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Build Distinctive Brand Assets!

The other day I had the pleasure of listening to Jenni Romaniuk speaking at our offices.

Jenni spoke about the findings in her recent book “Building Distinctive Brand Assets”. Below I will try to summarize some of my key takeaways for this. It is really potent stuff for people working with advertising and branding. As per usual, I have gravely oversimplified everything and concentrated it all to four key points:

Understand how the human brand builds associations

The human mind is complicated, illogical and lazy. It is bombarded by messages every day, and tries to take shortcuts to structure, simplify and make sense of the world.

In this, it links associations together in clusters. Take, for instance, the Apple brand. If you think of Apple, a number of associations spring to mind. The logo, the iPhone and perhaps the MacBook, Steve Jobs. The white headphones perhaps? But also things like “the device for FaceTime with my grandmother” and “Apple as in the actual fruit”. Some of these associations are stronger, some are weaker. Some remain close to the apple brand, some lets the mind wonder on to other associations.

The same is true for categories of products or services. When thinking about booking a summer vacation, a set of associations spring to mind. The sun, the beach, the blue colour of the sea. The taste of Sangria. The hassle of air travel. Memories of hotels I’ve visited. Perhaps travel being expensive? Perhaps carbon emissions?

Understanding that the human mind functions in this way is an important starting point.

Understand the associative map for your brand

The general principles for associations of course also apply to brands. When people think of your brand, they perhaps link it to assets like the logo, the tagline, the package design, and advertisements for the brand. But also past experiences, friends they know who like the product, memories, competitor brands etc.

It is important to understand what assets are linked to your brand. In understanding this, it is important not to look to your own association: No one is more biased and less representative of the target group than someone working full time with the brand. Instead, you need to ask actual representative consumers.

Manage and develop your set of brand assets

When you know what assets consumers connect to your brand, you need to start actively with that set of assets. A few things to consider;

  • A strong asset ranks high in both fame (all consumers know it) and uniqueness (they associate it only to your brand). (Nike Swish is high on both parameters, Nikes link to the game of soccer may be high on fame, but is low on uniqueness)
  • It is positive if consumers link your brand to the things that come to mind when looking to purchase a category (e.g the sun from the travel example above).
  • There is a difference between branding assets (consistent, distinctive, building a system) and messaging (adaptable, creative, grabbing attention)
  • Good assets serve a purpose, ancoring the brand to something present in consumers lives, being easily used in niche media channels, creating uniqueness relative competitors)

Utilize assets for bridging across channels, markets and time

This part I think is very interesting for advertising professionals. In a lot of advertising work, the traditional way has been to start with creating the 30 second TVC. From that, one has tried editing and squeezing that video into different channels and formats.

What I think is super relevant, is the idea of using distinctive assets as a bridge between channels. As long as the asset creates linkage, you can be freer in creating communication that is truly adapted to the channel. (not only advertising channels, but also touchpoints like instore, packaging, web design, e-commerce etc etc)

This also allows for creating bridging across different markets and segments. Where culture, language, preferences may vary, you can still create a red thread by using distinctive brand assets.

Distinctive assets also allow for bridging over time. From one campaign to the next, from one season to another, from one concept to the next. Even from one CMO to the next.

This final bit, about bridging, feels so relevant. In today’s media landscape – where a brand might want to be present in TV and print, on YouTube AND as a sponsored snapchat filter – finding principles for linking those efforts without missing channel relevance is extremely useful.

One example from Sweden is Triss (scratch card lottery).

If we start with their current TVC, there are a lot of elements in there. There is a reverse timeline, a protagonist (the lady) and an antagonist (car salesman. There is dialogue, humor, a cool sports car etc etc. But almost all of these elements are of little value as brand assets. They lack fame, they are difficult to build uniqueness on and they are not conveniently transferred to other formats.

But if we look at the final 4 second, the good stuff gets revealed:

  • The colour yellow
  • The “scratched area”
  • The logo
  • The font
  • The logo
  • The sound of scratching

Suddenly you have a great set of assets for bridging.

