Becoming a Brand Strategist
Well what an amazing week of education, collaboration, ideas, teamwork and endless Zoom calls. By the end of the week I was running on empty, but I felt full of knowledge and confidence in what I had just learnt.
Last week I completed my second Masterclass by Level C, the world’s most visionary brand education program, hosted by the godfather of branding, a certain Mr Marty Neumeier. I'm sure any of you who know a bit about branding will have heard of Marty. I have been a fan for a number of years and have read a few of his books including Zag, The Brand Gap, The Brand Flip and Scramble. Nothing however, comes close to listening to him speak from his own home about a topic that he knows so much about.
I completed my level one Brand Specialist in September 2020, where I learned about the 5 core principles of branding; differentiation, collaboration, Innovation, validation & cultivation. I loved it so much that I signed up to do the next stage. I gave myself a year to implement what I had learned before feeling ready to move to the next stage of Brand Strategy.
In Masterclass 2 you concentrate on the main discipline of brand building: differentiation.
Differentiation is the process of establishing a strategic market position for a brand.
The course ran over 5 days, starting on Monday evening at 4pm UK time, with 4 hours of lectures zia zoom each day. We were put into groups with tasks to complete each evening and the next day's session began with presentations from each group. I was placed in a group with professionals from a variety of brand related backgrounds all situated in and around Europe with one member being in Singapore. There were a total of 47 people on the course, split into 9 teams, with people mainly based in America and Europe.
Branding = Strategic Marketing = Tactical
Branding is a strategic move for a business, whereas marketing is a tactical move. To invest in the long term success of your business you need to think about branding. Branding can give your business lots of benefits including customer loyalty and a community that associates with your brand, tells their friends about your brand and helps your business to grow.
We were taught how differentiation is the basis of Brand Strategy and how they can be implemented in a series of strategic moves. Your brand and your business are the 2 strands of your company's DNA and need to entwine. Your brand and your business need to connect and work together to create long term success, they cannot work without each other
Day 1: Core Purpose
Your core purpose is the reason you exist beyond making $$$
The first day's lecture was all about finding out your brand's Core Purpose. Finding out who you are as a company? Why do you exist? And why does it matter? In today’s world mattering is far more important than marketing. You need to matter because the power has shifted from companies to customers and people have the buying power.
We learned about how important a company's core purpose is and how your mission, vision and goals should all flow from your purpose.
Our first group task was to choose a company that together we were going to transform using brand strategy. Our group chose everyone's least favourite budget airline, Ryanair.
We were given 24 hours to come up with a new purpose statement for Ryanair by completing a variety of small tasks.
Day 2: Customer identity & Customer aims
On the second day we delved into customer identity, learning how brands should create their own customers and their success will follow through customer loyalty. A loyal customer will promote your brand to their friends, people no longer just buy brands but join brands.
We were taught techniques to design customer profiles and create your own ‘Unique Buying Tribe’. In today’s world customers don't just want to be sold to by endless marketing, they want to buy and they want to buy in tribes. They want to feel as if they belong to a community, a community that share similar ideals and interests and talk to each other online. Creating your own loyal tribe of customers is key to your success, you want to make them feel like they belong with a sense of meaning behind your brand.
We looked at customer aims. How are you going to help your tribe member? How are you going to improve their day to day life? What do they need? What's missing from their lives?
We watched an amazing Apple advert from 1984, which I had not seen before (I was only 4). If you haven't seen it you need to check it out. 1984. It is an amazing example of how innovation and design can transform how customers see your brand.
Our second group task was to decide and describe who our unique buying tribe was going to be. We decided to concentrate on ‘Digital Nomads’ , a community that is growing quite rapidly since the pandemic and has potential to be a large part of the workforce in the future. We also had to decide on their pain points and what they desire socially and emotionally through a series of tasks.
Day 3: Brand Onlyness
Your “onlyness” is a word famously made up by Marty, to mean the only thing that your brand does. It is all about being original, being the only business that has that one thing that they offer to customers. To be different, to change the rules of the game and disrupt an industry.
