How to lead a Business Review on your brand

2015 logo profile pic versionBefore engaging in your brand planning process, it is a good discipline to start off by doing a deep dive analysis on everything on your business. And I mean everything.  

Yes, everything!!!

When I was at J&J, we had the luxury of getting our Assistant Brand Managers (ABM) to spend 6 weeks looking at everything on the brand and then getting them to present it to the marketing leadership team. Here’s a little secret: it sounds a little cruel, but we hinted that the business review was a “bit of a test” that would impact your career trajectory. If you give an A-type personality from the best MBA programs a month to dig in and you hint that it’s a “test”, you get some of the best brand reviews ever!  These ABMs also spent a full day each month digging into the monthly consumption and sales numbers and writing up a monthly report which helped keep us on track all year. When I became a Brand Manager, I said “thank god I’m no longer have to do all that analysis, and I can now spend more time just thinking”. But as I moved up to Director level and up to the VP level, I started to lose touch with what was really happening on the brands. So, rather than just pass on the ABM’s monthly report to my boss, I would block off a morning and do up my own monthly report. I dug in on the share data, looking for breaking points in the trend line, questioning any splits I would see after breaking out the regions, channels or sizes. Many times, I’d come up with new conclusions not considered and I’d pass them back down. With that analytical training as an ABM matched up against my experience, I found I could go faster than I used to–because I knew what to look for.

The lesson I learned, is that to free yourself up to do the thinking, you need to first dig in and do the questioning. 

As Abraham Lincoln said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”

At Beloved Brands, we believe in digging deep and we live the six principles for good analytics: 

  1. Opinions without fact to back them up are just opinions and can leave a room divided:  you will gain more support for your analysis by telling analytical stories through data.
  2. Absolute numbers by themselves are useless: only when given a relative nature to something important do you find the data break that tells a story. Slide1
  3. The analytical story comes to life when you see a break in the data: comparative indexes and cross tabulations can really bring out the data breaks and gaps that can really tell a story. 
  4. Like an old-school reporter, two sources of data help frame the story: Avoid taking one piece of data and making it the basis of your entire brand strategy. Make sure it’s a real trend.
  5. Deep analysis requires thinking time:  Asking these 5 questions can force the deeper richer thinking: What do we know? What do we assume?  What we think? What do we need to find out? What are we going to do? 
  6. Use tools that can help organize and force deep dive thinking in key areas:  SWOTs or Force Field type tools help organize your thinking and frame the discussion for others.

Deep Dive Business Review

  1. Category: factors impacting growth, trends, economic, changes happening in demographics, behaviors, consumption. Look at related categories.
  2. Consumer: define segments, buying habits, growth trends, key insights for each segment, buying system analysis, leaky bucket, consumer perceptions through tracking data and research
  3. Channels: look at each channel’s performance, major customers, sales performance, tools for winning used in each channel
  4. Competitors: dissect competitors looking at positioning, pipeline, pricing, distribution differences, consumer perception, strategies. Complete a brand plan for each competitor.
  5. Brand: look at internal and external health and wealth of brand. Use financial analysis, brand funnel data, market research perceptions. Look at advertising results, pricing strategies, distribution gaps and do a complete leaky bucket analysis.
  6. Health and Wealth of Brand: look at factors driving the internal health and wealth and the external health and wealth of the brand.
  7. What’s driving growth: summation of the top 3 factors of strength, positional power or inertia that can be a proven link to growth.
  8. What’s inhibiting growth: summation of top 3 factors of weakness, un-addressed gaps or friction holding back the growth of the brand.
  9. Opportunities for growth: specific untapped areas that would fuel future growth, based on unfulfilled needs, new technologies, regulation changes, removal of trade barriers.
  10. Risk to future growth: changing circumstances create potential risk to your growth pattern, based on changes in consumer needs, threat of substitutes, barriers to trade, customer preference, or attacking your weaknesses


At Beloved Brands we teach brand leaders good analytical principles about telling stories with data to gain more support for your analysis. We look at every part of the health and wealth of a brand looking at the category, consumer, channels, brand, competitors. We teach how analysis turns fact into insight and how data breaks set up strategic choices. We look at how to turn analytical thinking into projections. And then we help to build an analytical story and presentation that’s ready for management review.


Here is the Workshop that we run to help brand leaders be better at analytical thinking and help them to create better analytical stories. You’ll see how we are able to dig into every aspect of the brand as we provide tools for assessing the overall category to dissecting the competitor, how to analyze what’s happening with consumers and channels and then how to do a complete assessment behind the data of the brand. You have all this information, you should really use it.


In a world of BIG DATA, it’s only BIG if you know how to use it.

At Beloved Brands, we love to see Brand Leaders reach their full potential.  Here are the most popular article “How to” articles.  We can offer specific training programs dedicated to each topic.  Click on any of these most read articles:

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

We make Brands stronger.

