Author: Graham Robertson

Brands only have 4 choices: better, different, cheaper or not around for very long.

There are some consumer driven marketers who think if you do such a great job in servicing the consumer, you should not have to worry too much about what the consumer does. That is crazy talk, with blinders on as to what is happening in the market. The only reason Apple, Starbucks or Virgin are such amazing brands is they are much better than any competitor within those categories. That is the reason why we call the worst type of brands “Indifferent” not just to convey the consumers blasé attitude to the brand, but to really signal “NOT different”. If you do not find your point of difference, you are a commodity, and should be priced accordingly at market prices like the fish at tonight’s restaurant.

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You have to find a unique selling proposition for your brand, that distinguishes you from others. Looking above at the Venn diagram, we first start by listing out everything your consumers want, then list what your brand does best and what your competitors do best. The winning zone for your brand to play in is the match up where consumers want what you do best. The losing zone is to play where consumers want it, but your competitor does it better than you. As we are maturing in the marketing, it is harder and harder to come up with a definitive win, so that is where you can win the risky zone by being different, being faster to market, winning with meaningful innovation or building a deep emotional connection. The key to be seen as unique, not just for the sake of it, but to match up what you do best with what the consumer is looking for. Sadly, I do have to always mention the dumb zone. This is where two competitors “battle it out” in the zone the consumer does not care about. I say sadly, because I keep seeing this in the market. One competitor starts saying “we are faster” and you see them so you think “well we are just as fast”. No one bothers to ask the consumer if they care about speed. To often, Brand Leaders start with the claim, and then try to make the most of it in everything they do. The problem with that strategy is your claim might not be a benefit, and even if it ladders up, it might not be something that is own-able for you or motivating to the consumer.

A good tool we use is to list out all of your brand assets, which could be your main strengths you can stand behind and begin the match them put to various consumer need states. This will not determine your brand positioning, but help you focus as you move into a potential brainstorming session around positioning.

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What is the core strength of your brand?

Most brands should have a focus as to what they win on, whether that is winning based on product, concept, experience or price. You have to pick an area of focus, rather than trying to be everything. Using our Core Strength Model, we use this as a brainstorming tool to play a little game. We give out 4 blue chips, and force you to pick one strength as your core strength, two at the mid-level that will help support your core strength and the fourth chip forced at low to go of it as a potential. This leaves four types of brands: product, concept, experience or price. Positioning 2016.013

  • With Product Brands, your main strategy should focus on being better. You have to invest in Innovation to stays ahead of competitors, remaining the superior choice in the category. Here, it works to focus on rational advertising that makes sure you re-force with consumers that you are the best. However, in a crowded market, it has become increasingly difficult to win on product alone—as many brands are operating in a parity situation. The product brands doing well include Samsung with the best TVs and phones, Five Guys with the best burger and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse who has a unique cooking technique that products the best steak. These brands talk mainly about the great product. In fact, looking at the Five Guys brand, they have almost completely let go of experience or pricing. imgresThe restaurants are almost run down, and the price of a 5 Guys burger is about twice the going rate. For years, Proctor & Gamble pushed this strategy at every opportunity across Tide, Ivory, Pampers and Always. But technology gaps have closed they have been forced to switch some of their brands to focusing more on being different and less on being better. The problem for product type brands is they struggle to be emotionally engaging and while consumers might love the product, they do not necessarily love the brand. While you can run an amazing business this way, if a competitor catches up to you on product or if you wish to move your loyal base into other products, it is not as easy as being a concept or experience brand.
  • With Concept Brands, your strategy should focus on being different. To tell that story, you need to invest in emotional brand communication. You want to connect consumers on a deep emotional level with the concept. Brands in this space include Apple who builds around the concept of simplicity, Virgin stands out in new categories by challenging the status quo and generally accepted ways of doing things and W Hotels combine the nightlife feel, so you never have to leave the Hotel. With these brands, they still need to make sure that the product delivers at a level expected within the concept. If it fails to deliver, there may be a sense of hollowness to the concept that brings the brand down. Instead of calling these loved brands, I call these brand lust, where our initial feelings are the same as love, only to be disappointed by the product experience.
  • With Experience Brands, your strategy and organization should focus on linking culture very closely to your brand. After all, your people are your product. You want to build values and align the culture to those values. And as you go to market, invest in influencer and social media that can help support and spread the word of your experience. white-glove-service-ritz-carltonWells Fargo bank offers comfortable banking, Ritz-Carlton uses impeccable customer service to really separate itself and Starbucks creates an escape with indie-music, cool servers, leather chairs and a touch of Europe.
  • With Price Brands, your strategy has to focus on efficiency and drive low-cost into the products you sell and high turns and high volume. You have to be better at the fundamentals around production and sourcing. Use call-to-action type advertising to help keep the turns very high. McDonald’s of the 1970s perfected this model, but we’ve since seen Walmart take it to the next level. You might not like all that Walmart does from an ethical point of view, but it’s on strategy and helps you get toilet paper cheaper. What consumers don’t notice at Walmart is their obsession with retail turns. On average Walmart sells through their stock within 28 days, compared to other retailers who might average 100 days. You rarely see slow-moving items and rarely see clearance items. Brands like Uber, Amazon and Netflix have combined an amazing experience at a very low cost. These inventive brands have recently figured out ways to use technology to eliminate a lot of waste in the value chain.

You have two questions to answer:

Are you better, different or cheaper? 

Are you a product, concept, experience or price brand?

Below is a presentation from our workshop on How to find a winning brand positoning statement.

We make Brands stronger.

