Category Archive: How to Guide for Marketers

5 Crucial Career Questions to Ask yourself in the most honest soul-searching start to what’s next

Slide1Too many brilliant Brand Leaders forget to apply the same fundamental principles of Branding to themselves. It seems that at the senior levels (Director, VP) while we are at the most vulnerable part of our career, we become a bit complacent. Having been in the job market, having seen many peers going through dramatic job and life changes, I continue to see great Brand Leaders do a bad job marketing themselves. Before you do anything, you should assess your situation by asking some of the toughest questions:

  1. Within your current company, how high up do you think you can realistically go?  Be very honest. I’ve always believed that by your 40th birthday, you might have peaked or at best have one more level left to climb. Yes, there are exceptions, but you can’t plan to be one of the exceptions. The problem is that once you have peaked, how long do you realistically think you can remain successful within your current company, before you get squeezed out.  And you might want to proactively take action at 45, rather than reactively be forced to take action at 55.  
  2. Should you stay in the same industry or look at new verticals?  If you’re in CPG, Brand Management still has the power to drive the brands you work on. But once you leave CPG, marketing’s role gets diminished, usually becoming a marketing communications function–either communicating the product innovation or service, which as a Marketer you might have little control over. With less control over the pure direction of the business or even brand, marketing becomes a bit more of a do-er support function who explains what has already been done by the brand, rather than a strategic marketer who leads the business. What you’ll also find is that as you move out of CPG, the talent levels that will fall under you goes down considerably. And then you have to jump in, going lower than you are used to in prior CPG roles.  
  3. Should you stay in pure Brand Management or venture into a subject-matter expert type roles? This is one of the harder decisions you will make, because once you make it, you might not be able to turn back. It is human nature to want to label people–and this is one of the struggles you will face in managing your career, especially if you become a Subject Matter Expert. If you move out of Brand Management, and it doesn’t work out, it might be harder to convince future employers that you are still a generalist who can drive their brands.  
  4. How long do you want to keep working?  As you get older, you’ll have to start asking this. Part of this decision will depend on your own personal finances and your family situation. When I was 25, I would have hoped I’d retire at 55 on an island.  But at 45, I found myself asking “so what do I want to do for the next 15 years?”  I had no clue of the answer.  And it was scary.   
  5. Do you stay an employee or do you take this moment to leap out on your own? If most marketing careers peak in your 40s, still being an employee at 50 puts you at risk of being laid off by a 38-year-old one day. As we get older, you will find that it becomes harder to sit through a performance review. Being on your own gives you a certain power to be your own boss. I went out on my own a few years ago and love it.  But when anyone asks me if they should, my immediate reaction is to say “that it’s not for everyone”. I want to make sure you are serious about it, and not getting me to try to talk you into it. It will be you who has to jump off the cliff.  I still remember the phone call with my wife, where I told her about 10 times “I’m going to do it”. I was more preparing myself for it, than telling her. It can feel very risky but once you realize that you are betting on yourself you will know you can do it. The lifestyle is great, but you’re on the clock 24/7.  And it can be a very lonely experience–which surprised an introvert like myself.  It took me 18 months to get used to the being alone feeling.

You have to answer these questions honestly before going out into the market, looking for a job. These answers help frame the strategy for the roles you’d consider. Think of these questions as a starting point to your Personal Branding.  To read more, including looking at a deep dive assessment of your personal situation and how to create your own Brand,  follow this Powerpoint presentation:

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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

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Check List of 10 things that Great Advertising should do

When you are in the midst of an advertising project, and you’re feeling stuck as a Brand Leader use this simple check list to find out where things might be missing for you.  The best Advertising should do these 10 things: 

  1. Set Yourself Apart.  Beloved Brands must be different, better, cheaper or not around very long.   The story telling of the brand’s promise should help to separate the brand from the clutter of our minds. That starts with creative that feels different and makes the brand seem different. 
  2. Focused!   A focused target, a focused message, a focused strategy against a focused communication idea and a focused media.  
  3. Keep the Idea and Communication very simple.  Communication is not what is said, but what is heard. Too many people try to shout as many messages as they can in one ad.  What the consumer hears:  a confusing mess or nothing really.  My challenge to you is to stand up on a chair and yell your main message as though you are standing on top of a mountain.  If you can’t YELL it out in one breath, then your idea is too complex.  The Volvo Brand Manager gets to yell “Safety” in one clean simple breath.   Can you do that?  
  4. Have a Good Selling Idea.  While big ideas break through, they also help you to be consistent, because you have to align your thinking to the Big Idea.  You’ll see consistency over time, across mediums–paid, earned, social and search, throughout the entire brand line up of sub brands.  Consumers will start to connect to the big idea
  5. Drive Engagement: Too many Brand Leaders get so fixated on saying their 7 messages that they figure the ability capture attention is just advertising fluff.  But it all starts with Attention.   The consumer sees 5,000 ads a day and will likely only engage in a handful.   If you don’t capture their attention, no one will remember the brand name, your main message or any other reason to believe you might have.
  6. Let the Visuals do the talking.  With so many ads, you need to have some visual that can capture the attention, link to your brand and communicate your message.   The ‘see-say’ of advertising helps the consumers brain to engage, follow along and remember.  As kids, we always love the pictures.  We still do.  
  7. Sell the solution, not your product.  People use brands to solve problems in their lives.  They’d prefer not to have that problem than have to buy your brand.  No one has ever wanted a quarter-inch drill, they just need a quarter-inch hole. 
  8. Be Relevant with the Consumer. A beloved brand finds a way to matter to those who really care. Not only the right brand promise but in the right communication of that promise. You can’t sell carpet cleaning to someone who just has hard wood floors.  
  9. Based on a consumer Insight.  Insights are not facts about your brand.  That’s just you talking AT the consumer.   Insights allow you to connect and turn the ad into a conversation.  Insights are something the consumer already knows but they didn’t realize that everyone felt that way.  Insights enable consumers to see themselves in the situation and once you do that, the consumers might then figure the brand must be for them.  
  10. Tell the story behind the brand.  Talk about your brand’s purpose.  Why did you start this brand?   What do you hope that the brand really does to help people?   Why do you get up in the morning.  

Advertising Sweet Spot when the Creative Idea drives the Attention, Branding, Communication and Stickiness

At Beloved Brands, we run a Brand Leadership Center to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To read more on strategy, here is a workshop on HOW TO GET BETTER ADVERTISING, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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

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Here’s how a BIG WIDE BRIEF gets you Lousy Advertising

Great Advertising comes from a Balance of Freedom and Control.  

Slide1One of the worst part about the current state of Brand Management is that most Brand Leaders allow too much freedom on the strategy, but want to have full control over the creative execution. It seems odd because Brand Leaders should be doing the opposite.  

Brand Leaders should control the Strategy and give freedom on the Execution.  

While clients are always asking agencies to see a range of work, what I think they really mean is to see a range of “creative” options, not “strategic” options.  But when you write such a BIG WIDE BRIEF, what you get is a range of strategic options that address various parts of your BIG WIDE BRIEF.  Right away, you give up control over the strategy.  

A Good Brief Should Be Brief, Not Long!  

My simple rule of thumb is that a good briefs should have:

  • one objective
  • one desired consumer response
  • one target tightly defined
  • two consumer insights to tell the story
  • one main benefit
  • one or two main reasons to believe
  • zero creative mandatories

Look at your most current brief and take your pen and stroke things off your BIG WIDE BRIEF!  Once you make your brief smaller and tighter, you’ll see how clearer things will become.  Get rid of the “just in case” lists of things. Stop putting things your boss wants. Stop putting things global wants in your brief. While putting those things into your brief might help you sleep at night, it won’t get you better work and will eventually cause you nightmares.  Before even getting to the brief stage, make sure you do all your homework with an Advertising Strategy that answers the following questions:

  1. Who do we want to sell to?  (Who is your Target Consumer?)
  2. What are we selling?  (What is your main Benefit?) and why should they believe us?  (Reason To Believe)
  3. What do we want the Advertising to do for the brand?  (Strategic Choices)
  4. What do want people to think, feel or do?  (Desired Response)
  5. What’s the long-range feeling the brand evokes (The Big Idea)

The brief should isolate the task to coming up with creative solutions to the defined strategic problem. Never use the advertising process and what ad wins the copy test to come up with your brand strategy.  The strategy frames the execution–the execution never determine the strategy.  

