10 reasons why Brand Managers get fired

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Brand Careers 2016.051There have been a lot of great Assistant Brand Managers, who end up being fired or pushed out the door at the Brand Manager level. So that would beg the question:  why were they mistakenly promoted? Just like in sports where they are fooled by size, we sometimes get fooled by Charisma. They seem impressive to us–whether it is how they speak in the hallways or answer questions in a planning meeting. We think Charisma is a great starting ground for a leader, so we hope they can learn to be analytical, strategic, creative and organized. We hope that charismatic leader can get stuff done, stay on track, hand in their budgets on time, know how to turn a brand around, be able to write great brand plans, work with agencies and motivate the sales team etc…etc… But then we find out that they can’t do all that stuff. And after 18 months as a Brand Manager, we see they really are “just charismatic” and we remind ourselves of what we already knew: Being a Brand Manager really is hard.

Brand Managers don’t really get fired because they can’t deliver the results. That might happen at Director or VP level. But at the Brand Manager level, we’d look for other Blind Spots that might be leading to the poor results. We would evaluate whether the Brand Manager appears capable of closing their blind spots.

I don’t want to see anyone get fired, so use this list to find your blind spot and then close it before others discover it. Be honest with yourself. Seek out the opinions of peers or colleagues. I have provided advice for each potential reason, hopefully helping you to address each one pro-actively.  

Top 10 reasons why Brand Managers get fired:  

  1. Struggle to make decisions: When these Brand Managers were Assistant Brand Managers (ABMs) they shined because they are the “super doer’s”, who can work the system, get things done on time and under budget. All the subject matter experts (forecasting, production, promotions) loved them. But then, after we promote them into the Brand Manager seat and they freeze. Brand Careers 2016.029They can do, but they can’t decide. They can easily execute someone else’s project list with flare, but they can’t come up with a project list of their own. Advice: To overcome this problem, you have to work better on your decision-making process. You have to find methods for narrowing down the options to help you make decisions. When you are new to decisions, take the time to map out your thinking whether it is a  pros and cons or a decision tree. It will eventually get faster for you to train your mind to make decisions.
  2. Not analytical enough: The Brand Managers that can’t do the deep dive analytical thinking will fail. They might have great instincts, but they only scratch the surface on the analytics. It will eventually catches up with them when they make a poor decision and can’t explain why they went against the obvious data points. The real reason is that the Brand Manager never saw the data points. When a senior leader questions a Brand Manager, they can usually tell if they have struggled enough with a problem to get to the rich solution or whether they just did the adequate thinking to get to an “ok” solution. Advice: Just because you are now a Brand Manager doesn’t mean you stop digging into the data. The analytical skills you learned as an ABM should be used at every level in your career right up to VP. As I moved up, I felt out of touch with the data so at every level up to VP, I used to do my own monthly share report just to ensure I was digging in and getting my hands mucky with the data. Because I had dug around in the data, I knew which of my Brand Managers had dug in as well and which Brand Managers hadn’t even read their ABM’s monthly report yet. Take the time to know the details of your business. Dig into the data and make decisions based on the depth of analysis you do. Analytics 2016.009
  3. Can’t get along: Conflicts, teamwork issues, communication. The Brand Managers that struggle with sales colleagues or the subject matter experts (SME’s) are at risk of failure. They might be the type who speaks first, listens second. They go head-to-head to get their own way instead of looking for compromise. Yes, they might be so smart they think faster than everyone, but they forget to bring everyone along with their thinking. They start to leave a trail of those they burned and when the trail gets too big they get labelled as “tough to deal with”. Advice: Listen more–hear them out. The collection of SME’s will likely teach you more about marketing than your boss will. If you don’t use these people to enhance your skill, you’ll eventually crash and burn.  And if they can’t work with you, they’ll also be the first to destroy your career. You aren’t the first superstar they’ve seen. And likely not the last. My recommendation to you is to remember that Leadership is not just about you being out front, but about you turning around and actually seeing people following you. In fact, it should be called “Follower-ship”.
  4. Not good with Ambiguity: Some Brand Managers opt for the safety of the easy and well-known answers. They struggle with the unknown and get scared of ambiguity. Brand Managers that become too predictable to their team create work in the market that also becomes predictable and fails to drive the brand. These Brand Managers are OK–they don’t really have a lot of wrong, but they don’t have a lot of right. Advice: You can put them on safe easy businesses, but you wouldn’t put them on the turn around or new products. Ambiguity is a type of pressure that not all of us are capable of handling easily, especially when they see Ambiguity and Time Pressure working against each other. Don’t ever settle for “ok” just because of a deadline. Always push for great. You have to learn to handle ambiguity. In fact revel in ambiguity. Have fun with it. Be Patient with Ideas. Never be afraid of an idea and never kill it quickly. As a leader, find ways to ask great questions instead of giving quick answers. Watch the signals you send that may suck the creativity energy out of your team. When you find a way to stay comfortable in the “ambiguity zone”, the ideas get better whether it’s the time pressure that forces the thinking to be simpler or whether it’s the performance pressure forces us to push for the best idea. So my recommendation to you is to just hold your breath sometimes and see if the work gets better.
  5. Too slow and stiff: The type of Brand Manager that is methodical to the extreme and they think everything through to the point of “Analysis Paralysis”. They never use instincts–and have the counter analytical answer to every “gut feel” solution that gets recommended. They have every reason why something won’t work but no answers for what will work. I have to admit that this type frustrates me to no end, because nothing ever gets done. They struggle to make it happen: they are indecisive, not productive, disorganized or can’t work through others. They are frustratingly slow for others to deal with. They keep missing opportunities or small milestones that causes the team to look slow and miss the deadlines. Advice: You have to start to show more flexibility in your approach. Borrow some of the thinking from dealing with ambiguity and making decisions. Realize there are options for every solution, no one perfect answer.      
  6. Bad people Manager: Most first-time people managers screw up a few of their first 5 direct reports. It is only natural. One of the biggest flaws for new Managers is to think “Hey, it will take me longer to explain it to you, so why don’t I just do it myself this one time and you can do it next time”.  They repeat this every month until management realizes that these Brand Managers aren’t teaching their ABM anything. They became the Manager that none of the ABMs want to work for because they never learn anything. But as management keeps watching great ABMs crashing and burning while under these Brand Managers, we start to wonder “while you might be smart, but can you actually manage people?” Advice: To be a great Brand Manager, you have to work on being a better people leader. We expect you to develop talent.  Be more patient with your ABM. Become a teacher. Be more selfless in your approach to coaching. Take time to give them feedback that helps them, not feedback that helps you. If you don’t become a better people manager, you’ve just hit your peak in your career.
  7. Poor communicators, with manager, senior management or partners: They fail to adequately warn there boss when there is a  potential problem. They leave their manager in the dark and the information comes to their manager from someone else. They confuse partners because they don’t keep them aware of what’s going on. Advice: You have to become a better communicator. Make it a habit that as soon as you know something, you make sure that your boss knows as well–especially with negative news. It’s normal that we get fixated on solving the problem at hand that we forget to tell people. But that opens you up to risk–share the problem, discuss what you are going to do, and then go make it happen.  Brand Careers 2016.028
  8. Never follow their intuition: They forget that marketing also has a “Gut Feel” to it, taking all the data, making decisions and then getting to the execution and believing it by taking a risk. Too many times people fail because “they went along with it even though they didn’t like it”. Advice: You have to find ways to use your instincts. The problem is that sometimes your instincts are hidden away. You get confused, you feel the pressure to get things done and you’ve got everyone telling you to go for it. You get scared because you’re worried about your career and you want to do the ‘right thing’. But your gut is telling you it’s just not right. My rule is simple: if you don’t love the work, how do you expect the consumer to love your brand. The worst type of marketer is someone who says “I never liked the brief” or “I never liked the ad”. At every touch point, keep reaching for your intuition and bring them out into the discussion.
  9. Can’t think strategically or write strategically: As Brand Managers move up, we expect them to be able to think conceptually, strategically and in an organized fashion. We also expect that to come through in their writing–whether that is the annual Brand Plan, monthly share report or just an email sent up to senior management. Advice: Be organized in your thinking and map it out. I do believe that every good strategy has four key elements: 1) Focus in either target or messaging 2) an Early win where you can see results 3) a Leverage point where you can take that early win and achieve a position power for your brand and finally 4) a Gateway to something even bigger for the brand. Every six months, find a quiet time to answer five key questions that would help me stay aware: 1) Where are we? 2) Why are we here? 3) Where could we be?  4) How can we get there? and 5) What do we have to do to get started?   In an odd way, the more planning you do, the more agile you will be, and you can layer in your intuition, because you will know when it is ok to “go off plan” 
  10. They don’t run the brand, they let the brand run them. Some Brand Managers end up in the spin zone where they are disorganized, frantic and not in touch with their business. They miss deadlines, look out of control and things just stockpile on one another. They may take pride in how long they work or how many things they are getting done on their to-do list. But they are out of control and the business is absolutely killing them. They just don’t know it yet. Advice: Stay in Control so you hit the deadlines and stay on budget. Dig in and know your business so you don’t get caught off-guard. Make sure you are asking the questions and carrying forward the knowledge. Instil processes that organize and enable you and your team, so that it frees you up your time to push projects through and for doing the needed strategic thinking. Stay conceptual–avoid getting stuck in the pennies or decimals–so you can continue to drive the strategy of your brand.  

