Brand Planner’s Prayer


Things we remember.

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.

(I post this brand planners prayer once a year in January as a reminder.)

Offense Defense.


This is going to be a short post. 

Strategy is offense.

Using dashboard metrics to power your marketing is defense.




Brand Strategy Tarot Cards Offer.


When a younger man I did a good deal of volunteer archaeology. Enough to want to spell the word with an archaic “a.”  Sitting in the dirt outside the current wall of Fort Michilimackinac, it dawned on me that archaeology was a neat way to experience a town. Sifting through decades of their relics made one truly think about the people and times. A much different approach than reading history in a library. A more existential approach.

So it’s not a great leap that I look to relics and artifacts to help me understand brands in my current job. To that end, I’ve come up with a little gadget play I call Brand Strategy Tarot Cards. It’s a work in progress but one whose time has come.

As with much of my brand strategy discovery, it will start out with a plan then evolve it as the conversation does. As it now stands Brand Strategy Tarot Cards asks a marketing director or owner to bring 7 pieces of marketing content (artifacts) for evaluation. Pieces that tend to be seen by customer and prospects the most. Pieces of content that tell the brand story. These pieces I interpret, much like a tarot card reader, for message and implication.   

To keep the mystery high, I will not today share my list of content pieces but I will offer readers (on a limited basis) a free reading of their so-called cards, through the end of the month of January 2021.

Please write Help me bring this idea to life.






Persuasion Trumps Preference.


Last week I wrote about the three levels of brand strategy: Promise, Proof and Persuasion. Promise is easy, everybody understands a consumer promise. Proof is also quite understandable — it refers to any evidence that the promise is true. Tangible reasons to believe. Lastly, there is Persuasion. Persuasion by some reasoning could double as proof because it takes proof to persuade people, but does all proof persuade? Persuasion of a brand’s value is a good thing, however getting a consumer to buy may be quite another.

Not to introduce another P into the rubric, but there is a thing called preference. Many qualitative research studies gauge consumer preference. The thinking being that if one prefers a product, they will buy that product. And it is directionally so. But the real indicator of marketing and brand strength is purchase. Sales. Cha ching. (That’s the sound of a cash register opening for you young ‘uns.) Persuasion trumps preference. It brings a consumers closer to a sale. Persuasion is the goal of the marketer. 

My rigor of brand planning identifies the promise and the proofs, typically arrayed into 3 proof planks. My newly revised rigor will now highlight persuasions as well. Persuasions that take a consumer beyond preference to a committed purchase. But these persuasions also act as something else. A launching pad for creative teams. Persuasions can and should be the domain of creative people. They invigorate consumers. Remember the classic crazy glue ad with worker whose helmet is stuck to the wooden beam, suspending him above the ground? Persuasion.



Brand Love Part 2.


Yesterday I wrote about brand love…using the love of other people as metaphor in effective brand planning. But human beings love many things other than people. We love teams, institutions, organizations and, certainly, pets. I love The New York Times – which may be a combination of all of the above.

So when attempting to create love between a consumer and a brand, how might we use these other types of love to assist in planning?  In many cases, these other things we love don’t love us back. It’s unrequited love. The NY Mets don’t love me back. When my cat brushes up against my legs, he wants vittles.  Not so sure he loves me.

What must we do then to create consumer love of and for our products when the relationship is half duplex (one way)?

Well, we must remain familiar. Availability is a key to familiarity. We must remain consistent. Ergo, dependable. We must be helpful and positive. And it may seem obvious, but we must be likeable. Lastly, we need to provide a functional result. That is, the product’s role must physically or psychologically provide an effect.

This is how you enable love. These are qualities brands need to promote to build tight bonds with customers.




Brand Love.


I was thinking about love yesterday.  What an interesting topic. Love, as in , between two partners. Love that leads to marriage or life-long companionship. How does it begin? How does it end? How does it sustain?  Understanding how love works is an interesting analog for brand planning. Because when all is said and done – and is love ever done? – that’s what brand planning is all about. Creating a di-directional relationship between a product/service and a person.  If you love a brand, you are likely to purchase it.

So job one is plotting how love comes about. Words like attraction, interest, familiarity and desire come to mind.  But we know many people who are married or partnered up who say “When I first met Davie, I didn’t really like him.” So I guess first impressions aren’t always indicative of love. Conversely there are many “love at first sight” stories that start out well but don’t last. College anyone?

Looks or physical attractiveness isn’t what love is about. It may be a contributor initially, but it’s not foundational. And that’s what brand planners must concern themselves with. How to build a consistent visage and behavior pattern that allow love to occur and flourish.

I’m going to be looking into this notion over the next few months.

