Principles of Analytical Thinking
For Brand Leaders to keep moving up, you need to be good at all parts of marketing–skills, behaviors and experiences. As you manage your career, try to close gaps in each. The key skills you include brand analytics, strategic thinking, brand planning, decision-making and execution. One of the biggest skill gaps I see is the ability to do deep dive analytics and turn it into an analytical story that can set up decisions. From what I see, most people either don’t know how to dig in or when they dig in, they struggle to tell the story from the mounds of data they have gathered.
Principle #1: Use facts to support opinions or else what you say comes across as an empty opinion that leaves a room divided.
One tool that I use is the “5 Questions tool” where you start with your hypothesis and then ask “so what does that mean” 5 times, each time helping analysis move from unsubstantiated opinion to action-able insight.
The benefit of this type of tool is it helps avoiding getting caught off guard when your senior management starts asking questions. Once you do that, I like to organize my thinking, like a newspaper (if those still exist) with a Headline, Opinion and 2-3 data points.
Principle #2: Absolute numbers by themselves are useless. Always find comparisons.
Only when given a relative nature to something important do you find the data break that tells a story. Is 50 degrees Fahrenheit warm or cold? If it’s Ottawa Canada and it’s December 24th it HOT and it is front page news. If it’s Los Angeles on June 5th, it is COLD and front page news.
Only when given a relative nature to something important do you find the data break that tells a story. You have to ground the data with a comparison, whether that’s versus prior periods, competitors, norms or the category. Every time you talk about a number, you have to talk about in relative terms—comparing it to something that is grounded: vs last year, vs last month, vs another brand, vs norm or vs England’s share. Is it up down, or flat? Never give a number without a relative nature—or your listener will not have a clue.
Principle #3: The analytical story comes to life when you see a significant break in the data.
Comparative indexes and cross tabulations can really bring out the data breaks and gaps that can really tell a story. Use the “so what” technique to dig around and twist the data in unique ways until you find the point in which the data actually breaks and clear meaningful differences start to show. This is where the trend is exposed and you can draw a conclusion.
Principle #4: Draw the hypothesis that answer “Where are we” and “Why are we here”
Before you start your planning process, take a few hours to sit down at your desk and outline a few points for each point. You will start to see how the overall brand plan flows. These 5 questions start to map out your overall analysis, the key issues, the vision, strategy and tactics. One of the best analytical tools we use is 5 simple questions that will make you think:
- Where could we be?
- Where are we?
- Why are we here?
- How can we get there?
- What do we need to do to get there?
Another set of strategic questions that can get you thinking:
- What is your current competitive position?
- What is the core strength your brand can win on?
- How tightly connected is your consumer to the brand?
- What is the current business situation your brand faces?
Principle #5: Gathering the right data allows you to know where you will look for more information to fill in the gaps
Deep analysis requires slower thinking time so you don’t misjudge situation. The best Brand Leaders know when to be a strategic thinker and when to be an action thinker. Strategic thinkers see “what if” questions before seeing solutions, mapping out a range of decision trees that intersect and connect by imagining how events will play out. They take time to reflect and plan before acting, helping you move in a focused efficient fashion. They think slowly, logically, always needing options, but if go too slow, you will miss the opportunity window. A good tool to get you thinking in terms of questions:
- What do we know? This should be fact based and you know it for sure.
- What do we assume? Your educated/knowledge based conclusion that helps us bridge between fact, and speculation.
- What we think? Based on facts, and assumptions, you should be able to say what we think will happen.
- What do we need to find out? There could be unknowns still.
- What are we going to do? It’s the action that comes out of this thinking.
Principle #6: Like an old school reporter, you should be looking for two source of data help frame the story.
Avoid taking one piece of data and making it the basis of your entire brand strategy. Make sure it’s a real trend. Dig around until you can find a convergence of data that leads to an answer. Look to find 2-3 facts that start to tell a story, and allows you to draw a conclusion. The good pure logic in a philosophical argument they teach you is “premise, premise conclusion” so if you see one trend line, look for a second before drawing a conclusion.
Principle #7: Use tools that can help organize and force deep dive thinking in key areas.
A Force Field analysis is best served for those brands in a sustaining position where marketing plays the role of driving innovation and creativity within a box. Always keep in mind that Drivers and Inhibitors are happening now. You can see the impact in the current year. Anything in the future gets moved down to Opportunities and Threats which are not happening but could happen. Invariably, people mix this up and things that could happen move up when they really shouldn’t. The best thing about the force field is you can easily take it into an action plan, because you want to keep the drivers going and overcome the inhibitors Then take advantage of the opportunities and minimize or eliminate any serious threats. It’s a great simple management tool.
Principle #8: Turn the analysis into a story to trigger alignment and management decisions.
When building your presentation for your management team, we recommend you use each of the 5 sections we have gone through here: Category, Consumers, Channels, Competitors and Brand. Building the analytical stories is an iterative process where you build your story based on instincts and facts, so that we can turn our instinct opinions into fact based stories.
Good analytics get you to the point of “so what do you think?” to help you be a better decision-maker.
To read more about Analytical Thinking, here is the workshop that we run for Brand Leaders.
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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.
Beloved Brands Training program
At Beloved Brands, we promise to make your team of BRAND LEADERS smarter, so they produce smarter work that drives stronger brand results.
- How to think strategically: Strategic thinkers see “what if” questions before seeing solutions, mapping out a range of decision trees that intersect and connect by imagining how events will play out.
- Write smarter Brand Plans: A good Brand Plan provides a road map for everyone in the organization to follow: sales, R&D, agencies, senior leaders, even the Brand Leader who writes the plan.
- Create winning Brand Positioning Statements: The brand positioning statement sets up the brand’s promise to the consumer, impacting both external communication (advertising, PR or in-store) as well as internally with employees who deliver that promise.
- Write smarter Creative Briefs: The brief helps focus the strategy so that all agencies can take key elements of the brand plan positioning to and express the brand promise through communication.
- Be smarter at Brand Analytics: Before you dive into strategy, you have to dive into the brand’s performance metrics and look at every part of the business—category, consumers, competitors, channels and brand.
- Get better Marketing Execution: Brand Leaders rely on agencies to execute. They need to know how to judge the work effectively to ensure they are making the best decisions on how to tell the story of the brand and express the brand’s promise.
- How to build Media Plans: Workshop for brand leaders to help them make strategic decisions on media. We look at media as an investment, media as a strategy and the various media options—both traditional and on-line.
- Winning the Purchase Moment: Brand Leaders need to know how to move consumers on the path to purchase, by gaining entry into their consumers mind, help them test and decide and then experience so they buy again and become a brand fan.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 416-885-3911.You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands.