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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Alibaba will win

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

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

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

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

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

Competitive Brand Strategy

 

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

 

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

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

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

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

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

At Beloved Brands, we deliver brand training programs that make brand leaders smarter so they are able to drive added growth on your brands. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution.

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

If you need our help, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or call me at 416 885 3911

Graham Robertson Beloved Brands

 

How can a junk business be the best consumer experience of any brand I’ve ever seen

1-800-GotJunkHaving been in our current house for 16 years, as our kids have gone from 4 up to 20 years old, we have naturally accumulated a lot of junk.

Sure they are memories, but at various stages, it has become overwhelming and we needed to create more space, to accumulate even more junk.  And repeat.

We have called 1-800-Got-Junk three times now. And as a brand guy, I’ve been mesmerized by how great of an experience it has been.

As soon as you open the door, you think “This is the type of guy, I wish my daughter would bring home, and say Dad, this is who I’m going to marry”.

Articulate, polite, college kids, smart. Almost just perfect.

They put on their little booties, and walk around the house with you. Every time you point at something, they nod, smile and write it down. Even as you apologize for how much we have, or how rough things look,  they always give the perfect response. Not only can they hold a conversation during the 2-3 hours of the visit, it seems they almost start conversations. I don’t know how they do it, but the people they hire keep smiling and talking as they cart off….junk.

And after each of the three visits, I say to my wife “How can a junk company create such a perfect culture?”

It’s all about the people.

That’s one of the mantras of 1-800-Got-Junk, but they seem to have gone beyond the cliche.

When CEO Brian Scudamore was asked how do you create such happy people, his response was simple: “We hire happy people and keep them happy”.

It doesn’t hurt that they give 5 weeks of paid vacation. Well, not only does that keep the people happy, but it allows you to recruit the best of the best.

Brian Scudamore started his company in 1989 at 18 years old, when he was in a McDonald’s drive thru, and saw a junk removal company. The company grew through the 1990s into a million dollar company, expanded through a franchise model that moved it to a $200 million in annual sales. They pick up junk. 

At various points along his personal journey, Scudamore has used a “painted picture” vision to take a step back. In 1997, he sat on a dock and tried to visualize what the company could look like in the future. His perspective changed when instead of worrying about what wasn’t possible, he began to paint a picture in his head of what was. He closed his eyes and envisioned how he wanted 1-800-GOT-JUNK? to look, feel, and act by the end of 2002.

“My painted picture contained not only tangible business achievements like the number of franchises we would have and the quality of our trucks, but also more sensory details, like how our employees would describe our company to their family members and what our customers would say they loved best about working with us.”  

Brian Scudamore, CEO of 1-800-Got-Junk

Scudamore amore still uses this technique, trying to visualize what life and your business will look like in 5 years. In 2008, as the economy started to tank, he took another huge personal reflection, writing down what he loved and what he was good at. The two lists almost matched up perfectly, as his passion and skills matched up. Then, he wrote down what he didn’t love and what he wasn’t very good at. He realized he needed to build a team around him, with individuals who could cover off his weaknesses. The overall vision is to make ordinary businesses extraordinary.  

Here’s a few of the questions that Scudamore asks of himself:

  • What is your top-line revenue?
  • How many people are on your team?
  • How would your people describe the culture of your company when talking to a family member?
  • What is the press saying about your business? Be as specific as possible: what would your local paper say about your company? What would your favorite magazine say?
  • What do your people love about your vision and where the company is headed?
  • How would a customer describe their experience with you? What would they say to their best friend?
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of? What accomplishment are your people most proud of?
  • What do you do better than anyone else on the planet?
  • Describe your office environment in detail.
  • Describe your service area. Who are your customers and how do they feel?

To really make your culture part of the brand, Scudamore has made this visualization part of the culture, with an annual release of a new painted picture, plus quarterly meetings that articulate the painted picture. He’s even cascaded this technique down to his franchise owners, where each franchise articulates what they see for themselves. This allows the culture to form around the vision.

“Do What You Love; Let Others Handle the Rest”

Brian Scudamore, CEO of 1-800-Got-Junk

If you want to learn how to show up better, we train marketing teams on how to get better Brand Plans, helping to lay out the vision, goals, issues, strategies and tactics.  

