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Part 3. Message Hierarchy Case Study: The Trojan Horse

Do you remember the film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail?[1] At one point on their quest, the intrepid knights, having unsuccessfully laid siege to a castle, had the cunning idea to build a giant wooden rabbit and leave it outside the gates for their enemy to then wheel in. The idea, taken from the famous story of the Battle of Troy[2], was that by hiding in its body until night, they could leap out and attack the fort from within. The joke was of course that the knights forgot to actually get into the rabbit and so their plan failed.

The real story of the Trojan Horse is a good illustration of how you can use a messaging hierarchy to compensate for a perceived weakness in an organization, to “hide” a flaw by focusing on a strength. You do this by emphasizing the strongest or most relevant aspect of the brand at the expense of the perceived weaker part of the brand story. (If you missed the first two blogs on messaging you can ding them here).

I used this strategy with great effect to a client who provides data storage to some of the world’s biggest brands. This particular brand was a pioneer of the sector and over the decades had built new data centers around the world to meet the seemingly never-ending demand for off-site computer power. For many years it was the leading light in the provision of secure off-site data storage.

But as time went on, new entrants came into the market and took over the mantle of leadership both in terms of innovation and market share. Although it had strong brand name recognition and a good global network, it had slipped from being known as an innovator to one best characterized as “solid but sleepy”.

However, with the near completion of its newest data center built on its London campus came a brand opportunity. By dint of this data center being the newest in the world it was also the most innovative and with that came the chance to start to reposition the brand as an innovator by imbuing the values of this new data center across the whole brand. We did in three steps.

1. Yoking the brand name to the innovative new data center

Firstly, the client had given the new data center a name and identity, and whilst it was very individual and communicated innovation, it did not include the name of the brand it belonged to and so did not help our cause. It was changed to include a reference to the main brand so that every time the data center was written about, so too was the brand.

2. Ensuring innovation featured in every campaign - regardless of the topic

We ensured that every marketing campaign either started or finished with messaging around the innovations of the new data center, regardless of the topic in hand. For example, we created a campaign that focused on global thought leadership, and we referenced the innovative data center as an example of how the brand was looking to the future and leading by example.

3. Making sure the medium delivering the messaging was also innovative

We offered “hard hat” tours of the data center as it was being built – allowing prospective customers the chance to meet with the architects and designers of the worlds’ most advanced data center. In actual fact, the innovation was experienced not through the fabric of the building site but through virtual reality tours that demonstrated the benefits of its innovations in a way that in itself was innovative. These hard hat and virtual reality tours were strongly promoted across all the sales and marketing materials. In fact, the virtual tours became a firm favorite with the sales team at events and presentations.

So, not quite a Trojan Horse, but a way of framing the brand story through a single lens of innovation. This led the business to start to shift the mantel of “solid but sleepy”, to become more innovative in how it delivered its services, and be able to compete more effectively with the newer global brands. It also delivered a 97 percent rise in leads to the sales team!

I regularly speak at conferences, business schools and facilitate workshops on the subject of brand strategy. I’m also the author of the award-winning bookWhat’s Your Point?’ which can be purchased from Amazon.

[1]Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Netflix. Available at: gb/title/771476 (Accessed: 16 July 2019) [2] “Trojan War”. History. Available at: history/trojan-war (Accessed: 18 July 2019)

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