Tag Archive: Brand

How to create and tell the story of your Brand

Sometimes, Brand Leaders write their strategic documents in such a boring way, others have a hard time following.  If you as the Brand Leader are the only one who understands your brand, then you’re in trouble. The Brand story should distill everything you know about your brand (the vision, purpose, values, objectives, strategies, tactics, target market, insights, rational and emotional benefits, reason to believe) and organize it into something that is digest-able for everyone who might touch the brand–whether that’s consumers, advocates, influencers, employees, agencies, retailers or the media. 

So what makes a good story?

Before getting into your Brand story, think of all of the great Super Hero stories of Batman, Spiderman or Wonder Woman and you see some commonality in what makes a good story in general.  For this purpose, let’s use the fundamentals of a good Super Hero story and try to match up all the brand strategic inputs you may have to help tell the story. 

The basis of the Super Hero story usually starts with a conflict of Good versus Evil. There needs to be an Enemy and a Hero.  

Most brands started as products or services that handled some functional problem in the market, but as they matured and became more closely connected to their consumers, they evolved into a Big Idea, that fulfills consumers’ emotional needs. brand idea evolutionAnother way to say it, most great PRODUCTS were invented to solve a rational PROBLEM in your consumers’ daily life. Most great BRANDS solve an emotional ENEMY in your ongoing consumers’ life. The question you likely never ask is: who is the Enemy of your consumer? The conflict and resolution sets up the Big Idea of the story.  If you are the Apple brand, then you fight off the enemy of FRUSTRATION on behalf of your consumer. Unless you work in IT, you likely find computers extremely frustrating. We have all sat at our computer wanting to pull our hair out. Spending 38 minutes to figure out how print, getting Error 6303 message that says close all files open and reboot or buying a new computer and you need to load up 13 disks and 3 manuals to read before you can even email your friend to tell them how amazing your computer is. Apple has recognized the FRUSTRATION consumers go through and realized it was in the way of many consumers experiencing the potential of communications through computers. 

There is a substantial back story to explain what makes up the Super Hero.

There is a clear vision for a better future, a purpose to explain why the hero does what they do, and a set of values to explain what is right and wrong.  A brand should also be able to articulate their Vision for the next 10 years, The most successful brands start with a purpose driven vision (why) and match the strategies (how) and the execution (what) to the vision.  Start with the Question of WHY do you do what you do? If you are Apple, the answer would be “At Apple, we believe in challenging the status quo, we believe in thinking differently. We challenge ourselves to make a dent in the universe.”  What do you get for your brand, when you answer the question of “why are you in this business?”.

A good Super Hero story saves someone. A good brand should as well.  Each story also has a distinct cry for help.  

As Steve Jobs said: “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology and then try to figure out where you’re going to sell it”  It’s important to tightly define who you will save and it starts with those who are the most motivated by what you do.  Pick a focused target market. Realizing not everyone can like you is the first step to focus on those that can love you. Too many times, Brand Leaders blindly pick an idealized target market based on size and wealth of the target, figuring that will offer the highest return. However, going after the biggest potential target can sometimes lead to failure because they are already being courted by everyone else.  And that large target when they might not like your product is just a recipe for failure. I like to challenge Brand Leaders to focus on figuring out who are the consumers that are already motivated by what you do. That’s the perfect match up to your brand.  You have to matter the most to those who really care.  Just as the super hero always responds to a cry for help, the Brand must listen to the what they are saying. The best way to frame a consumer insight is to get in the shoes of the consumer and use their voice. Insight 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 one who felt like that”.  Insight is about  “seeing below the surface”. To get deeper, keep asking yourself “so what does that mean for the consumer” until you have an “AHA moment”. What are the beliefs, attitudes or behaviors that help explain how they think, feel or act in relationship to your brand or category.  What I recommend to Brands is that they frame insights in quotes and use the word I, forcing you to be in their shoes and using their voice. For a Bank with long hours, the insight would be: “I am so busy driving my kids around, I can never get to the bank during banking hours. I wish there was a bank that worked around my life, rather than me working around the banks’ life”.

A Super Hero is different than everyone else.  

For a Brand in a competitive world, you have to realize that no one brand can do it all. You have to decide on what you want to be from four choices: better, different, cheaper or else not around for very long. usp-2-0-2Giving the consumer too many messages about your brand will confuse them as to what makes your brand unique. Trying to be everything is the recipe for being nothing. Trying to do everything to everyone makes you nothing to no one. It just spreads your resources and your message so that everything you do is “ok” and nothing is “great”. With a long to-do list, you’ll never do a great job at anything. And in a crowded and fast economy, “ok” never breaks through so you’ll never get the early win to gain that tipping point that opens up the gateway to even bigger success

There is some super power that makes them even better, without being vain. 

Just like the Super Hero knows they can help, the Brand also has to be able to tell the story of how they help out. Doing a Customer Value Proposition (CVP) helps to organize your thinking as a great tool for bringing the benefits to life.  slide1-4

  • Get all of the consumer insights and need states out. 
  • Match them up against the list of the best features the brand offers. 
  • Find the rational benefit by putting yourself in the shoes of the consumer and seeing the brand features from their eyes: start asking yourself over and over again “so if I’m the consumer, what do I get from that?”. Ask it five times and you’ll see the answers will get richer and richer each time you ask. 
  • Then find the emotional benefit by asking “so how does that make me feel?” Ask that five times as well, and you’ll begin to see a deeper emotional space you can play in and own. 

A good story is one that touches people in an emotional way. 

People tend to get stuck when trying to figure out the emotional benefits. I swear every brand out there thinks it is trusted, reliable and yet likeable. It seems that not only do consumers have a hard time expressing their emotions about a brand, but so do Brand Managers. Companies like Hotspex have mapped out all the emotional zones for consumers. I’m not a researcher, but if you’re interested in this methodology contact Hotspex at http://www.hotspex.biz Leverage this type of research and build your story around the emotions that best fit your consumer needs. Leveraging Hotspex, I’ve mapped out 8 zones in a simplistic way below

Slide1A Good Super Hero has to make difficult choices. They can’t do everything. It’s all about choices.

Every brand is constrained by resources—dollars, people and time.Focus makes you matter most to those who care. Focusing your limited resources on those consumers with the highest propensity to buy what you are selling will deliver the greatest movement towards sales and the highest return on investment for those resources. When you focus on the right choices, you end up with:

  • Better ROI: With all the resources against one strategy, one target, one message, you’ll be find out if the strategy you’ve chose is able to actually move consumers drive sales or other key performance indicators. 
  • Better ROE: Make the most out of your people resources.
  • Strong Reputation: When you only do one thing, you naturally start to become associated with that one thing—externally and even internally. And, eventually you become very good at that one thing.
  • More Competitive: As your reputation grows, you begin to own that on thing and your are able to better defend the positioning territory
  • Bigger and Better P&L: As the focused effort drives results, it opens up the P&L with higher sales and profits. And that means more resources will be put to the effort to drive even higher growth.

Strategic Thinkers see questions before they see solutions. They map out a range of “what if” decision trees that intersect and connect by imagining how events will play out. They reflect and plan before they act. They are thinkers and planners who can see connections. They use knowledge and judgment about the long-term health and wealth of the brand. 

A good story is well-organized, has a consistent tone throughout the story and has layers that support the story.  

There is a Focus to the story: Using one motivated target market and one Unique Selling Proposition based on need states allows you to drive all your resources against strategies that will move the brand towards being more connected and loved. The story has an Early Win: Able to move a motivated target towards sales and share, plus establishing the brand’s positioning with a balance of rational and emotional benefits. The brand now has momentum and growth.There is this point in the story where you can start to Leverage those early wins into something even bigger: When you can take the emotional bond and translate it into a source of power the brand can use against all the forces in the market. And there is a Gateway to something bigger: When you are able to take the brand power and drive strong growth and profits. 

If you were to write the Starbucks, here’s how it might look;

  • Vision: Cherished meeting place for all your quick service food needs
  • Goals: Increase Same store sales, greater share of requirements from Starbucks loyalists
  • Key Issue: How do we drive significant growth of same store sales?
  • Strategy: Move Starbucks loyalists to lunch with an expanded lunch menu.
  • Tactic: Light lunch menu, increase desert offerings.

The strategic way I like to organize a brand is starting with the Big Idea for your brand and then ensuring the brand promise, brand story, strategy, freshness (innovation) and the experience (culture and operations) all match up to the Big Idea. If you are Apple, this is how you’d lay out the guts of your story.  The idea is about taking the complexity out and making it so simple that everyone can be part of the future.  And then Apple lines up the promise, strategy, story, freshness and experience behind that big idea.  So if Apple is about simplicity, then my check out experience buying an Apple product better be simple.  

