Is-Does Then Why.


I’ve written a great deal about a simple but important brand component: the Is-Does.  What a product “is” and what a product “does.”  (For the purposes of this post I’ll use product to also mean service.) Having come into the branding world with a concentration in technology I know that understanding what a product “is” is foundational. Is it hardware? Software? Platform? Or an app?  It may seem simple but sometimes it really takes some digging to get that answer. (Just read a few About page on tech company websites.) What, for instance, Is a video game? Or LinkedIn?

After the Is is out of the way brand strategists need to establish the “does.” What does the product accomplish for the user.  What is its function. This requires creating context and usage for the product. Is the iPhone a phone for instance? Or a communications device? A recorder of content. All the above? The iPhone broke the mold for the Is-Does and screwed up branding for many technology companies. Swiss Army knife anyone?

Earlier in the week I was reading a Mike Troiano blog post where he discussed what he believes to be most important brand component, the “why.”

Can’t argue the “why” is important, but I can disagree with the hierarchy. If you share the Why but not the Is and the Does, you are wasting a consumer’s gray matter. (I’m talking technology and emerging services here, not mature categories.) There are only a few whys in the marketing world: improved productivity, better price, make money, improve efficiency, more sustainable and more equitable. Without the Is-Does, these end-benefits or whys are just commodities.

When brand people just straight to the why in their claim they are missing steps, especially in nascent categories. Brand strategy is strengthened by a narrative, as Mike says in his post. Completely agree. But brand strategy is nuts and bolts. It’s measurable and quantifiable.  Narratives and stories on the Why are best left to ad agencies.