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One tool we use to help guide strategic choices is our hypothetical “Brand Love Curve” which is used to assess how tightly connected your brand is with your consumers. We believe that brands move along the curve through five phases, moving from Unknown to Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally becoming a Beloved brand. The reason brands need to move along the Brand Love Curve is to leverage their increased connectivity with consumers, to become more powerful against all stakeholders in the market. With that added power, brands gain more profit through higher prices, efficient costs, share gains and a bigger market size.

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Where you sit on the Brand Love Curve should guide your next major strategic move. At the Unknown stage, the strategy is about getting noticed in the market. For a brand at the Indifferent stage, where consumers have no opinion of your brand, brands should focus on establishing your brand in the consumers mind. Build an opinion about your brand, by taking a stand. At the Like It stage, where consumers see the brand as a rational choice, there needs to be strategic work to separate your brand from the pack and generate a following with a core group of consumers. At the Love It stage, focus on tugging at the heart-strings of consumers to drive a deeper connection with those consumers who love the brand. At the Beloved stage, continue the magical feeling of the brand and get loyalists to scream to their network on the brand’s behalf.

The unknown brand
At the unknown brand stage, the brand might be a completely new innovation, re-launch, hidden gem, small niche looking to expand, or entering into a new region or channel. Many new brands struggle to break through to reach consumers or build distribution with doubting retailers. Leadership team conflicts result in confusion around the value proposition, inconsistent messaging to consumers and everyone in the organization moving in different directions. Like any new launch, there is a risk of being seen as a product, not yet a brand idea. Too many times, companies at this stage fixate more on selling than marketing. There is a desperation for sales, no matter who buys or why they buy. This stage is where the heavy investment is needed to establish both brand awareness and distribution. Being seen as a commodity product, with no real separation from competitors, makes it hard to command a price premium. It is hard to generate efficiencies in selling and marketing.

The 3-point game plan for unknown brands: 1) Create a Big Idea to build everything around, both internally and externally. 2) Stay focused to maximize your limited resources: focused target, tight positioning, tight strategies, and limited activities—always focused on driving a return. 3) Find ways to passionately express your brand purpose as a rallying point, both internally and externally.

The four brand strategies that unknown brands should focus on are:

  • Brand Set up: Establish distribution, brand experience, purchase moment.
  • Launch: Enter market, building awareness with consumers, sales levels with channels.
  • Build core message: Establish niche benefit and a big idea that will establish a reputation.
  • Find early lovers: Build a small base of early adopters, who become fans to build upon.

The Indifferent brand
For Indifferent brands, these brands are likely too product-focused, not yet able to find way to separate the brand from competitors. The brands act like commodities. They suffer from very skinny brand funnels, with low awareness at the top of the funnel, with soft purchase, repeat and loyalty scores. These brands suffer from poor tracking scores on any marketing support programs. Without a big idea or unique positioning, it is difficult to break through with advertising or innovation. To keep selling, these brands becomes reliant on price promotions to drive volume, resulting in a profit margin squeeze. Lower volumes prevent these brands from reaching the needed economies of scale to drive down variable cost of goods. These brands are unable to gain new users or drive frequency. They have no power with retailers, unable to get their fair share of shelf space, display or price promotions. These brands are at risk of being delisted, if they fall below volume thresholds. Private label brands threaten their sales levels. These brands have lower payback on Marketing activities, making the marketing investment (advertising, innovation, in-store) difficult to justify.

The 3-point game plan for Indifferent brands: 1) Create a Big Idea to establish the brand’s uniqueness and build a reputation to stand behind. 2) Focus the brand’s limited resources on establishing a point of difference in the consumer’s mind. 3) More passion and risk into your work.

The four brand strategies that unknown brands should focus on are:

  • Mind Shift: Drive a new brand position or re-enforce current positioning
  • Mind Share: Draw more attention than competitors by being better or different.
  • New News: Launch something new or re-launch to appear new.
  • Turnaround: Focus energy on gaps, leaks in the brand’s execution.

