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

 

10 reasons why Brand Managers get fired. Advice for how to fix each one.

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. 

Graham Robertson Bio Brand Training Coach Consultant

If you knew that being a better client would get you better Advertising, could you actually show up better?

 

Clients get the advertising they deserve.

While that’s a very famous tongue-in-cheek quote from David Ogilvy, it should be a kick in the butt to clients. It suggests that if you suck as a client, you will get advertising that sucks. It’s likely true. As I’m coaching clients on advertising, I like to ask aSlide1 very difficult question: If you knew that being a better client got you better advertising, would you actually be able to show up better? When it comes to advertising, the role of the Brand Leader is to consistently get good advertising on the air, and equally consistently keep bad advertising off the air. Baseball pitcher David Price has a sign above his locker:  “If you don’t like it, pitch better”. The same thing should hold true for Brand Leaders: If you don’t like your Advertising, then show up better. So what is it that makes some brand leaders good at advertising?

Before we figure what makes someone good at advertising, let’s figure out what makes someone suck

Theory #1: you blame yourself

  • You never find your comfort zone: You are convinced you’re not good at advertising. No experience, feel awkward or had a bad experience. You think you’re strategic, not tactical. You are skeptical, uptight, too tough and too easily annoyed.
  • You don’t know if it’s really your place to say something: You figure the ad agency is the expert—that’s why we pay them—so you give them a free reign (aka no direction). Or worse, you give them the chance to mess up, and blame them later.
  • You settle for something you hate, because of time pressure, or you don’t know why: You don’t really love it, but it seems ok for now. The agency says if we don’t go for it now, we’ll miss our air date and have to give up our media to another brand.
  • You can’t sell it in to management: you need to make sure if it’s the right thing to do, you are able to sell the idea in. Tell them how it works for your brand—and how it delivers the strategy.

Being a good client takes experience, practice, leadership and a willingness to adjust. Don’t write yourself off so quickly. Learn how to be a good client.

Theory #2: You Blame your Agency

  • You hate the brief: Agency writes a brief you don’t like—or you box them into a strategy. If either of you force a strategy on the other, then you’re off to a bad start.
  • Creative team over sells you: you get hood-winked with the “we are so excited” speech: You’re not sure what you want, so you settle for an OK ad in front of you—the best of what you saw. Ask yourself what’s missing before you buy an ad.
  • You lose connection with the agency: Keep your agency motivated so that you become the client they want to make great work on, rather than have to work on.
  • You lose traction through the production and edit: Talent, lighting, directors and edits—if the tone changes from the board to edit, then so does your ad.

An OK agency can do great work on a great client. But a great agency will fail with a bad client. Next time you want to fire your agency, maybe focus on yourself for improvement, because you’ll bring the same flaws to the next agency.

Theory #3: You Blame your Brand

  • The “I work on a boring Brand” argument. You think only cool brands like Nike, Apple, Ikea etc. are so much easier to work on. However, think again, because your boring brand has so much room to maneuver, it should be even easier.
  • You are too careful and think we can’t swing too far: Good ads either go left or right, not in the middle of the road. Consumers might not notice your “big shift”.
  • Advertising roulette: Where brand managers haven’t done the depth of thinking or testing, briefing is like a game of chance. Brands go round and round for years.
  • Your strategy Sucks: You figure if we don’t have a great strategy, a good ad might help. A great strategy makes an ad, but an Ad will never make a great strategy.

It’s one thing to be a “fan” of advertising in general, but we need to see you be a “fan” of YOUR advertising.

Show up as a better client and watch the Advertising work get better

Here are eight ways to challenge yourself to show up better at every stage of the advertising process

  1. Do you develop a testable Brand Concept with rational and emotional benefits, plus support points that you know are actually motivating?
  2. How tight is your brief? Do you narrow the target and add engaging insights? Do you focus on the desired consumer response before deciding what your brand should say? Do you focus on one benefit and one message?
  3. Do you meet creative team before the first creative meeting to connect, align them with your vision and inspire them to push for great work?
  4. Do you hold tissue sessions to narrow solutions before going to scripts?
  5. At creative meetings, do you stay big picture, avoid getting into details? When giving direction, do you avoid giving your own solutions and but rather try to create a “new box” for the creative team to figure out the solutions?
  6. Do you take creative risks, and are you willing to be different to stand out?
  7. Do you manage your boss at every stage? Do you sell them, on your vision what you want?   Are you willing to fight for great work?
  8. Are you one of your agency’s favorite clients? Do they “want to” or do they “have to” work on your business? If they love you, they’ll work harder for you and do better work. They are only human. They will never tell you this, but I’m a former client so I will: if you want better work–it’s pretty simple–show up better. 

