How to Guide for Marketers

How to differentiate your brand through product innovation

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“Everything that can be invented has been invented.”

Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, US Patent Office,  1899

The quote above may have missed out on the airplane, radio, TV, microwave, car, computer, internet, nearly every cpg product and of course my beloved iPhone. Maybe the sentiment of the quote was just about 100 years too early. In the last decade, most of the great innovation has been relegated to social media and electronics. I hope this century brings us much more than just Facebook, BBM and Twitter. In the consumer goods area, we must be on the 197th version of “new” cherry flavoured bubble gum since 1955, we’ve now seen hundreds of “new” peach yoghurt and I hope I never see another “new” laundry soap telling us that their little blue beads get their clothes really clean.  

New products that truly solve a consumer problem in a unique way are rare. This is the generation of marketing incrementalism. On most brand plans I see “launch innovative new products”  sits comfortably in the #3, 4 or 5 slot on the plan, while #1 is fix the advertising and #2 is get more distribution.  

There are four key stages to innovation:  1) Invention 2) Differentiation 3) Experience and 4) Perception.  And the marketing is different at each phase.

Stage 1: Invention of the Core Product: The challenge of a truly new product is to finding something that is truly different: a new technology, delivery, format or process.   Rarely, do we get to work on a game changing “invention”.  
Stage 1 of a new product usually focuses all of their efforts on launching and explaining why it is needed.  The product at this stage is usually just the core product, not yet perfected, higher costs and limited sales with no profits. The advertising is about awareness and the message is simple:  you have this problem, we solve that problem.   There’s an effort to the distribution, because many customers are risk averse and afraid of new products.   Consumers are willing to pay a little more to solve the problem, they overlook all the flaws and limitations, and they think “why didn’t I think of this”. While some consumers love the new product already, most consumers still sit at the skeptical and indifferent stage.  

Stage 2: Product Proliferation means Differentiation: With a little bit of success in the market comes copy cats. With more consumers buying, there becomes room for some differentiation, but mostly limited to product still: new features and added services on top of the core product.  They might have found a way to make things cheaper, easier to use or better tasting. Prices come down and brands offer more variety.  Distribution becomes a battle ground and getting full distribution becomes the goal. Customers try to line up behind certain brands–looking for preferential treatment. The advertising is about consideration and purchase, trying to stake out certain spaces, shifting from product to brand and separating your brand from others. Brands now sell the solution, not just the product.  And consumers start to choose, one brand over another.  While some consumers prefer one brand over another, most consumers are at the like it stage.

Stage 3: It’s all about the Experience: In order to establish leadership or challenge for leadership, brands begin to talk about the experience consumers will have with their product. It becomes no longer about the brand or product but about the consumer and how your brand fits into their life. Brands look to use positioning strategies to separate themselves, focusing on key targets, with unique benefits–a balance of emotional and rational benefits. Advertising brings the consumer front and centre, trying to establish a routine with your brand in it. Brands try to move to the love it stage, some do, but most will be stuck still at the like it stage. Those that get stuck are forced into value and focusing on price, promotions or value. The brands that reach the love it stage can command a premium, drive share  and establish leadership in the category.

Stage 4:  Managing the Perception:  As the market matures, any share point movements become difficult gain any traction on real quality so the shift moves to perceived quality.  Strategy shifts to brand personality where tone and manner in the execution are paramount so that Consumers connect with the brand and begin to see themselves in the brand. Brands push to become a Beloved Brand, where demand becomes desire, needs become cravings, thinking is replaced with feelings and Consumers become outspoken fans.  The brand becomes powerful, with power over distribution because consumers would switch stores before they switch brands and power over competitors who are stuck trying to establish their own point of difference. Profits are at their highest–revenue, margins are both strong and spending is focused and efficient on maintaining the relationship.  While at the top of the mountain, with firm leadership in the category, the brand is always at risk of losing that leadership. Challenge yourself continuously the stay at the top. Avoid becoming complacent.

Ask Gap Clothing, Cadillac, IBM computers, Levis, Sony or Kodak who have each reached the Beloved Stage only to be replaced by new products and brands and moved back down the love curve towards Indifferent. Most recently, Blackberry.  Only 18 months ago, people jokingly used the term “crackberry” to describe their addictions.  No longer.

The four stages can easily be matched up to the Brand Love Curve and help establish strategic focus for the brand.  At the Invention stage, consumers remain indifferent until you build awareness and explain how your product solves a problem in my life. At the Differentiation stage, some like it, but you are now facing proliferation and attack forcing your brand to stake out a claim. At the experience stage, you need to become part of your consumers life and balance the emotional and rational benefits that can move you to the love it stage. And finally, you have to tightly manage the Perceptions to become that Beloved Brand for Life stage, it’s about connecting with consumers so they see themselves through your brand.  You need to establish your personality and begin to wield the power of being a Beloved Brand.

But be careful: very few brands remain at the top for very long.

  

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

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

To contact us, email us at graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands

Positioning 2016.112

How to Guide for Marketers

How to write a Creative Brief

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I wish everyone would stop writing ugly Creative Briefs. The brief is a crucial way for brand leaders to control the strategy, but give freedom on execution to the experts who execute. Too many marketers have this backward, preferring to give freedom on strategy with various possible strategic options layered within the creative brief. They attempt to try to control the creative outcome by writing a long list of tangled mandatories.creative briefs

When you write a big-wide creative brief with layers of options within the brief, the Agency just peels the brief apart and gives you strategic options. For instance, if you put a big wide target market of 18-55 years-old, your agency will present one ad for 18-25 years-old, another one for 25-40 years-old and the third ad for 40-55 years-old. If you put two objectives into the brief, asking to drive trial and drive usage, you will get one ad idea for driving trial and one ad idea for usage. This means you are picking your brand strategy based on which ad idea you like best. That is wrong. Pick your strategy first and use the creativity of execution to express that strategy.

A Creative Brief creates the box to play in

Most great creative advertising people I have met are problem solvers, not inventors. I would describe them as ‘in-the-box’ creative thinkers, not blue sky “out-of-the-box” thinkers. With that in mind, never give your creative team a blank slate or blank canvas and ask them to come up with an ad. They want your problems to solve, so never give them your solution. If they are ‘in-the-box thinkers’, then the role of the Creative Brief is to create the right box for them to solve. Here is what creative people do not want from you:

  1. A Blank canvas: Creative people would prefer a business problem to solve, not a wide-open request for advertising options.
  2. An unclear problem: Creative people need a tightly defined and focused problem to generate great work that meets your needs.
  3. A long list of mandatories: Do not create a tangled web of mandatories that almost write the ad itself. These lists only trap the creative team, holding them back from doing anything breakthrough, surprising or spectacular.
  4. Your Solutions: Creative people find it demotivating to be asked for their expertise (solving problems) and then not be fully utilized (given your answer).

