The 10 laws of forecasting to help brand leaders run their business

[sg_popup id=”9″ event=”onload”][/sg_popup]Most brand leaders are not very good at forecasting. brand forecastsThey either over-think or quite frankly, under-think the forecast.  You have to know your Business:  I do believe that writing a Monthly Report is smart practice. It helps keep your finger on the pulse of the business. 

You need to know the underlying key performance indicators, match those up to the in-market realities of customer market orders on the surface and shortly.  Stay close to your sales team to hear the collection of details that will impact your forecast. 

And as the leader of the team, you have to steady the ship and avoid creating your fluctuations. An excellent question I always ask is “So what has changed since last month that makes us change our number?”  You will find that many times, the number has changed, yet not very little on your business has changed. That makes no sense. Why would you change the forecast?  

Avoid the panic or over-reaction. Communicate with supply chain your high/medium/low thinking so they can decide on inventory to avoid missed sales versus excess inventory.  Help them manage the risk. 

Here are the ten laws of forecasting:  

1. Your forecast will always be wrong.  

Knowing your forecast is wrong the second you release it, will focus you on finding midpoints, not on exactness. The only question that matters is “how wrong is your forecast?” Get the forecast accurate enough that it doesn’t hurt the business too much when it is within a reasonable variation.  

2. Correct predictions are not proof that the forecast method is accurate.

It could have been luck. Don’t just look at the results; look at your methodology. An excellent, reliable method produces consistent forecasts, which month after month will be more important than nailing one period.  Process matters.  

3. All trends eventually end.

No matter how accurately the trend is forecasted, at some point in the future, it will be wrong. Consider what might cause a trend to change (seasonality, new competition, saturated market, etc.) when evaluating a forecasted trend.

4. Complicated forecast methodologies can be dangerous.

Simple forecasting methods are easy to explain, understand, analyze and debug. Complicated methods tend to obscure key assumptions built into the forecast, which can lead to unexpected failures.  It’s ok if your supply chain experts use complicated formulas, but balance that with your instincts. Once you let go of your instincts, your forecast will get worse.

5. The underlying data in the forecast are nearly always wrong to some degree. 

Like forecasts being wrong, so too is the data that you are basing it on. You can have better data. But you will never have perfect data. It is just a question of how far off it is. Therefore, the more data in the forecasting process, the more likely some critical error will be missed.

6. Data that has not been regularly used is almost useless for forecasting.  

Data quality is usually directly proportional to the number of times it has been used on your business. Without regular usage, data errors remain undetected, and inconsistencies develop. It’s better to use reliable data in a forecast even if additional assumptions have to be made in order to use it.

7. Most forecasts are biased in some way — usually accidentally.

It is challenging to eliminate all bias in a forecast since the forecaster always has to make certain assumptions about which factors to include, how strongly to weight them, and which to ignore. And sometimes the bias is intentional.

8. Technology will not make up for a bad forecasting strategy.

Create an appropriate strategy first, then use the technology to make it better. Everyone always thinks the technology will help with forecasting, but if you don’t use your brain and think, the better system will just get you a bad forecast faster.  

9. Adding sophisticated technology to a bad model makes it worse.

If the model is bad, anything you add to it — statistical methods, time-series methods, neural networks, etc. — will make your forecast worse. And now, it will be harder to figure out what is going wrong.

10. Large numbers are easier to forecast than small ones.

With forecasting, everything gets easier as the numbers get bigger. A forecast of unit sales where there is an average of 1,000 units sold per month is a lot easier to get right than one where average sales are 2 per month. It is more about the variability than the size itself.

 

To read how to write a monthly report, click on this link below:

How to write the ideal Monthly Report for your brand. And, why you need one.

 

My new book, Beloved Brands, coming this spring.

How this Beloved Brands playbook can work for you. The purpose of this book is to make you a smarter brand leader so your brand can win in the market. 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 be able to analyze the performance of your brand through a deep-dive business review.

 

 

 

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 graham@beloved-brands.com or call me at 416 885 3911

Graham Robertson bio

 

New John Lewis 2016 Christmas ad finally released and it falls a little flat

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I feel like a little kid who races downstairs only to be disappointed by my gift. And then I feel bad about it. I am one of those who love the John Lewis Christmas ads and starts to think about it around early October.

And yet, this year, I just feel “blah”.

Once a year, brand fans await the latest installment of the John Lewis Christmas ad. So much attention, that it creates media hysteria trying to predict when it will be launched. John Lewis took advantage of that hype to use three little 10-second teasers with #BounceBounce to build up the anticipation.

The ad is OK, but not great.

It’s cute, but not brilliant.

It falls a little flat, compared to previous John Lewis ads.

Here is the ad, and before I lose you I have put all the John Lewis Christmas ads below for you to compare with.

 

Pretty simple story. Kid likes to bounce on things. Dad builds a trampoline. Animals come out and bounce on it. Dog sees them and is jealous. Dog bounces on the trampoline before the kid gets to it. Kid disappointed?  Mom and Dad disappointed? No one seems happy.

 

How do you feel about it? Is it just me?

The people at John Lewis felt that last year’s spot was “too sad” and they didn’t want to do “sad-vertising” anymore. Personally, I loved last year’s spot. It did bring a tear to my eye, but in a good way. John Lewis has also said they are trying to tap into the insight that 2016 has been a tough year, with Brexit and the US elections. Wouldn’t a more elaborate story be a better escape for consumers?

 

John Lewis has created a legacy around Christmas that is tough to live up to

I have worked on campaigns that lasted 10 years and 5 years. The hardest thing for a Marketer is to stay on track, yet try to beat last year’s spot. It is very hard to be creatively different, yet stay in line with the campaign. marketing-execution-2017-extract-9-001Those fight against each other. Since 2009, John Lewis has wiggled a little each year. But what they have not done yet, is sold out to the pressure. Each year, the ads have been highly creative, the ads that created the magic simply through the eyes of the children in the ads. The emphasis has always been on giving. You will see there is not a lot John Lewis branding in any of these ads, but there is a certain degree of ownership.

