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BMW Films: Branded content light years ahead of its time

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Twelve Years Ago…

2000px-BMW.svgAs marketers are abuzz with Content Marketing, my challenge is to push yourselves to do great content you love, not just ok content work you like.  While being part of the community and targeting unique users is the right strategy, creating bad content might do more damage than good. It looks cheap. When you forget to entertain, when you don’t put in the quality in execution, or where your brand is too obviously jammed into a piece of content that has nothing to do with your brand. When you don’t astonish and delight the consumer, you fall flat. So, don’t just do content, do content that you and your consumer will love.

In 2001, BMW launched BMW Films, light years ahead of the industry. While everyone was still worried about producing 30s and 15s and newspaper ads, most brand leaders were still thinking whether they could afford to put 1% of their budgets into the Internet. From a brand point of view to that point, BMW had always used traditional media like TV and Print to sell their cars. But they saw that things were changing, especially seeing that the role of the internet on the purchase cycle. Roughly 85% of BMW purchasers used the Internet before purchasing a BMW. BMW knew that the average work-hard, play-hard customer was 46 years old, with a median income of about $150,000. Two-thirds were male, married, and had no children. In general, we see that Brands move along the Love Curve, going from Indifferent to Like It and Love It before becoming that Beloved Brand for Life.  Competitively, BMW had a lot of love but it was still battling traditional rival Mercedes who had the most love of all Luxury Car Brands. Everyone else was compared to Mercedes.  Also, brands like Lexus and Infiniti were gaining some emotional support from consumers and gaining share. BMW needed something to show consumers what makes a BMW truly a BMW. They needed to put their stake in the ground to push to be the Most Beloved Luxury Car brand. They needed something that the consumer would love and in turn love the BMW brand.

Integrated Content at it’s Best

The idea of BMW Films was to cast the BMW car as a hero into the starring role of a movie, and in fact many movies. BMW assembled a cast of A-list directors (Guy Richie, Tony Scott, Ang Lee) and A-list actors (Clive Owen Forest Whittiker, Madonna, Mickey Rourke), and developed scripts within the basic framework of having a central character that helped people through difficult circumstances using deft driving skills—in a BMW. The car became the star. Each director who chose a script was then given complete creative control over content and direction, something they would be hard-pressed to find in Hollywood, and something that BMW ordinarily wouldn’t allow if filming a traditional advertisement.

BMW used traditional media with mock movie trailers on TV and on-line advertising to surround their consumer and drive traffic to the website. The end results were staggering: the series had been viewed over 100 million times in four years and had changed the way products were advertised. BMW has had a great decade of sales, recently surpassing both Lexus and Mercedes as the #1 luxury brand.

BMW Films was out there. It took risks, and was an incredible production. To me, it’s still the benchmark for Content Marketing. To me, it’s like Bob Beamon surpassing the long jump record by 2 1/2 feet when everyone else was measuring in inches. It’s like Babe Ruth hitting 60 home runs when the next guy had 17. The love for a brand normally comes when we love the work we do on that brand. The love permeates through our work and onto the consumer. However, if we don’t love the work, how do we expect our consumers to magically love the output of our work and then love our brand?  Not likely. My challenge to you:  push yourself to love it, don’t just kinda like it. Don’t settle.

Since BMW Films, I have seen some great viral work like T-Mobile, incredible integrations which make me stare and say “wow, I wish I did that”. But in the past 10 years I’m yet to say “Now that’s better than BMW Films”.  

Hey Marketing Community!  My challenge to you:  Beat This!!!

 

 

To read more about how the love for a brand creates more power and profits:

Other Stories You Might Like

  1. How to Write a Creative Brief.  The creative brief really comes out of two sources, the brand positioning statement and the advertising strategy that should come from the brand plan.  To read how to write a Creative Brief, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write a Creative Brief
  2. How to Write a Brand Plan:  The positioning statement helps frame what the brand is all about.  However, the brand plan starts to make choices on how you’re going to make the most of that promise.  Follow this hyperlink to read more on writing a Brand Plan:  How to Write a Brand Plan
  3. Turning Brand Love into Power and Profits:  The positioning statement sets up the promise that kick starts the connection between the brand and consumer.  There are four other factors that connect:  brand strategy, communication, innovation and experience.   The connectivity is a source of power that can be leveraged into deeper profitability.  To read more click on the hyper link:  Love = Power = Profits

 

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Burger King gives up #2 to Wendy’s…and who really cares?

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“Nobody goes there anymore.  It’s too crowded.”

Yogi Berra

Actually for Burger King, it’s the opposite–there are no crowds. We have a Burger King and a McDonald’s in my neighborhood that are right beside each other. When my kids were little, we used to take them to Burger King, just because it was nice and quiet.  That’s not the kind of benefit that will make you a lot of money: “Come to Burger King and Avoid the Crazy Crowds”.  

Looking at Burger King’s history, we can see it’s been owned by so many companies from Grand Metropolitan to Pillsbury to Diagio and most recently a couple of Private Equity groups who probably think they can turn it around.  They’ve tried every ad agency from BBDO, JWT, Y&R, McCann Erickson and Crispin Porter.  They’ve tried bigger sizes, Whoppers, chicken fries and even Flame Broiled.  I’ve NEVER seen a live flame in a Burger King but I have seen plenty of microwaves.  The current ad strategy is now “Have It Your Way” which is back to the same tag line it used in 1974…when it was just a mediocre knock-off to McDonald’s.  I guess it’s fitting because it’s still just a mediocre knock-off.

Let’s face it:  People “Love” McDonald’s and only “Like” Burger King. Would you cross the street in the rain to get a Burger King?  Not likely.  Would you defend Burger King in a heated debate about who has the better fries?  No way–Mcdonald’s fries are to die for. There’s no emotion with Burger King.  It’s a functional choice, you consider it and enjoy it.  But you don’t crave it.  It’s not personal. And you’re not outspoken about the brand.  It’s ok.  And yet today marks the day Burger King is no longer the #2 hamburger brand as it has now fallen behind Wendy’s in sales.And I bet that no one really cares.

Calling Wendy’s #2 is really a bit misleading, because really it’s actually now the #4 fast food brand. Subway is now the clear #2 fast food brand and Starbucks is #3. Wendy’s and Burger King are like two cars in the slow lane with growth rates dwarfed by the three leaders ahead of them. In terms of burger excitement, the world is filled with high end local choices and Five Guys has replicated the local choice on a mass scale and is now the Fastest Growing burger joint in North America.

Wendy’s and Burger King appear equally confused.  Wendy’s modest growth has come mainly from innovative and differentiated product, such as the Baconator or the Spicy Chicken or their salad options. All good. But since the death of Dave Thomas in 2002, it has no clue how to communicate what the Wendy’s brand is all about. For the past 10 years, Wendy’s advertising has been confusing, meandering and void of any emotion at all.  They really are just a bunch of product ads, with cool ways of slicing tomatoes and lettuce and lots of people sitting in plastic chairs eating burgers.   Here’s Wendy’s history of campaigns over the past decade!  Can you remember one of them?

  • 2002:  Final Dave Thomas campaign
  • 2003:  Product Related Ads
  • 2004:  “Mr Wendy” character
  • 2005:  Square Burgers vs Round
  • 2006:  It’s always Great, Even Late  (Open Late)
  • 2007:  That’s Right campaign
  • 2008:  It’s waaaay better than fast food. It’s Wendy’s
  • 2009:  You Know When It’s Real
  • 2010:  Hot and Juicy
  • 2011:  “Where’s the Beef?”

Wendy’s is stuck in a world of boredom. As a result:  consumers like the brand, but do not love it.  Wendy’s needs to find a big advertising idea that emotionally connects with consumers and then stand behind that idea for the next 5-10 years.  The challenge I give most brand leaders who are stuck in the world of boredom: “If you don’t love the work you do, then how can you expect your consumer to love your brand”.   

 

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How to be a great Assistant Brand Manager…and of course, get Promoted

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In my 20 yeas of my CPG Marketing career, I must have interviewed 1,000 potential Assistant Brand Managers. I was lucky to have hired some of the best, who have gone on to have very strong marketing careers and I became notorious for asking for some of the toughest questions, some even bizarre. I always asked an analytical question to see if they could piece together lots of data and tell a story that made sense. I’d ask a creative question to see if they had a certain flare and pride in the output. I’d ask a problem solving question, some very hard, no real right answer, but I wanted to see how they actually think. And finally, I wanted to know that they had done something at a very high level–it didn’t matter what–but I wanted to know they could make it happen. How to be a great Assistant Brand Manager

Getting that first Assistant Brand Manager job is NOT EASY!  I had many failed interviews over the years that I began to wonder if it would ever happen. I remember one interview ended after about 8 minutes when she found out I didn’t have any experience. Thank god, I stuck with it.

The marketing career is very challenging. At the entry level role, only about 50% of Assistant Brand Managers will get promoted to Brand Manager. 

There are two main factors that separate the OK from the great Assistant Brand Manager:

  1. They get what they need 
  2. What they need is the right thing to do

Very simply put, great Assistant Brand Managers get both.   The rest either fail on #1 or #2.  

You have to nail the obvious

Keep in mind there are some core marketing values you want to adopt over the years as an Assistant Brand Manager that will serve you well in your career.

  • Hit the Deadlines: Don’t Look Out of Control. We have enough to do, that things will just stockpile on each other. Missing deadlines makes you look sloppy.
  • Know Your Business: Don’t Get Caught Off-Guard. Make sure you are asking the questions and carrying forward the knowledge.
  • Open Communication: No Surprises. Make sure you keep your team informed  and involved. Don’t hide information, present it upwards with an action plan of what to do with it.
  • Control Our Destiny: We run the brands, they do not run us. When we don’t know something, speak in an “asking way”, but when we know, speak in a “telling way”.  While it’s crucial that we seek to understand, it’s equally important that we know our role as leaders is to give direction or push towards the end path.
  • Let’s Celebrate Our Wins: Love what you do. These are tough jobs. It has to be the passion for what we do that keeps us going. Passion that separates great from “ok”.
  • Everything Can use Process: It should enable us, not hinder us. A good process can force your thinking towards a solution. If it restricts your thinking, it’s not a good process. But if it means, you free up your time for strategic thinking, instead of format thinking, we’ll move much faster.
  • Continuous Ideas: We Implement 1 in 100 ideas we have. There is a need for more ideas so the ideas we implement are the best we have. Never be afraid of an idea, but always be willing to say “what a crap idea”.
  • Regular Feedback for Growth: That’s the only way we get better. You should always take feedback, good or bad, as a lesson for you. Not a personal attack or setback. Seek it, embrace it and build on it for your future.