In OOH, instead of using a photo from the TVC, they go for a copy-based solution: They use colour, scratched area, font, logo, and are able to get the humorous effect in in short copywriting which is adapted to the media. The same setup works for mobile, for snapchat.. Establishing the scratching sound as an asset enables a link to radio advertising.


So that is a short summary. I really recommend you buying the full book.

P.S. In a panel discussion after the seminar, I asked Jenni about channels where branding is less salient. (Some people advocate that the “correct” way of working with things like influencers and native is to tone down branding as much as possible.) She was clear in her opinion, that channels where you cannot have tour brand assets present are not relevant channels.

P.P.S. we also briefly touched on the currently discussed Carlsberg Probably [not] the best beer in the world campaign. There has been some debate as to whether tampering with the Probably the best beer in the world tagline asset. Here, Jenni argued that the distinctive asset for Carlsberg is actually just the word probably. That means that the rest of the sentence can be considered message, rather than branding. I had not previously made up my mind on the matter myself, but after hearing this thinking, I would have to agree. Very cleaver reasoning indeed.

thx to Carat and ClearChannel for making the session happen!

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From Barbells to Bananas

A while back, I attended a seminar with a great array of speakers on strategy and marketing (Mark Ritson, JP Hanson, Wiemer Snijders and Rory Sutherland). That experience resulted in a blog post that got a lot of appreciation. So, I went on and extended that blog post and structured it a bit more, resulting in a booklet summarising a few interesting ideas and models on marketing.

Below is an outline of the content, if you would like a copy of the full booklet drop me an email at (avaliable in English or Swedish)

FROM BANANAS TO BARBELLS – Six models to guide you in the modern marketing Jungle lists over 50 000 books on the topic of Marketing and Sales. The top 20 books average over 300 pages each. I would venture a guess that most of these millions of pages are bought but never read.

The booklet I put together is just 30 pages. It is an attempt to keep it simple: six easy models or ideas on marketing. Most of them are borrowed. All of them are simplified.

For each chapter, there are recommendations for further reading. There is a great amount of good reading out there. This is just a quick nibble to get your appetite going.

1. Starting at the right end


The first model is about doing your research and thinking before getting to work. Studying the map before rushing out into the world.

Sounds simplistic but is often forgotten when we get caught up in day to day operations. We need to be stringent first in analyzing the market as best we can, then formulating our strategy, and finally executing our tactic measures.

The outcome of your marketing efforts becomes the multiplication of the three phases, meaning it is better to do all three at an ok level, than excelling at two and failing at a third.

2. Weighing your efforts


In this section, we explore two important things to consider when allocating marketing budgets:

  • Loyalty is generally very weak, with most product buyers buying very rarely
  • Long term emotional branding advertising and short term sales driven advertising serve different purposes, imply different strategies, and have different KPIs.

The first model illustrates how frequently the buyers of your brand actually make a purchase. Here, research finds that across almost all categories, the majority of purchases are done by people who buy very rarely. The banana serves as as a model to illustrate the shape of the diagram: Almost all volume to the left (less frequent consumers) with a much smaller longtail to the right (frequent buyers).

The second model needs no introduction, it is perhaps the most famous one in marketing today. Binet & Fields model illustrates the duality between short-term and long-term marketing efforts. The key takeout is that if you focus on KPIs that measure short term marketing (sales, clicks, ROI) your efforts will steer towards that type of marketing. In this there is a clear risk of neglecting long term brand building.

3. Consistency, consistency, consistency

What you see here is not a model per se, but it is a good illustration of the third idea in this lineup, consistency. None of the icons above include a brand name but are all instantly recognizable to the majority of consumers. This is a super relevant aspect in a cluttered media message where consumers are bombarded with messages and generally try to avoid advertising. Consistency, to establish recognition in consumers minds, is usually more important than adapting to short lived trends or making sure your advertising feels new and fresh.

