Featured

A FUNNEL IS NOT A STRAW

WELCOME TO THE LOWER FUNNEL RABBIT HOLE

As marketing’s vox populi has spent an inordinate amount of time proclaiming the virtues of lower funnel targeting, they have become advertising’s Alices, chasing the wrong rabbit and soon to be hearing cries of “off with their heads.”

This is about getting sucked deeper and deeper into the belief that 1:1 targeting produces the highest incidence of success, but without considering the true cost. It’s about spending more than 34% of your revenue with Amazon and more than 30% with Google in spite of privacy challenges and the erosion of digital trust. Welcome to life in a world without cookies, or anyone to answer your call at Google HQ.

The result, among other things, is that brands that are disproportionately spending heavy into digital and facing unsustainable tariffs. While the pay-to-play efficiency is there, the brand’s awareness and affinity is rendered unsustainable. Yet a brand without upper funnel balance is a brand more pervious to economic downturns and competitive incursion. And lest a digital guru try to convince you that upper funnel marketing is old-school inefficient, that speaking to 1000 people to influence 100 is not as effective as paying (exorbitantly higher CPMs) to reach those 100 directy, then consider the undeniable advantages of a 30 second linear TV spot, for instance. You reach the decision makers, plus secondary and tertiary influencers. You tell a story in the medium designed for it on the largest screen in the home. And at the end of the day, 90%+ of all those watching hold a phone their hands, ready to track you down and buy.

A funnel is not a straw. Nor is it an inverted funnel. It’s a specific design to build overwhelming affinity that sells your product right now, but comes with a long tail that pays brand dividends over time.

According to Harvard Business, in August 2021 and February 2022, marketers predicted that traditional advertising spending would increase by 1.4% and 2.9%, respectively. Ergo, you can behind behind the curve or ahead of it, chasing the rabbit or smiling like the Cheshire Cat.

Featured

CPG’S RETAIL REALITY CHECK

THE FUNDAMENTAL TRUTHS ABOUT URGENT CHANGE

CPG brands are feeling pretty good about now. COVID-created nesting becomes the new normal and suddenly Amazon’s US grocery sales pop 45%. People cook more, they clean more, they stock up more on everything from toys to tech, and take it from someone who works with a sugar brand, they’re definitely baking a whole lot more.

Overall, 2020 CPG trends suggest the importance of trust based brands, workout gear to satisfy the explosive population of virtual workers, and similarly all products that feather nests and nesters.

But as all brands are wont to do, CPGs are overly focused on riding the wave, dancing with the virus that brought ‘em, tweaking away, but in no way considering a fundamental shift in how they go to market that would sustain them through the droughts as well as set them up for greater exponential growth under any market circumstances. This is not about the goods themselves, but more about market attack, the need for a bolder posture, and what Malcom Gladwell refers to as “pulling the goalie” earlier than conventional wisdom would suggest. Yeah, not a lot of conventional legends around.

As Tom Peters said, “If it ain’t broke, break it and fix it anyway.” And that means CPGs starting to move faster, lighter, more aggressively, even straight up retail-minded, embracing a specific set of truths.

THERE’S THE QUICK, AND THERE’S THE DEAD. PERIOD.

The term moving at the speed of retail speaks to responsiveness. So when a competitor hits the market with a stronger offer eight days before Labor Day, the speed at which you can field an even stronger offer in market, or any type of counter offer, is what defines retail success. This type of agility either remains lost on CPGs or minimally left only to the real-time activations of organic social from a deployment standpoint. Yet, McKinsey reports that agile business units are 1.5 times more likely to outperform on both financial and nonfinancial performance metrics. From a CPG marketing perspective, this primarily means leaner and more efficient communications between deployment channels, not just barrier-breaking internal communications. If you cannot get your key marketing partners on the phone within ten minutes on a Saturday, you’ve either got too many of ‘em or the ones you have forgotten that Amazon is open 24/7.

