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How to lead a Performance Review for Brand Leaders

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The better the people, the better the work and in the end the better the results. 

As we come up on the year-end, it’s that time of year when we nervously sit down with our bosses and find out how the year went. For most of us, it’s one of the most dreaded parts of the job, for both those delivering and receiving the news. But helping to grow our people is one of the most essential parts of the Leader. No matter how good your strategy or product is, without the greatness of your people you’ll never achieve the results you want. We all have gaps and we should all be working on closing those gaps. Performance Feedback is an essential role in the growth of our people. But without pointing those gaps out and coming up with a plan, then the person will never really improve.

A challenge to you: if there are any surprises during the meeting, then you as a leader are not doing your job. As the head of Marketing at Johnson and Johnson, I had one-on-one quarterly performance check ins with all my direct reports. And when I realized that my directs weren’t following my lead, I made the Quarterly Review process mandatory for everyone on the marketing team. It’s my belief that marketers can grow faster than we think–but they can only grow with timely feedback. Those quarterly meetings were honest and informal discussions–which made the year-end review very easy.  I also emailed out the written review document 48 hours ahead of time, giving people the chance to digest all the thoughts and to come prepared ready to discuss each point.

As a Marketing Leadership Team, we spent our greatest efforts around managing the people. We talked people performance in every one of our weekly meetings. The directors were encouraged to bring up people examples of those who were shining and those who were struggling. If one of the other leaders were not familiar with those that were shining, we’d set up a process or special project where they could become more aware. We ranked everyone on the team once a year plus a mid-year check in on the rankings.  You have to be diligent in managing your team.

Skills, Behaviours and Experiences

Marketing Skills: Brand Leaders should be measured on the Core Marketing Skills. Below, I’ve outlined a Checklist of 30 Core Skills for a Brand Leader that can be used to highlight potential gaps that some of our Brand Leaders may have.  These 30 core skills fall under the areas of:

  • Analytics
  • Brand Planning
  • Briefs
  • Advertising
  • New Products & Claims
  • Go-To-Market
  • Leadership
  • Management

You can use this checklist in a few different ways: 1) to see if someone is meeting the needs of the current job–it could be used to set someone up for a performance improvement plan or as a motivation to push themselves 2) for someone who is close to ready for promotion, but you want to close on a few specific areas before the promotion or 3) for your personal assessment to see what you want to work on.

The rating should compare against their peers. It helps to highlight skill gaps where people should focus their attention. Any scores in the 1 or 2 are concerning and need an action plan. The gap could arise because it’s outside of their natural skills or it could just be because it’s been outside of their experience they’ve had. It’s tough to be good at advertising until  you’ve worked on a brand with advertising.

Leadership Skills: Below, I’ve outlined a Checklist of 12 Leader Behaviours of Brand Leaders that can be used to highlight potential gaps that some of our Brand Leaders may have. These 12 leader behaviours fall under the areas of:

  • Accountability to Results
  • People Leadership
  • Strategic Thinker
  • Broad Influence
  • Authentic Style

In the Leader Behaviour space, we all have blind sides that we just can’t see. This is where the 360 degree feedback can help people to see how they are showing up. I know that as a Director, I was a Driver-Driver that caused me to have behaviour gaps around Influence and Style. I had the attitude of “it’s my way or the highway” and I wasn’t getting what I needed from the strategy and accountability I was hoping for. Once I was able to identify it and work on it, I was able to see a big improvement in my performance and the results started to pay off as well.   Without closing that gap when I was a director, I would not have been promoted and would have honestly been unable to lead the entire marketing team.

Experience:  Many of our gaps as Brand Leaders comes from not having the experience. When managing others, expect quite a few mistakes in the first few and you might not get fully there until your 5th direct report. When sitting in the hot seat of advertising, you’ll start to realize just how complex it can be–you’ve got to stay on brief, keep the creative team motivated, make judgement calls at every stage of the process and keep your own management on side.  And at every level, you’ll start to notice that the pressure gets higher–whether it’s push for results, the ambiguity or meeting deadlines through your team.  Each of these takes experience.

With  your best people, make sure you identify the experience gaps they have and be fair to them with the next assignment. It’s far too easy to keep relying on a person’s strengths but it’s more important that you round out that person’s experience. If they advance too far without covering off those gaps, they may find themselves struggling later in the job. I’ve known newly promoted directors who had very little advertising experience coming up that all of a sudden found themselves on a desk with lots of advertising. Their team even had more experience than they did.  Regular people reviews can really help identify the experience gaps that people might have. 

To read about the four levels of the Marketing Team, read the following document that can help you manage your people’s careers based on where they are:

And for any learnings for your teams on specific skills, I’ve created 14 Learning Sessions for Brand Leaders that can help your team to get better.  Most of these sessions can be done in full day sessions with people applying the skills immediately on their businesses.  It’s worth the investment and will be a highly motivating experience for your teams.  To read about all the marketing roles:  1) Assistant Brand Manager 2) Brand Manager 3)  Marketing Director and 4) VP Marketing

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Write a better Positioning Statement by going to war with your consumer’s enemy

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The most beloved brands are based on an idea that is worth loving. 

It is the idea that connects the Brand with consumers. Consumers connect to ideas more than just facts about your product. And under the Brand Idea are 5 sources of connectivity that help connect the brand with consumers and drive Brand Love, including the brand promise, the strategic choices you make, the brand’s ability to tell their story, the freshness of the product or service and the overall experience and impressions it leaves with you. Everyone wants to debate what makes a great brand–whether it’s the product, the advertising, the experience or through consumers. It is not just one or the other–it’s the collective connection of all these things that make a brand beloved.

The best Brand Ideas start with the conquering of the Enemy of your Consumers

As people start writing positioning statements, they normally start off with some feature oriented things they do better than others. And it normally just sounds like a category feature that everyone basically does.  It’s like saying a car drives. You end up with boring, undifferentiated, features that you’ve said for years.  Consumers don’t care about what you do until you begin caring about consumers need.  

And when Brand Leaders feel stuck I like to ask them: “who is your consumer’s enemy?”  Once you answer that, you’ll see the ideas get richer. Use the attack of the enemy to generate a bigger idea which then acts as a focal point to set up your brand promise. You will start to notice that the answers get better because you are connecting with your consumer because it helps solve something in their lives.  You are now in the consumers shoes. 

Here’s a few examples of how it might work:

  • Apple: The enemy of most people who have ever turned on a computer is Frustration. Nothing ever seems to work and we end up overwhelmed and feeling incompetent. Along comes Apple who attacks Frustration by making everything so simple. Everything Apple does is about simplicity, not about technology. Apple makes me feel smarter. Apple makes it easy for anyone to download songs, edit photos or even just start using their computer on day 1, right out of the box. Taking that one step further, Apple’s brand promise is “we make it easier to love technology, so that you can experience the future.”  
  • Starbucks: Back in the 70’s, people loved taking a moment early in the morning to sit with their coffee and morning newspaper.  Folgers made millions on the tagline “The Best Part of Waking Up is Folger’s in Your Cup”. Fast forward one generation and the new enemy is the insane hectic lives that we all live. We rush to get the kids off to school, rush to work, rush to grab a sandwich and work through lunch so we rush to every kid event that night and then slither into bed at 11:15 pm. Starbucks attacks that hectic life with and the big idea becomes a bit of “me time”. Starbucks has created a bit of an escape with a euro-flare, people who know your name, a drink customized to your own desires, a few indulgent treats and a nice leather chair to sit with your best friend.  The Starbucks brand promise is “we give you a moment in your day where you can just escape and spoil yourself” 
  • Special K: For all of us who have gained a few pounds over the years, we keep going on diets and failing over again. It’s just too difficult for us to make such a life style change. Diets are just too hard. And we are left wearing our “fat pants”. The enemy is not being able to squeeze into your favorite pair of jeans anymore. Special K came along and created the 2-week challenge to attack the enemy,  offering the easiest diet that anyone can do. Just replace two meals a day with Special K and you’ll be able to lose weight. It’s that easy. The brand promise is “With the Special K Challenge, it’s a diet so easy that anyone can drop a Jean size in two weeks.” 
So who is your Consumer’s Enemy? And how do you turn the attack on that enemy into a Brand Idea?  

Here’s a presentation on what makes a Beloved Brand:

 

To read and Article on How Brand Love creates Brand Power, follow this link: Brand Love

 

Positioning 2016.112

 

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10 “Stop It’s” to avoid failing on the Customer Experience

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The most Beloved Brands create a brand experience that lives up to even over-delivers against the brand’s promise. I always like to remind myself that the customer is the most selfish animal on the planet, and deservedly so, because they have given you their hard-earned money. Brand Leaders are always fixated on driving demand to increase share and sales. Yet they usually only reach for marketing tactics like advertising, special promotion or new products. It takes years to get customers to change their behavior and move away from their favorite brand and try yours. Yet it takes seconds of bad service for you to lose a customer for life.

