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black hole

According to the NYT today, the definition of black holes is “the bottomless gravitational pits from which not even light can escape.” Leave it to the Times to put something so complex into human terms. Einstein, when talking about the geometry of the universe likened it to a bed mattress, which only moves and reacts when a sleeper moves. It’s shape distorting with the movement of matter an energy. So basically, there are still some things that are quite hard to explain. And that’s brings me to branding.

Ask 100 people about branding and you’ll get 80 answers. From “branding is an empty vessel into which you pour meaning?,” a favorite of mine, to “”the process of creating a relationship or a connection between a company’s product and emotional perception of the customer for the purpose of generating segregation among competition and building loyalty among customers,” which is straight out of Wikipedia (did I say straight?).

Branding today is marketing’s black hole. Everyone is talking about is, everyone is doing it, everyone thinks they know what it is, but few can articulate it. For all the frameworks brand experts have developed and all the webinars and presentation on the topic, few have been able to boil it down. To a simple algorithm. Or formula.

The framework used by What’s The Idea? is one such…and it works. At the top of the framework is a brand claim. A claim of value; something customer wants and something the brand delivers. Every brand then needs proof for that claim. I use 3 proof planks for my framework. The theory of three.

If you have a claim and proof array and you demonstrate it every day, you are brand building. You are branding.

Mattress indeed.




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The Ford Motor Company is reviving the Lincoln Continental, a car it discontinued producing in the U.S. in 2002. Last fall the Lincoln Continental begin selling in China and seems to be doing well.

The Cadillac family of luxury cars has long eschewed the use of brand names in favor of numbers and letter. A sad branding mistake. I tried hard to think of a Cadillac brand but couldn’t. STS comes to mind, but in my mind’s eye I’m not even sure what one looks like. A Lady Gaga shoe perhaps? So I Googled Cadillac brand names and Wikipedia brought me to a page filled with numbers and letter and only a couple of names: the Fleetwood (in the 50s), Coupe DeVille (60s) and the El Dorado (80s). How quickly we forget.

The alphabet soup of model names Cadillac uses is, I suspect, intended to shine the light on the master brand.  It’s not a good move.  The Escalade was a great brand name, so we know they can do it. Maybe they’re waiting for a really nice car design before launching a new brand name?

Moving the Cadillac corporate offices to SOHO in NYC was a good first move. I’m thinking some nice designs and names aren’t too far away. Peace.  

PS.  The current Lincoln names are no better, MKC, MKS, MKK. Oy. At least they have the Continental brand to work with.

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Do you know your product’s top 5 twitch points? You should.  Customer journey is a new age marketing tool used by comms planners to find better ways to intersect with and influence customers. The journey maps out awareness, activities, research, purchase and out-of-box experience. (Chart courtesy of Frog Design.) Some use the old school taxon AIDA (awareness, interest, desire and action), a dumbed down version.  It’s truly good stuff and a lot more valuable than a simple DILO (day in the life of) media planning approach, but if you follow the Frog Design rigor (chart) you may also end up a little dizzy.customer journey

Twitch Points are moments when a person twitches way from one media or device in favor of another in search of clarification. Kindle to Google Earth. Newspaper to Wikipedia. Car dealership to JD Power. Best Buy to Amazon. Car radio to Shazam.

Twitch Point Planning is simpler than the above Frog Design learning scheme. Less complex. Understanding, mapping and manipulating customers closer to a sale is its goal. It needn’t be overthought.  Don’t get me wrong, it needs to be thought, just not overthought. If you find your top 5 twitch points, your five most commerce producing twitches, you don’t need a road map, journey, or KPIs.  You need a good accountant…to count da monies.

Peace be upon you.

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Twitch Point Planning is a communications planning technique I discuss with clients to get them to “understand, map and manipulate” media consumption in a way that moves viewers closer to a sale.  Twitch Points are called such because today’s tools make it way too easy to multitask and twitch away from one media form to another.  Un-planned, this can be a bad thing.  Planned, it is a good thing.

I was reading about Conde Naste’s biggest iPad success today, with The New Yorker magazine. 75,000 paid magazine subscribers have downloaded the iPad app and 20,000 people are subscribing via the app alone. As one looks at the behavior of The New Yorker readers (the first part of understand, map and manipulate) it is clear that these readers are there to read. They don’t want to twitch away to Wikipedia to look up authors, or watch YouTube videos of punk bands inspired by the authors.  Readers of The New Yorker want to read and don’t care to be spammed away. So, here’s an iPad app for New Yorker readers:  automatically send incoming calls to voicemail.  Hee hee. Peace!



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Quick, I say “brand strategy,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind?  Okay, let’s try another.  “Brand plan.”  You say ______?  This sort of brand speak is really inside baseball to most businesses. Over the past couple of years I’ve spoken to some really smart people from many different walks of marketing life and they all know the words but, ask them to define or diagram them on paper, they can’t. 

Wikipedia “Brand Plan.”

Wikipedia the words “brand plan” and Wiki asks you “Did you mean Brand Play?”  The first option under the question is business plan.  Wikipedia “Brand Strategy” and it says “You may create the page Brand Strategy.”

Everyone agrees that brands are important…that they have value.  Most understand brands need to be managed.  What they don’t always get is that brands need to be managed to a tight brand strategy.  So they default to managing brands based upon acquisition, sales growth or retention metrics — all of which are measurable.  Thanks to the web, we can now even measure clicks and views and engagement and referrals and, and, and. And tie measures to dollar investments.  Break out the dashboard and play marketing videogames.

So if brands are important, and we all agree they are, how do we measure the efficacy of the brand strategy?  I often use the example that Coke’s brand strategy is refreshment.   Today, Wieden + Kennedy and Coke would have you believe it is happiness. Who is right and how to we find out?   

Now don’t get me wrong, a powerful brand strategy is only so if it increases sales and margins. Period.  But tying sales and revenue increase to a strategy, not a tactic, is what’s what. Peace!

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