Category

BRAND STORYTELLING

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I recognise that.

In my life.

I’ve been ‘known for’ different things.

By different people.

At different times.

And that got me thinking.

I wonder what I am ‘known for’ these days?

And more importantly.

Do I like it?

Known for.

I suppose some people call this Personal Brand, don’t they?

What they’re ‘known for’.

And there was a time.

When I ran onebestway.

The biggest and best known of the communications agencies that I created.

From the year 2000.

That onebestway took me over.

And all I was known for was onebestway.

So much so that when I closed onebestway in 2014.

I disappeared.

And that’s not good.

Because.

Arguably.

At that stage of my career.

I personally was known for nothing at all.

These Days.

These days.

I wonder more about what I am known for in the context of ‘who I am’.

Rather than ‘what I do’.

And that changes the focus of the question from:

I wonder what I am known for doing?

To

I wonder how I am known for being?

Being Not Doing. 

How you are perceived as ‘being’ is more important than what you are perceived as ‘doing’.

Because what you are doing, changes.

And how you are being.

Assuming you are being authentic of course.

That never changes.

So that’s why it’s a question worth asking.

I wonder how I am known for being?

And.

More importantly.

(And a little more scarily).

Do I like it?

I was 20 when I graduated as a furniture designer/maker.

As enthusiastic and curious about life.

As I was directionless and scared.

Noticed.

I noticed my friends writing letters for jobs.

So I did too.

I wrote 60.

Spelled correctly.

Smartly photocopied.

Hand signed.

And looking good.

I fired them off to see who would offer me a future first.

And the response was unanimous.

No one.

Noticed.

Next, I noticed my friends getting jobs.

Shit jobs.

For shit money.

Spending their shitty incomes on shitty things.

Drink.

Smash*.

Beans.

And student-quality accommodation.

So I did that too.

I started selling Sky Television door-to-door.

(And believe me.

That really was shit).

Noticed.

Next, I noticed I was bored.

I noticed also that I had skills I wasn’t using.

I noticed people running their own business.

And I noticed that I wanted to do that too.

Noticed.

I noticed some things that businesses did.

I noticed that businesses bought lots of crappy, samey promotional gifts and blanket-sent them to crappy databases.

I noticed that businesses winning awards would invariably be photographed holding a samey £500 cut-glass rose-bowl from Fenwick.

I noticed my skills as a furniture maker.

And I noticed the opportunity to reapply my skills to the promotional gift market to create much shorter run, much higher quality, much more personal incentives for cleaner, smaller databases.

And I noticed the opportunity  to reapply my skills to the awards market to create bespoke, ergonomically superior, branded pieces that photographed to maximise brand exposure for the sponsor.

And quite quickly.

Customers started to notice me addressing these needs too.

Noticing. 

There’s a lot to be said for noticing.

But notice what you notice.

Because if all you notice is what everybody else is noticing.

It is unlikely that anyone will notice you.

*Smash.

Not a cool name for drugs.

It’s dehydrated mashed potato.

Ask your dad.

If you want to build a great brand.

A brand that goes from strength-to-strength.

Year-on-year.

Remember these thirds.

The First Third. DIAGNOSIS.

The Second Third. STRATEGY.

The Third Third. TACTICS.

Not Just a List.

It’s not just a 1-2-3 list, though.

These are equal thirds.

All equally important.

And the reason I am explaining them as equal thirds.

Is to highlight that it is The First Third that most often gets diluted.

And when that happens.

Businesses are setting themselves up to fail from day one.

A Closer Look.

Here’s a closer look at the thirds.

The First Third. DIAGNOSIS.

Diagnosis is really, really understanding what’s going on right now.

With you.

Your customers.

And your competitors.

And it is the foundation of everything.

Second Third. STRATEGY.

Strategy is how you are going to achieve the Brand Position that you want.

Based on everything you learned in The First Third.

It includes clarifying what Brand Position you want to be known for.

Checking, of course, that the Brand Position you want to be known for is in fact derived from The First Third.

Rather than some rabbit-out-of-the-hat thing that you happen to like the look of.