Five factors that separate an “ok” Assistant Brand Manager from the great ones:

  1. A great Assistant Brand Manager is able to tell stories, where others just see data: There is tons of data all over—share results, tracking, test scores, etc. One of the most critical skill an Assistant Brand Manager can work on is developing stories with the data. It’s one thing to have the data point, but another to have thought it through and know what it means, and what action you will take on this data. When you come across data, the best thing you can do is look for patterns or data breaks, try to twist the data in different ways to see if you keep getting the same story, ask questions to find back up, start putting together stories and challenge the stories. Never give a data point without a story or action. You risk letting someone else take your data and run with it. Never fear bad data, as long as you have an action plan. Never twist the data to tell a story, because if it’s challenged, the whole story crumbles with it. This skill is one that you carry with you as you move upwards in marketing.In fact, the more practice you have, the faster you’ll become.
  2. A great Assistant Brand Manager takes action and moves before being asked: Most of the projects are already set for an Assistant Brand Manager, so many times, it’s comfortable to wait, ask the right questions and proceed. That’s good for learning, but a bit too cautious. Some of the best ideas come with a fresh set of eyes. We need a continual influx of new ideas and even new ways of seeing things. You need to push your ideas into the system. While it’s still key to communicate to the right stakeholders, you should be pushing your ideas into the system, which almost creates new projects. Don’t get into the mode of waiting or figuring that’s not within your job scope.
  3. A great Assistant Brand Manager can get what they want: It’s obvious that project management is a big part of being an Assistant Brand Manager. But, instead of just functionally managing the steps of the project, you need to make it happen, faster, bigger and better. In terms of speed, you need to understand what are the important milestones that need to be hit.  Always think in terms of key bottle necks.  Bottle necks are simply the task that has the longest completion time, which then impacts the entire project.  If you let this slip, the entire project slips.  This has to be managed in detail, but also many times with an inflexible fist to getting it done.  Bigger means you want to do more then is required.  Make the work zing, find the wow factor, and make it have a bigger impact then was  expected.  Better means you have to take the same people and get them to give their best ideas or their best effort or their best work. Guaranteed you will meet many points of resistance. Every project will. Solving these and still getting the most you can, is the separation of good from great.
  4. A great Assistant Brand Manager puts their strategic thoughts forward. All great ideas must flow upwards. Most people tend to think they are “strategic”…and they tell me that all the time. After all these years, I’m still not even sure what that means. But I do know there is a big difference between thinking strategically, and contributing strategically. You need to be in the frame to challenge thinking, whether it comes from your agency, cross functional peers or me.It’s important that you speak up and represent your thinking. Standing up for your thoughts shows that you are in the game, that you are thinking, and that you believe in your strategic thoughts. If you don’t stand up for your thoughts, then it doesn’t really matter does it? Also, it’s so easy to get lost in the daily executions, but you have to be constantly thinking. Keeping things aligned to the strategic is just as important as being strategic.
  5. A great Assistant Brand Manager is accountable in the ownership of their work: Accountability is the stepping stone to ownership. And ownership is what being a Brand Manager is all about. You cannot let things slip or miss. Many times, the devil is in the details. You have to stay on top of the timelines and lead those on your project teams. If you have to step in, and work hand in hand with an expert then jump in. You have to be action oriented, and solution focused. You can never allow your team to get stuck. They will be looking to you for the ingenuity to help solve the problem. Maintain the composure, ask questions and learn to revel in the ambiguity. You have to be the hub of communication to all team members, and to key stakeholders, including upwards.

If you can do those better than your peers, then you’ll get promoted. Conversely, if you’re missing any one of these, you might not get there. I hope your boss gives you a quarterly review because I believe Assistant Brand Managers can grow so fast that you need those regular check-ins. If you just get an annual review, you won’t go as fast. Ask for feedback, cherish it, and use the next 90 days to build on a strength or eliminate a gap.

One thing to keep in mind is the Idiot Curve. The basic rule is: You get dumber before you get smarter.   Marketing Career Idiot Curve

When you first land the Assistant Brand Manager job, there’s just so much to learn, it’s like drinking from a fire hose. I find it takes 3 months to get back to being just as smart as you were on the first day. It’s over-whelming at first, and yet you see all these other Assistant Brand Managers doing it so that’s even more intimidating. But the idiot curve is inevitable. It just shows up differently for each person. No matter how hard you fight it, you have to ride the curve. (But, please fight through the curve, you have to for your survival) The idiot curve normally lasts up to 3 months, and then things just start to click. And you’ll experience it in a new and exciting way you can’t even predict

ABM roles are hard, but all the work you do now will pay off the rest of your career.

Here’s a presentation on our Brand Management Training Programs.

