There are whispers in the wind that the next recession is on the way. Recessions usually require brand planners to learn on the fly to keep their value proposition alive. All the assumptions of business as usual need reassessing.
Distance is an interesting concept in brand positioning terms. How closely you look to cluster with others and how determined you are to remain some distance away depends on your strategy and what you stand to gain from getting up-close.
To become a “category of one” brand is the holy grail of branding. What does it mean to become a “category of one” brand? It means that no other brand is even in the same category as your brand. Your brand has created a new category – one that matters to people.
Not all brand campaigns are created equal. Some have the power to deepen relationships and broaden the access point for your brand. From 1986 – 1996 I held the position of Director of Marketing Insights & Planning for Nike, Inc. These were the years where marketing and brand planning as internal disciplines were being defined for the first time. Reflecting back there are five things I learned in helping to bring the Just Do It (JDI) campaign to life that today’s brands can learn from.
A recent conversation with a client looking for an ad agency was a reminder of just how little of its own dog food the industry eats. Her assertion that “they all look the same and say the same things” highlighted just how difficult brand differentiation is. It’s so hard in fact that even those who claim to do it for a living struggle to do it for themselves.
Marketers come to ad agencies for what they hope will be clear brand strategy, distinctive brand positioning and brilliant storytelling. Ad agencies should be the living proof of what is possible, and the work they do to position their own agencies should be the exemplars – and yet many seem, on review, to display an underwhelming ability to position their own agency brands in ways that make the choices clear and valuable for clients.
It’s not about the work – Visit umpteen traditional and digital agency websites and the first thing you’ll see is a plethora of projects, with Cannes winnings and other awards displayed proudly. The work is the product for agencies. Get that. The awards are the certificates of excellence. Get that too. But when everyone claims to do great work, when everyone wins awards (one year or another) and/or when you can’t see the relevance of any of the work to what you need, it fails as a differentiating factor.
It’s not about the people – Advertising, like all professional services, is a knowledge sector. It’s powered by people, and a great number of those people are very, very good at what they do. So having great people, or even a large number of people, is unlikely to transform your agency into the go-to – because there are thousands of great teams globally. Industry insiders get very excited about who is where and what they’ve done. To everyone else, it’s a hygiene factor. Again, marketers expect top flight agencies to have top flight people. It’s important for marketers to know who they are going to work with, obviously – but is it a compelling reason to prefer? Probably not unless they know the industry from the inside very well indeed. (They also know that the chances of them ever working directly with the creative ‘stars’ are close to zero unless they have a very, very large account.)
It’s not about the process – The methodology is the methodology. It’s how the agency gets you to the end point. It should be robust and measurable. But is it a point of difference? Absolutely not. Because, again, most agencies have robust and proven methodologies. It’s not a secret sauce anymore. It’s expected.