Advertising should work and be seen to work. And the longer it works, the better. This speaks to the need for strategy or at least an optimal blend of strategy and tactics. While individual executions need to be refreshed, what the brand stands for needs to stand the test of time. Here are some insights that have guided us through the years:

What are we actually selling ?: Here we focus, not on product/service attributes but on the benefits that flow from those attributes. As the analogy goes, don’t sell the drill but the hole that the drill is designed to make in the wall. In other words, we need to acknowledge that the consumer has always had the power. The digital age has just made this point more obvious, providing tools for the consumer to exercise that power;

Not ‘what’ but ‘where’ is the brand essence? : While it is necessary for us to rigorously define the brand, we need to be aware that it’s real meaning is at the scene of consumption, at a point where the consumer interacts with it;

Turn the brand/service into a potent sign: Your product/service does not ‘mean’ by itself. In and of itself, it stands for nothing in particular. We need to make it stand for something. The ultimate goal should be to turn into an icon. In other words, we need to turn it into a sign that will nudge or, better still, urge the consumer to think and act in a particular manner;

Find a unique language and the right tone: A great part of the language is necessarily visual. The only way to stand out from among the clutter is by speaking clearly and uniquely. It is here that the science of marketing intersects with the art of advertising and this process should be managed carefully and patiently; and

Be consistent: Obvious as this might sound, it takes a lot of effort to ignore the temptation to experiment and go with the flow. Whatever tweaks need to be done must be done cautiously and over time.