A Good Ear and a Good Cull Rack.


I’ve written scores of brand strategies and my success rate the first time out is exceptionally high. That is, stakeholders buy into the brand idea (brand claim) almost always without redirects or word edits. To what do I owe this success rate? Listening.

I once opened the door to a meeting with CEO of Naked Communications, NYC explaining that “Just as the dog hears Flah, flah, flah, flah want to go out?, I hear business building brand insights.” Hearing what is truly important.

Boiling away what’s not important is also a skill. That “boil down” is the brand planner’s day job. In the Gilbert and Sullivan operatic comedy Iolanthe, the title character says “I did nothing in particular, and I did it quite well” – an observation that typifies what brand planners do in the boil down. We remove weeds from the garden.

When I present a brand strategy (one claim, three proof planks), clients are hearing what they know. They’re hearing what they believe. It’s just that the consumer care-abouts and brand good-ats are winnowed and prioritized.

Business consultants are apt to tell clients things they don’t know. Things they don’t necessarily believe. Business consultants are not always good listeners. Brand strategists don’t do organ transplants. For the most part, we work with what we’ve got. We just make it better through focus and celebration.