Monthly Archives: June 2024

The Is.


I share my brand strategy framework quite often. To the point where my brand planning memes are beginning to take hold on Google. Search “Claim and proof array” as an example. In an open source world this type of sharing is admirable. Back pat, back pat. But where the rubber meets the road frankly is in the actual strategy. Frameworks have to be filled out.  That’s the monies.

All planners do brand discovery, but it’s what you do with the learning that creates the positioning success. We can talk about adherence and creative interpretations and lots of other back-end factors, but getting to the strategy idea is what differentiates one planner from the next. Frameworks help don’t get me wrong, but the decisions to get to the “idea” are the bread and butter.

I use the metaphor of the stock pot on my post-discovery efforts. Everything into the pot then apply heat. After a few days, what’s left in the bottom of the pot is… the is. The bullion. The power. AI ain’t gonna do it. Creative directors aren’t going to do it. The CEO isn’t going to do it.  It’s the brand planner.  And not all planners are created equal.



A Brand Strategy Pitch Gone Right.


I was pitching a brand strategy to a client a couple of summers ago, using a presentation process which I replicate pretty much each time.  I lead with some pertinent quotes from interviewees and other smart people, then list off the names of those interviewed (stakeholders, customers, prospects and SMEs), and finally present the brand brief, which I read. It’s a serial story with key chapters/headings which leads to the brand claim and proof array.

Since I’m talking about the company, and use more storytelling language than business language, I tend to have the decisionmakers’ ears. I mean, who doesn’t like to hear about themselves.  When the heads are nodding and the poesy flying, the room warms up. In this particular pitch, things were going well until the CEO interrupted mid-brief and asked me to skip to the end. There is always an end. Apparently busy is as busy does. This had never happened before but what the heck. I went off-piste and jumped to the idea (claim.)  A good planner should be prepared for anything.  If I was flustered I tried not to show it…but, hell, I was in the middle of my song.   

Anyway, the CEO made some good points about the claim: It was too focused on the brand “good-ats”, not enough focused on the customer “care-abouts.” So, I agreed to take another pass and worked out the strategy to everyone’s satisfaction – albeit it a couple of weeks later.

A story from the trenches. Things change. Adapt. And don’t fall in love with your anything.



Truth and Proof in Branding.


My brand, What’s The Idea?, offers up the notion that the “idea” is the key to branding. Most people who spend money on marketing will agree creativity is the lifeblood of advertising. Creativity feeds advertising, marketing’s most important tool. Of course, there is nothing wrong with fame and/or as Faris Yakob calls it “paid attention.”  But all the advertising, paid attention and marketing in the world, if disorganized or constantly changing will not build a brand.  It may sell from time to time, from tactic to tactic, but it does not establish a product or service in the mind of a consumer as a brand. That takes an idea — the apex of an organizing principle.

My mission at WTI is to find an idea and an organizing principle that creates indelible positions for brands.

One word that creatives and brand planners use a lot in our business is “truth.”  Product or consumer truths are where planners dabble. A truth is likely a hopefully provable observation that can replicate. I, however, prefer the word “proof.” It’s more to the point…and more scientific. It’s binary. Proof cements belief. Proof undergirds a claim (the idea.)

In a nutshell, the organizing principle used to build brands – at least here at What’s The Idea? – is one claim (idea) and three proof planks. That’s the secret sauce. That’s how the sausage is made. That is the strategy behind brand building. Keyboard drop!



Purposeful Marketing is an Oxymoron.


Now please don’t think I got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. And I do not want you to think me a crab or branding troll… but I do want to suggest there’s a good deal of talk going around on the role of Mission and Purpose in branding. It’s a bit over-baked.

Mission and Purpose rarely have a place in brand strategy. They belong under the heading of Philanthropy on the website, handled by corporate governance people.

Brand strategy is all about customer care-abouts and brand good-ats: values endemic to the product or service. They should drive product value, shareholder value and loyalty.  What a brand does with its earnings, insofar and mission/purpose, is up to them. True Mission and Purpose companies should be not-for-profit or non-profits. Yeah, yeah, yeah Patagonia. There are always exceptions. But watering the tea is not a best practice of branding strategy.

As Sergio says “sell more, to more, more often and at higher prices.”  Eyes on the prize. 

Sorry if that’s some capitalist shiz, but it’s a truth.