Marketing

    Gap and Old Navy Divorce.

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    Gap and Old Navy have decided to spilt up.  Gap, with sales down 5%, will keep a number of portfolio brands and Old Navy, more of a value brand whose sales are up, will land on its own.  Explanations for the split suggest Old Navy and Gap customers don’t really overlap and store operations are a bit different – so it’s a good split.

    From a branding standpoint, I like the idea. Retail brands staying with the Gap include Banana Republic, Athleta, Intermix and Hill City.  Old Navy is reported to be “a little more fast-fashion, more quick, lower price point,” according to Greg Portell of consulting firm A.T Kearney. That makes Old Navy a good $9B standalone company.

    When looking at the care-abouts and good-ats of each brand (Gap and Old Navy), you are likely to uncover competitive advantages, unflattering to the other. And while I’m religious about building positive brand value, playing off of a competitor’s negatives is fair. When both brands are under one roof, management does not allow insinuations or pot shots, which can inhibit brandcraft.

    So the gloves will come off. Gap continues to have work to do. Old Navy better double down. Let’s go!

    Peace.

     

    And.

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    The word “and” has killed more brand strategies than an online community college marketing course. Here’s a company mission that foretells brand strategy problems:

    Our priority is school safety and accountability; our goal is to be the standard for integrated school safety and operations systems.

    First sentence: How can something be your priority when you’ve added something else?  That’s two priorities. Second sentence: They added the word “integrated” to the mix, whatever that means. And for good measure, bringing up the rear is the tag along “operations systems.”  I’ve been to this movie before and it’s not pretty. Not from a branding standpoint.

    I know this company. They do good work in the school security space. Their most in-demand product is smart cards. Cards with chips in them that have multiple applications but student safety is the key care-about.

    If you parse the Is-Does from the statement, they are a security company that offers accountability. Accountability for what? Safety? And they integrate, but with what? And of course, operations systems are important, but what are they?  Is this a hardware, software or services company?

    The positioning reality is — this is an educational smart card company. The other stuff are bells, whistles and features. Oy.

    And. It will get you every time.

    Peace.

     

     

     

     

    Things we remember.

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    We remember beauty.

    We remember new.

     We remember rich.

     We remember melody.

    We remember funny.  

    We remember nature.

     We remember poetry.

     We remember pain.

     We remember educators.

     We remember warmth.

     We remember charity.

     We remember happy.

     We remember love.

     We remember triumph.

     These are the things we remember.

     These are the things consumers remember.

     (I post this brand planner’s prayer once a year…as a reminder.)

    Mistrust of Google? Huh?

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    The level of hypocrisy at the House Judiciary Committee’s grilling of Google CEO Sundar Pichai yesterday was amazing. Committee members and staffers probably use Google in their day jobs, 100 times a day.  These men and women, who accept funds from any and every influencer group in the country (both sides of the aisle) have the audacity to ask Mr. Pichai, about selling a little date to fund a free tool the size and scope of Google is preposterous!

    Of course Google will push the boundaries. It would be unAmerican not to. But to bandy about the word of “distrust” and “mistrust” for a digital utility that is trusted more than any other on the planet is ludicrous.  America loves it’s Google. Billions of times a day.

    When embarrassed by the probes concerning public trust does Google publicly threaten to shut down its engine?  No. It listens, answers logically, unemotionally and learns.

    Now, where should I send my donation to your campaign Mr. McCarthy, house majority leader?  As if.

    Peace.

     

    Why Brand Strategy?

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    The brandstrategy framework used at What’s The Idea? is not an impenetrable membrane.  That is to say, it is not a wall that keeps out creative ideas and marketing executions. Sure, there may be some brand policing by brand manager, but brand strategy is not meant to create “the land of no.”  Think of brand strategy as a springboard for creative ideas. A place to start.

    The What’s The Idea? framework comprises one claim and three proof planks.  A claim is a statement of value to a consumer; something they want. The stronger the want or need, the better the claim. As for the proof planks, they are exactly that. Proofs of claim. Proof planks are the foundation of brand stories. They create muscle memory for consumers as to why the claim is true.

    The claim and proof array open the doors to creative thought, it doesn’t  close it. This is not untamed creative thought or “creative for creative’s sake,” but ideation based upon an organized selling strategy that builds brands.

    Brand strategy organizes the creative mind.

    Peace.       

     

     

    Learning Through Failure.

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    The first step in brand strategy is getting the product Is-Does right.  They ability to articulate what a product Is and what the product Does sounds easy, but it’s not.  I developed this simple concept while working at a tech startup where the product was a software as a service (SaaS) called Zude. Because the management team couldn’t get the Is-Does right, we failed.  

    The term of art “elevator speech” is the result of an improper Is-Does.  If it takes an elevator ride to explain your product, you are little toasty.  iPhone was a phone, albeit a very functional phone.  If it was called a Newton (hee hee) it may not have survived.

