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


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

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

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

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

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

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

How strategic is your team?

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

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

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

How analytical is your team?

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

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

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

How good is your team at Advertising?

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

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

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

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

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

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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


Miley Cyrus six months later: If you’re over 22 you’re not the target

urlIt’s now been six months since Miley created a storm of controversy at the MTV Awards.  While I didn’t see it live, everyone on my Facebook had an opinion of it all day the next day.  The only issue is nearly everyone on my Facebook is over 40. Then you watch the news cycle and see all the news stations all day trashing Miley and talking about how inappropriate it was. But everyone on these news stations was also over 40.

The issue is that if you’re over 40, you’re not in the target market.

So then I asked my 15-year-old daughter what she thought of the whole “Miley thing”.  She said “she’s just trying to show that she’s a grown up and make a living”.

My daughter is in the target market.  And she gets what Miley was trying to do.  And she was willing to defend her. 

A beloved brand knows who is in their target, and who is not in their target.  I hear so many non-beloved brands say “we can’t alienate…” But before you say alienate next time, keep in mind that target and alienate are pretty much synonymous.

Miley is very Strategic

Beloved Brands find a way to separate themselves.  With traditional brands, you have to be better, different or cheaper. Or else not around for very long.  With music, there’s so much talent out there, so really those who make it are “different”.  And Miley has a very good voice but she’s smart enough to know that’s not enough.  She gets that:  ‘Every time I do anything, I want to remember, this is what separates me from everybody else.’

While all the controversy was going on, Miley called the MTV Award performance a “strategic mess”.  I know it caused this storm of outrage but that’s not really the first time in music history.  

Elvis-and-Ed-300x244When Elvis first performed on Ed Sullivan, they would not show him below the waist because of his gyrating hips.  The Beatles long hair caused a stir, Rolling Stones getting arrested in Toronto, Madonna singing about being a virgin in a wedding dress or kissing Britney Spears on stage.  Pick your age and you likely think the one prior to your generation was “kind of silly” and the one after was “completely offensive”.

So let’s look at this strategically.  

There are Four Principles of Good Strategy: 1) Focus 2) Early Win 3) Leverage point and 4) Gateway to something bigger.

  • FOCUS all your energy to a particular strategic point or purpose.  Match up your brand assets to pressure points you can break through, maximizing your limited resources—either financial resources or effort.  Focus on one target.   Focus on one message.  And focus on very few strategies and tactics.  Less is more. 
  • You want that EARLY WIN, to kick-start of some momentum. Early Wins are about slicing off parts of the business or population where you can build further.  This proves to everyone the brand can win—momentum, energy, following.
  • LEVERAGE everything to gain positional advantage or power that helps exert even greater pressure and gains the tipping point of the business that helps lead to something bigger.  Crowds follow crowds. 
  • See beyond the early win, there has to be a GATEWAY point, the entrance or a means of access to something even bigger.   It could be getting to the masses, changing opinions or behaviours.  Return on Investment or Effort.

Here’s how Miley did in terms of strategy:  

  • Focus:  Miley’s target audience is the Hannah Montana audience, who were 10-15 when she was on that show and are now 15-20.  She focused on the biggest teen show, the MTV Awards, well-known for crazy antics and perfectly timed to spur on her album sales, of which the first single had already hit #2.  You can do anything on the MTV Awards because only the kids are watching anyway.  She knew exactly what she was doing.  
  • Early Win:  In the music industry, it’s fairly obvious that no news is bad news.  Miley thought this out and was even quoted as saying “make the talk about it for 2 weeks rather than 2 seconds”. While others did outrageous things that night.  Sadly, Miley wasn’t the craziest performance that night. Poor Lady Gaga came up in a g-string and yet, no one talked about her at all.  For 48-hours, it was hard to see the win and even I was wondering if she could manage the storm.  People were worried she had lost it. But, after the 40 year olds were done complaining about her, the 15 year olds came to her defence on twitter, where none of the 40-year olds could see.  In each subsequent interview, she came across as intelligent and….strategic. She did a great job on Saturday Night Live, making fun of herself and even saying “I’m not going to do Hannah Montana, but I can give you an update. She was murdered.”  All part of the transformation away from child star into a 20-something singer.  
  • Leverage:  She was able to leverage the energy to get these loyal fans to go buy her music.  She kept the controversy going with the launch of the “Wrecking Ball” video where she was buck naked.  Within 24 hours, the video was downloaded 19 million times and the song quickly shot to #1. 
  • Gateway:  Everyone knows the music charts are the gateway to the bigger mass audience–more radio play, more iTunes downloads and more talk value. And Bigger concert sales. Miley’s album sales were through the roof and she was named MTV Artist of the Year for 2013.  She was also named #1 Sexiest Woman by Maxim Magazine.  The re-invention of her new image complete.  Oddly enough, Miley finished #3 in the voting for Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.   Odd because there is no more mainstream publication than Time. 