DON’T LEAVE SELECTION ON THE SHELF

Unless it says Ragu on a shopping list, then Newman’s and Classico and Prego are all poised to get picked… just because. The fact is, Interbrand points out that 74% of all in-store decisions are made within 3 feet of the product. So yeah, when someone has “sauce” on their shopping list, a label’s stopping power and preferred placement drives the decision, not your marketing. But when you can activate promotions with teeth and realize the shortest line leads from marketing to the to-do/shopping list, then you’re driving intent, not indecision. Read your Sun Tzu: “Every battle is one or lost before the first shot is fired.” Thinking like a retailer in this case means driving the differentiation that makes the sale before the shop. Which brings us to…

GO HAM ON DIFFERENTIATION

This is not new news, which might be the issue: There’s just not enough blood flowing to differentiation, and instead marginal CPG marketing that drives marginal gains. Of course, there are three ways to differentiate. (1) Make it cheaper. But don’t go there (unless you’re selling Kirkland toilet paper). You can get beat on price on any given day no matter what you do, so you need to give the consumer a better reason to buy than price. (2) Make it better. If you’ve got a proof point, real and quantitative that transcends brag and boast, sure. (3) Make it different. Does a CBD infused beverage constitute differentiation if 20 beverage brands are making the same claim? Today, there are multiple erasable pens, dozens of athletic shoes that weigh less than seven ounces and Walmart’s Onn 4K TVs that deliver the same number of pixels as the LG. What’s the difference?

You need to figure out which attribute or what brand cues will pop, wow, and stand apart. Meaning don’t just have a special sauce, own it, and own the volume of the message by mixing a cocktail of paid owned and earned media with the humility to understand that a 15 year-old on TikTok is capable of winning far more hearts and minds for the cost of exactly zero. Which means you need to be thoroughly uncompromising and more innovative with your creative advertising and activations. Force your marketing partners to earn their keep by delivering ideas that are nothing short of breakthrough. Or find a new marketing partner.

BREAK FROM BONDAGE

Are Amazon and Walmart and Target, et al. necessary evils? Critical channel partners? Co-Op dollar contributors? More powerful than Thanos? Yes, yes, yes and yes. But at the same time, they ultimately limit not just our potential for DTC (direct-to-consumer) sales, they undermine our data collection, ability to control our brand, and cost us margin for the privilege. Drop Amazon? No. Opt out of Walmart Media? No. But if you’re not trying to figure out how to launch at least some sort of DTC vertical, then a migration plan must be front and center. (P&G’s new DTC unit just doubled their sales in a year). So break the chains, seize control, and start fronting DTC sales with an uncompromising eye to long-term channel growth.

ABOVE ALL, INTEGRATION

Whether you’re benefiting from the cost and time efficiencies of a few/or one integrated marketing partner, or you’re managing a stable of specialty firms, less is more. When disparate entities are not seamlessly sharing metrics, misses and hits, you’re leaving way too much market share on the table. A breakthrough influencer strategy might be able to be surgically applied to a POS application. A viral organic social post could be the key to turbo charging an Amazon Media application. OLV may inform a better keyword strategy. It’s about putting content to work across all your distribution channels and turning integration from a watchword to a driving go-to-market strategy. But it ain’t happening without integration.

Urgency, putting the decision at the top of the funnel, differentiating like your stakeholders’ lives depended on it, taking control of DTC, and ensuring that winning content in one channel drives results in multiple channels. This must be the new CPG mentality: Immune to success-fueled complacence, leveraging the best cues not just from proven peer products, but by TikTok players, retailers, and all those who utilize less dollars to drive greater results with urgency.

Ultimately, not all market corrections go your way. That’s the hyper-speed reality check you simply can’t ignore.

