Why Can’t Brand Leaders Focus?

Slide1Every part of what you learn about marketing starts and ends with FOCUS.   Yet, the area that marketers struggle the most with is FOCUS.  If you sit in an elementary marketing class, you’ll learn about target markets, brand positioning and making choices in strategy.  These are all the element of focus.  Yet, in the “real world”, we get scared to target because we might be leaving someone out, we try to be as many things as possible because we aren’t sure of what we are and we try to do as many activities as we can, just in case one of those activities sells a few more of our brand.  Fear of missing something.  

I once worked with a bank who told me that their target for a First Time Mortgage was 18-65, new customers, current customers and employees.  I said “you’ve forgotten tourists and prisoners”. aboutus_roi_70812766-300x228 By the very nature of advertising, we’d expect current customers and employees to see the ads, so let’s take them off the target.  And yes, the odd 18-year-old might be wanting to buy a house, and there might be a few 64 year olds that have been renting for 40 years and tired of their land lord.  But in reality, they won’t be offended if there is a 32-year-old in the ad.  Now you can take this focus even further.  You have to matter to those who care the most.  The only people who care about your message are those that are close to buying a house. No one needs a mortgage until they are buying a house. And no buys their first house on an impulse. It likely takes up to a year to buy.  So what if we said your target is “28-33 year olds who are already considering buying a house within the next year”.   Imagine the difference in the message and in the media choices you might make now.

Focus starts with making decisions.  Slide1And that’s where the difficulty lies.  If you present an either-or situation to most brand leaders, they struggle with the decision, so they say “let’s do a little of both”.  They call themselves a “good decision maker”.  But in reality, what separates out a great brand leader from the pack, is great brand leaders know that decision-making starts with the choices where you have to pick one, not both.  Great marketers use the word “or” and avoid the word “and”.  If you aren’t making choices, then you aren’t making decisions.

The reasons why you need to Focus
  1. Every brand is constrained by resources—dollars, people and time.  If I went up to the biggest brands in the world and said what’s your biggest problem, they would say “we don’t have enough money to do everything we want to do”.  That’s normal. But that doesn’t mean you then go do everything you want to do.  Focus makes you have to matter the most to those who care the most.   Focusing your limited resources on those consumers with the highest propensity to buy what you are selling will deliver the greatest movement towards sales and the highest return on investment for those resources.
  2. In a competitive category, no one brand can do it all.  Focus makes you decide whether to be better, different or cheaper.  Giving the consumer too many messages about your brand will confuse them as to what makes your brand unique.  Trying to be everything is the recipe for being nothing.
  3. Trying to do everything spreads your resources and your message so that everything you do is “ok” and nothing is “great”.  With a long to-do list, you’ll never do a great job at anything.   And in a crowded and fast economy, “ok” never breaks through so you’ll never get the early win to gain that tipping point that opens up the gateway to even bigger success.
Good Strategy starts with Focus

There are Four elements to a good strategy:  1) Focus 2) Early Win 3) Leverage point and 4) Gateway to something bigger.

  • FOCUS all your energy to a particular strategic point or purpose.  Match up your brand assets to pressure points you can break through, maximizing your limited resources—either financial resources or effort.  Focus on one target.   Focus on one message.  And focus on very few strategies and tactics.  Less is more.
  • You want that EARLY WIN, to kick-start of some momentum. Early Wins are about slicing off parts of the business or population where you can build further.  This proves to everyone the brand can win—momentum, energy, following.
  • LEVERAGE everything to gain positional advantage or power that helps exert even greater pressure and gains the tipping point of the business that helps lead to something bigger.  Crowds follow crowds.
  • See beyond the early win, there has to be a GATEWAY point, the entrance or a means of access to something even bigger.   It could be getting to the masses, changing opinions or behaviours.  Return on Investment or Effort.

Sometimes in marketing strategy, we borrow from war.  d-dayAnd if we look at World War II and D-Day, we see a great example of how focus came into play.  While Germany was fighting a war on two fronts (Russia and Britain), the Allied Forces planned D-Day for 2 years and joined in full force to FOCUS all their attention on one beach, on one day. The surprise attack gave the Allies an EARLY WIN, and momentum which they could then LEVERAGE  into a bigger victory by using the victory on that one beach to gain a positional power on continental Europe.  Getting on mainland Europe gave the allied forces the GATEWAY they needed to steamroll through on a town by town basis and defeat the Germans.  The allied forces had been on the defensive for years, but landing on that beach on D-Day gave them one victory and the tipping point to an offensive attack and a pathway to now winning the war.  Imagine if D-Day had used an UNFOCUSED approach.  Instead of focusing on the beaches of Normandy, they could have taken all their troops and spread them every 15 feet from Denmark all the way around Europe to Holland, France, Spain and around to Italy.  The unfocused approach, without a source of power such as that beach in Normandy, would have resulted in the allied soldiers being picked off one-by-one. No focus means no power. If it’s so easy to understand that with a war analogy, how come we can’t do that on our own brands.