Does this seem like an insane person out of control, or someone who knows exactly what she was doing?

Miley is a very smart strategic “grown up”


Do you want a team of amazing Brand Leaders?  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:

Ask Beloved Brands to run a brainstorming workshop or ask how we can help train you to be a better brand leader.

Why CMO’s are demanding more Creativity

CMO’s realize that it’s harder and harder to get a real competitive point of difference.  More and more, creativity in execution can help separate a brand.  But the issue is that brand management teams have gotten so conservative, the CMO feels stuck when they ask for more creativity and the team doesn’t respond. You have to create a culture of creativity where people feel safe to raise ideas.  

A Team’s culture can suck the creativity right out of Everyone

When we first walk through the doors into the marketing world, we are so gung-ho with an infinite number of ideas, that are all over the place.  These junior marketers just ooze with passion.  That’s why we hired them.  So we chain them to the desk and say “no”, “can’t” and “that will never happen” to about 90% of their ideas.   And we suck the life out of them, tell them that they are getting much more “strategic” and then promote them to Brand Manager.  At Brand Manager, we instil the fear of god into them that if they mess up anything they’ll be held accountable.  Accountable means don’t try anything stupid.  And we tell them to “stay on strategy” which is code for “play it safe”.  It’s all about ownership.  By the time we promote them to Director, they know what to do, and what NOT to do.  This is code for BORING and the USUAL.  

And the CMO takes the reigns, looks at all their first share book, the numbers look flat.  They look at their competitors taking risks, especially compared to their own team’s work.  So they figure out quickly, that making dramatic changes to the product will take time and investment.  More advertising costs money. So the simplest answer is to stand in front of the group and say “WE NEED MORE CREATIVITY” 

Here’s the problem: Teams get so stuck Following the Usual

But the problem is the team has been set up to reject creativity in favor of the safe and trusted options.  The classic launch formula: do the basic product concept testing, hope for a moderate pass.   Then meet with sales and explain how this is almost identical to the launch we did last year, and builds on the same thing we just saw our competitor do.  Re-enforce that the buyer hinted that if we did this, we’d get on the shelves pretty easily.  Go to your ad agency, with a long list of mandatories and an equally long list of benefits they can put in the ad.   Tell the agency you’re excited.   They’ll tell you they’re excited as well.  Ask for lots of options, as a pre-caution because time is tight and we’re not sure what we want.  Just hope the agency clearly understood the 7-page brief.  Test all the ads, even a few different endings, and then let the research decide who wins.  That way, no one can blame you.  Do up a safe media plan with mostly TV, some small but safe irrelevant secondary media choice.  Throw in a web site to explain the 19 reasons why we launched.   Maybe even a game on the website.  Ah, we have our launch. 

Given the current economy, shouldn’t we be taking more risks to stand out rather than playing it safe right down the middle of the road?  

