The Blake Project

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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 Purpose

Brands Require A Higher Purpose


Purpose Driven Brand Strategy

It’s not what you sell. It’s what you stand for.

Beyond being simple, clear and inspirational, enlightened brands should seek an elevated purpose and articulate a point of view which stands for something. It’s not about just being, it’s about meaning. Articulating brand purpose goes beyond creating a set of inspiring words, but also contributes both internally and externally to long-term vitality, richness and success. Higher purpose branding goes beyond the functional benefits provided to consumers, extending to include emotional and social benefits.

At work here is a trend JWT Intelligence calls “Mindful living” which speaks to an increased awareness that our digital lives and ‘always on’ mobile connectivity are causing us to miss out on a more present, conscious experience.

Weapons of Mass Distraction

Larry Rosen in Psychology Today coined the term “Weapons of Mass Distraction” to describe our technological obsession with smartphones. A study conducted by Pew l found 67% of young adult cell phone owners check their phones for calls, messages or alerts without any vibration or ring. Another study conducted by Baystate Medical Center in Massachusetts and University of Indiana-Purdue also studied this “Phantom Vibration Syndrome” with most participants imagining their device vibrating at least once every day.

There is no shortage of reports on how addicted we are to technology. But we’re not addicted to it, we are obsessed by it, and the most important difference between addiction and obsession is chemical. Unlike addiction, where the brain is trying to create endorphins or serotonin, etc., obsession seeks to decrease neurotransmitters that are related to anxiety (this can include elevated, excited, and positive moods). In other words, brains too wrapped up in and around technology are saturated with “downers” which runs the risk of decreasing our potential to experience joy.

Joy is the emotion which makes the feeling of happiness possible.

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Brand Marketing

Brand Signal Or Brand Noise? 8 Indicators


Brand Messaging Signals

In economics, signalling focuses on the ability of one party to effectively convey information about itself to another party. That was relatively easy pre-Internet. Brands simply pushed claims into the marketplace through a range of set-play media actions and waited for consumers to react. The ability of a signal to reach an audience rested almost entirely on the message itself and the media budget.

As we move now from a world in which asymmetric information has prevailed to one in which perfect information, or at least more transparent information, is closer to the norm, marketers are grappling with a landscape where they must balance a new abundance of signalling platforms with a maddening overload of market noise. To be heard above the din, they must think through not just what they signal and how, but also why and to what effect.

As Allen Adamson has said: “Branding is about signals – the signals people use to determine what you stand for as a brand. Signals create associations.” Brands that simply telegraph what others are saying will only add to the  background volume – making it harder for any signal to stand out. Extending Adamson’s observation, lack of signal creates disassociation, a brand that people are not inclined to feel part of, or even to be seen with. The price of noise is commoditization. And as the noise increases, profile fades and brands drown.

There’s clear correlation to me between market leadership and signal leadership. The brands that are listened to are the brands that consumers turn to for guidance. According to this article in strategy + business, market leaders that lose their preeminent position have only a short time in which to regain the top spot – before they risk slipping back into the field. That timeframe it seems can be counted in quarters rather than years.

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The Rising Influence Of Marketers


Brand Marketers

The reason why companies have worked photocopy business plans for so long is because they never thought to work any other way. It just seemed too risky. The rise and rise of producer nations, in the words of Michael Porter, “riveted attention on implementation”. Watching Japan, then China and India continue to progress, many companies fell further into the action trap. They believed that the only way to outrun their immediate competitors and their looming Asian rivals was to, somehow, out-do them.

But as Michael Porter has commented: “It’s incredibly arrogant for a company to believe that it can deliver the same sort of product that its rivals do and actually do better for very long…It’s extremely dangerous to bet on the incompetence of your competitors” – and that, he says, is what companies are doing when they rely on operational effectiveness for competitive advantage.

My sense is that operational effectiveness and efficiency currently account for about 50 – 70% of perceived competitive advantage, but that percentage is falling. It’s falling, because of course consumer expectations continue to rise – ironically as more and more best of breed thinking is installed – and consumer emotions continue to change – as more channels give consumers unprecedented access to brands and to each other.