Slide1No Super Hero goes alone.  They always have help.

And just like running a brand, the Brand Leader needs to be able to communicate the brand story in a way that elicits help from all the employees, the agencies.   

So how do we tell the story?

Here is a story board format that you can use to frame your story, whether telling it through a Powerpoint presentation, a video or even through a two page word document.  The story makes it easy for everyone to digest and everyone to continue telling for those they influence.  If it’s to your sales colleagues, they may have to explain it to customers, if it’s to your agency, they may have to convey it to their art director, and if it’s to advocates, they to portray it to their followers.  Here’s a simple 15 questions to be asking

Slide1And if we were to layer in where each of these answers is hidden away in your plan, you can use this as a cheat sheet.

Slide1Depending on who your audience is for your story, you may wish to only use parts of this story board.  For instance, if you’re talking to the Board of Directors you would use the the top part where you talk vision and purpose and values.  If you are setting up the external communication of the brand, you’d talk target, insights and benefits.  If you’re talking about go to market execution, you’d outline the plan, strategies and how the organization executes.  Having these 15 answers allows Brand Leaders to keep the story consistent and aligned. 


Story Telling is the Simplest articulation of the complexities of your Brand 




How loved is your brand?

We believe a brand’s source of power is the emotional feelings it generates. With that power comes added profitability.

In the consumer’s mind, brands sit on a Brand Love Curve, with brands going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally becoming a Beloved Brand for Life. At the Beloved stage, demand becomes desire, needs become cravings, thinking is replaced with feelings. Consumers become outspoken fans. It’s this connection that helps drive power for your brand: power versus competitors, versus customers, versus suppliers and even versus the same consumers you’re connected with. The farther along the curve, the more power for the brand. It’s important that you understand where your brand sits on the Love Curve and begin figuring out how to move it along towards becoming a Beloved Brand. With the power of connection, the brand can leverage that power into increased growth and profits. To read more, follow this presentation.


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As a brand, you must be LIKED before you can be LOVED

So while I’m desperately trying to convince Brand Leaders that being more loved will make you a more powerfully connected brand, and enable you to drive higher profits, I feel that I have to remind everyone that Love Takes time to build, and you have to be LIKED first, before you will ever be LOVED.  To relate it with human behavior:  Yes, hearing the words “I love you” is something we all dream of, but hearing them on the first date is a bit creepy, don’t you think.  Just like in our personal relationships, we need to get to learn the brand, be able to trust and rely on the brand, and quite honestly we use our brains to figure out if it is THE ONE for us.  Then we let ourselves fall in love. 

I have created a hypothetical curve I call “The Brand Love Curve”.  In the consumer’s mind, brands sit on a Brand Love Curve, with brands going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally becoming a Beloved Brand for Life. At the Beloved stage, demand becomes desire, needs become cravings, thinking is replaced with feelings. Consumers become outspoken fans.love-curve-detailed4

It’s this connection that helps drive power for your brand: power versus competitors, versus customers, versus suppliers and even versus the same consumers you’re connected with. The farther along the curve, the more power for the brand. It’s important that you understand where your brand sits on the Love Curve and begin figuring out how to move it along towards becoming a Beloved Brand.  With each stage of the Brand Love Curve, the consumer will see your brand differently. The worst case is when consumers have “no opinion” of your brand. They just don’t care. It’s like those restaurants you stop at in the middle of no-where that are called “restaurant”. In those cases, there is no other choice so you may as well just name it restaurant. But in highly competitive markets, you survive by being liked, but you thrive by being loved. Be honest with yourself as to what stage you are at, and try to figure out how to be more loved, with a vision of getting to the Beloved Brand stage.

Most brands that are truly beloved brands have taken decades if not a century to achieve such status.  It took Apple 30 years to truly break through to the masses. Yes it was loved by a few early on, but not by the many.  Those brands that quickly get to LOVE IT sometimes don’t last there, because when we poke holes in the brand we find little substance. Examples where brands quickly got to the love stage might include Cold Stone Ice Cream, Crocs, Benneton and maybe even the pop band “DEVO”.  (sorry Devo fans)

Before getting all emotional, ask yourself:  Why is your brand Stuck at the Like It stage?

There are seven possible reasons why you are at the Like It Stage:

  1. Protective Brand Leaders means Caution: While many of these brands at the Like It are very successful brands, they get stuck because of overly conservative and fearful Brand Managers, who pick middle of the road strategies and execute “ok” ideas. On top of this, Brand Managers who convince themselves that “we stay conservative because it’s a low-interest category” should be removed. Low interest category means you need even more to captivate the consumer.
  2. We are rational thinking Marketers: Those marketers that believe they are strictly rational are inhibiting their brands. The brand managers get all jazzed on claims, comparatives, product demonstration and doctor recommended that they forget about the emotional side of the purchase decision. Claims need to be twisted into benefits—both rational and emotional benefits. Consumers don’t care about you do until you care about what they need. Great marketers find that balance of the science and art of the brand. Ordinary marketers get stuck with the rational only.
  3. New Brand with Momentum: Stage 2 of a new brand innovation is ready to expand from the early adopters to the masses. The new brand begins to differentiate itself in a logical way to separate themselves from the proliferation of copycat competitors. Consumers start to go separate ways as well. Retailers might even back one brand over another. Throughout the battle, the brand carves out a base of consumers.
  4. There’s a Major Leak: If you look at the brand buying system, you’ll start to see a major leak at some point where you keep losing customers. Most brands have some natural flaw—whether it’s the concept, the product, taste profile ease of use or customer service. Without analyzing and addressing the leak, the brand gets stuck. People like it, but refuse to love it.
  5. Brand changes their Mind every year: Brands really exist because of the consistency of the promise. When the promise and the delivery of the promise changes every year it’s hard to really connect with what the brand is all about. A brand like Wendy’s has changed their advertising message every year over the past 10 years. The only consumers remaining are those who like their burgers, not the brand.
  6. Positional Power–who needs Love: there are brands that have captured a strong positional power, whether it`s a unique technology or distribution channel or even value pricing advantage. Brands like Microsoft or Wal-Mart or even many of the pharmaceuticals products don`t see value in the idea of being loved. The problem is when you lose the positional power, you lose your customer base completely.
  7. Brands who capture Love, but no Life Ritual: There are brands that quickly capture the imagination but somehow fail to capture a routine embedded in the consumers’ life, usually due to some flaw. Whether it’s Krispy Kreme, Pringles or even Cold Stone, there’s something inherent in the brand’s format or weakness that holds it back and it stays stuck at Loved but just not often enough. So, you forget you love them.

You have to answer those questions and figure out your brand before you just go to your ad agency and say “let’s be more emotional this year”.  Communication can help, but if you’re at the LIKE IT or INDIFFERENT stage, you need to begin crafting an idea that will help separate your brand from the pack. 

Here’s some thoughts for how to get to the LOVE IT stage.

  • Focus on action and drive Consideration and Purchase: stake out certain spaces in the market creating a brand story that separates your brand from the clutter. Begin to sell the solution, not just the product. Build a Bigger Following: Invest in building a brand story that helps to drive for increased popularity and get new consumers to use the brand.
  • Begin to Leverage those that already Love: Focus on the most loyal consumers and drive a deeper connection by driving the routine which should increase usage frequency. On top of that, begin cross selling to capture a broader type of usage.
  • Love the Work: It is time to dial-up the passion that goes into the marketing execution. Beloved Brands have a certain magic to them. But “Like It’ brands tend to settle for ok, rather than push for great. With better work, you’ll be able to better captivate and delight the consumers. If you don’t love the work, how do you expect the consumer to love your brand.
  • Fix the Leak: Brands that are stuck have something embedded in the brand or the experience that is holding back the brand. It frustrates consumers and restricts them from fully committing to making the brand a favourite. Be proactive and get the company focused on fixing this leak.
  • Build a Big Idea: Consumers want consistency from the brand—constant changes to the advertising, packaging or delivery can be frustrating. Leverage a Brand Story and a Big Idea that balances rational and emotional benefits helps to establish a consistency for the brand and help build a much tighter relationship.

The big lesson here is advertising alone can’t make you more loved. You have to have everything lined up behind the brand promise to create an experience that lines up to the story you want to tell.  McDonald’s might have great coffee, but they’ll never be a Cafe, if I have to sit in plastic chairs, beside a screaming 4-year-old who is throwing his french fries at his mom, or 8 teenagers hanging out behind me.  