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Stop the BIG WIDE BRIEF and focus your Strategy

The first flaw of a BIG WIDE BRIEF is the Advertising Objective where I’m seeing lists of 3-4 objectives instead of just one objective. Right away, the brief is headed in the wrong direction. Too many briefs have both penetration AND usage frequency listed as one objective. That’s two separate strategies that leads to two targets, two messages and possibly two different media options. Here’s how different these two strategies really are:

  • Penetration ads get someone with very little experience with your brand to consider dropping their current brand to try you once and see if they like you.
  • Usage Frequency ads get someone who knows your brand already, motivating them to change their current behavior so they can fit your brand into more parts of their life.

I see this all the time. Your agency will come back with one ad that does penetration and one that drives frequency and call that a creative range. You just gave up control over the strategy and now the best ad execution decides your brand strategy.

The next flaw of the BIG WIDE BRIEF is an unfocused Target Market. I once worked with a Brand who had their target listed as:  18-65, current customers, new potential customers and employees. My first response was “why did you leave out prisoners and tourists?”.  They were worried about alienating some consumers. Isn’t alienating a synonym of Targeting?  Good advertising should alienate. I expect Beats by Dre advertising to target 17-year-old urban kid with his hat on backwards. I still want those damn headphones. I don’t feel alienated. At Beloved Brands, we recommend a maximum 5-year age gap (e.g. 35-40) in your target definition to ensure that your Ads are focused.  Many briefs have a 20-year age gap (e.g. 30-50) and that is too wide—your agency will give you one ad for 30 year olds and one for 50 year olds—and you just gave up control over the strategy one more time. When thinking of your target, you have to matter most to those who care the most about what you’re selling. It will be easier to move them towards your brand by making them feel special.  Trying to matter to everyone will just confuse the most motivated and leave them feeling like they don’t matter any more than those who don’t even care.Slide1

The third flaw of the BIG WIDE BRIEF is the Desired Consumer Response. Great advertising can only move one body part at a time: the head, the heart, the feet or the soul. Pick one. As more brands are trying to move to “emotive” advertising, you still have to remember that your brand strategy is dependent on where your brand stands now, before you can use Advertising to try to move your brand to a new place.  At Beloved Brands, we use a hypothetical Brand Love Curve to map out where the brand is now, as brands move from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally to the Beloved stage.  If you’re a NEW brand or at the INDIFFERENT stage, you should be focused on the HEAD, so that you can get Consumers to THINK differently about your brand.  It is rare that a brand can move so quickly to the love it stage (Beats by Dre might be one exception).  Put it this way, while everyone in life wants to hear the words “I love you”, it’s kinda creepy and meaningless if you hear it on the first date. If your brand is at the LIKE IT stage, focus on moving the FEET so you can drive ACTION to get consumers to buy and create a following.  If you are at the LOVE IT stage you can focus on the HEART and get current Loyal users to connect emotionally and LOVE you even more. Advertising alone cannot make a consumer love your brand–they have to love you before you tell them to love you. If you are at the BELOVED stage, focus on the SOUL and get those who love your brand to FEEL a part of the Brand. If you don’t decide what body part your ad should focus on, the agency will likely show you a range of emotional and rational ads, and once you pick the safe rational choices you’ve always picked, you’ll only be demoralizing your creative team.

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The final flaw of BIG WIDE BRIEFS is too many Messages. The current generation of Brand Leaders try to say as much as possible. I’m not always sure why, but you need to stop believing that “if we tell them more than they’ll retain more”.  No, the 100 years of marketing says that if you say too much, there is a risk that they’ll hear nothing. What if I told you that in today’s crowded world of advertising, the consumer now sees about 6000 brand messages per day?  Would you still want to give them 5 messages?  I hope not.  Narrow down your message to say ONE THING only.  When list of messages, the agency will likely give you one of those crappy “marriage of benefits” ads just to make you happy.  Or the agency will pick out ONE of the benefits and put the rest into some list that gets read within the ad. Now you’ll be happy with the list, but really you’ve just given up control of what the ONE thing is you want to say.  The only other possible solution is they just get the Voice Over talent to read the script at an even faster pace than normal.  When I was a month into my job as an ABM, at a voice edit the agency told me that our voice over talent made about $500k a year.  I said “what makes him so good?” and the account executive said “he has this unique talent to be able to speak twice as fast as other voice overs and still remain clear, so he’s in very high demand”.  That’s not a good sign for our industry, is it?  Slide1

On the flip side, the current generation of Brand Leaders are trying to control the Creative with a long list of Mandatories.  A well-written brief should have ZERO mandatories. Mandatories feel like a cover up for the insecurity of a badly written brief. The best Brand Leaders give freedom on the creative execution. At the first creative meeting, you should be surprised by the Creative work, but like it as soon as you see it.  You shouldn’t have a clue what the ad will look like. Stop the long list of Mandatories, that makes it so prescriptive the agency ends up backed into a creative corner. Why bother having an agency then?  

Use the Brief to control the Strategy and give freedom on the Execution

At Beloved Brands, we run a Brand Leadership Center to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To read more on strategy, here is a workshop on HOW TO GET BETTER ADVERTISING, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

We offer Brand Coaching, where we promise to make your Brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your Brand’s full potential. For our Brand Leader Training, we promise to make your team of Brand Leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or phone me at 416 885 3911Slide1

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The biggest factor in getting to great advertising….is the client.

If you are a Brand Leader who struggles with advertising, you know how hard it is. I’m asked all the time, what is it that makes one Brand Leader good at advertising and another not so good? 

Simply put, great Brand Leaders are able to consistently get great advertising that drives towards their objective into the market, and equally able to keep bad advertising that does nothing for them off the air.

Some Brand Leaders blame themselves, almost surrendering to the idea of: “I’m more strategic type of marketer, and not that good at advertising”.  But I hope you don’t quit on yourself, because being good at Advertising takes experience, practice, leadership, feedback and a willingness to adjust. You can get better, if you really want to.  Slide1Some Brand Leaders blame their agency, and even fire their agency. But from my view, an OK agency can do great work on a great client. But a great agency can fail miserably with a bad client. Most clients fail to realize that the role of the Brand Leader is the most important factor in getting great ads. 

If you knew that how you showed up as a Client would get you better advertising, do you think you would actually show up differently? 

At creative meetings, do you stay big picture, avoid getting into details? When giving direction, do you avoid giving your own solutions?  When you gave your agency a brief, you put them in a box.  Now you should use your feedback as a way to put them in a new box ,a modified version of the box you created with the brief you gave them. Agencies don’t want your solutions, they just want your problems. The best agencies are problem solvers who are in the box thinkers.  As a great Brand Leader, your role is always to give them a box they can solve.

The best advertising comes from a very tight Brand strategy.  How tight is your brief?  

Do you stay focused on ONE target, ONE strategy, ONE benefit behind ONE big idea? Avoid the “just in case list” where you sneak “one more thing” onto the brief.  Narrow the Target market and tell their story with engaging insights.  Start with the desired consumer response before deciding what your brand should say.  Develop a testable Brand Concept before the brief so you know the strategy works with consumers, isolating the creative as the only thing you need to figure out.  Slide1

Are you one of the FAVORITE clients of your agency? 

As a Brand Leader, your role is inspire everyone to WANT to work on your brand, never treat them like they HAVE to work on your business. I know you pay the agency, so you might think that motivates them right away.  Not quite.  Do you meet the creative team before the first creative meeting to connect, align them with your vision and inspire them to push for great work? My guess is you don’t. You wait till that first creative meeting, and get introduced to the people who have been secretly working on your brand for the past few weeks. Are you the type of client to take creative risks, and be willing to be different to stand out?  Great advertising is a balance of control and freedom.  You should control the strategy and give freedom on the creative, but somehow the reverse happens.  Uncertain Brand Leaders give freedom on the strategy, yet they come into the advertising process with a pre-determined look and feel.   

If you meet resistance to GREAT advertising, even from your boss, are you the Brand Leader that is willing to fight anyone in the way? 

Every great ad I’ve worked on, there was almost a breaking point.  Whenever I fondly think of my old ads, I always smile when I think of that “near breaking point” that we got past.  As the Brand Leader you have to be the one to fight for great work and maneuver through that near breaking point. Your agency will take notice that you are that type of leader and they’ll want to work on your brand, willing to give you their best work. Do you resist approving Advertising that is “just OK” and “safe”?   What signal do you think it sends everyone involved? I believe that you have to LOVE your advertising, and never settle for OK.  Somewhere along the line, if you don’t love it, you’ll likely just give in. And then everything fails.  And you start again.  

