Brand Planning

    Tangibility.

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    Here’s a question you might hear from a financial company in a nightly news TV ad: “What are you saving for?”  More likely than not the copy will answer the question with something about hopes and dreams. 

    Hopes and dreams. Hopes and dreams.

    Advertising is filled with copy about intangibles. The most common words used in advertising today are words about intangibles. Touchy feelie brand planners care about emotions. They hunt them down. Happiness. Satisfaction. Healing.  And therein lies the problem with many brand briefs. Briefs a card-carrying existentialist would pooh-pooh.

    The best brand plans are built upon tangibles. Proofs.

    When I tell a client they are getting brand strategy comprising “One claim and three proof planks,” they know what they’re buying. When some brand planners promise clients, a “voice,” “a personality” or “brand truth,” clients often scratch their heads.

    Be tangible.

    Peace

     

    IBM’s Unclean Idea.

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    Ogilvy is a great advertising agency.  Always has been.  It loves big ideas, big productions and big brands.  Lately, it has made a name for itself on services companies.  Other than American Express and IBM, I’m not quite sure what accounts they have – which is my bad, but partly theirs. 

    IBM’s “Solutions for a smarter planet” was a big idea. Already well entrenched with big businesses on the hardware, software and services (consulting) side, IBM decided that rather than grow by increments, it would focus on large-scale advances targeting countries and industries.  That’s some enchilada stuff, there.  “Solutions for a smarter planet” helped IBM take on the planets ills (traffic, energy, food) and showcase some future technology.  By going big, it covered small (corporate) and positioned IBM as vendor of choice for massive overhauls.

    Then the economy tanked. And companies started having a difficult time making payroll. And saving the planet lost a bit of luster.  Rather than returning to an advertising idea that supported product and services sales, IBM tasked Ogilvy with keeping revenue up by evolving the idea — the planet will be back at some point (knock wood).  Enter “I’m an IBMer, I’m an IBMer.” For the purposes of continuity (agencies are big on that) the campaign is tagged with “solutions” but focuses on smart employees.  Mistake.  It milks a campaign idea that is no longer the business idea.  Like the Microsoft Bing work that straddled two ideas “information overload” and “decision engine,” IBM is pushing an unclean idea.

    Come on Ogilvy, bring on the new work – the new idea. Peace!

    Brand Planners and Movie Directors.

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    It is movie awards time again. The Golden Globes just finished up and got me thinking about roles and responsibilities. How can a director win, yet the movie or an actor not?  If it is so well directed, why isn’t the movie a winner?

    Since metaphors are a part of the brand planner’s tool kit, I asked myself to project the brand planner’s role in marketing, using the movie business as an analog.  Actors are the tacticians I guess, playing roles consumers experience. Set designers and costume people are production people and grips. The producers of the film are the marketing executives. Script writers deliver copy. That must leave brand planners as directors.

    You never see the director in the work, you just see the work. A movie director is in charge of flow, performance quality, story and emotional resonance. And certainly more. It may be the most important job in movie making, yet also the least appreciated. Me thinks that’s the case with brand planning. Behind the camera, behind the scenes. Movie first, product first. Works for me. Any better thoughts?

    Peace.

     

    Endemia. Root word endemic.

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    I’m a NY Jets fan and wonder how the franchise can be so mediocre for so long. We often look at the quarterbacks, coaches, general managers for our answers. But rarely does the average fan look at ownership. The last couple of owners of the Jets, Leon Hess and Woody Johnson, are magnates who built empires upon gasoline and Band-Aids.

    It is a rare business indeed where someone from outside the industry can come in and have massive success; Robert Kraft being an exception in the football world. But Mr. Kraft sans Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, would look, I suppose, quite average as an owner.  

    Brand planners understand how important it is to deeply understand a business — even if only engaged with a brand for a month or two. It is a work imperative to speak the language of the business. It’s critical to understand fiscal drivers, consumer motivations, and operational strengths and foibles. Brand planners cannot set master brand strategy as an outsider.

    Jets ownership, as smart as they may be, are just not football people. They are business people. A restaurant owner can’t be the chief of police. A history teacher cannot be a construction engineer. A cable TV CEO can’t build a basketball team. My drift.

    Peace.

     

    Charles de Gaulle Airport – the brand.

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    Just reading in The New York Times today that Charles de Gaulle Airport, Europe’s second most traveled, is number 34 out of 83 in flyer satisfaction. The culprit: “sprawling buildings with bewildering layouts, interminable waits, forgettable shops and restaurants, and often indifferent personnel.” 

    Sounds like something that would take hundreds of millions of Euros to fix. But maybe not.  All big airports are sprawling — they have to be.  Think about it.  Planes can’t take off and land at a good pace without sprawl.  So what needs to change is the organization of that sprawl.  Bewildering is fixable.  Good communication, good signage, ergonomic re-laying out of buildings, better transportation design and a little compromise among the airlines are fixable. Some airlines may have to consolidate space or even switch buildings. The parties need to come together. The interminable waits may require some technology upgrades, even more compromise (unions/competitors/gov’t) and once again better communication.

    And, as for forgettable shops and restaurants and indifferent personnel?  If the other fixes are made, these will fall into place.  Remember we are talking about one of the busiest locations in the world…with lots of wallets and lots of income in those wallets. And oh, it’s France. Paris, France.

