Explaining our love affair with chocolate

chocolateConnecting chocolate with love is easy. Chocolate contains phenylethylamine, the same chemical released in the brain when we fall in love. Eating chocolate can give some people a natural “high” which is often related to the feeling of being in love. It’s a similar addiction that coffee uses to create your morning brand rituals.

Some of the world’s chocolate bar brands are the most beloved and powerful brands in the world. Consumers are passionate about their choices, mainly because chocolate bars usually serve an extremely personal purpose. It could be a pick-me-up in the afternoon, a celebration for when something good happens or recovery when something terrible happens. It is our escape–a guilty pleasure. Chocolate bars connect us back with our youth and give us those childhood feelings of joy.

chocolate

Brand love explained

I created the brand love curve, which shows the differences in how consumers feel about a brand as they move through five stages. It defines their feelings as unknown, indifferent, like it, love it and onto the beloved brand status.

For unknown brands, the strategic focus should be to stand out so consumers will notice the brand within a crowded brand world. For indifferent brands, the strategy must establish the brand in the consumer’s mind so they can see a clear point of difference. At the like it stage, the strategy is to separate the brand from the pack, creating happy experiences that build a trusted following. And, at the love it stage, the focus shifts to tugging at heartstrings to tighten the bond with the most loyal brand fans. Finally as your brand moves to the beloved brand stage, the strategic challenge is to create outspoken, loyal brand fans who are willing to whisper to their friends on the brand’s behalf.

When did you first love your favourite chocolate brand?

However, do you remember when you tried a Snickers or Reese Peanut Butter Cups for the first time? You likely just kept picking one out from the check-out counter until one became a favorite brand. There’s no logic in your chocolate bar choice–strictly an emotional decision or as Hotspex says an e-rational decision. You likely fell in love with your brand before you could even think. Hearing “NO” from your parents made you want it even more. I know my weakness was that Orange Aero bar….or was it the Big Turk…..or the Caramilk bar.  There aren’t any bad options in my mind.

Tough to break into the chocolate business

An odd fact about chocolate bars is that consumers have been making the same choices for about 50 years now. The top 10 chocolate bars today in your market are the same top 10 chocolate bars in the 1950s; just the order is different. If you look at the top brands (see below) you’ll see that almost all of them launched in the 1920s and 1930s. The only “new” chocolate bar to breakthrough is Twix, which began 50  years ago, and still yet to crack the big time.

chocolate

Cracking the top 10

There have been many attempts to crack the top 10 but all massive failures.  The factors inhibiting new brands from succeeding:

  • Distribution is tightly controlled by powerful companies like Nestle,  Mars, Hershey, and Cadbury that it’s almost impossible to break through and displace the older brands
  • The amount of advertising dollars spent on key brands is prohibitive of other brands being able to afford it.
  • You make your first brand choices at such a young age that you choose one of the big brands near the check out stand.
    There have been many great ads over the year. The most consistent brand has to be Kit Kat, which started using the tagline of “Have a Break…have a Kit Kat” back in 1957. Now, that’s a big idea!

 

The last few Super Bowls have produced two of the best chocolate bar ads.  The Betty White Snickers ad was a huge hit, not only during the Super Bowl, but the viral support it spun her into the Saturday Night Live host later that spring.

This year, the M&M’s Naked Guy, not really a big idea but a cute execution.

Necessary ingredients to create brand love

  • Everything must be about the consumer: You need to know your consumers as well as you know your brand. Dig deep to understand and appreciate the consumer insights, enemies and needs. Emphasize consumer benefits, not features. Since consumers always wonder, “What’s in it for me?” communicate what they get from you and talk about how your brand makes them feel.
  • Dare to be different: Your brand needs to stand out as being better, different, cheaper, or else it won’t be around for very long. Be the brand that defines your unique value, rather than adding more clutter to the mountain of clutter.
  • Build everything you do around your brand idea: Your brand idea is the first point of connection and creates the lasting impression. The brand idea is the reason consumers first buy. Every time your brand delivers, the bond tightens just a little more. Whenever you fail to deliver, the consumer goes into doubt mode, wondering if they will stay with your brand.
  • Breakthrough focus: You must focus your brand’s limited resources to key breakthrough points you believe will tighten the bond with your consumers, putting the brand in a more powerful position to drive higher profits. You have to know your consumer, know what your brand stands for and be willing to focus on the strategies that will pay back in building the brand.
  • Passion matters: You must exhibit incredible passion in the marketing execution, consistently focused on surprising your consumers, with a goal of becoming one of their favorite brands. Always remember “I love it” is the highest bar you can set for achieving great work. If you do not love the work, how can you ever expect your consumer to love your brand?

brand love

Brand love generates brand power

The tighter the bond a brand creates with their consumers, the more powerful the brand will become with all stakeholders. Think of brand love as stored energy a brand can unleash in the form of power into the marketplace. You can use that power with consumers, competitors, new entries, employees, influencers, media, suppliers and channel partners.

These beloved brands command power over the very consumers who love them, as consumers feel more and think less. These consumers pay price premiums, line up in the rain, follow the brand as soon as it enters new categories and relentlessly defend the brand to any attackers. They cannot live without the brand.

Beloved brands have power over channel customers, who know their consumers would switch stores before they switch brands. Stores cannot stand up to the beloved brand; instead, they give the brand everything in negotiations. The beloved brand ends up with stronger store placement, better trade terms and better promotions from retail partners.

brand profit

Brand love means brand profits

With all the love and power the beloved brand generates, it becomes easy to translate that stored power into sales growth, profit, and market valuation. Here are the eight ways a brand can drive profits:

  1. Premium pricing
  2. Trading up on price
  3. Lower cost of goods
  4. Lower sales and marketing costs
  5. Stealing competitive users
  6. Getting loyal users to use more
  7. Entering new markets
  8. Finding new uses for the brand.

Beloved brands can use higher prices and lower costs to drive higher margins

Most beloved brands can use their loyal brand lovers to command a premium price, creating a relatively inelastic price. The weakened channel customers cave in during negotiations to give the brand richer margins. Satisfied and loyal consumers are willing to trade up to the next best model. A well-run beloved brand can use their high volume to drive efficiency helping to achieve a lower cost of goods structure.

Not only can they use their growth to drive economies of scale, but suppliers will cut their cost just to be on the roster of the beloved brand. The beloved brand will operate with a much more efficient marketing spend, using their power with the media to generate lower rates with plenty of free media. Plus, the higher sales volumes make the beloved brand’s spend ratios much more efficient. The consumer response to the marketing execution is much more efficient, giving the brand a higher return on investment.

Beloved brands use higher shares of a bigger market to drive higher volume

The beloved brands use their momentum to reach a tipping point of support to drive higher market shares. They can get loyal users to use more, as consumers build the beloved brand into life’s routines and daily rituals.

It is easier for the beloved brands to enter new categories, knowing their loyal consumers will follow. And finally, there are more opportunities for the beloved brand to find more uses to increase the number of ways the beloved brand can fit into the consumer’s life.

 

To learn more about this type of thinking, you should explore my new book, Beloved Brands.

With Beloved Brands, you will learn everything you need to know so you can build a brand that your consumers will love.

You will learn how to think strategically, define your brand with a positioning statement and a brand idea, write a brand plan everyone can follow, inspire smart and creative marketing execution and analyze the performance of your brand through a deep-dive business review.

Beloved Brands book

To order the e-book version or the paperback version from Amazon, click on this link: https://lnkd.in/eF-mYPe

If you use Kobo, you can find Beloved Brands in over 30 markets using this link: https://lnkd.in/g7SzEh4

And if you are in India, you can use this link to order: https://lnkd.in/gDA5Aiw

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help brands find a new pathway to growth. We believe that the more love your brand can generate with your most cherished consumers, the more power, growth, and profitability you will realize in the future.

We think the best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique playbook tools are the backbone of our workshops. We bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a brand idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources.

Our brand playbook methodology will challenge you to unlock future growth for your brand

  1. Our deep-dive assessment process will give you the knowledge of the issues facing your brand, so you can build a smart plan to unleash future growth.
  2. Find a winning brand positioning statement that motivates consumers to buy, and gives you a competitive advantage to drive future growth.
  3. Create a brand idea to capture the minds and hearts of consumers, while inspiring and focusing your team to deliver greatness on the brand’s behalf.
  4. Build a brand plan to help you make smart focused decisions, so you can organize, steer, and inspire your team towards higher growth.
  5. Advise on advertising, to find creative that drives branded breakthrough and use a motivating messaging to set up long-term brand growth.
  6. Our brand training program will make your brand leaders smarter, so you have added confidence in their performance to drive brand growth.

