Tag: marketing manager

Brand Management is under attack and I’m getting tired of it

I always wanted to work in Brand Management. I was lucky to have a great career. 

Slide1On my application for business school over 20 years ago, I outlined my dreams for a career in Brand Management. I was lucky to have fulfilled a career in brand management, going from Assistant Brand Manager all the way up to VP Marketing–leading some the most beloved brands in the world at companies like Johnson and Johnson, General Mills and Coke. Back then, Brand Management was the be-all-and-end-all job every marketer wanted. And it still should be. But lately, there are a lot of strange things happening to brand management the past decade. Companies are re-structuring their marketing teams around do-er type roles, rather than ownership roles. Brand Management is supposed to be about ownership. Those outside of the profession who have no experience in brand management (consultants, strategists, agencies) keep telling those in the brand management profession how it should be done. I find myself in a rare position when I now look at my new peer group of Brand Coaches and rarely do I see people with brand management experience. I’m getting tired of people trashing brand management, especially when they’ve never worked in the profession. 

I keep hearing that brand and marketing are NOT the same thing. And that’s just plain wrong.

Be careful of people who say this. They’ve probably never run a brand before. They are likely “brand strategists” who just want to work on the strategy and nothing else. They are intellects with big words that don’t want to get their hands dirty actually running the business. They are trying to diminish “marketing” as just activities. I’ve even heard one guy slow down on the word “marrrr-ket-ing” as though it was for simpletons, and that brand strategy is far more than “just activities”. If you haven’t done the job, stop telling those in the job how to do it. Who really cares what we call it. In fact, separating brand strategy and marketing does more harm than good. 

Stop debating words: Brand Management is about running everything on your branded business.

Brand Management leads the strategic brand planning process.  You have to create a 5-year brand strategy road map that lays out the brand vision, purpose, brand big idea, strategic pillars for everyone to follow and then the 1-year brand plan that focuses everyone on brand vision, purpose, goals, strategies and tactics. Here’s more information on writing a brand plan for your business: How to write a brand plan Strategy is not just about blue sky ideas, but real choices that you have to make that focus your brand, deciding where you will play, how you will win and how you will allocate your limited resources to win in the market. 

Brand Management allocates the resources–people, partners, financials and time. Brand management is responsible for delivering the profit to the organization, managing the P&L statement with responsibility for revenue, margins, spending. Slide1There are 8 specific areas that brand management can impact profits: pricing levels, trading the consumer up or down, product costs, marketing costs, stealing other users, getting current users to use more, entering new categories and creating new uses for your brand. Next time a brand strategist approaches you about strategy, show them your P&L and ask them how they’ll drive more profit for your brand. If you can’t run a P&L statement, you shouldn’t be in brand management. Here’s more on how to manage the profitability of your brand: 8 ways to drive profit 

Brand Management creates and owns the brand positioning that serves to build your brand’s reputation in the minds and hearts of your consumers. Positioning is not just the stuff you put in the creative brief for the latest advertising campaign. It’s an idea that big enough to drive every part of the brand and everyone in the organization–including every outside agency, new product development, operations and retail execution teams. The idea should be the foundation and internal beacon for the culture of the brand. Doing the work on brand positioning forces you to make focused choices against who you will target, what is the main benefit you will stand behind, what reason to believe makes the most sense and get the consumers to think, feel or act differently about your brand so that you can manage your brand’s reputation. To read more on creating a brand positioning, click on this link: How to write a brand positioning statementbig idea map new.001

Brand Management runs the day-to-day operations of the brand and makes the final decision on everything connected to that brand. Delegate but never abdicate. When you are working well, you never do anything but decide. You should be able to delegate everything to your team of experts. Control the strategy and give freedom on execution. The role of brand management is to say “yes”, “no” or “make it better” on every possible decision on the brand, but never say “let’s do it this way”. Be leery of strategists or agencies who tell you that they can own your brand strategy for you. But be equally leery of those experts who ask how you want to execute. You’re a generalist, not an expert. When you master the art of asking challenging questions of your team, you will realize that not doing anything actually gives you full power. Give your team your problems but never give them your solutions.

New organization structures are diminishing marketing. In the branded house type organizations, the CMO should have a seat at the board. First, I’m getting tired of hearing that the CEO runs the brand. That’s like saying the CEO is running the new SAP implementation in the IT department.  The CEO should be too busy to “run the brand” and is likely paying the CMO a lot of money, so they should earn their keep.  To me, this type of statement is usually said by consultants that don’t want to go below the C-Suite. Second, I’m also seeing separate departments for brand, marketing and product management.  Brand does high level equity stuff (advertising, website, logo, sponsorship),  marketing does launches, quarterly promotional pushes and retail marketing while product runs the innovation pipeline, product claims and runs the P&L. With 3 separate groups all operating independently, there ends up a lack of alignment, constant abdication of responsibility and an inconsistency in the delivery of the brand promise. Slide1

Brand Management is a leadership role where you find the future leaders or your organization. In most marketing driven companies, the layers above you starting at the CEO likely all came from brand management.  Brand Management at it’s best is a bottom up leadership approach where the brand manager is the most important role in the organization. The CMOs or Directors that merely act as senior-senior-senior brand managers are not doing their jobs in creating future leaders of the organization. I have always demanded that my Brand Managers act like owners and tell me what they wanted to do. The strong leaders thrived and the meek struggled. Brand Management has to have their finger on the pulse of the business, knowing the consumer trends and insights that are changing the dynamic of the brand, the channel shifting going on at the retail level, moves by competitors and what the hot buttons we can push for success. They know the business better than those above them. Let them tell you how to run the brand, don’t you tell them how. Let them come up with the creative solutions and new ideas to take the business to the next level. I’m also seeing the house of brands type organizations structuring their marketing teams around Consumer Brand Managers, Innovation Brand Managers and Trade Marketing Brand Managers. That really just means that the Director is the de facto Super-Duper Brand Manager. That may work in the day-to-day but it’s not serving to develop future generalists brand leaders who might come up through one of the 3 specific areas and completely lack enough experience in those other areas. 

Brand Management means running the business. It means leading, challenging, influencing, thinking, deciding and executing.

To read more about Brand Management, follow this Powerpoint presentation on running your career in brand management.

Also, if you’re interesting in training programs for brand management, feel free to contact us to learn about our one day or three day boot camps for brand leaders. Here’s more information.

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 39112015x gmr bio.001

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The real reason mobile advertising doesn’t work is that it is ANNOYING AS &#%$@

I keep hearing how Brand Leaders should be spending more of their advertising dollars on Mobile Advertising. The argument goes like this: 25% of all media is now consumed on a smart phone yet only 5% of advertising dollars are spent on mobile. So based on that gap, “Brand Leaders need to get better at mobile.” That logic makes sense if you are media-centric, but if you are consumer-centric, it may not hold.

