Brand Attitude

Brand positioning is important, right? Of course it is. All brands must set out the basis of their competitive advantage in such a way that all those involved in developing or delivering the brand can stay within the guardrails. Thus we achieve a consistency in branding that we all know to be vitally important.

So over the years a ‘catwalk’ (I have decided this will be the collective noun) of Brand Positioning Models (get it?) has been developed and, I am proud to say, I have made a big contribution to this.

The secret, you see, of a good Brand Positioning Model is to have a distinctive visual template to which you give you give a name and that name should capture the template. Brand Onion (ogres have layers and so do brands), Brand Triangle, Brand Bullseye and Brand Key. Those last two were mine by the way. There were others involved in their conception but I shall not name them but will rather take all the credit myself.

Some believe that it is enough just to give the Brand Positioning Model (more technique in my view) a title. The Brand Mantra (to be chanted every morning at dawn); The Brand Chord (excellent for the musically gifted brand manager – different notes make up the chord and each note represents a distinct but complimentary idea); The Brand Ideal (more than just an idea, a higher purpose). Actually, as I shall explain, I see merit in these techniques, all of them, and I intend to introduce a new one. But, sad to say,  I’ve gone off the Brand Models.

Do digital people like any of the catwalk of models? Not really in my experience. They like technology and analytical evidence and see neither of these in Brand Positioning Models. They ask awkward questions like “How do they actually work?” or “What data did you use to decide what to include or exclude in your Onion/Key. Mantra etc?” Perhaps I have been spending too much time with the digital natives because I think they are good questions.

More than that, I find the customized templates somewhat constraining. They are almost always filled in with words that require an additional paragraph to explain. And almost always in English so head office can understand them. What if you don’t speak English or the idea is better expressed as a turn of phrase in the local language? What about pictures, sounds, touch, smell? But most importantly, what if I don’t want to use this bloody template? What if I want to explore the richness of the idea to see where it can take us? What if this is a very new and evolving brand and we simply don’t have the understanding yet to fill in all the boxes or layers or sections of the triangle?

And that is the big problem with the templates – we feel forced to ‘fill them in’. What is the brand’s competitive set; who is the target market; what is your insight; what are the functional benefits; what are the brand values aka non-functional benefits; what are the proof points; in what way is this brand either first, best, only; and finally, what is the essence of the brand? Answers in 100 words or less (in English, pictures will not be allowed unless accompanied by written notes).

What has brought all this on? Why has the designer of the Brand Key and Brand Bullseye (there were others involved etc) decided to change his tune all of a sudden? Well, because someone who did not know I was the designer, recently asked me to get involved in filling one out for a digital business I am involved in and I couldn’t. This is partly because it falls under the heading of ‘newly formed brand’ so we frankly don’t have the answers yet but partly because I yet again realized that these templates are much better at capturing the answers than finding them. They are not a tool – neither a tool to help define a brand nor a particularly good tool to help you communicate to others when you have – they are a neat looking summary that shows you have thought about it.

All I want to do is talk or write or draw (if I could draw) to express some aspects of what the brand could be.
In that regard I find the Brand Mantra or Ideal or Chord much more helpful. Get some ideas out there and start to explain what they might mean. In fact, just have some ideas. I love John Hegarty’s faith in the power of ideas and how brilliant they are- you can just have them, we do, all the time, and they require no technology or templates, not even a pencil and paper. They can just be.

So here is a new idea about brand positioning I’ve had. Let’s call it “Brand Attitude”. My sell for this idea will come directly from the Dictionary (Collins) which I will paraphrase for my purposes: “A mental view or disposition especially as it indicates opinion or allegiance, a theatrical pose created for effect, a position of the body or gesture indicating mood or emotion, the orientation of something in relation to prevailing forces”. This sounds promising don’t you think?

So what is your Brand’s attitude? – answers in 100 words or less

Social Media – Learning to Earn

I have long been troubled by hearing the interweb and all things digital referred to as  “New Media”, and especially the use of “Social Media” as the collective for blogs and social network sites. My problem is with the word ‘Media’ and I admit it may be a generational thing. Media creates a very particular mindset if you entered marketing any time in the last century. You pay for Media, it works by interruption and is generally one way. We used our brand budget (traditionally 60% of it) to get loosely targeted people to listen to something we felt would win their hearts and minds when they’d rather be doing something else – watching a TV show, reading a magazine or just concentrating on driving their car. Oh I know we tried to make it entertaining and our message had been honed by discourse with a few people in focus groups but nevertheless when it came to media, the more we paid the more we could make people listen.

We spent a bit on PR – Public Relations – but not much in comparison to how much went on media. It would be nice to think we could sit down and have a chat with people, get to know them and let them get to know our brand but how many could we reach this way? One 30 second TVC in Corrie and we’d reach almost everyone.

But now we can talk to millions. We can converse with them and they with us. And when I say them, it can be individuals or groups of people. We can also listen very attentively which is important because conversing means listening more than you talk otherwise you don’t know what to say. With the latest on-line tools we can pick up any reference to our brand on over 35 billion web pages, Twitter and Facebook sites, blogs and posts every moment of every day. We can home in on particular people or groups of people and listen to what’s on their mind. The question is how do you behave as a brand in this new Social Media world? Well not like we behave with paid for broadcast Media.

It’s rude to interrupt, it’s arrogant to throw your weight around and you can’t just shout at people. No that won’t do at all – you have to behave as you would in any social situation.

You have to be invited into the conversation or better still be introduced by someone known and respected by the group. If you must just barge in then at least pick your moment and have something very interesting or helpful to say. To interest people you have to be interesting. While remaining true to yourself, you naturally relate what you say and do to each individual and their particular situation, it’s just courtesy. The rules of Social Media, if we must call it this, are the rules, etiquette if you prefer, of social interaction.

In Media you pay your money to buy attention, in Social Media you have to earn it– which is why I prefer “Earned Media” and there may even be an argument to say that we should go back to PR as the description of this kind of marketing.
As more and more brands and businesses embrace Social/Earned Media they are learning these lessons on how to behave and it is having two very positive side effects. Firstly I have seen a renewed interest in Social Sciences among marketers – to understand how to market to people you have to understand how people behave. This is really healthy. We are social apes distinguished from our cousins only by our ability to communicate and live in vast and overlapping communities – we are defined by our sociability. That’s where we need to start as marketers.

Secondly, because brands don’t actually talk (when was the last time you had a conversation with a bottle of shampoo) the focus has shifted to the people behind the brands. This means that there can be no disconnect between brand values and company values (ask Nike or BP). Again, really healthy.

Living in a community forces us to take account of others and behave better. The nice benefit of social media is that brands are becoming more sociable. When it comes to earning respect it is who you really are what you actually do, that counts most, not how loudly you shout. Instead of just paying more, brands can learn to earn more through authentic, consistent and coherent values that are reflected in their actions rather than just their message. In this new world the playing field has been levelled, big brands have less of an advantage and that’s a good thing too.

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