whatstheidea

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When I ask new clients “What is your product strategy?” I get a funny look. Typically, they respond with something like “Make the best possible product, meet the specific needs of the customer, and provide it with a level of service the exceeds their expectation.” Or some such goulash.

Even service companies will use similar words.

Once that gibberish is out of the way, I dig down deep on product (or service) — past the derma to the muscle, the circulatory system and bone. I’m looking for tangibility. What makes your beer taste different? And don’t say the natural ingredients. We always get there, but it takes time. There is always a leverageable differentiator…or four.   

Once the client and I agree on a product strategy, it’s time to ask about the experience strategy. And finally the messaging strategy. Some teeth-pulling may be required to get actual answers, but it’s necessary. When all three strategies are on the table we look to see if there is alignment.

Once misalignment is acknowledged, work can begin. Organization can begin. Brand strategy can begin.

Peace.

 

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Kylie Jenner’s makeup sold $420 million in 18 months with minimal advertising beyond her Instagram posts. Her lip kits and eyeshadow palettes, at one point, retailed for $27 and $42 respectively. At a street fair on Long Island teen girls were falling over themselves to buy the stuff. The police showed up after a while, arrested some entrepreneurial boys hawking the cosmetics, all of which turned out to all be fake. The teens didn’t seem to care.

Kylie got some game. Kylie has a brand. Just ask my SnapChat stock, which lost mega value when she dinged the platform after it updated the interface.

If you are not Kylie Jenner and there is not pent up demand for anything and everything you touch, you need a brand strategy. In fact, in 15 years when Kylie isn’t hot (commercially), she may rue the fact she didn’t establish an organizing principle for her brand. Kids!

Creating brands out of people is hard. Creating brands for companies and products is easy. Claim and proof is the fasted, most enduring way.
If you are interested in some success stories and examples, write Steve@whatstheidea.com

Peace.

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Mark Pritchard, Proctor & Gamble’s CMO has asked Publicis, WPP and Omnicom to create a hybrid consumer agency to service a portion of his North American business. The collaboration, he hopes, will yield better creative and better economics. (Insert silent giggle here.) When the boss asks for something and is willing to pay for something, you do it. Mr. Pritchard is the boss and the biggest ad spender in the neighborhood.

As proof of concept, he points to the wonderful anti-advertising Tide Detergent campaign aired during the last Super Bowl. But there’s a massive problem with the logic. Ad people are very ethnocentric. Very egocentric. Did I mention competitive? Especially creative people.  Leonardo da Vinci let some talented interns mix the paints and sketch on some canvases, but he wasn’t collaborating.

Every time someone trots out this hybrid agency idea or the idea to have a totally dedicated brand shop, it’s failed.  As Faris says, “ideas are recombinant.” Egos aren’t.

This dedicated agency model may save money, it may make a couple of goods ads, but it won’t attract the best people and certainly won’t foster the best creative. Ring around the agency.

Peace.

 

 

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If you watch sound bites on the news you know president Trump repeats himself for emphasis. Repeats himself for emphasis. To me it a function of being inarticulate and/or not knowing the facts, but it could be also a nervous thing. A nervous thing.

Repetition is a time-tested advertising strategy. The more you say something, the more people are likely to remember it. It’s boring but effective. In advertising.

Repetition is effective in branding, as well. But it should never be boring. It’s okay in a brand jingle, but you don’t want to burn people out on your branding message. There’s only so much repetition a person can take. When your brand strategy is composed of a claim and three proof planks, you never need to be repetitive. Reimagining how to convey your claim with unique compelling proofs is the fun of branding. It’s also the job of the ad agency and your creative people. Keeping it fresh.

Logos and jingles are best kept long term. Otherwise keep the message and story fresh. No one wants a stale product, no one wants a stale message.

Peace.

