Jeffrey Katzenberg is making a big bet with OPM (other people’s money) in a reported video startup designed for mobile devices. He’s looking for $2B and he’ll probably get it. Driving the idea are 500M people who watch 45 minutes of video on their phones daily. This I don’t doubt. Nor do I doubt that people want more HBO-like quality to watch, rather than silly time-kill dreck.  But Mr. Katzenberg’s business idea is founded a 10 minute high quality video segment. This is where the rubber doesn’t meet the road.

People who sit down (not stand up) to watch Game of Thrones want to settle in to the experience, not watch it on the line waiting for a chalupa.  Any dramatic video consummated in 10 minutes (probably including 1 minute of ads) feels to me like foreplay interruptus.  There’s a reason short stories are a fraction of book sales.

Mr. Katzenberg may be on to something though. Ten minutes snippets of video are not a bad idea.  But the idea is not chunking up HBO or Sundance Channel programming. Perhaps he should be looking at news-related, educational or comedic interludes. Hey not a bad name!.

He’s a little off-piste but ideas have to start somewhere.

Peace.

 

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Brand Bankruptcy.

When you’re a hammer most things look like a nail. I am brand strategy hammer. Today’s nail is Brand Bankruptcy.

I worked for 7 months at a company that went bankrupt. The lawyers made money, vendors got cents on the dollar, employees were sent home and the manufacturing plant shut down. Thirty years ago, my father’s secretary claimed personal bankruptcy. Her credit card bills were astronomical.  She continued working, I’m assumed with less new clothes.

Bankruptcy is a common state-supported financial practice. Ask General Motors.

Brand bankruptcy happens when there are not enough assets in the brand bank to cover a massive value hit. This is when poorly prepared brands go bye-bye. Tylenol had enough value to recover from the tampering scandal. Chipotle survived its food poisoning debacle. It may even have come out stronger. Coke’s formula change made a run on the brand bank, but it definitely emerged healthier, with more committed customers. 

Every brand, every company, is going to have a natural or unnatural disaster. Building brand value and banking it, is what smart companies do. It’s prepper stuff.

Good brand strategy maximizes bank assets. It organizes them. Organize and calculate the assets you put in the brand bank and they grow and grow.

Peace.

 

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Data Analysts For All.

In a marketing plan for a huge multiuse senior care organization I included the hiring of a half- or full-time data analyst. The essence of the brand idea being “average care is poor care.”  Reading this morning about NYC public schools and their tough road to grade and graduation improvement, it was reported that some progress was underway, albeit at great financial costs.

Well, positive results are positive results. A proper and deep dive analysis of the results may work to reorient the investment more efficiently. Improvement is what social orgs want and certainly what marketers want. We just have to be able to codify, recreate and extend the improvements. And the way to do so is through data.

Every marketing team – big or small – needs a data analyst. Sadly, for all but the largest companies it’s a line item rarely in the budget. Without a data analyst the task falls to the CFO or marketing director – two titles not well equipped to read data contributory to marketing success.   Money in, money out, yes. Nuance, no. 

I once presented a comprehensive list of marketing objectives to a multibillion dollar healthcare client – one with serious data nerds in the quality control dept.  The marketing director thought the marketing metric list was too long. “How can our brand and advertising program accomplish all that?” said he.  “By measuring,” said I.

Peace.

 

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Every once in a while I am asked to work on a tough piece of business. Cracking a tough piece of brand strategy code.  Businesses with complicated targeting, multiple value propositions, never-been-done-before product or service make ups.  This is my sweet spot.

The toughest part of brand strategy is what I call the Boil Down. Taking all that is discovered (the care-abouts and good ats) and reducing it to a more manageable level. Sometimes, before I can do that I just need to go back at my client stakeholders. One tool I developed as a waypoint in the process is The 7 Conundrums.  

Before I’m comfortable writing the brand brief I create a presentation identifying behavioral or product observations that seem contradictory. Conundrums are tension points that when discussed with stakeholders and subject matter experts can reveal important insights. And/or also may move stakeholders closer to accepting possible brand strategies.

For an online art gallery marketplace client, here was a conundrum:    

Walking into an art gallery can be intimidating but also freeing.  

I’ve always found that fertile discussions about marketing and branding tension points get me closer to cracking the toughest nuts.

Peace.

 

 

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Harmonious Brands.

The second most important and difficult task in brand building is adherence. The most important task is actually developing a brand strategy.  I’ve written about adherence before, a borrow from the medical community, because it is so, so important.  The initial adherence task for the marketing and brand team is to get senior management on board.  A marketing team who feels others in the company won’t understand brand strategy, who thinks it’s too inside baseball, is setting itself up for failure. It’s not that complicated.  (FYI, a brand strategy comprises one claim, three proof planks.)  

Once company owners and c-levels are behind the brand strategy (not the ad campaign, not the website redesign, they are different), then the heavy lifting can begin: getting all company stakeholders into the fold.  You can opertionalize this through a training class, educational material, a video, an annual CEO address…there are many ways. But commitment to sharing with all employees is key.

What results is a wonderful harmony throughout the company. There are few things more beautiful than perfect harmony. You don’t need instruments, you needed even understand the words to the song. When you hear voices in perfect pitch, tone and harmony it is mesmerizing.

Mesmerize your employees and you can mesmerize your consuming publics. 
Peace.  

 

 

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Brand Leaders Educate.

