The 10 laws of forecasting to help brand leaders run their business

Most brand leaders are not very good at forecasting. They either over-think or quite frankly, under-think the forecast.  You have to know your Business:  I do believe that writing a Monthly Report is smart practice. It helps keep your finger on the pulse of the business. 

You need to know the underlying key performance indicators, match those up to the in-market realities of customer market orders on the surface and shortly.  Stay close to your sales team to hear the collection of details that will impact your forecast. 

And as the leader of the team, you have to steady the ship and avoid creating your fluctuations. An excellent question I always ask is “So what has changed since last month that makes us change our number?”  You will find that many times, the number has changed, yet not very little on your business has changed. That makes no sense. Why would you change the forecast?  

Avoid the panic or over-reaction. Communicate with supply chain your high/medium/low thinking so they can decide on inventory to avoid missed sales versus excess inventory.  Help them manage the risk. 

Here are the ten laws of forecasting:  

1. Your forecast will always be wrong.  

Knowing your forecast is wrong the second you release it, will focus you on finding midpoints, not on exactness. The only question that matters is “how wrong is your forecast?” Get the forecast accurate enough that it doesn’t hurt the business too much when it is within a reasonable variation.  

2. Correct predictions are not proof that the forecast method is accurate.

It could have been luck. Don’t just look at the results; look at your methodology. An excellent, reliable method produces consistent forecasts, which month after month will be more important than nailing one period.  Process matters.  

3. All trends eventually end.

No matter how accurately the trend is forecasted, at some point in the future, it will be wrong. Consider what might cause a trend to change (seasonality, new competition, saturated market, etc.) when evaluating a forecasted trend.

4. Complicated forecast methodologies can be dangerous.

Simple forecasting methods are easy to explain, understand, analyze and debug. Complicated methods tend to obscure key assumptions built into the forecast, which can lead to unexpected failures.  It’s ok if your supply chain experts use complicated formulas, but balance that with your instincts. Once you let go of your instincts, your forecast will get worse.

5. The underlying data in the forecast are nearly always wrong to some degree. 

Like forecasts being wrong, so too is the data that you are basing it on. You can have better data. But you will never have perfect data. It is just a question of how far off it is. Therefore, the more data in the forecasting process, the more likely some critical error will be missed.

6. Data that has not been regularly used is almost useless for forecasting.  

Data quality is usually directly proportional to the number of times it has been used on your business. Without regular usage, data errors remain undetected, and inconsistencies develop. It’s better to use reliable data in a forecast even if additional assumptions have to be made in order to use it.

7. Most forecasts are biased in some way — usually accidentally.

It is challenging to eliminate all bias in a forecast since the forecaster always has to make certain assumptions about which factors to include, how strongly to weight them, and which to ignore. And sometimes the bias is intentional.

8. Technology will not make up for a bad forecasting strategy.

Create an appropriate strategy first, then use the technology to make it better. Everyone always thinks the technology will help with forecasting, but if you don’t use your brain and think, the better system will just get you a bad forecast faster.  

9. Adding sophisticated technology to a bad model makes it worse.

If the model is bad, anything you add to it — statistical methods, time-series methods, neural networks, etc. — will make your forecast worse. And now, it will be harder to figure out what is going wrong.

10. Large numbers are easier to forecast than small ones.

With forecasting, everything gets easier as the numbers get bigger. A forecast of unit sales where there is an average of 1,000 units sold per month is a lot easier to get right than one where average sales are 2 per month. It is more about the variability than the size itself.

 

To read how to write a monthly report, click on this link below:

How to write the ideal Monthly Report for your brand. And, why you need one.

 

My new book, Beloved Brands, coming this spring.

How this Beloved Brands playbook can work for you. The purpose of this book is to make you a smarter brand leader so your brand can win in the market. You will learn how to think strategically, define your brand with a positioning statement and a brand idea, write a brand plan everyone can follow, inspire smart and creative marketing execution, and be able to analyze the performance of your brand through a deep-dive business review.

 

 

 

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

Strategy choices to engage your consumers and tighten bond

The engagement strategy is a smart way for you to bridge your thinking as you move from brand plans towards marketing execution. Before you know the actions you should be taking, you need to know how important is the decision to consumers and the level of involvement for your consumers in the purchase or usage of the brand? To create a tighter bond with consumers, engagement strategy leaves you with two choices; to drive up the importance of the decision or to drive up the involvement of your consumers.

Strategic Thinking Engagement Strategy

Looking at the grid above, we look at inolvement and importance, to discover four types of brands: indulgence, high profile, commodities and essentials. You must understand that the grid lays out where the brand naturally sits, helps determine the challenge of where to move next. Your marketing efforts will either work to drive up consumer involvement or increase the importance for the purchase decision.

Commodities

Commodity type brands are relatively low in importance for consumers, and they have a low consumer involvement in the purchase decision. These are everyday consumer household items, day-to-day staples, or grocery items where the product differentiation is marginal. In my consumer packaged goods career, we used to joke that, “Our role is to make a mountain out of a mole hill,” which means we make small differences seem really important to consumers.

Strategic Thinking Engagement Strategy

Driving up involvement is harder for these brands than ever before. These low involvement brands thrived with TV ads, because the interruptive nature of TV enabled them to break through the clutter with their message. With today’s media options, there are less interruptive choices, the associative nature of today’s media options rewards high profile brands to gain attention, but harder for the low involvement brands. It is harder for a laundry detergent to get people to visit their website or Facebook page than it was to air three TV ads an hour to drive home their brand message. This puts even more pressure on the brands to build engaging stories. The most successful brands have used consumer insights to connect, a compelling brand purpose to enhance their brand story, and emotional benefits to drive up the consumer involvement.

To drive up the importance, brands have to elevate the consumer problem to make it highly personal. Find the consumer’s pain points and turn it into an “enemy” that you can attack. For the solution, you can deploy experts to speak on the brand’s behalf or use social media to leverage loyal brand fans to influence their network on the brand’s behalf.

 Just because the brand is naturally a commodity does not mean it has to get stuck there. For instance, the Dove brand is a classic case of a commodity brand that has driven up both importance and involvement. Dove has turned a simple bar of soap into a statement about real beauty with a stated vision that they hope beauty can become a source of confidence instead of a source of anxiety. This emotional brand purpose drives up the importance of the cause, and the bond it has created with the brand drives up the involvement of the consumers who believes in that cause. For decades, Dove had to drive a functional product oriented message behind “ph-balance”, but the brand never found any magic until they launched the “Real Beauty” campaign.

