What Determines a Brand’s Value Part 1

When you talk to most people about brand management, they speak in terms of basic marketing. Others think of basic branding—coming up with a hip name, obscure logo and fluffy positioning.

Brand management is about building brand value. It’s about making a brand worth more than it costs to maintain it. Managing a brand is like managing a business. For several brands, that is the business.

I’ve identified 18 components that determine a brand’s value. I’ll discuss them over three posts, with this one being the first.

The actual brand and product you are selling. There are several types of products—consumer goods, services, social causes, images—all intended to serve existing and anticipated needs. Understanding what your product is and the actual needs it serves is key to defining your brand.

The brand’s positioning. In defining your brand, you have to create an expectation of what it is going to do and represent. It is what differentiates you from the competition. The brand’s positioning tells the story and guides the overall strategy.

The target consumer. Identifying your brand’s target consumer goes well beyond basic demographics. Knowing who your real consumers are pushes psychographics to its limits, describing a typical day, month, year in their lives. Only then can you speak directly to them.

Your promotion strategy. How you package your branded product, craft and communicate your message and allocate the resources behind it are the heart of your promotion strategy.

The product and brand design. Form and function of a product give long-term credibility to the brand. The logo, packaging, materials and how you use them must reinforce the brand’s image.

Consistency of the brand message. Everything—absolutely everything—about the brand must be consistent with its central message.

We’ll cover the next group of six tomorrow.

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Creating Something for Them to Change

We are getting ready to put our house up for sale. That means touching up paint, de-cluttering, and finishing all those projects we never found the time or inclination to do (until now, of course).

Selling your house is a lot like marketing. You are going to pretty it up as much as you can, accentuating all that is good, downplaying what’s not so great and inspiring people to purchase.

But it’s not like selling a traditional good. It’s more like an open-source product. We provide the basic framework (the house) and do what we can to make it attractive while allowing for the new owners to come in and change it all to their liking.

Let me give an example. We are giving quick makeovers to two of our bathrooms. It’s something we’ve wanted to do since we moved in, but other projects, including a post-Katrina renovation, got in the way. Instead of making them to our style and taste—we’ll be moving before we get to really enjoy them—we are going as basic as we can with the colors and other changes.

We want them to look good and function properly. And we want it to be easy for the new owners to make them their own.

I think that’s why people like open-source projects so much. There is basic functionality there, but you can make your own tweaks to make it work for you. Cars have been that way for years with after-market products and add-ons.

It’s not for everybody and certainly not for every product. However, there are more opportunities than we think.

Look at your own business. What changes can you make to your basic product to allow for end-user customization? What customizations and add-ons can you create for your product? And sell?

So after all the work we’re putting in to get this house ready to sell, we get to do the same after we move into the next one. Yippee.

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The Message Itself

So now that I have barraged you over the last few days with content that does and does not work and why, let’s talk a little about how to develop the actual message.

When developing your message you need a short and long version. Often it will help to develop some additional supporting statements that follow the same theme. What comes first depends entirely on the situation and how you like to work.

Sometimes you might get on a roll with a story that goes for pages and pages and from that can pluck your basic message. Other times the message may be right there in front of you and from it you can create the larger story. Your message may be based on the reason for your business’s entire existence.

However it will work best for you, here are a few things that you will need to do:

  • Keep your basic message to 7 words or less, and less is better
  • Have a longer story (or several) that brings that message to life, that creates an image in people’s minds pushing them to action
  • Create additional supporting statements that tie your message and story together
  • Get to the point in your message (this is becoming a mantra); talking around it or creating fluff to sound good dilutes the real message and may even keep you from actually stating it

Here’s an example of what doesn’t work:

Basic Message

[We are] a global leader in content management solutions.

Supporting Statement

[Our] software and services enable organizations to effectively leverage content to drive business growth by improving the customer experience, increasing collaboration, and streamlining business processes in dynamic environments.


It really doesn’t say anything of value. I’ve read it at least three times now, and I’m still not sure what they are selling. Maybe their product isn’t for me, but maybe it is. Or would be great for one of my clients.

