Friday, August 2, 2013

You Can't Build a Brand Without a Red Toolbox

“Oh, sure, we’ve done brand development work before,” the client said, gesturing toward a dusty stack of documents on her office shelf. “It’s all in those decks.”

Yeah, those decks. I’ve seen many of them over the years, and so, probably, have you. Some contain good ideas, but you can’t get to them for all the big words and inscrutable charts with arrows in the way. It’s marketing voodoo, that's what it is, employed to justify consulting fees.

It’s an exercise in (and I apologize for the metaphor) brandsturbation: It feels good but ultimately gives birth to nothing.

This is a for-real chart from someone's for-real brand-related document. For real. Classic brandsturbation.
To be fruitful—and we’re back to marketing, now—brand development work has to be “actionable.” That’s consultant-speak for “useful.”

That brand work must (note italics) produce—
1. real concepts and language
2. and other tangible assets,
3. along with clear guidelines,
4. that anyone, anywhere, working on behalf of your brand
5. can use easily, every day.
Useful brand work gives you tools, in other words. Those tools should live, of course, in a metaphorical toolbox. A brand toolbox*. Ideally, a red one.

Our nice, red brand toolbox has two drawers, because it contains two kinds of tools.

The tools in the top drawer are for building a “strategic communications platform.” Ugh—I know that’s jargony, but I chose that phrase because it's a really accurate description:

It’s a platform because you will build all your actual communications on top of it.

It’s strategic because it lives behind the scenes—your audience never sees it.

And the platform becomes the basis for your communications.

So: strategic communications platform. Lower case, no TM. Okay?

The bottom drawer contains everyday tools you will use in creating actual, real-life stuff for the Web or print or outdoor or TV or emails or trade shows or weddings and bar mitzvahs.

Like what?
  • Verbatim messages to communicate
  • Words and phrases to use
  • Logos and type and colors
  • Writing guidelines, including the “voice” of the brand
  • Behavior guidelines
  • And much, much more!

(I don’t have a jargony name for the tools in the bottom drawer. Wait—how about “communications execution modules”? Nah. Let’s just call them everyday tools.)

But here’s the most important thing: All these tools make it easy for anyone to inhabit the brand persona, which is the goal of all brand work. So it can end up in the marketplace, not on a shelf.

Next time we’ll open the top drawer. 

*(I must point out that there is an Australian company called syn.rg that markets something they call Brand ToolboxTM. It’s an “all-encompassing brand asset management solution.” I don’t know if it’s any good, but I want you—and their lawyers—to recognize that their R-ed and TM-ed “central online repository” is completely different from my lower-case metaphor. We good?)

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