 

Rachel Swift, head of brand marketing at John Lewis, says “It is has become part of our handwriting as a brand. It’s about storytelling through music and emotion. The sentiment behind that hasn’t changed – and that is quite intentional. The strategy behind our campaigns is always about thoughtful gifting.”

Let’s use that summary to see how well the 2016 spot lives up to the John Lewis ads of the past?

  • There is not much of a story.
  • It is not very emotional at all.
  • It is not really about thoughtful gifting.
  • No one in the ad even seems happy.

In my view, 2016 ad falls flat and now I have to turn my attention to other retailers to see what they do. My hope is someone does something extra special. Right now John Lewis is the gold standard for Christmas ads and this latest puts them at risk that another retailer easily outshines them.

 

 

The history of John Lewis Ads

Here is last year’s spot, that might have gone overboard on sad. But I truly loved it.

Yes, the man on the moon is a metaphor (sorry, there really isn’t a man on the moon) for reaching out and giving someone a gift. For me, this ad quickly reminds me of when my own kids are on the phone or FaceTime with my mom. There is a certain magic in the innocence and simplicity when the very young talk with older people. They both seem to get it, maybe sometimes more than the in-between ages where the innocence of Christmas is lost within their busy schedules.

 

Here are the John Lewis spots from the last few years and you can tell me which one you like the best.

2014:  Monty the Penguin:

 

Here is the one from 2011, about the boy who couldn’t wait for Christmas. You will notice this year’s Man on the Moon feels very similar.

 

This is also a great one from 2010

 

And you can see the one from 2009.

 

In 2012, the “snowman” ad felt bit too dark for me with the tone feeling like a slight miss for John Lewis. I felt they were trying too hard.  Maybe feeling the pressure to keep the campaign alive by being different when really the consumer just wants the fast-becoming-familiar-John-Lewis-magic each year.

 

I also found the 2013 ad a bit of a departure, going to animation and utilizing on-line and in-store media. This campaign seems trying too hard to capitalize on their success. Doesn’t feel like a fit.

 

I guess I’ll have to wait for the 2017 John Lewis Christmas ad!  🙁

 

Christmas is 8 weeks away. Expect to see this spot a lot on your social media feed. But, also expect the other UK retailers to compete as they did last year. Here is a link to the 7 best Holiday ads for last year:

Our 7 favorite Holiday ads of 2015. Have your say.

 

Passion in Marketing Execution Matters. If you don’t love it, how do you expect your consumer to love it? If you “sorta like” it, then it will be “sorta ok” in the end. But if you love it, you’ll go the extra mile and make it amazing. To read more about how to drive your Marketing Execution, here is our workshop that shows everything you need to know, to have the smarts of strategy, the discipline of leadership and the passion of creativity to generate brand love in today’s modern world.

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. 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 use workshop sessions to help your team create a winning brand positioning that separates your brand in the market, write focused brand plans that everyone can follow and we help you find advertising that drives growth for your brand. We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. Our Beloved Brands training center offers 10 training workshops to get your team of brand leaders ready for success in brand management–including strategic and analytical thinking, writing brand plans, positioning statements and creative brief, making decisions on creative advertising and media plans.

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

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How to manage your B2B brand

Too many people think that brand management matters most to a consumer brand, and they under-estimate the value of marketing for B2B brands. And many of these people are running B2B brands. They treat marketing as a support function, hiring a low-cost marketing coordinators to support their sales team, and do basic packaging for new launches and run a few basic trade magazines.

B2B marketing is not just about selling products, but about building and selling your brand’s reputation. The role of a B2B brand is to create unique idea for your brand, perceived in the minds and hearts of your customer, consistently delivered by the experience, creating a bond, power and profit beyond what the product itself could achieve. Too many B2B companies believe they just SELL PRODUCTS. However, you should be building and managing your reputation of your brand. Whereas basic products and services solve small problems, I like to think that a brand beats down the enemy that your customer faces every day. For instance, FedEx fights the enemy of “business moving too slowly” while IBM fights “unsolvable problems” for their customers. What is your customer’s enemy that you can solve for them?

The more loved a brand is by its customers, the more powerful and profitable that brand will be. With a connected brand, it helps to warm up sales leads–many times they’ll already know your reputation before you call. A brand can connect with customers so that pure pricing becomes less of a factor. If the customer is satisfied and connected on one piece of business, they’ll look to you to solve other problems for them.

Start with a Big Idea

The best brands use a Big Idea to help explain themselves in 7 seconds, and use that Big Idea to help extrapolate that same brand story into 60 seconds or even 30 minutes, depending on the situation. In a crowded branded marketplace, Big Ideas help simplify your brand message so it’s easily understood and remembered, own-able in the customers’ mind and heart and motivating enough to change consumer beliefs and behavior. That big idea should transform your brand message into a brand reputation.

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Below is the tool we use to figure out a brand’s Big Idea which revolves around five areas that help define the brand: 1) Brand’s character 2) Products and Services the brand provides 3) Internal Beacons that people internally rally around when thinking about the brand and 4) Consumer reputation of the Brand and 5) the role of the brand in connecting with consumers. How we use this tool is we normally brainstorm 3-4 words in each of the four distinct sections and turn create sentences for each. Then looking collectively, we begin to frame the brand’s Big Idea with a few words or a phrase to which the brand can stand behind. The tool works! 