If you knew that how you showed up as a Client was the biggest factor in getting better advertising, do you think you would actually show up differently?

At Beloved Brands, we run a Brand Leadership Center to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To read more on strategy, here is a workshop on HOW TO GET BETTER ADVERTISING, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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

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The best advertising comes when Brand Leaders control the strategy and give freedom on the execution.

Control the Strategy with a Tight Brief

Brand Leaders take pride in being strategic thinkers. Yet, why when it comes to Advertising, do they throw strategic thinking out the window and become masters of execution? To get great advertising, Brand Leaders should control the strategy and give freedom on the execution. Yet I see them giving up control over the strategy all the time. A good tight brief has one problem, one objective, one target and one main message.  As soon as you write a broad brief that goes beyond that, you’ve just given up control over the strategy.

  • If your brief has a broad target market, some ads will naturally fit younger and some will fit older. But it’s unlikely one ad will fit both targets. A good brief should have no more than a 5 year age gap on the target. 
  • If your brief has two benefits, the agency will come back with one ad for the first benefit and another ad for the second benefit. I hope that’s not what you wanted when you picked two benefits. Or worse yet, you’ll get the “marriage of both benefits” type ads and those are usually very lame. A good brief should have only one benefit!!!!
  • If your brief has two objectives, it will fail at both. So many briefs I see advertising objective say: “get new users and get current users to use more” (penetration and frequency).  That’s impossible in one ad. Getting new users is getting competitive users to THINK differently about your brand so they cast aside their current brand to try you just once. Yet, driving usage frequency is a message to those familiar with your brand and trying to get them to FEEL differently enough to change their behavior. I would argue it’s impossible to achieve these two things with one ad. If I’m wrong, send me an ad that does both. If you can’t find that ad, then go to your brief now, and if you have both objectives, strike out one and your brief will get better. 

Your broad brief, which might help you sleep at night, just squandered your control over the strategy. And soon you’ll be having nightmares. The role of the brief is to create a nice tight “box” that defines the problem, objective, target and main message. Since the best agency talent are “in the box” thinkers who solve problems, the best brief gives them a “box” to solve. Briefs with multiple objectives or many main benefits send the signal to agencies that you aren’t quite sure and want the agency to pick the strategy. Briefs with a long list of mandatories sends the signal that even though we don’t know the strategy, we do think we know what we want the execution should look like. A great brief is tight enough that it doesn’t even need mandatories.  

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Give freedom on execution to your Agency

Being a Brand Leader is a very odd job: you don’t do anything and you don’t really know anything. You don’t make the product, don’t sell the product and don’t make the ads. You just make decisions. However, marketing seems to attract know-it-all types that love to tell everyone what to do. I was once one of those know-it-all Brand Managers so I know that type well. And yet, only when I figured out that not knowing anything, and not doing anything put me in a more powerful position to make better decisions did I master the art of Brand Management. If the agency is a problem solver, then you are a problem giver. Think of it like great therapy. You just spill your problems and others come up with solutions and you decide on which solution works best. The only thing you have to do well, is make decisions. What a great job.  

At every stage of advertising, Brand Leaders really have 3 options: 1) approve the work 2) reject the work or 3) change the work.Slide1

From what I see, Brand Leaders rarely approve the work outright. Even though the agency would love it, it is almost unrealistic to think they could perfect the ad without any challenge from the marketer. I’ve been lucky enough to have a few ads in my career that required very little feedback. It likely means we nailed the brief. The reality is that great work is usually made collaboratively with both agency and client.  

On the flip side, Brand Leaders are sometimes too uncertain to reject the work completely. They tend to keep things alive too long. I remember on my first ad, I kept being so passive on this one idea that I hated. I never rejected it fully and the agency kept coming up with new ways to fix that ad. Here’s my advice: if you don’t love the ad, you’re not doing anyone a favor by keeping it alive. Great advertising takes a fight internally, and many times if you don’t love the work, then you won’t fight for it. Explain why you hate it and if that creates a new problem for the agency, you might be surprised at a new solution they come up with.  

It seems that most times, Brand Leaders choose the option to change the work. Do you think that’s your role in the process?  I see too many Brand Leader showing up ready to pounce on the work with a list of changes, rather than digesting it and making decisions on how to make the work better.  They’ll say: “make the lead a woman instead of a man, move the pack shot earlier, get rid of that line and change this line.” What I don’t understand is that If you didn’t feel talented enough to come up with an ad in the first place, why are you now talented enough to do something even harder: to change the work.  I’d challenge brand leaders to stop coming up with solutions and rather start finding ways to frame their problems, so they keep the agency engaged and challenged.

Being the Brand Leader on the hot seat is not easy.  

Until you gain experience in the hot seat, it is highly stressful, scary and uncertain. It can feel like your brain is spinning,so many thoughts are going around in your head and you feel pressure to say the right thing. 

Slide1Try to stop spinning by asking yourself four key questions:

  1. Do I love it? How passionate are you? If you don’t love it, how do you expect your consumer to love it? If you “sorta like” it, then it will be “sorta ok” in the end. But if you love it, you’ll go the extra mile and make it amazing. Would you be proud of this as your legacy?
  2. What is my gut reaction? What’s your immediate reaction when you reach for your instincts? Relax, slow yourself down enough to soak it in, right in the meeting. It’s easier to quickly reject out of fear than find what your gut really says. Many times, instincts get hidden away because of the job.
  3. Is it on strategy? Is the Ad an expression of what you wrote in your strategy documents? Use a process to help frame things in your mind, so you can evaluate it past how you feel. The tool I recommend is the ABC’s (attention, branding, communication, stickiness) which helps to give you something to ground yourself. Take your time with this thinking.
  4. Does the ad have long-term potential? Is it BIG IDEA, you can see lasting for 5-10 years, going across various mediums (mass, on-line, in store), capable of speaking of the entire product line up, Think about leaving a legacy beyond your time in the role, which forces you to think of campaign-ability.

When you slow it down, you’ll start to see ideas and not executions.You’ll be able to sort through what’s working and not working for your brand. Next time, instead of providing solutions to your agency with a “list of changes we want” I’d challenge you to give the agency a problem with a “list of challenges to the work”. In essence, if the original brief created a “box” for the creative team to figure out “in the box” solutions, then use  your feedback to create a “modified box” for the agency to solve, not a check list of changes you want on the ad. Never be afraid to slow it down, think it through, see where it is going or where it could go. Sometimes when we slow down our thinking, then the actions actually go faster. Great Brand Leaders think with strategy, and act with instincts.

The role of the client might be the most important factor in getting great ads. An OK agency can do great work on a great client. But a great agency will fail with a bad client. So be the best client you can be.

If you knew that being a better client got you better advertising, would you actually be able to show up better? 

At Beloved Brands, we run a Brand Leadership Center to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To read more on strategy, here is a workshop on HOW TO GET BETTER ADVERTISING, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

We make Brands better. We make Brand Leaders better.™

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

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Can you re-train your Brain to be more Strategic?

StrategyThe phrase “you need to be more strategic” gets said daily in the corporate world. Everyone seems to proclaim they are a “strategic thinker” on their LinkedIn profile. People get promoted because they are strategic and held back in their careers at a given level because they aren’t strategic enough. Yet, has your boss ever had a real conversation about what it means to be more strategic?  Or do they just say it and you just take it?  Have you ever received training on being more strategic?  I spent 20 years at Fortune 500 companies and I never received any training, tips or feedback on being more strategic. Yet, we keep saying “strategic” all the time. 

So what is a “strategic thinker”?    

To me, the difference between a strategic thinker and a non-strategic thinker is whether you see questions first or answers first.  Both offer extreme value to a brand.  

  • Strategic Thinkers see “what if” questions before they see solutions. They map out a range of decision trees that intersect and connect by imagining how events will play out. They reflect and plan before they act. They are thinkers and planning who can see connections.
  • Non Strategic Thinkers see answers before questions. They get to answers quickly, and get frustrated in delays. They believe doing something is better than doing nothing at all. They opt for action over thinking. They are impulsive and doers who see tasks. They get frustrated by strategic thinkers.

Great Brand Leaders are a bit of a chameleon, able to balance both strategy and execution. While pure strategic people make great consultants, I wouldn’t want them running my brand. They’d keep analyzing things to death, without taking action. Every day there would be more strategies. And while tactical people get stuff done, is it the right stuff?  I want someone running my brand who is both strategic and non-strategic, almost equally so. Great Brand Leaders can talk with both types, one minute debating investment choices and then at a TV edit deciding on option A or B. Great Brand Leaders think with strategy but act with instincts.  

