Monthly Archives: February 2023

Creativity and Brand Strategy


Creativity is serendipity. At least it is for me.  When cranking out ideas for brand strategies I’m drawing from past experiences, cultural observations, linguistics and even the subconscious.  Nothing happens in a vacuum. And to quote Faris Yakob a wonderfully lyrical brand strategist, ideas are recombinant.  Not sure I’ve had an original idea in my life.  

Creative people — or should I say those paid to be creative — are forever in search of the new expression of an idea. The fresh. The never done.  But we know that the recombinant notion applies here as well.  Even music is a combination of notes. Banging the music metaphor a bit more, creatives are looking to play more jazz than pop in their ideation. But the finished product, the published product, often ends up being pop. (Insert client here.)

What differentiates a creative output from that of a brand strategist is one is guided by a sales intention while the other is freeform. Unbridled creativity gathers attention for attention’s sake. When attention and “freshness” are achieved to the satisfaction of the creative mind, then strategy might be backed in. Tagged on. Bolted on.

In the creativity game, the primary goal is to engage or entertain the brain to fire off a synapse.  Done well, brand strategy does both: fire off the synapse yet with a bias to purchase. It’s not easy. And to straddle both needs, the brand strategist cannot be boring. S/he must inspire. Otherwise, you are making advertising. Hee hee.



AAdvantage. Not!


I have been an American Airlines Advantage member since 1998.  That’s 25 years. I use their Citi Mastercard for all my What’s The Idea? expenses and an occasional gift for the wifus, who knows what transacts on the family card. I like American Airlines and I like Citibank. I’m loyal to a fault. 

In 25 years, here’s what American Airlines has done for me. Allowed me to cash in points for two plane tickets to San Juan. Offered one upgrade to first class a year when I was flying a lot for a work. Denied me two free tickets using points to Hawaii because I wanted to go through Phoenix. They allowed me to redeem through Phoenix but then I had to go out of pocket from there to Hawaii.

Granted, I’m not a great customer. But when I hear friends talking about all the freebies and special deals they get to Europe, I wonder why I stay with AA. The rewards business has changed significantly over the years.  Money back. Double points. Free this, promotion that.  Not me. I barely get a free flight every 6 years. Yet I stay loyal.

Kids put everything on their credit cards — from mortgage payments to weddings (don’t ask). My kids probably haven’t touched a dollar bill in years. And they get rewards. Me? Ugatz.

Hey American Airlines, you get all my airline business, you my business expenses, you get my undying loyalty. I get Citicard and AAdvantage junk mail by the pound and an occasional flight. My kids go to Europe on Chase Sapphire points.

Something’s gotta give. It’s probably me.




Working With Creatives.


Creative people are typically problem solvers. We non-creatives tend to think they stare at a blank page as if a Sisyphean obstacle.  But they’re creative. Their brains boil over with ideas.  They love a blank page/screen.

Strategists think we help creatives by giving them direction. Stimuli. A subjective hand. Well, more often than not they don’t want it.

I recently sat through a Sweathead preso where Aisha Hakim, a creative director at 72 and Sunny, told hundreds of planners not to write longwinded briefs. In fact, she said don’t write briefs at all. She doesn’t use them. I get her POV. The longer the wind, the more the blank page isn’t blank. Confusion may reign. Her advice, if I got it correctly, identify a problem, explain why you’re the solution, and drop the mic. Let the creatives go.

Is there a happy medium?  Yes.  It’s called the client. Creatives in advertising or do have a daddy.  The client.  The person who approves the work. Without a client and money to spend a creative is an artist.

So, sell the brand strategy to the client well before the work begins. Prepare the client for a value proposition that is business-winning and make sure they believe it.  It is about them, after all.  Then let them be the arbiter of the work. Brand planning must take place up stream.

Don’t tell creatives how to do their jobs. Share the business winning framework with them, give a hint or two, then get out of the way. Let them thrive. And let the client be the client.



Proof or Poof.


Kevin Perlmutter, a friend and strategist with Limbic Brand Evolution, a practice focusing on neuromarketing, posted today on LinkedIn about the importance of understanding consumer feelings. And presumably, moving those feelings toward a bias for one’s product.  Good stuff.

I like to do the same. But readers (all 6 of you, hee hee) know my framework is less about mining feelings and more about mining proof — proof that drives feelings.  

My brand planning approach is driven by an awareness that marketing and advertising today is “90% claim and 10% proof.”  That is, it tells you what to feel rather than give you the evidence that allows you to feel it. And believe it. That requires proof.  I can say I make the best pizza in Los Angeles, but where’s the proof.

My rigor for brand planning mines proofs. Demonstrations. Evidence. Existential phenomenon. Sure, I write a brand brief but it is the proof that drives the strategy and the claim.  It’s proof or poof. 

I’s sure Kevin would agree. Check him out.