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

Graham Robertson Bio Brand Training Coach Consultant

If you want to do great work in Marketing, go work on a boring product. 

I started my career in kids cereals and every time I tried to do something interesting, I was told “No, we can’t do that” or my VP looked at me sideways like I was crazy.

I kept thinking, my god, “This category is supposed to be the most fun category to work in”. 

So, why can’t we have fun?

The odd answer:  We are already fun.

So then I went to work in healthcare marketing, on Benadryl, Listerine, Reactine, Nicoderm and Band Aid. 

I spent a decade thriving in creativity.

I had fun. Lots and lots of fun. And we made great work.

We needed to be interesting just to stand out. Management welcomed creativity, almost with a relief.  

One of my colleagues summed up what we do: “We make a mountain out of a mole hill”.

Boring products are where you can have the most fun.

This is where the best Marketers thrive. Making boring products interesting.

2017 has been a boring year for Marketing. Lots of little gadgets, but man, I’ve been craving big creative ideas all year. And, I’ve been constantly disappointed. 

Today, I want to celebrate Windex, a severely boring product, that created a 2 and 1/2 minute video that will certainly make you cry. 

I love it. 

Well done Windex team.

You have taken a boring-ass product and made it really interesting. 

 

 

My own story on Nicoderm

When I worked on Nicoderm, someone on my brand team told me “Quitting smoking is very serious, so we should have a serious ad”.

I wasn’t buying it.

My agency really struggled. Two months went by. 

They presented me some of the work, and I thought “my god, it’s dull”.

The Agency secretly told me they hated the work and wanted me to take off the handcuffs that the work must be serious. 

They gave me permission to trash it, so that we opened up fun as a possibility. I did.

The next round, we had too many great ideas, and we were in a position where we were able to pick one among them.

This is the ad that won J&J’s global ad of the year in 2007. 

You don’t need to be serious, to communicate something serious.

Marketing should be fun.

If we don’t love the work, how do we expect the consumer to love our brand?

 

If you want to learn how to show up better, we train marketing teams on how to get better Marketing Execution. We go through how to write better briefs, how to make better decisions and how to give inspiring feedback to realize the greatness of your creative people. Here’s what the workshop looks like:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

Graham Robertson Bio Brand Training Coach Consultant

 

 

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

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

Nail the obvious

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

What is non-negotiable:

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

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

The crucial marketing skills

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

1. Analyze performance

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

2. Think Strategically

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

3. Define the brand

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

4. Create Brand Plans

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

5. Inspire creative execution

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

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

Brand Careers Skills Behaviors Experiences

The leader behaviors

1. Accountable for results

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

2. People leadership

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

3. Broad influence

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

4. Authentic style

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

5. Runs business like an owner

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

The necessary experiences 

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

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

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

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

Brand Careers Skills Behaviors Experiences

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

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you need our help, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or call me at 416 885 3911

Graham Robertson Bio Brand Training Coach Consultant

 

McDonald’s service hits rock bottom in drive thru ratings

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

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

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

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

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

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

McDonald's Service level

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

McDonald’s service might just get worse, not better

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

How do you communicate your brand story internally?

With most brands I meet up with, I ask “What is the Big Idea behind your brand?” I rarely get a great answer. When I ask a Leadership Team, I normally get a variety answers. When I ask the most far-reaching sales reps, the scientists in the lab or their retailer partners, the answers get worse. That is not healthy. Everyone who touches that brand should be able to explain what it stands for in seven seconds, sixty seconds, thirty minutes or at every consumer touch-point. They should always be delivering the same message. There are too many Brands where what gets said to the consumer is different from what gets said inside the corporate walls. The Big Idea must organize the culture to ensure everyone who is tasked to meet the needs of both consumers and customers, whether they are in HR, product development, finance, operations and experience delivery teams, must all know their role in delivering the Big Idea.