Now let’s be honest: You likely won’t be fired for just one of these. You likely will see 3 or 4 of these come together and begin to showcase that you’re just not up for being a Brand Manager. But even 1 or 2 will keep you stuck at the Brand Manager level and you’ll notice your bosses are hesitant to put you on the biggest brands or the toughest assignments.

The big question is what do you do about it.

My hope is that you can use the list as a way to course correct on something you might already be doing. We each have a few of these de-railers, some that you can easily over-come but others that will take a few years to really fix. Those who seek out feedback, welcome it and act on it will be the successful ones. I hope that your company has a process of giving feedback or that you get lucky to have a manager that cares about your career and is willing to give you the tough feedback. But if not, seek it. Be honest with yourself and try to fix one of these per quarter.

I hope you can figure out the blind spots before your manager does.  

Close your gaps to ensure you will be a successful Brand Manager

To read more about having a successful Marketing Career, click on the slide presentation below:

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. 

Positioning 2016.112

Ritz-Carlton: Meeting the “unexpressed” needs of guests

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Impeccable service separates Ritz-Carlton

Ritz-Carlton does a lot of things right to earn the high prices they are able to charge–the best locations, beautiful rooms, nice beds and great meals. But in reality, every luxury hotel has to deliver against these or they’ll be quickly out of business. Recognizing that any great brand has to be better, different or cheaper to win, Ritz-Carlton focuses their attention on impeccable service standards to separate themselves from other Hotels. What Ritz-Carlton has done so well is operationalize it so that culture and brand are one.RitzCarlton.svg

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Ritz-Carlton Training session, and as a Brand Leader, the thing that struck me was the idea of meeting the “unexpressed” needs of guests. As highly paid Marketers, even with mounds of research, we still struggle to figure out what our consumers want, yet Ritz-Carlton has created a culture where bartenders, bellhops and front desk clerks instinctively meet these “unexpressed needs”. Employees carry around note pads and record the expressed and unexpressed needs of every guest and then they use their instincts to try to surprise and delight these guests.

Employees are fully empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests. Unique means doing something that helps to separate Ritz-Carlton from other hotels, memorable forces the staff to do something that truly stands out. And personal is defined as people doing things for other people. Isn’t that what marketers do? So what’s getting in our way?

They bake it right into the Ritz-Carlton culture

The phrase that Ritz-Carlton uses with their staff is “Radar is on and Antenna is Up” so that everyone can be looking for the unexpressed needs. These could be small wins that delight consumers in a big way:

  • A couple arrives at the hotel, wife is six months pregnant. Normal service would be to observe and do nothing–at best help with the bags. But at Ritz-Carlton, antenna up means they get a special pillow for sleeping and alcohol free sparkling cider instead of champagne.
  • A business guest who was staying at a hotel for 4 weeks and the staff printed up business cards with the guest name, hotel address and phone number so that he could give them out during his stay.