To learn more about our coaching, click on this link: Beloved Brands Strategic Coaching

To learn more about our training programs, click on this link: Beloved Brands Training

If you need our help, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or call me at 416 885 3911

You have my personal promise to help you solve your brand building challenges. I will give you new thinking, so you can unlock future growth for your brand.

Signature

Graham Robertson

Founder and CMO, Beloved Brands Inc.

Why do Marketers fail?

The best marketers take ownership of the brand, provide a clear vision and set of strategies, know what they want, then goes and gets what they want, can handle the pressure of Marketing and spend the effort to make their Assistant Brand Manager as good as can be. So why do marketers fail?

Here are the real ten reasons why marketers fail:Why Marketers Fail

  1. You fail to make decisions. Stop bundling everything together, do too many things, and you never prioritize. Action over brains never works for long.
  2. Unable to translate data into analytical stories. You need to learn to turn data into issues, then strategies for approval, then action.
  3. Can’t get along with Sales, Agency or subject matter experts around you. They will talk openly about you, and destroy you.
  4. Struggle to deal with ambiguity. Seek clarity at the wrong moment for the sake of comfort. As a result, you opt for the safe/comfortable/easy option, rather than dig in to find the right answer. Marketers will miss answers by being stiff.
  5. You fall for tactics off strategy. When you are mesmerized by shiny tactical toys, it is like taking a holiday from the pursuit of your brand vision.
  6. Bad people Manager. Can’t delegate, selfish, nasty, untrusting, fearful of giving feedback. The best people won’t want to work for you.
  7. Poor communicators, with the boss, or partners. Dealing with you is frustrating. Being a poor communicator creates a lack of trust.
  8. Never follow your instincts. Don’t be the doubter,  who constantly second-guess themselves. It ends up with constant spin/re-think. Slow at moving work through.
  9. You can’t write or present strategically. The reality is that smart thinking must be sold in for approval. Learn to write with a strategic mind. Learn to present your plans whether it is in the front of a room or 1-on-1 over a sheet of paper.
  10. You settle for OK, rather than push for great. Boring work will fail to break through. OK becomes contagious. If you don’t love your work, how do you ever expect your consumer to love your brand?

Five success factors for Brand Managers

1. Ownership

A great Brand Manager takes ownership of the brand. Many marketers struggle with the transition from being the helper to now being the owner. As you move into the job, you have to get away the idea that someone will hand you a project list. Not only will you make the project list, but you should also come up with the strategies that set up the need for the projects.

The best Brand Managers speak with a telling voice, rather than an asking voice. It is great to be asking questions as feelers, but you must realize that most people on the team will be looking to you for the decisions. Your people want to be heard and have their expertise recognized. They recommend, and you decide. Even when managing upwards be careful you do not ask what you should do. A great boss will want you to tell them what you want to do, and let the debate begin from there. 

2. Strategic direction

A great Brand Manager provides a clear vision and set of strategies. You should create a vision for the brand, to serve as a rallying cry for your team. Let everyone know where you want to go. The strategic choices and your brand’s execution should match up with your vision. As the brand owner, you become the steward of the strategy. You should reject everything that does not line up with your vision. Learn to think in terms of strategic pillars, to steer, control, inspire and manage the various functions and Agencies who support your brand. You have to be the one to drive a consistent delivery on your brand, despite having a wide-ranging collection of people behind the brand.

3. Working the system

A great Brand Manager knows what they want, then goes and gets what they want. Organizations are filled with functional groups, layers, external agencies, with everyone carrying a different set of goals and motivations. To an outsider, every organization appears to be a collective mess. The best Brand Managers can see much clearer. They can quickly understand and appreciate the motivations of various key stakeholders, and use that knowledge to work the system. Your greatness comes from the greatness of the subject matter experts who work on your brand. You must get them to give you their best. Tap into their motivations, to ask for their best work. One secret that took me many years to figure out; if you want someone’s best work, sometimes it is as simple as asking for their best work. The reason it works is very few Brand Managers ask. 

4. Dealing with Pressure

A great Brand Manager can handle the pressure of Marketing, including ambiguity, the push for results, dealing with relationships and managing their time. If you can manage these four pressure points effectively, then you can even begin to use them against each other.

First of all, the unknown of ambiguity and the time pressure of deadlines can work against each other. However, the best Brand Managers figure out how to work them to our advantage, as they evoke the right balance of patience with ambiguity and persistence in getting things done. At every level, there is time pressure. Be organized, disciplined and work the system, so it does not get in your way.

If you are fully aware of the timelines, better than others on your team, you can use time pressure against your people to push for better work. I have found many subject matter experts, especially creative people, will choose the best path when pushed with time pressure.

For example, with creative advertising, I have pushed right up against a known timeline, and asked, “We do not see good enough ideas yet. What else do you have?” More often than not, the next answers are their best. If you wait too long, you might miss an opportunity. However, if you move too quickly, you can choose a suboptimal path. How long are you able to deal with an unknown variable on your brand, without losing your composure? Stay relaxed. The consequence of not remaining composed is it creates a scared and stressed-out team, who might make poor decisions that lead to poor results. It is a dangerous game. But, when played well, you can get the best from your team.

Another significant pressure for Marketers is when positive results do not come in. It can be frustrating but is a reality we face. Force yourself to course correct, re-examine the underlying issues, and regroup with your team to look at other options, rather than continuing to repeat and repeat and repeat.

There is pressure in relationships that many Marketers feel, but are not able to fix. I recommend you should be pro-active in making the first move to build a relationship. Try to figure out the motivations and frustration points in those you work with before they become a problem. You have to know where someone stands before you can figure out where you can move them. Common ground is usually not that far away.

5. Managing others

A great Brand Manager spends the effort to make their Assistant Brand Manager as good as can be. Most Brand Managers struggle with their first five direct reports. The key is to keep self-evaluating and looking for ways to improve with each direct report. It can be a struggle to shift from “do-er” to coach. It is always tempting to think you can do something faster, so you may as well do it. The problem is you just become the “super ABM.” Many Brand Managers fail to share the spotlight, so it becomes hard for you to showcase your Assistant Brand Manager.

But, you must believe the work of your Assistant Brand Manager will reflect positively on how good of a manager you are. Assistant Brand Managers need feedback—both the good and bad—to improve. I see too many Brand Managers not giving enough feedback. And, so many afraid of “going negative” so the ABM is left in the dark or left believing they are doing a good job.

Great Brand Managers take the time to teach up front, give the ABM some room to try it out and then provide hands-on feedback in real time. Use weekly meetings to give both positive feedback and address gaps. And, I believe Brand Managers should do quarterly performance reviews with their ABMs. At that level, an annual review is just not enough. They will learn faster with more feedback.

Free e-book on How to be successful in your Marketing career

To read more about how to succeed in Marketing, download our free e-Book on Marketing Success.

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Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help brands find a new pathway to growth. We believe that the more love your brand can generate with your most cherished consumers, the more power, growth, and profitability you will realize in the future.

The best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique engagement tools are the backbone of our strategy workshops. These tools will force you to think differently so you can freely generate many new ideas. At Beloved Brands, we bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We help brands find growth

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a big idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand. Finally, the big idea must influence employees to personally deliver an outstanding consumer experience, to help move consumers along the journey to loving your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources. We work with your team to build out project plans, creative briefs and provide advice on marketing execution.

To learn more about our coaching, click on this link: Beloved Brands Strategic Coaching

We make Brand Leaders smarter

We believe that investing in your marketing people will pay off. With smarter people behind your brands will drive higher revenue growth and profits. With our brand management training program, you will see smarter strategic thinking, more focused brand plans, brand positioning, better creative briefs that steer your agencies, improved decision-making on marketing execution, smarter analytical skills to assess your brand’s performance and a better management of the profitability of the brand.

To learn more about our training programs, click on this link:  Beloved Brands Training

If you need our help, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or call me at 416 885 3911

Graham Robertson Profile

 

 

 

 

How to use the five elements of smart strategic thinking on your brand

Everyone says they are a strategic thinker, yet few are. Early in my career, I confess that I was more of an instinctual marketer. To be a strategic thinker, we need to learn to slow down and organize our thoughts. You need to a set a vision, invest your limited resources against an identified opportunity. And, then you need to create a market impact that can be leveraged into a performance result.

Strategic Thinking

1. Set a vision of what you want for your brand

A vision sets aspirational stretch goals for the future, linked to a clear result or purpose. Write a vision statement in a way that scares you a little and excites you a lot. It should steer everyone who works on the brand to focus on finding ways to create a bond with your consumers. This will lead to power and profit beyond what the product alone could achieve. As Yogi Berra famously said, “If you do not know where you are going, how will you know if you get there?”

