The five success factors for VP Marketing and CMO roles

At the VP Marketing level, it is less about marketing and more about people. The equation is simple: better people make amazing work, that delivers outstanding results. Be a consistent, authentic, approachable leader, to inspire and motivate your teams. Invest in your people, with marketing training and development to help your people realize their full potential. Focus on marketing skills, experiences, and behaviors.

1. Your people come first

Focus on your people, and the results will come. Smart people produce great work and in turn outstanding results. You should have a regular review of the talent with your directors. Build a system to provide feedback to everyone on the team, preferably on a quarterly basis. 

Invest in marketing training and development. Marketing Training is not just on the job, but in the classroom to challenge the thinking of your people and give them added skills to be better in their careers. Marketing fundamentals matter. Right now, marketers need more marketing skills training. Your people need to know how to strategic thinking, define their brand’s positioning statement, write a Brand Plan, write a Creative Brief and judge advertising. People are NOT getting the same development they did in prior generations. Investing in marketing training, not only makes them better, but it also motivates them to know that you are investing in them.  

2. Run the marketing process and the system

The best VPs should run the P&L and all the Marketing processes. You have to run the P&L and make investment choices. Bring an ROI and ROE (Return on Investment and Effort) mindset to those decisions. These choices will be one of the essentials to making the numbers and gaining more freedom in how you do the job. Regarding process, it has always been my belief that smart processes in place—brand planning, advertising, creative briefs—should not restrict your people, but instead provide the right freedom to your people. Get your people to drive all their creative energy into great work that gets in the marketplace, not trying to figure out what slide looks cool in the brand plan presentation.  

3. Be the visionary

The best VPs bring a vision, not just for the direction of the brand but the inspiration for the team. Come up with a theme that taps into the purpose, beliefs, expectations and the behaviors you will reward. You are now the Mayor of Marketing. What’s your campaign slogan? Get up, walk around and engage with everyone on your team. You can make someone’s day, motivate and encourage them to deliver excellent work. Set a high standard, and when your team put an outstanding idea up for approval, and it is fundamentally sound, then approve it. Do not do the constant spin of fear. It makes you look indecisive and bureaucratic. 

4. Put the spotlight on your people

The best VPs let their people own it and let them shine. It has to be about them, not you. Do not be the super-duper Brand Manager. By making all the decisions, you bring yourself down a level or two, and you take over their job. Instead of telling; start asking questions. Challenge your team and recognize the great work. It might be my own thing, but I never said: “thank you” because I never thought they were doing it for me. Instead, I said: “you should be proud” because I knew they were doing it for themselves.  

5. Be a consistent, authentic, approachable leader

The best VPs have an open door and make it easy for people to engage them. You have to set up an avenue where they can approach you and feel comfortable enough to communicate the good and bad. A hidden leader scares people. No one wants to share concerns or bad results, for fear of how you will react. Don’t get left in the dark. Open communication keeps you more knowledgeable. Get your people to challenge you. Inconsistent and unpredictable behavior by a leader does not “keep them on their toes.” It creates tension and inhibits creativity. Be consistent in how you think, how you act in meetings and how you approve. Leadership assumes “follower-ship.” Create an atmosphere that will make people want to go the extra mile for you. Once you show up ready to listen, you will be surprised how honest they will be and how much they will tell you.

The VP role can be very lonely

I remember when I first took the job as VP, I found it surprisingly a bit lonely. Everyone in marketing tries to be “on” whenever you are around. And you don’t always experience the “real” side of the people on your team. Just be ready for it. It takes a while to get used to the distance from your new peers (the head of sales, HR, operations or finance). It is far greater than you might expect and it may feel daunting at first. Your peers expect you to run Marketing and let them run their functional area. And the specific problems you face, they might not appreciate or even understand the subtleties of the role. Your boss also gives you a lot of rope, which can be either good or bad. There will be less coaching than you had in prior positions. It is crucial for you to have a good mentor or even an executive coach to give you someone to talk with that understands your role. Maybe it’s time to get a dog!  Haha. Good luck.

I am excited to announce the release of my new book, Beloved Brands.

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

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

To order the e-book version of Beloved Brands, click on this link: https://lnkd.in/eUAgDgS

And, to order the paperback version, click on this link: https://lnkd.in/eF-mYPe

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

We help brands find growth

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a big idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand. Finally, the big idea must influence employees to personally deliver an outstanding consumer experience, to help move consumers along the journey to loving your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources. We work with your team to build out project plans, creative briefs and provide advice on marketing execution.

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

We make Brand Leaders smarter

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

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

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

Graham Robertson bio

 

 

Here are 4 simple steps to quickly uncover your brand’s profit situation

A brand leader needs to be able to quickly look at P&L statement to assess your brand’s profit situation. You need to be able to quickly assess your brand’s sales growth, margins, and marketing spend levels.

Anyone who does not include profit in their definition of a brand has never run a branded business before. To me, a product is a basic commodity you sell. A brand creates a bond that leads to a power and profit beyond what the product alone can achieve.

If you want to succeed in brand management, you have to understand brand finance. After all, you are running a business. If you just like the activity of marketing, then you should become a subject matter expert, because if you cannot work the finances of your brand, you will not get promoted past brand manager.

A quick dissection of the financial statement

So if finance is not a natural skill, when your finance manager hands you the brand’s profit and loss (P&L) statement, it can be rather intimidating. To assess the performance of your brand, and begin knowing where to dig deeper, I recommend you break it down by looking at four key numbers.

1. Growth Rate

As a leader of the brand, I start by trying to understand the growth rate. Most brand leaders have brand growth as their number one objective. You can do a quick calculation to figure out the average growth rate but, as you dig in, you should try to find out what happened each year to give you a better feel of the brand performance. There are two calculations you can use, either average growth rate or compound annual growth rate (CAGR).

    • In this example, the average growth rate is 7% and CAGR % is 9.1%, but very high compared to the overall economic growth of 2-3%. My first instinct would be to look at the category growth to see if the brand is gaining or losing market share.
    • Next, the year-by-year growth shows the growth rate has shot up to 12% over the past two years. I would make a mental note to expect to see this as an investment brand and determine whether the profit is paying off yet.

2. Gross Margin Percentage

My eye is drawn immediately to figuring out the gross margin percentage, as the first signal of the health of the brand or to try to understand the strategy behind the brand. Divide the absolute gross margin by the sales. You can assess the brand’s health by comparing the margin percent over time to see the trend line, with other brands in your portfolio to assess the opportunity cost, or with other competitive brands in the category. 

  • In this example, the gross margin percentage has fallen from 43% in 2018 down to 37% in 2020, which should prompt you to go a layer deeper to look at price and cost of goods.
  • Regarding price, dig around to see if there has been an average price decrease, then look to see if it is due to an increase in trade spend, a shift in the sales mix to lower-priced items, or even a shift to lower margin items.

3. Contribution Margins

Next, look at your brand’s cost of goods and impact on overall profit. Some cost factors are outside the brand’s control, such as foreign exchange, raw material cost increases, duties, and transportation costs. However, you also need to look out for factors within the brand’s control. Was there a strategic decision to change to a higher cost raw material? Was there increased quality control at the manufacturing site? Did you switch to a more expensive supplier or change the location of your production?

