The first McDonald’s ad from their new agency is out and there is a lot wrong with it!!!

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McDonald's Advertising Big MacLast summer, McDonald’s made the news for their consolidation of all their agencies into one. It had an $800 Million price tag with Omnicom coming out on top. They added a very unique tie into the overall sales impact. That is very uncommon for the agency relationship. As someone who spent 20 years on the brand side, I had some doubts that linking agency’s compensation to sales might focus the advertising too much on the short-term. That is what we are seeing McDonald’s land with this first ad.

McDonald’s has struggled with relatively flat sales results the past two years. The only growth came when they turned their breakfast items into an all-day breakfast. Even that, has recently flattened out. The role of a Brand is to create a tight bond with your consumers, that will lead to a power and profit beyond what the product alone could ever achieve. The problem is that when you just become a short-term sales machine, then who is building the brand?

McDonald's AdvertisingThe healthier the brand, the easier it is to sell from. Think of your advertising plan a little like those “leave a penny take a penny” cups we see at a convenient store. The advertising must work to keep the cup pretty full. A strictly product sell type ad “takes a penny” while an anthemic brand ad seems to “leave a penny” to be used later. I guess the problem I see is McDonald’s needs a few more pennies in the cup. They need to create a tighter bond with their consumers to have a healthier brand, to enable them to sell product from. I would have expected McDonald’s to come out with a few anthemic ‘brand spots’ to re-create the magical appeal of their amazing brand. Instead, this attempts to just sell Big Macs. It does not add anything. It just takes a penny from an empty cup.

Here’s the new spot spot. What do you think?

 

 

 

Mistake #1: Trying to be everything to anyone is the starting point to end up nothing to everyone

This brief clearly had “everyone” as the target market.

When you target everyone, then no one thinks the ad is for them. They each think it is for someone else. With a non-edgy rap song, teens will think it is a lame attempt to get 38-year-olds, while the 38-year=olds will think the ad is for kids. This music feels like a whole new music category I would call corporate rap. The visuals also support the “everyone” argument. One scene has a teenager in a library, while another scene uses a banker that closes a deal. This is what happens when you have “everyone” for every potential occasion on your brief.
Mistake #2: They are trying to move feet (go buy it) before they move the brain (positioning)

This brief clearly stated “sell more Big Macs”.

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They really needed a big new agency to produce this spot?  The biggest problem for McDonald’s is consumers no longer know what it stands for….is it a family restaurant, a coffee shop, a sandwich shop or a meeting place? What is it?  Sales have flattened. Evidence would suggest they have lost their way and need to get it back.  McDonald’s needs to define themselves in the mind of consumers. They need to pick one path, not a bunch of them at once. With a desperate need for brand repositioning, they ignore that with their first spot out of the gates that just sells the product. They should have led with a new brand spot to establish what they want their brand to stand for, whether that ties back to a prior positioning, updates their positioning or finds something completely new. What is the 7-second Big Idea you would use to describe the brand?

Mistake #3: This ad will have no impact the consumer

This ad likely had “Recent data shows 25% of millennial consumers have never had a Big Mac.” as the business problem. What the brief failed to do was translate the business problem into a consumer problem.

Creative execution must amplify your brand story and brand positioning so that your brand stands out in the crowded marketplace, connecting with your most desired consumers so they will see, think, act or feel differently about your brand than before they saw the message. This ad does nothing. It attempts to reconnect with those who already know about the Big Mac and basically asks them to try it again. If you have never had a Big Mac, this ad does nothing for you.

What I wished McDonald’s had done was figure out their Big Idea that reflects their inner brand soul. And then work to build a new reputation in the market the brand can stand behind.

McDonald's Advertising Beloved Brands

 

McDonald’s needs smarter focus, definition and execution

The problem many brand leaders have, is they come to a decision point, and they try to find a way to justify doing both. Sorry McDonald’s. This is my second article this month that trashes your strategy and now your execution. I am a fan of the brand, I want the brand to be successful. My big ask is that you find some way to focus. Here’s the last article I wrote about McDonald’s unable to decide whether they want to completely re-build their kitchens to sell fresh expensive hamburgers or they want to completely re-build their lounge areas to sell more coffee.

starbucks mcdonalds story

 

To read about how to create a beloved brand, here is our workshop we run:

Beloved Brands: We make brands stronger 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.

To contact me, call me at 416 885 3911 or email me at graham@beloved-brands.com

Beloved Brands Graham Robertson

 

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5 ads that bring people together, not tear us further apart">Feel good ads

5 ads that bring people together, not tear us further apart

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In these crazy divided times, where no one can seem to have a normal conversation, as we see brands choosing sides, and consumers aligning with the brands that choose their side. While about 20 brands have picked a side, I am yet to see a brand try to bring people together.

Here are 5 ads that have the potential to bring us together. 

 

Coke: “I’d like to teach the world to sing”

This is the ultimate feel good ad. It grabs your attention from the opening verse and makes you feel good the whole way through. It is a true peaceful gathering with a diversity from around the world. We could use an ad like this today.

 

Dodge Ram: And god created a farmer

If you think this is just about farmers, you might be missing the point. The ad uses farmers to speak to all those who work hard and respect hard work. I would hope that a banker on Wall Street, a high school student studying for mid term exams, a Barrister in England, or a farmer would get this message, equally to the great farmers around the world. It is a powerful message, with a lot of American patriotism thrown in.

 

President’s Choice: #EatTogether

Loblaws, who is Canada’s leading grocery store, made this spot last month to encourage people to eat together. This feels perfectly fitting for our times, of coming together. For centuries, the dinner with friends and families has brought us together as one. This spot sets up the problem of how technology is getting in our way of the human connections. I have a few friends who do a internet-free day or weekend. Sounds like a great idea.

