Monthly Archives: April 2019

Incrementalism or Absolutism?


There’s a lot of absolutism going on in politics today. Absolutism is very binary: on or off. Marketing has grown to be more absolute: sale or no sale.  But branding is best looked at as an incremental practice. That doesn’t mean you can’t sell a product to a person upon first impression, not at all.  But the process of building or engineering preference takes time. And if you are able manage all the steps to a sale “awareness, interest, desire and purchase” in a single web or retail session, you need to keep the foot on the pedal to strengthen that relationship.  Because someone who can go from unaware-to-brand love in minutes, is apt to do so again – at your expense.

So look at branding as a long term effort. Measure sales along side positive attitude changes, once or twice a year, and do it for a minimum of 10 years. It takes a while to seed and germinate your claim and proof array. 

That said, patience is not a virtue many marketers possess. That’s the reality. Yet it is a virtue brand manager must. Engineer your preference and it will last and last.



Accenture + Droga 5 = Band Aids and Champagne.


So David Droga has decided to sell Droga 5 to Accenture, a deal which should be completed by the end of May. Don’t count on it.  You think Brexit was hard, try getting creative people in a room with business nerds. And I understand Accenture Interactive will be the home not Accenture proper.  (Again, don’t count on that either.)

I actually think this exercise will be cathartic for both sides of the purchase. There will be agita. Some feathers will fly. But the reality is, the coming together of business and creativity is the exact aspiration of marketing clients. They are business nerds who aspire to be creative, but heretofore haven’t been able to pull it off. So they farm it out.

The reason businesses are using consulting companies more and more in marketing today, the reason advertising holding companies find the big consultants to be competitors, is because engagement, data and AI are all measurable.  And when you can bang some inefficiency out of the equation (poor or misdirected creativity) you do it.  Or you lose.

Droga 5 will learn about the dark side. Accenture and Accenture Interactive will learn about the light side. And learning in general will cascade across the marketing business. Break out the Band Aids. Break out the champagne.




Coca-Cola Brand Strategy: The Missing Piece.


I write a lot about Coca-Cola’s brand strategy which I see as “refreshment.” A brilliant brand strategy. I worked at McCann-Erickson in the early 90s when we were agency of record for Coke and the work was the best in the business. It hurt when the account left McCann and went to Creative Artists and later ended up at Wieden+Kennedy where “happiness” became the de facto brand strategy.  Nice advertising; not such a nice brand strategy.

I just read recently this is the current Coca-Cola brand strategy:

Coca-Cola is a thirst-quenching cola with a refreshing taste that brings joy to everyone.   

The What’s The Idea? brand strategy framework is “One claim and three proof planks.” If I parse the strategy above I see multiple claims: thirst-quenching, refreshing and joy.  It’s hard to juggle three claims.

A claim supported by three proof planks is different than a three-pronged claim. The difference being a proof plank supports the claim. They are indelibly linked. Not bolt-ons. Proof is what consumers are able to play back to you when you ask them “Why?”. So in the case of Coke, “Why is Coke refreshing?, joy or happiness do not answer the question.

When refreshment is the sole claim, “Thirst-quenching” certainly supports it and is a good plank. And Coke’s unique “taste” also proves the claim — another good brand plank.  But the third one is tougher. I’m going to give that some thought over the next couple of weeks. 

Stay tuned.



Engineering Preference Part 2.


Preference is a branding word you’ll come across in many books, briefs and meetings. It can’t be taught – not really. It must be experienced. Interest in a brand can be piqued through teaching and learning, but preference is a result of purchase, use and reuse.

The role of the brand strategist in creating preference is an engineer’s role. Engineers are all about science. Repeatability. They are builders and designers. Certainly, creativity is involved in engineering but at its most basic level there is structure. A solid foundation upon which to build a thing or output. Not a lot of spaghetti slinging in the engineering department when it’s time to build.

Brand strategists also operate at the foundational level. Creating preference with logic, science (proof), and synapse firing.  And we do it with an organizing principle that limits and hones strategic governance. In my case it’s with one claim, three proof planks.

One could argue that Miller Lite used two claims in its launch: “Tastes Great, Less Filling.” I’d say the claim is less filling/lower calories. As for three proof planks?  They are the reasons to believe, arrayed in a way that can be processed by the human mind – the law of three.

If you are a brand strategist you are also an engineer. Forget not.