claim and proof

    Claim and Proof.


    I write a lot about claim and proof. A brand claim, done well, organizes one’s thoughts. It sets the tone and expectation. But it’s the proof of that claim that embeds the reasoning.  That makes a claim more than magic. More than ad copy.

    Take any piece of marketing content and using two different color highlighters, light up all the written claims language. Then light up the proof language. The evidence. See what happens.

    When someone says “We will work hard to earn your business,” that’s a claim.  

    If that same person says we are “available 24/7 and provide a personal mobile number,” that’s proof.

    When someone says “we’ll customize to meet the needs of your business,” it’s a claim.

    If that same person shares 25 segmented offers from the last year, that’s proof.

    Claim without proof is marko-babble. Dirty dishwater. Branding and the brand strategy upon which it is built begins with proof. Organized, discrete proof. The claim is simply the bow on top that ties it all together.




    Brand Taglines.


    At What’s The Idea?, the framework for brand building is one claim and three proof planks. The claim is the fulcrum for all branding activities. It’s the one thing you can say about a brand that distinguishes it from all others. And marketing goes to war each day to proof it and bring it to life. Any marketing breath not supporting the claim is wasted.

    For most companies the brand tagline is synonymous with the claim. Sometimes and this happens more often than it should, the tagline is the work product of the ad agency. Usually siphoned off of the advertising. If the adverting is on brand strategy and the adverting is good, it works fine.  Other times, the tagline is the result of brand planning prior to advertising. 

    Let’s look at a tagline gone wrong.

    Evan Williams. Bourbon Done Right.

    The construct “done right” has been used in taglines in every product category since modern marketing began.  It’s so overused it has lost all marketing flavor. Plus, it presumes there are lots of bourbons done wrong. In addition to using a commodity tagline, “done right” is hard to prove. With a cursory look at the Evan Williams website, the only proof laid out to support the claim is aged in charred oak barrels. And aged for 4 years. Kentucky’s first bourbon doesn’t directly support the claim, though it’s a proof (of something). 

    I’m sure Evan Williams is a wonderful product. It deserves a wonderful position in the minds and mouths of consumers. Letting a 32 year old copywriter, who probably drinks kombucha, write your tagline is a mistake. (At least that’s what this one feels like to me.)

    Find your proof. Find your claim. Then find your distinction.



    Is-Does and Claim and Proof.


    Claim and proof may be my biggest contribution to the brand planning world. But first a story about another planning tool meme: the Is-Does. I was sitting in a parlor in Brooklyn many years ago with a number of stakeholders and volunteers for Bailey’s Café a community organization designed help Bed-Stuy students. We were all there to talk about building momentum. No one knew where to start the conversation so enter the planner. “Let’s go around the room and answer these two questions,” I suggested, “What Is Bailey’s Care? and What Does Bailey’s Café Do?” And we were off. Always the get Is-Does right. Back to claim and proof.

    Claim and Proof.
    I’m currently working with a local small business trying to punch up a flagging business hurt by the coronavirus. We’re looking to use social media, unpaid media, to generate some activity and business without spending money. After zeroing in on a part of the business that seems most fertile and the quickest to triage and I asked the business owner to send me some copy points about the products. As with most marketers, I received a list of claims. Claims are the oxygen marketing runs on today. But they’re a dime a dozen. Unsupported claims riddle the airways and byways of the advertising landscape. We’re drowning in claims. So we spent our time turning those claims to proofs. Evidence. Demonstrations. The things that make claims real.

    Proofs build brands. And not random proofs. Organized, disciplined proof. Your claim directs the organizing principle but the proof gives it substance.





    Proof in Politics.


    Illegal immigration has been a powerful President Trump issue from the earliest days. Some say his signature issue. Illegal immigrants, says he, contribute to many of our country’s ills; from MS 13, to rapists coming across the border, we’ve heard it all. His strategists knew it would be a hot topic for the voting public and were right.

    But illegal immigration has been a political things for a long, long time. Addressing it has been a political ping pong ball. Yet only one candidate by my reckoning has ever talking about creating a wall along the Mexican US border. Dare I say a “big, beautiful wall,” as the sound bite goes.

    If president Trump is anything, he’s a sales person. Everyone can talk about more processing camps, increasing the number of judges, reducing back logs and the like, but who talks about a building a wall? Trump understands the notion of “proof” in branding

    What’s The Idea? readers know my brand strategy framework is built upon “claim and proof.” Fix immigration is the claim and the wall is the proof. Trump understand big sweeping proof gestures and it works in politics. It also works in brand building. Look at your business, find your claim then develop your proof.


    PS. The president is dead wrong on all things realeted to immigration his policy. But branding?


    Proof Well Told Part 2.


    In an April post I wrote “To really understand truths you must uncovering proof.” And it is as valid today as it was earlier this year (hee hee.) Yesterday I shared the view that proof, or three proofs and a claim, undergird brand strategy at What’s The Idea?.

    Tell a small business owner or multinational board chairman they must organize their product/service offering under one claim and three values and they will feel constrained. “What about the future?” “What if the market changes?” “What about competitors?” To them I say, stop itAmerica was built — the declaration of independence was built — upon “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” I think we can build a brand on three values.