Here’s 10 things you can Stop Doing:

Bad Service Rule #1: Stop It with the attitude of “I’m in shirts not ties”.  It can be extremely frustrating walking up to an employee of a store who has no clue about anything but their own little world. And even worse when they just point and say “go over there”. The better service is those who take the extra step by jumping in and helping and those know what’s going on in every part of the brand–not just their own world. Try asking someone at Whole Foods where something is and they will walk you right over to the product you’re asking about and ask if you need anything else.

Bad Service Rule #2: Stop It when you make the customer do the work. The airlines have been shifting all their work over to customers for years–boarding pass, bag tag and now even lifting your suitcase up onto the conveyor belt. While it might help you control your costs in the short-term, you’ll never be a Beloved Brand and you’ll never be able to charge a premium price for your services. Instead, in a highly price competitive marketplace, you just end up passing those cost savings onto to the customer in lower prices. No wonder most airlines are going bankrupt.

Bad Service Rule #3:  Stop It when you feel compelled to bring up the fine print when dealing with a customer problem. Last week I had a computer problem, but I felt extra confident because I had paid extra money to get the TOTAL service plan. Yet with my first computer problem I was told the TOTAL service plan did not include hardware,software, water damage or physical damage. With a computer, what else is there? As a consumer, I had gone through the brand funnel–from consideration to purchase–and made a choice to buy your brand. Yet, at the first sign of my frustration with your brand you are deciding to say to me “don’t come back”. I had a problem with my iPod a few years ago and returned it to the Apple store. They went into the back room and got a new iPod for me and said “would you like us to transfer all your songs over?”. I was stunned. Apple took a problem and turned me into a happy customer who wanted to spend even more money with them.

Bad Service Rule #4: Stop It when you send a phone call to an answering machine.  We’ve all experienced this and secretly many of us have done this. Now if you know you’re going to get a machine, it’s OK to say “is it OK if you get their machine”. But willingly sending a caller into a machine is just plain lazy and it says you just don’t care.  Treat them with the respect that a paying customer has earned with you and make sure there is a human on the other line.

Bad Service Rule #5:  Stop It with processes that make it look like you’ve never been a customer before. While brand leaders tend to think they own the strategy and advertising, it is equally important that you also own the customer experience. While the positive view of the purchase process is driven by a brand funnel, you should also use a “Leaky Bucket” analysis to understand where and why you are losing customers. It is hard work to get a customer into your brand funnel, it is great discipline to move them through that brand funnel by ensuring that every stage is set up to make it easy for the customer to keep giving you money.  Step into the shoes of your customers and experience the brand through their eyes on a regular basis so you can effectively manage the experience.  When you find leaks to the brand funnel, find ways to close them so you can hang on to the customers you’ve worked so hard to get into the doors.

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Bad Service Rule #6: Stop It with the trying to win every customer interaction. Last year after Christmas I was lucky enough to be 34th in the return line. For some reason they put the most angry person they could find to manage the returns line. With every customer, this guy was hell-bent on trying to break the customer’s spirit so they’d avoid returning the product. As I watched, I felt like I was headed into a police interrogation. On the other hand, if you want to see a comfortable returns policy, try returning something at Costco. They take the stance that they are on the side of their “members” and help you go up against the big bad manufacturers. If you don’t have your receipt, they’ll print it out for you. At Costco, the returns process is where they earn that $50-100 membership price. Just maybe you should start treating your customers like members and see if it forces you to see things differently.

Bad Service Rule #7: Stop It when you are explaining your problems instead of listening to the customer’s problems. When a place is completely messed up, some people feel compelled to tell you how stupid they think this is. Unfortunately, this constantly complaining ‘why me’ attitude can quickly become systemic and contagious within the culture. It takes an effort to turn the culture around–laying in service values, driving process that helps reward good service, and driving personal accountability within everyone.

Bad Service Rule #8:  Stop It with the hollow apologies that seems like you are reading from a manual. No one wants to deal with people who just feel like they are going through the motions. It’s crucial that you set up a culture that is filled with authentic people who have a true passion for customers. TD Bank retail staff does an exceptional job in being real with customers. When you consider that they hire from the same pool of talent as all the other banks, it’s obviously the culture of caring about their customers that really makes the difference in separating their customer experience from others.

Bad Service Rule #9: Stop It when you try using my complaint call as a chance to up-sell me  The only up-sell is to get me to come back again. Last month, I had an issue with my internet being way too slow. When I called my local service provider, instead of addressing how bad their current service was, the first response was to try selling me a better service plan that with a higher monthly fee and a higher priced modem. And then all of a sudden, they tried to sell me a home security system. If a customer is a point of frustration, why would they want to pay you even more money for a bad service. You haven’t earned my business. The best in class service is the Ritz Carlton who proactively look to turn customer problems into a chance to WOW the customer. It’s built right into the culture as employees are encouraged to brainstorm solutions and empowered with up to $2,000. Instead of up-selling, the Ritz spends the extra effort to ensure you’re satisfied with the service you’ve already paid for.

Bad Service Rule #10: Stop It when it just becomes a job for you and you forget the passion you have for the business. When your team starts to feel like they have no power, they just start to show up as pencil-pushing bureaucrats. There’s no passion left–as it’s been sucked out by a culture with a complacent attitude and a bunch of check in-check out types who follow the job description and never do anything beyond it. Ask yourself “why do you come to work” and if the answer doesn’t show up in your work, then you know that the culture needs a complete overhaul. If you don’t love the work, then how do you expect your customer to love the brand?  

Brand = Culture

Beloved Brands create an exceptional customer experience. They know it’s not just about advertising and innovation. As a consumer, I’ve become spoiled by the best of the brands who raise the bar and continue to surprise and delight me. Think of how special you feel when you are dealing with Disney, Starbucks and Apple. And compare that to how demoralized you feel when dealing with the airlines, utilities and electronics shops. For the Beloved Brands, they understand that Culture and Brand are One. The Brand becomes an internal beacon for the culture—and the brand’s people have to genuinely be the strongest most outspoken fans who spread the brand’s virtues.

As you look at your own customer experience, take a walk in your customers shoes and see where your customer would rate you. Are they with you because they love you and want to be with you or because they have to be with you? Even though they like the product, they may be indifferent to your brand. And they’ll be gone at the first chance at an alternative.  And as a brand leader, your brand is likely stuck on a rational promise, unable to separate yourself from competitors and instead you are left competing on price and promotion.

  • Begin by holding the culture up the lens of the brand DNA and ensure the right team in place to deliver against the needs of the brand.
  • Start finding ways to create a culture that is more consumer centric (customer first)
  • Begin to push the culture to create a unique delivery of the product experience. Use Leaky Bucket analysis to take a walk in yoru customers shoes and to address weaknesses.
  • Set up forums for innovation—that create an energy through the culture and one that starts to take risks on the best ideas.
  • Use a purpose driven vision, with a set of beliefs and values to challenge the team to create and deliver that experience.
  • Begin using power of a loved brand to attract and retain the best. Find fans of the brand who will become your front line spokespeople. They bring that passion for the brand. Just ask the guys in the blue shirts at the Apple stores.

Here’s a presentation on what makes a Beloved Brand:

 

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. 

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. 

 

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How the most beloved brands fall from grace

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Very few beloved brands stay on top for long. 

The reason I created the Brand Love Curve is that I wanted to find a unique way to talk about the emotional bond I was seeing between brands and consumers.

I first came up with the idea when I was in charge of a Marketing department that had 20 different brands all operating at various levels of success. Honestly, it was hard for me to keep track of where each brand was and I did not want to apply one-size-fits-all type strategies to brands that had different needs. Sure I could have used some of the traditional tools such as Boston Consulting Group matrix with market share versus category growth rates, or I could have looked at various other dimensions related to revenue size, margin rates, competitive advantage or various other metrics.

The beauty of the Brand Love Curve is that it starts with the most important part of the brand: THE CONSUMER. Everything in Marketing has to start and end with the consumer in mind. It assesses the brand’s performance solely on how tightly connected consumers are with your brand. The more connected the brand, the easier it was to Market. It commanded more power and generated more profit.