The main reason that mobile advertising is struggling is that consumers hate advertising on their cell phones. wifi-foundationAs a consumer, there’s nothing worse than looking something important up on your cell phone, having moderate reception and then some ad starts chugging on your phone….and chug chug chug..it takes 3 minutes to figure out where to click to get rid of the annoying ad. I’m not sure that I want my brand connected to such a negative experience for consumers. Yes, consumers can be annoyed by TV ads or outdoor billboards clutter the environment or plastering ads on a sports jersey can destroy spirit of the uniform. However, consumers view their cell phones as their personal space, wifi is considered a precious commodity and the limited space for mobile can sometimes make the ad more annoying than useful. Most times consumers using their phones might be quickly looking up sports scores, finding directions or phone numbers to call or they might be just escaping into social media options during their lunch hour. Rather than always interrupting that consumer, mobile advertisers should be figuring out how to be a positive part of that consumer experience. Rather than challenging Brand Leaders to be better at mobile, my challenge is for Mobile Advertisers to figure out more creative ways to deliver brand messages.

Our definition of Media includes “be where consumers are most willing to engage”

At Beloved Brands, we believe that media is an investment at touch points where consumers are most willing to engage in the story. Media should be used to create a bond with consumers, to establish your brand’s positioning, to learn about your consumers and to influence a change in your consumers behavior (think, act or feel) that leads to higher sales, share and profit. With social media, advertising has taken quite a few steps forward: more engagement, allows for two-way dialogue, empowers the consumer and has a degree of timeliness to match up to the consumers life. Unfortunately, mobile advertising has the potential to take a step back: annoying, interrupting and most of the mobile ads just feel like they are yelling at the consumer. Based on that high annoyance factor, mobile advertising currently fails when it comes to “willing to engage”. 

It’s safe to say that awareness by itself should never the end goal of media. In a crowded media world, an ad that is seen but with little engagement is almost a wasted investment. When I was running a marketing team, any plan that came to me saying “drive awareness” would be sent back for deeper thinking. It’s never enough. Media must balance efficiency and effectiveness with impact to create a change in the consumers’ behavior. Mobile must be shown to do more than drive basic awareness and find new creative ways to engage the consumers.

At Beloved Brands, we never recommend that you start with the media. While it’s tempting to get excited by the shiny new media toy of the month, we recommend that you always start with the consumer and then the brand strategy.

Where is your consumer?

I know I know. Everyone is so excited about all the new media tools and options that we tend to forget about the consumer. Last year I attended a huge show on Digital Media and after a day I kept saying “there seems to be something missing: THE CONSUMER”  It was actually shocking and annoying to me as a marketer that every speaker failed to talk about the consumer, the brands, the strategies. They just talked about their fixation on what these little media devices could do.

As brand leaders, we have to believe that everything must start and end with the consumer in mind. They are our only source of revenue that starts off every P&L statement. Never forget them. Our consumers have relationships with brands–ranging from a completely impersonal relationship all the way up to a favorite part of their day. How tightly connected your consumer is to your brand can impact both the brand strategy and media choices you’ll make. In the consumer’s mind, brands sit on a hypothetical Brand Love Curve, with brands going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally becoming a Beloved brand for life. 

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You can see how the buying system above might match up to where the consumer is on that Love Curve. The problem I have with many media options, is people at the INDIFFERENT stage think they need a Facebook page (which may not generate enough of a following) and some brands at the BELOVED stage still hammer away at the 30 second TV ad (with the same message the consumer has heard for the past 10 years). Use the buying system as a tool to find forces you to look at your brand through the eyes of your consumer, it will help identify where you have gaps as a brand and provide a pathway to move your consumers through the buying system and along the Brand Love Curve so that you can build a tighter connection with your consumer.Slide1

Mobile advertising appears a useful tool at driving basic awareness or triggering quick purchases. If my brand was at the INDIFFERENT or LIKE IT stage, I may add simple mobile messages to help re-enforce what I’m saying through other media options. However, mobile needs to improve if it wants to be a media tool that really connects with consumers. If my brand is LOVED or BELOVED, I’d fear using mobile and upset my consumer. I’d likely prefer social using social media vehicles that give consumers the choice and power to engage or not. 

What is your strategy?

My fear is that some modern marketers are becoming tacticians choosing activity over strategy. Sometimes, doing something feels better than making choices what to do and what not to do. To figure out your strategic options, we recommend that you go back to the Brand Love Curve (see below), so that you can start to understand HOW to move to the next stage. A brand at the INDIFFERENT stage needs to establish itself in the consumers mind, brands at the LIKE IT stage need to separate itself from the pack and create a following, brands at the LOVE IT stage need to tug at the heartstrings of those consumers who have shown some love in order to tighten the bond and finally those brands at the BELOVED stage need to find a way to continue the magic and activate the most loyal followers turning them into fans.

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Here is a guideline for Brand Leaders to use in their plans with the 16 possible strategies to use. For instance at the Indifferent stage, you can use a mind shift, mind share, new news or a turnaround to establish your brand in the consumers mind.

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Use this as a guideline to get you started on your plan and you may need to add specific flavoring to your situation. Out of these 16 potential brand strategies, mobile advertising might be best suited to highlight new news on a brand, trigger penetration or provide simple reasons to continue to love the brand. But mobile advertising might not offer enough messaging options to change perceptions and I’m not seeing mobile tools I’d want to use to target those who already love my brand. This may be where those managing Mobile Advertising alter their tools to better fit a broader range of strategy options for Brand Leaders to utilize.

Brand Leaders need to stay focused on the consumer and the strategy, not the media options. Any media choice has to fit the strategy, never choosing the media and coming up with a strategy that utilizes the media.

Mobile Advertisers need to get more creative to deliver brand messages that don’t annoy consumers

Below is our workshop on media. We don’t come at this as media experts, but rather as a brand leader who needs to make media decisions.

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

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The 5 magic moments needed to create a beloved brand

When we think of the most beloved brands–Starbucks, Apple, Ferrari, Disney, Nike or Mercedes–it’s really hard to figure out the ONE part of the brand that really makes it great. For example on Apple, I have heard: “Apple has the best products” or “they have the best ads” or “it’s actually the experience”. At Beloved Brands, we believe you need 5 magic moments that a brand must deliver at an extremely high degree in order to become a beloved brand:

  1. Brand Promise
  2. Brand Story
  3. Innovation
  4. Purchase Moment
  5. Experience

5 things aligned to create love.001Brand Promise: Create a simple brand promise that separates your brand from competitors, based on being better, different or cheaper. Try to use a brand positioning exercise to figure out your brand’s value proposition–we use a brand ladder (below) where we map out the target definition, product features, rational benefits and emotional benefits. To read more, click on this hyperlink: How to write a brand positioning statementSlide09

Brand Story: At Beloved Brands, we see Advertising as a tool for telling your brand story in a way that creates a bond with consumers, to establish your brand’s positioning and to drive change in your consumers behavior that leads to higher sales, share and profit. You should use your brand story to motivate consumers to think, feel or act, while beginning to own a reputation in the mind and hearts of consumers. Here’s a hyperlink to a story on helping you judge advertising: Judging Advertisingrole of adv.001

Innovation: Fundamentally sound product, staying at the forefront of trends and using technology to deliver on your brand promise. The trick with innovation is keeping the serendipity of an R&D team aligned, while pushing for a balance of blue ocean against straying within the perimeters of the brand strategy. New products have to meet consumer needs and many times creating a consumer need they didn’t even know they had. 