This type of launch though is almost a guaranteed formula for success, because it follows last year’s launch to a tee and will be done hundreds of brands this year.  You convince yourself, you had to play it safe because sales are down, margins are tight and you will do something riskier next year once this launch is done.   What looks like a guaranteed success will likely get off to a pretty good start and then flat-line until it will be discontinued three brand managers from now.  You’ll never be fired because you never did anything wrong.  But you’ll just be part of the team that’s frustrated by the status quo of the team’s performance.  And you’ll all under “why is this happening”

At some point, to break through in a cluttered market, you’ve got to do something different to stand out:  now, more than ever.   It might feel like a risky move, but it’s almost riskier not to take that chance.

Push the team to Find your love in the art of being different

Push yourself to be different.  The most Beloved Brands are different, better or cheaper.  Or not around for very long.   Here’s a very simple model for creativity, there are four choices:

Slide1Good But Not Different (the launch outlined above) 

These do very well in tests mainly because consumers have seen it before and check the right boxes in research.   In market, it gets off to a pretty good start—since it still seems so familiar.   However, once challenged in the market by a competitor, it falters because people start to realize it is no different at all.  So they go back to their usual brand and your launch starts to go flat.  This option offers limited potential.

Not Good and Not Different:

These are the safest of safe.  Go back into the R&D lab and pick the best one you have–even if it’s not very good.   The tallest of midgets.  They do pretty well in test because of the familiarity.   In market, it gets off to a pretty good start, because it looks the same as what’s already in the market.  But pretty soon, consumers realize that it’s the same but even worse, so it fails dramatically.   What appears safe is actually highly risky.  You should have followed your instincts and not launched.  This option is a boring failure.

Different but Not that Good

Sometimes we get focused on the product first:  it offers superior technology, but not really meeting an unmet need.  So we launch what is different for the sake of being different.  It does poorly in testing.  Everyone along the way wonders why we are launching.   But in the end, consumers don’t really care about your point of difference.  And it fails.  The better mousetrap that no one cares about.

Good But Different:

These don’t always test well:  consumers don’t really know what to make of it.   Even after launched, it takes time to gain momentum, having to explain the story with potential investment and effort to really make the difference come to life.  But once consumers start to see the differences and how it meets their needs, they equate different with “good”.   It begins to gain share and generates profits for the brand.   This option offers long-term sustainability.

It will be up to you to figure out how to separate good from bad.   One caution is letting market research over-ride your own instincts.  As Steve Jobs said:  “it’s hard for consumers to tell you what they want when they’ve never seen anything remotely like it.   Yet now that people see it, they say OH MY GOD THAT’S GREAT”

We always tracked many numbers (awareness, brand link, persuasion etc), but the one I always wanted to know was “made the brand seem different”.  Whether it is new products, a new advertising campaign or media options push yourself to do something that stands out.   Don’t just settle for ok.  Always push for great.  If you don’t love the work, how do you expect your consumer to love your brand?  The opposite of different, is indifferent and who wants to be indifferent.      

In case you need any added incentive:  Albino fruit flies mate at twice the rate of normal fruit flies.   Just because they are different!   And the place where most ground hogs are run over is right in the middle of the road.  

Push the team to Find Difference through Brainstorming

The trick to a good brainstorm is very simple:   Diverge, Converge, Diverge Converge.

Diverge #1:  Quantity over Quality

Divide the room up into groups of 5 people.   I prefer to assign one leader who will be writing the ideas, pushing the group for more, throwing in some ideas of their own. A great way for the leader is to say “here’s a crazy idea, who can build on this or make it better”.  But if you catch the leader stalling, debating the ideas, then you should push that leader.  At this stage you are pushing for quantity not quality.  If you have multiple groups in the room, do a rotation where the leader stays put and the group changes.  I like having stations, where each station has a unique problem to solve.

Converge #1:  Focus on picking the best Strategic Ideas

There’s a few ways you can do this.

