The Creative Process & (The) Brand Positioning Statement

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This piece is in part, in the spirit of patriotism as we collectively celebrate corporate Nigeria. Secondly, the comments made in reference to case-studies as may be drawn up here, are direct consequences of our professional responsibilities and commitment to adding to capacity enhancement among practitioners in marketing communication, in our little way.

As a rule, marketing communication as an arm of brand management rests on a process, underlined by creativity; an encapsulation of a gamut of activities for which certain principles are required, to achieve anticipated results. We at MC&A DIGEST have continuously made the case for application of certain rules in the practice of marketing communication severally, because the cause-effect equation is constant. Not minding the extent of innovation and technology, the grand rules cannot be altered or compromised, if we are determined to achieve set goals and objectives in marketing communication.

The major component parts of any effective brand communication are the brand personality (+character) and promise (+value essence). That explains the definition of a brand that says ‘…a name and a promise’. A brand relates with its identified target audience by identifying itself and making a promise. By the way, that is the striking point of departure between the journalistic communication (news reporting), and marketing communication, though they commonly administer the 5Ws & H. Marketing communication requires the scientific analysis of the ‘fact sheets’ to develop its communication product in order to achieve persuasion from among its target audience, based on competitive advantages. Now, the challenge here is in articulating and working up those competitive advantages among one and the other, such that the differentiation derived from the process makes sense to the target audience, enough to establish relationship between the brand and its target audience.

To achieve the above, practitioners go a systematic creative process that starts with investigating the brand, following from the client’s brief. Then on, the creative process runs through from interpreting the client’s brief, working out the creative brief forms: gathering and processing competitive information; analysing and interpreting relevant market insight peculiar and relevant to the brand in question;  identifying the brand’s promise (and its likelihood of delivering on the promise);  articulating and profiling the brand’s target audience; shaping up its desired image and perception, and finally deriving the POSITIONING STATEMENT.

Brand POSITIONING STATEMENT is a careful distillation of a given brand’s personality; a statement that leaves the brand in the mind of its target audience, in representation of its peculiarities, character, value-essence and promise.

A Brand positioning statement encapsulates the creative steering wheel known as either the Unique Selling Point or the Single-Minded Proposition (depending on prevailing orientation). Whereas the SMP/USP instructs the internal creative team for the progression of the creative process, the Brand Positioning Statement guides the external manifestation of the brand, in its process of interaction at the market place. It gives expression to the USP/SMP. In essence, the entire creative process leading on to the final creative products for any given brand communication, is shaped by the brand’s positioning statement. Some experts say it is a one-statement representative, a brand’s DNA.

Developing a brand’s positioning statement can be as complex as it could get, it all depends on the extent of creativity employed in the process and the nature of task at hand. Bottom-line, a BPA is a vital component in the creative process that helps the distillation, building up to an effective brand communication. A case in point is the creative process leading up the theme product campaign. The team I work with developed for a book written by Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) titled ‘Behind The Wall’; a detailed compilation of the atrocities committed in the prisons against inmates. From the perspective of human rights advocacy, the then president of Civil Liberty Organization (CLO), took time to write the book on human rights violation in prisons (behind the wall), in an attempt to check the practice. The task was to ‘sell’ the book for its essence – to campaign against violation of the rights of prisoners.

MC&A advertising’s creative team, way back then, summed up the book/brand as the reference point for those who care about human rights (as the BPA), and derived the Single Minded Proposition (SMP), which was “the must-read for the freedom-conscious.’ With these two important creative properties, the creative team properly identified the target readership, determined the campaign’s tone-of-voice, selected the words, and agreed to the appropriate art direction and creative treatment, to effectively talk for the brand (a book). Usually, the creative end-product is marked in simplicity, but behind it is a stormy session of investigative strategic engagement that waltz through a horde of brand properties, brand essence, its promise, for destination: EFFECTIVE BRAND COMMUNICATION.

The process is tortuous and engaging, not many will take the pains of going all the way, especially non-professional service providers who form majority of industry players today.  The discipline is constant in testing established theories, demonstration of professional requirements, tasking of values, and practice experience. The benchmark against which final creative products are tested are also laid down by same process. Clients need to hold marketing communication service providers responsible for the promises they make. Its high time practitioners took responsibility for the effectiveness or otherwise of the services and products they provide to clients.

As a rule, any creative product intended for brand or marketing communication borne out of whatever system devoid of the standard professional process as above is likely to fail to deliver on its promise. When such happens, colossal waste of investment in resources and time become consequent. Emzor brand of paracetamol-sponsored TV commercial that ran in the CNN channel at about 11.50am on September 29, 2016, came across as a product of a compromised professional creative process. From the choice of models, scripting, creative treatment and production quality, it all suggests a compromise in quality of strategic and creative involvement. The flurry of reaction to our tweet in condemnation of the creative quality of that commercial was confirmatory of our position. At best, the said commercial left a few in doubt about the depth of professional input into its making. Definitely, it lacked the fundamental details. The models were costumed in traditional apparels, perhaps to serve the purpose of saying it is for every Nigerian (no matter the geo-political zone of origin???). The political undertone is the only immediate deduction one could make from that creative statement. Evidently because the casting process was not informed by a scientific positioning statement, the model’s delivery (a sing-along jingle-led commercial) was at best, a muffling. Consequently, all one could pick out from the supposed message was an awful pronouncement of EMZOR PARACETAMOL…the models wan’ kill ‘madu’!

The other worry is the place of APCON (not NAFDAC) in creative quality control. Whereas we know that APCON may not expressly have the authority of casting down creative products on account of quality, our suggestion is it begins to partner with AAAN to effectively carry out the gate-keeper role in same way NBC would concern itself with the quality of broadcast materials on air. We should protect the dignity of our profession by paying a little more attention, at least in advisory capacity.  The way the campaign in question ended that day, was as if CNN was in a hurry to go through it, and disassociate itself from it. The thing rush-pass fast, fast.

We can do better as an industry of professionals and a nation.

By Bernard Ohakumen

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