Before you fire your Agency…

Article that we wrote for Marketing Magazine Marketing Magazine link

firedThey say clients get the work they deserve. If you knew being a better client would get you better advertising, could you show up better? Would you actually show up better? There’s a reason why there are so many agency reviews: clients can’t really fire themselves. However, if you fire your current agency and then you don’t show up better to the new agency, they will be doomed to fail from the start. And the cycle will continue.

The role of the client matters.

I have seen so-so agencies make great work for an amazing client. I have also seen the best agencies fail dramatically for a bad client. My conclusion: The client matters more than anyone else, as they hold the power in either enabling or restricting impactful advertising from happening.

I have always reminded myself that we never really do anything. We don’t make the product, sell the product or create the ads. Yet, we touch everything and we make every decision. Our greatness has to come from leading the experts we engage, so that they reach for their own greatness and apply it on our brand. Great clients communicate their desires with passion to inspire their agency; they hold everyone accountable to the strategy and stay open to explore new solutions through creativity. Great clients are wiling to stake their reputation on great work.

Here’s how to show up better as a client:

  • Narrow your focus with a tight target: Some brand leaders want options to help make decisions. The problem is that clients write such a wide creative brief that it creates room for strategic options, when really the brand leader just wanted creative options. Instead, have one main message and one objective. Keep your list of mandatories to a bare minimum. Do your strategic homework before you write the brief. Start with the consumer and bring their story to life using insights that will make consumers say, “That’s me.” Knowing you have the right strategy will give you more conviction to decide on the right creative expression of that strategy. The smaller the brief, the bigger the ideas.
  • Allow creativity to unfold: 7e11158d-971e-4d29-80fa-cb27b96f0ebe-originalWhen you write a tangled weave of mandatories in the brief that almost writes the ad itself, the agency feels trapped and unable to do anything surprising or spectacular. Don’t use every meeting to steer towards the type of advertising you want to see, while being outspoken against the type of work you don’t want to see. Let the agency take charge of writing the brief. You can still debate every word, always knowing if you hold the power of decision, you don’t need to hold the pen as well. In meetings, show you are open to new solutions. It is okay to know exactly what you want, but you should never know until the moment you see it. Think of advertising like the perfect gift you never thought to buy yourself. As the leader, you always hold the final power of the decision. You will be even more powerful if you never have to use it.
  • Lead with passion: There is no mathematical pathway to choosing the best advertising based on a winning score. Great advertising has to balance the art and science, using both your creative instincts and strategic mind. You need to, be willing to fight to make the best work happen and put all of your energy into making the work spectacular. Do not use the logic of research to choose your path, but to confirm the choice you are dying to make.

Being a better client is something you can learn. Advertising takes experience, practice, leadership and a willingness to adjust. Ask for advice. Watch others who are great. Never give your agency new solutions, just give them new problems. Inspire greatness from your agency; yet never be afraid to challenge them for better work. They would prefer to be pushed rather than held back. Be your agency’s favourite client, so the agency team wants to work on your brand, not just because they were assigned to work on your business. Be the champion who fights for great work even if you have to fight with your boss.

Once you show up better, you might find your agency shows up better. Together, you will make amazing work.

 

Do you want to realize your full potential in Brand Management?  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

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. 

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Is the Tim Horton’s brand at risk? How can they re-kindle the Love?

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Said with Canadian pride, Tim Horton’s is not just an emotional decision, it’s a personal one. How we feel about Tim’s is in part irrational. We are loyal, un-relenting, outspoken, and possessive. And we are OK to wait in a long line to get our double-double. Tim’s is still a Beloved Brand, but there are signs it might be getting tired and could be at risk at losing. The most Beloved Brands connect with their consumers in five common ways: a brand promise (positioning) consumers love, an emotional brand story (advertising) freshness (innovation), purchase moment and finally the experience (backed by the culture and operations).

 

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Over the last 20 years, Timmy’s had consistently nailed all five, which is what made it our most Beloved Brand.  But in the last few years, we are seeing slippage on the advertising and the customer experience.  We can see that in the stock price for Tim Horton’s. If you invested $10,000 in 2009, your money would have doubled in just 2 and 1/2 years–considering how badly the stock market was doing this would have been an ideal place for your money.  But since then, the stock has gained very little, and has basically been flat for the last 9 months. That’s not worthy of panic just yet, but from usually we see issues with Brand Health before we see issues of Brand Wealth. It seems that Tim’s has been so focused on the US expansion over the last two years, that they risk letting the brand slip in Canada.

