Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Theme Machine

I've been spending a lot of time dissecting the book, Brand Digital by Allen Adamson. It really brings into focus the importance of branding and the branding mindset in today's digital age. Or has Allen puts it, "digital amplifies the things that have always been true of branding."

One of the things Allen touches on is the importance of a Brand Driver. That "one idea" that serves as a launch pad or platform for every idea communicated across every channel. For instance, in the book Adamson refers to brand driver's such as Johnson & Johnson's "having a baby changes everything," GE's "imagination at work" and HP's "Personal computers are personal again."

Adamson calls it a "brand driver," but I've come to know it as a "brand theme." A brand theme is the backbone of all marketing communications and internal activity, yet it's stretchy and elastic enough to wrap around the entire brand. Which is why I believe that ad agencies need to get better at developing meaningful and original "brand themes" for their clients, and get beyond cute and clever "one-off" ads and taglines that sound more like prom themes. Ideas that work okay in the moment but are cast aside in a matter of months because they quickly lose relevance.

Is your brand wrapped around a clear, compelling and memorable brand theme? Is your brand theme built around a powerful and actionable consumer insight capable of generating hundreds of great ads, commercials or websites?

"Serious Care Starts Here" for a prestigious University Hospital, "Life is Looking Up" for Verizon Yellow Pages, and "Spontaneous Cool" for a brand of apparel for the NFL all were brand themes that gave the client and agency plenty of room to run. They were brand themes that spoke directly to the audience and gave the brand something to talk about. A conversation to own and involve people in.

Therefore, we're no longer makers of ads or designers of websites. We are
theme machines. Methodically crafting emotional blockbusters that become the calling card for the brand, and serve as a underpinning for all digital and traditional work.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tom's Toon

A fellow cartoonist friend of mine, Tom Fishburne, is a brand manager for Method in the U.K. and is a famous "management cartoonist"(tomfishburne.com). Here's a recent cartoon of Tom's that captures the sentiment of a lot of people.

Thought I'd end the week before Memorial Day with someone else's cartoon for a change.

Enjoy. And enjoy the holiday.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Marketingeze Made EZ

Ah, the "agency capabilities presentation."

Such a fun ritual.

Who are we? What do we? Why are we different? Who have we done this with before? The bigger question in the room would be, "is the prospective client willing and able to pay for what we do? Do they even value what we do?"

A former ad agency colleague of mine had a favorite catchphrase when negotiating with prospective clients in the pitch mode, especially when the agency was asked by the prospective partner to "put together some ideas to see if we like what we do."
To them, GD would always intone to the team: "No romance without the finance."

I have to agree. Spec work is pure evil. Nonetheless. We had a couple good client meetings/presentations this week. Good rapport. Excitement in the air. All signs point to "yes" around the chance to do compelling work for them.

What closed the deal? Must have been the agency's elevator pitch.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sound the Brand Alarm

I saw this in the hallway of the hotel I was staying in while in Stockholm. At first glance, I read it as "brand alarm," and thought "I'm not sure what it means and why it's there, but what a great way to capture the feeling many marketers are experiencing these days." Upon further inspection I realized there wasn't an "A" after the "D" so it was actually brand-larm. Nonetheless, how cool would it be for clients to have one of these at their disposal? Branding companies could be like a firehouse.

Think of it. Whenever a client had an emergency with their brand, they could sound an alarm that would ring, alerting branding professionals to the problem(how many times have we heard about clients needing to "put out fires?)

This would certainly come in handy these days, when most marketers are smelling a little smoke and could use help figuring out where it's coming from.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Virtual Brainstomer

Welcome to an experiment.

Virtual Brainstormer is an extension of a workshop I did in December. I called the program Better Brainstorming in the Idea Economy. It's a culmination of probably a dozen years of traveling all over creation, brainstorming for pay for consumer products companies.

This is the first video of what I hope will be many. Some generated by me and my troupe. Some generated by others.

I hope you find it helpful.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Shout™ is a stain remover, not a brand strategy Part 2

Absolut has never been a brand that's needed to shout at anyone. It created its own brand of cool with an iconic bottle and its own language(Absolut whatever). It aligned with creative thinkers, artists and cultural icons and created an aura that's lasted over two decades.

This is me several months back in Stockholm, Sweden. While working on a project for Absolut, I had the opportunity to visit the Ice Bar. A bar where literally the bar is made of ice and you drink Absolut from glasses made of, well, ice. A marketing gimmick or totally unique touchpoint that lets people engage the brand in a memorable way? All I can say is that I came back with an amazing story to tell and a shared experience that has transformed me into an evangelist for Absolut. Literally and figuratively, a cool way to experience the spirits brand. When brands get it right they don't need to shout to be heard.

Who else is doing something that projects the brand in an unexpected way? Who else out there is demonstrating the inherent value of creating shared experiences, and not simply shouting at people?


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Shout™ is a stain remover, not a brand strategy

Back in the day, selling was all about shouting. Shouting messages via television commercials, radio spots and splashy print ads powered by heavy media buys. Through sheer exposure and merciless repetition, brand messages would seep into the brains of the masses. Trouble is, it's not about mass media anymore. Nor is it about one-way selling. No, marketing isn't about selling, it's about sharing. Sharing information, opinions, important conversations, and tools that let people live more empowered lives.

In his article in Businessweek in 2007, "It's the Conversation Economy, Stupid," David Armano tells us that "one of the engines that is driving '2.0' growth is the fact that communities are forming around popular social platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, Ning, Twitter---the list goes on and on. These platforms facilitate conversations. Conversation leads to relationships and relationships lead to affinity. Brand affinity, as companies such as Harley-Davidson have proven often drives communities to form around them."

In other words, if your brand isn't a conversation, it's just more noise. Therein lies the problem. Based on what I see in advertising and on various websites, most brands couldn't carry on a conversation with a consumer if their lives depended on it. Just more buzzwords and worn out marketing-eze. Imagine for a minute that these brands were people you met at a cocktail party. You'd probably excuse yourself to the restroom in a matter of minutes.

Further on in his article, David Armano(darmano.typepad.com) proposes that all marketers should think of themselves as "conversation architects." A professional whose job it is to know the audience, build empathy and create conversations that can live on their own.

Gary Kopervas, conversation architect.

I like the sound of that. Now you try it next to your own name.

But remember, no shouting.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Get Your Sock On

Hey, another week in the books. Welcome the weekend with a big, wet, sloppy kiss or an awkward handshake (choice is yours). It's been another week of new business pitches, cranking on projects and follow up phone calls. These days weekends have really become a time to decompress, disengage and recharge the battery.

Go on. It's time. Shut 'er down, go home and enjoy yourself. Let's do this again on Monday.