I don’t think you can be rational and emotional at the same time

Yes, I am starting to see many Brand Leaders taking on the emotional areas of Brand Marketing, and I’m happy for it. But what I’m concerned at are creative briefs asking agencies to create ads that are big on emotions, but then heavy on facts about your brand. Before you even get to the communications stage with your agency, you have to understand where you sit on the love curve and why you are there. As most brands sit at the LIKE IT stage, they need to understand why they are there, before they can try to just be loved randomly. Just like in dating, you might have a blind spot that has nothing to do with advertising, so trying to create an ad that says “LOVE ME” might be like a jerk asking a girl to marry him.  A good piece of communication can only move one body part at a time: the head, the heart or the feet. Challenge yourself: do you want to target the HEAD so you can get consumers to think differently about you, the HEART to try to connect emotionally or the FEET where you try to drive action.


If you think you can create an Ad that does all three, you are the worlds greatest advertiser in history. And if you can’t you should then focus on one at time. That’s where the Anthem will help reposition the brand (head) or connect emotionally (heart) and the Innovation spots should drive action (feet). The choice on where to focus should come from your brand’s strategy. At Beloved Brands, we use the Brand Love Curve to help determine where your Brand currently sits with consumers. If you’re at the Indifferent stage, you need to drive Trial (feet) or change their minds to see you differently. As you move along the curve, it becomes a balance of mind and heart, but driving towards Beloved, you need to connect emotionally. (The Heart) of consumers.

slide16The pathway to LOVE for a brand starts with an idea.  

Align everything on your brand behind that idea:  the promise, the strategy, the story, the innovation and the experience.  And it’s the idea that helps to create a strong bond with your consumers. That bond becomes a source of power for your brand, whether that power is with the very consumers who love your brand, versus retailers, suppliers, competitors, influencers, employees or even versus the media.  Once you’re able to generate power for your brand, you can then turn that into profit, whether driving price, cost control, market share or increasing the market size.



The more love you create for your brand means more power and profit. 




How loved is your brand?

We believe a brand’s source of power is the emotional feelings it generates. With that power comes added profitability.

In the consumer’s mind, brands sit on a Brand Love Curve, with brands going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally becoming a Beloved Brand for Life. At the Beloved stage, demand becomes desire, needs become cravings, thinking is replaced with feelings. Consumers become outspoken fans. It’s this connection that helps drive power for your brand: power versus competitors, versus customers, versus suppliers and even versus the same consumers you’re connected with. The farther along the curve, the more power for the brand. It’s important that you understand where your brand sits on the Love Curve and begin figuring out how to move it along towards becoming a Beloved Brand. With the power of connection, the brand can leverage that power into increased growth and profits. To read more, follow this presentation.

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How to Develop winning CLAIMS for your Brand

usp-2-0-2Brands are either better, different or cheaper. Or not around for very long.

You have to find a unique selling proposition for your brand.  The key to being unique, is not just unique for the sake of it, but to match up what you do best with what the consumer is looking for.  Or else, you will play in the who cares zone.   A great claim must be ownable to your brand, and motivating to the consumer.  

To often, Brand Leaders start with the claim, and then try to make the most of it in everything they do.  The problem with that strategy is your claim might not be a benefit, and even if it ladders up, it might not be something that is ownable for you or motivating to the consumer.

Start with the Consumer First

Like everything in marketing, you should always start with the consumer first.  slide1-4Define your target, create motivating insights that help you connect, map out the consumers’ enemy and create a meaningful customer value proposition. 

Hold a brainstorming session with everyone who works on the brand so you can:

  1. Get all of the consumer insights and need states out. 
  2. Match them up against the list of the best features the brand offers. 
  3. Find the rational benefit by putting yourself in the shoes of the consumer and seeing the brand features from their eyes: start asking yourself over and over again “so if I’m the consumer, what do I get from that?”. Ask it five times and you’ll see the answers will get richer and richer each time you ask. 
  4. Then find the emotional benefit by asking “so how does that make me feel?” Ask that five times as well, and you’ll begin to see a deeper emotional space you can play in and own. 

For instance, no one really cares that a golf club has 5.7% more torque. (a potential claim) When you ask what do i get from that, the better answers are longer drives or lower scores or winning a tournament (rational benefits). When you ask how does that make you feel, the emotional space is more confidence in your golf swing and optimism that you’ll break 80 all the time now (emotional benefit).  

The Brand Positioning Statement
Before you get to your claims, you want to start to map out a best in class brand positioning statement, which has four key elements:

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

The more focused your decisions, the more successful you will be: decide on one target, one promise and maybe one or two reasons to believe that help to directly back up your promise. But the target shouldn’t be everyone 18-65, and don’t throw your eight best features at the wall and hopefully something sticks. And the reason to believe has to back up your promise, not be a whole new promise.

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 (a) Brand X plays in the market (b) and it gives the main benefit (c). That’s because of the following reasons to believe (d). This is what it looks like when you put them into this format:

 slide11-4The claims you are going to create should fit in the Reasons to Believe, and help to support your benefit. As I said above, don’t start with a claim and then try to create a benefit around the claim.  Sometimes in big companies, the claims team sits in the R&D group, randomly developing claims.  You as the Brand Leader need to provide the positioning work as a guideline for them to work within. 

Brainstorming and Sorting the Claims

As you look for that separation for your brand, you have to ensure it’s ownable and motivating to consumers. Otherwise you’re just talking to yourself. What you want to do is hold a brainstorming session with a cross functional team, who might be from marketing, consumer insights, R&D, regulatory, sales strategy or a professional sales team.  Add in people who have been on the brand a long time, and those who are new.  Using the work above, with the Unique Selling Proposition and the Positioning Statement derived from the Customer Value Proposition, you want to create claims that would fit in the Reasons to Believe area.  I would suggest you create potential areas to brainstorm under:

  • Product Feature Claims
  • Experiential Claims
  • Testimonial Claims
  • Emotional Satisfaction Claims
  • Psychological Claims
  • Key Influencer Support
  • Statistical Claims

Once you create a brainstorm list that matches up to your benefits, you then want to do a claims sort through market research.  Focus on the tests that help determine what is most motivating to move the consumer and what is most ownable to your brand.  (grid below)  One caveat is that you may wish to get Legal/Regulatory to go through the claims to make sure you will get approval. The key to a great lawyer is not finding out what will get rejected (anyone can do that) but to move the claim in a direction that will get approval.  I want my lawyer to say “now if you said it this way…”   



Build your claims around the Benefit,

not your Benefit around your Claims



How loved is your brand?

We believe a brand’s source of power is the emotional feelings it generates. With that power comes added profitability.

In the consumer’s mind, brands sit on a Brand Love Curve, with brands going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally becoming a Beloved Brand for Life. At the Beloved stage, demand becomes desire, needs become cravings, thinking is replaced with feelings. Consumers become outspoken fans. It’s this connection that helps drive power for your brand: power versus competitors, versus customers, versus suppliers and even versus the same consumers you’re connected with. The farther along the curve, the more power for the brand. It’s important that you understand where your brand sits on the Love Curve and begin figuring out how to move it along towards becoming a Beloved Brand. With the power of connection, the brand can leverage that power into increased growth and profits. To read more, follow this presentation.

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Beautiful “Like a Girl” ad by P&G that re-defines stereotypes, will definitely move you

d7291c2d01784756_Always_Run_Like_a_Girl.xxxlargeMost days I can safely say “we are just marketers” but every once in a while, I see that we can actually have a cultural impact. We can use our platform to stand up for consumers, in this case teenage girls, and in fact, all women will be moved by this video. A new 3 minute video by the ALWAYS team at P&G is making its way around the internet this weekend with millions of views already.  My hope is that it gives you goosebumps, tears or gets you think differently.  