  • Look at contribution margin percentage, dividing the bottom line contribution income by the overall sales.
  • In the example, an alarm bell goes off when I see the contribution margin percentage has fallen from 26% to 17% in three years. My first observation is the sales are up dramatically, yet both the gross margin percentages and contribution margin percentages are down. 
  • While the gross margin percentage is down, the gross margin dollars increased. However, in this case, the contribution margin dollars have gone down from $5,763 to $4,772. After two years of investment, the brand is not responding fast enough to cover that spend level.    

4. Marketing spend growth rate

Finally, look at the comparison between the sales growth rate and the marketing spend growth rate

  • While sales are growing at 12% over the past two years, spending is up 22%. The brand is not covering the spending increase. Dig in to understand if the payback was expected to be slower. If not, I would dig in to explain why it is not paying back: not the right message, competitive activity, or market dynamics.

Here is a training workshop we call Brand Finance 101, the ideal training for any brand manager.

My new book, Beloved Brands, coming this spring.

How this Beloved Brands playbook can work for you. The purpose of this book is to make you a smarter brand leader so your brand can win in the market. You will learn how to think strategically, define your brand with a positioning statement and a brand idea, write a brand plan everyone can follow, inspire smart and creative marketing execution, and be able to analyze the performance of your brand through a deep-dive business review.

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

We help brands find growth

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a big idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand. Finally, the big idea must influence employees to personally deliver an outstanding consumer experience, to help move consumers along the journey to loving your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources. We work with your team to build out project plans, creative briefs and provide advice on marketing execution.

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

We make Brand Leaders smarter

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

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

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

Graham Robertson bio

 

How to lead the brand planning process

The best brand plan process involves a lot of analytics and thinking before you begin crafting the brand plan. You should start with a deep-dive business review, that can set up a dig in to find the key issues on the brand. From there, you can revisit and define your brand positioning. And only then, can you dig in and write the brand plan. A smart brand plan should include a vision, purpose, values, analysis, key issues, strategies, and the execution tactics. In terms of numbers, you should also include sales forecasts, marketing budgets, profit statements and then brand goals.  

As Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.” The same could be said about brands, who try to execute blindly without knowing where they are going.

The best-executed brands are also the best-planned brands.

Strategy starts with a vision of where you want to, lays out a strategic program that focuses on an identified opportunity in the market. From there, the strategy must have an impact in the marketplace, with a performance result back to the brand. 

The plan lays out how you will allocate your limited resources of investment, people, time and partnerships, against a potentially unlimited array of choices. The plan should be a forced decision-making tool that narrows your focus on those choices that offer the highest return on effort and return on investment.

The Beloved Brands planning process includes:

  1. A deep-dive business review.
  2. Key Issues
  3. Define the brand using a Brand Positioning process
  4. Writing the Brand Plan.

Stage 1: The deep-dive business review

You should do a deep-dive business review at least once a year on your brand. Otherwise, you are negligent of the brand, where you are investing all your resources. Dig in on the five specific sections—marketplace, consumers, channels, competitors and the brand—to draw out conclusions to help set up your brand’s key issues, which you answer in the brand plan.    

 

Steps of the business review

  1. Marketplace: Start by looking at the overall category performance to gain a macro view of all significant issues. Dig in on the factors impacting category growth, including economic indicators, consumer behavior, technology changes, shopper trends, and political regulations. Also look at what is happening in related categories, which could impact your category or replicate what you may see next.
  2. Consumers: Analyze your consumer target to better understand the consumer’s underlying beliefs, buying habits, growth trends, and critical insights. Use the brand funnel analysis and leaky bucket analysis to uncover how they shop and how they make purchase decisions. You should understand what they think when they buy or reject your brand at every stage of the consumer’s purchase journey. Also, uncover consumer perceptions through tracking data, the voice of the consumer, and market research.
  3. Channels: Assess the performance of all potential distribution channels and the performance of every major retail customer. Understand their strategies, and how well your brand is using their available tools and programs. And, your brand must align with your retail customer strategies.
  4. Competitors: Dissect your closest competitors by looking at their performance indicators, brand positioning, innovation pipeline, pricing strategies, distribution and the consumer’s perceptions of these brands. And then to go even deeper, you can map out a strategic brand plan for significant competitors to predict what they might do next. Use that knowledge within your own brand plan.
  5. Brand: Analyze your own brand through the lens of consumers, customers, competitors, and employees. Then, use brand funnel data, market research, marketing program tracking results, pricing analysis, distribution gaps, and financial analysis. You should be managing your brand’s health and wealth.

Summarize your analysis to set up the key issues to tackle in your brand plan:

  • What’s driving growth? The top factors of strength, positional power, or market inertia, which have a proven link to driving your brand’s growth. And, your plan should continue to fuel these growth drivers.
  • What’s inhibiting growth? The most significant factors of weakness, unaddressed gaps, or market friction you can prove to be holding back your brand’s growth. From there, your plan should focus on reducing or reversing these inhibitors to growth.
  • Opportunities for growth: Specific untapped areas in the market, which could fuel your brand’s future growth, based on unfulfilled consumer needs, new technologies on the horizon, potential regulation changes, new distribution channels, or the removal of trade barriers. Moving forward, your plan should take advantage of these opportunities in the future.
  • Threats to future growth: Changing circumstances, including consumer needs, new technologies, competitive activity, distribution changes, or potential barriers, which create potential risks to your brand’s growth. Moreover, build your plan to minimize the impact of these risks.

To read more on how to lead a deep-dive business review, click on this link:

How to lead a deep-dive business review on your brand

Stage 2: Laying out the key issues

Lay out the key issues that answer, “Why are we here?” by taking the summary findings of the deep-dive analysis and drawing out the significant issues in the way of achieving your stated brand vision.

A great way to find the issues is to brainstorm up to 30 things in the way of your vision. Then, narrow down your list to the top 3-5 significant themes you see. Take the themes and begin to write the top issues in a rhetorical, strategic question format to prompt a few different strategic options for how to solve each issue. Spend serious thinking time on these questions because the better the strategic question you ask, the better the strategic answer you will get.

Example of using the four strategic questions to focus the brand’s key issues


Another excellent methodology for finding key issues is to go back to the four strategic questions model I outlined in the strategic thinking chapters. This thinking ensures you take a 360-degree view of your brand. Looking at the example below, I have used the four strategic questions and come up with four specific questions that fit the Gray’s Cookies brand.

With various ways to brainstorm and find the issues I recommend for the annual brand plan, focus on the top three key issues, which set up the top three strategies. From there, a long-range strategic roadmap can typically handle up to five key issues, then five strategies.

Stage 3: Create a winning brand positioning

Four elements make up a brand positioning statement, including who you serve, where you play, where will you win and why consumers should believe you. These are the consumer target, marketplace definition, the consumer benefit, and support points.

  1. Who is your consumer target? What slice of the population is the most motivated by what your brand offers? Do not just think about whom you want, but rather who wants your brand.
  2. Where will you play? What is the competitive set that defines the space in the market where your brand competes? Positioning is always relative to the other brands your brand competes against.
  3. Where will you win? What is the main consumer benefit promise you will make to the consumer target to make your brand stand out as interesting, simple, unique, motivating, and ownable? Do not talk about what you do (features); instead, talk about what the consumer gets (functional benefits), and how the consumer feels (emotional benefits).
  4. Why should they believe us? Understand what support points and features you need to back up your main promise. These support points should close any possible doubts, questions, or concerns the consumer has after hearing your main promise.