    But the word values, especially in branding, is overused and under-supported. I prefer proof. Proof is foundational. Proof is building material. Proof makes brands tangible. I do discovery around values, but I mine the proof. When you’re talking about things tangible, you can be clear and concise. When you talk about values, it’s easy to be unspecific and verbose.

    Proof well told is the key to building brands. Organize that proof and tether it the mother of all claims and you become nearly bulletproof.




    Deeds and Proof.


    There’s an old axiom often repeated by parents to children “Do as I say, not as I do.”  A picture comes to mind of my mother savoring a cocktail, perhaps post-cigaette, in a 1950s-60s bathing suit on the back of the Salt-Shaker, my dad’s first Chris Craft. You can almost smell the smoke and the salt air. As a youth I was counseled not to smoke or drink. But kids watch. Kids learn.

    Marketers are all about “Do as I say.” Brand planners focus on “Do as I do.”

    A new class of brand planners – let’s call them proof planners – understand this. They understand that people more strongly believe proof and deeds than narrative – which they associate with fiction.  Evidence is evidence. So a picture of a smiling, pretty face drinking a Kraft beer is not as impactful as long line of concert goers waiting for Kraft beer next to a Budweiser line with 1 person on it. Proof beats claim any time.

    Proof planners understand we are 50 years into the era of claim advertising and we’re totally inured to it. Claim sans proof doesn’t work.  Mine your proof, brand planners. And build stronger brands.




    An Organizing Principle.


    I came across a cool London ad firm yesterday by the name of Mr. President (Love the name.) In the About section of the website was a somewhat sprawling description of its brand craft, outlining 6 components:

    • Position: A strategic positioning for a brand which defines the business opportunity and informs the brand purpose.
    • Ethos: A unique brand story that defines its purpose and inspires its personality and behaviour.
    • Identity: A set of guidelines that demonstrate and define how the brand looks, talks and moves.
    • Comms: A campaign or moment that boldly defines the brand purpose.
    • Connectors: An extensive plan that defines how the brand should interact with the audience.
    • Measurement: A rigorous framework that defines and quantifies performance and unearths actionable insight.

    It’s comprehensive but also prescriptive. I’m sure it will work within the walls of Mr. President but not likely outside of the agency. And that’s what brand strategy is all about.  A framework that can be shared over time and place.

    I looked over the six, well thought-out elements and realized they are covered in What’s The Idea’s? Claim and Proof framework — with the possible exception of “identity.”  If we view purpose as claim then properly done all the behaviors mentioned can become proofs. So we are mostly in alignment, but in a cleaner more measurable way.

    A mentor of mine at McCann-Erickson once parried an AT&T client comment with “Campaigns are overrated.”  I riff on that with “Campaigns come and go a powerful brand idea is indelible.”

    Brand strategy is an organizing principle. Anchored to claim.





    Brand Claim.


    There are a number of words used in branding to depict the central idea of the strategy. Truth, promise and value proposition are a couple of favorites. The word I use is claim. Words matter, make no mistake, and in brand-speak the proper descriptor speak volumes.

    Claim is straightforward and begets proof. Claim without proof is bluster. (Or advertising.)

    The word proposition is much softer, nearly apologist.  We propose. Consider this.  It’s kinder and gentler but branding is about belief. Being versus promising.  Absolutism versus promissory-ism. 

    While claim is the critical brand strategy word, the proof planks (3 of them) are the content upon which belief is constructed.  Anyone can make a claim, few prove it.   

    If you are a small or mid-size business – or any business in fact – looking to improve your marketing effectiveness, ask yourself what claim are you making in the marketplace. Not what’s your vision, not what’s your voice, not what is your profitability…what is the claim about your product or service that makes it worthy of successful commerce?



    Claim About a Brand Claim.


    What’s The Idea?, a brand strategy consultancy, provides two key services: brand strategy and marketing plans.  Marketing plans are certainly more of a commodity. What makes ours different from your garden variety marketing plan is the brand idea and proof array are embedded.  In other words, the tactics are intrinsically tied to the brand care-abouts and good-ats.

    But the bread and butter, what I get most excited about, is the creation of the brand “claim.”  That’s what sets What’s The Idea? apart.  I’ve been told WTI brand claims offer a bit of poesy or poetry.  They are therefore more memorable. “Low cost provider. Best customer care. Most innovative.” These are not What’s The Idea? claims.  

    It’s made me wonder if one can tell a WTI claim apart from that of other brand strategy shops? What would a claim from an Interbrand or Landor look like next to mine? This is going to require a bit of research. I’ll take it as an action item and report back.

    Maybe then we’ll do a side-by-side comparison for shits and giggs.





    One of my clients is so good at what they do they take a “rising tide” approach to sharing their IP and tools. For free. This soooo goes against everything I was taught as a pup in the business, where “proprietary” and “patented” carried the day.  But the software and services worlds are a changing.  Look at what Satya Nadella has done with Microsoft, opening up much of the company and reaping massive rewards.

    I’ve been sharing my brand strategy framework for years. I’ve borrowed from some of the leading lights of the “sharing” age, even meme-ing “open source brand strategy.”

    The reality is, brand strategy requires doing something smart with all the data and discovery that goes into it. You can’t just pour the information into muffin cups and start baking.  You have to organize and prioritize your ingredients.  And that’s when a framework turns into strategy.

    I share my framework – the claim and proof array – but I’m not nervous it will hurt my business. Sharing is never a negative.