I think strategic thinking is a natural state, but is challenged or destroyed through our education system. Every test in school has a right and wrong answer, very little room for options or opinion. In the classroom, there is pressure to give the right answer quickly–almost without thinking about it. Teachers grill you with simple questions, and you never get to ask them deep questions. But really, we should teach students to slow down their thinking, encourage asking great questions instead of just giving simple answers, teach them how to map out scenarios to figure out the impact of potential actions.  

We need Brand Leaders who can slow down, so they can decide what to do, before they do it.  As Yogi Berra once said “if you don’t know where you are going, you might not get there”.  

There are six elements essential to good Strategy:  Vision, Focus, Opportunity, Early Win, Leverage, Gateway.  

  1. Vision: an aspirational stretch goal for the future, linked to a well-defined purpose.  A good vision should push you, and scare you a little, but excite you a lot.  
  2. Focus: alignment of your limited resources to a distinct strategic point you wish to penetrate, that creates positive momentum on a pathway towards your vision.
  3. Opportunity: something is happening in the market, making speed of execution matter, as a potential strategic opening gets taken by someone else or the opportunity may close.
  4. Early Win: break through point against where you put your focus, and you see a shift in momentum towards your vision.  It offers potential proof to everyone that this strategy will work, helping to rally others–the team, agency and even your boss.   
  5. Leverage: ability to turn the early win into creating a momentum with an even greater force of pressure, that leads to the tipping point to something bigger.
  6. Gateway: realization point where you see a shift in positional advantage or power that allows you to believe your vision is achievable.

Many Brand Leaders seem to fear focusing, yet focus is essential for strategy to work for you to get more from it, than what you put into it.  I once had a Brand Leader list their target as “18-65, current customers, potential customers and employees” and I asked “what about prisoners and tourists?”.  I constantly see Brands try to say 5 or 6 things in their message.  Brand Leaders have 74 things on their to-do lists. When we realize that every Brand has limited resources (financial, time, effort and alliances) they can apply against an endless list of opportunistic choices (target, message, strategy and activities) do we start to make choices.  Strategy is really where you apply your limited resources against pressure points you know you can break through, to gain something bigger than the sum of the resources you put into it.

Slide1All the great military leaders believe in the power of focus.  Napoleon had two basic strategies:  attack their strength first by over-whelming your opponent or attack their weakness first, forcing your opponent to use their strength to defend, dispersing the resources of their strength in doing so.  His choices depended on opportunity. His writings, still read by military experts around the world, puts emphasis on focus, economies of resources and breaking through. Brands Leaders can learn from the principles of warfare.  

Focus makes you matter most to those who care the most. Don’t blindly target consumers:  target the most motivated.  Focusing your limited resources on those consumers with the highest motivation and  propensity to buy what you are selling will deliver the highest return on investment.  In a competitive category, no one brand can do it all: brands must be better, different or cheaper to survive. Giving the consumer too many messages will confuse them as to what makes your brand unique. Trying to be everything to everyone is the recipe for being nothing.  Return on Effort (ROE) is a great tool for focusing your activity.  Doing a laundry list of activity spreads your resources so thin that everything you do is “ok” and nothing is “great”. And in a crowded and fast economy, “ok” never breaks through enough to get the early win and find that tipping point to open up the gateway to even bigger success. 

When you focus, 5 things happen to your brand: 

  1. Better Return on Investment (ROI):   With all the resources against one strategy, one target, one message, you’ll be able to move consumers enough to drive sales or push other key performance indicators in the right direction.  
  2. Better Return on Effort (ROE): It’s about getting more back than you put into the effort. Working smart helps make the most out of your people resources.
  3. Stronger Reputation: When you only do one thing, you naturally start to become associated with that one thing—externally and even internally.  Reputation is a power you can push to find deeper wins.
  4. More Competitive: As your reputation grows, you begin to own that one thing and you can better defend that positioning territory. You can expose the weakness of your competitors, attract new consumers as well as push internally (R&D, service, sales) to rally behind the newly created reputation. 
  5. Bigger and Better P&L: As the focused effort drives results, it opens up the P&L with higher sales and profits. People with money invest where they see return. 

Case Study:  Starbucks loses Focus by going after entertainment

A great case study in a brand who lost their focus is Starbucks back in 2003, as they took their corporate arrogance and large following to enter the music business. Sure they could hire great music people, but that’s not the core of the brand–either internally or externally. They lost focus on what they do really well: sell coffee in an atmosphere that helps you escape your hectic life. By 2008, people were wondering if the Starbucks bubble had begun to burst. Had they lost it? Starbucks closed stores and laid people off. Would it be the next Benneton? But the Brand used this point to successfully re-focus and build around Coffee. They closed every store for hours to re-train their barista, come out with new coffee flavours and built innovation around the coffee routine with pastries, snacks and sandwiches.  Since the re-focus (see case study below), sales are up 58% over 5 years, and margins are back up to a highly respectable 55% levels.  Slide1

Transforming your Focus into a Gateway to something bigger

Once you break through, it becomes about going beyond the break through.  Too many pure strategists over look the EARLY WIN, and think of strategy as just vision and strategic choices. But they’ve never run a Brand, and they don’t know how many others you need to keep motivated and aligned. You want that Early Win, to kick-start some momentum–slice off part of the business or population segment or have your message connect. You need this to get everyone buying into the strategy. The LEVERAGE is when you start to use the positional advantage or power the early break through has given you. Without this, the early win becomes the only win, and it’s a hollow strategy. Believe in your new power and use the power gained to push and transform your wins into even bigger wins. As you go through the process, it’s important that you not get distracted from achieving the GATEWAY that lines up to your vision. It’s easy to get tempted by new opportunities that your break through has given you, but you have to stay focused on your vision.

Case Study:  D-Day focuses the entire war effort on capturing a beach.

At a crucial point of World War 2, while Germany was fighting a war on two fronts (Russia and Britain), the Allied Forces planned D-Day for 2 years and joined in full force (Great Britain, US, Canada, Australia) to focus all their attention on one beach, on one day. Prior to the attack, there was debate, do we attack in one place that could be penetrated or in multiple spots where the Germans could would have to fight many battles?  The smart decision started with focus. If we look at D Day using the six elements of good strategy, we can see how they won:

  1. Vision: Win World War II, with a goal to re-claim Europe and stop Germany. Spread democracy.
  2. Focus: All of the Allied forces of 156,000 soldiers, landing on the Beaches of Normandy on the morning of June 6th, 1944.
  3. Opportunity: Planned excessively, debated options, looked for beaches unguarded by Germans. Russia was attacking from the East weakening/distracting Germany.
  4. Early Win: Despite heavy casualties, the Allies were able to capture the beaches and within 5 days of D Day, the allied forces were able to put 325,000 soldiers on the beaches of Normandy.
  5. Leverage: Re-claiming Paris, pushing back the German Army, turned the momentum into the Allied Forces side. The allies were able to take the Positional Power and shift it to where Germany now defending on their own territory.
  6. Gateway: A year later, the allies defeated the German Army in Berlin. The US was now able to focus and fight the Pacific war and defeat Japan.

d-dayIf we were to write a Brand Plan for D-Day, here’s what it would start to look like:  

  • Vision:Win World War II, spread ideals of democracy.
  • Goals: Re-claim Europe, maintain troops.
  • Key Issues: How do we turn the tide in the war effort in Europe? Where would the best attack point to get on to continental Europe? What are the defense technology investments needed?
  • Strategy: pin-pointed attack to gain a positional power on continental Europe.
  • Tactic:  D-Day, taking all our troops and attack the Beaches of Normandy to get back on mainland Europe and battle Germany on an equal footing. 

Case Study: Avril connects with her core audience through free mall concerts.

A great example of strategy that might not look like strategy on the surface was Avril Lavigne’s free mall concerts.  Back in 2005, Avril’s career was flat, after some early success, which is a normal path for young musicians. avrilTo kick off her album, she did a series of free mall concerts—and was criticized as desperate. She was desperate and not everyone understood the logic.  Let’s use the six elements of good strategy to assess the Avril re-launch:

  1. Vision: Be a pop superstar again, #1 album, sold out concerts.
  2. Focus: Malls are exactly where her target (11-17 female) hangs out, allowing her to focus all her energy on her core target. Positioned as giving back to her fans. 
  3. Opportunity: First star ever to give free concerts. She had a new album coming out. There were still record stores in malls.
  4. Early Win: She attracted 5k screaming 13-year-olds per mall which created an early win among her most loyal of fans: those who loved and adored her. Local news covered the story giving her added exposure. Everyone (mom and kids) was happy with the “free” gesture.
  5. Leverage: She was able to leverage the good will and energy to get these loyal fans to go buy her album in the mall record stores which helped her album debut at #1 on the charts.
  6. Gateway: Everyone knows the charts are the gateway to the bigger mass audience–more radio play, more iTunes downloads and more talk value. The comeback complete.

