Keys to the Kingdom

You know who you are. You’re a successful management-consulting firm flexing into brand consulting. You just realized a good brand is critical in building a great company and driving shareholder value, even in business-to-business.

You also realize you don’t have the right talent in-house. Quietly, you woo us from ad agencies—in particular, the top strategy-brand-planner-consumer-insight people.

Why aren’t we jumping ship?

Not enough pain. Those thankless souls—creative directors—keep us honest. A good litmus test of any effective brand strategy is whether it sends them back to their cubes or corner offices inspired, ideas coursing through their veins. They do this only at night and rarely share credit. We would miss them or, worse, get soft.

We’re odd. We’re afraid your culture doesn’t value odd. Our experience tells us the tidy bits of data that make perfect sense build boring brands. Our mission is to open ourselves to the idiosyncratic, nonrational, human aspects of people-as-consumers. This is the only path to fresh perspectives, original ideas and, ultimately, brand gold.

Our agencies might not take us back. Did we lose our creative soul? Did we ever have one?

Meantime, you fuel your industrial-strength training with branding workshops. You incorporate into your language and repertoire notions like “emotion” and “intangibles.” Only it’s not natural for you, and it shows.

The good news is, you may not need to fight nature. What if we worked together? Think of it as hybrid vigor: cross-breeding different talents and experiences to produce superior brand and business vision. And many new services.

Today, clients get a business strategy recommendation from you and a brand strategy recommen dation from us. Even when they overlap conceptually, they seem to solve different problems and use different languages. Couldn’t we generate a single comprehensive recommendation?

In the spirit of partnership, here are a few brand-building truths:

I People don’t make rational decisions. They attach to brands the same way they attach to each other: emotion first, logic second. Purchase decisions are made instinctively, impulsively, and then are rationalized. This holds true for presidential elections, computer systems and soap.

I Be wary of segmentation studies. Great brands connect people like cultural glue. The brand’s potential “magic” falls between the cracks of segmentation studies.

I How you do research is less important than who does it.

I A single, subtle observation can build a brand that fundamentally changes the way people see the world. This usually comes from talent with a hunch, not thorough analysis.

I A brand idea is only as good as its expression. Tedious language will kill even the greatest brand idea.

I Seek inspiration, not process. Everyone has a process, and some are very good. But great brands are built on insights that inspire.

Believe in these, and this may be the start of a beautiful partnership.