Category Archive: How to Guide for Marketers

Making brand leaders better at running the brand financials

Great Brand Leaders, not only drive demand, they drive profitable demand.

Slide1A lot of marketers enter in marketing as a career because they weren’t into the numbers part of business. However, the reality is that to run a brand you have to be good at running the P&L. The only reason that brands exist is that you can create a bond, power and profit, beyond what the product itself could achieve. At Beloved Brands, we believe that passion matters because the more loved a brand is by consumers the more powerful and profitable that brand can be. So in everything you do as a brand leader, even as you are launching new products, creating new advertising or writing a great brand plan, you have to have profit front and center in everything you do. Yet, there are far too many Brand Leaders who can’t run the P&L. These Brand Leaders hit the mid-point of their career and then we realize that they aren’t very good with numbers and all of a sudden, a fast track career for the super star Brand Manager completely stalls. As you’re looking up to the director level jobs, challenge yourself to get better with finance.

Looking at the P&L

Here’s my Finance 101 that can help  simplify your role with the P&L. This is meant for the Brand Manager level who is aspiring to continuing to move up.  But regardless of level, if you secretly are weak in the P&L area, this might help you.  Slide1

While it’s important to learn every line of the P&L, where Brand Leaders can have the biggest impact is on the Net Sales, the Gross Margin and the Contribution Margin.  The Net Sales line is simply Gross Sales minus the Trade Spend. Some income statements have brought the trade spend up to the sales line, while others have left it down in the cost line. Check with your company’s or country’s way of doing it.  In many industries, the trade terms are dictated by the channels.  While I would want to say the more Beloved Brands have a power over the channels, many times they still aren’t able to turn that power into lowering the trade spend.  If the trade spend is out of your control, you should be working with sales to ensure you are maximizing the value in programs that you are getting for the trade spend.  

Net Sales is the Unit Sales times Net Price. For unit sales, you’ll have to either drive the market share or enter new markets. That’s where the marketing programs you leverage drive faster growth relative to the spend. And for price, you can increase price or get consumers to trade up to a premium price within your portfolio.  The overall brand image you drive will usually be one of the biggest impacts on price. The more love you create for the brand, the more inelastic the price. 

Gross Margin is Net Sales minus Cost of Goods.  Just like above this can be impacted by how high of a price premium you can drive for the brand, or whether you can lower your Cost of Goods without impacting the quality of the product.  As a Brand Manager, this becomes your primary focus for “profit” as you feel the below the line costs are out of you control, so you don’t pay much attention to them.   However, as you get up to the Director or VP level, you get involved in discussions about marketing spend, R&D and the goals for the bottom line contribution margin levels.  This is where your strength or weakness in running the P&L begins to really show up.  

The ways brand leaders can Drive the P&L

Looking at the above P&L lines, in a slightly different way you really have 8 different areas that you can impact the Profit:

    • With Price, you can increase/decrease the price or you can get consumers to trade up to a premium line or down to a value line.   
    • When looking at Costs, you’re either driving the product costs or the marketing costs. You’re trying to minimize the costs without impacting the brand or the impact on the brand.
    • Driving the Market Share is a focus on either stealing other users or getting your current users to use more. 
    • The Market Size is all about entering new categories or finding new uses for your current brand.  

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Using Price as a weapon to drive brand value.  It can be a price change, up or down, or it could be trying to get consumers to trade up or down.

  • Price Increase: You can do a price increase if the market or brand allows you. It likely has to be based on passing along cost increases. Factors that help are whether you are a healthy brand or it’s a healthy market as well as the power of your brand vs competition and channel.
  • Price Decrease: Used when fighting off competitor, if you need to react to a sluggish economy or channel pressure. Another reason to decrease price is if you have a competitive advantage around cost, whether that’s manufacturing, materials or distribution.

There are watch outs for price changes. It’s difficult to execute price changes especially if it has to go through retailers. You need to understand power relationships–how powerful are the retailers. Many times, price changes are scrutinized so badly by retailers that you must have proof of why you are doing it. Also, it’s quite likely your Competitors will (over) react. So your assumptions you used to go with the price increase will change right after. And finally, it’s not easy to change back.

  • Trading Up: If you have In a range of products, sometimes it can be beneficial to get consumers to trade up. Can you carve out a meaningful difference to create a second tier that goes beyond your current brand? Does your brand image/ratings allow it?
  • Trading Down: Risky, but you see unserved market, with minimal damage to image/reputation of the brand. In a tough economy, it might be better to create a value set of products rather than lower the price on your main products.

When looking at Price Increases, here’s a formula to help get you started on your analysis for gaining approval.  

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Beloved Brands seem more capable at driving profits through pricing, but they also are careful to ensure the premium does not become excessive to create backlash. There are a few watch outs around trying to trade up or down: Premium skus, can feel orphaned at retail world—on the shelf or missing ads or displays. Managing multiple price levels can be difficult—what to support, price differences etc. For all the effort you go to, make sure your margins stay consistently strong through the trading up or down. Be careful that you don’t lose focus on your core business. Can’t be all things to everyone. The final concern is what does it do your Brand’s image, especially risky when trading downward.

Managing cost as a weapon to enhance the Brand’s Value. It can be either your cost of goods or the potential selling costs.

  • Cost of Goods Decreases: You are able to use the power of your brand to drive power over your suppliers, you find cheaper potential raw materials, process improvement or find off-shore manufacturing.
  • Cost of Goods Increases: Make sure that you manage the COGs as they increase. Watch out for suppliers trying to pass along costs. But realize that with new technology, investing in brand’s improved image, going after premium markets, offering new benefit or a format change, that cost of good increases could be a reality.

The watch outs with managing costs: with cuts, make sure the product change is not significantly noticeable. You should understand any potential impact in the eyes of your consumer on your brand’s performance and image. Can the P&L cover these costs, either increased sales or efficiency elsewhere. Managing your margin % is crucial to the long-term success of your brand.

  • Selling Cost Decrease: To counter changes in the P&L (price, volume or cost), it’s very tempting to look to short-term P&L management or look at changes in go-to-market model. Where a brand stands on the product life cycle or how loved the brand is can really impact the selling costs. Even though we think that Beloved Brands have endless spending, they actually likely have a lower investment to sales ratio.
  • Selling Cost Increase: When you’re in Investment mode, defensive position trying to hold share against an aggressive competitor or when you see a proven payback in higher sales–with corresponding margins.

Here’s a simple margin calculation to get you going:Slide1

Always be in an ROI mindset: Manage your marketing costs as though every DOLLAR has to efficiently drive sales. Realize that short-term cuts can carry longer term impact. Competitive reaction can influence the impact of investment stance–like a price change, your competitor might over-react to your increases in spending.