Purchase Moment: As consumers get near the purchase, there becomes this “moment of truth” when they have to make the final decision to buy. How we manage that, is we use a buying system to map out how consumers move through the purchase cycle and use channels, messaging, processes to make the final decision.buying system.001

Experience: Turn the usage of your product into an experience that becomes a ritual and favorite part of their day. One of the best brand experiences is Starbucks, providing consumers with more than just coffee, but rather an escape from daily grind a hectic life. At Starbucks, you find that little moment between home life and work life, a cool atmosphere indie music and leather chairs, a barista that knows your name and your drink, you can order in Italian and one of the best things they manage to indirectly achieve–no screaming little kids. starbucks experience.001

The brand becomes more powerful when everything is aligned under a “big idea” for your brand. In today’s crowded media world, consumers now see 6,000 brand messages every day. They have to quickly sort through those messages, rejecting most and only engaging in a few each day. It’s those brands who can communicate in a headline style idea will grab the consumers attention.big idea.001

Once you establish that big idea, you can align each of the 5 magic moments underneath that big idea. big idea map new.001Using the Big Idea map above, we can see the promise comes from the brand positioning, the brand story is told through advertising, the innovation is driven by R&D, the purchase moment is a combination of your sales team and your distribution strategy while the experience comes directly from how you manage the operations and culture of your organization. As you can start to see, everyone and every activity should be driven by the Big Idea. To show you how to use the Big Idea map, here’s the example using the Apple brand, showing how they align behind everything linked to the big idea of “simplicity”.creating beloved brands 2015x Extract 9.001

You should align and manage every part of your Organization around your Brand’s Big Idea

To read more about how to create a beloved brand, click on this presentation which is our workshop we lead around how to create a beloved brand: 

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 39112015x gmr bio.001

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How to get your entire Brand Plan on one page

Everyone always uses the phrase “we have to all get on the same page” but then they produce 57 page brand plans and expect everyone in the organization to know what’s going on. We believe that a great brand plan should fit on one page.

The role of the Brand Plan

A well-written Brand Plan helps to align an organization around the direction, the choices and the tactics that need implementing for a brand to achieve their goals. The Brand Plan unites functions such as marketing, sales, product development outlining what each group needs to do for the brand to be successful, while setting goals that operations and finance need to support. The Brand Plan gains approvalfrom senior management around spending options, strategic choices and sets forth the tactics that will be implemented. It holds senior management accountable to the plan. The Brand Plan helps frame the execution for internal stakeholders and for the various agencies who will implement programs within the plan. Execution is an expression of the strategy, and the plan must hold agencies accountable to delivering work that is on strategy. And lastly, the Brand Plan helps the Brand Manager who wrote it, stay focused to deliver what they said they would. It helps them to refer back to the strategy and the intention to ensure the Brand Manager“stays on strategy” the entire year.

The Plan on a Page

This is the plan on a page format that we use at Beloved Brands. It enables you to fit everything on your plan down onto one page that can be lamented and given out to everyone in your organization to get them on the same page. It has the brand vision, P&L forecast, analysis, key issues, strategies and tactical plan:

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We start off by asking 5 key questions and then using those answers to start the planning process. Keeping it this simple forces you to keep your answers tight and focused.

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I made it a regular to keep these 5 questions flowing on my brand, so that I could see the progress I was making.  Every 3 months, I’d take a few hours to adjust the answers to these questions. When it came time for the annual brand plan, I’d use these 5 answers as a kick off to the plan. Here’s how it matches up to the plan on a page.

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Analysis (where are we?): Once you have the overview of each part of the plan, you can then go a bit deeper.  Here’s the format we use for the summary analysis which answers what is driving growth balanced against what is holding the brand growth back. These are both happening now. And then to look into the future, we’d assess what are the major risks and opportunities.

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Key Issues (why are we here?): What is getting the way from achieving your vision/goals? Deep analysis highlights what’s driving and holding brand back, as well as future risks and untapped opportunities. Issues are asked as a question to provide the problem to which strategies become the solution. This is a great tool to help focus why you are here, asking these 4 questions that help assess your market position, your core strength, how tightly connected you are and what is the business situation you’re facing.

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Vision (where could we be?): What do you want your brand to be in the next 5-10 years? Vision gives everyone on the brand a clear direction, it should be measurable (quantitative) and motivating (qualitative). It should push you so much that it scares you a little, but excites you a lot.Slide8

Goals: What do you need to achieve? Specific measures of brand health and wealth, related to consumer/customer behavioral changes, metrics of key programs, performance targets or milestones on the pathway to the vision. It’s the brand scoreboard. Financial Forecasts: sales, A&P spending, margins, profits, market share.

Strategies (how can we get there?): Strategies are the “How” you will win the market. Choices based on market opportunities, using consumers, competitors or situational. Strategies should have a pin-pointed focus providing a breakthrough on the pathway to the brand vision. Here’s a strategic tool we use to help you focus, based on where your brand stands on the Brand Love Curve. strategy.001

Tactics (what do we need to do to execute the strategy?):  Framed completely by strategy, tactical choices deploy your limited resources against brand projects in the most efficient way to drive a high ROI. Included in this section, you’d use your Marketing Budget to focus your resources:  This would be broken out by trade spend, communication, consumer promo, new products, research.

Here’s the summary of the definitions for the Plan on a Page.

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If you’re struggling with your brand plan or need a workshop to help kickstart and focus your team, let us know how we can help.

Time to get everyone on the same page starts with a Plan-on-a-Page!!!

As you get set for your planning season, you can follow the workshop we use with clients via this Powerpoint presentation on our Beloved Brands slideshare site:

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

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The 10 major moments in the Advertising process where Brand Leaders need to be at their best

There is still great advertising out there, but there seems to be an increasing amount of bad advertising out there.

There has been a lot of change on the agency side with the shift to digital media exposing weakness in the traditional agencies and the propping up of “experts” who know the media but not necessarily the consumer or the brand strategy. There has also been change on the client side, as Brand Leaders have been forced to step in and do more, but with less experience or training. The growth of internal creative departments puts even more pressure on the them. Clearly, there is a growing frustration among Brand Leaders who need better work to help drive better results. When it comes to advertising, the role of the Brand Leader is to consistently get good advertising on the air, and consistently keep bad advertising off the air. But my challenge to Brand Leaders: if you knew that showing up better would produce better work, do you think you could show up better.

Act like a Leader at every stage

No matter the complexity of any given project, Brand Leaders need to be strong at every stage of the advertising process going from the briefing stage to the creative presentations and from to the decision-making to the execution. Here are the 10 major moments where Brand Leaders need to be at their best.