THE WTF OF PERFORMANCE MARKETING

When Accountability Goes Wrong

Sitting at a Starbucks recently talking career opportunities with a highly skilled marketer, someone with both significant CPG and retail experience, he noted that every recruiter, every company, and in fact every job spec he was coming across highlighted a required and demonstrative expertise in performance marketing.

As opposed to what?

Let me get this straight: So performance marketing, i.e. marketing that performs is now a thing simply because it’s associated with digital marketing that drives clicks, sales or leads?

So when NIKE poured every last cent of $100MM for into broadcast to launch Air Jordans, that wasn’t held to a projected standard of performance? The OOH sign for the local news network isn’t linked to performance? The Liberty Tax sign spinner dressed like the Statue of Liberty isn’t expected to perform, i.e. isn’t performance marketing?

This is not a language thing… this is ridiculous example of mass delusion because there is, or rather should never be an acceptable level of anything less than marketing that performs, digital tactics be damned.

Every single marketing dollar should be accountable for ROI, whether immediate or downstream, and every tactic should be held to a performance standard and thereby should be considered performance marketing. Period.

It’s funny. A couple of years ago I was meeting with more than 40 members of an advertising Co-Op who asked me if they should continue their heavy investment in the local NFL team, mostly in the form of stadium signage. When I asked how they were measuring the ROI, crickets, pierced only by the occasional and uncomfortable cough.

That investment, no different than an SMB’s window signage should be considered performance marketing just as much as the current and insane spends on AWS.

Bottom line: All marketing is performance marketing because the alternative implies, with absolute and unadulterated certitude, that there are tactics where it’s okay to waste precious investment spend. So if you’re a marketer who pops for a sign spinner just because your kids think it’s fun, or spends money on stadium signage for the free seats, or you make yourself the star of your DRTV campaign just so people want to grab a selfie with you, then knock yourself out. But for those of you who think performance marketing is all that counts, make sure you start counting the ROI of every tactic you employ.

WHEN ZOOM BECOMES FOOL’S GOLD

The daunting challenge of building sustainable corporate cultures in a remote work world.

This is not an ode the gold watch retirement gift. After all, it’s not the gold watch’s fault that nobody retires any more. From the time Pepsi started the gold watch tradition by telling long-time employees that “you gave us your time, now we are giving you ours“, sustaining cultures have been defined by diminishing returns.

The fact is, the chasm between the working experience that matured with the silent generation and older boomers to today’s reality of net zero retirement and the indefinite hustle is wide indeed.

Long before the aughts, people stayed in place. This means not only were resumes defined by less moves, but families generally remained less splintered and relegated to geographic clusters. Cultures, and specifically company cultures, for better or worse were more easily sustained through continuity through all levels of experience.

Then, thanks to technology enabled comms, the lower entry costs of starting a new business, and the Southwest Airlines-ing of low maintenance travel, corporate cultures had to navigate more transience, more distractions, and less loyalty. Still, the great ones, Apple, Zappos, Ritz Carlton, Chic-fil-A, and others managed to build galvanizing, mission clear belief systems.

Yet, once again we are at an inflection point given remote work has forced companies to figure out how you bind people together behind a singular mission when the entire relationship construct is reduced to a series of boxes on our laptops. Zoom’s efficiency has become turnover’s best friend as we’re all boxed in.

Forget the archaic water cooler concept, remote work undermines basic bonding cues. Without breathing the same air, seeing how co-workers move and react to each other and their space, sharing the same weather and local news and tales of the teachers at our kids’ schools… all of it has created a burning platform for those who actually understand how do adopt their internal branding strategies accordingly. Oh yeah, 20% of couples met their spouse at work. Too bad pheromones are decidedly not zoom friendly.

I didn’t invent the term “culture eats strategy for lunch“, but lunch is certainly looking a lot tastier these days as culture comes face to face with this new reality. While respecting that traditions will always be part of driving cultural adherence, you don’t need a gold watch any more to know what time it is.

