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Brand Marketing

Are You A Strategic Thinking Marketer?


Brand Marketing And Strategic Thinking

Strategic thinking is a natural inclination – something I think you’re born with. In many business schools you can learn principles of strategic thinking, but like learning to play the piano, you won’t be very good at it unless you have the innate talent to see things strategically. Are you a strategic thinker?

I spend most of my time consulting with marketers on brand strategy – helping them to see useful patterns across the competitive landscape where everyone else sees complexity. In my experience, most marketers and brand managers just want to know HOW to get to their goal as fast and efficiently as possible. That’s tactics not strategy.

Strategic thinking requires you know WHY you are intent on pursuing any particular course of action. When you are clear about your why, the how to get there seemingly takes care of itself. Like gravity I don’t know how this principle works, I just know it does.

Interestingly enough, those with the gift of strategic thinking hardly see it as such. Like all natural systems – like breathing – your gifts operate effortlessly mostly under your awareness. You may be a brilliant strategic thinker but because it’s so natural to you, you may not acknowledge it and self apply it to your conscious behavior.

To help you connect with your gift for strategic thinking and the power it has to strengthen your resolve to achieve your marketing goals, here are several attributes and themes that may seem familiar to you and are shared by all strategic thinkers.

Strategic thinkers see through the clutter.
They have an extraordinary perspective on how the world works. They “see” pathways hidden inside complexity. These pathways or insights often result in uncanny and creative solutions rich in their obvious simplicity.

Strategic thinkers are naturally curious always asking “what-if” questions.
They link “what if “scenarios together like pearls in a necklace. They are always a few moves ahead of where their competitors happen to be on the chessboard of the brandscape. They’re relentless in their questions, which usually enables them to spot trends that have lucrative opportunities embedded within them.

Strategic thinkers think about the important and not so much on the urgent.
While others focus on navel gazing their immediate circumstances, strategic thinkers find it incredibly obvious that if you look down the road and decide what you want to have happen when you get there, you won’t be a victim of your current circumstances anymore.

Strategic thinkers evaluate risks and obstacles.
They see repercussions more clearly than others. They don’t pursue any course of action without careful consideration of the downside. Then they systematically assess “if this or that happens, can we live with that outcome?”  They are usually more prepared and ready for where events may lead them.

Strategic thinkers are not attached to their own preconceived ideas.
They use their insight and intuition to cull through and discard the potential pathways that lead to resistance and confusion. In groups they are always open to consider the crazy ideas out of left field.

Strategic thinkers take determined action.
They don’t procrastinate and wring their hands in worry and fret. They strike forward confidently armed with their strategy.  Through their action they keep their vivid vision from becoming a pipe dream.

There’s an old saying “it takes one to know one” Hopefully that’s the case for you! Our natural inclinations always reveal our gifts and strengths. If you have the awareness and application of your inner strengths, you’ll spend less time thinking about your shortcomings.

Sponsored ByThe Brand Voice Workshop and The Brand Storytelling Workshop

Where Marketers Evolve: The Un-Conference: 360° of Brand Strategy for a Changing World
May 6th and 7th, 2014 in South Beach, Florida
A unique, competitive-learning workshop limited to 50 participants (Selling Out Quickly)
As in the marketplace — some will win, some will lose, All will learn
~In Partnership with the American Marketing Association and the Miami Marlins~

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

FREE Publications And Resources For Marketers

Read More
Brand Innovation

Dreams And Design: Pathway To New Brand Value


Designing Brand Value

I remember years ago when my inquisitive 5 year-old daughter was watching me drawing some logo ideas in my Moleskin sketchbook. She asked me what I was drawing and I replied “an idea”.  Then she asked me “where do ideas come from”?  I replied, “They come from inside my head”.  She proceeded to give me a funny face look and then she asked, “How do they get in there Daddy”?

Out of the mouths of babes, a great question indeed – how do they get in there?

For over three decades I have been completely fascinated with ideas and innovation.