  • You can use voting dots where each person gets 5 or 10 dots and they can use them any way they want.  For random executional ideas, this is a great simple way.
  • If there is agreed upon criteria, you can do some type of scoring against each criteria.  High, medium, low.
  • USP 2.0If you are brainstorming product concepts or positioning statements, you might want to hold them up to the lens of how unique they are.
  • For things like naming, positioning or promotions, the leader can look at all the ideas and begin grouping them into themes.  They might start to discuss which themes seem to fit or are working the best, and use those themes for a second diverge.
  • For Tactics to an annual plan, you can use a very simple grid of Big vs Small and Easy vs Difficult.  In this case, you want to find ways to land in THE BIG EASY.  The reason you want easy is to ensure it has a good return on effort, believing effort and investment have a direct link.  


Diverge #2:  Make the Ideas even better, richer.

The second diverge is where the magic actually happens.  You’ve got the group in a good zone.   They have seen which ideas are meeting the criteria.  Take the list from Converge #1 and push it one more time.  Make it competitive among the groups, with a $25 prize, so that people will push even harder.  

  • If you narrowed it to themes, then take each theme and push for more and better ideas under each of the themes  
  • If you looked at concepts or tactics, then take the best 8-10 ideas and have groups work on them and flush them out fully with a written concept, and come back and present them to the group.  
  • If using the grid above, then take the ideas in the big/difficult and brainstorm ways to make it easier.   And if it’s small and easy, brainstorm ways to make it bigger.

Converge #2:  Decision Time

Once you’ve done the second diverge, you’ll be starting to see the ideas getting better and more focused.  Now comes decision time.  You can narrow down to a list of ideas to take forward into testing or discussion with senior management.  You can take them forward to cost out.  You can prioritize them based on a 12 or 24 month calendar.   You can vote using some of the techniques above using voting dots.  Or you can assign a panel of those who will vote.  But you want to walk away from the meeting with a decision.

Let Brainstorming bring an energy and passion into your work.



Do you want a team of amazing Brand Leaders?  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:

Ask Beloved Brands to run a brainstorming workshop or ask how we can help train you to be a better brand leader.

How Ritz-Carlton meets the “unexpressed” needs of guests

The Impeccable service helps separate Ritz-Carlton. Ritz-Carlton does a lot of things right to earn the high prices they are able to charge–the best locations, beautiful rooms, nice beds and great meals. But in reality, every luxury hotel has to deliver against these or they’ll be quickly out of business. Recognizing that any great brand has to be better, different or cheaper to win, Ritz-Carlton focuses their attention on impeccable service standards to separate themselves from other Hotels. What Ritz-Carlton has done so well is operationalize it so that culture and brand are one.

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Ritz-Carlton Training session, and as a Brand Leader, the thing that struck me was the idea of meeting the “unexpressed” needs of guests.

As highly paid Marketers, even with mounds of research, we still struggle to figure out what our consumers want, yet Ritz-Carlton has created a culture where bartenders, bellhops and front desk clerks instinctively meet these “unexpressed needs”. Employees carry around notepads and record the expressed and unexpressed needs of every guest and then they use their instincts to try to surprise and delight these guests.

Employees are fully empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests. Unique means doing something that helps to separate Ritz-Carlton from other hotels, memorable forces the staff to do something that truly stands out. And personal is defined as people doing things for other people. Is that not what marketers should be doing? So what is getting in your way?

Ritz-Carlton bakes service values right into their culture

The Ritz-Carlton phrase they use with their staff is “Keep your radar on and antenna up” so that everyone can look for the unexpressed needs of their guests. These could be small wins that delight consumers in a big way, showing the hotel is thinking of ways to treat them as unique and special. But like any hotel, things do go wrong. When a problem does arise they quickly brainstorm and use everyone’s input. The staff is encouraged to surprise and delight guests so they can turn a problem into a potential wow moment.

Wow stories

A great story that makes its way around the Ritz-Carlton world. A guest who had just left the hotel called to say that their son had left his stuffed giraffe in the room. The boy could not stop crying. The only thing these distraught parents could think of to tell their son is that the giraffe was staying on the vacation a little longer. So the staff found the giraffe and overnighted it to the boy. Most luxury hotels would have done that. But that was not enough for Ritz-Carlton.