We make Brand Leaders smarter.™

We offer brand coaching, where we promise to make your brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your brand’s full potential. For our brand leader training, we promise to make your team of brand leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at or phone me at 416 885 3911.

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Stop telling consumers what you do and start telling them what they get and how it will make them feel

Turning features into benefits

The consumer will not care about what you do, until you start to care about what they get.  Many brands get stuck at the Indifferent or Like It stage because they talk non-stop about themselves, almost like the consumer does not even matter. It should be one of the most obvious elements in marketing, but it seems lost on many. If we look to the previous century, we see many of the Consumer Packaged Goods brands of the 1970’s and 1980’s screaming their features over and over. Tide gets rid of grass stains, Dove is ph-balanced and Pampers has stay-dry lining. It was all about finding a space in the consumers mind, a wee little space and then extrapolating that one thing to give the perception that you are the best brand. Competitors were able catch up and duplicate the performance of these features, negating any competitive advantage. Even store brands easily duplicated these features and grabbed 10 to 20% of market share. What did the marketers do? They kept finding smaller and smaller incremental features to scream, while trying to hold onto share. As the consumers evolved to wanting more from brands, these brand leaders were stuck talking features. Let’s put this in human terms: if you were on a date, would you be more successful telling your date what a great job you have, what an amazing volleyball player you are and every amazing thing  you did since College. Or should you ask about them: What is it that made you become a lawyer? What is your favorite part of the job? When you do well, how does that make you feel?  Like in dating, stop telling about yourself all the time. Show interest in your consumer as you would a dating prospect.benefits.001

The tool we use is a Customer Value Proposition Ladder that helps move you from shouting your features and to start talking about benefits, both rational and emotional. It is a four step process that starts with the consumer, defining the target, outlining any need states or pain points and then helping paint the picture of the consumer with consumer insights and potential enemies that torment them.

We then list out the product features, listing out your top strengths, claimed and any unique points of difference that can separate your brand. We try to get in the shoes of the consumer and using their voice, we ask “So what do I get?” This sets up the rational benefit. And finally, still in the voice of the consumer, we look at the rational benefits and ask “So how does that make me feel?” This tool forces you to change your focus of your brand where you are shouting at consumers to a new perspective where you as the consumer are asking the brand what you get and how you feel.All Beloved Pics.098

Using a fictional brand of Gray’s Cookies, use the brainstorming to complete a Customer Value Proposition Ladder  Worksheet, with an example below:

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Some CVPs can end up very cluttered, but the more focused you can make it the easier it will be for you to choose which one you will stand behind, and which one benefit you’ll communicate. At the brainstorm stage, we try to limit the numbers of 3 or 4 of the best of each whether that’s enemies, insights, features, rational benefits or emotional benefits. If you are uncertain, you might choose to do some qualitative research with some type of benefit or claims sort to hear which ones are the most own-able and motivating.

People tend to get stuck when trying to figure out the emotional benefits.  I swear every brand creative out there says: trusted, reliable, self-confident and yet like-able. It seems that not only do consumers have a hard time expressing their emotions about a brand, but so do Brand Managers. Companies like Hotspex have mapped out all the emotional zones for consumers. I’m not a researcher, but if you’re interested in this methodology contact Hotspex at  

We leverage this type of research and would encourage you to build your story around the emotions that best fit your consumer needs. Leveraging Hotspex, I have mapped out 8 zones in a simplistic way below we call our Emotional Cheat Sheet:

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Within each of the eight emotional zones, you can find emotional words that closely align to the need state of the consumer and begin building the emotional benefits within your Customer Value Proposition. The challenge here, like any in marketing, is to narrow down your focus to owning one potential zone, not all of the zones. While it is tempting to want to be noticed, in control and knowledgable, those are 3 distinct emotional zones and if you try to build a reputation by telling consumers you own every emotion, they will either be confused by who you are or in disbelief that you are any of who you claim you are. Neither of those lead to building a brand reputation.

Once you decide on which benefit you will stand behind, you can begin to move forward with a classic positioning statement that includes four key elements: 

                • Target Market (a)
                • Definition of the market you play in (b)
                • Brand Promise (emotional or rational benefit) (c)
                • The Reason to Believe (RTB) the brand promise (d)

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Get in the shoes of your consumer and use their voice to speak to your brand about what they want.

Below is a presentation from our workshop on How to find a winning brand positoning statement.

Here is a related story on how to find the target market: Target Market

We make Brands stronger.

We make Brand Leaders smarter.™

We offer brand coaching, where we promise to make your brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your brand’s full potential. For our brand leader training, we promise to make your team of brand leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at or phone me at 416 885 3911

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Stop targeting everyone and focus on those most motivated by what you offer

I am so worn out by marketers thinking that their target market is everyone. If you were supposed to target everyone, the brilliant marketing minds would never have come up with the term “target market”. And stop telling me you are “afraid to alienate current customers”. Unless you are making offensive advertising, which I do not recommend, then you won’t alienate anyone. If people see you going after a new type of consumer, here is the worst thing they will ever say: “wow, it looks like my favorite brand is doing so well that they are now looking for new customers.” 

Just stop it.

Who is the consumer target?

Brand Leaders always think about who they want, but rarely ask the better question: “who wants them?” target market.001As you are starting to think about the target, keep asking “who is the most motivated to buy what you do?”  Next time you are walking through the airport, and you pass the shoe-shine guy, watch how they decide whether you are a customer or not. They look at your feet and if you have leather shoes on, they will ask if you want a shine. If you have runners on, they will let you walk right past. If they understand that the best customer is someone already motivated by what they do, how come marketers struggle with this question. Marketers are obsessed with size of the target because they assume the bigger the target the bigger the brand. Our whole argument of Brand Love would suggest that it is better to be loved by a few rather than merely tolerated by everyone. If you have a target that will one day love you, that is an asset you should seek out, because they will crave your brand, recommend your brand to their friends and they will defend your brand to no end. 