    Zude’s Is-Does was “the fastest easiest way to build (and manage) a website. The Is was “website builder” the Does was “fastest easiest.”  But the management team could not completely agree. The technologist, who understood code and features but not consumers, kept building until Zude was part video platform, part social network, part advertising company…you get the picture.

    Get the Is-Does right and there may be an Is to build a brand around.

    Peace.

     

    How To Build a Bad Ad.

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    As a kid who grew up in the ad business, I’ve seen a lot of ad craft. Today, as a brand planner it’s hard for me to look at advertising without a jaundiced eye. When I see ink and words and picture, but not strategy, I cringe. Worse when I see an ad with 7 strategies.

    Who is approving this stuff?

    The best advice I learned in the ad business was “focus.” There is a research convention in advertising called “Day After Recall Testing,” in which a magazine is sent to a consumer paid to read it. A day later they are called and questioned about the ad content.  Most common recall is tied to the pictures; rarely the words. If the words relate to the pictures all the better. It’s a great litmus for effective advertising.

    Trinet is a smart benefits and HR outsourcing company. Sorry to pick on them again. But I read and expensive ad they published today, delivering what they feel it their brand claim: Incredible.  That’s an ad claim, not a brand claim, by the way.  The ad suffers from the “fruit cocktail effect” in that it is pushing 6 corporate good-ats: Expertise (oy), Access, Benefits, Guidance, Technology and Freedom.  All under the “Incredible” umbrella. James Joyce would be proud.

    If this ad campaign is not done in-house I’d be surprised. If done by an agency, I’d be ashamed.

    Smart marketing starts with a smart, actionable, endemic brand strategy.

    Peace|

     

    The Greatest Brand Story Ever Told.

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    A brand strategy brief, at its very best, is a story. A story with beginning, middle and end. Like good entertainment it contains a problem, solution(s), tension and resolution. Most importantly, it needs to appeal to the reader/viewer (aka the consumer) in order to take hold.

    I write brand briefs for a living.  In each and every one, the story has to flow.  If the flow is interrupted by some structural anomaly, the brief will confuse.  The money part of the brief is the finish — the claim and proof array. (Once claim, three proof planks.)  It is the organizing principle for product, experience and messaging.  If the claim does not fit the rest of the story like a glove, something is wrong with the story.

    The brand brief story is written for the brand marketing lead. Once the claim and proof array are approved, and immutable, the brief is just a tool for brand managers and agents. Then the storytelling or as Co:Collective calls it Story Doing, is in the hands of the marketing team and creative people. And I am on the my next assignment.

    In branding the brand brief is the greatest story ever told.

    Peace!

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    Twitchpoint Planning Redux

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    A number of years ago, I came up with a comms planning notion called Twitchpoint Planning, the basis of which was that people use multiple devices when researching and gathering information; information that will ultimately result in a sale. Some called this customer journey exercise. I honed it toward more of a digital exercise. A twitch, I reasoned, was a move from one device to another. (The Internet of Things is going to have an impact here, fo’ shizzle.)

    The other day I was looking at What’s The Idea? blog metrics on Google Analytics and lo and behold did I see a Beta test for what Google calls “Cross Device” measures.  Sub-topics include: Device Overlap, Device Paths, Channels and Acquisition Device. Talk about proof of concept!  When I began thinking about Twitchpoint Planning I shared the preso with Joshua Spanier, senior marketing director Google Media. He registered a few degrees above lukewarm.

    Cause and effect? Who knew. Psychic unity? Probably. Either way, bravo Google. You will make millions. And the planners will make thousand. For the marketers…the sky’s the limit.

     Peace|

     

    Decency and Annoyance.

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    I wanted to flame a senior care organization my mom spent time in and was looking for a Yelp or Google kind of comments page in the senior care space. I found something called Senior Advisor, who baited me with a couple of comments then, in order to get to the 4th review, requested my name and tel. number. Almost before I finished typing the form, the phone rang. I kid you not. It was someone from Senior Advisor. I asked if they were that fast and she said, yes. “Some of our seniors need help right away.” Nice response.

    This in not artificial intelligence (AI), but it’s pretty darn impressive. And intrusive. And scary.

    I can’t get my email to send instantaneously and this lady was dogging me about my mom is nanoseconds.  Privacy isn’t just about spam and selling lists, it’s about decency. I loathe robo calls from unsolicited vendors.  I don’t much like door-knockers. Email spam I can live with, so long as there is a way to unsub.

    Smart brands and smart marketers understand annoyance. No brand wants to be annoying. So why is there so much of it?

    Senior Advisor bordered on annoyance. But for now I will give them a unsettled pass. Now, if they could have told me how to ding my mom’s senior care place…

    Peace|