Brand Planning

    Yahoo’s Going to Get its Exclamation Back!

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    I would not be surprised to see Yahoo sold to Jerry Yang and the Texas Pacific Group (TPG) fairly quickly. Yahoo, with lots of schmutz on its shoes, is still one of the top 5 tech brands in the world. And what is a brand but a vessel into which we poor meaning. Organized meaning. Yahoo’s fix requires an Is-Does. What a brand Is and what a brand Does.

    Is it a portal?
    Is it search engine?
    Is it an advertising company?
    Is it a web content publisher?
    Is it a technology company?

    Does it provide news?
    Does it provide entertainment?
    Does it provide organization?
    Does it provide results?

    Yahoo needs to retrench and make tough decisions — and that will only happen if the property is sold. A public company with lots of shareholders, Yahoo will get its Yahoo! back with new leadership, some old leadership, tough love, and a brand plan. And when I say brand plan I don’t mean a new logo, new color palette and an replacement agency for Goodby, Silverstein and Partners.  I mean an organizing principle for marketing.  A plan that inform every decision made by the company — from hiring to firing to what new mobile services to launch.

    When dimensionalized through obs and strats, a brand plan creates marketing clarity. TPG doesn’t speak like this, but they know how to make it happen. It’s about time. Peace. 

    Showing Up Isn’t Enough!

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    Bob Gilbreath, chief strategy officer at Possible Worldwide, wrote a book a year ago called Marketing With Meaning. It’s a counterpoint to Woody Allen’s quote about “90% of life is just showing up.”  Bob suggests embedding your message (and offer) with something of value.  Not mere boast and claim — something meaningful and fulfilling. The book is a must read.

    I created a brand plan for a health system a number of years ago designed to move the dial on about 9 attributes that make for a successful hospital experience; things like: “best doctors,” “leading edge treatments,” “improved patient outcomes.”  If you can answer yes to these hospital qualities, it is likely you will want your procedure done there.

    When I see work in this category today, sometimes I wonder if marketers are trying to be meaningful at all.  One NYC hospital spending a lot of money is doing it the Woody Allen way, just showing up. Doing “we’re here” ads. One word headlines and pretty pictures.  And the system that once had the nine meaningful measures?  It must have listened to its ad agency and now only measures “first mentions.”  That’s a research term for a telephone poll indicating what consumers answer when asked, “Name a hospital or hospital system in your region.” That’s measuring the media plan and the budget, not the communication of the work.

    The best politicians are those who have a vision, are true to it, and allow the populace to experience that vision.  Process that vision. The worst are those who read opinion polls and change direction at will.  Similarly, the best brands have a plan that creates meaningful differentiation and organized claim and proof to consumers.  And they stick to it. Peace!

    Brand Strategy…Say What?

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    Quick, I say “brand strategy,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind?  Okay, let’s try another.  “Brand plan.”  You say ______?  This sort of brand speak is really inside baseball to most businesses. Over the past couple of years I’ve spoken to some really smart people from many different walks of marketing life and they all know the words but, ask them to define or diagram them on paper, they can’t. 

    Wikipedia “Brand Plan.”

    Wikipedia the words “brand plan” and Wiki asks you “Did you mean Brand Play?”  The first option under the question is business plan.  Wikipedia “Brand Strategy” and it says “You may create the page Brand Strategy.”

    Everyone agrees that brands are important…that they have value.  Most understand brands need to be managed.  What they don’t always get is that brands need to be managed to a tight brand strategy.  So they default to managing brands based upon acquisition, sales growth or retention metrics — all of which are measurable.  Thanks to the web, we can now even measure clicks and views and engagement and referrals and, and, and. And tie measures to dollar investments.  Break out the dashboard and play marketing videogames.

    So if brands are important, and we all agree they are, how do we measure the efficacy of the brand strategy?  I often use the example that Coke’s brand strategy is refreshment.   Today, Wieden + Kennedy and Coke would have you believe it is happiness. Who is right and how to we find out?   

