The Brand of Zion.

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So it looks like the best player in college basketball this year may well be a young man named Zion Williamson.  Want to know why I say that?  Because he is more talented than his peers and I can remember his name. And you name can’t be remember, you are lost.  If Zion’s name was Bobby, it would take some time to establish himself.  If Lebron’s name was Lewis, it would also have taken more time to develop his brand. Beyond being blessed with wonder balling talent these two gents have great names.

Now you can make a case that Michael Jordan didn’t have a Magic name. And that would be accurate.  He was another freak. But MJ was no overnight success, Not like Zion. In today’s social media world the path to greatness is enhanced by good game, a unique name, and a memorable name. Bol Bol is unique and memorable, for instance. Game? Not yet.

Go to YouTube and type the letter “Z.” Not much happens.  Now add an “I.” Bam! Number two in the results.  This is a kid who has now played in only one college basketball game.

Zion Williamson. A legend in the making. Naming is not an underrated component of branding.

Peace|

 

Religion in Brand Strategy.

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I’ve done a good deal of work in healthcare and one brand strategy challenge is working with what might be termed faith-based organizations. I’ve worked with Jews, Catholics, and Lutherans.  This morning I was reading about a brand name change for Adventists (The Seventh Day Adventist Church). Park Ridge Health is taking on the name of parent AdventHealth.

The challenge is how do you turn this important value into something meaningful for patients. The Catholic Health System of Long Island and Bon Secours Charity Health System are devout. Many Catholic health orgs. do not perform abortions or treat addiction. For some that is comforting, for others not so much. Also comforting is displaying religious iconography in the halls and on the walls. But dialing up the science isn’t a bad brand value goal either.

Were I asked to help plan the name change from Park Ridge Health to AdventHealth, I’d definitely delve into the religion to see if it might offer special endemic value to the experience. Then I’d be careful as to how I served that up – if I serve it up. Religion can be a little like hospital food. It’s nourishing, but…

Peace|   

 

Brand Strategy Tarot Cards.

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“Hope is unfortunately a terrible marketing plan” is a lovely quote from Nancy Johnson, of the North Dakota Soy Bean Growers Association.  Another terrible marketing plan is “stasis” — taking out last year’s marketing plan and adjusting the line items for inflation.  A marketing plan needs to move to stay alive. Just like sharks.

Hope springs eternal, but marketing is about control. Controlling the product or service. Controlling the price. The distribution. And the promotion. If you are not monitoring and affecting all four annually, you are living in Hopesville.

I would also add to that, if you are not tracking all four Ps (product, place, price and promotion) vis a vis a brand strategy, you are skiing in untracked snow without a destination. You are skiing yes. But you are not organized in your efforts.

If you’d like to see where your brand tracks are leading, take me up on my Brand Strategy Tarot Cards offer. 

Peace|

 

 

What Dilbert’s Creator Might Say About Branding.

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My branding practice owes a tip-of-the-hat to politics. I borrowed the word planks from politics, incorporating them into my framework. At What’s The Idea?, brand strategy comprises “one claim and three proof planks.” Organizing brand value around three proof areas focuses content makers and the consumer minds — the rule of three.

This morning I was reading a NYT article on political strategy and came upon an analysis of political memes. Cartoonist Scott Adams who developed Dilbert said something about political memes that really rang true to me as a brand planner.  The meme rhymed, he offered, and provided “brain glue plus framing and contrast.”

Whoa! Trifecta.

Rhyming always helps with memorability. Brain glue refers to the creative quotient. Do you want to remember it? Framing speaks to positioning and clarity of purpose. And contrast is all about differentiation and uniqueness. Much work today, brand and content-wise, does not differentiate.  If you hit all three of these strategy qualities, you have a good meme. Brand planners, much can be learned from this cartoonist’s advice.

Peace|

 

How long does it take to write a brand brief?

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The short answer is about 45 minutes. The long answer is maybe 100 hours.  Someone once asked Picasso how could he charge tens of thousands of dollars for a sketch that took him only 10 minutes to draw.  His response was “That sketch took me a lifetime to draw.”  I paraphrase.

I’m no Picasso. Plus any cache in the brain, save some technique and linguistic phrasing, stays in the brain.  Every brand brief is a like snow flake. Each brand brief is built from scratch; leaning heavily on customer care-abouts and brand good-ats. All that information takes time to amass. I’ve taken months to write a brand brief. I’ve taken weeks.

In some cases multivariate statistical analyses were used. And slopes were plotted. Findings clustered. Interviews by the hundreds. Others have been developed on a shoe-string. 

On most proposals I say it takes a month to write a brand strategy brief.

Now, to the next question: How long is a piece of string?