 

Pfizer:  More than medication

Beautiful touching spot about a family member facing a health scare. We all face these moments, throughout various stages of our lives. This ad has a nice twist. What at first appears to be a typical rebellious teenager, but he turns into an angel, with a big message for his sister.

 

Google:  Reunion

I love this spot. The first time I saw it was without the subtitles and it made complete sense to me. Even drew a tear without understanding a word.  If you want, you can turn on the Closed Captioning by hitting the tiny CC button at the bottom right of the video. Talk about bringing people together, this ad brings together old friends–one from India and one from Pakistan–who have not seen each other in a very long time. I am quite sure a few people have lost friends over the last year. Such a shame. We need to find ways to come together.

 

If you want to learn how to show up better, we train marketing teams on how to get better Marketing Execution. We go through how to write better briefs, how to make better decisions and how to give inspiring feedback to realize the greatness of your creative people. Here’s what the workshop looks like:

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.

Beloved Brands Graham Robertson

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Three simple ways Marketers can get better advertising

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http://beloved-brands.com/learn/Most marketers appear confused as to what their role should be in getting great advertising. Having spent 20 years in the world of CPG marketing, I have seen it all when it comes to clients–the good, the bad and the ugly.

There is usually one brand person on the “hot seat” for getting a great ad, and then a bunch around them who either give input or approve. Everyone on the client side knows it, but most on the agency do not know it. They assume the person approving the ad is their client. That’s completely wrong, especially when the person on the “hot seat” is very good. While you are talking to the “approver” in the room, the smart person on the hot seat will carry influence over the person approving outside the room. You might end up surprised.

Here are 3 ways to get better advertising. 

  1. You should control the strategy but give freedom to the execution.
  2. A great client can get great work from an OK agency. But an awful client can get awful work from the best agency in the world.
  3. Stop thinking that your role is to change whatever work is presented to you.

1. Control the strategy, but give freedom on to the execution.

Too many Marketers have this backwards. They give freedom on the strategy with various possible strategic options layered within the Creative Brief and then they attempt to try to control the creative outcome by writing a long list of tangled mandatories.

The reality of advertising is that clients want options to pick from, and agencies hate giving options to pick from. This is where things get off the rails. The client decides to write options INTO the brief. And the agency presents a bunch of work, yet miraculously all 12 people on the agency side agree on which one is the best one.

I have seen briefs that say “18-65, current users, competitive users and employees”. I have seen briefs with 8 objectives throughout the brief. I have seen briefs that say “we want to drive trial among competitive users, while re-enforcing the brand benefits to our current users to drive up penetration and we want a tag for our new lemon flavor at the end”. Ugly!!!!

How to get better advertising creative briefs

When you write a big-wide Creative Brief with layers of possible strategic options within the brief, the Agency just peels the brief apart and gives you strategic options. For instance, if you put a big wide target market of 18-65, the Agency will presents one idea for 18-25, another for 25-40 and a third for 40-65. If you put two objectives into the brief, asking to drive trial and drive usage, you will get one ad that drives trial and one ad that drives usage. Ta-dah, you have options. However, now you are picking your brand strategy based on which ad you like best. Wow, what the brand leader now says is “I like that 18-25 year old one, but could I also like that drive trial one. Could you mold those  two together?” If you are up against your media date or the agency is over-budget on this project, the answer you might hear back is “sure”.

This means is you are really picking your brand strategy based on which ad idea you like best. That is wrong. Pick your strategy first and use the creativity of execution to express that strategy.

Make tough decisions of what goes into the creative brief to narrow down to:

  • one objective
  • one desired consumer response
  • one target tightly defined
  • one main benefit
  • up to two main reasons to believe

Avoid the ‘Just in Case’ list by taking your pen and stroking a few things off your creative brief! It is always enlightening when you tighten your Creative Brief.

As for the creative, it is completely OK to know exactly what you want, but you cannot know until you actually see it. The best creative advertising should be like that special gift you never thought to get yourself, but was just perfect once you saw it. What I see is a brief with a list of mandatories weaved throughout the brief that begin to almost write the ad itself.

Years ago, I was on the quit smoking business (Nicoderm) and received word that my team had told the agency to “eliminate any form of humor, because quitting smoking is very serious”. I can appreciate how hard it is to quit smoking, but levity can help demonstrate to consumers that we understand how hard it is to quit. After some disastrous work, I finally stepped in and said “what about some humorous ads?”  Here’s the spot we final made. This ad turned a declining Nicoderm business into a growth situation and won J&J’s best global ad of 2008.

 

There is no way we could have written that ad. After a few grueling months of creative, I remember seeing that script on the table and before we were half way through the reading of the script, I thought “we gotta make this ad”.

2. A great client can get great work from an OK agency. But an awful client can get awful work from the best agency in the world.

I never figured this one out till much later in my career. For an average Brand Manager, you will only be on the “hot seat” for so long in your career. Ugh. I wish it was not true. I loved advertising. However, coming up through the CPG world, most brands only do 1-2 big campaign ads per year.  And, if you do a pool-out of a successful spot, it is just not as fun. Finding that gem must be a similar exhilaration that a detective has in solving a crime. The reality is that you spend 2-3 years as an Assistant offering your advice to a table that does not want to listen. And most brand managers will spend  5 years on the “hot seat” where you are either a Brand Manager or Marketing Director. Then you are approving stuff outside the room.

Yyou likely will only make 5+ ads where you turn nothing into something. If you are lucky. I had one campaign that ran 10 years and another ran 5 years. Trust me, the true excitement was really on that first year. Depends on the size of your agency, but they might make 20, 50 or 100+ new campaign spots each year. The math is that your agency can mess up your ONE spot and still win agency of the year. The client matters way more to the equation than you might realize. A great client can get good-to-great work from an OK agency. Equally so, a really bad client can get disastrous work from the world’s greatest advertising minds.

I want to ask you one simple question and you have to be honest: “If you knew that being a better client would get you better advertising, do you think you would show up better?” Do you think you show up right now?