    Now don’t get me wrong, a powerful brand strategy is only so if it increases sales and margins. Period.  But tying sales and revenue increase to a strategy, not a tactic, is what’s what. Peace!

    Levi’s Has Lost its Rugged Way.

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    I love a good cause.  Clean water, sans parasites , in the developing world (Africa) is one such. Levi’s jeans, as part of its “Go Forth” campaign, is sponsoring a Facebook program that ask people to click their support for Water.org, and once a 100,000 clicks are gathered Levi’s will donate money.   This is “good’s work” (thank you Bailey’s Café) and it will make a difference. I support it and suggesteth everyone go forth and donate. That said, Levi’s still needs a brand idea and “individualism and independence” ain’t it.

     

    If Levi’s cares about the environment, and I know it does, they should jump on the durability wagon.  Buy one pair, don’t get one free, you don’t have to buy another pair for 3 more years.  That’s environmentalism.  And stop with all the stone washing stuff that wears the jeans out a year early.  The worn-in patina of a pair of Levi’s is the badge.  Faded knees, faded pockets, holes in the crotch.  This is life. Not art imitating life.  Don’t pay some schmekel to pre- tear your jeans…get up on the life cycle and wear them out yourself!

    Levi’s is one of the great American brands and it has lost its way.  FCB got it.  BBH got it a bit and sexed it up. Wieden and Kennedy, a brilliant shop, has found a core, but it’s the wrong core.  Individualism and independence a brand plank, not “the idea.” 

    The Water.org project should be left to the PR dept.  Fight the durability fight (it’s American) and get mad credit for the environment – on so many levels. Peace!

     

    GE’s New Health Campaign(s)

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    Happy Friday youze all…as we like to say in NY. It’s beautiful outside with everything blanketed in pristine snow. A fitting beginning for the Winter Olympics. Tonight, on the Olympics the new GE Healthymagination campaign breaks.  Knowing it’s from BBDO, I’m sure it will be heartfelt and striking…in its pieces.  It will also be a time for G.E. to try and flex some integration muscle.

    I’ve seen two print ads already and they are pretty but plainly messaged. Having read about the campaign in the New York Times today and piecing together bits and quotes, I’m going out on a limb here and gonna say “What’s the Idea?

    What’s the Idea?

    Here’s what we can expect: GE wants to humanize the technology, so no pictures of machines. GE wants to make doctors the heroes.  Doc’s are very influential in technology purchases, especially when it comes to those $80,000 procedures. Innovation will be in much of the new campaign; it’s a corporate keystone. Imaging technology will be front and center, as it should be; people understand medical imaging and how it helps them. Consumers will participate because “health spreads contagiously” so expect the people to be posting on Twitter and Faceboook. “Healthymagination is saving billions in healthcare costs.” There will be How-Tos on Howcast, iPhone apps, and, and, and.  Lots of ideas, lots of agencies (Big Spaceship has a chunk), lots of content contributors, yet I haven’t heard a powerful brand idea with muscle memory. Healthymagination is a word, not an idea.  After seeing the body of work I’ll weigh in again. Peace!

    Tangibility.

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    Here’s a question you might hear from a financial company in a nightly news TV ad: “What are you saving for?”  More likely than not the copy will answer the question with something about hopes and dreams. 

    Hopes and dreams. Hopes and dreams.

    Advertising is filled with copy about intangibles. The most common words used in advertising today are words about intangibles. Touchy feelie brand planners care about emotions. They hunt them down. Happiness. Satisfaction. Healing.  And therein lies the problem with many brand briefs. Briefs a card-carrying existentialist would pooh-pooh.

    The best brand plans are built upon tangibles. Proofs.

    When I tell a client they are getting brand strategy comprising “One claim and three proof planks,” they know what they’re buying. When some brand planners promise clients, a “voice,” “a personality” or “brand truth,” clients often scratch their heads.

    Be tangible.

    Peace

     

    How to measure brand effectiveness.