Externally, the Share and volume game are traditional tools for brand. Either stealing other users or get current users to use more.

  • Offensive Share Gains: Use it when you have a significant Competitive Advantage or you see untapped needs in the market. Or opportunistic, use first mover advantage on new technology.
  • Defensive Share Stance: Hold the fort until you can catch up on technology, maintain profitability, loyal base of followers needs protecting.

Be careful when trying to gain share. A Beloved Brand has a drawing power where it does gain share without having to use attack modes. Attacking competitors can be difficult. It could just become a spend escalation with both brands just going at it. After a share war that’s not based on a substantive reasoning (eg. technology change), there might end up with no winners, just losers. Many times, the channel will try to play one competitor against another for their own gain. Watch out what consumers you target in a competitive battle: some may just come in because of the lower price and go back to their usual brand.

  • Get Current Users to Use More: When there is an opportunity to turn loyal users into creating a potential routine. Changing behaviours is more difficult than enticing trial. It’s a good strategy to use, when your there’s real benefit to your consumer using more. It’s hard to just get them to use more without a real reason.

There has to be a real benefit connected to using more or it might look hollow/shallow. Driving routines is a challenge. Even with “life saving” medicines, the biggest issue is compliance. Find something in their current life to help either ground it or latch onto. When I worked on Listerine, people only used mouthwash 20-30 times a year compared to 700+ brushing occasions. So we focused on connecting rinsing with Listerine to the twice daily brushing routine.

Increase the Size of the Market by Finding New Users or Creating New Uses.

  • Find New Users: When there is an untapped or under-served need. There could be a significant changing demographic that impacts your base. Or you are able to translate/transfer your reputation to a new user group. There should be something within your product/brand that helps fuel the brand post trial. Trial without repeat, means you’ll get the spike but then bust. Substantial investment required. Don’t let it distract from protecting the base loyal users.
  • Create New Uses: Format Line Extensions that take your experience or name elsewhere. Able to leverage same benefit in convenient “on the go” offering. Make sure current brand is in order before you divert attention, funding and focus on expansion area. Investment needed, could divert from spend on base business. Be careful because the legendary stories (Arm and Hammer) don’t come along as much as we hope.

As you look to either grow by share or new categories the two crucial calculations for you are Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) and Return on Investment (ROI) 

For CAGR, here is a calculation tool:

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And for Return on Investment (ROI):

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Show Your Work:  Just like in grade school where you get extra points for showing your work, the same thing goes when taking senior leaders through your assumptions.  

There is only one reason we have brands: to make more money than if we just had products.

To view a copy of How to drive Profits into your Brand, click below:

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

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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How to communicate your brand story internally, by turning your “Big Idea” into a Brand Credo

Does your brand have a brand credo? How do you communicate your brand story internally?

With most brands I meet up with, I ask “what is the big idea behind your brand?” Slide12-2
and I rarely get a great answer. When I stand in front of the bigger brand team and ask that question, with the best brands I get one answer, and with struggling brands, I can guarantee I’ll get multiple conflicting answers. That’s not healthy. I always say that brands should be able to explain themselves in 7 seconds, 60 seconds and 30 minutes, all laddering up to the same message. There are too many Brands where what gets said inside the corporate office is completely different than what gets said in the marketplace. Moreover, there are brands that only view “messaging” as something Brand does in TV ads or through logos. How do you communicate what your brand stands for when you’re with R&D, HR, or finance? I recommend you create your own Brand Credo, which should come directly from your brand’s Big Idea. Here’s how:

Start with finding the Big Idea of your Brand

I’ve always heard how Brand is the hub of the organization and everything should revolve around the Brand. While it makes sense, it’s just talk unless you are managing your business based on your brand’s Big Idea throughout every inch of your organization. Everyone connected to the brand, should fully understand the brand’s Big Idea. And when I say “everyone”, I’m talking about everyone in the entire organization, including Sales, Finance, Production, R&D, HR and Marketing, as well as everyone outside the organization including agencies or employees at your retailers.

We’ve explained the Big Idea tool a few times, but here’s a refresher. The Brand’s Big Idea (some call it the Brand Essence) is the most concise and inspiring definition of the Brand. For Volvo, it’s “Safety”, while BMW might be “Performance” and Mercedes is “Luxury”. Volvo has stood for safety for almost 60 years, long before safety even registered with consumers. Here is the Tool I use to figure out a Brand’s Big Idea.  The model revolves around four quadrants that surround and yet help to define the Brand:

  1. Brand’s personality: human descriptors that express the brand’s style, tone and attitude.
  2. Products and Services: features, attributes, and functional characteristics that are embedded in what we sell.
  3. Internal Beacons: the internal views or purpose of the brand, why people believe their brand can win, what inspires, motivates and challenges.
  4. Consumer Views: honest assessment of how the consumer sees the brand, the good and bad.  

big ideaHow this tool works best with a team is that we normally brainstorm 3-4 words in each of the four quadrants and then try to form those words into a sentence for each quadrant. After all 4 quadrants are filled, we then looking collectively and begin to frame the brand’s Big Idea with a phrase that embodies the entirety of the brand. As I facilitate sessions using this tool, it’s almost magical as we see the brand really come to life. You have to have a bit of faith that the work around the big circle provides you with an inspiration for what the big idea really is. Executives love this exercise and it works.  This is the Big Idea completed for my own brand: Beloved Brands.Slide1

Simplify your Brand’s Big Idea into a Credo that motivates and steers everyone

Slide1Having spent time at Johnson and Johnson, the Credo document is an essential part of the culture of the organization. Not only does it permeate throughout the company, you will likely find it quoted in meetings on a daily basis. It’s a beautifully written document and ahead of its time. The original author was General Robert Wood Johnson in 1943. What is most fascinating from a brand vantage is that the first responsibility is to the healthcare professionals and consumers who rely on the J&J products. He understood their importance above and beyond anything else. The second and third tenants were to employees and the community with the final tenant being the stockholders. Yes, business must make a profit. But as the document suggests there is a belief that if you cover off the first three, the shareholder should benefit–but should never be placed ahead. Keep in mind, this was written when there was only one shareholder–Mr Johnson himself–but he knew that the company would be going public the next year. He wanted to use this Credo document to steer the culture based on his values.

Like any company these days, J&J has veered off course either through business decisions or ethics. But having that document allows them to take action.