Keep the brief small

A smart Creative Brief should be brief, not long. Avoid the “Just in Case” list by taking your pen and stroking a few things off your creative brief! It is always enlightening when you tighten your Creative Brief. Make tough decisions of what goes into the brief, so you narrow the brief down to:

  • One objective
  • One desired consumer response
  • One target tightly defined
  • One main benefit
  • Up to two main reasons to believe

Five ways to make your brief better

Here are some simple Rules for Writing a Smart Creative Brief:

  1. Make sure you have a tight target: Do not spread your resources against a target so broad that leave everyone thinking your message is for someone else. Target the people who are the most motivated by what you do best, and you will make your brand feel personal. The best thing a brand can do is make consumers think, “This is for me.”
  2. Talk benefits, and not features: Start a conversation that shows what the consumers get or how they will feel. Do not just yell features at the consumer.
  3. Drive one objective at a time: Focus on getting consumers to do only one thing at a time, whether you want them to see, think, feel or do something. Force yourself to make a decision that links with the brand strategy.
  4. Drive one main message at a time: If you put so many messages into your ad, consumers will just see and hear a cluttered mess. They will not know what you stand for, and you will never build a reputation for anything. Use your brand’s Big Idea to simplify and organize the brand messaging.
  5. Connect with consumers where they are most likely to engage with the brand story: Where in the market you choose to stand out can be just as important as what you say. While efficient media is important, focusing solely on efficiency and ROI might lead to staying beneath the consumer’s radar.

Transform your Brand Communications Strategy into a Creative Brief

In the Brand Plan chapter, I laid out the seven questions of the Brand Communications Plan:

  1. Who is in the consumer target?
  2. What are we are selling?
  3. Why should they believe us?
  4. Does your brand have an organizing Big Idea?
  5. What do we want the advertising to do?
  6. What do we want people to think, feel or do?
  7. Where will you deliver the message?

Brand Communications Plan How to write a Creative Brief

Transforming the plan into a Creative Brief

Take all the work the strategic homework you developed through the Brand Communications Plan, and begin to populate the 12 questions of the creative brief template:

Brand Communications Plan How to write a Creative Brief

A well written creative brief takes everything you know about the brand and strategically desire, and distills it down to 1 page. Here’s an example of a good creative brief template:

Format for How to write a Creative Brief

To learn more about this type of thinking, you should explore 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.

Beloved Brands book

To order the e-book version or the paperback version from Amazon, click on this link: https://lnkd.in/eF-mYPe

If you use Kobo, you can find Beloved Brands in over 30 markets using this link: https://lnkd.in/g7SzEh4

And if you are in India, you can use this link to order: https://lnkd.in/gDA5Aiw

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.

We think the best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique playbook tools are the backbone of our workshops. We bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

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 brand 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.

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.

Our brand playbook methodology will challenge you to unlock future growth for your brand

  1. Our deep-dive assessment process will give you the knowledge of the issues facing your brand, so you can build a smart plan to unleash future growth.
  2. Find a winning brand positioning statement that motivates consumers to buy, and gives you a competitive advantage to drive future growth.
  3. Create a brand idea to capture the minds and hearts of consumers, while inspiring and focusing your team to deliver greatness on the brand’s behalf.
  4. Build a brand plan to help you make smart focused decisions, so you can organize, steer, and inspire your team towards higher growth.
  5. Advise on advertising, to find creative that drives branded breakthrough and use a motivating messaging to set up long-term brand growth.
  6. Our brand training program will make your brand leaders smarter, so you have added confidence in their performance to drive brand growth.

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

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

You have my personal promise to help you solve your brand building challenges. I will give you new thinking, so you can unlock future growth for your brand.

Signature

Graham Robertson

Founder and CMO, Beloved Brands Inc.

 

 

 

 

 

How to Guide for Marketers

How to fail as an Assistant Brand Manager

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Every year, CPG companies hire thousands of the best and brightest to become Assistant Brand Managers.  Usually, there are big recruiting events that generate hundreds of resumes or companies use recruiters to send the best resumes they have. The process for screening can be intense with  5+ interviews, including senior people, sometimes a test or a presentation to a group. Yet, about 50% of ABMs won’t even make it to Brand Manager within the 2-3 years and out they go. It’s a tough up or out process.

Here are the top 10 reasons why ABMs fail:

  1. They can’t do the analytical story tell. They fail to turn monthly share reports into stories that can travel up the organization. Their deep dive analysis is either too complicated that no one can follow the story or too shallow that they only do the “surface cleaning” type analysis that never really finds the real insight, just what we already know.
  2. They struggle to deal with the ambiguity of marketing. The ambiguity boxes them in where they can’t think differently about a problem or it causes them personal stress. They come up with solutions to get out of ambiguity rather than reveling in the ambiguity to find the best solution. I once asked a candidate “how do you deal with ambiguity”. Her answer was “I try to organize it because no one likes ambiguity”. She asked me how I deal with ambiguity and I said “I revel in it. I love it. I struggle with it. Let the ambiguity eat away at me until I find that great answer, not just settling for an answer because it gets me out of the ambiguity faster.”
  3. They are slow at moving projects through. They struggle to make it happen: could be that they are indecisive, not productive, disorganized or can’t work through others. They are frustratingly slow for others. They keep missing the small milestones causing the team to miss the deadlines. In some cases, it’s not whether you are slow or fast, but really are you slower than your peers?
  4. They selfishly think about themselves. This becomes the leadership de-railer. It’s about ego, gossip, over-stepping their role, going above heads politically. Highly political, but not really politically astute. Not a team player with peers or cross functional players. The system has a way of isolating these people. This raises a red flag for future leadership roles.
  5. They don’t work well through others. Conflicts, teamwork issues, communication. The odd thing about an ABM is you must work through a group of subject matter experts (SME’s) who know what they are doing, and you’re relying on these same people to teach you how to be a good ABM. Your supply manager will teach you about forecasting, packaging approvals and even design tricks. Your finance manager can teach you about accounting and the key indicators management looks for. Your promo manager or trade marketers will teach you about customers, sales people etc. If you don’t use these people to enhance your skill, you’ll eventually crash and burn. The collection of SME’s will likely teach you more about marketing than your boss will. And if they can’t work with you, they’ll also be the first to destroy your career.
  6. They miss answers by not being flexible. They fail to find the balance between what the head thinks, what your heart feels or even what the gut tells you. When an ABM is questioned, a senior manager can tell if they have struggled enough with a problem to get to the rich solution or whether they just did the adequate thinking to get to an “ok” solution. The style of a good senior manager’s questions is not always information gathering but rather designed to poke holes in the story to see that the deep rich thinking and even the appropriate struggling has gone on.
  7. They fall for tactical programs that are off strategy. This becomes a tell-tale sign that they won’t make it to Brand Manager, where you will own the strategy. They deviate from the strategy to choose the coolest tactic that has nothing to do with the goals or strategy. You become the great executor, but not the thinker needed. Marketing is a balance of strategy and execution.
  8. They hold back from making contributions to the team strategy. Just a do-er. They don’t proactively provide a point of view on strategy. They don’t show the ownership needed to become a brand manager and people start to wonder if it’s in there or not.
  9. They settle for “good” rather than pushing for “great”. While a lot of ABM jobs are executional, if there becomes a pattern where they just take the “ok” ideas, it begins to look as they don’t care enough. If they aren’t passionate enough to push back, will they be able to do so later in their career.
  10. They are poor communicators, with manager, senior management or partners. They fail to adequately warn when there’s potential problems. They leave their manager in the dark. They confuse partners because they don’t keep them aware of what’s going on.

The big question is what do you do about it. On day 1, everyone has all ten of these de-railers, some that you can easily over-come but others will take the full two to three years to really fix. What really separates “great” from the “ok” is what you’re willing to do with these. Those who seek out feedback, welcome it and act on it will be the successful ones. I hope that your company has a process of giving feedback or that you get lucky to have a manager that cares about your career and is willing to give you the tough feedback. But if not, seek it. Be honest with yourself and try to fix one of these per quarter.   And grow into the role of Brand Manager before you get promoted.   

Best of luck to you.  I do hope you get promoted to Brand Manager. 