But like any hotel, things do go wrong. The staff is encouraged to use these moments to not only address the problem and fix it but also try to surprise and delight guests turning a problem into a potential wow moment. With everyone’s antenna’s up, when a problem does arise they quickly brainstorm and use everyone’s input.

  • A guest who had just left the hotel called to say that their son had left his stuffed giraffe in the room. The boy could not stop crying.2012-05-17-Joshiepic5 The only thing these distraught parents could think of to tell their son, is that the giraffe was staying on the vacation a little longer. So the staff, found the giraffe and overnighted it to the boy. Most luxury hotels would have done that. But that was not enough for Ritz-Carlton. Knowing what the Mom had told their son about staying on a bit longer, the staff also included a photo album of the giraffe enjoying his extra stay, including photos of the giraffe sitting by the pool, in the spa with cucumbers on his eyes, and laying out on the beach. It’s not that the album would make the boy excited, because he was excited just to have his favorite giraffe back. But imagine how the parents felt and the signal it sends to them about the Ritz-Carlton staff and how many friends they may share that story with.
  • An activity coordinator noticed that one of them had a real passion for ballet. Over the week, the activity coordinator even came in before her shift every day to give the girl a private ballet class. She wanted to do something special for the young guest, and decided to teach her a special dance for her parents. On their last day, she arranged for a performance at the Jazz Club, with special music and lighting for the performance. The couple was very grateful and could not believe how much love and passion the activity coordinator had put into making their daughter’s stay so memorable. To complete the experience, they gave the guests a CD with pictures and videos of their daughter’s performance so they could share it with family and friends on their return home

To inspire each other, everyone at Ritz-Carlton goes through a daily line up where they share wow stories, both local stories and stories from other hotels around the world. This line up keeps everyone in line, but it also keeps people fully engaged. Harvard did a study on Employee Engagement, stating that the average company had 29% of their employees who were fully engaged and they labelled this group as the Super Stars. Using the same criteria, Ritz-Carlton has 92% of their staff considered fully engaged. No wonder they are able to win so many service awards and no wonder they can create such an experience for their consumers. They’ve fully created a culture that now defines the brand.

So what can brand leaders learn from Ritz-Carlton?

  1. How can marketers challenge themselves to meet the unexpressed needs of guests? As Henry Ford said: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” So what’s getting in your way? Are you over-thinking things? Are you too worried about the short-term results that you’re not even seeing or hearing the unexpressed needs? Are you so analytical that you need to see the data first and never really reach for your instincts which might challenge the data or even fill in the missing gaps in the data?0da472d
  2. How do you get your antenna’s up so that you and your team are always watching, listening and thinking? As you run from meeting to meeting, filling in forecasting templates and spending evenings pretty-ing up your presentation for senior leaders, how many times a week do you talk to consumers, how many times do you walk into a store or what social media tools do you monitor and listen to. Do you ever sit with customer service for an afternoon? Do you read through the complaints? And while it’s great that you do this once in a while, how do you operationalize it with your team. Can you set aside time so that you’re doing regular store visits or a quick brainstorm on observations once a week.
  3. How can Marketers push ourselves to wow the Consumer? The Ritz-Carlton staff is constantly trying to wow their guests, in either a small or big way believing that both make a difference. Are you pushing yourself to surprise your consumer? Are you trying to wow your consumer? Are you rejecting OK work to force everyone to reach for Great? Do you have a standard for the work that exceeds that of your consumer, after all if you don’t love the work then how do you expect your consumer to love your brand?

Do something this week that meets the unexpressed needs of a Customer just to see what it feels like. It might feel pretty damn powerful.

 

To read about how to create a Beloved Brand, click on the presentation below:

 

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.

Positioning 2016.112

 

How to achieve success at the Marketing Director level

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On a classic brand management team, there are four key levels:

  1. Assistant Brand Manager
  2. Brand Manager
  3. Marketing Director or Group Marketing Director
  4. VP Marketing or CMO.

In simple terms, the Assistant Brand Manager role is about doing, analyzing and sending signals you have leadership skills for the future. At the Brand Manager level, it becomes about ownership and strategic thinking within your brand plan. When you get to the Marketing Director role, it’s becomes more about managing and leading than it does about thinking and doing. To be great, you need to motivate the greatness from your team and let your best players to do their absolute best. While most Brand Managers earn their spot because they are really smart and have a knack for getting things done, they get stuck at the Brand Manager level if they are bad at managing people, or can’t get along with the sales force. Promoting them up to Marketing Director just becomes too risky to the organization. The Marketing Directors who fail, usually can’t stop acting like a Brand Manager: too hands on, makes all the decisions, smothers the team and never lets them have their day in the sun.

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The five success factors for Marketing Directors:

The Marketing Director role becomes less marketing and more leading. Your role is to set the consistent standard for your team and then hold everyone to that standard. To be great, you need to motivate the greatness from your team and let your best players to do their absolute best. Sometimes you’ll need to teach, guide and challenge. Sometimes, you’ll have to put your foot down to stay fundamentally sound and other times you’ll have to follow creative ideas you might not be so sure will win. Let your best people shine, grow and push you. It’s their time.

1. Set a consistently high standard

Hold your team to a consistently high standard of work. Rather than being the leader by example, I would rather see you establish a high standard and hold everyone and yourself to that standard. Shift your style to a more process orientation so you can organize the team to stay focused, hit deadlines, keep things moving and produce consistent output. Consistent quality of brand plans, execution and interactions with everyone. It is about how to balance the freedom you give with the standard you demand. Delegate so you motivate your stars, but never abdicate ownership of how your overall team shows up. 

2. Be the consistent voice on the team

A great Marketing Director becomes the consistent voice of reason to any potential influencers, acting on behalf of the brand team. The director becomes the usual point person that the VP, sales team, agency, each turn to offering their thoughts on the brands. Yet the Director has to allow their BM to own the brand. As the team’s voice of reason, a great marketing director must continue to ground all potential influencers in the brand plan with the strategy choices, consistently communicate the brand’s direction and back up any tactical choices being made by the team. 