If you have the energy to write such a document go for it. But Ritz-Carlton has created a much simpler Credo example they use to steer their brand experience through their people. Recognizing that any great brand has to be better, different or cheaper to win, Ritz ritzcredo1Carlton focuses their attention on impeccable service standards to separate themselves from other Hotels.  What Ritz Carlton has done so well is operationalize it so that culture and brand are one. 

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Ritz Carlton Training session, and as a Brand Leader, the thing that struck me was the idea of meeting the “unexpressed” needs of guests.  As highly paid Marketers, even with mounds of research, we still struggle to figure out what our consumers want, yet Ritz Carlton has created a culture where bartenders, bellhops and front desk clerks instinctively meet these “unexpressed needs”.  Employees carry around note pads and record the expressed and unexpressed needs of every guest and then they use their instincts to try to surprise and delight these guests.

Employees are fully empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests.  Unique means doing something that helps to separate Ritz Carlton from other hotels, memorable forces the staff to do something that truly stands out.   And personal is defined as people doing things for other people. The Ritz-Carlton Credo does a nice job articulating who they are and provides some support for their Big Idea, but does not go far enough. 

Slide1Looking at the Beloved Brands Credo example, we believe that a well-articulated credo should answer:

  • What is you brand’s big idea? What is the one thing that you do better, different or cheaper than anyone else?
  • What are the two ways you can bring that big idea to life (proof points, values, beliefs, tone) that helps to separate your brand from the pack?

The Beloved Brands Credo leads off with the big idea of making brands and brand leaders better. While a lot of consultants can claim that, we think our belief about brands that helps separate us. We link the passion of the work to the love of your brand which can then be harnessed for growth and profits. What also separates us is how we challenge brand leaders, not just in our tone but with new ideas, models and systems that are all linked to fundamentally helping brands and brand leaders unleash their full potential.

To read more click on this hyper link:  Tools to help you describe your brand in 7 seconds, 60 seconds and 30 minutes

Communicating your brand story internally is as crucial as any external communication to the market

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 see a workshop on THE BRAND LEADERSHIP CENTER, 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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Strategic thinkers see questions, before they see answers. Non-strategic thinkers see answers before questions.

Everyone thinks they are strategic. Yet, these same people can’t even explain what “being strategic” means.

There are a lot of marketers trying to move from mid-level management into the more senior roles, as either Director or VP. They tell me they are “strategic”. Of course they are. Who isn’t strategic these days? 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. Slide1

When I ask people “so, what does it mean to be strategic?”, I normally end up with lots of awkward pauses and then they give me some type of answer about making the right choices. Well, “making the right choices” could be strategic, but it might be tactical as well. They tell me they have vision of where to go. That’s only part of strategy. Good strategy has vision, focus, opportunity, early wins, leverage and ability to find a gateway to something bigger. Good strategy provides some type of return (connectivity, financial, change in power, shift in position) that is bigger than the effort put in.

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.

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The best Brand Leaders I’ve seen are a bit of a chameleon, as they are able to balance both strategy and execution–or put another way, both questions and answers. While pure strategic people make great consultants, I wouldn’t want them running my brand. They’d keep analyzing things to death, asking questions over and over, without ever 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.  

For many marketers, there are things that get in the way of being strategic.

  • There is always a conflict between strategic thinking and taking action. In many companies, there is a mistaken attitude that doing something is better than doing nothing. The problem is that without proper focus, taking random action just spreads resources randomly. (time, investment, people, partners) 
  • Many marketers have a conflict with their own sales team that can take them off strategy.  Sales people are not less strategic, but place a higher value in relationship than many marketers. They have to work within the needs and opinions of their buyers and balance shorter term risk with strategic gains.
  • When dealing with agencies, Brand Leaders can lose track of their strategy by being talked into a great ad. Agencies are more emotional than brand leaders and value pride more than the brand leader—Agency people want to make work they can show off. And no matter what, the real brand that Agencies manage is their own first, and your brand second.

Slow down your thinking. Slow Thinking is logical, deeper thinking, effortful, logical, calculating and many times part of the conscious. I see too many Brand Leaders who are so smart, they go too quickly through their strategy, choosing the obvious options and because they never stop to ask the great questions they never force the deeper thinking needed for strategy. Fast Thinking is more Instinctual, automatic, emotional, subconscious and gut reaction.You should use fast thinking when doing your execution. When it comes to execution, these same Brand Leaders see so much execution risk they slow things down and over-think every part of the execution. They worry if it will work in market or even whether their boss will approve it. As much as quick strategic causes Brand Leaders to miss out on the deeper strategic issues, slowing down on execution causes you to over-think and miss out on great creative ideas.

Slide1If you want to demonstrate to senior management that you are strategic, instead of showing that you have the best answers, try showing them that you have the best questions. When you are with your team, instead of looking to tell them what to do at every turn, ask them great questions that make them think. When your agency presents creative advertising ideas, instead of giving them detailed feedback that fixes the ad, see if you can use questions to move them in the direction you want.

If you wish to be more strategic, slow down, ask richer deeper questions that challenge those around you.

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 see a workshop on THE BRAND LEADERSHIP CENTER, 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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Tools to help you describe your brand in 7 seconds, 60 seconds and 30 minutes

Slide1The reality of branding is you will have various moments when you have to define your brand–sometimes you get 7 seconds, but other times you might be asked to expand, and expand yet again. What I coach my clients on is:  can you define your brand in 7 seconds, 60 seconds and 30 minutes? Regardless of the length of your story everything must feed off a simple BIG IDEA that defines you–and then you must build your story under that BIG IDEA. In too many situations I see, the story meanders and changes as it gets bigger.  

When do you need a 7 second pitch?  

  • In advertising, it should be the idea line at the end of the TV ad, the billboard ad in Times Square or the button on Facebook.
  • Internally, this is the rallying cry to R&D to focus their innovation, to HR on building the culture and to Senior Leaders for how to define the brand to everyone in the company.
  • In sales, this is your opening line to the store manager or the dentist you’re trying to get to recommend your product.
  • Start of the job interview, you should lead off with a 7 second pitch that describes yourself (e.g. I’m a marketer that finds growth where others can’t)

When do you need 60 second pitch?  

  • If you’re with your agency and you’re trying to describe the big idea for your brand, you sometimes need to elaborate to help paint the picture.
  • At the end of the job interview as you’re summarizing 2-3 points under the big idea of your personal brand, as you go for the close as to why they should hire you.
  • In sales, as you go beyond your opener, it helps to build on the big idea and frame what might be a discussion.  And as you go for the close, use the 2 minute pitch.
  • If you’re pitching new business, this could be your opening and/or your close at the end of a presentation.

