A great brand holds the promise of an expectation or a desire to be fulfilled. But what
promise? What does the market really want? Step one makes that discovery. You’ve
heard the adage, ‘you see a lot by observing.’ We research. We talk with people. We do
surveys. We look for insights, for the “aha” and the emerging trend. For Apple
Computers, it was the insight that technology needed to be simple to use. We know
we’ve got something when we have a ‘hinge moment.’ Suddenly a door opens and we
shift to a new perspective, discern a trend, or ‘connect the dots.’ Ultimately, the aha is
our stealth competitive advantage—stealth, because no one else has seen what we’ve
seen. At least not yet.
1. ANALYZE MARKET TRENDS
WHAT IS THE “AHA?” IS THERE A PATTERN OR TREND WE CAN “OWN?”
They’re out there and they don’t
always play nice. They definitely
want to eat your lunch. They’re
your competition and you better
know what you’re up against.
Which companies represent the
greatest threat? What are they
doing right? Where are they
making mistakes? What are their
brand and pricing strategies? Any
possible co-marketing or
strategic alliances? We map out
the competitive landscape so we
can see exactly where we stand,
or need to.
2. MAP THE COMPETITIVE LANDSCAPE
WHO ARE THEY? WHAT ARE THEIR BRANDS? WHAT ARE THEY DOING WELL & WHERE ARE THEY STUMBLING?
You have an ambition for your
brand. You want it to go places, be
something when it grows up. What
is that brand ambition? What
perceptual space do you want to
own? How is your brand positioned
now, before doing any new
Creation of the brand ambition
involves (1) a thorough
understanding of the brand equity
and the latent qualities of the brand
that can be leveraged; (2)
comprehensive knowledge of the
competitive landscape and market;
(3) an analysis of the business
strategy and the objectives for the
Step three also includes a frank
assessment of the brand’s flaws or
weaknesses—its Achilles' Heel. It
could be lack of resources or over-
reliance on an outside partner.
Better to know it now than to let a
competitor stick it in your face
later. When you understand your
weaknesses, you can make them
3. SWOT YOUR BRAND.
HOW ARE YOU POSITIONED TODAY? WHAT ARE THE OBSTACLES & THREATS? WHAT’S THE BRAND AMBITION?
President Obama went online to
help win on a platform of change.
How will your brand serve your
business goals while wowing the
world? How will you use
communications to drive the
business and brand? What are
milestones for measuring
The business goals guide in
establishing brand priorities.
With prioritization comes focus.
With focus comes precision, and
with precision comes powerful
Step four also involves an
analysis of the most important
objectives marketing must
address. Are we restaging the
brand, accentuating under
leveraged elements of the brand,
introducing a line extension, or
launching a specific tactical
response to local competitive
4. BUSINESS STRATEGY & COMMUNICATION GOALS
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP BUSINESS GOALS & TIMELINES? WHAT DOES SUCCESS LOOK LIKE IN 3 TO 5 YEARS?
Tell me a story. Those are some of the
most powerful words we have because
stories register in the heart and gut.
Branding, too, is about telling (not selling)
a story. Creating a brand story starts with
an articulation of the best the brand can
be; that is, the three most powerful,
differentiated truths about the brand. We
look for meanings, associations, category
benefits, and iconic aspects. We use
poetic, metaphoric language to capture
emotional nuance. We also ask questions
to capture the emotional tone or
personality of the brand. We weave market
insights into the story to connect and
The brand story is in fact your brand
equity. It also provides a clear direction
and vision for communications and
5. THE BRAND STORY & MESSAGES.
WHAT DOES THE BRAND MEAN? WHAT’S IT PERSONALITY? DOES IT INSPIRE, LEAD THE COMPETITION, INCITE TO ACTION?
You have many target markets but only one conceptual target (CT). Harley Davidson’s target markets included
wealthy doctors, lawyers and other professionals who wanted the occasional walk on the wild side. Their CT
was “rebels was cash.” In this step, we characterize your CT by going beyond demographics to capture a
deeper sense of who uses the brand. We then define their core desire —the need, hope or fear that the brand
can most meaningfully satisfy. In establishing this, the brand takes on two critical success factors: relevance
TARGET & DEEP
HOW DO WE DESCRIBE YOUR
THEIR ESSENCE & SOUL? WHAT
MATTERS MOST TO THEM?
This is where we
determine if the brand
can deliver on its
promise, the moment
where the rubber meets
the road. This is “white
paper” territory, the
features and benefits
section. What are the
key facts that support
your belief that the
brand can satisfy the
core desire of the
7. THE BRAND’S TRUTH
CAN THE BRAND TRULY FULFILL THE CORE DESIRE? WHAT ARE ITS FEATURES & BENEFITS?
Implicit in how we conceptualize the brand is the strategy. As we circle through the previous steps, we look for a
single flow of thought that builds to a compelling conclusion, the big brand idea. A great brand idea is precise,
inspirational and focused. It’s the catalyst for developing creative communications that will fully realize the brand
ambition. For the MasterCard campaign, the big brand idea was “Priceless.” It led to the enormously successful
campaign: “There are some things money can’t buy; for everything else there’s MasterCard.”