Brand Training Marketing Execution Advertising
As part of our Brand Management training program, we teach marketers how to get better Marketing Execution. Click above to learn more.

 

Your main role in the advertising function is to provide a very tight brand strategy, to inspire greatness from the creative people and to make decisions”. Too many clients treat their agency in ways that they have to make great work because we hired them. True. But remember the math. If they make 99 great spots this year and one god awful spot (yours) who has more at stake in this math?  You or your agency. Sure, you can fire them. But they take their 99 spots on the street and secure more clients. You on the other hand, will be put into a ‘non-advertising’ role for the rest of your career. People behind your back will say “they are really smart on the strategy, but not so good with the agency”.

Stop thinking your agency has to work for you and try to inspire them to want to work for you. All of our work is done through other people. Our greatness as a Brand Leader has to come from the experts we engage, so they will be inspired to reach for their own greatness and apply it on our brand. Brand Management has been built on a hub-and-spoke system, with a team of experts surrounding the generalist Brand Leader. When I see Brand Managers of today doing stuff, I feel sorry for them. They are lost. Brand Leaders are not designed to be experts in marketing communications, experts in product innovation and experts in selling the product. You are trained to be a generalist, knowing enough to make decisions, but not enough to actually do the work. Find strength being the least knowledgeable person in every room you enter.

3. Stop thinking that your role is to change whatever work is presented to you.

A typical advertising meeting has client on one side and agency on the other. Client has a pen and paper (or laptop) feverishly taking notes. I never bring anything to a creative meeting. As soon as the creative person says the last tag-line, all of a sudden, there is a reading of the list of changes about to happen. “Make the boy’s shirt blue instead of red. Red is our competitor. Can we go with a grandmother instead of the uncle because we sell lots of cheese to  older females. Can we add in our claim with a super on it. I know we said in the brief it’s about usage, but can we also add in a “try it” message for those who have never used it before. And lastly, can we change the tagline?  I will email some options. That’s all I have.”

how to get better advertising marketing trainingWow. Stop thinking that the creative meeting is just a starting point where you can now fix whatever work is presented to you. You hired an agency because you do not have the talent to come up with great ads. Yet, now you think you are talented enough to do something even harder: change the ad. I have learned over the years that giving the agency my solutions will make the work worse. Giving them my problems makes the ads better. Just like being surprised by a great ad in the first place, if you just state your problem, and let them come back with solutions, you might be surprised at how they were able to handle your concerns without completely wrecking the ad.

I once heard a brand leader describe the creative part of the ad as “their part” and the copy-intensive brand sell as “our part”. I never thought about it that way. And I wish I could get it out of my head. An ad should flow naturally like a well-tuned orchestra. The creative should work as ONE part. The creative idea should be what attracts attention, the creative idea should be what naturally draws attention to the brand, the creative idea should help communicate the brand story and the creative idea should be what sticks in the mind of the consumer. There is no us or them part of the ad.

Lastly, I want brand leaders to stop thinking that Advertising is like a bulletin board where you can pin up one more message. Somehow Marketers have convinced themselves that they can keep jamming one more message into their ad. The consumer’s brain does not work that way. They see 5,000 brand messages a day. They may engage in 5-10 a day. When they see your cluttered messy bulletin board, their brain naturally rejects and moves on. Not only are you not getting your last message through, you are not getting any messages through. Start to think of Advertising like standing on top of a mountain and just yelling one thing.

If you knew that showing up better would get you better work, would you show up better?  You should. 

If you want to learn how to show up better, we train marketing teams on how to get better Marketing Execution. We go through how to write better briefs, how to make better decisions and how to give inspiring feedback to realize the greatness of your creative people. Here’s what the workshop looks like:

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.

Beloved Brands Graham Robertson

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Why would a pilot buy pizza for the stranded passengers of a competitor?

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Airline delays are a reality. If you travel enough, you have experienced some painful ones. Most times they are outside the control of the airline. My best story was showing up at the Paris airport at 8am to be told the flight had been delayed 12 hours. I checked my bags in and spent the day walking around in Paris. None will ever live up to that one.beloved brands customer experience consumer brand culture

Delays are a pain. The passengers get all cranky, which causes the employees to get cranky. The two clash. Then anxiety causes the drama to flare up one more level. The reality is that most delays are outside the control of the airlines, especially with snow storms moving up the east coast. I think passengers know this, but they have to get mad at someone. One of the things that separates the great airlines from the bad is how they handle a crisis. This is a great story how one airline (WestJet) was able to demonstrate how their culture is different, while the other airline (Air Canada) just stood still and watched.

This week, an Air Canada flight had to be diverted due to the snow storm. They landed at another airport at midnight. The first thing the Air Canada employee at the airport told the passengers that because it was just after midnight, it was not possible to get any food delivered. One more reason for passengers to be upset. And hearing this, a pilot from a competitive airline–WestJet–stepped up to the rescue. As I like to describe the difference between a product and a brand. A product solves small problems we did not even know we had, while a brand heroically beats down the enemy that torments us. This WestJet pilot stepped up as a hero, offering to buy pizza for everyone.

Here’s how one of the passengers described it to the local TV station. “Out of nowhere, a WestJet pilot emerged and said, ‘Hey … I am from WestJet and we do things differently. Who wants pizza?’ Within 20 minutes  the pizza had arrived and I think he paid for it out of his own pocket.”

Now, what might sound like a random story to passengers, was not at all. It was a perfect storm of the opportunity for the WestJet challenger brand to step up and deliver the brand message. Air Canada was completely ambushed and ridiculed with one simple act that cost the pilot around $60. Air Canada said in a statement the next morning, “Clearly we should have done better for our customers.”

I have had the luxury of traveling on both airlines. WestJet employees bring an energy and a smile to the experience, while many of the Air Canada employees bring a pained misery to their job. The true difference is not just in the advertising that says “we are friendly” but in the cultures behind the brand. As the smaller player in the market, WestJet has clearly figured out their only way to win is by creating amazing consumer experiences. You have to win through your people, and that means sending brand messages internally.

