Brand Discovery Objectives

What are the objectives of brand discovery?

While brand discovery can range from superficial and cosmetic to deep and probing, a typical goal is to provide a starting point for a comprehensive brand assessment. Brand discovery may then be said to share objectives with both brand assessments and brand strategy: more pronounced differentiation, greater impact, resonance, consistency and alignment, the establishment of guidelines for a brand refresh, and the opportunity to bring new ideas and new solutions to marketing or business issues to the fore. In order for a business to garner a competitive edge or maintain its success, it must remain in step with an ever-changing marketplace.

Brand discovery often serves as a check-in point or re-focusing milestone for the company: we said we needed to be x in order to capture opportunities a, b and c… are we doing that? Have we gone astray? Are we missing something essential? Are we proactively identifying the ideas and opportunities that will increase success and widen the competitive moat?

Companies take advantage of the brand discovery exercise because they want:

  1. To express their authentic vision, internally and externally
  2. To more effectively and efficiently garner attention
  3. To influence perceptions and cultivate positive predispositions
  4. To influence behaviors (both customers and employees)
  5. To increase engagement and foster loyalty (both customers and employees)

Is brand discovery similar to other strategy sessions or planning workshops we may have already done?

Today’s brand discovery, assuming you are working with a qualified and experienced brand consultant or agency, is not your father or mother’s “let’s all get together and work on our mission statement” agony session. Similar to any other strategic planning or organizational development initiative, but quite possibly the parent of them all, brand discovery is an exploration into the essence of the company. The branding team and other stakeholders assemble to ask who we are today in relation to who are customers are, who we want to be and who we may need to be, in order to better leverage strengths and overcome weaknesses as the company identifies and seizes opportunities while mitigating threats and risks.

The Catch-22 of Financing Brand Strategy Initiatives

Dream: A Breathtaking Brand.

Nightmare: Getting Your Company to Understand The Need, The Costs and The Timelines.

The Catch-22 of Financing Brand Strategy Initiatives

For innovative, progressive companies, it’s a relative no-brainer. The competitive need for curiosity, discovery and the path of exploration (R&D) are already in the bloodstream. And certainly, no business area presents as much potential than engineering the entire company to be a stronger engine of customer creation. But in an era of tactical, today-only thinking and historic corporate myopia (wherein CMO and agency tenure average under 4 years), what gets eighty-sixed or left in the dust? Strategy and planning. Shame, too, because these are the very things that would enable these companies to get off the incremental performance crack.

(Did you know that almost 40% of clients cite a lack of strategic direction as the primary reason they can their agencies? Doesn’t happen here. Not ever.)

Worse yet, how can you get a line-item approved for a brand assessment, brand discovery or brand strategy and brand development when it’s really only after commencing that we begin to realize both the true need and the enormity of the benefits? Tough nut.

Brand-budget-branding-costs-strategy-development

Branding is the one marketing activity that influences everything else, both inside and outside your marketing budget.

Begin Before You’ve Begun!

Because genuine branding is something that benefits each and every department but its costs are typically borne by Marketing alone, it’s important for environmental leaders to do (at least) three things:

  1. You’ve got to make sure the organization isn’t still hanging onto old-school notions of branding as logos and other cosmetics… as if it didn’t strike directly at the heart of all of your company’s other business development opportunities and challenges.
  2. Beyond the cumulative impact, there are tangible benefits for every stakeholder – opening up a broader conversation about how the organization has come to define strategy, planning and branding helps create “lightbulb moments” even before you’ve begun the process. Go boldly, but don’t go it alone. Just as branding’s victories will be shared throughout the organization, the onus of making the sale needn’t rest on your shoulders alone. You can turn to your peers throughout the organization (and me!) to help you make the case. Beginning with a formal brand assessment (health check) can often be the best way to increase the entire organization’s understanding of its own brand, helping you create greater team buy-in.
  3. You may not be able to quantify missed opportunity costs (we are only human, after all), but you can certainly use brand strategy as both a catalyst to improved tactical results and a hedge against ineffective marketing spend. If your organization is slow to move or embrace new thinking, start with what you’re already doing and show them how working without a defined brand strategy in place is like working with one arm tied behind your back.

 

Brand is simply too important a thing, to the organization as a whole and to your marketing effectiveness, to be ignored. You may be wary of the costs and fees associated with genuine brand strategy. You may be nervous about treading into uncharted waters. You may have questions. You may be concerned about obtaining full buy-in. At the very least, the topic deserves a conversation. I invite you to have that conversation… with me. No commitment. No joke. (Okay, maybe one or two jokes, but then I’m drawing a line.)

