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

Most brand leaders are not very good at forecasting. They 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

 

What do you think of the new Diet Coke logo and packaging?

diet cokeThe new Diet Coke package design is certainly colorful but the strategy behind the package seems confusing. The simplest test that I always do with logo design or even print ads. Take a step back and ask “What’s the first thing you see?”  I see the word “Coke”. I see it on the traditional Coke red background.

What’s the second thing you see?  I see multiple colors. And I think, aren’t a few of those formerly failed flavors from the past few decades?

What’s the third thing you see?  I see weird little drawings along the bottom of the can, that I’m not sure what those are?  If you force me to look, maybe I will. Why is the cherry flavor in purple, and not red? You have to look at your execution as though you are a consumer.

What I haven’t seen yet, is the word “Diet”. Hmmm. Oh, there it is, very small, sideways and in a script that’s hard to read. Why are you hiding the word Diet, when your brand name is DIET COKE?

Is Diet Coke a brand itself, or is it part of a master brand?

diet cokeI know a few years ago, Coke tried to make all the packaging look the same, so that it looked like one big family, with most of the can using the big Coca Cola red logo. It was done in a test market and failed miserably. But it showed you the strategic mindset.

Coke needs to face that carbonated beverages are in sharp decline

diet cokeThis decline has to change your strategy. While Coke and Pepsi have been in a share dog fight for the last 50 years, that fight is now a fight for survival. With both Coke and Pepsi stretched across legacy success stories of the original, diet and zero/max sub-brands, and stretched across legacy success flavors, the reality is that the consumer mind space and retailer shelf space will eventually collapse.

The only remaining strategy is to beat each other.

It reminds me of that great mythology story about two hunters bedded down at their campfire and were about to fall asleep when a giant bear loomed in front of them. One hunter rushed to put on his sneakers. The other said, “What good will that do? You will never outrun that bear.” The first one said, “I am not worried about outrunning the bear. All I have to do is outrun you!”

That’s where the Coke brand is right now. All they have to do for the decade is outrun Pepsi. Don’t over think some of the things you are currently over-thinking.

  • Diet Coke is a brand, not a sub brand. Launched in 1981, it was treated as though it were its own brand from day one. Why try to change that now, especially as you face a declining category? Use the separate Diet Coke brand to your advantage to squeeze out Pepsi.
  • I know the word “diet” might not fit our modern day “organic” and “low carb” words. But “Diet Coke” means more to consumers than the word diet. Maybe you should have called it Coke Light like Europe does. But it is what it is. Don’t over think it.
  • Those look like cute flavor choices, but launching four new flavors at once is crazy. Your retailers will likely take one or two. Also, launching four at once just spreads your sales across the four flavors so that none of them will generate high enough sales to hit a threshold of success.

So I guess I don’t like the strategy, the naming or the design. What do you think?

To learn more about how to judge advertising that works, here is our Marketing Execution workshop we run to help train Brand Leaders:

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

Beloved Brands Graham Robertson 

 

 

 

 

 

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20 thought starters for Marketers to kick off the new year.

Here are twenty good precepts to provoke your thinking as we head into the new year.

  1. Consumer Insight comes to life when it’s told in such a captivating way that makes people stop and say “hmm, I thought I was the only one who felt like that.:20 thought starters
  2. Can you explain your brand (or your personal brand) in 7 seconds, 2 minutes and 30 minutes? You should be able to organize your thinking.
  3. Strategic Thinkers see “what if” questions before they see solutions. They map out a range of decision trees that intersect and connect by imagining how events will play out. They reflect and plan before they act. They are thinkers and planning who can see connections. Non Strategic Thinkers see answers before questions. They get to answers quickly, and get frustrated in delays. They believe doing something is better than doing nothing at all. They opt for action over thinking. They are impulsive and doers who see tasks. They get frustrated by strategic thinkers.
  4. Learn to change your brain speeds, knowing when to go slow and when to go fast. Think slowly with strategy. Think quickly with instincts.
  5. The role of BRAND is to create a bond, power, and profit, beyond what the product itself could achieve. In fact, we only have brands, if we think we can make more money from the brand than just the product alone. The really is no other reason.
  6. The more loved a brand is by consumers, the more, the more powerful and profitable that brand can be.
  7. Halfway between the exactness of Science and the unknown of Art lies the power of an IDEA that can bring them together”
  8. The best brands are either different, better or cheaper. Or else, not around for very long. Do you know what your brand is?
  9. Consumers don’t care what you do until you care what they want. Instead of just yelling what you do, put yourself in the consumers’ shoes and ask yourself  “so what do get?” and then ask “so how does that make me feel?” This turns product features into consumer benefits, both functional and emotional. 
  10. The power of three helps provide focus. If your brand only has 3 strategies and each strategy only has 3 tactics, then you should be able to do an amazing job on all 9. Much better than 5 strategies times 5 tactics and 25 things. I would bet that my 9 would beat your 25 any day.
  11. The better your people, the better the work, the better the business results. So then, are you doing enough to make your people better? Invest in training your people.
  12. Ask your people at every stage “Do you love it?” and watch their eyes to see if they tell the truth. Because, if you don’t love the work, how do you expect your consumer to love your brand?
  13. A beloved brand uses the love consumers have for the brand to replicate the positional power of a Monopoly. And from that power, the Beloved Brand drives stronger growth and higher profits.
  14. Smart media plans start with understanding where the customer is, not where the media is.
  15. 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.
  16. If you knew that being a better client would get you better advertising, do you think you’d be able to show up better?
  17. If you aren’t talented enough to come up with an ad in the first place, then why are you now talented enough to do something even harder: change the ad. Instead of telling the creative team your changes, I’d rather you give the creative team your problem with the ad, and let them figure out it rather than your solution for the ad and let them feel demoralized.
  18. Creative advertising people are problem solvers, not blue sky thinkers. So give them a problem, not a blank page. They are “in the box” thinkers not “out of the” box thinkers. Use your brief to put them in a box and your creative direction to put them in a new box.
  19. The classic flaw of Brand Plans is having both penetration and Usage frequency. 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. Usage Frequency Strategy gets someone who knows your brand to change their behavior in relation to your brand, either changing their current life routine or substituting your brand into a higher share of the occasions. Trying to do both at the same time will destroy your plan.
  20. We control more than we think we do. But just like in sports, the most competitive weapon we have is the creation of time and space. The most competitive brands act quickly, before others do and create a space around themselves that they own, through reputation, and are free from attack.

Here’s to a great 2018!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Beloved Brands Graham Robertson

 

How to win the competitive battle for your consumer’s heart

A competitive brand strategy finds a space in the marketplace that your brand can win over and own. You must decided if you will position your brand to be better, different, or cheaper. Otherwise, your brand will not be around for very long. A competitive brand position matches up what consumers want with what your brand does best, that is better than your competitors. We will look at four types of competitive brand strategy situations: power player, challenger brand, island brand or the rebel brand. Most importantly, you need to make sure you align with the right competitive situation.

Finding your space to win

To find the competitive space in which your brand can win, I introduce the Venn diagram of competitive situations. Looking below, the first circle should list out everything the consumer wants.

The second circle then lists everything your brand does best. And, finally, the third circle lists everything your competitor does best.

Competitive Strategic Thinking
To win, brands have to find the space where they are better, different, cheaper…
or else they will not around for very long.

To find your brand’s winning zone, you should match up what consumers want with what your brand does best. This provides you a distinct space that you can own and defend from attack. To maintain ownership over that space, your brand should always be able to satisfy the needs of the consumer better than anyone else can.

Your brand will not survive in the losing zone, which is the space that matches up the consumer needs with the area where your competitor does it better than your brand. It is dangerous to try to play in this space, because over the long term, your competitor will beat you.