Essentials

Essentials are those brands that have high importance in the consumer’s life, such as healthcare, banking, insurance, supplies, or computer software. They are important enough that consumers cannot live without them, but they are rather boring categories where consumers give them very little thought.. These brands struggle to capture and engage consumers. To drive up consumer involvement, they need to move from product features to consumer benefits. These essential brands need to shift their brand communications away from talking about what the brand does and start to talk about what the consumer gets and how the brand makes the consumer feel.

Strategic Thinking Engagement Strategy

Google has used highly emotional advertising with rich storylines that helps turn a potentially boring search engine into an emotional experience consumers cannot live without. With the “Paris” TV ad that aired during the Super Bowl, Google told a romantic story of a boy who went to study in Paris, met a girl, then got a job in Paris, got married, and had a baby. The entire story is told through searching with Google in each moment of the story. Google tells another story out of India of two elderly friends, one a Hindu from India and the other a Muslim from Pakistan, who have lost contact since the partition of India in 1947. The ad shows how the grand daughter uses Google to plan a surprise reunion between the two gentlemen. She was able to find her grandfather’s friend, reach out to his grandson, book a flight and reunite the two. These brand stories are great way to show how involved Google is in the real lives of consumers.

Indulgence Brands

Indulgence brands generate high involvement with consumers, but are considered relatively low in importance to the consumer’s life. The indulgence brands include confectionary, fast food, perfume, beer or coffee brands. These are impulse items with lots of brand switching. The best indulgence brands drive importance by connecting to the emotions of a particular moment of the consumer’s life, either to become part of the day or life stage. These brands have to maintain the high involvement levels to stay within the consumer’s consideration set. They use mass media, social presence, lifestyle marketing, and a “be where they are” media approach.

Strategic Thinking Engagement Strategy

While Disney World is an indulgence brand for families, they do an amazing job in driving up their importance by creating memories for your child’s life. Events like the “Princess breakfast” are purely magical to children.

High Profile Brands

High profile brands are both high in consumer involvement and importance. These are typically badge products such as clothing, cell phones, computers, make up, sports teams, restaurants, or cars. These brands have to consistently nail the brand promise, the brand story, innovation, the purchase moment, and the experience. Any inconsistency in the delivery of the brand will cast doubt to the base of brand lovers.

Strategic Thinking Engagement Strategy

If you want to see how engaged the Ferrari brand lovers are with the brand, go to any Formula One race and you will be in shock at the passion of Ferrari fans. The annual Ferrari Advertising budget is $0. They spend every marketing dollar on the Formula One race.

How to Write Smart Strategic Objective Statements

Brand Leaders need to know how to write a smart strategic objective statement that will provide the necessary clear marching orders that everyone who works on the brand can follow. The reason why I put so much emphasis asking the right questions is that it will lead to a much smarter strategic objective statement as the answer to that question.

Strategic Thinking Engagement Strategy

With the example above, there are four common elements to a smart strategy objective statement:

  1. A smart strategic objective statement must have a focal point, which is the breakthrough point where the brand will exert pressure to create an impact. In this case the focal point is on the loyal consumers.
  2. A strategic objective statement must specifically calls out the strategic program with clear marching orders to the team, leaving no room for doubt, confusion or hesitation. In this case, the VIP consumer experience.
  3. A smart strategic objective statement should call out a specific desired market impact. Which key stakeholder in the market will you attempt to move, whether it is consumers, channels, competitors or influencers? In this case, the desired impact is to turn the consumer’s regular usage into a higher frequency ritual.
  4. A smart strategic objective statement have a specific performance result, linking the market impact to a specific result on the brand, either making the brand more powerful or wealthier. In this case creating a tighter bond with consumers, which will lead to more power over the consumers.

 

Strategic Thinking Engagement StrategyEvery smart strategic objective statement must include all four elements of focus, strategic program, market impact and the expected performance result. This unique strategic model will force you to pick answers for each of these four elements, and help you bring those answers into a strategy statement with crystal clear marching orders for those who will follow the Brand Plan.

How to Write Strategic Objective Statements for Engagement StrategyStrategic Thinking Engagement Strategy

  1. Focus on either increasing the involvement of consumers or increasing the importance of the purchase.
  2. Deploy brand resources against a key strategic program, one of Advertising, Public Relations, Key Influencers, Social Media or packaging.
  3. Achieve a market impact that tightens the bond with consumers, moving them along the Brand Love Curve, moving from Indifferent to Like It, to Love It and to Beloved.
  4. Achieve a performance result that leverages the increased consumer engagement, either driving one of the 8 power drivers or one of the 8 profit drivers.

Examples of engagement strategy statementsStrategic Thinking Engagement Strategy

  • Increase consumer involvement (a) using breakthrough Advertising to help the ‘Real Beauty’ message gain attention (b) to create a base of loyal Dove brand lovers (c) doubling the brand’s market share (d).
  • Increase the importance of Dove’s ‘confidence’ message (a) leveraging social media (b) to build a base of brand lovers (c) who will follow Dove into new categories (d)

Below is our workshop we run to help Brand Leaders think strategically. 

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 manage your B2B brand

Too many people think that brand management matters most to a consumer brand, and they under-estimate the value of marketing for B2B brands. And many of these people are running B2B brands. They treat marketing as a support function, hiring a low-cost marketing coordinators to support their sales team, and do basic packaging for new launches and run a few basic trade magazines.

B2B marketing is not just about selling products, but about building and selling your brand’s reputation. The role of a B2B brand is to create unique idea for your brand, perceived in the minds and hearts of your customer, consistently delivered by the experience, creating a bond, power and profit beyond what the product itself could achieve. Too many B2B companies believe they just SELL PRODUCTS. However, you should be building and managing your reputation of your brand. Whereas basic products and services solve small problems, I like to think that a brand beats down the enemy that your customer faces every day. For instance, FedEx fights the enemy of “business moving too slowly” while IBM fights “unsolvable problems” for their customers. What is your customer’s enemy that you can solve for them?

The more loved a brand is by its customers, the more powerful and profitable that brand will be. With a connected brand, it helps to warm up sales leads–many times they’ll already know your reputation before you call. A brand can connect with customers so that pure pricing becomes less of a factor. If the customer is satisfied and connected on one piece of business, they’ll look to you to solve other problems for them.

Start with a Big Idea

The best brands use a Big Idea to help explain themselves in 7 seconds, and use that Big Idea to help extrapolate that same brand story into 60 seconds or even 30 minutes, depending on the situation. In a crowded branded marketplace, Big Ideas help simplify your brand message so it’s easily understood and remembered, own-able in the customers’ mind and heart and motivating enough to change consumer beliefs and behavior. That big idea should transform your brand message into a brand reputation.