When do you need a 30 minute pitch?

  • Most times when you’re pitching new business, you’ll get the opportunity to use a Powerpoint presentation. Many times, it’s a bit more formal and helps the pitch stay organized.
  • If you’re in front of investors and trying to tell why they should invest in your brand.
  • As you’re presenting a new direction on your brand, it’s a great tool to use with senior leaders if you’re trying to secure funding behind a new strategy, or with the entire organization if you’re trying to rally support.

Here’s how to find the 7 second elevator pitch: what’s your big idea?

Everyone talks about the 7 second elevator pitch, but it’s not easy to get there. I suppose you could ride up and down the elevator and try telling people. That may drive you insane. 

The Big Idea (some call it the Brand Essence) is the most concise definition of the Brand.  For Volvo, it’s “Safety”, while BMW might be “Performance” and Mercedes is “Luxury”.  Below is the Tool I use to figure out a Brand’s Big Idea revolving around four areas that help define the Brand 1) Brand’s personality 2) Products and Services the brand provides 3) Internal Beacons that people internally rally around when thinking about the brand and 4) Consumer Views of the Brand.  What we normally do is brainstorm 3-4 words in each of the four sections and then looking collectively begin to frame the Brand’s Big Idea with a few words or a phrase to which the brand can stand behind.big idea

As an example of how we use the tool, here’s a completed one using Beloved Brands. Our big idea is:  We make brands better. We make brand leaders better.™

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Here’s how to find the 60-second pitch: why should I buy you?

Once you have your Big Idea, you should then use it to frame the 5 different connectors needed to set up a very strong bond between your brand and your consumers.

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Brands are able to generate love for their brand when the consumer does connect with the brand. I wish everyone would stop debating what makes a great brand and realize that all five connectors matter: promise, strategy, story, innovation and experience. The first connector is the Brand Promise, which connects when the brand’s main Benefit matches up to the needs of consumers.  Once knowing that promise, everything else feeds off that Promise.  For Volvo the promise is Safety, for Apple it is Simplicity and FedEx it might be Reliability.  It’s important to align your Strategy and Brand Story pick the best ways to communicate the promise, and then aligning your Innovation and the Experience so that you deliver to the promise.  To make sure the Innovation aligns to the Big Idea, everyone in R&D must be working towards delivering the brand promise.  If someone at Volvo were to invent the fastest car on the planet, should they market it as the safe-fast car or should they just sell the technology to Ferrari.  Arguably, Volvo could make more money by selling it to a brand where it fits, and not trying to change people’s minds.  As for the experience, EVERYONE in the company has to buy into and live up to the Brand Promise.  As you can start to see, embedding the Brand Promise right into the culture is essential to the brand’s success.  

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

Here’s how these 5 connectors work for the Apple Brand, all fitting under the Big Idea of “apple makes technology so simple, everyone can be part of the future”.

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As you take this to a summation stage, here’s an example of the 60 second pitch, which is my summary of why you should use Beloved Brands.  You’ll see it builds on the 7 second pitch above.

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How to find the 30 minute Brand story: Telling your brand story

There are a few different ways to do the 30 minute pitch story.

The first way is to build a Brand Strategy Road Map which combines your long-range strategic plan with the Big Idea and 5 connectors underneath.  Here’s an example using the Apple brand. The beauty of this document is that it easily fits everything on one page, ready to share with anyone that touches the brand.

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The second way is story telling.  If you are struggling to tell the story and building a presentation, here’s a simple format that involves answering 15 questions related to the brand. Play around with the specific order, but if you answer these 15 questions you can tell everything you need to about the brand. This should also keep you lined up to the Big Idea, especially as that is the first question to answer.

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The third way is a pitch presentation which would include

  • Your Big Idea
  • How you can help the customer, detailed benefits.
  • What experience do you bring to the table
  • What clients have to say
  • Who you are: Biography
  • What are your beliefs that set you apart

Here is the 30 minute pitch presentation for Beloved Brands:

You should align and manage every part of your Organization around your Brand’s Big Idea

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 see a workshop on THE BRAND LEADERSHIP CENTER, 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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Your #1 New Year’s Resolution should be to make your people better

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If you are looking for a personal New Years resolution, you can try to quit smoking or take up yoga.  But if you’re searching for that next big leadership move:  Focus this year on making your people better. The better the people, the better the work gets and in turn the better the results get.  Having better people will make you a better overall leader.  

The greatest myth of marketing is that it is 100% learned on the job. That was likely started in the 90’s as corporations began cutting back on training–that’s really the last time that marketers received the training they needed.

Being a great Brand Leader takes a balance of coaching from a well-trained leader, teaching in a class room setting and learning on the job.Too many times, courses are more for leadership  and less for marketing.That makes for great leaders that are bad marketers. More and more, we are seeing marketing teams thrust new marketers into their roles without any training at all. In fact, their bosses and even their bosses boss likely hasn’t really received any training. So who is really teaching you, on the job, if the person with you isn’t well-trained? Who is training you how to do a positioning statement, how to write a brief, writing brand plans and how to give feedback to an ad agency? Without these marketing fundamentals, how can you have a team of great marketers?

As you move up, you start to realize that you can’t do everything, and you’re really only as good as your team. The thing I’ve always said is that better people create better work and that means better results. The question you should be asking is are they good enough? Maybe it’s time to invest in making your people better, so that you can be freed up for more leadership, higher level strategic thinking and focusing on driving the vision of the team, rather than caught in the weeds of re-writing copy on a coupon.

As the Leader, here are 3 key questions to be asking your:

  1. Does your team of brand leaders think strategically and can they turn that thinking into a brand plan everyone can follow?
  2. Are they doing the deep dive Analytics needed and can they turn that thinking into an analytical story that everyone understands?
  3. Are they able to get brand communication into the market that can establish a winning brand positioning and drive the sales and profit needed?

How strategic is your team?

Strategic thinking is not just whether you are smart or not. You can be brilliant and not strategic at all. 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. Slide1They are thinkers and planners who can see connections. On the other hand, Non Strategic Thinkers see answers before questions. They opt for action over thinking, believing that doing something is better than doing nothing. They are impulsive and doers who see tasks. With the explosion of marketing media, we are seeing too many of the new Brand Leaders becoming action-oriented do-ers and not strategic thinkers. They don’t connect their actions to maximizing the results on the brand. They do cool stuff they like not strategic things that help grow the business and add profit to the Brand. I see too many of today’s Brand Leaders focused on activity, rather than strategy. In terms of strategy, what you want for your team is to ensure they know:

  • How to THINK STRATEGICALLY, helping them to make focused choices on the pathway to their vision.
  • The role of BRAND STRATEGY in creating a bond, power and profit, beyond what the product itself could achieve.
  • The THREE TYPES OF STRATEGY including consumer, competitive and situational strategy.
  • How to create BRAND PLANS that everyone in your organization can follow.