Let me take a stab at fixing it:

Basic Message

Your customers will get the message.

Supporting Statement

Our tools deliver your message to the people you want, when you want and how you want.

I know it’s not perfect, but you get the idea.

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Get to the Point Quickly

I’ve been writing the past few days about constructing your content to make a point and get your message across quickly and directly. I wanted to use today’s post to go through some steps in creating effective content. Instead, I’m taking another approach.

Near the exit I take off I-10 to get home is one of these billboards:

In all honesty, I’m not sure which one, because as I am zooming by I can’t read the stuff written in orange (I borrowed these billboards from The Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living website). Each of these statements is effective and should be used. But not on a billboard. It is the wrong medium for this many words (see my earlier post Content Construction).

The basic message, which is clear (pardon the pun) based on the statements isn’t used here. This is the perfect place for it. And that message is: “Secondhand smoke kills.” Three words. A powerful message. If you use it on the billboard, you will get your point across quickly. The supporting image is beautiful. Based on what you can make out at 60 mph you can easily guess that it is part of the TFL campaign. All of that works as it should.

These statements, however, are better used in print, with TV ads, on radio and online. If you’re going to say, “Let’s be totally clear,” then be totally clear. In a manner that people will get it where you put it.

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Content for Support Materials

Friday, in my post Content Construction, I discussed what content you should use in creating advertising materials. Today, we tackle support materials. If you remember, I used content to include who you are, your message and supporting imagery. The rest of the content depends on the medium.

  • Websites—These offer you the opportunity for rich content. Web 2.0 technology allows for high interactivity and lots of bells and whistles. It’s tempting to go overboard. Don’t. Create a website that gives visitors the key information they need to make the decision to buy what you’re selling. Use it as a repository of resources. Make it easy to navigate and quick to load. Get to the point, but offer links out to additional items of that may be of interest for those that want to investigate further. If you can make yourself the “go-to” site for your industry, that’s exactly what you will be. Create a blog or some other mechanism that updates your site regularly (at least monthly).
  • Social Networking Profiles—It’s becoming easier to set up business profiles on networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. Use them for content viewers won’t find on your website and that they can view from their own pages. Link back to your main site where people can dig deeper. Keep it clean in appearance and update it regularly (at least every two weeks).
  • Resource Publications—These are more traditional in nature. Where you use brochures as advertising pieces, you would create additional brochures, pamphlets, flyers, what have you, with more detail about the functionality of the product. Again, don’t get too wordy. And don’t rely on images to tell the story. Make it a nice mix, where the images supports the text. Say only as much as you need and refer them elsewhere with additional questions—preferably the salesperson or your website.
  • White Papers—Here is your opportunity to start letting the words run wild. Don’t overdo it, and keep using supportive imagery. But here you are telling success stories. Your are giving specific examples about what your product will do for the potential customer. And you must get to the point. Hiding the answers and details from information seekers will only frustrate them. Put it all out there. It not just your ideas you are selling. It’s your ability to execute them because of your expertise. That is what must come through.
  • Instructional Videos/Demos/Tutorials—First, whenever possible, deliver these electronically. Online is your best bet, and you can use other services like YouTube to host them. Show people how it works in action. Talk through what they are seeing and why. Give additional information whenever possible. Make sure the video supports the message. Stay on point. Offer other resources for additional information or other demos. Don’t jam too much information into one video, but give enough and take enough time for people to get it. Again, they want to know your expertise and ability to execute on everything from the most basic problem they have to a highly complex fully integrated solution.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about how to develop your marketing message.

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Content Construction

Whatever business you’re in, your primary function is in getting your various audiences to take specific actions, or behave with a specific purpose. As I wrote on Wednesday, it comes down to message, image and content. For our purposes, we will consider content to also include the combination of message and image.

Regardless of your medium, the same basic principles apply. The message must be clear and concise. The image must support that message or the brand. And the content pulls everything together to inspire the desired behavior.