4. Looking at the full cost / reward

There are plenty of models describing the amount of reach (and correspondingly media investment) you need to drive consumers from brand awareness to actual purchase. They are known as funnels, just because reach needs to be the biggest at the awareness stage at the top, and then gets narrower as communication gets more tactical and targeted further down.


As these funnels are so universally accepted, it is a common mistake to assume that their ratios apply not only to media spend, but to all costs and efforts. But the cost of content creation, tech resources etc can show different patterns. It is therefore important to not just assume that some investments are cheap because the media investment is low, but too look at all costs and resources drawn by any initiative.

5. Who calls the shots

Ambiguity of mandate and decision making in the relationship between client and agencies is present in a lot of marketing work. This is because there is no set formula for decision making and mandate. At what stages of the process does the client, the creative agency, the media agency or the performance agency have to take responsibility – and get to call the shots?

There are a couple of potential pitfalls as a consequence of this: Lack of direction, Over-analysis or flat out Paralysis

6. Putting Innovation Into perspective

As marketers are dealing with the human mind, which is subject to confirmation bias, post-rationalization and a whole host of inconsistencies, it is a mistake to let 100% of efforts be data driven. Those who do may be solving the problems of today, but not hedging against the future.

There are different models related to this. One is the Barbell model. It states that 85% of your efforts should go to low risk, low reward safe bets. 15% should be aimed at high risk high potential reward. The most important bit: Nothing in the middle. Keep your bread and butter work and your experimental efforts well separated, there should be no grey area,



A disclaimer: This is a list of six interesting ideas around marketing. It is not the list of marketing ideas. There are many others, and of course a huge amount of detail and data underpinning them. But I hope this list may be thought provoking, and get some thinking going around structure and prioritisation in the marketing process.

A very interesting and relevant thing about these models: They are not brand new, not secret or complicated. Yet, they seem very difficult to follow. This is actually a shortcut to success: If you are able to make sure you really follow at least three of the ideas listed here, you are probably doing a better job than the majority of the marketers in your industry.


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Marketing in four simple (?) steps

The other day I had the pleasure of listening to a line up of international marketing gurus. Mark Ritson, Wiemer Snijders, Rory Sutherland, and JP Hanson had all come to Stockholm for a marketing event (SprintAd-dagen). While none of the stuff was perhaps new or revolutionary, it served as an important (and entertaining) reminder of the principles and frameworks that apply to marketing. As all of the ideas are adjacent and inter-linked, below are my take outs area by area rather than speaker by speaker. So below, I give you the foolproof guide to marketing in four simple steps:

1    Start at the right end

Sounds simplistic and basic but is something often forgotten when we get caught up in day to day operations. We need to be stringent in first analysing the market as best we can, then formulating our strategy, and last executing our tactic measures.

The diagnosis phase is to establish all we know about consumers, competitors and trends. It may also have the benefit of reminding you that nobody cares about your brand.

The strategy phase includes goals, KPI:s, prioritised segments etc.

The tactics phase is where we use the classical tools of marketing (Product, Price, Distribution and Comms).

This area was touched upon by JP Hanson and Mark Ritson. JP added that we are all subject to confirmation bias and halo effects. That means we are prone to post rationalising decisions and making isolated observations into rules of thumb when it suits our purposes. He also reminded us that a lot of new trends appearing are potential tools in the tactics phase, rather than something that should affect strategy.

Mark Ritson added a few really interesting remarks;

  • As the results of your market becomes the multiplication of the three phases, it is better to do all three at an ok level, than to excel at two and fail at a third. Distribute your efforts accordingly
  • Comms is one third of one of the three phases. CMO:s should allocate efforts accordingly (dialling back a less than healthy over- focus on this area).


2     Base your prioritisation of segments and goals on science


Under this headline, there are a lot of different studies and models basically pointing to two factors:

  • Loyalty is very weak, with most product buyers buying very rarely
  • Long term emotional branding advertising and short term sales driven advertising serve different purposes, imply different strategies, and have different KPI:s.