To be a visionary, you must be able to visualize the future. Imagine it is five or 10 years from now and you wake up in the most fantastic mood. Visualize a perfect future and write down the most critical milestones you need to achieve. Even think about words that will inspire, lead and steer your team towards your vision.

As strategic thinking starts with asking questions, a smart strategy must ask interruptive questions that frame the issues in terms of what you want to achieve. By raising those issues early on, you can focus the team on the significant problems that need to be solved to get you on the path to your vision.

2. Invest resources in a strategic program

Think through the options of where you should invest to move your brand into a more powerful and profitable position. The programs you choose should solidify the brand’s core strength, build a brand idea that tightens the consumer bond, battle competitors on positioning, or address the situational challenges and opportunities.

3. Focus on an identified opportunity

Focus your limited resources on a distinct opportunity you have identified based on a potential change in the market, including changes to consumers, competitive situation, technology or sales channels.

In today’s data-driven world, everyone has access to the equivalent information and in turn, can see the same opportunities. You must use speed to seize the opportunity before others can take action, and then that opportunity is gone.

The best brand leaders never divide and conquer. They force themselves to focus and win. The smartest brand leaders use the word “or” more often than they use the word “and.” If you come to a decision point, and you try to rationalize doing a little of both, you are not strategic. Force yourself to make choices.

Many marketers struggle to focus.

Myth 1: The most prominent myth of marketing is to believe that your brand will get bigger if you have a broader target market. 


Reality: Too many marketers target anyone. I will always argue it is better to be loved by a few than tolerated by many. You have to create a tight bond with a core base of brand fans, and then use that fan support to expand your following.

Myth 2: The second myth to becoming a more prominent brand is to believe a brand stands for everything. Some brands try to say everything possible with the hope the consumer hears anything.

Reality: Hope is never a strategy. To be loved by consumers, a brand must stand for something with a backbone and conviction. Trying to be everything to anyone just ends up becoming nothing to everyone.

Myth 3: Your brand will be bigger if you try to be everywhere, whether in every sales channel or on every possible media option.

Reality: If you went to Las Vegas and put a chip on every square, you would be bankrupt before midnight. The worst marketers lack focus because they fear missing out on someone or something. By trying to be everywhere, the brand will drain itself and eventually end up being nowhere.

Limited resourcesStrategic Thinking

Every brand has limited resources, whether they’re financial, time, people, or partnerships. Marketers always face the temptation of an unlimited array of choices. Focus the possible target market, brand messages, strategies, or tactics. The smartest brand leaders limit their choices to match up to their limited resources, to focus on those that will deliver the highest return.

When you focus, five amazing things happen to your brand:

  1. Stronger return on investment (ROI): When you focus your dollars on the distinct breakthrough point or against a program that you know will work, you will see the most positive and efficient response in the marketplace.
  2. Better return on effort (ROE): You must make the most efficient use of your limited people and resources. Find the Big Easy! Focus on the ideas with the most significant impact that is the easiest to execute. Avoid those ideas that are small and difficult to implement. While you may not always have the data to calculate your ROI, you should have the instincts to figure out your ROE.
  3. Stronger reputation: When you limit your audience and brand message, you will have a better chance to own that reputation among that core target audience.
  4. More competitive: When you focus your message to a specific target audience, your brand will start to create a space in the market you can defend against others from entering that space.
  5. More investment behind the brand: When you focus and deliver business results, your management team will ask you to do that again. They will give you more money and more people resources. Even with increased resources, you must take the same focused approach.

4. Leverage the breakthrough market impact

A smart strategy turns an early breakthrough win into a shift in momentum, positional power or tipping point where you begin to achieve more in the marketplace than the resources you put in.

Many underestimate the need for an early win. I see this as a crucial breakthrough point where you start to look at a small shift in momentum towards your vision. While there will always be doubters to every strategy, the results of the early win provide compelling proof to show everyone the plan will work. You can change the minds of the doubters—or at least keep them quiet—so everyone can stay focused on the breakthrough point.

The magic of strategy happens through leverage, where you can use the early win as an opening or a tipping point where you start to see a transformational power that allows you to make an impact and achieve results in the marketplace. A smart strategy should trigger the consumer to move along the bug journey from awareness to buy and onto loyalty, or it can help tighten the consumer’s bond with the brand.

Strategic Thinking

5. Performance result that pays back

The shift in positional power in the marketplace moves your brand toward your vision and creates a future pathway to building a consumer bond, brand power, and brand profitability.

A brand can become powerful compared to the consumers they serve, the competitors they battle, the channels they sell through, the suppliers who make the products or ingredients, the influencers in the market, any media choices and the employees who work for the brand. We explored these eight sources of power in the opening chapter.

You can drive profit through premium pricing, trading consumers up on price, finding a lower cost of goods, using lower sales and marketing costs, stealing competitive users, getting loyal users to use more, entering new markets or finding new uses for the brand. We explored these eight ways a brand can add to their profitability in the opening chapter.

For a strategy to work, what pays off in the marketplace must pay off in brand power or business results.

Strategic Thinking

 

At Beloved Brands, we run workshops to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To see a Workshop on Strategic Thinking, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help brands find a new pathway to growth. We believe that the more love your brand can generate with your most cherished consumers, the more power, growth and profitability you will realize in the future.

The best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique engagement tools are the backbone of our strategy workshops. These tools will force you to think differently so you can freely generate many new ideas. At Beloved Brands, we bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We help brands find growth

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a big idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand. Finally, the big idea must influence employees to personally deliver an outstanding consumer experience, to help move consumers along the journey to loving your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources. We work with your team to build out project plans, creative briefs and provide advice on marketing execution.

To learn more about our coaching, click on this link: Beloved Brands Strategic Coaching

We make Brand Leaders smarter

We believe that investing in your marketing people will pay off. With smarter people behind your brands will drive higher revenue growth and profits. With our brand management training program, you will see smarter strategic thinking, more focused brand plans, brand positioning, better creative briefs that steer your agencies, improved decision-making on marketing execution, smarter analytical skills to assess your brand’s performance and a better management of the profitability of the brand.

To learn more about our training programs, click on this link: Beloved Brands Training

If you need our help, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or call me at 416 885 3911

Graham Robertson Profile

Best Super Bowl ads of 2018, based on whether I would spent the money

Best super bowl AdsHere are the Best Super Bowl Ads. As a former client side Brand Leader, I only ever judge an Ad based on whether I would have spent the money to make it. Super Bowl Ads are high-profile, and a big financial investment. While none of this year’s Ads will make my All time Top 10 list, there were a handful I would have invested in.

 

Is the Super Bowl a good media choice for your brand?

When it comes to your media, your strategy should determine how much you can invest. Have you discovered a new brand message that you know will motivate consumers to buy your brand? Have you Identified change in the consumer needs, motivations or behaviors that will benefit your brand.Has there been a shift in the competitive dynamic, with an opportunity to make gains or a necessity to defend? Are you continuing to fuel brand growth, with a window to drive brand profits? Is there a new distribution channel you can use to move consumers through, before competitors do? Have you launched a breakthrough product innovation that offers a competitive advantage to your brand? While the Super Bowl is a huge investment, if done right, it can actually be a more efficient brand spend than paying for a 30-second spot on Big Bang Theory on your average Tuesday. It all depends on the creative. During a Super Bowl game, we tend to see some of the best…..and my god, some of the worst Ads of all time.

 

Does your Ad have branded breakthrough and a motivating message?

The Brand Leaders who are good at advertising can get great Ads on the air, and keep bad Ads off the air. You need to make decisions to find the sweet spot where your brand’s Advertising is both different and smart.

To be different, you need to achieve branded breakthrough, using creativity to capture consumers, not only gaining their attention within the clutter of the market, but linking your brand closely to the story. To be smart, you need a motivating message to make sure you communicate the main message to connect with consumers in a memorable way, and make sure the ad stick enough to move consumers to see, think, feel or act differently than before they saw the Ad.

I always use the principles for achieving Attention, Brand Link, Communication and Stickiness—the model I call the ABC’S.

Here are the 5 Ads I would have paid for:

Tide:

Tide stole the evening. While Tide has a dominant share, I have zero emotional feelings for Tide. The brand is so stoically cold, I have never seen any Tide Ad in the past 40 years I have liked. Till last night. I actually found myself wanting to see the next Tide Ad. And a few times, I said “this is a Tide Ad” and I was wrong. But still laughing my ass off.

And then there was this one, using their sister brand, “Old Spice”. When this came on, I said “oh good, finally a new Old Spice Ad”.  Nope, a Tide Ad.