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

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Build your brand around a big idea that’s simple to understand and big enough to create a lasting impression with consumers. Create a simple brand promise that separates your brand from competitors, based on being better, different or cheaper. Use your brand story to motivate customers to think, feel or act, while beginning to own a reputation in the mind and hearts of consumers. You need a fundamentally sound product, with innovation that keeps your brand at the forefront of trends and using technology to deliver on your brand promise. The purchase  moment is where customers move through the purchase cycle and use channels, messaging, processes to make the final decision. Turn the usage of your product into an experience that becomes a ritual and favorite part of their work life so that your customers always turn to you first.

Whereas B2B brands currently treat marketing as a support function, once you have your big idea you can see how for a B2B brand, that the idea should drive every part of your organization and that your brand’s experience will be supported by the culture, people and operations which then transforms that idea into a brand reputation. Below you can see how that Big Idea should be a beacon for your top-to-top leadership, your sales team, the problem solvers, customer service team and the experience delivery team.

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Everyone in your organization must be saying the same message. For a B2B brand, marketing’s role is to make sure that the external and internal story are given equal importance so that everyone in your organization must be communicating and delivering the same big idea to customers that they see in trade magazines, at trade shows or in the sales materials.

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Like any brand, there are really only four choices: you can be better, different, cheaper or else not around for very long. For B2B, when your product is a commodity, you have to find a way to use service levels as a way to find your point of difference. When you start to treat your own brand like a commodity or believe that you are, that’s when you’re in trouble. What you want to do is use that Big Idea to create an internal culture and use that culture to build your brand’s reputation as the way to help separate you in the marketplace. As you build your culture, you’ll see that you can begin to use culture as a way to stand out and then you’ll evolve to where you see culture becomes the backbone that delivers the brand experience. At the ideal stage where you become a beloved brand you see that culture and brand become one as your own people become the most outspoken fans of the brand. 

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Your brand is your reputation and it can never be a commodity

Click below on the Powerpoint version of the B2B Brand Workshop we run for clients.

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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

GR bio Jun 2016.001

 

Laying out your 5-year plan with a Brand Strategy Roadmap

What the final Brand Strategy Roadmap should look like

Having the brand road map on one page can help align everyone that works on a brand. This is especially useful when managing a Branded House or Master Brand where there are various people in your organization that each run a small part of the brand. The road map helps guide everyone and keep them aligned. Here’s the one I use that has all the key elements that help define the brand:

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The Brand Strategy Roadmap combines With our Brand Roadmap the Brand Idea Map where we take the brand’s big idea and show it lines up across the 5 consumer touch-points and the long-term Brand Plan elements.

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Big Idea Map

As we map out how consumers buy and experience brands, we have created 5 main consumer touch-points that will impact their decisions on whether to engage, buy, experience and become a fan. Our five consumer touch-points we use are:

  1. Brand Promise: Brands need to create a simple brand promise that separates your brand from competitors, based on being better, different or cheaper.
  2. Brand Story: Use your brand story to motivate consumers to think, feel or act, while beginning to own a reputation in the mind and hearts of consumers.
  3. Innovation: Fundamentally sound product, staying at the forefront of trends and using technology to deliver on your brand promise.
  4. Purchase Moment: The moment of truth as consumers move through the purchase cycle and use channels, messaging, processes to make the final decision.
  5. Brand Experience: Turn the usage of your product into an experience that becomes a ritual and favorite part of their day. 

To ensure a consistency in how consumers view your brand, whether that is the first touch-point or the most recent, all 5 touch-points should be aligned under the brand’s Big Idea.  

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Strategic Plan Elements

  • Vision: What do you want your brand to be in the next 5-10 years? Vision gives everyone on the brand a clear direction, it should be measurable (quantitative) and motivating (qualitative). It should push you so much that it scares you a little, but excites you a lot.
  • Purpose: Why does your brand exist? Keep asking yourself why you do this, to find the personal motivation hidden in the brand. Articulating your purpose can be a very powerful way to connect with both employees and consumers, giving your brand a soul.
  • Values: core beliefs of the brand that shape the organization as to the standards, behaviors, expectations. The brand has to be able to stand up to and consistently deliver each value.
  • Goals: What do you need to achieve? Specific measures of brand health and wealth, related to consumer/customer behavioral changes, metrics of key programs, performance targets or milestones on the pathway to the vision. It’s the brand scoreboard.
  • Key Issues: What is getting the way from achieving your vision/goals? Deep analysis highlights what’s driving and holding brand back, as well as future risks and untapped opportunities. Issues are asked as a question to provide the problem to which strategies become the solution.
  • Strategies: How can we get there? Strategies are the “How” you will win the market. Choices based on market opportunities, using consumers, competitors or situational. Strategies should have a pin-pointed focus providing a breakthrough on the pathway to the brand vision.
  • Tactics: What do we need to do to execute the strategy? Framed completely by strategy, tactical choices deploy your limited resources against brand projects, the most efficient way to drive a high ROI.

Here’s what Apple’s draft of their strategic plan looks like:

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House of Brands

When working with a house of brands, where you have multiple brand names under one corporate name (P&G, Kraft, General Mills and Johnson and Johnson) the brand plan would look different.  The big differences are the teams are smaller and the culture of each team usually follows that of the corporate name.

Here’s a good example of a Brand Plan that would fit within the House of Brands and here is the related story on How to Write a Brand Plan

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Use your Brand Strategic Roadmap to gain agreement, make focused decisions and  keep everyone aligned

 

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.