Defining the Marketing target versus the Selling target

Obviously, it makes sense to sell to everyone and anyone who comes in the door. However, you should not apply your limited resources of money, time, people against the entire population because it is cost prohibitive. While targeting everyone “just in case” might safe at first, it is actually higher risk because you never get to see the full impact of your effort. And then you never know if your program worked. Instead of figuring out who you want, focus on who wants you! Pick the target that is most motivated by what you do.

All Beloved Pics.096The example I use in my speeches involves a fictional golf ball that goes 50 yards farther than any golf ball in the world. Trust me, I wish this ball existed. I will ask who the target should be, and  shockingly, the answers are all over the place. Rarely does anyone say “those who really love golf and want to hit the ball longer”. Is that too simple of an answer for you? Marketers are always tempted by the size of the market, and for this example they think “this is our chance to get non-golfers interested in golf”. Increasing market size after all is the holy grail that will turn golf haters into golfer lovers. They forget to ask golfer haters why they hate golf, because if they did they would find out they hate the clothes, find it boring and embarrassing and that it takes half day of their life. Hitting the ball longer does not help any of those pain points. In my mind, the best initial target market would be the 5 best golfers at every golf club. These golfers already hit it 280 yards would love to hit it 330 yards. They would certainly pay a price premium to be first and get that competitive advantage. They would likely carry more influence in spreading the word to the rest of the golfers of the club. So yes, we would sell to anyone, but we would market to those most motivated by what we have to offer. The best marketing target market would be “the best golfers at every club” which is likely 0.001% of the general population. Now that’s a focused marketing target market that would be easy to find, highly self-motivated and an easy sale. That is the starting point to a very efficient marketing campaign.

I once worked with a bank who told me that their target market for their latest ad campaign for first time home loans (mortgages) was 18-65, new customers, current customers and employees. I laughed and said “you have forgotten tourists and prisoners”. True story. This is a classic case of a selling target that includes everyone. We will sell to everyone and we are afraid of narrowing our target. 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 landlord. But neither would be offended if there is a 27-year-old or a 32-year-old in the ad. The bank clearly needs a marketing target. The first rule is to find those most motivated by what you do. You have to matter to those who actually care the most. The only people who care about your home loan message are those that are close to buying a house. It is obvious that the house comes before the loan. And equally obvious that a house is certainly not an impulse purchase. If it is this obvious, then why didn’t the bank know it was obvious. The shoe shine guy gets the idea of a motivated target, yet the bank does not. The first narrowing of the target would be “27 to 32 and those looking to buy a house in the next six months”. With a tighter target like that, imagine how this limits where you will spend your limited resources. Where are they? Every weekend they are out house-hunting and every night and lunch hour, they are on-line looking at potential houses. That makes for a very targeted media plan with on-line banners for real estate listings and out of home signage near new home developments. What is their motivation?  Well, they are scared because it is their first time and they are risk averse because it is a lot of money for them. They are fixated on the house and not even thinking about the home loan. What would move them? Due to their fear and unknown, they would want a comforting experience with someone who will guide them through the process. It is one of those first “grown up” big moments and they want to be successful. The role of the bank should be that of an enabler, providing support and advice through experts and content focused on helping people buy their first home. We can see ideas for the brand, just by narrowing the target from a general population selling target to those clear first time buyers who need help and advice, in a very comforting supportive way.

As you figure out who you are serving and who you are not serving helps provide focus.  In terms of choosing target segments, you can break it out on the following:

              • Demographics
              • Behavioral or Psychographic
              • Geographic
              • Usage occasion

The most beloved brands know who their customer is and who it is not in their target. This is one of the first decisions you will make on focus because spreading your limited resources across an entire population is cost prohibitive–and will always generate a low return on investment and low return on effort. While targeting everyone “just in case” might feel safe at first, it is actually less safe to have a broad target market because you never get to see the full impact. Realizing not everyone can like you is the first step to focusing all your attention on those that can love you. It becomes all about choices and you will be much more effective at convincing a segment of the population to choose your brand because of the assets and promise that you have that match up perfectly to what they want.

A pet peeve of mine are those brands who conduct highly elaborate and expensive market research to determine market segments. I love segmentation, but I hate how it is used. The whole role of segmentation is to figure who is your target and who is not. However, marketers are using segmentation as their game plan for targeting everyone. And they put a game plan to each segment. For segment A, here is how we show up and for segment B, we have to show up completely different and for segment C, we will be value priced and for segment D, we will charge a premium to join our club because we know they love clubs. This is craziness. Not only are you spending your limited dollars across the entire population, you are now taking your limited people resource and getting them to alter how you show up to various segments of the market. On top of that craziness, if we believe that positioning is about managing your reputation, then how on earth will you manage six reputations at once. Plus, consumers better not compare notes on how they see your brand. Pure craziness.

Just stop it.

Focus your limited resources on those consumers that are the most motivated by what your brand does.

Here’s a presentation from our workshop on how to write a brand positioning statement

We make Brands stronger.

We make Brand Leaders smarter.™

We offer brand coaching, where we promise to make your brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your brand’s full potential. For our brand leader training, we promise to make your team of brand leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at or phone me at 416 885 3911

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The marketing world has changed, and brand leaders need to change with it

When we say Marketing has changed, the first answer people gravitate to is the change in media options over the last 15 years, with the opening up of digital, social and search. That change is at the surface level, but it is not really enough of a reason to warrant the change we are seeing. 