8 Branding Tips To Accelerate Small Business Performance

Branding tips so you, too, can increase customer/client interest and enthusiasm

You’ve heard (read) me saying it before, but it bears repeating. Branding isn’t what most people think it is. Sure, it includes fancy names, logos and websites, but beneath all of that, there’s something even bigger and more powerful. Done right, your brand is actually your customer creation formula. Done well, the entire company is reverse-engineered to marketplace needs and wants. When your brand is in the hands of an expert, it isn’t just your marketing that promotes company growth, but when the entire organization is properly aligned, its every word and deed serves in a virtuous circle of promise-making and promise-keeping.

As a Los Angeles brand strategist and copywriter, my job is to better connect you to the people who matter most to your success.

Branding’s holistic nature means that, by definition, it doesn’t readily lend itself to quick tip sheets and phoned-in work. You’ve got to want it more than that. And if you are looking to increase your organization’s strategic firepower and accelerate the pace of growth, sure, you can settle for fast and cheap. But is it reasonable to think results will somehow arrive disproportionately to the effort put forth? Nevertheless, it is my intent to be valuable in this blog post for you. So, what I want to do here is share with you some of the things I find myself thinking about when helping my fellow marketers crack their brand strategies.

8 Branding Tips, Or, More Practically Speaking, the 8 Principles of Branding Your Organization Needs to Understand

  1. Worry about aesthetics and marketing tactics only after you’ve arrived at a solid strategy for advancing both the near-term Sale and the company. This way, the wow that captivates and motivates is built into your very foundation; you get to experience the cumulative impact from every company action and sales initiative.
  2. Don’t stop at standard benefits. Pay attention to the emotional benefits, experiential benefits and self-expressive benefits your brand enables.
  3. Know how you’re different… meaningfully different!
  4. Pay more attention to the why of your existence (see the Simon Sinek Ted Talk, if you haven’t already.)
  5. Of course, be authentic. Your vision & values are immensely important, but it’s not only about you. What you really want to identify is the overlap between your beliefs and those of your various brand audiences.
  6. Prioritize the big concepts and ideas your company is about over laundry lists, and let those core messages help you organize the rest of your Sale.
  7. When expressing yourself, remember: if you can’t capture attention first, nothing else you have to say matters. Shoot for the moon. The bolder and brighter, the better.
  8. Both in B2B and B2C, a little humor conveys a warmth and congeniality like nothing else can… except maybe for an earnest welcome mat, possibly featuring Ziggy. (Sorry, Ziggy.)

“Hey, who put Branding into my Business Development?”

I did. And I’m not sorry in the least. Because business moves fast, and when you’ve got a chance to accomplish multiple business objectives in one fell swoop, you take it. If you’ve got questions about your company’s pace of growth, your marketing or your brand, you call me. We chat. If you think there’s a fit between your goals and my message-centric branding™ approach, we agree to roll up our sleeves and get down to business. If not, we thank each other for our time and move on. Easy-peasy. Come to think of it, what is that I see right there? A phone!? Wow. Talk about kismet. You should really use that to call me right now.

7.5 Ways This Los Angeles Brand Consultant Supports You

Brand-consultant-agency-Los-Angeles-CA-copywriter-Scott-Silverman-Articulated-Brands-Orgodomo-Website7.5 Ways This Los Angeles Brand Consultant Supports You

The people have spoken. They like lists. Specifically, numbered lists. Who knew?

So, without further ado, here’s a short list summarizing how I give my clients a leg up over their competitors.

What does a brand consultant do?

  1. Accelerates your near-term growth while building future, leverage-able equity
  2. Facilitates greater team understandings of what branding really is, bridges silos and engages all stakeholders by demonstrating how the brand applies to all departments from sales to operations to HR (recruitment, retention, engagement)
  3. Helps you communicate and lead by reducing your vision from the abstract to the concrete and operational
  4. Brings greater clarity and focus, as well as objectivity and fresh energy to your business development initiatives
  5. Defines your values, differentiators and benefits in a way that resonates with prospects
  6. Draws out from your core values the emotional benefits, experiential benefits and self-expressive benefits that invite greater connection, greater leads, greater market share
  7. Increases efficiency by creating greater organizational alignment and increases marketing efficiency by identifying a more robust set of strategic communications criteria

7.5  Lastly, only lastly, tends to the superficial, making you look, sound and perform like the creative marketing force you want to be

The image above: a recent branding and website example

One of my all-time favorite things to do is leverage the principles of big business branding on behalf of the smaller business. It’s not that I don’t have valuable things to say to Coke and GE; it’s just that I’m not as passionate about it. I’m relational. I like to connect with people in a way that makes a concrete impact on their lives and businesses. (Visit the live website of white-glove relocation and home organization specialist Orgodomo™.)