Then I saw a Clydesdale horse, ready to cry. Nope, it’s a Tide Ad. Damn.

Tide is a dominant Power Player brand. They have the financial resources to do this type of Ad once a year. High on attention, strong branding, still tells cleaning message and sticks in the consumer’s mind. I’m sure the overnight recall for “A Tide Ad” is 90%. I’d buy it.

Amazon Alexa

It was a weak evening for technology. But Amazon Alexa was great. With a new product innovation, it naturally generates Attention, and used a highly creative demo to communicate the benefits of the brand. Nice use of a few celebs who fit their role. Very funny, to create some good talk value. I’d buy it.

 

Jeep

This Ad spoke to those consumers who love the Jeep Wrangler. It was a 30-second one take product demonstration. I bet if you ask Jeep lovers, this Ad perfectly epitomizes their view of the brand. While the masses might not remember by this ad today. I am guessing at every water cooler or Facebook page, the Jeep owners are quietly saying “I like the Jeep Ad”. Maybe lose half the copy of the voice over. Let the quietness of the Ad speak for itself. Plus, that voice over seemed to be talking to the Ad industry, not Joe Average Jeep owner. But,  I’d buy it.

Ram 

One of my top 10 all time favorite ads was the Dodge “And god created a farmer” ad with the voice of Paul Harvey from 2012. It was such a captivatingly quiet Ad. So last night, I could tell the MLK ad was Ram’s, but the music was annoying me. Last I checked, Dr. King doesn’t need background music. I’d buy it, but I’d ask for the music to be gone.

Compare that ad with the Dodge Ram ad from the 2012. See what I mean by the lack of sound is what captures you. Now watch the MLK ad and imagine without the music.

Doritos and Mountain Dew

I feel for the Doritos team for having to come up with a hit every Super Bowl Ad. Maybe not way out there, but a solid 8/10. Highly entertaining rap to launch a product innovation, followed by Morgan Freeman with Mountain Dew. While I love Morgan Freeman rapping and dancing, the brand link and message was not as clear. I’d buy the Doritos and think twice about the Mountain Dew. Maybe I’d use the Morgan Freeman script on a salt and vinegar Doritos.

That’s my shopping list done. There were a ton of Ads. Lots of crap last night. I will remember Tide, maybe not in my top 10 Super Bowl ads of all time, but maybe in my top 25.

At Beloved Brands, we run workshops to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To see a WORKSHOP ON MARKETING EXECUTION, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help brands find a new pathway to growth. We believe that the more love your brand can generate with your most cherished consumers, the more power, growth and profitability you will realize in the future.

The best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique engagement tools are the backbone of our strategy workshops. These tools will force you to think differently so you can freely generate many new ideas. At Beloved Brands, we bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We help brands find growth

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a big idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand. Finally, the big idea must influence employees to personally deliver an outstanding consumer experience, to help move consumers along the journey to loving your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources. We work with your team to build out project plans, creative briefs and provide advice on marketing execution.

To learn more about our coaching, click on this link: Beloved Brands Strategic Coaching

We make Brand Leaders smarter

We believe that investing in your marketing people will pay off. With smarter people behind your brands will drive higher revenue growth and profits. With our brand management training program, you will see smarter strategic thinking, more focused brand plans, brand positioning, better creative briefs that steer your agencies, improved decision-making on marketing execution, smarter analytical skills to assess your brand’s performance and a better management of the profitability of the brand.

To learn more about our training programs, click on this link: Beloved Brands Training

If you need our help, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or call me at 416 885 3911

Beloved Brands Graham Robertson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think of the new Diet Coke logo and packaging?

diet cokeThe new Diet Coke package design is certainly colorful but the strategy behind the package seems confusing. The simplest test that I always do with logo design or even print ads. Take a step back and ask “What’s the first thing you see?”  I see the word “Coke”. I see it on the traditional Coke red background.

What’s the second thing you see?  I see multiple colors. And I think, aren’t a few of those formerly failed flavors from the past few decades?

What’s the third thing you see?  I see weird little drawings along the bottom of the can, that I’m not sure what those are?  If you force me to look, maybe I will. Why is the cherry flavor in purple, and not red? You have to look at your execution as though you are a consumer.

What I haven’t seen yet, is the word “Diet”. Hmmm. Oh, there it is, very small, sideways and in a script that’s hard to read. Why are you hiding the word Diet, when your brand name is DIET COKE?

Is Diet Coke a brand itself, or is it part of a master brand?

diet cokeI know a few years ago, Coke tried to make all the packaging look the same, so that it looked like one big family, with most of the can using the big Coca Cola red logo. It was done in a test market and failed miserably. But it showed you the strategic mindset.

Coke needs to face that carbonated beverages are in sharp decline

diet cokeThis decline has to change your strategy. While Coke and Pepsi have been in a share dog fight for the last 50 years, that fight is now a fight for survival. With both Coke and Pepsi stretched across legacy success stories of the original, diet and zero/max sub-brands, and stretched across legacy success flavors, the reality is that the consumer mind space and retailer shelf space will eventually collapse.

The only remaining strategy is to beat each other.

It reminds me of that great mythology story about two hunters bedded down at their campfire and were about to fall asleep when a giant bear loomed in front of them. One hunter rushed to put on his sneakers. The other said, “What good will that do? You will never outrun that bear.” The first one said, “I am not worried about outrunning the bear. All I have to do is outrun you!”

That’s where the Coke brand is right now. All they have to do for the decade is outrun Pepsi. Don’t over think some of the things you are currently over-thinking.

  • Diet Coke is a brand, not a sub brand. Launched in 1981, it was treated as though it were its own brand from day one. Why try to change that now, especially as you face a declining category? Use the separate Diet Coke brand to your advantage to squeeze out Pepsi.
  • I know the word “diet” might not fit our modern day “organic” and “low carb” words. But “Diet Coke” means more to consumers than the word diet. Maybe you should have called it Coke Light like Europe does. But it is what it is. Don’t over think it.
  • Those look like cute flavor choices, but launching four new flavors at once is crazy. Your retailers will likely take one or two. Also, launching four at once just spreads your sales across the four flavors so that none of them will generate high enough sales to hit a threshold of success.

So I guess I don’t like the strategy, the naming or the design. What do you think?

To learn more about how to judge advertising that works, here is our Marketing Execution workshop we run to help train Brand Leaders:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help brands find a new pathway to growth. We believe that the more love your brand can generate with your most cherished consumers, the more power, growth and profitability you will realize in the future.

The best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique engagement tools are the backbone of our strategy workshops. These tools will force you to think differently so you can freely generate many new ideas. At Beloved Brands, we bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We help brands find growth

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a big idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand. Finally, the big idea must influence employees to personally deliver an outstanding consumer experience, to help move consumers along the journey to loving your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources. We work with your team to build out project plans, creative briefs and provide advice on marketing execution.

To learn more about our coaching, click on this link: Beloved Brands Strategic Coaching

We make Brand Leaders smarter

We believe that investing in your marketing people will pay off. With smarter people behind your brands will drive higher revenue growth and profits. With our brand management training program, you will see smarter strategic thinking, more focused brand plans, brand positioning, better creative briefs that steer your agencies, improved decision-making on marketing execution, smarter analytical skills to assess your brand’s performance and a better management of the profitability of the brand.

To learn more about our training programs, click on this link: Beloved Brands Training

If you need our help, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or call me at 416 885 3911

Beloved Brands Graham Robertson 

 

 

 

 

 

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20 thought starters for Marketers to kick off the new year

Here are twenty good precepts to provoke your thinking as we head into the new year.

