How to align the internal and external connections of your brand.

[sg_popup id=”9″ event=”onload”][/sg_popup]The brand idea should help capture the attention of consumers. It should define the brand and manage the reputation. The brand idea should steer everyone who works behind the scenes of the brand. It should stand between the brand soul and the brand reputation. A brand finds itself in equilibrium when the brand reputation, brand idea, and brand soul are the same. 

The brand idea must represent your brand soul

The brand soul defines the moral fiber for why everyone who works on the brand “wakes up each day to deliver greatness on behalf of the brand.” The brand soul must be an inspiration to align the team behind a common purpose, cause or excitement for why they do what they do. Just like the soul of a human, every brand brings a unique combination of the unexplainable assets, culture, motivations, and beliefs. Support your brand purpose with a set of values and beliefs, deeply held in the heart of everyone who works behind the scenes of the brand.

From the outside eye, the complexity of an organization can appear to be a complete mess. Many organizations are filled with silos of conflicts that get in the way of what the brand stands for. There are varying opinions on where the brand should go next. Everyone in your organization must be able to describe the brand in the same way.  This includes the most remote sales rep, the technician in the lab, the ad agency or the CEO.

When a brand is in trouble, the first thing I ask is, “Describe the brand in seven seconds for me.” When I start to hear conflicting answers or confusion, I know the team lacks alignment. If you cannot consistently describe your brand within the walls of your organization, how could you ever expect consumers to hold a consistent reputation in their minds?

When the brand does something in conflict with the brand soul, a healthy organization should resist and possibly even reject that action as outside of the cultural norms and beliefs of the brand. To accept something that goes against the brand’s soul would put the culture at risk.

I have met brand leaders who would rather fail than give up on their principles and beliefs. They say, “I don’t want to sell out just to be successful.” I respect their conviction because they understand themselves. A brand should be extremely personal to trigger the passion of everyone who works on the brand.

The brand idea must manage your brand reputation

The brand reputation lives within the minds of your consumers, out in the crazy, unstructured, unorganized, and cluttered real world. While a brand tries to project itself out to the market, a brand reputation meanders, and adjusts to the constant changes and complexities of the marketplace.

There are constant challenges to the brand reputation, including continually changing consumer need states, conflicting voices from competitors, key influencers, or retailer partners.

The role of the brand idea works in the middle, between the brand and the consumer, acting as a stabilizer between the internal passion at the heart of the brand soul and the outward opinions of the brand reputation.

The brand idea blueprint

I created a brand idea blueprint, which has five areas that surround the brand idea.

On the internal brand soul side, describe the products and services, as well as the cultural inspiration, which is the internal rallying cry to everyone who works on the brand. On the external brand reputation side, define the ideal consumer reputation and the reputation among necessary influencers or partners. The brand role acts as a bridge between the internal and external sides.

  • Products and services: What is the focused point of difference your products or services can win on because they meet the consumer’s needs and separate your brand from competitors?
  • Consumer reputation: What is the desired reputation of your brand, which attracts, excites, engages, and motivates consumers to think, feel, and purchase your brand?
  • Cultural inspiration: What is the internal rallying cry that reflects your brand’s purpose, values, motivations, and will inspire, challenge, and guide your culture? 
  • Influencer reputation: Who are the key influencers and potential partners who impact the brand? What is their view of the brand, which would make them recommend or partner with your brand?
  • Brand role: What is the link between the internal sound and the external reputation?

The brand idea should steer everyone who works behind the scenes of the brand.

Brand leaders must manage the consistent delivery of the brand idea over every consumer touchpoint. Whether people are in management, customer service, sales, HR, operations, or an outside agency, everyone should be looking to the brand idea to guide and focus their decisions.

With old-school marketing, the brand would advertise on TV to drive awareness and interest, use bright, bold packaging in store with reinforced messages to close the sale. If the product satisfied consumers’ needs, they would repeat and build the brand into their day-to-day routines.

Today’s market is a cluttered mess. The consumer is bombarded with brand messages all day, and inundated with more information from influencers, friends, experts, critics, and competitors. While the internet makes shopping easier, consumers must now filter out tons of information daily. Moreover, the consumer’s shopping patterns have gone from a simple, linear purchase pattern into complex, cluttered chaos.

The five touchpoints

Five main touchpoints reach consumers, including the brand promise, brand story, innovation, purchase moment, and consumer experience. Regardless of the order, they reach the consumer; if the brand does not deliver a consistent message, the consumer will be confused and likely shut out that brand. While brands cannot control what order each touchpoint reaches the consumer, they can undoubtedly align each of those touchpoints under the brand idea.


