Brand planning is very, very hard. I was editing one of my posts yesterday where I likened prioritizing business objectives to deciding which child to save on a sinking ship. Insensitive? Yes. Hard? Yeser. A brand planner’s most difficult job is finding that single strategic promise (and the organizing principle supporting that promise) that can burn its way into the heads and hearts of consumers and employees. To do so, we need to amass, organize and delete. In that order.
There’s a cover story in the NYT today about how medical schools are starting to train students to have better people skills. Well, brand planners are pretty good at people skills, that’s how we get to meaningful consumer insights, but sometimes we are dolts.
At Paul Robeson High School in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, working on a non-profit assignment for Bailey’s Café a community center with amazing support, goals and Karma, I was assisting on a program called Living Urban Green (LUG). Kids and adults were to be made aware of recycling and other typically green initiatives in a community where this type of thing is often not a priority. An important part of the project was external fundraising. In addition to the traditional green objectives, the organizers wanted to expand the definition of LUG to include the important concepts of “respect for woman,” “noise pollution (loud music and cursing), and “appropriate dress.”
My planning issue, which I shared with the team that included a good number of high schoolers, was that redefinition of Green to include these new concepts was confusing and a bridge too far. The group had enough difficulty getting recycling cans donated to the school and finding a way to encourage kids to use them. Where I was insensitive was in assuming that this type of heady brand discussion was okay for the kids to hear; kids who worshipped the adult members of the team, with whom I was sharing a dissenting opinion. Some of the kids were wondering “Who is this dude, coming into my school…?” It was a fail on my part. The observer forgot to observe. This business is about the ideas, the paper and the people. Listen up. Peace!