Too many brands believe brand messaging is something that Advertising does. The more focus we put on delivering an amazing consumer experience, the more we need to make sure the external and internal brand story are aligned. It should be the Big Idea that drives that story. Every communication to employees, whether in a town-hall speech, simple memo or celebration should touch upon the brand values that flow from the Big Idea, highlighting examples when employees have delivered on a certain brand value.

brand culture

The Big Idea Should Drive The Culture

Brand Management was originally built on a hub-and-spoke system, with the Brand Manager expected to sit right in the middle of the organization, helping drive everything and everyone around the Brand. However, it should actually be the brand’s Big Idea that sits at the center, with everyone connected to the brand expected to understand and deliver the idea. Aligning the brand with the culture is essential to the long-term success of the brand. The best brands look to the overall culture as an asset that helps create a powerful consumer experience. The expected behaviors of the operations team behind the consumer experience should flow out of the brand values that flow from the big idea. These values act as guideposts to ensure that the behavior of everyone in the organization is set to deliver the brand’s promise.

 

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

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

Graham Robertson Bio Brand Training Coach Consultant

How to build your brand positioning statement around benefit clusters

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

The Consumer Benefits Ladder

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

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

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

Functional Benefits

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

Functional benefit Cheat Sheet

Emotional Benefits

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

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

Emotional benefit Cheat Sheet

Build Around Benefit Clusters

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

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

Consumer Benefit Clusters

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

Consumer Benefits

Benefit sort

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

Positioning Grid

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

Turning it into a Brand Positioning Statement

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

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

Brand Positioning Statement

 

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

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

We help brands find growth

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

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

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

We make Brand Leaders smarter

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

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

If you need our help, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or call me at 416 885 3911

 

 

Graham Robertson bio

The miraculous transition of China is happening, but it may take the entire century to complete.

China is in the midst of rapid growth that will continue to transform the country into an economic powerhouse throughout this century. As a Canadian, I find it fascinating to see elements that are ahead and behind the western world.

Old world versus future world

There are many layers of complexity within China, whether cultures, tiers of cities or the stark differences in generations. The older adults are living the simple lifestyle they learned in the 20th century. It is common to see 50-year-olds riding basic bicycles to work. Or see people eating at small local eateries that do not look or feel safe in western standards.

However, young adults are not only modern; they appear to be living in the future, beyond western standards. Everything is app based, e-commerce driven, global payments and QR codes for purchasing or learning more. While we have the odd retailer specific payment app here in the West, we do not yet have globally accepted pay apps that stretch across all retailers.

Alibaba is a brand we all need to watch

On my two most recent trips to China, I have noticed a considerable decline in retailers, restaurants or even or taxis that take Visa. Everyone is using Alipay, linked closely to the Alibaba e-commerce giant (market capitalization of $350B) who could take on Amazon (market capitalization of $450B) on the world stage. 

alipayAs much as we in the west are fascinated with Amazon, do you think you understand Alibaba enough to learn from them? Alibaba’s market capitalization has gone from $200B up to $356B in the last 12 months. A 78% gain in 12 months. Wow. 

The social media app of choice is WeChat with almost a billion active users. WeChat provides text messaging, hold-to-talk voice messaging, broadcast messaging, video conferencing, video games, sharing of photographs and videos, and location sharing. You can even exchange contacts with people nearby via Bluetooth. Like Alipay, WeChat has a payment service that wants to be considered the digital wallet. When will these global payment systems become mainstream in the west? And who will own it?  

Income disparity is vast, but signs of improving

In the last ten years, the average income for China has tripled. The problem is that it is still under USD 10,000, compared with over $45,000 for many of the western nations it competes with. Within any statistics in China, there are layers of complexity. The most significant layer of complexity is around the disparity of income levels. 

While people of the west are trying to figure out solutions of rich versus poor, the evidence is even more overwhelming in China. With a high growth economy, they are starting to see the trickle-down impact of wealth, helping the creation of a real middle class in China.

It is expected that from 2012 to 2022, those in China making more than $34K US will increase from 3% currently up to 9%, and those in the growing middle class ($16K to $34K) will increase from 14% up to 54%.  These are huge jumps that will likely continue for the entire century. Wealth in China

The growing professional workforce will be the most significant force of transformation of the economy. Reminiscent of America in the 1950s, Chinese parents are investing in the education for their children, as they realize their children will be richer 20 years from now than they are today. This was the root of the American dream. 

The rapid growth of cities appears well planned

Shenzhen ChinaI loved my recent trip to Shenzhen, just across the water from Hong Kong. On a daily basis, thousands and thousands of Hong Kong residents stream across the border to work in Shenzhen. It’s not an easy commute going through border patrols and customs, to and from work each day.