In the previous century, it was product driven brands like Tide, Kodak, Xerox, Microsoft and Ivory soap that always stressed product superiority with repetitive mass media strategies behind 30 second TV ads that used side-by-side demos and robotic rules like saying the brand name in the first 7 seconds and the see-say product shots over the last 5 seconds. But now we see the most modern brands like Starbucks, Whole Foods, Facebook, Tesla, Uber and Netflix driving success with the modern consumer in a completely modern fashion. While each of these brands has a clearly defined brand big idea, there is no real memorable advertising, no tag line we can recite and yet consumers are tightly connected and outspoken fans of each brand. Do you even remember the first time you heard of these brands? How? All I know, is that I’m sure you remember your last experience. 

These modern brands combine big ideas backed by amazing experiences to create a feeling. They find new ways to tell their brand story that spreads like wildfire and they focus more on being different than being better. The organizational culture of these modern brands has become the foundation of their story, their brand purpose and expressed values have become the substitute for brand claims and product demos. The brand story isn’t done through a traditional media blocking chart. Instead of yelling your message over and over to every consumer in the marketplace hoping some buy you, the most modern brands whisper to their most loyal fans, hoping those brand fans whisper with an underlying influence to all their friends and families. 

Old school brands fought for a space in the consumers mind

The best brands of the last century were based on product inventions that solved small problems consumers didn’t even realize they had until the product came along. Old school Marketing was dominated by TV ads, logos, product superiority claims, coupons and a battle for shelf space at retail stores. Products were developed by scientists in a lab, pushed to the market, shouting “we are the best” to anyone who would listen. It was about awareness, brand recall, persuasion and trial, driving volume up to push costs down and drive competitors out of the market. The old school brands fought for a space in the consumers mind, with a motivation to win over a broad target. These brands are liked by everyone, but not really loved, and many are struggling in the new economy.

Modern brands fight for a place the consumers heart

In the new economy of the 21st century, Brand Love is the currency, with marketing shifting to building big ideas, leveraging purpose-driven story telling, creating experiences, managing ubiquitous purchase moments and steering the brand’s reputation. The best brands of the new economy are based on a big idea that consumers connect with. The idea has to reflect the brand’s soul, with a clear purpose and set of values to create an organizational culture of people who live the brand and who will deliver an amazing brand experience that exceeds any expectations. These brands are seen as consumer brands because they were developed through observation of consumers, with innovation that beats down an identified consumer enemy that torments them every day. The growth comes from finding those consumers already motivated by what the brand does. Consumers are made to feel part of brand, they desire it, crave it and are outspoken fans of it. Instead of shouting at consumers, the modern brands confidently whisper to their most loyal fans, who then whisper with trusted influence to bring their friends to the brand. These Brands now fight for a space in the consumers heart.

Brand Leaders need to change.

This is our Beloved Brands credo, and the inside jacket of our new book to be released in early 2016.

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Here’s a presentation from our workshop on how to create a beloved brand

We make Brands stronger.

We make Brand Leaders smarter.™

We offer brand coaching, where we promise to make your brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your brand’s full potential. For our brand leader training, we promise to make your team of brand leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at or phone me at 416 885 3911

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Get in the shoes of your consumer and speak with their voice.

All Beloved Pics.097I have found that the best marketers live and breathe the way their consumer lives. You have to get in the shoes of your consumer and speak with their voice. You need to define a very focused target market, not only deciding who is in the target but who is not. It’s much better to be loved by a few than merely tolerated by everyone. We have to use consumer insights to tell a story of our consumer and connect with them. We have to fight the consumer’s enemy to connect with consumers. We we believe that it is better to be loved by a few, and grow that core of fans, rather than merely tolerated by everyone. Show your consumers that you love them. Always love those who love you even more.

As Brand Leaders, our days get busy, running from meeting to meeting, trying to deliver our numbers, gain share and hit our forecasts.

  • I’m too busy. We have a few new products that are long over due and now we’re trying to make the most of them Finance has found a potential cost savings from the plant but it’s unsure if it will be off-set by a one time surcharge.
  • I’m too busy. We have a presentation at Wal-Mart next week and think we’ll walk away with a new listing. We have a new claim from the R&D team that we think delivers superiority versus our closest competitor.
  • I’m too busy. We have the go-ahead to do a new ad, but we think our senior managers will insist that we make the ad to their exact requirements and that it delivers their new vision statement.

This is an average day in marketing. Except, we have not thought once about the consumer. Maybe that’s the norm when we get so busy or face pressures to make the numbers.  

Stop and think like the consumer 

I always like to ask Brand Leaders: “Do you represent your brand to your consumer or do you represent your consumer to the brand?” Yes, I get stunned looks of confusion when I ask that. But it’s an important question as to your mindset of how you do your job. My challenge to you is to start thinking like your consumer and be their representative to your brand. You’ll notice the work gets better, you’ll see clearer paths to growth and you’ll start to create a brand that the consumer loves rather than just likes. When this happens, sales go up and the P&L spits out higher profitability. Because the more loved the brand, the more powerful position it occupies and the more profit it can generate from that source of power.    

Take a walk in the shoes of your consumer: With most of us, when we first fell in love with marketing, there were two key elements that got our juices going: strategic thinking and consumer behavior. Marketing brings these two elements together in a very challenging way. You should be thinking about your consumer every day, all day. Yes, you need to hit your sales and share goals. But your consumers are your only source of revenue and you have to know them intimately.  Solving a consumer challenge feels like the biggest Rubik’s Cube we can find. The reason I mention this is if you want to connect with your team and motivate them, then start talking about the consumer and you’ll see their engagement go up.  This is what they love. Be curious about your consumer, constantly watching changes in the marketplace.