The insight that P&G’s team found was that somewhere in the adolescence stage, girls self-confidence plummets.  In the video, they ask both men and women over the age of 15 to depict what “like a girl” looks like, and both sexes show a stereotype and a negative association with WEAK.  And then, they ask 8-10 year old girls to “run like a girl” and they just show how they would NORMALLY run.  The insight is that somewhere between 10 and 15, girls start to see “like a girl” as an insult.  The Always brand challenges us to re-define “like a girl”.  Here’s a look:  


It’s one more example of where Procter and Gamble is moving, to emotionally connect with consumers.  Click on this article to see how P&G is making this change:  P&G has become really good at Emotional Advertising

I’m a dad of a 16-year-old girl, and I can see this insight.  I remember playing football in the backyard when my daughter was around 10 and she picked up the football and threw a perfect spiral about 20 yards.dove1 I just stood in awe. She’s an amazing athlete, a Dennis Rodman type basketball player who leaves nothing on the court. In 6th and 7th grade she was the regional shot put champion. And then in 8th grade, she didn’t even go out for her school team.  She was fighting those stereotypes at a very hard age to “be a girl”.  The Dove Outdoor campaign from last year really hit home with girls quitting sports in their teens because of confidence.  In today’s world of Instagram and Twitter, from what I see everyday, it’s harder than ever to get to 20 feeling good about yourself. 

Getting on the side of your consumer makes your consumer say “this brand is for me” and “this brand gets me”.  Unilever was the first CPG brands to get on the side of consumers with the Dove “real beauty” campaign–still a gold standard that many of us aspire to.


But in reality, CPG brands should still look beyond CPG to push themselves.  Watching Nike’s “if you let me play” ad from 1995, you can see the inspiration of this work.   This is for all the women who kick ass in sports, including my daughter.


Doing this type of advertising takes guts. At this point, the video is viral and gaining momentum.  This type of work comes straight out of insights gathered by the team. Insight is not something that consumers never knew before. That would be knowledge or news, but not insight. It’s not data or fact about your brand that you want to tell. Real insight goes a layer or two deeper to help with the cause and effect. Oddly enough, Insight is something that everyone already knows. Here is my definition: Insight 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”.  This Always ad strikes that chord of women and connects with women.  

Many of us wish we could do this type of work. But how does it happen?  I don’t work at P&G but here are my guesses.  They spent more money on GATHERING insights than they did on TESTING the work.  Put it this way:  while testing your Ads might make you sleep better at night, gathering insights will make you dream more.  The brief did not say “I want a 30 and 15 second ad, plus give me a print ad I can use in-store”.  There were no claims or demo requests, and they didn’t jam in a claim at 2 minutes and 23 seconds into the video. There was no debate over pack shots, of which sku to use.  My guess is that not everyone at P&G bought into this and the work had to be sold in, to various levels by someone that believed in it.  Every great ad I was ever part of met major resistance, even doubt and rejection. That doesn’t mean you give up.  You should be more afraid of the ads where EVERYONE in your company likes the ad you want to make.    


If you watch this video and as a Brand Leader you say I wish I could do that, ask yourself what’s getting in your way?   The answer might be YOU!!!  






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8 Interview Questions I used to ask potential Marketing Hires

facebook adOn average, you’ll need 4-5 interviews to land the job–likely one with HR, a couple at the manager level and a couple at the director level.  If it’s part of the formal recruiting process, then you need to realize you are being judged at every moment, from the on-campus event to the potential dinner/lunch during the interviews and even how you act between interviews.  If they give you a mentor to help you, that person will also have influence.  In our debrief about candidates, there were just as many comments about things beyond the interviews as there was the interviews themselves.

Many interviews are moving to behavioural style where they might say: “tell me a time when you had a conflict…”  This means you need to translate all your strengths and weaknesses into stories that show you have experience in the given area.  Write down your answers in the form of Situation Action and Result. Learn how to tell the stories so that it answers the question and showcases your strengths.  Even if people don’t ask you the “tell me a time…” questions, it can be powerful for you to answer in that method.

You will still get asked “what’s your weakness?”.  It’s such a cliche question now, but it still gets asked.  I once had a candidate tell me they hated ambiguity, which was pretty much the death-nail.  Avoid the BS style “I’m too hard on myself” or “I work too hard”.  You just sound annoying.  The safest option I would recommend is “I’m not very good at negotiating” which is a skill that’s not really that important for marketing.

Here are the Interview Questions that I used to Ask:

  1. Tell me a time you used numbers to sell an idea? Most marketers suck at finance and it will eventually limit your career. At some level in marketing, you have to be good at running the P&L, so I’d rather find out now. You better have your story tight because your answer will be questioned one or two more levels to see if you really know your stuff.  Great Marketers can tell stories with analysis.  I’m going to challenge every aspect of your story.  
  2. What’s the most creative thing you’ve ever done?  It really doesn’t matter what it was, but how far did you push yourself out of your comfort zone to find the creative solution.Your passion for your idea should come through.    
  3. What’s the thing you’re most proud of?  When I read a resume, I want to see big accomplishments beyond your work experience or school.  Football, chess, travelling the world or charity work etc.  I want to hear your story and your pride come through. Great Marketers accomplish things, and I want to know that you have a history of accomplishments.  Don’t tell just what you did, tell me what you ACCOMPLISHED!  
  4. Tell me a time when you’ve convinced your boss of something they thought wouldn’t work. I want to see if you can make it happen.  This will show your leadership, selling skills, and willingness to push.  A great Marketer can get what they want.. 
  5. If you were the agent of Miley Cyrus, how would you maximize her value over the next 10 years?  I always took something in the pop culture news and asked how you would handle it. I was looking to see how curious you are and how you could take something with very little subject matter expertise and put together a plan. A great Marketer has a curiosity and can form opinions quickly. This lets me see your thinking.  Pop culture is a great area that goes beyond books.   
  6. If you were on a team that solved a serious healthcare problem for Society, what factors would you use to price it on the global level?   This is a very thick question with many issues, especially adding in the global issue. I want to see you think through those issues and layer those issues into your answer. How do you handle the differences between North America and the Third World? How important is profitability vs R&D vs compassion?   How would you leverage government, key influencers and where would that fit into your answer. Great marketers can handle ambiguity and there is a lot within this case.  
  7. From your previous Interview with our company, what’s the biggest mistake you made and how would you now change that? Great marketers are constantly pushing themselves to improve.  That starts with your own personal assessment. I want to see that you have thought about it and now see a better solution. It also puts you under a bit of unexpected pressure to see how you handle that.  
  8. What questions do you have for me? To me this is one of the most important sections. It demonstrates how engaged you are in the process. The quality of your questions will help to separate you. Have five great questions done ahead of time, ask about 2-3 each interview. Ask deep questions, not surface questions.Turn each answer into a conversation starter. 

Act like you want the job. Show a bit of spunk and energy through the interviews. Marketing jobs are a bit different.  Take a Red Bull before the interview.  Be leaning forward, make eye contact, be comfortable and dynamic in your personality. Marketing jobs require a bit of charm, a big push, and a willingness to get things done no matter what. I want to see all those things in the interview. 

If you bomb a few interviews, keep going for it.  There are more people who want to be an Assistant Brand Manager than there are jobs. And that’s continuing to tighten in the tough economy as many places are going without. So how bad do you really want this job?   Do you want it more than everyone else? And will you do what it takes to get that job.  I remember interviewing so many times and not getting the job–I must have gone through 100 interviews before I finally landed the right job.  I remember one time, after 3 minutes the hiring manager looked at my resume and said “you have zero marketing experience, this won’t work”.  That one still stings after twenty years, but made me want it even more.  Persistence has to be the key. If you are only half trying, then I have very little sympathy. If you are completely immersed in the effort, trust me, you will eventually break through.

Best of luck to you, and go for it.  


Here’s a presentation on Successful Marketing Careers:  




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The day Apple’s Arrogance cost themselves a very loyal customer

applelogoI love Apple.  I own a MacBook Air, an iMac, iPad mini and an iPhone 4S. My kids both have iPhones and MacBook Pros.  But yesterday, I bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 3.  Whaaaat?   Yes, that’s right.  A Samsung.  

I still feel weird about it.  But I’ll recover. I know this article will bring out the Apple lovers.  Don’t worry, I’m one of you.  But with my new phone, I feel like a cult member who snuck out of the compound one night and drooled when I saw the Samsung phone.  I could see it was light years ahead of my phone. I feel the same way I felt back in 2010 when I escaped my Blackberry cult and bought my iPhone.  

Two hard realities for most people in the Apple army to realize.

  1. Apple is a big mass corporate brand. It’s no longer an artistic challenger brand.  That will be some tough medicine for the most loyal of Apple users who first bought into the brand in the 1980s.  
  2. Apple’s post Steve Jobs innovation has been incremental and not leap frog.  The reality is that R&D pipelines are long lead cycle times, so this is really still Jobs’ pipeline.  But it’s relatively dry compared to the previous decade of riches.  