As quality becomes ubiquitous, it’s harder and harder to gamble on incompetence.

And it becomes easier and easier for consumers to change brands for no reason whatsoever other than what they feel. Because the actual risk in doing so is getting smaller and smaller thanks to best-of-breed.

All this makes for an irrational economy. And the irrational economy plays by very different rules.

As Avi Dan points out in this article in Forbes, “Customers are now able find out much about the company they wish to engage with: where and how a company makes its products; how it treats its employees, retired workers, and suppliers; how much it pays its top executives; how seriously it takes its environmental responsibilities and the like.”

The criteria is no longer what they get. It’s just as much what they know – and therefore feel.

The role of Chief Marketing Officers in such a world, Dan goes on to say, is “to meld the internal and external faces of the enterprise”.

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Brand Marketing

Hollow Brand Claims In An Age Of Scrutiny


False Brand Claims

We’re all tempted to do it at some stage: to overstate the advantages; to push the benefits of what is on offer past the point of credibility; to state that what we are doing or offering is better than what others are offering, but with no substantiation for that belief.

The obsession with short-term growth coupled with natural competitiveness and the intensity of competitors come together to motivate brands to disregard the boundaries of responsible advertising. In New Zealand, for example there’s a recent case of caged eggs being sold as free-range and at free-range prices. Business Insider Australia highlights a number of other examples of false claims that have collectively cost companies many millions of dollars, including: Activia yogurt (which claimed the nutritional benefits of its product were clinically and scientifically proven when they weren’t); Taco Bell (whose seasoned beef was seasoned with oat filler); and Skechers (which claimed its sneakers were calorie burning when there was no evidence of tangible benefits).

It doesn’t stop there of course. Ads are retouched to make things look bigger or smaller than they really are, offers are rendered useless by their terms and conditions, products are advertised as available at a certain price but in reality they aren’t, environmental claims are made that prove groundless…the list goes on.

At best, these are mistakes or oversights. At worst, they are snake-oil deceptions. Leaving aside those who deliberately set out to rip others off, often, it seems to me, the brands that are inclined to engage in hollow practices are those where sales have become an obsession at the expense of other aspects of the relationship. That’s a very old-fashioned view of business as we all know. And yet it persists because focusing on the numbers and incentivizing people to do what it takes to make the sales targets can be seen as easier than connecting with customers and building valued relationships.

Why do we behave like this? Why do human beings exaggerate and even falsify? Is it just money? Apparently not. Novelist Sarah Jio talks about the very human factors that drive people to deceive in this article in the Huffington Post. She quotes Dr Robert Feldman who says we are programmed socially from a very young age to make ourselves look better. Feldman points to a study he led in which 60 percent of people lied during 10-minute conversations with strangers – not once but two to three times on average. Most of those who took part had no idea they had done this until they saw the replays on video of their conversations.

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Branding and Social Media

4 Keys To Building Brand Social Value


Social Brand Strategy

We sometimes forget that with social media, it is not about the destination, it is about the journey; a journey that is defined by the goals a brand hopes to realize when it engages a network of individuals. Viewing “social” as an “emerging communications” medium is like calling water wet. Let’s lay it out here: We are social.

We are seven billion individuals dynamically interacting within scalable groups exhibiting similar behaviors and patterns. Out of these interactions, new behaviors emerge which cannot be inferred from individual components alone.

Our worth in groups is far greater than the sum of us as individuals.

So then, what motivates individuals to join networks? Consider these four primary relational motivations:

  1. Competition (especially games, high-feedback environments)
  2. Excellence (think badge value and bragging rights.)
  3. Curiosity (think creativity – stories, photo albums, etc.)
  4. Affection (think human beings who need social relationships, all of us!)

Arranging the four into a diamond – take a look at what is revealed for Facebook, then Facebook with games (as presented by Davide ‘Folletto’ Casali in a talk on Social Experience Design).

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