At Beloved Brands, we help brands find growth and brand leaders smarter.

We will unleash the full potential of your brand. We will lead a 360-degree assessment of your business, help you define your Brand Positioning, create a Big Idea that will transform your brand’s soul into a winning brand reputation and help you build a strategic Brand Plan everyone who works on the brand can follow.

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

Graham Robertson

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Love Affair with Chocolate Bars

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It is easy to connect chocolate with Love.  Chocolate contains phenylethylamine, the same chemical that is released in the brain when we fall in love. Eating chocolate can give some people a natural “high” which is often related to the feeling of being in love.  It’s a similar addiction that coffee uses to create your morning brand rituals.  

Some of the world’s chocolate bar brands are the Most Beloved and Powerful Brands in the world.  Consumers are passionate about their choices, mainly because Chocolate bars usually serve an extremely personal purpose.   It could be a pick-me-up in the afternoon, a celebration for when something good happens or a recovery when something bad happens.  It’s our own personal escape–a guilty pleasure.  Chocolate Bars also helps us connect us back with our youth and give us those childhood feelings of joy.

The premise of the Brand Love Curve Love Curve Detailedis that consumers usually start off at the Indifferent stage, move to Like It then Love It and then consumers will make it their Brand for Life.  But do you remember when you tried a Snickers or Reese Peanut Butter Cups for the first time?   You likely just kept picking one out from the check-out counter until one became a favorite brand.  There’s no logic in your chocolate bar choice–strictly an emotional decision or as Hotspex says an E-rational decision.  You likely fell in love with your brand before you could even think. Hearing “NO” from your parents made you want it even more.   I know my weakness was that Orange Aero bar….or was it the Big Turk…..or the Caramilk bar.  There aren’t really any bad options in my mind.

An odd fact about chocolate bars is that consumers have been making the same choices for about 50 years now.   The top 10 chocolate bars today in your market are the same top 10 chocolate bars in the 1950s, just the order is different.   If you look at the top brands (see below) you’ll see that almost all of them were launched in the 1920s and 1930s.   The only “new” chocolate bar to breakthrough is Twix, which was launched 45 years ago, and still yet to really crack the big time.  

There have been many attempts to crack the top 10 but all massive failures.  The factors inhibiting new brands from succeeding:

  1. Distribution is so tightly controlled by the powerful companies like Nestle, Hershey and Cadbury that  it’s almost impossible to break through and displace the older brands
  2. The amount of advertising dollars spent on key brands is prohibitive of other brands being able to afford it.
  3. You make your first brand choices at such a young age that you choose one of the big brands near the check out stand.

There have been many great ads over the year.  The most consistent brand has to be Kit Kat, which started using the tag line of “Have a Break…have a Kit Kat” back in 1957.  Now, that’s a big idea!   It’s been used ever since across all geographies–here’s one from the UK. 

 

The last few Super Bowls have produced two of the Best Chocolate Bar ads.  The Betty White Snickers bar was a huge hit, not only during the Super Bowl, but such viral support it spun her into the Saturday Night Live host later that spring.

This year, the M&M’s Naked Guy, not really a big idea but a cute execution.

Maintaining Beloved Brand Status

  1. Keep the brand’s promise front and center on who you are.  You need to be either better, different or cheaper.   Challenge yourself to stay relevant, simple and compelling.
  2. Keep challenging the status quo to maintain an experience that over-delivers the promise.  Create a culture that attacks the brand’s weaknesses and fixes them before the competition can attack.  With a Beloved Brand, the culture and brand become one.
  3. Make focused strategic choices that starts with being honest with yourself.  Find a way to listen to your consumers and stay ahead of the trends.  Watch for dramatic shifts because they can really open a door for a competitor.  It’s easier said than done, but don’t be afraid to attack yourself even if it means cannibalizing your current business.  A good defense starts with a good offense.
  4. 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. .
  5. Keep the brand story clear and simple through great advertising in paid media, but also through earned media either in the mainstream press or through social media.

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

 

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At Beloved Brands, we love to see Brand Leaders reach their full potential.  Here are the most popular article “How to” articles.  We can offer specific training programs dedicated to each topic.  Click on any of these most read articles:

Ask Beloved Brands how we can help train your team to be better brand leaders.



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Linsanity becomes an overnight Beloved Brand

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Jeremy Lin has become an overnight sensation.  Here’s a guy who didn’t get any scholarships, went undrafted and has been cut by two NBA teams already.  His rookie NBA season, he averaged 2.6 points per game and barely got any playing time.  Just two months ago, he was cut by Golden State, one of the worst teams in the league.    He went to Harvard of all places and even in the Ivy League, he only averaged 12 points a game.    This guy has literally come from out of no where.   Even he knows that.  He was sleeping on his brothers couch just a month ago.  On top of all this, Jeremy Lin is the first American born Chinese player to break through in the NBA, which strengthens his fan based around the world.  In just seventeen days, he’s gone from a nobody to an instant global sensation, who might one day command a brand value of over $100 Million.