Brands can win the risky zone

As markets mature, competitors copy each other. It becomes harder to be better with a definitive product win, and that leaves you to play in the risky zone, which is the space where you and your competitor both meet the consumer’s needs in a relative tie. The tie is important to understand, because brands can still win the tie when they make their brand seem different enough that consumers perceive their brand to be better. Perception becomes reality. The four ways to win the risky zone is to leverage your brand’s power in the market to squeeze out lesser brands, or to be the first to capture and defend the space, or to win with innovation and creativity, or find ways to build a deeper emotional connection.

Sadly, I do have to always mention the dumb zone where two competitors “battle it out” in the space where consumers do not care. One competitor says, “We are faster” and the other thinks, “We are just as fast”. A competitive war starts up, yet no one bothered to ask the consumer if they care.

Competitive situations

In brand management, we never experience pure isolation. Even in a blue ocean situation, the euphoria of being alone quickly turns to a red ocean that is cluttered with the blood from nasty battling competitors. The moment we think we are alone, a competitor is watching and believes they can do it better than we can. To win the competitive battle, you have to find a unique selling proposition for your brand that distinguishes you from others. If you ignore the competition, with a belief that only the consumer matters, you are on a naive pathway to losing. Competitors force us to sharpen our focus and tighten our language on the brand positioning we will project to the market.

In terms of marketing war games, I will use this Venn diagram to map out four types of competitive brands: power players, challenger brands, island brands, and rebel brands. The final situation, where brands have no clue where they stand competitively, I call the cluttered brands. They sit in the cluttered space, lost, disconnected with consumers and in total decline.

Power Players

Power Players lead the way, as the share leader or perceived influential leader of the category. These brands command a power over all the stakeholders, competitors, and retail partners of the category. In terms of positioning, the power player brands own what they are best at, and they leverage their power in the market to help them own the tie. This expands their presence and power across a bigger market. They leverage the love from a core group of loyal brand lovers to win the tie. These brands can also use their advanced financial situation to invest in innovation to stay ahead of the category.

Power Player brands defend their territory with an attack back at any aggressive competitor or even an attack on itself to close any potential leaks before a competitor notices. These brands require a strong culture to continually get better and stay ahead of the competitors. To stay as the power brand, you can never become complacent or you will die.

Competitive Strategic Thinking
A Power Player positioning  strategy uses what you do best to dominate the win and uses their brand power to dominate the space where they tie their competitors

Examples of Power Player brands

One of the best Power Player brands is Google, who has managed to dominate the search engine market. Their extreme focus and smart execution gained market power and squeezed out Microsoft and Yahoo. Focused on providing knowledge for consumers, they have continued to expand their services into a bundle of products with e-mail, maps, apps, docs, cloud technology, and cell phones. On the other hand, Blackberry forgot to defend their castle. In 2009, Blackberry dominated the B2B corporate smartphone market. However, they became distracted by the Apple launch and tried to be more like Apple than stay themselves. They launched a bad touch screen phone, an undifferentiated tablet, sponsored rock concerts, and launched Blackberry Messenger (BBM) for young teens. These brands never attacked themselves. They left severe product flaws that frustrated their users. Pretty soon, corporations switched to the iPhone.

Challenger Brands

Challenger brands must change the playing field to attack the leader and exploit a potential weakness or build on their own strength. While you can amplify what your brand does best, it becomes just as important to reposition the power player who you want to take down. The best way is to turn their well-known strength into a perceived weakness that moves them outside of what consumers want. While your first instinct would be to attack the power player’s weakness, the smarter move is to reposition one of the power player’s strengths into a perfective weakness.

Strategic Thinking Competitive
A powerful strategy is to attack your competitor’s strength and turn into a weakness, making their strength either less important or less interesting. 

When you attack a power player brand, be careful of the leader’s potential defensive moves. Anticipate a response with full force—possibly with even greater resources than yours. Avoid battles that drain your brand’s limited resources or else you will spend a fortune only to end up with the same share after the war. Focus on consumers who are less vested in the leader’s brand to help kick-start a momentum away from the leader. As the leader tries to be everything to everyone, you should drive a narrow attack that slices off the most vulnerable part of its business before it can defend it.

Examples of challenger brands

         Apple’s “I’m a Mac” campaign defined the Mac brand as simple, confident, and cool, while re-defining the PC as old, uptight, and awkward. Apple repositioned PC’s strength as an intelligent computer and turned it into a weakness that was perceived as complicated, frustrating, and incapable. The ads layered in new ways that Mac was easier, while they highlighted all the problems with the PC that included hardware issues, software problems, and insufficient applications.

One of the best examples of a challenger brand that made significant gains is Pepsi, who launched the Pepsi Challenge in the 1970s as a direct offensive attack on Coke. Taste was one of Coke’s perceived strengths, but the ad implied that Coke’s taste was actually an acquired and memorable taste, not a sweet, superior taste. In the blind taste test, without the Coke brand name visible to consumers, they overwhelmingly picked Pepsi, preferring the sweeter taste. At the same time, Pepsi amplified their own strength as the “new generation” that set themselves up as the solution to those ready to reject the old taste of Coke.

Island Brands

       Island brands move into the blue ocean area all by themselves, where no one else competes. These brands are so different, that they appear to be relatively on their own. Most Island brands start as game-changers who have responded to an identified niche gap in the main category. They satisfy an unmet consumer need, whether that is a new target, price point, distribution channel, format, or positioning. When successful, the Island brand ends up repositioning the main category players as unattached to the consumers. While everyone wants a game-changer, to be so different brings increased risk that the concept may fail. Also, success may invite other entrants to follow the island brand, which puts the brand in a red ocean position. A red ocean is where your brand becomes the new power player brand who needs to defend your territory with full force.

Strategic Thinking Competitive
While using your disruptive approach to change the marketplace, you also want to push mass competitors away so to make them feel out of touch with consumer needs.

Example of an Island brand

Volvo is a great example of an island brand. Most car brands have traditionally focused on the horsepower and speed performance of the car, the interior luxury and comfort or the stylish designs, Volvo focused on safety. For Volvo safety is not just a claim or demo in their TV ads, but is everything they do. But the real beauty for Volvo is their obsession with safety. Volvo was long ahead of the marketplace. Volvo first started the safety angle in the 1940s and became completely obsessed in through the 1960s long before consumers cared about safety when no one was even wearing seat belts. But the market place has since caught up.

This year, Car and Driver reports safety as the #1 benefit that consumers are looking for in a new car. Most recently, Volvo has come up with a very ambitious vision statement for the brand: “No one should every die or be seriously injured in a Volvo.”

Rebel Brands

Rebel brands go against the entire category, into an area too small for the leaders to even take notice or attack back. Rebels pick a segment or target market that is small enough not be noticed that they can easily defend. They take an antagonistic approach to the rest of the category. They portray every other brand in the category as old school, flawed, corrupt, overly corporate, or even stupid. Rebel brands believe that it is better to be loved by the few than liked or tolerated by many.

Strategic Thinking Competitive
Rebel brands or craft brands want to win a small space to a highly engaged target, that is far enough away from major competitors, so they won’t feel the need to attack back.

Growth of the tail 

In today’s economy, every category has seen the growth of craft-type brands that satisfy a small segment. As consumers have taken over the buying process, they look for brands that speak directly with them. A typical store that had three to four main coffee brands now carries fifteen to twenty coffee brands. Rebel brands must speak directly with a small group of consumers and own a small enough niche away from competitors. A great strategy is to focus on a niche of consumers who are frustrated by the market leaders.

These brands lead with purpose, they create a deep emotional bond, and try to be seen as “anti-corporate”. Their intention is to be aggressive. They put all the brand’s resources against their small target to gain the perceived relative force of a major player. These brands have to be nimble and quick to seize the opportunity before others notice. They are ready to exit if consumers shift their needs or the major competitors enter. Rebel brands explore non-traditional marketing techniques such as creative names or media options that fit the niche target market.