Here’s a powerpoint workshop we run for brand leaders to make them better Strategic Thinkers and write better Brand Plans.  We coach Brand Leaders to think more strategically, looking at brand, consumer, competitive, and situational strategy, helping them to create brand plans everyone can follow.

How analytical is your team?

How good is your team’s analytical thinking? I hate when brand leaders do that “surface cleaning” type analysis. I call it surface cleaning when you find out that someone is coming to your house in 5 minutes so you just take everything that’s on a counter and put it in a drawer really quickly. I can tell very quickly when someone doesn’t dig deep on analysis. When it comes to analytical thinking you need to make sure that your Brand Leaders have: 

  • Principles of Good Analytics Gain more support for your analysis by telling Slide1analytical stories through data.
  • Health and Wealth of the Brand Assess brand situation looking category, consumer, channels, brand and competitors
  • Analytical stories get Decision Makers to “what do you think” stage Analysis turns fact into insight and data breaks form the story that sets up strategic choices.
    Turn analytical thinking into projections Extrapolating data into the future, starts with what you are see in the current.
  • Monthly Brand Report Keep everyone on the team informed, engaged and aware of the strategic thinking

Here’s a powerpoint workshop we run to help Brand Leaders be better at Analytical Thinking and help them to create better Analytical Stories.  We coach Brand Leader on the principles of good analysis, how to assess health and wealth of the brand and turning your analytical thinking into strategic stories, projections and reports.

How good is your team at Advertising?

How good is your team’s Advertising and Marketing Communications into the market?  Can your Brand Leaders write a Creative Brief? The best Advertising is well planned, not some random creative thing that happens. Slide1The value of a creative brief is focus! Like a good positioning statement, you’re taking everything you know and everything you could possibly say, and starting to make choices on what will give you the greatest return on your media dollars. If you’re not making choices then you’re not making decisions. Unlike other creativity, advertising is “In the Box” creativity. Making great advertising is very hard. Good marketers make it look simple, but they have good solid training and likely some good solid experience. As Brand Leaders sit in the room, looking at new advertising ideas, most are ill-prepared as to how to judge what makes good advertising and what makes bad. In terms of Advertising, it’s crucial that your team know:

  • The crucial role of the BRAND LEADER in getting amazing Advertising
  • How to write a tightly focused ADVERTISING STRATEGY to set up a Brief that delivers great work
  • How to make ADVERTISING DECISIONS so you can choose great ads and reject bad ads
  • How to provide COPY DIRECTION that inspires and challenges to get great Advertising

Here’s a powerpoint workshop we run for brand leaders Brand Leaders to help make them better at getting effective Advertising on their brands. We look at the role Brand Leader, in developing advertising strategy, making decisions and giving effective direction to an agency.

The better your people, the better the work which means the better the results 

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 see a workshop on THE BRAND LEADERSHIP CENTER, 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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UK retailers always do the best Christmas ads. Who won this year?

Slide1Every year, UK retailers battle to see who can do the best Christmas TV ad.  Over the last decade, John Lewis has been the clear winner.  However, everyone has been playing catch up and finding their own creative ways (and major investments) to stand out. The production values resembles that of a Netflix movie. Here are the top 5, and then vote on who you think is the winner at the end

John Lewis:  “Monty the Penguin”

This year’s John Lewis ad is a nice throw-back, almost a hint to the innocence of yesteryear. The kid in the ad has no video games, cell phones or wifi issues. There’s a bit of old-school romance and a cute twist at the end.  But for John Lewis, it’s also a throw-back to the ads of 2009-2011, those years when the John Lewis Christmas ads really broke through with an innocence, simplicity and nice twist.  This year’s “Monty the Penguin” follows that formula, as it follows the life of a boy preparing for Christmas, with a great old song (John Lennon’s “Real Love”) covered by with a young singer (Tom Odell).

Boots “Christmas”

This is a very simple ad and with quite the dose of reality. Too many times, we are running around trying to buy something for someone. When in all honestly, the gift is not always the gift–but rather it’s your appearance that makes all the difference. In this ad we see many journeys, with a nice little tear at the end as we realize what the journey was for–to see mom (sorry British folks, I guess I should say “mum”)

Sainsbury “Christmas is for Sharing”

There was talk all year, that Sainsbury was going for it. And we can see the exceptional production values in this ad. Sadly, even with all that, I”m just OK on it. It feels like it’s trying too hard. And I think they were. But nonetheless, it’s highly engaging and highly emotional. I’m sure it will be well-loved by many. Maybe I’m just a fan of the small moment made big, instead of the big moment made small. 

Marks & Spencer: “Magic and Sparkle”

The UK loves their fairies–and they seem a bit darker than what we are used to. These two little fairies (magic and sparkle) do come across a little dark at first in a competitive spirit but come together to create a nice little bit of magic. It’s a good ad, maybe not in the league of the other four on here.

Mulberry: “Win Christmas”

I know I said you get to vote, but this wins it for me. Not just the ad, but the big idea behind WIN CHRISTMAS. I’m one of four kids and I know it’s all about the win. So what beats a beautiful portrait, a puppy that waves or a unicorn? A new bag from Mulberry!!!  That’s what. 

Have your say on which Ad you like best

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 see a workshop on HOW TO CREATE A BELOVED BRAND, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

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

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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If you want to accelerate your career in 2015, then start thinking of yourself as a Brand

How come you do such a good job marketing brands, but a bad job marketing yourself? At this time of year, it is natural to think about what’s next in your career.

Most brand leaders I see tend to only go after those jobs that come to them, relying on being called by a recruiter or seeing postings on job sites. That’s how 16 year olds look for a summer job, not how leaders manage their careers. Other brand leaders take a “selling approach” where they apply to as many jobs as they see (even if they aren’t their ideal jobs) and hope for the best, treating the job like the prize instead of believing they are the prize. That’s more selling than marketing.  Why not treat yourself like a brand?

Start by analyzing your strengths

I believe in the idea of loving what you do and living why you do it. The tool below can be used to help you find that sweet spot that matches what you are good at with what you love. Too many people build their career on what they are good at–they did well in accounting so they became an accountant. But that is a recipe for spending 40 years in a career you don’t really like. On the other hand, going after what you love, without the talent can be a pipe-dream you never achieve.

