The Brand Brothers #07 – The 3 W’s Part 1: What Every Brand Must Tell You

Bill: Brother Lorenzo

Lorenzo: Brother Bill

Bill: Hey welcome to another session of the brand brothers, and why are we here Lorenzo?

Lorenzo: We’re here because we’re on a mission from god.

Bill: We’re on a  mission from god to fight the evils of fake branding to make branding great again

Lorenzo: I feel everyday the evil forces are spreading faster.

Bill: And why are we doing it? Why? Because we want America to be the greatest entrepreneurial country in the world we want america to lead. This is america’s birthright we invented great branding we invented the great brands

Lorenzo: But also when our branding family does it right they sell more things, they hire more people they create more jobs, they provide for their family better. That’s why we’re doing god’s work.

Bill: Well, it is, and the thing is that the hardest thing to do in communication is to have a wonderful idea in your head, a wonderful idea. Let’s say you have a business, you know that the people out there have a  problem and you know they need your product cause you believe in your heart and soul it’s the best solution for those people and you know they need it. The most frustrating thing is how to make yourself famous. How to get them to know that. The hardest thing is to get that from my head into your head. And that’s what branding does. Branding is like the bridge from the excitement and enthusiasm and the feelings that you have in your head about an idea or product and to get it into other people’s heads in the most unique and memorable possible way.

Lorenzo: And so today we’re going to take our branding family on another lesson. And so in our first season

Lorenzo: These are all intro concepts.

Bill: And we want people to know this. We go along here. We’re not just like these branding gurus that sell you a book and it says branding is good.

Lorenzo: Wasn’t there a branding guru who said no one can explain it?

Bill: No one can explain this It’s about brand charisma ,brand personality brand logistics brand …

Lorenzo: No one can do it, don’t even try it.

Bill: Brand karma.

Lorenzo: It’s like mystic, it’s the black magics

Bill: You need branding gurus and geniuses to translate it for you, don’t even try you’ll hurt yourself, cuz you need to hire me because branding is such a rarified thing. It is brain surgery. You know actually that’s another thing. Froelick, the great Froelick, the guy who found the aurora borealis of assholery, great brand titan. The guy invented palm oil liquid.

Lorenzo: May he rest in peace. Is he dead?

Bill: No he’s still around.

Lorenzo: Froelick, we salute you.

Bill: Froelick used to laugh and say “but gentlemen it’s not brain surgery.” Froelick also said when he was confronted by all these brand gurus and titans and technologists and everything. He was given an award at the OTC that was the great pharma convention for the big pharma companies. And somebody came up to him “Mr. Froelick sir. You’ve just won all the great awards in pharmaceutical advertising. Can you tell us what your philosophy on advertising is.” Froelick says, “Yeah, people have a headache. They want it to go away.”

Lorenzo: Here’s a microscript. Keep it simple stupid.

Bill: Yeah he wouldn’t have said that but it’s true. But yeah, its true. Keep it simple stupid. Kiss. And see that’s a whole other thing because see simplicity as we go forward in the world, and you’ll see our whole philosophy and talking about microscripts and how the brain works. The simple message always wins. Always. And everybody says keep it simple, and then they all nod their heads and then they go out and make it complicated. Because believe it or not making it simple is kinda hard. I mean mark twain said “I just wrote you this long letter. I would have written you a shorter one but i didn’t have enough time.” It’s hard to compress things into a sentence. One of the things I think as we go forward it’s going to be survival of the simplest. That’s the way the brain works. That’s the way the brain loves it. It’s just not always that easy to make it simple. And then that’s kind of the overarching theme of what we do is how to make it really simple.

Lorenzo: So in our quest for simplification today’s episode is called the three Ws,

Bill: The three W’s, i love it.

Lorenzo: So what are the three W’s, and then we’re doing to break them down 1 by 1.

Bill: So the three W’s basically its three questions. We’re really gonna as the seasons go forward, we’re gonna really get into how you do this

Lorenzo: Every one of these principles you could do hours on.

Bill: But we’re not just talking about branding is nice. No, we’re really gonna show you how to do this as we go forward. We’re gonna show you the hard earned lessons that we’ve learned by you know blood and fire after literally three decades of doing this.

Lorenzo: And the gurus are gonna be afraid. They’re afraid because we’re gonna pull the curtain back

Bill: On fake branding, that’s right.

Lorenzo: You’re gonna see the wizard behind the curtain. Do not look at that man!

Bill: You’re right. The point is that we’re gonna go over things like category theory. All the stuff that we do that we learned the four or five steps that you get to so that you can build that brand whether you’re a candy shop or you’re just a huge corporation. All of these things. But one of the things we were just talking about a minute ago, is the way that you get to it though is the questions that you ask are actually more important or just as important, maybe more important than what you know at this point. It all comes from questions that you ask. We’ve learned to ask these revealing questions that open up, that reveal the truth of branding. When we’re sitting in meetings at Ted Bates and they’d say, “What do you do that nobody else does?” “Well we’re Rackspace, and we’re trying to figure out this thing: what does the world need us to do that only we can do?” Another great question, these are centering questions, we say okay there’s lots of competition but okay we do a lot of things that everybody does, but what are our onlys.

Lorenzo: What are you gonna be famous for.

Bill: Yeah that was one that we started talking about just a few years ago, but it’s incredible cuz you really can only be famous for one thing

Lorenzo: And it’s something very specific.

Bill: It’s always specific. What are you gonna be, what do you want to be famous for? Cuz we’d talk to CEOs and we’re talking about the vision for their companies. When the vision becomes crystal clear, that vision becomes their brand. And all a brand is is taking that vision and articulating it and making it consistent and making products out of it. So these are the questions. One of the great little litanies, the three questions that we ask that we learned are critical is that every brand message that you have, when you have this brand and you’re messaging it, there’s three W’s and these things get you back to the heart of the matter. The three W’s: the first one is “what is it”. People have to know before they make a brand decision they say what is it. They have a need. They have a need for a hardware store, or a need for food, or a need for food, or a need for a restaurant, or a walk in clinic.

Lorenzo: Or my favorite one. I have a  headache, and i want it to go away.

Bill: Exactly. So they’re looking for a category. What is it? You have to tell people. And it’s amazing how many websites you go to and you cant even tell what is it? That’s the first thing. And like taglines, you’ll have taglines and a meaningless name like hooly booly and it’ll say something like “fun is everywhere” and you’ll have no idea. People have to know what is it. And for most people just do that, describe that and you’re 90% there. So the first W is “what is it?”. The next thing is “why do i need it?” And what is that going to do for me.

Lorenzo: What’s the benefit?

Bill: Right. And what i need it to do is make my life better. And this is something that the great advertising titans, there were like 8 human needs basically, and these by the way, i don’t care whether we’re in the stone age or you’re in the technology age, or you’re in the internet age, they cannot change until we stop being human and we’re cyborgs. So what is it that we know about people? The 8 human needs talk about. Everybody wants to be smarter. Everybody wants to be sexier. Everybody wants to be more popular. Everybody wants to be safer. Everybody wants to be richer. There are a few other ones. These are the things you just know everybody wants. Everybody wants to be healthier.

Lorenzo: Bet on those things always.

Bill: Bet on those things everybody. So you’re saying how are you gonna make my life better. When you make a promise, a brand promise you’re saying I’m going to make your life better by doing one of these things. Now again, it doesn’t matter whether you’re selling technology or selling toothpaste it’s the same thing. And then its what is it, why do i need it, and the last one is why do i buy it from you. Now the interesting thing is when you have your dominant selling idea, and now you’re trying to articulate it doing the brand messaging. When people hear your message they should walk away knowing the three W’s. If they don’t know what it is, they don’t know why they need it, you know “softens hands while you do dishes” seriously? And if they don’t know why they should buy it from you. And why they should buy it from you could be you’re the only ones who make it. When you invent a product like when they first invented the iPod and they said “its 10000 songs in your pocket” right?

Lorenzo: Genius.

BIll: No one else made it so you had to buy it from them. When they had competition later on, then there were other reasons why I’d buy it from them. Why do I buy Sony and not Bose.

Lorenzo: So let’s start with what is it. So again these are the questions, these are the three W’s, so let’s dive into what is it. I think that really a lot of this goes back to don’t overthink it – what are you selling, right? Is it soap? Is it pain relief? Is it massage therapy? I think that it’s one of the things that people tend to over complicate. Because they want to start giving you all the benefits. They want to start spouting off all the things. Which is good but the first thing is what is it?

Bill: Right, right. And frankly, a lot of times that’s going to top, and we’re going to talk later about categories, because categories are so critical. But hardware just for museum instruments, then your category is we’re a museum it’s really just what business that you’re in. Now you might say i’m a hardware store. But if you’re a specialty hardware store, or you are a museum instrument, you sell museum instrument hardware store, because someone is looking for not just a hardware store, they need a museum instruments hardware store, I don’t even know what that is.

Lorenzo: We just made it up. We just created the category, for left handed people too.

Bill: But again, before anyone cares about your brand they have a problem, they have a need. I need pain taken away or i need an advantage, i want something. I want some entertainment. I need a vacation. You name it. I need new dentures for my teeth, its any of these things. So the critical thing is to flag, put the sign up and say “you want that, here’s where it is. I’m in that business. This is what i do.”