Something that you just happen to think we all should all be interested in right now.

Because you see The First Third as ‘a box ticked’ rather than ‘real lessons learned’.

Third Third. TACTICS.

Tactics are the practical, timely things you will do inside the strategy you’ve designed.

The strategy you’ve designed to achieve the Brand Position that you want.

Based on what you learned in The First Third.

It is how you will get into the consumers consciousness.

A Further Note on Brand Position.

Your Brand Position.

By the way.

Communicates what your core purpose is.

Why you exist.

Your Brand Position incorporates your Value Proposition.

(How exactly you are valuable to and valued by your customers)

Brand Position considers Brand Attributions and Associations.

(The benefits or characteristics of your brand that come into a consumer’s consciousness when your brand is mentioned or discussed).

And Brand Image, or Branding.

(What you look like/sound like).

And all of these can only exist contextually.

And a consequence of.

What you found out inside The First Third.

The First Third.

So there you go.

It all comes back to The First Third.

Because if what you’re doing in The Second Third and The Third Third are not derived from what you unearthed at The First Third:

  1. Your customers genuinely valuing your purpose.
  2. Your competitor’s inability or unwillingness to deliver on that same purpose.
  3. The fact that you (and only you) can deliver on the purpose promises you’re making – really well.

You’re knackered.

Well.

Here he is.

(Or she).

The Cautious Creative.

There’s a picture: https://www.50odd.co.uk/the-cautious-creative/.

The Cautious Creative.

It was George Lois who said it first, I think.

That The Cautious Creative does not exist.

It’s in his book, ‘Damn Good Advice (for people with talent)’.

George sees caution and creativity as opposites.

George thinks that they cannot co-exist.

And whilst I think they actually can co-exist.

I also think, like George, that they lead only to sameness and mediocrity.

So I agree 100% with George’s sentiment that they should not.

Building Braver Brands. 

I am Building Braver Brands.

My own brands and my client brands.

Because most businesses are boring.

Most business leaders are boring because they are reading case studies when they could be writing case studies.

Most business leaders are boring because they are trying to lead their category when a braver heart would mean they’d try to drive their category.

Most business leaders are boring so they don’t know how to get noticed.

And I am taking them way past getting noticed – to getting chosen.

Cautious creativity?

No.

Braver Branding?

Yes!

I advised on brand and marketing for an Ice Cream Parlour once.

A new venture.

Up here in the North East of England.

Advice.

The advice I gave them sticks in my mind.

I remember it even though it was 10 years go.

Because the essence of my advice to them was:

Behave like a fashion brand does.

Fashion and Ice Cream.

I encouraged them to create Limited Edition, seasonal ice cream tubs.

I designed them, actually.

In mini-collections of four.

One range was:

Fire.

Ice.

Water.

Air.

Another was:

Autumn.

Winter

Spring.

Summer.

All very beautiful.

Copy on the bottom of each tub encouraging customers to keep them.

To plant seedlings in them.

To keep trinkets in them.

Egg and Bacon Ice cream.

I also encouraged them to experiment.

Because fashion brands are always experimenting.

So if they had 15 expected ice cream flavours.

Strawberry.

Vanilla.

Mint Choc Chip etc.

I suggested they had one unexpected one.

Egg and Bacon, for example.

No one will buy that.

They said.

That’s not the point.

I said.

Obsessive people.

And obsessive brands.

Do strange things.

And strange is interesting.

I said.

Fashion and Ice Cream.

Fashion design and ice cream retailing are two completely different categories.

If fashion brands look to fashion brands for inspiration then.

OK.

Sparks might fly.

And if ice cream brands look to ice cream brands for inspiration.

Then same again.

Magic might happen.

But when brands look across categories.

With an open mind.

Without fear.

And with an imagination primed to go.

That’s when real magic can happen.

Tom Roach is a clever man.

He describes himself like this:

With 20+ years as a strategist in the world’s best marketing communications agencies, I’m driven by a desire to drive future growth for brands by harnessing the commercial power of creativity, and to prove its value for the marketing industry as a whole.

Tom very recently wrote a great article on purposeful brands.

Breaking purposeful brands down into three groups.