3. Consistent people leader

Let your people shine. Newly appointed directors have to stop acting like a “Senior-Senior Brand Manager” and let your team breathe and grow. We know you can write a brand plan, roll out a promotion super fast and make decisions on creative. But can you inspire your team to do the same? It becomes the director’s role to manage and cultivate the talent. Most Brand Managers have high ambitions–constantly wanting praise, but equally seeking out advice for how to get better. Be passionate about people’s careers–anything less they will see it as merely a duty you are fulfilling. A great Marketing Director should be meeting quarterly with each team member one on one to take them through a quarterly performance review. Waiting for year-end is just not enough. 

4. Consistently shows up to the sales team

Marketing Directors become the go to marketing person for the sales team to approach. Great sales people challenge marketers to make sure their account wins. I have seen many sales teams destroy the Marketing Director because they do not listen, and they stubbornly put forward their plan without sales input. Be the director that consistently reaches out and listens. They will be in shock, and stand behind your business. If sales people feel they’ve been heard, they are more apt to follow the directors vision and direction. A great Marketing Director should informally meet with all key senior sales leaders on a quarterly basis, to get to know them and listen to their problems. This informal forum allows problems to bubble up and be heard, before they become a problem.

5. Consistently makes the numbers

A great marketing director makes the numbers. They have a knack for finding growth where others can’t. And yet when they don’t, they are the first to own the miss and put forward a recovery plan before being asked. Great Directors have an entrepreneurial spirit of ownership, create goals that: “scare you a little but excite you a lot”. They reach out for help across the organization, making those goals public and keep the results perfectly transparent. And everyone will follow you.

Consistency matters: Hopefully, you noticed the word “consistent” show up in all 5 factors for success. Stay Consistent. That is a trait I would encourage every director to take: show up with consistency in standards for your team, strategy, people management, dealings with sales and owning the numbers. With a bigger group of people that you influence, with a broader array of  interactions across the organization and with a bigger business line on the P&L, anything less than consistent will rattle your core team and rattle the system built around you. No one likes an inconsistent or unpredictable leader. They will mock your mood swings in the cafeteria. You will become famous but for the wrong reasons. The sales team will not be able to rely on your word–and to them, that’s everything. Senior Leaders will struggle with you–and will not want to put you on the big important business because it just feels risky. Your agency will be uncertain as to what mood you will be in, when you show up to meetings. With your maturity and experience, now is the time to start to craft a consistent version of what you want to be.

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So if you can take all your talent, all the experience you’ve gained and find that consistency in approach and leadership, then you will be a successful Marketing Director.

To read our Beloved Brands presentation on Brand Management careers:

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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Stop thinking that Work-Life balance is a weakness. Think of it as a competitive advantage.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in How to Guide for Marketers

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During my career, I always have felt that being able to keep my balance was one of my competitive advantages. While my peers were burning out, somehow I was able to stay fresh, energized, creative and positive. I have always said that what kept me going was a love of the work. But secretly, what really kept me going was to know when enough was enough, finding small ways to rejuvenate myself and always keeping things in perspective. It’s a fact that actuaries have the longest life expectancy of any job. It’s a 9-5 job, compete certainty, follow the process and go home. But, even with a shorter life, I’d still rather be a marketer.

Dealing with pressure

Marketing jobs are very hard. The pressure is immense. The pressures of deadlines, career advancement, politics, budgets, making the year, uncertainty, conflicts with others all adds up. The pace of the jobs can wear you down. While your calendar is jam-packed with meetings, everything is due yesterday.   While you know the big planning dates, because you’re doing approvals on packaging or fixing your forecast, those dates somehow creep up faster than you want some years. While the variety in the job is stimulating, it too takes its toll.  It’s hard being a jack of all. As you move up, you’re not allowed to really have weaknesses–you need to be strategic yet creative, organized yet flexible, decisive yet open, able to give feedback and yet receive it. It’s all about continuous improvement just to keep up in the job. If you’re a working mom or dad, then you are likely running around every week night and weekend. You might be rushing to the day-care but you’re also signing back on after the kids are in bed.

As we get to the holiday period, this week is likely the quietest week in your office. Half the staff has bolted for the holidays. Aside from you getting your last-minute accrual in to finance, completing all the HR things you forgot to do from October and doing as much work as you can just to catch up so you can get a few days off, this is a great time to start to think about work life balance.

Ask yourself these two questions:

  • This year, on a scale of 10, how good is your work life balance?  
  • In 5 years, on a scale of 10, what would your goal for what you would like your work-life balance to be?

If the answers are different, then you have a problem. Do you really think your answer will be any different or will you just have a new set of challenges in 5 years. Well, this week is a great chance to have that life-changing “ah-ha” moment where you take a look and adjust. Make a new year’s resolution that you want to live a more balanced life in 2013.

Think of your career like a long-distance race, not a series of sprints.

f9eb6317cf4d5042b7c2547be0c65160.jpgAs you come up to your new years resolutions, maybe it’s time to think about work-life balance. Instead of feeling guilty about it, look at this as a competitive advantage that can make you even better.

Here’s my work-life balance tips I have used for years to keep my balance:

