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Strategic thinkers see questions, before they see answers. Non-strategic thinkers see answers before questions.

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

There are a lot of marketers trying to move from mid-level management into the more senior roles, as either Director or VP. They tell me they are “strategic”. Of course they are. Who isn’t strategic these days? Everyone seems to proclaim they are a “strategic thinker” on their LinkedIn profile. People get promoted because they are strategic and held back in their careers at a given level because they aren’t strategic enough. Yet, has your boss ever had a real conversation about what it means to be more strategic?  Or do they just say it and you just take it? Have you ever received training on being more strategic?  I spent 20 years at Fortune 500 companies and I never received any training, tips or feedback on being more strategic. Yet, we keep saying “strategic” all the time. Slide1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At Beloved Brands, we run a Brand Leadership Center to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To see a workshop on THE BRAND LEADERSHIP CENTER, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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

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No brand does Social Media better than Taylor Swift

B2WXKxRIUAA8EY-Yes, every star these days has millions of fans following them on Twitter and Instagram. But it’s what Taylor Swift does with her following that really separates her out from the pack, and helps turn her into a Beloved Brand.  I know you want to be cynical and think “well, she likely has a team of people”.  Yes she does, but she has the vision, direction and final say for how her brand is portrayed. Justin Bieber might have similar followers, but in between throwing eggs at the neighbor’s house or driving too fast, the most interesting thing he ever tweets is “Hello Chicago” on the morning of his concert or dropping the names of other celebrities that he’s hanging out with. It reminds me of Michael Jackson back in the 1980s–everyone was using video, but MJ was just using it better than everyone. 

I’m not a fan of TSwizzle’s music, but she does an amazing job portraying herself as an average girl living a celebrity life. She tries to do “normal things” that someone her age would do for her friends, and in this case she treats her fans as though they are her friends.The creative programs Taylor does choose give you a feeling that it’s not just about awareness, but rather about connecting. She uses surprise and delight marketing in many of the things she does, which is a great tool that bridges “pop star” lifestyle with the “average girl” image.   

Here are 5 brilliant and highly creative on-line moves by Taylor Swift that connect her on a deeper level with her followers:

1. Taylor woke up and flew to Ohio to surprise a fan by going to her bridal shower. She appears like a long-lost friend, hugging everyone and talking with ease among her “friends”.

2. While very small in nature, she has been well-known to just lurk around and comment on randomly comment on people’s Instagram page. Imagine how huge it is when her name randomly show up one day.  She’s even taken it a step further by providing advice to fans on Instagram–the type of advice that a friend would provide. 

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3. This year, “Swiftmas” gifts to fan, where they actually studied the social media pages of certain fans to give them gifts that were relevant to that person’s life–just like a friend–plus long hand-written notes. She visited one long-term fan with gifts for her son–spending two hours with the family. Just watch the reaction of these fans. This video has over 14 million hits.

4.  Taylor wrote a compassionate and supporting note on Instagram to a Fan who was bullied. Bullying is a very important topic and this note generated tons of positive PR for Taylor.

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5.  Visiting a Boston’s Children’s Hospital. What shows up in this video is how casual Taylor is–from having an un-tuned guitar to not overly prepared what to sing to a viral filming of the visit. 

Through each of these programs, Taylor Swift appears very open, authentic and genuine in her approach to fans. She grew up in such a video/on-line/social media world, that taking selfies, tweeting about waking up late and commenting people’s Instagram pages are just very “normal” things to do.

Taylor Swift uses Social Media to show up as”just an average girl”

Last year, I wrote about How Miley Cyrus used controversy to gain attention in a very strategic manner.  To read more on that, click on this hyper link:  Managing the Miley Cyrus Brand

At Beloved Brands, we run a Brand Leadership Center to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To see a workshop on THE BRAND LEADERSHIP CENTER, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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

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Tools to help you describe your brand in 7 seconds, 60 seconds and 30 minutes

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

When do you need a 7 second pitch?  

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

When do you need 60 second pitch?  