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  1. Strategy Pre-Work: Before you even get to the Creative Brief, you should be doing your homework to determine strategic answers to these questions:
    • Who is in the consumer target? (Who is the most motivated to buy what you do?)
    • What is the benefit we are selling? (What is your main benefit?)
    • Why should they believe us? (Support points to back up what you say)
    • What’s the long-range feeling the brand evokes (What is the Big Idea for the brand?)
    • What do we want the brand communications to do for the brand?  (Strategic Choices)
    • What do want people to think, feel or do?  (Desired Response)
  2. Writing a focused Creative Brief: I recommend that you let your agency take your homework on the six questions and create a Brief from there.  Start with the desired consumer behavior, and then figure out what to say. Your brief should be focused with one tight objective, one target, one big idea, one benefit. I believe that creative advertising people are not “out of the box” thinkers, but rather “in-the-box” problem solvers, so the brief’s role is to create a box with a problem that needs solving. 
  3. Hold a Creative Expectations meeting: Right after the briefing, you should meet the creative team BEFORE they go away for a couple of weeks to write ads. This is your chance to create a first impression on your vision and the passion you have. Allow them to ask any questions about the brief, while taking the opportunity to make a few key points on what you’re looking for. As the leader, you should use this meeting to inspire and focus the creative team.
  4. Tissue Session: Use this type of meeting to see potential ideas before they are fully flushed out into scripts or final visuals. It’s ideal when you don’t have a campaign or if you think it’s a tough creative challenge. At the meeting, be open to new ways of looking at your brand and make sure you focus on Big Ideas, while as a Leader you can use this meeting to push for better work. Be fully passionate at this stage which will inspire the creative team to reach for even better work.
  5. Creative Meeting: The creative meeting is the make or break meeting to getting to great work or settling for OK. As the Leader you have to be positive, focus only on big picture, give direction, make decisions. Avoid solutions and don’t get caught up in the details. You have to be listening rather than telling. I’m seeing too many Brand Leaders coming to the meeting with pen and paper and writing down every change they want to see. That’s not leadership. No pen, no paper, just listening and providing your instincts. This is where you use your fast thinking.Slide07
  6. Feedback Memo: I recommend clients follow-up the creative meeting with a memo 24 hours later. This is where you’d put in the details and possibly challenge the team but without giving specific solutions. If the creative brief is a box” for the creative team to solve, then this memo represents a new “box” which might refine the creative brief a little bit based on what you’re now seeing. This is where you use your slow thinking to determine if it’s on strategy and has long term potential. But don’t use this slower thinking to re-think your instincts.Slide08
  7. Ad Testing: The biggest flaw of ad testing is that Brand Leaders allow the test to make the decision. I’d recommend that you pick your favorite ahead of the test and just use it to confirm your pick, not make your decision. In other words, if your chosen ad passes, you go with it. You can use the test results to make any adjustments.
  8. Gain Approval: As the Brand Leader, almost half of your job is to sell in the ad to your own management team. Every great ad I’ve ever worked on had resisters or at least challengers. Be ready to fight for your work, in order to make it happen. Many times, people above you have their own biases and want to add to your work. Those additions can sometimes make the work worse, not better. I’ve always tried to give my boss “something small” in order to get it through, but never anything big enough to change the work. One secret I learned over the years is that on difficult “sell in’s” I would take the lead account person who is normally better than Brand Leaders at selling in work. Also, if it’s bigger challenge, then take the Creative Director as well. 
  9. Production: As you go into production, the pre-pro meeting and the shoot are where you have to be on your A-game. I’ve always taken a casual approach to both, giving the experts enough room. I viewed my role as simple: manage the tone of the work to ensure it fits the brand and always get more than you need. The joke of “we can fix it in post” means you need as many options in post so the editors and creative team can work with it. The worst thing you can ever hear in post is “if we knew you wanted that, we should have shot it that way”.
  10. Post Production: I encourage clients to talk directly with and leverage every expert in the room. Try to break the ice early on with the editors so they are involved in the conversation. Don’t be one of those clients that sits on the couch and only goes through the account team. Never leave the room till you are 100% satisfied with the ad you expect and the ad you want to put on the air. 

The idea behaviors that help Brand Leaders deserve great advertising on their brand: 

  • Start and end everything you do, with the consumer in mind.
  • Start with the desired consumer behavior, and then figure out what to say.
  • Your brief is focused with one tight objective, one target, one big idea, one benefit.
  • You control the strategy, yet give the agency freedom on creative.
  • You inspire greatness from creative team, yet are unafraid to challenge for better.
  • You take creative risks to stand out, not to fit in.
  • You see big ideas that leave a legacy, not just make an ad to make the year.
  • You are willing to fight for great work, even with your boss, never settle for OK.

The best clients inspire, challenge, enable, rarely settle and fight for great advertising.

To read more about how get better advertising, follow this powerpoint presentation on our Beloved Brands slideshare site:

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 39112015x gmr bio.001

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I love this daring and beautiful move by Coke

Coca-Cola-personalised-bottlesLast year, I thought it was a mistake when Coke launched personalized labels on their product. I worried about all the logistics, inventory, at shelf waste and whether consumers would really care. Well, I was wrong. It worked and Coke saw a hard-fought share gain during the feel-good promotion. I never did find a “Graham” label yet, but I have come around to really liking that promotion.  

And now, Coke has removed their label completely.

This year, Coke has removed the logos from its packaging in the Middle East, during Ramadan. The visual is somewhat startling but it serves to make a powerful statement that encourages people not to judge each other by their label. coca-cola-middle-east-no-label-ramadan-2015-750

On the other side of the can, Coke has the main message of their campaign: “Labels are meant for cans, not for people”

coke-labels-writingI love the supporting viral video

The ad is a 3-minute long video, so Coke is likely hoping that it has a lot of viral shares (1.5 million so far is a bit soft). It starts with six people at a round table completely in the dark. As they each introduce themselves and tell their personal story, we see how their appearance does not match up to the stereotype you’d expect. Once they turn on the lights, they are all surprised at how they each look.

To me, this is a daring move for Coke. It’s not always easy for brands to make political statements. For this campaign, the beauty is the lack of a “political” statement. It’s not divisive at all.The next daring move for Coke will be to roll this out in the US. Other brands have tried to play in a similar space. The most recent attempt by Starbucks with the “Race Together” campaign, where the barista wrote #racetogether on the cups of customers and were even encouraged to engage in conversations about race relations. That’s a bit much for a brand. Starbucks pulled the campaign as it was seen as too politically hot for some customers. Some people assumed Starbucks was picking sides against the Police.   

Great job Coke: This is the type of work I wish I made!!!

To read more about how to create a beloved brand, follow this powerpoint presentation on our Beloved Brands slideshare site:

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

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The words BRAND and STRATEGY are so misunderstood

There remains a lot of debate out there in the marketing world on every potential term. Sometimes when I introduce myself, I’ll say: “Hi, I’m Graham, I’m a Brand Strategy Consultant, the three most mis-understood words in business”.  I think I need a new introduction, but save that for another story. The problem about the word “BRAND” is that a lot of really smart people still see brand as a name, a logo, an identity and possibly a slogan. The problem with with the word “STRATEGY” is people throw that word around for anything and everything they do as a way to justify they are smart. Agencies abuse the word strategy, building it right into their title, yet advertising by itself is a tactic. In fact, a brand strategist at an agency is figuring out how to convert strategy to tactics. And of course, the problem with “CONSULTANT” is that anyone can be a consultant. My friend says “young consultants don’t really know yet what they want to do in life and old consultants wish they still did what they used to do in life”. That’s very true!

So what is a Brand?

There’s a lot of debate in this industry on what makes a great brand.

