Finding the essential brand truth – the brand code – is like a treasure hunt. Circuitous routes, long roads, many dead-ends, endless clues, but ultimately a treasure worth its weight in gold.
Brand planning, particularly planning that utilizes ethnography, semiotics and projective techniques can provide a client with rich data leading to the brand code. From there it’s up to the creatives to create stories that link the brand code with consumers, many of whom may not yet know their passion for the brand. Amassing the legions of qualitative data (in my opinion the only way to find the sweet spot) is where the best planning begins. Distilling the data down becomes the challenge.
Understanding the cultural myths that surround your brand is essential. So too is understanding consumers’ earliest memory of your brand or product category. Clotaire Rapaille has a lot to say about finding out how brand experiences imprint young minds. More importantly he has a lot to say about how imprinting impacts how marketers speak to consumers today.
Yesterday I presented two models to my Italian and Austrian students. The first helps identify the brand essence on a bridge between consumers and the brand. Using their work from the ethnographic class exercise and pairing it with fieldwork in cafes the brand code for illy coffee, targeting Italian college students (not the expected target), might look like this.
From there we moved onto a great model that employs the concept of brands as friends. Among a list of nine possible friends students considered what Italian and Austrian or German brands might be soul mates or close friends. Considering that the idea of brands as friends is culturally bound to an American ethos, I found their choices spot on. Almost. Two Italian brands battle for the two tops spots. Perhaps my Italian students will jump on the blog and defend why their brand choice is truly the soul mate of Italy.
Later a student shared McDonald’s as the forced Italian friend. How often does a brand lust for this position? Almost never. But to be the forced choice of fast food in Italy could not be better positioning. Rapaille would be delighted. There could be no better imprinting, as fast food roots itself in Italy. Ah, but the thought of fast food in Italy seems a sin. A pitiful sin McDonald’s happily commits.
I’m off to lecture on early Nike women’s advertising and The Gender of Branding. Ciao!