Or to put it another way– turning nothing into something. Creative ideas are what have separated human beings from everything else on this planet.  From stone tools to our modern technology, ideas, inspirations, and flashes of insight has been the genesis of every innovation humans have conceived. First it has to be a dream, and then it has to be designed.

Dreaming and designing is the activity that turns nothing into something, bringing new value where there was none before.

Moving ever deeper into the 21st century, we are collectively leaving our industrial age frame of reference and bias and embracing the challenges inherent in the new normal – a global economy now based on ideas.  The shift places a premium on the talent and skill of dreaming and designing. Individuals and organizations must excel at both to thrive in the brave new world.

There’s nothing new under the sun.

Everything that is comes from something else that was. While it’s fashionable to proclaim innovate or die, many great innovations are borrowed from other ideas that came before.

Every organization wants to be perceived as innovative in their product development. The truth is many organizations struggle to be innovative in ways that are game-changers for their long-term success. Rather than developing a deeper and richer understanding of what people really care about, many companies innovate around themselves, bringing to market incremental innovation produced within a familiar knowledge base and strict cost structures.

Enlightened organizations are dreaming and designing around life experiences and meanings rather than competitive or functional features and benefits. To do that well, you have to go outside of what you know and look for related patterns from other sources of inspiration. For example, the idea of a printing press came to Gutenberg while he was watching the movements of a wine press. Eureka, humanity forever changed.

Dreaming is messy.

Organizations that are performance driven and action oriented have a difficult time dreaming. It’s messy and unpredictable. These organizations like to dream within the boundaries of known protocols and past experience.  The premium is placed on what has worked in the past. Of course, the trouble with that line of thinking is nothing from the 20th century is working too well in the 21st.

Imagination is one of the most illusive and mysterious of the human faculties.  When we are dreaming up new ideas, we are playing in the realm of the formless and performance-driven-metrics-obsessed organizations need solid form – tangibility and predictable results. The imagination doesn’t work in strict linear patterns of cause and effect. Ideas are formless thought seeds, the result of unfocused attention and idle daydreaming.

Those organizations that master their collective imaginations and innovate transformative products and businesses have become comfortable with the unformed and the unknown – the messy business of creating value.

Designing is the imagination taking form.

Much has been written about design and design thinking. Breakaway organizations like IDEO have made the principle of design thinking their stock and trade. To quote, author Marty Neumeier in his book Meta Skills: Five Talents for the Robotic Age, “if you are going to innovate, you’re going to have to design”.

Dreaming and designing are two sides of the same coin. Designing brings form to the formless. Designing is the action of dreaming. Designing is about making things and making things better.

The people who will solve the problems facing us today will be dreamers and designers – entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers, artists, educators, philosophers and anyone who is seriously thinking about elevating our collective life experience.

In every activity and human endeavor, the process of design will bring order, simplicity and beauty to the complex problems facing nearly 7 billion human beings living on this small blue dot we call our home.

So where will the big ideas come from that will elevate our human experience? From anyone and anywhere. All of us have the capability to transform our world with our ideas and our visualizations, if only we give ourselves permission to try.

Sponsored By: The New Product Co-Creation Workshop

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

FREE Publications And Resources For Marketers

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Branding and Social Media

Brand Voice In The Social Media Age


Brands today obsessively seek massive social followings. The driver of that social activity is content marketing. Today most content marketing is nothing more than disguised brand advertising–and customers and consumers mostly ignore it. To gain a massive following in social channels requires a sophisticated understanding and disciplined application of Brand Voice.

Brand Voice is simply the quality of the brand’s presence in the marketplace. At every interaction with the audience, the Brand’s voice (the manner in which it communicates its purpose, values, reputation and experiences) must be created and managed with precision.

That means, marketers have a greater responsibility to not let the voice of their brand be at the whim of the latest creative or style trend, appear sloppy, inconsistent, and mindless.

Leading brands always consider how customers and consumers will receive their blogs, websites, social media channels, and content creation output. In the social media age, this is one area in the branding ecosystem that must be spot on without compromise.