CRUSHING EGOS LIKE GRAPES

THE CREATIVE LEADER’S ULTIMATE CHALLENGE… GIVING FEEDBACK

No need to name names, but plenty of legendary creative “leaders” have responded to their subordinate’s work they deem inferior by literally throwing it back in their faces.

That’s one way to go.

It just underscores the point that brilliant minds and inspiring leadership can indeed be mutually exclusive. Just as star players don’t always turn out to be the best coaches, or many of the most talented pianists couldn’t teach C Major to a ten year old, elevated creative professionals don’t always know how to nurture talent and instead can do some real damage.

Ideas are fragile. And when a young designer, for instance, shows up at the creative leader’s door to share, how that leader responds to the design ideas won’t just affect the project on the table, it will have a long-term affect on the designer’s psyche and output downstream.

The insightful leader must first honor their responsibility to support the ideas that follow the brief and meet the clients’ goals, but given feedback is indeed a gift, how that gift is shared makes the difference between that designer showing up with even stronger work next time, or perhaps retreating into a less confident version of him/herself.

A leader’s abilities in this area, to be part camp counselor, part psychologist, part clear-eyed process manager who sets and holds people to deadlines, but always a cheerleader, cannot be understated. And how to tell someone that work is off the mark is as important as the high five when it’s right.

There will always be both those creative souls who are so prolific that their bad ideas will be followed by a dozen more great ideas, but also those whose big ideas are so infrequent that a fortress is built around in each one and re-directing them becomes a special challenge. But either way, no matter how elevated the creative leader’s talent, no matter what the title is on the door, being at once firm but supportive, remembering that someone sharing an idea is someone being vulnerable, that’s where the real talent comes to play.

MONOCULTURALISM. ANOTHER WORD FOR LOWER FEES.

EVEN CULTURALLY DIVERSE AGENCIES CAN STILL BE SOW DINOSAURS

As corporate diversity continues to blossom, not all commitments are created equal. For some, DE&I is DNA, an organic effort that is nothing short of foundational. While for others it remains nothing more than the opportunity to hop on the virtue signaling bus.

In creative, digital, media shops and agencies across the land, the workforce indeed often reflects the very neighborhoods it inhabits. Yet when they pitch a new client, how often do their go-to-market plans reflect different target market populations, colloquial nuances, or English-as second-language opportunities?

General market agencies still present with creative that runs down a single tone of voice which often doesn’t respect or acknowledge target variances let alone ethnicities. From a broad strokes perspective alone, given 18% of the US population is hispanic, these same agencies are essentially then pitching for 82% of the opportunity. And for agencies that are indeed part of networks with multi-cultural “partnerships” or “sister agency” relationships, treating rev share opportunities as if they had COVID is not even penny wise anymore. It’s just unwise.

Whether your DE&I efforts are baked into your culture or merely a new HR initiative, progress is progress so let’s celebrate it even when it’s not evolving as quickly as ideal. But either way, don’t ignore the practical: Campaigns and tactics that reach more kinds of people means a more nuanced and layered scope of work which is equal to two things… a stronger plan and higher fees.

WHEN ANALYSTS GO APE

There’s a bit of madness in retail marketers’ chase for numerical fortification: A desire to build arguments as impenetrable as Kevlar and as logical as an anal retentive Vulcan. This breakneck chase for certainly presumes that with an infinite data set, sharper algorithms, and predicative analytics, we can totally crack consumer behavior and drive retail KPIs with zero marketing slippage. Ha!

Here’s something else that’s true… given an infinite amount of time, a monkey will actually type Hamlet.

So here are what monkeys and data scientists have in common: They’re both theoretically right, but getting it all the way wrong.

The fact is, beyond available data, beyond the 20 petabytes of data Google crunches each day, or Amazon’s 1B gig algorithm model, the way consumers not just think, but feel about an experience, whether on their phone or on the shelf in front of them, can defy measurement.