The first point was addressed by Wiemer Snijders, who used the banana as a model to illustrate the data. The banana effect in essence mean since a lot of people by your product rarely, you must be broad in your communication. He also talked about how brands have a meaning that to some extent is only useful if it is universally known. Imagine if Rolex only communicated their values to a niche group of frequent buyers. The whole status effect of a Rolex would vanish, as no one in the general public would understand the value of what was on your wrist.


Regarding the long term versus short term, there seems to be a unanimous vote in the community that the work of Binet & Field is the strategy model to follow. Even Mark Ritson grudgingly concluded that Binet & Fields work was probably the best combination of his own ideas on segmentation and Byron Sharps thinking of mental avaliability.

Also, Mark stated a strategy should be no more than one page, and include no more than 2-3 KPIs/goals


3    Be consistent

Daring to be consistent across channels, markets and time was an important take-away.  Advertising and marketing people are only human, and it is natural after working in a brand for a couple of years to get a bit bored with the brand appearance. But, as argued not least by Byron Sharp, distinctive and recognisable brand assets are key to being noticed in a cluttered communications landscape.

Mark Ritson added a few interesting notes from his many years as a consultant to major brands. He mentioned brand “codes”, elements that should be present in all advertising. He went so far as to instruct advertisers to refuse to pay agencies unless they included at least 2 of the brand codes.

He exemplified with Kenzo, where ads always had to include red elements, the signature poppy flower, and the brands ambassador/model against a Paris backdrop. Easily recognisable as Kenzo even if the brand name is removed from the ad, right?

4    Allow for a bit of crazy experiments


The final piece I took away was around experimentation. As we as advertisers are dealing with the human mind, which is subject to confirmation bias, post-rationalisation and a whole host of inconsistencies, we must never let 100% of our efforts be data driven. If we do, we will be solving the problems of today, but not hedging against the future.

There are different models related to this, One is the 70/20/10 model (70% of marketing towards optimising bread & butter, 20% towards testing new things, and 10% totally experimental). Another model is the dumbbell model as presented by Rory Sutherland: 80% safe, 20 % crazy, and nothing in the middle. They key element to these models is not getting them mixed up. The purpose, ideation process and KPI:s should be completely different for the two different efforts.

Rory also questioned why creative peoples’ ideas are always audited by structured people, but structured peoples’ ideas are never audited by creatives.

All in all, the collected insights of these speakers gives a comprehensive roadmap on how to address marketing. If you are in marketing, you really should read up on these models and se how they may apply to your business. Or as Wiemer Snijders puts it: Eat your greens!





P.S. Speaking were also Dr Emma Frans and Kapero consulting. As they were not on the topic of marketing theory I have left them out of this.

P.P.S. Only one woman speaker?

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Polisen arbetar med Influencers

Polisen har använd Influencer Marketing som reklamkanal. Detta leder till extremt upprörda röster i vissa led, kanske främst mer traditionella röster som tycker om polisens traditionella roll (lag & ordning) och har en negativ bild av influencers (dagdrivare).

Det man missar är att Influencers är ett val av kanal och reklamuttryck som alla andra. Det handlar om att väga kostnad mot kanalens egenskaper (format, räckvidd målgrupp) för att se om de passar reklaminsatsens syften. Det innebär att samma kanal han vara helt rätt för ett syfte och helt fel för ett annat.

I detta fall har polisen använt influencers för en liten (350 000 SEK) budget med ett uttalat syfte att nå unga och att driva rekrytering till polisyrket. Utifrån den bakgrunden är antagligen influencers ett rimligt och motiverat val.

De passar för syftet

Kommunikations- och reklamteori pratar om 2 syften med marknadsföring. Det första är att  skapa en bild av varumärket som på lång sikt för oss positivt inställda till det (Emotionell kommunikation, preferens, mental avaliability etc). Det andra är att kapitalisera på denna emotionella relation genom att taktiskt skapa konvertering (Taktisk kommunikation, konverteringsdrivande etc).