Brand Voice is everything and the only thing.

In speaking to another person, your tone of voice is not what you say, but how you say it. How well your communication comes across determines how well others will respond to what your saying.  It’s exactly the same for brand communication.

A brand’s tone of voice will inform the authenticity all of its human interactions, sales conversations, business environments, written language, trade dress, product design, packaging and retail presence – the totality of the brand’s presence in the marketplace.

Consequently, you can’t just make up a voice out of thin air and then start speaking in it.

Brand voice comes directly from the organization’s purpose, mission and values. If it’s not real in today’s meta-transparent social age, the voice will be the sound of one hand clapping.

Why it’s critical to get brand voice right.

Brand Voice is an expression and reflection of the human beings behind the brand.

Brand building is about people–the people that comprise the brand and the value they are passionate about bringing to the world. This is the beginning of the brand’s story told through the authentic voice and behavior of those that bring it to life everyday.

Brand voice is what establishes relevant and highly valued differentiation among competitors in the category. Think of two brands in the same category. Let’s say Honda and Subaru automobiles for example. Both brands have a tone of voice that is distinctive, recognizable and unique. One brand represents and expresses quality engineering, while the other brand represents and expresses love and adventure. They are both true to their unique voice building equity in their promise. Customers know why they engage with one or the other.

Brand Voice goes along way toward building trust. When a brand’s presence in the marketplace is familiar it’s more easily trusted. Researchers in cognitive behavior and psychology have known forever that humans require little effort to mentally process something that is familiar. For humans familiarity creates a sense of ease.  Creating a specific tone of voice plays a crucial role in how easy it is for people to trust your promise.

A consistent Brand Voice will influence and persuade. As author Maya Angelou once said, “People don’t always remember what you say or even what you do, but they always remember how you made them feel.” The way in which brand’s communicate breeds a certain feeling or emotional response in people. And although most people have short attention spans, they are very sensitive to language and imagery, forming instant impressions in their minds based on how they feel. To be influential and persuasive requires connecting with people emotionally.

How to get Brand Voice Right.

When thinking of brand voice and content creation, here are a couple of suggestions for establishing the quality of your brand’s presence.

Begin with purpose.

Why does the brand exist? Who does it serve? What does it value? Purpose is the foundation of Brand Voice. It’s not about invention but introspection. It’s not about creativity but connection. Once the entire organization top to bottom lives its purpose,
a true voice in the marketplace naturally emerges.

Create comprehensive brand guidelines.

Brand guidelines shouldn’t be created just for design and creative teams, but for everyone in the organization. Every set of brand guidelines should standardize a brand’s messaging, look and feel, tone and manner, grammar guidelines and design principles. All content marketing should follow these guidelines. Create standards for content. For example, creating a template for all social media channels, webinars and white papers. This helps minimize production timelines, but more importantly will keep the voice of your brand consistent.

Educate and Collaborate.

Take the time to formally educate all stakeholders in content creation on the importance of understanding the brand’s story and voice in the marketplace. Content creation should be a collaborative process – account planner, brand strategist, community manager, content marketing manager, brand manager, and designer are all part of the creation process. Education and collaboration form a human brand filter that keeps brand voice authentic and consistent though all forms of branded content.

Sponsored ByThe Brand Positioning Workshop, the Brand Storytelling Workshop Series and Brand Strategy and Customer Co-Creation Workshops

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

FREE Publications And Resources For Marketers

Where Marketers Evolve. The Un-Conference: 360° of Brand Strategy for a Changing World
May 6th and 7th, 2014 in South Beach, Florida
A unique, competitive-learning workshop limited to 50 participants (Selling Out Quickly)
As in the marketplace — some will win, some will lose, All will learn
~In Partnership with the American Marketing Association and the Miami Marlins~

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Brand Innovation

Devastating Innovation Rules The Day


Hardly a generation ago, the Rand McNally Atlas was the beloved source for navigation and finding your way around. Then came satellite navigation technology and a host of innovators popped onto the scene. Brands like Garvin and Tom Tom were born and prospered for a minute – then Google maps became ubiquitous on smart phones and consumers quickly forgot GPS devices.