As I’ve laid out the Brand Love Curve, people ask me “Can a brand go straight to LOVE IT?”   My answer is “NO”, but some brands can go along the curve at warped-speed.   A few examples: the first time I had a White Chocolate Magnum Bar in the 1990s, I made it all the way to the Love It stage on the second bite.  When Kevin Spacey as “Keyser Söze” started limping away at the end of The Usual Suspects, I instantly knew it would be my one of my brands for life.  Lin has gone to Beloved Status that fast.

Jeremy Lin’s first big game was only 17 nights ago and yet he’s all over the news.   Eighteen days ago, no one really knew him.   In fact his own facebook status in early January was “Everytime i try to get into Madison Square Garden, the security guards ask me if im a trainer LOL”.   His story has grown in legendary fashion, winning 7 games in a row, hitting last second shots, beating Kobe Bryant.   All this is the basketball side.

As a brand, Jeremy Lin has gone along the Brand Love Curve at warp-speed, potentially even faster than Justin Bieber.   But for Lin, it’s been the Perfect Storm of Events.

  1. He’s just an Average Joe: He went undrafted, cut by two teams, no job, sleeping on his brothers couch. Great Story. It all adds up–he’s one of us.  We love those stories, where the guy just shows up to try out and makes the team.  Before the Lakers game, Kobe was laughing about the prospect of guarding him.   After he scored 38 points, Kobe was marvelling at his ability.  They make movies wtih scripts like that.
  2. He’s another Tebow:  He thanks Jesus when he win.   He’s nice and humble.  He’s also a highly flawed player who like Tebow, wins in the end.  And like Tebow, he wins in dramatic fashion.  We just rode the Tebow Story–and we’re clearly not done with it.   Most of us want more Tebow.   We want heroes and we want them to be good guys.    http://beloved-brands.com/2012/01/15/527/ 
  3. New York is the Centre of the Universe:  If this was Oklahoma or Portland, it might not be so crazy, but it’s New York, the home to the most powerful media and advertising in the world.   He’s already made the cover of Time Magazine and now back-to-back covers on Sports Illustrated.  Ratings for Knick games are through the roof–the highest since Michael Jordan.  His #17 jersey is selling like crazy.  Social Media has gone crazy behind Lin.  Did the New York Media help add fuel to the fire?  Likely.
  4. It’s a Global Story:  Lin, while born in America is the first American born Chinese player in the NBA.   His games are being watched Live in China.   And he’s an instant national hero in a country of One Billion people.  And as we know, the economy in China is strong–giving them the real purchasing power to get behind Lin.

As with any Beloved Brand, the more loved the brand the more valuable that brand will be.    A month ago Lin was making league minimum.  Now, he could be worth somewhere between $15 Million and $150 Million, depending on how long this status can last for him.   A few numbers that help tell the story.

  • Since Feb. 4th MSG’s stock price has increased 6%, adding $139 million to the company’s market value. During the same period the S&P 500 has gone up less than 1%.  With increased TV ratings, higher ticket prices and the #1 selling jersey, with continued success, the Knicks have to re-sign him.  That means, Lin’s next contract could see a salary of $10 Million per year.
  • Yoa Ming, the only other notable Chinese player in the NBA, made up $80 million in endorsement deals in China.  China has gotten behind Lin in a dramatic fashion.  With a soaring economy and One Billion consumers, that could be a huge payday for Lin.   Especially for American brands wanting to break through in China.   With all this hype and Chinese pride, Lin could generate $80-100 Million in China.
  • There are already rumours going on that he has signed on with Nike, that he will be the new face of NBA’13 and his agent is quoted as saying that he has already turned down Millions.  Even in America, Lin could easily turn this into another $25 Million in US Endorsements.  

If things go right, and assuming Lin continues to play reasonably well, add it all up and Jeremy Lin could easily turn his Beloved Brand Status into $100-150 Million per year.

About Graham Robertson:  I’m a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands. I love great TV ads, I love going into grocery stores on holidays and I love seeing marketers do things I wish I came up with. I’m always eager to talk with marketers about what they want to do.   My background includes CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke.  I’ve done executive training of marketing executives and managers as well as taught marketing at Major Universities including York University, Queen’s University and Cornell University.  If you have interest for your team, email me and we can customize a program to your needs.  For Powerpoint versions of Beloved Brands as well as other team learning presentations, visit Beloved Brands Learning Sessions

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Is Chrysler on the right Path to Becoming a Beloved Brand?

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As we hit the US Presidential election cycle, there will be lots of talk about the Bail Outs.   Was it a good idea?   Did it work?  Who was for it?   Who was against it?

Case in point: After receiving $12 Billion in loans, Chrysler has seen three straight years of significant growth since the loans in 08 and 09.   They saw growth rates of 17% in 2010 and 26% in 2011.   And Chrysler is  off to a great start in 2012, growing by 44% and gaining over 2.5 share points in the month of January.   Chrysler is now in a fairly profitable position and has paid back most of the loans, even despite adding a complaint about the high interest rate.   It appears the bail out worked, and it kept and created a few jobs–at least for now.  Right after the bail out, Chrysler is once again in European hands, this time Fiat of Italy owns the majority compared to Mercedes of Germany.   So is Chrysler still American?