Here’s a presentation on How to have a Successful Marketing Careers:  

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

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

To contact us, email us at graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands. 

Positioning 2016.111
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How to Guide for Marketers

Keys to being a successful Marketing Director

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Most people are promoted up to Brand Manager because they are really smart and get things done. From my experience, they get stuck at the Brand Manager level mainly because they are bad at managing people, or can’t get along with the sales force. marketing directorPromoting them up to Marketing Director just becomes too risky to the organization–they can’t afford to lose key talent, and they can’t afford to lose touch with the sales team.

Many Marketing Directors fail if they can’t stop acting like a Brand Manager. They are too hands on, and makes all the decisions. They smother the team and never lets them have their day in the sun. One rule is at every level you have to adjust to the new role. Brand Managers fail when they keep acting like ABMs and Directors fail when they keep acting like Brand Managers.

On a classic brand management team, there are four key levels:

  1. Assistant Brand Manager
  2. Brand Manager
  3. Marketing Director or Group Marketing Director
  4. VP Marketing or CMO.

In simple terms, the Assistant Brand Manager role is about doing, analyzing and sending signals you have leadership skills for the future.At the Brand Manager level, it becomes about ownership and strategic thinking within your brand plan. Most Brand Managers are honestly a disaster with their first direct report, and get better around the fifth report. When you get to the Marketing Director role, it’s becomes more about managing and leading than it does about thinking and doing. To be great, you need to motivate the greatness from your team and let your best players to do their absolute best.

The five success factors for Marketing Directors:

The Marketing Director role becomes less marketing and more leading. Your role is to set the consistent standard for your team and then hold everyone to that standard. To be great, you need to motivate the greatness from your team and let your best players to do their absolute best. Sometimes you’ll need to teach, guide and challenge. Sometimes, you’ll have to put your foot down to stay fundamentally sound and other times you’ll have to follow creative ideas you might not be so sure will win. Let your best people shine, grow and push you. It’s their time.

1. Set a consistently high standard

Hold your team to a consistently high standard of work. Rather than being the leader by example, I would rather see you establish a high standard and hold everyone and yourself to that standard. Shift your style to a more process orientation so you can organize the team to stay focused, hit deadlines, keep things moving and produce consistent output. Consistent quality of brand plans, execution and interactions with everyone. It is about how to balance the freedom you give with the standard you demand. Delegate so you motivate your stars, but never abdicate ownership of how your overall team shows up. 

2. Be the consistent voice on the team

Become the consistent voice of reason to any potential influencers, acting on behalf of the brand team. The director becomes the usual point person that the VP, sales team, agency, each turn to offering their thoughts on the brands. Yet the Director has to allow their BM to own the brand. As the team’s voice of reason, a great marketing director must continue to ground all potential influencers in the brand plan with the strategy choices, consistently communicate the brand’s direction and back up any tactical choices being made by the team. 

3. Consistent people leader

Let your people shine. Newly appointed directors have to stop acting like a “Senior-Senior Brand Manager” and let your team breathe and grow. We know you can write a brand plan, roll out a promotion super fast and make decisions on creative. But can you inspire your team to do the same? It becomes the director’s role to manage and cultivate the talent. Most Brand Managers have high ambitions–constantly wanting praise, but equally seeking out advice for how to get better. Be passionate about people’s careers–anything less they will see it as merely a duty you are fulfilling. A great Marketing Director should be meeting quarterly with each team member one on one to take them through a quarterly performance review. Waiting for year-end is just not enough. 

4. Consistently shows up to the sales team

Marketing Directors become the go to marketing person for the sales team to approach. The best sales people challenge marketers to make sure their account wins. I have seen many sales teams destroy the Marketing Director because they do not listen, and they stubbornly put forward their plan without sales input. Be the director that consistently reaches out and listens. They will be in shock, and stand behind your business. If sales people feel they’ve been heard, they are more apt to follow the directors vision and direction. A great Marketing Director should informally meet with all key senior sales leaders on a quarterly basis, to get to know them and listen to their problems. This informal forum allows problems to bubble up of problems and be heard, before they become a problem.

5. Consistently makes the numbers

A great marketing director makes the numbers. They have a knack for finding growth where others can’t. And yet when they don’t, they are the first to own the miss and put forward a recovery plan before being asked. Great Directors have an entrepreneurial spirit of ownership, create goals that: “scare you a little but excite you a lot”. They reach out for help across the organization, making those goals public and keep the results perfectly transparent. And everyone will follow you.

Consistency matters

Hopefully, you noticed the word “consistent” show up in all 5 factors for success. Stay Consistent. That is a trait I would encourage every director to take: show up with consistency in standards for your team, strategy, people management, dealings with sales and owning the numbers. With a bigger group of people who you influence, with a broader array of  interactions across the organization and with a bigger business line on the P&L, anything less than consistent will rattle your core team and rattle the system built around you. No one likes an inconsistent or unpredictable leader. They will mock your mood swings in the cafeteria. You will become famous but for the wrong reasons. The sales team will not be able to rely on your word–and to them, that’s everything. 

Senior Leaders will struggle with you–and will not want to put you on the big important business because it just feels risky. Your agency will be uncertain as to what mood you will be in, when you show up to meetings. With your maturity and experience, now is the time to start to craft a consistent version of what you want to be.

So if you can take all your talent, all the experience you’ve gained and find that consistency in approach and leadership, then you will be a successful Marketing Director.

To read our Beloved Brands presentation on Brand Management careers:

To learn more about this type of thinking, you should explore 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.

Beloved Brands book

To order the e-book version or the paperback version from Amazon, click on this link: https://lnkd.in/eF-mYPe

If you use Kobo, you can find Beloved Brands in over 30 markets using this link: https://lnkd.in/g7SzEh4

And if you are in India, you can use this link to order: https://lnkd.in/gDA5Aiw

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.

We think the best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique playbook tools are the backbone of our workshops. We bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

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 brand 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.

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.

Our brand playbook methodology will challenge you to unlock future growth for your brand

  1. Our deep-dive assessment process will give you the knowledge of the issues facing your brand, so you can build a smart plan to unleash future growth.
  2. Find a winning brand positioning statement that motivates consumers to buy, and gives you a competitive advantage to drive future growth.
  3. Create a brand idea to capture the minds and hearts of consumers, while inspiring and focusing your team to deliver greatness on the brand’s behalf.
  4. Build a brand plan to help you make smart focused decisions, so you can organize, steer, and inspire your team towards higher growth.
  5. Advise on advertising, to find creative that drives branded breakthrough and use a motivating messaging to set up long-term brand growth.
  6. Our brand training program will make your brand leaders smarter, so you have added confidence in their performance to drive brand growth.

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

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

You have my personal promise to help you solve your brand building challenges. I will give you new thinking, so you can unlock future growth for your brand.

Signature

Graham Robertson

Founder and CMO, Beloved Brands Inc.

 

 

Positioning 2016.111
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How to Guide for Marketers

How to build a brand positioning statement

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A brand positioning statement focuses on the consumer target your brand will serve and the emotional and functional benefits your brand will stand for.

brand positioningIf you don’t position your brand the way you want, then your customers and competitors will do it for you, and you might not like their answers. A smart brand positioning statement should narrow the target to those consumers who are most capable of loving what the brand does. With your consumer in mind, your brand positioning should find the ideal balance between functional and emotional benefits.

Where to win

As you create your brand positioning statement, you should be looking for the ideal space to play and the space your brand can win. 