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

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Align the 5 consumer touch-points to build consumer connectivity and brand love

When we think of the most beloved brands–Starbucks, Apple, Ferrari, Disney, Nike or Mercedes–it’s really hard to figure out the ONE part of the brand that really makes it great. For example on Apple, I have heard: “Apple has the best products” or “they have the best ads” or “it’s actually the experience”. At Beloved Brands, we believe you need 5 magic moments that a brand must deliver at an extremely high degree in order to become a beloved brand:

  1. Brand Promise
  2. Brand Story
  3. Innovation
  4. Purchase Moment
  5. Experience
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Brand Promise: Create a simple brand promise that separates your brand from competitors, based on being better, different or cheaper. Try to use a brand positioning exercise to figure out your brand’s value proposition–we use a brand ladder (below) where we map out the target definition, product features, rational benefits and emotional benefits. To read more, click on this hyperlink: How to write a brand positioning statement

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Brand Story: At Beloved Brands, we see Advertising as a tool for telling your brand story in a way that creates a bond with consumers, to establish your brand’s positioning and to drive change in your consumers behavior that leads to higher sales, share and profit. You should use your brand story to motivate consumers to think, feel or act, while beginning to own a reputation in the mind and hearts of consumers. Here’s a hyperlink to a story on helping you judge advertising: Judging Advertising

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Innovation: Fundamentally sound product, staying at the forefront of trends and using technology to deliver on your brand promise. The trick with innovation is keeping the serendipity of an R&D team aligned, while pushing for a balance of blue ocean against staying within the perimeters of the brand strategy. New products have to meet consumer needs and many times creating a consumer need they didn’t even know they had. 

Purchase Moment: As consumers get near the purchase, there becomes this “moment of truth” when they have to make the final decision to buy. We manage the purchase moment using a buying system that maps out how consumers move through the purchase cycle and use channels, messaging, processes to make the final decision.

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Experience: Turn the usage of your product into an experience that becomes a ritual and favorite part of their day. One of the best brand experiences is Starbucks, providing consumers with more than just coffee, but rather an escape from daily grind a hectic life. At Starbucks, you find that little moment between home life and work life, a cool atmosphere indie music and leather chairs, a barista that knows your name and your drink, you can order in Italian and one of the best things they manage to indirectly achieve–no screaming little kids.

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The brand becomes more powerful when everything is aligned under a “big idea” for your brand. In today’s crowded media world, consumers now see 6,000 brand messages every day. They have to quickly sort through those messages, rejecting most and only engaging in a few each day. It’s those brands who can communicate in a headline style idea will grab the consumers attention.

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Once you establish that big idea, you can align each of the 5 magic moments underneath that big idea. 

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Using the Big Idea map above, we can see the promise comes from the brand positioning, the brand story is told through advertising, the innovation is driven by R&D, the purchase moment is a combination of your sales team and your distribution strategy while the experience comes directly from how you manage the operations and culture of your organization. As you can start to see, everyone and every activity should be driven by the Big Idea. To show you how to use the Big Idea map, here’s the example using the Apple brand, showing how they align behind everything linked to the big idea of “simplicity”.

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

 

To read more about how to create a beloved brand, click on this presentation which is our workshop we lead around how to create a beloved brand: 

 

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.

custom_business_card_pile_15837We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

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

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

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Before you fire your Agency…

Article that we wrote for Marketing Magazine Marketing Magazine link

firedThey say clients get the work they deserve. If you knew being a better client would get you better advertising, could you show up better? Would you actually show up better? There’s a reason why there are so many agency reviews: clients can’t really fire themselves. However, if you fire your current agency and then you don’t show up better to the new agency, they will be doomed to fail from the start. And the cycle will continue.

The role of the client matters.

I have seen so-so agencies make great work for an amazing client. I have also seen the best agencies fail dramatically for a bad client. My conclusion: The client matters more than anyone else, as they hold the power in either enabling or restricting impactful advertising from happening.

I have always reminded myself that we never really do anything. We don’t make the product, sell the product or create the ads. Yet, we touch everything and we make every decision. Our greatness has to come from leading the experts we engage, so that they reach for their own greatness and apply it on our brand. Great clients communicate their desires with passion to inspire their agency; they hold everyone accountable to the strategy and stay open to explore new solutions through creativity. Great clients are wiling to stake their reputation on great work.

Here’s how to show up better as a client:

  • Narrow your focus with a tight target: Some brand leaders want options to help make decisions. The problem is that clients write such a wide creative brief that it creates room for strategic options, when really the brand leader just wanted creative options. Instead, have one main message and one objective. Keep your list of mandatories to a bare minimum. Do your strategic homework before you write the brief. Start with the consumer and bring their story to life using insights that will make consumers say, “That’s me.” Knowing you have the right strategy will give you more conviction to decide on the right creative expression of that strategy. The smaller the brief, the bigger the ideas.
  • Allow creativity to unfold: 7e11158d-971e-4d29-80fa-cb27b96f0ebe-originalWhen you write a tangled weave of mandatories in the brief that almost writes the ad itself, the agency feels trapped and unable to do anything surprising or spectacular. Don’t use every meeting to steer towards the type of advertising you want to see, while being outspoken against the type of work you don’t want to see. Let the agency take charge of writing the brief. You can still debate every word, always knowing if you hold the power of decision, you don’t need to hold the pen as well. In meetings, show you are open to new solutions. It is okay to know exactly what you want, but you should never know until the moment you see it. Think of advertising like the perfect gift you never thought to buy yourself. As the leader, you always hold the final power of the decision. You will be even more powerful if you never have to use it.
  • Lead with passion: There is no mathematical pathway to choosing the best advertising based on a winning score. Great advertising has to balance the art and science, using both your creative instincts and strategic mind. You need to, be willing to fight to make the best work happen and put all of your energy into making the work spectacular. Do not use the logic of research to choose your path, but to confirm the choice you are dying to make.

Being a better client is something you can learn. Advertising takes experience, practice, leadership and a willingness to adjust. Ask for advice. Watch others who are great. Never give your agency new solutions, just give them new problems. Inspire greatness from your agency; yet never be afraid to challenge them for better work. They would prefer to be pushed rather than held back. Be your agency’s favourite client, so the agency team wants to work on your brand, not just because they were assigned to work on your business. Be the champion who fights for great work even if you have to fight with your boss.

Once you show up better, you might find your agency shows up better. Together, you will make amazing work.

