Keep The “-est” Out Of 
Your Positioning

Pizza delivery has got to be a brutal business. Brands like Papa John’s, Dominoes, Little Ceasar and others seem forever locked in mortal combat. For the last couple of decades, they’ve been competing to see who could offer the cheapest pizza and who could get it to your door in the fastest amount of time. They’re all trying to claim the biggest slice of the $45 billion US pizza business. (It’s $134 billion worldwide!) The problem with this kind of contest is a) competing on price starts everyone racing to the bottom and b) roadways become ever more dangerous as teenage delivery drivers are incentivized to speed. When prices go down, quality suffers. When speed is the motivation, liability skyrockets. Whenever you position yourself as the superlative in any category, whenever you put “est” after adjectives like fast, cheap, smart, clean, etc., you run the risk of somebody coming along and doing it a little faster, cheaper, smarter, cleaner, etc. The minute you advertise as being the cheapest solution, you can bet your last dollar someone will drop their price 5¢ and completely invalidate your brand promise.

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Topics: Positioning

Finding The Purpose Of Your Business

First of all, I want to recommend a new book by Denise Lee Yohn, Fusion – How Integrating Brand and Culture Powers the World’s Greatest Companies. Denise is a leading thinker on branding and her observations on brand/culture fusion are definitely worth your time. Thanks, Denise, for putting this out there. The book leads off with a description of purpose. Now, these days, we hear a lot about the purpose-driven brand. It’s pretty well established that, in today’s super-connected world, markets want to know not just what you do but why you do it. So management teams the world over are convening in off-site retreats to try to hash out just what, exactly their purpose is supposed to be. At Boardwalk, we believe that’s the wrong approach. In fact, it’s not even the correct way to look at purpose because no business gets to define its own purpose. As an adjunct to Denise’s terrific book, I’d like to describe how Boardwalk determines the purpose of a business.

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Topics: Strategy

We Can’t Do That. vs. Just Do It.

You’ve heard it said often. “We can’t do that.” Variations: “We don’t do it that way around here.” “This is the way we’ve always done it.” “We tried that once and it didn’t work.” “This way was good enough for Grandpa, it’s good enough for me.” This ultra-conservative approach to doing business was always problematic because it blocked innovation and access to new opportunities. The world is changing all the time. Businesses have to change along with it. If Grandpa tried a product line extension back in 1964, and it didn’t work, it doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea now. Maybe the timing wasn’t right back then. Maybe Grandpa wasn’t as smart as you think he was and he just botched it. Cautious thinking is even more dangerous now that the pace of change is accelerating as fast as it is. Markets transform on a dime. Businesses and brands have to be quick and agile or get left behind. So much so that even taking the time to ask, “Can we do that?” might slow things down too much, especially if it takes forever to get and answer to that question. Businesses need to establish a new kind of culture.

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Topics: Innovation

The Purpose and Proper Use of Key Messaging

Most everyone knows the Jason Bourne movie franchise, starting with The Bourne Identity, based on the first book of the Robert Ludlum trilogy. There have been at least three sequels. And I hear another one is in the works. Shown here is a poster for the original movie. The artwork created for the poster is called key art. This image of a gun-totin’ Matt Damon on the run appeared on the poster, on advertising, on standees, online … anywhere it might help convince someone to see the movie. Because stars sell tickets, Matt Damon’s name and image dominate. But, because female lead Franka Potente is well-known in her native Germany, her image was added, just to the left and behind Matt, to the key art used there. There are usually other, smaller scenes depicted in the key art to give movie-goers an idea of what to expect from the film. For any product or service that needs to be marketed, key art is important. Key messaging  works in much the same way. Extrapolated from a brand’s Positioning Statement, key messaging is designed to influence the way a market feels about a brand.
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Topics: communication

The Two Different Ways We Now “See” Brands

How much time do you spend online? If you’re a typical American baby boomer, you’re probably racking up about four hours of screen time a day. If you’re of the Gen Z or Millennial age groups, you’re putting in closer to eight! That’s on desktops, tablets and mobile devices. (One caveat here: Typically, boomers also consume hours of television viewing each day. Younger folks tend to get more of their entertainment by streaming it online.) But, whatever age we are, we’re all beginning to live more and more of our lives with our eyes glued to a screen. That means where once brands were only perceived in the “real world”, now markets encounter them in cyberspace as well. Owners and managers of brand assets need to consider how they’ll maintain a consistent identity across the digital and analog worlds. How does the website relate to the store? How does the product photo relate to the product on the store shelf?

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Topics: Identity

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Best Branding Reads
Week of May 14, 2018

Starbucks Gets Ready for All-Hands U.S. Racial Bias Training
An example of a brand taking an important step.

Confusing Brand Positioning With Brand Purpose
Excellent article. Remember: Your market defines your purpose, not your CEO at a board retreat.

Can Hotel Companies Have Too Many Brands?
Read to the end to learn about the “third dimension of brands”.

How To Infuse Clarity In Brand Stories
Terrific read. Important takeaway: If you don’t tell your story, your market will make one up for you. Who should control your story?

In Brand Refresh, Best Buy Updates Almost 30-Year-Old Logo
A logo change is much more than just a new design. It is a signal of recommitment to the market, a statement that “we’re here to stay”.

Here are 21 of our favorite offbeat retro college sports logos
This is a fun read. Especially the Washington Sun Dodgers.

Unilever’s Sustainable Living Brands: Why Doing Good Is Good For Business
What is the purpose of Unilever? Why do we allow it into our lives?

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