To find the competitive space in which your brand can win, I introduce a Venn diagram below, with three circles. The first circle comprises everything your consumer wants or needs. The second circle includes everything your brand does best, including consumer benefits, product features or proven claims. And, finally, the third circle lists what your competitor does best.

The brand positioning statement zones

Your brand’s winning zone (in green), is the space that matches up “What consumers want” with “What your brand does best.” This space provides you a distinct positioning you can own and defend from attack. Your brand must be able to satisfy the consumer needs better than any other competitor can.

Your brand will not survive by trying to compete in the losing zone (in red), which is the space that matches the consumer needs with “What your competitor does best.” When you play in this space, your competitor will beat you every time.

As markets mature, competitors copy each other. It has become harder to be better with a definitive product win. Many brands have to play in the risky zone (in grey), which is the space where you and your competitor both meet the consumer’s needs in a relative tie. 

Sadly, I always have to mention the dumb zone (in blue) where two competitors “battle it out” in the space consumers do not care.  One competitor says, “We are faster,” and the other brand says, “We are just as fast.” No one bothered to ask the consumer if they care about speed. Both brands are dumb.

positioning

Writing the brand positioning statement

There are 4 elements that make up a brand positioning statement, including who will you serve, where you play, where will you win and why consumers should believe you. These are the consumer target, category, main consumer benefit and support points:

1. Who is the consumer target?

What slice of the population is the most motivated by what your brand offers? Do not just think about who 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 your brand competes in? Brand positioning is always relative to who you compete against. For instance, a brand is never fast, it is faster.

3. Where will you win?

What is the main promise you will make to the consumer target, that will make your brand stand out as interesting, simple, unique, motivating and own-able? Do not talk about what you do (features). Talk about what the consumer gets (functional benefits), and how the brand makes them feel (emotional benefits).

4. Why should they believe us?

Understand what support points and features are needed to back up the main promise. Moreover, these support points should close any potential doubts, questions or concerns the consumer has after hearing the main promise.

Classic Brand Positioning Statement

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

Who is the consumer target market?

The 7 key questions to define the consumer target market:

  1. What is the description of the consumer target market?
  2. What are the consumer’s main needs?
  3. Who is the consumer’s enemy that torments them every day?
  4. What are the insights we know about the consumer?
  5. What does the consumer think now?
  6. How does the consumer buy?
  7. What do we want them to see, think, do, feel or whisper to their friends?

One of the biggest mistakes I see Marketers make is when they pick too big of a consumer target market. A smart target market not only decides who is in the target but who is not in the target. There is this myth that a bigger consumer target will make the brand bigger, so the scared Marketer targets ‘everyone’. There seems to be an irrational fear of leaving someone out. Spreading your brand’s limited resources across an entire population is completely cost-prohibitive. While targeting everyone “just in case” might feel safe at first, it is actually riskier because you are spreading your resources so broadly, that you never see the full impact you want to see. This broad consumer target gives your brand a lower return on investment and eventually will drain your brand’s limited resources. Please focus.

Consumer or Customer Profile

The Consumer Benefits Ladder

The Consumer Benefits Ladder helps turn your brand’s features into consumer benefits. You should stop thinking about what your brand does and start thinking about what your consumer gets. This will help your positioning statement come alive.

Consumer Benefits Ladder The 4 steps to build a Consumer Benefits Ladder:

  1. Leverage all available research to brief the team, helping define the consumer target profile with consumer insights, need states and the consumer enemy.
  2. Brainstorm all the possible brand features that your brand offers, plus any brand assets. Make sure that these features give your brand a competitive advantage.
  3. Move up to the functional benefits by putting yourself in the shoes of the consumer and for each feature on your list, ask “so if I am the consumer, what do I get from that?” Challenge yourself to come up with better benefits by asking the question up to 5 times, pushing the answers into a richer zone.
  4. Then move up to the emotional benefits by looking at each functional benefit and then ask “so if I am the consumer, how does that make me feel?” As you did in step 3, keep asking the question until you see a deeper emotional space that you can play in and own.

What are the functional benefits?

To help Brand Leaders, I have taken the 9 functional need state zones shown earlier in this chapter and expanded the list to over 50 potential functional benefits that you can build around. As you look through the list, gravitate to the functional benefits you think will fit the needs of your consumers, and where your brand can do it better than competitors. Start with my words and layer in your own creative language with the specific category or consumer language.

Functional Benefits

 

What are the emotional benefits?

Below you will find a list of 40 potential emotional benefits help build an emotional brand positioning statement. From my experience, Marketers are better at the rational benefits than they are at the emotional benefits. I swear every brand thinks their brand should be the trusted, reliable and yet likable. As a brand, you want to own one emotional space in the consumer’s heart as much as you own the rational space in the consumer’s mind. When I push Brand Managers to get emotional, they struggle and opt for what they view as obvious emotions, even if they do not fit with their brand.

Emotional cheat sheet

I have used Hotspex research methodology to create a ‘cheat sheet’ with 8 major Emotional Consumer Benefits, that includes optimism, freedom, being noticed, being liked, comfort, be myself, be in control and knowledge. To own a space in the consumer’s heart, brands should own and dominate one of these zones, always thinking relative to what zone your competitor may own. Do not choose a list of emotions from all over the map, or you will confuse your consumer. Use the supporting words to add flavor to your emotional brand positioning statement.

How to write brand positioning statement Emotional Benefits

 

Sorting through the benefits

When you conduct the benefits brainstorm on your brand, use the Consumer Benefits Ladder worksheet to focus the team’s thinking. Like any brainstorm, you will end up more choices than you can use. Here is an example of the output of a Consumer Benefits Ladder worksheet for Gray’s Cookies.How to write brand positioning statement Consumer Benefits ladder

 

Narrow down the list by sorting through the benefits to find those that are the most motivating to consumers and own-able for your organization.

Market Research Benefit claim sort

Support points to the main benefit

I took one logic class at University and the only thing I learned was ‘premise-premise conclusion’. Easy class, but the lesson has stuck with me:

  • All fish live in water (premise)
  • Tuna are fish (premise)
  • Therefore, tuna live in the water (conclusion)

In a brand positioning statement, the main consumer benefit is the conclusion, with a need for two support points as the premises. The reason to believe (RTB) should never be the conclusion. If pure logic teaches us that two premises are enough to draw any conclusion, then you only need two RTBs. Brands that build concepts with a laundry list of RTBs are not doing their job in making focused decisions on what support points are needed. With consumers seeing 5,000 advertising messages per day, having a long list of support points, risks having a cluttered mess in their brand communications. Claims can be an effective tool in helping to support your Reason to believe.

There are 4 types of claims you can use on your brand: process, product, third person and behavioral.

Process Support

  • How your product works differently
  • Showcase what you do differently within the production process
  • What added service/details do you provide in the value chain

Product Claims

  • Usage of an ingredient that makes you better
  • Process or ingredient that makes you safer

Third person endorsement

  • Experts in the field who can speak on your behalf.
  • Past users/clients with the proof support of their stories.

Behavioral Results

  • Clinical tests
  • In market usage study
  • Before and after studies

How to put the brand positioning statement together

After doing all the homework, now you can put together a winning Brand Positioning Statement that addresses:

  1. Who is your consumer target? Keep the target focused. Do not be vague in your definition. Never go after two segments at the same time. Bring the target to life with need states, consumer insights, and a consumer enemy.
  2. Where will you play? Define the space you play in, against those brands you compete against. Which competitor do you fight against for the same dollars?
  3. Where will you win? Narrow your benefit down to one thing. Never try to stand for too many things at once—whether too many functional benefits or too many emotional benefits. You cannot be all things to all people. Make sure you talk benefits, not features. Find the ideal space that is unique and motivating to the consumers, while being own-able for your brand.
  4. Why should they believe us? The role of support points is to close off any potential doubts the consumer might have when they see the main benefit. Watch out that these are not just random claims or features that you want to jam into your brand message. They should support and fit with the main benefit.

