Too Much Talk About Brand Juice and Not Enough About Brand Transformation
Talk about spin. A new digital agency asked us about “brand juice.” They wanted help in creating more brand juice for their clients. They wanted us to create a research model—a “juice blender”—that they could offer to all of their clients. “What in heaven’s name are you talking about?” We asked, chuckling. This brandspeak sounded so nutty. They went on to talk reverentially about brand personality, brand emotions, brand essence, brand promise, brand values, brand voice, and even the brand statement.
We were intrigued. Some of this is good stuff, even important stuff, and we sometimes talk about it when we give a speech on positioning and advertising. But much of it is new economy jargon and ad agency mumbo-jumbo that masks the fundamental problem. In many cases the brand has no reason for being. It solves no buyer’s problem. It is, and perhaps should remain, a commodity.
Listening to incoherent brandspeak, one might think that all you need to do is take a brand, product, service, maybe even an entire company, and dip it in brand juice. And voila! Something happens! You’ve transformed a nothing, through brand dip alone, into a powerful presence.
Brand juicers must be kidding. If you want to build a powerful brand, figure out who the target is and everything about them. Uncover their motivations, their problems, their pains. And then configure your product or service or company so that it addresses the target’s motivations, solves their problems, alleviates their pain. Finally, unleash the power of communications to tell people, with words and pictures, why and how you do this better than anyone else in the industry.
This recommendation is particularly pertinent to the new proponents of speed branding. The phrase means building a brand in record time, maybe even two months, as dot-com company after dot-com company has been going over the cliff in the past decade. Some entrepeneurs have convinced themselves that the normal processes of building awareness, converting awareness to interest and interest to trial, trial into repeat usage and spending could be accelerated beyond anything anyone had ever thought possible through extraordinary levels of advertising expenditures.
Many would argue that great brands and successful businesses, like fine wine, require aging. We don’t necessarily share this view; we believe it is theoretically possible to build a brand quickly—albeit not in two or three months—but only if the business fundamentals have been mastered.
When you’re done, you’ve got a brand. You have something remarkable that people are willing to pay a premium for and go out of their way to find. You have something that stands out from the crowd and represents timeless value.
We told this to the digital agency and its senior staff and begged them to stop talking gibberish and get back to fundamentals: target, motivations, product solutions, positioning, communications. Brand essence, values and personality, and the like are “nice-to-haves,” but they’re not essential to brand success. The fundamentals are.