Tag: brand leader

8 Interview Questions I used to ask potential Marketing Hires

facebook adOn average, you’ll need 4-5 interviews to land the job–likely one with HR, a couple at the manager level and a couple at the director level.  If it’s part of the formal recruiting process, then you need to realize you are being judged at every moment, from the on-campus event to the potential dinner/lunch during the interviews and even how you act between interviews.  If they give you a mentor to help you, that person will also have influence.  In our debrief about candidates, there were just as many comments about things beyond the interviews as there was the interviews themselves.

Many interviews are moving to behavioural style where they might say: “tell me a time when you had a conflict…”  This means you need to translate all your strengths and weaknesses into stories that show you have experience in the given area.  Write down your answers in the form of Situation Action and Result. Learn how to tell the stories so that it answers the question and showcases your strengths.  Even if people don’t ask you the “tell me a time…” questions, it can be powerful for you to answer in that method.

You will still get asked “what’s your weakness?”.  It’s such a cliche question now, but it still gets asked.  I once had a candidate tell me they hated ambiguity, which was pretty much the death-nail.  Avoid the BS style “I’m too hard on myself” or “I work too hard”.  You just sound annoying.  The safest option I would recommend is “I’m not very good at negotiating” which is a skill that’s not really that important for marketing.

Here are the Interview Questions that I used to Ask:

  1. Tell me a time you used numbers to sell an idea? Most marketers suck at finance and it will eventually limit your career. At some level in marketing, you have to be good at running the P&L, so I’d rather find out now. You better have your story tight because your answer will be questioned one or two more levels to see if you really know your stuff.  Great Marketers can tell stories with analysis.  I’m going to challenge every aspect of your story.  
  2. What’s the most creative thing you’ve ever done?  It really doesn’t matter what it was, but how far did you push yourself out of your comfort zone to find the creative solution.Your passion for your idea should come through.    
  3. What’s the thing you’re most proud of?  When I read a resume, I want to see big accomplishments beyond your work experience or school.  Football, chess, travelling the world or charity work etc.  I want to hear your story and your pride come through. Great Marketers accomplish things, and I want to know that you have a history of accomplishments.  Don’t tell just what you did, tell me what you ACCOMPLISHED!  
  4. Tell me a time when you’ve convinced your boss of something they thought wouldn’t work. I want to see if you can make it happen.  This will show your leadership, selling skills, and willingness to push.  A great Marketer can get what they want.. 
  5. If you were the agent of Miley Cyrus, how would you maximize her value over the next 10 years?  I always took something in the pop culture news and asked how you would handle it. I was looking to see how curious you are and how you could take something with very little subject matter expertise and put together a plan. A great Marketer has a curiosity and can form opinions quickly. This lets me see your thinking.  Pop culture is a great area that goes beyond books.   
  6. If you were on a team that solved a serious healthcare problem for Society, what factors would you use to price it on the global level?   This is a very thick question with many issues, especially adding in the global issue. I want to see you think through those issues and layer those issues into your answer. How do you handle the differences between North America and the Third World? How important is profitability vs R&D vs compassion?   How would you leverage government, key influencers and where would that fit into your answer. Great marketers can handle ambiguity and there is a lot within this case.  
  7. From your previous Interview with our company, what’s the biggest mistake you made and how would you now change that? Great marketers are constantly pushing themselves to improve.  That starts with your own personal assessment. I want to see that you have thought about it and now see a better solution. It also puts you under a bit of unexpected pressure to see how you handle that.  
  8. What questions do you have for me? To me this is one of the most important sections. It demonstrates how engaged you are in the process. The quality of your questions will help to separate you. Have five great questions done ahead of time, ask about 2-3 each interview. Ask deep questions, not surface questions.Turn each answer into a conversation starter. 

Act like you want the job. Show a bit of spunk and energy through the interviews. Marketing jobs are a bit different.  Take a Red Bull before the interview.  Be leaning forward, make eye contact, be comfortable and dynamic in your personality. Marketing jobs require a bit of charm, a big push, and a willingness to get things done no matter what. I want to see all those things in the interview. 

If you bomb a few interviews, keep going for it.  There are more people who want to be an Assistant Brand Manager than there are jobs. And that’s continuing to tighten in the tough economy as many places are going without. So how bad do you really want this job?   Do you want it more than everyone else? And will you do what it takes to get that job.  I remember interviewing so many times and not getting the job–I must have gone through 100 interviews before I finally landed the right job.  I remember one time, after 3 minutes the hiring manager looked at my resume and said “you have zero marketing experience, this won’t work”.  That one still stings after twenty years, but made me want it even more.  Persistence has to be the key. If you are only half trying, then I have very little sympathy. If you are completely immersed in the effort, trust me, you will eventually break through.

Best of luck to you, and go for it.  


Here’s a presentation on Successful Marketing Careers:  




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The 10 Reasons Brand Managers get fired

facebook adThere’s been a lot of great Assistant Brand Managers who get promoted and then are fired at the Brand Manager level. So that would beg the question: why were they mistakenly promoted? Just like in sports where they are fooled by size, we sometimes get fooled by Charisma. They seem impressive to us–whether it’s how they speak in the hallways or answer questions in a plans meeting. We think Charisma is a great starting ground for a leader, so hopefully they can learn to be analytical, strategic, creative and organized. Hopefully that Charismatic leader can get stuff done, stay on track, hand in their budgets on time, know how to turn a brand around, can write great brand plans, work with agencies and motivate the sales team etc…etc… But then we find out that they can’t do all that stuff. And after 18 months as a Brand Manager, we see they really are “just charismatic” and we remind ourselves of what we already knew: Being a Brand Manager really is hard.

Brand Managers don’t really get fired because they can’t deliver the results. That might happen at Director or VP level. But at the Brand Manager level, we’d look for other Blind Spots that might be leading to the poor results.

I don’t want to see anyone get fired, so use this list to avoid it. I’ve provided advice for each reason, hopefully helping you to discuss it pro-actively.

Top 10 Reasons why Brand Managers get fired:

