Archive | November, 2011

Demystifying the brand wheel

30 Nov Brand Wheel Martin O'Toole

The foundation of the creative work I’ve been involved with always focusses on clients’ customers first; considering what they view to be important and how they are likely to engage with that brand.  This is a constant, regardless of whether the creative is targeting B2B or B2C audiences.

brand wheel brand onion

Secondly, it’s important to consider the nature of clients’ brands – the essence (what makes it tick).  This is usually done either by working with existing research or, in many cases, a combination of new and existing research – drilled down into an understandable melting pot.  How?  Simple.  Talk to a load of costumers and ask a load of the people working within the brand (from board level to reception) about their honest views and experience of the organisation.  This work is key, as it sets us on a process to define a number of things needed in all future brand communications work for the brand in question.  E.g. positioning, tone of voice, the way the brand communicates etc.  This is done by creating a ‘brand wheel’.  Now none of this is particularly revolutionary, as people in our industry have been using ‘brand onions’ for years.  Personally I’ve always felt the soubriquet ‘onion’ to be a bit pretentious, so I guess that’s why I prefer a wheel (it is round, after all).

Marketers can very quickly get carried away with brand wheels/onions!  I’ve often shared a cartoon by a rather witty ‘marketoonist’ called Tom Fishburne.  He creates cartoons designed for business and marketing.  Tom semi-mocks the notion of organisations worshipping their onions – something that never ceases to make me smirk, because it’s genuinely true that these things can be completely over-developed.

As worthy for consideration as Tom’s cartoon is, brand owners and marketers alike do obviously need at least some guidance; an onion, a blueprint, a DNA, a wheel – whatever.  Just something that keeps us all on the path when it comes to consistently communicating brand personas and messages.  So, for the time being (I’m currently working on an entirely new and unique one), here’s the wheel I favour – first & foremost for its simplicity:

Preferred brand wheel

Brand Wheel Martin O'Toole

Brand Personality (‘Walking & Talking’)

How the brand looks, behaves and talks.  An outline of how the brand acts; how it engages with others; the tone of voice it uses in its communications to customers (and prospective customers).

Brand Internal Drivers (‘Heads & Hearts’)

The vision, values and belief of the brand.  Whilst the vision and belief are usually single-minded statements, the values will always be an array of (usually no more than five) adjectives, detailing the features/benefits of the brand.  Doubtless there will be a distinct difference between service and product brand values.

Brand External Drivers (‘Proof & Pudding’)

I suppose this would be the bit where the ‘brand magic’ comes in.  The bit that requires more thought than a simple customer feedback summary.  Here we have to position the brand; back that positioning up, and summarise it with a strapline (external proposition).

So there’s the brand wheel…  Potentially as daunting as ever, even after this guide.  With that in mind, a good start for anyone interested in putting this into practice is to do a brand wheel on yourself – or on a friend or colleague – or in a group.  Happy peeling…

Running a marketing agency pitch

18 Nov

Life’s a pitch

I’ve spent the majority of my career aiming to be invited to join agency pitch lists. In addition, I’ve been responsible for managing the pitch process, from the point of meeting prospective clients, to extracting all the information needed and producing the pitch brief; to presenting the agency pitch alongside colleagues. I’ve done countless pitches, covering a wide selection of brands, industries, and marketing disciplines.  With all this in mind, I decided to write a short ebook guide for those brand owners and marketers who might like an agency-side view of how best to manage an agency pitch. The first part of which has been published on the digital marketing portal, (the remaining parts will follow in the coming months). It’s a comprehensive guide to the entire agency pitch process – from agency selection, to writing a decent brief, to selecting the right agency.  I hope you find it useful.  Download here…

Writing a decent creative brief

1 Nov

writing a decent creative brief Most people find writing a creative brief immensely difficult and more often than not, people make a bad job of it. This is designed to be helpful advice for all, regardless of whether you’re new to writing briefs or you’ve been in the industry for years. I’ve spent years writing briefs. Moreover, in my various business development roles, I’ve received and written a vast amount of potential client/agency pitch briefs.  In such instances, the brief has been the key to getting it right and winning the business. Whilst it’s important for agency-side parties to be usefully inquisitive, the work you receive will be a reasonable reflection of the brief you provide in the first place (i.e. get the brief wrong and the work presented will likely be rubbish). So with that in mind, here’s a simple guide to what that brief should consist of. The majority of this content is media/channel-neutral. It’s a creative brief outline – which will work through the line.

