Monthly Archives: April 2024

Brand Strategy Interviews.


The difference between interviewing an employee at a brand and the brand customer is significant. 

Employees are tough to interview because their answers are often generic.  I once interviewed a cardiothoracic surgeon and department head who was a billion-dollar health system’s key earner and asked what makes his practice one of the best in the country. His answer? “It’s the care. It’s the people.” So, when he is elbow deep in a patient bleeding out, does he ask his assistant, “Pass me the care” or “pass me the people”? I don’t think so.

I can’t tell you how many employees I’ve interviewed have crowed on about “customer service” or “quality” or “our people” thinking they’re being helpful.  It’s as if some employees have been programmed by TV adds. If they don’t have something specific to say about the product value, they default to a generic marketing-speak.

Customers, on the other hand, are way more to the point. More specific. They’re happy to share their likes and care-abouts. Customers don’t water down or default their preferences.

A good brand planner is able to get employees to provide specifics about product and service superiority.  Proof of product superiority are the things upon which strong brands are built. Boiling down and organizing these demonstrable proofs with “what customers want” is the job of the brand strategist. Customer care-abouts and brand good-ats.




Why Three Proof Planks?


Yesterday in my post about brand strategy framework (one claim, three proof planks), I said the reason for three proof planks was that was what the mind could process. It’s not like consumers are sitting around parsing advertising and consumer communications all the-live-long-day.  If fact, the opposite is quite true.  With all the pablum being spoon fed to consumers each day on their devices and in the media it’s no wonder people can’t remember any brand values.  Add to that, the need to create so-called creative ads to gather attention — ads that bury product values — and you can see the dilemma.

If a marketer had a $75 million annual budget, it would be easier to establish three proof planks beneath a brand claim — but most mid- and small business are lucky to have a quarter million in marketing spend. Therefore, 3 proof planks for a brand strategy may seem ambitious. That said, most smaller businesses aren’t national and can make a fine living targeting smaller customer bases, using lesser budgets. 

Brands are built by owning a space in the mind of the consumer. A brand claim is the fastest way to that space. The proof planks are the way to make that claim believable. To make that claim salient.  To make that claim stand out.

For more information on claim and proof as a brand strategy framework, please write Steve at WhatsTheIdea.




Simple Is As Simple Does.


Every time I present my brand strategy framework it gets easier. Most people in the business are prone to talk brand strategy theory. Many use Venn diagrams when trying to be scientific. When just using their words they quote marko-babble terms like “authenticity,” “brand voice,” “personality,” “mission,” “story,” “journey” and the babble goes on. In meetings lately, I’ve been sharing a PPT slide showing the Google results when searching the term “Interbrand brand strategy framework.”  There are 114,000 results. And, my-my, don’t click on the images tab.

At What’s The Idea? brand strategy fits into a framework both easy to understand and easy to convey. Brand strategy is not string theory as some planners might have you believe. Our framework comprises “One Claim” and “Three Proof Planks.” Claim and proof.  That’s it.

The claim is a boil down of all key customer care-abouts and brand good-ats. What people want and what the brand provides… tobest meet that need. All in a simple statement. The claim is effectively a tagline, but for creative agencies to interpret in their own words. The proof planks are a troika of evidence that sets the claim like concrete. There are three planks because that is what the mind can process.

If you found your way here because you are looking for a simple strategy to guide your brand building, write Steve at WhatsTheIdea.




Targets and Insights.


One of the tools I use in brand planning is the brand brief. It’s a document that tells a serial story leading to the “idea” or what I call the brand claim. The end of the brief outlines three proof planks that give life too the claim. Most brand planners have their own briefs.

An important part of the brief is the target. Getting into the head of the target(s) helps you connect. It helps you create a message that resonates and fires off the preference synapses.

I like to give my targets a name…something catchy, not demographic. One such target, written for assisted home healthcare company, was named Captains of the Castle. The product was an acute geriatric care service, costing a good deal more than typical insurance would cover. The target was high net worth individuals. The name played off of captains of industry, which many of the patients were, and also the expression “A man’s home is his castle.” 

Sadly, for Captains of the Castle, men and women of means used to having their way, assisted home care is really quite the opposite. They tended to be people who have often lost control of their mobility and other faculties. Quite a change in status. The brand claim “individuals require highly individualized care” spoke to this friction. The friction between control and loss of control.  In this case the key brand insight came from the target. Insights can come from anywhere in the brief. Insights are the lifeblood of the brand plan.