Examples of Rebel brands

A great example of a Rebel brand is Five Guys Burgers who successfully avoided big fast food chains. While fast food feels frozen and microwaved, Five Guys has gone the opposite direction with high quality and fresh ingredients. They offer larger portions at a super premium price ($8-$10 for a burger). They promise not to start cooking your hamburger until it is ordered. Five Guys have expanded rapidly with word of mouth helping to spread their reputation as “the best burger”. Since then, Five Guys has become a global brand, McDonald’s has yet to generate an adequate competitive response.

Another great example is Dollar Shave who launched as an online subscription model for razor blades. With a $3 billion dollar shaving market dominated by two players, the price of razor blades grew out of control. With only $30 million in the first year, they were too small for Gillette to even bother with. However, without a response, Dollar Shave continued to grow year-by-year. Unilever recently purchased the Dollar Shave brand for $1 billion.

Cluttered Brands

Strategic Thinking Competitive
Cluttered brands are lost in the middle.They lack a point of difference or connectivity with consumers

A cluttered brand has no clue where they stand competitively. These brands are stuck in a cluttered mess. There is no clear target market or clear point of difference. These brands lack a loyal base of consumers and are unable to generate any positive growth or price premiums. They end up an indifferent commodity, disconnected from consumer needs. Without sales growth or profits, they struggle to invest back into their brand, which further accelerates the path of decay.

Examples of cluttered brands are General Motors, Burger King, and Sears, all of whom lack any clear brand positioning. The way to break this vicious downward spiral is to start over and follow the strategy of the rebel brand. Try to own a small niche and build around a unique brand positioning to a smaller motivated target.

Strategic Thinking Workshop

To read more on Strategic Thinking, click on the Powerpoint file below to view:

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

Beloved Brands Graham Robertson

 

How strategic thinking can help your brand win in the market.

I will outline the five elements of smart strategic thinking. Strategy starts with having a vision of the future. This sets up questions, that outline the major issues in the way of the vision. From there,  you must allocate resources against your strategic programs that fill an identified focused opportunity you see in the marketplace. When successful, the strategy must generate a market impact that can be leveraged into a performance result, making the brand more powerful or more profitable.

I always joke that strategic people share similar traits to those we might consider lazy, cheap, or conniving. Rather than just dive into work, strategic people will spend an extraordinary amount of time thinking of all the possible ways for them to get more out of something, while exerting the least possible effort or wasting their own money. After thinking of every possible option, they have this unique talent to make a firm decision on the best way forward. They are great at debate because it appears they already know the other options you might raise. They already know why that option will not work as well. .

Strategic Thinking

Are you naturally Strategic or Instinctual?

I see a big difference between strategic thinking and intuitive leaders. Smart strategic thinkers see the right questions before they look for answers. Instinctual thinkers see answers before they even know the right question.

Strategic thinkers see “what-if” type questions before they look for potential solutions. Have you ever been a meeting and heard someone say, “That’s a good question”? This is usually a sign someone has asked an interruptive question designed to slow everyone’s brain down.  They take the time to reflect and plan before they act, to force them to move in a focused and efficient way. Strategy is the thinking side of marketing, both logical and imaginative. Strategic people are able to map out a range of decision trees that intersect, to imagine how events will play out in the future. The risk is that if they think too long, they just spiral around, unable to decide. They miss the opportunity window.

Instinctual Thinkers

On the other hand, instinctual thinkers just jump in quickly to find answers before they even know the right question. Their brains move fast; they use emotional impulse and intuitive gut feel. These people want action now and get easily frustrated by delays. They believe it is better to do something than sit and wait around. They see strategic people as stuck running around in circles, as they try to figure out the right question. Instead, these instinctual leaders choose emotion over logic.

This “make it happen” attitude gets things done, but if they go too fast, their great actions may solve the wrong problem. Without proper thinking and focus, an action-first approach might just spread the brand’s limited resources randomly across too many projects. Instinctual leaders can be a creative mess and find themselves with a long to-do list, unable to prioritize or focus.

Changing brain speeds 

Brand leaders must learn to change brain speeds. Go slowly when faced with difficult strategy and quickly with their best instincts on execution. A brand leader’s brain should operate like a racecar driver, slow in the difficult corners and fast on the straightaway. You must slow down to think strategically. Did you ever think that the job might get in the way of thinking about how to do your job better? With wall-to-wall meetings, constant deadlines, and sales pushes, you have to create your own thinking time.Strategic Thinking

You should block off a few hours each week, put your feet up on the desk, and force yourself to ask really difficult questions. Pick one problem topic for each meeting you book and even invite a peer to set up a potential debate. The goal is not to brainstorm a solution, but to come up with the best possible question that will challenge the team. Go for walks at lunch or a drive somewhere just to get away from it all. My best thinking never came at my desk in front of my computer. If you have your head down in the numbers you will miss the obvious opportunities and threats that are right on the horizon. To be more strategic, you should assess the situation, frame questions that challenge your thinking, and consider every element that could have an impact on your brand.

How to slow your brain down and think strategically

  1. Find your own thinking time. Go for walks at lunch or a drive somewhere to get away from it all. Block hour-long “thinking meetings” with yourself.
  2. Organize your week to fit your thinking pace. For instance, maybe talk “big ideas” on a Friday morning so you can take the weekend to think.  Schedule quick updates on Monday afternoon that clears your mind for the week.
  3. Do the deep thinking before the decision time comes? Always be digging deep into the analytics to stay aware, prepare yourself, no matter your level.
  4. Next time in a meeting, spend your energy asking the best questions. Too many leaders try to impress everyone with the best answers. Next time stump the room with the best questions that slow down the team so they think.
  5. Proactively meet your partner team. Get to know their needs, rather than wait for a problem or conflict. Come to them proactively with possible solutions so you both win.

Five elements of smart strategic thinking

Everyone says they are a strategic thinker, but not many Marketers really are. Early in my career, I confess that I was more of an instinctual marketer. So, I know the effort and discipline it takes to slow the brain down and evolve into a strategic thinker. Here are four elements of strategic thinking to help slow your brain down.

Strategic Thinking

1. Always set a vision of what you want for your brand

A strategic thinker thinks about the future to map out a vision for five or ten years from now. A vision sets aspirational stretch goals for the future, linked to a well-defined end result or purpose. Within the vision, you should focus on finding ways to create a bond with your consumers that will lead to a power and profit beyond what the product alone could achieve. With every vision, you should write the statement in a way that should scare you a little, but excite you a lot.

The vision should steer everyone who works on the brand. In fact, I believe every little project should have its own little vision that is closely linked to the overall brand vision to help determine what success looks like on that project. As Yogi Berra famously said, “If you do not know where you are going, how will you know if you get there?”

To be a visionary, you must be able to visualize the future. Imagine that it is five or ten years from now. You wake up in the most amazing mood. Think about your personal life and your business, and start to imagine the ideal of what you want. Start to write down the things that have you in such a great mood. Visualize your perfect future and write down the most important things you want to achieve, and begin brainstorming a vision for the future. Even think about language that will inspire, lead and steer your team towards that vision.

Always ask questions

To challenge how to make your vision happen, you must ask interruptive questions of what is the way of you achieving your vision. As the definition of strategic thinking talks about asking questions, the smart strategy must ask questions that frame the issues that are in the way of what you want to achieve. Look to come up with an interruptive type question that will make everyone on the brand stop and think. The brainstorm I use is to list out everything in the way of the vision—trying to come up with at least 20; then narrow down to the three biggest issues you see, and frame it as a big question for the team to solve.