Avril’s strategy holds up very strong.  Not a surprise because Madonna used this same strategy for years, except replace malls for teenie-boppers with London night clubs for 20-somethings where she would drop her songs and even make random appearances.  If you were to write the Avril Brand Plan, here’s what it might look like:

  • Vision:  Recording Super Star
  • Goals:  New Album Sales, increase popularity, new recording contract
  • Key Issue:  How do we drive album sales for a slumping Avril? 
  • Strategy:  Reconnect with core teen fans to create momentum to trigger album sales
  • Tactic:  Free Mall tour to get most loyal fans to reconnect and buy the new album.

Case Study: Starbucks refocuses by building around the Coffee routine.

trbghzsds183Starbucks experienced tremendous growth through the 80s and 90s, mainly because of the their coffee. Starbucks quickly become a life ritual in the morning to wake you up. Following their “hobby” (case study above) into the entertainment field in 2003-2008, they hit the skids and faced some trouble that caused them to re-trench and focus on building around their coffee ritual again.  They rebuilt everything back around the coffee routine.  They closed their stores for an entire day to re-train every barista.  They created snacks and pastries to gain more share of requirements around coffee, launched sandwiches to stretch the coffee routine to lunch and created new versions of coffee to deepen love affair with the most loyal users.  Let’s use the six elements of good strategy to see how they did this.

  • Vision: Cherished meeting place for all your quick service food needs.  
  • Focus:  Build around the coffee ritual, but look to shift the coffee routine to both breakfast and lunch. They built a broader portfolio of products–refreshing drinks and delicious deserts, snacks and sandwiches around these two time-slots.
  • Opportunity: Starbucks had the under-utilized bricks and mortar of their restaurants going almost un-used past 11am.  Driving a broader portfolio would own more share of requirements, while moving the ritual to lunch allowed them to drive higher same store sales from the same real estate investment.  
  • Early Win:  Starbucks launched series of new products that made Starbucks seem big on innovation, including sandwiches, wraps, pastries and cookies, all with high quality and successfully connecting with the most loyal Starbucks fans. 
  • Leverage: The leverage point was turning a coffee routine into a breakfast/lunch routine, expanding the life ritual of Starbucks so that it’s now a broad-based meeting place for breakfast and a light lunch. 
  • Gateway: Starbucks is no longer seen as just for coffee, but rather an escape at any point in the day. Most Starbucks are now open till Midnight.  Sales have grown double-digit each of the past 5 years and the Starbucks brand is one of the most revered and beloved with consumers.  

If you were to write the Starbucks, here’s how it might look;

  • Vision: Cherished meeting place for all your quick service food needs
  • Goals: Increase Same store sales, greater share of requirements from Starbucks loyalists
  • Key Issue:  How do we drive significant growth of same store sales?
  • Strategy:  Move Starbucks loyalists to lunch with an expanded lunch menu.
  • Tactic:  Exotic refreshing coffee choices, light lunch menu, increase desert offerings.

Here’s a checklist to see if your strategy is fully mapped out and not left to some vague chance of success.

  • An end in mind vision, pathway that has milestones, specific goals for your program.
  • Opportunity that creates an opening for your brand to quickly take advantage of. 
  • Pin-pointed focus of your resources (effort, investment, time, partners)
  • An early win as the breakthrough point.
  • Game changing Leverage point, where there is a change in positional power and you’re able to turn a small win into something big.
  • Gateway to something bigger, defined as a win for the brand that translates into an increase in power or value.

Strategic Thinkers see “what if” questions before they see solutions.

At Beloved Brands, we run a Brand Leadership Center to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To read more on strategy, here is a workshop on HOW TO BE THINK STRATEGICALLY, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

At Beloved Brands, we make Brands better and we make Brand Leaders better.™

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

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If you knew that being a better Advertising client would get you better Advertising, would you actually be able to show up better?

For most Brand Leaders, it can take quite a lot of experience to finally get good at Advertising.  Getting good Advertising is very hard.Slide1 In fact, it’s likely the most complex part of marketing, because it’s where everything comes together–your consumer, your brand strategy, your positioning and every opinion in your entire company. It’s hard for a Brand Leader to manage at times and it can be hard to find that missing ad you’ve been looking for. If you want to see a company struggling on Advertising, look at Wendy’s and the lack of consistency they’ve had since Dave Thomas.

What makes some Brand Leaders GOOD at Advertising?  

Simple put, they are able to consistently get good advertising on the air, and keep bad advertising off the air.  

That might sound like a simple answer, but it is actually a very complex.  From my experience, I’ve rarely encountered an easy process for getting to great work. All the great ads ad had a long list of doubters, detractors and obstacles to maneuver or overcome. There is always a near breaking point. You should almost be scared when it goes too easily. Must mean it’s too safe.  

Brand Leaders tend to doubt themselves. You Never Find Your Comfort Zone: You are convinced you’re not good at advertising. No experience, feel awkward or had a bad experience. You think you’re strategic, not tactical. You are skeptical, uptight, too tough and too easily annoyed.  You Don’t Know If It’s Really Your Place to Say Something: You figure the ad agency is the expert—that’s why we pay them—so you give them a free reign (aka no direction). Or worse, you give them the chance to mess up, and blame them later.  You settle for something you hate, because of time pressure, or you don’t know why: You don’t really love it, but it seems ok for now. The agency says if we don’t go for it now, we’ll miss our air date and have to give up our media to another brand.  You can’t sell it in to management: you need to make sure if it’s the right thing to do, you are able to sell the idea in. Tell them how it works for your brand—and how it delivers the strategy.  

Brand Leaders also doubt their Agency.  These factors start when the Agency writes a brief you don’t like—or you box them into a strategy they aren’t really big on. If either of you force a strategy on the other, then you’re off to a bad start. You need to have some deep rich discussions to get on the same page, literally. You feel the Creative team over sells you: you get hood-winked with the “we are so excited” speech: You’re not sure what you want, so you settle for an OK ad in front of you—the best of what you saw. Ask yourself what’s missing before you buy.  You lose connection with the Agency: Agencies are more emotional than clients. But they want to make great work. Keep your agency motivated so that you become the client they want to make great work on, rather than the client they have to work on.  You lose traction through the production and Edit: Talent, lighting, directors and edits can reflect tone—if the tone changes from the board to the edit, then so does your ad.   You should make sure the final edit matches your vision of the board.

As David Ogilvy said:  “clients get the advertising they deserve”.  Taking that one step farther:  An OK agency can do great work on a great client. But a great agency will fail with a bad client.  The question Brand Leaders need to be asking:  If you knew that being a better client got you better advertising, would you actually be able to show up better?

Being a great Brand Leader starts with your Behavior

The best Brand Leaders dig in and do their homework. Everything they do starts and ends with the Consumer in mind. Use Insights to connect.

You tightly Control the Strategy, yet give the agency Freedom on Creative.  You Focus the Brief on one objective, one target market, one big idea, one benefit.  Start with the Desired Consumer Response, and then figure out what to say.  You always Think Strategically yet Act Instinctually.

When it comes to the creative work, great Brand Leaders can Inspire greatness from creative team, yet unafraid to Challenge for better.  Be open yet decisive: know what you Want, but never know until you See It.  You take creative risks to Stand Out, not fit in, yet the perfect tone for your brand.  See Big Ideas that leave a Legacy, not just make an ad to make the year.

A lot of times, it’s the company holding back great advertising.  A great Brand Leader is willing to Fight for great work, even with your boss. You never settle for OK.

Brand Leaders need to be strong at every stage along the way in the Advertising Process

You have to dig in on the Pre Work, before you get to the brief.  Do the work on Insights, create a Big Idea and lay out Brand Concept and know it motivates. Write a very Focused Brief.  Need one Objective, insights, desired response, one Benefit, RTB. Create the box

Hold a Creative Expectations where you meet with the creative team before that first creative meeting.  It’s a chance for clarifying your first impressions on your vision, passion. Inspire and focus creative team.  I recommend you hold a Tissue Session, especially when you don’t have a campaign. Be open to new ways of looking at your brand. Focus on Big Ideas, push for better.

