The “B” Word

Written on May 19, 2012

My bank and client, Oakworth Capital Bank, invited me to a day-long sales seminar conducted by Jack Daly. The invite was no surprise; we’d been enlisted to create the invitations and supporting collateral. At Cayenne, we’d never heard of Jack Daly, but we did our homework. I confess, based on what we learned about him, I was lukewarm about devoting a day to his workshop. Sales coaches and evangelists give me the heebie jeebies. But Oakworth was vouching for this guy. And I know Oakworth.

The seminar, Smart Selling, was an intriguing and exhausting, well orchestrated motivational romp conducted by an energetic, sales terrier, who punctuated his points with stories, a strategic sprinkling of invective, and emphatic  scribbling on an 3M easel pad. I got a lot out of it. No, seriously. Jack managed the workshop via a 48-page handout on which we all took copious notes. We actually started on page 39 – where we collected action steps we all were going to take. There was page 6 – a  diagram explaining the critical path to establishing relationships (a diagram repeated throughout the preso). There was page 9 – devoted to the five foundational laws for self-renewal, (a page Jack owns… you’d have to be there to understand). And then there was page 11.

At the top of page 11 it said, PERCEPTION OF VALUE IS KEY. Jack went on to explain by way of examples how perception of value could help you sell easier, command higher prices, weather recessions, and make obscene profits. I sat right there on the edge of my Sheraton ballroom chair. After all, we were talking my language. He started out with the example of Tiffany’s, flashing around a Tiffany-blue bag. He talked Apple and its packaging. He talked Starbucks and their re-engineering of the coffee-house experience. HE WAS TALKING BRAND. But get this: he never mentioned the “B” word once. Not once. I was baffled. Does Jack Daly not believe in brand? Didn’t he know he was talking about brand? After all, he described brand to a T. But he didn’t say brand,” dadgummmit!

Now, I have asked myself, “why didn’t Jack Daly say brand?” And there are a couple of answers that come to mind. One is that Jack Daly may feel like he can’t make the notion of brand proprietary, that he can better own the notion of perceived value. That would certainly fit Jack’s iconoclastic character – Jack’s brand. It may be the Jack Daly thinks branding and what agencies like Cayenne do is a bunch of nonsense. His materials, after all, weren’t remarkable; I suspect he hasn’t invested heavily in his own brand. Or just maybe Jack Daly is onto something we advertising folks should have picked up on long ago. Maybe the word brand is used up. Does brand mean anything anymore? Are Jack’s words, perceived value, more powerful? Have we in the business bandied and beaten about our favorite word so much that it has about as much juice left in it as words like quality, new and improved, and  one-day sale?

You tell me.

In the meantime, I’m going to work on helping folks perceive the value we bring to our clients.