We make Brand Leaders smarter.™

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

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Bringing our blog to life through video

000f51eAt Beloved Brands, we have created a new video Series called BELOVED BRANDS 180. Each video will be 180 seconds (3 minutes) in length and our goal is to get Brand Leaders to do a 180 on their thinking. We want them to think different, because the thinking that got you this far, might not be enough to get to where you want to go next. Today’s video topic is “How to write a brand positioning statement”. Brand positioning statements provide 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.

How to go deeper on the analysis of your Brand


Too many times, marketers come to conclusions based on pure instincts and put them forward to their management team and the set of peers who might agree or disagree. The problem with instincts is that because it’s really just an opinion, with nothing to substantiate it. And even if you are right, you’ll have a hard time convincing others, so anyone with a counter view, retains their own opinion and the team remains divided. Even if they go along with it, they remain a quiet dissenter just waiting for it to fail and waiting to say “I told you so”.

When you don’t go deep on your thinking, I call it surface thinking.  I equate “surface thinking” to “surface cleaning”.  When your mother is coming over to visit in half an hour, you “surface clean” by quickly take everything and jam into the drawers or closets where she won’t be able to see.  You never really clean up. The same thing holds with “surface thinking”. Yes, you think, but it stays at the opinion level. You don’t dig in to the data, you don’t listen to others or go do the necessary research to back up your opinion. You never really go deep enough to uncover the deep rich insightful conclusions. And everyone knows it. 

Opinions are great.  Every leader should have one and be able to articulate their views. But it’s best when you can layer it in fact.  One good rule for communicating your opinion is something I learned in my first year Logic class: Premise, Premise, Conclusion. Try it out, next time you’re engaged in debate. Just make sure the premise is backed by fact.      

So what happens when you just do “surface thinking”:

  1. The programs bomb, and because you don’t know what elements of the program really failed, you throw out the entire program—the strategy was wrong, the tactics didn’t do what you hoped, the goals weren’t set up right and even the agency did a bad job. You throw it all out, and might even fire the agency.
  2. There’s management doubt from your boss and your peers. They can clearly see you don’t go deep, so they remain unconvinced or even confused. They might confront you with their own opinion, but then we just end up with two talking heads that refuse to go deep. But, to protect themselves against a strategy they aren’t quite sure of, they subconsciously short-change you on investment or even on support from their team. 
  3. When you just operate at the surface level, when you’re debating a topic, instead of the team going deep and seeking out real and rich facts to support one side or the other, the conversation moves sideways instead of deep.  What you’ll notice is you’ll be talking about distribution at the surface level, and because no one in the room wants to  go deep, they say “well what about the new cheery flavor, I took it home and my wife didn’t like it, are we sure it’s going to work” or “this new golf shirt for the sales meeting is very cool, I want one of these puppies”. The leadership team spins, round and round, never diving deep enough to solve the issues, just casually moves on to new issues. This is how bad decisions or no decisions get made. 

How to go deeper

The best way go deep on your analysis, ask “so what does that mean” at least five times and watch the information gets richer and deeper. 



Looking at the Gray’s Cookie example above, intuitively, it makes sense that going after Health Food Stores could be one option put on the table. But to say you need to be better, without digging in remains an unsubstantiated opinion. As you dig deeper, you see that going after Health Food stores, who are highly independent is labor intensive and the payback is just not there. Yes, you’re way under-developed.  But it’s more expensive than other options. When you bring the option of going after mass into the mix, which is head office driven, you start to see a higher return on the investment. This is just a fictional example, but look how the thinking gets richer at each stage. Force yourself to keep asking “so what does this mean” or “why” pushing the analysis harder and harder. 

Thinking time questions that will help you go deeper

The first analysis is “What do we know?” with 5 key questions to help you sort through your analysis:

  1. What do we know? This should be fact based and you know it for sure.
  2. What do we assume? Your educated/knowledge based conclusion that helps us bridge between fact, and speculation.
  3. What we think? Based on facts, and assumptions, you should be able to say what we think will happen.
  4. What do we need to find out? There may be unknowns still.
  5. What are we going to do? It’s the action that comes out of this thinking.

It forces you to start grouping your learning, forces you to start drawing conclusions and it enables your reader to separate fact (the back ground information) from opinion (where you are trying to take them)

The second type of analysis is “Where are we?” with 5 key questions to help you sort through your analysis:

  1. Where are we?
  2. Why are we  here? 
  3. Where could we be?
  4. How can we get there?
  5. What do we need to do to get there?

These questions help frame your thinking as you go into a Brand Plan.  The first question helps the analysis, the second with the key issues, the third frames the vision and objectives, the fourth gets into strategy and tactics and the fifth gets into the execution. My challenge to you: update it every 3-6 months, or every time you do something major. You’ll be surprised that doing something can actually impact “where are we?” on the analysis.  

The deeper the thinking, the smarter the leader



To read more on how to Create a Beloved Brand

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

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