It’s how you construct and use the content that makes the difference. Your marketing content is going to contain the same three things:

  • Who you are, typically represented with a logo
  • A supporting image, even if it is white space
  • Your message

The amount of information within the content will depend entirely on the medium. Some examples for advertising:

  • Billboards—You have to keep it simple and straightforward when using billboards. Your logo, supporting image and basic message must be big enough for people to see and recognize as they are zooming by. Your message needs to be about 5 words (7 tops). If you can’t keep it that short, then either the message is saying too much at one time or you are trying to use the wrong medium. Avoid using phone numbers. People are not going to stop to write them down. Providing too much information in a billboard will cause viewers to ignore them. Don’t count on people reading them while stuck in traffic. They are focused too much on the traffic inching around them and the mobile devices they have with them.
  • Online Banner Ads—See the comments about billboards above.
  • Online Text Ads—With text ads, you won’t use your logo, but you still have to tell people who you are. The ad is all message, since you won’t have a supporting image of your own. You will be using the website where you place your ad as the supporting “image”. Again, though, keep the message short and to the point (7-10 words).
  • Radio—Much like the others mentioned above. Get to the point and be clear in what you are saying. Avoid using phone numbers unless it is a mnemonic (1-800-FLOWERS). Do not use “fine print speak”, that rapid spewing of legalese that tells the listener not to trust anything you just said. And don’t try to be overly creative or off-beat with your ad. It leads to an incongruent message and weaker commercials. For instance, there is DVD rental service with a farcical game show commercial with seemingly random and obscure questions and answers. They follow those with what they purport to be a fact about the number of movies they’ve rented. It is a complete disconnect.
  • Traditional TV—15 or 30 seconds is a long time if you stay on point. Again, getting too off-beat or overly creative leaves less time to actually sell your product. For the same reasons mentioned above, don’t use fine print or fine print speak. (As an aside, one furniture company had the audacity to slam on their competitors use of fine print while flashing fine print on the screen themselves.) It is possible to get your point across without doing the same-old, same-old commercials like everyone else and without creating nonsense. Just because your research shows that your audience wants or likes to see goofy off-beat stuff doesn’t mean they want to see it from you. It also doesn’t mean that’s how they make purchasing decisions.
  • Online TV—Producing video ads online allows for longer formats. You can develop more creative commercials that support the message because you have more time to pull it all together. If it’s good, people will watch something that is 2-4 minutes long. But don’t lose focus on the message.
  • Print—Depending on the size you have to work with, you can add more content, but try to avoid it. Stick to the basics of your message. I recently helped a group revise a small ad for a trade publication. It was overly wordy and distracting. I cut some of the copy and consolidated others. I didn’t add anything. When they looked at it, they became most concerned about the wording of one of the statements (which I hadn’t changed, only exposed). There was so much other stuff, that they had missed it completely in the earlier version.
  • Brochures—With brochures, you have the opportunity to use more supporting images and facts. Resist the urge to make it text dense. Use the space and imagery to tell the story. Support those with some basic, to-the-point text.

That’s a lot to digest on a Friday. Next week, we’ll look at developing content that supports your marketing efforts and some ways to develop your message concisely.

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Pictures of SQVIDs

Welcome to the fourth stop on The Back of the Napkin Virtual Book tour. Hopefully, you made the other stops at Jeff De Cagna’s Principled Innovation Blog, Peter Durand’s Center for Graphic Facilitation and Design Crush from Kelly Beall. Tomorrow marks the final stop at Pure Play with Keith Bohanna. You can find more information about the tour at Idea Sandbox.

Today I am talking to author Dan Roam about SQVIDs. And no, that’s not a typo (you’ll see why shortly).

BotN_book_shotThe beauty of the book is its smack-yourself-in-the-forehead simplicity to the concept. Where we normally would waste reams of paper developing reports and days creating massive slide presentations, we can now put ourselves on target through pure imagery. The Back of the Napkin shows us how to work smarter and produce better results. A beautiful combination.