To brand or not to brand? That is NOT the question.

You already have a brand. The question is whether that brand sits atop the right position; the question is whether your brand fully leverages who you are in light of what your best prospects need to hear from you. Message-centric branding™ offers you a more practical approach to increasing performance across the board. If you’re ready to look beneath the surface of logos and pretty websites and find out what genuine brand strategy can do for you… I know just the right guy: me. (Operator standing by.)

Which Little Pig Had the Better Marketing and Business Development Plan

Straw, sticks or brick: which little pig had the better marketing and business development plan?

Los-Angeles-branding-consultant-copywriter-Scott-Silverman-the-three-little-pigs-marketing-analogy-Linked-In

Los Angeles branding consultant, brand strategist and copywriter Scott Silverman recently posted a condensed version of this “Three Little Pigs” marketing analogy on LinkedIn.

The straw business thinks in the immediate, and only in terms of the transactional and incremental. He/she most commonly asks, “Which marketing, sales and business development tactic should we be employing right this minute?” Chances of ever owning any meaningful marketplace position or identity are blowin’ in the wind.

The sticks business may exhibit more of a planning and building mindset, but “brand” is defined in terms of “who we are” and vanity exercises instead of the more mission-critical “what are our points of customer overlap.” The company enjoys a solid track record, boasts an enviable reputation among those who know it first-hand and entertains an optimistic vision for the future. It often finds itself under-noticed and relatively indistinguishable in the marketplace because its core messages don’t captivate, resonate or differentiate. It certainly possesses both values and a story, but nobody seems to have the time to take them out, dust them off and translate them into a rapt, cohesive, target-centric narrative.  In a sticks environment, the founder-entrepreneur or CEO’s vision and the company’s Unique Value Proposition have yet to be articulated in a way that resonates both internally and externally and so that it’s strong enough to withstand the huffing and puffing of tomorrow. Often, the company has become complacent, a victim of its own operations successes… but this alone won’t grow market share.

If the creation of customers doesn’t sit at your company’s core, I’d like to join you in asking the company’s leaders: what does?

The brick-solid business-grower, often a marketing performer or the founding entrepreneur him or herself, takes the time to ask the big, foundational questions and reverse-engineer both present and future marketplace success: why do we exist (see the Simon Sinek TedTalk, if you haven’t already), does our differentiation exist at a point of target relevance, what opportunities and future problems has drinking our own Kool-Aid® obscured from view, have we truly built Sales and our Sales Truths into the organization’s DNA, how do we better connect with the people that matter most to our sustainable success?

Brand-cracking isn’t about tools of reach. It’s about unleashing your power to reach.

When you’re a little pig hungry (hunger, humility & people smarts – see Lencioni’s The Ideal Team Player) for increased leads, revenue and market share, it doesn’t take long to recognize that you’re first going to have increase interest, understanding and enthusiasm. To do that, you can take a myopic approach – thinking only about the next so-called “miracle” marketing tactic or your next campaign. Or, when what the company truly needs is far-reaching, sustainable interest, understanding and excitement, you can do what that wise third little pig did… and build your house in brick.

1.        You need to know your position is robust, salient and sustainable.

2.        You need to know you are defining the business in the way that best leverages your history while opening up maximum opportunity for your present and future.

3.        You need to know your key points of target intersect have been identified and that your core messages have been articulated.

4.        You need to build your vision, values and other sales truths into the brand’s foundational framework.

5.        Last, but certainly not least, you need to know every aspect of your brand has been processed through the lens of pragmatic business development, with a careful weighing of lower-hanging fruit in relation to big picture possibilities.

Genuine brand strategy (versus superficial cosmetics alone) is more than a proactive, contemporary way of viewing and growing the business; it’s a defensive hedge against dollars spent chasing the wrong, less than optimal position. And in a world teeming with competition, the thoughtfully-engineered brand also serves as warm and cozy shelter from the storm.

We, as marketers, are our organizations’ best and brightest hope when it comes to being best- in-category connectors and collaborators. We need to support each other when we encourage our employers and clients to join us in asking the tough questions, so that we can be equipped with the heavy-lifting tools we need to do our jobs growing the company.