  1. Struggle to Make Decisions: When these Brand Managers were ABMs they shined because they are the “super doer’s”, who can work the system, get things done on time and under budget. All the subject matter experts (forecasting, production, promotions) love them. But then get them into the Brand Manager seat and they freeze. They can do, but they can’t decide. They can easily execute someone else’s project list with flare, but they can’t come up with a project list of their own. For you to succeed, you have to work better on your decision-making process. You have to find methods for narrowing down the decisions. When you’re new to decisions, take the time to map out your thinking whether it’s pros and cons or a decision tree. It will eventually get faster for you and train your mind to make decisions.
  2. Not Analytical Enough: Those that can’t do the deep dive analytical thinking. They might have great instincts, but they only scratch the surface on the analytics, and it eventually catches them when they make a poor decision and they can’t explain why they went against the obvious data points. The real reason is they never saw those data points. When a senior leader questions you, they can usually 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. Just because you are now a Brand Manager doesn’t mean you stop digging into the data. The analytical skills you learned as an ABM should be used at every level in your career right up to VP. As I moved up, I felt out of touch with the data so at every level up to VP, I used to do my own monthly share report just to ensure I was digging in and getting my hands mucky with the data. Because I had dug around in the data, I knew which of my Brand Managers had dug in as well and which Brand Managers hadn’t even read their ABM’s monthly report yet. Take the time to know the details of your business. Dig into the data and make decisions based on the depth of analysis you do. 
  3. Can’t Get Along: Conflicts, teamwork issues, communication. These Brand Managers struggle with sales colleagues or the subject matter experts (SME’s). They might be the type who speaks first, listens second. They go head-to-head to get their own way instead of looking for compromise. Yes, they might be so smart they think faster than everyone, but they forget to bring people along with their thinking. They start to leave a trail of those they burned and when the trail gets too big they get labelled as “tough to deal with”. Listen more–hear them out. The collection of SME’s will likely teach you more about marketing than your boss will. If you don’t use these people to enhance your skill, you’ll eventually crash and burn. And if they can’t work with you, they’ll also be the first to destroy your career. You aren’t the first superstar they’ve seen. And likely not the last. My recommendation to you is to remember that Leadership is not just about you being out front, but about you turning around and actually seeing people following you. In fact, it should be called “Follower-ship”.
  4. Not good with Ambiguity: Some Brand Managers opt for the safety of the easy and well-known answers. They struggle with the unknown and get scared of ambiguity. Brand Managers that become too predictable to their team create work in the market that also becomes predictable and fails to drive the brand. These Brand Managers are OK–they don’t really have a lot of wrong, but they don’t have a lot of right. You can put them on safe easy businesses, but you wouldn’t put them on the turn around or new products. Ambiguity is a type of pressure that not all of us are capable of handling easily, especially when they see Ambiguity and Time Pressure working against each other. Don’t ever settle for “ok” just because of a deadline. Always push for great. You have to learn to handle ambiguity. In fact revel in ambiguity. Have fun with it. Be Patient with Ideas. Never be afraid of an idea and never kill it quickly. As a leader, find ways to ask great questions instead of giving quick answers. Watch the signals you send that may suck the creativity energy out of your team. When you find a way to stay comfortable in the “ambiguity zone”, the ideas get better whether it’s the time pressure that forces the thinking to be simpler or whether it’s the performance pressure forces us to push for the best idea. So my recommendation to you is to just hold your breath sometimes and see if the work gets better.
  5. Too slow and stiff: The type of Brand Manager that is methodical to the extreme and they think everything through to the point of “Analysis Paralysis”.
    They never use instincts–and have the counter analytical answer to every “gut feel” solution that gets recommended. They have every reason why something won’t work but no answers for what will work. I have to admit that this type frustrates me to no end, because nothing ever gets done. They struggle to make it happen: they are indecisive, not productive, disorganized or can’t work through others. They are frustratingly slow for others to deal with. They keep missing opportunities or small milestones that causes the team to look slow and miss the deadlines. You have to start to show more flexibility in your approach. Borrow some of the thinking from dealing with ambiguity and making decisions. Realize there are options for every solution, no one perfect answer. 
  6. Bad people Manager: Most first time people managers screw up a few of their first 5 direct reports. It’s only natural. One of the biggest flaws for new Managers is to think “Hey it will take me longer to explain it to you, so why don’t I just do it myself this one time and you can do it next time”. They repeat this every month until we realized they aren’t teaching their ABM anything. And they became the Manager that none of the ABMs wanted to work for because you never learn anything. But as we keep watching great ABMs crashing and burning while under them, we start to wonder “you are really smart, but can you actually manage people?”. To be a great Brand Manager, you have to work on being a better people leader. We expect you to develop talent. Be more patient with your ABM. Become a teacher. Be more selfless in your approach to coaching. Take time to give them feedback that helps them, not feedback that helps you. If you don’t become a better people manager, you’ve just hit your peak in your career.
  7. Poor communicators, with manager, senior management or partners. They fail to adequately warn when there are potential problems. They leave their manager in the dark and the information comes their manager from someone else. They confuse partners because they don’t keep them aware of what’s going on. You have to become a better communicator. Make it a habit that as soon as you know something, your boss does as well–especially with negative news. It’s normal that we get fixated on solving the problem at hand that we forget to tell people. But that opens you up to risk–so cover your bases. 
  8. Never Follow Their Instincts: They forget that marketing also has a “Gut Feel” to it, taking all the data, making decisions and then getting to the execution and believing it by taking a risk. Too many times people fail because “they went along with it even though they didn’t like it”. You have to find ways to use your instincts. The problem is that sometimes your instincts are hidden away. You get confused, you feel the pressure to get things done and you’ve got everyone telling you to go for it. You get scared because you’re worried about your career and you want to do the ‘right thing’. But your gut is telling you it’s just not right. My rule is simple: if you don’t love the work, how do you expect the consumer to love your brand. The worst type of marketer is someone who says “I never liked the brief” or “I never liked the ad”. At every touch point, keep reaching for those instincts and bring them out on the table.
  9. Can’t Think Strategically or Write Strategically: As you move up to Brand Manager, we expect you to be able to think conceptually, strategically and in an organized fashion. We also expect that to come through in your writing–whether that’s your Annual Brand Plan, monthly share report or just an email that you send. Be organized in your thinking–map it out. I do believe that every good strategy has four key elements: 1) Focus in either target or messaging 2) an Early win where you can see results 3) a Leverage point where you can take that early win and achieve a position power for your brand and finally 4) a Gateway to something even bigger for the brand. Every six months, I would find a quiet time to answer five key questions that would help me stay aware: 1) Where are we? 2) Why are we here? 3) Where could we be? 4) How can we get there? and 5) What do we have to do to get started? In an odd way, the more planning you do, the more agile you’ll be, because you’ll know when it’s ok to “go off plan” 
  10. They Don’t Run the Brand, they Let The Brand Run Them. Some Brand Managers end up in the spin zone where they are disorganized, frantic and not in touch with their business. They miss deadlines, look out of control and things just stockpile on one another. They may take pride in how long they work or how many things they are getting done on their to-do list. But they are out of control and the business is absolutely killing them. They just don’t know it yet. My advice to you is to stay in Control so you hit the deadlines and stay on budget. Dig in and know your business so you don’t get caught off-guard. Make sure you are asking the questions and carrying forward the knowledge. Instil processes that organize and enable you and your team, so that it frees you up your time to push projects through and for doing the needed strategic thinking. Stay conceptual–avoid getting stuck in the pennies or decimals–so you can continue to drive the strategy of your brand.

Now let’s be honest: You likely won’t be fired for just one of these. You likely will see 3 or 4 of these come together and begin to showcase that you’re just not up for being a Brand Manager. But even 1 or 2 will keep you stuck at the Brand Manager level and you’ll notice your bosses are hesitant to put you on the tough assignments.

But the big question is what do you do about it. My hope is that you can use the list as a way to course correct on something you might already be doing. We each have a few of these de-railers, some that you can easily over-come but others that will take a few years to really fix. 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.

I hope you can figure out the blind spots before your manager does.

To read a presentation on careers:


Articles on the Four Levels of Marketing

  • Assistant Brand Manager: It’s about doing; analyzing and sending signals you have leadership skills for the future. It’s not an easy job and only 50% get promoted to Brand Manager. To read a story on how to be successful as an ABM, click on the following hyper link: How to be a successful ABM
  • Brand Manager: 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. The good ones let the ABM do their job; the bad ones jump in too much, frustrated and impatient rather than acting as a teacher. To read about being a successful Brand Manager, read: How to be a successful Brand Manager
  • Marketing Director: It’s more about managing and leading than it does about thinking and doing. Your role is to set the standard 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. Let your best people shine, grow and push you. Follow this hyper link to read more: How to be a successful Marketing Director
  • VP Marketing or CMO: It’s about leadership, vision and getting the most from people. If you are good at it, you won’t need to do any marketing, other than challenging and guiding your people to do their best work. You have to deliver the results, and very few figure out the equation that the better the people means the better the work and in the end the better the results. Invest in training as a way to motivate your team and keep them engaged. Use teaching moments to share your wisdom. Read the following article for how to be a success: How to be a Successful VP of Marketing



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Six Habits of Great Brand Leaders

facebook adHaving spent 20 years in the CPG world of marketing, I’ve seen almost a thousand Brand Leaders over the years.  On the way up, I tried to emulate what I thought were the best traits and avoid what I saw as weaknesses.  And at the senior level of marketing, I hired tons of Brand Leaders, promoted many and even had to fire a few along the way.  I’ve been a Brand Coach the past few years, working closely with Brand Leaders.  And I consistently see these six habits at any level, that separate those that are GREAT from those that are just GOOD.

Habit #1:  GREAT Brand Leaders push for focused choices, using the word “or” and rarely using the word “and”.  

Everyone says they are good decision makers, but very few are.  If you present an either-or situation to most brand leaders, they struggle with the decision, so they say “let’s do a little of both”.  But in reality, what separates out a great brand leader from the pack, is great brand leaders know that decision-making starts with the choices where you have to pick one, not both. At the core of business, Brands only exist to drive more profit than if we just sold the product itself.  It’s all about ROI (Return on Investment).  Forget the mathematical equation, ROI just means you get more out of it than you put into it.  Every brand is constrained by money, people, speed and ideas.  It becomes all about focus, leverage and finding that gateway point where you realize more from what you do, it than what you put into it.