How the brand idea stretches across the five consumer touchpoints

  • Brand promise: Use the brand idea to inspire a simple brand promise that separates your brand from competitors. Us it to project your brand as better, different, or cheaper, based on your brand positioning.
  • Brand story: The brand story must come to life to motivate consumers to think, feel, or act while establishes the ideal brand’s reputation to be held in the minds and hearts of the consumer. The brand story should align all brand communications across all media options.
  • Innovation: Build a fundamentally sound product, staying at the forefront of trends and technology to deliver innovation. Steer the product development teams to ensure they remain true to the brand idea.
  • Purchase moment: The brand idea must move consumers along the purchase journey to the final purchase decision. The brand idea helps steer the sales team and sets up retail channels to close the sale. 
  • Consumer experience: Turn the usage into a consumer experience that becomes a ritual and favorite part of the consumer’s day. The brand idea guides the culture of everyone behind the brand to deliver the experience   

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 or the paperback version, click on this link:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

We help brands find growth

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

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

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

We make Brand Leaders smarter

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

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

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

The best Political Ad this year is for a guy not even in the race (yet)

29913743001_4538072987001_video-still-for-video-4538052437001At Beloved Brands, we look at all types of brands and see what we can learn. We’ve done a few on politics this year, but you’ll notice that we never pick sides. If you can’t see straight when reading a branding article about politics, I suggest you stop reading. I’m just a marketer so this article will only talk about political brands, not about the policies of politics. Plus, I’m Canadian so I’m not even a voter in the US–I can remain objective.

Yes, the Donald Trump brand has clearly captivated America, dominated the media, polarized the electorate and rallied those who hate politics. What I like best about Trump is that his campaign has a Big Idea: Trump has a focused 7-second Big Idea brand message, that’s easily explained and understood. “Make America great again”. But Trump’s communication strategy has been largely based on provocative comments in the media, his Twitter handle and some great one-liners at the debates.

But the best ad I’ve seen this year has to go to someone not even in the race:  Joe Biden. This ad ran during the Democratic Debate last night and again this morning during the morning newscast. It’s paid for by DraftBiden, a super-PAC trying to garner momentum behind his candidacy for President.

Joe is a great storyteller, with amazing natural warmth. This ad uses one of Joe’s speeches, telling a story of his dad and how the lessons he learned impacts his fight for the average working American. It reminds me of the Dodge Ram’s “God Made a Farmer” Super Bowl ad, which used a similar style of photos over top of a Paul Henry’s voice. The quietness of the ad captures your attention and the story holds your attention. It’s not really going to change your view on Joe Biden, or Hillary Clinton. It’s targeted to Joe’s biggest supporters to get them to hold off committing to a candidate until Joe makes his inevitable entrance into the race.

Interestingly enough, this ad is a replacement for another emotional ad, using Joe’s voice telling another story. But Draft Biden pulled the ad after an aide to the vice president expressed Biden’s desire for the ad not to run, saying it tread on “sacred ground.”  It featured the story of Biden’s personal experience with tragedy after the death of his first wife, Neilia, and 1-year-old daughter Naomi in a 1972 car crash. Watch below and you can see how this might be a bit “too personal”.

Politically, Joe is likely the backup plan should Hillary Clinton stumble. But these are beautiful ads.

Below is a workshop we run on “How to get great Advertising”: 

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.

BBI ads for 2015.003

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 3911New 2015 Bio .001

Volvo owns one word in describing their brand: Safety

images“If you want to build a brand, you must focus your efforts on owning a word in the prospects’ mind. A word nobody else owns”  – Al Ries

I went to see Al Ries speak a few years ago and he challenged all marketers to get your brand down to one word. It sounded great, until I went back to my desk and started trying it out on my brands. At best I was able to get it down to a few words or a quick catch phrase. As I sat there frustrated, I realized that the effort to try to get it down to one word is a great catalyst that gets you down to a few words. That’s a hell of a lot better than the excessively long-winded 5-page briefs or the long list of RTB’s (Reason to Believe) people want to jam in a TV ad.

For a long time, we’ve thought that brands just exist to convey a degree of consistency in the consumers mind. Yes, that helps to own a position in the marketplace. But more and more, we are also starting to realize that consistency of message acts as an internal beacon for everyone in the organization to follow.