Stay tuned and please feel free to weigh in.  If my blog messaging app (Disqus) does not work please write



The 3 Ps…Levels of Brand Strategy.


First and foremost in brand strategy is the Promise.  I have also called it the claim.  I prefer claim because you can willfully break a promise, whereas a claim is a claim  not made to be broken. But let’s use Promise as it’s a nice branding word, both warm and fuzzy. A promise is bound by an objective. The right promise in branding is tied to a business winning value – and that value is either a brand good-at or customer care-about. Ideally, both. Coca-Cola’s brand promise is refreshment. Something the brand is good at and customers care about.

Proof, the second P, is something I write and talk about all the time. It is the evidence of the claim. Proof that a restaurant is good is a Michelin Star or a James Beard Award for the chef. Proof is what consumers tell other consumers to get them to believe recommendations. Proof organized into three planks is how you create memorable brand values and memorable brands.

And lastly, there is Persuasion. Persuasive delivery of the promise and proof is an accelerator to brand building. Often, this takes the shape of creative. Brilliant brand-building creative delivers the promise, with proof, in a emotional and rational envelope that sticks to the ribs and brain. Persuasion leads to action. There can be persuasive creative that doesn’t deliver promise or proof yet that is just advertising art. Good for the agency, bad for the business.  

Use all 3 Ps in your brand strategy and it will be hard to fail. This, of course, providing you have a good product. Someone once said the fastest way to kill a bad product is with good advertising. The fastest way to make good advertising is with the 3 Ps.

Peace. Or is that Ps.



Education or Decoration?


I’m a firm believer that the best marketing is based on education. This goes for branding. Give people information that stimulates and is new to them and they will retain it. Of course, that information must be about brand value, brand function, brand discernment and personal utility. Not necessarily all at the same time. Hee hee. As a smart branding mentor once said, make deposits in the brand bank.

I am not a firm believer that the best marketing is based on decorating. Decorating attempts to gather attention through beauty or other creative means and build off that attention with an often hidden and or/shoehorned sales message about the product. Attention is important, don’t get me wrong. If you are not being scene and referred, you are not likely to be considered and purchased. But you don’t want to be all hair gel and no hair.

The best approach to marketing is not to decorate for attention, then sell as an afterthought. The best approach is to establish a brand strategy, which you only need to do this once, then use your marketing budget to educate your way to preference.  Sadly, I’d estimate 80% of marketing and advertising budgets are spent on decorating.

We need to flip that equation.




Proof. And Its Successor.


Readers and clients know my brand framework revolves around “one claim and three proof planks.” To readers passing in the night and the those steeped in brand-speak and the many theories of brand planning, claim and proof may just be new flavors of the same old.  But to those who have actually been through the What’s The Idea? planning rigor, the notion of mining proofs is unique brandcraft. When president Trump says there’s election fraud, that’s a claim. When he actually trots out proof of fraud we (will) take notice.  When a bank says it offers the best customer service, that’s a claim. When they take 15 minutes to pull up your computer records that’s the opposite of proof.

But when talking about brand planning and brand strategy, claim and proof aren’t always the catalysts that cause people to buy. It’s inside baseball. It’s fill-in-the-blank stuff. Generic inputs. Only when they see actual proofs from their own company does it make sense. Does it become salient.

I’ve landed on a new rubric for selling brand strategy that is aligned with proofs but uses a notion which is much more easily understood. It revolves around a word more obvious in its ties to selling: Persuasion. Rather than call the selling keystones of brand strategy proofs, I will begin calling them persuasions. Proof out of context is generic science. Persuasion, as a word, stands on its own.

Stay tuned for more discussions of the framework around persuasions. It’s going to be fun!




Marketing Background, Need Not Apply.


I don’t come from a traditional marketing background, not that there’s anything wrong with that.  Some very important learning took place for me while at McCann-Erickson back in the 90s.  A number of account supervisors from around the country were treated to a few days in Miami at a fine hotel where we were trained in marketing. A text book was provided, teams and competitions established, and we were introduced to a number of MBA-like concepts the likes of which typical ad people weren’t privy.  It helped us understand that product marketing and product management people weren’t put on this earth to approve ads. They had other jobs. Price elasticity anyone?

But I digress. I don’t come from a marketing background, which for some is a generic business title. To some it means you make marketing materials. To others it means you get in the way of the sales people. It can mean you manage the promotion budget.  But it is often a generic work title.  That’s not me. When brand planning, when developing brand strategy (one claim, three proof planks), I am someone who works in your line of business. You, being the client.  I’m in specialty pharmaceuticals, children’s character underwear, cybersecurity to name a few. That’s my job. Your job.

Only when I understand your line of business, your customers, your competitors and sales processes can I do my job.  Brand planning is not about background, it’s about foreground.