How to write brand positioning statement classic fundamentals

Here is our training workshop we run to help brand leaders define your brand positioning statement:

These slides are from our brand management training program. With our Brand Positioning training, we will show you how to come up with the target market, consumer benefits, both functional and emotional, as well as support points.

To learn more about this type of thinking, you should explore 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.

Beloved Brands book

To order the e-book version or the paperback version from Amazon, click on this link: https://lnkd.in/eF-mYPe

If you use Kobo, you can find Beloved Brands in over 30 markets using this link: https://lnkd.in/g7SzEh4

And if you are in India, you can use this link to order: https://lnkd.in/gDA5Aiw

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.

We think the best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique playbook tools are the backbone of our workshops. We bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

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 brand 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.

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.

Our brand playbook methodology will challenge you to unlock future growth for your brand

  1. Our deep-dive assessment process will give you the knowledge of the issues facing your brand, so you can build a smart plan to unleash future growth.
  2. Find a winning brand positioning statement that motivates consumers to buy, and gives you a competitive advantage to drive future growth.
  3. Create a brand idea to capture the minds and hearts of consumers, while inspiring and focusing your team to deliver greatness on the brand’s behalf.
  4. Build a brand plan to help you make smart focused decisions, so you can organize, steer, and inspire your team towards higher growth.
  5. Advise on advertising, to find creative that drives branded breakthrough and use a motivating messaging to set up long-term brand growth.
  6. Our brand training program will make your brand leaders smarter, so you have added confidence in their performance to drive brand growth.

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

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

You have my personal promise to help you solve your brand building challenges. I will give you new thinking, so you can unlock future growth for your brand.

Signature

Graham Robertson

Founder and CMO, Beloved Brands Inc.

 

 

How to Guide for Marketers

How to Think Strategically

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If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else.  Yogi Berra

After 20 years of managing marketing teams, I’ve seen hundreds if not thousands of marketers–some classically trained CPG and some with just good instincts.  While 100% of them would proclaim of themselves “I’m a strategic thinker”, in reality only about 15-20% were actually strategic.  Yet, even some of the best implementers I know still want to be strategic.  I don’t get it.  Why?  I want someone to just finally say “I’m a really good tactical thinker and not really that good at strategy”. I have finally started to ask some of my friends who are great implementers:  “Why do you want to be strategic?”  I finally got an answer that made sense.  “Strategic people get paid more”.  

Are you sure you are Strategic?

To me, the difference between a strategic thinker and a non-strategic thinker is whether you see questions first or answers first.  Strategic Thinkers see “what if” questions before they see solutions. They map out a range of decision trees that intersect and connect by imagining how events will play out. They reflect and plan before they act. They are thinkers and planning who can see connections. Non Strategic Thinkers see answers before questions. They get to answers quickly, and will get frustrated in the delays of thinking. They think doing something is better  than doing nothing at all. They opt for action over thinking. They are impulsive and doers who see tasks. They are frustrated by strategic thinkers. Aren’t we all.

But to be a great marketer, you must be a bit of a chameleon.  While pure strategy people make great consultants, I wouldn’t want them running my brand. They’d keep analyzing things to death, without ever taking action.  And while tactical people get stuff done, it might not be the stuff we need done.  I want someone running my brand who is both strategic and non-strategic, almost equally so. You must be able to talk with both types, at one minute debating investment choices and then be at a voice recording deciding on option A or B. You need to make tough choices but you also have to inspire all those non-strategic thinkers to be great on your brand instead of being great on someone else’s brand.

OK, then you can’t just one day wake up and be strategic. You need more discipline in the way you think. Here’s some thoughts on how to force yourself to be strategic. Here’s HOW TO THINK MORE STRATEGICALLY.  

Focus, Early Win, Leverage, Gateway

So Let’s see if there is a model that can help people be better at strategy.  When I teach people this model, I tell them it will force them to structure their thinking at first, but then it should just start to flow easily. It’s like driving a car in England, it feels different at first, but then natural very soon after.

A simple way is to break it down into the 4 elements of a good strategy: there is usually a good Focus of resources on what has the biggest potential return, an Early Win that allows you to confidently keep going, a Leverage point you can twist and turn and finally a Gateway to something even bigger.  Here’s how the 4 stages of thinking works:

  1. FOCUS all your energy to a particular strategic point or purpose. Match up your brand assets to pressure points you can break through, maximizing your limited resources—either financial resources or effort. Make tough choices and opt be loved by the few rather than tolerated by the many.
  2. You want that EARLY WIN, to kick-start of some momentum. Early Wins are about slicing off parts of the business or population where you can build further.  Without the early win, you’ll likely seek out some new strategy even a sub-optimal one.   Or someone in management will say “it’s not working”.  You don’t want either of those–so the early win helps keep people moving towards the big win.
  3. LEVERAGE everything to gain positional advantage or power that helps exert even greater pressure and gains the tipping point of the business that helps lead to something bigger.  This is where strategy provides that return–you get more than the effort you’re doing from it.
  4. Seeing beyond the early win, there has to be a GATEWAY point, which is the entrance or a means of access to something even bigger. It could be getting to the masses, changing opinions or behaviours. Return on Investment or Effort.
Looking at using “Focus, Early Win, Leverage, Gateway” in Real Situations

Lots of explanations on strategy use war analogies, so let’s look at D-Day and see how it matches up.  While Germany was fighting a war on two fronts (Russia and Britain), the Allied Forces planned D-Day for 2 years and joined in full force to focus all their attention on one beach, on one day. The surprise attack gave them an early win, and momentum which they could then leverage into a bigger victory then just one beach. Getting on mainland Europe gave the allied forces the gateway they needed to steamroll through on a town by town basis and defeat the Germans. The allied forces had been on the defensive for years, but landing on D-Day gave them one victory and the tipping point to winning the war.  For those who struggle with focus, imagine that if the Allied Forces decided to place one soldier every 15 feet from Denmark all the way around Europe to Greece. Would it have been successful? Not a chance.

If you were to write the brand plan for D-Day, it might look like this:

  • Vision: Win World War II
  • Goals: Re-claim Europe, remove Hitler, minimize losses
  • Key Issue: How do we turn the tide in the war effort in Europe?
  • Strategy: Focused Pin Pointed Attack to gain a positional power on Continental Europe. 
  • Tactic: D-Day, take all our troops and attack the Beaches of Normandy to get back on mainland Europe and battle Germany on an equal footing. 

While war analogies put some heightened sense of intelligence into marketing, let’s look at an example using Avril Lavigne and see if it still works. If it does, then maybe it’s still a good model. In 2005, Avril’s career was flat, a normal path for young musicians. To kick off her album, she did a series of free mall concerts—and was criticized as desperate. She was desperate and no one really understood the logic. But think about it:  mall’s are exactly where her target (11-17 female) hangs out, allowing her to focus all her energy on her core target.  She attracted 5k screaming 13 year olds per mall—creating an early win among her most loyal of fans: those who loved and adored her. She was able to leverage the good will and energy to get these loyal fans to go buy her album in the mall record stores which helped her album debut at #1 on the charts. And everyone knows the charts are the gateway to the bigger mass audience–more radio play, more itunes downloads and more talk value. The comeback complete. Madonna has done the same strategy, except she seeded her songs into dance clubs for the last 20 years.