 

Do you want to realize your full potential in Brand Management?  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

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

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10 things that good Advertising should do

Marketing Execution 2016.006People always ask me “So what is it that makes a Brand Leader good at advertising?”

I used to think they must be more creative.  Or they are more in touch with creative people.   Or better yet, they are a visionary.

I never really thought these answers satisfied me.  Advertising is so much more than that.

In fact there are many things around advertising that have nothing to do with the creative.  There needs to be a great Brand Plan, the Creative Brief should be tight yet rich with insight. Brand Leaders have to manage the process and stay on strategy and they should have an ability to select the right media.  They should take risks. They have to be able to handle the stress of ambiguity against deadlines, and the pressure to make the numbers in the face of art. Advertising is half art, half science. They have to be able to give some freedom on execution, yet maintain a tight control on the strategy.

Brand Leaders must be good at giving good feedback, maybe even a bit fussy on details. Be nice though.  They have to love the work and bring that emotion to the table. What about motivating the team?  Not just motivating the creatives, but the planners, the account people, the editors and even the directors. Someone who is great at Advertising has to make decisions. They have to be able to walk in the shoes of the consumer, yet still live at the desk of the brand. They must have the ability to gain alignment with their own team and yet gain approval from the senior management of the company. They have to be able to sell the work.  At all stages. The list goes on and on.

There are just so many things that are required to get good advertising. Being creative is a great start. But it is more.

So after thinking about this question for a few years, I finally nailed it:  

A Brand Leader that is good at advertising is able to consistently get good advertising on the air, and keep bad advertising off the air.

Marketing Execution 2016.019It’s such a simple yet complicated answer. Almost as simple and complicated as David Ogilvy’s line “Clients get the work they deserve”. I know that is true, in every way that it is meant. I always ask Brand Leaders, “if you knew that how you showed up actually impacts the advertising, do you think you might show up differently?” I hope the answer is yes. But I’m not sure they do. Those great at advertising get it.

Sadly, there is an equally long list of things that make Brand Leaders bad at advertising. These days, there is so much learning on the job that people end up as the decision-maker in the room, sitting there trying to lead the advertising when they haven’t even properly trained on how to do it. Malcolm Gladwell says you’re an expert when you’ve had 10,000 hours.  And yet, there are Brand Leaders are thrust into leading an Ad Campaign with 20, 30 or maybe 100 hours. And no training. Even those who are supposed to teach you haven’t been trained.  So you are both learning. How can you consistently get good advertising on the air,  managing such a complicated process when you’re still learning. On the job.

The 10 things good advertising should do

Here’s a starting point for you when you’re judging creative.

  1. Set yourself apart. Beloved Brands must be different, better, cheaper. Or they are not around for very long.   The story telling of the brand’s promise should help to separate the brand from the clutter of other brands that are stuck in our minds. And that starts with creative that feels different and of course makes the brand seem different.
  2. Focused! A focused target, a focused message, a focused strategy against a focused communication idea, a focused media.  The whole discipline of marketing is founded on focus, and yet Brand Leaders struggle most in this area.  They always want that “just in case” option.  Marketing Execution 2016.031
  3. Keep the idea and communication very simple. Communication is not what is said, but what is heard. Too many people try to shout as many messages as they can in one ad. What does the consumer hear? A confusing mess. By throwing multiple messages you are just making the consumer do the work of deciding the most important message, because you couldn’t figure it out. My challenge to you is to stand up on a chair and yell your main message as though you are standing on top of a mountain.  If you can’t YELL it out in one breath, then your idea is too complex. Or just too long. The Volvo Brand Manager gets to yell “Safety” in one clean simple breath. Can you do that?
  4. Have a good selling idea. While Big Ideas break through, they also help you to be consistent, because you have to align your thinking to the Big Idea. You’ll see consistency over time, across mediums–paid, earned, social and search–and you’ll see it throughout the entire brand line up of sub brands. Consumers will start to connect to the big idea and they’ll begin to relate your brand with that big idea. Look at your ad:  does it have a big idea?
  5. Drive engagement: Too many Brand Leaders forget to engage the consumer. They get so fixated on saying their 7 messages that they figure the ability to capture attention is just advertising fluff. But it all starts with attention. The consumer sees 5,000 ads a day and will likely only engage in a handful.   If you don’t capture their attention, no one will remember the brand name, your main message or any other reason to believe you might have.
  6. Let the Visuals do the talking. With so many ads, you need to have a key visual that can capture the attention, link to your brand and communicate your message. The ‘see-say’ of advertising helps the consumers brain to engage, follow along and remember. As kids, we always love the pictures. We still do.
  7. Sell the solution, not the product. Consumers use brands to solve problems in their lives.  Your brand will be more powerful if it solves the problems of life. Figure out the consumers’ enemy and conquer it on their behalf. Consumers don’t care about what you do, until you care about what they need. No one has ever wanted a quarter-inch drill, they just need a quarter-inch hole.
  8. Be Relevant with the Consumer. A beloved brand finds a way to matter to those who really care.  It’s not only the right brand promise that matters, but the right communication of that promise. You can’t sell carpet cleaning to someone who only has hard wood floors. And you can’t sell a golf ball that goes 20 yards farther to someone who despises golf.
  9. Make ads that are based on a consumer insight. Insights are not facts about your brand. That’s just you talking AT the consumer. Insights are something the consumer already knows but they didn’t realize that everyone felt that way. Insights enable consumers to see themselves in the situation and once you do that, the consumers might then figure the brand must be for them. Insights allow you to connect and turn the ad into a conversation.
  10. Tell the story behind the brand. There should be richness in your brand’s purpose. Why did you start this brand? How does your brand help people? Why do you get up in the morning? Remember:  people don’t buy what you do as much as they buy why you do it.

 

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The ABC’S of Advertising

Another way to rephrase this list is through the ABC’S: Attention Branding Communication and Stickiness.  

