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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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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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Brand Marketing

9 Brand Lessons From The Ice Bucket Challenge


ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Brand Strategy

The “Ice Bucket Challenge”, the viral awareness campaign to raise money for ALS,  has swept the world in the past month or so, raising over $100 million for a cause that was previously under-profiled, and flooding social media, so to speak, with videos of people from all walks of life pouring ice-cold water over themselves.

More than 3 million people have taken part in the Challenge to date and the amount raised is more than 35 times what the ALS Association raised during the same time period last year. In any sector that’s an extraordinary feat. So why has this campaign sparked so much interest, what are the implications for brand campaigns generally, and will the effect last?

Here are 9 reasons why I believe this campaign has done so well:

  1. It’s incredibly simple – and I mean that in the best sense of that term. No-one has to learn anything, buy anything, go anywhere, enroll for anything. The raw ingredients to keep this Challenge going – bucket, ice, water and phone – are ubiquitous. The instructions are obvious. That makes participation very accessible.
  2. It’s high impact and immediate – the Challenge is over in seconds. That in itself points to an interesting phenomenon: magnification. The ability to undertake a small, short act for a big cause – with the juxtaposition of participation and perceived impact actually crucial to the campaign’s success.
  3. It’s shareable – yes, to some extent that makes it a vanity project. But, more importantly, it’s not only something that people can do visibly and in a social context, it also provides highly visual, personalized content that people can pass on to others. Causes become much more real for people when they can identify in some way with what they are being asked to support, even if that identification is just a selfie.
  4. There’s a strong clear call to action – the power of this campaign doesn’t lie so much in the act of pouring the water. It stems from what immediately follows – the nomination (call out) of three people by name on social media to do the same thing. The pitch is also image-perfect: crazy enough to feel daring, but not so weird that people feel overly self conscious.
  5. It’s a great cause – by taking part, people believe they are making a difference. So, there’s a strong feel-good, do-good factor operating here. As the Telegraph pointed out, it’s much less compelling to anonymously donate to something “icky” like guinea-worm disease that takes place elsewhere in the world, because the disease itself is not something that gets talked about and the social support to participate is lacking.
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Brand Marketing

Brand Strategy For Longer Sales Cycles


Long Sales Cycle Brand Strategy

At dinner the other night, the conversation turned to carpet ads. Why, someone asked, do retailers keep advertising carpet ads when most people only buy carpet once every 7 – 10 years?

Because, they don’t all buy them at once, I reminded them.

A brief explanation of interruption theory followed. Because so many retailers have neither the inclination or the resources to build and sustain relationships with their diverse customer bases, they basically rely on a marketing approach that pivots on informed chance.

Reach and frequency advertising models depend on reaching a profiled consumer at a specific moment when that consumer might have an interest and a need for the product. It’s a shotgun approach (despite what the media planners might tell us) that relies on a machine-gun barrage of noise and repetition. Most of the time it has the majority reaching for the remote control to turn off the noise because whatever’s being talked about is “N/A” to their needs right now.

But brands keep beaming ads in the hope that one day customer and brand will meet at a random intersection of supply and demand.

So what can brands with long sales cycles or infrequent purchase cycles do to lift their sales? The most common response is to lift the noise levels even higher by advertising even more – using ever more urgent ads. But a much better way to increase the chance of intersections in my opinion lies in convening a holistic product range that people intersect with more frequently.

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Political Brand Strategy

Political Repositioning Strategy


Political Brand Strategy

To label something is to name it, to give it an identity. Usually, if a label sticks, it implies that the opposite of the label is not true for the person or entity that has been labeled. This is a way to create “us” versus “them” thinking. “You are this. I am that. We are different. You are to blame. I am not. I don’t like you.” While assigning labels is effective in repositioning opponents in a negative light, I find it operates from a lower level of consciousness. And it rarely leads to common understanding but rather divides and creates animosity. Having said that, politicians have been using labels for all of recorded history to reposition their opponents in a negative light. Following are some recent examples of this in the United States:

  • Liberals calling conservatives reactionaries, Neanderthals, obstructionists neocons and hawks.
  • Conservatives calling liberals doves, bleeding hearts, “flaming” liberals, “nanny-state” liberals, left-wing ideologues, libs, Kool-Aid drinkers, socialists, communists and Pinko commies.
  • Conservatives have also tried to characterize liberals as people who do not believe in the Constitution, a claim that is largely unsubstantiated.
  • Many politicians have used the term “flip flopper” against their opponents.
  • Several politicians have called their opponents “extremists.”
  • Conservatives use the “Obamacare” label to diminish the credibility of the Affordable Care Act.
  • Its opponents have transformed “Tea Party,” coined as a positive label by its advocates, into a negative label. “Liberal,” historically possessing very positive connotations, has also been transformed into a negative label by its opponents. That is why many liberals now choose to use the term “progressive” instead.
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