Influencers är antagligen en ganska svag kanal för att långsiktigt bugga den breda allmänhetens bild av varumärket Polisen. Hade man velat göra det hade man behövt arbeta på ett helt annat sätt (välja ett par relevanta influencers som ambassadörer, kontraktera dem över lång tid, skapa emotionellt driven stark reklam, distribuera denna på ett konsekvent sätt över många olika kanaler över tid).

Men nu skall denna kampanj skapa anmälningar till Polishögskolan .Den skall inte bygga varumärke,. Och ur det syftet gör den sitt jobb. Den skapar kostnadseffektivt uppmärksamhet, och leder direkt vidare till Call To Action (”ansök via länk i bio”)

De har bra räckvidd i målgruppen

Vill man nå målgruppen 18-30 är Influencers inget dumt val. Antagligen avsevärt mindre spill än att ta ut en print-annons i DN:s jobb-bilaga. Det, i kombination med att det är relativt kostnadseffektivt per kontakt, gör att de som skriker sig hesa om ”slöseri” nog tyvärr är ganska fel ute.

Andra relevanta kanaler är antagligen uttömda

Många verkar hoppa direkt till slutsatsen att detta är det enda Polisen gör kring marknadsföring. Antagligen är detta en mycket liten pusselbit i deras kommunikationspussel. De har rimligtvis redan täckt/maxat arbete kring SEM/SEO, PR, annan digital annonsering etc. Likt Försvarsmakten insåg för några år sedan: har man aggressiva rekryteringsmål kommer man ganska snart slå i taket för vad man kan göra i de förväntade, vanliga kanalerna. Då måste man börja addera mindre väntade val.


Sammanfattningsvis kan valet se konstigt och slösaktigt ut för det otränade ögat. Men gräver man mer i syfte och helhet är det nog inget dumt val alls.

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Den här personen existerar inte


En person som inte existerar

Att digital utveckling i allmänhet,  och AI i synnerhet, går framåt med rasande takt är nog inte nytt för alla. Det som kanske saknas är tydliga, påtagliga exempel på användandet av denna nya datorkraft. Inom reklam- och mediebranchen har det kanske främst talats om robotjournalistik inom sportens värld, AI-optimering av digitala medieköp, och hjälp att skriva tråkig content-copy via Adobe Sensei. Inget som gör att man ramlar av stolen direkt.

Men ibland dyker det upp exempel som får vår begränsade kognition att förstå hur stort detta är. Senaste exemplet är en AI-funktionalitet som sätter ihop mänskliga drag till realistiska foton på personer som inte existerar. Det är alltså inte kombinationer av 2 ansikten som finns, det är helt nya ansikten från grunden. På kan man klicka refresh hur många gånger man vill och få fram nya ansikten.

När jag ser de här ansiktena, och inser de möjligheter som skapas, blir jag både imponerad och orolig. Möjligheterna är såklart fantastiska, plötsligt har du oändligt med ansikten som kan användas utan att behöva oroa dig för rättigheter, löner eller fysiska begränsningar. Men samtidigt dyker såklart risker upp, exempelvis kopplat till bedrägerier och falsk marknadsföring.

Den största oron i min mening är inte det från onda makter. Visst är ny teknik ett potentiellt vapen, men det ser jag inte som den största risken. Den störta risken är att de nya möjligheterna används av människo som är inkompetenta, lata eller vårdslösa.

Titta på exemplet med styrning av kommunikation i digitala kanaler. Möjligheter att styra frekvens, budskap, tonalitet eller tid i annonseringen för att maximera effekt och minimera irritation. Många använder möjligheterna, men många bombar också sänder oss med retargeting-banners så fort vi ens närmat oss en e-handelssida. Tar man den skillnaden, mellan de möjligheter som finns, och det trubbiga utförandet som är verklighet, och skapar upp det till en digitaliserad och AI-driven framtid.. Då kan det finnas anledning till oro.