Shenzhen is quickly transforming into a beautiful city. One of the most underestimated elements of China are the trees throughout the streets. When a westerner would think about cities of 25-30 million, we would normally think it must be a concrete jungle. Shenzhen in China is lined with gorgeous and rich trees. Similar to Shanghai of the French concession area. Keep in mind, Shenzhen did not even exist 20 years ago, and today, it is home to 20-25 million people. This city is benefiting from smart urban planning.

Luxury brands are everywhere

Within the city, they have created neighborhoods for the rich, with some of the nicest malls you will find. Evidence of the disparity of income is everywhere. Shenzhen MallsI went through an affluent shopping mall in Shenzhen that would rival any high-end mall in America. Hugo Boss, Coach, Sephora, Rolex, Lululemon. You name a brand, and this mall had it.

I browsed for prices and could not find any deals. Imported goods in China are a sign of prestige, yet you will have to pay for it through higher prices.

There are 2,600 Starbucks throughout China. If these high-end items are considered badge brands in the west, imagine what a badge it is to confirm your social status as one who has made it in China.

Further evidence was the cars on the road including Mercedes, BMW’s, Range Rovers, Ferrari’s and Audi’s. While China has recently become the #1 car market in the world, only those in the elite class are driving cars.

Bikes are still a reality

Most western cities have bike rentals, where you slide in your visa and take a gentle ride to see the sights. In Europe and North America, it’s something tourists would use. In China, these bikes offer a much more functional need state, and this is seen as a business that has been a disruption to transportation so that people can get to and from work. The bikes are not locked, and they do not accept Visa. People here use WeChat or Alipay payment apps on their phones, to scan the barcode on the bike and then pay and go where you need to go.

5 Questions for the future

As I look at the next 80+ years for China, here are the questions in my mind

  1. Will China make the shift a product-driven economy to a brand-driven economy? 
  2. Can locally grown brands begin to push back against the influx of the imported brands?
  3. How will China close the gap on Marketing talent, to be strong on strategy, analytics, brand positioning, brand planning and creative marketing execution?
  4. Will China be able to move some of their successful platforms such as WeChat or Alibaba into the western markets? Will we ever see a global battle between Alibaba and Amazon? 
  5. How long can China sustain such a growth mode before they need to make adjustments, and how will they handle the normal ups and downs of growth and recessions?

Here’s a Powerpoint presentation on how to get how to create a beloved brand, something for China to consider as they shift from product-driven economy to a brand-driven.

And, keep an eye out for the launch of our first book. We will be launching beloved brands in April of 2018.

beloved brands book

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

We help brands find growth

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

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

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

We make Brand Leaders smarter

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

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

If you need our help, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or call me at 416 885 3911

Graham Robertson bio

The 10 essential steps of the Creative Advertising process the Brand Leader must lead

When it comes to advertising, one of the biggest struggles that Brand Leaders have is when the project gets out of hand. While there are ten essential steps, the Brand Leader must keep their head in the game at all times. One slip and they run the risk of losing control of the final execution. These steps are not written from the vantage of the agency, but rather that of the client.

