Branding: Balancing the right and left brain

Yesterday I talked about creativity and branding, referencing the book Juicing the Orange (2006), by Fallon Worldwide cofounders Pat Fallon and Fred Senn. I made the point that you need to be creative before you brand, then repetitious afterward. Today I want to talk about creativity and branding again, but from a different angle: How you need to balance the creative and analytical sides of the brain in order to arrive at a truly good brand campaign.

There are numerous examples of research informing creativity in Juicing the Orange. Here are a few:

  • Citi: Fallon held focus groups (which yielded little) on the role of banks in consumers’ lives…then figured out that the focus groups should focus on the role of money in people’s lives. From there the agency discovered a group they call “balance seekers,” people who see money as “a means, and little more”. The research they conducted led to a whole campaign about the importance of living life without chasing the almighty dollar. The “live richly” brand campaign influenced many aspects of Citi’s business, eventually leading to Citi becoming a “global power brand.” “Credit card acquisition went up by 30 percent, home equity loan applications increased 14 percent, and small business card accounts rose 20 percent.”
  • Holiday Inn Express: Fallon spent time with the target market, entrepreneurial road warriors, videotaping them while they drove across the country. “We talked to them about their work, their families, and their daily experiences,” write Senn and Fallon. What they learned was that this kind of traveler wanted to travel smart—get the most for their money—and get respect for their hard work. “They were working hard and working smart,” they write, “and that was going to be their ticket to success.” They got an “emotional reward” for staying at a limited-service hotel, the reward of satisfaction for choosing wisely. This led directly to the “Stay Smart” campaign, which features people demonstrating feats of intellect and then proclaiming that they’re not experts, they just stayed at a Holiday Inn Express the other night. The campaign successfully differentiated the Holiday Inn Express brand from Holiday Inn itself. Result: the hotel’s revenues per available room are growing at 15 percent (vs. 9 percent for the category). And the hotel is even able to charge a small price premium, living “at the upper end of category pricing.”
  • Purina Dog Chow: Fallon’s account planners read research and tracking studies then actually spent time with dog owners, watching the interaction. From this they learned that dog owners either tend to feed their dog a steady diet of the same dog food or give them a variety of dog foods from the store. From there they launched an educational kind of ad which reminded dog owners that the best diet is a steady diet, and Purina Dog Chow is ideally suited to provide it. Result: “In the first two years of the campaign, sales grew 12% a year….(meaning) $35 million in additional revenue with no change in pricing or distribution.”

Can you dump the research and just be creative about developing your brand? Sure. But this strategy probably won’t work unless you are 1) unusually insightful to begin with about your target market or 2) visionary about what the market will want in the near future—i.e. you are providing something they didn’t know they wanted.

For the rest of us, good research—as much as you can get—is the key.