  1. To be GREAT, you need to focus on a tight consumer target to make sure you can get them to do what you hope and love you for it.  A new way to think is to find those consumers that are already  highly motivated to buy what you have to sell and get them aboutus_roi_70812766-300x228to love you, rather than targeting everyone and get them to like you.  Look at how marketing testing is set up:  we test among the mass market and see how many we can persuade to use your product. The reality is that leading brands within each category are more loved than the pack of brands struggling to figure themselves out.  It’s better to be loved by a few than tolerated by everyone.  I once talked to a bank whose target was 18-65, current customers, new customers and employees.  That’s not a target.  How can you have a ROI if you’re spreading your limited resources against EVERYONE?  The only thing missing from that target is tourists and prisoners.  You have to matter to those who care the most.
  2. To be GREAT you need to focus on creating a tightly defined reputation that sets your brand up to own an area.  You really only have four choices: better, different, cheaper or not around for very long.  Giving the consumer too many messages about your brand will confuse them as to what makes your brand unique.  Trying to be everything to everyone is the recipe for being nothing to no one.  Today they estimate that consumers receive 7,000 brand messages a day.  Wow.  How many of those 7,000 do you engage with and digest each day?  Maybe 5.  And yet, in your creative brief you think 3 or 4 messages is the way to go.  You have to focus on one message. When you ask a room full of Brand Leaders, tell me one word that defines the Volvo brand:  half the room yells out SAFETY.  Volvo has been singularly focused on the safety positioning since the 1950s not just externally but internally the safety positioning guides every decision.  That’s focus.
  3. You need to focus on very few strategies.  The most simple strategies center around Penetration (getting new users) or frequency (getting current users to use more).  Do you want to get more people to eat your brand or those that already do to eat more?  That’s a choice you must make, yet I see so many Brand Plans with both.  Even worse is when I see creative briefs with both.  These are two different unrelated strategies. When you look for new users, you have to convince someone who already knows about your brand and get them to change their minds away from their current brand.  When you try to get more usage, you have to convince someone who has already decided how to use your brand, to use it differently, changing their habits or rituals.  Brands need to understand where they sit before picking strategies.  Go look at your plan and see if you are making choices.  Because if you’re not, then you’re not making decisions.  

When you focus, four things happen for your brand:  better Return on Investment (ROI); better Return on Effort (ROE); stronger reputation; more competitive and an aligned organization that helps create an experience that delivers your reputation.  So next time you are faced with a decision, make the choice. Don’t pick both, just in case you are wrong.  All you are doing is depleting your resources by spreading them across both choices.  And you’ll never see any movement on your brand so you’ll never find out if you were right or wrong.  Make the choice.  blog ad 1

Habit #2:  GOOD Brand Leaders represent the Brand to the Consumer, but GREAT Brand Leaders represent the consumer to the Brand

Everything starts and ends with the consumer in mind.  I always like to ask Brand Leaders:  “Do you represent your brand to your consumer or do you represent your consumer to the brand?”   Yes, I get stunned looks of confusion when I ask that.  But it’s an important question as to your mindset of how you do your job.  My challenge to you is to start thinking like your consumer and be their representative to your brand.  You’ll notice the work gets better, you’ll see clearer paths to growth and you’ll start to create a brand that the consumer loves rather than just likes.  When this happens, sales go up and the P&L spits out higher profitability.  Because the more loved the brand, the more powerful position it occupies and the more profit it can generate from that source of power.  

Able to walk in their shoes and speak in their voice?  Get in the shoes of those Consumers and you’ll quickly realize that consumers do not care about what you do, until you care about what they want.  You should be thinking about your consumer every day, all day.  Yes, you need to hit your sales and share goals.   But your consumers are your only source of revenue and you have to know them intimately.  Live and breathe insights about your consumers.

Habit #3:  GOOD Brand Leaders are fundamentally sound with their facts, but GREAT Brand Leaders are fundamentally sound with their instincts.  

I am a huge believer that marketing fundamentals matter–in fact I train Brand Leaders on everything from strategic thinking to writing brand plans and creative briefs.  But that’s a starting point to which you grow from.  If you don’t use fundamentals in how you do your job, you will and should be fired.  So Good Brand Leaders do a good job of bringing fundamentals into how they do their job.  They know how to back up the fundamentals by gathering the right facts to support their arguments.  But GREAT Brand Leaders are able to take it to the next level and bring those same fundamentals and match them against their instincts.  They have a gut feel for decisions they can reach into and bring out at the boardroom table based on the core fundamentals, the experience they bring from past successes and failures as well as this instinctual judgement.  It’s not that great marketers have better instincts, it’s that great marketers are able to believe in their instincts and not shut them down because of what the facts might say.


Habit #4:  GOOD Brand Leaders try to do it all themselves.  GREAT Brand Leaders don’t do anything by themselves but they inspire others to do great work

I was one of those Brand Leaders that spent the first part of my career trying to do everything, and the second half of my career trying to do nothing.  inspireI wasn’t slacking off but I finally figured out that the secret was to inspire others.  I fully admit that I was much more successful when I learned to do nothing, but do it really well.  Instead of giving people answers to follow, give them the problems that requires their expertise in solving.

As Brand Leaders, we don’t really know much about anything.  We know a little about this and that.  But purposefully, we are generalists.  And then if we surround ourselves with experts, we owe it to ourselves to ask for their help. Put another way:  when you tell people what to do, there is one simple answer: YES.  When you ask people what they would do, you open yourself to hundreds of solutions you might not even have imagined.  

The next time you have a problem, instead of giving the best answer to the experts, try to come up with the best question and then listen.

Habit #5:  The GREAT Brand Leaders create GREAT Brand Leaders on their team.  

While you might think that having a great product, the right strategy and a winning TV ad will drive your brand, the long-term success of your brand is dependent is how good your people are.  plan adIf you have great Brand Leaders, they will be on top of your business, they will make the necessary strategic course corrections, they will create better executions that connect with consumers and drive profitable growth for your brand. One of the best ways to drive long-term business results from your brands is to make sure you have a strong marketing team in place.  GREAT Brand Leaders understand the very simple equation:  better people means better work and that means better results.

Habit #6:  GREAT Brand Leaders have a desire to Leave a Legacy

I’m always asked so what does it take to be great at marketing, and I’ll always jokingly say “well, they aren’t all good qualities”.  The best marketers I have seen have an ego that fuels them.  That’s not a bad thing, as long as you can manage it and the ego doesn’t get out of control.  I always challenge Brand Leaders to think of the next person who will be in their chair, and what you want to leave them.  When you create a Brand Vision, you should think 10 years from now, advertising campaigns should last at least 5 years and the strategic choices you make should gain share and drive the brand to a new level.  Yet, the reality is you will be in the job for 2-4 years.  When you write a Brand Plan, you should think of the many audiences like senior leaders, ad agencies and those that work on your brand, but you also should think about the next Brand Leader.  What will you do, to leave the brand in a better position than when you took it on?  What will be your legacy on your brand?   

Always Push for Great and Never Settle for OK



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. 

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:

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The one way Brand Leaders can get better Advertising.

Because of my role as a Creative Coach for Brand Leaders, I always get asked “so what makes a Brand Leader good at Advertising?”  Most people are surprised by the simplicity of my answer.  Brand Leaders who are good at advertising can get good advertising on the air and keep bad advertising off the air.  Think about that for a bit because that answer is a lot more complicated than first meets the eye. It’s not about how creative you are.  It’s not just picking the right ad either.  

Since Brand Leaders don’t really make the ads, how can one Brand Leader get better work than another?  Well, it starts with your managing your options.  When your agency presents work to you, you really only have three options you can say:

  1. Yes, I approve this ad.
  2. No, I reject this Ad.
  3. Maybe, but here’s some tips to make it even better.

I love when I’m in a room full of Brand Leaders and I ask:  “If you don’t make the advertising and you can only answer yes, no or maybe, then how can you as a Brand Leader, get better advertising?”  The room goes silent, almost like they’ve never been asked this question before. Then the answers start to flow:

  • “keep rejecting the bad ads until they get better ones”
  • “get a new agency”
  • “make sure you give detailed feedback on what to fix”.

Then I say:  “Those answers might you in saying NO to bad ads and MAYBE to ok ads, but how do you get the ads that you want to say YES I approve, are amazing ads instead of just good?”  The room goes silent again, as all the Brand Leaders are stumped.

And then I give my answer:  You have to inspire your agency to make great work.

There’s disbelief.  “Don’t we pay the agency?  We are the client. So why do we have to inspire them?”

Well, let’s look at the simple math.  Most Brand Leaders only make 1 ad per year. inspire Most agencies make 100s of spots per year.  Yet you need  your 1 ad to be great, so you can drive your brand’s results.  The agency needs 5 ads out of 100 to win agency of the year, and about 5 to put in their pitch presentation to try to get new business.  I know I keep changing the question, but maybe the better question for you is “how do you get your ONE ad that you will make this year to be one of the FIVE best ads that your agency will make this year?”

