Concept branding – do we understand the concept?

A delegate at a workshop I was delivering told me her field was ‘concept branding’: immediately some alarm bells started ringing for me as I remembered a past client who described himself as a ‘concept’ marketer – basically what he meant was a lazy marketer. He could not be bothered with the fundamental disciplines of the marketing process and thought bright ideas were an alternative to hard work. Don’t get me wrong – creativity and innovation are the life blood of marketing and branding, but they are part of the mix and cannot exist in a vacuum. Great innovative concepts come out of a lot of hard research, analysis and evaluation.

It is the ‘glass box – black box – glass box’ model.

In the first glass box is all the background research, the planning, data gathering and evaluation. The issues are distilled down to the core brief – often reams of information and knowledge are condensed down to one sheet of paper. Then, and only then, does the process move into the black box – the imaginative, creative process, sometimes called the ‘creative leap’. Finally, the creative concept moves back into the glass box for evaluation, testing, and ultimately application.

In advertising, the people the creatives hold in highest regard are the planners – the people who operate in the first glass box. It is their hard work that makes true creativity possible. The same is true in marketing and branding: the hottest ideas for brand development, extensions, new brands and new applications don’t spring from an isolated, unconnected ‘eureka moment’. Sometimes the first glass boxes may not be part of a formal process but exist as part of the operational activity. However, when a conceptual brand action is required you can’t leap straight into your black box. Sitting and thinking with a damp towel on your forehead rarely produces anything more than headaches. Great ideas emerge from great planning and analysis.

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