Creative Advertising Process

  1. Strategy Pre-Work: The brand positioning and brand plan homework make it easier to write a great creative brief. Go deep on finding the consumer insights and consumer enemy, understand the brand positioning, the big idea and then lay out a brand concept. From the brand plan, write a tightly focused brand communications plan. Only once you have done all this homework done, should you take a pen to the creative brief.
  2. Focused Creative Brief: Sit with your agency and turn your homework into a creative brief. Debate every point. Keep it focused. Think of the brief like creating a strategic box the ad must play within. The brief must have one objective, a tightly defined target market with rich consumer insights, one crystal clear desired consumer response of whether you want consumers to see, think, feel or do and then one main message that you know will motivate the consumer target will respond positively.
  3. Creative Expectations: Just after signing off on the brief, you should request an informal meeting with the creative team to help convey your vision, passion, strategy and needs to the team. This is your first chance to inspire the team and begin the push for great work. It always surprises me that the first time the marketer meets their creative team is at the first creative meeting, which is two-three weeks after the creative team started to work on your brand. That is crazy. It seems like an old-school way for the account team to control both the client and creative team, keeping them at arm’s length. I believe the best advertising comes from a highly personal relationship with your creative team.
  4. Tissue Session: When you have a completely new campaign or working on high-risk campaign, you should ask to hold an informal tissue session before the creative meeting. At the tissue session, the creative team normally presents ten roughed out advertising ideas, usually with hand drawn visuals, with a simple headline and description of a story. This is a good chance to get your hands dirty, understand where the team wants to go, either encouraging them to keep exploring further on some ideas or talk about how some ideas might not fit. Think of this meeting as your chance to see behind the creative curtain. Do not abuse this privilege by adding your ideas to the mix. Focus on big ideas and use the meeting to inspire and push for better.
  5. Creative Meeting: How you show up at the first creative meeting is crucial to the entire project. I have seen the relationship fizzle on the spot. Think of it like a first date. Be on your best behavior. Stay positive and focus on big picture decisions. Give direction and make decisions. However, do not use this time to add your own solutions. Stop thinking that your job is to fix the work you see. Do not get too wrapped up in small details, as there remains plenty of time to keep working on details. Use your feedback to inspire the team.Creative Advertising Process
  6. Feedback Memo: Work it out with the agency ahead of time that you will give a feedback memo 48 hours after the creative meeting. This gives you the chance to gather your thoughts, balancing your creative instincts with your strategic thinking. The memo should clarify details you did not have a chance to talk about in the creative meeting. Where you are stuck, frame it as a problem, but avoid giving your specific solutions. Use the memo as a chance to create a new box for the creative team, an evolution from the creative brief.
  7. Advertising Testing: The use of ad testing can depend on timing, budget or degree of risk. Where you have a new major campaign, you should potentially test 3 ideas you feel have the best chance to express your brand positioning, communicate the main benefit, break through the clutter and motivate consumers to purchase. You can use qualitative focus group feedback that will help confirm your instincts, or quantitative testing to replicate and predict how it may do in the market. However, I am a big believer that you should only use ad testing to confirm your pick, never to make your decision.  
  8. Gain Approval: It is essential to keep your boss aware at every stage. Use your first meeting with your boss to state your vision for the project. Through each update meeting, keep your boss aligned to your vision, explaining every move you make with respect to that vision. However, you will still need to sell in the ad. Be ready to fight any resisters to make the ad happen. With every great ad I ever made, there were many resistors. However, with every potential bad ad on the table, I seemed to be the only resistor trying not to make it. Own your vision and make it happen.
  9. Production: The production process can be a very complex element of the project. Remember, you have zero expertise in any production area. Do not even pretend you do. Your main role is to deliver as close to the original script that was approved, while managing the tone to ensure it fits with the brand. During the shoot, try to get more options than you need, just in case it looks different in the final edit room.
  10. Post Production: As you move to the post-production stage, you become even less of an expert. Many clients decide to stay close to their account person. I believe you should talk directly with every expert (editors) you work with. The personal approach will enable you to get the most out of each of the experts. Your greatness happens through their greatness.

As a brand leader, my bias is to be creatively led, with media trailing. Yes, it’s fine to have a lead media choice in mind. However, as for secondary media choices, I hate forcing a given media choice on the creative team, only to find out it does not work. I would rather have a range of media options and see which one works best. At the start of the process, you have a few media thoughts of where it could go. As you  see the creative, you narrow down the range to what media choices seem to work best with the creative. And once you have the creative in hand, you can then make the final media decisions. 

Creative Advertising Process

 

As brand leaders, it takes a unique skill to be able to inspire, challenge, question, direct and decide, without any expertise at all. 

 

Here’s a powerpoint presentation on how to get better at Marketing Execution, looking at both the creative and media.

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

Graham Robertson Bio Brand Training Coach Consultant

 

The reasons why so many Marketers suck at Advertising! Here is how you can get better!

I always get asked “So what is it that makes some Marketers great at advertising?”.  To me, the best Marketers are able to get great advertising on the air and keep bad advertising off the air.