Sharp, sophisticated people know that a business that is not engineered to sell is a business not engineered to grow. Building in brick means utilizing genuine branding to ensure the entire company operates as an engine of customer creation. Just as a great salesperson needs more than a come-on to run on, a company needs a brand. The straw and sticks of this or that tactic or this or that plan often only serve to create the illusion of action. They don’t endure, and they always wind up costing you a whole lot more in the long run. Building in brick means your unique promises, vision and values aren’t seasonal; you’ve taken the time to understand your target connections and your differentiators.

Stuck in a straw environment? Of course, we can empathize and identify with the need to create real-time results, but, should you ever get there (most don’t), will your structure ever support a second story? Communications tend to be arrested at the “what” of what we do and are often me-centric in their approach.

The sticks business-builder is both bright and engaged. But in the area of brand, he/she is often forced to think more in terms of creative executions (logos, websites, digital campaigns) than the relevancy of the company’s Unique Value Proposition, the finer points of creating a true brand personality or increasing marketing impact and efficiency simply by opening the company up to a fresh, objective perspective. They operate without a singular, commanding, charismatic voice with which to vivify the organization and breathe life into their unique promise. “Brand” tends to be viewed as a line-item or a marketing project, and not as a synonym for the business itself… as it ought to be. If there have been prior “branding” endeavors, they operated at a massive disconnect from pure and simple business development. Every day that passes as it continues to fund a fuzzy brand position or fails to stake proper claim to its hard-earned reputation, it leaves big money on the table. Worse, it compromises its future possibilities and also risks being eclipsed by a brand-savvy competitor.

Sticks communications may have even begun to address the “how” – the qualitative differences in our offerings, which is far better than straw, but results are still fleeting as no consistent resonance formula has been articulated. The position is off, soft or unclear and the emotional and experiential benefits have yet to be addressed. The brand often suffers from a fragmented, soulless, confusing marketplace identity. The company operates, sells and markets without a strategic brand framework in place; absent adequate briefs and a personality matrix to inform an engaging marketplace presence, no consistency or relatable human emotion can be expected. For too many startups and small businesses, dreams of a penthouse view over the competitive landscape, absent reliable soil studies, brand engineering and marketing architecture, remain dreams of a penthouse view.

But the brick-sworn business builder refuses to settle for Band-aid® solutions, insisting on a strategic foundation for the company that will withstand the tests of time (and wolves.) It is only at this level that a company can truly come into its own, galvanizing its customers, employees and other audiences by genuinely spelling out what’s in it for them, and by authentically celebrating their vision & values commonalities. Authenticity, transparency, values? It’s all very Millennial, right? Nope! Building relationships based upon vision and values resonance is Sales 101, and it has been, for quite some time. My bet: it ain’t going away anytime soon.

A business is its message. Is what you’re saying what your targets need to hear?

Building your house in brick means you’ve had sufficient marketing and general business experience to understand how perception management and the creation of customers truly happens. You know what you really want is not a series of one-note, one-off marketing tactics but an orchestrated concert. That’s why my job as a branding consultant isn’t simply to make you look pretty; the real challenge for the consummate brand strategist is to build the seeds of your customer connections into your brand’s every fiber. This way, every organizational action and every piece of communication can do a better job in helping you sing your company’s song.

Sing. This time, with feeling.

Not only does having a strong brand behind you increase performance on each initiative, but the cumulative impact is that you have established brand equity you can trade on in the future. When I say “trade on,” I mean anyone who thinks sales are made in the moment is simply kidding himself or herself. To be able to “trade on” accumulated brand equity means you understand that a Sale is not a moment in time, but a culminating event. What is the event? The transfer of trust. They have heard your uniquely beautiful song; your personality reinforces your credibility, your consistency bespeaks your integrity, your shared values bubble up in every piece of communications. John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt! Your name is their name, too.

Should we, as marketers and business owners eager to accelerate growth and performance, settle for anything less than whip-smart, insightful strategy and marketing that is consistently grounded in positioning, operative messaging and the timeless truths of Sales? Not by the hair of our chinny-chin-chins.

 

Scott Silverman helps you brand because he wants to see you shine. He once read “The Three Little Pigs” cover-to-cover.

© 2018 Articulated Brands (310) 826-8518

8 Business-to-Business Branding Tips From A B2B Branding Consultant

B2B branding is quite a bit more challenging than B2C… maybe that’s why I love it so much!

As a Los Angeles branding consultant and the owner of a branding agency, I may not be able to simplify branding into a DIY project, but I can certainly share with you some of the fundamentals. When you’re trying to increase leads, revenue and market share, it doesn’t take long to recognize that you’re going to have increase interest, understanding and enthusiasm first. To do that, you can take a narrow approach – thinking only about the next “miracle” marketing tactic or your next campaign. Or, you can do what that wise third little pig did… and build your business house in brick.