Live and breathe insights about your consumers. Insight is not something you just do when you’re spending the hour that you write your creative brief. You should be gathering insight at every chance you can, and unleashing that knowledge throughout every day. Insight is not something that your consumers never knew before. That would be knowledge not insight. It’s not data or fact about your brand that you want to tell. That helps, but you have to go a layer deeper to find your insights. Oddly enough, Insight is something that everyone already knows. Insight comes to life when it’s told in such a captivating way that makes consumers stop and say “hmm, I thought I was the only who felt like that”. That’s why we laugh when see the way that insight is projected with humor, why we get goose bumps when insight is projected with inspiration and why we cry when the insight comes alive through real-life drama.  

BBI ads for 2015.005Get in the shoes of those consumers and you’ll quickly realize that consumers do not care about what you do, until you care about what they want. Instead of mentioning a feature, force yourself to ask “If I’m the consumer so what do I get” five times to see if you can get to the richness of the functional benefits. Then look at that functional benefit and ask “so how does that make me feel”. Stop talking features and start talking benefits–both the rational and emotional. No one has ever wanted a 1/4 inch drill, they just want a 1/4 inch hole.   

Consumers are busier than ever. Whether it’s working late, trying to balance everything or doing too much, they have so little time. People are multi-tasking, texting while driving or on the TV while watching TV—which is up 35% this year.  Traditional ways with a 30 second ad and a billboard aren’t having the same effect in today’s world. The average consumer is exposed to over 6,000 advertising message per day. The consumers’ brain sorts through the clutter until finds something that might fill their needs. Imagine your boring logical message, well thought and all, breaking through to that consumer. Even with the fast paced life, most consumers are bored with life and just want something to entice them. The simplest way to challenge boredom is to like everything you do unconditionally, but if this bored consumer meets up with a boring brand, it will be rejected very quickly. You have to matter to those consumers that really care. And you have to know what connects with them to get the way to stand out.   BBI ads for 2015.003

Living in the consumers shoes is contagious. When you start asking about how the consumer buys, what they are thinking about now or what do we want them to think, you’ll notice others on your team following your cues and start thinking like a consumer. It will be energizing. When you ask “will our consumer love this” it sets the bar very high. Here’s my simple challenge for you: If you don’t love the work you do, how do you expect the consumer to love your Brand. The best filter for your work is the consumer. It’s more important than what Wal-Mart thinks or what your boss likes/doesn’t like. When looking at new products, the R&D team should be more obsessed with what the consumer wants than what they might be capable of coming up in their lab. As Steve Jobs famously said “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.”

Brand Leaders play it far too safe to find true love. Brand Leaders choose the safety of logic and facts instead of getting too deep or going all emotional with their consumer.And, most brands end up liked but never end loved. My mom wanted me to be an actuary. Apparently, an actuary has one of the longest life expectancies, can make quite a bit of money and they live the ideal work-life balance. Sounds like the perfect job, but I just couldn’t do it. What’s lacking in the life of an actuary is the ability to have fun at work or drive all your passion into your work to create something big. You can make a real difference. So if you’re not going to be an actuary…then stop acting like one when you’re the Brand Leader. We can’t afford to keep doing just the usual, we can’t get stuck in logic and we can’t just satisfy needs. We need to push to go beyond greatness at every touch point with our selfish and bored consumers. We need to cultivate a deep emotional relationship with our consumer and we need to entice craving and desire.  

For the best brand leaders, everything starts and ends with the consumer in mind.

Below is a presentation from our workshop that we run on helping brand leaders find a winning brand positioning statement:

We make Brands stronger.

We make Brand Leaders smarter.™

We offer brand coaching, where we promise to make your brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your brand’s full potential. For our brand leader training, we promise to make your team of brand leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at or phone me at 416 885 3911biz card 2016.001


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Looking for an ideal Brand Plan format? Here is our format.


We recommend that brand planning be a process that starts with a deep dive look into every part of the business. Then summarize the key issues of everything that is in the way of the brand vision. The issues help frame the overall brand strategies where you will deploy your limited brand resources.

Below is our 20-page Brand Plan, based on our fictional brand “Gray’s Cookies”.

When you review our Brand Plan format, you will see all the essentials that you need to gain management’s approval of your brand plan.

  • Vision
  • Goals
  • Sales projection
  • Summary of the Business Review
  • Key Issues and Strategies
  • Each Strategy laid out in detail
  • Executional Plan 
  • Plan Calendar that shows overall timing
  • Marketing Budget
  • Plan on a Page

That’s a lot of information, but the plan should guide everyone that works on the brand: brand team, agencies, sales, R&D, Finance, HR and senior management. Everyone likely cares about various specific sections, but the brand manager should use the plan to bring everyone together.

One thing I like to do is use 5 key questions to help frame the Brand Plan, the answers help frame everything you need in a brand plan. The five questions to ask yourself are:

  1. Where are we?
  2. Why are we here?
  3. Where could we be?
  4. How can we get there?
  5. What do we need to do to get ready?

Before I even get started, I like to grab a few hours on my own, put my feet up on the desk and try to put 3 bullet points for each of the 5 questions. Think of this like the rough draft you might do before you begin a long essay.

5 questions worksheet.002

Once you do the worksheet, it will be easier to expand the ideas into the Brand Plan. It also keeps you on track, because you can make sure that your expanded brand plan lines up to deliver what you intended to deliver when you started the process.  