Strategic Thinking

2. Deployment of your brand’s available strategic options

A brand has options to build programs behind the brand’s core strength, build the consumer relationship with one of the five consumer touch-points, battle competitors on positioning, address situational opportunities and engage consumers as you go to market.

3. Focus your brand’s resources against an identified opportunity

The biggest myth of marketing is to believe that a bigger target market is the path to becoming a bigger brand. Too many marketers target anyone. It is better to be loved by a few than tolerated by many. You have to create a tight bond with a core base of brand lovers, and then use that base of lovers to expand the following.

The second myth is to believe that if you stand for everything, it will make your brand stronger. There are brands that say they are faster, longer lasting, better tasting, stronger, cheaper, and have a better experience. They mistakenly think that whatever the competitor does best, they will try to do it better. They will say everything possible with the hope the consumer hears something. Hope is never a strategy. To be loved by consumers, a brand must stand for something with a backbone and conviction that it will never go against what it states. Trying to be everything to anyone just ends up becoming nothing to everyone.

The third myth is to try to be everywhere, whether that means in every channel of distribution or on every possible media option. The worst marketers lack focus because of their fear of missing out on someone or something. By trying to be everywhere, the brand will drain itself and eventually end up being nowhere.

Focus your limited resources

Every brand is constrained by limited resources, whether financial, time, people, or partnership resources. Yet marketers always face the temptation of an unlimited array of choices, whether those choices are in the possible target market, brand messages, strategies, or tactics. The smartest brand leaders are able to limit their choices to match up to their limited resources. They focus on those choices that will deliver the greatest return.

Strategic Thinking

The best brand leaders never divide and conquer. They force themselves to focus and conquer with the confidence of strategic thinking. The smartest brand leaders use the word “or” more often than they use the word “and.” If you come to a decision point, and you try to rationalize in your own brain that it is okay to do a little of both, then you are not strategic.

For a strategy to work, brands must see an opportunity, to find an opening in the marketplace based on a change in consumer needs, new technology, competitive opening, or new channels. In today’s electronic world, everyone has access to the same information and in turn can see the same opportunities. You must use speed to seize the opportunity before others can react or else the opportunity will be gone.

4. Leverage the breakthrough to create an impact in the marketplace

Many underestimate the need for an early win. I see this as a crucial breakthrough point where you start to see a small shift in momentum towards the vision. There are always doubters to every strategy. The results of the early win are crucial proof to show everyone the strategy will work. This helps change the minds of the doubters—or at least keep them quiet—so that everyone can stay focused on this breakthrough point.

The magic of strategy happens through leverage, where you can use the early win as an opening or a tipping point where you start to see a transformational power that allows you to get more or achieve more results in the marketplace than you put into the strategy.

5. Performance result that pays back and opens a gateway for more growth

The final element of smart strategic thinking is the gateway opening that a marketplace win allows the brand to achieve more growth for the brand. There has to be a shift in positional power in the marketplace that allows you to achieve your vision, drive business results and make gains in terms of a future pathway to even more consumer connection, power and profit for the brand.

For a brand, the end result must either be more power or more profit. In terms of power, a brand can become powerful versus the consumers they serve, the competitors they battle, the channels they sell through, the suppliers who make the products or ingredients, influencers in the market, any media choices and the employees who work for the brand. In terms of profit, there are eight ways a brand can add to their profitability. Those are through premium pricing or trading consumers up on price, through lower cost of goods or lower sales and marketing costs, through stealing competitive users or getting loyal users to use more and by entering new markets or finding new uses for the brand.

As a strategy must pay back to the brand, you should know which power and profit driver your strategy is focused against. Jack Welch, former CEO of GE was notorious for asking employees he would meet, “So how do you add value?” Do you know how you add value? You should.

Strategic Thinking

How Apple re-built their brand around ‘simplicity’

In 1996, the Apple brand was bordering on bankruptcy. They were basically just another computer company, without any real point of difference. Years of overlooked opportunities, flip-flop strategies, and a mind-boggling disregard for market realities caught up with Apple, Windows 95 has seriously eroded the Mac’s technology edge. Apple was rapidly becoming a minor player in the computer business with shrinking market shares, price cuts and declining profits.

Apple looked like it would not survive.

This was the year before even contemplating the return of Steve Jobs. This really showcases how badly Apple was run through the 1990s. They were making bad decisions with inconsistent strategies and most importantly, there was no big idea for what Apple stood for. After Steve Jobs came into Apple in 1997, everything he did was built around the big idea of “making technology so simple that everyone can be part of the future.” He took a consumer first approach in a market that was all about the gadgets, bits and bytes.   Strategic Thinking

Apple’s Smart Strategic Thinking

Here are the five elements of smart strategic thinking that allowed Apple to complete their turnaround plan.

  1. Vision of what you want for your brand: Apple wants everyone to be part of technology in the future. The challenging question for Apple: how can we strengthen and leverage our bond with our most loyal Apple users to help the brand grow.
  2. Deployment of your brand’s available strategic options: Apple needed to drive the ‘simplicity’ big idea into the mass market by using their brand love to influence others. Every brand message, product innovation, consumer experience, purchase moment must drive home ‘simplicity’
  3. Focus of your brand’s resources against an identified opportunity: Focus on a “consumer first” mentality that transforms leading-edge technology into “consumer accessible technology”. Apple has been able to capitalize on consumer frustration with technology that has prevented the mass consumers from experiencing everything that technology can offer. The famous “I’m a Mac and I’m a PC” ads brilliantly focused on the antagonist consumer enemy of “frustration” to which Apple’s simplicity is the solution.
  4. Leverage the breakthrough to create a market impact: Take a fast follower stance on, making technology easy to use, with consumer-friendly laptops, phones and tablets. High profile launch hype to generate excitement, transforming early adopters into vocal Apple activists to spread the word.
  5. Performance result that pays back and opens a gateway for more growth: Apple created a consumer bond around the Big Idea of “making technology simple” leveraging tight connection with their brand fans to enter new categories. Apple is now the most beloved consumer-driven brand, with premium prices, stronger market share, sales and profits.

The impact on Apple’s Performance Results

Apple has used brand love to help drive a remarkable 40x revenue growth over 10 years, going from 5.7 in 2005 billion up to $240 billion in 2015. This type of rapid growth helps cover costs of Advertising and R&D, giving Apple very healthy operating margins that are up over 35%. All this has increased Apple’s market capitalization to over $500 Billion.

Apple’s Revenue and Profit Growth (2005-2015)

Strategic Thinking

Strategic Thinking Workshop

To read more on Strategic Thinking, click on the Powerpoint file below to view:

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

Beloved Brands Graham Robertson

How to build your brand story to establish what your brand stands for

I have created a fool-proof method for building your brand story. It does need you to do some homework before you get started. For this, you will need your brand positioning statement, consumer insights and enemies, your brand’s big idea, your brand purpose and your brand values. If you have built up a brand concept, you should be able to take that concept into a brand story.

However, only a fool would start their brand story with a blank piece of paper. You will likely end up with a randomized chance at success.

Brand Story

It starts with doing the homework of your Brand Positioning Statement

Most of the meat of a good concept comes from the work you do with a positioning statement. Make sure you go deep to understand who you are selling to and what you are selling. Brand Positioning Statements give the most useful function of taking everything you know about your brand, everything that could be said about the consumer and making choices to pick one target that you’ll serve and one brand promise you will stand behind. A best in class positioning statement has four key elements:

      • Target Market (1)
      • Definition of the market you play in (2)
      • Brand Promise (emotional or rational benefit) (3)
      • The Reason to Believe (RTB) the brand promise (4)

The classic way to write a Brand Positioning Statement is to take the elements above and frame them into the following: For the target market (1) Brand X plays in the market (2) and it gives the main benefit (3). That’s because of the following reasons to believe (4).