Lorenzo: At Geekdom when we first started, i didn’t know what co-working was until i went and saw a bunch of them and thought, you know, it’s the new YMCA. But to me, it was so important to say, oh we do co-working. Here. This is where you come. That’s the basic, the most fundamental unit of buying from me at the very beginning is we do co-working, we’re a co-working space. And our great cousin that came before us was the gym. We’re a gym. So don’t overthink it, to our branding family.

Bill: The next thing is, and i’ll say it again, it’s amazing when you look at these things, when you look at websites when you look at ads and you say i don’t know what they do.

Lorenzo: Yeah but we know they’re committed to excellence

Bill: Yeah, a passion for excellence, right. But then the” why do i need it?” is basically what does it do for me that others don’t do. And so you would say, this is the one that lets say is gonna take my headache away or its gonna create something but why do i need it. Now this is the interesting thing. You know where that comes from, that why, why do i need it?

Lorenzo: No, tell me.

Bill: So, there was a legend that Steve Jobs actually created his computer in his garage and that’s actually famous. Every famous technology had a garage, they just had a garage, it’s unbelievable. I don’t know where that came from but they all gotta have a  garage. But Steve Jobs really had a garage, it was in like PaloA. The guy that actually drove up to Steve Jobs’s garage, he drove up in a Mercedes limo, got out wearing his suit, walked up, and saw it and wrote Steve Jobs his first big check. That was a guy named Don Valentine. And Don Valentine was a legendary guy, he was the sales manager at national semiconductor, which was one of the biggest electronics companies. This is a real balls to the wall major league sales guy. He then went into venture capital and he started Sequoia which is one of the biggest venture capital firms in the world. And don is a legendary figure out there in silicon valley. Now my dad knew Don Valentine.

Lorenzo: Oh come on, Lenny did?

Bill: Yeah, he did. And Don Valentine actually loved my mother, my mother was smart and funny. So when don valentine was in Boston, this is before they got big, Don Valentine came over just to have dinner at our house.

Lorenzo: You’d just call him uncle Don, hey what’s up?

Bill: Uncle Don, yeah really. Don Valentine. But my father worshiped this guy, and my father was a great entrepreneur, but he worshiped Don because Don Valentine was larger than life. Don Valentine was confident about everything, and my father was insecure about everything. He was like the man’s man. You know, scratched golfer, everything Don Valentine was. Big man’s man. My father was a little scared jew from the ghetto, who no one ever gave a job. So listen this is what happened. So my father somehow was in California, and he was sitting in when some investors came in to pitch Don Valentine. And my father was sitting there and the guys came in and then they had charts and graphs, and I don’t think you had power point then, but every single thing and all kinds of analytical reasons why this product was gonna be the best thing in the world and was gonna kill all these markets.

Lorenzo: Blah blah blah, market shares.

Bill: And the market shares, and every single chart and graph and scientific analysis, and they finished it after about an hour, and they said, “so, what do you think?”, and Don Valentine just said, “But why do i need it?” Man oh man, he used to tell me that story all the time. See how simple these questions are? What do you do for me? What do you do for me that makes my life better? Buy this product, get this benefit. That’s how it works. It’s really that simple.

Lorenzo: Well, I think that the nemesis of “why do I need it” is the category of companies that are solutions looking for a problem.

Bill: Right, you see a lot of app people who come out and say “Oh I’ve found a way that you can tie your shoes on your phone!” I mean come on!

Lorenzo: It’s like a backpack, but its a social media network for backpacks. Kind of like the Uber for backpacks. But why do i need it? I once told an entrepreneur you need to be alleviating someone’s pain. The bigger the pain the bigger the opportunity. And the entrepreneur next to him had a solution looking for a problem and he said, “Well you don’t always need a problem.”, and at the time i didn’t have my brass knuckles on me, but if i had them i would have punched him in the throat. There needs to be pain. Why do i need it? Because the more pain the more emotion i have the more i need to buy it. Right? So what does it do.

Bill: And then the final one is why do i buy it from you. What makes you special? Now, when you’re the only one, when you’ve invented something, when the wright brothers invented their airplane, and you know they said, “why do i buy it from you?”, well nobody else makes these!

Lorenzo: Or Henry Ford.

Bill: Any of them, exactly. But when there’s competition, then there has to be a reason why I buy it from you. And that’s because I have a magic ingredient no one else has, or I do it faster, or I do it safer, or we have the biggest selection and we have more service, we’re the best customer service, which was Rackspace. What was it, it was managed hosting. Why do i need it?  Because you want to rent computing space but you don’t want to build a whole computing center. Why do i buy it from you? Because nobody else gives you fanatical support.