Our brand is the only ________________that_________________
As a business you want to create a category, one way of doing that is by radical differentiation. If you are able to define or redefine a unique category you can own it for years to come.
The task with finding your onlyness comes from firstly looking at what your competitors are doing, you then want to find the white space between what they are offering and then position your brand. There is so much competition these days that the only way to stand out is to be really different. As potential customers can see what is different easier than what is perceived as better.
The smaller the market, the broader the offering must be. The larger the market, the more specialised the offer must be.
I really loved this quote by Marty. It really helped me grasp differentiation and the concept of niching, excluding markets that you could never have won in the first place.
A business needs to be able to state their onlyness statement, if they can't then there is something wrong with their strategy. As soon as a business has realised its onlyness statement, it gives them a powerful filter for future brand decisions.
Our third group task was to write our onlyness statement for Ryanair. First a long version and then trim it down to a shorter statement. This was an interesting task and working in a group gave a fascinating insight into everyone's backgrounds and specialities. Using our finalised onlyness statement the next task was to create the Brand’s True line. A True line is a company's internal motto, which you can then shorten even further to create your company tagline.
As a group we decided to create a sub brand for Ryanair and pivot the company towards being an Ai travel planner called ‘Ryan’. We came up with the idea by using a variety of techniques, including judo strategy, where you do the opposite of what your competitors are doing and create a whole new brand around our idea. In this way you make your competition stand up and notice what you are doing, making them play your game instead of their own. Throughout the week we used a technique called swarming where you attack problem solving from different angles at the same time. It involves simultaneous collaboration of people from a variety of backgrounds all focused on one goal.
Here is a look at what we came up with.
Super Bowl Commercial
To finish the week off, we were given a seemingly impossible task of designing a Super Bowl commercial to launch our new brand. Now being born and bred in South Wales, I have never actually seen a Super Bowl, but I know of the magnitude of the occasion. Talk about putting us under pressure. This was a huge task and not only did we just come up with our new brand idea, but we had to come up with a good enough idea to sell it to loads of Football fans with 24 hours to plan it.
We did a lot of research and looked at what the previous commercials had looked like, the majority are either touching or funny. We decided to go down the humorous route after watching a clip of the 10 best Superbowl commercials of all time. A lot of the funnier commercials had celebrity appearances and a variety of popular culture references.
Seeing as our brand was now simply called Ryan, and our Ai travel planner was activated by saying “Hey Ryan”, similar to Google's Alexa, or Apple’s Siri. We decided to choose a celebrity called Ryan, in the end deciding on Ryan Reynolds. An A-list Hollywood actor whose main roles are comedic. From this we quickly got an idea of using his ‘Deadpool’ character from the Marvel World as our popular culture reference.
The main Idea for the commercial was to have Ryan Reynolds and his alter ego Deadpool feature simultaneously in the advert. Ryan would be using the ‘Ryan’ the Ai travel planner to plan his journey from JFK to Italy. Every time Ryan said the words “Hey Ryan”, Deadpool would lose concentration of what he was doing and end up getting killed in a variety of hilarious ways.
I storyboarded the concept and you can see the results below. Please let me know what you think of the finished result. It was a lot of fun to create and the idea went down surprisingly well, I wasn't sure how it was going to be received, but was pleased that Marty and Andy both liked the idea.
This is the R rated version,
I hope I have not given too much away on what was an amazing week of learning, collaboration and education. I felt like I learned so much in such a short time. I am now looking to implement what I have learned with my clients and be able to offer a deeper insight into brand strategy which will not only help my clients but my own brand.
I highly recommend the Level C Masterclass program, I intend to complete all 5 of the levels and am about to sign on for Masterclass 3 which is going to be held live in person in London next March. If you want to be stretched and educated to the highest degree and want to learn from the very best in the business then I suggest you sign up for this course.
Please let me know what you think of my project in the comments below and if anyone out there fancies giving me a shot at a Super Bowl Commercial I am all ears!
Here's to adding a new string to my bow and I hope to build on this knowledge as I delve deeper into the world of Brand Strategy.