whats the idea

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So I was reading today how natural gas has passed coal and nuclear as America’s number one power source and how planners are looking beyond gas to solar and wind — two remarkably perfect energy sources. As planners are drawing up grids and plant plans for natural gas, some are actually getting gas wondering if they’re investing in yesterday’s technology. (They are.)  Perhaps, they are even wondering if in 12-years, these new forms of electricity generation will be obsolete. (Wondering when electricity will be obsolete.)

This makes me wonder if our country and the ROW (rest of world) will eventually move from national infrastructure choices to local infrastructure choices.  The angst over investing is the wrong technology not only keep moms and dads from buying the wrong television or car, but it has to extend to urban planners.

Rather than make a national commitment to an energy source, one might think it would be easier to make a smaller more localized commitments. Technology is evolving so quickly, it may paralyze nation-states to make decisions.  

Will local government’s gain more strength? Me thinks so.

Peace.

 

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Just Be Cause.

For some reason, I was never a Citibank guy.  I love Citi Field in Queens, home of the NY Mets and once applied for a job at Publicis to work on Citibank.  That said, I do have a rewards credit card in my wallet, but that’s more a function of American Airlines than Citi.  Banks are not a category I get all warm and fuzzy about, with the possible exception of  JPMorgan Chase, a brand I did a dive on a couple of years ago.

Today I was reading Andrew Ross Sorkin, a New York Times financial columnist, and as a result have newfound affinity for Citibank. It seems the boys and women at Citi Bank have decided to stop doing business with manufacturers and sellers of guns. Not an easy task. Certainly they will pizzle off the NRA. They will, as the story explained, suffer a number of credit cards being cut up and other lost relationships. Moreover, they will need to figure out how to shut down gun show work-arounds.     

But what they have done is put the masses ahead of their bottom line. This is a level of cause related marketing I have not seen in a long time. I don’t know the Citibank brand strategy. I don’t know the CEO. I don’t begin to understand basis points and earnings.  I do know balls. This is a ballsy cause.

Peace.

 

 

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I run a humble little brand consultancy.  Marketing consultancies and business consultancies are way more easily found if you Google them. Same if you search the topics on Amazon. But I chose to look at improved business metrics from the brand standpoint — ergo the “humble” reference. Not many in search of more revenue or margin are thinking brand.  For me, brand is the strategy — defined as “An organizing principle for product, experience and messaging.”

I find brand strategists to be divided among the most and least sophisticated people in the marketing business. Those who get it, can redistribute marketing wealth.  Those who don’t, sell you a new logo. Both types of brand strategist have frameworks for their output: qualitative and quantitative research as bedrock, a brief as the worksheet, and some type of presentation sizzle, to “get to yes.”

When I look at my business and the businesses of other brand strategists, what separates the good from the bad can be described in one word: Instinct.  What ideas, words, market positions and images are best suited to generate consumer fealty. It’s that simple. Framework easy. Instinct hard.

Peace.

 

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I wrote yesterday about implementing brand strategy on social media.  “Hit your proofs,” I wrote, and you are not only complying with brand strategy, you grow it.  

I’ve been paying attention to the cold-pressed juice category since speaking with the Love Grace people a number of years ago.  One Love Grace competitor is large, nicely-funded Blueprint, now owned by the Hain Celestial Group. Blueprint does social right. Here’s an example of an Instagram post.

The brand strategy for Blueprint is unknown to me, but the evidence – bread crumbs laid down leading to the strategy, are pretty obvious. Organic cold pressed juices are amazingly natural. People who buy them like natural. In Social Media Guardrails, one of the first suggestions is “Be interested in what your target is interested in.” Blueprint does not sell avocado on pumpernickel, but it’s natural (plank).  And it is what the target is interested in. In social media marketing you don’t always have to sell. You just have to be on strategy. 

Peace.

 

 

 

 

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Hit Your Proofs.

Here’s the deal on social media and branding. If you have a brand strategy you need to prove it in social media. Every day. Random posts diminish your brand.  The brand strategy framework at What’s The Idea? is one claim, three proof planks. If you are posting with pictures on Instagram, you need to be hitting your proofs. If you are creating some sort of engagement post on Facebook, hit your proofs. Sharing news on Twitter? Yep, tap those proofs.  Pinning a crafty thing?  You get the idea.

Every day I look at companies and brands who are active in social media and can’t figure out what there are trying to do strategically — other than put more social flotsam into the ether. And please, please don’t think this claim and proof array approach is limiting, It’s not. It’s freeing. It’s less random.  Your goal is to put deposits in the brand value bank, not confuse your buying and prospect publics.

Find your brand strategy, then live it every day. Your custies will thank you.

Peace.

 

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Benefits Bingo


How can you tell when a B2B company doesn’t have a brand strategy?  When it plays Benefits Bingo on the home page. 