If you were to write the Avril Brand Plan, here’s how it might look;

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

Avril Lavigne Wows Thousands At Free Indy Concert

INDIANAPOLIS  — Pop singer Avril Lavigne serenaded more than  2,000 fans during a free concert at a shopping mall.   “You guys are awesome,” the 19-year-old Lavigne told the  enthusiastic crowd Thursday at Glendale Mall.  Some people waited several hours to see the singer perform songs  from her upcoming CD and 2002 hits “Complicated” and “Sk8er  Boi.”   The half-hour acoustic concert was part of a 21-date “Live and  By Surprise Tour” promoting her new CD, “Under My Skin.”   People started lining up at the mall early in the afternoon for a chance to see Avril Lavigne up close and personal.

Starbucks experienced tremendous growth through the 80s and 90s, mainly because of the their coffee. Starbucks quickly become a life ritual in the morning to wake you up. The focus shifted to build a broader portfolio of products around these two time slots.   The early win were a series of new products that made Starbucks seem big on innovation. Sandwiches, Wraps, pastries, cookies. All high quality. The leverage point was turning a coffee routine into a breakfast/lunch routine. The gateway is expanding the life ritual of Starbucks so that it’s now a broad-based place for breakfast and a light lunch, but still connected with coffee.  No longer are they just for coffee. Recently, Starbucks has been giving incentives through their “treat receipt” program to get people to come into the store after 2pm. 

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

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

Most Marketers Struggle with Strategic Thinking

However, even though all these marketers are saying they are strategic, strategy actually runs counter intuitive to many marketers. You mean by focusing on something so small, I can get something big.  That makes no sense.  I better keep trying to do everything to everyone.  But that’s exactly how a fulcrum works to give you leverage. Next time you’re taking off your tire on your car, try getting 6 really strong guys to lift your car or just get a tiny little car jack. This is the same model for brand strategy. Focus on your strengths, focus on those consumers who will most love you and focus on the one potential action point you can actually get them to do.

Many marketers always struggle with the idea of focus and always try to do it all.  And for everyone. They worry they’ll pick a potential target too tight and alienate others, focus on one message and forget to tell all they know and miss a crucial fact or focus too tight on one part of the business and forget the others.  I saw a brief describe their target was “18-65, current customers, potential customers and employees”.  I said “all you’ve eliminated is prisoners and tourists.”  I get it that it can feel scary to focus.  But it should feel even more scary not focusing, just in case you’re wrong. You always operate with limited resources no matter how big of a brand:  financial, people, partnering, time. Trying to do everything spreads your limited resources and your message  so that everything you do is “ok” and nothing is “great”. In a crowded and fast economy, “ok” never breaks through so you’ll never get the early win to gain that tipping point that opens up the gateway.  When you focus, three things happen: 1) you actually become very good at what you do 2) people perceive you to be very good at what you do since that is the only thing you do 3) you can defend the positioning territory

Many times, marketers fall in love with the best ideas—not always the best strategies. This is where they tactical and they end up chasing down a path with a hollow gateway.  It’s crucial you always start with the best strategies and then find the best ideas that fit with those strategies, not the other way around. What you need to do, is try to map out all the potential wins, try to understand what’s behind that win, and if there is something bigger then go for it, but if there isn’t, then you should reject this path. There has to be a large gateway behind those cool ideas, so you love what the idea does more so than just loving the idea.

 

Strategic Thinking: Focus, Early Win and Leverage should lead to a gateway to Something even Bigger

Do you want to be an amazing Brand Leader?  We can help you.

Read more on how to utilize our Brand Leadership Learning Center where you will receive training in all aspects of marketing whether that’s strategic thinking, brand plans, creative briefs, brand positioning, analytical skills or how to judge advertising.  We can customize a program that is right for you or your team.  We can work in person, over the phone or through Skype.  Ask us how we can help you. 

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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

Slide19

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

How to Guide for Marketers

How to be successful at the Assistant Brand Manager level

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

A marketing career is very challenging. At the entry-level role, only about 50% of Assistant Brand Managers will get promoted to Brand Manager. The percentages go down at each level.

My advice to new marketers

The most eager first-time marketers want to change the world. The role is a reality check where you learn before you can run. Too many new marketers want to focus on strategy right away, but the ABM is a “doing” role. You will be executing programs, analyzing results and learning how to be a project manager. Through the execution, send signals you are capable of thinking and leading in the future.

What separates the average from the great ones that get promoted? The best seem to figure out the right thing to do and then make it happen.

  • Some figure out the right thing to do but struggle to work the system to make it happen.
  • Others can work the system, but they forget to think through what is the right thing to do.

The Assistant Brand Manager role can feel frustrating. Many times, it will inhibit your creativity and even your ideas. Fight through it. It provides a foundation and discipline you will use throughout your career.

You have to nail the obvious

You must hit deadlines.

Never look out of control or sloppy. Marketers have enough to do, so if you begin to miss deadlines, things will stockpile on each other. Do not be the one trying to negotiate extensions constantly. There are no real extensions. Just missed opportunities.

You must know your business.

Avoid getting caught off-guard with questions that you cannot answer, such as P&L (sales, growth, margins, spend) market share (latest 52, 12, 4 weeks for your brand all significant competitors) and your sales forecasts. Make sure you are asking the questions and carrying forward the knowledge.

Open Communication.

There should be no surprises, especially with your boss. Keep everyone aware of what’s going on. When you communicate upwards, always have the situation, implications, options and then quickly followed by an action plan of what to do with it.

Take control of your destiny. We run the brands; they do not run us.

Be slightly ahead of the game, not chasing your work to completion. Proactively look for opportunity in the market, and work quickly to take advantage. When you don’t know something, speak in an “asking way,” but when you know, speak in a “telling way.”

Able to use regular feedback for growth.

Always seek out and accept constructive feedback, good or bad, as a lesson for you. Do not think of it as a personal attack or setback. Identify gaps you can close, never think of them as weaknesses that hold you back. You should always be striving to get better.

Listen first; then decide.

It is crucial that you seek to understand to the experts surrounding you before you make a decision. Early in your career, use your subject matter experts to teach you. As you hit director or VP, use them as an advisor or a sounding board to issues/ideas. They do want you to lead them, so it is essential that you listen and then give direction or push them towards the end path.

Five success factors for Assistant Brand Managers:

  1. Turn data into analytical stories  
  2. Take action before being asked. 
  3. Make it happen through others
  4. Speak out to challenge the strategy
  5. Be accountable for your work

1. Turn data into analytical stories

The ABM role has a ton of data with market share results, tracking scores or test results. Look for patterns or data breaks, ask questions and start putting together stories. The analytical stories show you know what it means, helps sell recommendations, and supports the action you will take. Never give a data point without a story or a recommended action, or you risk letting someone else (your boss) take your data and decide.

2. Take action before being asked

On day one, your manager will set most of the projects for Assistant Brand Managers. When you are new, it is comfortable to wait for your projects. But don’t get in the habit of waiting for someone to create your project list. As you mature, start to push your own ideas into the system and create your own project list.
Start making smart decisions, on your own, and communicate those choices with your boss. Don’t ask permission, but tell them what you want to do and look for the head nod. Know what’s in your scope and align with your manager.