  • On the one hand, there are those in the industry who want to believe that brand is all about the product or service. Brand to them is very simple, 100% rational and there is almost a ‘what you see is what you get’ view of brand. The product is the brand. Even with a brand like Apple, they’ll say it’s because Apple has “great products”.
  • The other side believes that brand is all about equity and success comes strictly from an emotional connection, no matter how exciting or boring the category.  They tend to think that great communication can overcome any product deficiencies.

This division shows up in various places, including how companies organize their people and resources.  There are too many companies set up with “product departments” and “brand departments”. I also hear the term “brand tax” where the product budgets pay a percent of their marketing spend towards the brand. And finally, I’ll hear “no that’s not our decision, that’s the BRAND’s decision”. And the ad agency and the client might say “this is an equity spot, but we want to put a 5-second tag of the new flavour at the end”.

Here is our definition of a brand.

A Brand is a unique idea, perceived in the minds and hearts of theconsumer, consistently delivered by the experience,  creating a bond, power and profit, beyond what the product itself could achieve.

Let’s break that definition down.

Part 1: “unique idea”

In a crowded branded marketplace, BIG IDEAS help simplify your brand message so it’s easily understood and remembered, own-able in the consumers’ mind and heart and motivating enough to change consumer beliefs and behavior. Brands are based on a unique idea, promise or reputation. Yes, most brands start as a product or service, but the best brands find an idea to make the brand even bigger than the original product.  The idea is big enough for consumers to love, and the brand’s idea becomes a DNA or Brand Essence that you’ll see and feel in every part of the brand. These days as things are so competitive, and consumers have so much access to information, I do think brands need to find a uniqueness, because there really are only four options for brands: 1) better 2) different 3) cheaper or 4) not around for very long. Push yourself to find your brand’s unique point of difference and create a big idea that you can use to manage every part of your brand.

The big idea for the Apple brand is that it takes out the complexity and makes it so simple that everyone can be part of the future. Everything from there falls under that big idea: the promise, purchase moment, brand story, freshness and the experience.big idea map.001

 

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 consumers to think, feel or act, while beginning to own a reputation in the mind and hearts of consumers.
  • Fundamentally sound product, staying at the forefront of trends and using technology to deliver on your brand promise.
  • The moment of truth as consumers 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 day.

Part 2: “perceived in the minds and hearts of the consumer”

The image of the brand is no longer owned by the brand, if it ever was owned. At best, we can send out brand messages but the consumer still gets to decide whether or not those messages fit with their perception of the brand. I always say “there is truth in advertising, because all un-true messages are rejected by the consumer”. Too many Brand Leaders go rational, but the reality is that brands are 50% rational and 50% emotional. With social media, the consumer has even more ownership over the brand’s image as their own messaging now carries more weight than your basic TV ad. This is called co-creation, where both you as the brand leader and the consumer own the brand messaging together. I believe Brand Managers should make the choice to represent their consumer back to the brand, rather than representing the brand out to the consumer.  You should act as the consumer advocate, telling your brand what your consumer wants.

Part 3: “consistently delivered by the brand’s experience”

A brand really is a stamp that ensures consistency. Before Kellogg’s decided to brand their own corn flakes back in 1906, consumers would go into town and scoop out corn flakes out of a bin, with a random experience because who knows which farmer made them that day. But now with Kellogg’s the consumer could expect the same experience in every bowl.  Fast forward today, as the landscape is even more competitive and the brand experience is everything. Look at the amazing brands in the market place, like Starbucks, NFL, Disney and Apple and you’ll see each brand backs up their brand promise by constantly over-delivering upon the expectations. As brands hit the loved stage, making sure you nail the experience helps re-enforce loyalty and builds brand rituals into the lives of consumers.

Part 4:  “creating a bond, power and profit, beyond what the product itself could achieve”

The most beloved brands are based on an idea that is worth loving. It is the idea that connects the Brand with consumers. And under the Brand Idea are 5 sources of connectivity that help connect the brand with consumers and drive Brand Love, including the brand promise, the strategic choices you make, the brand’s ability to tell their story, the freshness of the product or service and the overall experience and impressions it leaves with you.  Everyone wants to debate what makes a great brand–whether it’s the product, the advertising, the experience or through consumers.  It is not just one or the other–it’s the collective connection of all these things that make a brand beloved.

So what is STRATEGY?

I love asking brand leaders “so what is strategy?” and get lots of blank stares. Even if they are well-trained, they might say vision or choices or the how part. But no one has really given me a great answer yet. I spent 20+ years in the corporate world, we promoted people on “being strategic” and held them back when “they aren’t strategic enough”. But have you ever had a discussion or debate with your boss about what it means to be strategic. Has anyone ever come up to you and said “hey, you need to be more strategic, here’s a few ways how”. 

At Beloved Brands, we’ve tried to put together a definition and it comes down to outlook: “Strategic thinkers see questions before answers. Non-strategic thinkers see answers before they know the right questions.”creating beloved brands 2015x.032

Strategic thinkers never divide and conquer, they make choices to focus and conquer. They make decisions, using the word “or” more than they use the word “and”. They understand the limited  resources available and can see how there could be an unlimited number of solutions you could do.  But they find the way to apply those limited resources to invest against pressure points that break through.

The six elements of strategy

We have dissected the best strategies and come up with six elements that make for good strategy. It’s a good test to see how your strategies are lined up.

  • Vision: an aspirational stretch goal for future, linked to a well-defined purpose. The vision should push you. It should scare you a little, but excite you a lot.
  • Focus: alignment of your limited resources to a distinct strategic point you wish to penetrate, creating positive momentum on a pathway towards your vision.
  • Opportunity: something happening in the market, as a potential strategic opening based on trends in the market (e.g. consumer behavior, technology).
  • Early Win: break through point where you see a shift in momentum towards your vision. It offers potential proof to everyone that this strategy will work, helping rally others–the team, agency and even your boss.
  • Leverage: ability to turn the early win into creating a momentum, that leads to the tipping point where you achieve more in return than the effort put in.
  • Gateway: realization point where you see a shift in positional advantage or power that allows you to believe your vision is achievable.

To us, focus is the most important element in strategy and the one most marketers struggle with. They always try to do too much. When you focus, five great things happen to your brand

  1. Better return on investment (ROI).  By it’s very nature, return means you get back more than what you put in and this is where you find the pressure points to gain that big payback. 
  2. Better return on effort (ROE).  Rarely do marketers look at ROE, but “Talent” is one of your biggest resource constraints as it’s easier to add money than it is to add well-trained staff that can execute.
  3. Stronger reputation. The tighter your focus around being one thing, the stronger chance you have in owning the reputation for that one thing. Trying to be everything to everyone is a recipe for being nothing to anyone. 
  4. More competitive. The best brands are either better, different, cheaper or not around for very long. Focusing on your uniqueness will allow you to defend against and attack your competitors.
  5. Bigger and better P&L. The odd thing is that brand leaders try to spread their resources so thinly, fearing they won’t be able to do everything. Everything is just ok, and there is never enough money on any tactic to maximize the full potential. And then you’ll never get any more money. However, with focus giving you the ROE and ROI, you’ll be able to ask for more money that gives you the chance to do the things you couldn’t get to.  

Use the Brand Love Curve to frame your strategy

In the consumer’s mind, brands sit on a Brand Love Curve, with brands going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally becoming a Beloved Brand for Life. At the Beloved stage, demand becomes desire, needs become cravings, thinking is replaced with feelings. Consumers become outspoken fans.