I have seen some Marketers who are great at the execution side, but I have see more who struggle. I try to tell people that it really takes five big campaigns for you to get into your zone where you are good. That might sound a little comforting, but it is supposed to be equally challenging because it suggests you should learn from those five campaigns so you become great.  Too many Marketers who struggle, actually get worse. They start to believe they suck, or their agency sucks.  Sure Advertising takes some  good instincts, but it also takes experience, practice, leadership and a willingness to adjust. You can learn how to be great. You will not learn if you do not adjust. 

If you knew that being a better client would make your execution better, could you actually show up better? Would you?

From my experience, here are the main reasons that some Brand Leaders kinda suck at advertising.

You blame yourself

  • You never find your comfort zone: You have convinced yourself that you are not good at Advertising, so you show up skeptical, uptight, too tough or too easy and you seem easily annoyed by everything.
  • You don’t know if it is really your place to say something: You figure the agency is the expert and will even say “That’s why we pay them” so you give them no direction. Or worse, you give them the chance to mess up and blame them later. You can never abdicate decision-making to anyone else, when you are running your brand.  
  • You settle for something you hate, because of time pressure: The agency says if we don’t go for it now, we will miss our air date and have to give up our media to another brand. So you cave in to the pressure and go with the Ad you hate. You have to figure out how to use time pressure to your advantage. A lot of the best ideas come right up against the clock. 
  • You can’t sell it in to management: You are not sure if it is the right thing to do, which makes you hesitant and unable to sell the idea in to your boss. Once you decide, you have to own it and sell it. 

You blame the Agency

  • The Agency writes a brief you don’t like or you box the Agency into a strategy they don’t like: If either of you force a brief on each other, then you are off to a bad start. You must be collaborative with your agency.
  • The Agency’s creative team over sells you and you feel you get hood-winked: You are not sure what you want, so you settle for an OK ad in front of you—the best of what you saw. Tell your agency you have to love the work and then if you don’t love it, you have to reject it.
  • You lose connection with the agency: One of your primary roles is to keep your agency motivated, challenged and engaged. Be the client they want to make great work on, rather than have to work on. And never assume they have to work for you, just because you are paying them. You might be paying WPP, but you are not really paying the people at the table. 
  • You lose traction through the production and edit: Talent, lighting, directors and edits—if the tone changes from the board to edit, so does your ad. This is where experience pays off. The advertising process is likely more complex than anything else you will work on. 

You blame your brand

  • The “I work on a boring brand” argument: You think only cool brands like Nike or Apple would be so much easier to work on. Guess what, Nike and Apple don’t really need you. However, with a so-called boring brand, you have more room for creativity, that while it is a challenge, it should actually be even easier to work on a boring brand.
  • You are too careful: Great ads either go left or right, not in the middle of the road. You have to learn how to take smart creative risks.
  • Advertising roulette: Where brand managers have not done the depth of thinking or testing, the briefing is like a game of chance. You have to do the homework to know your strategy is right, making the execution easier to nail. You should never figure out your advertising strategy by doing advertising work. 
  • Your strategy sucks: You figure we don’t have a great strategy, so maybe a good Ad can help. A great strategy can make an ad, but an Ad by itself will never make a great strategy.

Marketing Execution Advertising

To get better, you have to find the magic in the execution of a brand. Inspire greatness.

All of our work is done through other people. Our greatness as a Brand Leader has to come from the experts we engage, so they will be inspired to reach for their own greatness and apply it on our brand. Brand Management has been built on a hub-and-spoke system, with a team of experts surrounding the generalist Brand Leader. When I see Brand Managers of today doing stuff, I feel sorry for them. They are lost. Brand Leaders are not designed to be experts in marketing communications, experts in product innovation and experts in selling the product. You are trained to be a generalist, knowing enough to make decisions, but not enough to actually do the work. Find strength being the least knowledgeable person in every room you enter.

  • We don’t make the products.
  • We don’t make the packaging.
  • We don’t make the ads.
  • We don’t buy the media.
  • We don’t hire the front-line staff.
  • We don’t sell the products.
  • We don’t do the accounting.
  • We don’t really do anything.
  • But we do touch everything.
  • And yet, we make every decision

As Marketers, our only greatness comes from inspiring experts to reach for their own greatness, and to apply it on our brand.

To get better, it is time Brand Leaders step back and let the creativity unfold. Find comfort in ambiguity.