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When I looked at my own portfolio of brands, I started to noticed that the biggest difference was how tightly connected some brands were with their consumer. I started to refer to the poor performing brands as “indifferent” where consumers did not really care about the brand and then I called the best brands “beloved” because consumers were emotionally engaged. I started to see the difference. I could clearly see that brands with a stronger bond had it easier and that almost everything on those brands was better. Launches of new products were easier because consumers were more accepting. Retailers gave these brands preferential treatment because they knew their consumers wanted them. My own people were more excited to work on these brands, thinking it was a career advancement to get the chance to be part of the beloved brand.  I could see that beloved brands had better share results, better consumer tracking scores and in many cases better margins. It was easier to get price increases through. It seemed that everyone in the organization cared about these beloved brands. My agencies bragged about the work they did on these beloved brands. As I kept exploring this idea, the idea of the Brand Love Curve came to me and I started to map where each our 20 brands sat on this hypothetical curve. As the consumer start with a new brand, they were indifferent, then they started to like it, then loved it, and finally it would become a beloved brand. The goal becomes to move along the curve towards the beloved status.

As I worked with the Brand Love Curve,  I started to see the link between where the brand sat on the curve and our strategy choices available, we started to see there was a difference in the balance of rational and emotional benefits, which impacted our advertising and media planning. I could start to see how the Brand Love Curve could really drive every part of how we manage the brand. The goal became how do we move the brand along the curve because as we discussed in the previous section, if brand love helps your brand become more powerful and profitable, then any degree of added love was a good thing.

At the beloved stage, the brand becomes iconic that is famous and highly regarded with consumers. Consumers become equal to fans, similar to fans of sports teams or celebrities. They become outspoken, possessive and will defend the brand at any point. The brand becomes a self expression of the consumers, a ritual or favorite part of the day. People have conversations about these brands, whether on social media or at the lunch table. The emotional connection becomes so strong, that consumers feel more and think less. Demand becomes desire, needs become cravings, thinking is replaced with feelings. Consumers become blind to pure logic and deaf to rational product based competitors. These brands have strength on every part of the robust brand funnel, near perfect awareness levels, high purchase intentions, high repeat and high loyalty. Voice of the customer is very strong, and the brand listens to ensure they are attacking any weakness before it can be exploited. The brand has a big idea, with every consumer touch point easily tying back and re-enforcing the big idea. The brand has a sense of power and uses it quietly against all stakeholders from consumers to competitors and retailers, while leveraging it with key influencers and media. The brand is driving every lever of their profit statements to continue strong sales growth and healthy margins, driving price premiums, lower costs, higher market shares and leveraging the core base of brand fans to enter new categories.

The most beloved brands we have tracked includes Apple, Starbucks, Nike, Google and Mercedes. In a sense, these brands are flawless in their strategy and execution—fully respected, desired and cherished, while wielding the power in the marketplace to create extremely profitable and valuable brands. Some of the world’s newest challengers for beloved brands status includes Uber, Whole Foods, Netflix, Beats by Dre and Tesla. Impressed by how fast they have risen in the market, but not yet flawless, only time will tell if they can survive near the top.

Staying at the top is just as hard as getting there. Just ask former beloved brands that have fallen from grace, including Blackberry, Gap Clothing, Kodak, Cadillac or Benneton.

 

The 5 ways that Beloved Brands fall from grace

  1. Beloved Brands forget who they are and what it was that made them famous. Benetton is great example of a brand who forgot what made them famous. In 1990, Benetton could do no wrong. Business schools wrote case studies of their success and Ad Agencies held them up as the brand of envy for all clients to learn from.benetton-ad-1991 They had shock-value advertising campaigns that people talked about at the lunch table and there was a Benetton store in every mall. Their colorful and stylish fashion was the desire of the core teenage crowd. Benetton’s brand promise was providing European fashions at an affordable price. But the arrogance of the “can do no wrong” brand quickly faded. While they were so busy creating shock-value advertising and arrogantly talking of their brand as it were art itself they forgot about the fashion part of the business. Benetton started to look like a hollow promise of cool ads with not-so-cool clothing. Also, Benetton expanded so broadly and so fast, they opted for franchises instead of maintaining ownership over the distribution. The managing of the large franchise network became a drain on the company and there’s a belief that not being close to the consumers in the stores hurt their ability to listen to what teenagers were saying and wearing. With a fickle teenage target, Benetton quickly went from a must-have to a has-been brand.
  2. Brands that struggle to keep up with the times. The Beloved Brands of General Motors–Cadillac, Oldsmobile and Corvette–not only peaked in the 1970’s, but found themselves stuck their as well. The 70’s were one of those decades with such a distinct look with Disco, perms, gold chains and the 3-piece suit, that most things connected to the 70’s were completely rejected in the 1980’s. Not-Your-Fathers-OldsmobileA brand like Cadillac was the ultimate luxury brand, so revered that people would describe the best brand of any category as “it’s the Cadillac of….” but that has since been replaced by “it’s the Mercedes of…..” Cadillac’s unit sales peaked in 1973 just as gas prices began to rise and the look of those huge gas-guzzlers. It no longer fit the desires of the Yuppies of the 1980’s who were now opting for sleeker luxury with Mercedes and BMW. The Corvette brand had done a nice job transitioning from the 50’s of James Dean through the 60’s and 70’s, always remaining as an icon of sophisticated American cool. But Corvette failed to update their 1970’s brand look until 1984, which was too late to escape the stigma and giggles of those who looked at the drivers as having a “mid-life crisis”. Consumers of the 80’s were now driving smaller and sleeker sports cars like the RX7, 280Z and later on the Miata. And finally, the Oldsmobile was a classic American family car who sales soared through the 1970’s. By the mid-80’s, in an effort to try to capture a new generation, they used the infamous tagline of “Not your father’s Oldsmobile” which only re-enforced that it WAS your father’s Oldsmobile. I believe that the near-bankruptcy of General Motors can be traced back to the 1970’s when the brands peaked and yet felt stuck in a time-warp forever. GM failed to keep up in design, and failed to change as gas prices rose dramatically. They found themselves attacked on the lower end from the Japanese cars like Toyota and Honda and at the higher end from German brands like Mercedes, Porsche, Audi and BMW.
  3. They make the wrong strategic choices because they think of themselves before the consumer. Gap Clothing got greedy and forgot what made them great: trendy American fashion for a stylish generation at a reasonable price. And who is the spokesperson for fashion: the coolest people on earth: TEENAGERS of course. Every generation of Teens believes they are the most important people on earth and they want products that speak for their generation. It’s all about them.gap They influence Music, Movies, TV Shows and Clothing and believe each has to speak directly to them and for them. Imagine being 15 in the late 90’s, you’re walking in your favorite mall, trying to be as cool as can be, heading for your favorite clothing store. All of a sudden, you look up and your favorite clothing brand is now flanked by BABY GAP on one side and GAP MATERNITY on the other side. How could this brand speak for the teen generation, when your 2-year-old nephews are wearing a mini-version of what you’re wearing or your pregnant Aunt is wearing the stretchy version? GAP made the mistake of putting their name on all their line extensions, which most fans of Master Brands thinks strengthens the brand but it actually runs the risk of actually weakening the brand. GAP also forgot about feeding that desire for leading edge, trendy clothing–the whole reason for that “8 seasons” rotation of inventory. Go into a GAP store this year, and you’ll realize how boring and drab the products have become. No teenager today loves GAP or even thinks much about GAP. They are totally indifferent. Fast forward to 2011, GAP Clothing sales are down 19% this year and down over 25% since the peak of 2005. They have just announced the closing of 200 stores–which will continue the downward spiral.
  4. If you are Afraid to attack yourself, expect an attack from someone else. Kodak was such a revered brand for so long, but their refusal to attack themselves opened up so many windows of attack from others. The first attack came in the traditional film business from low-priced Fuji film. Kodak did nothing to stop Fuji for fear of eroding their margin, letting Fuji gain a 17% share of the film market.Untitled-2 The second attack came from new entrants into the digital camera market before Kodak was ready to enter. Even though Kodak had the first digital camera as early as 1975, the product was dropped internally for fear it would threaten Kodak’s photographic film business. In 1990 Kodak finally laid out a plan to enter the digital camera market but took another decade to enter the market. The world was changing, yet Kodak executives still could not fathom a world without traditional film which gave them little incentive to deviate into the digital camera space. The third attack came once Kodak entered the digital camera space.  Kodak entered at the high-end of the market and for a brief moment was the #1 digital camera. But Kodak failed to recognize how quickly the digital camera market would become commoditized. They did cut their prices, but couldn’t lower their cost of goods fast enough to keep up with the Japanese manufacturers. Kodak was losing $60 for every camera sold at the same time as their traditional film business was dying. The result: Bankruptcy. Interestingly enough, at the time of their bankruptcy, Kodak released 1000’s of patents for sale. It’s not a question of innovation that killed Kodak, it’s a refusal to act on the right innovation in a timely fashion. They failed to attack themselves only to let others attack and ultimately destroy them.
  5. Lose focus and let the experience slide. A recent case study in a brand experience not living up to expectations is the Blackberry. It’s a classic case where they grabbed early share as the category innovator and then forgot to keep making improvements to the overall experience. maxresdefault-1The list of problems for blackberry is long: major service outages, keyboard that sticks, small screen size, bad cameras, poor quality speaker-phone, slow internet browser and when the screen freezes you have to take the battery out and re-boot. In my last few months as an angry blackberry user, I was taking the battery out 5x a day. The leaders at RIM believed they were invincible almost laughing when Apple launched the iPhone. These guys would next launch a tablet without any Apps on it. Oh man! What I think Blackberry’s biggest failure is not mapping out the customer experience and attacking every possible weakness. It’s a classic case of technology first and then thrust it into the marketplace and hope it sells. The blackberry experience has just not kept pace with Android and Apple. As a result, the RIM share price is down 95% since its peak of 2008.