5 questions worksheet.001

Looking above, you can see how answering the 5 questions help guide various parts of your brand plan including the analysis, key issues, vision, goals, strategies, execution and measurement. While having an expanded brand plan helps satisfy many needs of a brand, we recommend that you deliver a one-page brand plan. Everyone uses the phrase “get everyone on the same page”, but if you don’t have “one-page”, how exactly will you do that.


We conduct workshops to help brand teams get to their ideal brand plan. We take the team through the fundamentals related to writing the best brand plan. After we train on each major section of the plan, the brand team then breaks out and debates and writes their preliminary version of the plan. As a brand coach, we critique and challenge each section to ensure the plan is much stronger. Here is the workshop we run:

We make Brands stronger.

We make Brand Leaders smarter.™

We offer brand coaching, where we promise to make your brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your brand’s full potential.BBI ads for 2015.010

For our brand leader training, we promise to make your team of brand leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at or phone me at 416 885 3911

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New John Lewis 2015 Christmas ad released: I love it!!!

imagesThis year’s John Lewis Christmas ad was released today at 8am. We know this time because the ads have become so famous around the world and so popular that John Lewis actually had a release time, and one of the UK papers created an online countdown clock. 


Well, this year’s ad certainly does not disappoint. While each year, the ads have been highly creative, the 2015 version is a nice throwback to the 2010 and 2011 ads that created the magic simply through the eyes of the children in the ads. The emphasis is on giving. You will see there is not a lot John Lewis in any of these ads, but there is a certain degree of ownership. First, there is a certain unmistakeable style with a child, the home, parents and then something magical. Rachel Swift, head of brand marketing at John Lewis, says “It is has become part of our handwriting as a brand. It’s about storytelling through music and emotion. The sentiment behind that hasn’t changed – and that is quite intentional. The strategy behind our campaigns is always about thoughtful gifting.”

Here is this year’s spot.

Yes, the man on the moon is a metaphor (sorry, there really isn’t a man on the moon) for reaching out and giving someone a gift. The literal in you may wonder why a man on the moon. Hint: John Lewis ads are not for the literal. They are an escape where you can link to your own life. For me, this ad quickly reminds me of when my own kids are on the phone or FaceTime with my mom. There is a certain magic in the innocence and simplicity when the very young talk with older people. They both seem to get it, maybe sometimes more than the in-between ages where the innocence of Christmas is lost within their busy schedules. My favorite John Lewis spot has always been the 2011 version, but this new “Man on the Moon” spot is now my new fav!!!  Thank you for making it. Here are the John Lewis spots from the last few years and you can tell me which one you like the best.

2014:  Monty the Penguin:

Here is the one from 2011, about the boy who couldn’t wait for Christmas. You will notice this year’s Man on the Moon feels very similar. 

This is also a great one from 2010

And you can see the one from 2009.

In 2012, the “snowman” ad felt bit too dark for me with the tone feeling like a slight miss for John Lewis. I felt they were trying too hard.  Maybe feeling the pressure to keep the campaign alive by being different when really the consumer just wants the fast-becoming-familiar-John-Lewis-magic each year.

I also found the 2013 ad a bit of a departure, going to animation and utilizing on-line and in-store media. This campaign seems trying too hard to capitalize on their success. Doesn’t feel like a fit. 

Christmas is 8 weeks away. Expect to see this spot a lot on your social media feed. But, also expect the other UK retailers to compete as they did last year.  Here’s a link to what the other retailers did in 2014:  UK retailers always do the best Christmas ads.

John Lewis ads have become one of the favorite parts of the Holiday season

Here is a powerpoint presentation of a workshop we lead on Advertising:

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

We offer brand coaching, where we promise to make your brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your brand’s full potential. For our brand leader training, we promise to make your team of brand leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at or phone me at 416 885 3911

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When your brand is liked, but not loved

308040_478690928818846_943242162_nAs we dive deeper into brand love, we need to set up the Brand Love Curve as a core foundation that we use in every part of this book. In the consumer’s mind, brands sit on a Brand Love Curve, with brands going from “Indifferent” where consumers have no opinion to the “Like It” stage where consumers have a rational connection up to the “Love It” stage where consumers start to crave it and develop an emotional connection and finally up to becoming a “Beloved Brand” for life, where consumers are outspoken fans with a deeply emotional cult-like connection to the brand. Slide1


Don’t feel bad about being at the “Like It” stage, because that’s where most brands sit. But it does mean that you might not be making the most out of the potential of your brand. You have been able to carve out a niche and be a chosen brand against a proliferation of other brands in the category. You have good shares, moderate profits and most brand indicators are probably reasonably healthy. It’s just that no one loves you. You are likely not really doing enough in your marketing to create a bond with consumers. Consumers see your brand as a functional and rational choice. They tried it and it makes sense so they buy it feeling that it meets a basic need. But, consumers don’t have much of an emotional connection or feeling about the brand. You you are seen as ordinary, which is just a little bit better than indifferent.

