Storytelling and Culture.


Ana Anjelic is a smart, intellectual brand thinker. Her piece on storytelling and culture here is both these things. I would like to riff on her thoughts if I may. 

I’ve been telling people for a couple of years that storytelling is the pop marketing topic of the decade. And I believe that. But I also believe it is an amazing tool if used correctly. And when I say correctly, I mean if the stories are not random but on brand strategy. Stories that are lovely but not on brand should be scuttled.  Now, not all stories are published by the brand. Some are consumer stories and harder to scuttle. It’s the brand managers job to encourage on brand stories from consumers and curate them. Not easy, but doable.

As for culture, I partially agree that people buy brands to participate in a product culture…to wear that culture as a badge. Certainly, in fashion this is true. But I more so believe people use brands not to be a part of a product culture but rather to make the brand part of their individual being or culture. The buyer as tastemaker as it were. “I like Marmot gear because if works for me. It meets my design standards.”  It broadcasts an individual’s personal taste as opposed to being a member of a cult/culture thing.

Stories are tactics, used to deliver strategy.  Culture is a memory map used to organize values. Both are topical and important tools when used the right way.




Naming. And Breweries of Jackson County.


I went to a brewery yesterday in Sylva, NC branded Innovation Brewing. The logo contains a machined gear in place of the O.  The good news is the beer is better than the branding. The tap room was well organized, all the beers listed by beer type. And they seemed to be in descending order of alcohol content. I liked the taproom set up, the tables were cool, the bar was well done and the outdoor seating quite fine.  

That said, the name was just wrong — for a beer company in the mountains. Nothing inside the taproom said innovation. It was a tap room. Innovation was just a random word. And a non-endemic word at that.  Having done a ton of work in the technology space, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard about innovation as a brand quality. Is the word an inside joke? As in, it’s beer for God sake.

Whatever the strategy, the name doesn’t work.  Not for first timers. Having never been there before, had I a choice between Innovation Brewing and Balsam Falls Brewery (not a Google result for “Breweries Near Me,”) I would have selected the latter…site unseen.

Naming is important people. Especially for first-time consumers.




Credit Card Brand Craft.


“Something Brighter” is the new tagline for the Discover Card.  I heard it on a radio commercial yesterday. It gave the brand planner in me pause. Say what? Ohhh. It has to do with the logo. The sun, thing-a-ma-bob in the word discover. Oy.

I like to believe that most taglines are brand claims. (A brand claim is half the brand strategy; the other half being proof planks.) But this isn’t always the case. Sometimes the company tagline is simply a line from the advertising campaign. Shoddy brand craft, if you ask me. It’s a touch lazy but something the expedient thing to do if the advertising is great.

Something Brighter means what exactly? Better than other credit cards. That’s not much of a positioning; not when you consider most credit cards are trying to convey the same thing. Capital One’s “What’s In Your Wallet?” is an advertising line. It, too, hides the brand strategy.

The credit card category is lacking in brand strategy. American Express used to do a good job, (Membership) but I’m not so sure anymore. Mastercard, whose ad campaign strategy “Priceless” is good, yet somewhat tired, almost has a brand strategy but it’s not an endemic card quality.

There’s a saying in advertising “If you don’t have something to say, sing it.”  Well, this is not the case for brand strategy. They have to be meaningful and product-centric.

Something brighter needs to happen in the credit card industry and it’s not the advertising.




Jab, Jab, Jab.


Brian Morrissey, former editor of Digiday, when guest editing newsletter Why Is This Interesting recently wrote:

Brevity is more important than ever. There is simply too much content let loose on the world these days. During early Digiday, we did some kind of personality exam that advised people dealing with me to “be brief, be bright, be gone.” Many publications could stand to heed that too. 

I hope this next interaction of digital media becomes more concise. Removing the unnecessary to get to the essence improves products and shows respect for the audience. “Engagement” is too often confused with time spent. The measure is actually just an imperfect gauge of value. Saving people time is always a good product strategy.”