At the Creative Meeting, be positive, focus only on big picture, give direction, make decisions. No solutions. No Details. Are you inspiring?  Hold off on getting all detailed in that creative meeting and take a day or two to write a Feedback Memo that is detailed, challenging but without giving specific solutions. If the creative brief creates a box for the creative team to solve “in the box” solutions to your problem, then your feedback should also create a new box.  Give the creative team a NEW problem, not your solutions to the problem.  

Gaining Approval is one of the biggest factors separating good from great. You have to keep your boss informed at each stage from the brief to the first creative ideas, always leading the discussion on where you want to take it.  If you use Ad Testing, use it to confirm your pick, not make your decision.  As you sell in the Ad, be ready for resistance and be ready to fight any internal resisters to make it happen.

As you go into production, give some room to the experts but always get what you want. It’s important for you to manage the Tone to fit the brand. Always, get more than you need.  At the Post Production, I always recommend talking directly with and leverage every expert in the room.  You’d be shocked how few Brand Leaders do this, figuring it’s not their place. 

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To get better Advertising, Brand Leaders need to show up better within the Advertising Process.  As you look at the process above, here are eight Challenges to Brand Leaders to push you to be better at Advertising

  1. Do you develop a testable Brand Concept with rational and emotional benefits, plus support points that you know are actually motivating?
  2. How tight is your Brief? Do you narrow the Target with engaging insights? Do you focus on the desired consumer response before deciding what your brand should say? Do you focus on One Benefit and OneMessage?
  3. Do you meet creative team before the first creative meeting to connect, align them with your vision and inspire them to push for great work?
  4. Do you hold Tissue Sessions to narrow solutions before going to scripts?
  5. At creative meetings, do you stay big picture, avoid getting into details? When giving direction, do you avoid giving your own solutions and but rather try to create a “new box” for the creative team to figure out the solutions?
  6. Do you take creative risks, and willing to be different to stand out?  To break through the clutter with your brand story, Brand Leaders have to get comfortable being “different”.  Brand Leaders start to tense up when things get “too different”
  7. Do you manage your boss at every stage? Do you sell them, on your vision what you want?   Are you willing to fight for great work?
  8. Are you one of your Agency’s favorite clients?   Do they “want to” or do they “have to” work on your business?

Getting Great Advertising is a Balance between Freedom and Control.  

Most Marketers allow too much FREEDOM on the strategy but want to exhibit CONTROL on the creative.  It seems odd because it should be the reverse. You should control the Strategy and give freedom on the Execution.   

The Advertising Strategy sets up the Creative Brief.  Within a good brand plan, you should have an advertising strategy that should answer the following five key questions.

  1. Who Do We want to sell to?  (Who is your Target Consumer?)
  2. What are we selling?  (What is your Benefit?) and Why should they believe us?  (Reason To Believe)
  3. What Do We want the Advertising to do for the brand? (Strategic Choices)
  4. What do Want people to think, feel or do? (Desired Response)
  5. What’s the long range feeling the brand evokes (The Big Idea)

These Five questions form your Advertising Strategy before you get to a Creative Brief.
The best advertising comes from doing your HOMEWORK.  The idea of a Creative Brief is to “create a Box”  Creative people are motivated by the challenge of the problem, more than the execution of a simple solution.   Give them a problem.  The role of the brief is to create the right box, enough room to move, but enough direction that defines the problem.    A good brief should isolate the task to coming up with Creative that expresses the strategy. Do not come up with strategy through the creative.

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Things Creative people don’t want:

  1. A blank canvas: They prefer a problem that they need to solve through creativity. As mentioned above, Creative Advertising people are more problem solvers than they are blue sky thinkers.  
  2. An unclear problem: They don’t want endless streams of data. They don’t want so many options built into a brief, they don’t know where to start. Giving information “just in case” is confusing for them. They need focus in order to deliver great work for you.
  3. Your Solutions: They find it demotivating to be asked for their expertise (solving problems) and then not utilized (given the answer)Stop writing copy. When I need to articulate creative “bad ideas”, I try such hyperbole to make sure it is “really bad”.

In the creative meeting, Brand Leaders need to sort through their thoughts

Slide1

 

Ask do you love it?  How passionate are you? If you don’t love it, how do you expect your consumer to love it? If you “sorta like” it, then it will be “sorta ok” in the end. But if you love it, you’ll go the extra mile and make it amazing.  You’re not doing anyone a favor keeping work you don’t love.  Eventually, you won’t fight for it and give up on it.

Reach for your gut reaction.  What’s your immediate reaction when you reach for your instincts? Relax, slow yourself down enough to soak it in, right in the meeting. It’s easier to quickly reject out of fear than find what your gut really says. Many times, instincts get hidden away because of the job.

Is it on strategy? Is the Ad an expression of what you wrote in your strategy documents? Use the ABCS to help frame things, so you can evaluate it past how you feel. The tool gives you something to ground yourself. Take your time with this thinking.

What is the long term potential?  Is it BIG IDEA, you can see lasting for 5-10 years, going across various mediums (mass, on line, in store), capable of speaking of the entire product line up, Think about leaving a legacy—which forces you to think of campaign-ability.

 

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 If you knew that being a better client got you better advertising, would you actually be able to show up better?

 

At Beloved Brands, we run a Brand Leadership Center to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To read more on HOW TO BE BETTER AT ADVERTISING, click on the powerpoint presentation below:

 

At Beloved Brands, we make Brands better and we make Brand Leaders better.™

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

 

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10 Things GREAT ADVERTISING should do for your Brand

Slide1

Advertising is very hard. In fact, it’s likely the most complex part of marketing, because it’s where everything comes together–your consumer, you brand strategy, your positioning and every opinion in your entire company.  It’s hard for a Brand Leader to manage at times and it can be hard to find that missing ad you’ve been looking for.  If you want to see a company struggling on Advertising, look at Wendy’s and the lack of consistency they’ve had since Dave Thomas.

Here is a tongue-in-cheek look at why Advertising can be difficult. Slide1

What makes some Brand Leaders GOOD at Advertising?   I love asking this question and I never really get great answers.  Usually people think “they are creative people” or “they listen well” or “they have lots of advertising experience in their background”.  All a little true, but my simple answer might be a little complex:  Simple put, they are able to consistently get good advertising on the air, and keep bad advertising off the air.  But this is actually a very complicated answer.  From my experience, I’ve rarely met an easy process for getting to great work. All the great ads ad had a long list of doubters, detractors and obstacles to maneuver or overcome. There is always a near breaking point. You should almost be scared when it goes too easily. Must mean it’s too safe.

But from what I see, the biggest reason in getting great Advertising starts with how good the Brand Leader is.  An OK agency can do great work on a great client. But a great agency will fail with a bad client.  Being good at Advertising takes time, practice, feedback and a willingness to adjust. 

slide15The Real Question to be Asking yourself: If you knew that being a better client got you better advertising, would you actually be able to show up better?  The presentation below outlines how to be better at advertising, looking at the skills, behaviors and experiences Brand Leaders need.  As a starting point here are the 10 elements you need to achieve better advertising:  