  • 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.

 

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Be a Better Client

If how you show up to the agency will produce better advertising work  Then show up right.  

Agencies should be treated like trusted partners, not suppliers. Engage them early asking for advice, not just telling them what to do and when. If you tell an agency what to do, there will only be one answer “YES”. But if you ask them what to do, there are three answers:  yes, no or maybe. Seek their advice beyond advertising.   Build a relationship directly with the creative teams. Be more than “just another client”.

Getting great advertising is a balance of freedom and control. Most Marketers allow too much FREEDOM on the strategy but want to exhibit CONTROL on the creative. It should be the reverse, you should control the strategy and give freedom on creative.  Don’t go into a creative meeting with a pre-conceived notion as to what the ad should look like. Creative people are “in the box” problem solvers. What they don’t want a) blank canvas b) unclear problem and c) your solutions to the problem.  Let them be in the box and find the solution for you. That’s what motivates them the most.

Advertising must do something for your brand. It must make the consumer think, feel or act differently than before they saw the ad.

 

To see the Beloved Brands workshop training presentation on getting Marketing Execution click no the link below: 

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

Brand Careers 2016.107

How to be a great Brand Leader: Do absolutely nothing

To inspire greatness from your experts, give them your problems to solve. Never your solutions.

Article that we wrote for Advertising Age.

Very early on in my brand management career, I was at a dinner party with my in-laws, who began to grill me on what I did for a living. Brand management has never been easy to explain to those outside the industry. “So, are you the guy who comes up with the funny ads? No. Ad-AgeAre you the guy who designs the cool new products? No.” After about 10 failed questions, they finally said, “So what do you do?” And I said “Nothing. I don’t really do anything. But I’m good at it.” They laughed, but they were likely scared that their daughter was marrying someone doomed to fail.

Remember when George from Seinfeld said, “Jerry, this show is about nothing.” That’s how I felt as a brand manager. Like George, I think what made me really good at my job is that I did nothing. Absolutely nothing. Over my 20 years of brand management, whenever I walked into a meeting, I used to whisper to myself, “You are the least knowledgeable person in the room. Use that to your advantage.”

The power was in the ability to ask clarification questions. When I was in with the scientists — following my C+ in tenth-grade chemistry — I was about as smart as the consumers I represented. I needed to make sure all the science was easy to explain. With my ad agencies, I finally figured out that I never had to solve problems. I just gave them my problems to solve. It became like therapy. Plus, with six years of business school — without one art class — what do I know about art? I was smart enough to know that I needed to make the most out of the experts I was paying.

While we don’t make the product, we don’t sell the product or create the ads, we do touch everything that goes into the marketplace and we make every decision. All of our work is done through other people. Our greatness as a brand leader has to come from the experts we engage, so they will be inspired to reach for their own greatness and apply it to our brand. Brand management has been built on a hub-and-spoke system, with a team of experts surrounding the generalist brand leader.

BBI Creds Deck 2016.002When I see brand managers of today doing stuff, I feel sorry for them. They are lost. I just saw that the CEO of Uber designed his own logo. Doesn’t he have better things to do? Brand leaders are not designed to be experts in marketing communications, experts in product innovation, or experts in selling the product. They are trained to be generalists — knowing enough to make decisions, but not enough to actually do the work.

Fifteen years ago, ad agencies broke apart the creative and the media departments into separate agencies, forcing the brand leader to step in and be the referee on key decisions. Right after that, the explosion of new digital media options that mainstream agencies were not ready to handle forced the brand leader to take another step in.

With the increasing speed of social media, brand leaders have taken one more step in. Three steps in, and brand leaders can’t find a way to step back again. Some brand leaders love stepping in too far so they can control the outcome of the creative process. However, if you are now doing all the work, then who is critiquing the work to make sure it fits the strategy? Pretty hard to think and do at the same time.

Brand leaders need to take a step back and let the creativity of execution unfold. I always say that it is okay to know exactly what you want, but you should never know until the moment you see it. As the client, I like to think of marketing execution as the perfect gift that you never thought to buy yourself. How we engage our experts can either inspire greatness or crush the spirit of creativity. From my experience, experts would prefer to be pushed than held back. The last thing experts want is to be asked for their expertise, and then told exactly what to do. There is a fine line between rolling up your sleeves to work alongside the experts and pushing the experts out of the way.

It is time to step back and assume your true role as a brand leader. Trust me, it is a unique skill to be able to inspire, challenge, question, direct and decide, without any expertise at all.

After all, I am an expert in doing nothing.

To read the original article that we wrote for Advertising Age, click on this link

Ad Age Article: How to Be a Great Brand Leader: Do Absolutely Nothing

At Beloved Brands, we lead workshops on everything connected to Brand Management, including Click on the Powerpoint file below to view:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

 

Brand Careers 2016.107

How to be successful in the Brand Manager role

Brand Careers 2016.031Most new brand managers mistakenly think this role is about managing because they finally get a chance to manage a direct report. However, the bigger part of this role is the transition you need to make as you move from do-er to owner. Yes, you’ll get your first change to manage a direct report, but many times that effort can be a distraction from your chance to continue to learn and grow. Many brand managers are disheartened to find out they are a disaster with their first direct report, but I always remind them that they’ll finally get better by the fifth direct report.

