Can the Brand Arc, via ZOO and Google, help marketers better understand how to tell their story?

ZOO is an “agency for agencies,” or, said another way — it’s a custom solution for those trying to market/advertise across Google and YouTube. It’s run (essentially) by this guy Eric Solomon, who got a PhD in psychology (a good field to do advanced work in if you want to understand marketing) and then wrote about food for a newspaper in Boston. (Ah, love the non-linear career!) As part of his work at ZOO/Google, the teams over there have developed a thing called a “Brand Arc,” shown here:


There’s a lot more information in this post on Wharton (UPenn’s) website, but realize all these things before we analyze this:

1. Inherently, the Brand Arc is an oversimplification of how marketing works.

2. It’s a dynamic system in that a brand can be at the bottom of the arc among one group of consumers/clients and near the top of the arc with another.

3. Each step on the Arc is essentially an exponential jump for the organization/brand.

Here’s the essential takeaway, via Solomon:

We believe that all brands, no matter how well known, have the opportunity to build emotional connections that allow them to move up the Arc. To do that, marketers need to be starkly honest with themselves about what their brand stands for now, what role their brand can play for users and how committed they are to delivering moments that truly connect with people. Ultimately, brands need to ask: What content I can provide to entertaineducate or provide a utility for my users?

Concur. Saw a little bit of the same focus with the TED “Ads Worth Spreading” list, and what I think is tough in the marketing space is ultimately two-fold:

1. Marketing has been around, as a concept, for a while. With that comes a lot of assumptions and best practices on how things should be done. That’s excellent on face, but the issue is that in the past decade, the model has been disrupted by the emergence of social media, SEO, SEM, and more. At the same time, you’ve seen a greater focus in business on quarterly results and now now now, and when you combine those two things, you often don’t see people thinking as strategically as they could be — rather, you see, “We need a Facebook profile!,” with the rationale of “There’s a billion people on there!” Indeed, there are — and for the most part, they’re engaged. That doesn’t mean everything you post will be seen by a billion people; most things might be seen by a small-triple-digit number of people. There’s sometimes a headlong rush into the wrong spaces/areas because of pressure and concern — and because the way things have always been done isn’t necessarily the exact way anymore.

2. Sometimes people (organizations/brands) just share things because they’ve produced them, with no real thought as to the value they bring to a potential customer/consumer/someone finding it/whomever. Here’s a micro example: this blog. I write stuff on here sometimes that has no value, for sure; but mostly, I try to write things that 100 or more people somewhere in the world might come across via social or SEO or whatever it is and say, “Hey, that’s kind of helpful.” This is where I like the Brand Arc. There are a ton of flaws with the actual names of the steps, the size of the gaps, the progression, etc, etc. — but if it encourages people to tell relevant stories about their brands/groups and provide content that moves a conversation forward (in an effort to reach that next part of the Arc), that’s great. If you want your brand to be successful, ultimately your marketing needs to be (a) short and to-the-point and (b) telling a story that customers will understand the value of. At a certain point after that, it might all be junk science anyway.

Or, phrased from a smarter person (Solomon):

This isn’t about asking a new question, but rather posing it with an understanding of our modern context. There is no such thing as digital when everything is digital. The line between brands and people is blurry. Brands are always on and ubiquitous, spurring the need for relevant, contextual, compelling content to break through the noise and be heard. The Brand Arc certainly does not solve for what a brand needs to do to develop the right content or marketing strategy. However, we believe the Arc can be used to identify how great the opportunity is for a brand to build meaningful relationships with its customers. Perhaps more importantly, the Arc introduces a simple construct in which to frame these difficult, important conversations.



Ted Bauer

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