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Below is the tool we use to figure out a brand’s Big Idea which revolves around five areas that help define the brand: 1) Brand’s character 2) Products and Services the brand provides 3) Internal Beacons that people internally rally around when thinking about the brand and 4) Consumer reputation of the Brand and 5) the role of the brand in connecting with consumers. How we use this tool is we normally brainstorm 3-4 words in each of the four distinct sections and turn create sentences for each. Then looking collectively, we begin to frame the brand’s Big Idea with a few words or a phrase to which the brand can stand behind. The tool works! 

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Once you have your Big Idea, you should then use it to frame the 5 different connectors needed to set up a very strong bond between your brand and your customers.

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Build your brand around a big idea that’s simple to understand and big enough to create a lasting impression with consumers. Create a simple brand promise that separates your brand from competitors, based on being better, different or cheaper. Use your brand story to motivate customers to think, feel or act, while beginning to own a reputation in the mind and hearts of consumers. You need a fundamentally sound product, with innovation that keeps your brand at the forefront of trends and using technology to deliver on your brand promise. The purchase  moment is where customers move through the purchase cycle and use channels, messaging, processes to make the final decision. Turn the usage of your product into an experience that becomes a ritual and favorite part of their work life so that your customers always turn to you first.

Whereas B2B brands currently treat marketing as a support function, once you have your big idea you can see how for a B2B brand, that the idea should drive every part of your organization and that your brand’s experience will be supported by the culture, people and operations which then transforms that idea into a brand reputation. Below you can see how that Big Idea should be a beacon for your top-to-top leadership, your sales team, the problem solvers, customer service team and the experience delivery team.

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Everyone in your organization must be saying the same message. For a B2B brand, marketing’s role is to make sure that the external and internal story are given equal importance so that everyone in your organization must be communicating and delivering the same big idea to customers that they see in trade magazines, at trade shows or in the sales materials.

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Like any brand, there are really only four choices: you can be better, different, cheaper or else not around for very long. For B2B, when your product is a commodity, you have to find a way to use service levels as a way to find your point of difference. When you start to treat your own brand like a commodity or believe that you are, that’s when you’re in trouble. What you want to do is use that Big Idea to create an internal culture and use that culture to build your brand’s reputation as the way to help separate you in the marketplace. As you build your culture, you’ll see that you can begin to use culture as a way to stand out and then you’ll evolve to where you see culture becomes the backbone that delivers the brand experience. At the ideal stage where you become a beloved brand you see that culture and brand become one as your own people become the most outspoken fans of the brand. 

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Your brand is your reputation and it can never be a commodity

Click below on the Powerpoint version of the B2B Brand Workshop we run for clients.

We make Brands better.

We make Brand Leaders better.™

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

GR bio Jun 2016.001

 

Would you ever pay more for a bottle of water than you would for beer?

This past week, I was in Shanghai, China and found the price of a bottle of Evian and Fiji water about ten times the prices of local bottled water (Nestle). And when I went into the Beer section, the water was still twice the price of a Budweiser beer (produced locally). You can also buy Coke or Gatorade much cheaper.

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The prices above  are in Chinese Yuan (1 CYN = 0.15 USD), with the US Dollar equivalent being just under $2.00 US for the Evian or Fuji water, and then only 21 cents US for the Nestle water. The Budweiser is only $1 USD and the Coke is about 50 cents US. Given any worries about “don’t drink the water”, you might easily be willing to pay for the Evian. Or just grab a few Budweiser’s and not worry so much about the water.

China is in a state of dramatic change

The economy of China has been going through vast changes and you see it live on the streets of Shanghai. The contrast of the modern sky scrappers of downtown Shanghai, with the small street neighborhoods with laundry hung out on the phone lines. The increasing number of Mercedes driving past old school three wheel bikes carrying layer upon layer of boxes for delivery. High end restaurants contrasting against live chickens being killed and bagged for dinner that night. The small boutique 100 square foot stores and the 80,000 square foot Carrefour Super Markets.

While China has benefited from global trade, making Apple computers and Nike shoes to be sold around the world, the government uses protectionist practices to ensure high transfer pricing to ensure local goods benefit.

A brand like Evian, with water from the French Alps can not maintain that positioning if they begin producing in a factory just outside Shanghai. In the Carrefour, they have three specific aisles for “Imported” goods, all recognizable Western brands, but all with dramatic price premiums to the local products. This aisle might appeal to the high number of expats living in China as well as the growing Chinese upper middle class. The rest of the grocery store has 10-20% global brands interwoven among the shelves of local goods. This sets up two specific strategies, produce locally (for instance Nestle) and compete directly with the local goods, or stay in the “Imported” and use the super-premium pricing as a strategy to set yourself apart.

I remember being in France in the early 1990s, where I found myself walking all over Paris for about 4-5 hours on a 35 Celsius day. I finally came across a store selling Diet Coke and it was the equivalent of $6. I was in shock, but my thirst overcame my Scottish blood and I guzzled down the most expensive Diet Coke of my life. Later on, my wife ordered a glass of wine for $3. One more reminder that if you eat and drink like the locals, you will be much better off.

Global Pricing Management Systems

Global pricing models get very complicated. With a desire to do well in every local market, you must consider regional and global pricing to ensure you avoid any grey-market activity. Most of the big global brands are using pricing corridors by region to ensure local pricing stays local. Here are five things when considering your pricing as you enter new markets.

  1. Define your Pricing Strategy in alignment with your business strategy and business objectives and based on a deep understanding of your own competitive position, customer insight and cost-to-serve. When starting to look at your pricing, here is what you should be considering.
    • Market Price: If you are confused, pricing studies that look at various options to identify the price elasticity. In general, the more loved a brand, a combination of interesting or important are more price inelastic. One water scare and Evian could charge $5 per bottle, without seeing a change in the volume would make it an inelastic price.
    • Value Price: A brand has good value if the price is deemed “fair”. For a marketer, the mid point hits when the perceived price and perceived value match up. If the price is too high, there is a risk of losing customers/volume. If the price is too low, there is a risk of not realizing the full profitability on the brand.
    • Strategic Price: the pricing strategy can actually impact the positioning as much as it just reflects the positioning. A super premium brand like Evian can make the consumer believe it must be a super premium if it really can command that value.
    • Short vs. Long-term Revenue Pricing: Marketers can get caught up in the addiction to pricing promotions. Once you get up to 30-50% sold on deal, the actual price begins to have little meaning for the consumer.
    • Portfolio Pricing (Price Points): One option for a brand entering a local market who wants to maintain the price of their global brand would be to create a specific local brand with a local price. This would allow you to own both the super-premium and the value priced brands, with the consumer never knowing you own them both.
  2. Operationalize Pricing Strategy in marketing activities and generate all required input for Price Execution.  Here are the factors you should be considering when you operationalize your pricing into the new markets.
    • Competitor Responses
    • Not-in-Kind (NIK) Replacements
    • Reduce/Increase attractiveness of business
    • Keep out competition
    • Setting Visible Market prices
    • Customer Reaction Product Pricing Cannibalization
  3. Implement Pricing Strategy and Price Determination framework into daily sales activities and transactional processing. As you evaluate the impact of your pricing in the market, here are the factors you should be looking at.
    • Buying Power
    • Supplier Power
    • Place in the Value Chain
    • Price Elasticity
    • Global vs. Local Supply and Demand
    • Capacity
    • Substitute products
  4. Define pricing capabilities and skill sets, establish pricing organization and assure consideration of legal requirements
  5. Enable pricing capability by monitoring and provision of tools, systems and processes related to pricing in an integrated manner

Pricing Waterfall

It is good discipline for brands to map out and manage their pricing waterfall. This provides a good control tool as you can track the waterfall over time and identify problems you are encountering. Here’s an example of the dimension involved in a pricing waterfall, helping move you from a desired price to a profitable price.

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So would you pay a 90% price premium for the Evian? I did. 

Here’s a presentation we use for the deep dive analytical thinking that can help you determine your pricing.

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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How to write a Brand Concept that will help you win

A well written concept statement should replicate what you intend to put into the market. And when I say that, it starts with what can realistically fit into a Marketing Execution, either in an ad or a package. Too many Marketers try to jam everything possible into the concept to ensure that it wins. I have seen some put 10 reasons to believe support points. If you are still at the confused stage, do a benefit or claims sort to narrow your list. But never use a concept test to throw every possible thing you could ever say to the consumer.

It starts with doing the Brand Positioning homework

As we dig in on doing our homework on the brand, here are the 4 questions that a winning Brand Positioning Statement must address:

  1. Who is in the consumer target?
    • Who is the most motivated to buy what you do?
  2. Where do you play?
    • Definition of the market that you compete in
  3. What are we are selling?
    • What is your main benefit (rational/emotional)?
  4. Why should they believe us?
    • What support points to back up the main benefit?
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If we look below, the winning zone has to be better, different, cheaper or else not around for very long. You want to avoid competing in the Losing Zone, going head to head with a competitor that can deliver the consumer wants better than you can. The area with the yellow arrow is a the Risky Zone, which is a relative tie. The way to win this zone is by being first, being more innovative and creative or finding the right emotional connection that makes the rational tie less relevant to the consumer decisions. At all costs, avoid the Dumb Zone, where you wage a competitive battle in a space that the consumer does not care about. When you find yourself competing in this space, you will find yourself eventually talking to yourself.

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Who is your target?

Everything starts and ends with the Consumer in mind. Spreading your limited resources across an entire population is cost-prohibitive with low return on investment and low return on effort. While targeting everyone “just in case” might feel safe at first, it’s actually less safe because you never get to see the full impact.Realizing not everyone can like you is the first step to focusing all your attention on those that can love you. It becomes all about choices and you will be much more effective at convincing a segment of the population to choose your brand because of the assets and promise that you have that match up perfectly to what they want. Great brands don’t go after consumers, great brands get consumers to go after the brand. The best way to get consumers motivated is to tap into their need states, by understanding what frustration points they may have. We call these consumer enemies. While products solve regular problems, beloved brands beat down the enemies that torment us every day. What are your consumer’s frustration point that they feel no one is even addressing? To paint the picture of our consumer target, you should use Consumer Insights to help to crystallize and bring to life the consumer you are targeting. The dictionary definition of the word Insight is “seeing below the surface”.Positioning 2016.020 Too many people think data, trends and facts are insights. Facts are merely on the surface—so they miss out on the depth–you need to bring those facts to life by going below the surface and transforming the facts into insights. Insight is something that everyone already knows and comes to life when it’s told in such a captivating way that makes consumers stop and say “hmm, I thought I was the only who felt like that”. That’s why we laugh when we see insight projected with humor, why we get goose bumps when insight is projected with inspiration and why we cry when the insight comes alive through real-life drama. When Consumer Insights are done right, we get in the shoes of the consumer by starting the insight with the word “I” and we use the voice of the consumer by putting the insight in quotes.

As part of the positioning exercise, we recommend that you put together a complete Consumer Profile that outlines the focused definition of the target, add flavor with needs, enemies and insights and then talk about where they are now and where you’d like to move the consumer in the future.

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What’s the Benefit?

The next decision is the main benefit you want to focus on. Doing a Consumer Benefits Ladder helps to organize your thinking as a great tool for bringing the benefits to life.

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The best way to work the Consumer Benefits Ladder is to hold a brainstorming session with everyone who works on the brand so you can:

  • Leverage all the available research to brief the team, helping define the consumer target and get all the consumer insights and need states out.
  • List out all the features that your brand offers, and the brand assets it brings to the table. Make sure that these features are competitive advantages.
  • Find the rational benefit by putting yourself in the shoes of the consumer and seeing the brand features from their eyes: start asking yourself over and over “so if I’m the consumer, what do I get from that?”. Ask up to 5 times and push the answers into a richer zone.
  • Then find the emotional benefit by asking “so how does that make me feel?” As you did above, keep asking, and you’ll begin to see a deeper emotional space you can play in and own.

Put all the information of the group brainstorm into a Consumer Benefits Ladder Worksheet.

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Emotional Benefits

From my experience, Marketers are better at the rational benefits than they are at the emotional benefits. I swear every brand out there thinks their brand should be the trusted, reliable and yet like-able brand. As a brand, you want to own the emotional space in the consumer’s heart as much as you own the rational space in the consumer’s mind. It seems that not only do consumers have a hard time expressing their emotions about a brand, but so do Brand Managers. Companies like Hotspex have mapped out all the emotional zones for consumers. I’m not a researcher, but if you’re interested in this methodology contact Hotspex at http://www.hotspex.biz We have taken this research method and created an Emotional Cheat Sheet for Brand Leaders. This lists out the 8 major emotional consumer zones, optimism, freedom, being noticed, being liked, comfort, be myself, be in control and knowledge.

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To own a space in the consumer’s heart, you want to own and dominate one of zones, always thinking relation to what your competitor may own. Do not choose a list of emotions from all over the map, or you will just confuse your consumer as much as trying to own a long list of rational benefits. Once you narrow the major emotional zone you can own, you can use the supporting words of the Emotional Cheat Sheet to add flavor. Benefits sell and features tell. Stop telling consumers what you do and start telling them what they get and how it will make them feel.

Reasons to Believe (RTB’s)

If we borrow from a classic logic technique below, they teach you to one conclusion and two premise. I took one logic class at University and sat there for 13 straight weeks of premise-premise conclusion. Easy class, but the lesson has stuck with me:

  • All fish live in water (premise)
  • Tuna are fish (premise)
  • Therefore, tuna live in the water (conclusion)

In a positioning statement, the brand benefit would be the conclusion. And the Reason to Believe (RTB) would be the supporting premise. I say this for a few reasons. First, the RTB should never be the conclusion. The consumer doesn’t care about what you do, until they get something from it. The benefit has to come from the consumers’ shoes. Second, if pure logic teaches two premises are enough to draw any conclusion, then you really only need two RTBs. Brands with a laundry list of RTBs are not doing their job in making a decision on what the best support points are. You either force the ad agency to decide what are the most important or the consumer to decide. By deferring, you’re weakening your argument.

Claims can be an effective tool in helping to support your Reason to believe. We look at four types of claims: process, product, third person and behavioral.

Process

  • Detail how your product works differently
  • Showcase your point of difference in the production process.
  • What do you do differently within the production process
  • What added service/details do you provide in the value chain

Product

  • Usage of an ingredient that makes you bette
  • Process or ingredient that makes you safer

Third person

  • Experts in the field who can speak on the brand’s behalf.
  • Past users/clients with proof support of their stories.

Behavioral

  • Clinical tests
  • In market usage study
  • Before and after studies

This is what it looks like when you put them into this format:

For more information on Brand Positioning statements, follow this step by step process in this link: How to Write a Brand Positioning Statement

 

Turning the work into a Brand Concept

Creating the Big Idea: To ensure we have an idea that is big enough to guide every part of the organization, we start by describing the brand as to the products and services that we sell and matches that up to the external brand reputation among consumers. We describe what internal beacons are within the brand that would help guide the entire internal brand culture and organization that supports the brand as well as the brand character as it touches consumers. We would also describe the role of the brand, about how it connects the brand with consumers, the link between the internal soul and the external reputation.

The Big Idea Blueprint below shows everything that must be considered for creating the Big Idea.

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Looking at the example below, taking the information from the concept from above using Gray’s Cookies, here’s how to map it into a concept.

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  • Main headline should capture the big idea of your brand.  Obviously the headline is the first thing they see, so it should contain the big idea that you want your brand to stand behind.
  • Use the opening to connect quickly with your target consumers by starting with their enemy or insight. I love using the enemy because it can be a very arresting way to really make the consumer say “That’s me”.
  • Bring the main benefit to life in a compelling promise statement. I prefer it to have an emotional/rational balance in the promise. At the very least, the emotion modifies the rational. The promise statement then forces us to bring in the two reasons to believe to help back that up.
  • I like to add a motivating call to action at the end to help prompt purchase intent. The concept test will hang on how well the purchase intent score is, so a strong concept almost has to ask for it.
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Anything more than this, you are just cheating yourself. Yes, you might have a better score, but you might not be able to execute it in the market. If you haven’t narrowed down your claims or RTB’s, maybe you need a claim sorting research before you get into the concept testing.

While this helps with HOW to write a concept, ask Beloved Brands how we can help really bring the concepts to life with a workshop with your team as well as writing of the final concept options.  We promise to bring magic to the concept which will help get you into the right positioning.

For a presentation on how to write a Positioning Statement, 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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How to make your Creative Brief smarter

 

The best Marketing Execution is creative, but never random. It is well-organized and lines up to the brand’s strategy. The creative brief acts as the bridge between the brand strategy and the execution in the market. The role of a brand is to create a unique idea that transforms the brand’s soul into a reputation that is perceived in the minds and hearts of the consumer, consistently delivered by the experience, creating a bond, power and profit, beyond what the product alone could achieve. Marketing Execution can play a critical role in making the brand stronger.

  • Great Marketing Execution should create a bond with consumers who connect with the soul of the brand.
  • Great Marketing Execution should establish your brand’s reputation based on a distinct positioning.
  • Great Marketing Execution should influence consumers to alter their behavior, making the brand more powerfully connected, eventually leading to higher sales, share and profit.

If you are creating Marketing Execution that doesn’t alter behavior or doesn’t help lead the brand on a pathway to higher profits, then you are wasting the hard-earned money of the brand.

 

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Control the strategy. Give freedom on execution

Brand leaders have this backwards, giving freedom on the strategy with various options in the brief, and yet control the execution with a long list of mandatories and direction on style of advertising. In my 25 years of marketing, every great Creative Advertising person I met was a problem solving “in-the-box” type thinker, not a blue sky “out-of-the-box” thinker. Never give them a blank slate or blank canvas and ask them to come up with an ad. But never give them a solution. If they are “in the box thinkers” then the role of the Creative Brief is to create a box for them to solve.

 

A creative brief creates the box to play in.

While it hard to come up with the ideal brand strategies, sometimes it’s even harder to stay on strategy throughout the execution of the marketing activities. Many think the only intended audience of the creative brief is the creative team at your agency. Write it for yourself to keep you focused on your strategy, write it for your boss that might not be in the room when the creative work is presented, write it for other agencies to align with the main creative work and write it for the next brand leader on your desk to keep them focused on the strategy you have created.

Some think that a creative brief takes everything you know about your brand and only puts down those pieces of information relevant to the strategic choice you have made. In a way it does, but remember that it’s called a “brief” for a reason. Most brand leaders struggle to focus. It should force you to make choices in what you put in the brief. What you need the brief to do is to focus on a slice of the population (target), create something that gets them to take an action (desired response) that make the brand stronger (result). The brief lays out what to say (main message), how to talk to them to trigger that action (tone) and re-enforces why we can do it and others can’t. (positioning). As you create the box for the creative team, here are the rules of the box you create:

  • one clearly defined and narrow target
  • one benefit
  • one or two reason to believe
  • one strategic objective
  • make the consumers think, feel or do
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Before you start writing a creative brief without doing your homework.

At Beloved Brands, we use six questions as a deep-dive homework to set up a Brand Communications Strategy.

  1. Who is in the consumer target?  (Who is the most motivated to buy?)
  2. What are we are selling?  (What is your main benefit?)
  3. Why should they believe us?  (Support points to back up what you say)
  4. What’s the long range feeling the brand evokes? (What is the Big Idea/Soul for the brand?)
  5. What do we want the advertising to do for the brand? (Strategic Choices)
  6. What do want people to think, feel or do? (Desired Response)
  7. Where will you deliver the message?(Media Plan)
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Transforming your Advertising Strategy homework into a Creative Brief

As we move from the home work you have done above into the briefing stage, here are 12 headlines you can use to help frame your creative brief:

  1. Why Are We Advertising
  2. What’s the Consumer Problem We are Addressing
  3. Who are you talking to?
  4. Consumer Insights
  5. What does our consumer think now?
  6. What do you want your consumer to think/feel/do? (Desired Response)
  7. What should we tell them? (Stimulus: benefit)
  8. Why should they believe us?
  9. Brand Positioning Statement
  10. Tone and Manner
  11. Media Options
  12. Mandatories

Once you answer the seven questions on the homework, you can use those answers to begin to populate your creative brief:

 

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A well written creative brief takes everything you know about the brand and strategically desire, and distils it down to 1 page. Here’s an example of a good creative brief:

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Where Brand Leaders make mistakes on the Creative Brief

Why are we Advertising?

