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The Platypus And The Iceberg

My wife and I are both in marketing, so our friends often share their new product, business, or marketing ideas with us. If asked, we provide them with feedback, tips and best practices. We encourage and support the entrepreneurial spirit whenever we can and it has been fun watching some of these ideas develop into profitable businesses.

One day our friend Erin invited us to dinner to discuss a big idea. We were intrigued. Erin worked for a large corporation and had never shown an interest in entrepreneurial endeavors.

We met at a local restaurant and exchanged updates on our families, but it was obvious that Erin was eager to dive in. I teed her up with, “So, we want to hear all about your big idea.” And, we were truly surprised with what came next.

“Platypus,” she said with a proud smile. She then went into a detailed description of the Platypus logo she had envisioned.

I loved her enthusiasm and was impressed with the logo tease, but I was dying to learn the product idea. So, once again I teed her up, “That is interesting, so what does this Platypus logo go on?”

“Anything,” she said.

“No, I get that a logo can go on anything… shirts, hats, your website, but what does the Platypus represent? What’s the product?” I asked.

“No, Platypus is the brand. It can go on anything,” she said.

Like many people, Erin misunderstood what goes into a brand. Yes, a logo, tagline and color palette are used to represent a brand, but the visual aspect of the brand is just the tip of the iceberg. And, as we remember from elementary school, over 90% of an iceberg is underwater. In essence, the part of the iceberg that is seen above water represents something much bigger… as does a brand logo.

Unlike an iceberg, we see and experience the rest of a brand: the product, the price and the customer experience (aka place of distribution). These are three of the four “P’s” of marketing that define your brand position. The fourth P is promotion, which is really communications. A smart brand only turns to communications when the other three P’s have been properly defined. In other words, communication activities only support your brand; they are not the essence of your brand.

So, if you see a platypus logo on a microwave oven, or lawn mower, or set of golf clubs, you’ll know that Erin’s tactic finally found a strategy. The platypus has landed!

Of course, the chances of that happening are about as good as seeing a real platypus laying an egg on an iceberg. It could happen, but I don’t like the odds.

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