I am always pushing everyone to focus: focus on a tight target, own one main benefit area that no one else can own and then shout it from the mountain top. The challenge here of getting what your brand stands for down to one word would be the ultimate. I’d encourage you to take this on a test run and see where you get. But the bigger point is to, learn from how obsessed Volvo is around safety.

When you ask consumers one word to describe Volvo, without hesitation they say “Safety”.  

headerI am yet to see any other brand that is so focused against one word like Volvo is with 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.  
  • Car and Driver reports safety as the #1 benefit that consumers are looking for in a new car.
  • Volvo’s purpose in making safety a priority. In 1958, Volvo came up with the 3-point seat belt. Even with a patent they could have enforced and made millions, Volvo decided to share the technology with all the other car manufacturers because they believed so strongly in it. That really speaks to Volvo’s conviction and authenticity.
  • Volvo has always been way ahead of car safety regulations. In fact, as safety became a priority with consumers, regulators looked at what Volvo was doing as the standard and then made Volvo’s advancements mandatory across other companies.  In the 1990s, Volvo was ahead of the curve on the introduction of air bags and side-air bags.  
  • In TV ads, we got so used to seeing the crash test dummy ads re-enforcing Volvo’s ownership over safety.
  • Volvo continues to set the standard for safety today. The IIHS (Insurance Institute of Highway Safety) had 3 Volvo models in the 10 Top Safety Picks, the most of any car brand. The Euro NCAP collision test has recognize Volvo V40 as the best car they’ve ever tested, giving it the top rating of five stars in the Euro NCAP collision test.

Volvo_S80_safetyMost impressive to me that highlights Volvo’s obsession with safety is to look internally at the long list of R&D advancements over the past 70 years.

  • 1944 Safety cage
  • 1944 Laminated windscreen
  • 1957 Anchor points for 2–point safety belts front
  • 1958 Anchor points for 2–point safety belts rear
  • 1959 3–point front safety belts standard
  • 1964 First rearward–facing child safety seat prototype tested
  • 1966 Crumple zones front and rear
  • 1966 Safety door–locks
  • 1969 Inertia reel safety belts
  • 1971 Reminder safety belt
  • 1972 3–point safety belts – rear
  • 1972 Rearward–facing child safety seat
  • 1974 Multi-stage impact absorbing steering column
  • 1974 Bulb integrity sensor
  • 1975 Braking system with stepped bore master cylinder
  • 1978 Child safety booster cushion
  • 1982 “Anti–submarining” protection
  • 1986 Three–point safety belt centre rear seat
  • 1990 Integrated child safety cushion in centre rear seat
  • 1991 Side Impact Protection System
  • 1991 Automatic height adjusting safety belt
  • 1992 Reinforced rear seats in estate models
  • 1995 Integrated child safety cushion outer rear seats
  • 1997 Roll Over Protection System
  • 1998 Whiplash Protection System
  • 1998 Inflatable Curtain
  • 2001 Volvo Safety Concept Car
  • 2002 Roll Stability Control
  • 2003 New Front Structure called Volvo Intelligent Vehicle Architecture
  • 2003 Rear seat belt reminders
  • 2003 Intelligent Driver Information System
  • 2003 Inauguration of Volvo’s Traffic Accident Research Team in Bangkok
  • 2004 Blind Spot Information System
  • 2005 Door Mounted Inflatable Curtain
  • 2006 Personal Car Communicator
  • 2006 Collision Warning with Brake Support
  • 2007 Power Park Brake
  • 2007 Driver Alert Control
  • 2009 City Safety – Automatically stop car at speeds below 19 mph (31 km/h) if obstruction is detected in front of car
  • 2010 Pedestrian Detection with auto brake
  • 2012 Pedestrian airbag

True leader push themselves by attacking the brand even before competitors have a chance. Volvo is continuing to push themselves with a very visionary challenge for the year 2020 that’s squarely directed internally within Volvo. 

Volvo brand vision: Nobody should die or be seriously injured in a Volvo.  

That speaks volumes to the obsession they’ve had for the past 70 years and to the obsessive focus for the future of Volvo!

At Beloved Brands, we use the Big Idea as a way to simplify and explain the Brand Soul. As consumers face 5,000 brand messages every day and having a simple Big Idea allows the consumer to connect with it. We can see above how Volvo lives and breathes Safety in every part of their organization. The more work you do as a marketer to ensure everything lines up behind your big idea, you’ll be able to move your brand to the place where your brand’s reputation and your brand’s soul are the same. 

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What can you learn from this for your brand?

Below is a presentation of our workshop we run on brand positioning:

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.BBI ads for 2015.005

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

New 2015 Bio .001