Before you just randomly write out a brand positioning statement based on your intuition, I will force you to think deeper to help focus your decisions on the best possible space for your brand to win and own.

The consumer benefits ladder

The consumer benefits ladder helps turn your brand’s features into consumer benefits. You should stop talking about what your brand does and start talking about what your consumer gets. The four steps to building a consumer benefits ladder:

  • Leverage all available research to define your ideal consumer target profile with need states, consumer insights, and the consumer enemy.
  • Brainstorm all possible brand features. Focus on those features you believe give your brand a competitive advantage.
  • Move up to the functional benefits by putting yourself in the shoes of the consumer. For each feature on your list, ask, “So, what do I get from that?” Challenge yourself to come up with better benefits by asking the question up until you move into a richer zone.
  • Then move up to the emotional benefits. Look at each functional benefit and ask, “So, how does that make me feel?” As you did in step 3, keep asking the question until you see a more in-depth emotional space you can win with and own.

To read more on brand positioning, click on this link:

How to build a brand positioning statement that will help you win in the market

Stage 4: Write a brand plan everyone can follow

We coach brand leaders to build highly focused strategic brand plans that everyone in your organization can follow. We use a workshop style process to help your team lay out a long-range strategic roadmap and brand plan that everyone in your organization can follow. We’ll help your team prepare brand plans for review. We then work with your team to create actionable project plans for each tactic with goals, milestones, and budget.

A typical agenda for a one-year brand plan would include:

Vision:

The vision should answer the question, “Where could we be?” Put a stake in the ground that describes an ideal state for your future. It should be able to last for five to 10 years. The vision gives everyone clear direction. It should motivate the team, written in a way that scares you a little and excites you a lot.

Brand purpose:

The purpose has to answer the question, “Why does your brand exist?” It’s the underlying personal motivation for why you do what you do. The purpose is a powerful way to connect with employees and consumers, giving your brand a soul.

Values:

The values you choose should answer, “What do you stand for?” Your values should guide you and shape the organization’s standards, beliefs, behaviors, expectations, and motivations. A brand must consistently deliver each value.

Goals:

Your goals should answer, “What will you achieve?” The specific measures can include consumer behavioral changes, metrics of crucial programs, in-market performance targets, financial results, or milestones on the pathway to the vision. You can use these goals to set up a brand dashboard or scoreboard.

Situation analysis:

Use your deep-dive business review to answer, “Where are we?” Your analysis must summarize the drivers and inhibitors currently facing the brand, and the future threats and untapped opportunities.

Key issues:

The key issues answer the question, “Why are we here?” Look at what is getting in your way of achieving your brand vision. Ask the issues as questions, to set up the challenges to the strategies as the answer to each issue.

Strategies:

Your strategy decisions must answer, “How can we get there?” Your choices depend on market opportunities you see with consumers, competitors, or situations. Strategies must provide clear marching orders that define the strategic program you are investing in, the focused opportunity, the desired market impact and the payback in a performance result that benefits the branded business.

Tactics:

The tactics answer, “What do we need to do?” Framed entirely by strategy, tactics turn into action plans with clear marching orders to your teams. Decide on which activities to invest in to stay on track with your vision while delivering the highest ROI and the highest ROE for your branded business.

 

To read more, click on this link below:

How to build a smart Brand Plan everyone can follow

 

My new book, Beloved Brands, coming this spring.

How this Beloved Brands playbook can work for you. The purpose of this book is to make you a smarter brand leader so your brand can win in the market. You will learn how to think strategically, define your brand with a positioning statement and a brand idea, write a brand plan everyone can follow, inspire smart and creative marketing execution, and be able to analyze the performance of your brand through a deep-dive business review.

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

We help brands find growth

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a big idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand. Finally, the big idea must influence employees to personally deliver an outstanding consumer experience, to help move consumers along the journey to loving your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources. We work with your team to build out project plans, creative briefs and provide advice on marketing execution.

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

We make Brand Leaders smarter

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

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

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

Graham Robertson bio

 

 

 

 

The necessary brand experiences you must go through at least five times

There are many brand experiences a marketer must go through at least five times before you can understand. The most difficult brand experiences include writing brand plans, leading a brand turnaround, launching a new advertising campaign, managing a team, firing a marketer, launching a new brand, and leading across the organization.

I remember how challenging it was for me the first time I launched a new advertising campaign. Can I confess now that it was a complete disaster? And, I had no clue what the significant steps were and no one on my side who could teach me. Finally, I was lucky my client service person helped me through every step. Over the years, I would get better and better, learning something new each time.

I then struggled the first time I managed a person for the first time.

Then I struggled to launch a new brand. It is starting to sound like I was a disaster at everything. Well, I might be exaggerating, but I can tell you that I got better each time. And you will as well. 

There is a reason why it takes experience for you to be a great marketer. Be patient with yourself and ensure you keep learning with each new experience.

Skills, behaviors, and experiences

When I assess people, I always think in terms of skills, behaviors, and experiences. Here’s a scorecard you can use to score yourself on marketing skills.

The necessary experiences a brand leader must go through

Write Brand Plans

Writing a brand plan takes experience. At the early stages of your career, I recommend you should learn some of the same skills through writing brand recommendations, writing a brand review or writing a section of the brand plan. As you move up to Brand Manager, you have to take full ownership of the plan. One of the hardest elements to work on is the flow. I always say that a well-written Brand Plan should feel like an orchestral arrangement, with each component of the plan with separate song sheets, but everyone’s contribution adds up to one plan.

Leading a Brand Turnaround

When the results are not meetings the expectations of the business, the pressure goes up exponentially, and the scrutiny intensifies. If there is a hint of concern, senior leaders will roll up their sleeves and get involved.

Launching new advertising

Launching a big new campaign from scratch involves a lot of crucial steps to manage. On top of that, you must deal with the ambiguity of what makes a great creative and smart media choices. It is essential to keep the agency motivated while keeping your boss aligned.

Managing a team

Managing can be such a challenge that when I worked at J&J when we promoted someone to Brand Manager, we usually tried to avoid giving them a direct report. Most people mess up their first direct report. A similar pattern happens: excited to have someone do the little stuff they hate doing; then the person struggles so the manager does it themselves and gets mad at the person who can’t do it, then begins to think their direct report is incompetent. On the other hand, the direct report thinks their boss refuses to train them, gives them little feedback and is a control freak. 

Firing a Marketer

Firing someone sounds like a strange experience to put on the list. But it is one of the most challenging decisions you will have to make. I wish you would never have to fire one, but the reality is that you will. To make sure you are making the right decision, you need to understand the role and be able to measure that person against the criteria for what they can and cannot do.

Launching a new brand

While managing a brand is difficult enough, creating a brand from scratch involves every element of marketing from the concept to the product to naming to production, selling, shipping, advertising, displaying, promoting, and analyzing the performance. You better be great at Marketing before taking on a launch from scratch.

Leading across organization

As you move into more senior leadership roles, extend your breadth across the organization with cross-functional roles. This means special projects or stepping into a cross-functional role. This move allows you to begin seeing every corner of the organization through the eyes of other team players in sales, HR, operations, and finance. 

Here is a tool to track Marketing experiences from an entry-level up to a senior role. I tell Marketers that you should try to have a good balance as you move up. Avoid having any experience gaps when you hit a senior level.