  1. Consumer Insight comes to life when it’s told in such a captivating way that makes people stop and say “hmm, I thought I was the only one who felt like that.:20 thought starters
  2. Can you explain your brand (or your personal brand) in 7 seconds, 2 minutes and 30 minutes? You should be able to organize your thinking.
  3. Strategic Thinkers see “what if” questions before they see solutions. They map out a range of decision trees that intersect and connect by imagining how events will play out. They reflect and plan before they act. They are thinkers and planning who can see connections. Non Strategic Thinkers see answers before questions. They get to answers quickly, and get frustrated in delays. They believe doing something is better than doing nothing at all. They opt for action over thinking. They are impulsive and doers who see tasks. They get frustrated by strategic thinkers.
  4. Learn to change your brain speeds, knowing when to go slow and when to go fast. Think slowly with strategy. Think quickly with instincts.
  5. The role of BRAND is to create a bond, power, and profit, beyond what the product itself could achieve. In fact, we only have brands, if we think we can make more money from the brand than just the product alone. The really is no other reason.
  6. The more loved a brand is by consumers, the more, the more powerful and profitable that brand can be.
  7. Halfway between the exactness of Science and the unknown of Art lies the power of an IDEA that can bring them together”
  8. The best brands are either different, better or cheaper. Or else, not around for very long. Do you know what your brand is?
  9. Consumers don’t care what you do until you care what they want. Instead of just yelling what you do, put yourself in the consumers’ shoes and ask yourself  “so what do get?” and then ask “so how does that make me feel?” This turns product features into consumer benefits, both functional and emotional. 
  10. The power of three helps provide focus. If your brand only has 3 strategies and each strategy only has 3 tactics, then you should be able to do an amazing job on all 9. Much better than 5 strategies times 5 tactics and 25 things. I would bet that my 9 would beat your 25 any day.
  11. The better your people, the better the work, the better the business results. So then, are you doing enough to make your people better? Invest in training your people.
  12. Ask your people at every stage “Do you love it?” and watch their eyes to see if they tell the truth. Because, if you don’t love the work, how do you expect your consumer to love your brand?
  13. A beloved brand uses the love consumers have for the brand to replicate the positional power of a Monopoly. And from that power, the Beloved Brand drives stronger growth and higher profits.
  14. Smart media plans start with understanding where the customer is, not where the media is.
  15. Analytical stories get decision-makers to “what do you think” stage Analysis turns fact into insight and data breaks form the story that sets up strategic choices.
  16. If you knew that being a better client would get you better advertising, do you think you’d be able to show up better?
  17. If you aren’t talented enough to come up with an ad in the first place, then why are you now talented enough to do something even harder: change the ad. Instead of telling the creative team your changes, I’d rather you give the creative team your problem with the ad, and let them figure out it rather than your solution for the ad and let them feel demoralized.
  18. Creative advertising people are problem solvers, not blue sky thinkers. So give them a problem, not a blank page. They are “in the box” thinkers not “out of the” box thinkers. Use your brief to put them in a box and your creative direction to put them in a new box.
  19. The classic flaw of Brand Plans is having both penetration and Usage frequency. Penetration Strategy gets someone with very little experience with your brand to likely consider dropping their current brand to try you once and see if they like it. Usage Frequency Strategy gets someone who knows your brand to change their behavior in relation to your brand, either changing their current life routine or substituting your brand into a higher share of the occasions. Trying to do both at the same time will destroy your plan.
  20. We control more than we think we do. But just like in sports, the most competitive weapon we have is the creation of time and space. The most competitive brands act quickly, before others do and create a space around themselves that they own, through reputation, and are free from attack.

Here’s to a great 2018!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help brands find a new pathway to growth. We believe that the more love your brand can generate with your most cherished consumers, the more power, growth and profitability you will realize in the future.

The best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique engagement tools are the backbone of our strategy workshops. These tools will force you to think differently so you can freely generate many new ideas. At Beloved Brands, we bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We help brands find growth

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a big idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand. Finally, the big idea must influence employees to personally deliver an outstanding consumer experience, to help move consumers along the journey to loving your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources. We work with your team to build out project plans, creative briefs and provide advice on marketing execution.

To learn more about our coaching, click on this link: Beloved Brands Strategic Coaching

We make Brand Leaders smarter

We believe that investing in your marketing people will pay off. With smarter people behind your brands will drive higher revenue growth and profits. With our brand management training program, you will see smarter strategic thinking, more focused brand plans, brand positioning, better creative briefs that steer your agencies, improved decision-making on marketing execution, smarter analytical skills to assess your brand’s performance and a better management of the profitability of the brand.

To learn more about our training programs, click on this link: Beloved Brands Training

If you need our help, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or call me at 416 885 3911

Beloved Brands Graham Robertson

 

My favorite Christmas Ad of 2017 is an old-fashioned romantic story

I am happy to report that 2017 will end with a great series of Ads from Vodafone in the UK. This six-part old fashioned, love story does a great job portraying the awkwardness of the early stages of dating. Anyone who knows the lines to “It’s a Wonderful Life” is good in my books.The rehearsing of that first phone call.The awkwardness of the family probing about them. All very cute. I just finished watching “Love Actually” for the 10th time, almost an annual event with my family.

Sure, these ads weave in a few phone messages. Almost in a cute way. But, they certainly draw the viewer in naturally with the hope of seeing what’s next in the story. Even after six ads, I still hoped for more. Here are all six of the ads. Tell me if you wonder what’s next.

Enjoy

 

As Brand Leaders, I know we can do better in 2018

The world of branding has become far too transactional in 2017. Too many marketers spent the year trying to hack through algorithms to get a few more views of something rather meaningless. I keep hearing about story-telling, but I’m just not seeing enough of it. Brands have become so data-driven, they want the sale now. The super bowl ads were weak, the Christmas ads even weaker. Don’t even get me started on how boring the John Lewis ad is this year. I think of advertising like the little “add a penny, take a penny” plate or jar you see beside the cash register. Building up your brand to create a desire among consumers is “adding a penny” while telling the consumer to buy is the “taking a penny”.

If you are always taking a penny, there won’t be any pennies left in the penny jar.

 

As we look to end the business year of 2017, I think we can do better. I want to see great work in 2018. Not just average. Remember, OK is the enemy of great. I want you to ask yourself “Do I love it?”.  If you do not love the work you do, then how can you ever expect the consumer to love your brand. That’s my challenge to everyone reading. If you make some, send it my way. Seeing great work will feel like my reward.

Here’s to seeing greatness in 2018,

 

 

 

How marketers should deploy the right leadership style for the right brand situation

Situational leadership in marketing means identifying the right situation for when to be a strategic thinker, an instinctual thinker ora task master. The challenge is we each bring a natural style and have to learn the other two with experience. It is all about situational leadership.

situational leadership

 

Strategic Thinkers

Strategic leaders see ‘what-if’ type questions before they look for potential solutions. They are able to map out a range of decision trees that intersect, by imagining how events will play out in the future. They think of every option before taking action.

The trick to being strategic is to think slowly with strategy. If you move too quickly on brand strategy, you will be unable to see the insights beneath the surface, and you risk solving the wrong problem.

5 ways to slow your brain down to think strategically

The risk to just deploying the one leadership style is if strategic thinkers just think too long, they spiral around, unable to decide, and miss the opportunity window.

  1. Find your own thinking time. Walks at lunch or a drive somewhere to get away from it all. Block hour-long “thinking meetings” with yourself.
  2. Organize your week to fit your thinking pace. Talk “big ideas” on a Friday morning so you can take the weekend to think. Schedule quick updates on Monday afternoon that clears your mind for the week.
  3. Do the deep thinking before the decision time comes. Always be digging deep into the analytics to stay aware, prepare yourself, no matter your level.
  4. Next time in a meeting, ask the best questions. Too many leaders try to impress everyone with the best answers. Next time, try to stump the room with the best questions that slow down your team and force them to think.
  5. Proactively meet your partner teams. Get to know the needs of your sales teams or agency account leaders, and not wait for a problem or conflict. Come to them proactively with possible solutions so you both win.

Instinctual Thinkers

Instinctual leaders jump right in because their gut already sees the right answer solution. They move fast, using emotional, impulse and intuitive gut feel. They choose emotion over logic. This “gut feel” fosters high creativity.

The trick to be instinctual, you must think quickly on execution. Without intuitive freedom, you will move too slowly, overthink and second-guess yourself. You risk destroying the creativity of the right solution.

5 ways to speed up your brain to think instinctually

  1. Have fun, and be in the moment: Relax, smile, have fun, stay positive. If you get too tense, stiff, too serious, it can impact the team negatively.
  2. Focus on first impressions. Don’t let the strategy get in your way of seeing what you think of the creativity. This allows you to see it how your consumer might see it. You still have time to think strategically about it after your instincts.
  3. Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer. You have to represent your consumer to the brand. Try to react and think as they might. Learn to observe and draw insights.
  4. Do not make up concerns that are not there. While you need to be smart, don’t cast every possible doubt that can destroy creativity. Too many brand leaders destroy creativity one complaint at a time.
  5. Let it simmer for a while, before rejecting. You always have the option to reject an idea. Why not let it breathe a little, see it you can make it even better. If it gets better, you win. If not, you can still reject it, without any risk.

Task Masters

Task masters stay in control to get things done, keep things on time and on budget. They are always in full control, organized and on time. They never lose sight of the end goal, efficiently knock down roadblocks, to keep everyone else on track with time and budgets.

To be a successful task master,  it is to realize there is a business to run. Without staying focused on the end goal, strategic thinking and creative instincts are wasted, resulting in missed opportunities.

You can overly rely on the task master, the risk is you end up with hollow thinking, OK creativity and OK business results.