Creative Advertising Process

 

Be better at every stage 

  • When doing the strategy pre-work, dig in deep and do the work on insights, create a Big Idea and lay out the brand Concept. Even consider testing the concept to know that it motivates consumers. Never use the advertising process to figure out the brand strategy. 
  • Create a focused creative brief to create the box for the creative team, that has one objective, two insights, the desired response, one main benefit, two support points. 
  • Hold a creative expectations meeting to give a first impression on your vision, passion. Inspire and focus creative team. Do not take a hands off approach and avoid meeting the creative team, assuming your account team has conveyed EVERYTHING. 
  • Use a tissue session to explore ideas. Use this when you don’t have a campaign. Be open to new ways of looking at your brand. Focus on Big Ideas, without getting into the weeds. Be willing to push for better ideas if you don’t see them at the tissue session.
  • When in the creative meeting, be a positive minded client, focus only on big picture, give direction, make decisions. Avoid giving your solutions. No Details. Ask yourself: are you inspiring?
  • Use a feedback memo that is 24-48 hours after the creative meeting for more detailed challenges but without giving specific solutions. Use this to create a new box. Do not use this memo to say new thoughts that were not in the creative meeting or in the management meetings you had. If it is a new thought, pick up the phone and talk about it with your account person first. 
  • If you use ad testing, you can use either quantitative or qualitative depending on time and budget. I always recommend that you use it to confirm your pick, not make your decision.
  • When gaining approval internally, sell it in!!!  That’s part of your role is to fight for the work you love. Be ready to fight resisters to make it happen. My rule of thumb is to bring the senior account person when that person has a good relationship with my boss and even use them to help sell it in (since they are better trained at selling) and then bring the most senior creative person when the creative work needs selling. 
  • Through the production stages, your role is to manage the tone to fit the brand. Think of this like managing the kitchen of your house–you have to live in it, so you have to live with every decision. Always, get more than you need so you can use it later. 
  • With post production, talk directly with and leverage every expert you come in contact with. The more you connect and empower them, the harder they’ll fight for what you need. 

Be a better client and get the advertising you deserve

To read more on Marketing Execution, here is a workshop we run. Click on the Powerpoint 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. 

Graham Robertson Bio Brand Training Coach Consultant

 

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. 

Positioning 2016.112

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

 

 

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.

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10 reasons why people fail early on in their Marketing careers

 

Every year, companies hire thousands of the best and brightest to become Assistant Brand Managers (ABMs). Brand Careers 2016.041It’s not easy to get a Marketing job, but you have to keep knocking on the door and believe it will happen for you. Because there are so many people who want in Marketing but only so few jobs, it’s really a buyer’s market at the junior levels. The process for screening can be intense with  5+ interviews, including senior people, sometimes a test or a presentation to a group. Yet, about 50% of these amazing newly minted Marketers won’t even make it to Brand Manager within the 2-3 years. Marketing has a tough up or out process, because there tons more wanting to get in. Most companies have a process to weed out those who won’t make it. In my time in the CPG world, here is what I saw as the reasons why some failed and others succeeded. 