Like It brands
Brands at the Like It stage doing a pretty good job in establishing itself on a rational level. However, without an emotional connection, these brands suffer from a lower than desired conversion to purchase. These brand looks healthy in terms of driving awareness and tracking scores, however the brand keeps losing to competitors as the consumer moves to the purchase stage. These brands usually require a higher trade spend to close that sale. This cuts into profit margins. An important tracking score to watch is “the brand seem different” helping to separate the brand from the pack. Without any emotional connection these brand get to a certain level and then face stagnant market shares. They make gains during Marketing support periods but face declines during the non-support periods. These brands appear content to hold onto their share and grow at the same rate as the category. In categories with high private label shares, if you focus too much on product ingredients and rational features, the consumer will start to figure out they can get the same thing with the private label at a significantly lower price.

Here is a 3-point game plan for Like It brands: 1) Leverage the brand’s big idea to connect emotionally. 2) Focus your resources on building a bigger following by converting awareness to purchases. 3) Build a culture of passion, where everyone loves the work they produce.

The four brand strategies that Like It stage brands should focus on are:

  • Drive Penetration: Bring in new consumers.
  • Drive Usage: Get consumers to use more/differently by building the brand into a routine.
  • Consolidation: Induce consumers to use the brand for more usage occasions.
  • Cross Sell: Persuade current consumer base to try other products within the brand.

Love It brands
Brands at the Love It stage start to see a higher emotional connection and a resulting power in the marketplace. Indicators include a strong conversion from purchase to loyalty. These brands are able to drive strong repeat and loyalty scores, as the brand becomes a routine or ritual. The brand is now seen as different and motivating. These brands see a strong overall brand funnel with an expanding user base and a strengthening usage frequency as the brand becomes part of the consumer’s routine. Highly responsive Marketing programs and tracking results means the brand can shift to more efficient spending with lower GRPs. The brand sees high adoption of new innovation, which allows the brand to continue to stretch the consumer towards the ideal brand positioning. High net promoter scores leads to high word of mouth recommendations, social media recommendations or positive on-line brand reviews (e.g.Yelp or Trip Advisor). These brands should be able to leverage their power with retailers and influencers. Even in a competitive market, a brand at the Love It stage should be able to gain share and widening their leadership stance.

The 3-point game plan for Love It brands: 1) Tug at the heart of those consumers who love the brand, helping build a community of Brand fans. 2) Shift to creating a brand experience that turns purchases into routines. 3) Turn the love for your work into a bit of magic for the consumer.

The four brand strategies that Love It stage brands should focus on are:

  • Experience: Shift from a product focus towards creating brand experiences.
  • Maintain: Re-enforce the brand strengths with your core base of brand fans.
  • Deeper love: Match the passion of your consumers, treating them extra special.
  • New Reasons to Love: Re-enforce messages to your most loyal users.

Beloved Brands
Brands at the beloved stage are the iconic leaders in their category. These brands have an extremely healthy and robust brand funnel with likely a near perfect brand awareness (over 95%), high conversion to purchase, with strong repeat and loyalty scores. These brands have good penetration and purchase frequency scores. Tracking results show immediate reaction to new marketing programs—high brand link on advertising and high trial rates on innovation. They usually have a dominant share position, at least in a specific segment. They have the power to take a dominant stance in the marketplace, squeezing out smaller brands and reducing the influence of key competitors. These brands have strong net promoter scores and have cultivated a community of outspoken brand fans. Even competitive-users respect these brands, expressing a potential desire to switch in the future. These brands use their power with retailers, who provide preferential shelf space and use the beloved brand to drive traffic to their stores. Suppliers are willing to cut their costs in order to sign up the beloved brand as a customer. Even governments might offer special benefits. The beloved brand becomes an employer of choice for new talent who want to be part of the brand. The brand even has a power over the earned and influential media gaining efficient and impactful media and positive reviews. The brand becomes an asset, with high profitability. It becomes a good stock to invest in.

The 3-point game plan for beloved brands: 1) Focus on maintaining the magic and love the brand has created with the core brand fans. 2) Challenge and perfect the experience. 3) Broaden the offering and selectively broaden the audience.