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    I am not in the brand awareness business. I am in the brand association business. And to take it one step further I am really in the brand benefit business.

    Brand awareness is simply recall of a name, logo and/or package. Marketing begins with awareness. It’s the price of admission.

    Brand association takes awareness a step further in that consumers are asked to play back certain context and associations with that recall. It might be category association, e.g., Coke is a cola, Cowboys are a football team, or perhaps the association may extend beyond what a brand “is” to a quality, Apple offers product innovation, for instance.

    But the third level, the one I refer to as Brand Benefits walks consumers beyond rote awareness and context features to benefits they need, desire or cherish. I’m not talking Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I’m talking endemic product or service needs. But importantly, these brand benefits must be few (three to be precise) and constant. They are brand planks. 

    To measure the success of a brand, you must track awareness of brand benefits. If consumers can play back your planks in unaided recall testing you are winning the branding war.

    Peace.

     

     

    Love. It’s what makes branding planning brand planning.

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    Subaru has a long-standing tagline: Love. It’s what makes Subaru a Subaru.  Though I understand “love” and know what a “Subaru” is, I have no clue what this tagline means.  If given a guess, I’d say Subaru manufacturers lover their product so much it makes the car better. Of course, it could mean consumers love the brand so much it makes the product better — but that doesn’t make sense. Advertising.

    That’s an aside, my real point has to do with brand planning process.  David Brooks waxes philosophical in his Op-Ed piece today about two philosophies of life. One favors loyalty and community — giving of oneself for the betterment of the whole — and the other suggests tolerance of others and their points of view, yet being true to self.

    Brand planning, done right, is more like the former – the community betterment approach.  Brand planners should be constantly on the look out for the love. The good. Negatives need not apply. Therefore the word tolerance need not come up. Brand planning is about positivity.

    I understand competition. I understand “Who is going to lose the sale you are making.” That’s for advertising and tactical efforts.  Branding is about the love. What the brand is good at (good-ats) and what consumers care about (care-abouts). Find the love.

    Peace.

     

    Brand Planners and Movie Directors.

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    It is movie awards time again. The Golden Globes just finished up and got me thinking about roles and responsibilities. How can a director win, yet the movie or an actor not?  If it is so well directed, why isn’t the movie a winner?

    Since metaphors are a part of the brand planner’s tool kit, I asked myself to project the brand planner’s role in marketing, using the movie business as an analog.  Actors are the tacticians I guess, playing roles consumers experience. Set designers and costume people are production people and grips. The producers of the film are the marketing executives. Script writers deliver copy. That must leave brand planners as directors.

    You never see the director in the work, you just see the work. A movie director is in charge of flow, performance quality, story and emotional resonance. And certainly more. It may be the most important job in movie making, yet also the least appreciated. Me thinks that’s the case with brand planning. Behind the camera, behind the scenes. Movie first, product first. Works for me. Any better thoughts?

    Peace.

     

    Endemia. Root word endemic.

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    I’m a NY Jets fan and wonder how the franchise can be so mediocre for so long. We often look at the quarterbacks, coaches, general managers for our answers. But rarely does the average fan look at ownership. The last couple of owners of the Jets, Leon Hess and Woody Johnson, are magnates who built empires upon gasoline and Band-Aids.

    It is a rare business indeed where someone from outside the industry can come in and have massive success; Robert Kraft being an exception in the football world. But Mr. Kraft sans Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, would look, I suppose, quite average as an owner.  

    Brand planners understand how important it is to deeply understand a business — even if only engaged with a brand for a month or two. It is a work imperative to speak the language of the business. It’s critical to understand fiscal drivers, consumer motivations, and operational strengths and foibles. Brand planners cannot set master brand strategy as an outsider.

    Jets ownership, as smart as they may be, are just not football people. They are business people. A restaurant owner can’t be the chief of police. A history teacher cannot be a construction engineer. A cable TV CEO can’t build a basketball team. My drift.

    Peace.