The first area is at the top of the brief with the advertising objective.

  • An unfocused objective: Drive TRIAL of Grays Cookies AND get current users to USE MORE often.
  • A focused objective: Drive trial of Grays Cookies by positioning it as “The good tasting Healthy cookie”

I see too many briefs that have both penetration and usage frequency as one objective. Stop this, it’s TWO STRATEGIES that leads you to two targets, two objectives, two messages and possibly two different media options. Your agency will come back with one ad that does penetration and one for frequency and this gives up control of the strategy to the agency and even to you who now picks the best creative work, not the best strategy.

 

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What’s the Consumer Problem we are addressing?

The next flaw I see is leading with a product driven brief, not a consumer driven brief.

  • A product driven Brief misses the consumer problem we are addressing: Gray’s market share is still relatively small. It is held back by low awareness and trial and the product usage is not on par with the category.
  • A consumer driven Brief lays out a clear consumer problem we are addressing. I’m always watching what I eat. And then BAM, I see a cookie and I’m done. As much as I look after myself, I still like to sneak a cookie now and then.

The best ads are rooted in consumer insights so you can connect and move the consumer in a way that benefits your brand. We recommend that you start with the consumers enemy—every product started by solving a problem, but every brand fights off an enemy in the consumers life.

Who are you talking to?

Brand Leaders tend to pick too broad of a target and as we mentioned in the homework, this just spreads your limited resources.

  • A broad target Brief: 25-55 year olds, current users and potential users. They shop mainly at Grocery and some Mass. They use 24.7 cookies a month
  • A highly targeted Brief: “Proactive Preventers”. Suburban working women, 35-40, who are willing to do whatever it takes to stay healthy. They run, workout and eat right. For many, Food can be a bit of a stress-reliever and escape even for people who watch what they eat.

Having a 30 year age gap is too wide: your agency will give you one ad for 25 year olds and one for 55 year olds. You want CREATIVE options, not STRATEGIC options. We recommend a maximum 5 year age gap to give your ad focus. Going after current and new users is an unfocused strategy that just spreads your resources.

Consumer Insights

Consumer insights adds real flavor to the target, and with great advertising is what creates that first connection that we “get the consumer”. But consumer insights are not facts and stats. You have to go a layer beneath the surface. Consumer insight is an enlightening discovery about consumer’s underlying needs and motivations. Insight is something that everyone already knows and comes to life when it’s told in such a captivating way that makes consumers stop and say “hmm, I thought I was the only who felt like that.

  • A bad “stats driven” Brief: Gray’s product taste drives high trial to purchase (50%) compared to other new launches (32%). Consumers only use Gray’s 9.8 cookies per month compared to the Category Leader at 18.3 cookies.
  • An insights driven Brief: “I have tremendous will-power. I work out 3x a week, watch what I eat and maintain my figure. But we all have weaknesses and cookies are mine. I just wish they were less bad for you”

We recommend that you frame your insight by starting with the word “I” to force yourself into their shoes and put the insight in quotes to force yourself to use their voice. Bring insights into the brief as ways to tell the story to the creative team, so they can build stories that connect with your consumer. The best ads are those where you can almost see the insight shining through the work.

 

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What do we want consumers to think, feel or do? (Desired Response)

When getting into execution mode, think about the desired response before planning the stimulus. Too many Brand Leaders start with the stimulus. But, you should start with the response and let that guide what you’re going to tell them.

  • A bad Brief wants the advertising to do everything: We want them to THINK that Grays Cookies are unique. We want them to FEEL they can stay in control with Grays and it will keep them feeling successful in living their healthy lifestyle. And we want them to TRY Grays and see if they like the great taste.
  • A Better Brief is focused on accomplishing ONE thing: We want them to FEEL they can stay in control with Grays.

You should choose ONE of think, feel or act, not a combination. Good advertising can only move one body part at a time—so you have to decide, or else your agency will show you creative options for each of these strategies and the best ad will decide your brand strategy.

 

What should we tell them? (Stimulus)

As we work with brands, we try to get them focused on what the consumer gets from what you do, not just talking about yourself. The golden rule for getting someone to like you is talk about them, not you.

  • A feature oriented Brief: Grays Cookies are the perfect modern cookie, only 100 calories and less than 2g of Fat. For those looking to lose weight, the American Dietician Society recommends adding Gray’s to your diet. You can find Gray’s at all leading grocery stores.
  • A Benefit focused Brief: With Grays Cookies you can still have a great tasting cookie without the guilt.

Speak in terms of benefits, not features. Focus your stimulus on what consumers get (rational benefit) or how consumers feel (emotional). Try to narrow what you TELL consumers to ONE THING, not a laundry list of things. If you tell them too much, they’ll hear NOTHING.

 

Mandatories

The best briefs have few mandatories. I’ve seen Brand Leaders write long Mandatories lists, that makes it so prescriptive the agency ends up backed into a creative corner.

  • A Bad prescriptive attempt to control the Creative: Avoid humor, as a sarcastic tone will not work with our target market. Preference is for real customer testimonials supported by before/after with our 90 day guarantee tagged on. Ensure brand shown in first 7 seconds. Use Snookie, as our spokesperson. Ad setting in pharmacy will add credibility.
  • Good attempt to give Freedom to the Creative: The line: “best tasting yet guilt-free pleasure” is on our packaging. At least 25% of Print must carry the Whole Foods logo as part of our listing agreement. Include the Legal disclaimer on the taste test and the 12 week study.

If you think the first list is fictional, it’s not. I’ve seen every one of those mandatories in creative briefs. With the second list, you’ll notice that none of them steer the creative advertising ideas.

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Some simple rules for a good Creative Brief:

  • Target the people most motivated by what you do best. Don’t just randomly target competitive users that are most desirable to us, without knowing if we can actually win them over. Spreading your resources against a target so broad, everyone will think you message is for someone else.
  • Use what we stand for to show consumers what they get from us.  Don’t just tell what we do, so that it makes us appear the best in the category. Consumers don’t care what you do, they selfishly and rightfully so care about what they get.
  • Focus on getting consumers to do only one thing at a time: think, feel or do. Make a choice instead of  trying to get new users to buy and getting current users to use more at the same time.  Trying to drive trial and usage at the same time will leave consumers confused as to what to think, do or feel.
  • Use the creative work to tell the brand story in a way we love and believe in.  Great advertising is NOT about making sure we get all our key messages into the creative. With so many messages, people won’t know what you stand for, and you’ll never get a reputation for anything.
  • Connect with our target where they are most likely to engage with our brand story.  While efficient media is important, focusing solely on efficiency and ROI might lead us to staying beneath the consumer’s radar. Consumers hear 7000 efficiently placed messages a day, and quickly reject boring messages all day long. They likely will connect and engage with 5 messages a day. Will it be yours?