You want to get your agency’s best people to want to work on your brand and you want them to present their best ad ideas.  You want the agency’s best people to go all out, put all of their passion into the work, stay late, call in favors, get the best directors and best talent to want to work on your ad.  

I’m changing the question one more time:  So how do you get the best people at your agency to want to work on your brand and give their best work?

Inspire them.

The best creative people want an opportunity to make great work.  And if they sense you’re the type of client who will enable them, they’ll be attracted to working on your brand.  The best creative people at your agency want problems to solve. They don’t want your answers. At every stage of the process, just give them a new problem they can solve. Don’t say “make it blue” but rather say “how do we make it more bright?” They know great creative has risks and they want to see you willing to take chances.  

Slide1The best account people want to be respected and appreciated. They are always caught in the middle between you and their own creatives. They know their creatives can be a pain in the butt.  You would do wonders for your relationship by not being a pain in the butt as well. They want to see you fight for the work internally, knock down barriers, get your management aligned and be passionate about the work at every stage.  They want you to know how hard they work, and want you to acknowledge their impact.  

The best agencies want a client who wants to make great work.  They want you to show it off as much as they want to. Agencies are more driven by the emotion and pride than they are results. You will get better results if you can tap into the personal pride of your agency.  

Your agency wants you to make work that you love and not settle for work that you think is OK.  I remember struggling one time to give feedback.  1899963_10153777664745332_750304591_nAnd I finally said, “I just don’t love it” and I felt  guilty, like I was telling a girl “it’s not you, it’s me”.  But the reaction of the agency surprsed me because they said “we don’t want to make work you don’t love and the fact that you need to love it makes us want to make work you love” and they pulled the ad off the table.  To me “I love it” is the highest bar you can set.  Because if you don’t love it, then how do you expect your consumer to love your brand?  

The last question:  if you knew that showing up as a better client to your agency would make the work even better, then would you show up differently?  I hope so.

Because that’s how a Brand Leader gets better advertising.   


At Beloved Brands, ask us how we can act as a Creative Coach for you, helping you and your agency get to great creative Advertising 


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Worst Ad Ever: I promise I would never let you make this ad

If you made this ad, you should be fired.  If you are the Brand Leader, this did nothing for the Lexus brand.  If you are the agency, you let your client down–and likely they are now about to get fired. 


Advertising looks easy, but it’s not.  

Good Advertising is not random, it is well planned. The best Advertising is an expression of strategy, that should have a goal for the brand.  It should also have a target market, supported by a key consumers insight that connects with the target.  And it should serve up the main benefit through the advertising.   Advertising is commercial art, which really means it’s half art and half science, but it is never all art.  That’s called a museum, not my TV set. Advertising is not “out of the box” creativity, in fact it is a form of “in the box” creativity, where the strategy and creative brief create a box for the creatives to find a solution.  The best creative people at agencies are not blue sky thinkers, but rather problem solvers.  

I come at this from the vantage of a fellow client.  I’m not an Ad Agency guy, never having worked a day at an agency in my life.  But I do give coaching on Advertising for clients, and I’d never ever let you make this spot.  In my role, I get asked a lot:  “So what is it that makes someone good at advertising?”.  I always think people are looking for some type of magical answer, but the answer I give is always very simple yet if you think about it very complex:  “They can consistently get good advertising on the air and keep bad advertising off the air”.  

This Lexus ad should have been rejected!  When I look at the Lexus ad above, I should almost be able to write the brief and at least answer these questions:

  1. Who Do We want to sell to?  (target)
  2. What are we selling?  (benefit)
  3. Why should they believe us?  (RTB)
  4. What Do We want the Advertising to do?  (Strategy)
  5. What do Want people to do?  (Response)
  6. What do we want people to feel?   (Brand Equity)

I have no idea of the target, the benefit or what they hope the advertising does.  I don’t even know what they want people to do.  Lexus competes with 3 other brands with very well-defined brand positions:  BMW is all about performance, Mercedes owns luxury and Volvo screams safety all the time. While Lexus came into the market with stylish designs and at a new reasonable price, I’m no longer sure what the brand stands for.  (Lexus is my favourite car I’ve ever owned so far)  

Finding your Difference is not easy

good-vs-different-1I’m always pushing to make ads that are unique, but there is a fine line you have to walk between good-different and bad-different. To be good and different, you need to make what you do really interesting.  This Lexus ad is somewhat different (more weird than different), but it is awful. The ad has nothing to do with the consumer, nothing to do with the brand. It hides the product so much that you would think the client and agency both feel there’s nothing really great to say about the brand.  Can you find advertising that shows how much consumers love the brand?       

The car brand that consistently does Different-Good is Volkswagon who finds unique ways to showcase how much love their consumer feels for their brand. Here’s a couple of great examples for VW:

The ABC’S of Advertising 

Here’s a potential tool you can take into the room that is very easy to follow along.  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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 exist in the minds of the consumer. 

Buying media and putting something on air does not attract attention for your ad.  Why would consumers want to listen to what you have to say.  strategy adYou have to EARN the consumers’ attention.  The best way to grab Attention is to take a risk and do something not done before. Here are the 5 ways to attract attention.

  1. Be Incongruent:  This is a great technique to get noticed is by being a bit off kilter or different from what they are watching.  A lot of brand leaders are afraid of this, because they feel it exposes them.  Avoid being like “wallpaper”   If you want a high score on “made the brand seem different”, it starts with acting different.   kitkat
  2. Resonate:  Connect with the consumer in the true way that they see themselves or their truth about how they interact with the brand.
  3. Entertain them:  Strike the consumers emotional cord, by making them laugh, make them cry, or make them tingle.  From the consumers view—they interact with media to be entertained—so entertain them.
  4. The Evolution of the Art of Being Different:  As much as Movies,  TV music continues to evolve, so do ads. As much as your art has to express your strategy, it needs to reflect the trends of society to capture their attention.  Albino fruit flies mate at twice the rate of normal fruit flies.  Be an albino fruit fly!!!
  5. Location Based:  Be where Your consumers are open and willing to listen.  The Media choice really does impact attention.  Make sure your creative makes the most of that media choice.  

There is an old advertising saying “half of all advertising is wasted, but we aren’t sure which half”.  Coincidently, the average brand link is 50%.  Our goal should always be to get higher.  The best Branding comes when you connect the Brand to the Climax of the ad.   It’s not about how much branding or how early the branding arrives.  

  1. Be Part of the Story:  in the spirit of big ideas, how do you tell a story, using your brand.  It’s not how much branding you use, but rather how closely connected the brand to the climax of your ad.
  2. Is it the Truth:  It sounds funny, but if there is a disconnect between what you say, and what you are….then the brand link won’t be there.  People will discard the ad.
  3. Own the Idea Area:  Be a bit different—make sure that what you do sets you apart from anyone else. 
  4. Repeat:  don’t be afraid of building your brand—and the simplest way to get branding is to repeat and repeat and repeat.

Communicating is about selling.  Keep in mind, communication is not what is said, but what is heard.  The best way to Communicate is through Story Telling that involves the brand.  The modern-day world of the internet allows richness in story telling.  

  1. Start a Dialogue:  If you can do a good job in connecting with the consumer, the branding idea can be a catalyst that enables you to converse with your consumer.
  2. What are you Selling?  You have to keep it simple—you only have 29 seconds to sell the truth.  Focus on one message…keep asking yourself “what are we selling”.drill
  3. Powerful Expression:  try to find one key visual that can express what you are selling.  This visual can be leveraged throughout
  4. Find Your “More Cheese”:  Many times its so obvious what people want, but we just can’t see it or articulate it. 
  5. Sell the Solution—not the Problem:  Brands get so wrapped up in demonstrating the problem, when really it is the solution that consumers want to buy. 

We all want our ads to stick.  You need to adopt a mindset of “will this idea last for 5 years”.  The Best way to Stick is to have an idea that is big enough.  You should sit there and say is this a big idea or just an ad?

  1. Dominant Characteristic:  things that are memorable have something that dominates your mind (e.g.:  the red-head kid)
  2. How Big Is the Idea?  Its proven that a gold-fish will get bigger with a bigger bowl.  The same for ideas.
  3. Telling Stories:   While visuals are key to communicating, in the end people remember stories—that’s how we are brought up—with ideas and morals that are designed to stick. 
  4. Always Add A Penny:  With each execution, you have a chance to add something to the branding idea.  Avoid duplicating what you’ve done…and try to stretch as much as you can. 
  5. Know Your Assets:  There has to be something in your ad that stick Know what that is and then use it, in new executions or in other parts of the marketing mix.