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It’s this connection that helps drive power for your brand: power versus competitors, versus customers, versus suppliers and even versus the same consumers you’re connected with. The farther along the curve, the more power for the brand. It’s important that you understand where your brand sits on the Love Curve and begin figuring out how to move it along towards becoming a Beloved Brand. With the power of connection, the brand can leverage that power into increased growth and profits.

To figure out your strategic options, you need to understand where you are on the Brand Love Curve, so that you can start to understand HOW to move to the next stage. A brand at the Indifferent stage needs to establish itself in the consumers mind, brands at the Like It stage need to separate itself from the pack and create a following, brands at the Love It stage need to tug at the heartstrings of those consumers who have shown some love in order to tighten the bond and finally those brands at the Beloved stage need to find a way to continue the magic and activate the most loyal followers turning them into fans.

creating beloved brands 2015x.049

Here is a guideline for Brand Leaders to use in their plans with the 16 possible strategies to use. For instance at the Indifferent stage, you can use a mind shift, mind share, new news or a turnaround to establish your brand in the consumers mind.

creating beloved brands 2015x.050

Use this as a guideline to get you started on your plan and you may need to add specific flavoring to your situation. As you’ll see, if your brand is at the Indifferent stage, you can’t easily cross sell and you certainly can’t get loyalists to influence others, since you have no real loyalists.

Here is a tool to help Brand Leaders write better strategies:

As I review brand plans for clients, there’s one glaring area where Brand Leaders need to do a better job: the writing of strategic statements. Too many times, they are framed as tasks or objectives, but miss out on the “how to get there” part of the plan. What’s missing is a pathway to power (health) or a pathway to profit (wealth). Brand Leaders need to be better at writing brand strategies that everyone can follow. A good brand strategy focuses and moves the consumer to do something, thereby putting the brand in a better position–either healthier (more powerful) or wealthier (higher profits)

strategy tool.001

Here’s how this tool works. The basic idea is that you will mobilize one of the possible brand connectors to get a specific target profile to take action against a stage of the buying system and then use that to either harness brand power for the future or use it to a specific area that delivers added profitable for the brand. Here’s the five stage process to the tool.

a. Select one of the 5 brand connectors: (brand promise, brand story, innovation, purchase moment or experience

b. Pick target market you will move (user profiles, demographics, regional)

c. to take a focused action along buying system: (awareness, consideration, search, purchase, satisfied, repeat, loyal or fan)

d. To either harness your brand’s power to unleash in the future

e. Or drive one of the 8 profit drivers for your brand

Here are two examples of how you can put this tool to work, and write best in class strategy statements for the Apple brand.

  • Launch the new innovative Apple Phone (a) to Mac loyalists(b) converting interest to trial (c) to successfully move Apple into the phone market. (e)
  • Create an in-store Apple training experience (a) to young seniors 55-60 years old (b) to tighten the bond with apple (c) creating a new user segment for Apple. (e)

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

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How to run your B2B (business to business) 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 coordinator 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, because 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.

Below is the tool we use to figure out a brand’s Big Idea which revolves around four areas that help define the brand: 1) Brand’s personality 2) Products and Services the brand provides 3) Internal Beacons that people internally rally around when thinking about the brand and 4) Consumer Views of the Brand. 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! 

big idea tool.001

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.b2b big idea map.001

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.

big idea b2b .001Everyone 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. b2b marcom.001

Like any brand, there are really have 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. 

brand = culture.001

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

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Are brand leaders getting better…or worse?

When I see someone doing something stupid, I always think “I thought the internet was supposed to make us smarter”.  Sadly, as we’ve added the internet to our lives, many people just use it to just look up sports scores, find updates on Kim Kardashian, vent about a bad day or watch the latest cat videos. All are fine, but clearly, we as a society have not really gotten smarter in the past 20 years. We’ve just filled our brain cells with useless information we never had access to before.

The same holds true for marketers. As brand leaders have added great marketing tools such as digital marketing, internet search, social media, and direct marketing over the last 10 to 20 years, you would think they would naturally have gotten better. But I worry brand leaders are now letting go of the fundamentals of marketing and they are getting worse, not better. Too many marketers think marketing is a series of activities, not a discipline, so they chase the new shiny technology or latest social media craze likely have a to-do list of 93 things, with not paying back for your brand. The new Brand Leaders never make decisions on vision, strategies, tactics, target market or media options. They just keep going and fill their brand leader brain cells with useless information that never drives a return. Here’s a quiz to see how good you are?

  1. Can you describe your brand promise in 7 seconds?
  2. Have you created a BIG IDEA for your brand that helps frame the brand promise, story, innovation, purchase moment and experience?
  3. Do you know where you want your brand to be 10 years from now?
  4. Do you spend more time on the great questions about your brand than you do on finding the great solutions?
  5. Do you know the top 3 issues in the way of your brand vision?
  6. Do you know your brand’s top 3 strategies this year?
  7. Have you decided if you’re going to focus on gaining new users or getting current users to use more?
  8. Have you narrowed down your target to those who are the most motivated by what you have to offer?
  9. Have you decided on whether you want your consumers to think, feel or act differently?
  10. Have you made decisions on the 9 activities you want to put your limited resources (dollars, people, time) against to drive the highest return on investment and effort?

If you answered “no” to ANY of the 10 questions, then you need to challenge yourself to be more fundamentally sound. If you answered “no” to ALL of the 10, then you likely need help to reach your full potential as a brand leader.

The fundamentals of marketing still matter

Be leery of those who keep saying “Marketing has changed”, because usually it is non-marketers who are saying it who are trying to sell you something. Of course marketers have a plethora of new tools available, but does it mean you should use all of them.

These days, I see too many brand leaders starting off with the solutions before they even know the problem they are addressing. They decide they need to be on Instagram before they even know why they should consider it. From our perspective, strategic thinkers see questions before answers. It’s the non-strategic thinkers who see answers before they know the right questions.You need to focus on very few strategies. The most simple strategies center around penetration (getting new users) or frequency (getting current users to use more). Do you want to get more people to eat your brand or those that already do to eat more? That’s a choice you must make, yet I see so many Brand Plans with both. Even worse is when I see creative briefs with both. These are two different unrelated strategies. When you look for new users, you have to convince someone who already knows about your brand and get them to change their minds away from their current brand. When you try to get more usage, you have to convince someone who has already decided how to use your brand, to use it differently, changing their habits or rituals. Brands need to understand where they sit before picking strategies. Go look at your plan and see if you are making choices. Because if you’re not, then you’re not making decisions. When you focus, four things happen for your brand: better Return on Investment (ROI); better Return on Effort (ROE); stronger reputation; more competitive and an aligned organization that helps create an experience that delivers your reputation. So next time you are faced with a decision, make the choice. Don’t pick both, just in case you are wrong. All you are doing is depleting your resources by spreading them across both choices. And you’ll never see any movement on your brand so you’ll never find out if you were right or wrong. Make the choice.creating beloved brands 2015x.032