5 ways to be more of a task master

  1. Set high standards for you and the team: Hold the team to consistently high standards of work in analytics, strategic thinking, planning and execution in the market (advertising, innovation, purchase moment and brand experience)
  2. People leadership: Provide a team vision, consistently motivate others, be genuinely and actively interested in helping your team manage their careers.
  3. Lead the process: Organize, challenge and manage the processes so your team can focus on thinking, planning and executing. Guide the team to get things done on time. on budget and on forecast.
  4. Hit deadlines: Never look out of control or sloppy. Marketers have enough to do, that things will just stockpile on each other. In Marketing, there are no extensions, just missed opportunities.
  5. Know your business: Don’t get caught off-guard. Make sure you are asking the questions and carrying forward the knowledge.

Finding that balance

As a leader, it is crucial for you to deploy the right leadership style in the moment, to be able to maneuver. Your brain should operate like a race car driver, slow in the corners and fast on the straight away. Change brain speeds, think slowly when faced with difficult strategy and think quickly with your best instincts on execution.

When you are in a team situation, try to recognize the natural styles of each of your team members. Make sure the team is well balanced, to ensure someone is the thinker, someone has the intuition to break through the clutter and then someone is the task master. Appreciate what each person brings to the table, leverage their natural strengths and ensure you be honest about your own style.

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help brands find a new pathway to growth. We believe that the more love your brand can generate with your most cherished consumers, the more power, growth and profitability you will realize in the future.

The best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique engagement tools are the backbone of our strategy workshops. These tools will force you to think differently so you can freely generate many new ideas. At Beloved Brands, we bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We help brands find growth

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a big idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand. Finally, the big idea must influence employees to personally deliver an outstanding consumer experience, to help move consumers along the journey to loving your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources. We work with your team to build out project plans, creative briefs and provide advice on marketing execution.

To learn more about our coaching, click on this link: Beloved Brands Strategic Coaching

We make Brand Leaders smarter

We believe that investing in your marketing people will pay off. With smarter people behind your brands will drive higher revenue growth and profits. With our brand management training program, you will see smarter strategic thinking, more focused brand plans, brand positioning, better creative briefs that steer your agencies, improved decision-making on marketing execution, smarter analytical skills to assess your brand’s performance and a better management of the profitability of the brand.

To learn more about our training programs, click on this link: Beloved Brands Training

If you need our help, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or call me at 416 885 3911

Beloved Brands Graham Robertson

 

 

How to win the competitive battle for your consumer’s heart

A competitive brand strategy finds a space in the marketplace that your brand can win over and own. You must decided if you will position your brand to be better, different, or cheaper. Otherwise, your brand will not be around for very long. A competitive brand position matches up what consumers want with what your brand does best, that is better than your competitors. We will look at four types of competitive brand strategy situations: power player, challenger brand, island brand or the rebel brand. Most importantly, you need to make sure you align with the right competitive situation.

Finding your space to win

To find the competitive space in which your brand can win, I introduce the Venn diagram of competitive situations. Looking below, the first circle should list out everything the consumer wants.

The second circle then lists everything your brand does best. And, finally, the third circle lists everything your competitor does best.

Competitive Strategic Thinking
To win, brands have to find the space where they are better, different, cheaper…
or else they will not around for very long.

To find your brand’s winning zone, you should match up what consumers want with what your brand does best. This provides you a distinct space that you can own and defend from attack. To maintain ownership over that space, your brand should always be able to satisfy the needs of the consumer better than anyone else can.

Your brand will not survive in the losing zone, which is the space that matches up the consumer needs with the area where your competitor does it better than your brand. It is dangerous to try to play in this space, because over the long term, your competitor will beat you.

Brands can win the risky zone

As markets mature, competitors copy each other. It becomes harder to be better with a definitive product win, and that leaves you to play in the risky zone, which is the space where you and your competitor both meet the consumer’s needs in a relative tie. The tie is important to understand, because brands can still win the tie when they make their brand seem different enough that consumers perceive their brand to be better. Perception becomes reality. The four ways to win the risky zone is to leverage your brand’s power in the market to squeeze out lesser brands, or to be the first to capture and defend the space, or to win with innovation and creativity, or find ways to build a deeper emotional connection.

Sadly, I do have to always mention the dumb zone where two competitors “battle it out” in the space where consumers do not care. One competitor says, “We are faster” and the other thinks, “We are just as fast”. A competitive war starts up, yet no one bothered to ask the consumer if they care.

Competitive situations

In brand management, we never experience pure isolation. Even in a blue ocean situation, the euphoria of being alone quickly turns to a red ocean that is cluttered with the blood from nasty battling competitors. The moment we think we are alone, a competitor is watching and believes they can do it better than we can. To win the competitive battle, you have to find a unique selling proposition for your brand that distinguishes you from others. If you ignore the competition, with a belief that only the consumer matters, you are on a naive pathway to losing. Competitors force us to sharpen our focus and tighten our language on the brand positioning we will project to the market.

In terms of marketing war games, I will use this Venn diagram to map out four types of competitive brands: power players, challenger brands, island brands, and rebel brands. The final situation, where brands have no clue where they stand competitively, I call the cluttered brands. They sit in the cluttered space, lost, disconnected with consumers and in total decline.

Power Players

Power Players lead the way, as the share leader or perceived influential leader of the category. These brands command a power over all the stakeholders, competitors, and retail partners of the category. In terms of positioning, the power player brands own what they are best at, and they leverage their power in the market to help them own the tie. This expands their presence and power across a bigger market. They leverage the love from a core group of loyal brand lovers to win the tie. These brands can also use their advanced financial situation to invest in innovation to stay ahead of the category.

Power Player brands defend their territory with an attack back at any aggressive competitor or even an attack on itself to close any potential leaks before a competitor notices. These brands require a strong culture to continually get better and stay ahead of the competitors. To stay as the power brand, you can never become complacent or you will die.

Competitive Strategic Thinking
A Power Player positioning  strategy uses what you do best to dominate the win and uses their brand power to dominate the space where they tie their competitors

Examples of Power Player brands

One of the best Power Player brands is Google, who has managed to dominate the search engine market. Their extreme focus and smart execution gained market power and squeezed out Microsoft and Yahoo. Focused on providing knowledge for consumers, they have continued to expand their services into a bundle of products with e-mail, maps, apps, docs, cloud technology, and cell phones. On the other hand, Blackberry forgot to defend their castle. In 2009, Blackberry dominated the B2B corporate smartphone market. However, they became distracted by the Apple launch and tried to be more like Apple than stay themselves. They launched a bad touch screen phone, an undifferentiated tablet, sponsored rock concerts, and launched Blackberry Messenger (BBM) for young teens. These brands never attacked themselves. They left severe product flaws that frustrated their users. Pretty soon, corporations switched to the iPhone.

Challenger Brands

Challenger brands must change the playing field to attack the leader and exploit a potential weakness or build on their own strength. While you can amplify what your brand does best, it becomes just as important to reposition the power player who you want to take down. The best way is to turn their well-known strength into a perceived weakness that moves them outside of what consumers want. While your first instinct would be to attack the power player’s weakness, the smarter move is to reposition one of the power player’s strengths into a perfective weakness.

Strategic Thinking Competitive
A powerful strategy is to attack your competitor’s strength and turn into a weakness, making their strength either less important or less interesting. 

When you attack a power player brand, be careful of the leader’s potential defensive moves. Anticipate a response with full force—possibly with even greater resources than yours. Avoid battles that drain your brand’s limited resources or else you will spend a fortune only to end up with the same share after the war. Focus on consumers who are less vested in the leader’s brand to help kick-start a momentum away from the leader. As the leader tries to be everything to everyone, you should drive a narrow attack that slices off the most vulnerable part of its business before it can defend it.

Examples of challenger brands

         Apple’s “I’m a Mac” campaign defined the Mac brand as simple, confident, and cool, while re-defining the PC as old, uptight, and awkward. Apple repositioned PC’s strength as an intelligent computer and turned it into a weakness that was perceived as complicated, frustrating, and incapable. The ads layered in new ways that Mac was easier, while they highlighted all the problems with the PC that included hardware issues, software problems, and insufficient applications.

One of the best examples of a challenger brand that made significant gains is Pepsi, who launched the Pepsi Challenge in the 1970s as a direct offensive attack on Coke. Taste was one of Coke’s perceived strengths, but the ad implied that Coke’s taste was actually an acquired and memorable taste, not a sweet, superior taste. In the blind taste test, without the Coke brand name visible to consumers, they overwhelmingly picked Pepsi, preferring the sweeter taste. At the same time, Pepsi amplified their own strength as the “new generation” that set themselves up as the solution to those ready to reject the old taste of Coke.

