trout and ries

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Yesterday I went off a bit on Trout and Ries, saying a brand Claim is akin to a brand Position, but the process, pre-idea and post-idea are different. You can plot a position. You can only cultivate a claim. A claim requires care and feeding. Marketing either strengthens or weakens a claim. A position is less animate.

When Marilyn Laurie a famous AT&T marketer used to say advertising either put a “deposit in the brand bank or a “withdrawal,” she was referring to an animated process.

Branding is simple. Don’t let brand nerds marko-babble you into thinking it’s this complex “only we understand” science.  If you land on the right “Claim” and support it with the right “Proof” planks (3), you can easily build your brand — knowing when you’re making deposits and withdrawals.  

Claim gets the branding glory but Proof is the work horse. Proof is the day job of a brand strategy. Proof is the day job of brand managers. And agents. (The guys hanging off the I-beam with his helmet attached by Super Glue is Proof.) Proof is what convinces consumers. Bluff and bluster do not.

Peace.  

 

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Trout and Ries turned me on to Positioning with their book Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind. It’s very hard to disagree with Jack and Al.  The logic is dead on. It addresses many marketing ills. But the thing about strategy is it is best when reverse engineered – a wonderful practice for book writers and theory writers.  It’s easy-ish to look in the rearview mirror and ‘splain why success happened. Positioning does work for some forward thinkers, but it’s a practice and process. An activity. Find a position in the minds of customers.

I prefer to rally around Claim rather than Position. A brand Claim is a strategic statement of customer value married to brand feature or function.  While Claims are malleable and organic, Positions are finite and immobile. If you Position a house by the river and the river moves, you’re toast.  If you Claim fertile soil and rich yield, that’s future-friendly.

One can argue that Coke’s brand claim of “refreshment” is both claim and position. I would agree.  So it’s not like they can’t work together. But mostly Positioning is process-focused. And Claim is product-focused. Therein lies the difference.

Peace.

 

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I’m a big Al Ries fan. His and Jack Trout’s book on Positioning changed my career. I have memories of reading it on a Long Island Rail Road. It’s a great thought piece.

Today however, I take issue with the idea of positioning in branding. 

Positioning is the act of finding a competitive and defensible place for your brand in the consumers’ mind. The search for a position — a position being a noun. Position is defined as “a place occupied or to be occupied; site.”

In my brand consultancy branding is defined as “an organizing principle” for product, message and experience. This approach is much more fluid and alive. It allows for branding as a series of behavioral acts. Ongoing. Making ads, customer care, retail design, and web experience all fall into activities that define the brand and its promise. That prove its promise.

With branding as an organizing principle everything is viewed as an active, a non-machine related sales opportunities.  Built and enforced by people. Not a destination or compass point in the mind of a consumer.

Positioning was way better than anything before it. And barring any real brand strategy (one idea, three planks) it is the next best approach. But I think we can do a little better.

Peace.

 

 

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In advertising the real money maker is the creative. That’s what everyone talks about. That’s what marketers spend most of their money on. Creative creates most of the wealth in marketing and all of the wealth on the agencies side. The fuel for great creative is consumer insight. Notice I didn’t say insights. Lo, there are many insights to clog the mind of the brand or account planner. Many insights to confound the creative director or creative content builder.

mining tools

The role of the brand planner is to find a single insight that can be leveraged into a compelling selling proposition. Rosser Reeves can call it a Unique Selling Proposition (USP), Al Ries can call it positioning, any goober with a WordPress account can call it what they like (me included), but great creative doesn’t start until a single, powerful, clean insight is unearthed and frees the creative mind.

A powerful insight is pregnant with creative possibility. It can help organize an army of sellers. It can brainwash the tired huddled masses. It can launch an organizing principle that redistributes marketing wealth, unlike any TV commercial ever has. Apple’s 1984 included.

So you unsung insight miners take heart. Keep shoveling, mine till your fingers hurt, then cull, cull, cull until you find that emerald. It is so worth it.

Peace.

 

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