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The advantage of using this type of tool is that it allows you to re-define yourself away from job titles. For instance, in my career I was always better at marketing communications than I was at product innovation–which has my consulting career focused on finding that winning brand positioning, creating brand concepts and acting as an advertising coach. But I won’t be inventing the next app or gadget anytime soon.

The next tool to use is the personal strength finder.  This model helps you to force some choices.  The idea is that for each of the 4 options below, only one can be considered HIGH, two at the MIDDLE score and you have to force yourself to put one at the LOW.  While we all say we are generalists, that’s never really true. I’ve met many that are OK at all 4, but have never met anyone great at all. This tool forces you to be one of four types of Brand Leaders: 

  1. Managing Products
  2. Creating Ideas
  3. Strategic Thinking
  4. Leadership of People.

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Find your Unique Selling Proposition

Just like the brands you manage, take the analysis above to start forming a brand positioning for yourself that makes you stand out as unique. As a marketer you start with what consumers look for, so what you want to do is try to understand what employers are looking for. You need to find that USP that matches up the employer needs up to your strengths where you are better than your peers. 

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Once you find your USP, find a way to turn it into a big idea. As I reached senior levels in marketing, I knew I was better at strategy/communication, better at brand turnarounds and had an a more aggressive type leadership style. When I looked at what employers were looking for, it matched up nicely to brands looking to re-invigorate growth on their brands. I positioned myself as “I can find growth where others couldn’t” knowing the only reason an employer would bring in someone from the outside is the previous leader couldn’t figure it out. As I’ve moved into consulting, my current big idea (below) is “provoking you to think differently” believing that a client needs new thinking, because the thinking that brought you this far might not be enough to get you where you want your brand to be.

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Map out a Brand Plan for yourself

I bet you don’t have a brand plan. Why not? Use the time over the break to start mapping out your own brand plan and you might be surprised where this disciplined approach takes you. Write a vision for yourself by thinking about where you want to be in the next 10 years. Reach down deep to create a purpose for yourself supported by a list of values that are important to you. Set goals for yourself in 2015, and list out the potential strategies and tactics you’ll use to accelerate your career in the right direction. 

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Treat yourself like a Brand and use marketing fundamentals to manage your career

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:

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

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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Challenge your thinking to focus your brand strategy

Yogi Berra once said: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.” That really fits with brand planning. Many brands I see don’t even know where they are–either have their head in the sand in denial, or have a team mis-aligned in debate.  But if plans move brands, then if you don’t understand where you are, then how can you decide where you want to move them. So in marketing terms, we’d say “if you don’t know where you are, you might not know where to go next”. 

Here are five questions that will help focus your plan

At the start of every planning cycle, I would take a few hours, put the feet up on the desk and put down 2-3 bullet points for each of the following questions.

1. Where are we?

2. Why are we here?

3. Where could we be?

4. How can we get there?

5. What do we need to do?

Answering these questions really helps to focus your thinking because you can see the guts of the macro brand plan before you even start to dig in. It will give you the starting point on your situation analysis, map out the key issues, frame the vision/purpose/goals, lay out the strategies/tactics that will enable you to hit your vision and then provide a top-line look around how you might execute.  

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And if you want to take those questions and answers further, you can build a plan-on-a-page using the 6 key areas as outlined below:

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Here are four questions that will help focus your brand strategy

As you’re looking at your brand strategy, you need to look at the brand from all sides. Here are four questions to be asking that force you to choose four possible solutions to each.

1. What is your current share position in the market?

2. What is the core strength that your brand can win on?

3. How tightly connected is your consumer to your brand?

4. What is the current business situation that your brand faces?

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  1. What is your current share position in the market?  Where you rank is a great indicator of how much power you can command in the market.  You have four choices, using Marketing Warfare (Trout and Ries) you are either the Leader, Challenger, Niche or a Guerilla.
    • Leader (defensive): Leader of category or sub-category defending their territory by attacking itself or even attacking back at an aggressive competitor.
    • Challenger (offensive): Challenger’s attack on the leader to exploit a weakness or build on your own strength.
    • Niche:  An attack in an open area where the Leader is not that well established.
    • Guerilla: Going into an area where it’s too small for the Leaders to take notice or are unable to attack back.
  2. What is the core strength of your brand?  Most brands should have a focus to what they win on, either winning on product, idea, experience or price.   Slide1
    • Product Brands:  your strategy should focus on superiority, ensure that you invest in Innovation to stay ahead of competitors, and likely focus on rational advertising that makes sure you leave consumers knowing you are the best. In a crowded market, it has become increasingly difficult to win on product alone. Thirty years ago, P&G pushed this at every opportunity, but technology gaps have closed. And even P&G has successful switched to focusing more on being different and less on being better. That leads us to choose more of the idea brand below.
    • Concept/Idea Brands:  your strategy should focus on being different.  To tell that story, you need to invest in brand communication. You want to connect consumers emotionally to your brand idea. Apple builds everything on their brand around the idea that “apple makes it so simple that everyone can be part of the future”, whether that’s the easy-to-use products, concept focused advertising or the stores that help them execute the idea.  Are the products great?  Yes, but not likely better.  Just different.
    • Experience Brands: your strategy and organization should focus on linking culture very closely to your brand. After all, your people are your product. You want to build values and align the culture to those values. And as you go to market, invest in influencer and social media that can help support and spread the word of your experience.
    • Price Brands:  your strategy has to focus on efficiency and drive low-cost into the products you sell and high turns and high volume. You have to be better at the fundamentals around production and sourcing. Use call-to-action type advertising to help keep the turns very high. McDonald’s of the 1970s perfected this model, but we’ve since seen WalMart take it to the next level. You might not like all that WalMart does from an ethical point of view, but it’s on strategy and helps you get toilet paper cheaper. What consumers don’t notice at Walmart is their obsession with retail turns. On average Walmart sells through their stock within 28 days, compared to other retailers who might average 100 days. You rarely see slow-moving items and rarely see clearance items.
  3. How tightly connected is your brand to the consumer? Consumers move along a “Brand Love Curve”, as they become more connected to Brands, their feelings and behavior changes. Slide1There are four phases of the Brand Love Curve, moving from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally to the Beloved stage.
    1. Indifferent: At this stage, consumers are either not aware, confused or not interested in your product.  You treat your brand like a commodity, and your consumer treats you the same way, sticking with their current brand. Promotional pricing becomes your only weapon. As brands only have 4 real choices in survival–better, different, cheaper or not around for very long–I would not bet on these surviving long-term.
    2. Like It: At this stage, brand satisfy the consumers’ basic needs.  They use it, see it as a very functional, rational choice. To survive without emotion, you must have a better product or service offering. Your lack of connection means no relative power and you risk substitution as you battle for every penny earned. If you are leapfrogged with something better, your brand dies a quick death.
    3. Love It: Here we start to see brands building loyalty with consumers. There is an emotional connection and you become the consumers’ favorite brand, possible building into their routines. We see power shift to the brand, as it can use this emotional connection to charge premium prices, enter new categories and build added volume through heavier usage.
    4. Beloved:  At this stage, consumers become fans of the brand.  Here consumers are un-relenting in their conviction, they are possessive and outspoken, seeing the brand as a personal choice.  It goes beyond routine and becomes a ritual, not just a favorite brand but a favorite part of the day. These brands do everything right, align their brand promise, strategy, story, innovation and experience behind the big idea they stand for. Slide1 

4. What is the current situation your brand faces? As your plans are designed to move your brand, you need to understand where they are before you can decide where you want to move them.