3. Make it happen through others

Instead of just functionally managing the steps of the project, find ways to make each project better, faster, or deliver more significant results. You need to understand each critical milestones to hit, and manage bottlenecks. Every marketer meets resistance; the best knock can down those resistance points. Figure out the task with the longest completion time and the element that is most important, as both will impact the entire project. You will need to push people to get things done. You need to find a bit of magic by inspiring people to give their best ideas, put in their best effort and deliver their best work. 

4. Speak out to challenge the strategy

Stay on strategy. Show you are always thinking, and feel confident in your strategic thoughts. Avoid just falling in love with an execution tactic that is not aligned with your brand’s strategy. It is so easy to get lost in your own “cool” projects. Ask the right questions. Challenge the strategy to make sure you understand. Silent marketers never last. Show you are always thinking, and feel confident in your strategic thoughts.

5. Be accountable for your work

Accountability is the first stepping stone to ownership, which sends a signal you are ready to be a Brand Manager. You have to find the right balance by motivating experts to give their best and knowing when to step in to avoid letting things slip or miss. Never allow your team to get stuck. Stay on top of timelines and lead your project teams. Be action-oriented, and solution-focused. Be the hub of communication for all team members, and keep your manager aware.

The Idiot Curve

One thing to keep in mind is the Idiot Curve. The basic rule of the idiot curve is you get dumber before you get smarter.

Marketing Career Idiot Curve

When you first land the Assistant Brand Manager job, there’s just so much to learn, it’s like drinking from a fire hose. I find it takes three months to get back to being just as smart as you were on the first day. It’s overwhelming at first, and yet you see all these other Assistant Brand Managers doing it, so that’s even more intimidating.

However, the idiot curve is inevitable. It just shows up differently for each person. No matter how hard you fight it, you have to ride the curve. (But, please fight through the curve, you have to for your survival)

The idiot curve lasts typically up to 3 months, and then things start to click. You’ll experience your own version of the idiot curve in a new and exciting way you can’t even predict.

Here’s our story on how to land your first marketing job. You have to want that marketing job, more than anyone else.

How to land your first marketing job

ABM roles are hard, but all the learning will pay off the rest of your career.

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

To learn more about this type of thinking, you should explore 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.

Beloved Brands book

To order the e-book version or the paperback version from Amazon, click on this link: https://lnkd.in/eF-mYPe

If you use Kobo, you can find Beloved Brands in over 30 markets using this link: https://lnkd.in/g7SzEh4

And if you are in India, you can use this link to order: https://lnkd.in/gDA5Aiw

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.

We think the best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique playbook tools are the backbone of our workshops. We bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

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 brand 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.

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.

Our brand playbook methodology will challenge you to unlock future growth for your brand

  1. Our deep-dive assessment process will give you the knowledge of the issues facing your brand, so you can build a smart plan to unleash future growth.
  2. Find a winning brand positioning statement that motivates consumers to buy, and gives you a competitive advantage to drive future growth.
  3. Create a brand idea to capture the minds and hearts of consumers, while inspiring and focusing your team to deliver greatness on the brand’s behalf.
  4. Build a brand plan to help you make smart focused decisions, so you can organize, steer, and inspire your team towards higher growth.
  5. Advise on advertising, to find creative that drives branded breakthrough and use a motivating messaging to set up long-term brand growth.
  6. Our brand training program will make your brand leaders smarter, so you have added confidence in their performance to drive brand growth.

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

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

You have my personal promise to help you solve your brand building challenges. I will give you new thinking, so you can unlock future growth for your brand.

Signature

Graham Robertson

Founder and CMO, Beloved Brands Inc.

 

How to Guide for Marketers

How to be a successful Brand Manager

Posted on

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

What separates a great brand manager from the rest of the pack?

There are two factors that make a great brand manager:

1. They know the right thing to do (strategy)
2. They work the system to make it happen (execution).

Simply put, great marketers do both.

The rest either fail on either #1 or #2. They might be great on strategy who can’t get it done. Or great on execution, but they don’t know why they do what they do.

It sounds easy, but the ability to move from strategy to execution is rarer than you might assume. It takes a unique person to be able to change brain speeds and apply a different type of thinking. Most of us are comfortable in one or the other.

Strategic thinkers see the right questions before they look for answers. 

Strategic thinkers are able to map out a range of decision trees that intersect, by imagining how events will play out in the future. They think of every option before taking action. If you move too quickly on brand strategy, you will be unable to see the insights beneath the surface, and you risk solving the wrong problem.

Instinctual thinkers see the right answers before they even know the question. 

Instinctual thinkers move fast, using emotional, impulse and intuitive gut feel. They choose emotion over logic. This “gut feel” fosters high creativity. Without intuitive freedom, you will move too slowly, overthink and second-guess yourself. You risk destroying the creativity of the right solution.

The problem for most brand managers is they use the wrong brain speed at the wrong time.

When they should be slowing down for strategy, you get so busy, so deadline focused, so scared to make a mistake that you forget to think in a confused state of ambiguity. It’s not easy to sit there without the answer, but sometimes if you just wait a bit longer and keep pushing for an even better question, then the even better answers will come to you. Revel in ambiguity.   

When executing, you have so much to do, you can’t decide what is crucial and what just a task. Deadlines make you choose OK to get it done because pushing for greatness is one more delay you can’t afford. Also, many brand managers end up burying away their instincts. Running from a financial meeting talking cost of goods, a sales forecasting meeting talking about 6 months from now, to a sales meeting getting grilled on promotional spend, to a meeting with the scientists in the lab talking about an ingredient change you need to make, it feels impossible to find those instincts. Yet, the best brand managers can. You come into a creative execution meeting, and you give the answer you think you are supposed to give because that’s what you did in the finance meeting and it worked

One of the biggest cases for overthinking is to try to second guess what your boss will think. If you are thinking of comments your boss has made in past meetings, there is no way you will be able to find your beautiful instincts. You’ve just given up ownership of your brand to your boss. 

The Idiot Curve

At every new job, including Brand Manager, I find it takes 3 months to get back to being just as smart as you were on the first day.

The basic rule of the Idiot Curve is: You get dumber before you get smarter.

I have promoted some great ABMs and watch them struggle and wonder if we made a mistake. The idiot curve is inevitable. It just shows up differently for each person.  Marketing Career Idiot Curve

No matter how hard you fight it, you have to ride the curve. But, please fight through the curve, or you won’t survive. If there was one consistent gap for people early in a new job, is that you forget to use your instincts. You spend so much of your time trying to absorb everything that is coming at you, that you reach for the basic process instead of your brains.

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

Every job I have ever had, I experienced the idiot curve–even at the VP level. Give yourself permission to know it is there. However, fight it.

The 5 factors to being a great Brand Manager:

  1. Take ownership of the brand.
  2. Provide the strategic direction
  3. Work the system
  4. Handle the pressure
  5. Get the most of their direct report

1. Take ownership of the brand

Many Brand Managers struggle are 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.

Make a shift in how you speak with your boss. Speak with a telling voice, rather than an asking voice. It is ok to ask questions as feelers, but a great boss will want you to tell them what you want to do, and let the debate begin from there. They do not want to do your job.

People on your team will look to you for the decisions. While they want to be heard and have their expertise recognized, but they want you to make the decisions.

2. Provide strategic direction 

Create a vision for the brand that can serve as a rallying cry for your team. Let everyone know where you want to go. Make sure the strategic choices and your brand’s execution matches up with your vision.

As the brand owner, you become the steward of the strategy. Reject everything that does not line up to your vision. Think with three strategic pillars, so you can steer a consistent delivery of the brand through the various functions and agencies who support your brand.