The 10 things GREAT ADVERTISING should do 

  1. Set Yourself Apart. Beloved Brands must be different, better, cheaper or not around very long. The story telling of the brand’s promise should help to separate the brand from the clutter of our minds. That starts with creative that feels different and makes the brand seem different. 
  2. Focused! A focused target, a focused message, a focused strategy against a focused communication idea and a focused media. 
  3. Keep the Idea and Communication very simple. Communication is not what is said, but what is heard. Too many people try to shout as many messages as they can in one ad. What the consumer hears: a confusing mess or nothing really. My challenge to you is to stand up on a chair and yell your main message as though you are standing on top of a mountain. If you can’t YELL it out in one breath, then your idea is too complex. The Volvo Brand Manager gets to yell “Safety” in one clean simple breath. Can you do that? 
  4. Have a Good Selling Idea. While big ideas break through, they also help you to be consistent, because you have to align your thinking to the Big Idea. You’ll see consistency over time, across mediums–paid, earned, social and search, throughout the entire brand line up of sub brands. Consumers will start to connect to the big idea
  5. Drive Engagement:  Too many Brand Leaders forget to engage the consumer. They get so fixated on saying their 7 messages that they figure the ability capture attention is just advertising fluff. But it all starts with Attention. The consumer sees 5,000 ads a day and will likely only engage in a handful. If you don’t capture their attention, no one will remember the brand name, your main message or any other reason to believe you might have.
  6. Let the Visuals do the talking. With so many ads, you need to have some visual that can capture the attention, link to your brand and communicate your message. The ‘see-say’ of advertising helps the consumers brain to engage, follow along and remember. As kids, we always love the pictures. We still do. 
  7. Sell the solution, not the product. People use brands to solve problems in their lives. They’d prefer not to have that problem than have to buy your brand. No one has ever wanted a quarter-inch drill, they just need a quarter-inch hole. 
  8. Be Relevant with the Consumer. A beloved brand finds a way to matter to those who really care. Not only in the right brand promise but in the right communication of that promise. You can’t sell carpet cleaning to someone who just has hard wood floors. 
  9. Have the Ads based on a consumer Insight. Insights are not facts about your brand. That’s just you talking AT the consumer. Insights allow you to connect and turn the ad into a conversation. Insights are something the consumer already knows but they didn’t realize that everyone felt that way. Insights enable consumers to see themselves in the situation and once you do that, the consumers might then figure the brand must be for them. 
  10. Tell the story behind the brand. Talk about your brand’s purpose. Why did you start this brand? What do you hope that the brand really does to help people? Why do you get up in the morning. Remember: people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

Think of Advertising as the Creative expression of your brand strategy.

While it needs to accomplish a strategic task, it also projects an image of what your brand is about. Good advertising starts with a big idea—big enough to stand over time, giving the consumer a consistent touch point with the brand. The idea may need to have room for an array of support messages that build the one constant vision and positioning for the brand.

Always remember there is truth in advertising! Slide1 In fact, un-true advertising is rejected by consumers—because the consumer sees no consistency with their perception of the brand. Usually the truth is the obvious—we just don’t see it or want to deny it (e.g. Listerine is strong). Good advertising is a balance between the rational truth (task benefit oriented) and emotional truth (connection/solution focus). Un-True is not just about the facts, but positioning, tone and emotions.

People remember stories that connect with them. Whether you`re showcasing the brand`s benefits, the purpose behind the brand or the story of the brand, the best way is to frame it within a creative story.

Brand Leaders need a tool to go on How to Judge Creative.  

A very simple process is the ABCS of Advertising: Attention, Branding, Communication and Stickiness. This ABC’S method will work across any medium whether it’s TV, PR, digital or social.   

  • Attention:  You have to get noticed in a crowded world of advertising. Consumers see 6000 ads per day, in every part of their lives. If your brand doesn’t draw attention naturally, then you’ll have to force it into the limelight.  
  • Branding:  Ads that tell the story of the relationship between the consumer and the brand will link best. Even more powerful are ads that are from the consumers view of the brand. It’s not how much branding there is, but how close the brand fits to the climax of the ad.  
  • Communication:  Tapping into the truths of the consumer and the brand, helps you to tell the brand’s life story. Keep your story easy to understand. Communication is not just about what you say, but how you say it.  
  • Stickiness:  Sticky ads help to build a consistent brand/consumer experience over time. In the end, brands are really about “consistency” of the promise you want to own. Brands have exist in the minds of the consumer.

Brand Leaders need to be strong at every stage along the way in the Advertising Process

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As you go through this process here are 10 challenges you might not always do, but if you’re struggling with your advertising, I think you should. 

  1. Do you develop a testable Brand Concept with with rational and emotional benefits, plus support points that you know are actually motivating?
  2. How tight is your Brief? Do you narrow the Target with engaging insights? Do you focus on the desired consumer response before deciding what your brand should say? Do you focus on One Benefit and OneMessage?
  3. Do you meet creative team before the first creative meeting to connect, align them with your vision and inspire them to push for great work?
  4. Do you hold Tissue Sessions to narrow solutions before going to scripts?
  5. At creative meetings, do you stay big picture, avoid getting into details? When giving direction, do you avoid giving your own solutions and create a “new box” for the creative team to figure out the solutions?
  6. Do you take creative risks, and willing to be different to stand out?
  7. Do you manage your boss at every stage? Do you sell them, on your vision what you want?   Are you willing to fight for great work?
  8. Are you one of your Agency’s favorite clients?   Do they “want to” or do they “have to” work on your business?

Great Advertising starts with a Great Brand Leader with a Great Strategy and a willingness to take risks

At Beloved Brands, we run a Brand Leadership Center to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To read more on HOW TO BE BETTER AT ADVERTISING, click on the powerpoint presentation below:

 

At Beloved Brands, we make Brands better and we make Brand Leaders better.™

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

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Managing Others: Advice for Brand Leaders on managing and developing Marketing Talent

New Brand Managers tend to Suck

I don’t mean to sound too cynical but that statement is a reality. I used to tell my newly promoted managers that “you’ll really struggle managing others till your 5th direct report”. Becoming a good Brand Leader takes time, self assessment and maturing. New Managers get very little people manager training or coaching, and are just thrown into the fire.  A few weeks into the new Manager role, just as they are about to finally delegate, they just say “oh, I can do this faster than it will even take to explain it, so I’ll just do it myself”.  Instead, new Managers hoard all the good activities and just give the lousy easy to accomplish work to their direct reports.  

They see themselves as managing a series of tasks, and miss out on the idea they are managing someone’s career. A recent Harvard study has narrowed down what the modern leader is looking for from a boss:  they want career advice and coaching.  It’s not whether the boss is nice, funny, inspiring or challenging–not whether they are too involved or not involved enough. What really separates an OK boss from a great boss is “do you give a damn about my career?”

Think about your People in terms of Skills, Behaviors and Experiences

Most Managers focus on strengths and weaknesses, because that’s the old school method for managing people.  We even ask it during interviews and use it on year-end performance reviews.   Most new Managers figure their role is to fix the weakness so their direct report doesn’t look bad, or even worse, make them look bad as a Manager.  One shift I’d love to see Managers make is to work with their direct reports on closing Gaps, instead of fixing Weaknesses. The difference between a Gap and Weakness might seem like semantics, but I see it as a management philosophy.

  • With a “weakness”, you can’t really fix it, and it may even be dangerous to fix it because you risk changing the person too much. I’ve had managers who tried to get me act more like them and when I tried, I found that I wasn’t being true to my authentic self.  I believe that a weakness and a strength are usually directly linked. So as you work to minimize the weakness, you might be dulling the related strength at the same time. For instance, “challenge too much” came up in many of my reviews as a weakness, and it has gotten me in trouble on day 1 and year 20. Not until I had a boss coach me through my style did I learn to manage “how I challenge” and how to turn it into a strength instead of a weakness. Even as a consultant, I say my role is to challenge.
  • With a “gap”, it is something you can close through learning, coaching, application and feedback.  For instance, early on in my career, I had a gap in with advertising because I wasn’t on a brand that did much advertising. Because I lacked the experience, I lacked the right skills and behaviors. I didn’t really know how to give feedback, I didn’t really know the role of a brief and had very little knowledge of the advertising testing methods. I had good instincts, but unsure how to deliver them. Once I got significant experience, observed the right behaviours and added in various skills linked to writing a good brief, giving effective feedback or judging on what would work in the marketplace, I was able to close the gap in the advertising area. Advertising to me, was never a weakness–just a gap that needed closing. And 15 years later, I’m now training Brand Leaders on Advertising.   

When you start to think about Gaps, you can observe if your direct report is meeting the standard of their peers or the expectations for the current role. You can also make decisions on their readiness for promotion, and possibly use the Gap analysis as a way to close on a few specific areas before the promotion.  And finally, you can provide an assessment to help focus the colleague to work on to continous ways to improve.

In terms of coaching, think about three layers of coaching:    

  • The obvious Year End Review is the most formal document you’ll write on behalf of the company.  Nothing in the year-end should surprise your direct report, and every point should have been discussed many times throughout the year.  There’s nothing worse than sitting down and having no idea what your boss would say.  When I was doing reviews, I even emailed out the written review document 48 hours ahead of time, giving people the chance to digest all the thoughts and to come prepared ready to discuss each point.  (when I did “anonymous” feedback at year end, I made sure I signed my name to it)
  • The next layer down are Quarterly Reviews, which I think are essential to helping someone grow. It’s my belief that marketers can grow faster than we think–but they can only grow with timely feedback. Use these meetings to review accomplishments during the quarter, and to focus on ONE THING they are working on, get them thinking of one skill and one behaviour they were currently working on.  With great marketers, I found with good feedback they could quickly close the gap within one-quarter.
  • Use day-to-day feedback, providing consistent and regular On the Spot Feedback. With agreement on the ONE THING, it’s important that you highlight when you see examples of them closing or not closing the gap. 