Let’s use the five Brand Connectors to assess Tim Horton’s Brand Health:

  • The “comfortably Canadian” Brand Promise has been brilliant over the past 20 years, striking an emotional cord with our Canadiana more than any other brand. They have created a humble brand, with a simple comfortable menu.  Timbits-500x254It’s not the best food or coffee, but it’s comfortably predictable. People always point to how Tim’s coffee loses in blind taste tests. So would my mom’s dried out and burnt Roast Beef. But I love my mom’s roast beef, because I familiar with it, and it makes me feel comfortable. I’d grade the brand promise an A+.
  • As for the Brand Story, it is what has made the Brand, with deeply emotional and engaging advertising. Magical Canadian story telling at it’s best, whether an old woman walking up a hill or a grandfather at the hockey rink. What’s happened the last few years? Nothing. The last two great spots that connected with consumers were at the 2010 winter Olympics with the Sidney Crosby “wouldn’t it be great…” TV Ad and the other about an immigrant family arriving at a Canadian airport. Those spots made us proud to be Canadian and Tim’s owned that pride. But, the last few years, all I see are “cute” product spots, with a media plan completely void of the anthemic beautiful ads that made Tim’s a Canadian Icon. Please don’t show me how coffee is made. That’s completely off the brand character.  Tim’s has to return to using deeply emotional story telling to deliver the “comfortably Canadian” brand promise. I’d give the advertising an A+ for pre-2010, C+ since. I’d like to see Tim’s return to doing more ads like this one, a simple story about hockey, but beautifully told about a grandfather visiting the hockey arena to see his grandson play hockey:

 

 

  • As for Freshness, the innovation pipeline with Lemonade, breakfast sandwiches, grilled cheese, ice caps, maple donuts and oatmeal all delivering the “comfortably Canadian” brand promise.  Nothing wild, nothing crazy, very Tim’s. In terms of coffee, Tim’s has issues with McDonald’s which has an amazing coffee and a great trial strategy offering free coffee for a week. Tim Hortons vs McDonalds CanadaMost published blind taste tests show that McDonald’s clearly beats Tim’s. But improving the Tim’s coffee might be like changing the Coke formula. I’d rather Tim’s build on the comfortable taste of the Tim’s coffee linking it to memories. I’d give Tim’s an A- on innovation, lots of hits, a few flops.
  • The big gap I see “brewing” (pardon my pun) is the the purchase moment, where I am seeing a huge drop off.  The expansion utilizing the franchise model has created a dramatically inconsistent experience from one store to the next. I’m starting to hear a lot of horror stories from consumers. In my last 10 visits to Tim’s, I received friendly and polite service just once. (a shout out to the Aurora store where you feel good leaving)  Most times, the service is efficient, but completely impersonal. Rarely do you hear “please” and “thank you” from the staff. It’s not as polite as McDonald’s and not as friendly as Starbucks. If you want to deliver the brand promise of “comfortably Canadian” Tim’s needs to step it up on customer service to deliver that promise.  Polite and friendly are always free. Tim’s needs start by setting up customer service values, strategically aligned to the brand promise. They need to create action standards on service to hold franchisees accountable to delivering the brand promise. And they need to create a training program to help staff deliver the service values.  Until we see some improvement, the grade for Tim’s experience ranges from an F to an A+, due to inconsistencies. But overall, I’d give the Tim’s experience a D+.

So the report card for Tim’s looks like my grade 9 report card. A few A’s, a C+ and a stupid D+.  Most business people think “Brand” is what the Marketers do. And Culture should be left to Human Resources.  Everyone is responsible for Brand and Culture. Brand is not just about logos and ads, but is equally important internally where it acts as an internal beacon for everyone to follow. How does Tim Horton’s want their people to show up?  What behavior should be rewarded? If the Tim’s culture is not set up to deliver the brand promise, the risk is it all comes crashing down.  To read more on how Culture and Brand go together read:  Brand = Culture: How Culture can Help Your Brand Win

For the Tim’s brand succeed in the future and stay a Beloved Brand in Canada, they need to take that “Comfortably Canadian” Big Idea down to every part of their organization. There might be signs that the new CEO understands what’s happening at the store level.  He recently stated: “Future battles are not going to be won, in my view, with who has the best strategy or who has the best innovation. The companies that will win will be the companies that can execute flawlessly at the store level.”

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It’s time for Tim Horton’s to step it up on Service

Here is a powerpoint presentation on “What makes a Beloved Brand”  Click on the arrow below to follow:

 

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.

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