8. THE BIG
& THE MARKETING
If you don’t brand yourself, the
market will and you probably won’t
like it. You create a brand to proclaim
what you stand for and to capture
market share. You also create it to
provide vision. Its the job of the
creative director to guide the
expression of that vision in all the
creative. This includes the NAME,
LOGO, ICON, TAGLINE, VISUAL
IMAGERY, VOCABULARY, DESIGN,
COLORS, and COPYWRITING. If the
creative director also happens to be a
copywriter, well, it’s your lucky day!
CREATIVE DIRECTION & CAMPAIGN ROLL OUT
BRINGING YOUR BRAND TO LIFE.
Online, content is the tool that shows off your
expertise. You start with an understanding of
your buyers and build content especially for
them. This step is dedicated to creating buyer
proﬁles: who they are? What issues and
problems do they want solved? Where do they
go for information (preferred media)? What
kinds of keywords and phrases do they use?
What are their daily activities and inﬂuencers?
The best way to get this information is by
interviewing them, tracking the media they
track, and reading the stuff they read. The
keywords and phrases will later be
incorporated into content to establish
recognition and relevance and drive organic
search engine optimization (SEO).
A. BUYER PROFILES & CUSTOMER NICHES
WHO ARE THEY? WHAT ARE THEIR PROBLEMS? WHERE DO THEY LOOK FOR SOLUTIONS?
This where we start to think like
publishers: consider first, our
buyer’s problem, and second,
our product or service. Online,
people are not looking for ads.
They’re looking for information
and insights. You demonstrate
brand leadership through your
dedication to solving problems.
This steps also involves creation
of an editorial strategy that
tailors content to each buyer
profile or niche, in their
preferred media. This could
mean adding links to your
brochure website with pages
organized by buyer personae, or
creating an ebook, white paper,
news releases of interest to
buyer groups, blog, podcast, or
videos (YouTube). The editorial
strategy must link content to
action (eg, sign up for a free
ebook; send ezine to leads
offering new content and special
B. CONTENT STRATEGY: BRIDGING CUSTOMERS & THE BRAND
WHO’S ON YOUR EDITORIAL TEAM? HOW CAN CONTENT BEST SERVE STRATEGY?
On the web, success equals content. One of the easiest ways to get content into the
market is via an online media room with RSS feeds. We include links in news releases to
drive inbound links (search engines increase the rankings of the page where the URL is
pointing when the link appears on the news release). We develop a lexicon of words and
phrases our buyers use and incorporate them into news releases to optimize search
engine marketing tool. We create a regular editorial calendar that includes a series of
news releases showing your company is ‘busy.’ Consistent, high quality news release
content brands a company as an important market player, active expert in the industry,
and a trusted resource.
C. PR STRATEGY & ONLINE MEDIA ROOM
WHAT SHOULD YOU WRITE A PRESS RELEASE ABOUT? HOW CAN YOU OPTIMIZE IT FOR SEO?
Search engines care about two things: 1)
the number of high-quality inbound links
to your website; 2) the amount + quality
of content on your site. Blogging
delivers both through inbound links from
other bloggers, blog search engines, and
blog directories; and through focused,
relevant content. The more often you
update the content, the more frequently
search engines visit.
Who is your blogging team? What do you
blog about? Inside perspectives. People
stories. Announcements, updates, and
thank you’s. Features, or media-worthy
stories. Issues and perspectives.
“Behind the scenes” happenings.
Forums (for community members).
Anything you’d include in an email
newsletter or a press release. Photos,
video or audio from events or interviews.
The key to success in blogging is
authenticity, passion, transparency, and
personality. Once you’ve got a blog
rolling, you reach out through social
media channels and aggregating sites
(eg, Facebook, FriendFeed, YouTube,
Twitter) to create and participate in
communities abuzz with conversations
D. BLOGGING & OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGIES
HOW TO USE BLOGS & SOCIAL MEDIA TO SPARK CONVERSATIONS THAT MATTER.
Before YouTube made video
commonplace on the web, you’d
only see small forays into
corporate video. Usually these
efforts were mundane and
predictable—stuff like broadcasts
of the CEO’s speech at the annual
meeting. Highly unlikely to go viral.
Some companies are still
experimenting, often by imbedding
video (typically hosted at YouTube)
into their existing blogs. Others
(IBM) create a regular series of
videos that might be delivered
through a video blog (vlog), an
online video channel at a company
site, or a vodcast (a video series
syndicated with iTunes or RSS
feeds). Today, video is exploding
online and everywhere else. As of
July/08 there were 8.6M mobile
video users in the US. What’s your
video strategy? What will you
shoot? What’s the balance of
brand advertising to content?
LET’S GO HOLLYWOOD! LET’S GO VIRAL!
SEO is the art and science of
ensuring words and phrases on your
site, blog, and other online content are
found by search engines, and that once found,
your site is given the highest ranking possible in
the natural search results. Search engine
advertising is when you pay to have advertising
appear when a user types in a particular phrase that
the marketer has purchased. The best way to do
search engine marketing is to start with buyer profiles,
build content for each (content that talks about the
problems they face, in the words an phrases they
use), and deliver the content in online forms they
prefer. This content designed especially for
your buyers will be indexed by search
engines. If this doesn’t sound
familiar, please see Step A.
F. SEARCH ENGINE MARKETING
LOST AND FOUND, THANKS TO CONTENT.