Maintaining beloved brand status

  1. Focus on maintaining the magic and love the brand has created with the core brand fans. Focus most of your attention on those who love you the most. Treat them special. Listen to your consumer, giving them a voice at the table, with the brand being responsive as it can. Market the Big Idea, sell the innovation and the experience. Continue to invest in product innovation and brand experience. Leverage both into telling the overall brand story, using the big idea to push the marketing effort in two separate layers: tell the master brand story about the big idea and the related experience, tell the specific product innovation stories linking how they support and build on the brand’s big idea.
  2. Perfect the experience: For those who love the brand, it is no longer just about the product, it becomes about the experience. Build a culture and organization around the brand that will keep finding new ways to surprise and delight consumers. Perfect every possible touchpoint with the consumer. Attack the brand before it can be attacked by others: The biggest competitor for these brands is the brand itself. The constant goal has to be about getting better. Any degree of complacency will set the brand up for future attacks. Never become complacent or these brands will be replaced by challenger brands wanting to achieve the beloved status.
    Brand Plans 2016.058
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  3. Broaden the offering and broaden the audience: Take advantage of your brand’s loyal following to launch peripheral products that build on the routine. Capture more share of wallet of your most loyal consumers.To ensure you are a brand that goes beyond the current generation of consumers, begin thinking about how to spread your brand to other age groups. A lot of fashion brands and restaurant brands have been trapped into the current generation and lose the status as styles change.

The most beloved brands must keep the love alive, attack yourself, and use your fans as spokespeople. 

 

Here’s a presentation on what makes a Beloved Brand:

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. 

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. 

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The Volvo brand in one word: Safety

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“If you want to build a brand, you must focus your efforts on owning a word in the prospects’ mind. A word nobody else owns” – Al Ries

 

I went to see Al Ries speak a few years ago and he challenged all marketers to get your brand down to one word. It sounded great, until I went back to my desk and started trying it out on my brands. At best I was able to get it down to a few words or a quick catch phrase. As I sat there frustrated, I realized that the effort to try to get it down to one word is a great catalyst that gets you down to a few words.  That’s a hell of a lot better than the excessively long-winded 5-page briefs or the long list of RTB’s (Reason to Believe) people want to jam in a TV ad.

For a long time, we’ve thought that brands just exist to convey a degree of consistency in the consumers mind. Yes, that helps to own a position in the marketplace. But more and more, we are also starting to realize that consistency of message acts as an internal beacon for everyone in the organization to follow.

I am always pushing everyone to focus:  focus on a tight target,  own one main benefit area that no one else can own and then shout it from the mountain top. The challenge here of getting what your brand stands down to one word would be the ultimate. I’d encourage you to take this on a test run and see where you get.  But the bigger point is to, learn from how obsessed Volvo is around safety.

When you ask consumers one word to describe Volvo, without hesitation they say “Safety”.  

I am yet to see any other brand that is so focused against one word like Volvo is with safety. For Volvo safety is not just a claim or demo in their TV ads, but is everything they do. But the real beauty for Volvo is their obsession with safety.

  • Volvo was long ahead of the marketplace. Volvo first started the safety angle in the 1940s and became completely obsessed in through the 1960s long before consumers cared about safety when no one was even wearing seat belts. But the market place has since caught up. This year, Car and Driver reports safety as the #1 benefit that consumers are looking for in a new car.
  • Volvo’s purpose in making safety a priority. In 1958, Volvo came up with the 3-point seat belt. Even with a patent they could have enforced and made millions, Volvo decided to share the technology with all the other car manufacturers because they believed so strongly in it. That really speaks to Volvo’s conviction and authenticity.
  • Volvo has always been way ahead of car safety regulations.  In fact, as safety became a priority with consumers, regulators looked at what Volvo was doing as the standard and then made Volvo’s advancements mandatory across other companies. In the 1990s, Volvo was ahead of the curve on the introduction of air bags and side-air bags. In TV ads, we got so used to seeing the crash test dummy ads re-enforcing Volvo’s ownership over safety.
  • Volvo continues to set the standard for safety today. The 2012 IIHS (Insurance Institute of Highway Safety) had 3 Volvo models in the 10 Top Safety Picks, the most of any car brand. The Euro NCAP collision test has recognize 2012 Volvo V40 as the best car they’ve ever tested, giving it the top rating of five stars in the Euro NCAP collision test.

Most impressive to me that highlights Volvo’s obsession with safety is to look internally at the long list of R&D advancements over the past 70 years.

  • 1944 Safety cage
  • 1944 Laminated windscreen
  • 1957 Anchor points for 2–point safety belts front
  • 1958 Anchor points for 2–point safety belts rear
  • 1959 3–point front safety belts standard
  • 1964 First rearward–facing child safety seat prototype tested
  • 1966 Crumple zones front and rear
  • 1966 Safety door–locks
  • 1969 Inertia reel safety belts
  • 1971 Reminder safety belt
  • 1972 3–point safety belts – rear
  • 1972 Rearward–facing child safety seat
  • 1974 Multi-stage impact absorbing steering column
  • 1974 Bulb integrity sensor
  • 1975 Braking system with stepped bore master cylinder
  • 1978 Child safety booster cushion
  • 1982 “Anti–submarining” protection
  • 1986 Three–point safety belt centre rear seat
  • 1990 Integrated child safety cushion in centre rear seat
  • 1991 Side Impact Protection System
  • 1991 Automatic height adjusting safety belt
  • 1992 Reinforced rear seats in estate models
  • 1995 Integrated child safety cushion outer rear seats
  • 1997 Roll Over Protection System
  • 1998 Whiplash Protection System
  • 1998 Inflatable Curtain
  • 2001 Volvo Safety Concept Car
  • 2002 Roll Stability Control
  • 2003 New Front Structure called Volvo Intelligent Vehicle Architecture
  • 2003 Rear seat belt reminders
  • 2003 Intelligent Driver Information System
  • 2003 Inauguration of Volvo’s Traffic Accident Research Team in Bangkok
  • 2004 Blind Spot Information System
  • 2005 Door Mounted Inflatable Curtain
  • 2006 Personal Car Communicator
  • 2006 Collision Warning with Brake Support
  • 2007 Power Park Brake
  • 2007 Driver Alert Control
  • 2009 City Safety – Automatically stop car at speeds below 19 mph (31 km/h) if obstruction is detected in front of car
  • 2010 Pedestrian Detection with auto brake
  • 2012 Pedestrian airbag

True leader push themselves by attacking the brand even before competitors have a chance. Volvo is continuing to push themselves with a very visionary challenge for the year 2020 that’s squarely directed internally within Volvo. 

Nobody should die or be seriously injured in a Volvo.  

That speaks volumes to the obsession they’ve had for the past 70 years and to the obsessive focus for the future of Volvo!

What can you learn from this for your brand?

 

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Love = Power = Profit

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The Brand Love Curve

In the consumer’s mind, brands sit on a Brand Love Curve, with brands going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally becoming a Beloved Brand for Life. At the Beloved stage, demand becomes desire, needs become cravings, thinking is replaced with feelings. Consumers become outspoken fans. It’s this connection that helps drive power for your brand: power versus competitors, versus customers, versus suppliers and even versus the same consumers you’re connected with. The farther along the curve, the more power for the brand. It’s important that you understand where your brand sits on the Love Curve and begin figuring out how to move it along towards becoming a Beloved Brand.

Slide1

 

With each stage of the Brand Love Curve, the consumer will see your brand differently. The worst case is when consumers have “no opinion” of your brand. They just don’t care. It’s like those restaurants you stop at in the middle of no-where that are called “restaurant”. In those cases, there is no other choice so you may as well just name it restaurant. But in highly competitive markets, you survive by being liked, but you thrive by being loved. Be honest with yourself as to what stage you are at, and try to figure out how to be more loved, with a vision of getting to the Beloved Brand stage.

The most beloved brands are based on an idea that is worth loving.

It is the idea that connects the Brand with consumers. And under the Brand Idea are 5 sources of connectivity that help connect the brand with consumers and drive Brand Love, including the brand promise, the strategic choices you make, the brand’s ability to tell their story, the freshness of the product or service and the overall experience and impressions it leaves with you. Everyone wants to debate what makes a great brand–whether it’s the product, the advertising, the experience or through consumers. It is not just one or the other–it’s the collective connection of all these things that make a brand beloved.

Generating Love for the Brand

The brand’s promise sets up the positioning, as you focus on a key target with one main benefit you offer. Brands need to be either better, different or cheaper. Or else not around for very long. “Me-too” brands have a short window before being squeezed out. How relevant, simple and compelling the brand positioning is impacts the potential love for the brand.
The most beloved brands create an experience that over-delivers the promise. How your culture and organization are set up can make or break that experience. Hiring the best people, creating service values that employees can deliver against and having processes that eliminate service leakage. The culture attacks the brand’s weaknesses and fixes them before the competition can attack. With a Beloved Brand, the culture and brand become one.
Brands also make focused strategic choices that start with identifying where the brand is on the Brand Love Curve going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and all the way to Beloved status. Marketing is not just activity, but rather focused activity–based on strategy with an ROI mindset. Where you are on the curve might help you make strategic and tactical choices such as media, innovation and service levels.
The most beloved brands have a freshness of innovation, staying one-step ahead of the consumers. The idea of the brand helps acting as an internal beacon to help frame the R&D. Every new product has to back that idea. At Apple, every new product must deliver simplicity and at Volvo, it must focus on safety. .
Beloved brands can tell the brand story through great advertising in paid media, through earned media either in the mainstream press or through social media. Beloved Brands use each of these media choices to connect with consumers and have a bit of magic to their work.

 

Slide1

 

Using Apple as an example, which is the most valuable brand on the planet, the big idea behind Apple is complexity made simple. Since every great brand tackles an enemy of the consumer, Apple takes on the frustration and intimidation that consumers have with technology. The Apple brand promise is we make it easier to love technology, so that you can experience the future no matter who you are. Apple has done an amazing job in creating products that take the most complicated of technology and deliver it so that anyone can use it. People criticize Apple for not being that leading edge of technology saying they just copy. But they don’t get what Apple is about. Whereas every other geeky computer company starts with the technology and forces consumers to figure it out, Apple takes that same technology and makes it so simple–whether that’s the iPhone iPad or the Mac which have made technology accessible for anyone. Apple knows how to tell their story, starting with the launch meeting–last week’s iPad Mini launch was covered for days in the mainstream media. You could even watch it live on-line. Apple has made great ads over the years, but they know how to work the media–whether that’s on CNN, technology magazines or through social media such as Twitter and Facebook. Apple manages the Brand Experience to perfection–starting with the excitement of launches to the helpfulness of the genius bar to the out-of-box start-up of any of the Apple products. As much excitement as Apple generates, they always seem to over-deliver. Look how giddy people get over their iPhones and iPads. All these contribute to the Love for the Apple brand and generates a loyal following.

 

Using the Love to Generate Power

The 12 forces of a Beloved Brand map out how a beloved brand can leverage the power generated from being loved.

 

A Beloved Brand with a loyal group of followers has so much more power–starting with a power over the very consumers that love them. These consumers feel more than they think–they are e-rational responding to emotional cues in the brand. They’ll pay a premium, line up in the rain for new products and follow the brand to new categories. Look at the power Starbucks has with their base of consumers, making their Starbucks moment one of their favorite rituals of the day and how consumers have now added sandwiches and wraps to those rituals. All day long, Starbucks has a line up of people ready for one of their favorite moments of their day.

Using Porter’s 5 forces, we can see that the love also gives Beloved Brands power over channels, substitutes, new entrants, or suppliers. People rather switch stores than switch brands. Apple has even created their own stores, which generate the highest sales per square foot of any retailer. These brand fans are outspoken against competitors and suppliers will do what it takes to be part of the brand. In Apple’s case, Intel has given them the lead on new chip technology.

Beloved Brands have a power over employees that want to be part of the brand and the culture of the organization that all these brand fans are proud to project. People at Starbucks love working there and wear that green apron with a sense of pride. Brand fans know the culture on day 1 and do what it takes to preserve it.

Beloved Brands have a power over the media whether that’s paid, earned, social or search media. Apple generates over a billion dollars of free media via the mainstream media and social media. Competitors complain about Apple getting a positive media bias–they are right, they do. Even for paid media,beloved brands get better placement, cheaper rates and they’ll be the first call for an Integration or big event such as the Super Bowl or the Olympics. Nike did such a great job with social media during the London Olympics that people thought they were the main shoe sponsor–when it was Adidas.

Beloved Brands have a power over key influencers whether it’s doctors recommending Lipitor, restaurant critics giving a positive review for the most beloved restaurant in town or Best Buy sales people selling a Samsung TV. They each become fans of the brand and build emotion into their recommendation. They become more outspoken in their views of the brand. And finally beloved the Beloved Brand makes its way into conversation at the lunch table or on someone’s Facebook page. The brand fans are everywhere, ready to pounce, ready to defend and ready to say “hey, you should buy the iPhone”. The conversation comes with influence as crowds follow crowds. This conversation has a second power, which creates a badge value. People know it will generate a conversation and are so proud to show it off. After all, they are in the club. All twelve of these forces combine to generate further power for the brand.

Using the Love and Power to generate Profits

 

 

With all the love and power the Beloved Brand has generated for itself, now is the time to translate that into growth, profit and value. The Beloved Brand has an Inelastic Price.  The loyal brand fans pay a 20-30% price premium and the weakened channels cave to give deeper margins.  We will see how inelastic Apple’s price points are with the new iPad Mini.   Consumers are willing to trade up to the best model.  The more engaged employees begin to generate an even better brand experience. For instance at Starbucks, employees know the names of their most loyal of customers. Blind taste tests show consumers prefer the cheaper McDonald’s coffee but still pay 4x as much for a Starbucks. So is it still coffee you’re buying?

A well-run Beloved Brand can use their efficiency to lower their cost structure.  Not only can they use their growth to drive economies of scale, but suppliers will cut their cost just to be on the roster of a Beloved Brand.  They will benefit from the free media through earned, social and search media.  They may even find government offer subsidies to be in the community or partners willing to lower their costs to be part of the brand.  For instance, a real estate owner would likely give lower costs and better locations to McDonald’s than an indifferent brand.

Beloved Brands have momentum they can turn into share gains. Crowds draw crowds which spreads the base of the loyal consumers. Putting name Disney on a movie generates a crowd at the door on day 1. Competitors can’t compete–lower margins means less investment back into the brand. It’s hard for them to fight the Beloved Brand on the emotional basis leaving them to a niche that’s currently unfulfilled.

Beloved Brands can enter into new categories knowing their loyal consumers will follow  because they buy into the Idea of the Brand.  The idea is no longer tied to the product or service but rather how it makes you feel about yourself.  Nike is all about winning, whether that’s in running shoes, athletic gear or even golf equipment.

The formula for a Beloved Brand is simple: Beloved = Power = Growth = Profit

Apple has been able to take all the love they generate with consumers and transform it into a power that they’ve been able to drive into their P&L, with 25-fold gains in revenue, increases in gross margins and can move all their ratios into the right space.  As a result, Apple is now the most valuable company in the world.

 

How loved is your brand?

We believe a brand’s source of power is the emotional feelings it generates. With that power comes added profitability.

In the consumer’s mind, brands sit on a Brand Love Curve, with brands going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally becoming a Beloved Brand for Life. At the Beloved stage, demand becomes desire, needs become cravings, thinking is replaced with feelings. Consumers become outspoken fans. It’s this connection that helps drive power for your brand: power versus competitors, versus customers, versus suppliers and even versus the same consumers you’re connected with. The farther along the curve, the more power for the brand. It’s important that you understand where your brand sits on the Love Curve and begin figuring out how to move it along towards becoming a Beloved Brand. With the power of connection, the brand can leverage that power into increased growth and profits. To read more, follow this presentation.

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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 graham@beloved-brands.com or phone me at 416 885 3911

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How Ritz-Carlton meets the “unexpressed” needs of guests

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The Impeccable service helps separate Ritz-Carlton. Ritz-Carlton does a lot of things right to earn the high prices they are able to charge–the best locations, beautiful rooms, nice beds and great meals. But in reality, every luxury hotel has to deliver against these or they’ll be quickly out of business. Recognizing that any great brand has to be better, different or cheaper to win, Ritz-Carlton focuses their attention on impeccable service standards to separate themselves from other Hotels. What Ritz-Carlton has done so well is operationalize it so that culture and brand are one.