It is okay to know exactly what you want, but you should never know until the moment you see it. As the client, I like to think of marketing execution like the perfect gift that you never thought to buy yourself. How we engage our experts can either inspire greatness or crush the spirit of creativity. Experts would prefer to be pushed than held back. The last thing experts want is to be asked for their expertise and then told exactly what to do. There is a fine line between rolling up the sleeves to work alongside the experts and pushing the experts out of the way. It is time to step back and assume your true role as the Brand Leader. It is a unique skill to be able to inspire, challenge, question, direct and decide, without any expertise at all. Brand Leaders need to rediscover the lost art of doing nothing. 

Here are the 8 secrets for getting better Advertising:

  1. Determine if the strategy can be executed. Develop a brand concept you know is motivating to consumers, with rational and emotional benefits, plus support points.
  2. Tighten your brief as much as you can. Narrow the target, add engaging insights that tell their story. Focus on the desired consumer response before deciding what your brand should say. Focus on one message.
  3. Make it personal. Meet the creative team before the first creative meeting to connect, align them with your vision and inspire them to push for great work.
  4. Lower the pressure. Hold casual tissue sessions to narrow solutions before going to scripts. Work off line or behind the scenes.
  5. Stay big picture at creative meetings. Avoid getting into little details. Do that after the meeting. When giving direction, avoid giving your own solutions and but rather try to create a “new box” for the creative team to figure out the solutions.
  6. Take creative risks. Build your career by being the one willing to stand out by being different. Make the ad you want to look back on with pride.
  7. Manage your boss at every stage. Early on, sell them, on your vision what you want. Then be willing to fight for great work at every step of the process.
  8. Be your agency’s favorite client. Be the client they “want to” work on instead of being the one they “have to” work on your business. It really matters.

To get better, Brand Leaders need to stay focused on your vision at every stage, always inspire and yet challenge.

 

Here’s a powerpoint presentation on how to get better at Marketing Execution, looking at both the creative and media.

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

Graham Robertson Bio Brand Training Coach Consultant

 

These 8 analytical principles will reshape the mind of every marketer

One of the biggest skill gaps for many marketers is the ability to develop an analytical story to set up smart decisions. Analytics is not just math. Marketers either struggle to dig into the data or they struggle to tell a strategic story that summarizes the mounds of data they have gathered. Too many people get into marketing for the creative nature of brand management, but if you cannot think analytically, you will get stuck at one point. You need to be able to use facts to support your opinions or what you say will come across as an empty opinion that risks leaving a room divided. Here are the 8 principles that will help to make you a smart analytical thinker. 

Analytics Thinking

Principle #1: Use facts to support opinions or else what you say comes across as an empty opinion that leaves a room divided.



One great tool to help dig deeper is called the “Five Questions Analysis” that forces you to go deeper. Start with your opinion; then ask “so what does that mean?” to get a layer deeper. Ask it again to go one more layer deeper. Keep asking it up to five times, each time using the data analysis to move from unsubstantiated opinion to action-able insight. This tool will also help you avoid getting caught off guard with those challenging questions “Did you think about…” because you have already challenged yourself to dig in deep everywhere on your brand.

Analytics Thinking

 

Principle #2: Always find comparisons. Absolute numbers by themselves are useless.

Absolute numbers by themselves are useless. A friend of mine was at a meeting with her CEO and was asked a really tough question that she should have known, but did not have. So she said “forty percent”. And then they both stared each other for ten seconds, him not knowing if that was good or bad, and her not wanting to show any hesitation. I would not recommend blurting out a number. Analytics ThinkingHowever, I always remember this story because it really says how useless one data point really is. With every number, you have to always draw out comparisons to force yourself to find data breaks that begin to tell a strategic story. Only the relative nature to a number will you find the data break that helps you tell a story. Is 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius.) warm or cold? If it were in Canada in the middle of January, it would be a record setting heat and front-page news. Conversely, if it is the high temperature for the middle of June in Florida, it might even make the national news.

Never give a number without a relative nature. The relative comparison helps ground the data, by looking at how well it does versus prior periods, competitors, forecasts, other regions, norms or the category. Is it up, down, or flat? Use comparative indexes and cross tabulations to find the data breaks, showing the correct trend line that will help you draw the right conclusions.