    Before I picked up a shovel or an architect’s rendering, I’d create a brand strategy for Charles de Gaulle: an idea and some organizing principles. Sell that to all parties, then start to think about how to spend the money. Not easy…hard.  But very doable. Peace!      

    Yahoo’s Going to Get its Exclamation Back!

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    I would not be surprised to see Yahoo sold to Jerry Yang and the Texas Pacific Group (TPG) fairly quickly. Yahoo, with lots of schmutz on its shoes, is still one of the top 5 tech brands in the world. And what is a brand but a vessel into which we poor meaning. Organized meaning. Yahoo’s fix requires an Is-Does. What a brand Is and what a brand Does.

    Is it a portal?
    Is it search engine?
    Is it an advertising company?
    Is it a web content publisher?
    Is it a technology company?

    Does it provide news?
    Does it provide entertainment?
    Does it provide organization?
    Does it provide results?

    Yahoo needs to retrench and make tough decisions — and that will only happen if the property is sold. A public company with lots of shareholders, Yahoo will get its Yahoo! back with new leadership, some old leadership, tough love, and a brand plan. And when I say brand plan I don’t mean a new logo, new color palette and an replacement agency for Goodby, Silverstein and Partners.  I mean an organizing principle for marketing.  A plan that inform every decision made by the company — from hiring to firing to what new mobile services to launch.

    When dimensionalized through obs and strats, a brand plan creates marketing clarity. TPG doesn’t speak like this, but they know how to make it happen. It’s about time. Peace. 

    “Brand” is No Substitute for “Idea.”

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    I was just reading an article about Grimaldi’s pizza in Brooklyn (“This is my piz-ah-reeah,” Danny Aiello) and one of the key difference-makers for the stores is their coal-fired ovens.  Sure the ingredients are good, but there is something to be said for 700 degrees of coal-fired, brick oven pizza. An idea.

    Papa John’s Pizza, a national chain, also has a brand idea: “Better ingredients.” And a delivery mechanism for the claim: Papa John himself.  Better ingredients is a great place to start — if your ingredients are better. I suspect if the ingredients were better, we’d probably know why. But we don’t. This where brand planning falls down: all claim no proof.  I saw a Papa John’s ad watching NFL football this weekend that showed ingredients that looked like they were shot through cellophane. The commercial was likely shot using a video or low-def video camera.  

    Marketers and agencies who use the word “brand” all the time and who don’t fill their conversations with real “claim” and “proof” words are not only a nuisance, they’re a blight.  To wit, Papa John in meetings should never be talking about the brand, but about better ingredients. At the end of the day as he heads to his car he should be saying to himself “What did I do today to make our ingredients better?”  This isn’t meant to be a slam on Mr. John, he actually has a brand idea. (Many marketers just have campaigns.)  He just needs to live it. Peace!

    Brand Glossary

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    I started my first big boy job at a top advertising agency in NYC, McCann-Erickson. Working on AT&T. While most of the team was handling TV work and producing print ads for The Wall Street Journal, Fortune and Time Magazine, I was hired to do the technical products: data lines, network management and software defined networks. I was the B2B guy, which suited me. It’s from whence I came. But AT&T and McCann were the real deal and I was scrambling.

    At my first meeting in Bridgewater, NJ, I became inundated with acronyms and telecom terms I’d never heard before.  It was like moving to the Ukraine.  My head spun.  I had to quickly invent a game plan in the pre-internet era.  Laptops were few and far between. First step was to create an acronym glossary. One based upon AT&T jargon. When complete the glossary was probably 20 pages long filled with paragraphs of arcane descriptions. I brought that baby with me everywhere. As my team grew, it became a shared resource.

    When the Bell Labs and AT&T marketing people saw me with my glossary they giggled but appreciated that I cared. I asked lots of questions; they never held back.

    I write a lot about learning the language of the target. In account or project management, learning the language of the client is the first step. Only then can you translate that into the consumer dialect.

    Peace.

     

    Showing Up Isn’t Enough!

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    Bob Gilbreath, chief strategy officer at Possible Worldwide, wrote a book a year ago called Marketing With Meaning. It’s a counterpoint to Woody Allen’s quote about “90% of life is just showing up.”  Bob suggests embedding your message (and offer) with something of value.  Not mere boast and claim — something meaningful and fulfilling. The book is a must read.

    I created a brand plan for a health system a number of years ago designed to move the dial on about 9 attributes that make for a successful hospital experience; things like: “best doctors,” “leading edge treatments,” “improved patient outcomes.”  If you can answer yes to these hospital qualities, it is likely you will want your procedure done there.

    When I see work in this category today, sometimes I wonder if marketers are trying to be meaningful at all.  One NYC hospital spending a lot of money is doing it the Woody Allen way, just showing up. Doing “we’re here” ads. One word headlines and pretty pictures.  And the system that once had the nine meaningful measures?  It must have listened to its ad agency and now only measures “first mentions.”  That’s a research term for a telephone poll indicating what consumers answer when asked, “Name a hospital or hospital system in your region.” That’s measuring the media plan and the budget, not the communication of the work.

    The best politicians are those who have a vision, are true to it, and allow the populace to experience that vision.  Process that vision. The worst are those who read opinion polls and change direction at will.  Similarly, the best brands have a plan that creates meaningful differentiation and organized claim and proof to consumers.  And they stick to it. Peace!

    Brand Strategy…Say What?

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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!