brand strategy tarot cards

    Dashboard or Strategy Board.


    How do you convince someone they need to invest in something they don’t know they need? First you have to educate them about the problem. Then you have to educate them as to the solution. It’s a two stepper. Two steppers are expensive. It’s sooo much easier to offer consumers something they know they need.

    This two-step approach is the life of the brand strategist. My key business development chore is to convey to marketers that a focused and well thought out brand strategy can increase the value of all marketing. Thanks to the variety of marketing channels and tools available today (read: HubSpot, Google Analytics, etc), most marketers are focused on the dashboard, not the strategy board.

    So how does one educate a marketer that a focused brand strategy will elevate the success of their product? The answer is — by sharing a disorganized brand strategy. Enter Brand Strategy Tarot Cards.

    The cards are not really Tarot Cards but might as well be as they can predict brand organization. The cards are actually 7 pieces of select marketing content — all of which are highly visible to the public. By parsing these pieces for key take-aways in real time in front of a marketing team leader a picture emerges. It’s either a Rembrandt or a de Kooning. Clear and understandable or random and interpretive.

    I am tweaking what the 7 pieces of content are but I would love a marketer to help me in my Beta efforts. It’s a freebee. Please write and let’s get started.



    Brand Strategy Tarot Card Number 4.





    The fourth tarot card to be turned over during the What’s The Idea? brand strategy demo is the “About” section from the company website. The About page is the most important place to get the brand strategy right, yet it’s often poorly constructed and amateurish. Not so, for large multinationals who have seasoned communications people and PR hands nearby, but it’s often the case among midsize and small companies who tangled in their underwear.

    Here’s an About page from nCipher:

    nCipher Security, a leader in the general purpose hardware security module market, is now an Entrust Datacard company, delivering trust, integrity and control to business critical information and applications.

    Not the worst in the world, but it assumes knowledge of “hardware security modules.”

    The Is-Does is fundamental to the About Section. What a brand Is and what a brand Does. Getting bogged down in where, how many, target and the like only confuses. In technology, you are either in hardware, software or platform (web services). Say that. Once you start piling on things like trust, integrity and control, you start to diminish.  

    In consumer products be what you are first, then and only then add value qualifiers.

    Local brewer Devil’s Foots Beverage Company gets it:

    “Devils Foot Brewing. Asheville, NC Craft Beverage Company. All Natural N/A Bevs made with Organic Roots and Fruits.
    (N/A refers to non-alcoholic, not North American.) Also, I would suggest beverage over brewing, rather than using both.)  

    When you write the About page, don’t get carried away. Tell them what it Is and what it does. Don’t bury it in blather.



    Tarot Card Number 5, Boilerplate.


     Boilerplate is the paragraph in a press release sitting at the very bottom of the page offering a paragraph of information about the company issuing the news announcement. It contains some selling references but mostly recaps the primary business(es), along with key facts, figures, age, ownership, etc.  Here is some boilerplate from The Kraft Heinz Company:

    About The Kraft Heinz Company

    For 150 years, we have produced some of the world’s most beloved products at The Kraft Heinz Company(NASDAQ: KHC). Our Vision is To Be the Best Food Company, Growing a Better World. We are one of the largest global food and beverage companies, with 2018 net sales of approximately $26 billion. Our portfolio is a diverse mix of iconic and emerging brands. As the guardians of these brands and the creators of innovative new products, we are dedicated to the sustainable health of our people and our planet. To learn more, visit or follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

    Shelley Spector of Spector and Associates says boilerplate should always remain the same. And it requires a lawyer’s approval at public companies. Good press releases also use a digest of the boilerplate in the first sentence. For instance, Kraft Heinz might start off with “Kraft Heinz, the largest global food and beverage company announced today…”

    (A sure sign of an immature company is one that keeps changing it’s boilerplate with every release. A no-no.)

    Every brand needs to think about its boilerplate. It is an extended, inclusive statement of business purpose, scale and history. It’s a good place for strategists to begin when delving into brand claim and proof.