Principle #3: The analytical story comes to life when you see a break in the data.




Comparative indexes and cross tabulations can really bring out the data breaks and gaps that can really tell a story. Use the “so what” technique to dig around and twist the data in unique ways until you find the point in which the data actually breaks and clear meaningful differences start to show. This is where the trend is exposed and you can draw a conclusion.

Principle #4: Analysis should start by posing hypothetical conclusions that answer “Where are we” and “Why are we he

Thinking time means asking the right questions. Since the smartest strategic thinkers ask questions, I want to introduce a 360-degree strategic model with 5 strategic questions that force you to look at the brand’s core strength, consumer strategy, competitive situation, the brand’s situation and how engaged your consumer are with the brand.

  1. What is the core strength your brand can win on?
  2. How important is the decision and how involved are consumers?
  3. What is your current competitive position?
  4. How tightly connected is your Consumer to your brand?
  5. What is the current business situation your brand faces?

Strategic Thinking

The intention of the 360-degree strategic thinking model is the starting point to force your thinking and discussions with your team. Each of the five questions has four possible answers, but the model forces you to make ONE choice for each question. What I recommend is that you gather a good cross-functional team and battle out each question. Some will be easy to answer, others will challenge the team and force both the discussion and the decision. What might seem like a small debate “whether your brand is product-led or story-led, should change your entire strategy, the focus of your investment and your brand message. Whether your brand is liked or loved should force your strategic choices to look for ways to tighten the bond with your consumers. Shifting from one competitive strategy to another should be guided by your understanding of where you stand currently in the market. Whether you brand is facing poor external business results that would drive a turnaround or whether your brand is internally creating confusion across various elements would drive the need for a brand re-alignment. And finally, as brands move to the execution stage to engage their consumers, they need to understand whether the main focus will be to drive consumer involvement or whether to drive the importance of the decision. As you start to dig in on these questions, keep pushing yourself to ask even richer and richer questions.

Principle #5: Map out what do we know, against what do we assume and what do we need to find out, to help focus deep dive.

The best Brand Leaders know when to be a strategic thinker and when to be an action thinker. Strategic thinkers see “what if” questions before seeing solutions, mapping out a range of decision trees that intersect and connect by imagining how events will play out. They take time to reflect and plan before acting, helping you move in a focused efficient fashion. They think slowly, logically, always needing options, but if go too slow, you will miss the opportunity window.

A good tool to get you thinking in terms of questions: separate your analysis into 5 buckets:

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

Analytics Thinking

 

Principle #6: Like an old school reporter, two source of data or two data points on the trend line validates the truth of the story.

Avoid taking one piece of data and making it the basis of your entire brand strategy. Make sure it’s a real trend. Dig around until you can find a convergence of data that leads to an answer. Look to find 2-3 facts that start to tell a story, and allows you to draw a conclusion. The good pure logic in a philosophical argument they teach you is “premise, premise conclusion” so if you see one trend line, look for a second before drawing a conclusion.

Analytics Thinking

 

Principle #7: Use tools that can help organize and force deep dive actionable thinking. 

A Force Field analysis is best served for those brands in a sustaining position where marketing plays the role of driving innovation and creativity within a box. Always keep in mind that Drivers and Inhibitors are happening now. You can see the impact in the current year. Anything in the future gets moved down to Opportunities and Threats which are not happening but could happen. Invariably, people mix this up and things that could happen move up when they really shouldn’t.

Analytics Thinking

Principle #8: Turning analysis into story for management decisions

You have to know how to write an analytical slide that can help convince management of your analysis. A best-in-class analytical slide helps project the story up to your management team. It should include a captivating headline that summarizes the story, 2-3 key points that are rich in data, supporting visuals and most importantly you need to include an actionable recommendation based on the analysis. The biggest mistake I see is that brand leaders forget the actionable recommendation, thereby giving up their leadership on the brand to their boss.

Analytics Thinking

 

Good analytics get you to the point of “So what do you think”. From there, you will have to be a smart decision-maker.

 

Below is our workshop we run to help Brand Leaders improve their analytical thinking:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

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

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

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

Graham Robertson Bio Brand Training Coach Consultant