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. beloved brands customer experience consumer brand cultureWhen I ask the most far-reaching sales reps, the scientists in the lab or their retailer partners, the answers get worse. That 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. And in this case, the pilot.

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 the 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. 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.

beloved brands customer experience consumer brand culture

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 note pads 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.

 

This was not a random move by a pilot. This was the WestJet culture delivering their brand. 

Here’s a workshop that we run on how to create 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.

Beloved Brands Graham Robertson

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How to be successful at the Brand Manager level

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I have hired so many marketers over my 20 year career who I thought would be amazing. They were all appeared eager for success, brilliant, hard-working and dedicated. But in reality, only about 50% of Assistant Brand Managers would get promoted to Brand Manager and less than 15% of Brand Managers would ever make it to the Director level. What caused the best to stall at a certain level?

Whenever I promoted someone to Brand Manager, I kept an eye on their first three months. They usually expected the job to be much easier than it really was. I knew they would struggle. The biggest area where most struggled was in taking ownership. Newly promoted Brand Managers kept looking for someone else to make the decisions for them. Many times, we gave a newly promoted Brand Manager a role without a person under them, because I realized that learning to be an owner and a manager at the same time was really hard. Most people struggle the first time they have to manage someone. In fact, many times, you might struggle with your first five direct reports. Keep learning and improving each time.

I have given a lot of thought over the years to what makes a great brand manager and here the 5 factors you need to be successful at the Brand Manager level.

1. Ownership

A great Brand Manager takes ownership over the brand. Many Brand Managers struggle with the transition from being the helper to becoming the owner. As you move into the job, you have to get away from the idea of that someone else will 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 come from. A great Brand Manager talks nicely in a telling sense, rather then an asking sense. It is perfectly fine habit to be asking questions of your team, but most people on your team are going to be looking to you to make the decisions. They will be recommending and you will be deciding. When managing upwards be careful of asking too many questions of your boss. Once you ask your boss a question, you just gave up your ownership. Your director wants you to tell them what you want to do, and debate from there. I used to tell my Brand Managers, when you think you know the answer, speak in a telling way. When you think you don’t know the answer, speaking in an asking way. This helps set up the right level of debate.

2. Strategic Direction

A great Brand Manager provides a vision and the strategies to lead everyone who works on the brand. As the brand owner, you become the steward of the vision and strategy. You must bring an inspiring vision to the brand that becomes your personal rallying cry for your team that lets everyone know where you want to go. You must choose strategies that match up to your vision. As a leader, everything that is off strategy must to be rejected by you. Learn to think in terms of strategic pillars, with 3 different strategies you can easily communicate. This is a great way to keep the various functions aligned. Each function may only have 1 strategic pillar that matters to them, but they are most motivated when they can see how it all fits together.

 

How to be a successful Brand Manager

 

3. Managing others

A great Brand Manager takes the time to make their Assistant Brand Manager (ABM) as good as they can possibly be. From what I have seen, most Brand Managers struggle with their first five direct reports, yet they somehow expect to be perfect on their first. To get better, you must keep self evaluating and looking for ways to improve on your own management with each report you lead. Most Brand Managers struggle to shift from the ‘do-er’ role that made them successful into a ‘coach’ role that will make their direct report successful. Instinctively, they think they can just do it faster, so they may as well do it. Sadly, each time you do what you ABM should do, you just become the ‘super ABM’. Also, many Brand Managers fail to share the spot light, so it becomes hard to showcase the ABM. As you mature, you have to realize that the great 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. They become so afraid of ‘going negative’, the ABM is left in the dark or worse, they are left to believe 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 great Brand Managers give hands-on feedback in real time. Use weekly meetings to give both positive feedback and identify gaps the ABM needs to be addressing. Brand Mangers should also do QUARTERLY sit down performance reviews with their ABMs. I believe a great ABM has the capacity to learn faster than annual reviews allows for. There should be zero surprises on the annual performance review. Or else, you have been negligent in your management of the ABM.

4. Working the system

A great Brand Manager gets what they need. The organization is filled with a complex system of functions, groups, layers of bosses, various goals and external agencies. Everyone comes with their own set of goals and motivations. You must be able to see how the organization works and appreciate the motivations of the various key stakeholders on your team. You must get the most out of your key subject matter experts. You must understand everyone’s personal motivations and then find a way to tap into those motivations as a way to to ask people for their best. The best brand managers actually ask people for their best work. One other thing I learned over the years is to say “you should be proud” instead of “thank you”.  This helps acknowledge the subject matter expert helped themselves, not helped you.

 

how to be a successful brand manager

 

5. Dealing with pressure

A great Brand Manager can handle pressure. The four key pressure points are ambiguity, results, relationship and time. 