Yes, the Lexus ad is beautiful shot, likely very expensive–both in production and media.  But it’s so subtle, it won’t catch attention, there’s no way it’s going to brand link or really communicate.  Strike that, since I’m still not sure what the ad is communicating, there’s no way it will communicate.  Add all that up and it won’t stick at all.

At Beloved Brands, ask us how we can act as a Creative Coach for you, helping you and your agency get to great creative Advertising


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While CPG led the way on TV advertising, they trail dramatically on Social Media

From the 1950s to the 1990s, CPG brand marketing teams had perfected the 30 second TV commercial.  Advertising was all about awareness and creating purchase intent by taking what you do better than your competitor and shouting it at consumers over and over again until you could gain market share.   Now in this new world of social media, the CPG brands seem to be struggling the most.   The CPG brands were starting to master that 30 second TV ad, with positioning work, a creative brief, animatic copy testing, full-scale production and then a steady media plan of GRPs.  

But, with digital media and social media, the CPG brands are the brands that are struggling the most.  

I grew up in the CPG space, working for J&J, Coke and General Mills, and I love CPG marketing because in that space the brands aren’t all that exciting so it always took marketing genius to make the most of them and bring a bit of magic to them.  

But as the media mix has dramatically changed over the last decade, CPG Brand Leaders have to recognize the change in the marketing model. For generations, they talked AT the consumer, but now they have to talk WITH the consumer.  In the old school marketing, CPG Brand Leaders were trained to try to INTERRUPT the consumer in a busy part of their day and then YELL at them over and over again.  It was all about AWARENESS-PURCHASE-LOYALTY where Awareness leads to conversion to Purchase which then the brand experience leads to Loyalty.  The new school of marketing is all about LOYALTY-AWARENESS-PURCHASE where the most loyal users will be the ones driving Awareness and the influence of the conversion to purchase.  It’s no longer about yelling at strangers on TV.  Instead, you have to engage your most loyal consumers, and they become the medium for reaching new users as they WHISPER advice to their friends.

But that’s where the problem lays:  how do you get consumers to talk about brands that have very little talk value?  Yes, doing social media for Apple, Whole Foods or Mercedes relies on the fact that consumers are already talking about these brands at the lunch table.  

Types of Brands

But the reason why CPG brands used the type of interruptive style marketing style is because it suited the type of brand it is:  low involvement and low importance.   Looking at the chart below, I call this a COMMODITY type brand.  The other three types of brands are:  Essentials which are lower on involvement but high on importance like banking, pharma or insurance. Indulgence brands, like beer, chocolate or bubble gum, are the opposite of essentials as they have high involvement but really little importance.  And finally, there are high-profile brands, which are high on importance and involvement.  These brands are your favorite part of you every day life such as your iPhone, your latte from Starbucks, the restaurant you want to go or the latest movie coming this weekend.  These brands are the opposite of CPG, they are talked about at lunch constantly and they find it easy to work social media with a huge following and constant news.


With CPG brands, the tendency is to put the effort into the brand messaging more than the effort into the creative/media.  However, if you think about it, maybe it should be the opposite.  Yes, messaging is always safer and more predictive, but if you need to counter the lack of involvement by making it a higher involvement brand, then it might have to come from the creative.  

Take the Dove brand for example.  For years, they did a good job behind the litmus test and talking about not being a soap.  They were a good brand, still relatively lost in sea of crowded soaps and hand creams.  Dove’s “real beauty” campaign took the brand to a new level far beyond what anyone could expect and is no longer just a soap but a brand that stands for the modern woman.   The real beauty TV campaign is one of the biggest viral ads in history.  And they have been able to get consumers to keep talking about the brand, through social media vehicles mainly through Facebook with 19 million consumers following the Dove brand.   Ten years later Dove is a legendary CPG brand.   While it’s still just a soap, that didn’t prevent the marketers at Dove from creating an idea for the brand.  

A new way to Look at Social Media

Here’s a good summary of the various social media sites out there.  My recommendation is to stand behind the one that best fits what you’re trying to accomplish.

social media summary

Another way to think about the social media options is to match the choice up against the emotional zone where you want to position your brand.

social media emotions

What is your Brand IDEA?

I define a Beloved Brand as “an idea worth loving”.  It’s no longer about a product, but an idea you can convey into the marketplace.  If you can’t get anyone talking about you, maybe the problem is It’s all too easy to sit there with your brand and say “who would ever want to talk about us?”.  That’s a cop-out if you ask me.  The challenge for CPG Brand Leaders is to re-think your brand.  Can you create an idea, a brand purpose and find ways to drive up involvement and importance for what your brand stands for.  Here are three challenges for you:

  • How do you stop trying to make a big deal out of your little points of difference and try to create a Brand Idea for your brand that connects with consumers?   Start with the consumer and find real benefits, both rational and emotional that you can stand behind, rather than just shouting out your product features through the TV.  
  • How do you drive up involvement and importance for what you stand for so that your get talked about at the lunch room table?    You have to understand who are your most influential consumers, the respected mavens within their circle of friends, and allow them to project your brand to their following.  
  • Can you build a Brand Purpose so that you can leverage that purpose as an idea to elevate your brand?   Purpose driven brands (The why) are a growing phenomena and a perfect fit for connecting with consumers through social media.  

While your product might not generate talk value at the lunch table, maybe your idea can be big enough that it will. And when it’s no longer about just your product, maybe your own idea will inspire you in the social media space. 

Maybe the issue isn’t just media.  But have you created an IDEA for your brand to stand behind?  


To see a training presentation on getting better  Media Plans



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:

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What comes first, the media choice or the creative idea?

slide15When I started in marketing, way back in the mid 90s, life was a little simpler because the media and the creative were both under one agency roof.  The meetings were simple:  you’d see your various TV script options, give some feedback and then the room would go silent and the account person would say “now let’s look at the media plan” and the media person would take you through a 15 page presentation on where else the idea of your TV script could go. You’d see some magazine, OOH and even some sampling idea.  There was no internet advertising yet.  

Then one day, our media folks from our agency were spun off, had a new name, moved offices and had a new President.  But still owned by WPP.  It now just meant we had two presentations and the Brand Leader now had to make sense of things and try to piece it together. About a year into that new relationship, I was sitting there confused and asked the question: “So what comes first, the media choice or the creative idea?”  The room went silent for about 5 minutes.  Then of course both sides talked over each other, both saying it was them that came first.  

Media is an investment against your strategy and creative is an expression of your strategy.  But both media and creative are only useful if they connect with consumers.  Great advertising must connect through very insightful creative that expresses the brand’s positioning and told in a way that matters to those who care the most. And yet, great advertising must be placed within the consumers’ life where it will capture their attention and motivate them in the expressed desired way to meet the strategy.  So really, the consumer comes first and strategy comes second.  But media and creative need to work to jointly capture the consumer and deliver the strategy.  

The Problem now rests with Brand Leaders.  While one could theoretically argue that if the Big Idea of the advertising is so big, it should work in every medium, that’s just not true in reality.  Some ideas just work better in certain mediums.  And yet the media people could also theoretically argue that if you go for the most efficient and effective media option, the media will do the work for you. That’s also not true. It’s too bad that ad agencies broke apart.  Because agencies could make a lot more money if they continued to answer this question on behalf of their clients. 

Here’s a solution for Brand Leaders 

The three questions you always need to keep in your head at all times:  1) where is your consumer 2) where is your brand and 3) how does the creative idea work? 

1.  Where is your consumer?

You should really understand who your consumer is, and who they are not.  You need to make sure you understand the insights about them, because it’s those insights within your creative that allow you to connect with them.  They’ll say “they get me”.  You should always be mapping out a day in the life of your consumer.  Get in their shoes and say “what does my consumer’s day look like and how will my message fit or interrupt their life?”  Take a “be where they are approach” to your media. 


2.  Where is the Brand?

First thing you have to do is consider where your brand is on the Brand Love Curve where brands go from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and all the way to Beloved.  At INDIFFERENT, it’s about announcement style such as mass media, LIKE IT becomes about separating yourself from the competition while LOVE IT and BELOVED you’ll start to see the growing importance of event marketing to core users or social media as a badge of honor to share with others.


3.  How does the Creative work?

The best advertising should draw ATTENTION, be about the BRAND, COMMUNICATE the main message and STICK in the consumers head long beyond the ad.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 exist in the minds of the consumer. 

slide16But in the reality of advertising, not every ad execution will be able to do all four of the ABC’S.  When I’m in the creative room, I try to think about which of the two ABC’S are the most critical to my strategy.  If it’s a new product, I need Attention and Communication, if it’s in a competitive battle I need Brand and Communication, and if I’m the leader with a beloved brand, I need to make sure it’s about the Brand and it Sticks.   