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Ritz-Carlton Training session, and as a Brand Leader, the thing that struck me was the idea of meeting the “unexpressed” needs of guests.

As highly paid Marketers, even with mounds of research, we still struggle to figure out what our consumers want, yet Ritz-Carlton has created a culture where bartenders, bellhops and front desk clerks instinctively meet these “unexpressed needs”. Employees carry around notepads and record the expressed and unexpressed needs of every guest and then they use their instincts to try to surprise and delight these guests.

Employees are fully empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests. Unique means doing something that helps to separate Ritz-Carlton from other hotels, memorable forces the staff to do something that truly stands out. And personal is defined as people doing things for other people. Is that not what marketers should be doing? So what is getting in your way?

Ritz-Carlton bakes service values right into their culture

The Ritz-Carlton phrase they use with their staff is “Keep your radar on and antenna up” so that everyone can look for the unexpressed needs of their guests. These could be small wins that delight consumers in a big way, showing the hotel is thinking of ways to treat them as unique and special. But like any hotel, things do go wrong. When a problem does arise they quickly brainstorm and use everyone’s input. The staff is encouraged to surprise and delight guests so they can turn a problem into a potential wow moment.

Wow stories

A great story that makes its way around the Ritz-Carlton world. A guest who had just left the hotel called to say that their son had left his stuffed giraffe in the room. The boy could not stop crying. The only thing these distraught parents could think of to tell their son is that the giraffe was staying on the vacation a little longer. So the staff found the giraffe and overnighted it to the boy. Most luxury hotels would have done that. But that was not enough for Ritz-Carlton.

Knowing what the Mom had told their son about staying on a bit longer, the staff also included a photo album of the giraffe enjoying his extra stay. They took photos sitting by the pool, getting a massage in the spa with cucumbers on his eyes, and laying out on the beach. Imagine how the parents felt. And the signal it sends to them about the Ritz-Carlton staff. Imagine how many friends they may share that story with.

To inspire each other, everyone at Ritz-Carlton goes through a daily line up where they share wow stories, both local stories, and stories from other hotels around the world. This line up keeps everyone in line, but it also keeps people fully engaged.

Harvard did a study on Employee Engagement, stating that the average company had 29% of their employees who were fully engaged and they labeled this group as the ‘Super Stars’. Using the same criteria, Ritz Carlton has 92% of their staff considered fully engaged. No wonder they are able to win so many service awards and no wonder they can create such an experience for their consumers. They have fully created a culture that now defines the brand.

So What Can Brand Leaders Learn from Ritz-Carlton?

  1. How can Brand Leaders meet the unexpressed needs of guests? As Henry Ford said: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Are you too worried about the short-term results that you are not even seeing or hearing the unexpressed needs of consumers? Are you so analytical that you need to see the data first and never reach for your instincts?
  2. How do you get your antenna up, so that you are always watching, listening and thinking? How many times a week do you talk with consumers, walk into a store or monitor the brand’s social media feed? Do you ever sit with customer service or read through consumer complaints? Can you set aside time to do a quick brainstorm on consumer observations once a week?
  3. How can Brand Leaders push themselves to wow the consumer? The Ritz-Carlton staff is constantly trying to wow their guests, with surprise and delight that goes beyond the brand promise. Are you pushing yourself to surprise or wow your consumer? Do you have a high standard for the work that exceeds that of your consumer?

How to communicate to the corporate culture behind your brand

With most brands I meet up with, I ask “What is the Big Idea behind your brand?” I rarely get a great answer. When I ask a Leadership Team, I normally get a variety answers. When I ask the most far-reaching sales reps, the scientists in the lab or their retailer partners, the answers get worse. How Ritz-Carlton meets unexpressed needsThat is not healthy. Everyone who touches that brand should be able to explain what it stands for in 7 seconds, 60 seconds, 30 minutes or at every consumer touch-point. They should always be delivering the same message.

There are too many Brands where what gets said to the consumer is different from what gets said inside the corporate walls. The Big Idea must organize the culture to ensure everyone who is tasked to meet the needs of both consumers and customers, whether they are in HR, product development, finance, operations and experience delivery teams, must all know their role in delivering the Big Idea.

Too many brands believe brand messaging is something that Advertising does. The more focus we put on delivering an amazing consumer experience, the more we need to make sure the external and internal brand story are aligned. It should be a Big Idea that drives that story. Every communication to employees, whether in a town-hall speech, simple memo or celebration should touch upon the brand values that flow from the Big Idea, highlighting examples when employees have delivered on a certain brand value.

The Big Idea should drive everything and everyone

Brand Management was originally built on a hub-and-spoke system, with the Brand Manager expected to sit right in the middle of the organization, helping drive everything and everyone around the Brand. However, it should actually be the brand’s Big Idea that sits at the center, with everyone connected to the brand expected to understand and deliver the idea.How Ritz-Carlton meets unexpressed needs

Aligning the brand with the culture is essential to the long-term success of the brand. The best brands look to the overall culture as an asset that helps create a powerful consumer experience. The expected behaviors of the operations team behind the consumer experience should flow out of the brand values, that flow from the Big Idea. These values act as guideposts to ensure that the behavior of everyone in the organization is set to deliver the brand’s promise.

Can you do something this week that meets the unexpressed needs of your customer?

 

 

 

 

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Five questions about media in the future

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I’m not a media expert at all. So there will be no answers here, just questions about where I might be confused about the future or where I might see an impact to my media thinking. I come at everything through the lens of the Brand Leader. My questions are more about the impact on consumer behaviour and how the brand can win through media in the future.  If you’re a media expert, feel free to add solutions.  At this point, I just have questions!

1. Will people watch even more TV in the future? 

I love asking this question because it usually confuses people, because of the expected downward trend of TV viewership over the last 10 years. At first, this question might sound crazy, but with more tablets and instant internet access everywhere, we should expect a shift to watching more TV, not less. This year, books are up 13% due to increased readership via tablets. Will we see that impact to TV? More access means more use. If you’re on the subway, an airplane, waiting to pick up your kids or on your lunch hour, wouldn’t it be great just to catch an episode of Modern Family?  Now you can. And while this is at the early stages with early adopters, we’ll quickly see it going mass over the next few years. But the TV model will have to change. Consumers won’t want to be watching 8 minutes of TV ads. It seems people see their computer as their personal space and they find intrusive advertising even more annoying on their computer than they do their TV.   We need a new model for TV advertising–I haven’t seen it yet.

As a Brand Leader, I recommend that you don’t give up on TV just yet. Maybe it will be on a tablet or a phone. Just be a bit more creative. Maybe you need to make your spots more interesting to take advantage of viral shares. Make sure your spots are more engaging so people want to watch rather than just tolerate. Be open to integrating your brand right into the shows, or maybe go back to the past when  brand sponsorship kicked off every 1950s TV show.

2. How can Advertisers Capture the Internet Babies (12-22 years old) as they move into adulthood?

As someone said, this segment never “goes on-line” because they are “always on-line”. They are never “off-line”.  Last year, my 14-year-old daughter had 3 friends over and when teens visit, you have to expect a bit of excess noise. All of a sudden, there was silence for 20 minutes. I thought they must have left but then I see four teenagers all sitting at the kitchen table texting away, not a word being said. Complete silence. This generation lives on-line and put their lives on-line. It remains confusing as to their true view of privacy–do they want more or do they just figure their lives are an open book.

This group has their priorities shaped by the age of instant access. They want everything now–sports scores, rumours, or videos of what they just saw on TV. They are multi-tasking so much it’s arguable they never give anything complete focus.  When they watch TV, they have the laptop up, their cell phone in hand–navigating Facebook, twitter, texting, instagram and Skype all at once. No wonder ADD is growing. They choose Apps over software, expecting an App solution for any problem they have. They see advertising as completely ubiquitous and are more open to brands than other generations. But how they consume media is completely different. E-Commerce is an expectation, as they buy songs, games and movies or a new phone case at a whim.

As a Brand Leader, we need help to figure out how to win with this group when they turn 25?  I know as a parent of this age group, I have no wisdom I can pass on.  Maybe someone in this age group can help us out, because I’m utterly confused.

3. Can Newspapers even Survive? 

So far, newspapers haven’t figured out the profit model between the traditional broadsheet and the on-line versions. Making it free was likely a mistake, and makes it hard to turn back. If your newspaper has been free on-line since 1997, I’ll be pissed off if you now expect me to pay for it.  If I’m interested in the topic, I’ll just Google the same headline and find a free version.  As long as newspaper publishers see a direct link between the actual broadsheet and the newspaper they run the risk of extinction. If you think a newspaper is a collection of amazing journalists, you’re off to a good start.  But if you think it has to be a broadsheet, then you’re completely lost. 