To read about our brand management training program, click on the link below: 

Brand Training Program

My new book, Beloved Brands, coming this spring.

How this Beloved Brands playbook can work for you. The purpose of this book is to make you a smarter brand leader so your brand can win in the market. You will learn how to think strategically, define your brand with a positioning statement and a brand idea, write a brand plan everyone can follow, inspire smart and creative marketing execution, and be able to analyze the performance of your brand through a deep-dive business review.

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

We help brands find growth

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a big idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand. Finally, the big idea must influence employees to personally deliver an outstanding consumer experience, to help move consumers along the journey to loving your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources. We work with your team to build out project plans, creative briefs and provide advice on marketing execution.

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

We make Brand Leaders smarter

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

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

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

 

 

 

How to conduct a deep-dive review of your consumer

At least once a year, you owe it to your brand to be doing an overall deep-dive business review. The consumer behavior is constantly evolving and maneuvering in the marketplace, influenced by market trends, economic conditions, need states, and other brand choices within the category.  I will show you how to use consumer tracking data, the brand funnel analysis and how it matches up to the brand love curve. 

How to use consumer tracking data

Tracking or household panel data helps you understand what’s going on in the marketplace and will match up to what’s happening at the store level. As discussed in the strategy section, you are either trying to get more people to use your brand (drive penetration) or try to change the way they use your brand (drive purchase frequency). This tool uncovers the data; then you need to put a story to that data.

A: Penetration is the percentage of households who purchased your brand product at least once during a measured period.

B: Buying rate or sales per buyer is the total amount of product purchased by the average buying household over an entire analysis period, expressed in dollars, units, or equivalent volume.

C: Purchase frequency or trips per buyer is the number of times the average buying household purchases your product over a time period (usually one year).

D: Purchase size or sales per trip is the average amount of product purchased on a single shopping trip by your average buyer. It can be calculated in dollars, units, or equivalent volume.

How to analyze your brand using brand funnels

Every brand should understand the details of their brand funnel, the best tool for measuring your brand’s underlying health. It is the equivalent to knowing your personal blood pressure or cholesterol scores. A classic brand funnel should measure awareness, familiarity, consideration, purchase, repeat, and loyalty. At the very least, you should measure awareness, purchase, and repeat. It is not just about understanding the absolute scores on the funnel but rather the ratios that explain how good of a job you are doing in moving consumers from one stage of the funnel to the next.

I will show you how the robustness of your brand’s funnel explains where your brand sits on the brand love curve. The broader the funnel, the better connected your brand is with consumers.

Absolute brand funnel scores

A: Starting with the chart above on the left, the first thing to do is look at the absolute brand funnel scores. There are many types of comparisons you can do, whether you compare to last year, competitors, or category norms.

B: Then look at the brand funnel ratios, which is the percentage score for how well your brand can convert consumers from one stage of the funnel to the next. To create ratios, divide the absolute score by the score above it on the funnel. In the example above, take the familiar score of 87% and divide it by the awareness score of 93% to determine a conversion ratio of 91%. This means 91% of aware consumers are familiar   

Brand funnel ratios

C: For the chart on the right, lay out the absolute scores and the ratios in a horizontal way to allow a comparison. You will notice these are the same scores as “A” and “B” in the previous chart. The crucial numbers for Gray’s Cookies are the ratios of 91%, 94%, 77%, 25%, and 12% at the top of the chart. Then bring in a close competitor (Devon’s) with their absolute and ratios scores to allow a direct comparison.

D: Then find the ratio gaps by subtracting the competitor’s ratio scores from your brand’s ratio scores. In the example, the first ratio gap is -7% ratio gap (91% – 98%) which means Devon’s does a 7% better job in converting consumers from awareness to familiar than Gray’s Cookies.

E: As you create ratio gaps along the bottom, you can see where your ratio is either stronger or weaker than the comparison brand. Finally, start analyzing the significant gaps between the two brands and tell a strategic story to explain each gap. Looking at the example, you can see Gray’s and Devon’s have similar scores at the top part of the funnel, but Gray’s starts to show real weakness (-23% and -51% gap) as it moves to repeat and loyalty. You need to address and fix these gaps with your brand plan.

Matching consumer analysis to the brand love curve

You can begin using your consumer tracking, brand funnel, market share, and the voice of the consumer to help explain where your brand sits on the brand love curve.   

Indifferent brands have skinny funnels, starting with very poor awareness scores. Consumers have little to no opinion. Concerning performance, you will see low sales and poor margins. Your brand plan for indifferent brands should increase awareness and consideration to kickstart the funnel.

The like it brands have funnels that are solid at the top but quickly narrow at the purchase stage. Consumers see these brands as ordinary and purchase only on a deal. When they are not advertised or on sale, sales fall off dramatically. These brands need to close potential leaks to build a loyal following behind happy experiences.

The love it brands have a reasonably robust funnel but may have a smaller leak at loyal. They have stronger growth and margins. Look for ways to feed the love and turn repeat purchases into a ritual or routine.

The beloved brands have the most robust brand funnels and positive consumer views. These brands should continuously track their funnel and attack any weaknesses before competitors exploit them. Also, it is time to leverage that brand love to influence others.

Brand Love Curve

To kick-start your review of the consumers, here are 10 probing questions:

  1. Who are your possible target consumer segments? Are they growing? How do you measure them?
  2. Who are the consumers most motivated by what you have to offer?
  3. Who is your current target? How have you determined demographics, behavioral or psychographic, geographic, and usage occasion? Generational trends?
  4. How is your brand performing against KEY segments? Share, sales, panel or funnel data, tracking scores?  What about by channel or geography?
  5. What drives consumer choice? And, what are the primary need states? How do these consumer needs line up to your brand assets? Where can you win with consumers?
  6. Map out the path to purchase and use brand funnels to assess your brand’s performance in moving through each stage. Are consumers changing at stages?  Are you failing at stages?
  7. What are the emerging consumer trends? How does your brand match up to potentially exploit them? Where would your competitors win? 
  8. What are the consumer’s ideal brand experiences and unmet needs we can address?
  9. What are the consumer’s emotional and functional need states? How does the brand perform against them? How are you doing in tracking studies to meet these benefits?
  10. What is the consumer’s perceptions of your brand and your competitors? Voice of the consumer. 

This consumer deep-dive is part of a larger overall deep-dive business review. To read more, click on the link below:

How to lead a deep-dive business review on your brand

My new book, Beloved Brands, coming this spring.

How this Beloved Brands playbook can work for you. The purpose of this book is to make you a smarter brand leader so your brand can win in the market. You will learn how to think strategically, define your brand with a positioning statement and a brand idea, write a brand plan everyone can follow, inspire smart and creative marketing execution, and be able to analyze the performance of your brand through a deep-dive business review.

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

We help brands find growth

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a big idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand. Finally, the big idea must influence employees to personally deliver an outstanding consumer experience, to help move consumers along the journey to loving your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources. We work with your team to build out project plans, creative briefs and provide advice on marketing execution.

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

We make Brand Leaders smarter

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

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

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

Graham Robertson bio

 

 

 

The 10 laws of forecasting to help brand leaders run their business

Most brand leaders are not very good at forecasting. They either over-think or quite frankly, under-think the forecast.  You have to know your Business:  I do believe that writing a Monthly Report is smart practice. It helps keep your finger on the pulse of the business. 