How to write a brand concept statement brand positioning target market marketing training

 

The ideal positioning has a tightly defined target based on demographics and psychographics as well as moments in life they may be going through relative to your brand. There should be a brand promise that has a balance of emotional and rational benefits and then supporting reasons to believe (RTBs) that back up the main promise. Don’t just throw out random claims you have but make sure the RTB’s fill in any gaps in the promise.

You need rich consumer insights

While a concept doesn’t directly call out the target, the best way to connect quickly with the target is to lead off with a really impactful insight or problem they might be facing, that lets them know you get them. I always end up with a debate over people of what an insight is. How to write a brand concept statement brand positioning target market marketing training

Too many people think data, trends, and facts are insights. Facts are merely on the surface—so they miss out on the depth–you need to bring those facts to life by going below the surface and transforming the facts into insights. To demonstrate knowledge of that target, defining consumer insights help to crystallize and bring to life the consumer you are targeting. The dictionary definition of the word Insight is “seeing below the surface”. When insight is done right, it is what first connects us to the brand, because we see ourselves in the story. Insight is not something that consumers didn’t know before. It’s not data or fact about your brand that you want to tell. That would be knowledge, not insight.

Insight is something that everyone already knows and comes to life when it’s told in such a captivating way that makes consumers stop and say “hmm, I thought I was the only who felt like that”.  That’s why we laugh when we see insight projected with humor, why we get goose bumps when insight is projected with inspiration and why we cry when the insight comes alive through real-life drama.

Added to the insight, a concept can really come to life when you lead off with the consumer’s enemy.  Beloved Brands help consumers counter a problem in their life. Who is the Enemy of your consumer? Picking the enemy gives your brand focus and another way of bringing insight into your brand positioning.

Summarize into a Brand Positioning

This is how the positioning tool should lead you to a brand positioning statement that takes into account the target, category, benefit and support points.

How to write a brand concept statement brand positioning target market marketing training

 

For more information on Brand Positioning statements, follow this step by step process in this link: How to Write a Brand Positioning Statement

Build a big idea that summarizes the brand promise 

Once you have a brand positioning statement, you need to figure your brand’s big idea. There is value in turning your positioning into a 7-second pitch. What is your “SHOUT FROM THE MOUNTAIN”.  It forces you to want to scream just ONE THING about your brand—keep it simple. You can’t scream a long sentence.

brand positioning big idea

Turn your brand positioning and big idea into a brand concept

Too many brand leaders write elaborate concepts that include everything. In reality, you won’t be able to execute everything.  There’s no value in getting a brand concept to pass a test and then be unable to execute:  narrow it down to one simple benefit and 2 RTBs.(reasons to believe) Looking at the example below, taking the information from the brand concept from above using Gray’s Cookies, here’s how to map it into a concept.

Brand Concept

  • The main headline should capture the Big Idea of your brand. The headline will be the first thing consumers see, influencing how they will engage with the concept.
  • Start every concept with a consumer insight (connection point) or consumer enemy (pain point). If you can captivate the consumer to make them stop and think, “That’s exactly how I feel,” they will be more engaged with your concept. The enemy or insight must set up the brand promise.
  • The promise statement must bring the main benefit to life, with a balance of emotional and functional benefits. For Gray’s, I combined the ‘great taste’ functional benefit and ‘stay in control’ emotional benefit.
  • Support points should close off any gaps consumers may have after reading the main benefit. An emotional benefit may require functional support to cover off any doubt created in the consumer’s mind.
  • Complete the concept with a motivating call-to-action to prompt the consumer’s purchase intent which is a major part of concept testing.
  • Adding a supporting visual that fits is optional

Make sure your brand concept is tight

Anything more than this, you are just cheating yourself. Yes, you might have a better score, but you might not be able to execute it in the market. If you haven’t narrowed down your claims or RTB’s, maybe you need a claim sorting research before you get into the brand concept testing.

Be realistic about the brand concept you build. Too many marketers try to jam everything into the brand concept, trying to “pass the test” but then after they get a winning score, they realize that they can’t execute the brand concept that just won.  You should think of your brand concept as you would a 30 second TV ad or a digital billboard.

Brand Concept Examples

You can build a brand concept for any type of brand. Here’s an example of a B2B brand concept.

brand concept

The same brand concept model also works for healthcare brands

brand concept

It can work for build a brand concept for a tech brand:

brand concept

And finally, it can work for building a brand concept for a service-oriented business as well.

brand concept

From your strategic plan, take your brand purpose

Every brand should have a 5-year plan, and every 5-year plan should have a good discussion of your brand purpose and the values, beliefs, and motivations that support that purpose.

Brand Purpose Statement

While the diagram above looks rather crazy at first, this is a great tool for finding your brand’s purpose. This is a complex Venn diagram with four major factors, that matches up what the consumer wants, the core values that can steer your team that works behind the scenes of the brand, loving what you do and the ability to build a successful brand and business. Find your brand purpose, at the intersection of your meeting consumer needs, fulfilling your personal passion, standing behind your values, success, and consumers. The reason I love this crazy Venn diagram is that the intersection of these four circles helps to crystallize the four things you need to do to use build a create a beloved brand.

1. Focus on building a tight relationship with consumers

The best brands know their consumers as well as you know your brand. Use consumer insights, enemies, and needs. Build your brand plan and positioning around consumer benefits—what they get and how it makes them feel. Ask yourself, how do you describe your ideal relationship with your consumers?

2. Build around a unique, own-able and motivating big idea

The big idea is what consumers connect with first. The big idea then builds a bond as each touch-point to help deliver that big idea. Use the big idea to organize everything those working on the brand should do to deliver the benefit to your consumers—through the brand promise, story, innovation, the purchase moment and consumer experience. Behind the big idea are the elements of the brand positioning. What is the Big Idea of the brand that should inspire everyone who works behind the scenes of the brand?

3. Inspire a values-driven culture to deliver happy experiences

The culture of the organization must steer the people who will deliver the experience. Your people become the face of the brand, as they deliver happy experiences that satisfy your consumers. Your people will be a major source of creating loyalty with consumers. What are the core beliefs of the brand that shape the organization as to the standards, behaviors, expectations? 

4. Use exceptional execution to become your consumer’s favorite brand

What separates good from great is the passion your people put into the work that reaches consumers. Whether it is your advertising, innovation, sales or the consumer experience you create, I believe that “I love it” is the highest bar for great work. You should create a culture where people never settle for OK when greatness is attainable. What is it that makes someone who works on your brand push themselves beyond the job, to deliver exceptional execution?

Here’s an example of how the model comes together to find your brand’s purpose.

Brand Purpose Statement

Brand Values

Once you have the purpose outlined, we urge brands to add your brand’s values and beliefs that support that purpose. What are the core beliefs of the brand that shape the organization as to the standards, behaviors, expectations? The values are the backbone of the organization. The brand can never go against a value. And the must be able to stand up to and consistently deliver each value. Take it a step further with motivations and inspirations. What are the needs and desires that inspires those who work behind the brand? the motivations are the fuel to the energy of the organization. The brand must stimulate the brand’s people to take actions beyond the norms of work, where it becomes a passion.

Here are the values for Gray’s Cookies.

Brand Values

Now, you have enough ammunition to build a brand story.

You can take your brand’s big idea, positioning statement, brand purpose, and values to tell your brand story.

Brand Story

  • Start with the headline by turning your brand’s big idea into a promise statement that summarizes what you want to stand for
  • Match up your brand purpose to the consumer insights to show why it matters.
  • Use your brand’s core belief as a means to connect and layer in what you do to support that belief
  • Explain what makes your brand different, and use claims that support your difference
  • Tell your consumers how you want to connect with your them, and the promise you will make to them.
  • Use the Big Idea to summarize your brand story

Here’s how it all comes together

Taken all the homework into account, here are a few examples of how the brand story comes together. This is an example you can use for a consumer-driven brand:

Keep in mind, this is strategic writing and an ideal strategic structure. To really enhance your story at the next level, hire a copywriter that can really bring it to life.