Knowing what the Mom had told their son about staying on a bit longer, the staff also included a photo album of the giraffe enjoying his extra stay. They took photos sitting by the pool, getting a massage in the spa with cucumbers on his eyes, and laying out on the beach. Imagine how the parents felt. And the signal it sends to them about the Ritz-Carlton staff. Imagine how many friends they may share that story with.

To inspire each other, everyone at Ritz-Carlton goes through a daily line up where they share wow stories, both local stories, and stories from other hotels around the world. This line up keeps everyone in line, but it also keeps people fully engaged.

Harvard did a study on Employee Engagement, stating that the average company had 29% of their employees who were fully engaged and they labeled this group as the ‘Super Stars’. Using the same criteria, Ritz Carlton has 92% of their staff considered fully engaged. No wonder they are able to win so many service awards and no wonder they can create such an experience for their consumers. They have fully created a culture that now defines the brand.

So What Can Brand Leaders Learn from Ritz-Carlton?

  1. How can Brand Leaders meet the unexpressed needs of guests? As Henry Ford said: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Are you too worried about the short-term results that you are not even seeing or hearing the unexpressed needs of consumers? Are you so analytical that you need to see the data first and never reach for your instincts?
  2. How do you get your antenna up, so that you are always watching, listening and thinking? How many times a week do you talk with consumers, walk into a store or monitor the brand’s social media feed? Do you ever sit with customer service or read through consumer complaints? Can you set aside time to do a quick brainstorm on consumer observations once a week?
  3. How can Brand Leaders push themselves to wow the consumer? The Ritz-Carlton staff is constantly trying to wow their guests, with surprise and delight that goes beyond the brand promise. Are you pushing yourself to surprise or wow your consumer? Do you have a high standard for the work that exceeds that of your consumer?

How to communicate to the corporate culture behind your brand

With most brands I meet up with, I ask “What is the Big Idea behind your brand?” I rarely get a great answer. When I ask a Leadership Team, I normally get a variety answers. When I ask the most far-reaching sales reps, the scientists in the lab or their retailer partners, the answers get worse. How Ritz-Carlton meets unexpressed needsThat is not healthy. Everyone who touches that brand should be able to explain what it stands for in 7 seconds, 60 seconds, 30 minutes or at every consumer touch-point. They should always be delivering the same message.

There are too many Brands where what gets said to the consumer is different from what gets said inside the corporate walls. The Big Idea must organize the culture to ensure everyone who is tasked to meet the needs of both consumers and customers, whether they are in HR, product development, finance, operations and experience delivery teams, must all know their role in delivering the Big Idea.

Too many brands believe brand messaging is something that Advertising does. The more focus we put on delivering an amazing consumer experience, the more we need to make sure the external and internal brand story are aligned. It should be a Big Idea that drives that story. Every communication to employees, whether in a town-hall speech, simple memo or celebration should touch upon the brand values that flow from the Big Idea, highlighting examples when employees have delivered on a certain brand value.

The Big Idea should drive everything and everyone

Brand Management was originally built on a hub-and-spoke system, with the Brand Manager expected to sit right in the middle of the organization, helping drive everything and everyone around the Brand. However, it should actually be the brand’s Big Idea that sits at the center, with everyone connected to the brand expected to understand and deliver the idea.How Ritz-Carlton meets unexpressed needs

Aligning the brand with the culture is essential to the long-term success of the brand. The best brands look to the overall culture as an asset that helps create a powerful consumer experience. The expected behaviors of the operations team behind the consumer experience should flow out of the brand values, that flow from the Big Idea. These values act as guideposts to ensure that the behavior of everyone in the organization is set to deliver the brand’s promise.

Can you do something this week that meets the unexpressed needs of your customer?





The 5 factors to being a great Brand Manager

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

What separates good from great?  