When it comes to branding and business development, which little pig are you? Straw, wood or brick?

Building your house in brick means you’ve had sufficient marketing and general business experience to understand how perception management and the creation of customers truly happens. You know what you really want is not a series of one-note, one-off marketing tactics but an orchestrated concert. That’s why my job as a branding consultant isn’t just to make you look pretty; the real challenge for the consummate brand strategist is to build the seeds of your customer connections into your brand’s DNA. This way, every action and piece of communication can do a better job in helping you sing your company’s song. Not only does having a strong brand behind you increase performance on each initiative, but the cumulative impact is that you have established brand equity you can trade on in the future.

When I say “trade on,” I mean anyone who thinks sales are made in the moment is simply kidding himself or herself. To be able to “trade on” accumulated brand equity means you understand that a Sale is not a moment in time, but a culminating event. What is the event? The transfer of trust. They have heard your uniquely beautiful song; your consistency bespeaks your authenticity and your integrity. You can read more about Message-Centric Branding™.

Just as a great salesperson needs more than a come-on to run on, a company needs a brand. The straw and wood of this or that tactic often only serve to create the illusion of action. They don’t endure and they actually wind up costing you a whole lot more in the long run. Building in brick means your vision and values aren’t seasonal; you’ve taken the time to understand your target connections and your differentiators. Because if the creation of customers doesn’t sit at your company’s foundation, I’d like to ask you: what does?

8 B2B Branding Tips From A Los Angeles Brand Strategist

  1. Position actually trumps brand when it comes to long-term B2B marketing success… and that’s coming from a dyed-in-the-CMYK brand zealot! Know the unique pain points you exist to solve and be clear on the unique value your clients derive from working with you… instead of the competition. Position first, then brand.
  2. Be sure you have buy-in from every department from Sales to HR and Operations, but be wary of “creative by committee” and groupthink that will only interfere with what you really want: a memorable, cohesive, differentiated brand presence that advances your near-term Sale and creates equity that you will want to leverage in the future.
  3. If you’re simultaneously thinking about re-doing your website, start with clear objectives and a clean communications brief. Be sure that brief doesn’t stop at laundry lists; a stellar brand brief specifically spells out how we’re going to create interest and excitement with your most desired prospects.
  4. From there, establish a well-organized and intuitive site architecture. A streamlined and enjoyable user experience telegraphs a similarly outstanding customer experience.
  5. Just because it’s B2B doesn’t mean it has to be boring and dry. Just a sprinkling of creative panache communicates volumes about your business’ professionalism and marketplace maturity.
  6. Address the needs of different vertical markets with specific messaging. “All things to all people” most commonly leads to insufficient juice for anybody to get all that excited about.
  7. In today’s B2B world, remember: people are doing much more of their own research and decision-making pre-sale. To make it to their “short list,” be sure you’ve established the authority position with content that affirms your leadership and provides value along the buyer’s journey.
  8. SEO matters – even if your current plans don’t call for a major organic web marketing or Pay Per Click campaign, you want to rank as high as possible. Know your keywords and their contextual brethren.

Hope that gives you a little insight into how I help people build stronger brands. If you’d like more specific commentary on your business, I’m happy to help. You know where to find me! Though your soon-to-be-beloved brand consultant here is based in Los Angeles, I’m capable of serving from New York, Chicago, Nashville and Miami to Dallas, Seattle and Portland. (You get the idea.)

The 7 Things Keeping You From Increasing Sales Revenue and Marketing ROI

7 Factors Robbing You of Greater Sales, Marketing Impact and Marketing ROI

The 7 Things Keeping You From Accelerated Sales Revenue Growth, Strategic Marketing Impact and Increased Marketing ROI

If you’ve been feeling anxious or frustrated because you know you’re sitting on untapped business potential, you’re certainly not alone. It’s not that most businesses wouldn’t relish greater leads, greater sales and greater market share. It’s not that most don’t want the whole world to know about the unique value in store for them. It’s that most would prefer a quick fix to what are often deep-seated, core communications issues that have often been left unaddressed for years. But you don’t want to be that guy or girl. You want to be the fearless company superhero who grabs the marketing bull by the, what else, the bullhorn!

When people genuinely want greater sales and greater success, then they are also ready to really dig in and get their hands dirty. Only then do they begin removing the roadblocks to increasing sales revenues, measurable marketing impact and sustainable marketing ROI.