  • Never work on weekends. If you are going to stay energized and creative in your role then you need that 48 hour break to stay fresh. I’d prefer to work Thursday night till 10pm to get what I needed to get done. This will help you live a more balanced life.
  • When you look at your weekly calendar at the start of each week, or each day, challenge yourself to get a major task done in the morning and then get a major task done in the afternoon. That means you do COMPLETE at least two things from your project list each day. At the end of each week, you will have COMPLETED 10 major tasks–far better off then if you hadn’t. The alternative is getting to the end of the week, driving home and saying “damn it, i forgot to get that report out”. This is a simple system that knocks things off your to-do list and you’ll be shocked at how good it makes you feel. If you think this is too simple, my challenge to you is did you get 10 major things done list week?
  • Also in your calendar, create 5 fictional meetings that you can use for thinking time. Thinking, whether strategic or creative, is a part of the job.  But you can’t do it with wall-to-wall meetings from 8 till 5pm.  Many leaders who like to be active, forget about the thinking. They become known as “do-ers” not “thinkers”. People will look to them to get things done. They’ll call them “good soldiers”. And yet, they get stuck somewhere on the org chart because they forget to think. This will give you an ownership of your calendar that ensures you do at least 5 hours of thinking time.
  • Take up walking–at least 30-60 minutes a day. While it burns off some calories, it’s a great way to stay balanced. It’s the best thinking time you can do. Driving is also a good time, but doesn’t burn off any calories. I would bet half my ideas came from walking time. If you have “No Time”, then get off the subway 5 stops earlier. Go for a walk at lunch with a buddy. Or better yet, have a walking Meeting at some point in the day. Steve Jobs used to do walking meetings all the time. I love these and when i do workshops for teams, I always put in a 15 minute walking exercise. This allows you get away from the hustle and bustle of things and open your mind a bit.
  • When you come off a big busy crunch period, it is time to spoil yourself. Use the next 3 days as slacker days. And in those 3 days, do something, go somewhere and eat something that’s a favorite.   Spas, massages, hamburgers across town, old movies, reading a book, taking a long hot bath. Your call. But while the last few weeks or months have been a sacrifice  now it’s time for a bit of “me time”. This rewards you for the sacrifice you just made over the past few weeks/months. It will get you back in the game ready for the next sacrifice, because you know you’ll reward yourself after.
  • When you go on vacation and shut it down, you have to shut it down completely. Get rid of the phone, the laptop. Stop checking voice mail. If your mind is on fun and work at the same time, you won’t be much fun. If you have a great vacation then you’ll be even better when you get back to the office, ready to go.
  • Get yourself better organized. If you feel in control of everything, then you’ll be surprised how much easier it is to achieve balance. If you are constantly chasing your tail, you’ll burn out. I’m always organized–which I always say allows me to know where I can off-course because I know the entry point for getting back on track. This will help you to live a bit simpler and find the balance easier.
  • Isolate the planning period to ONE MONTH. These companies that do planning for 9 of the 12 months…. seriously? When are you suppose to do your job. Planning should be 3-4 weeks maximum.   If you do a 1-2 strategic workshop with the 10 people on your brand, you can easily get your plan to the 70% stage and use the rest of the time to improve and tighten it up. But if you’re always planning then when are you doing the work.Doing up fancy chart after fancy chart does not make you a better strategic thinker. It makes you worse. Stop it.
  • Write a plan you can do easily. I always try to get my clients to focus on 3 strategies with 3 tactics per strategy. That gives you 9 major things you have to do in the coming year. Think about how good of a job you would do on those 9. Compare that to a plan with 7 strategies and 7 tactics per strategy. 9 vs 49. You do the math and see who will be a better marketer, who will look like they are doing the job with complete ease. I once asked one of my directors to show me his project list and he said he had 87 major projects due this quarter and the list was always changing because we keep coming up with better ways.  His team all wanted to quit and he burned out months later.
  • Don’t create work for others and they likely won’t create work back for you. I remember as I was a new director, I used to send out notes that created work for my team. Do this….look up this….complete this for me. Then I started to notice they’d have questions for me, or send me back the answers and ask for my feedback. I started to notice the loop: The more work I create for others the more work that I create for myself. So stop it!!! I did.
  • Have a “work out” session with your team. Map out all the ideas and prioritize them on big vs small and easy vs difficult. Try to do all the big and easy ideas and avoid the small and difficult ones.   These time wasters just don’t matter and they are a drain on resources.
  • Keep perspective. It’s just Marketing. Yes, these jobs are amazing. They are fun. It’s what we do. But it is just a marketing job! We aren’t saving lives, fixing world peace or world hunger. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Have fun with it. If Marketing isn’t fun, then you are doing it wrong. 

Take a Breather to really change the way you live your life. Find your balance. Force yourself to rejuvenate. Do something for your health.

Stop thinking that Work-Life balance is a weakness. Think of it as a competitive advantage.  

Here is a lunch-and-learn presentation we do for Marketing teams on how to manage your career in Brand Management.

 

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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Use a Consumer Benefits Ladder to focus your brand message

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in How to Guide for Marketers

One of the biggest flaws I see Marketers making is when their brand communication talks about what their brand does instead of what the consumer gets. They mistakenly try to jam in as many brand messages as possible, with a strange belief that if we say A LOT to a busy consumer mind, they will at least hear something. Not true. When you say a lot, nothing gets through.

In a Marketing role, it is easy to get fixated on your own brand. I’ve been there. All day long, you talk about you brand. Every meeting is about your brand. You present to management about your brand. You wake up and go to bed thinking about your brand. Also, your brand pays you. Keep in mind, there is only one source of revenue, and that’s your consumer.

The best Brand Leaders are fixated on their consumer, not their brand. 

I always like to ask Brand Leaders: “Do you represent your brand to your consumer or do you represent your consumer to the brand?” Yes, I get stunned looks of confusion when I ask that. But it’s an important question as to your mindset of how you do your job. My challenge to you is to start thinking like your consumer and be their representative to your brand. You’ll notice the work gets better, you’ll see clearer paths to growth and you’ll start to create a brand that the consumer loves rather than just likes. When this happens, sales go up and the P&L spits out higher profitability. Because the more loved the brand, the more powerful position it occupies and the more profit it can generate from that source of power.

The Consumer Benefits Ladder

We use a Consumer Benefits Ladder that starts with the consumer, defining the target adding the consumer enemy and insights to help add flavor about your consumer. We then outline the key features of your brand (what you do), then ladder up to the rational benefits (as a consumer “what do I get?”) and then ladder up to the emotional benefits (as a consumer “how does this make me feel?”)

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The ladder forces the Brand Leader to think about consumer benefits, instead of features. The Consumer Benefits Ladder helps you brainstorm possible messages that you may test with consumers. It can help organize the possible brand messages or it can be a decision-making tool as you begin focusing on the most important, compelling brand messages. This will help set your brand up with a unique, own-able, motivating brand positioning statement.

Who is your consumer target?

What do consumers want? 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”. Too many people think data, trends and facts are insights. Positioning 2016.026Facts 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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Brand Features

What does your brand do? As you start looking at your own brand, you should look at four types of key features to see if there is a starting point for your story. Here are some questions that will help your brainstorming:

Product/Service

  • Is there something natural in your product that you can take advantage of, that makes you show up to your consumer in a way that is better or different than your competition?
  • What are the specific performance indicators that you brand is better? (e.g.  faster, longer-lasting, stronger, more consistent, easier/simpler, healthier)
  • Is there a specific ingredient (or lack of ingredient) or a specific process that would make your product better than your competition?
  • Is there an experience or service that comes from your product that makes you show up to consumers as either better or different than your competition?
  • Do you have any specific innovations and creativity that may help your product show up better or different than your competition?

