Monthly Archives: October 2022

Marketing Coach?


I often speak about “pent up demand” and how important it is to brand and marketing strategy.  If people are clamoring for your product or service you only have to position it and promote it.  But if people don’t know they need your product or service — perhaps it’s a new category, or a complicated value proposition  — then you first need to educate them. Only then can you sell them.  It’s a two-step approach and much more expensive.

What’s The Idea? was initially positioned as a band consultancy. Then it was repositioned as a brand strategy firm. The latter position making it clearer I didn’t design logos or websites or collateral. I do strategy. Everybody knows what strategy is. But brand strategy?  Even brand strategists have a hard time explaining it. 

My problem is brand strategy is not easily explained on the back of a business card. Nor is it something people wake up in the morning thinking about.  It doesn’t directly solve a common problem.  But do you know the problem it does solve?  A problem that most marketers have (pent up demand)?  Poorly performing marketing.

I’m giving serious conside-ration to another reposition: marketing coach.  Everyone knows what marketing is. Everyone knows what a coach does. Two words, no ambiguity.

And guess what my key tool will be as a marketing coach: uh huh, brand strategy.  AKA “an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging.”



Imposter Syndrome In Brand Planning


In brand planning we spend a lot of time thinking. And when you are in a thoughtful, brain-forward business you also tend to think about yourself and your job. A recent discussion in our business is about imposter syndrome. Joey Covington, member of the Jefferson Airplane sang, “Sittin’ around thinking, thinking and a thinking and it didn’t do me so good.” So, my advice to planners is don’t overthink, it can cause consternation.

Imposter syndrome may be real but it’s not a brand planner thing. Not unless you let it. Imposter syndrome among brand planners happens when you’re boiling down your information and have to make some decisions about the key value and the packaging of that value. “Who am I to make such decisions, you might ask.”  But then you just need to nut-up and commit.

This hit home for me yesterday when searching “Pearl Jam’s first concert” on YouTube, which actually was Mookie Blaylock’s first concert. (Brand issue.)  Pearl Jam went on stage that first time and committed.  Were they imposters? You tell me. Did they feel like imposters? Maybe. Certainly, some may have.  But look how that turned out. The show was a little rough around the edges but there were some transcendent moments.

Don’t second guess yourself. Commit. Learn. Correct. Experiment. And love thyself. And if you don’t, get some therapy. Like the rest of the world.



Brand Strategy and Market Discontinuity.


Whenever there is a market discontinuity, it effects brands. The supply chain crisis is one such discontinuity.  Many American companies, caught with their pants drooping, have made huge investments in reshoring or bringing manufacturing back to the States. Though some industries are addicted to manufacturing overseas, such as clothing, sneakers and electronics, smart large-scale companies have decided to build at home.

When big changes like this occur brands that invest in reshoring are apt to think about changing elements of their brand strategy.  Made in America will, no doubt, become more prominent. Delivery guarantees more common. Free shipping, quality, and longer warranties are also likely to be used more.  When markets are in transition these values are important. Especially when prices are rising. And not just because of inflation but because we are making higher quality products (hopefully).

I caution manufacturers not to alter their brand strategies from heritage values as a result of reshoring. I’m certainly open to change, but when change is everywhere, individual brands are best not to follow the wind. 

Stick to your plan. Stick to your current Claim and Proof array.  Brand strategy is built over time.

Tactics are fine, strategy finer.




One is the Loneliest Number. In Brand Strategy Frameworks.


Someone on Twitter or LinkedIn posted the question, “What are your favorite brand strategy frameworks?”  My answer was “It should be your own.”  In a perfect world, there should only be one framework.  But the world isn’t perfect. The fact that there are scads of frameworks shows why brand strategy is stuck in the mud.

I’m not going to explain my framework, though I can in one sentence.  It’s that simple.  But whatever you do don’t Google brand strategy framework.  A while ago I asked Kevin Perlmutter, a friend and one-time employee of Interbrand, who now runs brand strategy firm Limbic Brand Evolution, what the Interbrand strategy framework was.  A bit befuddled he suggested we Google “Interbrand Brand Strategy.”  Here was the result:




All these and pages more, from one company. A company at the top of the strategy pecking order.

Brand strategy as art may have multiple frameworks and approaches. Just as art does.  But brand strategy as science should have one framework. A replicable means of organizing product, experience and messaging. My company’s name is “What’s The Idea?”  In brand strategy there can only be one brand idea or claim.  It’s not What Are The ideas? It’s one idea.

Oh and one framework.




Stake Your Claim. Your Brand Claim.


I used to think 3 proof planks was the way to go for my brand strategy framework. You know, the theory of three – three being, the number of things humans can readily remember.  It was a construct borrowed from the political arena. The more I read the political news though, the more I am beginning to think three is too many. With weeks to go before the elections, political platforms are rampant: Inflation, Migration and Crime.  Or, Abortion, Guns and Infrastructure.  Wait a month and the platforms will all be different.  Three is only good if they remain the same. And that is the discipline of the brand planner. Find the 3 key care-abouts and good-ats and stick with them. Through thick and thin. (Politicians don’t think that way.  They change platforms like underwear.)

Brand strategy at What’s The Idea? is “one claim and three proof planks.”  The claim binds the brand together. ZDNet is for doers not browsers.   Northwell Health is a systematized approach to improving healthcare. Sweet Loren’s is craft cookies au naturel.  These are strategies, not taglines.  Ad agencies can come up with their own campaign memes so long as they deliver the claim. But a claim without proof planks — immovable proof planks — is advertising. Or pell-mell, tactical marketing.

Research your consumers, boil down the key values, stake your claim, and build your brand through proof. Easy.