I see too many brand leaders trying to do everything, be everywhere, and try to talk to everyone, I see a complete lack of focus. Brand Leaders should be pushing themselves to make focused choices, by using the word “or” and rarely using the word “and”. Strategic people never get the surf and turf, they make a decision on whether it is a steak night or a lobster night. Everyone says they are good decision makers, but very few are. If you present an either-or situation to most brand leaders, they struggle with the decision, so they say “let’s do a little of both”. But in reality, what separates out a great brand leader from the pack, is great brand leaders know that decision-making starts with the choices where you have to pick one, not both. At the core of business, Brands only exist to drive more profit than if we just sold the product itself. It’s all about ROI (Return on Investment). Forget the mathematical equation, ROI just means you get more out of it than you put into it. Every brand is constrained by money, people, speed and ideas. It becomes all about focus, leverage and finding that gateway point where you realize more from what you do, it than what you put into it. creating beloved brands 2015x.035

FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS!!!  Brand Leaders need to focus on a tight consumer target to make sure you can get them to do what you hope and love you for it. A new way to think is to find those consumers that are already highly motivated to buy what you have to sell and get them to love you, rather than targeting everyone and get them to like you. Look at how marketing testing is set up: we test among the mass market and see how many we can persuade to use your product. The reality is that leading brands within each category are more loved than the pack of brands struggling to figure themselves out. It’s better to be loved by a few than tolerated by everyone. I once talked to a bank whose target was 18-65, current customers, new customers and employees. That’s not a target. Trying to do too much just spreads your resources across too many activities. How can you have a ROI if you’re spreading your limited resources against EVERYONE? Strategy starts with choices, applying limited resources to invest against pressure points that break through.creating beloved brands 2015x.034

I see too many brand leaders trying to talk to anyone that will talk to them. Instead, think about trying matter the most to those who care the most. Focus on creating a tightly defined reputation that sets your brand up to own an area. You really only have four choices: better, different, cheaper or not around for very long. Giving the consumer too many messages about your brand will confuse them as to what makes your brand unique. Trying to be everything to everyone is the recipe for being nothing to everyone. Today they estimate that consumers receive 7,000 brand messages a day. Wow. How many of those 7,000 do you engage with and digest each day? Maybe 5. And yet, in your creative brief you think 3 or 4 messages is the way to go. You have to focus on one message. When you ask a room full of Brand Leaders, tell me one word that defines the Volvo brand: half the room yells out SAFETY. Volvo has been singularly focused on the safety positioning since the 1950s not just externally but internally the safety positioning guides every decision. That’s focus. 

I see too many brand leaders that can’t write a brand plan, thinking a to-do list is enough. They are almost “too busy” executing to create a tool that makes decisions that will make them “less busy”. Their plan lacks vision, which should steer your brand over the next 10 years, and they opt for a to-do list that steers their activities over the next few months. They stay aware of what’s new and keep brainstorming or adjusting to new things they see in the market making that to-do list bigger and bigger. A good brand plan focuses. You should be able to write a great brand plan with 3 strategies and 3 tactics per strategy, which means you only have 9 things to do in a given year.  Out of those 9, the top 3 should likely take up 75% of your dollars. Ok, now I’m starting to sound crazy, right? Looking at the options below, if you try to do 25 things and I look at all 25 things and force myself to pick the top 9, who will have the better year?  I’ll likely get to all 9, do a great job on all 9 and be proud of the outcome, and put enough resources (dollars, people, time, partners) to all 9 that they’ll be successful.  If you only get to 23 out of the 25, whose to say that #24 and #25 might have been the most important things to do this year. 

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I see too many brand leaders that can’t write strategy statements. Here is a tool for helping brand leaders to make choices in their strategies. This forces you to pick one of the brand connectors (promise, story, innovation, purchase moment or experience) and then select a tight target market and then pick one area of the buying system to apply your resources with the hope of making your brand either more powerful or more valuable. 

strategy tool.001Now that we are in year 10-20 of digital, search and social media, maybe it’s time now to get back to the fundamentals of marketing. Pick a target market. Pick a main message. Pick a vision where you want to be in 10 years. Pick strategies that will have the biggest impact and match up tactics to the strategies. It’s time to start making decisions, not only knowing what you will do, but also knowing what you won’t do. 

Here is a Powerpoint presentation of the workshop we run on writing brand plans:

Maybe marketing hasn’t changed at all. Maybe it’s time to get back to the fundamentals.

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

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Tool for Brand Leaders to help with making advertising decisions

2015 advertising.008A brand leader has to be skilled in so many areas–strategy, planning, leadership management and execution. While there are a few areas in marketing that separate good from great, how the brand leader shows up in the advertising room might be one of the biggest discriminators. The reality is that you can still be a pretty good brand leader even if you’re just OK at the creativity of advertising. However, you won’t be great if you can’t make the right decisions on what advertising will work for your brand. I see many brand leaders show up in a confused state, unable to lead the process and incapable of making a decision. Many hope that the research results make the decision for them. That makes you a facilitator, not a leader.

2015 advertising.104When faced with new creative options, a brand leader has 3 choices in their decision-making process:

  • Approve the work
  • Reject the work
  • Change the work.

Brand leaders rarely approve advertising out right, even if they love it. It’s just not in their nature. And most times, they are too uncertain of the advertising process to reject work so they keep it alive, especially if the agency says they like it. And who hasn’t seen the “we’re so excited” speech. So that really just leaves one last option: Brand Leaders opt too many times to CHANGE the work, usually adding messages or toning down the potential alienation of the creativity. My challenge to you: if you aren’t talented enough to come up with an ad in the first place, why are you now talented enough to do something even harder: to change the ad!!!

So the agency is left spinning and scrambling stretching out the creative process from weeks to months–while many times, the work gets worse (safer), not better.

Brand Leaders get confused on the “hot seat”

2015 advertising.107Many brand leaders are uncomfortable when they get into the advertising room. We always assume the creative team is nervous because they are presenting their work, but the Brand Leader might also feel a bit of nervousness as well. After all, the Brand Leader spent a ton of effort on writing a great brand plan and creative brief which they sold into management and now they are expected to deliver great advertising that will accomplish what they said they would. Here are some of the problems I see Brand Leaders facing when they get in the advertising room.

  • You never find your comfort zone in the advertising room, almost convinced you’re not good at advertising, because you have limited experience, you feel awkward or had a bad experience. Given the months that advertising projects can take, I can tell you that a good leader gets better work than a bad leader–no matter how good you are at advertising.
  • You may have convinced yourself that since you’re a strategic leader, and you’ve also convinced yourself that you’re not that great with tactics.  These types usually show up skeptical, uptight, too tough and too easily annoyed at the creative side. I’ve actually seen Brand Leaders refer to ads as the fun creative part and the smart strategic part.
  • You show up too passive, not knowing 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 rein (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. The worse thing you can do is approve something that don’t really love, because it seems ok for now. You might find the agency pressures you with timing that adds to your anxiety that you’ll miss our air date and have to give up your media to another brand.

Another concern you might have is how you will sell it in to management–worried what your boss will think. Being a good client takes experience, practice, leadership and a willingness to adjust. Don’t write yourself off so quickly. Challenge yourself to learn how to be a good client.