Apple has changed:  They’ve moved from the challenger brand to the “king of the castle” brand.   Apple used to be the alternative, anti-corporate, artistic, “we try harder” type brand.  IBM was the BMW, blue suit and polished shoes brand, while Apple was VW Bug, tee shirt and sandals brand.  But as much as Apple fought off the arrogant brands like IBM, Microsoft and Sony, they’ve now become that brand. And with that shift, we now see an attitude change–we are seeing a certain Apple arrogance that almost says “come on, where else are you going to go?”  That’s human nature to feel that way as most who now work at Apple are now cult members who joined Apple because they loved the brand.  But that arrogance has a danger to it of thinking you can do no wrong and feel no real competition. Confidence is healthy, arrogance is not. 

Apple has slowed down:  Sales are still strong but thats as the laggard type mass market now enjoys the lead generation products of a few years ago. Next time you’re in an Apple store, look at the table where they are teaching classes and you’ll see a few Senior Citizens. Sales and margins are seeing record highs the past year, but since the middle of 2012, the stock price has floated up and down around $600. If you held stock for the past 24 months, you’re at a break even position.  The high sales are how of how Apple is  doing now, but the stock price is an indication the market is still confused by Apple’s future. If the big play for Apple is China, there’s a good likelihood North America won’t see any leap frog advances for a few years.

I write about Brands all the time.  Samsung has a better product than they do a brand. The reality is the Samsung phone is a better product. It is faster, bigger, and has so many more features than the iPhone. 

Yesterday, I went into my Apple store to upgrade my Iphone 4S to a 5S.  And I asked the strange question:  “so, I’m a current iPhone user and Apple lover, and wondering what price discount that gets me”.  I guess I was using my opening line from when I last bought a car.  It seems like buying a car, so why not. Plus my Scottish blood makes me always eager to save a few bucks.  The guy in the blue shirt looked at me strangely and said “the price of the new iPhone 5S would be $299 with a two year plan.”  So I said, “so there’s no real benefit for me, being an owner of so many Apple products to staying with the Apple brand?”  And he got a bit huffy and said “other than owning a beautiful phone…no”. The guy got up and walked away on me, almost mad that I would even ask.  I felt snubbed.  I wasn’t really expecting a big discount or anything.  But nothing. Here I am in club. And I would get the same deal as a customer walking in off the street. I’m loyal to Apple, but is Apple loyal back to me?  Nope. 

And I smiled like that cult member who could now see a bit of freedom.

So, I went and bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

The most Beloved Brands have to attack themselves before being attacked by competitors.  There’s a reason why Starbucks closed every store for one day to retrain their baristas.  They attacked themselves before competitors could.  And there’s a reason why Sony has lost market leadership in every category they play in.  Arrogance.  I’m afraid Apple’s arrogance has them blindly marching forward, feeling invincible knowing the passion of their cult will follow.  I’m only one customer.  No big deal. But once you’re done fulfilling all the orders of the laggards, then what?  The biggest point of being a beloved brand is to love the consumer.  

I guess like many relationships, I hit my breaking point.  And the guy in the blue shirt basically said “it’s not you, it’s me”.   Now, let me figure out how to send an email on my new phone.  


As Oscar Wilde said: “Never love anyone who treats you like you are ordinary”

To go deeper on the Apple, here’s an article  I wrote 18 months ago, outlining how Apple is not delivering on their brand promise:   Apple: What Goes Up, Might Come Down  Not much has changed since.  


How loved is your brand?

We believe a brand’s source of power is the emotional feelings it generates. With that power comes added profitability.

In the consumer’s mind, brands sit on a Brand Love Curve, with brands going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally becoming a Beloved Brand for Life. At the Beloved stage, demand becomes desire, needs become cravings, thinking is replaced with feelings. Consumers become outspoken fans. It’s this connection that helps drive power for your brand: power versus competitors, versus customers, versus suppliers and even versus the same consumers you’re connected with. The farther along the curve, the more power for the brand. It’s important that you understand where your brand sits on the Love Curve and begin figuring out how to move it along towards becoming a Beloved Brand. With the power of connection, the brand can leverage that power into increased growth and profits. To read more, follow this presentation.



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This is the Idiot Curve!!!

In every job I’ve ever been in, no matter what level, or what company, I rode the IDIOT CURVE.  The idiot curve lasts about 90 days, coincidental to what most companies call probation period.  The basic rule of the Idiot Curve is: You get dumber before you get smarter. 



During the idiot curve, the first thing to go is your instincts. Your brain is only so big, that all the new facts you learn, that when pressed, you reach for one of these new facts instead of using your instincts.  The second thing to go is your ability to make decisions.  New jobs are always stressful–trying to impress your boss, trying to maintain composure with ambiguity, and trying to deliver when you aren’t sure how to do that yet.  Most of us think that stress impacts execution first.  But really it impacts decision-making–you might find yourself frozen like a dear in the headlights or you might make choices you think you are supposed to make instead of  taking the time to think things through.  The third thing to go is your natural strengths. Everyone has natural strengths and natural weaknesses. But in these early days, you spend too much time, covering up the weaknesses, that you don’t allow your strengths to fully show.  

The Idiot Curve keeps showing up whether you’re a new ABM, Brand Manager, Director or a VP.  The challenge for your is to learn as much as you can, and ensure your curve only lasts 90 days.  

New Assistant Brand Manager:

When you first land an Assistant Brand Manager (ABM) job in marketing, there’s just so much to learn, it’s like drinking from a fire hose. I find it takes 3 months to get back to being just as smart as you were on the first day.  It’s over-whelming at first, and yet you see all these other Assistant Brand Managers doing the things you are struggling with, it’s even more intimidating.  But the idiot curve is inevitable. No matter how smart you are, how much you try to fight the idiot curve, it’s there.  It shows up differently for each person.  So my advice is instead of trying to fight it, I recommend you just ride the curve.  In the end, the ABM job is a stepping stone to Brand Manager. Many painful days, with constant bumps and bruises as you learn and as you strive for getting promoted.  So what separates the ok ABM from the great ABM that gets promoted?  There are two factors that I have seen in a consistent manner:  #1: They get what they need and #2:  What they need is the right thing to do.   Very simply put, great ABMs get both.   The rest either fail on #1 or #2.    A great ABM is able to tell stories, where others just see data.  The great ones take action and moves before being asked. Even in a busy job as a do-er, the best ABMs find a way to put their strategic thoughts forward.  A great ABM is accountable in the ownership of their work–they have to be, because the Brand Manager has to be an owner and if we can’t see you own your work, how can we see you own your brand.  

New Brand Manager:

In the first few months as a Brand Manager, they keep doing the ABM role because that’s what they know and what they are comfortable doing. They keep recommending and acting small rather than start deciding and stepping up to the leadership role.  If they have a direct report, they will frustrate the hell out of their ABM by doing the stuff the ABM should do. Don’t tell your ABM this dirty secret, but most managers suck at their first five direct reports.  Now don’t use this as excuse, but the only way you’ll be good at #6 is if you learn from the first five.  I remember a new Brand Manager telling me this his role was to get his ABM promoted, and he would do everything to make sure that happens.  I said “what if your ABM can’t do the job, and we have to let them go?”  Yes, it’s honorable to do that, but not always realistic.  Once you start to show ownership, you’ll be able to get out of the idiot curve. You Run the Brand, Don’t Let the Brand Run You: Be thoroughly organized, well planned and know the pulse of your business.  In an odd way, the more planning you do, the more agile you’ll be, because you’ll know when it’s ok to “go off plan”Stay in Control:  Hit the Deadlines, don’t give the appearance that you’re not in control. Know Your Business and don’t get caught off-guard.  Make sure you are asking the questions and carrying forward the knowledge.  What separates many Brand Managers is the inability and even refusal of some Brand Managers to actually rely on their instincts, instead of just the textbook answer.   It’s not easy to sit there without the answer, but sometimes if you just wait a bit longer and keep pushing for an even better answer, it will come to you.  My challenge to you: Revel in ambiguity. Enjoy the uncertainty and find the answers to the unknown.  A great BM takes ownership of the brand.  The best ones provide the vision and the strategies to match up to that vision. The great BMs learn how to be a people manager and they spend the effort to make their ABM as good as can be.  The best Brand Managers learn to show composure in the face of pressure–the pressure to deliver results, hit deadlines, face ambiguity and build relationships.    

