Monthly Archives: April 2023

Does Not Impute.


Imputed is my new favorite branding word.  It is what brand planners do.  We impute. In an organized way. In a memorable way.  In ways meaningful to consumers and ownable to brands.  Imputers are we. 

And when the creative/marketing work does not convey our brand strategy values “It does not impute.” Rhymes with “does not compute.”

A key to being able to carve out a memorable position and value in the minds of consumers is simplicity. Combined with cultural-forward currency. And endemic brand/category value. As is, when positioning a beer don’t sell the lifestyle. 

The brand strategy framework at What’s The Idea is one claim and three proof planks. That takes care of  simplicity. As for culture-forward and endemic brand value, those are the heavy lifting of brand planning. That’s where you use your non-artificial intelligence. 

Peace. And Go Julius Randle!


A Marketing Conundrum.


Two of the most discussed concepts in marketing today are “authenticity” and “artificial intelligence.”  One is communications advice the other a communications device.

They are diametrically opposed. You can’t be authentic and artificial at the same time. Unless you are Tucker Carlson. Hee hee.

I’m a fan of authenticity albeit, for me, it’s the price of doing business. If you have to speak about it, it must be lacking.  Those who use the word a lot must be steeped in a world of inauthentic-ness.  As for artificial intelligence I much prefer the term machine learning. It’s mote accurate. And more descriptive.   

Dabbling in AI with my blog (e.g., “edit this blog post”) was a fun exercise.  Those who make a living in by-the-pound content love it. It’ generates volume and is a time-saver. However, it’s a bit inauthentic. “AI, edit my blog post in my voice.” Huh?

From time-to-time I use a strategy exercise called The 5 Conundrums where I outline consumer contradictions which need to be addressed before brand strategy can be entertained. It’s a way to focus and clear out some stale air. Authenticity and AI are one such marketing conundrum.




People, Places and Practices.


I was watching an Archaeological Institute of America webinar given by Dr. Sara Gonzalez last week on less intrusive ways to conduct archeological fieldwork on Native Americans.  (For one, she suggested calling artifacts, belongings. Further, after belongings are found, charted, provenanced and catalogued, they should be returned to the ground from which they came; called catch and release.)  Smart, smart stuff.  Anyway, one other idea that struck a chord was her framework — People, Places and Practices. My brand discovery rigor deals with all three but doesn’t categorize them as such.  And in doing so, I might discover more deeply.  

First, a deep dive into the people who use our brands and the people we want to use our brands. That’s an obvious no-brainer. Some might call it targeting.  But target and person can be two different thing contextually.  In my brand brief, I refer to this as the “living, breathing target.”

Next, let us look into the places people use and consider brands. Not just consume brands.  The locations, the dayparts, the consuming behaviors. Current and potential.  A neat tool I leaned from media people at McCann was the DILO, day in the life of.  A mapping of people’s media use, especially as it relates to times they might intersect with media and brand consideration.

And lastly, we need to study the practices. Practices touch upon DILO but actually refer to the behavioral role of the product in the life of the person. This points to ethnographic study. And that goes beyond digging up belongings/artifacts and into cultural study.  How does the brand intersect culturally and behaviorally with the person? Tons of great learning in this bucket.





Callous Is the New Black.


When in the ad business I always wanted to have my own agency.  My dad had an agency, I guess I wanted to walk in his shoes. I was going to name that agency “Foster, Bias and Sales.”  As in, foster consumer attention, create bias toward the product and generate sales for the client.  Even then I was all about the bag, about the balance sheet. At some point advertising became less a creative art and more about brand growth.  

Today in my branding practice, I feel the same way.  But I’m leave much of the foster and bias to the agencies while spending time focusing on positioning and organizing brands for sales.

Many brand planners have a positioning angle.  “Brand transformation for the experience economy” is one I came across today.  “Amygdala branding” is another one (not really, I didn’t want to offend). On my Twitter account I say “Redistributing business wealth through brand strategy.” It’s like you can insert almost any word before or after the word “brand” and jump into the strategist arena.   

Well, let’s cut the art and try a new approach: How about “Callous Branding.”  A straight up sales focus. What does it take to “sell more, to more, more often, at higher prices?” (Thanks Sergio Zyman.)  Why not a callous declaration of customer value and brand value?  One driven by the kind of claim every employee can measure themselves against. And every sales director, CFO and CEO can really, really lay into.

Callous is the new black.




Jeweler or Speweler.


A friend of mine is a jeweler.  Part of his job is working the bench — where the action is.  Jewelers work, in some ways, is like that of the brand planner.  It’s detail work. Focus on small things. Magnification. 

When a jeweler opens a watch for repair s/he needs to diagnose the problem and deal with it. Isolate the parts that don’t work and fix them. All the other parts of the watch, though important, are outside of the focus of the repair.  A lay person looking at all the moving parts might be overwhelmed.

When I open the metaphoric watch in a brand planning assignment, I must familiarize myself with the parts. The first time I looked into the brand of a infosec boutique in NYC, I was faklempt. But then I started asking questions, learned a little bit of language and like a visitor in a foreign land was treated with kindness to match my kindness.  You see, I was more interested in them than in me and my craft. This approach allowed me to understand enough to focus on the problem without asking “What’s The Problem.”  The jeweler in me could then see around the watch parts to the mechanism in need of repair.

So, my advice?  More jeweler, less brandbabble spew-eler.