  • Ambiguity is one of the hardest pressures to deal with, because we cannot see it. But we can certainly feel it. As a leader, patience and composure helps you sort through the unknown. The consequences of not remaining composed is that your team behind you will feel scared. Not being able to deal with ambiguity can lead to quick decisions that deliver bad results. Stay patient and calm. I relish ambiguity. It is where the best debate can happen, where choices for direction are made and where a calm leader can set themselves apart from those in panic mode.
  • If the results do not come in, it can be highly frustrating. There becomes this “what happened” and potential blame game. This is the time to reach for your logic as you re-group, not your emotion. Do not change your vision, but be open to change your plan for how to get there. Force yourself to course correct, rather then continuing to repeat and repeat and repeat. Keep your team motivated through the turnaround, with a thought of “this is when we are needed the most.” Listen, then decide where you go next.
  • The other big pressure point for Brand Manager is the relationships around the office you need to maintain. You need to have great relations with sales, supply chain and your agencies. Any friction is on you to resolve. Be pro-active in making the first move to reach out and build a strong relationship with everyone around you. Ask people what motivates them and what annoys them. Understand their concerns and reach for common ground, which most times is not as far away as either of you might initially think. Be open to debate, rather than just shutting people down. Listen for their input. I had a boss who always said “whenever people are fighting, you are usually both half right”. You must listen to figure out which part they are right and how that can impact your choices.
  • Time Pressure can be very demanding. A great Brand Manager must be organized, disciplined and be able to work the system so it doesn’t get in their way. Just because you feel overly-busy, you still need to stay calm and make the right decisions. Learn to change brain speeds, so that you think slowly with strategy and quickly with execution. Organize your week, to fit your own thinking time. I always used Monday mornings to get things done. I used Monday afternoons to check in with my team. I liked having Wednesday or Thursday to either do the creative or strategic exercises with the team. Your week might look different than mine. Have you ever organized your week to fit how you like to work?  You can also use time pressure to your advantage to push to get things done. Just make sure you are calm in how you push, not panicked. Lastly, if you want to know why I insist that your brand plan should only have 3 strategies and 3 tactics for each strategy, the decisions you make to narrow your strategic focus on what really matters, will make sure your to-do list is do-able and does not kill you. The hero that tries to complete the biggest to-do list, will never get promoted to Director.

Ten reasons brand managers fail

  1. Struggle to make decisions
  2. Not analytical enough
  3. Can’t get along
  4. Not good with ambiguity
  5. Too slow and stiff
  6. Bad people manager
  7. Poor communicators, with manager, senior management or partners
  8. Never follow their instincts
  9. Can’t think strategically or write strategically
  10. They don’t run the brand, they let the brand run them.

To become a smarter Brand Manager, we offer a Brand Management Training program. We offer 9 different workshops for your marketing team. To find out more, click on this presentation:

Beloved Brands: We make brands stronger 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.

To contact me, call me at 416 885 3911 or email me at graham@beloved-brands.com

Beloved Brands Graham Robertson

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Ferrari brand sells more desire than it does cars

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Ferrari is one of the most desired luxury car brands of the world. To Italians around the world, the Ferrari brand screams the passion they hold for the Italian culture. As other brands hope to claim their value by selling more, Ferrari makes their money by actually selling fewer cars. This is a great case study for marketers to build desire for your brand.

While most marketers ask “what consumers do we want to get” when thinking of a target market, I ask a slightly different question of “who wants us?” You should be looking for those who are already motivated and bringing them in first. Then use them to help fuel passion for your brand.  Once you have the most motivated consumers, you can tap into their desires and build a tight bond with these brand fans. That bond becomes a source of power for the brand to drive their profits from.

Ferrari is such a unique brand. Here are the three pillars to their success:

  1. Ferrari spends nothing on advertising, everything on the F1 race: They put all their money into the Scuderia Ferrari F1 racing team, knowing that a win in front 500 million viewers each week fuels that desire for the brand. While Ferrari was the dominant winning team from 2000-2007, most recently they have struggled on the track behind Mercedes. Scuderia is Italian for a stable reserved for racing horses, closely linked the prancing horse in the Ferrari logo. Ferrari supplies engines for 4 of the F1 race teams. No matter what part of the world, whether in Australia, Britain or Brazil, it is the screaming Ferrari fans with their faces painted red, who are the most passionate among the crowd. The passion of these fans will continue to fuel Ferrari on the race track to catch up with Mercedes. They have to. It is crucial to the brand’s success.
  2. Ferrari stands for Italian passion: The Ferrari brand big idea is “Italian Excellence that makes the world dream”  They clearly understand the brand’s role in tapping into the pride of Italians around the world. Most fans of Ferrari will never own a car. It will be a lifelong dream. Instead, these brand fans will buy the tee shirts, hats, sunglasses, key chains and anything that projects their association with the brand. The branded merchandise accounts for $2.5 billion in sales each year, slightly more than the revenue from selling cars.
  3. Ferrari limits production on cars:  Since back in the 1990s, Ferrari has found tremendous success in using the pent-up desire to fuel their success. While everyone should want a Ferrari, not everyone should have one.  This keeps the price high.By focusing on extraordinary vehicle design and exclusivity, Ferrari is able to sell luxury cars with high-profit margins. Increasing profitability with high margins has been a key driver to revenue growth for Ferrari. Ferrari reported EBITDA margins of 25%, which is quite high as compared to other luxury car manufacturers as well as the industry average.

The purpose behind the Ferrari brand is clear: “We build cars, symbols of Italian excellence the world over, and we do so to win on both road and track. Unique creations that fuel the Prancing Horse legend and generate a “World of Dreams and Emotions”. Very motivating to consumers in the marketplace, as well as internally, for everyone who works on the Ferrari brand.

Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, the former Chairman of Ferrari talked about the link of the history and traditions of the Ferrari brand with the future. “I want to maintain the link with the past, with the tradition and with the history but don’t want to be in the prison of the history. I want to be in the prison of the future.”

The two issues for Ferrari in the future:

  1. How will Ferrari improve their performance on the F1 track, to beat Mercedes, and keep the passion of their fans alive?
  2. With changing regulations on fuel emissions, around the world, how can the Ferrari brand advance on Hybrid technology so that it can maintain their standing as a modern car?

It looks like as we head into the F1 season of 2017, there will be pressure for the Ferrari brand to step up their performance on the track. All those fans with their faces painted red want victories.

For marketers, who are your most motivated consumers and how can you turn them into passionate brand fans?

 

To read more, here’s our workshop to building a beloved brand.

 

Beloved Brands: We make brands stronger 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.

To contact me, call me at 416 885 3911 or email me at graham@beloved-brands.com

 

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Were you fooled by the true political message behind any Super Bowl ads? #AlternativeFacts

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The day after the Super Bowl is the usual time for people to talk about Super Bowl ads. This year, with everyone hot about the election, it is not surprising that those that rose to the top have a political message. People are talking about Airbnb, Budweiser, 84 Lumber and Audi.

