Monthly Archives: September 2021

Novant Health.


Novant Health, a system based in Charlotte, North Carolina fired 175 employees this week for not adhering to their mandatory vaccination policy. Someone put on some big girl pants. If we are to trust healthcare providers with our health, it’s good to know some people in management support scientific facts. That’s why we have peer reviews and protocols and continuous improvement programs.   

While doing brand strategy research it’s important to speak with scientists to learn the rational truth and storytellers to learn the poetic truth. I never would have come up with the Northwell Health brand strategy claim had I not interviewed Yosef Dlugacz, SVP Quality Management.

Brand Strategy is about pitching and catching. And the pitching has to be based in science.   

Novant understands it couldn’t deliver on its Hippocratic Oath had it not followed the science supporting vaccinations. Love this company. For many reasons, but this is number 1!



An Exercise.


Boilerplate in the marketing world is the copy used on press releases at the end of a press announcement. It usually is preceded by the word About (insert name of company.) Boiler plate is almost always unimaginative. It usually contains a rote overview of company history, highlights, accomplishments and scale.

The exercise I am suggesting for brand planners is to ask company stakeholders, during discovery, to cobble together some boilerplate for their place of business or brand.  As an exercise, it will probably be best to have the stakeholder do it before the interview, as it will really bring the session to its knees. It’s hard work.  It might also be good to have the writer limit the boilerplate to three sentences. Last week I posted about what makes a brand or company “famous.” Crafting boilerplate is an extension of that idea.

Most people go through this exercise when creating their personal LinkedIn presence. It’s a boiled down overview of one’s self for the profile.

Doing boiler plate for a person is harder than doing boiler plate for a company. In both cases it’s an exercise in concision…and an exercise in branding.



Dynamic Strategy?


I like EP and Co and strategy lead Chris Plating, though I never would have changed the original agency name Erwin Penland to EP. (Stay on track Steve.) Everybody in the ad business is looking for an edge and to that end EP and Co. just launched a new research modality called EPiQ. 

I read the introductory LinkedIn post a couple of times and am not exactly sure what it is.  Marko-babble is a bear. It may be some sort of online panel that works as concept testing and creative testing.  And it seems to throw off consumer insights, either through AI or manual data nerds. Nothing wrong with that. And the name is okay. 

Where I get rubbed though is when I see explanations like this, from new hire Sheniqua Little, who comes to EP with serious chops: “Compelling research results fuel dynamic strategy and creative.”

The words dynamic strategy, in the context of brands, is an oxymoron. Brand strategy should not change with the wind. Even if consumers are driving that wind.  Brand strategy is built upon what consumers want most and what brands deliver best. (In What’s The Idea? parlance, those are care-abouts and good-ats.)

This tool seems to suggest strategy can change in almost realtime — as long as its consumer derived.  I love consumers trust me. But the Yin and the Yang of branding is a balance. Changing your strategy based on consumer Galvin Skin Response is a mistake. Lock down your brand strategy then use EPiQ to test communications effectiveness of tactics. But not the strategy.






Fame. A Brand Strategy Hack.


“For what are you famous?” is an interesting question to get at the crux of brand value.  Fame is such a pregnant word.  I believe Grey Advertising used it for a while in one of its positionings. Then there’s the notion of everyone having “15 minutes of fame.” Don’t forget the many halls of fame. Achieving fame is something most people want – except for those who have it.

When you ask a brand manager what the brand is famous for, it kind of cuts through the clutter. The marko-babble. The listicles.

One of my blog memes is “The Fruit Cocktail Effect.”  It suggests that when you try to be too many things in terms of brand value, you become nothing. Like fruit cocktail…where the peach tastes like the grape which tastes like the pear and the cherry. A sugary blah.

Think about fame as a shortcut to get to good insights.  Give it a whirl.




In Defense of Ad Agencies. 


The state of the advertising agency business is dismal.  Employees are leaving in droves and there is underemployment.  Black and brown people are nowhere to be found. If you are over 50, you had better be the CEO… and even then your days are numbered. And Google has replaced thousands of agency jobs.

I work with a number of start-ups and young‘uns starting out in the business think Google Ad Words and YouTube videos explained customer acquisition are the way to successful marketing. It’s tactics-palooza out there.  Twenty something junior brand managers are doing $30k TV commercials, using friends with iPhones (FWi?) to shoot video, sans storyboards.

I’d venture to say 15% of the advertising business – the so-called Madison Avenue ad business – has moved in-house, where craft is more likely the beer near the ping pong table than the creative product.

Cranky much Steve?

Twenty years ago there was a creative revolution: 72 and Sunny, Mother, Droga 5, BBH,  Crispin Porter. Now Accenture is the biggest digital shop. And David Droga is chief idea macher or something.

I’m a strategy guy. Where my brand strategies end up is for the clients to decide.  I like to think though, that if a marketer invests in a tight brand strategy, they’re smart enough to want breathtaking creative. The best bet for great work is with an agency. Where the disciplines collide and thinkers rule the roost.  Not where an assembly line of tyros with titles and the algorithm do the work.

Rant over.