Consider that sales data might easily tell you that 26% of sauce buyers choose Ragu, 21% choose Prego, 15% choose Newman’s Own, 12% choose Bertolli, and 26% choose other. But shopping lists don’t name actual brands, they just say sauce and 74% of consumers make their decisions within 3 feet of the shelf.  Doesn’t this mean we can modify behavior at the moment of truth in away that defies data? Doesn’t the very act of great/strong/bold and memorable advertising stand to “change the math” in a way that drives trend busting buyer intent?  And ultimately, aren’t we always forgetting that any data set solely reflects what was, not what could be?

Respectfully, it is true that with enough data and planning, retailers can focus on the wide side of the barn. But there’s a chasm between winning incrementally and winning big and the later comes not just when the data says “this will work”, but when the surprise and delight of the offering galvanizes the consumer in a way that perhaps wasn’t so obvious, yet was able to goose with intention. From breakthrough people (TV’s stars like Joy of Painting’s Bob Ross or Donald Trump) to breakthrough retail (silly bands or slime), phenomenons happen outside the realm of the calculable. In the case of slime alone, sleepy Elmer’s glue was purchased by Newell brands in 2015 for $600M after decades of flat sales. A single, slimy quarter later, they were up 9% on the kind of trend spike that would have caught Nostradamus asleep at the wheel #ohthatslime. Similar surprising spikes where seen at Amazon challenged Office Depot and Staples.

What is v. what could be… that is indeed the crux of it. What is, like data that says iPhone users purchase more black phones than silver phones, and that if presented with an orange version would likely pass. Except “what could be” is what happens when the didn’t-see-that-coming merchandising or price for an orange phone is compelling and drives intention. (Quick, the monkeys need more data on price points and merchandising and the color orange).

Amazon’s legendary algorithms know that someone who loves the movie Spiderman would likely respond if they were served an interstitial for a Harry Styles live download. But are algorithms factoring in the decay rate of burnout on a movie typically viewed more than once and today is the number one choice of airline travelers watching in-flight movies? (Monkeys now need in-flight ethnographies).

Think about true meaning of retail surprise and delight, which remains the quintessentially underused retail weapon, and often where what is and what could be pass like ships in the night. Conventional analytics would suggest that inflatable floats belong in the pool department. Yet imagine Joe and Jane shopper at a mega box like Sam’s Club: They’re picking up some basic household commodities, when suddenly they turn a corner and come face to a ginormous inflatable pink flamingo large enough hold 6 people. It’s huge, it’s shocking, and the fact that it almost makes no sense where it’s placed in the store makes it even more compelling. Analysts don’t respond well with things that make no sense. But consumers do. They smile. They’re engaged. The entire Sam’s Club Brand is elevated beyond commodity and membership and into the realm of fun “destination brand.”

Chinese proverb say “when men speak of the future, the Gods laugh.” I get the feeling the biggest yucks are reserved for analysts who don’t just speak, but lean on data the way a drunk leans on a light post… not for illumination, but for support. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the power of data and predictive analytics alike. We’ve built retail empires with both. Moreover, I feel a whole lot better when my big idea bets are hedged with data. But if you’re not also considering X factors, the improbably and profitable unknowns, then you’re just monkeying around.

DELIVER US FROM SAMENESS

I want my MTV” A single, clear, four-word mantra was all it took. Suddenly, MTV had forced reluctant cable service providers to include MTV in their line-ups through a consumer pull-through strategy. Fact is, consumers were already demanding more cable content, no different than hungry and busy families are demanding more food delivery options, but their demand trigger just hadn’t been activated. So the question is, which food delivery service will most effectively pull through consumer demand? Who, of the big three – Door Dash, Grub Hub, and UberEats – will grab enough share to make it a two-horse race?

While I’m sure all three are heads down on UX, certainly critical, what else are these guys missing? What are some lessons they should be considering?

