How can an consultant come into a company, study data, ask 200 questions, drive around with salespeople, and begin to think s/he can tell a CEO or C (fill in the letters) about the heart and soul of that company? Or tell the CEO what will make the company grow at an out-pace rate. What customers want — and the best way to sell them. It’s ridiculous to think a consultant can do that. But that’s what brand planning consultants do.
So how does a brand planner present findings in such an uphill setting?
First, the planner shares data the C-level can’t disagree with. Data doesn’t lie. Plus, the data often comes from the same executives to whom the planner is presenting. Second, present observations. Who can argue with an observation? It’s not a recommendation, it’s a carefully selected, important piece of field work. And, if spun with elan and poetry it can become powerful and memorable. “Peter Pan Syndrome,” for instance, is something I shared while working on Microsoft. Not really forgettable.
Third, organize the big picture stuff in a way that allows for leaning moments driving Cs toward a POV or conclusion. A conclusion they will get to before it is presented.
Forth, remove the complexity and contradictions. Oh, and there will be contradictions. (Deciding what not to present is often the hardest part of brand planning.)
Fifth, give them a brand strategy that is brand-familiar, competitive, and with eyes up — toward the horizon. Also, one that makes the Cs feel a little uncomfortable. More often than not, in a great brand strategy there will be a word with which they disagree. The beauty of the word is that is can be changed – by the creative team. The brand strategy is a strategy, not the creative. And even if the “word” is pregnant with creative meaning like, say, the word “reboot,” it is really just stimulus for the creative team. (That’s why Campaigns come and go but a powerful brand strategy is indelible.) In step five, the C gets to exhibit strength, power and insight (and have the last word) and yet idea détente is still achieved. We have lift off. Peace!