claim and proof

    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.




    The Commodity Promise.


    The brand promise or in my lexicon “claim” is often a very common promise. The common or commodity promise is a blight on the branding world. Let’s look at healthcare or hospitals as an example – a place where doctors do medical procedures.  Docs and hospitals often share the promise “making patients well.”  If you were to wrangle all the healthcare promises in the country, 90% will be the same.  A commodity promise.

    Getting past the commodity promise is hard work. And work not easily done by marketing staffers; it requires a specialist. A deep-digging brand planner.

    A big hospital in the northeast had a marketing director who fancied himself a creative person. He decided he wanted the hospital tagline to be (and I will paraphrase a bit) “Your wellness means the world.”  Say it enough times in radio and TV ads and people might just believe it. That’s adverting not branding.

    After having done some a little bit of discovery on the brand, I came up with a competing promise “Where every bed is precision.” It’s not a tagline, but a brand strategy.  With this as the claim, supported by three proof planks, the hospital would have had a brand strategy. See the difference? Not a commodity promise.




    Obs and Strats



    Everything we do in marketing has to support objectives and strategies (obs and strats).  Similarly, everything we do in the brand building needs to support brand strategy. A well-designed brand strategy (one claim, 3 proof planks) is inexorably linked to obs and strats; therefore brand strategy is measurable.

    So how does one measure brand strategy?

    The easy answer is to conduct periodic quantitative studies of attitudes and then marry that attitude data against key performance indicators, such as sales, transactions, utilization — things that generate revenue.

    Unlike ROI which maps, say, an ad spent to income generated, Return On Strategy (ROS) measures attitude swings against revenue.  That’s why brand claim and the proof planks must be embedded in obs and strats.

    Tink about it as my Norwegian aunt used to say.



    My Brand Strategy Secret.


    Clients pay me for two deliverables: brand strategy and marketing plans. I can’t do the latter without the former. It’s possible to pretend, even hide the brand strategy component, but without strategy the marketing planning is a little bit like paint-by-numbers.

    gem miningSo how do I approach brand strategy development?  I look for proof. How does a guy walk into a company and in a matter of days or week know a brand well enough to create a strategy that will operationalize marketing success? Proof. A hunt for proof.

    Proof of what, you ask? Ahhh, that’s the $64,000 question. At the beginning, it’s way too early to tell. Each brand presents a clean slate. As I trek through fact-finding, data, sales, consumer and business partner interviews, I come across lots and lots of claim-ish fluff. But when tangible proof rises up, it is easily noted. Proof may be found in behavior. In deeds, business decisions, investments. Product taste. Product experience. It’s everywhere. With enough proof arrayed and smartly clustered, the brand planner can begin to formulate the brand claim and key support planks. And that is the secret sauce of What’s The Idea?. Proof hunting.

    Rest in peace David Carr.