You need to know the underlying key performance indicators, match those up to the in-market realities of customer market orders on the surface and shortly.  Stay close to your sales team to hear the collection of details that will impact your forecast. 

And as the leader of the team, you have to steady the ship and avoid creating your fluctuations. An excellent question I always ask is “So what has changed since last month that makes us change our number?”  You will find that many times, the number has changed, yet not very little on your business has changed. That makes no sense. Why would you change the forecast?  

Avoid the panic or over-reaction. Communicate with supply chain your high/medium/low thinking so they can decide on inventory to avoid missed sales versus excess inventory.  Help them manage the risk. 

Here are the ten laws of forecasting:  

1. Your forecast will always be wrong.  

Knowing your forecast is wrong the second you release it, will focus you on finding midpoints, not on exactness. The only question that matters is “how wrong is your forecast?” Get the forecast accurate enough that it doesn’t hurt the business too much when it is within a reasonable variation.  

2. Correct predictions are not proof that the forecast method is accurate.

It could have been luck. Don’t just look at the results; look at your methodology. An excellent, reliable method produces consistent forecasts, which month after month will be more important than nailing one period.  Process matters.  

3. All trends eventually end.

No matter how accurately the trend is forecasted, at some point in the future, it will be wrong. Consider what might cause a trend to change (seasonality, new competition, saturated market, etc.) when evaluating a forecasted trend.

4. Complicated forecast methodologies can be dangerous.

Simple forecasting methods are easy to explain, understand, analyze and debug. Complicated methods tend to obscure key assumptions built into the forecast, which can lead to unexpected failures.  It’s ok if your supply chain experts use complicated formulas, but balance that with your instincts. Once you let go of your instincts, your forecast will get worse.

5. The underlying data in the forecast are nearly always wrong to some degree. 

Like forecasts being wrong, so too is the data that you are basing it on. You can have better data. But you will never have perfect data. It is just a question of how far off it is. Therefore, the more data in the forecasting process, the more likely some critical error will be missed.

6. Data that has not been regularly used is almost useless for forecasting.  

Data quality is usually directly proportional to the number of times it has been used on your business. Without regular usage, data errors remain undetected, and inconsistencies develop. It’s better to use reliable data in a forecast even if additional assumptions have to be made in order to use it.

7. Most forecasts are biased in some way — usually accidentally.

It is challenging to eliminate all bias in a forecast since the forecaster always has to make certain assumptions about which factors to include, how strongly to weight them, and which to ignore. And sometimes the bias is intentional.

8. Technology will not make up for a bad forecasting strategy.

Create an appropriate strategy first, then use the technology to make it better. Everyone always thinks the technology will help with forecasting, but if you don’t use your brain and think, the better system will just get you a bad forecast faster.  

9. Adding sophisticated technology to a bad model makes it worse.

If the model is bad, anything you add to it — statistical methods, time-series methods, neural networks, etc. — will make your forecast worse. And now, it will be harder to figure out what is going wrong.

10. Large numbers are easier to forecast than small ones.

With forecasting, everything gets easier as the numbers get bigger. A forecast of unit sales where there is an average of 1,000 units sold per month is a lot easier to get right than one where average sales are 2 per month. It is more about the variability than the size itself.

 

To read how to write a monthly report, click on this link below:

How to write the ideal Monthly Report for your brand. And, why you need one.

 

My new book, Beloved Brands, coming this spring.

How this Beloved Brands playbook can work for you. The purpose of this book is to make you a smarter brand leader so your brand can win in the market. You will learn how to think strategically, define your brand with a positioning statement and a brand idea, write a brand plan everyone can follow, inspire smart and creative marketing execution, and be able to analyze the performance of your brand through a deep-dive business review.

 

 

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

We help brands find growth

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a big idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand. Finally, the big idea must influence employees to personally deliver an outstanding consumer experience, to help move consumers along the journey to loving your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources. We work with your team to build out project plans, creative briefs and provide advice on marketing execution.

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

We make Brand Leaders smarter

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

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

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

Graham Robertson bio

 

Facebook apology finally comes on Sunday. But, is it too late?

It has been a rough year for Facebook, and an even rougher week as it lost about $60 Billion in valuation over the past week. There have been many unanswered questions concerning the Cambridge Analytics use of Facebook data, which users consider an outright breach of privacy. On top of that, that data was used to help influence the US elections in favor of Donald Trump, as well as how it has been used to influence the Brexit vote in the UK. With such divisive issues, the #deletefacebook has been gaining momentum. This weekend, Facebook has launched an apology print ad, that follows up on Mark Zuckerburg’s failed attempt to apologize all week.

The bad apology interview

I am not a PR expert, but this apology interview with CNN was a disaster. He seemed extremely nervous and uncertain. He’s made it open that he doesn’t like doing media. Then, why do something so casual and unscripted? Maybe he should have gotten up at a podium, wear a suit, and read from the teleprompter. But aside from those tactics, his answers were awful. “We don’t even know if there are other Cambridge Analytics out there” or “we are going to look into it” casts doubt, not reassurance. Have a look.

 

The Facebook print ad

Facebook launched a full-page ad in the UK’s largest newspapers, including The Observer, The Mail on Sunday, Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Mirror, and Sunday Express.

Here is the full text of the Ad:

We have a responsibility to protect your information. If we can’t, we don’t deserve it.

You may have heard about a quiz app built by a university researched that leaked Facebook data of millions of people in 2014. This was a breach of trust, and I’m sorry we didn’t do more at the time. We’re now taking steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

We’ve already stopped apps like this from getting so much information. Now we’re limiting the data apps get when you sign in using Facebook.

We’re also investigating every single app that had access to large amounts of data before we fixed this. We expect there are others. And when we find them, we will ban them and tell everyone affected.

Finally, we’ll remind you which apps you’ve given access to your information – so you can shut off the ones you don’t want anymore.

Thank you for believing in this community. I promise to do better for you.

It was signed by the co-founder and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, with a small Facebook logo underneath.

Had Zuckerberg read this from a podium, would this have helped? Well, it’s certainly better than the sit-down interview, in that it is more definitive. I would have preferred seeing this six months ago. Get ahead of the crisis, before it hits you in the face.

The next six months will be very telling for Facebook. It might be a roller coaster ride if they don’t get ahead of these issues. If I were a Facebook investor, I’d be scared to let Mark Zuckerberg testify before the US Congress. Let’s hope he does a better job than he did with this casual softball interview with CNN.

When will the wild, wild West of media end? 

As a selfish marketer, I’m getting really tired of this decade. Brand leaders desperately want stability. And, they need it, as their year depends on it.

I want Facebook to survive, as I fear the opening up of the alternative. Sure, privacy, privacy, privacy. I get that this might make people think twice about being on Facebook. But, I have a great fear that #deleteFacebook will mess up my numbers for the year.

I really just want an extremely regulated Facebook, not only in the breach of data issues but in the openness and reliability of media issues.

I like the idea of a social media oligopoly. Recent data says that 85% of digital advertising is going to Facebook and Google. Sure, a social media oligopoly will mean I pay higher prices on media. But, my hope is that as social media matures, at least I will know what I’m getting for my money.

I see a problem with Facebook’s behavior overall. They think that they are so big, they think you can keep everything a secret. Yes, they have a billion users, so yes, they have the power. But, they feel they don’t have to tell me how many true users there really are or the truth about how long consumers really watch a Facebook video.