A couple of years ago I wrote a brand strategy for an accountable care organization. An ACO is a physician group, the rules for which are shaped by the Affordable Care Act.  It was an exciting project and one I felt was quite political in nature. The brand strategy captured and celebrated the best of the Affordable Care Act – turning the systems from curative (treating sick patients) to preventative (prior to sick) a la well-baby.

Disclosure: The ACA built financial incentives into the system so that docs are paid to keep us well – sharing with the insurance companies the savings accrued thanks to wellness.

The Claim for the brand strategy was “Intensive Primary Care.” By telling targets (patients, physicians and payers) the primary care physicians or general practitioners (GP), as some know them, are going to treat patients more preemptively and exhaustively, rather than turning them over to specialists when really sick, it changes the calculus of medicine.

Managing healthy people is less costly than treating sick people.

This brand claim was a first to market claim. It sold the accountable care organization category. Being first to market is a leadership position. And leaders educate, someone smart once told me.

Peace.

 

 

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Branding is Tangible.

One of the things I dislike about advertising can be summed up by the words of an ex-client many years ago. He killed an ad made by some reasonable craftsman at FCB/Leber Katz saying “It just doesn’t do it for me.” Client’s prerogative, but not helpful. I coined the term “like-ometer” after that meeting.

Judgmental responses don’t help. They aren’t constructive.

When I speak to marketers and some of their paid agents I often get the feeling they think branding is a judgmental business — where color, name, shape and package are all easements to purchase. Where arts and crafts people make a likeable product visage.

To these people, I say no. No-no-no.

In brand strategy everything is tangible. The What’s The Idea? framework is based on claim and proof. Claim is the promise. Proof is why a sane mind can believe it.  It is proof that makes branding work and it is proof that supports the tangible claim. (You can’t support a claim with another claim. Sadly, many practitioners don’t adhere.)

With claim and proof there is no blow hole advertising. No off-kilter design. No hollow, fuzzy copy. No approvals solely tied to the like-ometer.

And for brand planners who say brand managers aren’t the brand police, I feel you. They are instructors. If brand managers convey the need for proper proof of brand claim they’ve flipped their job calculus…and the likelihood of brand success.

Peace.

 

 

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I was reading about the NY Public Library yesterday and its Beaux Arts design, which led me to look up Beaux Arts (pronounced Boh-Zahr) in Wikipedia. Love Wikipedia. The Parisian Beaux Arts school was big in the late 1800s lasting until the first quarter of the 1900s in the U.S. As architecture goes this stuff blows away today’s glass and steel.  As I read I wondered why the word is so often used in brand strategy.

Brand Architecture, me thinks, borrows too much from its building architecture paternity. In building architectural classifications are a somewhat open set of guidelines and schemes and materials.  In brand planner, practitioners also have guidelines and tools. Many individualized.  

I work in master brand planning, the one that drives subsequent briefs and tactics so I like to stay away from this interpretive guideline thing. I like to be extremely explicit. Brand Strategy in my practice is one claim, three proof planks.  The marketing and comms are either on claim or they are not. It support a proof planks or it does not. Brand strategy is either open or closed. No room for interpretation. No schools. No architecture within which to operate. Is and 0s. On or off.  

This marketing environment is not limited. It does not lack for creativity. All buildings do not look the same. They are just built to last. Flourishes yes. Ephemera no.

Peace.

 

 

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A number of years ago I subscribed to an advertising magazine called Lurzer’s International Archive.  It showcased the best ads in the world every month. I often found creative people thumbing through Archive looking at pictures and ideas inspiration.

M advertising work in those days was in technology. Often with Bell Labs engineers.  When they didn’t have an answer they would call-a-friend. Sometimes at Bell Labs, other times at PARC, a Xerox research lab in Palo Alto.  Back then engineers were a collegial bunch and helped one another. I loved this science-first worldview. Ad guys and girls would never have reached out to competitive peers to help solve problems.

Now I’m a brand strategist. We are more like Bell Labs engineers than creatives. The science of strategy, for many, comes first. Thanks to social media platforms such as Stack and Facebook, strategists can post questions and have 10 answers by noon. It’s wonderful. Looking for a framework for behavior change? You’ll have editorials, white papers, snark and frivolity from around the world.

Social business design today offers an exciting openness.

It’s a human trait. So is jealousy and greed. Openness is winning me thinks. Enjoy.

Peace.

 

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Every business needs a promotion, something to jump start revenue when things are slow. My go-to promotion for the last few years has been a “Free Day of Planning.”   I offer up my services for one day, free of charge.  Try before you buy.

I had an opportunity to do some strategy work on Heineken Light during one of these free days. In ideation, I came up with a very cool “idea” for activation; it was on target, on culture and had mad finesse.

Since moving to Asheville, I’ve been thinking anew about promotions. While the free day of planning tended to target agencies, the new promo will target marketers. I’m thinking of calling the new promo  the “Climb Around,” a reference to climbing all over the product from my B2B days. A 2-dayer, the Climb Around will have me on-premise observing various business practices; understanding the 4 Ps (product, price, promotion and place), while observing organizational structure, management and culture.  

What will make the Climb Around unique will be my quietude. With only 2 days, the time will be best spent watching and listening — much as if undertaken by a cultural anthropologist. Field workers only observe — they never should they insinuate themselves into the cultural tableau. It changes the dynamic.

Using my stock pot/boil down metaphor, the output of the Climb Around will be only three observations. Three for free.

Any Beta testers out there?

Peace.

 

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