Trying to be everything to anyone, makes you nothing to everyone

To read more on Creative Briefs, follow this presentation

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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Laying out your 5-year plan with a Brand Strategy Roadmap

What the final Brand Strategy Roadmap should look like

Having the brand road map on one page can help align everyone that works on a brand. This is especially useful when managing a Branded House or Master Brand where there are various people in your organization that each run a small part of the brand. The road map helps guide everyone and keep them aligned. Here’s the one I use that has all the key elements that help define the brand:

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The Brand Strategy Roadmap combines With our Brand Roadmap the Brand Idea Map where we take the brand’s big idea and show it lines up across the 5 consumer touch-points and the long-term Brand Plan elements.

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Big Idea Map

As we map out how consumers buy and experience brands, we have created 5 main consumer touch-points that will impact their decisions on whether to engage, buy, experience and become a fan. Our five consumer touch-points we use are:

  1. Brand Promise: Brands need to create a simple brand promise that separates your brand from competitors, based on being better, different or cheaper.
  2. Brand Story: Use your brand story to motivate consumers to think, feel or act, while beginning to own a reputation in the mind and hearts of consumers.
  3. Innovation: Fundamentally sound product, staying at the forefront of trends and using technology to deliver on your brand promise.
  4. Purchase Moment: The moment of truth as consumers move through the purchase cycle and use channels, messaging, processes to make the final decision.
  5. Brand Experience: Turn the usage of your product into an experience that becomes a ritual and favorite part of their day. 

To ensure a consistency in how consumers view your brand, whether that is the first touch-point or the most recent, all 5 touch-points should be aligned under the brand’s Big Idea.  

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Strategic Plan Elements

  • Vision: What do you want your brand to be in the next 5-10 years? Vision gives everyone on the brand a clear direction, it should be measurable (quantitative) and motivating (qualitative). It should push you so much that it scares you a little, but excites you a lot.
  • Purpose: Why does your brand exist? Keep asking yourself why you do this, to find the personal motivation hidden in the brand. Articulating your purpose can be a very powerful way to connect with both employees and consumers, giving your brand a soul.
  • Values: core beliefs of the brand that shape the organization as to the standards, behaviors, expectations. The brand has to be able to stand up to and consistently deliver each value.
  • Goals: What do you need to achieve? Specific measures of brand health and wealth, related to consumer/customer behavioral changes, metrics of key programs, performance targets or milestones on the pathway to the vision. It’s the brand scoreboard.
  • Key Issues: What is getting the way from achieving your vision/goals? Deep analysis highlights what’s driving and holding brand back, as well as future risks and untapped opportunities. Issues are asked as a question to provide the problem to which strategies become the solution.
  • Strategies: How can we get there? Strategies are the “How” you will win the market. Choices based on market opportunities, using consumers, competitors or situational. Strategies should have a pin-pointed focus providing a breakthrough on the pathway to the brand vision.
  • Tactics: What do we need to do to execute the strategy? Framed completely by strategy, tactical choices deploy your limited resources against brand projects, the most efficient way to drive a high ROI.

Here’s what Apple’s draft of their strategic plan looks like:

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House of Brands

When working with a house of brands, where you have multiple brand names under one corporate name (P&G, Kraft, General Mills and Johnson and Johnson) the brand plan would look different.  The big differences are the teams are smaller and the culture of each team usually follows that of the corporate name.

Here’s a good example of a Brand Plan that would fit within the House of Brands and here is the related story on How to Write a Brand Plan

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Use your Brand Strategic Roadmap to gain agreement, make focused decisions and  keep everyone aligned

 

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

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

 

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 Bose brand considered high quality or low quality?

 

bose-logo-vectorAmong the masses, Bose is one of the most respected, trusted and beloved brands when it comes to audio speakers and headphones.  That’s what their core target market would say. But to serious Audiophiles, with a discerning ear, Bose is total crap, with inferior technology, shabby production standards and resulting poor value. This might be the equivalent about asking a Foodie what they think of Morton’s Steakhouse or Ruth’s Chris.

Bose has a great word of mouth reputation. I remember when I first heard of Bose, it was a guy at work, who seemed to know more than I did say definitively “Bose are the best speakers you can buy”. I immediately believed this to be true and have felt that way ever since. I proudly own Bose headphones, a Bose docking station and Bose speakers in my car. I am a highly satisfied Bose fan.

I wanted Bose Speakers for my TV, having drooled over the idea for years. So I went into a Bose store, listened to a few different options and they all sounded amazing. So I looked on the Bose box, and there was no mention of Watts at all or really anything. My first thought was “wow, Bose is just such a great brand, they don’t really need to get into those tiny details like watts”. But I wanted to compare brands just to ensure I was spending good money. So I went on-line and here’s the Bose specs: still nothing.

 

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That brings us to The Bose philosophy: Unlike other audio product manufacturers, Bose does not publish specifications relating to the measured electrical and objective acoustic performance of its products. This reluctance to publish information links back to the classic Amar Bose paper presented in 1968 “On the Design, Measurement and Evaluation of Loudspeakers”. In the paper, Bose rejects these measurements in favor of “more meaningful measurement and evaluation procedures”, and considers the human experience the best measure of performance.

For Bose, sound is an experience, not a statistic. Bose spends all their effort and dollars on perfecting the in-store sound demo so they can show off Bose’s great sound quality and let consumers be the judge of their sound.  And yet it’s arguably tough for the average ear to distinguish. Bose invests a lot of money into their own retail stores as well as the store-in-store concepts. That way, it can control the experience the consumer gets with its products–ensuring the consumers hear Bose at it’s best.

Bose has figured out how to make their brand work to their advantage–the proof is in the sound you hear in the store. There’s a certain magic that happens in store when listening to the Bose stereo system. Despite what Audiophiles say, consumer feedback from the masses is definitively in favour of Bose with very high scores. And in a most recent poll, Bose is the #3 trusted brand in Consumer Electronics, so they must be doing something right. It’s tough for consumers to separate Product from Brand, even a brand like Apple has had success in this confusion where consumers think Apple has “great products”. To the masses, Bose is a great brand and has great products.

Is Bose a beloved or hated brand? You be the judge.  

 

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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In advertising, what comes first: the MEDIA choice or the CREATIVE idea?