Maybe the biggest privacy issue with Facebook is the wall of privacy they hide behind. Every issue that comes out, it appears Facebook knew about it for months or years.

I want openness to numbers, the same openness that I see with other media options, like TV or print. No more secrets (or lies).

My hope is this is the wake-up call for Facebook.  They have hit the big times. And now, it is time to start acting like it.

In Zuckerberg’s TV interview, my first reaction “Wow, he appears as nervous as a teenager going for his first job interview. He really needs to grow up.”

Well Facebook, it might be time to grow up.

 

My new book, Beloved Brands, coming this spring.

How this Beloved Brands playbook can work for you. The purpose of this book is to make you a smarter brand leader so your brand can win in the market. You will learn how to think strategically, define your brand with a positioning statement and a brand idea, write a brand plan everyone can follow, inspire smart and creative marketing execution, and be able to analyze the performance of your brand through a deep-dive business review.

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

We help brands find growth

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a big idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand. Finally, the big idea must influence employees to personally deliver an outstanding consumer experience, to help move consumers along the journey to loving your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources. We work with your team to build out project plans, creative briefs and provide advice on marketing execution.

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

We make Brand Leaders smarter

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

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

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

Graham Robertson bio

 

Take the mystery out of finding consumer insights, by looking deep beneath the data

Consumer insights are little secrets hidden beneath the surface, which explain the underlying behaviors, motivations, pain points, and emotions of your consumers. You must look beneath the data to add context and understanding to show your target that you get them.

Your consumers may not even be able to explain the insight until you play it back to them. And when they say, “Yeah, that is exactly how I feel.” Brands should think of consumer insights as a potential competitive advantage, equal in importance to intellectual property.

Use observations to add context and understanding

Avoid relying too heavily on facts and data alone without any context or story. Too many marketers think that data, trends, and facts are insights. Here’s a data point: “People in Brazil brush their teeth four times per day, compared to 1.7 times per day for North Americans.”  Do you think that is an insight? Some people do. But when you think of how little you know about this data point, you realize you need to go deeper into the context to gain an understanding.

You must start to ask more questions, by asking who, what, when, where, or asking how and even why, that’s when we begin to turn the fact into an insight.

Stereotypes and clichés are dangerous

I once heard someone say, “Women over 50 are stuck in their ways, and not willing to change their routines.” That is not a valid statement for many categories. Here are two examples of women over 50 making dramatic changes: a) Women take 8x more vitamins at 55, compared to 50 and b) The fastest growth for the Apple brand has been women over 50. Be careful you don’t stereotype; especially when you are not in the target market, you are going after.

Common knowledge offers no competitive advantage. I hear insights all the time that are not unique secrets. For instance, “Golfers wish there was a way they could hit the ball longer and straighter” offers no competitive advantage. Everyone in the golf industry knows this. Dig deeper.

Watch out that you don’t use insights just related to your product rather than about the consumer’s LIFE! Too many marketers use insights like, “Whenever I get hungry, I love eating my Gray’s chicken nuggets.” This type of statement is too blatant to be an insight, yet people put stuff like this all the time.

How to find smart ownable insights that will engage and move consumers

Go deep to understand and explain trends lying beneath the data.

Think like a therapist: Listen, observe, collect, challenge, and carefully draw conclusions you can play back to the consumer for assurance. Use the voice of the consumer, social media, to listen and use our emotional cheat sheet to draw conclusions.

Hunt through the data to draw hypothetical insights.

The dictionary definition of the word insight is “seeing below the surface.” Sort through every data point, including market share information, panel data, testing and tracking results, brand funnel, customer sales, etc. With each data point, keep digging until you see a data break that needs explaining. Ask yourself, “So what does that mean for the consumer?” over and over until you see the “Why it matters” come to life and explain the cause of the consumer’s behavior.

Make sure it fits with your consumer’s life.

Try to map out a day-in-the-life, weekly life or even the life stages your consumers goes through to understand their insights and pain points. Take a holistic view of the consumer, to ensure you figure out where your brand fits in with their life. Ask questions that force you to go deeper, avoiding clichés that keep you stuck at the surface level and stop you from getting to the sincere, rich, and meaningful consumer insights.

Find something that is an inspiring connection to engage and move consumers.

We need to find that magic secret, going deep below to show the consumer we get them. Insights enable brands to connect with their consumers on a deeper emotional level, showing ‘we get you.’

The 360-degree mining for consumer insights

Building a complete picture of your consumer by looking at multiple sources is an excellent methodology to find consumer insights.

Start with market data, and then add your observations, the voice of the consumer, emotional need states, and life moments:   

  1. What we can read: Use available data such as market share results, tracking studies or category trends. Look for underlying explanations of the data breaks, drivers, inhibitors, as well as new trends among consumers, channels, and competitors. Tell the story beneath the data.
  2. What we see: Use observations of consumer reactions, coming from focus groups, product tests, advertising testing and direct consumer engagements to add to the insights. Watch the way consumers respond.
  3. What we sense: Listen to the voice of consumer (VOC), assessing consumer comments on social media, brand reviews, or through market research. Listen for specific word choices or phrases the consumer’s use.
  4. What we feel: Use observations and listening to match the emotional need states with how the use of your brand makes them feel.
  5. Day-in-the-life moments: Map out the consumer’s life with explanations of underlying behaviors, motivations, pain points, and emotions at any moment of the day or week. Draw conclusions on how parts of their life could impact their path to purchase.

Once you have completed all five areas of the 360-degree mining process, get in the consumer’s shoes, observe, listen, and understand how they think, act, feel, and behave. Be empathetic to their fears, motivations, frustrations, and desires. Learn their language and use their voice.

Learn the secrets that only they know, even if they cannot explain. Insights are a great way to demonstrate “We know you” because the number one reason consumers buy a brand simply that “It is a brand for me.”

Case study: Consumer insights for quitting smoking   

Bringing the insights to life

When I worked in the quit-smoking categories, I used the 360-degree mining for consumer insights. I have never smoked in my life, so all of this was new and forced me to listen, observe, and go deeper.

Mapping out the Consumer insights

  • The starting data point was, “Studies show smokers will try to quit cold-turkey over seven times before reaching for a smoking aid to help them quit.” It speaks to how hard it is to quit, and how many times it takes to achieve success. Regarding smoking aids, it shows how the product is the last resort.
  • Adding observations from focus groups, I could see how smokers become very agitated. We held two-hour focus groups and talked non-stop about what could get them to quit smoking. In the first hour, they were polite, but after one hour without a cigarette, I could see their agitation grow to a boiling point.   
  • When I listened further, I heard them say, “I feel guilty I can’t quit” or “I know I should quit” or “Whenever I quit, I feel I’m not myself. I get so irritable that I give up” or “I wish smoking wasn’t so bad for you because quitting smoking sucks.” These are some of the underlying feelings coming out, expressed in their words.
  • Using the emotional need states, I gravitated to the consumer’s lack of optimism or confidence to quit, how smokers feel out of control whenever they try to quit, and how they feel not themselves.
  • Observing how quitting smoking fits into their lives, I could see how they take their misery from trying to quit out on those around them. They linked the moment of quitting smoking with their “worst version of themselves coming out” and talked about “the monster.” Some said their spouse or friends had told them they would prefer they keep smoking rather than having to deal with this terrible version of themselves. 