However, as consumers start to dig in a little deeper, there are a few ads who are missing out on the truth behind a few of the spots.  The two ads that might not be as expected, or as we would say in 2017, they might have alternative facts are:

  • 84 Lumber
  • Audi

I have seen people tweeting, “That’s it. I am now going to buy more lumber” which is foolish or “I am a loyal fan of Budweiser, I’m never buying a Bud again” which is just as foolish. The reality of aligning yourself to a political message is it is the slowest way to gain customers and the fastest way to lose customers. A bunch of strategists of the world are saying “if you are purpose driven, you have to stay purpose driven”.  That’s OK, but what does that have to do with politics?

84 Lumber

On Monday morning, everyone on my Facebook has been talking about the “84 Lumber” spot. Ad Age and AdWeek have it on their top spot. OK, people, a lumber company who I never ever heard of just spent $10 Million on a 2 minute ad to send you to their website to see a 5 minute version.  Wait, what’s the brand name again, 84 Lumber. Ok, I forgot since I typed it 2 minutes ago.

So I  watched the 5 minute video and I was confused.

 

 

Is this a pro-immigration ad, or an anti-immigration ad?  What does the door opening mean? Does it mean that America is an open door filled with opportunity to realize the american dream? It might.  Or does it mean the wall will have a door that is a legal way to get into America? It might. Most of the left believed it means opportunity and they love the ad. The right also believed it was pro immigration, so they hate the ad. Apparently, the 84 Lumber CEO is a staunch Trump supporter and came out on Monday and said:

“We need to keep America safe. America needs to be safe so you and I can have the liberty to talk. The wall, I think it represents, to me, security. I like security.”

So, 84 Lumber who is a B2B brand focused on a very niche audience should never be in the Super Bowl have now run the risk of pissing off the left and right. Why did 84 Lumber spend $10-15 Million?  They say ‘awareness’.  Well, you have some short-term awareness, as both sides will now hate you. But who do you need awareness from? You are a B2B lumber brand. Anyway, personal marketing bias is that I hate awareness as a goal. But even worse, if you poke your nose into an issue, you better be able to stand up to the issue. 84 Lumber cannot even express what they want now. Imagine a year from now, they bid on the construction of the wall. They likely will. So how do you now feel about this ad?

 

Audi

I can’t blame those who feel betrayed by 84 Lumber, because that’s now I feel about Audi. I’m very pro-equality, and with an 18-year old daughter, I want her to achieve as much as she can in life. I rated this spot as my favorite Super Bowl ad.  Here’s the spot.

 

 

And here’s the script:

  • What do I tell my daughter?
  • Do I tell her that her grandpa’s worth more than her grandma? That her dad is worth more than her mom?
  • Do I tell her that despite her education, her drive, her skills, her intelligence, she will automatically be valued as less than every man she ever meets? Or maybe, I’ll be able to tell her something different.
  • Audi of America is committed to equal pay for equal work.
  • Progress is for everyone

I still love the spot, but I am not so sure Audi has earned the right to say this. There are no women who sit on Audi’s Management Board and there are only two women who sit on its 14 person American executive team. In the press release for the Super Bowl ad, the car company said it was publicly committed to supporting women’s pay equality and pointed out that half of the candidates for its graduate internship program must be female. I feel fooled by their message. Actions speak louder than words. Audi made me a completely hollow promise. Isn’t this the same Volkswagen company that told us about fuel emissions last year? Let’s hope this backlash can work to make Audi do more for women inside their own organization before they start challenging everyone else to do so.  So how do you now feel about this ad?

Do the #alternativefacts make you feel different about these TV ads?

 

I believe brands should never pick political sides. You must realize that choosing political sides after a hotly  contested election is the fastest way to lose sales and the slowest way to gain sales. Politics is ugly. Brands should stay away.

There is a difference between a cause and a political belief.

It is great to be such a purpose driven brand that you stand up for your beliefs. But, why do you feel compelled in 2017, to extrapolate your purpose into the partisan political arena? The closer you get to one side of the political aisle, the uglier it can get. When it comes to politics, people cannot see straight. There beliefs are so deep, you will not change any minds. Instead, you should expect severe blowback, which could haunt your brand for years. I still think of Chick Fil A as the brand against marriage equality. Did you know that Chick Fil A quickly backpedaling on that stance? Wait, you think a brand should stand up for itself? Once Chick Fil A took some heat, they did a 180 turn and started donating to LGBT causes just to avoid a full on boycott. Yet, in my mind, their initial statements will stick forever.Last year, Starbucks had baristas writing #racetogether on coffee cups. Seemed innocent enough, but when their customers complained, Starbucks quickly backed away. If you like that brands stick their nose out, then you must hate when they pull back at the first sign of trouble.

If you are really purpose driven, then why does it have to show up in your advertising? Why not be authentic about your purpose and line up with a cause you believe in. How about mobilizing all your employees to go clean a river or give back by teaching kids how to read, or go work at a food bank. To keep it is authentic and pure, how about you do it quietly and believe you do not even need to garner any PR. Let your actions speak louder than your words.

As a guide, there has to be truth to your advertising. If you lie, you will get caught. So next time you have an ad you love, ask them “can we really stand behind this message?”.  Looks like 84 Lumber and Audi cannot.

Here’s our workshop to building a beloved brand.

 

Beloved Brands: We make brands stronger 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.

To contact me, call me at 416 885 3911 or email me at graham@beloved-brands.com

 

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The best super bowl ad:  Audi takes a stand on the side of women

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Like many of you, I have been watching the release of Super Bowl ads the last few weeks. I heard one of my friends ask, “If Super Bowl ads are so expensive, why do some brands do really bad ads?” That’s a great question. In reality, normally there are only 3 or 4 great ones each year, with 10 good/ok ones and the rest will be awful.