There are seven reasons why you are at the “Like It” stage:

  1. Protective brand leaders leads to “caution”:  While many of these brands at the Like It are successful, they get stuck because of overly conservative and fearful Brand Managers, who pick middle of the road strategies and execute “ok” ideas. On top of this, Brand Managers who convince themselves that “we stay conservative because it’s a low-interest category” should be removed. Low interest category does not mean you just give up. It means you need to do even more to captivate the consumer.
  2. Rational thinking marketers means “boring”: Those marketers that believe they are strictly rational are inhibiting their brands. They lack passion. Boring brand leaders produce boring brands. dont be boring.001The brand managers get so jazzed on claims, comparatives, product demonstration and doctor recommended, that they forget about the emotional side of the purchase decision. Claims need to be twisted into benefits—both rational and emotional benefits. Consumers don’t care about you do until you care about what they need. Great marketers find that balance of the science and art of the brand. Ordinary marketers get stuck with the rational only. 
Don`t get stuck with just features and claims. Match them up to consumer needs and create rational benefits and then dial them up to emotional benefits.
  3. New brand with momentum: Stage 2 of a new brand innovation is ready to expand from the early adopters to the masses. The new brand begins to differentiate itself in a logical way to separate themselves from the proliferation of copycat competitors. Consumers start to go separate ways as well. Retailers might even back one brand over another. Throughout the battle, the brand carves out a base of consumers. As your new brand continues to gain momentum, now is the time to layer in the emotional benefits, look to find a small growing army who love the brand.
  4. There’s a major Leak:  If you look at the brand buying system, you’ll start to see a major leak at some point where you keep losing customers. Most brands have some natural flaw—whether it’s the concept, the product, taste profile, ease of use or customer service. Without addressing the leak, the brand gets stuck. People like it, but refuse to love it.
  5. Brand changes their mind every year:  Brands need consistency. When the promise and the delivery of the promise changes every year it’s hard to really connect with the brand. A brand like Wendy’s has changed their advertising message every year over the past 10 years. The only consumers remaining are those who like their burgers, not the brand.
  6. Positional Power so you think “who needs love?”:  There are brands that have captured a strong positional power, whether it`s a unique technology or distribution channel or even value pricing advantage. Brands like Microsoft or Walmart or even many of the pharmaceuticals products don`t see value in the idea of being loved. The problem is when you lose the positional power, you lose your customer base completely.
  7. Brands who capture love, but don’t impact the life ritual: There are brands that quickly capture the imagination of consumers but somehow fail to capture a routine embedded in the consumers’ life. Whether it’s Krispy Kreme, Pringles or even Cold Stone Ice Cream, there’s something inherent in the brand’s format or weakness that holds it back. It might be loved, but just not often enough. Out of sight, out of mind, means you almost forget you love them.

Here are the indicators that your brand is at the “Like It” stage:

  • Low conversion to purchase: While the brand looks healthy in terms of awareness and tracking scores, the brand keeps losing out to the competition as the consumer goes to the purchase stage. It usually requires a higher trade spend to close that sale which cuts price and margins.
  • Brand doesn’t feel different enough: An important advertising tracking score to watch is “made the brand seem different” which helps separate the brand from the pack. When you’re a rational message, you won’t see this score break through.
  • Stagnant market shares: When you’re a liked brand, gains you make are offset by losses on something else. Your brand team is content when they hold onto their share, content to grow with the category.
  • High private label sales: If you only focus on the ingredients and the rational features of the product, the consumer will start to figure out they can get the same thing with the private label and the share starts to creep up to 20% and higher.

Here’s some challenges for how to get to the “Love It” stage:

  1. Build a bigger following by driving deeper consideration and purchase:  Begin to sell the brand’s benefits as solutions, not just the product. Invest in building an emotional brand story that helps to drive increased popularity and entices new consumers.
  2. Begin to leverage those people that already love:  Focus on the most loyal consumers and drive a deeper connection by driving the routine which should increase usage frequency.  On top of that, begin cross selling to capture a broader type of usage for the brand.
  3. Love the work: It is time to dial up the passion that goes into the marketing execution. The most beloved brands have a certain magic to them. However, “Like It’ brands tend to settle for ok, rather than push for great. With better work, you’ll be able to better captivate and delight the consumers. If you don’t love the work, how do you expect the consumer to love your brand.
  4. Fix the leak: Brands that are stuck have something embedded in the brand or the experience that is holding back the brand. It frustrates consumers and restricts them from fully committing to making the brand a favorite.  Be proactive by fixing the leak.
  5. Build a Big Idea: Consumers want consistency from the brand as constant changes to the advertising, packaging or delivery can be frustrating. Build everything around a big idea, including the brand story, the innovation and experience to establish a consistency for the brand and help build a much tighter relationship.

Brands at the “Like It” stage get complacent. You need to disrupt the marketing team to focus on driving passion into the work. You need find a better balance between rational and emotional benefits. 

Find your love by showing more love for your consumers

Here’s a workshop we run on creating a beloved brand. We hope it provokes you to think differently so you can see how you can unleash the full power and profitability of your brand.

We make Brands stronger.

We make Brand Leaders smarter.™

We offer brand coaching, where we promise to make your brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your brand’s full potential.

BBI ads for 2015.003

For our brand leader training, we promise to make your team of brand leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at or phone me at 416 885 3911

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Beautiful Remembrance Day ad will bring a tear to your eye

ce0c5f924f69811fb32dcea47485Remembrance Day is a special day in Canada, as we take a moment of silence at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, to commemorate the very moment that World War One ended. Before showing Bell’s new TV ad, here’s a little history about Remembrance Day in Canada:

Remembrance Day (also known as Poppy Day) is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth of Nations member states since the end of the First World War to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty. Remembrance Day is observed on  the 11th of November to recall the end of hostilities of World War I on that date in 1918, as hostilities formally ended “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month”.  Every Canadian kid learns about “In Flanders Fields”, which is a war poem, written during the First World War by Canadian physician Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae (November 30, 1872 – January 28, 1918) who was a Canadian poet, physician, author, artist and soldier during World War I, and a surgeon during the Second Battle of Ypres, in Belgium. He was inspired to write “In Flanders Fields” on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres. According to legend, fellow soldiers retrieved the poem after McCrae, initially dissatisfied with his work, discarded it. “In Flanders Fields” was first published on December 8 of that year in the London-based magazine Punch. The red remembrance poppy has become a familiar emblem of Remembrance Day due to the poem In Flanders Fields. These poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I, their brilliant red colour became a symbol for the blood spilled in the war.  McCrae died of pneumonia months before the end of the war, while still working at a hospital for Canadian soldiers in Belgium.