It seems that Chrysler has had bouts of desperation and recovery for my entire life.  I remember the Chrysler New Yorker of the 1970s–big huge gas guzzler cars, not an ideal fit as gas prices went through the roof.  Chrysler collapsed in 1980, only to be recovered by the Lee Iacoca legendary story which gave birth to the Yuppy word of a generation: the Mini Van.

With the current recovery, just how is Chrysler doing it?   Smoke and Mirrors and Patriotism?   Or has the product quality really improved?   Do they have a product offering as unique as the Mini Van?  Not really.  Especially if you read the reviews.  Can Chrysler survive with a mediocre product?

Consumers Report said:  “It’s clear that Chrysler is on the right path, but they still have a long way to go.”  Testers were unimpressed with the Chrysler 200, Dodge Avenger, Jeep Compass, adding that they scored at or near the bottom of their respective categories.  I know that when I buy a new car, the search component is high, spending months looking and reading.   Cars are a big investment and I don’t want to be saddled with a car that is “only ok”.  Bad reviews scare me.  The last few cars I’ve bought,  I’m sorry to say that the American cars are aren’t standing up to the Japanese cars.  Even when I look up the basic car features (mileage, horsepower, features) the American cars come up short.    Yes, I have that embedded perception problem, mainly because I’ve driven in a Chevrolet Chevette and a Ford Tempo.  It’s going to be really hard to get those out of my mind.

Chrysler needs to find some way to create an emotional bond with their consumers.   It has to be more than just a recovery and American patriotism.  For decades, consumers have been Indifferent about Chrysler.   Their cars do the basics and nothing really else.  Nothing to get excited about.  On the other hand,Lincoln made an unexpected comeback to get to the Like It stage, even more unexpected it was female buyers that drove it.  And yet, brands like Lexus and Toyota are clearly at the Love It stage.  Toyota consumers are outspoken about their brand, and return the dealer every 4-5 years to buy another Toyota.   Toyota survived what was an attack on it’s safety record, since putting it in their rear view mirror.

The recent Chrysler advertising has been strong with back-to-back SuperBowl ads that stood out.  In 2011 it was home-grown Detroit icon Eminem and this year it was Clint Eastwood.  Two minute ads at half time must have cost them $25 Million just for the media alone. The campaign tag line “Imported from Detroit” is cute, but really is just a new twist on “Made In America” or the “Buy America” calls for patriotitic purchases.  Maybe the only people buying the Chryslers are the people who were in favour of the bail out, which is some type of circular patriotism logic.

Maybe Chrysler isn’t selling cars, but selling hope for America.  But to survive the long term, they need to stand for something more, and build unique quality products that deliver.

So is the sales blip just a blip?   Or just a delay to the inevitable?

So the question remains:  Do you think the bail out helped Chrysler get on the path to becoming a beloved brand?   

The 2011 Chrysler ad seemed to hit the chords even stronger.   Home town icon Eminem is more authentic than California Clint and the ads were selling Detroit, not America.

About Graham Robertson:  I’m a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands. I love great TV ads, I love going into grocery stores on holidays and I love seeing marketers do things I wish I came up with. I’m always eager to talk with marketers about what they want to do.   My background includes CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke.  I’ve done executive training of marketing executives and managers as well as taught marketing at Major Universities including York University, Queen’s University and Cornell University.  If you have interest for your team, email me and we can customize a program to your needs.  For Powerpoint versions of Beloved Brands as well as other team learning presentations, visit Beloved Brands Learning Sessions

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Poll: What’s the Most Beloved Coffee Brand?

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Have your say about your favourite coffee brand.

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Finding your love in the art of being different.

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I found this year’s Super Bowl ads were “pretty good”.While the Farmers ad stood out as amazing, the Budweiser ad was nice. But the rest of it while well executed feels like something we see on CNN all the time. Nothing was different.

Given the current economy, shouldn’t we be taking more risks to stand out rather than playing it safe right down the middle of the road? Let’s hope someone has the strength to do something different.

The classic launch formula: do the basic product concept testing, hope for a moderate pass. Then meet with sales and explain how this is almost identical to the launch we did last year, and builds on the same thing we just saw our competitor do. Re-enforce that the buyer hinted that if we did this, we’d get on the shelves pretty easily. Go to your ad agency, with a long list of mandatories and an equally long list of benefits they can put in the ad. Tell the agency you’re excited. They’ll tell you they’re excited as well. Ask for lots of options, as a pre-caution because time is tight and we’re not sure what we want. Just hope the agency clearly understood the 7-page brief. Test all the ads, even a few different endings, and then let the research decide who wins. That way, no one can blame you. Do up a safe media plan with mostly TV, some small but safe irrelevant secondary media choice. Throw in a web site to explain the 19 reasons why we launched. Maybe even a game on the website.

Ah, we have our launch. 

This is a guaranteed formula for success, because it follows last year’s launch to a tee and will be done hundreds of brands this year. Convince yourself, you had to play it safe because sales are down, margins are tight and you will do something riskier next year once this launch is done. What looks like a guaranteed success will likely get off to a pretty good start and then flat-line until it will be discontinued three brand managers from now.

At some point, to break through in a cluttered market, you’ve got to do something different to stand out:  now, more than ever. It might feel like a risky move, but it’s almost riskier not to take that chance.