News now is instant, ubiquitous and more casual/social. The tweeting that went on during the US presidential debate (e.g. Big Bird) is evidence of how social media drives the story.  I don’t need to read a journalists take on it.  I already know.  By the time the broadsheet version of the newspaper is ready, this story is now old news and even has had 12-18 more hours to evolve into a completely new story line. The broadsheet can’t keep up. I love the business model for the Huffington Post.  What started as on-line political opinion is becoming a source for broader news–entertainment, sports and lifestyle stories.  With more publishers going without a printed version (e.g. Newsweek just announced they’re cancelling their printed version), this has to be the future.    

As a Brand Leader, I’d recommend moving your Newspaper spend on-line or even choose other mainstream media options. You’ve put up with the bad production quality for 100 years–is there really anyone under 50 still reading.

4. Can Advertisers Figure Out how to Win in the New World?  

The Commodity Brands that have funded mainstream media remain completely confused. 

Traditional media has always been funded by advertisers whether that means TV ads for 8-12 minutes per hour, newspapers and magazines with 25-40% of the space for ads and radio with ads every second song. Traditional Media has been free as long as you were willing to put up with advertising interrupting your usage of the media.  That ability to interrupt consumers allowed the Commodity Brands (dish soap, diapers, toothpaste, razor blades and batteries) to break through to consumers, as they sat captive and watching their favourite TV show.

But New Media is free, unbridled and fairly commercial free. In general, a lot of the advertising still just sits there along the sidelines where we don’t click.  While the high interest and high involvement brands have started to figure out how to use the New Media, the Commodities remain in a state of confusion. If you want to see what confusion looks like, go see Head and Shoulder’s twitter page with 320 followers or Bounce’s Facebook page “where they talk about fresh laundry” (their words, not mine)

These Commodity brands need to either get people more involved, which Dove is the best in class brand, or they need dial-up the potential importance for a core target which Tide has done a good job. As we see many of the new media companies (Facebook) struggling to figure out how to make more money from Advertisers, there needs to be a step up in creativity to find new solutions. Banner ads that just sit along the side aren’t going to do much for the advertiser or the media owner. If social media sites want to win over these commodity brands, they need find that right balance of interrupting consumers without annoying their membership.

5.  Are there too many Social Media Options?

I know there are still new social media options every month, but most of these feel fairly niche.  In the mainstream social media sites, we are seeing that winners have emerged and they are turning into leaders as Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Linked In and Wikipedia all now dominant in their given area.  It looks impossible for a new entrant to really challenge them.  If a new entrant were to try for leap-frog strategy, these leaders would just duplicate the innovation and kill the challenger. Every industry has gone through a similar pattern: early innovation, divergence of brand options, then a few power brands emerge, and then a power play where the strong squeeze out the weak through mergers and acquisitions until there are a handful of brand owners remaining.

As these Social Media sites look to turn their power into wealth, we will see a shift from fighting for members to fighting for advertiser dollars. This will likely force a convergence of social media options where the strongest brands try to squeeze out the smaller sites. There are already small signs in Google’s strategy they are thinking this way–trying to be the one stop shop. Mergers are always tend to surprise us, almost the unimaginable. Can you imagine Facebook buying LinkedIn? Who knows, maybe we’ll even see a merger between social media brands and mainstream networks. AOL already tried it with Time-Warner. But can you imagine Google buying CNN, Facebook buying MTV or NBC buying the Huffington Post? If you’re an Advertiser, expect some uncertainty in the next few years and expect a few mergers.

If you have any solutions to these questions or if you have other questions, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  

For a Media Overview that can help Brand Leaders get better media plans by learning more about both traditional and digital options, read the following presentation:

 

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. 

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. 

 

Positioning 2016.112

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My tips on how to successfully land your first marketing job

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I got my first Assistant Brand Manager job twenty years ago. I remember how excited I was that first day and how frustrated I was the first few months at my true incompetence as I went through the Idiot Curve. While things have changed tremendously over those twenty years, many of the same principles for landing that job remain the same.

To start with here is the job you’ll be Applying for How to be a Great ABM  If that’s how you’ll be judged in the few months, than that’s how you’ll be judged in the Interview Process.

The first lesson I can tell you is there are more people who want to be an Assistant Brand Manager than there are jobs. And that’s continuing to tighten in the tough economy as many places are going without.

So how bad do you really want this job?

Do you want it more than everyone else? And will you do what it takes to get that job. I remember interviewing so many times and not getting the job–I must have gone through 100 interviews before I finally landed the right job. I remember one time, after 3 minutes the hiring manager looked at my resume and said “you have zero marketing experience, this won’t work”. That one still stings after twenty years, but made me want it even more.  Persistence has to be the key. If you are only half trying, then I have very little sympathy. If you are completely immersed in the effort, trust me, you will eventually break through.

In this article, it will be filled with my biases, but at least you’ll get a vantage from a former CPG executive who was heavily involved in the recruiting of ABMs.

How do I get in?

MBA:

This was the #1 source of our ABMs. It gave us the chance to have a consistency in our recruiting efforts, allowed us to have a focused timing for the hiring and even a consistency in starting dates so we could measure and compare ABMs.  One of the silent secrets no one can say is that an MBA ensures that ABMs are late 20s, rather than 22–which makes it easier for them to work with the sales teams. Now, people always ask me: “Do I need an MBA?” My answer is “No, but it sure helps”. It allows you to be part of the formal recruiting process, get in front door and be judged by that very process, rather than just a one-off hiring manager who is in a panic and doesn’t know what they want. My question to you is “Can you do an MBA?” because if you can, I’d recommend it.

Head Hunter and Recruiters:

This was our second source for ABMs, especially when we needed ABMs outside of the formal recruiting process. There are some Headhunters that specifically fill ABM roles and you should make sure you are connected with them. If you are lucky, you can get a head hunter who gives you tips on your resume or feedback on your interview. Ask for the feedback. Stay in touch regularly.

Networking:

As the economy has gotten worse, some companies have cut back on the use of Head Hunters and opted for using a “finder’s fee” to employees that recommend someone. So if you can connect with ABMs that already work at the company, they have an incentive to actually get you hired. The advantages to networking is they’ll tell you the hiring manager, process and interview tips. They’ll also alert you to when someone quits. I would recommend you write down the 10-20 companies you want to work for and get networking with other ABMs, BMs or the HR manager.

Experience in the Company:

A generation ago, many started off in sales and then moved over to marketing. It still can happen, but it’s becoming less common. If you try this route, push to get over the marketing quickly so you don’t get stuck in a role you don’t want.

Job Posting:

Don’t wait for the postings, or you’ll be missing out on most of the jobs. The HR department puts up the job posting, either because the company has exhausted all other methods. The posting doesn’t always mean there is a job, but HR using it to fill the résumé bank. The new method of hiring is to go on to Linked In and put “We are Hiring” in job groups.

The Interview Process

On average, you’ll need 4-5 interviews to land the job–likely one with HR, a couple at the manager level and a couple at the director level. If it’s part of the formal recruiting process, then you need to realize you are being judged at every moment, from the on-campus event to the potential dinner/lunch during the interviews and even how you act between interviews. If they give you a mentor to help you, that person will also have influence. In our debrief about candidates, there were just as many comments about things beyond the interviews as there were the interviews themselves.

Many interviews are moving to the behavioral style where they might say: “tell me a time when you had a conflict…” This means you need to translate all your strengths and weaknesses into stories that show you have experience in the given area. Write down your answers in the form of Situation Action and Result. Learn how to tell the stories so that it answers the question and showcases your strengths.  Even if people don’t ask you the “tell me a time…” questions, it can be powerful for you to answer in that method.

What’s your weakness?

You will still get asked, “what’s your weakness?”. It’s such a cliché question now, but it still gets asked. I once had a candidate tell me they hated ambiguity, which was pretty much the death-nail. Avoid the BS style “I’m too hard on myself” or “I work too hard”. You just sound annoying. The safest option I would recommend is “I’m not very good at negotiating” which is a skill that’s not really that important for marketing.

Here are the Interview Questions that I used to Ask:

Tell me a time you used numbers to sell an idea?

You better have your story tight because your answer will be questioned one or two more levels to see if you really know your stuff. Great Marketers can tell stories with analysis.

What’s the most creative thing you’ve ever done?

It really doesn’t matter what it was, but how far did you push yourself out of your comfort zone to find the creative solution.  Your passion for your idea should come through.

What’s the thing you’re most proud of?

When I read your résumé, I want to see big accomplishments beyond your work experience or school. Football, chess, traveling the world or charity work etc. I want to hear your story and your pride come through.  Great Marketers accomplish things, and I want to know that you have a history of accomplishments. Don’t tell just what you did, tell me what you ACCOMPLISHED!