Here’s an example of a brand story for a B2B business:

Positioning Brand Story

And here is an example of a brand story for a healthcare brand

Positioning Brand Story

Once you have the comfort of your brand story, you can take these elements into other communication vehicles. One great tool for driving the culture is a brand credo document. Here’s an example of how that comes together.

Brand Credo

 

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: https://lnkd.in/eUAgDgS

And, to order the paperback version, click on this link: https://lnkd.in/eF-mYPe

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

Beloved Brands Graham Robertson

If your brand is afraid of Amazon, then you should be terrified of Alibaba

Now begins the North American battle of Amazon vs Walmart, with the winner to take on Alibaba on the world’s retailer stage.

alibabaI love watching the Kentucky Derby, especially those horses that start off slow, then pick it up on the back straight, and then basically fly past everyone on the last turn, like they are standing still. That’s how I feel about watching the Alibaba brand.

The joint venture between Walmart and Google is a signal that both might be a little bit scared of Amazon. 

But, Alibaba is using their dominance in the world’s largest market (China) to pick up all that speed in the back straight and likely beat both Amazon and Walmart.

Walmart is a tough competitor. They won’t go down without a fight.

Obviously, Amazon has a huge advantage in the US, but things are about to get really ugly as Walmart and Amazon attempt to destroy each other. 

But, if you have ever dealt with Walmart, you would have to be an idiot to ever count them out. Their culture focuses on the relentless fixation on fast-moving items that helps drive cash flow. Sure, Walmart beats up their vendors over price–but that’s mainly to drive sell through. If your brand moves slow, there is no debate–you are told to speed up your sales, and if you don’t, you are gone.

I remember when Walmart starting sending us their weekly sales data. My first thought was “Wow, this is true partnership, amazing data, thanks Walmart”. Then the questions started to come. “Your 250ml cherry flavored cough syrup is not selling fast enough, what will you do to accelerate turns”. We lowered the price. Or even worse, “Your Listerine Pocketpaks product accounts for the highest theft of any product in our stores, fix it”. We changed the packaging, just because they asked us.   In the bricks and mortar space, while most department store retailers sell through their inventory in 130-150 days. Walmart sells through their inventory in 29 days. That’s cash flow.

I expect Walmart will go lower on price than Amazon can tolerate. What retailer owned the low price positioning before Walmart?  Sears. If you go compare prices at Walmart and Sears, you will see why Sears stores are empty and about to go bankrupt.

Does the Google partnership help Walmart?  A little. But both better step it up fast. If Walmart loses to Amazon, the case study class starts off with “Walmart should have started their on-line war with Amazon in 2002, not 2017.”

Even if Amazon can tolerate lower prices and eventually beats Walmart, it will do some damage to their profits. Amazon will experience lower margins, squeezed cash flow, and a divided consumer base. It will further open the possibility of seeing Alibaba entering the US market.

Why Alibaba will win

Alibaba, valued at $420 Billion has seen an 80% increase in the market capitalization in the past twelve months. In the same period, Amazon has seen a 20% increase, still with a slight lead at $465 Billion. 

Here are 5 reasons why Alibaba will eventually win the global e-commerce retail space:

  1. Alibaba can utilize their home-field advantage. Alibaba is dominating the Chinese market, which is the #1 e-commerce population in the world. China has 500 million active on-line users, is twice the size of the US market. Walmart and Amazon will divide up the US market.
  2. Alibaba has a business model that delivers higher profitability. Alibaba’s business model, with no listing fees, with the bulk of their revenue coming from keywords and digital-advertising is closer to the social media model. This gives Alibaba significantly higher margins than Amazon. 
  3. Alipay payment system.  Alibaba launched a digital payment system in 2004, just for their own customers. Along with WePay, it has become the accepted method of payment in China. They have moved to a cashless and even cardless payment world. 
  4. Alibaba will ride the growth curve of the Chinese Economy. Despite the recent slowdown, China’s economy is still growing at almost three times the rate of the US – around 7% over the last couple of years, compared to less than 2.5%.The US has a growing trade deficit – it imports more than it exports – while China imports significantly less than it exports, resulting in a trade surplus.
  5. Alibaba’s sales will benefit from the growth of the Chinese Middle Class. In the last ten years, the average income for China has tripled. It is expected that from 2012 to 2022, those in China making more than $34K US will increase from 3% currently up to 9%, and those in the growing middle class ($16K to $34K) will increase from 14% up to 54%.

So when will Alibaba move west? Likely after the Walmart vs Amazon dust settles. By 2020, I would expect both Walmart and Amazon to be weakened. Whoever wins will have to take on a very healthy, highly profitable, cash-rich Alibaba. Realistically, Alibaba could end up two or three times the size of Amazon.Then it will be like watching that horse in the Kentucky Derby, with Alibaba rounding the final turn on the way to the finish line.

To read more on competitive strategy, click on this link: 

Competitive Brand Strategy

 

In retail, the smart money should be on Alibaba for the win.  

 

To learn about strategic thinking, follow this powerpoint slide presentation. 

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

Beloved Brands is a brand strategy and marketing training firm that is focused on the future growth of your brand and your people.

It is our fundamental belief that the more loved your brand is by your most cherished consumers, the more powerful and profitable your brand will be. We also believe that better marketing people will lead to smarter strategy choices and tightly focused marketing execution that will higher growth for your brands.

With our workshops, we use our unique tools force you to think differently and help unleash new strategy solutions to build around. I believe the best solutions lay deep inside you already, but struggle to come out. In every discussion, I bring a challenging yet understanding voice to bring out the best in you and help you craft an amazing strategy.

We will help you find a unique and own-able Big Idea that will help you stand out from the clutter of today’s marketplace. The Big Idea must serve to motivate consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal connection with your brand. Equally, the Big Idea must work inside your organization, to inspire all employees who work behind the scenes to deliver happy experiences for consumers.

We will help build a brand plan everyone can follow. It starts with an inspiring vision to push your team. We then force strategy choices on where to allocate your limited resources. With our advice on brand execution, we can steer the brand towards brand love and brand growth.

To learn more about our coaching, click on this linkBeloved Brands Strategic Coaching

At Beloved Brands, we deliver brand training programs that make brand leaders smarter so they are able to drive added growth on your brands. 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 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 Beloved Brands

 

The skills, behaviors and experiences needed to be a great Marketer

As you manage your own Marketing Career, you assess your skills, behaviors and experiences, to figure where your gaps that you should address. A marketer must build their capability around key skill areas strategy, analytics, positioning, planning and execution. The best marketers must exhibit leadership behaviors that take ownership and inspire others. And, they run their business like an owner. They can exhibit broad leadership across the entire organization. Finally, many of the more complicated areas of marketing takes experience. Over the years, I found myself saying “you almost screw up the first five times, you…” And, I started to realize, that message fit with advertising, managing others, brand planning, launching new brands, and leading beyond your own team. 

Nail the obvious

Let me start with the expected behaviors for success at any level of Marketing. Trust me, if you do not hit these, you will likely annoy someone enough to get rid of you. These are non-negotiable and if you miss continuously, they could become potentially career-limiting moves.  