Here is the Remembrance Day poem:


10676152_10154731864730332_2660724263171587675_nI set that up because this new Bell ad tells a beautiful story from the eyes of a little girl, as she learns about Remembrance Day and does something very touching for a veteran. It’s a very Canadian storyline and I hope you can appreciate every little subtlety in this ad. There are no words and you have to pay close attention to every detail. In the ad, a little girl peers out a school bus window and sees a veteran selling poppies by the side of the road. It prompts her to google “what is a poppy”, which starts her on the learning process about Remembrance Day. The little girl emails someone in Belgium, asking if they are near Flanders Field, a link to the poem above. Then a letter arrives, presumably from the person in Belgium. The little girl takes the letter to the veteran, giving it to him in a very touching tribute and a beautiful moment.

In Canada, most people will wear a poppy in early November as a tribute to our veterans. Everyone knows the poem, as we learn it in school, with most schools holding a Remembrance Day ceremony, with veterans in attendance. This ad is a beautiful tribute to Remembrance Day in Canada and a reminder: Lest we forget. Here’s the ad:

Bell Canada has a long history of paying tribute to our veterans. Below is an ad from the mid 90s, when we were still excited that we could call from anywhere. In the ad, a young 20-year-old visiting Dieppe phones home to Canada to talk to his grandfather, just to say “thank you”. Dieppe holds a special place for Canadians. Two years before D-Day, 6,000 Canadians tried to land on the beach at Dieppe, but less than half survived. We see many tributes to the soldiers, but this one sends a chill through me every time I watch.

Wear a poppy. Lest we forget.

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The ads that have defined the Apple brand


The most beloved brand of today is Apple, which has created a cult-like status to drive towards the masses, giving the brand a bond unlike any brand in our history. Apple is based on the Big Idea that Apple makes technology so simple that everyone can be part of the future. The promise to support that idea is to make things so simple, everyone can feel smarter & more engaged. The Apple story starts whit he belief that technology shouldn’t be frustrating. You should be engaged right away, do more and get big idea map.001

Apple also wields the most power in the market, with consumers lined up behind every new launch, the media giving Apple over 2 billion worth of free media each year and a retail store network that has twice the sales per square foot of any retailer in the world. Apple is now a huge mass market corporate brand, with a market capitalization of $700 billion, 3 times the value of companies like Coke, Procter & Gamble, Pfizer and IBM. They have the Profit and Loss statement that every Brand Leader wants with high margins, relatively low marketing costs, growing market shares and quick entry into every new market.

I recently saw the new “Steve Jobs” movie, which I would highly recommend. I believe he is the marketing genius of our generation–albeit equally flawed in how he treated people. People at Apple used a term “Reality Distortion Field” to describe how it felt to work with Steve Jobs. The movie really captured the good and bad of the reality distortion field: the good is that he had an incredible vision to see things others couldn’t and the bad is he had delusions to read into things that others didn’t. Overall, Jobs was able to get people to produce results that they had believed impossible. The movie uses 3 major launches to anchor the story of Steve Jobs, which triggered my thinking to look at the 3 major Apple ads that defined the brand.


At the time, it was called the best ad ever. What it did very well was express the brand’s vision for the future, even if that vision was ahead of its time. While it didn’t sell many Macs at the time, that was likely due to issues around others parts of the marketing mix such as price and product. I also see it part of Jobs’ “reality distortion field” with the entire market, where he saw things going and it would take another 15 years to catch up to his vision.

Think Different

Upon the return of Jobs to Apple in 1997, his first product launch was the iMac, but the “Think Different” idea really captured how he saw the brand’s purpose and challenger attitude. As much as this was advertising, I believe it an even better internal message to the culture and organization that he wanted to build and how he saw their role was to change the world at the impact level of the world’s greatest leaders ever. There were two versions, one in the voice of Richard Dreyfuss and the other in the voice of Jobs himself. When you see the original copy of the ad below, tell me this doesn’t read like Apple’s true internal beacon you could hang on the walls of the head office. That’s why I prefer the voice of Jobs, almost as though he’s holding his team accountable for achieving what seems to be the impossible in the future.

“Think Different”

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people.

While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

“I’m a Mac”

The Mac vs PC campaign serves to express Apple’s clear point of distinction with their main competitor and carving out Apple’s big idea around “simplicity”.  With 66 ads made in this campaign, each one points out a new difference between Macs and PCs. This campaign is one of my favorites of all time. At Beloved Brands, we teach brand leaders how to judge advertising using our ABC’S tool:  Attention, Branding, Communication and Stickiness. This campaign easily achieves all 4, the humor grabs your attention, the iconic side-by-side technique over 66 spots serves to establish the brand and the communication of simplicity and the inevitable answer at the end of each ad helps stick the overall message that Macs are clearly better.

What’s your favorite Apple Ad?

Here’s a workshop we run on helping brand leaders make better advertising. We hope it provokes you to think differently so you can see how you can unleash the full power and profitability of your brand.

We make Brands stronger.

We make Brand Leaders smarter.™

We offer brand coaching, where we promise to make your brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your brand’s full potential.

BBI ads for 2015.003For our brand leader training, we promise to make your team of brand leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at or phone me at 416 885 3911New 2015 Bio .001



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