Consumer insight (connection point):

  • “I know I should quit. I’ve tried to quit smoking so many times, it’s ridiculous. I’m not myself. I’m grouchy, irritable and feel out of control. Quitting smoking sucks!” When I shared this secret back with smokers who want to quit, they say, “Yup, that’s exactly how I feel.”

Consumer enemy (pain point):

  • “I fear quitting smoking will bring out the monster in me, turning me into the worst version of myself.” 

How to write meaningful consumer insights

Force yourself to get in the shoes of your consumer and use their voice. Every consumer insight should start with the word “I” to get into the shoes of your consumer, and you should put the insight in quotes to use their voice. Here are some examples of good and bad consumer insights: 

Do you know your consumer better than your competition knows your consumer? 

Brands should think of consumer insights like you do intellectual property. Your knowledge of your consumer is a competitive advantage. The deeper the love a brand can build with your most cherished consumers, the more powerful and profitable that brand will be, going far beyond what the product alone could ever deliver. There is only one source of revenue. Not the products you sell, but the consumers who buy them.

Consumer insights must show up at every consumer touchpoint

Knowing the secrets of your consumers can be a potent asset for your brand. The best brand communication should be like whispering an inside-joke that only you and your friend get. When the consumer insight connects, it makes consumers stop and say, “Hmmm. That’s exactly how I feel. I thought I was the only one who felt like that.” When portrayed with the brand’s message, whether through packaging, advertising or at the purchase moment, the consumer will think the brand is made just for them.

 

And, keep an eye out for the launch of our first book. We will be launching beloved brands in April of 2018.

beloved brands book

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

We help brands find growth

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a big idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand. Finally, the big idea must influence employees to personally deliver an outstanding consumer experience, to help move consumers along the journey to loving your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources. We work with your team to build out project plans, creative briefs and provide advice on marketing execution.

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

We make Brand Leaders smarter

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

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

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

Graham Robertson bio

 

 

How to achieve success in your role as a Brand Manager

The new Brand Manager mistakenly thinks this role is about managing others because they finally get a chance to manage a direct report. However, the bigger part of this role is the transition from doer to owner. Yes, you will get your first chance to manage someone, but many times that effort can be a distraction from your chance to continue to learn and grow. Many first-time Brand Managers are disheartened to find out they are a disaster with their first direct report. I tell them they should try to improve with each new direct report and then they will feel more comfortable around the fifth direct report. 

The five success factors for the Brand Manager role

1. Take ownership of the brand

A great Brand Manager takes ownership of the brand. Many Brand Managers will struggle with the transition from being the helper to now being the owner. As you move into the job, you have to get away the idea that someone will hand you a project list. Not only will you make the project list, but you should also come up with the strategies that set up the need for the projects.

The best Brand Manager speaks with a telling voice, rather than an asking voice. It is great to be asking questions as feelers, but you must realize that most people on the team will be looking to you for the decisions. They want to be heard and have their expertise recognized. They recommend; you decide. Even when managing upwards be careful you do not ask what you should do. A great boss will want you to tell them what you want to do, and let the debate begin from there. 

2. Able to give Strategic direction

A great Brand Manager provides a clear vision and set of strategies. You should create a vision for the brand, to serve as a rallying cry for your team. Let everyone know where you want to go. The strategic choices and your brand’s execution should match up with your vision.

As the brand owner, you become the steward of the strategy. You should reject everything that does not line up with your vision. Learn to think in terms of strategic pillars, to steer, control, inspire and manage the various functions and Agencies who support your brand. You have to be the one to drive a consistent delivery on your brand, despite having a wide-ranging collection of people behind the brand.

3. Know how to work the system

A great Brand Manager knows what they want, then goes and gets what they want. Organizations are filled with functional groups, layers, external agencies, with everyone carrying a different set of goals and motivations. To an outsider, every organization appears to be a collective mess.

The best Brand Manager can see much clearer than others. They can quickly understand and appreciate the motivations of various key stakeholders, and use that knowledge to work the system. Your greatness comes from the greatness of the subject matter experts who work on your brand. You must get them to give you their best. Tap into their motivations, to ask for their best work. One secret that took me many years to figure out; if you want someone’s best work, sometimes it is as simple as asking for their best work. The reason it works is very few Brand Managers ask. 

4. Achieve success while dealing with pressure

A great Brand Manager can handle the pressure of Marketing, including ambiguity, the push for results, dealing with relationships and managing their time. If you can manage these four pressure points effectively, then you can even begin to use them against each other.

Ambiguity can kill the Brand Manager

The unknown of ambiguity and the time pressure of deadlines can work against each other. However, the best Brand Manager will figure out how to work them to their advantage, as they evoke the right balance of patience with ambiguity and the persistence in getting things done.

At every level, there is time pressure. Be organized, disciplined and work the system, so it does not get in your way. If you are fully aware of the timelines, better than others on your team, you can use time pressure against your people to push for better work. I have found many subject matter experts, especially creative people, will choose the best path when pushed with time pressure.

For example, with creative advertising, I have pushed right up against a known timeline, and asked, “We do not see good enough ideas yet. What else do you have?” More often than not, the next answers are their best. If you wait too long, you might miss an opportunity. However, if you move too quickly, you can choose a suboptimal path. How long are you able to deal with an unknown variable on your brand, without losing your composure? Stay relaxed. The consequence of not remaining composed is it creates a scared and stressed-out team, who might make poor decisions that lead to poor results. It is a dangerous game. But, when played well, you can get the best from your team.

The stress of results

Another significant pressure for Marketers is when positive results do not come in. It can be frustrating but is a reality we face. Force yourself to course correct, re-examine the underlying issues, and regroup with your team to look at other options, rather than continuing to repeat and repeat and repeat.

There is pressure in relationships that many Marketers feel, but are not able to fix. I recommend you should be pro-active in making the first move to build a relationship. Try to figure out the motivations and frustration points in those you work with before they become a problem. You have to know where someone stands before you can figure out where you can move them. Common ground is usually not that far away.

5. Managing others

A great Brand Manager spends the effort to make their Assistant Brand Manager as good as can be. From my experience, most Brand Managers struggle with their first five direct reports. This is not meant as a bit of a cop-out from being a good manager, but rather a focus on using your first five experiences to learn how to be a good manager.

The key is to keep self-evaluating and looking for ways to improve with each direct report. It can be a struggle to shift from “do-er” to coach. It is always tempting to think you can do something faster, so you may as well do it. The problem is you just become the “super ABM.”

Many Brand Managers fail to share the spotlight, so it becomes hard for you to showcase your Assistant Brand Manager. But you must believe the work of your Assistant Brand Manager will reflect positively on how good of a manager you are. Assistant Brand Managers need feedback—both the good and bad—to improve.

Be the manager who gives feedback

I see too many Brand Managers not giving enough feedback. And so many afraid of “going negative” so the ABM is left in the dark or left believing they are doing a good job. Great Brand Managers take the time to teach up front, give the ABM some room to try it out and then provide hands-on feedback in real time. Use weekly meetings to give both positive feedback and address gaps.

I believe Brand Managers should do quarterly performance reviews with their ABMs. At that level, an annual review is just not enough. They will learn faster with more feedback.

Are you missing the necessary marketing skills?