There are two factors that I have seen in a consistent manner: #1: They get what they need. #2: What they need is the right thing to do. Very simply put, great marketers get both. The rest either fail on #1 or #2. To get what you want, keep things simple and move fast to take the positional advantage. What separates many Brand Managers is the inability to actually rely on their instincts, instead of just the textbook answer. You get so busy, so deadline focused, so scared to make a mistake that you forget to think in a confused state of ambiguity. It’s not easy to sit there without the answer, but sometimes if you just wait a bit longer and keep pushing for an even better answer, it will come to you. Revel in ambiguity.   

The Idiot Curve

One thing to keep in mind is the Idiot Curve. At every new job, including Brand Manager, I find it takes 3 months to get back to being just as smart as you were on the first day. The basic rule is: You get dumber before you get smarter. We’ve promoted some great ABMs and watch them struggle and wonder if we made a mistake. But the idiot curve is inevitable. It just shows up differently for each person.  Marketing Career Idiot Curve

No matter how hard you fight it, you have to ride the curve. (But, please fight through the curve, you have to for your survival) The biggest gap is that you forget to use your instincts. You spend so much of your time trying to absorb all that is coming at you, that you reach for the basic process instead of your brains.

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

The 5 factors to being a great Brand Manager:

From what I have experienced over the years, the five factors for success includes takes ownership, brings strategic thinking, managing others very well, works the system and can handle the pressure of the job.

#1 Ownership: A great Brand Manager takes ownership of the brand.

Many Brand Managers struggle with the transition from being the helper to being the owner. As you move into the job, you have to get away the idea of having someone hand you a project list. Not only do you have to make the project list, you have to come up with the strategies from which the projects fall out of.

A great Brand Manager talks in ideas in a telling sense, rather than an asking sense. It’s great to be asking questions as feelers, but realize that most people are going to be looking to you for decisions. They’ll be recommending you’ll be deciding.

When managing upwards be careful of asking questions—try to stick to solutions. You just gave up your ownership. Your director wants you to tell them what to do, and debate from there.

#2 Strategic Thinking: A great Brand Manager provides the vision & strategies to match up to. 

Bring a vision to the brand. Push yourself to a well-articulated 5-10 year brand vision great. But a vision can be as simple as a rallying cry for the team. But you have to let everyone know where you want to go.

The strategy that matches up to the vision becomes the roadmap for how to get there. As the brand owner, you become the steward of the vision and strategy. Everything that is off strategy has to be rejected.

Communication of strategy is a key skill. Learn to think in terms of strategic pillars, with 3 different areas to help achieve your overall strategy. Having pillars constantly grounds you strategically, and is an easy way for communicating with the various functions. Each function may only have 1 strategic pillar but seeing how it all fits in is motivating.

#3 Managing Others: A great Brand Manager spends the effort to make their ABM as good as can be.

Most Brand Managers struggle with their first five direct reports. The key is to keep self-evaluating and looking for ways to improve with each report. Most Brand Managers struggle to shift from “do-er” to “coach. They think they can do it faster, so they may as well do it. They just become the “super ABM”.

Many Brand Managers fail to share the spotlight, so it becomes hard to showcase the ABM. But the work of your ABM reflects 100% of how good of a manager you are. ABMs need feedback to get better—both the good and bad. I see too many Brand Managers not giving enough feedback. And so many afraid of “going negative” so the ABM is left in the dark or left thinking they are doing a good job.

Great Brand Managers take the time to teach up front, give the ABM some room to try it out and then give hands-on feedback in real time. Use weekly meetings to give both positive feedback and address gaps. Brand Managers should do QUARTERLY sit down performance reviews with their ABMs, who have the capacity to learn faster than annual reviews allows for.

#4 Working the system: A great Brand Manager gets what they need.

The organization is filled with groups, layers, external agencies, with everyone carrying a different set of goals and motivations. You can see how the organization works and appreciating what are the motivations of various key stakeholders. You then use that knowledge to begin to work the system.

Start to see key subject matter experts giving you their best. You understand their personal motivations and find a way to tap into those motivations as a way to ask people for their best. It might be an odd step but from my experience a really motivating step. Very few people ask for “your best”.

#5: Pressure: A Great Brand Manager Can Handle Pressure.

