What if branding isn’t the primary focus of your brand?

As much as I hate to admit it, some companies have more important objectives than being guardians of their own brands. This reality is especially true in the retail world, and I’ve worked for such companies.
But even blue-chip enterprises lose track of the importance of their brand in the day-to-day chase for bottom-line results. I’ve worked for these companies too.

The question I hear looks like this: “My company cares more about low price* than a strong brand. How do I write a Single-Minded Proposition that puts the brand first in this situation?”

(*or competitive price, or everyday low price, or value pricing…you get the idea.)

It’s a conundrum. If your creative brief is all about a new promotion, and that promotion is the latest offer, i.e. 15% off if you order in the next 48 hours; buy one, get one free; new-customer discount…etc, etc, etc, the default SMP ends up being the offer.

The classic response is to say that the SMP is never, ever, ever the offer. The SMP is about the brand. The offer is the incentive to try the brand.

How do you negotiate this situation?

Here’s my suggestion:

In a previous post I discussed how you arrive at the SMP. There’s a direct path from product feature to product benefit to communication objective to SMP.

The most important product benefits become candidates for communication objectives, one of which is first among equals–the SMP. If you’re faced with writing a brief that must focus on the latest offer, make sure that one of the other communication objectives is this:

Reinforce the brand

As long as one of the three or four communication objectives on your creative brief instructs the creative team to reinforce the brand, usually in the form of a copy point but possibly as important as a copy subhead, perhaps even in the advertisement’s headline, you’ve achieved your objective.

The product or brand manager will likely be satisfied with the brief if she sees that the SMP is about the offer. You, the brief writer, will rest easy knowing that you’ve covered all your bases: one communication objective is about the offer, one about the brand and one or two additional objectives focus on additional solid product benefits.

The creative team, by the way, will have clear direction as well. They can’t really gripe because brand direction is prominent on the brief, even if it’s not the SMP. Trust them to figure out a way to arrive at a…well…creative solution.

Believe me when I say that creatives always manage to figure out how to get around imprecisely written briefs—in cases like this because the brief writer has no option—and still deliver good, sometimes great, and on occasion outstanding, creative. I’ve done it for years. Ask any creative and he or she will probably agree.

We all know that people develop loyalty to brands. Not offers. Not low prices. Not freebees.

Find a way to build in brand attributes in every creative brief you write, even if one isn’t the Single-Minded Proposition.

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