Of course the consumer always comes first. However, as you begin the advertising process, Brand Leaders need to figure out whether the creative determines the media choice you make or the media choice helps frame the creative. When I started in marketing, way back in the mid 90s, life was a little simpler because the media and the creative were both under one agency roof. The meetings were simple: you’d see your various TV script options, give some feedback and then the room would go silent and the account person would say “now let’s look at the media plan” and the media person would take you through a 15 page presentation on where else the idea of your TV script could go. You would see some magazine, OOH and even some sampling idea. Back then, there was no internet advertising yet.

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Then one day, our media folks from our agency were spun off, had a new name, moved offices and had a new President. It now just meant we had two presentations and the Brand Leader now had to make sense of things and try to piece it together. About a year into that new relationship, I was sitting there confused and asked the question: “So what comes first, the media choice or the creative idea?” The room went silent for about 5 minutes. Then of course both sides talked over each other, both saying it was them that came first.  

All Marketing Execution has to do something to the brand–getting the consumer to think, act or feel differently about your brand. Media is an investment against your strategy and creative is an expression of your strategy. Both media and creative are only useful if they connect with consumers. Great advertising must connect through very insightful creative that expresses the brand’s positioning and told in a way that matters to those who care the most. Great advertising must be placed within the consumers’ life where it will capture their attention and motivate them in the expressed desired way to meet the strategy. So really, the consumer comes first and strategy comes second. Media and creative need to work to jointly capture the consumer and deliver the strategy.  

With separate agencies, the problem now rests with Brand Leaders to figure it out. While one could theoretically argue that if the Creative Idea of the advertising is so big, it should work in every medium. That’s just not always true in reality. Some ideas just work better in certain mediums. Yet the media people could also theoretically argue that if you go for the most efficient and effective media option, the media will do the work for you. That’s also not true. The best overall advertising should work focus on what has the most impact and what has the highest efficiency.  

Here’s a solution for Brand Leaders 

The three questions you always need to keep in your head at all times: 1) where is your consumer 2) where is your brand and 3) how does the creative idea work? 

1.  Where is your consumer?

You should really understand who your consumer is, and who they are not. You need to make sure you understand the insights about them, because it’s those insights within your creative that allow you to connect with them. They’ll say “they get me”. You should always be mapping out a day in the life of your consumer. Get in their shoes and say “what does my consumer’s day look like and how will my message fit or interrupt their life?” Take a “be where they are approach” to your media. 

2.  Where is the Brand?

First thing you have to do is consider where your brand is on the Brand Love Curve where brands go from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and all the way to Beloved. At INDIFFERENT, it’s about announcement style such as mass media, LIKE IT becomes about separating yourself from the competition while LOVE IT and BELOVED you’ll start to see the growing importance of event marketing to core users or social media as a badge of honor to share with others.

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3.  How does the Creative work? (The ABC’S)

The best advertising should draw ATTENTION, be about the BRAND, COMMUNICATE the main message and STICK in the consumers head long beyond the ad.

  • Attention: You have to get noticed in a crowded world of advertising. Consumers see 7,000 brand messages per day, and will likely only engage in a few. If your brand doesn’t draw attention naturally, then you’ll have to force it into the limelight.
  • Branding: Ads that tell the story of the relationship between the consumer and the brand will link best. Even more powerful are ads that are from the consumers view of the brand. It’s not how much branding there is, but how close the brand fits to the climax of the ad.
  • Communication: Tapping into the truths of the consumer and the brand, helps you to tell the brand’s life story. Keep your story easy to understand. Communication is not just about what you say, but how you say it—because that says just as much.
  • Stickiness: Sticky ads help to build a consistent brand/consumer experience over time. In the end, brands are really about “consistency” of the promise you want to own. Brands have exist in the minds of the consumer. 
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In the reality of advertising, not every ad execution will be able to do all four of the ABC’S.  When I’m in the creative room, I try to think about which of the two ABC’S are the most critical to my strategy. If it is a new product, I want all four, but I have to have: Attention and Communication. If the brand is in a competitive battle I have to have Brand and Communication.  If the brand is a leader and beloved, I need to make sure the advertising is about the Brand and that it Sticks.   

What I recommend you do:

In a sense, you have to work the creative and media together. But that’s impossible. So what I do is hold off on making any media decisions until you see the creative idea and how it is expressed in a few media options. With all the potential media options now available, I ask for 3 executions for each creative option:

        1. Video version
        2. Billboard 
        3. Long Copy Print

Sounds simple, but here’s the logic. With those 3, I can now imagine how the advertising might work across all possible media options. 

  • The “Video” allows me to imagine how the creative would work for traditional 30-second TV ad, a 60-second movie theatre ad, 2 or 3 minute viral video for sharing or even a video you could put on a website.
  • The “Billboard” allows me to imagine how it would work with traditional media options such as out-of-home billboard, bus shelter, in-store poster, packaging copy and the back cover of a magazine.  Or if we want to look at digital, it could be a digital billboard, Facebook photo, website cover.
  • The “Long Print” allows me to imagine what how it might work with a print ad, side panel of packaging, brochures, public relations story-line,  social media feed or even a blog on your website.  

With 3 simple asks against each creative idea, it covers off most of the traditional media options, even covering the digital media. So now as the Brand Leader goes to their Media Agency, they will know how the creative idea would work against any of their recommendations. 

Obviously, we always recommend that you focus. So we’ll likely recommend a lead traditional media and a lead digital and lead social option. You need to make the most out of your limited resources of dollars, time, people and partnerships. However, if we want a creative idea to last 5 years, seeing it work across this many media options gives me a comfort that should I need that option, I know the creative idea will work.

The media math from a client’s view

While the media agency owns the media math that blows your mind, here is some simple client side media math. As clients, we have to make the most of our budgets. 

  • Your production budget should be around 5-10% of your overall advertising plan. If you have small budgets, that may creep up to 20%, but that’s it. Every time you do a new piece of creative, the production dollars go up and the media dollars go down. I’d recommend you focus on one main traditional media and have only one secondary option. This keeps your spend focused. 
  • When it comes to social media, keep in mind there is no free media options. Instead of financial capital, you are now exhausting people capital. Just like the traditional options, I would recommend one lead social media and one secondary focus. Do not try to be all things to all people.  
  • The other reason to focus is to ensure you do great executions and not just “ok”.  Pick the media that maximizes the power of the creative. Don’t exhaust the team by spreading them against too many activities.   
  • Allow 80 to 90% of your media spend be on the highly effective highly efficient media plan. That means 10-20% of your media spend can now go against high IMPACT creative ideas that you know will break through.  

Work with both the creative and media at the same time, figuring out what gives the highest return on your investment

 

To see a training presentation on getting Better Marketing Execution: 

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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