1. Purpose of brief (‘so what’s occurring?’)

Whether for an agency pitch, or an existing client, this section always needs to be an outline of the business objectives and a succinct introduction to the brand, its sector, and the product/service to be launched/repositioned/put online/immortalised in advertising etc. You’ll know pretty much all there is to know about your brand and your sector; therefore there is often a temptation to provide far too much information.  Keep it simple; give a flavour, but try not to offload piles and piles of information if it is not relevant to the project in hand. Remember that the agency will ask questions, which you would hope, will be good questions. If they do not, take note. Their ability to listen is as important as their ability to create.

2. Insights (‘What should we ask ourselves to get this right’?)

Assuming you’re more interested in one of the agencies coming back with the right work rather than putting them to the test, it’s always a good idea to drop in a couple of insightful questions around the problem.  For example: “How do we hook our potential consumer, using a balance of emotive and technical messages – conveying a balance of brand personality and depth of expertise?” These questions are obviously rhetorical, but can help drive the agencies’ approach far better.

3. Target audience (‘so who wants to know?’)

Tip: “Everyone” is not an insightful brief of the target market! Obviously this can be socio-demographic information, but if you think a little deeper, you might provide an introduction to a couple of personas.  For example: Tell the agency a story about ‘Claire, the girl next door’; talk about where she lives/her likes/dislikes/where she shops/what sites she’s likely browsing. Build a story regarding Claire – bring her to life.  It’s a far more interesting way to describe your target market – again, offering the opportunity for more insightful consideration.

4. Competition (‘who else is doing this?’)

Not a difficult area of the brief.  List your top competitors and their web addresses.  Leave the agencies to do the rest.  It’s their job to decide how relevant the competitors’ marketing strategy/tactics are.  However, DO provide a concise indication of your understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of what your competitors are up to.  Also, if you like something they’re doing – say.  Your competitors are allowed to be great at what they do, after all…

5. The USP (‘what’s the single most important thing we want the customer to know?’)

Ah, the USP…  This is the bit where most people get it wrong – agencies included.  Why?  For many reasons.  1. Because people tend to list more than one proposition (even though we’re looking for the unique point; 2. Because it’s not all that easy to sum absolutely all of the features and benefits of your brand/product/service into one line.  Difficult, but not impossible…  This is arguably the most important section of the brief.  If you are ambiguous at this stage, don’t be surprised if indecisive work is presented back to you.  Get it right, and see the difference.

6. Reinforcing the USP (‘can we actually support/prove that?’)

Bearing in mind that the USP information should be short and sweet, this is the area where you can expand and rationalise your thoughts.  Again, keep it simple; use bullet-points, all of which support your thinking.  Don’t ramble; don’t repeat yourself.  Furthermore, don’t under-estimate the importance of this are of the brief (as people often do).

7. Look, feel, tone of voice (‘How should it look and what should it sound like?’)

You’ll likely already have a set of brand guidelines or brand bible.  If they’re any good, they’ll contain this information.  Copy the more salient points and stipulations.  Regardless, the key here is to give some descriptors relating to how your brand/product/service feels – how it looks – how it exists.  Don’t be afraid of incorporating a little passion here – after all, it’s your brand!!!

8. Mandatory inclusions & exclusions (‘what must be in, what needs to be out?’)

It’s always helpful to nail down a bullet-point list of dos & don’ts, to save time.  If you know full well that a certain line of messaging does not work when it comes to your brand, mention it.  If the CEO’s wife hates yellow (sighs), put it in the brief!  This is all about making the whole process more efficient. Fee free to download a template here: BRIEF TEMPLATE.

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