The crucial Marketing skills you need. At Beloved Brands, we use a 360-degree view, where you need to be able to analyze, think, define, plan and then execute. And then repeat.Marketing Training

 

1. Analyze brand performance

Great brand leaders must be willing and able to dig deep into data, draws comparisons and builds an analytical story to help draw out the business conclusions. They have to able to lead a best-in-class 360-degree deep-dive business review for the brand. They understand all sources of brand data—whether that’s coming from sales, consumption, market share, brand funnel data, market research or brand financials. Finally, the great brand leader must be able to write analytical performance reports that outline the strategic implications

2. Think Strategically

A brand leader must be able to think strategically, by asking the right interruptive questions before reaching for solutions. They must be able to employ 360-degree strategic thinking that looks at five types of strategic thinking: your brand’s core strength, consumer strategy, competitors, situation and consumer engagement. Strategic alignment is a crucial skill. They have to be able to lead a well-thought strategic discussion across the organization. Finally, the great brand leader must be able to make smart strategic decisions, based on vision, focus, opportunity, early win, and leverage.

3. Define your Brand

A brand leader must be able to define their brand. You must be able to define the ideal consumer target, framed with need states, insights and enemies. They must take a consumer-centric approach to turn brand features into functional and emotional benefits. And then, they must be able to bring it all together to find a winning brand positioning space that is own-able and motivates consumers. Finally, the great brand leader should be able to develop a Brand Idea that can lead every consumer touchpoint. There are five consumer touch-points including the brand promise, brand communication, innovation, purchase moment and the consumer experience.

4. Create Brand Plans that everyone can follow

The brand leader must be able to understand and lead all elements of a smart brand plan; vision, purpose, goals, issues, strategies, tactics. They must be able to turn strategic thinking into smart strategic objective statements for the brand plan. They must be strong in presenting brand plans to senior management and across the organization. And finally, the great brand leader must be able to develop smart execution plans that deliver the brand strategies

5. Inspire creative execution

The brand leader must be able to write a strategic, focused and thorough creative brief to inspire great work from experts. They must be able to lead all marketing projects on brand communication, innovation, selling or experience. And they must be able to inspire greatness from teams of experts at agencies or throughout the organization. Finally, the great brand leader must make smart marketing execution decisions that tighten bond with consumers.

What are your own skill gaps?

Taking this a step further, you can use the assessment tool to identify gaps in your team. Everyone has skill gaps at various parts of your career. Maybe you haven’t had the chance to gain experience in one of the core areas. And now you are thrust into a role where you need that skill. 

Marketing Training

Where you see skill gaps, you should invest in Marketing Training programs to help close those gaps. Today’s Brand Managers have not had the access to the Marketing Training that previous generations of Marketers have seen. It could be the result of budget cuts or the assumption you can learn it on the job.

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

And, keep an eye out for the launch of our first book. We will be launching beloved brands in April of 2018.

beloved brands book

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

We help brands find growth

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a big idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand. Finally, the big idea must influence employees to personally deliver an outstanding consumer experience, to help move consumers along the journey to loving your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources. We work with your team to build out project plans, creative briefs and provide advice on marketing execution.

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

We make Brand Leaders smarter

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

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

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

Graham Robertson bio

How to handle yourself at the creative advertising meeting

When you are in your next creative advertising meeting, you should think fast with your instincts, while trying to represent your consumer. The best brand leader plays a most crucial role in the creative advertising process. While they are not designed to be experts, they need to know enough to make advertising decisions, but never enough to do the work.

View the advertising through the eyes of your consumer. Try to see the work how they would see it. I would not even let my agency do a set-up to the ads. I said, “Just show me the work as though I see it on TV.” I felt any setup or explanation clouded my judgment and impacted my ability to use my instincts.

As you are sitting in that decision-making hot seat at a creative meeting, here are some challenging questions to ask yourself:

1. What does your gut instinct say?

The reality of a marketing job is you might be coming into the creative meeting from a 3-hour forecasting meeting or deep-dive financial review, or you just got back from working in the lab with scientists on a new ingredient. It is not easy to change speeds as you head into a creative meeting.

Relax, find your creative energy, let it soak in and find those instincts. I created a “gut instincts checklist” to help prompt you for when you need your instincts.

Creative Advertising Execution

2. Do you love it?

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 okay” in the end. But if you love it, you’ll go the extra mile and make it amazing. Ask if you would you be proud of this as your legacy.

3. Is the advertising on strategy?

Slow down, and find some thinking time after the meeting. In a quiet place alone, make sure it delivers on what you wrote in your strategy documents. Go back through the brief to make sure the advertising will deliver the desired response, and the strategic objective statement you wrote in the brand communications plan. One caution is not to use the extra time to over-think the advertising and talk yourself out of a good ad that works.

4. How big is the creative idea?

Is the creative idea big enough to last 5-10 years? Will the idea work across various mediums (paid, earned, social) across all distribution and the entire product line? Think of being so proud of leaving a legacy for your successor to help think about the longer term.

Making advertising decisions

At the decision point, you have three choices:

        • Approve
        • Reject
        • Change

From my experience, brand leaders rarely approve creative ideas outright. There also seems a reluctant or fear to reject outright. So marketers mistakenly assume their role is to change the ads. I see too many come to the creative meeting with a pen and paper and start to write feverishly all the recommended changes they have for each ad. The problem is if we marketers are not talented enough to come up with the ad in the first place, why do we think we are talented enough to change the ad? You are a generalist, surrounded by experts. Use your experts.

Creative Advertising Execution

Next time you go into a creative meeting, stop giving the creative team your solutions, and give them a new problem you are seeing and then let the creative team figure out the solutions. If the creative brief is the original “box” for the creative team to figure out the ideal solution, then use your feedback at the creative meeting to create a “new box” for the creative team figure out a new solution.

Use your feedback to challenge and create a new problem for your agency to figure out the solution.

Challenge yourself to get better at advertising 

  1. If you realized that how you show up as a client was the most significant factor in getting better advertising, do you think you would show up differently? If so, then show up right. 
  2. Are you one of your agency’s favorite clients? Bring a positive spirit that inspires everyone to want to work on your brand and never treat them like they have to work on your business.
  3. Do you stay focused on one target, one strategy, one benefit behind one brand idea? Avoid the “just in case list” where you add “one more thing.” The best advertising is like a bullhorn in a crowd. The worst advertising is like a cluttered bulletin board where you can’t read anything.
  4. When building a creative brief or providing feedback, do you resist the temptation to provide your own creative ideas or recommend changes? When you are dealing with an expert, give them your problems, not your solutions.
  5. Are you the type of brand leader who is willing to fight anyone in the way of great work? Even your boss? When you do, you will start to see everyone on the team fight for you. 
  6. Do you resist temptation in approving advertising that is “just OK” and “feels safe”? What signal do you think it sends everyone involved? You have to LOVE your advertising, and you should never settle for OK. 

To read our story “The 10 steps of the creative advertising process” click on this link below:

The 10 steps of the creative advertising process

At Beloved Brands, we run workshops 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 MARKETING EXECUTION, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

We help brands find growth

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a big idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand. Finally, the big idea must influence employees to personally deliver an outstanding consumer experience, to help move consumers along the journey to loving your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources. We work with your team to build out project plans, creative briefs and provide advice on marketing execution.

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

We make Brand Leaders smarter

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

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

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

Graham Robertson Profile