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

When do you need a 30 minute pitch?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Slide1Brands are able to generate love for their brand when the consumer does connect with the brand. I wish everyone would stop debating what makes a great brand and realize that all five connectors matter: promise, strategy, story, innovation and experience. The first connector is the Brand Promise, which connects when the brand’s main Benefit matches up to the needs of consumers.  Once knowing that promise, everything else feeds off that Promise.  For Volvo the promise is Safety, for Apple it is Simplicity and FedEx it might be Reliability.  It’s important to align your Strategy and Brand Story pick the best ways to communicate the promise, and then aligning your Innovation and the Experience so that you deliver to the promise.  To make sure the Innovation aligns to the Big Idea, everyone in R&D must be working towards delivering the brand promise.  If someone at Volvo were to invent the fastest car on the planet, should they market it as the safe-fast car or should they just sell the technology to Ferrari.  Arguably, Volvo could make more money by selling it to a brand where it fits, and not trying to change people’s minds.  As for the experience, EVERYONE in the company has to buy into and live up to the Brand Promise.  As you can start to see, embedding the Brand Promise right into the culture is essential to the brand’s success.  

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

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

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

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

The first way is to build a Brand Strategy Road Map which combines your long-range strategic plan with the Big Idea and 5 connectors underneath.  Here’s an example using the “Beloved Brands” brand. The beauty of this document is that it easily fits everything on one page, ready to share with anyone that touches the brand. Slide1

 

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

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The third way is a pitch presentation which would include

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

Here is the 30 minute pitch presentation for Beloved Brands:

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

At Beloved Brands, we run a Brand Leadership Center to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To see a workshop on THE BRAND LEADERSHIP CENTER, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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

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Your #1 New Year’s Resolution should be to make your people better

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

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

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

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

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

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

How strategic is your team?

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

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

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

How analytical is your team?

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

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

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

How good is your team at Advertising?

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

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

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

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

At Beloved Brands, we run a Brand Leadership Center to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To see a workshop on THE BRAND LEADERSHIP CENTER, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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

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Best viral video Ads of 2014

imgresWay back in 2000, I remember that we did an 89-second version of a TV ad, but we only did it for movie theatres. Back then, no one was doing them on-line that early so we figured we were revolutionaries. Now it’s fairly common to see 2 or 3 minute videos being shared on social media and now we are even seeing 4 minute videos.They are a great tool for story telling and using very high production values make them seem like mini-movies. But let’s be real, I’m only showing the best of the best on here.  For all I know there could be an equal amount of crap being made, that I’m not even seeing. Thank goodness.

Viral ads must attract attention and be sharable

Even as you venture out into a different medium than you might be used to, the fundamentals of brand communication still apply. At Beloved Brands, we are always preaching the fundamentals. In this case, you want to make sure that your ad delivers on the ABC’S which means it attracts  Attention, it’s about the Brand, it Communicates the brand story and Sticks in the consumers mind.  

  • Attention:  You have to get noticed in a crowded world of advertising.  Consumers see 6000 ads per day, and will likely only engage in a few.  If your brand doesn’t draw attention naturally, then you’ll have to force it into the limelight. With a viral ad, you need to make sure that it is made with sharing in mind. In fact, sharing becomes the medium for you.Slide1
  • Branding:  Ads that tell the story of the relationship between the consumer and the brand will link best.  Even more powerful are ads that are from the consumers view of the brand.  It’s not how much branding there is, but how close the brand fits to the climax of the ad. With viral ads, you can step down on the amount of branding, but what you say creatively still has to fit what you say as a brand.
  • Communication:  Tapping into the truths of the consumer and the brand, helps you to tell the brand’s life story. Keep your story easy to understand. Communication is not just about what you say, but how you say it—because that says just as much. With viral ads, it’s all about story telling, that touches consumers in an emotional way. If the viewer feels inspired or they laugh or cry, it dials up the amount of sharing they will do.  
  • Stickiness:  Sticky ads help to build a consistent brand/consumer experience over time. In the end, brands are really about “consistency” of the promise you want to own.  Brands have to exist in the minds of the consumer. It’s essential with viral ads, that you own the idea. With a few highly shared ads, it’s strictly entertainment and a month from now, no one will remember.

Here are the best viral video ads of 2014

Since it’s was an Olympic year, we start with a lovely spot from P&G and the “Thank You Mom” campaign that was started back in 2012 London Games.  This has generated 19.7 million views on Youtube.  

This next ad by Duracell takes story telling to new heights, bringing a very inspiring story about a deaf athlete named Derrick Coleman for Seattle Seahawks. This ad has generated 22.7 million views.

To bring awareness to Down Syndrome, this beautiful “Dear Future Mom” ad had almost 6 million views this year.