So, What 7 Obstacles to Business Growth Do Companies Need to Overcome to Achieve Breakthrough Marketing Performance?

  1. Loss of focus & clarity: in order to get more out of your marketing, you need greater clarity and focus around 1) the definition and priority of the marketing function in the organization itself and 2) your points of target intersect and whether they are expressed in your core position and messages.
  1. Resource allocations & priorities: too often businesses, especially small businesses, claim they don’t have money left over for marketing. So long as every expenditure that came before was invested in customer creation, that may, in fact, be true. But what I see with astounding frequency is a long list of unrelated or purely tactical marketing expenses, with no investment into the core of the company – its fundamental ability to connect with the people who feed it.
  1. Increasing awareness and increasing interest: creating interest may not be easy, perhaps especially so in B2B marketing communications, but to connect better with your target audiences, you need to have something worth saying. To be more resonant, you need to be more relevant. Rarely does this happen without greater focus and clarity around your core messages. Genuine creativity can be an enormously valuable asset to the business, but you’ve got to become more familiar with the process, which includes its stewards. Know exactly how you’ve got to talk to it. Become friendly with it. It will love you back and fetch you sticks and stuff.
  1. Increasing understanding: surprisingly, many companies want their targets to have an understanding of their business value that actually exceeds their own. No. To increase others’ understanding, we must first take the time out to organize, clarify and distill so we can simplify both for ourselves and for those we need to persuade. Only by simplifying can we begin to make all those little marketplace light bulbs turn on.
  1. Increasing excitement: yes, creating excitement is about garnering attention, but did you know it’s more than a “retail” device for creating urgency? The style and creativity of your communications also help you cultivate a positive predisposition to working with and purchasing from you. Humor works exceptionally well at getting prospects to lose some of the armor and understandable marketing cynicism.
  1. Marketing and sales systems: tactics in isolation, short term thinking and ad hoc planning will never get you to enduring sales performance or long term, sustainable marketing ROI. Engineering the company to be a customer creator isn’t easy. Resist the urge for instant marketing and sales gratification. Think systems and structure. Be that wise third little pig who built in brick, critics, naysayers and peanut gallery, be damned. First, marketing strategy, messaging strategy and infrastructure. Then, marketing budgeting and planning. Then, briefing. Then, creative. Then, marketing.
  1. Recognize where there’s parity and, for gosh sakes, do something about it: businesses are reluctant to embrace creativity because it is, in fact, so difficult to manage. But strategy and creativity together are how you differentiate, often imbuing the entire company with elevated perceptions of value. The tighter your strategy, the more you can hold your creative deliverables, and the precious dollars behind them, accountable. From your company name to the design of your corporate identity, and from the tone and style of your website to the look and feel of your trade show display and marketing collateral, opportunities for greater differentiation are everywhere. Use them. The sea of sameness will pull you under, leaving you vulnerable to price concessions, wimpy marketing, market share drift or worse.

The 3 Paths You Can Follow To Increase Marketing Impact and Sharpen Your Marketing Strategy

When you are looking to increase the impact and efficiency of your marketing communications, and wish to do so strategically, you have three great options. While all three revolve around the same central questions – they each take a different route, with obviously increasing degrees of intensity, business-mindfulness, thoroughness and their capacity for increasing resonance, differentiation and long-term marketing performance.

The same central questions are always about honing in on your points of target intersect. Who we are, who they are and what is the available messaging space may seem like easy questions on the surface. But how deep you, your agency, your copywriter or your brand messaging specialist dive into these has everything to do with the results you get. The three different angles of attack include a small, medium and large option, depending upon the size of the difference you want to make in your marketing strategy and the rate of company growth you seek are:

SMALL            >>>     THE CREATIVE BRIEF

MEDIUM        >>>     THE POSITIONING BRIEF OR STRATEGY BRIEF

LARGE             >>>     BRAND BLUEPRINT OR BRANDING BRIEF

Up the ante on your business’ marketing

Here are more details on your 3 golden opportunities to increase marketing performance by clarifying and simplifying your marketing messages:

The creative brief

The creative brief sets the strike zone for “how to say it best,” by making sure the “it” of your assignment is precise, salient and executable. Who targets for this piece of communication are, where they are in their own minds or in the buying process (real communications, branding and marketing insight is psychological not just geographical), and what nobody else is saying are all ripe for review, reinvention and reorganization by a fresh brand development perspective. Naturally, all of this needs to be vexed and vetted prior to “rushing to execute,” a notoriously bad habit that bypasses marketing’s most virtuous and valuable service to you: how to better connect you with your audience.

