Monday, July 11, 2005

"Own a word"

Good advice from Al Ries in AdAge: "What’s your brand? If you can’t answer that question about your own brand in two or three words, your brand’s in trouble. Powerful, long-lasting brands are built by owning a word in the mind. What’s a Volvo? A safe car."

It's hard. Companies, like well-meaning people, want to please everyone: "A few years ago the CEO of Wal-Mart’s ad agency was asked, 'What would you say is Wal-Mart’s USP?'...Without hesitation, he replied: 'Value, loyalty and quality.'" But you can't have all three because you have to focus. To own a word, you have to make a decision. You have to know who you are and who the customer is.

To own a word, you have to buy a clue.

3 comments:

Bello Montana Roasters said...

The USP. The magical three letters that (hopefully or hypefully) define who you are and what makes you different.

I say Fresh. I really mean fresh. There is nothing like it, REALLY.

Rob Mortimer said...

I dont think that can ever be completely right. You cant explain an entire brand in three words.

Being known as "a safe car" has given Volvo an image they disliked; as boring slow cars they have spent years trying to change.

You can explain one facet of the brand, maybe a summary; but its impossible to get every nuance of a brand proposition across in three words.

Irene Done said...

You're right of course to point out that nuances cannot be summed up so briefly. Think of it like this though. When you meet someone new and they ask what line of work you're in, how do you answer? Do you say, "I sometimes surgically alter the reproductive organs of small animals. Other times I administer vaccines and dispense flea remedies. But I always scratch their ears and call them by their names." Or do you say, "I'm a veterinarian in the city." Nuances are important. They can be differentiators. But defining your brand in a few words does several key things: it helps you focus on what matters, it helps your company focus on what matters, and it helps people remember who you are and what you have to offer. This process should not exclude every detail of a brand propostion -- I agree with you that details are important -- and details are vital to supporting your overall message. Maybe it's a matter of prioritizing.