The Blake Project

Why a Branding Strategy Blog?

At The Blake Project our sole focus is helping organizations create brands that build and sustain trust. Branding Strategy Insider is an extension of our efforts as brand consultants to help marketing oriented leaders and professionals build strong brands.

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Derrick Daye
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Brand Identity

Facing Resistance To Brand Identity Management


Brand Identity Management

Pitch a new brand identity system to almost any large company with multiple divisions and inevitably someone will plead to be an exception to the new rules. This is particularly true where brands or divisions have had their own identity in the past. Attempts to consolidate a myriad of “brands” into a consistent brand identity system or to replace a whole portfolio of marques with a single power brand will be met with varying volumes of indignation.

Let’s assume there’s a strong business case for doing this. Because that should be a given. And let’s assume that the business case is driven by by a powerful pain point or a significant prompt – because otherwise why would you be motivated to look at change in the first place. Finally, let’s assume that the design team have done a great job and the new identity is powerful, distinctive and well crafted.

Having got all this right, why the resistance?

In my experience, it’s often because when you introduce a new brand identity system you  take away something that people have real ownership of. Once people have an identity that feels like theirs and they have formed an association with it that binds them together as a group, that identity in essence becomes their flag. It is in effect a symbol of their working life. Changing that is tantamount to burning the flag. People respond viscerally to such a shift but they look to articulate their concerns logically – and in a business context, that inevitably means they frame their arguments against what is being proposed commercially.

Here are some of the more predictable lines of argument:

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Brand Management

Brand Management Today


Brand Strategy Nike

I mentioned previously that branding goes as far back as recorded history. However, in the modern era, outside of brand identity development, branding activities were largely confined to consumer packaged goods companies such as General Mills, Kraft Foods, Nestle, P&G and Unilever. Then, in the mid-to-late 1990s, companies began to realize that their corporate brands were assets of great value that needed to be managed and leveraged. This is when companies started creating brand management positions at senior, and sometimes even corporate officer levels in the their organizations. I was the beneficiary of this movement at Hallmark Cards, when I was named Hallmark’s brand czar (not my real title).

Since that time, municipalities, universities, museums, professional trade associations, sports teams, churches and even individuals have gotten into the branding act. Talk of brands and brand positioning has become ubiquitous within our society.

Today, when we are asked to facilitate brand positioning workshops for organizations, the workshop participants are almost always the organization’s CEO and his or her staff, not the marketing department (although they participate). Further, increasingly, we are asked to facilitate a mission, vision, values workshop for the company just prior to the brand positioning workshop because the two activities are closely linked for organization brands. I have also written about the need to touch organization-wide communication, training and development, organization design, recruiting, performance appraisal, budgeting, capital investments, customer service design and other functions as a way to ensure that the organization delivers on the promises that it makes. These activities are clearly outside of the scope of a typical chief marketing officer’s role and responsibilities.

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Brand Language

Brand Cultures Are Built On Language


Brand Strategy and Language

Language is one of the most important definers of any organizational culture. The language you choose, the language you don’t choose and the language you choose to replace are a reflection, and in some senses, a definition of your priorities. As the American writer Rita Mae Brown once observed, “Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.”

Your words are a statement to others, and more importantly, they are a statement to the internal culture – because deliberate choice of language underpins perspective. Your language choice not only reveals how your organization feels about a matter, it also signals how you might be expected to approach and resolve that matter in the future.

A clear example can be found in released documents from GM. They provide disturbing insights into how those within the motoring behemoth seemed to be feeling about the work they were doing in 2008. This article in Time provides the full list of 69 words and phrases employees were asked to avoid:

“always, annihilate, apocalyptic, asphyxiating, bad, Band-Aid, big time, brakes like an “X” car, cataclysmic, catastrophic, Challenger, chaotic, Cobain, condemns, Corvair-like, crippling, critical, dangerous, deathtrap, debilitating, decapitating, defect, defective, detonate, isembowelling, enfeebling, evil, eviscerated, explode, failed, flawed, genocide, ghastly, grenadelike, grisly, gruesome, Hindenburg, Hobbling, Horrific, impaling, inferno, Kevorkianesque, lacerating, life-threatening, maiming, malicious, mangling, maniacal, mutilating, never, potentially-disfiguring, powder keg, problem, rolling sarcophagus (tomb or coffin), safety, safety related, serious, spontaneous combustion, startling, suffocating, suicidal, terrifying, Titanic, unstable, widow-maker, words or phrases with a biblical connotation, you’re toast”

The temptation might be to read the memo as a legal reminder or even as spin-doctoring. But when employees are openly referring to a brand’s products in these ways, the actual words are of course the thing that management should be least concerned about.

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Brand Storytelling

Brand Storytelling And The Mind


Brand Storytelling Strategy

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” (Joan Didion)

Our actual life experience is far too much for our brains to take in, and so, with great efficiency (and often bias), our memory (which is where we find life story), compiles a series of snapshots we string together by a narrative line. Ralph Waldo Emerson was absolutely correct when he said,  “There is no history, only biography.”

Marketers that tell the best stories realize that the only story we ever listen to is the story we tell ourselves. Reality is in the mind of the beholder.

In his book, The Business of Belief, Tom Asacker writes, “Our desires and evolving personal narratives focus our attention. We choose people, things, information and experiences that reinforce our world-view and bolster our self-esteem, and we look for, and find, evidence to help us rationalize those decisions.”

Brand storytelling works when the story being told by the brand is more akin to staging a scene, which invites us in, and serves as a platform upon which we can continue to build our evolving personal narrative. We need story to tell us something about the scene. We need to understand something about the brand’s purpose to know if it is compatible with our choices.

Coca-Cola’sShare a Coke’ campaign (Wunderman/Ogilvy Australia) is an example of great storytelling because it sets the stage for experience to happen. Seeing our own names, or names of those we care about, reflected on the product triggers memories. And a call to action on the product to share might activate a change in behavior, like saving bottles with friends’ names as a novelty. In this story, Coca-Cola is an ornament, compatible with an infinite number of stories. It knows enough about authentic storytelling to not even try to tell us what the story should be. Coke embraces an experience mindset in realizing that the sensation of sharing is more important than the stuff being shared.

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New Product Ideation & Co-Creation

New Product Co-Creation Workshop


New Product Ideation and Co-Creation

When Nielsen analyzed over 3,400 new consumer product introductions launched in the U.S. market in 2012, it found just 14 managed to generate at least $50 million in sales in their first year and sustain that momentum into their second. Out of some 17,000 new products launched since 2008, just 62 of them have had that kind of success.

According to Taddy Hall, “Breakthrough Winners don’t rely on luck or genius. The hallmark of successful innovation is that they resolve struggles or fulfill aspirations; they perform jobs in consumers’ lives.”

With that in mind The Blake Project developed a unique workshop based approach to new product co-creation.

Business context: New product development is vital to maximizing brand value and building consistent market share. But it’s tough to do right. For every four new product ideas that enter development only one will succeed in the marketplace.

Success requirement: Framing new product opportunities and challenges around an insightful understanding of unmet consumer needs. The New Product Co-Creation Workshop provides a dynamic, real-time ‘framing’ where consumers visualize and articulate use, need, desire and core motivations.

What makes our process work where others fail? The Blake Project brings consumers into the ideation process and unites them with product designers, marketers, engineers and manufacturing experts. Through guided facilitation, in-person and in a unique workshop setting, we help consumers articulate the emotions, passions and real-life experiences that will define unmet needs and where new product opportunities have the greatest chance for success. Working with this shared vision, consumers and product experts co-create new product ideas based upon unmet consumer needs, manufacturing capabilities and brand fit.

The Blake Project’s New Product Co-Creation Process:

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