I agree completely with Brian. Tight is might. I recall reading that blog posts, in order to be found by the search engines, need to be at least 400 words, ideally closer to 800. Hell no! Not at What’s The Idea?  This isn’t The New Yorker. I’m not in the click bait business. I’m looking for readers. And it’s tough out there.  I’m hoping they will come back every day or at least weekly, so I need them to think. I don’t need to show that I can think.  And you can’t get there by pontificating and being verbose. Jab, jab, jab.



Movements, Demonstrations or…


Strawberry Frog likes to tout its brand and advertising strategy “Creating Movements.”  Movements are a slow burn – so, some might argue it would be more expeditious to “create mobs?”  Well, the difference between a mob and a movement is virulence and no marketer wants their followers to be hostile or spiteful.

The business of branding is to influence in a positive way. To build value appreciation through customer care-abouts and brand good-ats. Research even suggests introducing an element of danger in advertising can cause consumer unease making them less likely to purchase. Sunny day anyone?

Physics reminds us movement from a standing still position causes friction.  And brand people love to talk about tension. They uncover competitive tensions for breakfast.

Most will agree creating mobs around brands is wrong. Stop gun violence. Stop the war. Better pay for nurses. All three of these examples offer the potential for anger but I wouldn’t call them mobs. Yet I also wouldn’t call them movements. Demonstrations might be a better word. Legal. Careful. Pointed.  Plus, I love the word demonstrations. Demonstrations also support the “claim and proof” framework which is the backbone of What’s The Idea? It works two ways.

There is probably a good word between the passive movement and the more animus-infused demonstration. The search is on. Thoughts?



First Sentences.


I don’t mean to pick on marketers and branders having a hard time articulating their business, but I do find it instructive to read copy designed to convey such.

One example is for a company named InMarket.

Here’s the first sentence from their About paragraph on LinkedIn:

InMarket is the leader in 360-degree consumer intelligence and real-time activation for thousands of major brands.

From their website About page, comes this first sentence and since it’s an About page I’ve included the second sentence:

At InMarket, being best-in-class means providing our customers with access to the most accurate and precise, permission-based, SDK-derived location data available today. It also means creating breakthrough experiences via hyper-relevant, timely messages in the moments that matter, providing transformational 360-degree measurement and delivering consumer intelligence that makes advertisers smarter with every interaction.

Here is the sentence from their Twitter bio: The leader in digital advertising for the physical world.

And lastly, here’s some marketing copy they lock up with the logo in some instances. Let’s call it an advertising line:

Connecting brands and consumers in the moments that matter.

Here’s the question. From any of these individual descriptions, do you know what InMarket Is or Does?  If you work really hard at it, when you add them all together, you may get a sense of their business.

The basis for proper branding is a clear Is-Does. What a company Is and what a company Does.

Strategy first. Copy second.


PS. If you would like a look at your first sentences in the form of a free promotion Brand Strategy Tarot Cards, write  (Promo supplies limited.)



A Thought On Corporate Culture.


Much in branding has been written about corporate culture. Most believe it to be a good thing. I would respectfully disagree.

A company does not need a culture.  In fact, it can be a detriment and lead to group think. Every organization needs outliers, obstructionists and contrarians; otherwise, it can become stale, even boring. Change is good and an overbearing culture may resist change. It may even keep good employees away. That said, what mustn’t be diluted are business objectives. And the brand strategy designed to meet those objectives. Of course, brand strategy (the organizing principle for product, experience and messaging) can change if the product or market changes, but it has been my observation that done right brand strategy can live on for decades.

As for corporate culture, it’s overrated. Our great country was built upon diversity: of thought, religion, culture and political background. Culture cannot be prescribed. It can and should grow organically and change. It must remain fluid. Don’t color by numbers.



Brand Planner’s Prayer


Things we remember.

We remember beauty.

We remember new.

We remember rich.

We remember melody.

We remember funny.

We remember nature.

We remember poetry.

We remember pain.

We remember educators.

We remember warmth.

We remember charity.

We remember happy.

We remember love.

We remember triumph.

These are the things we remember.

(I post this brand planners prayer once a year in January as a reminder.)

Offense Defense.


This is going to be a short post. 

Strategy is offense.

Using dashboard metrics to power your marketing is defense.