Brand Love.

    Brand Planning Tools.

    The Boil-down.

    Brand Planning Tools

    The power of but.

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    David & Goliath talks about “brave.”  Jean-Marie Dru writes and talks about “disruption.”  Lots of ad agencies try to find a word to describe themselves as outside the box thinkers.  I was searching this morning for a video about a young Israeli illustrator who wanted to get published in The New Yorker… his one word is “no,” his story about its power to motivate.

    Brand planners have a word too.  It’s the word “but.” Even in our quest to find brand-illuminating patterns, we are wowed by the word but.  The word takes what is considered known and understood and it angles that understanding.  It reorients it in a new way. In a fresh way with a little friction. And as you know friction causes heat.

    Sp read your briefs planners, and search for the word but. Wherever you see in on your paper you can be sure you’re  getting close to the idea.   As my Norwegian aunt might have said “tink about it.” Peace.

    First Responders in Brand Planning

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    If I met you for the first time and asked  “Describe yourself to me” what might your answer be?  If I were to ask a consumer a similar question about Langone Medical Center, what might they say?  “They are the NYU hospital.”  Or that’s the hospital with the purple ads.”  How about this question “Describe for me PNC Bank” or “Describe Volkswagen to me.”

    Top recall explanations are telling. They are not deal breakers as it relates to purchase behavior – we buy things and brands we don’t know all the time – but those explanations share what is most important to the consumer at that time.   Two things drive first response associations for consumers: product experience and marketing communications.  Readers know that an organized brand plan has powerful impact on the latter.  If all internal and external dollars are used to support a tight strategy, consumers are able to play back that strategy.  “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance.”  What reader may not know is that a tight brand strategy also impacts the product, offering ways forward for new features, line extensions, aftercare, etc.

    The opposite of a tight, embedded brand strategy is every man for himself. And when that happens you become the company with the purple ads or the company that has banking on the mobile phone. Don’t allow that to happen. Peace!

    A Brand Test for CEOs.

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    Here’s one way to see if your company has a brand plan.  Summon department leaders and one random dept. employee into the conference room on a Monday morning. Ask each of them to create a PPT presentation describing the company mission in twelve pages — no more, no less. Make sure they explain what the company Is and what the company Does. (Here referred to as the Is-Does.)  Ask them to report back by 1 P.M., where sandwiches will be served and the work reviewed as a group.

    As with any research, offer up that there are no right or wrong answers and grades will not be issued. 

    Companies with strong brand cultures will share presentations containing similar organizational structure and language.  The other 92% will be a mash-up. What will they mash up?  Learnings from category-leading brands. Things they recall reading in the trade press and news.  A little bit of personal aspiration, maybe some lyrics from the company PR boiler plate and, likely, some CEO language. A doggy’s dinner as Fred Poppe might have said.

    In companies with tight brand plans, every employee knows what business they’re in. They can articulate what products are sold, what customers care about and the business-winning goals. These are business fundies. This is strategy.  It’s worth sharing with employees.  

    Try this brand plan test out and see what can be learned about from a few simple PPT sides. Peace.

    An important brand planning question.

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    The secret sauce of the What’s the idea? brand planning rigor (WTI is my blog, but also a brand consultancy I had for 3 years prior to coming on board at Teq) is the battery of questions I use when interviewing company stakeholders. Finding out what a company does best and matching it with what the market wants most is the goal.  I may have just found a new question.  The inspiration was an amazing story today in The New York Times of Lonnie G. Thompson, a man in search of proof that global temperatures are rising.

    The secret sauce question is most powerful when asked of an individual, yet it can be altered to apply to a company. Let’s stay with the individual, for simplicity’s sake:  

    What is your life’s work?

    Not an easy question to answer.  Or is it? Most will probably say something like “Be a good parent.”  Or “Be a good spouse.”  Maybe “Leave the world a little better place.” Perhaps “Be a better person.”  Following up these answers with probes will get you to the meat of the discussion. Using the question with a company, however, may get bogged down in “mission statement miasma,” but don’t let it.  A “life’s work” has to have import. If a company has a hard time answering, it likely will have a have a hard time branding it.

    As my Norwegian aunt Inga might have said “Tink about it.” Peace.       

    Deeds

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    Many pop marketing discussions today revolve around narrative. Campaigns are bought and sold based on the word. Agencies hired and fired. Social media has cornered the market on brand narrative.  I like the word, in fact.  It’s a much better word than “sell.”  In fact. my brand planning rigor is steeped in narrative.  But it’s over as a selling mechanism…ish.

    Deeds are the new narrative.  Old schoolers might call it “putting your money where your mouth is.” Story tellers tell stories. Leaders use deeds.  What are deeds? Tangibles. Things. Actions. Hands on stuff. Story tellers sit about the camp fire.  Deedists, make the campfire.

    A soldier with lots of medals on the uniform has performed not chronicled. A marketer with a claim and lots of proof to back it up is a marketer whom narrators can get behind.  Similar to my Posters vs. Pasters opine – target the Posters, the Paster will follow – marketers should concern themselves with the deeds and leave the narrative to others.  Puh-eace!

    Hierarchy of Likes.

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    I was in the Bronx Friday night at the Met Yankee game. Don’t ask.  And for all the falderal it was quite civil. I didn’t fly my Met colors, nor did I instigate.  I just did the late 1960s Fillmore West clap and watched me some hardball.  One thing I took away from the game, though, was an insight that for all of people’s preferences, divides and loyalties – if you find a point of common ground more important, you can create dialog. 

    At one point during the national anthem I felt a 9/11 moment resulting from the video.  It brought the entire stadium together as one (in my mind). It pointed to something bigger than a baseball rivalry. And on two other occasions during the game I spoke with a couple of guys  who noticed my Pearl Jam shirt.  We connected on something that was perhaps even more important to us than a baseball game. As I walked along River Avenue leaving the game, a guy quietly said in passing “Yellow Ledbetter.”  I only half heard it until it registered, then I looked back and “peaced” him with a knowing smile. A brother.

    The insight is this: You can always ladder up common ground or affinity with someone you don’t necessarily agree with. It takes work, and thought, and open-mindedness.  It’s a hunt worth pursuing. So marketers and planner dig in.  Peace!     

    Brand(ed) Utility.

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    Branded Utility has a number of definitions in the marketing world. In my world it is more than simply a branded public service; it’s something that moves a customer closer to a sale or position of greater loyalty.

    Ingmar de Lange did a neat presentation on Brand Utility, but we are not always on the same page.  Nokia providing a quiet room on city streets for mobile callers is nice, even with a big logo on the door, but it’s not uniquely Nokia.  MasterCard providing an ATM finder phone app is helpful but not uniquely MasterCard. 

    A branded utility, to me at least, is one that no one else can offer.  Users need to plug into the product or service grid of the marketer a for a utility to be truly branded — to use an electricity metaphor.  Simply slapping a logo on something useful and making it free is lazy.  It may be less lazy than a poor boast and claim ad but we can certainly do better.

    I once suggested that Ben Benson give away golf umbrellas to customers of his expensive steak house caught unprepared on rainy days.  Branded utility. Why was it unique? Because the customers were at Ben’s.  When thinking about branded utility ask yourself “Has the usefulness of the gift or a value made the customer more committed?”  Or just similarly committed? If the answer is more, then the investment was worth it.  Peace!