SHOW ME THE MONEY:  For starters, with $850B in play, restaurant brands will continue to strive for an anytime, anyhow, omnipresent offerings from their own apps, drive-through, walk-in, kiosks, et.al., with the singular goal of creating a frictionless distribution platform. How does a 3PO get a restaurant leaning their way? Consider the CARFAX re-brand launch built around the “Show me the CARFAX” campaign. CARFAX specifically added the line “only at reputable dealers everywhere” in all consumer-facing communications. This strategy not only forced the dealer’s hand in opting into CARFAX lest they be considered disreputable, it lured dealers into aligning with the one brand that more closely tied to their aspirational values. The lesson? Preferred partner > vendor. That’s where your strategy should start.

DON’T FOLLOW THE CHEESY LEADER: Yes, you can own a big slice of a $35B delivery empire and still get it wrong. Meaning just because pizza delivery is the category bedrock doesn’t mean they cracked the code on strategic innovation that creates meaningful consumer interaction. And in fact, the actual delivery of the product is typically underwhelming. Irony abounds as pizza is indeed defined by consumers breaking the rules… more napkins, eating around the TV, kids answering the door, the unmistakable box that telegraphs the food unlike a million and one generic bags. Yet, can you actually think of a single meaningful interaction with a pizza delivery brand? For the record, this isn’t a call for food delivery brands to hire professional entertainers as drivers and bikers. But still, where is the win here? When does the consumer actually scream “Door Dash!” when the bell rings instead of the name of the food brand? The lesson? Remember that UX isn’t just what happens on an app: At some point, your brand is face to face.

LET CONSUMERS SING YOUR PRAISES: The MTV example is a good example of where to place your bets. 3POs have plenty of places to churn cash: Tech, inside sales, affiliate programs, consumer branding and marketing and more. But in the same way a single social post, or a consumer movement (as engineered by MTV) can drive a tidal wave of consumer love and allegiance, you’ve got to understand how to optimize your marketing spend so that every marketing dollar invested comes back as a ten. The lesson? Nothing’s unimportant, but the biggest bang for the buck is when activating the consumer is at once engineered and organic.

IGNORE THE USER:If I asked people what they wanted, they would have told me to build them a faster horse”, or so said Henry Ford. Consider that the consumer cannot imagine what the Grub Hub app might offer that constitutes true surprise and delight. Think about blue ocean theory: What is the category given that you can heretically eliminate for the greater win, no different than Southwest eliminating reserved seats or a circus (Cirque Du Soleil) eliminating clowns. Conversely, what is the attribute or feature that nobody sees coming, the at once disruptive and joyous element that changes the category math? Desktop printing from Cannon. McDonald’s adding McCafe. Ralph Lauren creating Polo, Cemex turning cement into an emotional purchase, and more. The lesson? Ensure that non-linear invention is core, not fringe.

GET OUT OF THE DELIVERY BUSINESS: Short and sweet, you need to answer the proverbial “what business are you in” question. Domino’s decided it was in the technology business. Disney is in the magic business. Fannie Mae’s in the American Dream business. The term 3PO ain’t that friendly so re-define what business you’re in: Food delivery is what you do, not what you stand for, and the only people who make money work at the US Mint. The lesson? Elevate.

While these lessons are merely the tip of the idea iceberg, the challenge is to stop navigating by category norms. Your agenda must be about invention, elevation, speaking for the consumer, not just to the consumer, seeing UX as analog, not just digital, and earning restaurant preference. The brand that hits it won’t just steal share today, but feast on increasing consumer demand that’s only now kicking into gear.

You just gotta deliver.

DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE WE GO. Will The Up Fronts Ever Be The Same?

In the very time it takes to read this post, Amazon would have exceeded forecasts, Walmart would have countered with an acquisition or low cost delivery option, and between them, a trillion dollars of revenue would be hung up in Seattle and Bentonville. In fact, everything they do today, every move they make, is just a stark reminder that if it ain’t digital, it ain’t gettin’ funded.