Push yourself to be different. The most beloved brands are different, better or cheaper. Or not around for very long.  

There are four types of launches:

good-vs-different

Good but not different (our launch above) 

These do very well in tests mainly because consumers have seen it before and check the right boxes in research. In market, it gets off to a pretty good start—since it still seems so familiar. However, once challenged in the market by a competitor, it falters because people start to realize it is no different at all. So they go back to their usual brand and your launch starts to go flat. This option offers limited potential.

Good but different:

These don’t always test well: consumers don’t really know what to make of it. Even after launched, it takes time to gain momentum, having to explain the story with potential investment and effort to really make the difference come to life. But once consumers start to see the differences and how it meets their needs, they equate different with “good”. It begins to gain share and generates profits for the brand. This option offers long-term sustainability.

Not good and not different:

These are the safest of safe. Go back into the R&D lab and pick the best one you have–even if it’s not very good. The tallest of midgets. They do pretty well in test because of the familiarity. In market, it gets off to a pretty good start, because it looks the same as what’s already in the market. But pretty soon, consumers realize that it’s the same but even worse, so it fails dramatically. What appears safe is actually highly risky. You should have followed your instincts and not launched. This option is a boring failure.

Different but not that good

Sometimes we get focused on the product first: it offers superior technology, but not really meeting an unmet need. So we launch what is different for the sake of being different. It does poorly in testing. Everyone along the way wonders why we are launching. But in the end, consumers don’t really care about your point of difference. And it fails. The better mousetrap that no one cares about.

It will be up to you to figure out how to separate good from bad. One caution is letting market research over-ride your own instincts. As Steve Jobs said: “it’s hard for consumers to tell you what they want when they’ve never seen anything remotely like it. Yet now that people see it, they say OH MY GOD THAT’S GREAT”

We always tracked many numbers (awareness, brand link, persuasion etc), but the one I always wanted to know was “made the brand seem different”. Whether it is new products, a new advertising campaign or media options push yourself to do something that stands out. Don’t just settle for ok. Always push for great. If you don’t love the work, how do you expect your consumer to love your brand? The opposite of different, is indifferent and who wants to be indifferent.      

In case you need any added incentive: Albino fruit flies mate at twice the rate of normal fruit flies. Just because they are different! And the place where most ground hogs are run over is right in the middle of the road.  

Push yourself to find your difference

 

To read more about how the love for a brand creates more power and profits:

 

For a presentation on how to write a Positioning Statement, follow:

Other Stories You Might Like

  1. How to Write a Creative Brief. The creative brief really comes out of two sources, the brand positioning statement and the advertising strategy that should come from the brand plan. To read how to write a Creative Brief, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write a Creative Brief
  2. How to Write a Brand Plan: The positioning statement helps frame what the brand is all about. However, the brand plan starts to make choices on how you’re going to make the most of that promise. Follow this hyperlink to read more on writing a Brand Plan: How to Write a Brand Plan
  3. Turning Brand Love into Power and Profits: The positioning statement sets up the promise that kick starts the connection between the brand and consumer. There are four other factors that connect:  brand strategy, communication, innovation and experience. The connectivity is a source of power that can be leveraged into deeper profitability. To read more click on the hyper link:  Love = Power = Profits
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The 5 factors to being a great Brand Manager

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After 20 years of CPG marketing, I have hired so many potentially great marketers–who were eager for success, brilliant, hard-working and dedicated. But in reality, about 50% of Assistant Brand Managers get promoted to Brand Manager and less than 20% of Brand Managers make it to the Director level. I’ve given it a lot of thought over the years and here is my view on what makes great Brand Managers, great enough for them to get promoted to the next level.

What separates good from great?  

There are two factors that I have seen in a consistent manner: #1: They get what they need. #2: What they need is the right thing to do. Very simply put, great marketers get both. The rest either fail on #1 or #2. To get what you want, keep things simple and move fast to take the positional advantage. What separates many Brand Managers is the inability to actually rely on their instincts, instead of just the textbook answer. You get so busy, so deadline focused, so scared to make a mistake that you forget to think in a confused state of ambiguity. It’s not easy to sit there without the answer, but sometimes if you just wait a bit longer and keep pushing for an even better answer, it will come to you. Revel in ambiguity.   

The Idiot Curve

One thing to keep in mind is the Idiot Curve. At every new job, including Brand Manager, I find it takes 3 months to get back to being just as smart as you were on the first day. The basic rule is: You get dumber before you get smarter. We’ve promoted some great ABMs and watch them struggle and wonder if we made a mistake. But the idiot curve is inevitable. It just shows up differently for each person.  Marketing Career Idiot Curve

No matter how hard you fight it, you have to ride the curve. (But, please fight through the curve, you have to for your survival) The biggest gap is that you forget to use your instincts. You spend so much of your time trying to absorb all that is coming at you, that you reach for the basic process instead of your brains.