Here are the five success factors for Brand Managers:

1. Ownership

A great Brand Manager takes ownership of the brand. Many BMs 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 should you have to make the project list, you should come up with the strategies from which the projects fall out of. Brand Careers 2016.049A great Brand Manager talks in ideas in a telling sense, rather then an asking sense. It is great to be asking questions as feelers, but realize that most people are going to be looking to you for decisions. They will be recommending you will 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 direction

A great Brand Manager provides a 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 road map 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 BMs struggle with their first five direct reports. The key is to keep self evaluating and looking for ways to improve with each report. Most BMs 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 BMs fail to share the spot light, 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 to many BMs 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 BMs 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. BBI Creds Deck 2016.002Use weekly meetings to give both positive feedback and address gaps. Brand Mangers 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 want and 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 are the motivations of various key stakeholders. You then use that knowledge to begin to work the system.You are starting 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. Dealing with Pressure
A great Brand Manager can handle pressure: ambiguity, results, relationship time. 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. Another big pressure is when the results don’t come in, it can be frustrating. BBI ads for 2015.010Reach for your logic as you re-group. Force yourself to course correct, rather then continuing to repeat and repeat and repeat. Challenge team to “this is when we are needed” You will see pressure in 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. At every level there is time pressure. It is 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 time to your advantage.

The ten reasons that Brand Managers fail:

  1. Struggle to make decisions
  2. Not analytical enough
  3. Can’t get along
  4. Not good with ambiguity
  5. Too slow and stiff
  6. Bad people Manager
  7. Poor communicators, with manager, senior management or partners
  8. Never follow their Instincts
  9. Can’t think strategically or write strategically
  10. They don’t run the brand, they let the brand run them.

The reality is everyone will have 1 or 2 of these potential points, just naturally. You have to use your time as a Brand Manager to work on closing them.  Especially if they come up in your performance review. At the Brand Manager stage, I hope you love the magic of marketing. Let it breathe and let it come to life. It is easy to lose your passion and try to do what your boss wants or do things to make short term numbers so you can get promoted. Those don not really work long term. My advice is do not just do the job, do it with all your passion. If you don’t love the work you do, then what consumer would ever love your brand.

Brand Manager role should be an amazing experience for you. Make the most of it.

At Beloved Brands, we lead workshops on everything connected to Brand Management, including Click on the Powerpoint file below to view:

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

Brand Careers 2016.107

Write focused Brand Plans that everyone can follow

A Brand Plan gets everyone on the same page.

Have you ever notice that those people who say “we need to get everyone on the same page” rarely have ONE page?  People who use the term “few bigger bets” always seem to be fans of those small little projects that deplete resources. And, the person who says they are “good at decision-making” usually struggle when facing a decision and then try to justify both options. 

A well-written Brand Plan makes choices in how to allocate your brand’s limited resources to drive the biggest return. The plan gains approval from senior management around spending, strategies, tactics, goals and projects. The plan aligns, steers and inspires all functional areas of  the organization including marketing, sales, finance, supply chain, product development, human resources and any outside agencies. And lastly, the Brand Plan even helps the Brand Manager who wrote it, to stay focused on delivering on what they said they would deliver.

An effective Brand Plan answers where are we, why are we here, where could we be, how can we get there and what do we need to do.  Once you answer these 5 strategic questions, you will see that you have your analysis, key issues, vision, goals strategies, execution and measurement. 

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While there is a lot of work with our planning process, you will end up with a Brand Plan on ONE PAGE. 

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Before you start in on working on the Brand Plan, we recommend that you write 2-3 bullet points for each of the 5 strategic questions. This provides an outline to ensure the overall flow of the plan. Below is our recommended strategic worksheet:

Brand Plans 2016.012

 

Elements of the Brand Plan

Following our Brand Plan we recommend building your plan around the following elements of the plan:

  1. Situation Analysis
  2. Key Issues
  3. Vision/Purpose/Goals
  4. Strategies
  5. Execute
  6. Measure

 

Situational Analysis

Start the planning process with a deep-dive business review that answers “where are we”, by looking  at everything connected to the business including the category, consumer, competitors, channels and the brand.  Here’s a link to our story on How to lead a deep-dive business review:

How to lead a deep-dive business review

From the deep-dive business review, summarize what is driving the business, what’s holding it back and then lay out the risks and untapped opportunities. Try to focus on the top 3-4 points for each box below:

Brand Plans 2016.026

 

The simplicity of this analysis sets up a starting point of the Key Issues as the issues as you will want to continue/enhance the growth drivers, minimize or reverse the inhibitors, avoid the risks and take advantage of the opportunities.

Brand Plans 2016.028

 

Brand Vision

When I see brand teams struggling, they usually lack a vision.  As Yogi Berra once said “if you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there”. The vision answers “where could we be” and becomes a beacon for everyone working on the brand. It is the one that defines your success. If you achieved it, everyone would feel proud.

We like to ask brand leaders: “if you woke up ten years from now and you were in a great mood because of what was happening on your business, what are the 2-3 things you would have achieved”.  This gives you a straw dog vision, framed as a very large goal. We then provide some examples of the best-in-class vision statements to see if sparks some creativity in writing a final vision statement.

Brand Plans 2016.036

 

A good vision should scare you a little, but excite you a lot. It should be motivating and enticing to stretch your mind, while getting everyone focused. Ideally it is Qualitative (yet grounded in something) and quantitative (measurable). It is perfectly fine to embed a financial ($x) or share position (#1) element into it as long as it is important for framing the vision. The vision should easy for everyone to understand and rally around. It should stand at least 5-10 years or more. It should be a balance of aspiration (stretch) and reality (achievement)

A brand vision is not a positioning statement or strategic statement. These both come later in the plan. Try to be single-minded in the statement. You do not need to include everything. Make sure you haven’t achieved it already.

 

Key Issues

One tool we recommend with finding the key issues is to ask 4 questions that determine “why are you here”:

  1. What is your current COMPETITIVE position?
  2. What is the CORE STRENGTH your brand can win on?
  3. How tightly CONNECTED is your consumer to your brand?
  4. What is the current business SITUATION your brand faces?

Combine the deep dive analysis with the answers to these 4 questions and you will have a good start on your competitive, brand, consumer and situational issues.