Process

  • Detail how your product works differently and how that shows up to the consumer.
  • Showcase your point of difference in the production process that could make you better/different than your competition.
  • What do you do differently than your competitor within the production process?
  • What added service/details do you provide in the value chain

Third person

  • Do you have any consumer evidence (ratings, rankings, consumer satisfaction, awards) that could support a key feature?
  • Are there any stories from consumers, that  set up support for a key feature?
  • Is there any expert in the field who can speak on the brand’s behalf?

Behavioral

  • Any clinical test results or in-market usage results that could support your brand features.
  • In-Market sales, share, growth results that would support brand strength, power or momentum.
  • Any evidence in brand funnel scores (highest loyalty) that would support brand features.
  • Before and after studies

Benefits

What do consumers get? (Rational Benefits) For each feature you list, you want to put yourself in the shoes of the consumer and ask “so what do I get?”  If your brand works faster, then consumers can get on with their day. If your brand is low calorie, then it’s easier of consumers to lose weight. The challenge here is to ensure that each benefit you stand behind makes you show up as better, different or cheaper than your competitors. Looking at the venn diagram, you have to begin finding the zone where you are meeting the consumers needs and doing it better than any competitor. You can see the two zones to avoid: the losing zone is where you try to play in the space where your competitor is better than you, and the dumb zone where your consumer just does not even care. The dumb zone can be avoided by using this consumer benefits ladder process.

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How do consumers feel? (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. It seems Marketers want “emotional advertising” but that has to start with an emotional brief. 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.

Features tell. But Benefits sell.

Stop telling consumers what you do and start telling them what they get and how it will make them feel.

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Worksheet Example

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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At Beloved Brands, we lead workshops to help teams build their Creative Brief, helping the team find the target, main benefits, reason to believe.  Click on the Powerpoint file below to view:

We run workshops that help Brand teams make better decisions on the way to smarter action plans

We are big believers in the workshop process. We think it’s the best way to get the decision makers in the room, push for alignment, make decisions and drive the team towards action. The most noticeable point of difference we offer is that we will challenge you with new ideas to get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth. As the facilitator, I bring my executive experience into the room, ready to challenge the thinking and pushing for better answers. It’s like having another VP Marketing in the room.

While anyone can recommend a strategy, we recommend a realistic strategy that drives towards action. Quite frankly, I’m not big on consultants that just bring in big presentations that just sit on the shelf and never make it to the market. They cost a lot, take a long time, and in general they are written by consultants that have never run a business. Even Ad Agencies can recommend strategy, but they usually bring an agency bias and just give strategies that set up work they want to make–whether it drives growth for your business or not. I’ve run many businesses and I understand the pressure you’re facing on driving growth.

My personal promise to you is that I will get your brand in a better position for future growth

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?

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Beloved Brands in the Market

 

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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The 10 most abused words by Marketers

Posted on 6 CommentsPosted in How to Guide for Marketers

 

On a daily basis I hear Marketing buzz words bantered about and it becomes obvious people say them and don’t really even know what they mean. I think people use the sacred marketing words like relevant, equity or insights, because they figure no one will challenge them. Of course, everyone puts “strategic thinker” on their Linked In profile. The problem I see is that a generation of Brand Leaders have not been properly trained and it’s starting to show. For the past 20 years, companies have said “on the job” training is good enough. But now the lack of training is starting to show up. The mis-use of these words can be linked to the lack of understanding of the fundamentals of marketing.

 

Here are the 10 words mis-used and even abused by Marketers.

 

1. Relevant

When I was running the marketing department at J&J, I jokingly banned this word “relevant” because it was so abused. I found that when a marketer would say “we need to make sure it’s relevant”, the room would go silent. Then there’s a pause and someone would add their own brilliance “yeah, we have to be relevant”. The room went silent again. So then I would usually ask a simple question “so what do you mean relevant?” and sadly that question seemed to stump most of my marketers. Relevant has become the marketing equivalent of the word “nice”, because people say it so much now, they have no clue what they mean by it. My mom and my new iPhone speakers are both “nice”. Yes, of course, marketing should be relevant. But what exactly do YOU mean when YOU say the word relevant? When you answer the question, you likely just wrote down something better. So use that instead of just blindly saying “we need to be relevant”.

2. Awareness

Just like the word relevant, you’re just forcing me to ask, “so when we get awareness, what do we get then”. Once you spend money, you should be able to get awareness–it’s just a question of how much money you spend. Jeb Bush just spent $130 Million–everyone knew he was running. No one voted for him and his awareness did very little for him. In brand terms, we don’t make any money from awareness–we only begin to make money as we are able to move our consumer through the consideration-search-purchase stage.  So, let’s save the word “Awareness” for the lazy brains.

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3. Brand equity

The term was first coined in the 1980s, as part of the RJR Nabisco take-over when they couldn’t explain why they were willing to pay a higher price than the pure book value of the assets. The word has strayed since in two different directions–those like Brand Finance and Interbrand who still use it to correctly attribute it to the VALUE of the brand and those who mis-use the word when they attribute to the HEALTH of the brand. Where it gets abused is when it has become  a catch-all statement for the “unexplainable”. They’ll say “the final scene of the TV ad is really emotional and should really drive the equity of this brand”. We look at Brand Health and Brand Wealth separately and then use the model to predict future success of the brand. As Brand Leaders, it’s actually important to keep them separate so that the actions you take hit the right spot on keeping your brand healthy and wealthy. But Brand Equity is about the wealth side, linked to Value.

There are 8 ways to drive Brand Wealth: premium pricing, trading the consumer up or down, reducing both product costs and marketing costs, stealing other users or getting current users to use more, entering new categories and creating new uses for your brand. Those are not ambiguous at all.