I’ve been after a prospect in the insurance space for years. I did some amazing brand strategy work with a company contact a while back and she gets how brand strategy can focus a company, internally and externally, for success.  She’s not the problem. Her management team is. When last we spoke she told me they had decided to go with another company for a brand exploratory. Someone familiar to a person in the C-suite.

I visited the website today and was greeted by a battery of words dropped out of pastel boxes: Innovation, Agility, Expertise and Engagement. Also on the home page, pictures of a women, a man, a downhill skier and hands on a tug-of-war rope. Got it?

Do you know how many B2B companies use Benefits Bingo on their home page? Thirty to thirty five percent would be my guess. Como se lazy? Como se doltish?

Can you imagine your best sales person out on a new client call checking in with the receptionist, asking to meet the buyer by saying “Tell them the innovation, agility, expertise and engagement” salesman is here.”

Peace.

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For most small businesses the name is the brand. I suspect, that is why small businesses remain small. For mid-size businesses, the name is also the brand, but there tends to be a need for more marketing and sales support; there is stationery, a website, boiler plate copy for press releases, a need to explain company ethos to new hires. In other words, the need for branding elements.  Whoever creates the elements is the de facto brand manager. When it falls to the CEO, it is probably on target strategically, but inelegant.  In a mid-size company, if there is a marketing person, the branding elements have a chance. 

Large companies have marketing people and marketing departments. They are awash in branding elements.  Smart large company marketing departments have brand strategies. Most do not. A brand strategy is “an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging.”  Every company can benefit from a brand strategy. From a one-woman shop to a billion-dollar healthcare system.

Beautiful things can come from disorganization – from random assemblages. But not brands. Not brands.

Peace.

 

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There are some fun Capital One commercials running on the NCAA Tournament this year featuring Spike Lee, Charles Barkley and Samuel L. Jackson.  There’s a racial tinge to the spots which are kind of grown up or adult.  It shows these very funny black comedic actors in various Texas locations/scenarios. In one they are shopping for cowboy clothes. In another they’ re out on the range riding horses, or in Spike’s case a donkey, singing Garth Brooks’ Friends In Low Places.  

The actors are not uncomfortable, we are uncomfortable for them. (The Final Four is in San Antonio this year, hence the Texan themes.)

Did Capital One or their ad agency expect this little cultural incongruity in the advertising design?  I think so. And I love it. It makes a statement, with a smile and is still good entertaining trade craft. It’s humorous.  It’s thoughtful. It’s youthful. And a little bit discomfiting.  

Any marketer that can take on race with humor and make us all a little embarrassed it’s still “a thing” is worth paying attention to. Capital One, putting on some big girl pants. 

Peace.

 

 

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The problem with most brands is that they are skin deep. Products and services with derma measured only in millimeters. No  depth. No real rational and emotional meaning. Why is that?  Because brand building today is too randomized. No real brand plan.  No organizing principle driving long term, meaningful KPIs.

Sales and revenue are all that matters. Sales teams are motivated by commissions. Retail buyers are motivated by bonuses. Ad agents make money off of fee hours and volume.  And media is paid by the media transaction, not the result.

It makes me think of healthcare – where docs and hospitals are compensated for helping the sick, not preserving the healthy.

Brand planners dig beneath the skin. We get down to the organs. When we organize the selling principles, it’s not a Colorforms project, based on cut-and-paste tactics and theatrics. It’s a plan to build value leveraging what a brand is good-at and what consumers care-about. A plan driven by a deeply seeded claim, one that warms the hearts of brand employees and customers.

Salespeople can “sell anything,” they will tell you. Brand planners only want to sell one thing. Tink about it, as my Norwegian Aunt would say.

Peace.

 

 

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It’s great that Walmart wants to create greater shareholder value by getting into the groceries-to-the-home business, but I’m not so sure it’s good for the planet.  I recently spoke to a younger mom who energetically juggles her work and family lives — she uses Walmart’s delivery to the curb service.  She drives to Walmart and pops the trunk, they fill it. Another nice service to help us get more done – while doing less foot shopping (not a “food” shopping typo).  But having groceries and perishables delivered to the home in advance makes me wonder what will happen to all the waste.

As a society we’re already tossing out too much food. Ask a restauranteur. Ask a homeless person.  It’s mega tons.

You can argue that driving to the store to pick up just-in-time groceries is bad for the planet and I won’t disagree. I need to do better, even in my fifteen-year-old, 42 MPG Prius. My gas mileage is prob way better, though, than any Walmart van or Uber Ford Focus.

Walmart has a tough time ahead competing with Amazon.  Bricks, steel and mortar are costly. Groceries will only provide incremental help to Walmart’s bottom line. They best look elsewhere. They best look for a whoosh.

Peace.

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