What is non-negotiable:

  • Hit deadlines: Never look out of control or sloppy. Marketers have enough to do, that if you begin to miss deadlines, things will just stockpile on each other. Do not try to constantly negotiate extensions. There are no extensions, just missed opportunities.
  • Know your business: Avoid getting caught off-guard with questions that you cannot answer, such as P&L (sales, growth, margins, spend) market share (latest 52, 12, 4 weeks for your brand all major competitors) and your sales forecasts. Make sure you are asking the questions and carrying forward the knowledge.
  • Be open with communication: There should be no surprises, especially with your boss. Keep everyone aware of what’s going on. When you communicate upwards, always have the situation, implications, options and then quickly followed by an action plan of what to do with it.
  • Listen and then decide: It is crucial that you seek to understand to the experts surrounding you, before you make a decision. Early in your career, use your subject matter experts to teach you. As you hit director or VP, use them as an advisor or sounding board to issues/ideas. They do want you to lead them,  so it is important that you listen and then give direction or push them towards the end path.
  • Take control of your destiny: We run the brands, they do not run us. Be slightly ahead of the game, not chasing your work to completion. Proactively look for opportunity in the market, and work quickly to take advantage. When you don’t know something, speak in an “asking way”, but when you know, speak in a “telling way”.
  • Able to use regular feedback for growth: Always seek out and accept feedback, good or bad, as a lesson for you. Do not think of it as a personal attack or setback. Identify gaps you can close, never think of them as weaknesses that hold you back. You should be constantly striving to get better.

Here is a presentation that can help you manage your career in Brand Management.

The crucial marketing skills

At Beloved Brands, we use a 360 degree view, where you need to be able to analyze, think, define, plan and then execute. And then repeat.

1. Analyze performance

  • Digs deep into data, draws comparisons and builds a story toward the business conclusionBrand Careers Skills Behaviors Experiences
  • Able to lead a best-in-class 360-degree deep-dive business review for the brand
  • Understands all sources of brand data—share, brand funnel, consumption, financials
  • Writes analytical performance reports that outlines the strategic implications

2. Think Strategically

  • Thinks strategically, by asking the right interruptive questions before reaching for solutions
  • 360-degree strategic thinking: core strength, consumers, competitors, situation, engagement
  • Able to lead a well-thought strategic discussion across the organization
  • Makes smart strategic decisions based on vision, focus, opportunity, early win and leverage

3. Define the brand

  • Defines ideal consumer target, framed with need states, insights and enemies
  • Consumer centric approach to turn brand features into functional and emotional benefits
  • Finds winning brand positioning space that is own-able and motivates consumers
  • Develops a big idea for brand that can lead every consumer touchpoint

4. Create Brand Plans

  • Leads all elements of a smart brand plan; vision, purpose, goals, issues, strategies, tactics.
  • Turns strategic thinking into smart strategic objective statements for the brand plan
  • Strong in presenting brand plans to senior management and across organization
  • Develops smart execution plans that delivers against the brand strategies

5. Inspire creative execution

  • Writes strategic, focused and thorough creative briefs to inspire great work from experts
  • Can lead all marketing projects on brand communication, innovation, selling or experience
  • Able to inspire greatness from teams of experts at agencies or throughout organization
  • Makes smart marketing execution decisions that tightens bond with consumers

Taking this a step further, you can use the assessment tool to identify gaps in your team.

Brand Careers Skills Behaviors Experiences

The leader behaviors

1. Accountable for results

  • Holds everyone accountable to the goals of their tasks
  • Makes it happen, get things done, don’t let details/timeline slip
  • Stays on strategy, eliminates ideas that are not focused against vision/strategy.
  • Works the system behind the brand, from sales to finance to operations to HR

2. People leadership

  • Manages core team: focus, communication, solutions, results, let others shine.
  • Interested in their people’s development and career development
  • Coaches, teaches, guides the team for higher performance.
  • Provides honest assessments to their people and upwards.

3. Broad influence

  • Active listener, seeks opinions, makes decisions, owns strategy.
  • Controls brand strategy, yet flexible to new ideas on the execution.
  • Carries influence throughout organization.
  • Thinks of others beyond themselves, empathy to pressures/challenges others are facing.

4. Authentic style

  • Aware of their impact on others within and beyond their team.
  • Exhibits leadership under pressure: results, ambiguity, change, deadlines.
  • Consistency in leadership in how they show up.
  • Flexibility in leadership: admits mistakes, challenges self, adjusts to new ways.

5. Runs business like an owner

  • Acts like a ‘Brand CEO’ accountable to the long-range health and profits of the business.
  • Makes smart decisions that adds to the health of brand, not their career or personal wealth.
  • Makes the right choices, good for the company, consumers, customers, market, society.
  • Lives and breathes the culture of those who work behind the scenes of the brand.

The necessary experiences 

Many of the hardest experiences a Marketer must go through almost takes 3-5 opportunities for the Brand Leader to really nail.  I remember how challenging it was for me the first time I launched a new advertising campaign.  Can I confess now that it was a complete disaster? I had no clue what the major steps were and no one on my side who could teach me. I was lucky that my client service person helped me through every step. Over the years, I would get better and better, learning something new each time. I then struggled the first time I managed a person for the first time. Then I struggled to launch a new brand. It is starting to sound like I was a disaster at everything. Well, I might be over-exaggerating, but I can tell you that i got better each time. And you will as well. 

The experiences that you need learn at each stage of the way include:

  1. Write Brand Plans: Writing a brand plan takes experience. I recommend you should learn some of the same skills through writing brand recommendations, writing a brand review or writing a section of the brand plan. Leading a Brand Turnaround: When the results are not meetings the expectations of the business, the pressure goes up exponentially and the scrutiny intensifies. If there is a hint of concern, senior leaders will roll up their sleeves and get involved.
  2. Launching new advertising: Launching a big new campaign from scratch involves a lot of crucial steps to manage, while dealing with the ambiguity of what makes a great creative and smart media choices. On top of that, it is essential to keep the agency motivated, while keeping your boss aligned.
  3. Managing a team: Managing can be such a challenge that when I worked at J&J, when we promoted someone to Brand Manager, we usually tried to avoid giving them a direct report. Most people mess up their first direct report. A similar pattern happens: excited to have someone do the little stuff they hate doing, then the person struggles so the manager does it themselves and gets mad at the person who can’t do it, then begins to think their direct report is incompetent. On the other hand, the direct report thinks their boss refuses to train them, gives them little feedback and is a control freak. Firing a Marketer: This sounds like a strange experience to put on the list, but it is one of the most difficult decisions you will have to make. I wish you never would have to fire one, but the reality is that you will. To make sure you are making the right decision, you really need to understand the role and be able to measure that person against the criteria for what they can and cannot do.
  4. Launching a new brand: While managing a brand is difficult enough, creating a brand from scratch involves every element of marketing from the concept to the product to naming to production, selling, shipping, advertising, displaying, promoting, and analyzing the performance. You better be great at Marketing before taking on a launch from scratch.
  5. Leading across organization: As you move into more senior leadership roles, a great way to extend your breadth across the organization is to take on more cross-functional roles, whether special projects or moving into a cross functional role. This allows you to begin seeing every corner of the organization through the eyes of other team players in sales, HR, operations and finance. 

Here is a tool to track your experiences from an entry-level up to a senior role. I tell Marketers that you should try to have a good balance as you move up, so you can avoid having any experience gaps when you hit a senior level. 

Brand Careers Skills Behaviors Experiences

Here is a presentation that can help you manage your career in Brand Management.

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. We use our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

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, so they can unleash their full talent potential. 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 Brand Training Coach Consultant

 

McDonald’s service hits rock bottom in drive thru ratings

McDonald’s was founded on the basis of customer service.

Ray Kroc, the original McDonald’s CEO put huge emphasis on a customer first mentality: “McDonald’s is a people business, and that smile on that counter girl’s face when she takes your order is a vital part of our image.” That seems to be lost in this generation of leaders at McDonald’s. 

In a recent study by QSR magazine on the attributes of customer service through the drive-thru window, McDonald’s finished rock bottom on attributes linked to friendliness. I always believe “manners and smiles are free”, when the reality is they need to be embedded within the culture of the organization. They are hard work.