  • Continued Momentum: Sales growth and profitability in good shape, team is aligned on direction for the future. Underlying brand metrics and relationships beyond organization are strong. Keep business going strong. Fuel growth drivers, while resisting temptation for wholesale change
  • Turnaround: Continuing decline in sales, being attacked by competitors or category shrinking. Margin squeeze, either due to price/cost or the shrinking sales line. Downward momentum over 2-3 years. Lack of alignment, internally or externally, on the solutions for the future. Need to get business back on track. Change the direction: new people, new plan, new ideas, new attitude.
  • Re-Focus: Circumstances on business have changed, driven through either external market forces or internal dynamics to the point where there is now a lack of alignment on the direction or next steps for the brand. Alignment around Brand (positioning, plan) and Culture (values, behaviors)
  • Start Up: Getting a new brand into he market, or launching a current brand into new categories of innovation. Organization needs setting up (team, culture, structure, values, behaviors) Need for focused strategic Investment choices to get brand going. Moving from blank slate to big idea, plan and team. Focus Focus Focus!

Strategic Thinkers ask “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 for Brand Leaders to make them better Strategic Thinkers and write better Brand Plans. To view, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

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

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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Why Brand Matters

You can make more money by investing in your Brand

The reason that most business’ choose not to invest in a brand, is they “can’t afford it”. But really, by investing in a BRAND, you can make more MONEY! Use the connectivity between brand and consumer to leverage premium Pricing. Use your brand’s power to drive Lower Costs. Leverage the bond with consumers to Increase your Market Share. When you have an idea bigger than your product alone, you can enter into New Categories that fit with your idea. Here are the 8 ways a BRAND can make you more MONEY!!!  Companies only invest to create a Brand if they think they can make more money from a brand, than if we just had a Product.  Slide1What you want to do is create a strong bond between your consumer and your brand. Once you have that bond, you can use it as a source of power versus all the stake holders of the brand.  If we think back to porter’s model, the brand’s bond gives you added power over customers, suppliers, competitors and even the very consumers you have the bond with.  Beyond Porter’s forces, the brand would also generate added power with the media, key opinion leaders and employees.  Once you have power, you can drive growth and profit, using that power to drive up price, drive down costs, gain market share and enter new categories.  

  • Use the connectivity between brand and consumer to leverage premium Pricing to drive profits:  By creating a brand idea that connects, you can try to command a premium or once you have a loyal consumer, you can look for innovative ways to trade your consumers up. When consumers are emotionally connected to a brand, the price becomes more Inelastic. We can see in the market, that loyal brand fans pay a 20-30% price premium for Apple’s iPad.The more engaged employees begin to generate an even better brand experience. For instance at Starbucks, employees know the names of their most loyal of customers. Blind taste tests show consumers prefer the cheaper McDonald’s coffee but still pay 4x as much for a Starbucks. So is it still coffee you’re buying or are they paying for the Brand?
  • Use your brand’s power to drive Lower Costs: A well-run Brand can use their efficiency to lower their cost structure. If you are a hot brand, suppliers will cut their cost just to be on the roster of a beloved Brand. A brand that becomes popular will benefit from the free media through earned, social and search media. They may even find government offer subsidies to be in the community or partners willing to lower their costs to be part of the brand. For instance, a real estate owner would likely give lower costs and better locations to McDonald’s than an indifferent brand.
  • Leverage the bond with consumers to Increase your Market Share: Crowds draw crowds which spreads the base of the loyal consumers. I was walking past a store the other day and they had a line up to get into the store. We immediately became curious as to what that store offered. Competitors can’t compete–lower margins means less investment back into the brand. It’s hard for them to fight the Beloved Brand on the emotional basis leaving them to a niche that’s currently unfulfilled.
  • When you have an idea bigger than your product alone, you can enter into New Categories that fit with your idea:  We see many beloved Brands enter into new categories knowing their loyal consumers will follow because they buy into the Idea of the Brand. Starbucks has gone far beyond Coffee to where it’s now one of the biggest fast food chains in the world.  The idea is no longer tied to the product or service but rather how it makes you feel about yourself. 

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You need to Focus your brand behind one Core Strength

Every brand needs focus.  Brands are either better, different or cheaper–or else not around for very long.  The problem I see is that brands try to be everything to everyone, and you end up being nothing to no one. Strategically, before going further, you have to decide on what core strength you will win on:  product, concept/idea, price or the experience.  The model below is a good tool that can help your team focus on what it does best.  

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  • If you’re the PRODUCT driven brand of the category, you need to focus on driving innovation on both product and claims as a way to maintain superiority over your competition. You want R&D closely aligned to your brand’s Big Idea and you have to invest to continue the pipeline.  The marketing may take more of a rational approach. Currently, Samsung is one of the best product driven brands, whether it’s phones, TVs or appliances. Their one weakness is the inferior laptops they’ve tried to push on the market.
  • On the other hand, if you are a CONCEPT driven brand, you need to focus on being different. The problem is when these types of brands get distracted by trying to be better or just as good as the PRODUCT driven brand they compete with. The CONCEPT brands need emotional advertising and more creative approaches to connect with consumers. Apple is a great concept driven brands, creating an idea of simplicity that goes across their entire product line and experienced in their retail stores.
  • With EXPERIENCE brands, who focus on the people/culture as being the guts of your brand. You need to be purpose driven and values based, projecting why you do what you do.  Invest in training to instil values and project who you are through social media. With Hotels all competing on price and pillow feather counts, Ritz-Carlton is all about service, that meets the unexpressed needs of consumers.  Ritz-Carlton has a service credo with supporting service values. And they are so good at service, you can now take a 3-day Ritz-Carlton training program on how they do it.  
  • If you are the LOW PRICE brand, focus on efficiency and cost cutting to drive lower prices.  Make up for the lower margin by driving higher volumes, with call-to-action type advertising.  And you better be good at all the production, forecasting and sourcing.  WalMart does this better than anyone, even going as far as crushing every union movement.  To show you how good they are at operations, WalMart’s turns at shelf average 28 days, while most other department stores average 75-100 days. You rarely see the word “clearance” at Walmart. 