And then, you might be working on a project for weeks before you think to even look at the budget. You work on a promotion for Wal-Mart and then think “oh ya, I should talk to the Wal-Mart sales manager and see what he thinks”.  Or you say something in a meeting you think you’re supposed to say, but it doesn’t even resemble anything that you think, feel or believe in. That’s the idiot curve.  And it will last 3 months. And you’ll experience it in a new and exciting way you can’t even predict. Feel free to let me know which way so I can add it to the list. (I won’t reveal names)

 

The 5 factors to being a great Brand Manager:

From what I have experienced over the years, the five factors for success includes takes ownership, brings strategic thinking, managing others very well, works the system and can handle the pressure of the job.

#1 Ownership: A great Brand Manager takes ownership of the brand.

Many Brand Managers struggle with the transition from being the helper to being the owner. As you move into the job, you have to get away the idea of having someone hand you a project list. Not only do you have to make the project list, you have to come up with the strategies from which the projects fall out of.

A great Brand Manager talks in ideas in a telling sense, rather than an asking sense. It’s great to be asking questions as feelers, but realize that most people are going to be looking to you for decisions. They’ll be recommending you’ll be deciding.

When managing upwards be careful of asking questions—try to stick to solutions. You just gave up your ownership. Your director wants you to tell them what to do, and debate from there.

#2 Strategic Thinking: A great Brand Manager provides the vision & strategies to match up to. 

Bring a vision to the brand. Push yourself to a well-articulated 5-10 year brand vision great. But a vision can be as simple as a rallying cry for the team. But you have to let everyone know where you want to go.

The strategy that matches up to the vision becomes the roadmap for how to get there. As the brand owner, you become the steward of the vision and strategy. Everything that is off strategy has to be rejected.

Communication of strategy is a key skill. Learn to think in terms of strategic pillars, with 3 different areas to help achieve your overall strategy. Having pillars constantly grounds you strategically, and is an easy way for communicating with the various functions. Each function may only have 1 strategic pillar but seeing how it all fits in is motivating.

#3 Managing Others: A great Brand Manager spends the effort to make their ABM as good as can be.

Most Brand Managers struggle with their first five direct reports. The key is to keep self-evaluating and looking for ways to improve with each report. Most Brand Managers struggle to shift from “do-er” to “coach. They think they can do it faster, so they may as well do it. They just become the “super ABM”.

Many Brand Managers fail to share the spotlight, so it becomes hard to showcase the ABM. But the work of your ABM reflects 100% of how good of a manager you are. ABMs need feedback to get better—both the good and bad. I see too many Brand Managers not giving enough feedback. And so many afraid of “going negative” so the ABM is left in the dark or left thinking they are doing a good job.

Great Brand Managers take the time to teach up front, give the ABM some room to try it out and then give hands-on feedback in real time. Use weekly meetings to give both positive feedback and address gaps. Brand Managers should do QUARTERLY sit down performance reviews with their ABMs, who have the capacity to learn faster than annual reviews allows for.

#4 Working the system: A great Brand Manager gets what they need.

The organization is filled with groups, layers, external agencies, with everyone carrying a different set of goals and motivations. You can see how the organization works and appreciating what are the motivations of various key stakeholders. You then use that knowledge to begin to work the system.

Start to see key subject matter experts giving you their best. You understand their personal motivations and find a way to tap into those motivations as a way to ask people for their best. It might be an odd step but from my experience a really motivating step. Very few people ask for “your best”.

#5: Pressure: A Great Brand Manager Can Handle Pressure.

In general, there are four types of pressure. Usually, a leader has 1-2 blind spot pressure areas they need to work on. For me, I was great with ambiguity and time. At that point in my career, I was very weak on the relationship side. Which of these 4 do you struggle on?

  • Ambiguity is one of the hardest pressures. As a leader, patience and composure help you sort through the issues. The consequences of not remaining composed are a scared team and choosing quick decisions with bad results.
  • If the results don’t come in, it can be frustrating. Reach for your logic as you re-group. Force yourself to course correct, rather than continuing to repeat and repeat and repeat. Challenge team to “this is when we are needed”
  • Relationships. Be pro-active in making the first move to build a relationship. Try to figure out what motivates and what annoys the person. Understand and reach for common ground, which most times is not that far away.
  • Time Pressure. It’s similar to the ambiguity. Be organized, disciplined and work the system so it doesn’t get in your way. Be calm, so you continue to make the right decisions. Use the time to your advantage.

Love the magic of Marketing. 

Don’t just do the job, do it with all your passion. Love it please so we can love the work that comes from your passion. Or else just become an actuary and let someone else take your spot.

 

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.

The best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique engagement tools are the backbone of our strategy workshops. These tools will force you to think differently so you can freely generate many new ideas. And, we use our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We help brands find growth

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 big 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. Finally, the big idea must influence employees to personally deliver an outstanding consumer experience, to help move consumers along the journey to loving 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. We work with your team to build out project plans, creative briefs and provide advice on marketing execution.

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

We help make brand leaders smarter

We believe that investing in your marketing people will pay off. With smarter people behind your brands will drive higher revenue growth and profits. With our brand management training program, you will see smarter strategic thinking, more focused brand plans, brand positioning, better creative briefs that steer your agencies, improved decision-making on marketing execution, smarter analytical skills to assess your brand’s performance and a better management of the profitability of the brand.

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

Graham Robertson bio

 

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