Budweiser used the Super Bowl to showcase this puppy ad, very cute and heart-wrenching story and then pushed it through social media sharing to keep the momentum going. It generated 54 million views.

This is a beautiful ad from DTAC, a mobile phone company in Asia who tells a beautiful story of a dad, first wanting to use technology and then realizing that he should just pick up the baby. Well done, heart wrenching, cute, has managed to generate 17 million views.

John Lewis continues their amazing Christmas tradition with a nice story about a boy and his Penguin. It’s a nice throwback to the old days when there were no video games, netflix and instagram, but rather the use of your imagination.

But finally, the best viral ad of 2014 has to be the Always. Yes it borrows a little from Dove’s “real beauty” and a bit from Nike “if you let me play” but it’s so well done and on a brand no one would have expected a great viral campaign to come from. It’s certainly easier to do viral ads on beer or football, so here’s to the folks of P&G for making this one happen.  They have generated over 54 million views.  What’s amazing is that two of the best viral ads come from P&G. If you’re competing with them, are you missing something when you stick to your 30 second TV ad?

On behalf of Beloved Brands, I want to wish everyone who reads this blog a very Happy Holidays and best of luck for a prosperous 2015.  As we moved past 3 years, we’ve now generated over 3 million views.  We love what we do and we hope it shows.

Have a great 2015

At Beloved Brands, we run a Brand Leadership Center to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To see a workshop on HOW TO CREATE A BELOVED BRAND, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

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

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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

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UK retailers always do the best Christmas ads. Who won this year?

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

John Lewis:  “Monty the Penguin”

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

Boots “Christmas”

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

Sainsbury “Christmas is for Sharing”

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

Marks & Spencer: “Magic and Sparkle”

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

Mulberry: “Win Christmas”

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

Have your say on which Ad you like best

At Beloved Brands, we run a Brand Leadership Center to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To see a workshop on HOW TO CREATE A BELOVED BRAND, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

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

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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

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

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

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

Start by analyzing your strengths

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

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

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

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

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Find your Unique Selling Proposition

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

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

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Map out a Brand Plan for yourself

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

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

To read more, including looking at a deep dive assessment of your personal situation and how to create your own Brand, follow this Powerpoint presentation:

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

We make brands better.

We make brand leaders better.™

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

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Weight Watchers takes a compelling consumer insight and manages to anger me

When I saw this ad, my mouth fell open as I watched.  There was something compelling and revolting about this ad, which leaves me confused about how I felt.  Here’s the ad:

 

I applaud client and agency for using consumer insights in their ads. Too many ads all about the product (what do we do) and not enough about the consumer (what does the consumer get) And, I recognize that in a crowded category, the tone of these Weight Watchers ads did some take some risk to stand out as being different. It certainly grabbed my attention, and during the ad, I said “who the hell is making this ad?”.

However, it’s such a weird deliSlide1very of the consumer insight. Yes, it is a fact that people eat because they are sad, down, stressed, bored or lonely.The dictionary definition of the word insight is “seeing below the surface”. To get deeper, keep asking yourself “so what does that mean for the consumer” until you have an “A-HA moment”. Ask what are the beliefs, attitudes or behaviors that help explain how they think, feel or act in relationship to your brand or category? At Beloved Brands our definition of Insight is Quite Different. Insight is not something that consumers never knew before.  That would be knowledge or news, but not insight.  It’s not data or fact about your brand that you want to tell.  Real insight goes a layer or two deeper to help with the cause and effect.  Oddly enough, Insight is something that everyone already knows.  Here is our definition: Insight comes to life when it’s told in such a captivating way that makes consumers stop and say “hmm, I thought I was the only who felt like that”.

While I think people will get these ads, those looking to lose weight will be slightly offended. As someone who has lost the same 10 pounds many times in my life, I know the struggles of managing my weight. I know it’s about control and that I need to find other ways to counter the boredom and stress. I know it’s hard and I know that I likely need help.But making fun of me, even poking me just a little, will not make me want your help. I’d rather turn to someone who makes me feel positive, encouraged and optimistic that I can do it. The best ads use insight to connect and this ad repels consumers away, taking a well-known insight and delivering it in a hurtful, degrading and de-humanizing way. The best ads get on the side of the consumer and provide a rational and emotional benefit–this ad only articulates the problem. Consumers buy solutions more than they buy problems, so sell the solution. The best ads create a space that is unique for their brand, making them seem better or different. This ad is a basic “brought to you by” type ad, where the brand name said at the end is enough to move us. In a crowded weight loss category with many choices, this ad needs to say more about Weight Watchers that separates them fro the other brands. I hope they pull the ad, before diet season hits in 4 more weeks.    

Enough of negative messaging. Here’s an ad with a similar insight, but twists it in a motivating and challenging way. This ad gets me to the gym!!!

Use consumers insights to engage and connect with consumers

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

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

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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

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Challenge your thinking to focus your brand strategy

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

Here are five questions that will help focus your plan

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

1. Where are we?

2. Why are we here?

3. Where could we be?

4. How can we get there?

5. What do we need to do?

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

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

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Here are four questions that will help focus your brand strategy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At Beloved Brands, we run a Brand Leadership Center to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To read more on strategy, here is a workshop for Brand Leaders to make them better Strategic Thinkers and write better Brand Plans. To view, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

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

We make brands better.

We make brand leaders better.™

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

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Retailers are destroying Black Friday

Black-Friday-LineFor the past 20 years, it has been a tradition for american families to plan out their friday after US Thanksgiving by hitting the malls as the kickoff to Christmas season. For us too lazy to get up at 5am, it has been fun to watch on TV, seeing doors flung open with screaming people trampling each other trying to get to those door crasher specials. Whether you like the idea of “Black Friday” or not, retailers are doing what they do best:  taking a good thing and messing it up.  

Last year, we saw “Black Friday” ads on the Monday of Thanksgiving. This year, we saw them the week before. The problem when you mess with Black Friday is that you lose the buzz and excitement. You also lose the irrational consumer behavior brought about by the energy of the moment. So Black Friday used to mean getting up at 5am, running through the store to grab that Samsung TV for $179 by 6:15am and then adding a TV stand and gold-plated cables at full price on the way out of the store. Just like any emotion, causing consumers to feel more and think less puts the power into the hands of the brand. Retailers were winning this transaction. That’s gone if you do your sale over 10 days. You are just giving consumers time to think, search other websites and come to a rational decision. Now with time on their side, consumers can shop around for a week, review the specs on the TV and figure out that it has been down-graded with a lack of features, determine the gold-plated cables are a waste of money and just go to IKEA for the TV stand. Maybe they can even talk themselves out of the TV!!!  Why? Because now they can use their brain. After all, that buzz is gone.

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Another crazy trend is the idea that retailers open on Thanksgiving evening. Retailers are always trying to get a leg up, so they are now all trying to open when no one else is open. And yet with a low barrier to copy, they all just follow each other and negate any advantage. Last year the trend started where major retailers including Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy and Sears opened on Thanksgiving Day–the night before Black Friday. This won’t mean a jump in revenues it just means revenues will be brought forward one day. Yes, retailers have this belief that it’s a constant dog-fight for sales, and if one my competitor gets a leg-up, that means a loss to me. Retailers are facing such pressure during these economic times so I’m somewhat sympathetic. Margins are shrinking and many retailers basically make or break their year during Thanksgiving and New Years. So I can understand the temptation. Before we get into the ethical part of opening, let’s look logically at the 8 ways a brand can make more profit: 1) increasing prices 2) getting consumers to trade up 3) lowering your cost of goods 4) lowering your marketing costs 5) stealing other users 6) getting users to use more 7) entering new categories and 8) getting new users. I realize it’s all about stealing other users. But if both competitors blink and open at 8pm on Thanksgiving, no one really wins over the consumer. The only thing I see here is a slight increase in the costs of increased wages and store opening costs. Net net, no one really wins.Slide1

So at the year end, no retailer will really be saying “we had a great year because we opened on Thanksgiving Day”. But come on guys, while your press releases are saying that you’re really just “catering to consumer demand”, we business people know that’s BS. I’d rather see all Americans sitting around the dinner table and watching football (go Patriots) with family and friends. If families are your main target market, you should be making a big deal out of the fact that you are closed so that all employees can spend time with their families. That’s a great way to establish love for your brand. My Hope is the Retailers Announcer Early that they will be closed on Thanksgiving 2015!!!

To all our American Friends, I want to wish you and your families a Happy Thanksgiving

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

We make brands better.

We make brand leaders better.™

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

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