New Director

At the Director role, just like they had a hard time they continue to be the Brand Manager. They get nervous where they shouldn’t, whether it’s with senior people in other functions or even within marketing. They prefer to keep doing, and in those moment there is nothing “to do”, they walk around and start doing other people’s jobs.  But this is the first role where being a leader is more important than being a do-er.  Ensure a policy of open communication with no surprises:  Make sure you keep your team informed and involved.  Keep senior management informed. You are the champion of the team.  The best ideas are those that erupt out from the brand team–not from a top down perspective.  All the best work I was part of, met a large degree of resistance.  You have to expect this and work through it. It will now be your role to make sure the great ideas happen, and that no one beyond you sees the bad ideas. Once you get past the first 90 days, you have to begin focusing on creating a consistency for your team.  You are the leader and they have to understand you. You have to hold them to a consistent hight standard of work. You need to be consistent in how you think.  You need to be consistent and even predictable in how you show up to your people.  No mood swings.  No changing your mind constantly, which just creates spin.  You need to be the decision maker on stuff, or nothing gets done.  At this level, you need to show up consistently to the sales team so they can rely on you as a partner.

New VP

First time at the executive level is difficult. At the VP level,the first few months are lonely as you no longer have peers you can bounce ideas off. Your former peers will treat you differently, almost at arms lengths.  Some may even be mad you got the job.  But most, now assume their career rests in your hands, and they will treat you as the boss. They aren’t your friends anymore.  Sorry.  Your new peers assume you can do the job, and they don`t want to hear your problems.  I remember being a new VP, and having a “people issue” on my team, and I was sitting with my sales peer.  I thought this was a great bonding opportunity to ask for help and advice from my new peer.  He said “we all have problems, good luck on that one”.   While your people run the brands and the execution, you should run the P&L and essentially run all the marketing processes.  I do have a believe that if you focus on the People and the Results will come.  You should be spending 50% of your time on people.  The counter to this believe is bad people will hold you back.  You can’t do their job, nor compensate for their weaknesses.  You either make them better or move them out.  You don’t do anything anymore. At all.  Let your people do it, let them own it and let them shine.  Not only do you not do anything, you also don’t really know anything.  You should be the dumbest person in every meeting–well, the least knowledgeable.  Not knowing the details is actually a power–because you can use your instincts more.  And instead of having your head filled with great ANSWERS, it should be filled with great QUESTIONS,  If you think you are a powerful leader because you dictate every move on the team, just wait till you shift towards the power that comes from asking questions.  

Tips to make the Idiot curve a little easier  

  1. Say “I’m new” A LOT!!!!   And let your guard down and say “I have never done this before, so if you could help me out that would be great” to as many people as you can.  It’s my experience that people are willing to help those who let their guard down a little.  Just not the same person every day, or that one person will think you are the biggest idiot ever.  In other words, spread out your stupidity with a little for everyone around you.  
  2. Respect subject matter experts.  The oddest thing about marketing is you have to get people with way more knowledge and experience to follow you.  Not an easy balance.  But realize, they see so many marketers come and go.  Marketers don’t really do anything, but they do get to make decisions on almost everything.  When a marketer tells a subject matter expert what to do, they weaken themselves.  Be realistic:  you don’t know any thing and yet you just ignored the one person that does.  Ask them what you should do.  It doesn’t take away your decision-making power.  They’ll be more motivated to help you.  
  3. Keep reaching for your instincts.  Take your time.  Even take a breath.  Think back to what you would say if you were thinking clearly, free from all that new information that is cluttering your brain. Listen to your inner thoughts, they are in there.   Too many times people fail because “they went along with it even though they didn’t like it”.  The problem is that sometimes your instincts are hidden away.  You get confused, you feel the pressure to get things done and you’ve got everyone telling you to go for it.  You get scared because you’re worried about getting promoted and want to do the ‘right thing’.  But your gut is telling you it’s just not right.  My rule is simple:  if you don’t love the work, how do you expect the consumer to love your brand.  The worst type of marketer is someone who says “I never liked the brief” or “I never liked the ad”.  If you blame your agency or team after the fact, I have a word for people like you:  “useless”.
  4. Questions are a source of power.  When you’re new to marketing, ask “how do i do this?”.  When you’re a Leader, ask your experts “what do you think we should do?”   And at the executive level, steer the team by being the one that challenges with well thought strategic questions that make your team think, push for their instincts and make good decisions.  
  5. Make sure your idiot curve ONLY lasts 90 days.  The more you push yourself to learn as much as you can in that short 90 day window, allows you to be able to do the job at the end of the 90 days.  As you look at the curve again, you have to be as smart at day 90 as you were at day 1. If you are three years into a job and saying “how do i do this?”, it won’t be pretty.  Trust me, I’ve managed some, worked along side others and even worked for a few whose idiot curve seemed to last for years. Eventually, it caught up to them.  


 Don’t fight the Idiot Curve. We all face it. Ride it. Learn from it. And go beyond It.  

To read a presentation on careers:

Articles on the Four Levels of Marketing
  • Assistant Brand Manager:  It’s about doing; analyzing and sending signals you have leadership skills for the future.  It’s not an easy job and only 50% get promoted to Brand Manager.  To read a story on how to be successful as an ABM, click on the following hyper link:  How to be a Successful ABM and get Promoted
  • Brand Manager:  It becomes about ownership and strategic thinking within your brand plan.  Most Brand Managers are honestly a disaster with their first direct report, and get better around the fifth report.  The good ones let the ABM do their job; the bad ones jump in too much, frustrated and impatient rather than acting as a teacher.  To read about being a successful Brand Manager, read:  How to be a Successful Brand Manager
  • Marketing Director:  It’s more about managing and leading than it does about thinking and doing.  Your role is to set the standard and then hold everyone to that standard.  To be great, you need to motivate the greatness from your team and let your best players to do their absolute best.  Let your best people shine, grow and push you.  Follow this hyper link to read more:   How to be a Successful Marketing Director
  • VP Marketing or CMO:  It’s about leadership, vision and getting the most from people.  If you are good at it, you won’t need to do any marketing, other than challenging and guiding your people to do their best work. You have to deliver the results, and very few figure out the equation that the better the people means the better the work and in the end the better the results. Invest in training as a way to motivate your team and keep them engaged.  Use teaching moments to share your wisdom. Read the following article for how to be a success:  How to be a Successful VP of Marketing


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8 Simple Ways that Brand Leaders can impact Profits

The ugly truth is that too many marketers chose marketing as a career in business school because they hated accounting and finance. They were drawn to the strategy or creativity of marketing, hoping that someone else would do the accounting.  But in reality, from the CEO’s point of view, the only reason marketers exist is to drive growth and profit for an organization, with a focus on ROI (return on investment) for all those creative marketing programs.  

The more love you can create for your brand, the more power and profits you can generate. At Beloved Brands, it is our belief that marketers need to create more love for their brand, but not just for loves sake, but for the sake of profit.  Love = Connection + Power + Profit. That bond between your brand and your consumer becomes a source of power for your brand, whether that power is with the very consumers who love your brand, versus retailers, suppliers, competitors, influencers, employees or even versus the media. Once you’re able to generate power for your brand, you can then turn that into profit, whether driving price, cost control, market share or increasing the market size. 



Driving Profit

While good marketers can run brands and marketing programs.  Great marketers can drive their brands P&L and deliver growth and profit for their brands.  Here are  eight ways the Brand Leader can drive profits:

  1. Pricing
  2. Trading the consumer up or down
  3. Product Costs
  4. Marketing Costs
  5. Stealing other users
  6. Getting current users to use more
  7. Enter new categories
  8. Create new Uses for your brand 


1.  Pricing

While many marketers think of price as a defensive reaction, most times to counter inflation or something happening in the trade channels, marketers should refocus and start using price as a weapon to drive Brand Value. Beloved Brands seem more capable at driving profits through pricing, but they also are careful to ensure the premium does not become excessive to create backlash.

  • Price Increase: You can do a price increase if the market or brand allows you. It likely has to be based on passing along cost increases. Factors that help are whether you are a healthy brand or it’s a healthy market as well as the power of your brand vs. competition and channel.
  • Price Decrease: Used when fighting off competitor, if you need to react to a sluggish economy or channel pressure. Another reason to decrease price is if you have a competitive advantage around cost, whether that’s manufacturing, materials or distribution.

There are watch outs for price changes. It’s difficult to execute especially if it has to go through retailers. You need to understand power relationships–how powerful are the retailers. Many times, price changes are scrutinized so badly by retailers that you must have proof of why you are doing it. It’s likely your Competitors will over-react. So your assumptions you used to go with the price increase will change right after. And finally, it’s not easy to change back.

2.  Trading the Consumer Up or Down

Aside from price increases, another strategy would to create a range of products that allows you to reach up or down to a new set of consumers.  You need to ensure that you are doing this for the right reason or it could backfire on you.  