You need to Build your Brand by lining up all 5 Connector to your Big Idea

While you need a lead strength from the model above, once you decide on were you want to go, you need to create an IDEA and then line up each of the 5 elements of a brand:  promise, strategy, story, freshness and experience.   Slide1

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

As we talked about the Apple brand, here’s an illustration of how well Apple lines up behind their big idea.

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You need to Transform your Brand by going Beyond Product

As you’re challenging yourself to think about going to Brand Thinking, here are some of the differences you might notice.  

  • Think of a Brand as an idea with many intangibles, whereas a product is usually tangible to the senses. This is where you as a Brand Leader must begin to think more conceptual and think of ideas.  
  • If we think of a Product as solving a Problem, then try to think of a Brand as fighting your consumer’s enemy.  
  • While managing a product, you’re always focused on trying to figure out the THINKING part of your consumer, and you offer very rational product features and claims, you might need to shift to start figuring out the EMOTIONAL decisions your consumer makes and finding more emotional benefits that connect with them.  
  • Instead of thinking of just the consumption of your product, start thinking of the EXPERIENCE. When I was a Brand Leader, I honestly didn’t pay too much attention to the experience.  We tend to think of that for service brands. But look at the EXPERIENCE of a product brand like Apple and see the difference it can create.
  • Brand becomes a reputation you must manage, going well beyond the legal entity and trademark.  Every brand should be using Public Relations to become part of the news cycle, helping to go beyond Advertising. Look to your most loyal consumers as a potential influencer of your reputation through social media.  
  • Start to think about becoming part of your consumers life, as a ritual, which goes beyond a routine. Be a favorite part of their day, or be an enabler to great things that happen in their life. Adjust to the days of the week of the time of the year. Leverage the calendar as a call out to how your brand might be used.  
  • A product can be debated, but a Brand will be defended.  Provide your most loyal consumers with enough love so that they love you back enough to defend you at the lunch table.  

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The more loved a brand is by consumers, the more powerful and profitable that brand can be

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 CREATE A BELOVED BRAND, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

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

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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Managing Your Career: Finding and using your Core Strength as a Brand Leader

Brand Leaders always pride themselves on being generalists, and as we move up, we have to be. But the reality is that we are naturally better in some areas than others, and at very senior levels that can help guide your career choices. Here’s a very simple tool I have created to help guide your thinking to see where your natural strength lies, within one of four choices:  1) Managing Products 2) Creating Ideas 3) Strategic Thinking or 4) Leadership of People.  Grade yourself, or ask others to help you, whether you are High, Medium or Low at each of them.  But to this game, we only let you put ONE at the high and you should force ONE score as low.  

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Where is your Strength?

  • Managing Products:  You’re naturally a business leader, who enjoys the thrill of hitting the numbers–your financial or share goals for the year. In Myers Briggs, you might be an ENTJ/INTJ (introvert/extrovert, intuition, thinking, judgment) the “field general” who brings the intuitive logic and quick judgement to make decisions quickly to capitalize on the business opportunity. You like the innovation side more than the advertising. You are fundamentally sound at all the core elements of running a business:  forecasting, analytics, finance, distribution, working each of the functional areas to the benefit of the products. You may have some gaps in creativity or people leadership, but you’re comfortable giving freedom to your agencies or team to handle coming up with ideas.  My recommendation is that you stay within Brand Management as long as you can.  If you find roadblocks in your current industry, go into new verticals before you venture into new career choices. If you go outside, consider running businesses on behalf of Private Equity companies or even venture out into Entrepreneurship where you take your core strength of running a business to making it on your own.Slide1
  • Strategic Thinking:  You enjoy the planning more than the execution. You might fall into the INTP, where you’re still using logic and intuition, but you are stronger at the thinking that helps frame the key issues and strategies than the tactical solutions to the problems. The introvert side would also suggest that your energy comes from what’s going on in your brain, more than what others are saying. If you stay within industry, you’d be very strong in a global brand role, general management or even a strategic planning role. You need to either partner with a strong executer or build a strong team of business leaders beneath you. Going outside, you’d enjoy consulting and thought leadership which could turn into academic or professional development type roles.  
  • Creative Concepts/Ideas:  You are the type of Brand Leaders open to new thinking, highly creative and you connect more to ideas and insights than strict facts and tight decisions. You believe facts can guide you but never decide for you. They are high on perception, allowing ambiguous ideas to breathe before closing down on them.  They respect the creative process and people.  They are intuitive but opt for how something feels as they use their instincts for what is a good or bad idea. You may have gaps on organization and strategy that hurts you from being a senior leader.  Going forward beyond Marketing, you might opt to switch to agency side or find a subject-matter expert role (Innovation, Marketing Communication or Public Relations) that better suits your strengths.
  • Leadership of People:  You find natural strength in leading others–getting the most from someone’s potential.  You’re good at conflict, providing feedback, inspiring/motivation. You are a natural extrovert, where you get your energy from seeing others on your team succeeding, almost more than yourself. As you move up, you should surround yourself with people who counter your gaps–whether that’s on strategy or execution. You might find yourself better at Management than Marketing, and you should pursue a General Management role. You also would benefit from a cross functional shift into a sales function.  After you hit your peak, consider careers such as executive coaching. 

I realize that most senior leaders will struggle to come down to their ONE key area of strength and you might find yourself more of a combination.  For instance, I had a hard time deciding between Strategy and Creativity, and have managed to find some balance in my second career as a Brand Coach as well as an Advertising Coach.  But I am not quite comfortable enough in presenting Creative Ideas on behalf of an Agency, nor do I just want the purity of strategy.  If you find yourself debating two, that still can provide you with some focus as a combination of strengths to take forward into your career. 

Here are Five Soul-Searching Career Questions You need to Be Asking yourself throughout your Career

  1. Within your current company, how high up do you think you can realistically go?
  2. Should you stay in the same industry or look at new verticals?
  3. Should you stay in pure Brand Management or venture into a subject-matter expert type roles?
  4. How long do you want to keep working?
  5. Do you stay an employee or do you take this moment to leap out on your own?

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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