Here’s a tool that may help you make advertising decisions

Branded Breakthrough + Move-able messaging. The best advertising breaks through the clutter in the marketplace, where consumers see an estimated 6,000 brand messages a day and it should motivate the consumer to take the desired action you want in your strategy.  Great advertising combines “branded breakthrough” (how you say it) and “move-able messaging” (what you say)

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The “Branded Breakthrough” happens when the Ad breaks through by connecting the brand to the ad and communicates the brand’s story. Achieving the “Move-able Messaging”, we see that the main message connects with consumers and motivates them to think, feel or act differently about the brand.

If we take this thought one step further, we would see that the Best Ads: 

  • Break through the clutter
  • Remembered for the Brand
  • Communicates Main Message
  • Makes brand seem different

Said another way, we believe that the best ads start with a Creative Idea that helps to:

  • Garner the consumers’ Attention to break through (A)
  • Puts spotlight on Brand so it’s remembered (B)
  • Communicates brand’s benefits through story (C)
  • Sticks over time making brand seem different (S)

That leads to our tool called the ABC’S which looks at Attention, Branding, Communication and Stickiness

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Attention: 

You have to get noticed in a crowded world of advertising. Consumers see 6000 ads per day, in every part of their lives. If your brand doesn’t draw attention naturally, then you’ll have to force it into the limelight. You have to EARN the consumers’ attention.

  1. Be Incongruent: get noticed by being a bit off kilter or different from what they are watching. A lot of brand leaders are afraid of this, because they feel it exposes them. Avoid being like “wallpaper”   If you want a high score on “made the brand seem different”, it starts with acting different.
  2. Resonate: Connect with the consumer in the true way that they see themselves or the true way that they interact with the brand.
  3. Entertain them: Make them laugh, make them cry, or make them tingle.  From the consumers view—they interact with media to be entertained.
  4. The Evolution of the Art of Being Different: As much as Movies, TV, music continues to evolve, so do ads. As much as your art has to express your strategy, it needs to reflect the trends of society to capture their attention.  
  5. Location Based: Be where your consumers are open and willing to listen. Make sure your creative makes the most of that media choice.  
  6. Be Part of the Content: As much as consumers are engaged in the content, not the advertising, then having your brand front and center and part of the story. Watching a movie and seeing a product or creating content on-line that engages like Toyota’s Swagger Wagon or the brilliant BMW Films site from 10 years ago.   
  7. Be Sharable: Amazing story-telling ads getting passed around on social media vehicles.These long videos are great for engaging the consumer emotionally.  

Branding: 

Ads that tell the story of the relationship between the consumer and the brand will link best. Even more powerful are ads that are from the consumers view of the brand. It’s not how much branding there is, but how close the brand fits to the climax of the ad. There is an old advertising saying “half of all advertising is wasted, but we aren’t sure which half”. The average brand link is 50%–we have to get past that mark.

  1. Make your brand part of the story: in the spirit of big ideas, how do you tell a story, using your brand. It’s not how much branding you use, but rather how closely connected the brand to the climax of your ad.
  2. Is it the truth: It sounds funny, but if there is a disconnect between what you say, and what you really are, then the brand link won’t be there.
  3. Own the Idea area: Be a bit different—make sure that what you do sets you apart from anyone else.
  4. Repeat: simplest way to get branding is to repeat and repeat and repeat.

Communication: 

Tapping into the truths of the consumer and the brand, helps you to tell the brand’s life story. Keep your story easy to understand. Communication is not just about what you say, but how you say it. Communicating is about selling. Keep in mind, communication is not what is said, but what is heard.

  1. Start a dialogue: If you can do a good job in connecting with the consumer, the branding idea can be a catalyst that enables you to converse with your consumer.
  2. What are you selling? You have to keep it simple—you only have 29 seconds to sell the truth. Focus on one message, keep asking yourself “what are we selling”.
  3. Powerful expression: try to find one key visual that can express what you are selling.This visual can be leveraged throughout
  4. Find Your “More Cheese”: Sometimes it’s so obvious what people want, but we just can’t see it or articulate it. Don’t over-think it or you’ll miss the obvious.
  5. Sell the solution, not the problem: Brands get so wrapped up in demonstrating the problem, when really it is the solution consumers want to buy.

Stickiness: 

Sticky ads help to build a consistent brand/consumer experience over time. In the end, brands are really about “consistency” of the promise you want to own. Brands have to exist in the minds of the consumer. We all want our ads to stick. Ask “will this idea last 5 years”

  1. Dominant characteristic: things that are memorable to the senses (visual, sounds, smells, etc) and have something that dominates your mind
  2. How big Is the idea? It’s proven that a gold-fish will get bigger with a bigger bowl. The same for ideas.
  3. Telling stories: while visuals are key to communicating, people remember stories—that’s how we are brought up—with ideas and morals designed to stick.
  4. Always add a penny: With each execution, you have a chance to add something to the branding idea.
  5. Know your assets: there has to be something in your ad that sticks, know what that is and then use it, in new executions or in other parts of the marketing mix.

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In the room, when viewing advertising for the first time, think fast with your instincts:

When you get in the advertising room, start with your instincts and thinking fast. Clear your mind from everything else on your job so that your instincts can come to the surface. When you see new advertising work, first answer the question: “do you love it?”. How passionate are you? If you don’t love it, how do you expect your consumer to love it? If you “sorta like it” then it will be “sorta ok” in the end. But if you love it, you’ll go the extra mile and make it amazing. Would you be proud of this work as your legacy?

Then, use your gut reaction, which is the immediate logical view. What’s your immediate reaction when you reach for your instincts? Relax, slow yourself down enough to soak it in, right in the meeting. It’s easier to quickly reject out of fear than find what your gut really says. Many times, instincts get hidden away because of the job. You’re not doing anyone a favor keeping work you don’t love.

After the room, take your time and think slowly with strategy:

First, ask yourself “Is it on strategy?” Is the Ad an expression of what you wrote in your strategy documents? Use the ABC’S tool to help frame things, so you can evaluate it past how you feel. The tool gives you something to ground yourself. Take your time with this thinking. 

Then assess the long-term potential of the advertising. Is it BIG IDEA, you can see lasting for 5-10 years, going across various mediums (mass, on-line, in store), capable of speaking of the entire product line up, Think about leaving a legacy—which forces you to think of campaign-ability. There’s nothing wrong with taking your time, to let things soak in. This is where you make better strategic decisions.

Feedback can make a great ad, or destroy a relationship. 

Remember to relax and smile: I always find that the room gets so tense, stiff and serious: we forget to laugh, smile and be real. Have Fun with it. Take the attitude that If we are having fun, then so is the consumer. Give your feedback in three ways:

  1. What are your first Impressions? During the presentation, it’s great to be engaged enough to say “I like that” or ask a question.
  2. Giving Direction: Focus on giving direction, not feedback: Feedback is static, direction has action. Speak on behalf of your consumer and your brand, trying to react how they would react. 
  3. Leave the Detailed Direction on how to make it better for the day after. Moving the details (copy points, placement, colors) to the next day, helps focus the immediate comments on big picture items. Take 24 hours to digest all the little details.

Below is a powerpoint version of the Workshop we run on getting better advertising.

If how you show up to the agency will produce better advertising work.

Then show up right.

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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

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