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Basically the Basics

Johnny Molson

Listen here:

From a routine doctor’s appointment to survival in the wilderness, the basics are everything.


Temperature, blood pressure, listen to your heart. 

Shelter, water, food.

The basics.


Your marketing has basic elements, and I can’t think of a better time to fine-tune those than right now.


Like shelter, water, and food…let’s break marketing down to 3 basic items:

Brand Promise, Brand Consistency, and Brand Execution.


These all have the unfortunate word “brand” in them.  A term that has been flogged, folded and flushed to the point of unrecognizability.

But since we’re talking about basics, let’s define a brand:

1:  Your brand is an invisible link between your company and your product category 

Toothpaste = Crest. Chocolate = Hershey.  Tractors = John Deere.  Coffee = Folgers.

2:  It’s a physical link between your company and certain markers:

Swoosh = Nike.  Golden Arches = McDonald’s.  Naked Green Mermaid = Starbucks.

3:  And it’s an emotional link between your company and mental concepts.

Safety = Volvo.  Luxury = Tiffany’s.  Success = American Express.


Brand Promise

Let’s start with your promise.  Do you have one?  One that is uniquely yours?  This is something about your company that is specific and recognizable.  If you’re thinking “great customer service,” then you had better amp it up to Nordstrom or Zappos levels.  Think of your Brand Promise as a vow you are making with your customer.  It can be several things.  Firm beliefs about how you do things that will never, never waiver.  A promise so intertwined with your personal values, you’d turn down a paying customer if the exchange violated your vow.  It could be commitments and guarantees. 

Think of 4 things you promise that makes your brand special.  Be specific.  I should be able to see it happening when I do business with you.


Brand Consistency

These are the things that tell me you are YOU.  A palette of colors.  A jingle. A spokesperson.  The shape of your logo.  Words or phrases that are unique to you. 

Do these things exist consistently through all of your marketing?


If I hear about a mattress that’s 25% off, has that company planted enough unique flags so I can find them again?


A bottle of Coke has a shape no other bottle has.  It also has specific words, colors, and even an attitude that belongs only to Coke, not Pepsi.  If I hear about the “Splendizzle Super Sale,” but I can’t remember who’s having it – will I find “Splendizzle Super Sale” on your website?  On your social media?  On the lips of your employees?  There’s no such thing as too many flags. 

The color blue.  A lady with a mod-1960s hair-do.  Bright lipstick.  A white smock.  A name-badge that says “Flo”.  A “name-your-own-price” pricing gun.  A bumbling coworker.  Those flags make sure you will never, never mistake a Progressive Insurance commercial for Liberty Mutual. 

Be obsessively consistent in your flags and markers. 

Brand Execution

Are you doing the stuff you said you would do?  Liberty Mutual tells me I will only pay for what I need.  I’ve never shopped Liberty Mutual – but if I do, I’m expecting something in place to help me figure out what I need, and what I don’t.  And heaven help them if I ever discover they sold me something I don’t need. 

The simplest example I can give dates back three generations, and it’s as ridiculous as it is useful:

For the last half of the last century, Earl Scheib owned a chain of autobody shops.  His brand promise was hokey…and brilliantly clear.

“I’ll paint any car any color, just $29.95.”  One simple, understandable, and easy to execute promise.  It wasn’t “any car except station wagons and trucks.”  It wasn’t “any color except orange.” 

Any Car.  Any Color.  Easy.


Digestible.  Memorable.  Everybody knew it, and if you called and asked how much a paint job would cost, every employee would say “any car, any color, just $29.95,” and they would do exactly that.  Yes, $29.95 eventually gave way to $59.95, then $89.95, then $99.95, and eventually $499.95.


The point is: The customer knew it and the staff knew it.  You have to teach your staff your brand promise until they can recite it like the Pledge of Allegiance.  Then they must EXECUTE the thing you promised they would do.  No exceptions, no bendy rules, no “letting it slide.”


These three things work in harmony.  If you goof one up, you sink the whole thing.  Treat your brand like the sacred chalice that it is.  Protect it as if marauding thieves are crawling in the night to steal it. 


It’s the neurological system that holds your marketing together, and now would be a perfect time to make it right.  

Johnny Molson

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