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4. Target market

I’m in shock at how Marketers list out their target market on the creative brief. I once read a brief with a target that said “aged 18-65, new customers, current customers and even employees”. That pretty much covers everyone but prisoners and tourists. A well-defined target should be a combination of demographics (age, income level, male/female) and psychographics (attitude, beliefs and behaviors). I actually try to put an age demographic on every brief. Call me old-fashioned or just realistic. The media you buy, the talent you put in the ad, the stores you choose to sell to, or even the claims you make are likely going to have an age component, so you’re just kiddng yourself by saying “we are more about psychographics than demographics”. When it comes to age, I try to push for a maximum of a 5 year gap. This doesn’t mean you won’t sell to people outside of this target, but it does help give focus to you.

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5. Alienate

This word drives me bonkers and it seems to be growing or at least I keep hearing it. The best brands have focus, the worst don’t. The best marketing programs also have focus, and the worst don’t. If you want to be a great marketer, you must have focus–defined target, positioning, strategies and  execution. Stop being worried and cautious that you alienate older consumers or your current consumers, that you water down your marketing programs to a degree that we have no clue who you’re talking to or what you’re even saying. As long as you are staying consistent and true to the brand, no one should be alienated by what you have to say and who you say it to.

6. Benefits

There’s an old selling expression: “features tell and benefits sell”. But I’m seeing that Marketers have become so obsessed with shouting their message as loud as they can, most brand communication is wall-to-wall claims about how great you are. Brand Leaders should be organizing their Customer Value Proposition into rational and emotional benefits. What I recommend you do is list out the brand features and put yourself in the shoes of your consumer and ask “what do I get?” (for rational benefits) and “how does that make me feel?” (for the emotional benefits). Your brand’s communication should be a combination of the two.

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7. Brief

It’s called a brief, because it’s…BRIEF.  I saw a creative brief last year that was 8 pages long. And even that length, I couldn’t find one benefit or one consumer insight. Every brief should be one page maximum. I’ve done a 1000 briefs at this point, and it is pretty easy to nail the one page brief.

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8. Brand

Too many companies have now separate Brand from Product marketing, especially on the Master Brand type companies. The “Brand” department handles PR, brand advertising, websites and events. The “product” department handles new products, pricing, distribution, and product-oriented or promotion-oriented advertising. Brand and Product should NEVER be separated. It’s crazy. Our definition of a brand: “A Brand is a unique idea, perceived in the minds and hearts of the consumer, consistently delivered by the experience, creating a bond, power and profit, beyond what the product itself could achieve.” To have a successful brand, you need to connect with consumers based on a BIG IDEA for your brand and then line up the 5 connectors (promise, story, innovation, purchase moment and experience)

 

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9. New Media

New Media has been around 15-20 years old now. I’m not sure I hear the term “new media” on Mad Men when they talk TV ads, but that’s how crazy it sounds at this point. A better way to look at today’s Media is to manage all 5 types: Paid, Earned, Search, Social and Home media. Paid is what we think of the traditional media (TV, Print, OOH, Radio and Digital options). With EARNED media, you need to create and manage the news cycle with mainstream news, expert reviews and blogs. SEARCH Engine Optimization balances earned, key words and paid search. SOCIAL is about engaging users where they are expressing themselves through sharing and influencing. HOME media is where you host your website where you can use as a source of information, influence or even closing the sale.

10. Strategic

To me, the difference between a strategic thinker and a non-strategic thinker is whether you see questions first or answers first. Strategic Thinkers see “what if” questions before they see solutions. They map out a range of decision trees that intersect and connect by imagining how events will play out. They reflect and plan before they act. They are thinkers and planning who can see connections. Non Strategic Thinkers see answers before questions. They get to answers quickly, and will get frustrated in the delays of thinking. They think doing something is better than doing nothing at all. They opt for action over thinking. They are impulsive and doers who see tasks. They are frustrated by strategic thinkers. But to be a great marketer, you must be a bit of a chameleon. While pure strategy people make great consultants, I wouldn’t want them running my brand. They’d keep analyzing things to death, without ever taking action. And while tactical people get stuff done, it might not be the stuff we need done. I want someone running my brand who is both strategic and non-strategic, almost equally so. You must be able to talk with both types, at one minute debating investment choices and then be at a voice recording deciding on option A or B. You need to make tough choices but you also have to inspire all those non-strategic thinkers to be great on your brand instead of being great on someone else’s brand.

It is OK to use these words. Just make sure you use them properly.

 

 

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?

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in How to Guide for Marketers

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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Consumer Insights are secrets that we discover and use to our brand’s advantage

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There is a difference in selling to someone and motivating someone to buy.

When you just sell, you start with the product and you don’t really care who you sell to. Whoever comes through the door, you start talking to them about the features of the product and look to close the deal.
Motivating someone to buy starts with the consumer not the product. Instead of selling to anyone, you have to target those consumers who are already motivated by what you do. You have to matter the most to those who already care the most. You have to understand them, to match your brand up to their needs, wants and desires.

You have to get in the consumer’s shoes, observe, listen and understand their favorite parts of the day. You have to know their fears, motivations, frustrations and desires. Learn their secrets, that only they know, even if they can’t explain. Learn to use their voice. Build that little secret into your message, using their language, so they’ll know you are talking to them. We call this little secret the consumer insight. When portrayed with the brand’s message, whether on packaging, an advertisement or at the purchase moment, the consumer insight is the first thing that consumers connect with. When consumers see the insight portrayed, we make them think: “That’s exactly how I feel. I thought I was the only one who felt like that.” This is what engages consumers and triggers their motivation and desire to purchase. The consumers think we must be talking to them, even if it looks like we are talking to millions.Strategic Thinking 2016.062

Consumer Insights are secrets that we discover and use to our brand’s advantage

It is not easy to explain a secret to a person who doesn’t even know how to explain their own secret. Try it with a friend and you will fail miserably. Imagine how hard it is to find that secret and portray it back to an entire group of consumers. Safe to say, consumer insights are hard to find.