I must confess that one of my all time favorite Super Bowl ads is “Farmer” by Dodge. It had an arresting quality that made you stop and listen. While everyone else was loud, they were quiet. It told a story that made me tingle. It picked a target for their spot, the working class of America, without worry about “are we alienating the non farmers who might buy our trucks?” Please stop asking these questions. Your consumer does not think this way. And Dodge Ram made a promise, to stand with the hard working farmers of America, which is what every brand should do.

Watch.


This year’s Audi spot shares some of the same principles as the “Farmer” ad. Through a father’s voice, Audi has a great question of “what do I tell my daughter?”. There is no fear here of alienating men. Most of us have mothers, sisters, daughters and friends we want to experience the same opportunity. We need more messages where girls are able maximize their potential. We need more thinking that way in society. Audi told a story, through the innocence of a young girl, who has likely not yet faced what she will face in the future. She swerves throughout the race and wins–a metaphor for what comes ahead in her life. And, as they walk to the car,  just as it looked like Audi might choose to sell the car, they quietly male a bold promise: Audi of America is committed to equal pay for equal work. Nice job Audi.

Here’s the script:

  • What do I tell my daughter?
  • Do I tell her that her grandpa’s worth more than her grandma? That her dad is worth more than her mom?
  • Do I tell her that despite her education, her drive, her skills, her intelligence, she will automatically be valued as less than every man she ever meets? Or maybe, I’ll be able to tell her something different.
  • Audi of America is committed to equal pay for equal work.
  • Progress is for everyone

I am the father of an 18 year old daughter, who I want to see achieve whatever she wants in life. Her biggest obstacle will be the rising tide of sexism I am seeing, not just the old men out there, not just the corporate world but among her own peer group of teenage boys. Sadly, I see sexism on the rise. As a fellow dad, go have a talk with your sons and let’s get back on track to progress. We have to stop believing that someone else’s gain is a threat to us.

This type of ad builds on Nike’s “If you let me play” from 20 years ago:

 

Enjoy the game.

And go Patriots.

To read more our brand leader training presentation on how to inspire marketing execution, click on this powerpoint below:

 

Beloved Brands: We make brands stronger 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.

To contact me, call me at 416 885 3911 or email me at graham@beloved-brands.com

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Should brands speak out in the year of the brand boycott?

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#No.

That is my shortest article of all time.

I have intensely strong political opinions in my head, but I will not share them. They are likely as strong or even stronger than yours. But I will not post them on Facebook. I will never go against them at any point in my life. Ever. Yet, I keep mine in my head. And I completely respect yours, even if they are in direct opposition to mine. I refuse to take a political stand in public. They make voting booths private for a reason.

When it comes to politics, people cannot see straight. I have learned 1000 times in my life that you will never change their minds. I have learned about 15 times this year on Facebook. It is crazy. They cannot even hear you. That is ok. That is the reality of the market a brand must play within.

With such a divided electorate, it is too dangerous for brands to take sides.

As a person, I love that people have political convictions and applaud them for speaking out. I loved that millions marched. It was truly inspirational. Now, if you enjoy speaking out, go for it. Your choice. I know you think I am wrong. I have tried to hint to friends that they should tone down their inflammatory Facebook posts, but to no avail. They seem to need that therapeutic. It is perfectly OK for an individual, buried somewhere on your personal Twitter or Facebook feed with your 334 followers. Have fun.

Even if you are the CEO, you are still just an employee who works for the shareholders.

I love Howard Schultz. He is one of the most brilliant marketing minds of our today’s world. Maybe he will run for office one day. Maybe he will win. But as a brand, Starbucks should have been more careful this week. He should have produced a vague statement of defiance like P&G, Nike or Facebook, which look like a team of 30 lawyers read over every word. After reading it a few times, I am not even sure what the P&G’s statement says. Schultz may have over-estimated the Starbucks brand’s support, as they did behind the #racetogether campaign. As their loyal consumers rejected #racetogether, they did quickly back away. Now as a person, I don’t think people should boycott Starbucks for offering to hire refugees. But they did. Schultz is just employee #1 at Starbucks, reporting to the shareholders. Three days after speaking out, Starbucks just lost $5 Billion in market valuation. Wow. That’s a 7-8% loss in a robust stock market. I sure hope the waters calm down and they bounce back up. Then you could argue it was worth it. But what if the stock bounces down to a 20% loss?  What is the price it is worth it? 30%?  Still worth it? What’s the price to pay when you are gambling with the hard earned savings of those stockholders counting on that money for their retirement. Shareholders are not the 1%, but the 50%. Half of America participates in the stock market. They are counting on that money to be there.

Brands only exist to make more money than the product alone could ever do.

I believe brand’s only exist for companies to make more money than if they sold the product alone. Sure, you can have a brand purpose or brand soul that wants to make a difference. If having a conviction makes you more profits, I say, “Have more conviction”. However, if you just a coffee shop with nice seats, be more careful. Do not be so loud about it. Because more profits will allow you to quietly make more of a difference. Your role as a hired brand slinger is to deliver profits back to the shareholders. You can certainly hire refugees over the next 5 years. But watch out for inflaming the die-hard 25% of people who voted for Trump. Same goes for brands on the right hand side now facing boycotts. 

Also, if you have such a brand purpose, you should understand profits allow you to have even more of a purpose and for even longer. Benneton was an outspoken in shocking ways in the 1980’s. Very purpose driven, loud and in your face stance. They are no longer around. They no longer have a voice.

 

2017 is becoming the year of the boycott.