What I recommend you do:

I hold off on making any media decisions until I see the creative idea and how it is expressed in a few media options.  With all the potential media now available, I ask for 3 executions of each big idea.  I want to see it in:

        1. Video Version
        2. Billboard 
        3. Long Copy Print

Sounds simple, but once I see all 3, it helps me to know that the idea has legs beyond one medium.  It also enables me to begin matching up creative elements to the most optimized media options on the table. 

The “Video” ask would work in TV, movie theatre, viral video or even on a website.  The “Billboard” could be traditional billboard on on-line billboard, website cover or even on the back of a magazine.  The “Long Print” would help with a print ad, social media stories or even a blog on your website.  

With 3 simple asks against each creative idea, I would cover off most of the traditional media options.  Now I can engage with the Media Agency, knowing how the creative idea would work against any of their recommendations.  I’ve done the work that the agency would have done back in the 1990s before they broke apart.  

Client Media Math

While the media agency owns the media math that blows your mind, here is some simple client side media math.  

  • Your production budget should be around 5-10% of your overall advertising plan.  If you have small budgets, that may creep up to 20%, but that’s it.  Every time you do a new piece of creative, the production dollars go up and the media dollars go down.  I’d recommend you focus on one main traditional media and have only one secondary option.  This keeps your spend focused. 
  • When it comes to social media, keep in mind there is no free media options.  Instead of financial capital, you are now exhausting people capital.  Just like the traditional options, I would recommend one lead social media and one secondary focus.  Do not try to be all things to all people.  
  • The other reason to focus is to ensure you do great executions and not just “ok”.  Pick the media that maximizes the power of the creative.  And don’t exhaust the team by spreading them against too many activities.   
  • Allow 80 to 90% of your media spend be on the highly effective highly efficient media plan.  That means 10-20% of your media spend can now go against high IMPACT creative ideas that you know will break through.  
Ask your creative team to deliver a Video, Billboard and Long Copy Print  


To see a training presentation on Get Better Advertising: 


To see a training presentation on getting better  Media Plans



email-Logo copyABOUT BELOVED BRANDS INC.:  At Beloved Brands, we are only focused on making brands better and making brand leaders better.Our motivation is that we love knowing we were part of helping someone to unleash their full potential.  We promise to challenge you to Think Different.  We believe the thinking that got you here, will not get you where you want to go.  grOur President and Chief Marketing Officer, Graham Robertson is a brand leader at heart, who loves everything about brands.  He comes with 20 years of experience at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke, where he was always able to find and drive growth.  Graham has won numerous new product and advertising awards. Graham brings his experience to your table, strong on leadership and facilitation at very high levels and training of Brand Leaders around the world.  To reach out directly, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com

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:

 Ask Beloved Brands to help you with your advertising or ask how we can help train you to be a better brand leader
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What gets in the way of you loving the work you do?

love workWhen I was a Brand Manager and my son was in kindergarten at the time, I once said that our lives were very similar.  We make stuff that we want to put on our fridge.  It stuck with me because I started to look at work and wonder if it was “fridge worthy”? Would I be proud enough of this to put it up on the fridge at home. In other words, did I love it?

I’ve always stressed to my team “you have to love what you do, that has to be the benchmark on whether we approve things–do you love it?” And one day, one of fridge artmy Group Marketing Directors said to me “Loving it seems a bit unrealistic, why do we have to love it?  Why not just like it”.  Great question. I suppose not all marketers think this way, and I’m fine with that.  If you think I’m crazy, that’s fine. Stop reading. I just wish I competed with you.  

If you love it, you’ll fight for it. You’ll believe in it so much, you’ll fight all the way to the top of your organization to make it happen. You’ll work harder for it. The work will inspire you and give you energy. You’ll stay up till 3am working on it. You will want to make sure it’s perfect, knowing details matter. You will inspire everyone working on the project to share your vision. If you love what you do, the consumer will know. Think of the most beloved brands, whether it is Disney, Starbucks, Apple or Ferrari and look how much energy the people working there put into the brand. In fact, show me a brand where people working there settle for good and I will show you an OK brand that struggles for its existence.  


The more connectivity you have with your consumer, the more power your brand has. And with that power, comes faster growth and deeper profits.  Your relationship between your brand and your consumer has to be treated like a real relationship. As Oscar Wilde said “never love anyone who treats you like you are ordinary”.  In a brand sense, “if you don’t love the work you do, then how do you expect the consumer to love your brand”.

The answer for that Director of mine:  “If you love your work, they will love you back.” 


What gets in your way of Loving it?
  1. Not enough Time: Oddly time forces most people to make quick approvals of things and opt for next time.not-ok My first recommendation is to build in longer time cycles so you can have room in the schedule to keep pushing for work you love. But my second recommendation is to use the pressure of time to put pressure on everyone on your team. Rather than approving work you think is OK, next time, just stare at everyone and say “yes but I just don’t love it.  And I need to love it” and see if you can inspire the team to push even harder, even in the face of a deadline. I’ve always looked at deadlines as my ally and use it to my advantage to get what I want.  Not to cave and settle for OK.  
  2. Risk vs Fear: The best of marketing ideas have risk to them. If you eliminate all risk, then you also eliminate any big wins. good-vs-differentA great idea should scare you a little, but excite you a lot. Given, we see 6,000 brand messages a day, you have to find a way to stand out. To be a great brand, you must be better, different or cheaper–and that different shows up in the work that you do. Looking at the grid beside us, the obvious answer is “Good and Different”. When you are not different, it just falls flat, consumers don’t connect and they end up feeling blah about the brand.  Push yourself to find a difference not in your brand’s positioning but in the brands execution. Take a chance, even if it feels risky. The middle of the road might feel safe, but it also where you find dead animals run over in the night.  A great story is the lesson Steve Jobs and the color “Beige”.  When Jobs was launching the original Mac back in the late 1970s, he wanted to make sure the color was different.  The plastic mould company presented him with 2,200 variations of beige until he picked one. While the behavior of Jobs were obsessive, his virtues show up in his work. Would Apple be Apple if he didn’t push.  
  3. Do you care enough?  If you don’t care, you should give up your desk to someone who does. I know it sounds harsh. But the role of Brand Leader is very difficult. You are competing in a finite market, with very talented people at the competition who seem to care about beating you every day. If you only sort of care, then is this really the job for you?  Push yourself, find ways to inspire yourself.  
  4. Are you able to motivate partners? As Brand Leaders, we never really make anything. We think we only have one weapon which is that of decision-making. I’ve heard some Brand Leaders say, I can really only say “yes” or I can say “no” to the work that comes to my desk. That’s so not true. Your primary role is to motivate everyone who touches your brand. Not just those you directly deal with (Your team, account people at the agency or your sales people) but those who you don’t directly deal with. If someone talks about your brand at the kitchen table, then they are part of the Brand team. That means sound editors, producers or actors. As a leader if you want to motivate everyone, then make it personal. Deal with everyone on a face to face basis. Once the brief is approved, how many of you are saying, I want to take the Creative Team to lunch just to get to know them?  When you walk into an edit studio, shake hands with the sound editor and stand near them. Because in this meeting, you might need them on your side. When you go to the shoot, talk to the actors directly. Make it personal. Let everyone know what you’re trying to do, how important it is to you, and how happy you are to have them on your team. That’s inspiring.  Most Brand Leaders only work on one major campaign per year.  But everyone on your team likely works on 40 or 60 or even 80.  What are you doing to make sure that your work is the one they love the most this year?  Just like our hurdle above asking you the brand leader “do you love it”, then how do you make sure everyone who touches your work shares in your love. Leadership should be called Follower-ship because it’s not about being out front, but rather when you turn around “are people following you?”   
  5. Strategy versus Execution. Execution in marketing is all about the Brand Leader’s balance between control and freedom.  What I find odd is that most Brand Leaders give too much freedom where they should be exhibiting control and tries to exhibit too much control where they should be giving freedom. Brand Leaders should control the Strategy, giving very little wiggle room.  And yet Brand Leaders write such broad-based strategies with a broad target, many benefits, and a long list of “just in case” reasons to believe. It’s almost as though they figure, I’ll write so many things it will give the agency options. That just means you gave up control of your strategy. You want a tight strategy, with very little wiggle. On the other hand, Brand Leaders exhibit control over the execution.  “We don’t want humor, we’d like to use a popular song, we don’t like the color red and we want to make sure it doesn’t offend anyone”.  The list of mandatories on the brief is long.  My recommendation is that if you write a very tight strategy, you should be willing to give freedom to the execution.  
The Brand Love Curve

In the consumer’s mind, brands sit on a Brand Love Curve, with brands going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally becoming a Beloved Brand for Life.  At the Beloved stage, demand becomes desire, needs become cravings, thinking is replaced with feelings.  Consumers become outspoken fans.  It’s this connection that helps drive power for your brand: power versus competitors, versus customers, versus suppliers and even versus the same consumers you’re connected with.  The farther along the curve, the more power for the brand.  It’s important that you understand where your brand sits on the Love Curve and begin figuring out how to move it along towards becoming a Beloved Brand.