In a really useful way.

Because he doesn’t just look at the purpose itself.

But where it comes from.

So overall I think there are probably 3 broad types of brands that define themselves as having a purpose that we see in the marketing world.

Imagine three concentric circles containing three types.

At the bullseye we see brands that are Born Purposeful, often founder-led, often small, niche, usually founded with a societal purpose and where purpose goes across the whole business operation.

Toms and Patagonia are perhaps the most often-cited examples of this.

No one ever seems to argue about brands like this – very clear purposes, and business models designed to balance purpose and profit.

In the middle concentric circle we see a second type, which tend to be Corporate Converts – often larger businesses which have adopted the concept of purpose more recently.

They usually seem to genuinely want to make a positive difference to the world alongside making money, sometimes to correct past wrongs or just to become a better corporate citizen.

They’re by definition on a journey of transforming themselves and are often more complex businesses, and because of that they may have to make pragmatic decisions that favour profit over purpose in certain instances.

They may not have a business model that’s built around their purpose.

They may have certain voices internally who are more committed to their purpose than others, and they’re likely not to have a founder present who’s committed to keeping the business permanently in line with its purpose in all its decision-making.

So they’re naturally a greyer area.

Purpose often becomes a new type of business vision or Northstar for these kinds of brands – they will typically need to find a space at the top of their strategy pyramid for their new purpose.

And there’s a third kind, on the outer circle, which I would call Pseudo-purposeful brands – these are the ones for which purpose is just a new ad campaign claiming to try and solve an issue like gender or racial equality, or toxic masculinity or whatever the most resonant topic is that their social listening data says is trending with their demographic that month.

This is the kind of purpose that’s least likely to become embedded across every function of a business, it was probably cooked up in the marketing department, and so is far less likely to take root within an entire organisation, be taken seriously and gain long-term investment.

And so it’s far less likely to be profitable in the long-term.

I like this 3-way split.

I like how I am building my own clothing brand, Always Wear Red in the only way I know how.

The first way.

And the article has helped me to think more clearly about brands I try to help through my mychael business.

Because I love Born Purposeful brands.

And I can tolerate and explore with Corporate Converts.

But I really do have no time for the Pseudo-Purposeful types.

And that helps me to work out the projects I’ll love.

From those I just can’t work on.

More crisply than before.

Here’s the full article.

Ask good questions.

Here are three I ask about clothing.

Question 1. Why is it so Cheap?

This is the opposite of what most people ask.

And it’s a great question.

Because the answer to this question will.

More often than not.

Make you like the thing less.

Question 2. Why is it so Expensive?

This is good question too.

Because value is important to me.

But so are values.

And the answer to this question is an opportunity for the brand to make me like the thing more.

So yes, I want to know the materials are superb.

And the makers are talented.

But I am also interested what the brand stands for.

And I may also pay more if it’s been made sustainably.

With patience.

And care.

And with respect for the maker.

Question 3. How Does it Become Mine?

I’m late to the party with this.

Customisation.

Personalisation.

But I also mean how something ages.

How it wears in.

Not out.

As I use it.

I like how great clothing changes over time.

Good Questions.

These are good questions.

And I asking them a lot.

Question 3 reared its head recently, for example.

As I chatted to a friend.

About the Always Wear Red caps I designed and had handmade in Yorkshire.

But they did nothing for my friend.

Because it was his grandad’s flat cap that he wanted.

One day.

He said.

As he glanced down.

Eyes closed.

Picturing the oily, brown, many-times-repaired flat cap he later described to me.

And even though I spent a good year of my life mastering the design and overseeing the making of my Limited Edition satin lined, natural herringbone and blood red felt Always Wear Red caps.

I understood.

And I had to agree that.

For him.

Of course.

His grandad’s cap wins by a lifetime.

There are really beautiful things everywhere.

You just have to look.

Beautiful Beans.

Take beans, for example.

Baked Beans.

Have a look at the image with this story at 50odd: https://www.50odd.co.uk/beautiful-beans/.

And then the full story here if you like what you see.

https://www.underconsideration.com/brandnew/archives/new_master_brand_for_heinz_by_jones_knowles_ritchie.php.

I think these beans are beautiful.

Really beautiful.

I just sent an email to my mate Carlo.

We spar from time to time on Zoom.

(He’s bigger than me. 

So it’s safer that way).

We spar on the subject of business.

We talk about the brilliant people we both know that run businesses.

(I include Carlo in those brilliant people, as it goes).

And we fight a bit about brand.

The email.

Here’s what I wrote:

Hello Carlo

Here’s Dave Trott taking the piss out of brand people.

https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/answer-brand-whats-question/1687358

You might have to log in. You get to read 1 article each month for free I think. Unless you’re a member. In which case you’re fine.

I like Dave Trott and I work hard to absorb what he says.

And to not be like the brand people he’s referring to here.

I’m evolving. I understand brand. But it’s only ever part of the recipe of business communications. I actually spend an increasing amount of my time in (pseudo) advertising. I say ‘pseudo’ because I am not supposed to be any good at it. As I have no training. But I’m actually not bad. Because I love classic advertising approaches. The wordplay and the imagery and the photography.

Brand is the bit of comms that is most ignored and/or done badly I think. Therein lies the opportunity.

But it is not the answer to everything. I just think that those that do do it well have the potential to have the edge over those that do not. But again, only if the brand is run consistently well – and as a true brand (keeping things simple etc.)

Anyhow. I had 5 minutes over a coffee. So I thought I’d message.

Tarra!

And that’s it.

I said this to another friend of mine quite recently too

(Yes, I have two friends.

Just two, mind.):

Brand is important.

But it’s not nearly as important as people like me will tell you it is.

What I mean by that is that I love the science, the application and the cut-and-thrust of brand definition and building.

I am learning all the time and it is one of my obsessions.

So of course I am going to dive deep.

To argue.

To fight so that my brands and your brands are stronger and better run than their brands.

But I also know that brand is not the full story.

For example, if your product or service is shit.

Or even sub-optimal.

You’ll probably fail.

Important.

So yes.

Brand is important.

And it is.

For many.

One of the best opportunities you have to get the edge over your competition.

Brand.

Brand.

Part of the story.

Never the whole story.

I was asked by Hilary Dunne to write and deliver a Podcast.

Hilary runs a Global Speaker agency called The Brand Activators.

I addressed this subject:

Deep recession. Pandemic. War, even.

Globally significant. Thankfully rare. Landscape-shifting.

But if they do occur, what should business owners do regarding brand, PR, marketing and sales?

Here’s what I said.

5 Things.

First, I defined Brand, PR, Marketing and Sales.

(Just to make sure we were all chatting about the same thing).

Brand
Our DNA. What we stand for. Purpose. Belief. The change we want to make. What we’re most famous for.

PR
Schedules and targets messages, identifies networks and channels, targets content and readership, reputation management. Includes digital PR (how found, what for), measures reach, engagement and effect.

Marketing & Sales
Identifies markets, how to reach them, what to say to them and how to close and grow accounts. Identifies targets, opportunities, responsibilities, relationship building and sales methods for developing insight and selling. 

Then, I listed 5 things to do during the Pandemic.

Here’s an overview:

  1. Don’t crave normal. Crave better. This means, use the time to get those things we’ve just defined, amazing. Sort them out. Because there will definitely be work to do
  2. Storify your journey to better. Tell the world, via Social Media and great quality email marketing, about your journey to better.
  3. Invest heavily in generosity. Help people. Loads of them. Sincerely and without expecting anything back. Jump out of bed to do this, in fact. Commit to it.
  4. Look for inspiration-and to inspire. Take a look at what other inspiring leaders are doing. Soak it all up. Then do something inspiring yourself. Imagine that other people, just like I am advising you to, were looking around looking for inspiring leadership during the pandemic. Would they find you?
  5. The worst decision you can make is to stop making decisions. You’re a leader. So lead.

In summary:

  1. Improve.
  2. Storify.
  3. Generosity.
  4. Inspire.
  5. Lead.

So it’s pretty much what you should have been doing anyway.

Before.

During.

And after.