When it comes to smiling, McDonald’s finishes last at 62%, almost 30% lower than Chick-Fil-A. 

And when it comes to saying “Thank You” McDonald’s also finishes rock bottom with only 78% of occasions compared to 95% for Chick-Fil-A. 

Chick-Fil-A is the gold standard on service when it comes to drive thru. They believe that employees are the company’s “secret recipe,” and the drive-thru strategy is designed around people as much as it is technology and systems. “It’s all about speed and accuracy, but we know our customers appreciate that we can be nice while being fast and accurate. Eye contact and smiling go a long way in the drive-thru experience.”

McDonald's Service level

Even on speed of service, McDonald’s now finishes mid pack. Wendy’s is the leader in speed, about 45 seconds faster on average. A quote from Wendy’s on the drive thru service says the fast service is the result of the company tirelessly tracking line times and optimizing the layout of the kitchens:  “Customers visit the drive thru due to its convenience, so we strive to meet that expectation every day, every customer.

McDonald’s service might just get worse, not better

McDonald’s have stated that they are going to invest billions in 2017 to revamp their entire kitchens to be able to serve high quality and fresh meat in their hamburgers. Wow. I am big fan of Five Guys, In-N-Out burger, Shake Shack and Big Smoke burgers. But, they are never fast. They each say they won’t start cooking your burger until you order it. At Five Guys, you can see them even pull the burger out and placed on the grill. The one big difference is that Five Guys basically only serve burgers. What will happen to the McDonald’s drive thru if I just want a coffee, yet have to sit behind 9 people ordering fresh burgers. It just won’t work.

How do you communicate your brand story internally?

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. That is not healthy. Everyone who touches that brand should be able to explain what it stands for in seven seconds, sixty seconds, thirty 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 the 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.

brand culture

The Big Idea Should Drive The Culture

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. 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.

 

Here’s a powerpoint presentation on how to define your brand, including the benefit cluster tool.

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

Graham Robertson Bio Brand Training Coach Consultant

How to build your brand positioning statement around benefit clusters

The reality with most brands is that great brands can do a few things, that give the consumer a few different functional benefits and a few different emotional benefits. One of the tools I work with clients on is to figure out the clusters, which are the groupings of similar benefits that a brand can deliver, then work to narrow down which of those benefits can stand out as the most motivating to consumers and the most own-able for the brand. What you are looking for is that winning zone where you are meeting consumer needs better than your competitors. To be successful, brands have to be better, different, cheaper…or else they will not be around for very long. This process will help you find your winning zone.

The Consumer Benefits Ladder

The Consumer Benefits Ladder helps turn your brand’s features into consumer benefits. You should stop thinking about what your brand does and start thinking about what your consumer gets.

Consumer Benefit LadderConsumer Benefit LadderThe 4 steps to build a Consumer Benefits Ladder:

  1. Leverage all available research to brief the team, helping define the consumer target profile with consumer insights, need states and the consumer enemy.
  2. Brainstorm all the possible brand features that your brand offers, plus any brand assets. Make sure that these features give your brand a competitive advantage.
  3. Move up to the functional benefits by putting yourself in the shoes of the consumer and for each feature on your list, ask “so if I am the consumer, what do I get from that?” Challenge yourself to come up with better benefits by asking the question up to 5 times, to the answers into a richer zone.
  4. Then move up to the emotional benefits of looking at each functional benefit and then ask “so if I am the consumer, how does that make me feel?” As you did in step 3, keep asking the question until you see a deeper emotional space that you can play in and own.

Functional Benefits

 To help Brand Leaders, I have taken the 9 functional need state zones shown earlier in this chapter and expanded the list to over 50 potential functional benefits that you can build your brand around. As you look through the list, gravitate to the functional benefits you think will fit the needs of your consumers, and where your brand can do it better than competitors. Start with my words and layer in your own creative language with the specific category or consumer language.

Functional benefit Cheat Sheet

Emotional Benefits

Below you will find a list of 40 potential emotional benefits. From my experience, Marketers are better at the rational benefits than they are at the emotional benefits. I swear every brand thinks their brand should be the trusted, reliable and yet like-able. As a brand, you want to own one emotional space in the consumer’s heart as much as you own the rational space in the consumer’s mind. When I push Brand Managers to get emotional, they struggle and opt for what they view as obvious emotions, even if they do not fit with their brand.

I have used Hotspex research methodology to create a ‘cheat sheet’ with 8 major emotional consumer benefits, that includes optimism, freedom, being noticed, being liked, comfort, be myself, be in control and knowledge. To own a space in the consumer’s heart, brands should own and dominate one of these zones, always thinking relative to what zone your competitor may own. Do not choose a list of emotions from all over the map, or you will confuse your consumer. Use the supporting words to add flavor to your brand positioning.

Emotional benefit Cheat Sheet

Build Around Benefit Clusters

 As you start to make decisions on which benefits your brand will stand behind, I recommend you start by looking at the two cheat sheets and find potential clusters of the functional and emotional benefits, that you believe match up with what consumers want and what your brand does better than other competitors. Below where I have mapped out benefit clusters for Gray’s Cookies, a fictional cookie brand that combines great taste and low calories.

In terms of functional benefits, it makes sense to build the brand around functional benefits such as healthy, sensory and experiences and emotional benefits such as control, knowledge, and optimism. Once you have those benefits, you can apply the unique brand or category language to write out benefit statements. For instance, you could use the clusters to write a functional benefit statement such as “I get a great tasting cookie, as good as my current cookie” or an emotional benefit statement like “I feel in control of my health”.

Consumer Benefit Clusters

Use the brainstorm to populate the Consumer Benefits Ladder worksheet to focus your thinking. Like any brainstorm, you will end up more choices than you can use. 

Consumer Benefits

Benefit sort

The next step beyond the worksheet is to narrow down the list by sorting through the benefits to find those that are the most motivating to consumers and the most own-able for your brand. Use the grid below to evaluate, where the zones match up to the Venn diagram on brand positioning. Think of this as the flattened out version of the 3 circles.

Positioning Grid

Looking at the Brand Positioning Benefit Sort above, you can see on the grid how The “Guilt free” consumer benefit offers the highest potential, as it is highly motivating and highly own-able for the brand. This is the winning zone that matches up to the positioning zones we showed in Chapter 8 on competitive strategy. The consumer benefit of “New favorite cookie” is highly motivating, but falls into the losing zone, as it would be owned by the power player competitor brands in the category. The “Feel more confident” benefit falls into the risky zone. To win this zone, the brand would need to use speed-to-market, creativity or leveraging emotional marketing. Avoid the dumb zone, where the benefit shows up low on motivating and potential ownership. In this case, “More comfort in choices” is neither motivating nor own-able.

Turning it into a Brand Positioning Statement

After doing all the homework, you can now confidently put together a winning Brand Positioning Statement that addresses:

  1. Who is your consumer target? Keep the target focused. Do not be vague in your definition. Never go after two segments at the same time. Bring the target to life with need states, consumer insights, and a consumer enemy.  
  2. Where will you play? Define the space you play in, against those brands you compete against. Which competitor do you fight against for the same dollars?
  3. Where will you win? Narrow your benefit down to one thing. Never try to stand for too many things at once—whether too many functional benefits or too many emotional benefits. You cannot be all things to all people. Make sure you talk benefits, not features. Find the ideal space that is unique and motivating to the consumers, while being own-able for your brand.
  4. Why should they believe us? The role of support points is to close off any potential doubts the consumer might have when they see the main benefit. Watch out that these are not just random claims or features that you want to jam into your brand message. They should support and fit with the main benefit.

Brand Positioning Statement

 

Here’s a powerpoint presentation on how to define your brand, including the benefit cluster tool.

 

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