The dictionary definition of the word Insight is “seeing below the surface”. To get deeper, when you come across a data point, you have to keep looking, listening asking yourself “so what does that mean for the consumer” until you have an “AHA moment”. You can start with the observations, trends, market facts and research data, but only when you start asking the right questions do you get closer to where you can summarize the insight. Look and listen for the consumer’s beliefs, attitudes and behaviors that help explain how they think, feel or act in relationship to your brand or category. Because the facts are merely on the surface, you have to dig, or you will miss out on the depth of the explanation of the underlying feelings within the consumers that caused the data. Think beyond the specific category insights and think about life insights or even societal trends that could impact changing behaviour.

Good insights get in the SHOES of your consumer and use their VOICE. We force every insight to be written starting with the word “I” to get the Marketer into the shoes of the consumer and force them to put the insight in quotes to use their voice.

Here are two examples of how using Consumer Insights drove business results.

  • Working in the quit smoking business, our starting point was: “Studies show that people try to quit cold turkey 7x before reaching for a smoking aid to help them quit.” That’s not insightful. That’s just a lack of deep thinking. Only when we watched, listened and dug deeper could we feel the consumers pain. When you hold a 2 hour focus group with smokers and tell them “you can’t smoke for 2 hours and we’re going to talk about smoking the entire time” you can see them getting crankier and crankier in the second hour. What we learned is smokers are actually scared to quit, because they knew they’d either fail or lose friends. The new insight we came up with was: “I know I should quit. I’ve tried to quit so many times, it’s ridiculous. I’m not myself, I’m grouchy, irritable and feel out of control. Quitting Smoking Sucks.” When we share this secret with a smoker and they say “yup, that’s exactly how I feel”. The ad they made was a Flight Attendant losing her mind trying to quit smoking, and was the highest tested ad in the company’s history.
  • Working with a bank who was trying to gain a competitive advantage by staying open late, our starting point was this fact: “Recent research shows if a Bank were to open till 8pm, that customers would use the bank 3.4x more each month and with added transactions that would mean $26 more for each customer, and nearly $32 Million in revenue overall.” That’s not insightful. That’s just a lack of deep thinking. Consumers would resent a bank if they knew they were only opening late so they can make more money from them. When we started to think like the consumer, we landed on this insight: “I am so busy driving my kids around, I can never get to the bank during banking hours. I wish there was a bank that worked around my life, rather than me working around the banks’ life.” When we share this secret with a busy mom, she says “that’s exactly how I feel”. The ad they made with this insight had a woman doing a head stand on a yoga pillow with the caption “I do my banking between yoga and taking my kids to soccer practice”. The ad was the highest performing ad in the bank’s history.

Knowing the secrets of your consumers is a very powerful asset. An insight should ONLY connect with the audience you are talking to. I hate when people say “we don’t want to alienate others”. The best brand communication should be like whispering an inside-joke that only you and your friend get. Yes, when we target, we actually do want to alienate others. That’s the only way we will truly connect. Your ability to harness those secrets into creating insights that are arresting or intriguing, fuels the creative spirit as you tell your brand’s story, launch new innovation and move the consumer through to the purchase moment.
After all, there is one source of revenue, not the product you sell, but the consumers who buy. In a tough competitive market, your ability to harness the secrets of your consumers that only you know, is a huge potential competitive advantage.

Done right, if you can make consumers want to buy, you will never have to sell.

Here is the Nicoderm ad based on the consumer insight:

 

We run brand training workshops on everything connected to marketing. Here’s our workshop on Brand Positioning:  

 

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. To learn more about Marketing, continue to visit beloved-brands.com where you will have access to stories on everything connected to brand management. 

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Barbie is trying to inspire girls to believe that “you can be anything”

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Beloved Brands in the Market

Barbie faced major declines

Barbie has been heavily criticized over the last few decades for projecting an unrealistic image for girls. Launched in 1959, Barbie was the blonde all-American dream, but a complete fiction that many believe to be doing more damage of the self confidence of girls. The modern Moms didn’t want their daughters playing with Barbie anymore. All of a sudden, Barbie sales declined 20% in 2012 to 2014. The brand needed to make a dramatic change.

Barbie took a dramatic step forward–even if just to catch up to where they should be–by launching new possibilities with realistic options for body type (curvy, tall and petite) and various ethnicities (seven skin tones) They needed to create a Barbie that Moms would think acceptable for their girls to play with. These moms wanted a good symbol for their daughters, not something unrealistic and unattainable. The new Barbie is a good first step.

 

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Next, the supporting Advertising for Barbie has gone viral with over 20 Million views. The ad starts by showing a young girls in situation as a College Professor, a Museum curator, a Veterinarian or a Soccer coach.  The supporting copy: “When a girl plays with Barbie, she imagines everything she can become.” with a bold tag-line:  YOU CAN BE ANYTHING. This is a great ad with a new message that should fit with the modern moms.

 

Barbie sales are up 8% this past holiday period, a good start to the turnaround. 

Here are five lessons for Brand Turnarounds

  1. Ensure the right people in place: Before even creating the plan, you need to get the right leadership talent in place. Talent, motivation, alignment. Mattel brought in new CEO last spring who reshuffled a lot of the executives in an effort to turn the business around.
  2. Look to close leaks on the Brand: Use brand funnel to assess, using leaky bucket tool to close leaks. Find out where the specific problems are coming from. Barbie has done a nice job in listening to their consumers, the moms who were rejecting the brand due to stereotypes.
  3. Cut the fat, re-invest: go through every investment decision, invest only in programs that give you an early break through win. Even faced with Sales declines, Mattel made a smart move to cut costs by 10% to drive profits back into the business. It is hard to do a turnaround while the profit keeps falling.
  4. 3-stage plan: In stage 1, find early/obvious win, halts slide, helps motivation. In stage 2, invest behind new positioning/new plan, focused decisions, take risks. In stage 3, make adjustments to plan, build innovation behind new ideas that fit plan. Barbie started talking about the plan a year ago, listening to consumers and preparing for the big launch. So far, they’ve stemmed the decline, but now they need to build a plan for the next 3-5 years that grows this business.
  5. Motivating a demotivated team: Losing can be contagious to a culture/team. Recognize wins to fuel performance driven culture. People on the team needed new leadership and needed room to take chances with this iconic brand.

We run workshops on Strategic Thinking that looks at brand strategy including competitive war games, focusing on your core strength, building connectivity with consumers and situational strategy.

 

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.

custom_business_card_pile_15837We 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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