Where You Should Focus
  • Pick a focused Target Market:  While it’s tempting to sell to everyone.  Focus your resources on those most likely to buy. Realizing not everyone can like you is the first step to focus on those that can love you.
  • Pick a focused Brand Positioning:  Start with the target market you just picked–and assess their need states to see where you can best match up. Beloved Brands are either better, different or cheaper. Or they are not around for much longer.
  • Pick a Focused Strategy:  how_to_focusBrands need to understand where they sit before picking strategies.  Evaluate the health of your brand using the Brand Funnel to understand where you are strong and should keep pushing or where you have a weakness (a Leak) that you need to close.
  • Need a Focused Objective:  As you take your strategy to those who are going to execute the plan, you need to make sure that everyone is delivering against a very focused objective on their program, so that each program adds up to moving the brand.
  • Focused Activities.  While everyone talks Return on Investment (ROI), I also talk Return on Effort (ROE) as well.  Return on Effort forces you to prioritize all your activities.  Things like social media are not free, if they occupy the time of our limited people resources.
When you focus, five things happen for your brand
  1. Better Return on Investment (ROI):   With all the resources against one strategy, one target, one message, you’ll be find out if the strategy you’ve chose is able to actually move consumers drive sales or other key performance indicators.
  2. Better Return on Effort (ROE):  Whether it’s your own marketing team or all the people resources you utilize through your sales team or agencies.  Having focus allows you to get the most out of your people resources.marketingroi
  3. Strong Reputation:  When you only do one thing, you naturally start to become associated with that one thing—externally and even internally.  And, eventually you become very good at that one thing.  When I’m giving speeches, I love to ask the room to think about the one word connected to brands.  And when I say Volvo, almost in unison, the room shouts out “safety”.
  4. More Competitive:  As your reputation grows, you begin to own that on thing and your are able to better defend the positioning territory
  5. Bigger and Better P&L:  As the focused effort drives results, it opens up the P&L with higher sales and profits.  And that means more resources will be put to the effort to drive even higher growth.  When you show movement on your brand, go back to your finance person and say “look how well that program worked, now we need even more money”.
fork-in-the-roadSo next time you are faced with a decision, make the choice. Don’t pick both just in case you are wrong.  All you are doing is depleting your resources by spreading them across both choices.  And you’ll never see any movement on your brand so you’ll never find out if you were right or wrong.
Focus Starts with Making Choices

 

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Graham is the voice of the modern Brand Leader. He started Beloved Brands, knowing he could “Make Brands better and Brand Leaders better™”. His Beloved Brands blog has 2 million views, and his public speaking appearances inspire Brand Leaders to love what they do. The idea behind Beloved Brands is the more love you can generate with your consumers, the more power you have in the market which drives higher growth and profits for your brand. As a brand coach, Graham helps to find growth where others couldn’t, creating Brand ideas consumers love and Brand Plans everyone can follow. For Brand Leaders wanting to reach their full potential The Brand Leadership Center offers workshops on strategic thinking, analytics, planning, positioning, creative briefs, judging advertising and media. Graham spent 20 years leading some of the world’s most beloved brands at Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer, General Mills and Coke, rising through the ranks up to VP Marketing. Graham played a major role in helping Pfizer win Marketing Magazine’s Marketer of the Year award. Beloved Brands has a robust Client list that includes NFL Players Inc, NFLPA, Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, Earls Kitchen + Bar, 3M, 649 Lottery, Sunlight, Carlsberg, Slimquick, Red Racer, Shagri-la Hotel, Canada’s Wildlife Health and Fluke.

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4 thoughts on “Why Can’t Brand Leaders Focus?
  1. Paul Marchildon

    I beloved your posts…knowing you personally, I could actually hear you say “you forgot tourists and prisoners”. Made me howl. Great content, and therefore content marketing…thanks Graham.

     
    Reply
  2. @mdhershman

    Another insightful, real-world post – thanks, Graham! Someday, I’d love to hear your suggestions for practical tactics to “manage up” the focus discussion with clients or senior decision-makers.

     
    Reply
  3. gistbrands

    As usual, a very pithy (yes, “th” not “ss”) post, Graham. Focus really is the biggest issue, and biggest hurdle, working with clients around brand strategy. Well, that and “you are not your target market.” Nobody, and I mean nobody, wants to face either.

     
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