The vitality and critical nature of digital (v. traditional) media cannot be overstated. Moreover, every single day, traditional agencies and lagging media shops are finding out that plans not dominated by search and lower funnel customer acquisition are about as relevant as Myspace. Conversely, top down media, typically found on plans defined by proverbial carpet bombing and heavy TV up fronts, becomes more and more marginalized as the holy grail of 1:1 marketing moves across the land like a locust storm.

Sure, the networks will trot out the stars for their New York up fronts this month. And sure, the price of a 30-second Super Bowl spot (Q1/C1/S1) will be up 5%, but advertisers take caution. As we strive for hyper targeted connections, with the promise of true 1:1 marketing that delivers the ripest fruit at the bottom of the tree, what about critical mass? How do we calculate the lost potential to move fringe buyers? Doesn’t an idea virus need more than a single host to thrive? And don’t brands, this second and more than ever, need to be inclusive?

You need to be idea-driven but consumer-guided. And media planning is no different than brand planning in this regard… double digit KPIs are the product of mass coercion fueled by subtle seduction, not a few sure things. And doesn’t that take a more acute understanding of how people behave and why they do what they do.

A funnel is designed to come to a point, but the real point is this: As you go down the media rabbit hole, the question shouldn’t just be what are we gaining, but what are we leaving behind?

RETAIL’S SOS MOMENT

bigstock-lost-at-sea-62180774

The irony is at once incredible and sad, really. With more data, big data, analytics, and data scientists at their beck and call, more brands simply do not understand their place in the world anymore. And while in many ways they are proverbial ships that are faster and more efficient than ever, they remain lost at sea.

The map tells them that there’s fiercer competition than ever before. In-category competition. Big Box. Ecommerce players. Other infringers from private labels to cases where their very own suppliers are taking their products directly to consumers. On top of those, there’s always the next category Uber waiting in the wings, the “why didn’t we think of that?” competitor that once again sends category stalwarts reeling.

There’s no shortage of solution dogma: Consultants and agencies push for brand purpose, north stars, mission statements, architectures, vision statements, essences, and the like. Or data analysts who know how to crunch and regurgitate but haven’t a clue about how to convert insights into actionable go-to-market strategies. And so brands try to execute too much, lean too heavily on brand or retail, drown in data, and end up trying to be too many things to too many people, or focusing solely on the race for the bottom, i.e. cheaper than the field. 

But think about the outliers who continue to crush it. Brands whose market attack has evolved to embrace every inch of the funnel, but who remain built on a brand foundation that’s diamond bright and durable.

Think about BMW pruning away everything but this promise: The Ultimate Driving Machine. When you think about the complexity of the category, the multitude of models and the endless RTBs that BMW could tout, mull over the discipline needed to hold to one bold idea that everyone from an accounts payable clerk in Munich can recite as effortlessly as a dealer in Oshkosh. It’s a vision that doesn’t preclude new news or special deals or sales.

Or Five Guys, for whom a simple chicken patty represents brand heresy. It’s all burgers, fries, and shakes. Full stop. Or Southwest, whose data tells them that 50% of their customers would prefer reserved seats, but who know that the 50% of those who love them for who they are mean so much more. Or Ritz Carlton as defined by evergreen benefit of ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen. Like it or not, they live by it. And, not for nothing, enough people like it to make it the number one luxury hotel chain the world.

To the brands that struggle with their value propositions, and who in spite of having more tools, more lower funnel opportunities, and more data than ever before still battle themselves to leverage information and find a winning lane, fear not: This is not about building construct castles in the sky. It’s about elegant simplicity, data informed but deconstruction based, focusing on numerators (what the consumer gets), not just denominators (at what cost). Bring in fresh right brains to debate. Fight conventional wisdom and summon the courage of a lion. And if you remember these six little words… To Thy Own Brand Be True, the sea will be yours.

@cliffcourtney