The four brand strategies that Love It stage brands should focus on are:

  • Magic: Continue to surprise and delight loyalists.
  • Leverage Power: Drive financial value from the brand’s sources of power.
  • Attack yourself: Continue to assess and improve every aspect of the brand.
  • Use loyalists: Leverage brand fans to influence their network.

Knowing where you are sets up your strategic choices

While you will come up with your own uniquely written strategies, where you stand on the Brand Love Curve can help guide you as to the strategic choices you can make.

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One strategic flaw I see in many brand plans is trying to drive penetration and usage frequency at the same time. This is a classic case of trying to get away with doing two things, instead of forcing yourself to pick just one. Consider how different these two options really are and you will see the drain on your resources from trying to do both. A penetration strategy gets someone with very little experience with your brand to likely consider dropping their current brand to try you once and see if they will like your brand. A usage frequency strategy tries to get someone who knows your brand already, to change their behavior in relationship to your brand, either changing their current life routine or substituting your brand into a higher share of occasions. By doing both, you will be targeting two types of consumers at the same time, you will have two main brand messages and you will divide your resources against two groups of activities that have very little synergy. If you decide that you are going to pick both to do at the same time, you have to stop telling people you are a strategic thinker. It is crazy to try to do both. Yes, in terms of digital media, you can find ways to target both. However, you are still dividing your budget out. Also, any strategy usually goes far beyond media. You should be thinking holistically about the brand story, product innovation, purchase moment and brand experience.

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Knowing where you are today helps you know your next strategic move

To read more about brand strategy, here’s our workshop presentation that we run:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution.

Beloved Brands Training program

At Beloved Brands, we promise to make your team of BRAND LEADERS smarter, so they produce smarter work that drives stronger brand results.

  • How to think strategically: Strategic thinkers see “what if” questions before seeing solutions, mapping out a range of decision trees that intersect and connect by imagining how events will play out.
  • Write smarter Brand Plans: A good Brand Plan provides a road map for everyone in the organization to follow: sales, R&D, agencies, senior leaders, even the Brand Leader who writes the plan.
  • Create winning Brand Positioning Statements: The brand positioning statement sets up the brand’s promise to the consumer, impacting both external communication (advertising, PR or in-store) as well as internally with employees who deliver that promise.
  • Write smarter Creative Briefs: The brief helps focus the strategy so that all agencies can take key elements of the brand plan positioning to and express the brand promise through communication.
  • Be smarter at Brand Analytics: Before you dive into strategy, you have to dive into the brand’s performance metrics and look at every part of the business—category, consumers, competitors, channels and brand.
  • Get better Marketing Execution: Brand Leaders rely on agencies to execute. They need to know how to judge the work effectively to ensure they are making the best decisions on how to tell the story of the brand and express the brand’s promise.
  • How to build Media Plans: Workshop for brand leaders to help them make strategic decisions on media. We look at media as an investment, media as a strategy and the various media options—both traditional and on-line.
  • Winning the Purchase Moment: Brand Leaders need to know how to move consumers on the path to purchase, by gaining entry into their consumers mind, help them test and decide and then experience so they buy again and become a brand fan.

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

To contact us, email us at graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911.You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands

GR bio Jun 2016.001

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Graham Robertson

Graham spent 20 years in Brand Management leading some of the world’s most beloved brands at Johnson and Johnson, General Mills and Coke, rising up to VP Marketing. In his career, he has won numerous Advertising, Innovation and Leadership awards. Graham played a major role in helping J&J win Marketing Magazine’s prestigious “Marketer of the Year” award.

Graham brings a reputation for challenging brand leaders to think differently and to be more strategically focused. Graham founded Beloved Brands in 2010, to help brands find growth and make brand leaders smarter. He leads workshops to help define your Brand Positioning, build your brand’s Big Idea, and write strategic Brand Plans that motivate and focus everyone that works on the brand. Our Beloved Brands training programs will help your team, produce exceptionally smart work work that drives stronger brand growth and profits. We cover everything a brand leader needs to know including strategic thinking, planning, positioning, execution and analytics.

Our robust client roster has included the NFL Players Association, Reebok, the NBA, Acura, Shell, Miller Lite, 3M, Jack Link’s and Pfizer. His weekly brand stories have generated over 5 million views.

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