Island Brands

       Island brands move into the blue ocean area all by themselves, where no one else competes. These brands are so different, that they appear to be relatively on their own. Most Island brands start as game-changers who have responded to an identified niche gap in the main category. They satisfy an unmet consumer need, whether that is a new target, price point, distribution channel, format, or positioning. When successful, the Island brand ends up repositioning the main category players as unattached to the consumers. While everyone wants a game-changer, to be so different brings increased risk that the concept may fail. Also, success may invite other entrants to follow the island brand, which puts the brand in a red ocean position. A red ocean is where your brand becomes the new power player brand who needs to defend your territory with full force.

Strategic Thinking Competitive
While using your disruptive approach to change the marketplace, you also want to push mass competitors away so to make them feel out of touch with consumer needs.

Example of an Island brand

Volvo is a great example of an island brand. Most car brands have traditionally focused on the horsepower and speed performance of the car, the interior luxury and comfort or the stylish designs, Volvo focused on safety. For Volvo safety is not just a claim or demo in their TV ads, but is everything they do. But the real beauty for Volvo is their obsession with safety. Volvo was long ahead of the marketplace. Volvo first started the safety angle in the 1940s and became completely obsessed in through the 1960s long before consumers cared about safety when no one was even wearing seat belts. But the market place has since caught up.

This year, Car and Driver reports safety as the #1 benefit that consumers are looking for in a new car. Most recently, Volvo has come up with a very ambitious vision statement for the brand: “No one should every die or be seriously injured in a Volvo.”

Rebel Brands

Rebel brands go against the entire category, into an area too small for the leaders to even take notice or attack back. Rebels pick a segment or target market that is small enough not be noticed that they can easily defend. They take an antagonistic approach to the rest of the category. They portray every other brand in the category as old school, flawed, corrupt, overly corporate, or even stupid. Rebel brands believe that it is better to be loved by the few than liked or tolerated by many.

Strategic Thinking Competitive
Rebel brands or craft brands want to win a small space to a highly engaged target, that is far enough away from major competitors, so they won’t feel the need to attack back.

Growth of the tail 

In today’s economy, every category has seen the growth of craft-type brands that satisfy a small segment. As consumers have taken over the buying process, they look for brands that speak directly with them. A typical store that had three to four main coffee brands now carries fifteen to twenty coffee brands. Rebel brands must speak directly with a small group of consumers and own a small enough niche away from competitors. A great strategy is to focus on a niche of consumers who are frustrated by the market leaders.

These brands lead with purpose, they create a deep emotional bond, and try to be seen as “anti-corporate”. Their intention is to be aggressive. They put all the brand’s resources against their small target to gain the perceived relative force of a major player. These brands have to be nimble and quick to seize the opportunity before others notice. They are ready to exit if consumers shift their needs or the major competitors enter. Rebel brands explore non-traditional marketing techniques such as creative names or media options that fit the niche target market.

Examples of Rebel brands

A great example of a Rebel brand is Five Guys Burgers who successfully avoided big fast food chains. While fast food feels frozen and microwaved, Five Guys has gone the opposite direction with high quality and fresh ingredients. They offer larger portions at a super premium price ($8-$10 for a burger). They promise not to start cooking your hamburger until it is ordered. Five Guys have expanded rapidly with word of mouth helping to spread their reputation as “the best burger”. Since then, Five Guys has become a global brand, McDonald’s has yet to generate an adequate competitive response.

Another great example is Dollar Shave who launched as an online subscription model for razor blades. With a $3 billion dollar shaving market dominated by two players, the price of razor blades grew out of control. With only $30 million in the first year, they were too small for Gillette to even bother with. However, without a response, Dollar Shave continued to grow year-by-year. Unilever recently purchased the Dollar Shave brand for $1 billion.

Cluttered Brands

Strategic Thinking Competitive
Cluttered brands are lost in the middle.They lack a point of difference or connectivity with consumers

A cluttered brand has no clue where they stand competitively. These brands are stuck in a cluttered mess. There is no clear target market or clear point of difference. These brands lack a loyal base of consumers and are unable to generate any positive growth or price premiums. They end up an indifferent commodity, disconnected from consumer needs. Without sales growth or profits, they struggle to invest back into their brand, which further accelerates the path of decay.

Examples of cluttered brands are General Motors, Burger King, and Sears, all of whom lack any clear brand positioning. The way to break this vicious downward spiral is to start over and follow the strategy of the rebel brand. Try to own a small niche and build around a unique brand positioning to a smaller motivated target.

Strategic Thinking Workshop

To read more on Strategic Thinking, click on the Powerpoint file below to view:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help brands find a new pathway to growth. We believe that the more love your brand can generate with your most cherished consumers, the more power, growth and profitability you will realize in the future.

The best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique engagement tools are the backbone of our strategy workshops. These tools will force you to think differently so you can freely generate many new ideas. At Beloved Brands, we bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We help brands find growth

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a big idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand. Finally, the big idea must influence employees to personally deliver an outstanding consumer experience, to help move consumers along the journey to loving your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources. We work with your team to build out project plans, creative briefs and provide advice on marketing execution.

To learn more about our coaching, click on this link: Beloved Brands Strategic Coaching

We make Brand Leaders smarter

We believe that investing in your marketing people will pay off. With smarter people behind your brands will drive higher revenue growth and profits. With our brand management training program, you will see smarter strategic thinking, more focused brand plans, brand positioning, better creative briefs that steer your agencies, improved decision-making on marketing execution, smarter analytical skills to assess your brand’s performance and a better management of the profitability of the brand.

To learn more about our training programs, click on this link: Beloved Brands Training

If you need our help, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or call me at 416 885 3911

Beloved Brands Graham Robertson

 

How to use strategic thinking to help your brand win

strategic thinkingThere are five elements of smart strategic thinking. Smart strategy starts with having a vision of the future. This sets up questions, that outline the major issues in the way of the vision. From there,  you must allocate resources against your strategic programs that fill an identified focused opportunity you see in the marketplace. When successful, the strategy must generate a market impact that can be leveraged into a performance result, making the brand more powerful or more profitable.

I always joke that strategic people share similar traits to those we might consider lazy, cheap, or conniving. Rather than just dive into work, strategic people will spend an extraordinary amount of time thinking of all the possible ways for them to get more out of something while exerting the least possible effort or wasting their own money. After thinking of every possible option, they have this unique talent to make a firm decision on the best way forward. They are great at the debate because it appears they already know the other options you might raise. They already know why that option will not work as well.

Strategic Thinking

Are you naturally Strategic or Instinctual?

I see a big difference between strategic thinking and intuitive leaders. Smart strategic thinkers see the right questions before they look for answers. Instinctual thinkers see answers before they even know the right question.

Strategic thinkers see “what-if” type questions before they look for potential solutions. Have you ever been a meeting and heard someone say, “That’s a good question”? This is usually a sign someone has asked an interruptive question designed to slow everyone’s brain down.  They take the time to reflect and plan before they act, to force them to move in a focused and efficient way. Strategy is the thinking side of marketing, both logical and imaginative. Strategic people are able to map out a range of decision trees that intersect, to imagine how events will play out in the future. The risk is that if they think too long, they just spiral around, unable to decide. They miss the opportunity window.

Instinctual Thinkers

On the other hand, instinctual thinkers just jump in quickly to find answers before they even know the right question. Their brains move fast; they use emotional impulse and intuitive gut feel. These people want action now and get easily frustrated by delays. They believe it is better to do something than sit and wait around. They see strategic people as stuck running around in circles, as they try to figure out the right question. Instead, these instinctual leaders choose emotion over logic.

This “make it happen” attitude gets things done,. But if they go too fast, their great actions may solve the wrong problem. Without proper thinking and focus, an action-first approach might just spread the brand’s limited resources randomly across too many projects. Instinctual leaders can be a creative mess and find themselves with a long to-do list, unable to prioritize or focus.

Changing brain speeds 

Brand leaders must learn to change brain speeds. Go slowly when faced with difficult strategy and quickly with their best instincts on execution. A brand leader’s brain should operate like a racecar driver, slow in the difficult corners and fast on the straightaway. You must slow down to think strategically. Did you ever think that the job might get in the way of thinking about how to do your job better? With wall-to-wall meetings, constant deadlines, and sales pushes, you have to create your own thinking time.Strategic Thinking

You should block off a few hours each week, put your feet up on the desk, and force yourself to ask really difficult questions. Pick one problem topic for each meeting you book and even invite a peer to set up a potential debate. The goal is not to brainstorm a solution, but to come up with the best possible question that will challenge the team. Go for walks at lunch or a drive somewhere just to get away from it all. My best thinking never came at my desk in front of my computer. If you have your head down in the numbers you will miss the obvious opportunities and threats that are right on the horizon. To be more strategic, you should assess the situation, frame questions that challenge your thinking, and consider every element that could have an impact on your brand.

