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February 24, 2005



i fully agree with the post above, is much more important the how than the what

Derek Woolverton

The How is also a better way to come up with a company name. I made that mistake my first time out, naming my company for the what instead of the how: Video Bits. Ended up a bit awkward after I moved out of video services & computer graphics. Next company was much better, me and a partner formed: Twin Forces. Basically wide open for types of projects we could do.

Bruce DeBoer

Nothing about running and marketing a business is that simple. We can never hope to distill strategy into 3 paragraph posts.

My take on Jennifer's original thougt was as a simple reminder not to forget to consider how you do business when consider your positioning; good advice.

Apple is cool isn't it?

Alain Jourdier

Youve got to have damn good what and how to make a brand. I agree that cows don't build computers but I disagree that it's only the executive team's job for the branding. In an ideal world it's everyone's job to be a brand manager, but if marketing is going to do the job it has to have an operational focus because if the how doesn't work to build and enhance the brand, then it doesn't make any difference how stellar the marketing is...sure marketing talks with customers but when the promise is made to the marketplace they've got to know how the operational side is going to come through and to be part of the conversation on the steps to do it. Without understanding the how, you can't market the what. Branding shouldn't be just top down, it needs to engage everyone in the endeavor otherwise cows build computeres and pigs fly.

jennifer rice

Ah, I see where we got the Apple=innovation comment. Both are right. Apple's core value is innovation. But their "how" to customers is cool. the two ideas are intrinsically linked. Apple won't be able to retain its cool unless it continues to innovate. And its method of innovation is what makes it cool. This is probably the subject of another post...

jennifer rice

Um, I don't believe I said that Apple's "how" is innovation. It's all about cool.

Second: I work with a lot of tech companies and they'll get into the "how" of the tech specifics. Let's not go there! I'm talking about a singular "how" that's really important to customers. You can make software; great. But "how" you do it in a way that impacts my life, makes me a hero, gives me immediate gratification, etc etc. is the real important issue. Dell's "how" of customized and mail-order means that I get a computer the way I want. It resonates with the need for control. The "how" should always translate into a primary emotional benefit for the customer.

Mike: you're exactly right. Someone asked me yesterday to sum up brand strategy in a sentence. I replied, "do what you say you're going to do." Don't just put on a cow suit, or make promises that are really a lie (like Blockbuster's no late fees). The point of difference must be intrinsically built into your business.

Pepita, I don't disagree with you. But I wrote this post because too many people will only focus on the 'what.' Yes, it is a combination of what and how. The more multidimensional you make your brand, the more solid it becomes and the more opportunities you have for future growth.


I think it is a very interesting position to say that is the 'how' and not the 'what'. But to me that is too simple and reeks of 'brand myopia'.

I think it more holistich then that and that it is a combination of how, what and for who (or is it: for whom?). And it has to do with strategic fit. Read the excerpt of Porter's in HBR on Strategic Fit if you want to know what I mean:

If the brand really is an ecosystem then the what and the who also define the brand. There is no way around that I think.


Mike Bawden

It's not just "how" you do things, brands are built by making sure "how" you're doing things squares with what you've told your customers they can expect. Gateway, in fact, has provided me with a great case study in how to blow your brand equity by consistently falling short of expectations.

Check out my weblog entry: to see what I mean.


Mike Bawden
Brand Central Station

Howard Mann

I totally agree about owning "the How." The hardest part I find, after a business finally gets the power of owning a niche, is to get them to really understand and articulate the various steps of their "how." So many businesses have done by doing for so long that they have forgetten or can't easily explain all of the steps that their process has evolved into.

FedEx and Dell can tell you, in incredible detail, each step in their process. Then they can look at each detail to continuous make it better.... while their competition is busying trying to copy the old version.

Keeping a companies focus while non-niche revenue is still tempting them is the old catch 22.


Suspect move from Google? I don't think I've seen any, but maybe I'm not clear on what you're talking about.

Google, I think is doing a great job of the "own the 'how'" concept outlined here - theirs being quickly finding what you're interested in, whether web pages, desktop stuff, movies, word definitions, specific items in your email, etc. I think they are so brillant because of exactly the great point Jennifer outlines here. Very nice Jen!

David Foster

"Innovation is their core value" re Apple is, IMNSHO, too broad. I think their core value is design, incorporating both internal software design (ease of use) and packaging aesthetics.

Bruce DeBoer

This is what I love about our industry: strategy talk. I’m going to wimp out here and say both you and Laura Ries are right. OK … You’re more right than her but she beats you on the Porsche thing. In my opinion they are killing the brand with an SUV. Remember: “Porsche, there is no substitute.” Well, there is now: How about the BMW, Lexus, Infiniti, Land Rover, etc. SUV? Is your Mom going to take the grand kids on the race track in her new Porsche SUV? Is Dad going to race up the side of a mountain, beating Jeep to the summit? Mid-life crisis guy isn’t going to dream of a Porsche SUV as a chick magnet choice. Sorry – I got carried away. Please excuse my digression but its way off strategy.

I do love your point about the marketing trick; e.g. the cow boxes. Since marketing strategy is much more than the marcomms, (something many of us tend to forget) the brand positioning has to be a meaningful competitive advantage and there is no doubt that the meaningful advantage can be a method of doing business. In fact, I think the method can be nearly the whole business. Isn’t that true with Amazon? Isn’t it attempted by the airlines (granted most are miserable attempts)? When selling a commodity the HOW is all you have.

I also agree that a brand can be successfully extended using different branches. I think Apple is a great example. I’ve read many criticisms of their new entry level machines and speculation that the iPod will fragment their base. Innovation is their core value. Even their sister company, PIXAR, reflects the same values. The iPod is a great fit. As for the entry level machines, I view it as a healthy profit model to lure young users into the Apple ranks through cheaper but still innovative machines.

The company that I have my eye on now is Google. They are extending their brand like mad while, for the first time, have stock holders to satisfy. It’s a very tough transition and I have seen some suspect moves. Any thoughts?


I believe you are saying it is not education, it's not getting people to know more things - gain more awareness; it's not just changing brands through an advertising campaign - changing behavior or manipulating the media through PR...

In order to move past the engineered approach to marketing, to move to a new mantra, we must instill an integrated knowledge and desire. And desire is an emotion, an emotion that evokes a future life/place, one more satisfying, healthy, attractive and safe; one that uses your imagination and creativity...mooooo!

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