OK, Dan, let’s jump right into it. Briefly, if you could, please explain the SQVID.

Think of the SQVID as a practical lesson in applied imagination. It’s a simple mnemonic that guides us through the “five focusing questions” of mental imaging. Here’s what I mean: the next time someone says “think outside the box” or “let’s brainstorm”, instead of sitting there wondering what the heck that means, run your idea through the five questions of the SQVID.

S) What’s a SIMPLE way to visually express my idea vs. what’s an ELABORATE way?

Q) What’s a good QUALITATIVE way to show my idea vs. what’s a good QUANTITATIVE way?

V) What’s a VISIONARY way to show my idea vs. what’s an EXECUTION view of my idea?

I) How could I best show my idea INDIVIDUALLY vs. how could I show it as a COMPARISON?

D) (Delta, which signifies CHANGE) What’s a good way to show how my idea would CHANGE things vs. how can I best show the STATUS QUO (the ways things are now)?

By sketching out our idea according to each of these questions, we force our minds to dig up all sorts of views of our idea, triggering both our Right Brain (synthetic / conceptual side) and Left Brain (analytic / verbal side) into joint action – something that does not happen if we simply created a verbal list.

Whether as an independent or team-based exercise, running our idea through the questions of the SQVID forces us to look at our problem from all sides and come up with many unexpected mental images.

How did you develop this concept?

For years, I had relied on an extended series of questions to guide me through imagining all sorts of variations of any starting idea. Whenever I was faced with a business or communications challenge, I’d ask myself, “should I show a simple or a complex drawing” or “should I show where we’re going or how we’re going to get there?”. Over time, I realized that I was always asking the same set of questions.

Finally one day, I was on the New York subway on my way to a meeting where I knew I was going to be asked what these questions were, and I was really afraid that I was going to forget one of them in the stress of the interview. So I pulled out a piece of notebook paper (I wish I could say it was a napkin, but I’d already thrown away my bagel) and started writing them all down, seeing if I could find some simple mnemonic device to help me remember them all.

With just minutes to go before my stop, I finally hit upon S.Q.V.I.D. It was a little squishy and a little weird, but I knew that would actually help me remember it. Sure enough, the interview went great, and the SQVID stuck.

How often do you use the SQVID? Give some examples.

I use the SQVID in every business meeting or brainstorming session that I attend. Whether I actually stand at the whiteboard and ask participants to help me come up with a sketch for each question or more subtly push teams in that direction, I *always* fall back on the SQVID to make sure we’ve really pushed our imaginations as far as we can. In fact, I use the SQVID as a checklist once we think we’re “done” to make sure that we didn’t miss any image possibilities.

I have many favorite examples. Earlier this year, eBay asked me to help an internal team sell an idea to the technology group. We used the SQVID as a way to best frame the idea so that they technical teams would “get it” right away without getting lost in the technical details. More recently, I helped a team at Microsoft develop a software demo using the SQVID as a guide towards the level of detail we needed to include and to storyboard the demo itself.

How many iterations of the same SQVID have you used? What was the reasoning behind that?

Although the number and variety of “focusing questions” I ask myself has varied over the years, once I hit upon the SQVID it never changed. The five questions really do cover pretty much any way we can think about an idea, do activate both hemispheres of the brain, and do force us to dig into the darkest corners of our mind’s eye. As a stand-alone, help-me-cause-I-gotta-really-think-this-problem-through-right-now tool, nothing beats the SQVID.

Who are most likely to benefit from using the SQVID?

Everyone benefits. Again, all the SQVID does is to help us focus our mind’s eye on a problem in a methodological, practical, and repeatable way – something we all benefit from.

Creative teams find the SQVID useful because it forces them to think through a problem more analytically and quantitatively than they normally would. Likewise, the SQVID helps buttoned down business types come up with more abstract and “what if” ideas than they normally would. When you put the two together, the SQVID is a marvelous way to get teams from either side of the aisle to work together to solve any problem.

Using the back of a napkin, sell the SQVID concept to a skeptical business executive who says, “Prove it.”

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