Brand Plans 2016.031

 

Take the vision statement and ask “what are all the things getting in the way of achieving the vision?” Brainstorm every possible answer and then narrow down the list to the top 3-5 key issues. Once you have your top issues, write the key issues as questions, that sets up options for the strategy as the possible answers.

 

Strategies

Strategy is always about the “how to get there”. At the strategic level, you have to make choices. When Marketers come to a decision point that requires focus, too many try to justify a way to do both. You have to decide. The best strategic marketers never divide and conquer. They make the choices that help to focus and conquer. Marketers always face limited resources in terms of dollars, time, people and partnerships. They have to apply those limited resources against unlimited choices in target market, brand positioning, strategic options and activities. The best Marketers are able to limit the options through decision-making helps to match up to the limited resources.

The Brand Love Curve guides your strategy. We have created a hypothetical “Brand Love Curve” to assess how tightly connected brands are with their consumers. Brands move along the curve from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally becoming a Beloved with consumers becoming outspoken fans, where demand becomes desire, needs become cravings and thinking is replaced with feelings. Brands use their connection with consumers to become more powerful against the very consumers who love them, against the channels who carry them and against the competitors trying to beat them. With that added power, brands gain more profit through price, cost, share and market size.

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Where you sit on the Brand Love Curve influences your next major strategic move. For a brand at the Indifferent stage, where consumers have no opinion of your brand, focus on establishing your brand in the consumers mind. You have to create an opinion. At the Like It stage, where consumers see you as a rational choice, there needs to be strategic work to separate your brand from the pack to generate a following. At the Love It stage, the focus should be on tugging at the heart-strings of your consumers to drive a deeper connection with those who love you. At the Beloved stage, the strategy has to continue the magic of the brand and get your loyalists to speak on the brand’s behalf. Mobilize the brand fans as advocates.

Use the Brand Love Curve to focus your strategy. While you will come up with your own unique strategies, we have used the Brand Love Curve to map out 16 core brand strategies to begin playing with.

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The biggest strategic flaw of most brand plans is trying to drive penetration and usage frequency at the same time. This is a classic case of trying to get away with doing two things instead of picking just one. Look at how different these two options really are and you will see the drain on the resources you will experience by trying to do both. A penetration strategy gets someone with very little experience with your brand to likely consider dropping their current brand to try you once and see if they like it. A usage frequency strategy gets someone who knows your brand to change their behavior in relationship to your brand, either changing their current life routine or substituting your brand into a higher share of the occasions. By doing both, you will be targeting two types of consumers at the same time, you will have two main messages and you will divide your resources against two groups of activities that have very little synergy. If you are really strategic, pick one, not two.

As we wrote our key issues in question format, then the strategy becomes the answer. Look how they match up.

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Tactics and Marketing Execution

“What do we need to do to get there” matches up marketing execution activity to the brand strategy, looking at communicating the brand story, managing the consumer towards the purchase moment, launching new product innovation and delivering the brand experience. We use our Big Idea to drive each of these key areas of the brand. To read more, click on this link:

How to use Big Ideas to gain entry into the consumers mind and heart

Marketing Execution has to make your brand stronger. It has to create a bond with consumers who connect with the soul of the brand, it establishes your brand’s reputation based on a distinct positioning and it influences consumers to alter their behavior to think, feel or act, making the brand more powerfully connected, eventually leading to higher sales, share and profit.

Start with a Consumer Buying System that can match your brand’s Marketing execution to where your consumer stands with your brand.

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Focus your marketing activities by prioritizing on return on investment and effort (ROI and ROE). For each strategy, you want to find the “Big Easy”. Start by putting all your ideas on to post it notes, then map each idea onto the grid as to whether they will have a BIG versus SMALL impact on the business, and whether they are EASY versus DIFFICULT. The top ideas will be in the BIG EASY top right corner. The goal of this activity is to narrow your focus to the best 3 activities.

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A good marketing execution plan should have:

  • Brand budget
  • Goals
  • Calendar of activity
  • Project work plans

A plan is not complete without project plans that include the project owner, project budget, goals, milestones and hurdles.

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Bringing the Plan together

The power of 3’sAs we said earlier, the plan is about making decisions. We recommend that you narrow your effort down to 3 strategies and then 3 tactics for each strategy. That means 9 core projects for each brand to focus their resources on during the year. Compare the subtle difference that 5 strategies with 5 tactics for each strategy explodes into 25 projects that might cripple your brand’s resources. By doing less number, you will be focusing your limited resources on making each project has a big impact. When your team lacks time to do everything with full passion, they run the risk of turning out OK work that fails to connect with your consumers.

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Full Brand Plan

While we love the Plan on a Page, we have also created a 20-page brand plan format that lays out everything a plan should include.

 

Key Terms

  • Vision: What do you want your brand to be in the next 5-10 years? Vision gives everyone on the brand a clear direction, it should be measurable (quantitative) and motivating (qualitative). It should push you so much that it scares you a little, but excites you a lot.
  • Goals: What do you need to achieve? Specific measures of brand health and wealth, related to consumer/customer behavioral changes, metrics of key programs, performance targets or milestones on the pathway to the vision. It’s the brand scoreboard.
  • Key Issues: What is getting the way from achieving your vision/goals? Deep analysis highlights what’s driving and holding brand back, as well as future risks and untapped opportunities. Issues are asked as a question to provide the problem to which strategies become the solution.
  • Strategies: How can we get there? Strategies are the “How” you will win the market. Choices based on market opportunities, using consumers, competitors or situational. Strategies should have a pin-pointed focus providing a breakthrough on the pathway to the brand vision.
  • Tactics: What do we need to do to execute the strategy? Framed completely by strategy, tactical choices deploy your limited resources against brand projects, the most efficient way to drive a high ROI.

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At Beloved Brands, we lead workshops to help teams build their Brand Plan, helping the team analyze the business and then work to define their vision, goals, issues, strategies and tactics. Click on the Powerpoint file below to view:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

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