Brand Permission. Win When Outspent

Brand permission. Increasing Market Share without going broke

By Tom Dougherty

We Are All Outspent

BRAND PERMISSIONMost brands face daunting tasks in preparing marketing communications to steal market share. If you have unlimited budgets and are capable of out-spending the competitive set, your job is that much easier. For the rest of us, we have to learn how to win without the largest ad budgets and without dominating share of voice (SOV).

There are some rules that Stealing Share has discovered in our quest to be the authority in stealing market share. In marketing, advertising, brand development, and the rest of one’s life, focus and clarity always lead to better results. How do you know when you have such focus? That is the subject of this short article on brand permission.

More Than The Category. Brand Permission.

First, you must make sure that your brand was built, not just for clarity and simplicity (both are vital) but also for persuasion. If your brand symbols and brand equity markers are clear but static, you have some serious and immediate work to do.

BRAND PERMISSIONWhen we ask companies to tell us what their brand means, more often then not we hear a litany of category descriptors like convenient, effective and value. Even Nordstrom could claim those brand permission values in the department store category. So could TIDE detergent and Apple Inc.

In order to persuade, your brand must have, within its definition, the core “life” beliefs that propel your customer to choose — not just products and services, but life choices as well. They need to see your brand permission as an important touchstone for people who define themselves as they do. You want them to look at your brand and see it as such a powerful self-descriptor that to choose a competitor would be akin to emotional suicide.

What Is Your Brand’s Permission?

Brand permission is the permission that your advertising and marketing of your product or service is built upon. If your brand does not foster that permission, if in its woven fibers your customer does not find an illumination of their own self-description and the language of personal importance, your advertising and marketing is wasting most of its budget.

A great adman once told me that the enemy of great advertising is not bad advertising, anyone can spot bad advertising. No, he told me, the enemy of great advertising is good advertising — and he was right! The same is true for brands and the underlying permission that forms their foundation. (Here is how Stealing Share creates permissions and preferences)

Customers Have Choices

All choices in this world are attempts to self-define, even B2B choices. The brand mix, the “recipe,” for your brand definition and resulting permissions, consists of both left-brain and right-brain elements. For the left-brain, your brand must include the logic and reasoning that conveys importance. It must be built upon a foundation of believable truths. Brand permission is the extent to which your brand has the right to be seen as true and real.

BRAND PERMISSIONBut, oddly enough, truth is most often a right-brain perception and BRAND PERMISSION comes from a belief in a truth. As a result, your brand recipe must include the ingredients of motivation and esthetics, and they must all be mixed together into something that “tastes” satisfying and substantial. If your brand is build upon such a foundation and its permissions are persuasive, then your marketing strategy needs to be altered.

The media wisdom of the day always talks in terms of reach and frequency, and these are both important… but they are not science. They are based in part on the experience of ad agencies and most of that experience is founded on mediocre brand definitions and forgettable advertising executions. The goal, if you are being outspent, is to out-reach your competition with less frequency. This means that you need to ignite the right and left-brain responses of more people with fewer impressions.

A properly defined brand permission creates that space and it defines your executions in the same way that your eye color was defined by an allele on chromosome 19. If your brand permission is differentiated from the competitive set by customer precepts — the core “life” beliefs that propel your customer to choose — then the resulting marketing and advertising, if it is true to the brand, will be by definition — different and better.

Choosing An Agency

All too often we see brands choose an agency because of personality and reputation. They assume that bigger is always better and that you must “get along” to be effective. If you are going to steal market share, one rule to remember is that it is folly to copy the market leader. This includes choosing an agency that “specialize” in your category or have experience in your category. If an agency has had previous category experience but no longer has a client in your category, then it is imperative to ask the agency why the previous client fired them. (Read one of our blogs about advertising agencies here) But what do they know about your brand permission?

BRAND PERMISSIONHow they answer will tell you a lot about the agency. Were they quick to blame the client? Was there some mix-up? Do not rest asking this question until you are completely satisfied with the answer. It is important the client/agency relationship begin on the right foot. Our clients come to Stealing Share because they want to win — it is as simple as that.

We counsel them to be more dispassionate when choosing an ad agency. We warn them to listen carefully, judge objectively, and be careful not to hear what they want to hear. How much you like an agency may have nothing to do with their ability to be effective for you. Remember, with the exception of an “Effie”, winning “Ad” awards have nothing to do with building great brands. They are self-serving aggrandizements judged by other ad folks. Today, the advertising world is crammed with delightfully entertaining ads that become the fodder of conversation for everything other than the brand they are intended to propel upward.

How To Succeed

The moral of this story is that if you want to steal market share you need to think outside of the current box and look into your brand permission. If just changing ad agencies wre the best solution, most brands would be successful every 2.5 years (the average ad agency tenure). If just spending more money was the solution, then we would all know the price of success. At Stealing Share, we believe that building a brand infused with the DNA of the target customer is the best solution for stealing market share. A great brand can level the playing field, making you more relevant to your target market and help you WIN. Call us before you hire your next agency and we will give you the tools to make that agency better.

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