Peace|

 

 

Never Too Small To Have A Brand Strategy.

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Small companies are the least likely to talk about brand strategy.  That’s because, for the most part, they don’t have people “dedicated” to marketing. They can’t afford them. So marketing falls to the founders and owners. In such cases, marketing becomes tactical: Make the phone ring. Get leads. Generate floor traffic. Build a website so Google can find us.

In each of these scenarios, small companies often turn to outside content creators. Designers. Coders. Writers. Media companies.  But what do they tell these outside agents? They certainly don’t provide them with brand strategy — a boil down of customer care-abouts and brand good-ats. A brand strategy boil down is a specialized piece of work; work smaller companies would be smart to invest in.  When tactical work is given to outside content creators, it has the benefit of governance and focus.

Small companies can save thousands of dollars and scores of hours with a simple investment in brand strategy.

Peace|

 

 

Branding Isn’t About Fixing.

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Many business and marketing efforts today are focused on “fixing what is broken.” The strategy starts out with:  

“Today’s _________ are broken. They don’t serve the needs of their customers/clients. They’re designed to maximize profit, monopolize industries, and maintain the status quo.”

The words that follow are typically about the product category and the ways it underperforms against customer carte-abouts.  This is marketing 101, traditional blocking and tackling and it’s all about fixing things.

Well the savvy brand planner doesn’t start out as a fixer. S/he starts out looking for the light. Not just the at end of the tunnel light, but light from the past and in the present. People like positive.  Brands are about positive.

What do you think would have happened if Facebook launched the world’s most famous social media brand with “don’t likes” rather than “likes?” Xactly.

Positive isn’t the obverse of negative. It’s just positive.  Be positive when brand planning and you will get to your idea in half the time.

Peace|

 

One Giant Step Marketers.

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You don’t have to be a futurist, democrat or republican to believe that paper and coin currency will eventually be replaced by digital currency. In South Korea the mobile phone is all many people carry to pay for their daily purchases. And don’t most millennials today pay via card — even for the smallest of purchases?

Fast forward 15 years and all currency transactions are likely to be cryptocurrent (sic). And where there are crypto purchases there is data collection. And where there is data collection there are likely to be marketing people. Hungry, rich, sellers of goods and services looking to collapse the distance between customer and product. Marketers looking to dial up efficiency.

Long gone will be the old saying “I know only half my advertising is working, problem is, I don’t know which half.”  Digital currency and purchase data are likely to reduce waste to single digits. I know Google is listening. They are already a sonic reducer in ad inefficiency.

Marketers who prepare for the future, will be the “one giant step” marketers. Do not get caught unprepared.

Peace|

 

Feeding the Ungainly Advertising Beast.

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I did some advertising for AT&T Network Systems a number of years ago, introducing Systemax CAT 5 computer cable into Asia.  We converted some U.S. ads for local use having IDG Computerworld in-country offices translate them into local languages.  Having worked in B2B advertising for many years, with little success other than an occasional readership award and bingo card report I was thoroughly surprised when people across Thailand picked up their phones and ordered beaucoup feet of cable.  

It was like Sears Roebuck catalog time. The markets were so young.  Local companies needed cable, didn’t know where to get it, and we provided a location and phone number.

In the United States, the advertising market is so mature, so filled with messaging, it’s hard to find the pent-up demand. X, the LA punk band, sings “Now there are seven kinds of Coke, 500 kinds of cigarettes. This freedom of choice in the USA drives everybody crazy.”

Competition in the modern world is rampant. Advertising isn’t just about access anymore, it’s about creating awareness, then interest, trial, and preference. And as technology and service become more in vogue it’s about education. No wonder it’s hard to do advertising well.

That’s why brand strategy is so critical. It feeds and focuses the advertising beast.

Peace|

 

Mazda Ad.

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I’ve seen a Mazda TV commercial a few times over the last week or so and it offers up some nice imagery. A boy doing ballet in a locker room. A girl punching the weight bag. Footage of a car leaving traffic for a circuitous above-the-fray highway — stuff like that. The attendant voiceover poetically winsome.

At the end of the spot the voiceover echoes “Spread your wings,” a nice accompaniment for a deconstruction of the Mazda logo made to look like wings.  But for the most part there was no real tie to the car – certainly not rational tie. Film making.

The tagline to sum up all the ad: “Feel Alive.”  Talk about setting the bar low.  As opposed to feeling dead???  

I know car ads are tough. But whats the insight here? Old people are bored? Buying a car is as boring as watching TV?  Roy Elvove, a great adman friend of mine taught me to watch commercials and back out the strategies.  Now I watch them and try to back out the insights. Kind of at a loss with this ad.

Peace|