So our walls are papered with facts, at least 100 of them. It’s now early afternoon — time to start making something of all this. But first,…
What about brand personality?
All these facts don’t relate much to the personality of the brand. But it’s the brand’s personality that gives it life and often inspires the branding. When I first started doing Brand Discovery, it was all a search for very logical stuff. But when all was said and done, the brand fundamentals seemed dry. There was something missing. So I created what I like to call it the “right brain” side of the Discovery Session. Here’s how it works. We expose participants to groups of images, both photographic and illustrated. These images depict various personality aspects (traditional, free-spirited, adventurous, etc.), though they are not labeled as such. Participants are asked as a group to quickly determine one or two images from each group that feel as if they could be consistent with some aspect of the brand’s personality. Then we go through the chosen images one or two more times to cull them further, until we have five or six that the team agrees on. Inevitably, a picture of the brand personality will begin to emerge. Later, when cleaning up the findings from the Discovery session, you’ll be able to take more time to interpret these images and create a fully realized personality. It’s like magic!
Now back to the facts.
Possible Unique Selling Points
The facts were fun; lunch was OK; the personality picture thing was interesting— time to get back to work. The next task is to determine “Possible Unique Selling Points” of the brand. Here’s how you do it:
Explain what a Unique Selling Point (USP) is: a quality or fact that our brand has that others in the category don’t and that is potentially compelling to customers. In order to qualify as a USP, an item has to pass two tests — it’s unique to you in your category (or you do it demonstrably better than anyone else) and it’s compelling to customers. Now dig in, going fact by fact, asking the question: “Could this possibly be a USP?” Every time a fact passes muster, have your assistant get it down on another sheet of easel paper marked “Poss USPs”. The idea here is not to be too exclusive. The Possible USPs are going to become the raw material from which you craft your final USPs. What you’ll find during this exercise is that the facts begin to organize themselves. Some are clearly unimportant. Some are clearly important. Some are meaningful in relation to others. Some things people thought would be important, don’t seem so anymore. Some begin to loom large.
The Grand Finale: Unique Selling Points and a Surprise
So now we’ve organized our 100+ facts into a couple pages of Possible Unique Selling Points. Obviously, it’s time to cut it down to the bone — three to five true USPs. The secret to doing this effectively is to be mercilessly honest. The tendency to say “our people are the best in the industry” is very strong. To listen to execs, every company is like Lake Woebegone, “where all the women are strong, the men are good looking, and the children are above average.” So when you hear a participant say the quality of their personnel is a Unique Selling Point, say “Prove it,” or — sometimes it needs to be said ” “bullshit.” Make clear this is a no BS zone. A USP is something you can deliver on 100% of the time.
Still, there will be USPs that the group believes in, but which they may feel unsure about proving or delivering 100%. For these you have another sheet of easel paper on which your assistant has marked off two columns, one labeled “Wishes” and one labeled “Granted.” When the group decides on a USP they can;t deliver n with absolute consistency, ask what they could do to make it happen. If they need a training program to make sure their people are the best in the business, that’s a “Wish.” Someone then has to agree to “Grant” the Wish, with a deadline to report back to the group.
Before long, you have your USPs and a set of “Wishes” and “Granteds” that are the beginning of a brand consistency action plan. One more step: prioritize. By this time, everyone in the room will be involved. What is the most important USP? The second most important? These are the questions that provoke debate. But when the dust clears, you have the rough foundation of a brand: three to five solid Unique Selling Points in priority order, each with clear support points and benefits; the beginning of a corporate plan to ensure the consistent validity if the USPs; and the birth of a brand personality.
What a day.