    Brand Strategy Tarot Cards.


    tarot cards

    I have a neat idea for a “What’s The Idea?” promotion.  (Disclosure: What’s The Idea? is an open source company, believing strategy frameworks should be open and shared.) The promotion is called “Brand Strategy Tarot Cards”  but the idea needs a little help from friends and friendettes, as Rohsaan Roland Kirk might have put it. So feel free to weigh in.

    The promotion offers a free 1-hour brand strategy assessment to help marketers better understand their current brand position – or lack thereof.

    In a traditional tarot card reading, three cards are turned over. In a Brand Strategy Tarot Card reading, I will turn over 6 cards. But they won’t actually be cards, they’ll be pieces of marketing content. 

    Here are a couple of content types I’m thinking about:

    1. Press release boiler plate (first sentence and About paragraph). 
    2. Website Homepage and About page copy. (We’ll use the home page if About is the same as boilerplate.)
    3. Text from a CEO speech or introductory sales presentation.
    4. Most famous ad or blog post. 
    5. LinkedIn posts or last company Tweet.  
    6. Company mission statement.

    My intent is to turn these content pieces over in front of the CMO, one at a time, read them aloud and interpret them in real time. At the end of the reading, aggregate observations will be shared and if I’m able to see a pattern, a meme-able brand position will be offered.

    So planners, any thoughts as to other brand strategy tarot cards I might use? 




    Brand Strategy Tarot Card Number 1.


    I am working on a presentation called Brand Strategy Tarot Cards.  My intent is to turn over 6 cards of branded content and do a reading. A reading of what these 6 fairly common pieces of content convey about the brand.  I’ve been playing with what the 6 cards are, but now will lock them down. 

    Up first is brand or company Name. The name is spoken more often than not by consumers so the aural version is important. Therefore the first Tarot card will not be a card at all, but spoken words. “Pass the What’s The Idea? please.” “Hey, would you get Whats The Idea? on the phone?”  Of course, there are full spoken names and shorthand names. Coca-Cola and Coke, are famous examples.

    After I evaluate the communication value of the name, we can turn over the first Tarot card which will be the packaging of the name — including the logo and tagline, if there is one. We’ll assess what the logo does to convey or reassert the name and then look to see if it conveys or furthers any particular meaning or value. When first introduced what meaning did the Nike swoosh bring to the brand communication for instance.

    Lastly, we’ll evaluate the tagline. Has it resonated? Has it changed every few years? Is it an advertising tagline? Many times, when the name is bad and the mark not particularly meaningful, the tagline carries the water. It’s a bail out tactic for branding. A startup I worked at used the meaningless name Zude. The logo was colorful, original typography but to consumers it was meaningless beyond color and playfulness. The tagline “Feel Free” was broadly grounded in the product functionality (a drag and drop web authoring tool) but kind of meaningless without a communicative name and mark.

    Fort Tarot Card number 2, tune in tomorrow.




    Selling Brand Strategy.


    Selling brand strategy is not easy. First, you have to explain what brand strategy is – “an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging.” Then you have to share the organizing principle, because without a framework an organizing principle is just a concept.  “One claim and three proof planks” is the What’s The Idea? framework.  What’s a claim?  That’s easy. But proof planks? That needs a little ‘splainin’. 

    So let’s say you get a marketer to understand the organizing principle of claim and proof planks, now what? Well, you have to convey that the companies most in need of these services are those chaos.  And who wants to admit to that? And if not in chaos, at least companies that are disorganized. Same problem. Few will admit to it.

    What marketers will admit to is wanting to make more money. They will admit to some inefficiency and perhaps agree they need to identify more customers. But chaos and disorganization? Not too likely.

    One of my biggest challenges is showing companies how they present themselves to the world. How they are perceived by the unknowing public. And in doing so to make sure the findings are not accusatory. To that end, I’m working on a free test for business and brand clarity. I call it Brand Strategy Tarot Cards.  If you’d like to participate in the test please write me at