  • Trading Up: If you have a range of products, sometimes it can be beneficial to get consumers to trade up. Can you carve out a meaningful difference to create a second tier that goes beyond your current brand? Do your brand image/ratings allow it?
  • Trading DownRisky, but you see un-served market, with minimal damage to image/reputation of the brand. In a tough economy, it might be better to create a value set of products rather than lower the price on your main products.

There are a few watch outs around trying to trade up or down: Premium skus can feel orphaned at retail world—on the shelf or missing ads or displays. Managing multiple price levels can be difficult—what to support, price differences etc. For all the effort you go to, make sure your margins stay consistently strong through the trading up or down. Be careful that you don’t lose focus on your core business. You can’t be all things to everyone. The final concern is what it does your Brand’s image, especially risky when trading downward.

3.  Product Costs

Managing cost as a weapon to enhance the Brand’s Value. It can be either your cost of goods or the marketing costs.  As marketers, we sometimes think cost is someone else’s job.  But it’s an effective weapon that marketers should be utilizing.  

  • Cost of Goods Decreases: You are able to use the power of your brand to drive power over your suppliers; you find cheaper potential raw materials, process improvement or find off-shore manufacturing.
  • Cost of Goods Increases: Make sure that you manage the COGs as they increase. Watch out for suppliers trying to pass along costs. But realize that with new technology, investing in brand’s improved image, going after premium markets, offering new benefit or a format change, that cost of good increases could be a reality.

The watch outs with managing costs: with cuts, make sure the product change is not significantly noticeable. You should understand any potential impact in the eyes of your consumer on your brand’s performance and image. Can the P&L cover these costs, either increased sales or efficiency elsewhere? Managing your margin % is crucial to the long-term success of your brand.

4. Marketing Costs

As marketers sometimes we get protective of the amount, hoping to have as much money as we can to carry out the activities on our priority lists.  But we should be looking at marketing costs from the view point of the CEO, with a focus on making sure every program drives profit.  

  • Marketing Cost Decrease: To counter changes in the P&L (price, volume or cost), it’s very tempting to look to short-term P&L management or look at changes in go-to-market model. Where a brand stands on the product life cycle or how loved the brand is can really impact the selling costs. Even though we think that Beloved Brands have endless spending, they actually likely have a lower investment to sales ratio.
  • Marketing Cost Increase: When you’re in Investment mode, defensive position trying to hold share against an aggressive competitor or when you see a proven payback in higher sales–with corresponding margins.

Always be in an ROI mindset: Manage your marketing costs as though every DOLLAR has to efficiently drive sales. Realize that short-term cuts can carry longer term impact. Competitive reaction can influence the impact of investment stance–like a price change, your competitor might over-react to your increases in spending.

5. Stealing other Users

Externally, the Share and Volume game are traditional tools for brand. Either stealing other users or getting current users to use more.

  • Offensive Share Gains: Use it when you have a significant Competitive Advantage or you see untapped needs in the market. Or opportunistic, use first mover advantage on new technology.
  • Defensive Share Stance: Hold the fort until you can catch up on technology, maintain profitability, loyal base of followers needs protecting.

Be careful when trying to gain share. A Beloved Brand has a drawing power where it does gain share without having to use attack modes. Attacking competitors can be difficult. It could just become a spend escalation with both brands just going at it. After a share war that’s not based on a substantive reasoning (eg. technology change), there might end up with no winners, just losers. Many times, the channel will try to play one competitor against another for their own gain. Watch out what consumers you target in a competitive battle: some may just come in because of the lower price and go back to their usual brand.

6. Getting Users to Use More

Going after frequency is a different strategy.  

  • Share of Requirements:  In many categories, even loyal consumers will work within a competitive set of favourite brands. A good strategy is to provide a reason (claim, experience, emotion) for loyal consumers to stay with your brand.  
  • Get Current Users to Use More: When there is an opportunity to turn loyal users into creating a potential routine. Changing behaviours is more difficult than enticing trial. It’s a good strategy to use, when your there’s real benefit to your consumer using more. It’s hard to just get them to use more without a real reason.

There has to be a real benefit connected to using more or it might look hollow/shallow. Driving routines is a challenge. Even with “lifesaving” medicines, the biggest issue is compliance. Find something in their current life to help either ground it or latch onto. When I worked on Listerine, people only used mouthwash 20-30 times a year compared to 700+ brushing occasions. So we focused on connecting rinsing with Listerine to the twice daily brushing routine.

7. Enter New Categories  

When there is an untapped or under-served need. There could be a significant changing demographic that impacts your base. Or you are able to translate/transfer your reputation to a new user group. There should be something within your product/brand that helps fuel the brand post trial. Trial without repeat, means you’ll get the spike but then bust. Substantial investment required. Don’t let it distract from protecting the base loyal users.

8. Create New Uses

Format Line Extensions that take your experience or name elsewhere. Able to leverage same benefit in convenient “on the go” offering. Make sure current brand is in order before you divert attention, funding and focus on expansion area. Investment needed, could divert from spend on base business. Be careful because the legendary stories (Arm and Hammer) don’t come along as much as we hope.

Beloved Brands drive strong sales growth, which helps the P&L work harder and more efficiently.

With all the love and power the Beloved Brand has generated for itself, now is the time to translate that into growth, profit and value. The Beloved Brand has an Inelastic Price. The loyal brand fans pay a 20-30% price premium and the weakened channels cave to give deeper margins. We will see how inelastic Apple’s price points are with the new iPad Mini. Consumers are willing to trade up to the best model. The more engaged employees begin to generate an even better brand experience. For instance at Starbucks, employees know the names of their most loyal of customers. Blind taste tests show consumers prefer the cheaper McDonald’s coffee but still pay 4x as much for a Starbucks. So is it still coffee you’re buying?

A well-run Beloved Brand can use their efficiency to lower their cost structure. Not only can they use their growth to drive economies of scale, but suppliers will cut their cost just to be on the roster of a Beloved Brand. They will benefit from the free media through earned, social and search media. They may even find government offer subsidies to be in the community or partners willing to lower their costs to be part of the brand. For instance, a real estate owner would likely give lower costs and better locations to McDonald’s than an indifferent brand. Apple get a billion dollars worth of free media, with launches covered on CNN for 2 weeks prior the launch and carried live like it’s a news event.

Beloved Brands have momentum they can turn into share gains. Crowds draw crowds which spreads the base of the loyal consumers. Putting the Disney name on a movie generates a crowd at the door on day 1. Competitors can’t compete–lower margins means less investment back into the brand. It’s hard for them to fight the Beloved Brand on the emotional basis leaving them to a niche that’s currently unfulfilled. Walk past an Apple store 15 minutes before it’s open and you’ll see a crowd waiting to get in–even when there are no new products.

Beloved Brands can enter into new categories knowing their loyal consumers will follow because they buy into the Idea of the Brand. The idea is no longer tied to the product or service but rather how it makes you feel about yourself. Nike is all about winning, whether that’s in running shoes, athletic gear or even golf equipment

profit chart

Here are lessons learned for driving more profits for your brand.

  1. Higher volume helps you exert pressure on costs. That could be supply costs, operations costs, and distribution over even media costs.
  2. Get More for Less From the Trade. You can begin exerting power over the sales channels to your advantage–trimming variable trade costs with retailers while demanding more display, prime real estate, coop advertising and more control over pricing. ROI on trade programs.
  3. Smarter More Efficient Management: manage your inventories, meet customer expectations, control pricing and drive cheaper costs.
  4. Growth means you start outgrowing any fixed costs. This includes start-up costs, sales force, product plants or R&D costs.
  5. Lower Cost of Capital: More certainty means lower risk and you can re-invest, knowing the ROI will be quicker and stronger.


 Love = Power + Profit



How loved is your brand?

We believe a brand’s source of power is the emotional feelings it generates. With that power comes added profitability.

In the consumer’s mind, brands sit on a Brand Love Curve, with brands going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally becoming a Beloved Brand for Life. At the Beloved stage, demand becomes desire, needs become cravings, thinking is replaced with feelings. Consumers become outspoken fans. It’s this connection that helps drive power for your brand: power versus competitors, versus customers, versus suppliers and even versus the same consumers you’re connected with. The farther along the curve, the more power for the brand. It’s important that you understand where your brand sits on the Love Curve and begin figuring out how to move it along towards becoming a Beloved Brand. With the power of connection, the brand can leverage that power into increased growth and profits. To read more, follow this presentation.