Tell me a time when you’ve convinced your boss of something they thought wouldn’t work.

I want to see if you can make it happen. This will show your leadership, selling skills, and willingness to push. A great Marketer can get what they want..

If you were Justin Bieber’s agent, how would you maximize his value as a spokesperson?

I always took something in the pop culture news and asked how you would handle it. I was looking to see how curious you are and how you could take something with very little subject matter expertise and put together a plan. A great Marketer has a curiosity and can form opinions quickly. This lets me see your thinking. Pop culture is a great area that goes beyond books.

If you were on a team that solved a serious healthcare problem for Society, what factors would you use to price it on the global level?

This is a very thick question with many issues, especially adding in the global issue. I want to see you think through those issues and layer those issues into your answer. How do you handle the differences between North America and the Third World? How important is profitability vs R&D vs compassion? And, how would you leverage government, key influencers and where would that fit into your answer. Great marketers can handle ambiguity and there is a lot within this case.

From your previous Interview with our company, what’s the biggest mistake you made and how would you now change that?

Great marketers are constantly pushing themselves to improve. That starts with your own personal assessment. I want to see that you have thought about it and now see a better solution. It also puts you under a bit of unexpected pressure to see how you handle that.

What questions do you have for me?

To me, this is one of the most important sections. It demonstrates how engaged you are in the process. The quality of your questions will help to separate you. Have five great questions done ahead of time, ask about 2-3 each interview. Ask deep questions, not surface questions. Turn each answer into a conversation starter.

Act like you want the job.

Show a bit of spunk and energy through the interviews.  Marketing jobs are a bit different. Take a Red Bull before the interview. Be leaning forward, make eye contact, be comfortable and dynamic in your personality.

Best of luck to you, and go for it.  

 

Here’s a presentation on Brand Management careers:  

To learn more about this type of thinking, you should explore my new book, Beloved Brands.

With Beloved Brands, you will learn everything you need to know so you can build a brand that your consumers will love.

You will learn how to think strategically, define your brand with a positioning statement and a brand idea, write a brand plan everyone can follow, inspire smart and creative marketing execution and analyze the performance of your brand through a deep-dive business review.

Beloved Brands book

To order the e-book version or the paperback version from Amazon, click on this link: https://lnkd.in/eF-mYPe

If you use Kobo, you can find Beloved Brands in over 30 markets using this link: https://lnkd.in/g7SzEh4

And if you are in India, you can use this link to order: https://lnkd.in/gDA5Aiw

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help brands find a new pathway to growth. We believe that the more love your brand can generate with your most cherished consumers, the more power, growth, and profitability you will realize in the future.

We think the best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique playbook tools are the backbone of our workshops. We bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a brand idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources.

Our brand playbook methodology will challenge you to unlock future growth for your brand

  1. Our deep-dive assessment process will give you the knowledge of the issues facing your brand, so you can build a smart plan to unleash future growth.
  2. Find a winning brand positioning statement that motivates consumers to buy, and gives you a competitive advantage to drive future growth.
  3. Create a brand idea to capture the minds and hearts of consumers, while inspiring and focusing your team to deliver greatness on the brand’s behalf.
  4. Build a brand plan to help you make smart focused decisions, so you can organize, steer, and inspire your team towards higher growth.
  5. Advise on advertising, to find creative that drives branded breakthrough and use a motivating messaging to set up long-term brand growth.
  6. Our brand training program will make your brand leaders smarter, so you have added confidence in their performance to drive brand growth.

To learn more about our coaching, click on this link: Beloved Brands Strategic Coaching

To learn more about our training programs, click on this link: Beloved Brands Training

If you need our help, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or call me at 416 885 3911

You have my personal promise to help you solve your brand building challenges. I will give you new thinking, so you can unlock future growth for your brand.

Signature

Graham Robertson

Founder and CMO, Beloved Brands Inc.

 

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Does a Brand Vision statement matter?

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The Vision for the Toronto Maple Leafs

I love asking people “Do you think the Toronto Maple Leafs had a good year last year?”.  For non-hockey fans, the Leafs would be like the Chicago Cubs in baseball or  Aston Villa in the English Premier League.  My beloved Leafs are the only NHL team who has not made the playoffs since 2004, and they have not won a championship since 1967.  The last two seasons they finished 29th and 25th out of 30 teams.  That’s really pathetic.

So did the Leafs have a good year?   It depends on what you think the brand vision is?    If you think the Leafs Vision is to Win the Stanley Cup, then it’s been an obvious disaster. But if you think the Leafs Vision is to be the Most Valued Sports Franchise, then it’s been an amazing year, just like the past 8 years. In those eight years of hockey despair, overall revenue has gone up from $117 million to $190 million while costs have gone down from $69 million to $57 million. That’s a P&L the people of Price Waterhouse dream about.  The resulting brand value has seen the Leafs go from $263 million in 2003 up to $521 million–making it the #1 value valued team in hockey. Eight years of missing the playoffs and the value of the team has nearly doubled.  Instead of firing everyone, they should be handing out the bonus cheques. They still have a long way to reach the NY Yankees Value of $2.2 Billion.  

Does a Vision Statement Pay Out?

Companies that have Vision Statements have a better sense of where they are going. And the proof is there that it pays off for companies with a Vision.

  • Harvard Study across 20 industries looking at businesses showed that companies with Vision Statements saw their revenue grew more than four times faster; job creation was seven times higher; their stock price grew 12 times faster; and profit performance was 750% higher.
  • Newsweek looked at 1000 companies with Vision Statements had an average return on stockholder equity of 16.1%, while firms without them had only a 7.9% average return.
  • “Built to Last” showed that for companies with Vision Statements, that a $1 investment in 1926 would have returned $6,350 compared to only a return of $950 for comparable companies without a Vision.

The Vision and Mission help to frame the overall Brand Plan

Think of the Vision as the End in Mind Achievement towards your purpose.  What do you want the brand to become?  Think 10 years out: if you became this one thing, you would know that you are successful.  Ideally it is Qualitative (yet grounded in something) and quantitative (measurable)  It should be motivating and enticing to get people focused. It should be personal and speak to why you get up in the morning—why you got into this business.

The Mission is the Special Assignment. It should be tightly connected to the vision, but is more likely a 1-3 year direction—if a vision is a destination, then a mission is the how or the major milestone on the path towards that vision. A mission statement focuses on a company’s present state while a vision statement focuses on a company’s future.

Things that Make a Good vision: 

  1. Easy for employees and partners to understand and rally around
  2. Think about something that can last 5-10 years or more
  3. Balance between aspiration (stretch) and reality (achievement)
  4. It’s ok to embed a financial ($x) or share position (#1) element into it as long as it’s important for framing the vision.

The watch outs for vision statements:

  1. It’s not a positioning statement.  Almost positioning neutral  Let the positioning come out in the strategy.
  2. Make sure we haven’t achieved it already.  If you are #1, then don’t put “be #1”.
  3. Don’t put strategic statements.  Vision answers “where could we be” rather than “how can we get there”
  4. Try to be single-minded:  Tighten it up and don’t include everything!!   Can you say it in an elevator.  Can you actually remember it?  Can you yell it at a Sales meeting?

Purpose Driven Visions: The Power of Why

More companies are reaching for their purpose answering the simple question:  “why do we do what we do”.  Why do you exist?  What’s your Purpose or Cause?  Start with what’s in you.  Why do you wake up in the morning or why did you start this company long ago?  Simon Sinek, the Author “The Power of Why” says the most successful brands start with a purpose driven vision (why) and match the strategies (how) and the execution (what) to the vision.

Using the Apple brand as an example, Sinek talks about the “Why” for Apple as challenging the status quo, and thinking differently.  People at Apple want to make a dent in the universe.  The “How” is making sure our products are all beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly.  Since people buy into the why and the how of Apple and want to be a part of it, it matters less “What” they do and they’ll follow them as they move to new categories.  As Sinek says “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”.

Vision and Employees

A well-articulated vision can really make a difference for employees, giving them both a challenge and focus to what they do each day.  For service driven companies, where people are the brand it becomes essential.  Adding in brand values and even service values can assist people in knowing what they should be doing each day and how they should be doing it.  For a product driven brand, it can help all drive focus for all those working around the brand whether that’s ad agencies, R&D, sales or operations.

To see how a Brand Vision helps to frame the brand plan, read the following presentation: 

 

I run Brand Leader Training programs on this very subject as well as a variety of others that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders.  Click on any of the topics below:

To see the training presentations, visit the Beloved Brands Slideshare site at: http://www.slideshare.net/GrahamRobertson/presentations

If you or team has any interest in a training program, please contact me at graham@beloved-brands.com

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