Branding Like a Boss

The business value of better branding

This is a series of quick articles for CEOs and others focused on business results more than marketing metrics. As marketing becomes a numbers game, many of the strongest communications methods have slid off the radar, simply because they aren’t easily measured.

These short pieces are to help decision makers use some specific and powerfully persuasive strategies and tactics, to give their brand what Bill Bernbach called ‘the last legal unfair advantage’.

The Most Important Question

To say digital media changed how marketing works is like saying the automobile changed how transportation works.

“I know 50% of my advertising dollars are wasted,” said John Wannamaker once upon a time. “I just don’t know which 50%.” Now that digital media has made results measurable, everyone knows everything in real time, and there’s no more need to pay attention to the qualitative side of communications. If it can’t be instantly measured, it has no place in marketing.


Well, not so fast. Just because someone has Word on his computer doesn’t make him David Ogilvy. There is more to persuasion than having access to the tools. Yes, you can A/B test your way to optimize results, but if the A and the B are both created by people who don’t know how persuasion works, there will be a low ceiling on how high any optimization can take you.

The Question

There are plenty of people who can make good use of your offering, and most of them are ignoring your message. Why?

You need to begin by asking yourself the question we all ask ourselves when we see something new: Why should I care?

Why should anyone pay attention to your thing? As Daniel Kahneman points out in Thinking Fast and Slow, attention is precious. The brain is an expensive machine to run. Why should anyone use some of their brain power on your offering?

Before you get to talking about how it works, before explaining what makes it so wonderful, before you say anything about the features and functions of your offering, ask yourself, Why should someone care about this?

How to Raise Your Optimum Ceiling

When you look at your offering fresh, from your prospect’s point of view, you can begin to distill its appeal to one key point. And once you have that, you have a handle on the most powerful possible thing you can say to get someone to sit up and pay attention to your thing.

It begins by understanding that the first job of marketing is to attract the attention of your prospects. Attention is the first, most important, and often most ignored part of the mix.

If your intended audience isn’t paying attention to what you have to offer, it doesn’t matter how great your reasons are for why they should use it. They’re not listening. You’re literally speaking to an empty room.

First Why, Then How

Once you have someone’s attention you can tell them the reasons why your thing is so great. The challenge is getting them to pay attention to you in the first place.

So, work to come up with ONE THING that’s core to what you’re doing that connects with your audience. Once you’re clear about why they might care about you, you can build a whole world of communication on that. And there are good testing tools to confirm you have a powerful message, and of course you can measure the results of the creative work.

You can’t test your way to a good message

The dark secret of A/B testing is that sometimes what you’re testing is not A vs. B, but C- vs. D. Winning a head-to-head test against a D-level competitor doesn’t make the C- message a good one. You can’t test your way to an effective message. The champion of a mediocre competition is still going to be mediocre.

Why should they care?

If you begin by looking at your brand from the point of view of your audience, you have a leg up on creating a message too compelling to ignore. And once you’re have a powerful, consistent core for your message, all your communications will be made stronger.

Next up:
Marketing as a force for good, #2:
Getting your good thing noticed: Focus on your why