The positioning brief

The positioning brief digs even deeper into the “what” of what to say, but it takes a company-wide approach. Here, we aren’t thinking about only one product or service and only one communications medium, but the platform for the entire company. In addition to a tightened and newly calibrated Unique Selling Proposition, your strategic positioning brief should make clear for all future creative assignments (company, service or product naming, tagline, logo, etc.) how who we exist for and the benefits we deliver are unique to us.

A brand blueprint or brand strategy document

Your brand strategy documentation or brand blueprint identifies a more robust brand position by spelling out the company’s core competitive differences, converting what you need to be saying into a “who” (who must the company be in order to better connect) and a “why” (what drives this one-of-a-kind marketplace personality.) At Articulated Brands, we deliver a personality matrix that defines a core attitude for the company and its 3-5 supporting pillars. We then contrast the proscribed brand with key competitors, seeking to ensure a differentiated brand and highlighting opportunities to widen the moat whenever possible. Your brand blueprint can also go a long way into informing the “how” of your communications in the form of an uber-brief that will govern all other forthcoming assignment-specific briefs.

The good news is you can begin to sharpen your marketing sword starting tomorrow.

In all of these initiatives, whether quick & breezy or studied & methodical, it is the ability to open up simultaneous areas of inquiry and to juggle a vast amount of variables (precious little is binary in the worlds of ideas and perceptions) in order to arrive at a set of more precise marching orders for your marketing dollars. After all, strategy is not a choice of outreach tactics, nor is it a simple statement of business purpose or marketing objectives. It is a carefully measured recipe – which ingredients at what quantities will yield the preferred mix of near and long-range gains? Tough choices, nuance, imagination and pragmatic business thoughtfulness: these are the hallmarks of legendary brand strategy.

The next 3 blog posts will be devoted to how you can get to greater focus, simplicity, impact and effectiveness in your brand messaging.

In the next 3 blog posts, we will sequentially discuss how to improve marketing results via: your creative brief, your positioning or strategy brief and the document that spells out your brand’s DNA – your brand blueprint or brand roadmap. The following 3 blog posts will go deeper into detail for each of the approaches and work scopes.

 

 

 

Your Positioning Brief Sets The Course for Clarity & Marketing Impact

Copywriter, Positioning & Branding Consultant & Company Naming Agency Articulated Brands, Los Angeles

Your positioning brief positions you for maximum leverage, communications clarity and marketing impact.

Your positioning brief or strategy brief is many times more powerful than any of your day-to-day assignment-focused creative briefs. This is because instead of just informing or guiding a single marketing initiative, we are working at the company level to forge greater pathways of connection. Every downstream piece of communications now has a platform to run on, if you will.

First, be something. Then, say something. (Then, add difference, dimension and depth to your position with complete 360° brand discovery by a brand strategist.)

Brand ultimately sits atop position, but too many skip this critical step. It is far more important to know your strategic position and only then, perhaps, to assess whether there are previously unconsidered opportunities to build a stronger brand on top of it. Whatever the specific message, who that message is coming from matters greatly. The vast problem we see these days are companies running on promotion or brand alone. Neither will endure for the long haul. Knowing your position, making sure it’s the right one and reinforcing that differentiated position consistently and at every turn are the muscles behind your marketing budget. Keep healthy. Stay fit.

Some of the questions a marketing consultant, positioning consultant or content strategist asks to ensure you are building your marketing house on a solid foundation:

  1. Does your Unique Selling Proposition accurately and precisely capture why targets should care? In this way, greater focus for your marketing actually serves to create greater focus for the company as a whole.
  1. What three things render your market unique? If you are concerned that your business isn’t niche-oriented, this is an opportunity to carve out a niche based upon unique target needs or other demographic or psycho-graphic elements.
  1. Of course, we are going to examine the competitor positioning and messaging. But I am often able to bring new energy to the proceedings, and to the company as a whole, by asking the question in terms of competitive forces. What is preventing us from achieving our sales objectives and what is preventing us from connecting with our targets are two much more profound questions that help me steer my brand marketing and brand messaging clients in the right direction.
  1. Have you demonstrated the pure courage it takes to have your SWOT exercise or your list of First’s, Best’s, Most’s & Only’s by a fresh, objective, high-energy perspective?
  1. When we assess “who the company is” for the purposes of tightening up your positioning, we focus primarily on the target’s end-game, with the company being defined as the sole deliverer of these specific benefits. What are they thinking, feeling and doing post-consumption of the marketing message and post-transaction? (We judiciously save the bigger picture investigations into beliefs, culture and brand personality for brand work, wherein they can be more precisely reverse-engineered for greater enduring value.)
  1. If you are dissatisfied with either a) the creative work coming your way or b) the performance of your marketing in general, odds are very good that the disconnects and inefficiencies aren’t happening at a superficial level. Chances are also quite good that some solid positioning and brand messaging diagnostics will put you on a path to greater impact, greater resonance and a more effective, enduring target connection strategy.