The same painful lesson was recently experienced by Blackberry – one of the early innovators of the mobile phone. Blackberry is now in the bone yard of companies whose businesses were devastated by rapid technological innovation.

Radical innovation has given way to devastating innovation. Clever brand strategy and marketing can’t save those aforementioned once successful brands. They are now buggy whips in an age of technology innovation that devastates whole industries in nearly the blink of an eye.

The human mind is an amazingly powerful technology. Seemingly there is no stopping the rapidity of devastating innovation. It’s happening faster and with more profound effects than anyone can imagine in real time.

Business and management gurus can’t keep pace with the proliferation of innovation. It’s hard to imagine that the smart phone would have such devastating impact on a host of products and industries like still and video cameras, recording equipment, publishing, travel, music and entertainment, even flashlights. No one could anticipate the speed and ferocity of the new normal.

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Brand Strategy For Healthcare

Positioning Health Insurance Brands


No doubt, it will be fascinating to witness in the coming year the machinations of health insurance marketers as they create competitive advantage for their brands against the backdrop of the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare implementation.

The good news for health insurance brands is they will have many more customers as the law mandates everyone must have health insurance coverage. The bad news for health insurance marketers is their offerings (as mandated by the law) will be pretty much the same – the only perceivable difference between them is the tiered “good, better, best” pricing structure the government allows.

And lets face it; price is the only thing that matters to consumers when it comes to health insurance coverage. Especially those consumers (think small business owners) who happen to own individual plans. For many people, the role of price is the main brand driver.

Of course, we all know that positioning brands for competitive advantage is a head game. As the well-worn phrase goes, the value of a brand, “lives in the mind” not in your branding.

In the age clutter and social media transparency, consumers are caring less about marketing and more about community and shared values. Brands that fail this price of entry won’t be able to even get in the game.

Profound implications for health insurance marketers.

For health care marketers, who have traditionally had a B2B orientation, the time to evolve is now – as they must market to consumers directly. The target audience has shifted to real people–who historically have not had to care much about which provider is chosen. Their employer made that decision.

Now consumers, millennials in particular, will have to make more direct choices about their health insurance provider. These consumers will choose their provider based on more emotive and elusive reasons then the content of their policy, the amount of their deductible, and its monthly or annual out of pocket cost.

If you are a health insurance marketer right now, you’ve probably wondered “how are we going to get these consumers to care about us?” or, “what do we need to be doing for them right now that will influence their choice – then choose us?”

The Affordable Care Act may have a beneficial impact in the marketplace. Now faceless health insurance companies are going to have to be thinking more about community and serving people rather than mitigating their risk.

Don’t get me wrong; this does not minimize the important fact that large global organizations are making tectonic shifts in their entire business model right now. There must be a financial profit to owners, investors and employees who will deliver the service.

There’s no free lunch.

The Affordable Care Act has removed “product innovation” as a point of difference in value creation. The law, in effect, levels the playing field of the competitors to bring more value to the consumer. Everything is now good and the same.

No doubt we will soon see a plethora of health coverage marketing campaigns touting warm and fuzzy visuals making claims about “caring more about you”.

Those health insurance marketers who fail to behave in ways that make a real and perceived difference in the lives of people before they become a mandated customer will pay a steep price.

I suggest health insurance marketers begin to formulate their answer to this critical question:

What difference does our brand make in the world that is highly valued by people and not in abundant supply from our competitors?

Sponsored ByThe Brand Positioning Workshop and The Brand Storytelling Workshop

Where Marketers Evolve. The Un-Conference: 360° of Brand Strategy for a Changing World
May 6th and 7th, 2014 in South Beach, Florida
A unique, competitive-learning workshop limited to 50 participants (Selling Out Quickly)
As in the marketplace — some will win, some will lose, All will learn
~In Partnership with the American Marketing Association and the Miami Marlins~

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

FREE Publications And Resources For Marketers

Read More