How to slow your brain down and think strategically

  1. Find your own thinking time. Go for walks at lunch or a drive somewhere to get away from it all. Block hour-long “thinking meetings” with yourself.
  2. Organize your week to fit your thinking pace. For instance, maybe talk “big ideas” on a Friday morning so you can take the weekend to think.  Schedule quick updates on Monday afternoon that clears your mind for the week.
  3. Do the deep thinking before the decision time comes? Always be digging deep into the analytics to stay aware, prepare yourself, no matter your level.
  4. Next time in a meeting, spend your energy asking the best questions. Too many leaders try to impress everyone with the best answers. Next time stump the room with the best questions that slow down the team so they think.
  5. Proactively meet your partner team. Get to know their needs, rather than wait for a problem or conflict. Come to them proactively with possible solutions so you both win.

Five elements of smart strategic thinking

Everyone says they are a strategic thinker, but not many Marketers really are. Early in my career, I confess that I was more of an instinctual marketer. So, I know the effort and discipline it takes to slow the brain down and evolve into a strategic thinker. Here are four elements of strategic thinking to help slow your brain down.

Strategic Thinking

1. Always set a vision of what you want for your brand

A strategic thinker thinks about the future to map out a vision for five or ten years from now. A vision sets aspirational stretch goals for the future, linked to a well-defined end result or purpose. Within the vision, you should focus on finding ways to create a bond with your consumers that will lead to a power and profit beyond what the product alone could achieve. With every vision, you should write the statement in a way that should scare you a little, but excite you a lot.

The vision should steer everyone who works on the brand. In fact, I believe every little project should have its own little vision that is closely linked to the overall brand vision to help determine what success looks like on that project. As Yogi Berra famously said, “If you do not know where you are going, how will you know if you get there?”

To be a visionary, you must be able to visualize the future. Imagine that it is five or ten years from now. You wake up in the most amazing mood. Think about your personal life and your business, and start to imagine the ideal of what you want. Start to write down the things that have you in such a great mood. Visualize your perfect future and write down the most important things you want to achieve, and begin brainstorming a vision for the future. Even think about language that will inspire, lead and steer your team towards that vision.

Always ask questions

To challenge how to make your vision happen, you must ask interruptive questions of what is the way of you achieving your vision. As the definition of strategic thinking talks about asking questions, the smart strategy must ask questions that frame the issues that are in the way of what you want to achieve. Look to come up with an interruptive type question that will make everyone on the brand stop and think. The brainstorm I use is to list out everything in the way of the vision—trying to come up with at least 20; then narrow down to the three biggest issues you see, and frame it as a big question for the team to solve.

Strategic Thinking

2. Deployment of your brand’s available strategic options

A brand has options to build programs behind the brand’s core strength, build the consumer relationship with one of the five consumer touch-points, battle competitors on positioning, address situational opportunities and engage consumers as you go to market.

3. Focus your brand’s resources against an identified opportunity

The biggest myth of marketing is to believe that a bigger target market is the path to becoming a bigger brand. Too many marketers target anyone. It is better to be loved by a few than tolerated by many. You have to create a tight bond with a core base of brand lovers, and then use that base of lovers to expand the following.

The second myth is to believe that if you stand for everything, it will make your brand stronger. There are brands that say they are faster, longer lasting, better tasting, stronger, cheaper, and have a better experience. They mistakenly think that whatever the competitor does best, they will try to do it better. They will say everything possible with the hope the consumer hears something. Hope is never a strategy. To be loved by consumers, a brand must stand for something with a backbone and conviction that it will never go against what it states. Trying to be everything to anyone just ends up becoming nothing to everyone.

The third myth is to try to be everywhere, whether that means in every channel of distribution or on every possible media option. The worst marketers lack focus because of their fear of missing out on someone or something. By trying to be everywhere, the brand will drain itself and eventually end up being nowhere.

Focus your limited resources

Every brand is constrained by limited resources, whether financial, time, people, or partnership resources. Yet marketers always face the temptation of an unlimited array of choices, whether those choices are in the possible target market, brand messages, strategies, or tactics. The smartest brand leaders are able to limit their choices to match up to their limited resources. They focus on those choices that will deliver the greatest return.

Strategic Thinking

The best brand leaders never divide and conquer. They force themselves to focus and conquer with the confidence of strategic thinking. The smartest brand leaders use the word “or” more often than they use the word “and.” If you come to a decision point, and you try to rationalize in your own brain that it is okay to do a little of both, then you are not strategic.

For a strategy to work, brands must see an opportunity, to find an opening in the marketplace based on a change in consumer needs, new technology, competitive opening, or new channels. In today’s electronic world, everyone has access to the same information and in turn can see the same opportunities. You must use speed to seize the opportunity before others can react or else the opportunity will be gone.

4. Leverage the breakthrough to create an impact in the marketplace

Many underestimate the need for an early win. I see this as a crucial breakthrough point where you start to see a small shift in momentum towards the vision. There are always doubters to every strategy. The results of the early win are crucial proof to show everyone the strategy will work. This helps change the minds of the doubters—or at least keep them quiet—so that everyone can stay focused on this breakthrough point.

The magic of strategy happens through leverage, where you can use the early win as an opening or a tipping point where you start to see a transformational power that allows you to get more or achieve more results in the marketplace than you put into the strategy.

5. Performance result that pays back and opens a gateway for more growth

The final element of smart strategic thinking is the gateway opening that a marketplace win allows the brand to achieve more growth for the brand. There has to be a shift in positional power in the marketplace that allows you to achieve your vision, drive business results and make gains in terms of a future pathway to even more consumer connection, power and profit for the brand.

For a brand, the end result must either be more power or more profit. In terms of power, a brand can become powerful versus the consumers they serve, the competitors they battle, the channels they sell through, the suppliers who make the products or ingredients, influencers in the market, any media choices and the employees who work for the brand. In terms of profit, there are eight ways a brand can add to their profitability. Those are through premium pricing or trading consumers up on price, through lower cost of goods or lower sales and marketing costs, through stealing competitive users or getting loyal users to use more and by entering new markets or finding new uses for the brand.

As a strategy must pay back to the brand, you should know which power and profit driver your strategy is focused against. Jack Welch, former CEO of GE was notorious for asking employees he would meet, “So how do you add value?” Do you know how you add value? You should.

Strategic Thinking

 

To learn more about this type of thinking, you should explore my new book, Beloved Brands.

With Beloved Brands, you will learn everything you need to know so you can build a brand that your consumers will love.

You will learn how to think strategically, define your brand with a positioning statement and a brand idea, write a brand plan everyone can follow, inspire smart and creative marketing execution and analyze the performance of your brand through a deep-dive business review.

Beloved Brands book

To order the e-book version or the paperback version from Amazon, click on this link: https://lnkd.in/eF-mYPe

If you use Kobo, you can find Beloved Brands in over 30 markets using this link: https://lnkd.in/g7SzEh4

And if you are in India, you can use this link to order: https://lnkd.in/gDA5Aiw

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help brands find a new pathway to growth. We believe that the more love your brand can generate with your most cherished consumers, the more power, growth, and profitability you will realize in the future.

We think the best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique playbook tools are the backbone of our workshops. We bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a brand idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources.

Our brand playbook methodology will challenge you to unlock future growth for your brand

  1. Our deep-dive assessment process will give you the knowledge of the issues facing your brand, so you can build a smart plan to unleash future growth.
  2. Find a winning brand positioning statement that motivates consumers to buy, and gives you a competitive advantage to drive future growth.
  3. Create a brand idea to capture the minds and hearts of consumers, while inspiring and focusing your team to deliver greatness on the brand’s behalf.
  4. Build a brand plan to help you make smart focused decisions, so you can organize, steer, and inspire your team towards higher growth.
  5. Advise on advertising, to find creative that drives branded breakthrough and use a motivating messaging to set up long-term brand growth.
  6. Our brand training program will make your brand leaders smarter, so you have added confidence in their performance to drive brand growth.

To learn more about our coaching, click on this link: Beloved Brands Strategic Coaching

To learn more about our training programs, click on this link: Beloved Brands Training

If you need our help, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or call me at 416 885 3911

You have my personal promise to help you solve your brand building challenges. I will give you new thinking, so you can unlock future growth for your brand.

Signature

Graham Robertson

Founder and CMO, Beloved Brands Inc.