Is Your Brand Vivid Enough For The 21st Century?

 

With so many messages, channels, and technologies competing for our beleagured mentalĀ attention, I often wonder if the only brands getting attention these days are brands that are vivid?

What do I mean by vivid? Well it’s partially self explanatory, but if a brand is every good and bad product, banner ad, website, TV ad, point-of-sale piece, twitter feed, facebook page, or after-sales service call, then by vivid I mean a brand platform that has the depth to produce consistent content across everyone of those channels.

My premise is if you don’t have a vivid brand platform, one that is rich, deep, and well articulated, then you won’t have accurate criteria to help you navigate through the many internal ideas, and agency tactics that are needed to play in the new high bar of the 21st century. The second problem resulting from this lack of vivid brand platforms, is very likely your consumers, your prospects or your customers, are going to steer away from your brand because they are information-overloaded and therefore don’t have the mental bandwidth to piece together your brand for you – too many other great options out there.

I think there are some great examples of vivid brands and some god-awful examples.

Some of the great vivid brands are all the ones we gravitate to. They provide value to our lives by providing some utility, they solve something, the iconic brands share with us their beliefs, they give us something we needed, something to look forward to, something extra, or something we didn’t even know we wanted. And they are consistent through their value chain of activity: their products, in-store experiences, ads, their follow-up, etc. And all these tactics are mutually supportive of a larger brand platform. Obvious examples are Apple, Nike, West 49, Google, Lululemon, Starbucks, etc.

West 49

West 49 is a vivid brand in the area of “youth action sports lifestyle”. From the in-store “dudes” and “dudettes” they hire, to the miscellaneous items around the core clothing model, like skateboards, longboards, sunglasses, to the online offerings including West 49 TV – clear, lots of depth, cool content and all “totally chill”. And the brand company they keep like Element, Sector 9, and Plan B all bring the brand platform to life.

Starwood Hotels

Recently, for the top tier of its loyalty program, Starwood Hotels & Resorts added a service called Your24 which allows members to choose when they can check-in and check-out of the hotel. What a great feature. I remember travelling from Tokyo to New York for meetings there with McCann and your body clock was exactly the opposite of the time zone in Manhattan. A great service idea – built around me, not the hotel cleaning service. That gesture has huge communication value. Very consistent with the Starwood brand platform and approach.

Car Industry

Recently there’s been a particular car ad running on TV which I believe is trying to highlight a 10 year warranty only to jettison the viewer into a picture of these same two guys 10 years in future. The future beholds both men now balding, one with a baby and both remorsing over their future selves. So what attributes of this brand (no brand platform present obviously!) were they “driving” to increase, other than horror, panic, and fear. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t get that one – so much more they could do with that brand, even for dealer communications and certainly for a Japanese company of that stature.

Implications

If you’re not sure about specific strategies or tactics, then likely your brand platform is not vivid enough. You don’t have the criteria or roadmap you need to leverage your brand in the 21st century. With new messages, apps, posts, technology, and information flying at us faster than ever, there’s only one constant – your customer. Focus there and determine what jobs, outcomes and utility they need and then, in the context of your idea, use that as the road map to develop strategies to make your brand platform vivid. If you don’t, you’re brand will be lost in the crowd of new, shinier offerings.

Once there, you can then move to channel planning. But you have to be precise in terms of ownership of this stage of strategy development and also ensure there is quality control. Most agencies still rely on their creative teams to do this, based on an ad idea, which is not wrong. But you do have to make sure this is cross-checked across the specific channel form and capabilities as well as communication tasks or barriers you are trying to address. Don’t accept a check mark in each box. Ask for specifics. The tactic needs to address both parts of the matrix: 1) the capability of the channel and; 2) the task or barrier you are trying to address.

You then should have tactics and can now move into determining which of these your budget can afford. If you are still uncertain, test them in some inexpensive, online setting, off the radar. The new tools of the digital space afford you the luxury now to test and learn almost immediately. You can remove things off a site or you can modify on the fly fast and inexpensively. You can then refine your brand platform, add depth, map a publishing strategy, find the themes that resonate, test stories, fine tune content and other tactics you can mine successfully and also determine what’s outside your brand jurisdiction. There’s no longer any reason to have off-strategy ads or tactics or less than vivid brands. Leave that for the 20th century. And if you don’t have this level of brand platform, you’re likely not going to survive past your next performance review because likely your competitor or a new adjacency is scoping out your weaknesses, as you are with them.

If your interested in a free assessment of your brand or want to just discuss the difference between a brand and a brand platform, don’t hesitate to contact me.

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New Tools and Practices for Success

We’ve long been championing a “learning organization” philosophy to this new, hyper, super market. We call this Horiztonal thinking TM. And the rationale for that is two-fold:

1. Each brand in a category will have unique levers that can be triggered to better engage with consumers;

2. In this new digital age, there are few best practices, so each brand team needs to begin to develop its own.

Ironically, given it’s image, Procter & Gamble has been quite progressive in the digital space. In Ad Age it was highlighted that they are testing and learning. In this day and age, this traditional approach is a completely effective and prudent one. It minimizes risk to budgets, it optimizes messaging and it develops a pool of learnings for the brand and agency team.

“P&G’s optimization approach for digital is not unlike the continuous improvement processes long used on factory floors, and some of its brands, including Pantene, are using continuous data on consumers’ response to digital ads to tweak media buys and inform creative elements”.

“The billion-dollar hair-product brand has improved performance on those target metrics by 28% to 90% vs. the previous system of creative pretesting alone, according to Marketing Director Kevin Crociata”.

“If we take one of the three or four claims we have for a particular initiative and find one is working particularly well in the digital space, it’s learning we can apply back to print ads, in-store elements and other places,” Mr. Crociata said.

“The information also influences Pantene’s social-media content, he said”.

This of course requires slight modifications to a client/agency process; a move to mindset of being in perpetual beta, constantly trying, learning, optimizing. And also, how do you distribute those learnings to other parts of the team, the channel planning elements, the content plan? Also, there are always consumers in your market that need replacement products. Just having a four week flight of conventional activity doesn’t address this anymore. Horizontal Thinking TM allows you to talk to each customer on your market. For more information on this approach, shoot us an e-mail.

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