If you love the anti-Trump sentiment, you likely hated what Uber did with airports on the weekend, driving past the Taxi driver protest and on top of it, charging surge prices . If you are on the left, you likely also hated the Chick Fil A making statement against marriage equality about 3-4 years ago. Maybe you have not eaten there since. I believe that brand mistake will stick with them forever. You just sell chicken, you are not my moral compass. Arguably, this could stick with Starbucks forever. These brands are now forcing consumers to make personal brand choices based on politics. The left is boycotting brands on the right and the right is boycotting brands on the right. Anyone who meets Trump gets trashed with a new hash-tag. Anyone manufacturer, big or small, who gets called out by a Trump tweet, truly lives in fear. I saw a brand announce they were building a manufacturing site in the US, they were then praised by Trump and then boycotted by the left. Wait a second, you are boycotting because they are creating US jobs?  Wow.

The best numbers out there, is about 27% voted one side and 25% voted the other way. Still, 48% refused to vote. That means 27% and 25% of your employees vote one way or the other. If you motivated 27%, you de-motivated the 25%. And you likely annoyed the 48%. Are you now going to ask political questions in the job interviews?  That would be scary.

Trump’s approval rating is 45%. You can either read that as the lowest approval rating for the first week of a President, or you can read that as only 1% less than voted for him 8 weeks ago. This is a very crazed and divided marketplace. Someone today told me they really respect Starbucks for this stance. However, when I pressed them if it would make them drink more coffee, they said they already boycott Starbucks for something they did 2 years ago. So this is the crazy type of consumer a brand must deal with in 2017.

Be careful. Be quiet. Pick your spots.

I am sure there will be people who tell me they love what one of these brands are doing, but hate what the other brand is doing. You are only proving my point. You will not hear my political views. It does not mean they are not as strong as yours.  It just means I am careful.

If you like what Starbucks did, you better start drinking more coffee. Fast.

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McDonald’s is about to make the biggest brand strategy blunder of all time: fight two battles at once.

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As of 2017, it is hard to really define what McDonald’s stands for anymore. The one thing I can safely say, is they are no longer “Fast”. On a cold Canadian winter, I called home and asked my son if he wanted a coffee on my way home. He said “sure”. So I got in the McDonald’s drive through line, behind only about 4 other cars. And after 20 minutes, I finally had my coffee. I was in complete shock. Does anyone do fast anymore? You would think in this day of hyper need states, someone would do fast.

The only success they have had in the past 18 months has their all day breakfast, basically taking their normal breakfast foods and making it available 24/7. I guess for the next move they could make their fries available 24/7. And now they have added bacon to their Big Mac and talking about it on TV like it is an “Oh my god, why didn’t I think of that” type of innovation.

A few days later, I read that McDonald’s was going to invest billions in 2017 to revamp the insides of their McCafe’s around the world. OK, so you want to take on Starbucks. Sure you have a great coffee, but plastic seats, fake fireplaces, annoying toddlers screaming on the floor, and the teenagers lurking around certainly does not make up for the great coffee. That will sure be expensive to replicate the appeal of Starbucks. By the way, can anyone answer my question: how does Starbucks manage to keep toddlers out of their restaurants?

Then a week later, I read that McDonald’s was going to invest billions in 2017 to revamp their entire kitchens to be able to serve high quality and fresh meat in their hamburgers. Wow. I am big fan of Five Guys, In-N-Out burger, Shake Shack and Big Smoke burgers. But, they are never fast. They each say they won’t start cooking your burger until you order it. At Five Guys, you can see them even pull the burger out and placed on the grill.

McDonald’s is about to commit the worst mistake a brand can do. They are about to fight a war on two fronts.

In the history of warfare, this is the most common mistake of every great general who has eventually gone down in flames. From the third century BC in the First Macedonian War to Napoleon to World War II, the war of two fronts never works.

By trying to be everything to anyone McDonald’s has ended up nothing to everyone. Despite all their efforts the past 5 years, McDonald’s is not perceived as the ‘best’ in coffee. Starbucks is. They don’t have the best burger. Five Guys does. They don’t have the best chicken, best shakes or best sandwiches. They don’t have the best anything. They aren’t even that fast, that cheap or have that great of service anymore. Getting a McDonald’s employee to say thank you is nearly impossible.

The biggest myth of marketing is to believe that a bigger target market is the path to being a bigger brand. Too many Marketers are willing to target anyone. The second myth is believing that if you stand for everything, it will make your brand stronger. There are brands that say they are faster, longer-lasting, better-tasting, stronger, cheaper and have a better experience. They mistakenly think that whatever the competitor does best, they will try to do it better. They are willing to say everything, hoping the consumer hears something. Hope is never a strategy. The third myth is trying to be everywhere, whether that means being in every channel of distribution or being on every possible media option. The worst Marketers lack focus because of their fear of missing out on someone or something. By trying to be everything to anyone, the brand will end up nothing to everyone. By trying to be everywhere, the brand will eventually end up being no where. Strategy should never be random.

Every brand is constrained by limited resources, whether financial, time, people or partnership resources. Yet Marketers always face the temptation of an unlimited array of choices, whether those choices are in the possible target market, brand messages, strategies or tactics. The smartest Brand Leaders are able to limit their choices to match up to their limited resources. They focus on those choices that will deliver the greatest return. I always joke that strategic thinkers share one similar trait with lazy people. Both spend a lot of effort to figure out how to get the most back, by doing the least possible.

The best Brand Leaders never divide and conquer out of fear. Force yourself to focus and conquer with the confidence of strategic thinking. The smartest Brand Leaders use the word “or” more often than they use the word “and”. If you come to a decision point, and you try to rationalize in your own brain that it is okay to do a little of both, then you are not strategic. You are not even a decision-maker.

Trying to both at the same time means you will lose at both. I can no longer tell you what McDonald’s stands for. Can you?

So if you were McDonald’s, would you choose to win the burger war or the coffee war? I’d pick burgers.

McDonald's Story Starbucks turnaround

 

To read about how to create a beloved brand, here is our workshop we run:

Beloved Brands: We make brands stronger 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.

To contact me, call me at 416 885 3911 or email me at graham@beloved-brands.com

 

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