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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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I haven’t written about ROS (return on strategy) for a while but on the heels of my empanelment at OMMA Performance this week I’ve given it some more thought.  One of the good things heard discussed at OMMA was the metric “intent to purchase.”  As one person said, however, I may walk around the Jaguar dealership with an intent to purchase, but without consummation (check writing) it doesn’t makes the commerce world go round.

Another important metric discussed was the Net Promoter Score – scoring one consumer’s willingness to recommend a product.  These  two metrics are moving in the right direction and are good dashboard measures. Time on site, bounce rate, “like,” page views, are nice directional metrics but can’t always be attributed to a sale. The quants may disagree.


If you can’t create a value for an action, how are you going to create a value for a strategy?  The strategy for a billion dollar health system was built upon the following brand planks: leading edge treatments and technology, information and resource sharing, and community integration.  Combined, these 3 consumer care-abouts were projected as the business-winning marketing strategy. How do you measure the effectiveness of that strategy? Consumer attitude studies tying the brand plank metrics to KPIs such as beds filled, procedures completed, re-admits, profitability are certainly doable.  But how might one measure the strategy effectiveness using the web?  Thoughts?  Einsteins?

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Trust, Authenticity and Transparency are the three "pop marketing" words of the day. ROI was last year. Trust, Authenticity and Transparency can be found on every marketing blog and in every social media webinar worth their free price of admission.


Sound like I have a bug up my arse? You bet.


Here’s the problem with brands today: They don’t mean anything. Most brands are not imbued with an idea, but with many ideas. They are defined by campaigns, not a brand strategy. We, as consumer, are therefore so confused we default to the “is” of the Is/Does.  Levy’s is jeans. Coke is cola. And with so many people managing these brand across so many silos we don’t know what the brands “do.” We can’t land on a brand value, because it is ever-changing.  


That’s why everyone is talking about Trust, Authenticity and Transparency.  Everyone is  confused.  And with social media added to the brand management fray, there’s even more confusion. Return On Strategy (ROS) is the most important brand metric there is. Not the ROI which measures tactics. Too much ROI leads to the need for? That’s right. Trust, Authenticity and Transparency. Peace!


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Ad agencies make money selling stuff. Want a TV commercial? That will cost you $350,000. Want a billboard? $25,000. How about a direct mail program? $125,000. Website? $75,000, if we don’t have to outsource it. If there is commissionable media…all the better.


As an ad guy coming up in the business a great day was one during which you presented brilliant creative and the client approved it with excitement, energy and money. If the creative really worked and sales followed you could just smell success.


But, today, as a brand planner the real excitement comes from presenting a brand strategy that lights up a CEO. When s/he reads the paper or the screen and breaks out in a smile and says “You get me” that’s the home run.  A brand strategy is not the creative, it’s the idea that leads the creative — it is the long term idea that makes the money.  I use a line in presentations all the time “Campaigns come and go, but a powerful branding idea is indelible.” Powerful branding ideas are how agencies should make money. Their ability to deliver on that idea should be the key to remuneration. Therein lies the ROS (return on strategy) conundrum.


Any thoughts on how to make this work? Drop me a note at Peace!    


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Measurement in marketing is the “only” thing. Are sales increasing? Where? Who’s buying? Who’s not?  How are the ads communicating? What are the ads really saying to consumers about the product? Answers to these questions can help build effective programs. No doubt.

But then there is ROI. Return on investment. If you’re in a marketing or meeting and people are prattling on about ROI, you can bet they aren’t getting it. The whole ROI movement began in the 70s with the birth of direct marketing. Then promotion became the ROI pop marketing darling. Today it is pay-per-click and Internet marketing. But what often falls by the wayside while the Excel geeks are crunching the ROI numbers is the role of the strategy. More specifically, the brand strategy. This needs to be measured first and foremost. Return on strategy (ROS) is a marketing building block most overlook. And it is a long term recipe for failure.

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Call the economy what you will, but it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realize most businesses are retrenching. Businesses are cutting people, product, stores, distribution and promotion. One thing businesses will be dialing up, however, is assessment of strategy. The business of marketing has become so tactically focused that one is hard-pressed to look at a company’s consumer-facing efforts and identify a strategy. So, what business will improve during these doldrums? Consulting.  
Companies will want to identify their best customers. Their worst customers.  Their most likely new customers. They will want to know which competitor is the weakest and why. They will “follow the money,” and consultants typically can help with this. It’s great that the SEO program is improving click-throughs and that 8% of customers are finding the website more navigable, but in today’s market it’s about validating the business strategy, not the tactic.  I call this ROS — return on strategy. ROI is so last year.

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