In general, there are four types of pressure. Usually, a leader has 1-2 blind spot pressure areas they need to work on. For me, I was great with ambiguity and time. At that point in my career, I was very weak on the relationship side. Which of these 4 do you struggle on?

  • Ambiguity is one of the hardest pressures. As a leader, patience and composure help you sort through the issues. The consequences of not remaining composed are a scared team and choosing quick decisions with bad results.
  • If the results don’t come in, it can be frustrating. Reach for your logic as you re-group. Force yourself to course correct, rather than continuing to repeat and repeat and repeat. Challenge team to “this is when we are needed”
  • Relationships. Be pro-active in making the first move to build a relationship. Try to figure out what motivates and what annoys the person. Understand and reach for common ground, which most times is not that far away.
  • Time Pressure. It’s similar to the ambiguity. Be organized, disciplined and work the system so it doesn’t get in your way. Be calm, so you continue to make the right decisions. Use the time to your advantage.

Love the magic of Marketing. 

Don’t just do the job, do it with all your passion. Love it please so we can love the work that comes from your passion. Or else just become an actuary and let someone else take your spot.


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

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

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

To order the e-book version of Beloved Brands, click on this link:

And, to order the paperback version, click on this link:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

We help brands find growth

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

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

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

We make Brand Leaders smarter

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

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

If you need our help, email me at or call me at 416 885 3911



Is the Bose brand considered high quality or low quality?


bose-logo-vectorAmong the masses, Bose is one of the most respected, trusted and beloved brands when it comes to audio speakers and headphones.  That’s what their core target market would say. But to serious Audiophiles, with a discerning ear, Bose is total crap, with inferior technology, shabby production standards and resulting poor value. This might be the equivalent about asking a Foodie what they think of Morton’s Steakhouse or Ruth’s Chris.

Bose has a great word of mouth reputation. I remember when I first heard of Bose, it was a guy at work, who seemed to know more than I did say definitively “Bose are the best speakers you can buy”. I immediately believed this to be true and have felt that way ever since. I proudly own Bose headphones, a Bose docking station and Bose speakers in my car. I am a highly satisfied Bose fan.

I wanted Bose Speakers for my TV, having drooled over the idea for years. So I went into a Bose store, listened to a few different options and they all sounded amazing. So I looked on the Bose box, and there was no mention of Watts at all or really anything. My first thought was “wow, Bose is just such a great brand, they don’t really need to get into those tiny details like watts”. But I wanted to compare brands just to ensure I was spending good money. So I went on-line and here’s the Bose specs: still nothing.


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That brings us to The Bose philosophy: Unlike other audio product manufacturers, Bose does not publish specifications relating to the measured electrical and objective acoustic performance of its products. This reluctance to publish information links back to the classic Amar Bose paper presented in 1968 “On the Design, Measurement and Evaluation of Loudspeakers”. In the paper, Bose rejects these measurements in favor of “more meaningful measurement and evaluation procedures”, and considers the human experience the best measure of performance.

For Bose, sound is an experience, not a statistic. Bose spends all their effort and dollars on perfecting the in-store sound demo so they can show off Bose’s great sound quality and let consumers be the judge of their sound.  And yet it’s arguably tough for the average ear to distinguish. Bose invests a lot of money into their own retail stores as well as the store-in-store concepts. That way, it can control the experience the consumer gets with its products–ensuring the consumers hear Bose at it’s best.

Bose has figured out how to make their brand work to their advantage–the proof is in the sound you hear in the store. There’s a certain magic that happens in store when listening to the Bose stereo system. Despite what Audiophiles say, consumer feedback from the masses is definitively in favour of Bose with very high scores. And in a most recent poll, Bose is the #3 trusted brand in Consumer Electronics, so they must be doing something right. It’s tough for consumers to separate Product from Brand, even a brand like Apple has had success in this confusion where consumers think Apple has “great products”. To the masses, Bose is a great brand and has great products.

Is Bose a beloved or hated brand? You be the judge.  


Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

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