 

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The Masters golf tournament began about 84 years ago. Before Tiger. Before titanium drivers. Before World War II. It has become the most famous golf tournament extant. The brand management of The Masters has been impeccable, with the exception of the diversity issues surrounding membership in the Augusta National Golf Club.  I’m told candy bars have to be packaged in green wrapper in case one accidently blows into the view of TV cameras. All wires are buried underground. Jim Nance. As much as the technology changes, as much as people change, The Masters remains the same: a venerable sports institution.

Consumer products Pilsner Urguell, Coca-Cola, and Tide Detergent have stood the test of time as brands – all through great brand management. It is yet to be seen, however, if tech companies will learn how to last. Bell Labs, perhaps the first (American) tech company, is still around but seems, to me at least, on its last legs. Bell Labs began as AT&T, then went to Lucent, which was bought by Alcatel and is now owned by Nokia. Not great brand management.

If Facebook wants to me more than Netscape and MySpace, it needs to put in play a long-term brand strategy.  People can’t live without Facebook. Now.  Brand strategy is important for service companies and tech companies. Facebook needs to step up.

 

Peace.

 

 

 

 

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Epigrams.

I make paper for a living.  People pay big paper (money) for my paper, brand strategies.  Brand strategy is what my mentor Peter Kim would call a “selling idea,” an idea that predisposes consumers to a product or service, e.g., “the world’s information in one click” (Google), “refreshment” (Coca-Cola), “for doers not browsers” (ZDNet). 

To get to the idea one has to process a lot of information, typically presented on paper in the form of a brief. Briefs are my output to clients. But they are buying an idea. That’s the honeypot.    

I attribute my ability to craft good briefs to the proper creation and use of epigrams.

ˈepəˌɡram/

noun

plural noun: epigrams

  1. a pithy saying or remark expressing an idea in a clever and amusing way.
synonyms: witticism, quip, jest, pun, bon mot; More

saying, maxim, adage, aphorism, apophthegm;

informalone-liner, wisecrack, (old) chestnut

“a collection of humorous epigrams from old gravestones”

o   a short poem, especially a satirical one, having a witty or ingenious ending.

My briefs are filled with them. Hidden in a narrative, serial story. Clients find meaning and inspiration in my epigrams. They are word plays about them, about their products. They are memorable. It’s how I sell the idea. It’s how I come up with the idea.

The secret sauce. Epigrams.

Peace. 

 

 

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Google Cloud is running a pretty cool advertising campaign these days.  Ironically, they’ve always done good advertising; a good deal of it coming from BBH. And BBH cohorts. What I like about this campaign is that they are serving up proof along with claim.  Without proof in branding and advertising there is nothing.

In their New York Times ad today, Google Cloud is furthering the notion that data analytics are the key success.  Be it business, sports, other.  Everyone has heard the term “artificial intelligence” and everyone knows about statistics and data analytics, but most people’s eyes glaze over when those thjiongs are discussed.

Google’s ad used proof to gain our interest. The ad is about the teams participating in tonight’s national championship basketball game. Rather than blather on about the cloud plumbing and intelligence, it states that Villanova connects on three point field goals from 2.178 inches farther away from the basket than does Michigan. Also, ‘nova has more successful 3-point shooters than most teams. The implication for Michigan (if they don’t read the ad) is that they are less likely to defend said 3s. Proof over claim. Proof of data. Proof of cloud. Nice advertising tradecraft.

Peace.

 

 

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Fake Proof.

Fake news has crept into our lives and looks to have altered the landscape of American a politics. This, thanks to some horrid manipulation by politically minded hackers.  Hackers who used a Facebook poll to mine data then serve up false stories that fanned the fires of conservatism. If you were on the fence about whether or not to vote for the first female president ever and read the Pizzagate story, it may have pushed you off that fence.  Even when the story was proven false.

In the advertising business, you couldn’t make a claim on a TV ad without proof. Proof submitted to the network “Standards and Practices” department.  But the web has no such department. You can fake your news all the way into the living room of your most likely-to-be-effected target.

I’d love to be a brand planner who could just make up proof as I went along.  You see proof, 0be it true or false, is what convinces people. It’s how you get people to believe a claim.  Those who have decided to undermine elections understand the role of proof. Beware.

Peace.

 

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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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