Below, I break out the essential skills that every Brand Leader needs, the leadership behaviors that Great Brand Leaders exhibit and the experiences you need to gain. 

Marketing Skills

I have mapped out 32 core skills a Brand Leader needs to be successful.  I have broken down the skills under one of 8 core areas:  

  1. Seeks to Understand: skills that help use data from all sources, reports and methods.
  2. Analytical:  skills for asking the right questions and getting beneath the surface.
  3. Strategic Thinking: skills to enable you to focus, staying on strategy and guiding strategically
  4. Stays organized:  skills around projects, meetings, budgets and various functional needs
  5. Innovation: skills for brainstorming, developing and testing concepts and taking ideas to market
  6. Advertising: skills related to briefing, giving feedback and making decisions on media and creative ideas.
  7. Go to Market: skills related to working through customers, merchandising
  8. Leadership:  skills related to managing others to maximize the talent pool, working the system and managing up and sideways.

 

10530900_10154328451135332_274029533138390707_nEach of these skills can be learned with a balance of classroom training, coaching, feedback and learning by doing. The big myth in marketing is “you will learn all this on the job”.  No you won’t.  If you don’t learn how to do it right, you’ll learn to do it wrong. By the time you move up to Director, you want to make sure you can close most of the skill gaps.  As a junior marketer, there is nothing worse than reporting to someone who lacks any of the essential skills on this list. 

Leader Behaviors

I’ve also mapped out the 15 leader behaviors that you need to be a succesful Brand Leader.  I have broken down the behaviors under one of 5 core areas:

  1. Accountable to Resultsneed to see you take the lead, make things happen and make the right decisions
  2. Strategic Thinking: a great leader stays the steward of the Brand Vision, holds everyone true to the strategy and pushes for new ideas within the strategy.  
  3. Broad Influence: as you move up, this becomes more crucial but we want to see it in the more junior folks so that we know you’re worth investing in. This means you actively listen, seek out other solutions, increase your sphere of influence across various functions and come across like the owner of the Brand. 
  4. People Leadership: to be great with people, it’s less about your own personality and how much you care about your people’s careers. You need to give regular and balanced feedback for growth.  And your own leadership will be on greatest display during times of pressure–as one boss said to me during a crisis: “this is when they really need us”.  
  5. Authentic Style: It’s not how charismatic you are, how inspiring you are, but rather how well you know yourself and how truthful you show up. Great leaders show a curiosity to be a constant learner and is always trying to improve at every stage of their careers.  

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Experiences

The following experience areas are crucial for a marketer, but do take some experience before you can become proficient: 

  • Writing the Brand Plan: As you gain this experience, make sure you go deep, that the ideas are yours and not overly influenced by your boss and that you’re proud of the plan you present.  
  • Managing a Team: By the time you get to the point of leading an entire team, you’ll realize that it can be a very lonely, once you figure out you can’t be friends with your employees do you get really good at getting the most from your team. 
  • Launching a New Brand: Launching an entirely new brand is an amazing test for how broad you can think, how broad you can influence across and organization and lining up all the moving parts.  As you dig in, you might be shocked at what you didn’t know yet.
  • Leading a Brand Turnaround: To me, what separates a good marketer from a great one is their ability to turn around a business.  Most Brand Leaders who take on a turn around don’t focus on what’s really holding the brand back. Try to avoid trying to do too much and risking that nothing gets done.   What I have found in turn arounds is to layer in three separate stages so that you aren’t trying to do everything at once.  
  • Leading New Advertising: Usually when you have to lead new advertising, it means your brand has struggled in this area for a certain time.  When you have a blank slate, the ambiguity can really destroy a marketer. 
  • Leading through a Merger: I’ve been through 4 of these and I hate them. I keep hoping mergers are done, because I don’t think the Brands are winning.  But we’ll all go through them and the only advice I have is be extra careful of how you show up, be patient on the decision-making and avoid saying anything about anyone that you might one day regret. 
  • Leading Cross Functionally: I was at a senior level when I first got the chance to manage a cross functional team. Once you get outside of marketing, you’ll realize how the different functions behave–not the A-types, overly enthusiastic, decisive, action oriented leaders that we marketers are used to working with.    
  • Firing an Under-performing fellow Marketer: I know this might sound a bit morbid, but letting people go is a reality.  Marketing is a tough career, and to get better as a team you have to push as hard as you can and the reality is that not everyone can keep up.  How you go about firing someone and ensuring the company is protected and the person maintains their dignity is a tough balance to get right.  

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If you can make people better, you will be an even better Brand Leader

 

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

To read about managing the careers of your Marketing Team, read the following document:

 

How loved is your brand?

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

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

 

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8 Interview Questions I used to ask potential Marketing Hires

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

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

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

Here are the Interview Questions that I used to Ask:

  1. Tell me a time you used numbers to sell an idea? Most marketers suck at finance and it will eventually limit your career. At some level in marketing, you have to be good at running the P&L, so I’d rather find out now. You better have your story tight because your answer will be questioned one or two more levels to see if you really know your stuff.  Great Marketers can tell stories with analysis.  I’m going to challenge every aspect of your story.  
  2. What’s the most creative thing you’ve ever done?  It really doesn’t matter what it was, but how far did you push yourself out of your comfort zone to find the creative solution.Your passion for your idea should come through.    
  3. What’s the thing you’re most proud of?  When I read a resume, I want to see big accomplishments beyond your work experience or school.  Football, chess, travelling the world or charity work etc.  I want to hear your story and your pride come through. Great Marketers accomplish things, and I want to know that you have a history of accomplishments.  Don’t tell just what you did, tell me what you ACCOMPLISHED!  
  4. Tell me a time when you’ve convinced your boss of something they thought wouldn’t work. I want to see if you can make it happen.  This will show your leadership, selling skills, and willingness to push.  A great Marketer can get what they want.. 
  5. If you were the agent of Miley Cyrus, how would you maximize her value over the next 10 years?  I always took something in the pop culture news and asked how you would handle it. I was looking to see how curious you are and how you could take something with very little subject matter expertise and put together a plan. A great Marketer has a curiosity and can form opinions quickly. This lets me see your thinking.  Pop culture is a great area that goes beyond books.   
  6. If you were on a team that solved a serious healthcare problem for Society, what factors would you use to price it on the global level?   This is a very thick question with many issues, especially adding in the global issue. I want to see you think through those issues and layer those issues into your answer. How do you handle the differences between North America and the Third World? How important is profitability vs R&D vs compassion?   How would you leverage government, key influencers and where would that fit into your answer. Great marketers can handle ambiguity and there is a lot within this case.  
  7. From your previous Interview with our company, what’s the biggest mistake you made and how would you now change that? Great marketers are constantly pushing themselves to improve.  That starts with your own personal assessment. I want to see that you have thought about it and now see a better solution. It also puts you under a bit of unexpected pressure to see how you handle that.  
  8. What questions do you have for me? To me this is one of the most important sections. It demonstrates how engaged you are in the process. The quality of your questions will help to separate you. Have five great questions done ahead of time, ask about 2-3 each interview. Ask deep questions, not surface questions.Turn each answer into a conversation starter. 

Act like you want the job. Show a bit of spunk and energy through the interviews. Marketing jobs are a bit different.  Take a Red Bull before the interview.  Be leaning forward, make eye contact, be comfortable and dynamic in your personality. Marketing jobs require a bit of charm, a big push, and a willingness to get things done no matter what. I want to see all those things in the interview. 

If you bomb a few interviews, keep going for it.  There are more people who want to be an Assistant Brand Manager than there are jobs. And that’s continuing to tighten in the tough economy as many places are going without. So how bad do you really want this job?   Do you want it more than everyone else? And will you do what it takes to get that job.  I remember interviewing so many times and not getting the job–I must have gone through 100 interviews before I finally landed the right job.  I remember one time, after 3 minutes the hiring manager looked at my resume and said “you have zero marketing experience, this won’t work”.  That one still stings after twenty years, but made me want it even more.  Persistence has to be the key. If you are only half trying, then I have very little sympathy. If you are completely immersed in the effort, trust me, you will eventually break through.

Best of luck to you, and go for it.  

 

Here’s a presentation on Successful Marketing Careers:  

 

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