Lorenzo: I don’t like using too many technology examples but I feel like there’s one that really highlights the last W. There was a time where everybody was creating a new social network. And i remember google came out with their own, and I love google, but I realized that the last W “why do i buy it from you”, the reason Facebook dominated was because everybody was already there. And the whole world isn’t gonna move from Facebook to your new social media app. And so all of a sudden now, none of these companies can answer “yeah but why my social media network”. They’re all over there buddy! They could not give you a compelling reason to pick them over what had already happened.

Bill: But yet, different platforms were invented since Facebook. Like look at Instagram, and these things that have happened anyways.

Lorenzo: There’s a bunch of niches and there’s a bunch of subcategories

Bill: But they got successful, and that gets into another one of the principles that we can possibly talk about later. But you don’t always have to do this big hole in one revolutionary thing. You just have to do one thing really really really well. Because that’s how in the real world, people don’t win by hitting a grand slam. Sometimes they do. They don’t win the Olympics – have you watched the Olympics? The downhill ski? They don’t win by a minute. They win by a thousandth of a second. And when you win by such a small amount, but that guy that wins by a thousandth of a second, he’s not a thousand times better than the guy that was behind him by 1 ski-length. But he still gets all the money. All the glory. He gets the gold medal, he gets all the endorsements, he comes back and he’s on the Wheaties box.

Lorenzo: Well, it goes back to the previous episode where we talked about eharmony. Why do I buy it from you? Because i’m the one that’s gonna get you hitched baby.

Bill: Because eharmony, you can go to the other ones, they’re a lot of fun, but if you want to get married then you better talk to us because we’re the marriage one. That’s the positioning, that’s why I buy it from you, you’re the expert. This why i buy from you is very important. Here’s an example, a lot of times why i buy it from you when there’s competition- this is one of my favorites of all time- when we’re talking about this one. Halls mentho lyptus cough drops, a lot of people have heard of them. Froelick is the guy who actually came up with vapor action, because Froelick, someone gave him “we have this new account” at ted bates and they gave him this cough drop, and what it was was 98% sugar and 2% menthol. So it had as much vapor action as a menthol cigarette, it was the same thing! And Froelick used to call it “the medicine”. It was the candy, it was really candy with menthol, but he said, “We really must call this the medicine, because it’s the medicine” so someone gave this thing to Froelick and it smelled strong and he said “Oh man, it smells like vick’s ray vapor rub! I’m not gonna eat vicks vapor rub!”, but then that’s how we got to vapor action. You know, vapor action, that idea, was a magic thing that was “this is why i buy it from you”. So sometimes you differentiate on a difference like a category, sometimes you have a  different ingredient that no one else has, so what is it? It was an over the counter cough drop. Why do I need it? All the cough drops said the same thing “it soothes your throat and it clears your nose.” All the cough drops said that, some a little bit different, but it soothes your cough. But why do i buy it from you? Because only halls has vapor action.

Lorenzo: It sounds like its magical!

Bill: Here’s how magical it was. When we talk about putting people in motion. See the image sellers love to talk about this wonderful film and this great commercial you can remember. The differentiators, what excites them, nothing is sexier than sales. And what excites them is the fact that last year, this was the cough drop that no one had ever heard of. This year, one out of every times that somebody reaches over the counter for a cough medicine they choose a Halls. And that is an amazing thing. And the people that appreciate the creativity of that are the people that deserve to call themselves marketers and branders.

Lorenzo: This too can be yours! If you stay tuned to the brand brothers.

Bill: Exactamente.

Lorenzo We’re giving you all the ingredients!

Bill: We are! As a matter of fact, that’s it. We’re gonna have nothing to do after this. But here’s a little thing, we talk about the three W’s. There’s so many rules here. But the most important two words in branding are “only from”. So you heard this “what is it why do i need it why do i buy it from you”. Because only Hall’s has it, or because vapor action is only from Hall’s. So just remember that this is the single thing that you do that no one else does., you’re always looking for those onlys, remember. This is like sensory overload, because we have so many different rules and things and so many pearls of wisdom.

Lorenzo: I wish they were all contained in books that people could just go out and buy.

Bill: I’m just exploding with excitement about how wise we are!

Lorenzo: Our Wikipedia pages should really be a lot longer.

Bill: Yeah that Wikipedia page… We should have Wikipedia pages! Maybe we’ll have one! I know a lot of people that have them, and I say what the hell are you doing on Wikipedia for god’s sake. Well, maybe we’ll get one. I can see what ours would say. The brand brothers are an american branding duo of branding consultants that ended up in prison after it was discovered….

Lorenzo: That’s right, that’s right.

Bill: Wait, Lorenzo. I think we’re out of time for part one. What a cliffhanger! It means our brothers and sisters have to come back next week for part two of the episode. Well, see ya then!