undercurrent

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I think it was UnderCurrent or Nobl (Bud Cadell’s new consulting effort) who came up with the notion of an operating system for a company. It may be someone else…I need to dump the brain cache. Anyway the metaphor of an operating system for a company or brand is similar to language I use in brand planning “an organizing principle.”

One of the most overused words in business and brand consulting is “culture.” Just as companies that talk the most about ROI are the one’s who don’t have it, companies that speak of culture most often don’t have it. Back in the 90s John Dooner spoke of culture at McCann-Erickson. When I finally got through the blather about “entrepreneurship,” someone finally described it to me as “Do what you want until someone says stop.” Culture needs a motivation. It needs articulation. And it needs behavioral tenets. Culture is like the mama on your shoulder who tells you how to behave and what to do at any given moment.

Brand Culture may be a good way of repackaging what I do as a brand consultant. Brand strategy at What’s The Idea? is defined as 1 idea, 3 proof planks. (I find a motivation or claim — one that customers want most and that the brand does best – and arrange that atop 3 behaviors that are business winning.) Not a particularly sexy or in-demand sale, it works.  Yet it doesn’t often get past the c-suite.  I’m thinking of packaging it as a brand culture exploratory; it may clear up the misunderstandings around the words brand and culture. Operating system ain’t bad, but it’s a little bit like organizing principle.

Stay very tuned. 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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A term of art in branding these days is “elevator speech.” It is a reference to a concise explanation of purpose. David Belasco, a great theater impresario, once said “If you can’t put your idea on the back of a business card, it’s not a clear idea.”

The thing about elevator speeches is that they can be poorly constructed. They can meander. They also can be incomplete. Last week I met someone who referred to herself as an educational consultant, when in fact, she counseled high school students selecting colleges. I thought she provided consulting services to K12 and universities. Poor elevator speech.

I get around this by coaching clients to think about their Is-Does: What a brand is and what a brand does.  In this day and age of tech start-ups, it is sometimes hard to know if you are dealing with a company, service, software, hardware or some combination thereof…often referred to as a platform. You are likely to find a company’s Is-Does in the first sentence and “About” paragraph of their press releases. Also on their website About section. But even there, they are not always clear. Not always succinct.

Undercurrent’s Is-Does: “Strategic partner for the 21st century” is a good one. Pregnant with meaning. My Is-Does for What’s the Idea?: “A brand consultancy” is good one, but lacks a benefit a la for the 21st century reference of Undercurrent — read innovation.  

A good way to judge your Is-Does is to think of it as you would a 5 second radio sponsorship. Fill in these blanks. This program brought to you by Brand X, the ________, that ________. Hmm. Maybe I should change Is-Does to The-That.  

Get your Is-Does right…so others can. It’s the first step in good branding. Peace. 

 

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