Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Today's Brand Strategy Requires More Lattice, Less Ladder Thinking

When media was mass, but predictable, and messaging was broad-based, not entirely personal, brand strategists could use the more structured way of developing a launch plan. One step at a time, each leading to the next, working to the top platform. The "ladder" approach.

Today, media is highly segmented, personal, and available in forms and channels only imaginable to screenwriters. And messaging almost has your name on it. Add event marketing, social media, mobile applications, tablets, community-based networking, internal communications, and customer delivery/satisfaction - to name a few - and today's brand strategist has to step off the ladder and begin thinking in the "lattice" approach. The comparison between the ladder and lattice was first explored by Deloitte as they examined the changing workplace, but certainly works in the context of brand development and implementation.

Organic, green, simultaneous, 3-dimensional, transformational, bottom-up, widespread, and containing several branches, brand strategy is more than integrated - it's interlaced and requires the appropriate structure to make it work.

What's common to both the "ladder" and "lattice" approach to brand development and implementation is "strategy." Regardless of how many outreach channels, messaging options, and networking opportunities you have to launch, there has to be a consistent platform to insure that the key differentiator, promise, and personality of your brand shines through. That's where strategy grows and comes to life. And while the translation of the strategy might vary by audience or channel, the core promise should remain the same.

How to "lattice think." Start with your key brand strategy; promise, differentiator(s), and personality. Once that's determined - and that's the tough part - the implementation begins - and that's the fun part.

Think about all the relevant and meaningful ways your brand can "reach out and touch someone." Explore all, from on-line communities to off-line communications. Map it out using "lattice think." Simply, draw it. If you write it out, you're thinking in "ladder" terms, one step at a time. Draw it out - of yourself and others - and illustrate how the brand platform can move into the marketplace, and your internal workplace.

So, how is "lattice think" different than integrated marketing communications? There are similarities, indeed. "Lattice think" evaluates many of the organic, growth (aka "viral") oriented ways in which the brand strategy can flourish. How messages are intertwined but consistently different. Media outlets are also intertwined and intersect at different points. The latter approach, not to be confused with "ladder think," of integrated marketing communications often features the same message delivered in multiple channels and disciplines. A fine line, yes, but so is the difference between doodling and drawing.

Today's branding environment supports "lattice think." Brands today are:

  • Organic - developed from the inside with promise and relevance to your customer groups, including internal stakeholders.
  • Spontaneous - the launch plan just takes off! Things happen that are planned, and not planned. You need a structure to support - not counter - the effects of unplanned activities (they are typically good). You've heard the expression, "a life of its own."
  • Simultaneous - Unlike "ladder think," brands today require an ongoing barrage of tactics and energy, not spoonful at a time consumption.
  • Outside the boundaries - what an opportunity today to think "what if!" If you can imagine an idea for communicating your brand promise, there's a pretty good chance you can find a way to make it happen.
New media, channels, social networking, traditional advertising, on-line applications, internet marketing, and all the integrated tactics such as public relations, community events, and customer relationship marketing requires more than integrated thinking. It demands interlaced thinking. And what better visual to have in mind than a lattice to make your brand strategy grow and blossom.