Here are the top 10 reasons why people fail in Marketing:

  1. They can’t do the analytical story tell. They fail to turn monthly share reports into stories that can travel up the organization. Their deep dive analysis is either too complicated that no one can follow the story or too shallow that they only do the “surface cleaning” type analysis that never really finds the real insight, just what we already know.
  2. They struggle to deal with the ambiguity of marketing. The ambiguity boxes them in where they can’t think differently about a problem or it causes them personal stress. They come up with solutions to get out of ambiguity rather than reveling in the ambiguity to find the best solution. I once asked a candidate “how do you deal with ambiguity”. Her answer was “I try to organize it because no one likes ambiguity”. She asked me how I deal with ambiguity and I said “I revel in it. I love it. I struggle with it. I let the ambiguity eat away at me until I find that great answer, not just settling for an answer because it gets me out of the ambiguity faster.” If you can’t deal with ambiguity, you should not choose a Marketing career. Brand Careers 2016.049
  3. They are slow at moving projects through. They struggle to make it happen! Maybe they are indecisive, unproductive, disorganized or can’t work through others. Big Picture: they are frustratingly slow for others in the system. They become the bottle-neck. They keep missing the small milestones causing the team to miss the deadlines. In some cases, it’s not whether you are slow or fast, but whether you are slower than your peers?
  4. They selfishly think about themselves. This becomes the leadership de-railer. They manage their career around their ego, they overstep the boundaries of gossip, going above heads politically. They play the game, but they make it look too obvious. They think they are highly political, but others see them as not very politically astute. They are not a team player with peers or cross functional players. The system has a way of isolating these people. This raises a red flag for future leadership roles. If it is noticed at the junior level, it will become more evident at more senior roles. 
  5. They don’t work well through others. Conflicts, teamwork issues, communication. The odd thing about Marketing is you must work through a group of subject matter experts (SME’s) who know what they are doing, and you’re relying on these same people to teach you how to be a good Marketer. Your supply manager will teach you about forecasting, packaging approvals and even design tricks. Your finance manager can teach you about accounting and the key indicators management looks for. Your promo manager or trade marketers will teach you about customers, sales people etc. If you don’t use these people to enhance your skill, you’ll eventually crash and burn. The collection of SME’s will likely teach you more about marketing than your boss will. If they can’t work with you, they’ll also be the first to destroy your career. Be careful if you think it’s smart to “rat on these people” because they likely taught your boss how to be a great Marketer. 
  6. They miss answers by not being flexible. They fail to find the balance between what the head thinks, what your heart feels or even what the gut tells you. When a junior Marketer is questioned, a senior manager can 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. The style of a good senior manager’s questions is not always information gathering but rather designed to poke holes in the story to see that the deep rich thinking and even the appropriate struggling has gone on. The questions are designed to give the senior leader confidence, and if you fail to answer, then they now have doubt.
  7. They fall for tactical programs that are off strategy. This becomes a tell-tale sign that they won’t make it to more senior levels, where you will own the strategy. If you deviate from the strategy to choose the coolest tactic that has nothing to do with the goals or strategy, then you will be seen as tactical and not strategic. Always remember that Marketing is a balance of strategy and execution–you must think with strategy and execute with instincts.
  8. They hold back from making contributions to the team strategy. It is ok to be a quiet Marketer, but not at the decision-making table. You must must have a voice or you will be labelled as a do-er. Those who fail don’t proactively provide a point of view on strategy. They don’t show the ownership needed to become a brand manager and people start to wonder if it’s in there or not.
  9. They settle for “good” rather than pushing for “great”. While a lot of entry level Marketing jobs are highly executional, if there becomes a noticeable pattern where the Marketer just takes the “ok” ideas, it begins to look as though they don’t care enough. If they aren’t passionate enough to push back, it raises questions as to whether they will they be able to do so later in their career.
  10. They are poor communicators, with manager, senior management or partners. They fail to adequately warn when there’s potential problems. They leave their manager in the dark. Here a tip on managing your boss in an organization: If you think you know the answer, then speak in a telling voice and let your boss challenge you. If you don’t know the answer, then speak in an asking voice and let your boss help you.

On day 1, everyone has all ten of these de-railers, some that you can easily over-come but others will take time and effort to really fix. What really separates “great” from the “ok” is what you’re willing to do with these. 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 out. Be honest with yourself and try to fix one of these per quarter. My hope is that you are able to maximize your full potential in Marketing.

 

Avoid these 10 de-railers and I wish you the best of luck to you in Marketing career

Here’s a presentation on How to have a Successful Marketing 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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How to achieve success at the Marketing Director level

 

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.

work life balance Männchen

 

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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