its beef burrito 4-6% and consumers didn’t blink. They happily paid. Why is that? The Bain and Boston Consulting nerds might say Chipotle has great price elasticity. I say Chipotle offers great ROS, return on strategy. One of the best ways to measure return on strategy is to poll current customers about price. “Would you continue to buy Hoegaarden if the price were raised 5%?” a market question might read. If the answer is yes, one might follow up with “Why” or “What is it about Hoegaarden that makes you such a fan?” The answers to the questions are influenced by marketing. And brand strategy – defined as an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging.

When a brand has a codified organizing principle, marrying what the product does well with what consumers want most, it has a strategy. Only then can return on that strategy be measured. In market share. In dollars. And in sense (sic).

As you market your products and services, please don’t forget to measure return on your strategy — not just the return on your tactical investments. Peace!

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So now that the business questions are out of the way and brand plan is set (the sausage making clients aren’t particularly fond of) we can begin to make “stuff.” The best way to make stuff is to present it in the form of a marketing communications plan. The plan recaps and toplines what was learned during the 24 Questions and organizes strategies, targets, messages and tactics based upon the brand plan. In the Behind the Curtain workshop I will share a marketing communications plan — key deliverable #3 for marketing consulting clients.

After the marcom plan review I will probably show a slide with 5 or 6 planning tools and let the room decide which they want to hear about. The Is-Does is a simple tool, kind of like an elevator speech, that helps explain what a brand is and what it does. Posters Vs. Pasters is a reductionist social media segmentation intended to improve virality and engagement. Twitch Point Planning is a digital age communications planning tool, the object of which is to move customers closer to a sale. Brand Spanking is qualitative research construct develop to knock market leaders down a peg. The Fruit Cocktail Effect is what happens when you lose focus. And ROS, or return on strategy, is a quant approach to proving value beyond tactics. I will leave 20 minutes for Q & A and the workshop will be done. Looking forward to it.

Peace.

 

 

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Never is a marketing consultant more ill at ease than when a client asks “How much revenue will this tactic generate?”  Or, “If I run this ad campaign, how many inquiries will it generate?” CEOs and CFOs ask these questions because they want to know what the return will be. I’ve often written about the importance of ROS (return on strategy) over ROI (return on investment) which tends to measure tactics. The reality is, all marketers and their agents want to know their marketing efforts pay off.  But just as tech start-ups get away, quarter after quarter, without monetization plans, marketers keep trotting out the old lazy axiom “I know half my advertising is working, I just don’t know which half” and muddle on.  

That’s why we should be measuring strategy, not tactics. Strategy crosses channels and tactics. Strategy informs tactics. Sure tactics can be strong or weak, but graded on strategy delivery creates a third dimension for analysis.

How well does this package design convey the brand strategy?  How well does this retail experience deliver the brand promise?  How convincing is this video at making a prospect believe the brand claim? Grading our marketing work not simply by action but by brand conviction is the way toward marketing monetization.  Measuring awareness, first mention or a porous tagline is not measuring strategy. Nor is measuring time on page.    

When measures become endemic to your business and not generic, you will know you are on the right path. Peace!

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Ideas are hard to trust. Tangible things like design, ads, copy, promotion, and user experience are easier to trust.  You can see them, ask your friends about them, test them.  “I love that logo. That ad brought in 100 new customers.  My email campaign had a 1.25% click through rate.”

But ideas? You can’t scientifically parse and evaluate an idea.  Brand strategies are ideas. Volvo makes you safer.  Coca Cola refeshes. Cottonelle is softer.  These brand strategies, like all good ones, are indelible.  I’ve written a great deal about ROS or return on strategy.  So far, ROS is just an idea.  Though one can calculate ROI ( return on investment/tactic), return on strategy is much harder to calculate.  Why? Because ROS tries to understand the value of an idea. When I sell “rebooting the phone business” to a VOIP client along with 3 organizing principles to support the claim, I’m selling an idea. This idea might be measured in year over year sales, but on paper, how it is dimensionalized and quantified is not easy. (I still have work to do.)

Because ideas are easy to understand but harder to trust, branding has lost ground in today’s marketing world.  I joke that digital has created tactics-palooza and it’s true.  The best brands are idea-driven. Tight ideas and tight supports. Ideas create new products. Ideas motivate armies. Ideas make you happy or sad.

Ideas are hard to sell but the top tier CMOs get them. And live them.  What’s your brand’s idea? Peace.

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