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How to deal with the STRESS of being a Brand Leader

1602788784_1393529605When I was in University trying to figure out my career, my mom said “what about an actuary?”   What a great career:  you make a good living and you have the longest life expectancy of any career.  The life expectancy is directly related to the lack of stress.  Instead I chose Marketing, where the jobs are highly stressful.  Plain and simple.  I spent 20 years in marketing, and no matter what the level, whether as a new Assistant Brand Manager or a VP with 20 years of experience, I found it highly stressful job.  As an ABM, I felt constantly reminded that “not everyone gets promoted” so I worked my ass off just to get that Brand Manager job.  As you move up, through each promotion, that insecurity never goes away, but rather it pushes you extra hard.  At the VP level, you are still reminded that “most CMOs only last 36 months”. The stress never ends.  But I loved every day of my marketing career.   Even with the stress.

Here are the 6 degrees of stress that Brand Leaders face:

  • Ambiguity is one of the hardest pressures you will face. There really is no exact answer. As my Economics prof once said “economics proves what happens in real life can actually happen in theory as well”.  I love that answer because marketers drive those supply and demand curves. And similarly, we have to use a combination of fundamentals and instinct to make the right choices. As a leader, patience and composure help you sort through the issues. The consequences of not remaining composed are a scared team and choosing quick decisions with bad results. The consequence of stress is usually decision-making first.  So take your time, slow down your thinking, map out decision trees, use tools to help you support your instincts. And make a decision. Most marketers faced with A or B, try to find a way to choose both, but that just depletes your resources by spreading them against two options. 
  • If the Results don’t come in, it can be frustrating. The key to making sure you can hit your results is to make good projections. You should always be doing regular deep dive analysis to ensure you know what’s going on, and can summarize the key issues. When faced with struggling results, reach for your logic as you re-group. Force yourself to course correct, rather than continuing to repeat and repeat and repeat. Challenge team to “this is when we are needed as a motivation to dig deep and fix the business in front of you.  As the leader, if you can put a time frame on how long it might take to turn things around, it can help manage your teams stress and work load level.  (eg.  For the next 3 months, we’ll need all hands on deck as we turn around the extra strength business)  The focus helps cut the ambiguity
  • At various times in your career, relationships can cause you a lot of stress. Organizations have natural conflict points with conflicting priorities.  For most marketers, the sales team can be a stress point, as they try to close any short-term gaps while you try to drive longer term equity.  Be pro-active in making the first move to build a relationship. Try to figure out what motivates and what annoys the other person. Understand and reach for common ground, which most times is not that far away. Have regular touch points, to hear them out.  I used to have regular lunches with the key account sales directors, mainly to hear them out. I would get nothing during the lunch but a ton between the lunches. I only figured out this late in my career, after years of butting heads with sales at all stages of my career. The other conflict is with your ad agency.  They value pride in work more than they do results. If you can find that happy medium where they are motivated to do great work that drives your results, then you’ll have great advertising. Don’t treat them like a supplier you pay.  That won’t work.  You have to inspire, motivate and energize your agency.  Always tap into their pride.
  • Time Pressure is almost the opposite of ambiguity. Many marketers think being creative means you can have some weakness on being organized.  Not true.  You have to be organized, disciplined and work the system so it doesn’t get in your way.   Be calm, so you continue to make the right decisions. And you can actually use time to your advantage, if you can stay cool in the face of deadlines, you can use those time constraints to get everyone focused on the simple answers.  Time can focus your team, as long as you stay cool.  If you get stressed, everyone just freezes.
  • Managing your career:  The best marketers are ambitious and want to get ahead. CPG marketing is still an “up or out” mentality, which puts added pressure to keep moving up.  But your career changes at every stage of the marketing career, so there is a constant change on the pressure.  When you’re a junior marketer, it is all about doing–and making it happen through subject matter experts. Here’s where you also to manage your boss, to make sure they are aware of what you want. I recommend you think of your career as three different aspects:  skills, behaviours and experiences. And as you move up, you need to make sure you are well rounded in each of those.  Identify the gaps, and look to close those through your career choices.   
  • Your personal life:  During your career, there will be tons of things happen in your personal life that can trickle into your work life. Your personal life during your career will be full:  you could be getting married, buying a house and having kids. But you have to be able to compartmentalize and almost separate the personal from the professional life. But just like not taking your personal life to work, you can’t take your work life home.  It’s even harder today to compartmentalize with smart phones that never turn off. But, a career is a marathon, not a series of sprints. 

One thing to keep in mind is the Idiot Curve. slide123At every new job, I find it takes 3 months to get back to being just as smart as you were on the first day. The basic rule is: You get dumber before you get smarter. We’ve promoted some great ABMs and watch them struggle and wonder if we made a mistake. But the idiot curve is inevitable. It just shows up differently for each person. No matter how hard you fight it, you have to ride the curve. (But, please fight through the curve, you have to for your survival) The biggest gap is that you forget to use your instincts. You spend so much of your time trying to absorb all that is coming at you, that you reach for the basic process instead of your brains. You might be working on a project for weeks before you think to even look at the budget. You work on a promotion for Wal-Mart and then think “oh ya, I should talk to the Wal-Mart sales manager and see what he thinks”. Or you say something in a meeting you think you’re supposed to say, but it doesn’t even resemble anything that you think, feel or believe in. That’s the idiot curve. And it will last 3 months. And you’ll experience it in a new and exciting way you can’t even predict. Feel free to let me know which way so I can add it to the list. (I won’t show names)

I also found at each new level, it got lonely during the first few months.  You don’t know your new peers and it takes them a while to accept you.  Your friends, who might have been former peers treat you differently now.   

Stress will happen, but be ready for it.  The best way to deal with uncertainty is to make sure you  organized and ready to handle it.  Here are some ways to get organized and manage what is controllable:  

  • Hit the Deadlines: Don’t look out of control or sloppy. We have enough to do, that things will just stockpile on each other.
  • Know Your Business: Don’t get caught off-guard. Make sure you are asking the questions and carrying forward the knowledge.
  • Open Communication: No surprises. Keep everyone aware of what’s going on. Present upwards with an action plan of what to do with it.  
  • Listen and Decide: While it’s crucial that we seek to understand, it’s equally important that we give direction or push towards the end path.
  • We must get better: When we don’t know something, speak in an “asking way”, but when we know, speak in a “telling way”.
  • We control Our Destiny: We run the brands, they do not run us. Be slightly ahead of the game, not chasing your work to completion.
  • Regular Feedback for Growth:You should always take feedback, good or bad, as a lesson for you. Not a personal attack or setback.

It’s crucial that you learn to deal with stress you move up, because the stress increases with each level.  Being unable to handle stress will eat you alive and likely limit your career.  To me, one of the best stress relievers has been the work itself.  I pushed myself to love the work.  Being satisfied helped my stress level.  Whenever I settled for OK, it ate away at me for months, regretting I settled.  

Love what you do.  Live why you do it.  


To read more on managing your marketing carer, read the following presentation:

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Taco Bell takes on McDonald’s Head On. First with Ronald McDonald and now telling consumers to “move on from your old Egg McMuffin”

urlWow, these latest Taco Bell ads take a lot of guts!!!!  The new ads from Taco Bell take on the golden arches head on by using long time icon Ronald McDonald.  Not quite the mascot, but if you watch below you will see how inventive and cute this spot is.  I sure hope Taco Bell has the word “cheeky” in the creative brief because they sure are nailing it. In a highly competitive fast food category, Taco Bell does stand out as being different–not just in the food items they offer, but in the creatively aggressive advertising.  A great lesson for Brand Leaders, you really have four choices:  different, better, cheaper or not around for very long.  Having gone into an empty Burger King at the dinner hour last month, my prediction is that they are taking the “not around for very long” strategy.  Here’s Taco Bell and here’s what different looks like: 


And here’s the latest with a little jingle that calls out the Egg McMuffin as so yesterday (he takes down his Loverboy poster), and asks consumers “move on”.




As I said earlier in the week, I love McDonald’s.  Click here to read a story about how McDonald’s takes a wonderful Advertising idea…and makes a complete disaster out of it 

Great job Taco Bell.  Keep being Different



Do you want to be an amazing Brand Leader?  We can help you.  

Read more on how to utilize our Brand Leadership Learning Center where you will receive training in all aspects of marketing whether that’s strategic thinking, brand plans, creative briefs, brand positioning, analytical skills or how to judge advertising.  We can customize a program that is right for you or your team.  We can work in person, over the phone or through Skype.  Ask us how we can help you. 

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:




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