What separates a great marketing consultant or positioning consultant from the also-rans?

It’s not that the questions that one marketing consultant asks or that one book invites you to ask are all that fundamentally different. What matters is that you’re working with someone who can very quickly get up to speed on the various elements of juice running through your business model, rapidly identify those areas where you are already strong and clear, and focus his/her attention around those cornerstone positioning and messaging issues wherein you are most likely to receive the biggest value.

As mentioned in the blog post on creative briefs, but it is yet more critical at the company’s strategic positioning level, you need to be working with someone who possesses enough experience to be able to trace the creative trajectory of any given point, notion or stipulation in the brief, sufficient tact and diplomacy to know where and when to probe more deeply and challenge the assumptions, but also enough instinct and confidence to know that an ounce of prevention in your company’s fundamental positioning is worth a pound of post-marketing cure. Time and money spent chasing incremental performance, paid to outside media outlets and agencies, is time and money you should be investing right into your own company. An increased internal understanding of how to better connect with more customers so that they will part with more of their money is invaluable. Follow the money.

 

 

 

 

My Branding Beliefs & Business Development Philosophy

Copywriter, Brand Consultant, Brand Messaging Specialist, Scott Silverman, Articulated Brands, Los Angeles

I believe in some things about branding and business development I simply don’t see available anywhere else.

That’s why I founded Articulated Brands® in 2007.

I believe that how most have come to define branding (including too many of its practitioners) barely scratches the surface of what it really is, how it should be approached and how much it can do to accelerate your business growth.

1.  I believe a business is a machine of interconnected parts and that real branding presents an opportunity to reorganize and put “customer creation” (Drucker) back at the center of the enterprise.

2.  I believe position and message are the two tools every business has at its disposal, yet they go under-utilized and under-leveraged because they are too often dealt with downstream rather than in the CMO’s, marketing director’s or CEO’s office.

3.  While nothing can compare to the visceral power of design in setting expectations, elevating perceptions of value or creating a differentiated experience, design must take as its key inspiration and direction a company’s core position and its fundamental messages. When these are all spelled out ahead of time, you actually wind up with both better design and, get this, less copy. The holy grail. To get to simple, we must walk through the fires of the complex.

4.  I believe business is about leverage, allocations and timing; as tough as these may be to manage on a physical, real-world level, they are both exponentially more difficult to manage and proportionally more fruitful when we are playing in the realm of ideas. Your core values and vision are great starting points for creating customer connections. By all means, don’t stop there!

5.  I believe the business world has come to expect less of its agencies and so-called creative partners. As disappointing as this may be, it also leaves the door wide open for someone like me to come in and actually deliver the strategic business development service for which America’s companies have been clamoring.

6.  I believe in embracing the difficult in order to get to the simple. I believe people who seek out band-aid solutions to monumental challenges wind up wasting more time and money. I once had a client who called this “the tendency to step over quarters to pick up nickels.” I like that people may be wising up to brand’s unique combination of marketing proactivity with age-old sales wisdom.

7.   As a brand messaging specialist, I worry less about what the latest, greatest, flavor of the month tool of target reach may be. I worry more about the brand, position, core messages and content with which we’re going to fill those channels. Call me old-fashioned, but I think the onslaught of tactical choices these days forces people into a cart-before-the-horse mentality. You can find your audience via the media, but to reach them, to truly reach them, well, that takes a brand messaging specialist. Yes, that’s a sale, but it has the additional advantage of also being true.

8.  I believe in a process that is more authentic and personal than formal as I’ve always found it more conducive to genuine collaboration and innovation.

9.  I believe it doesn’t take a big firm to deliver big ideas or to facilitate big think. That said, I do believe there are some companies who are so massive, with so many different sub-brands, that they may be better off with an international branding firm with a deep bench of resources.

10.  I believe Articulated Brands market smarter and harder because they’ve taken the time not just to spell out who they are, but because they have neatly defined their points of target intersect. A company who knows who it must be in relation to its targets is a company that communicates with greater clarity, resonance and impact. When it defines itself uniquely, all go-forward dollars, marketing and otherwise, serve to carve out a more unassailable space, adding impact to the company’s customer creation efforts and increasing its marketplace value.