 As a Leader, you will find that if you have passion, people will follow. It’s inspiring and it’s contagious.  Challenge yourself to set a new bench mark to love what you do. Reject OK because OK is the enemy of greatness.     

Another article you might enjoy is to see how Love for your brand can translate into more power for your brand and in turn more profits.  Click on: Love = Power = Profit

Love what you do.  Live why you do it.  

email-Logo copyABOUT BELOVED BRANDS INC.:  At Beloved Brands, we are only focused on making brands better and making brand leaders better.Our motivation is that we love knowing we were part of helping someone to unleash their full potential.  We promise to challenge you to Think Different.  We believe the thinking that got you here, will not get you where you want to go.  grOur President and Chief Marketing Officer, Graham Robertson is a brand leader at heart, who loves everything about brands.  He comes with 20 years of experience at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke, where he was always able to find and drive growth.  Graham has won numerous new product and advertising awards. Graham brings his experience to your table, strong on leadership and facilitation at very high levels and training of Brand Leaders around the world.  To reach out directly, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com 


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:

Ask Beloved Brands to more love for your brand or ask how we can help train you to be a better brand leader.

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How to work the Five types of Media to your advantage


Slide1Back in the 1990s, we would have thought the 5 types of media would have been TV, newspaper, magazine, out of home and radio.  Life was simpler back then.  But since 2000, media has exploded and shifted dramatically.  Now Brand Leaders are confused as to what to do and how to leverage media to drive their brands. 

New way to think about the 5 types of media:  Paid, Earned, Search, Social and Home media.

PAID media is the Traditional (TV, Print, OOH, Radio) and the new Digital options. While paid might look like an equal opportunity to the equal spender, its not always the case. The more Beloved brands win in this space because they get asked first, they get better slots, lower rates, and more integrations.

With EARNED media, you need to create and manage the news cycle with mainstream news, expert reviews and blogs.  Beloved Brands are newsworthy and new Products are a story.  My own belief is that every brand should have a PR plan.  News is such a ubiquitous part of our current lives–you need to be part of that news cycle.

SEARCH Engine Optimization balances earned, key words and paid search.  Being a famous Beloved Brand helps to bypass paid SEO.  So if you are fighting against the power of those beloved brands, you need to leverage search as a way to break through.  On more complicated purchases (cars, electronics, travel) search is an essential tool for the consumer to gain more information before they get comfortable with the purchase options.

For SOCIAL media, we need to first stop thinking that it’s free.  It’s not.  It’s resource intensive to do it right.  And the more Beloved Brands have advocates that follow, put their views forward and share news on the brand that creates positive interactions that helps to influence others.  While you can build up your social, you might need to first build your brand so that the effort you do via social media pays off.  Nothing worse than an embarrassing social following.  I drove past a gravel pit last year that said “Like us on Facebook”.  What a waste of effort to get 19 people–mostly employees and friends.  How about “Rocks $9 a pound” would have been a better option.

HOME media is your landing page.  It’s a destination for some brands or could be a complete waste of time for others.  Depends on the type of brand you have.  Your website where you can use as a source of information, influence or even closing the sale.  If e-commerce makes sense for your business. 

Where is your Brand?

Before deciding what type of media you want, you need to first understand where your brand is.  I’m a big believer in the Brand Love Curve where brands go from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and all the way to Beloved.  If you start to look at how media might match up to that love curve and framed through a consumer buying system, we can see that when your brand is INDIFFERENT, your main focus should be using awareness and consideration to drive trial for your brand.  That would mean announcement style media (mass, targeted digital, event) as well as starting to play in the search area so you can help facilitate consumers looking for more information.

Slide1As you move to the LIKE IT stage, you want to begin separating yourself at the store level.  Yes, you still need the awareness, but you want to make sure that you drive at the crowded retail level to separate yourself from your competitors.  This could mean point of sale signage or even the influence of experts at the store level.  If consumers are satisfied, you should be pushing them to share that positive experience with others. Here’s where social media plays a large role, whether it’s traditional social media (Facebook or twitter) or the more influential social media such as YELP or IMDB.  As you move along the curve to LOVED and BELOVED brands as well as matching to the buying system, you’ll start to see the growing importance of event marketing to core users or social media as a badge of honor to share with others.

The problem I have with many media options, is people at the INDIFFERENT stage think they need a Facebook page.  Well, once all your relatives like that page, you might have 46 followers, which might expose how little people care about you.  On the flip side, I still am seeing LOVED brands pounding out 30 second TV ads that tell the consumers what they already know, all but forgetting the other media options available to them.

What Type of Brand are you?

When it comes to brands, you should understand where your brand sits on the degree of involvement vs importance.

For instance if your brand sits in the low involvement, low importance quadrant, it would be a COMMODITY brands.  This is where many of the CPG brands fit, always trying extra hard to take a marginal point of difference and making it a huge deal.  With commodity brands, the tendency is to put the effort into messaging more than creative/media.  However, if you think about it, maybe it should be the opposite.  Yes, messaging is always safer, but if you need to counter the lack of involvement by making it a higher involvement brand.  Dove has done an amazing job in taking a basic soap and making it stand for the modern woman.  It’s still likely a mass play, but you can begin using social and earned media here to break through the clutter.  The best marketers reside in these areas, because the work they do is essential to driving increased involvement and increased importance in a category that doesn’t naturally warrant either.

Slide1ESSENTIALS are high importance but still lower on the involvement side.  With my experience in healthcare and banking, we’ve looked at ways to drive up the involvement through Search, Earned and Social Media that’s targeted to influencers as well as those who might motivate others.  Many of these brands need routine to help substitute for the falling involvement.  For instance, the biggest issue with getting people to take life-saving heart medication is getting them to take it as prescribed.  The more work the marketer can do against routine here, the better.

Slide1INDULGENCE brands have high involvement but really little importance.  This is where beer, chocolate, and bubble gum reside.  The problem with this category is you’ve got rather large budgets driving against some of the most loved brands in the world.  (Coke, Bud, Mars).   You need concentrated and heavy mass media to break through the clutter.  In the new world, earned and social can be ways to break through, high on creativity to keep consumers engaged.

HIGH PROFILE brands are those that are high on importance and involvement.  These brands are your favorite part of you every day life.  Your iPhone, your latte from Starbucks, the restaurant you want to go or the latest movie coming this weekend.  With these brands, you should be perfecting all five of the media:  paid, earned, search, social and home.

Where is Your Consumer?

I know I know.  Everyone is so excited about the new media options, we tend to forget about the consumer.  But call me old-school, but I still like to start with the consumer.  The fundamentals of marketing always start with where the consumer is before you look at where the media is.  You can see how the buying system above might match up to where the consumer is on that Love Curve.  But even more so, you should always be mapping out a day in the life of your consumer.  Get in their shoes and say “what does my consumers day look like and how will my message fit or interrupt their life?”Slide1

In the spirit of “Be Where They Are”, you need to think about a Total Branding experience to the “Many Me’s of Me”.  While we are the same person, we do have various moods through the day, and your brand needs to fit my mood.  For instance, that rock quarry example of “Like Us on Facebook”, I was out for a nice drive in the country with my wife, in a mood to relax with no pen and no paper.  I might not be back to my computer for six more hours.  How would I remember to like a rock quarry on Facebook?   Not a chance. This is a great tool for putting you into the shoes of your consumer and maybe seeing how your brand’s messaging might fit into their busy lives.    I see ads and signs all day long that really showcase how little Brand Leaders are thinking about how the consumer lives their busy lives.   

