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 Management

How To Get The Marketing Budget You Need


Marketing Budget Request

This is the time of year when many marketing departments decide how their particular share of the industry’s enormous marketing spend will be applied in the following year.

In practice this means senior marketers make predictions for the coming year, perform an objective review of the performance of the previous year’s expenditure and then finally allocate their spend across their chosen marketing investments.

The vast majority of firms still use a top-down budgeting system. Senior managers decide on the total marketing budget for the year and leave marketing to allocate it accordingly. This figure is usually calculated in one of two ways. In its most pathetic form, top-down budgeting involves senior management looking at last year’s budget and then increasing it or decreasing based on expectations of turnover.

Or else they apply an ‘advertising:sales ratio’. Senior managers estimate how much they expect to sell in the coming year and then apply a completely arbitrary percentage to this estimate. Thus the marketing budget is set.

The problems with a top-down approach should be obvious. It is non-strategic, takes no account of new initiatives within the company, and ignores changes in the external market.

It also involves estimating how much a firm expects to sell before making any decision on marketing spend, thus inferring that marketing is an inconsequential expense, rather than integral investment. Firms that use the top-down approach are hindered in their marketing strategy, long before that strategy has even been devised.

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Place Branding

Evaluating City Mottos, Taglines And Slogans


Place Branding Strategy

For years, I have lamented the lack of marketing savvy used in developing city and town mottos, taglines and slogans. A very small portion of these are effective in highlighting their municipalities’ unique value propositions. Most sound good but say nothing. Some actually make you want to stay away. Others are just downright inane. Here are a sampling of municipality mottos, taglines and slogans – the good, the bad and the ugly.

Effective (they allude to a unique quality or benefit):

  • Las Vegas: “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas”
  • New York, N.Y.: “The City That Never Sleeps”
  • Hershey, Pa.: “The Sweetest Place on Earth”
  • Austin, Texas: “Keep Austin Weird”
  • Eagle Pass, Texas: “Where Yee-Hah! meets Ole!”
  • Cleveland, OH: “Cleveland Rocks!”
  • Santa Fe, NM: “The City Different”
  • Jim Thorpe, PA: “The Switzerland of America”
  • Coachella, CA: “City of eternal sunshine”
  • Nashville, TN: “The Music City”
  • Belleview, WA: “City in a Park”
  • Rockland, ME: “Lobster Capital of the World”


  • Freeland, PA: “The most happening place on Earth”
  • Madisonville, KY: “The best town on Earth”
  • Glendive, MT: “Where the best begins”
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Brand Research

Brands Must Study Customer Habits Not Actions


Habits and Customer Behavior

We get it so wrong don’t we? We develop ideas and look to see if they’ll work by intricately studying people’s actions and reactions. We poll them. We survey them. We sample them. We question them exhaustively. Whereas, what we should be doing, according to Dr. Art Markman, is studying our customers’ habits and developing products and services that fit with how people want to behave.

That way, they’re already pre-disposed to take an action. After all, habits drive actions, not the other way around. All a brand has to do is encourage a new habit and tie the accompanying actions to their brand specifically.

Habits form, says Markman, whenever and wherever there is a consistent relationship between the world and an action. That means that “unless you are in a business where you interact with each customer only once, your customers have habits related to their interactions with you.”

Strong brands capitalize on those routine behaviors. But to do so, says Markman, brands may need to change some habits of their own:

Stop asking and start observing – What people tell you they do, and what they actually do can be very different things, Markman says. If you really want to know how people behave, you need to watch what they do rather than listen to what they say they do. In other words, most brands need to get out more – into the marketplace, watching how people go about their lives, and figuring out how, where and when they can fit in.

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Brand Strategy

Brand Strategy And Brand Habits


Fast Food Brand Strategy

Brands are all about habits. But as this article in Time reminds us, sometimes the best thing a brand can look to do is to change a habit – even if they helped create the habit in the first place. Of course, brands tell themselves they do this all the time – but for many brands, the focus of their problem solving is on increasing consumption.

Their answer to a pattern they feel they know and understand is more of that pattern.

But the insight here is that changing a habit for the better doesn’t necessarily mean just offering the consumer more of what they have, or more of what the brand perceives consumers want.

In the context of the fast food industry for example, generosity is not a competitive advantage. When everyone’s offering bigger portions, the portions aren’t more generous. They quickly become the new normal. The pattern itself hasn’t changed, it’s just got bigger.

One of the reasons why brands are so reluctant to change patterns is that they take so many of their cues from what they perceive to be consumer behaviors. What they don’t always stop to do is check whether those “normal” behaviors are how people want to behave, or whether in fact they are simply how people do behave because a sector is driving the behavior that way.

Here’s a pattern, by way of example. Consumers are eating the double-stack burger and barrel of chips because that’s what everyone is offering them when they order a family-size meal. And if it’s there, they’ll eat it. Habit. It’s not their fault – “The brand made me do it.”

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Chief Marketing Officer

CMO To CEO: The Next Era Of Brand Leadership?



Chief Marketing Officers haven’t had it this good for some time. As Jack Trout observed the average tenure not so long ago stood at less than two years. Now it’s close to double that. The reasons why things got so bad, according to Trout, could be attributed to both internal and external forces. Internally, politics and competing functions combined to make it tough to get and keep the resources that CMOs needed to do an effective job. Externally, prima donna advertising agencies with a hotline to the Chief Executive Officer also caused problems. Not helped, he says, by the fact that in most organizations the CEO is the ultimate CMO. The decisions they make essentially provide the marketing team with their licence to operate.

And that gives rise to this thought: if the CEO is the ultimate CMO, should the CMO become the CEO? The question might have seemed presumptuous at one time, and still may to some, but there are precedents for considering the CMO role in a wider light. The conversation about increased collaboration between CEO and CIO is now well advanced, and, at Unilever for example, the CMO and CSR roles have effectively been combined in one person. If the CMO role is casting its eyes sideways, why shouldn’t it look up?

Performing but misunderstood

A review of the prospects for CMOs may be timely, but that’s not to say it will be easy.  According to Robert Rose, Chief Strategist at Content Marketing Institute, “The Fournaise Group conducted a study that found that while 90% of CEOs do trust and value the opinion and work of both CFOs and CIOs, a full 80% of them do not trust and are not very impressed by the work done by marketers. A Nielsen Study in 2009 found that the average short-term return on marketing investment was about 1.09. In other words, for every dollar spent on marketing, about $1.09 was returned.” So marketers are delivering the goods but CEOs don’t trust them.

My colleague, Brad VanAuken’s own experience as a CMO is that the marketing function’s value is not often fully appreciated because marketing operates as a “gestalt” between the understanding and insight obtained through hard data and analysis and intuition about the market that is the result of years of exposure to marketing research and trying to understand consumers from a deep psychological perspective. While the left-brain (analytical) portion of this is relatively easy to understand, the right-brain (intuitive) part is largely invisible and seems like “hocus pocus” to most people who are more operationally oriented.

Increasing contribution

There are many reasons why CMOs are critical to an organization’s success today. Chief among them is to be the voice of the consumer to the organization. As markets continue to change rapidly and consumers continue to gain power, it is important for organizations to build a better understanding of the market’s evolving needs into everything that they do.

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