3. Work the system

You have to be able to see how the organization works and appreciate the motivations of various key stakeholders. You have to be able to understand the layers of the organization, with varying goals and motivations. Use that knowledge to begin to work the system.
Inspire, challenge and push your key subject matter experts to you their best. Understand their motivations and tap into those motivations as a way to ask people for their best.

4. Handle the pressure

The unknown of ambiguity and the time pressure of deadlines can work against each other. Figure out how to work them to our advantage, as they evoke the right balance of patience with ambiguity and persistence in getting things done. Be organized, disciplined and work the system, so it does not get in your way.

Another significant pressure for Marketers is when the 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 unable to fix. 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. Common ground is usually not that far away.

5. Get the most of your direct report

Most Brand Managers struggle with their first five direct reports. The key is to keep self-evaluating and looking for ways to improve with each direct report.

It can be a struggle to shift from “do-er” to coach, as it is 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. You must believe the work of your Assistant Brand Manager will reflect positively on how good of a manager you are.

Provide your direct report with positive and negative feedback, delivered in a timely fashion. Too many new managers are afraid to “go negative” so their ABM is left in the dark or left believing they are doing a good job. Take the time to teach up front, give them room to try it out and then provide hands-on feedback in real time.

The 10 reasons brand managers fails

  1. Struggle to make decisions.
  2. Not analytical enough.
  3. Can’t get along with others.
  4. Not good with ambiguity.
  5. Bad people manager.
  6. Poor communicators with management or partners.
  7. Never follow your instincts.
  8. Can’t think or write strategically
  9. You don’t run the brand; you let the brand run you. 
  10. Sloppy with budgets and timelines.

My advice to brand managers

Most new brand managers mistakenly think this role is about managing others because they finally get a chance to manage a direct report. However, the bigger 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 brand managers are disheartened to find out they are a disaster with their first direct report. Try to improve with each new direct report and then they will feel more comfortable around the fifth direct report. 

I hope you love the magic of Marketing. It is easy to lose your passion and try to do what your boss wants or do things to make short-term numbers so you can get promoted. Don’t just go through the motion the job, but do it with all your passion. If you do not love the work you do, then how can you ever expect your consumer to love your brand? Leave your legacy.

Love the magic of marketing. 

Don’t just do the job. Do it with all your passion. Love the work that comes from your passion. Or else, just let someone else take your spot.

To learn more about this type of thinking, you should explore 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.

Beloved Brands book

To order the e-book version or the paperback version from Amazon, click on this link: https://lnkd.in/eF-mYPe

If you use Kobo, you can find Beloved Brands in over 30 markets using this link: https://lnkd.in/g7SzEh4

And if you are in India, you can use this link to order: https://lnkd.in/gDA5Aiw

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.

We think the best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique playbook tools are the backbone of our workshops. We bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

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 brand 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.

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.

Our brand playbook methodology will challenge you to unlock future growth for your brand

  1. Our deep-dive assessment process will give you the knowledge of the issues facing your brand, so you can build a smart plan to unleash future growth.
  2. Find a winning brand positioning statement that motivates consumers to buy, and gives you a competitive advantage to drive future growth.
  3. Create a brand idea to capture the minds and hearts of consumers, while inspiring and focusing your team to deliver greatness on the brand’s behalf.
  4. Build a brand plan to help you make smart focused decisions, so you can organize, steer, and inspire your team towards higher growth.
  5. Advise on advertising, to find creative that drives branded breakthrough and use a motivating messaging to set up long-term brand growth.
  6. Our brand training program will make your brand leaders smarter, so you have added confidence in their performance to drive brand growth.

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

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

You have my personal promise to help you solve your brand building challenges. I will give you new thinking, so you can unlock future growth for your brand.

Signature

Graham Robertson

Founder and CMO, Beloved Brands Inc.

 

How to Guide for Marketers

Five Brand Resolutions For 2012

Posted on

As we start 2012, here are some Brand Resolutions.

  1. Take a Walk in Your Consumers Shoes.  See the brand as they do.
  2. At every turn, ask yourself “DO I LOVE IT?”   Reject all work that is “just ok”.
  3. Delegate But Do Not Abdicate Ownership of your Brand.
  4. Create a Culture around your Brand—Brand should be everyone’s job, not just marketing.
  5. Once you create a Beloved Brand, you should run your branded business as a source of Power that helps drive Profit and Value.

#1:  Take a Walk in Your Consumers Shoes.  See the brand as they do.  It’s not just about doing research and finding consumer insights.  It’s about experiencing the brand as your consumer does.  Bringing the consumer into everything you do tightening the connection.   In 2012, be the spokesperson who represents the consumer to your team and watch the work get better.

At each stage of a the Brand Love Curve, you should challenge yourself with Amazing programs by asking “do I love this”  Reject all work that is “just ok” and push everyone to make the work better.  

#2:  At every turn, ask yourself “DO I LOVE IT?”    Reject all work that is “just ok”.  Moving your brand from indifferent to Like It is relatively easy:  good product, smart investment and doing the basics right.  But moving from “Like It” to “Love It” can be a herculean task.  If you want your consumer to love your brand, you have to love the work you do.  Look at the love Apple projects to its consumers through the magic of design, branding and marketing.  Never let something out that’s “just ok”.  If you’re indifferent, then you’re brand will be as well.   Challenge yourself in 2012 to lead yourself with passion equal to logic and find a way to love the work you do.

#3:  Delegate But Do Not Abdicate Ownership of your Brand.   In 2012, stop saying a)  “Oh well, the agency is the expert” b) “I never liked the brief” or c) “I never fully agreed with the Decision”.  These feel like a cop out, and it makes you look like a wimp.   Good brand leaders engage in the brand and lead it.   Sometimes it’s delegating to the team to keep them motivatated, but just as many, you have to challenge the direction to ensure the thinking is sound.   In 2012, stop acting like a Manager and start acting like a Brand Owner!

#4:  Create a Culture around your Brand—Brand should be everyone’s job, not just marketing.  There are hundreds and sometimes thousands of people impacted by the vision, mission and values you set out for the brand.   While most people will think the Brand Manager leads the brand, it’s the collective wisdom of all those who touch it.   From Sales People negotiating on the brands behalf to HR people who pick the right people to various Agencies, right down to the Editor who works just one day on your brand.  Motivate them, embrace them, challenge them, lead them, follow them and reward them.   Great people make great work and great work leads to great brands.   In 2012, challenge yourself to realize that you need more than just you living the brand, you need everyone living and breathing it.

#5:  Once you create a Beloved Brand, you should run your branded business as a source of Power that helps drive Profit and Value.  You should be looking at your business through the lens of your brand.   Yes, the brand promise sets up how the external community views your brand whether that’s consumers, customers or key influencers.  But equally so, brand becomes a beacon to help guide behaviour, decisions, action, structure and the formation of a culture.  You should drive your growth and profitability through your brand, with a focus on driving share, enhancing price while managing costs and finding new markets.   Most marketers will tell you that branding is about positioning—it’s about being “unique”.  I think positioning is a means to driving growth and making money—it’s about being “powerful”.   The challenge for 2012 is to create a connection with your consumer that can be leveraged as a source of power for you to drive value and profit for your brand.

By driving a deeper emotional connection with your consumers, you can turn that connection into power, which can than be used to drive even further power and value for the brand.  


I really hope you try one of these out in 2012.   And I hope you see the difference.  

Happy New Year!