As a brand leader, are you using the five types of media to your full advantage?  Use the tools above to begin mapping out your choices, based on where your brand sits, what type of brand you have and how your consumer’s life might influence your choices.  To read more on media planning, click on this link:  How to Build Your Media Plans

Are you Using the Five types of media your Brand’s full advantage?

To see a training presentation on getting better  Media Plans




email-Logo copyABOUT BELOVED BRANDS INC.:  At Beloved Brands, we are only focused on making brands better and making brand leaders better.Our motivation is that we love knowing we were part of helping someone to unleash their full potential.  We promise to challenge you to Think Different.  We believe the thinking that got you here, will not get you where you want to go.  Our President and Chief Marketing Officer, Graham Robertson is a brand leader at heart, who loves everything about brands.  He comes with 20 years of experience at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke, where he was always able to find and drive growth.  Graham has won numerous new product and advertising awards. Graham brings his experience to your table, strong on leadership and facilitation at very high levels and training of Brand Leaders around the world.  To reach out directly, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com 


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:

Ask Beloved Brands to help you improve your brand or ask how we can help train you to be a better brand leader.
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Is Social Media is the new “Invisible Hand”?

Well, today is a picture perfect weather day.  Sunny, which is rare, no humidity even rarer this spring, and likely 80 degrees.  It’s a sunday, a lazy one after a few tough weeks of work.  I feel like it’s a rejuvenation day. where we can shut down our brain.  That’s why I’ve picked the geekiest of topics to write about comparing an 18th century economist in Adam Smith with the modern-day world of Social Media.

The Original “Invisible Hand”

The concept of Adam’s Smith’s “Invisible Hand”  can be summarized to say that the individuals’ efforts to maximize their own gains in a free market benefits society, even if the ambitious have no benevolent intentions.  In economics, the “invisible hand” of the market is the term economists use to describe the self-regulating nature of the marketplace. This is a metaphor first coined by the economist Adam Smith. 529423_272713376142007_1735862437_nThe exact phrase is used just three times in his writings, but has come to capture his important claim that by trying to maximize their own gains in a free market, individual ambition benefits society, even if the ambitious have no benevolent intentions. My economics professor once said “economics is the practice of proving what happens in real life can also happen in theory”.  I love that line.  So how we as marketers spin the invisible hand is that we have to know that consumers are greedy, and if we satisfy that greed better than others, our brand will be more powerful and more profitable.

Consumers have the right to be greedy because they have money and options for how to spend that money.  Like Gordon Ghekko said “GREED IS GOOD”.  It’s this greed and the ability of some brands to satisfy that greed better than other brands which separates “likeable” brands from “beloved” brands.  As a marketer, I think greed helps you understand the needs of the customer, it forces you to rise and meet their expectations and it pushes you to beat your competitor for that almighty dollar the consumer could use on either you or them.  Fight for it.

Is Social Media the new “Invisible Hand”?

Over the last 5-10 years, Social Media has been the obvious marketing phenomena.  But do we fully understand it yet?  For most Brand Leaders, it still seems hit and miss.  I mean some of the leading cooler brands like Coke, Nike, Starbucks and Whole Foods are doing an amazing job.  But we see others not doing so well.  Arguably if Facebook hasn’t even figured out how to fully monetize itself, then how would Brand Leaders be able to figure it out.

The “invisible hand” of social media is actually hard to explain.  Just like it took Adam Smith 20= years of research, it might be the same for social media.  By no means am I a social media expert guru.  I’m as confused as the rest.  But what I do preach is the more love you can generate for your brand, the more power you can command and then you can turn that power in profit.Slide1

So my new message to every brand leader, if you want to be loved, you need to engage.  You need to be telling your story, your purpose, your passion and do so in a way that the consumer know you are genuine.  if you have no voice then you give control of you brand to the consumer.  We have seen so many bad cases like Motrin or Kitchen Aid to see what happens when a brand loses control.

Take someone like Whole Foods who has an amazing brand.  They use Twitter to perfection, offering constant recipes and engaging with their most loyal of consumers.  They don’t have any real off-line advertising.  All the energy is generated through on-line word of mouth.   Starbucks, a brand built on word of mouth seemed confused by social media a few years ago has now picked up tremendous steam the last year to where they are also a huge success story. And Apple does such an amazing job they get 2.5 billion of free media a year.

Brand Leaders View of Social Media

A few thoughts from one brand leader to another. Forget all the social media experts just for one minute.  We can approach them once we figure things out.  So here goes:

  1. Your media choice has to be influenced by your brand strategy.  This was true in 1920 when we only had print and signs.   It’s still true now that we have 3,000 media options.  You don’t just randomly select activities.  What other part of your life do you do that?   So then why would you do it in marketing.  Let the tactics match up to the strategy, not just do a bunch of random activities and then try to write a strategy to it.Slide1
  2. Media Plans should also map out the life of your consumer and the media choices be driven by where the consumer is, not where the media is.  A great day in the life analysis has always helped find where to interrupt your consumer with your message.   If you knew that the consumer was awake for 16 hours a day and sees 6,000 messages each day, that means we see a new message every 10 seconds.  Which 10 seconds do you think would be the best of the day for you?Slide1
  3. Don’t put out crap.  Please don’t. Please hire a professional to help you.  It seems people are in more of a rush than ever to put stuff out.  But sometimes when you go too fast, it takes longer.   Please do a strategic creative brief.  Give the creative people enough time to do great work.  If you are going to get into story telling, you should have a purpose driven strategy at the anchor.  You should really know why you come to work every day and once you do, bring that purpose into all your stories you tell.  The “why” is such a powerful message.
  4. Be Interesting, but equally you should be interested.  If you’re going to engage with consumers, don’t just talk about yourself.  Ask them questions that get them talking about themselves.   Instead of serving up what you do constantly, speak in the voice of the consumer and tell them what they get.   No one cares what you do until you care about what they get.
  5. You need to focus.  A brands resources are confined by money, time and people. That’s still true.  Social Media IS NOT free.  Because it takes time and it takes people resources to do it right.   You don’t have to be on Facebook because your nephew thinks you’re a loser.  You should be on it because it’s where your consumer is likely to be motivated the most to engage with your consumer.  Focus on those social media options that most make sense for your brand. 

Now, and only now should you go approach a social media “expert” who will help you figure out how to translate your brand strategy at the social media area, who will map out where your consumer is so you know where/when and how to interact with them.  Make sure you put out quality still.   Crap is always crap.  If you’re going to tell stories and engage, then make sure it’s from the heart.  Honestly means knowing your real purpose of why you chose this business and the struggles you went through.  And finally, I want you to focus.  I know I sound like a broken record.  But if you focus on every other part of your life, then why when it comes to marketing do you all of a sudden thing “it’s ok to cover everything”.   When the discipline of marketing is all about focus.

If you want your brand to be loved, then you have to be engaged in Social Media.  If you are not involved in the conversation about your brand, you’re giving up control to the pack.  And who knows what they’ll say.  

Social Media is more likely the “Invisible Voice” we can’t always hear, but we better start realizing it is there and engaging our own voice.

Here’s a presentation that can help Brand Leaders to get better Media Plans.  

Other Stories You Might Like
  1. How to Write a Creative Brief.  The creative brief really comes out of two sources, the brand positioning statement and the advertising strategy that should come from the brand plan.  To read how to write a Creative Brief, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write a Creative Brief
  2. How to Write a Brand Plan:  The positioning statement helps frame what the brand is all about.  However, the brand plan starts to make choices on how you’re going to make the most of that promise.  Follow this hyperlink to read more on writing a Brand Plan:  How to Write a Brand Plan
  3. Turning Brand Love into Power and Profits:  The positioning statement sets up the promise that kick starts the connection between the brand and consumer.  There are four other factors that connect:  brand strategy, communication, innovation and experience.   The connectivity is a source of power that can be leveraged into deeper profitability.  To read more click on the hyper link:  Love = Power = Profits

I run the Brand Leader Learning Center,  with programs on a variety of topics that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders.  To read more on how the Learning Center can help you as a Brand Leader click here:   Brand Leadership Learning Center

To reach out directly, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com

About Graham Robertson: The reason why I started Beloved Brands Inc. is to help brands realize their full potential value by generating more love for the brand.   I only do two things:  1) Make Brands Better or 2) Make Brand Leaders Better.  I have a reputation as someone who can find growth where others can’t, whether that’s on a turnaround, re-positioning, new launch or a sustaining high growth.  And I love to make Brand Leaders better by sharing my knowledge.  Im a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands.  My background includes 20 years of CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke.  My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth. Add me on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1 so we can stay connected.

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